CORBETT, Thomas (c.1687-1751), of Nash, Pemb.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer



6 Feb. 1734 - 30 Apr. 1751

Family and Education

b. c.1687, 1st s. of William Corbett of Nanteos, Card. and M. Temple by Eleanor, da. of Col. John Jones of Nanteos. educ. Westminster (K.S.) 1701. m. 31 Jan. 1740, Mary Lloyd of Duke St., London, 1da.

Offices Held

Clerk 1704-5, sec. 1705-9, 1711 to Sir George Byng; clerk in the Admiralty 1715-23, chief clerk 1723-8, dep. sec. 1728-41, jt. sec. 1741-2, sec. 1742-d.; sec. to Greenwich Hospital 1716-36; sec. to court of assistants for relief of poor widows of navy officers (£200 p.a.) 1740.


Corbett joined the navy as an ordinary seaman in 1704, serving under Sir George Byng, whose secretary and trusted assistant he became. In 1712, when he was at Utrecht, where he vainly endeavoured to obtain the post of secretary to Lord Strafford, he wrote to Byng:

I think I may say for myself, I know no intrigue in business but honesty, nor any party, but gratitude to my patrons, and to those who support me in the world. If, to acknowledge the eternal ties I have to you, if to mention your name with the honour I owe you, be to be a Whig, I shall so far glory in the name. Nor would you, I am sure, think the worse of me, if I bore the same respect for any benefactors on the Tory side which I should most certainly, had I the same obligations to them [as] I have to you.

Appointed a clerk in the Admiralty in 1715, when Byng was re-appointed to the board of the Admiralty, he was promoted chief clerk ‘over the heads of all the rest of the staff’1 in 1723, when Byng was treasurer of the navy, and made deputy secretary in 1728, after his patron had become first lord. Returned for Saltash on the Admiralty interest in 1734, he spoke on 23 Apr. 1735 for the Government against an opposition bill limiting the number of officers in the House of Commons, and in an army debate on 18 Feb. 1737.2 On 16 Nov. 1739 he opposed a bill moved by Pulteney awarding all prize-money to officers and seamen of the Royal Navy, and on 1 Feb. 1740 defended the navy estimates. When in 1742 he succeeded Josiah Burchett as secretary to the Admiralty, Henry Legge gave a description of him to the Duke of Bedford, then first lord, 17 Aug. 1745:

We go on very lovingly and comfortably with our monocular secretary; when one comes to be better acquainted with him, he is not so bad as he looks. It is true he has but one eye, but then he takes the more exact aim at the matters in question with the remaining one, as it is constant economy of nature in all her duplicate dispositions, that one becomes stronger and does double duty when the other is off from guard.3

In the end he became so infirm that John Clevland was appointed joint secretary to help him to carry on the business.4 He died 30 Apr. 1751.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Byng papers (Navy Recs. Soc.) iii. pp. xi-xii, xv, 45.
  • 2. HMC Egmont Diary, ii. 350.
  • 3. Bedford Corresp. i. 37.
  • 4. Namier, Structure, 40.