JEFFREYS, John (1706-66), of the Priory, Brecon, and Sheen, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 1706, 1st surv. s. of John Jeffreys, M.P., by Elizabeth, da of Anthony Sturt, M.P., of London. unm. suc. fa. 1715.
Jt. sec. to Treasury 1742-46; sec. to chancellor of the Exchequer 1752-4; warden of the mint 1754-d.; dep. ranger of St. James’s and Hyde Parks 1757-d.
Jeffreys came of a leading Breconshire family. His father and his uncle, Sir Jeffrey Jeffreys, were wealthy tobacco merchants who sat for Brecon county and borough respectively. A gamester, and a popular member of White’s, he soon ran through his private fortune.
After unsuccessfully contesting Brecon borough on coming of age, Jeffreys was returned for the county by a small majority in 1734, representing it till 1747, when he was brought in on the government interest at Dartmouth. He began his career in opposition, attaching himself to Pulteney, who after Walpole’s fall made him joint secretary of the Treasury, worth about £5,000 p.a. in wartime, an appointment described by Horace Walpole as White’s contribution to the Government.1 Though notoriously inefficient and quite incapable of carrying on the business of the Treasury should anything happen to John Scrope, the octogenarian senior secretary, he was the only one of Pulteney’s friends who was not turned out at the end of 1744. ‘I have known the man long’, Pelham, a fellow member of White’s, replied, when told that almost everybody in the House of Commons was asking ‘what public reason could be given for keeping in’ Jeffreys. ‘I think him a good retired inoffensive creature, and as such had no desire to show resentment to him on the account of others; nor did I imagine the public would think itself at all interested in his situation one way or the other’.
In 1746 Pelham told James West, his secretary as chancellor of the Exchequer, that ‘as Mr. Scrope was very old’ he desired West to replace Jeffreys; but that ‘he was so pressed by Mr. Jeffreys’ friends that he could not remove him without some provision’, and that West would have to allow him £1,000 p.a. till other arrangements could be made, meanwhile retaining the office of secretary to Pelham. When West became senior secretary on Scrope’s death in 1752, Jeffreys was quartered on the new joint secretary, Nicholas Hardinge.2 Announcing these changes to Newcastle, Pelham remarked that they would enable him ‘to show some mark of regard to little Jeffreys, by naming him secretary to me as chancellor, with the same advantages he had before. You know Arundell, Lord Lincoln, etc. press me much upon this and it suits with my own inclination also’.3 He continued to be financially supported by successive Administrations till his death 30 Jan. 1766.