Pelham, Henry (1695?-1754) (DNB00)

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PELHAM, HENRY (1695?–1754), statesman, was the younger son of Thomas, fourth baronet, first baron Pelham [q. v.], by his second wife, Lady Grace Holles, youngest daughter of Gilbert, third earl of Clare, and sister of John Holles, duke of Newcastle [q. v.] He was educated at Westminster School, and at Hart Hall, Oxford, where he matriculated on 6 Sept. 1710, at the age of fifteen, but did not graduate. He was gazetted a captain in Brigadier Dormer's regiment on 22 July 1715, and served as a volunteer at the defeat of the rebels at Preston in November following. Shortly after the suppression of the rebellion, Pelham visited the continent, returning to England in October 1717. During his absence he was elected for Seaford at a by-election in February 1717. He acted as a consistent supporter of the whig party under Walpole and Townshend, with both of whom he was connected by marriage. On 6 May 1720 he made his maiden speech in the House of Commons, while moving an address of thanks to the king (Parl. Hist. vii. 648–9), and on the 25th of the same month he was appointed treasurer of the chamber. On 3 April 1721 he became one of the lords of the treasury. At the general election in the spring of 1722 he was returned to the House of Commons for Sussex, which he continued to represent for the rest of his life. Resigning his seat at the treasury board, he was appointed secretary at war on 1 April 1724. He was sworn a member of the privy council on 1 June 1725 (London Gazette, 1725, No. 6377), but the statement that he was admitted to Walpole's cabinet appears to be incorrect (see Lord Hervey, Memoirs, 1884, iii. 358–9). Pelham frequently proved of service to the ministry as a mediator between his brother, the Duke of Newcastle, and Walpole, whose mutual jealousy led to frequent disputes. On 8 May 1730 he was promoted to the more lucrative post of paymaster of the forces. On 11 Feb. 1732 he became involved in an altercation with Pulteney during a debate in the house, and a duel was only prevented by the interposition of the speaker (Journals of the House of Commons, xxi. 796). In defiance of the popular clamour, Pelham supported Walpole's excise scheme in the spring of 1733, and on the evening after the last debate on that measure he extricated Walpole from the attack of a well-dressed mob in the lobby of the House of Commons (Coxe, Memoirs of the Pelham Administration, 1829, i. 10 n.) At the general election in the following year he was returned for Aldborough in Yorkshire, as well as for Sussex, but he elected to sit for his old constituency. The only occasion on which Pelham is known to have voted in opposition to Walpole was when he supported Sir John Barnard's scheme for the conversion of the national debt in the spring of 1737 (Lord Hervey, Memoirs, iii. 133). On 13 Feb. 1741 he spoke warmly in opposition to Sandys's motion for the removal of Walpole (Parl. Hist. xi. 1243–54, 1367–70), and on 9 March 1742, during the debate on Lord Limerick's motion for a committee of inquiry, he energetically defended the policy of the fallen minister (ib. xii. 473–82, 501–507).

