Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Poulett, John (1663-1743)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

POULETT, JOHN, fourth Baron and first Earl Poulett (1663–1743), statesman, only son of John, third baron Poulett, by his second wife, Susan, daughter of Philip Herbert, fourth earl of Pembroke [q. v.], was born in 1663. He succeeded to the barony in 1680, but did not take his seat in the House of Peers until 24 Nov. 1696, and then only under threat of committal for non-attendance. He threw in his lot with the tories, but was always a lukewarm politician. On the accession of Queen Anne he was appointed lord lieutenant and custos rotulorum of Devonshire on 30 May 1702, and sworn of the privy council on 10 Dec. following. In 1706 he took part in the negotiation of the treaty of union with Scotland (commission dated 10 April), and was created on 29 Dec. Viscount Hinton St. George and Earl Poulett. From 8 Aug. 1710 to 30 May 1711 he was nominally first lord of the treasury. Harley, however, was understood to preside behind the curtain. From 12 June 1711 to August 1714 he was lord steward of the household. He was also custos rotulorum of Somerset from 26 Feb. 1712 to 13 Sept. 1714. He was elected on 3 April 1706 F.R.S.; on 25 Oct. 1712 he was elected, and on 4 Aug. 1713, he was installed, K.G.

Poulett seldom spoke in parliament. He moved, however, on 11 Jan. 1710–11, the question as to the occasion of the reverse at Almanza, which formed the subject of the second debate on the conduct of the war in Spain. On a subsequent occasion (27 May 1712), in defending the Duke of Ormonde against the charge of slackness in the field, he brutally taunted Marlborough with squandering the lives of his officers in order to fill his pockets by disposing of their commissions. At the close of the debate he received a challenge from Marlborough, and, being unable to conceal his agitation from his wife, disclosed its cause. She communicated the circumstance to Lord Dartmouth, who prevented the meeting by placing Poulett temporarily under arrest. As Poulett had not shown himself active in the interest of the House of Brunswick, he lost his places on the accession of George I, during whose reign he hardly spoke in parliament except to oppose the septennial bill on 14 April 1716 and the bill of pains and penalties against Atterbury on 15 May 1723. During the reign of George II he lived the life of a country gentleman, but was rallied to the court party shortly before his death by the gift of a lord of the bedchamber's place to his eldest son, John, who was also called up to the House of Peers as baron of Hinton St. George on 17 Jan. 1733–4. On 10 Dec. 1742 he spoke in support of the proposal to take Hanoverian troops into British pay. He died on 28 May 1743.

Poulett married by license, dated 23 April 1702, Bridget, only daughter of Peregrine Bertie of Waldershare, Kent, and niece of Robert Bertie, third earl of Lindsey, by whom he had four sons and four daughters.

Macky describes him as of ‘a mean figure in his person’ and ‘not handsome.’ A portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller has been engraved.

[Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges, iv. 13; Luttrell's Relation of State Affairs, v. 165; Coxe's Marlborough, iii. 308; Marlborough's Letters and Despatches, ed. Sir George Murray, vol. iv.; Defoe's History of the Union of Great Britain, 1709, p. 20; Wyon's Queen Anne; Boyer's Annals of Queen Anne, passim; Lord Hervey's Memoirs, ed. 1884, i. 284; Private Correspondence of the Duchess of Marlborough, 1838, ii. 68, 71, 76, 314; Parl. Hist. vi. 961, 1137, vii. 295, xii. 1024; Hist. MSS. Comm. 8th Rep. App. pt. i. p. 39, 11th Rep. App. pt. iv. p. 221, pt. v. p. 309; Chester's London Marriage Licences.]

J. M. R.