CLERK, Sir George, 6th Bt. (1787-1867), of Penicuik House, Edinburgh.
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Family and Education
b. 19 Nov. 1787, 1st s. of James Clerk, E.I. Co. service, by Janet, da. of George Irving of Newton, Lanark. educ. Edinburgh h.s.; Trinity, Oxf. 1806; DCL 1810; adv. 1809. m. 13 Aug. 1810, Maria, da. of Ewan Law*, 8s. 4da. suc. fa. 1793; uncle Sir John Clerk as 6th Bt. 1798.
Ld. of Admiralty Mar. 1819-May 1827, Sept. 1828-July 1830, clerk of Ordnance May 1827-Aug. 1828; member of ld. high admiral’s council Feb.-Sept. 1828; under-sec. of state for Home affairs Aug. 1830-Nov. 1830; sec. to Treasury Dec. 1834-Apr. 1835, Sept. 1841-Feb. 1845; vice-pres. Board of Trade Feb. 1845-July 1846; PC 5 Feb. 1845; master of Mint Feb. 1845-July 1846.
Clerk’s youth and inexperience made him a surprising and controversial choice to step into the 2nd Earl Melville’s shoes as Member for Edinburghshire in 1811, despite the undoubted respectability of his family; indeed he was regarded in opposition circles as a mere creature of Melville’s family, holding the seat until Lord Chief Baron Dundas’s son came of age. He survived contests in 1811, 1812 and 1818 thanks to the strength of the interest that sponsored him, and though reported in 1816 to be a source of dissatisfaction to his sponsors, retained the seat, for which they did not provide a family candidate, until his defeat in 1832.1
In Parliament he could be counted on to support government. In his maiden speech he unsuccessfully proposed a clause in the distillery bill to prevent English distillers defrauding the revenue to the disadvantage of Scotch distillers, 22 Jan. He voted with ministers against the abolition of the sinecure paymastership, 21, 24 Feb. 1812, and against the motion for a stronger administration, 21 May. At his re-election in October 1812 he promised to continue in the same line, espousing the principles of Pitt, though opposing parliamentary reform and Catholic relief, against which he voted on 2 Mar., 11 and 24 May 1813, also on 9 May 1817.2 On 10 May 1814 his proposal for a committee to standardize weights and measures, for the particular benefit of Scotland, was readily agreed to: the bill he proposed on 28 Feb. 1816 was lost in the Lords and on 13 Mar. 1818 he complained that nothing had been done by government to deal with the problem. He spoke in favour of the Corn Laws, 16 May 1814. On 5 June 1815 he failed to carry the Scotch game and fish preservation bill. He stood by government on the Regent’s expenditure, 31 May 1815, on the army estimates, 6 and 8 Mar., and on the property tax, 18 Mar. 1816, after interpreting the county petition he presented as favourable to it. On 11 Apr. he took a month’s compassionate leave. He voted with ministers on the composition of the finance committee, to which he was named, 7 Feb., and on the question of the lords of Admiralty, 25 Feb. 1817. On 19 May he took six weeks’ leave. He further supported ministers on the operation of the suspension of habeas corpus, 10 and 11 Feb. 1818, and, at their invitation, on the grant to the Duke of Clarence, 15 Apr.3
On being re-elected in 1818 he praised the record of the government in war and peace.4 In that Parliament he remained a member of the finance committee and became a lord of the Admiralty. He was in the government majorities on the question of Wyndham Quin*, 29 Mar. 1819, against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May, and for the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June. He was in the minority against the Marriage Act amendment bill, 26 Apr. 1819. He spoke against the reform of the Scotch burghs, 1 Apr., 6 May. He was one of the Members who remained in town as late as 23 Dec. 1819 to support government measures against radicalism, twice acting as teller for them. His subsequent public career was dominated by his friendship with Robert Peel, his contemporary at Oxford. He died 23 Dec. 1867.