HARVEY, Edward (1718-78), of Cleveland Court, Westminster

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



5 Dec. 1761 - 1768
1768 - 27 Mar. 1778

Family and Education

b. 1 Aug. 1718, 3rd s. of William Harvey, M.P., of Chigwell by Mary, da. and h. (coh.?) of Ralph Williamson of Berwick, Northumb; bro. of Eliab and William Harvey.  educ. Westminster 1727-35; L. Inn 1736.  m., 1s.

Offices Held

Cornet 10 Drag. 1741, lt. 1744; capt. 7 Drag. 1747, maj. 1751; lt.-col. 6 Drag. 1754; col. 1760; maj.-gen. 1762; col. 12 Drag. 1763-4; col. 3 Horse 1764-75; adjutant-gen. of the forces 1765- d.; lt.-gen. 1772; gov. of Portsmouth 1773- d.; col. 6 Drag. 1775- d.


Harvey’s advancement after the accession of George III seems to have been furthered largely by the efforts of his brother William, a friend of Fitzmaurice and Bute. In December 1760, when Harvey was appointed aide-de-camp to the King, John Calcraft wrote to him: ‘Let me tell you to whom alone you are obliged for this: Lord Bute, Lord Fitzmaurice, and your brother Will. Lord Bute got you rank at the instance of the two latter.’ At the same time William was negotiating a seat for his brother, and declared to Calcraft that he himself ‘would be security for the £2,000 it must cost if the opportunity could be found’. On 9 Dec. Calcraft informed Edward Harvey that Fox would return him at Dunwich ‘upon such terms as you or any independent man may accept it’. In fact Fox subsequently decided to nominate Harvey and William Hamilton for Midhurst, the Browne interest there having been offered to the court. This arrangement broke down: Harvey withdrew and Hamilton was returned, as Lord Waldegrave commented to Newcastle, ‘not because Hamilton had better pretensions, but because Harvey had greater regard to the convenience of his friends’. No seat was found for him at the general election, but on 22 May 1761 Waldegrave wrote to Newcastle: ‘Mr. [William] Harvey by his connexion with the Colebrooke family has hopes of bringing in the Colonel for Gatton, and is ready to give a good price. Sir G. Colebrooke has told Mr. Harvey that he should be guided by your Grace ... [Harvey] is esteemed a good man, as well as a good officer.’ He was returned at the by-election in December.1

In Bute’s list of December 1761 Harvey was classed ‘Fox, pro’, but absence in Germany prevented his voting on the peace preliminaries.2 He did not vote with the minority on Wilkes, 15 Nov. 1763, but James Harris records that on the 23rd, after a speech by Grenville, ‘Beckford, Cooke, and Edward Harvey followed, all of the other side’.3 He did not vote in opposition in any of the divisions of 1764, nor does his name appear in lists of absentees. He was classed ‘pro’ in Rockingham’s list of July 1765, but voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act, 22 Feb. 1766, and in November 1766 was classed ‘Bute’ by Rockingham. Described as ‘Government’ in Townshend’s list of January 1767, he voted with Administration over the land tax.

In 1768 he was returned by Government at Harwich, and from this time regularly voted with the court—with one known exception: the division on the sending of troops to St. Vincent, 15 Feb. 1773. According to Horace Walpole, ‘General Harvey ... had threatened to condemn in Parliament the embarkation of troops at so improper a moment’, and the King had ordered him to be moderate, but Harvey voted in opposition.4

Harvey spoke rarely in the House, and generally on military matters. He told the House that he considered that ‘an adjutant-general who would not give every military assistance possible [on] every military question that may be asked, from a fifer to the highest in commission, is unworthy his office’.5 As adjutant-general he had considerable influence over military appointments. Lord George Sackville wrote to General Irwin, 24 Oct. 1767: ‘General Harvey ... knows more of the real intentions of his Majesty as to military affairs than any one man about court; and the only right things which are recommended by Lord Granby are the effects of General Harvey’s influence over him.’6 But according to Thomas Whately, Harvey himself declared:7

If it were not for the reviews the army would go to ruin, for want of a proper authority, which the King would not, Lord Granby would not, and he in his subordinate situation could not exercise; that he had represented to the King, that if his Majesty received equally well the deserving and undeserving officers, it would be impossible to preserve a distinction between them; but that his representations had not all the effect he could wish; and the emulation of reviews alone now kept up attention to discipline.

Walpole described Harvey as ‘a personal military favourite of the King’,8 and that he thought highly of Harvey is shown in a letter to Lord Barrington, 15 July 1773, in which the King ordered the governorship of Portsmouth to be given to Harvey ‘whose ability and integrity make me happy of this occasion of rewarding him’.9

No speeches of Harvey’s are recorded after 1773, and though his name appears in existing majority lists, his preoccupation was with army affairs.  He died 27 Mar. 1778.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Mary M. Drummond


  • 1. Add. 17495, ff. 179, 181; 32923, f. 220.
  • 2. HMC Rutland, ii. 279.
  • 3. Harris’s ‘Debates’.
  • 4. Last Jnls. i. 172.
  • 5. Cavendish’s ‘Debates’, Egerton 244, pp. 99-101.
  • 6. HMC Stopford-Sackville, i. 124.
  • 7. Grenville Pprs. iv. 305.
  • 8. Last Jnls. i. 172.
  • 9. Barrington mss.