STRACHEY, Henry (1736-1810), of Sutton Court, Som. and Rooksnest, nr. Godstone, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 23 May 1736, 1st surv. s. of Henry Strachey of Sutton Court by 1st w. Helen, da. of Robert Clerk, MD, of Listonfield, Edinburgh. educ. Westminster 1750. m. 23 May 1770, Jane, da. of Capt. John Kelsall of Greenwich, Kent, wid. of Capt. Thomas Latham, RN, 3s. 2da. suc. fa. 1765; cr. Bt. 15 June 1801.
Clerk at War Office to 1764; private sec. to Robert Clive 1764-74; sec. to Howe commission to America May 1776-Aug. 1778; clerk of deliveries at the Ordnance 1778-80, principal storekeeper 1780-2; jt. sec. to Treasury Mar.-July 1782; jt. under-sec. of state for Home affairs July 1782-Apr. 1783; clerk of deliveries at the Ordnance Apr.-Dec. 1783; master of the King’s household 1794-d.
Strachey owed the restoration of his family fortunes and his introduction into Parliament to Robert Lord Clive, whose wife’s cousin he subsequently married. His aptitude for business, which he preferred to politics, secured him a succession of offices until 1784 when he joined the Portland Whigs, of whom his parliamentary patron Edward Lord Clive* was one, in opposition. While he voted with them against Pitt during the Regency crisis in 1788-9, his name did not appear in the minority lists after 1790, and he was listed hostile to repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791, although he did not commit himself to the support of administration until the Portland Whigs went over to government in 1794. He was rewarded with a Household place and carried out his duties conscientiously for the rest of his life.1 He was not conspicuous in Parliament and supported each succeeding administration. He voted against the abolition of the slave trade, 15 Mar. 1796. On 4 Jan. 1798 he voted for Pitt’s assessed taxes. His few speeches in the House were on Indian affairs: he was an East India Company stockholder. He was commissioner for the management of the affairs (i.e. debts) of the Prince of Wales. In 1801 he was made a baronet.
In April 1802, in the face of a contest, Strachey reluctantly withdrew his candidature at Bishop’s Castle, the Clive borough he had represented for many years. He assured Lord Clive (then in India) that his only object in doing so was to ensure Clive’s control of the borough; and that his replacement, Clive’s brother-in-law Robinson, stood ‘upon the express condition of relinquishing at any time, if he is elected’. He wondered whether any arrangement could be made in his favour elsewhere. In a letter to Clive’s local agent he suggested either his restoration at Bishop’s Castle, once Robinson was sure of success, or his substitution for Robert Clive as Member for Ludlow, assuming that the latter wished to be relieved of parliamentary attendance. He hinted that he was prepared to defend Lord Clive against parliamentary attack on his Indian administration. In the event he found a seat by purchase on the Duchess of Dorset’s interest and retained it until his retirement in 1807.2
Strachey’s attendance was affected by declining health after 1802. When Pitt was hard pressed for supporters in June 1804 he informed him that if he did not give ‘a fair and full support to his Majesty’s government ... he could no longer hold a place in H.M. household’.3 Strachey was in the government minority against the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. 1805, being listed Pitt’s supporter in September 1804 and July following. Thereafter, apart from a few words on behalf of his son in an East Indian debate, 5 June 1806, he faded away. He died 2 Jan. 1810. To quote his descendant, St. Loe Strachey, he was
a much trusted man. He played, indeed, a part more like that of one of the great permanent officials of the present day than that of a politician. I take it that he had not a powerful gift of speech, and that he was not a pushing man, otherwise ... he would have gone a good deal higher than he did.
Strachey’s three sons all entered the Bengal civil service; his eldest, Henry, returned to England in 1805 and was offered £4,000 by his mother for the purchase of a seat in Parliament, but being a reformer in politics, refused it rather than vote on the opposite side from his father in the House.4
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: Winifred Stokes
- 1. Geo. III Corresp. passim. Strachey was in receipt of a pension of £587 out of the 4½ per cent Carribbean duties from 1776 (Parl. Deb. ii. App. lv.)
- 2. NLW, Powis Castle mss (Clive collection) 556, 561.
- 3. Add. 35715, f. 82.
- 4. J. St. Loe Strachey, Adventure of Living (1922), 67, 72. For the family, C. R. Sanders, Strachey Fam. 1588-1932.