KNAPP, George (1754-1809), of Abingdon, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. 29 Jan. 1754, 1st s. of George Knapp of Abingdon by Katherine, da. of Joseph Tyrrell of Kidlington, Oxon. unm.
Mayor, Abingdon 1792, 1797, 1799, 1807.
Knapp, who had a grocery business at Abingdon to which, by 1802, he had added a banking concern run in partnership with his brother, played a prominent role in the public affairs of the town. At the general election of 1802 he was brought forward by a self-styled ‘independent’ interest to challenge the sitting Member, the nabob Thomas Metcalfe and his powerful coalition party, but suffered a narrow defeat. He was beaten again in 1806, despite the recent election of a sympathetic mayor; but in 1807, when Knapp proclaimed himself an advocate of economy, retrenchment and religious toleration, he turned the tables on Metcalfe, possibly with the assistance of some chicanery by his mayoral friend, in his capacity as adjudicator of disputed votes.1
Knapp voted consistently and regularly in opposition to government, but evidently made no contribution to debate. A long-standing friend of William Bagshaw Stevens, the confidant of Sir Francis Burdett, he was an active member of the Burdettite radical group in 1809. He supported Wardle’s campaign against the Duke of York, and at the London livery dinner in Wardle’s honour, 21 Apr., he declared:
As an individual, I am of no kind of consequence in the Senate ... but I am at all times ready to do what I think is for the good of the country; and I am as independent in principle and in conduct, as the first man in the House of Commons.2
Knapp voted for an inquiry into abuses, 17 Apr., in support of corruption charges against Castlereagh and Perceval, 25 Apr. and 11 May, and was one of the minority of 15 who voted for Burdett’s motion for parliamentary reform, 15 June 1809.
Stevens, by whose account Knapp was consistently unlucky both in his ‘amorous hopes’ and at the gambling table, described him as
a friendly good-humoured man, perhaps too good-humoured. Not he the shark but the shark’s prey. Pity that he should be such a dupe to gamesters. Without temper, skill or knavery, he is fool enough to believe himself a match for them.3
He died 12 Nov. 1809, after being thrown from his gig.