COKE, Daniel Parker (1745-1825), of Derby
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Family and Education
b. 17 July 1745, o.s. of Thomas Coke, barrister, of Derby by Dorothy, da. and h. of Thomas Goodwin of Derby. educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 1762; All Souls; L. Inn 1760, called 1768; M. Temple 1770. unm.
Commr. for settling American claims 1782-5; bencher M. Temple 1802, reader 1805.
Coke was a practising barrister, for many years attached to the Midland circuit. In 1775 he contested Derby on an independent interest in opposition to that of the corporation and the Devonshire family. He was defeated by 14 votes on a poll of 672, but was seated on petition.
Wraxall writes1 that Coke was ‘animated ... by public spirited and honest ... views of public benefit’, and the English Chronicle, in about 1780, described him as ‘a gentleman of small fortune ... but as independent in his parliamentary conduct as any man in the House’. His first reported vote was with the Opposition on America, 2 Feb. 1778; he was listed as ‘contra, present’ on the contractors bill, 12 Feb. 1779; voted with the Opposition for an account of pensions, 21 Feb. 1780, and on Dunning’s motion, 6 Apr. 1780. He spoke in support of the petitioning movement, 6 Apr., and on 13 Apr. voted for the motion to prevent prorogation till action had been taken about the petitions. Robinson wrote in his pre-electoral survey of July 1780: ‘He has often gone with Government, but oftener against, and almost uniformly so in the late questions.’
At the general election he was invited to stand for Nottingham on the corporation interest, and was returned after a contest. On 27 Nov. 1780 Coke told the House that though ‘he had been one of those who lamented the commencement of the American war, and disapproved many of the measures adopted in its prosecution’, now that America was ‘the confederate of the House of Bourbon ... he saw no medium between unconditional submission to the enemy and the most spirited exertions’,2 and on 12 Dec. 1781 he voted with the Administration on Sir James Lowther’s motion against the war. Coke voted with the Opposition on the censure motion against the Admiralty, 20 Feb. 1782; did not vote on Conway’s motion against the war, 22 Feb. 1782, but again supported North on that of 27 Feb. In March he went off on circuit3 and was absent from the censure motions of 8 and 15 Mar.
On 10 May 1782 Coke brought the Administration’s proposal for arming the people before the House, and called on ministers ‘to explain and justify a proceeding unauthorized previously by either branch of the legislature’. After an explanation by Fox, he said ‘that if it ought to be generally adopted, nothing could contribute more to that end than by having it sanctified by Parliament’.4 Coke was strongly opposed to the grant of a pension to Barré, and on 9 July 1782 demanded an inquiry as to which of the ministers had dared to recommend it.5 He voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, and for Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783. Coke was opposed to the Coalition’s receipts tax, and on 4 Dec. declared that ‘no man held the instructions of constituents, ordinarily considered, more cheap than he did’, but when, as in the present case, he agreed with their views he would do his best to forward their wishes. However,
he thought it incumbent on every gentleman who wished for the repeal of a tax in existence, when he moved such repeal, to come forward with another tax capable of supplying its place. He would propose two or three.
First, by which ‘none but the rich would be affected’, he suggested that private pews should be taxed. ‘He would lay £5 a year on each of the stands of pre-bends, £10 on each of the stalls of deans, and £20 each on the stalls of bishops. Deans and prebends ... were in his opinion, the most useless order of ecclesiastics in existence’; his other suggestions were for 40s. tax on grave stones marking burials in churches, which he disapproved of on health grounds; and a tax on dogs.6
In Robinson’s list of January 1784, Stockdale’s of 19 Mar. and Adam’s of May, Coke is counted as a Foxite. At the general election of 1784 he again stood for Nottingham, declaring in his election address that he ‘declined then entering into the discussion of political questions as they very often caused confusion’. He would ‘vote and act as he was conscious he had heretofore done without any view of place or emolument, but from principle and a thorough conviction of the side he should take being right’.7 He was returned unopposed.
He spoke and voted against Pitt’s Irish commercial propositions, 13 May 1785; opposed Richmond’s fortifications plan, 27 Feb. 1786; and on several occasions criticized tax proposals which he considered harmful to the interests of his constituents. On 5 May 1788 he introduced a bill to make the destruction of weaving frames a capital offence:8‘He wished not that any person should be hanged under the authority of the bill; God forbid that any should! But the bill was meant to operate upon the fears of the many, who would not otherwise abstain from practices so unjustifiable.’ The same month Coke signed the third party circular. He voted against Pitt over the Regency 1788-9. During this Parliament he spoke several times in support of the claims of the American loyalists.
Coke died 4 Dec. 1825.