Pelham refused the chancellorship of the exchequer under Wilmington, notwithstanding the pressure put upon him by Lord Orford and the king, preferring to retain his old post of paymaster. In April 1743 Pelham was appointed a lord justice during the king's absence from England, an office which he filled on three subsequent occasions in 1745, 1750 and 1752. After Wilmington's death Pelham was appointed first lord of the treasury and chancellor of the exchequer (25 Aug. and 12 Dec. 1743), in accordance with a promise previously made to him by the king, and in spite of the opposition of Carteret, who wished to secure the post for Lord Bath (Coxe, Memoirs of the Pelham Administration, i. 82). Carteret's influence still remained extremely powerful at court, and the efforts of Pelham and his brother were from the first directed to thwarting the Hanoverian policy of that minister, who wished to gain the co-operation of the tories. ‘Whig it,’ wrote Orford to Pelham on 25 Aug. 1743, ‘with all opponents that will parly; but 'ware Tory!’ (ib. i. 93). Though Pelham was nominally prime minister, the parliamentary influence and the superior rank of Newcastle placed him practically on an equality with his brother in the cabinet, and gave rise to considerable difficulties when their views were at variance. Though in favour of bringing the war to an early conclusion, Pelham was not strong enough to openly oppose the king and Carteret. One of his first speeches as prime minister was in favour of a grant for the maintenance of British troops in Flanders (Parl. Hist. xiii. 399, 416–18), and he conciliated the king by upholding the employment of the Hanoverian troops (ib. xiii. 463). Pelham's attempt in February 1744 to impose an extra duty on sugar was defeated by the secret intrigues of the Prince of Wales and Carteret, and he was obliged to have recourse to the surplus arising from the additional duties which had been imposed on spirituous liquors in the previous year (ib. xiii. 639–41, 652–5). On 17 Nov. 1744 Hardwicke presented a memorial from Pelham and his supporters in the cabinet to the king, urging him to take steps for a general pacification. This led to the retirement of Carteret (now Earl Granville), who was unable to find sufficient support among the opposition for his war policy. A rearrangement of the ministry on what was called a ‘Broad-Bottom’ basis followed, and, by the admission of several tories, Pelham was enabled to carry out his policy of a close alliance with the Dutch, and to compel the king, as elector of Hanover, to join as a principal in the war. Pelham's plans were also forwarded by the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. His conduct, however, in dealing with that outbreak was weak and vacillating, and he endeavoured to throw all the responsibility of resistance on Argyll. In a letter of 11 Dec. 1745 to the English minister at the Hague, Pelham gives a most desponding account of affairs at home and abroad (Coxe, Memoirs of the Pelham Administration, i. 282–3). The king becoming very dissatisfied with his ministers, whom he styled ‘pitifull fellows’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 1st Rep. App. p. 115), formed a plan for the recall of Granville with Bath to power. On learning this, Pelham resigned on 11 Feb. 1746, but was reinstated in office on the 14th, in consequence of the inability of Granville and Bath to form an administration (Marchmont Papers, 1831, i. 171–4). Pelham was now able to insist upon the inclusion of Pitt in the ministry, which from that time forth had practically no opposition to encounter either from the court or in parliament. In April 1747 the lords took measures against the publishers of their debates. Pelham refused to take a similar course in the commons, saying, ‘Let them alone; they make better speeches for us than we can make for ourselves’ (Coxe, Memoirs of the Pelham Administration, i. 355). Differing from Newcastle and the king, Pelham was from the first desirous to accept the French proposals for peace, which ultimately resulted in the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle on 7 Oct. 1748 (Chalmers, Collection of Treaties, 1790, i. 424–67). In his defence of the peace in the House of Commons on 29 Nov. 1748 (Parl. Hist. xiv. 346), Pelham argued that ‘it must certainly be a bad peace indeed if it be worse than a successless war,’ and quoted the lines:

Si quid novisti rectius istis,
Candidus imperti; si non, his utere mecum.

Pelham now devoted himself to the reduction of the national expenditure, and to the rearrangement of the finances. In the winter of 1749 he successfully carried out an extensive scheme for the reduction of the interest on the national debt to three per cent. (ib. xiv. 619–21). At the end of the following year the question of the Duke of Bedford's resignation caused a violent quarrel between Newcastle and Pelham, which for a time entirely suspended their private intercourse, and nearly broke up the ministry. The dissolution of the Leicester House party consequent on the death of the Prince of Wales (20 March 1751) was on the whole favourable to Pelham; but the discussions on the regency bill which ensued lost him the friendship of the Duke of Cumberland. In April 1751 Pelham expressed a wish to retire and take the sinecure office of auditor of the exchequer, but was dissuaded by the king. In June 1751 Pelham consented to Granville joining the ministry as lord president of the council. A curious account of the negotiations between Pelham and Granville was given to the House of Commons on 20 Feb. 1784, by Lord Nugent, who was the intermediary on that occasion (Parl. Hist. xxiv. 634). In the reform of the calendar which was adopted during this session Pelham cordially concurred (Coxe, Memoirs of the Pelham Administration, ii. 178). In November 1751 he took part in the debate on the land forces for the ensuing year, and drew a distinction between a standing army maintained against law, and one maintained by law (Parl. Hist. xiv. 1118). His resistance to the reduction of the land tax gave rise to the following paraphrase of the well-known epigram on Sir John Vanbrugh:

