DRAKE, William (?1747-95), of Shardeloes, nr. Amersham, Bucks.
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Family and Education
b. ?1747, 1st s. of William Drake. educ. Westminster 1759-64; B.N.C. Oxf. 20 June 1765, aged 17; Grand Tour. m. (1) 17 Feb. 1778, Mary (d. 23 Oct. 1778), da. of William Hussey, s.p.; (2) 20 Aug. 1781, Rachel Elizabeth, da. and h. of Jeremiah Ives of Norwich, 2da.
In the Parliament of 1768 Drake’s voting pattern closely resembled his father’s. He is known to have spoken three times, all in February 1774; 14 Feb., on Woodfall’s case; 15 Feb., in favour of shorter Parliaments; and 25 Feb., for making Grenville’s Election Act permanent.
In the Parliament of 1774 his attitude towards North’s Administration hardened; and he voted against them in divisions on the civil list debts, 16 Apr. 1777, America, 2 Feb. 1778, the contractors bill, 12 Feb. 1779, and in four of the divisions February-April 1780. The Public Ledger wrote of him in 1779: ‘A very independent, conscientious man, votes on each side, but most usually in the minority’; and Robinson in his survey for the general election of 1780 wrote that Drake was ‘not of such sound principles as his father’. Drake did not vote in the division of 12 Dec. 1781 on Lowther’s motion against the war, but voted against Administration in four out of the five divisions February-March 1782 (he was absent from the one of 15 Mar.). Like his father he voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, and against Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783.
On 16 Jan. 1784 he spoke on Lord Charles Spencer’s motion of censure against Pitt’s ministry1 (his first recorded speech since 1774—a curious silence for one who later spoke so often).
He said he wished that there might always be an honourable Opposition; it was right to keep up in that House a proper jealousy of Administration to make them wary and prudent ... He ... mentioned the violence of the late East India bill, commended the moderation of the present, [and] advised the House by no means to agree to a motion calculated to disgrace an Administration just come into office.
He was a member of the St. Alban’s Tavern group which tried to bring about a union between Fox and Pitt.
After this had failed he supported Pitt, whom he described as ‘as good a minister as ever this country had’. But he voted against Pitt on Richmond’s fortifications plan, 27 Feb. 1786, and on Bastard’s motion to inquire into naval promotions, 18 Apr. 1788. He voted with Pitt on the Regency, although he disagreed with some of his proposals. In this well-reported Parliament he is recorded as having made over sixty speeches. His subjects varied a good deal, but taxation was his favourite topic (‘in all matters of public expenditure his maxim was waste not, want not’). ‘Mr. Drake possesses a most powerful voice’, wrote Stockdale, ‘and always speaks uncommonly loud.’ He talked sense, and his speeches were ornate: he was fond of a Latin quotation, and liked to show his knowledge of French affairs (he once called Pitt ‘the Necker of this country’).2
Drake died v.p. 18 May 1795. ‘He has left an immense property’, wrote the Gentleman’s Magazine (1795, p. 445), ‘partly acquired by marriage, and partly by some collateral branches. Had he lived to inherit that of his father, he would have been one of the richest men in the country.’