PALK, Robert (1717-98), of Haldon House, Devon

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



7 Dec. 1767 - 1768
1768 - 1774
1774 - Mar. 1787

Family and Education

bap. 16 Dec. 1717, 2nd s. of Walter Palk of Lower Headborough Farm, nr. Ashburton, by Frances Abraham of Buckland-in-the-Moor, Devon.  educ. Ashburton g.s.; Wadham, Oxf. 1736.  m. 7 Feb. 1761, Anne, da. of Arthur Vansittart of Shottesbrook, Berks. and sis. of Arthur and Henry Vansittart, 1s. 3da.  cr. Bt. 19 June 1782.

Offices Held

Chaplain, R.N. 1747; chaplain, E.I. Co. 1749; member of select committee at Madras 1755; 2nd in council at Madras, Feb. 1760; gov. Nov. 1763-Jan. 1767.


Palk took deacon’s orders after leaving the University, and sailed for India in 1747 as chaplain to Admiral Boscawen’s expedition. Transferring to the service of the East India Company, he took up administrative duties, and was appointed to succeed George Pigot as governor of Madras. He returned to England for good in July 1767, with a considerable fortune, and was well received by the King and the court of directors.1

In December 1767 he was returned for Parliament at a by-election at Ashburton, where he had a powerful natural interest.2 An agreement was negotiated with Lord Orford, who commanded the other seat, that Palk was to sit only until the general election, when the candidates were to be Orford’s nominee and Palk’s friend, Laurence Sulivan.3 From 1768 to 1774 Palk sat for Wareham on the interest of John Calcraft. He resumed his seat at Ashburton in 1774, and held it until 1787, when he retired in favour of his son.

At Westminster he was associated with Lord Shelburne and John Dunning, and at first voted with Opposition. On 13 Feb. 1771 he voted against the Spanish convention, but by March 1772, when John Robinson drew up his first survey on the royal marriage bill, he was marked as a supporter of Government. On 25 Feb. 1774, when he voted to perpetuate the Grenville Act, he was classed by the Government among those who ‘generally vote with and are friends’.4 He seems to have gone back into opposition after the disasters in America: on 4 Dec. 1778 he voted against the ministry on the conciliation commission, and developed into a steady opponent. In the new Parliament he followed Lord Shelburne’s line, and was granted his baronetcy during the Rockingham Administration. He voted in favour of Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, against Fox’s East India bill, and gave general support to Pitt’s ministry. He is not known to have spoken in the House.

Palk died 29 Apr. 1798.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Lucy S. Sutherland


  • 1. HMC Palk.
  • 2. Sir Bourchier Wrey to Orford, 16 Oct. 1767. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss.
  • 3. Dunning to Shelburne, 11 Oct 1767, Lansdowne mss; Dunning to Orford, 16 Oct. 1767, Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss.
  • 4. Fortescue, iii. 74.