Lie heavy on him, land, for he
Laid many a heavy tax on thee

(ib. xiv. 1132; Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of George II, 1847, i. 219). Contrary to his own convictions, and in defiance of his previous policy, he was induced by the king in January 1752 to propose the grant of a subsidy to the elector of Saxony. In the same session he continued his financial reforms by carrying a measure for the consolidation and simplification of the national debt (25 Geo. II, cap. 27). With his usual tolerance, he supported a bill for the naturalisation of the Jews, which became law in 1753 (Parl. Hist. xiv. 1412), but was repealed in the following year, with Pelham's consent, owing to the popular clamour against it (ib. xv. 142). He was ‘not unfriendly to the scheme’ of founding the British Museum, but was averse to raising the money by means of a lottery (Edwards, Lives of the Founders of the British Museum, 1870, pt. i. pp. 307–9). Though he supported Lord Hardwicke's bill for preventing clandestine marriages (26 Geo. II, cap. 33), his private opinions on the subject are disputed (Coxe, Memoirs of the Pelham Administration, ii. 267; Walpole, Letters, 1857, ii. 335). Pelham died at Arlington Street, Piccadilly, on 6 March 1754, from an attack of erysipelas, which is said to have been brought on by immoderate eating and want of exercise (ib. ii. 374). He was buried in the Pelham vault in Laughton Church, near Lewes. On hearing the news of his death, the king is said to have exclaimed, ‘Now I shall have no more peace’ (Coxe, Memoirs of the Pelham Administration, ii. 302).

Pelham was a timid and peace-loving politician, without any commanding abilities or much strength of character. He was a good man of business, and both an able and an economical financier. His temper was somewhat peevish, but his manners were conciliatory, and his opinions were tolerant. Though not a brilliant orator, he was an able debater and an excellent parliamentary tactician. His speeches were marked by readiness and common-sense; but the ‘candour and openness of his temper,’ according to Lord Hardwicke in his ‘Parliamentary Journal,’ ‘led him occasionally to depreciate the resources of the country, and to magnify the strength of the rival power’ (Coxe, Memoirs of the Pelham Administration, ii. 105). It is true that he chiefly maintained his influence in parliament by an elaborate system of corruption; but Horace Walpole, who hated him, believed that he ‘would never have wet his finger [in corruption] if Sir Robert Walpole had not dipped up to the elbow; but as he did dip, and as Mr. Pelham was persuaded that it was as necessary for him to be minister as it was for Sir Robert Walpole, he plunged as deep’ (Memoirs of the Reign of George II, i. 234–5). Pelham's private life was respectable, except that he was a ‘professed gamester’ (Glover, Memoirs by a celebrated Literary and Political Character, 1814, p. 48). Even Horace Walpole admits ‘that he lived without abusing his power, and died poor’ (Memoirs of the Reign of George II, i. 371).

A genuine attachment existed between Pelham and his brother, the Duke of Newcastle; and on Pelham's marriage, Newcastle assigned to him one-half of the property which he had inherited from his father (Coxe, ii. 305). In 1729 Pelham purchased Esher Place in Surrey, which, with the aid of Kent, he greatly improved and embellished. Pope, in the ‘Epilogue to the Satires’ (Dialogue II, pp. 66–7), refers to

Esher's peaceful grove
Where Kent and nature vie for Pelham's love;

and Thomson to ‘Esher's groves,’ where ‘from courts and senates Pelham finds repose’ (Seasons, ‘Summer,’ ll. 1429–32). Esher Place was sold by Pelham's grandson Lewis, second baron Sondes, in July 1805, to Mr. John Spicer, who pulled down Pelham's house with the exception of the old gatehouse, known as Wolsey's Tower, which is still standing.

‘An Ode to the Right Honourable Henry Pelham, Esq., on his being appointed first Commissioner of the Treasury,’ appears in the ‘Works of Sir Charles Hanbury Williams’ (1822, ii. 71–3). Garrick's well-known ode on Pelham's death was first published in the ‘London Magazine’ for March 1754 (xxiii. 135–6). Pelham's correspondence with Lord Essex 1732–6 (Addit. MSS. 27732–5), and with the Duke of Newcastle and others, 1716–54 (ib. 32686–33066), is preserved in the British Museum. His letters to President Dundas, 1748–52, are among the manuscripts at Arniston (Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. App. p. 415). Pelham was a frequent subject of caricatures, in many of which he was styled ‘King Henry the Ninth’ (cf. Cat. Satirical and Political Prints and Drawings in British Museum, ed. Stephens and Hawkins).

Pelham married, on 29 October 1726, Lady Catherine Manners, eldest daughter of John, second duke of Rutland, by whom he had two sons and six daughters. Both his sons died in November 1739, of ulcerated sore throat, which became subsequently known as the ‘Pelham fever’ (Coxe, Memoirs of the Pelham Administration, ii. 305). Four of his daughters survived infancy, viz. (1) Catherine, born 24 July 1727, who married on 3 Oct. 1744, her cousin, Henry Fynes Clinton, ninth earl of Lincoln, afterwards second duke of Newcastle (cr. 1756), and died on 27 July 1760; (2) Frances, born on 18 Aug. 1728, who died unmarried on 10 Jan. 1804; (3) Grace, born in January 1735, who married, on 12 Oct. 1752, the Hon. Lewis Watson, afterwards first baron Sondes, and died on 31 July 1777; and (4) Mary, born in September 1739, who died unmarried. His widow, who was ranger of Greenwich Park, died at her house at Whitehall on 17 Feb. 1780, aged 79.

There is a portrait of Pelham by Hoare of Bath in the National Portrait Gallery. Another portrait was exhibited by the Duke of Newcastle at the Loan Collection of National Portraits at South Kensington in 1867 (Catalogue, No. 336); and a third, also by William Hoare, was lent by the Earl of Chichester to the Guelph exhibition in 1891. There are engravings of Pelham by Houston, after both Hoare and Shackleton.

[Besides Coxe's Memoirs of the Pelham Administration and the other works quoted in the text, the following books have been consulted: Lecky's Hist. of England in the Eighteenth Century, 1883, vol. i.; Mahon's Hist. of England, 1858, vols. iii. iv.; Torrens's History of Cabinets, 1894; Dodington's Diary, 1784; Chesterfield's Letters, 1845, ii. 457; Macaulay's Essays, 1885, pp. 286–7, 293, 299–303; Ballantyne's Life of Carteret, 1887; Earle's English Premiers, 1871, i. 79–126; Georgian Era, 1832, i . 298–9; Lower's Notices of the Pelham Family, 1873, pp. 49–51; Horsfield's Sussex, 1835, i. 182–5, 351–3; Brayley's Surrey, 1850, ii. 435–441; Thorne's Environs of London, 1876, i. 203–205; Collins's Peerage of England, 1812, v. 518–521; Burke's Peerage, 1894, p. 280; Foster's Alumni Oxonienses, 1500–1714, iii. 1138; Alumni Westmonasterienses, 1852, pp. 544, 555, 556; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1890; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. ii. pp. 47, 56, 67, 79, 81, 92, 104; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. vi. 168.]

G. F. R. B.