TRACY, Robert (?1706-67), of Stanway, nr. Tewkesbury, Glos.
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Family and Education
b. ?1706, 1st s. of John Tracy of Stanway, Glos. by Anne, da. of Sir Robert Atkyns, chief baron of the Exchequer. educ. New Coll. Oxf. 10 Nov. 1724, aged 18. m. 7 Aug. 1735, Anna Maria, da. of Sir Roger Hudson, director of South Sea Co., s.p. suc. fa. 1735.
Robert Tracy belonged to a branch of an ancient Gloucestershire family, who in 1532-3 obtained a crown grant of the manor of Stanway, part of the lands of the abbey of Tewkesbury. Returned for Tewkesbury after a contest in 1734 as a government supporter, he became a trustee and common councilman of the Georgia Society in 1734, having several meetings with Walpole in 1739-40 to obtain increased financial assistance from Parliament for the colony.1 He voted for the Spanish convention in March 1739; spoke against an opposition motion asking for papers relating to the war with Spain, 29 Nov.; absented himself, on 29 Jan. 1740, from a division on the place bill, which the corporation of Tewkesbury had instructed him to support;2 spoke against an opposition motion for a call of the House two days later; and supported Sir Charles Wager’s seamen’s bill in 1741.
‘At the earnest solicitation’ of the leading Gloucestershire Whigs, Tracy agreed to declare himself a candidate for the county at the next general election, ‘without regarding any ill consequences it might have as to my interest at Tewkesbury’, for which he also intended to stand. Announcing his decision to Walpole, he wrote:
I returned but yesterday from Tewkesbury race, and find indeed the people are disgusted with my declaration and some call it a desertion, but my old friends still stick by me, and ... I will poll the borough to the last man, against any opposition whatsoever.
He added that the people of Tewkesbury
damn the convention and all who espoused it, so that I suffer for righteousness sake and, if it be a shame, glory in it since I voted for it merely from conscience and a firm persuasion that what I did was for the true interest of my country. I can’t help having a just contempt for men so misled, and am determined notwithstanding this behaviour to try my fate both for town and county, since as to the latter, all the Whigs of property and distinction do look upon it as a critical time, and that we have a good chance for retrieving the Whig interest. If I should prove an instrument in their hands of accomplishing their design, no body can be more sensible of the honour, or more sincerely rejoiced at so fortunate an event.3
In the end he stood for neither the county nor the borough.
Soon after Walpole’s fall Tracy went to see him at his house at Richmond, where he ‘found only three young sparks reading a bawdy book which scandalized him much, being Sunday’.4 In 1744 he wrote to the lord chancellor protesting against proposals for conciliating the Tories by giving them greater representation on commissions of the peace in certain counties, including Gloucestershire:
The general notion which prevailed upon Lord Orford’s going out, of uniting all parties under the cant term of Broad Bottom is to me absurd and ridiculous.
At the general election of 1747 he stood for Worcester city, where he was subjected to such vilification that he issued a broadsheet printing a denial by his opponents of having accused him of rape.5 He came out bottom of the poll but was returned on petition as a government supporter. According to the 2nd Lord Egmont’s electoral survey, c.1749-50,
Tracy for a time made some particular advances to us, endeavouring to set himself right in opinion as to some former behaviour— but he seems grown violent and sour against us since so that we must have no thoughts of him.
Placed by Egmont among the twelve ‘most obnoxious men of an inferior degree’ in the Commons, he returned to the charge about Tory J.P.s, writing to Hardwicke on 10 Sept. 1750:
If more Tories should be admitted the county may be thrown into confusion, and the Whig interest totally subverted.6
In 1751 Tracy applied for his wife to be made guardian to Miss Nicoll, a wealthy ward in Chancery, to whom he was distantly related. According to Horace Walpole, whose friend, John Chute, was also a candidate for this position, the ‘bait’ in Tracy’s case was the allowance of £1,000 a year authorized by the court for her maintenance.
Mr. Tracy [Walpole writes] persisting in endeavouring to force Miss Nicoll into his power, absolutely against her consent, her friends found it necessary to represent the impropriety of placing her with a gentleman who had so far damaged his fortune as to be reduced to keep his parliamentary residence at a milliner’s, and with his wife, whose intellects were in as crazy a condition as her husband’s fortune.
After hearing Tracy’s counsel, Lord Chancellor Hardwicke rejected his application without calling on Miss Nicoll’s.7
In 1752 Tracy spoke for the Government on an opposition motion against subsidy treaties in peace time.8 Next year, after seconding the Address, he applied to Pelham for financial assistance from the Government towards the cost of standing again for Worcester at the forthcoming general election, writing:
I hope I have not deserved so ill of the King and his Administration by my behaviour either at Worcester or Tewkesbury, and for the whole tenour of my conduct since I first came into Parliament.9
Pelham advanced him £1,000 from the secret service money but feared the election would cost £4 or 5,000 and ‘seemed desirous to break off engagements ..., if he had known how to extricate himself’.
After Pelham’s death Newcastle noted on 18 Mar.:
Mr. Tracy has had £1,000 for his election, demands £3,500 [sic] more—offers to desist for £2,000—to be chosen at another place—and if not chosen will return £1,000,
with the comment, ‘will lay it before the King’. On 24 Mar. Tracy wrote to Newcastle:
I beg your immediate answer whether the £2,500 will be paid, £1,000 tomorrow, and the remaining £1,500 when I go down; if these terms are not agreed to, and you will be pleased to determine tonight whether you will or will not make them good, I shall trouble neither the King nor your Grace any further, nor shall I be with you on Thursday morning, but will stand the poll for Worcester unassisted by your Grace, and free, I thank God, from all obligations. Your Grace must be peremptory tonight, or you will see me no more.
P.S. Tomorrow I shall begin executing the plan necessary to secure my election and will be put off no longer.10
Newcastle managed to extricate himself and Tracy stood down.
In 1761 Tracy again put up for Worcester but,
finding no subscription towards his election, as he expected, wrote to his friends of his intention of dropping the opposition, and they in answer told him that as he stood for the city on his own voluntary offer, so he was left to his claim to proceed or not as he thought proper.
It was thought that his design was
not to carry on a real opposition, for that would be chargeable, but to keep up the appearance of one, in order to create what expence he can to the other candidates; a design no way worthy to be supported by his friends.11
In the event he stood and was defeated.
He died 28 Sept. 1767.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: A. N. Newman
- 1. HMC Egmont Diary, iii. 19, 21, 170.
- 2. Corporation of Tewkesbury to Lord Gage and Robt. Tracy n.d. , Lechmere mss, Worcester RO.
- 3. Tracy to Sir Robt. Walpole, 21 Sept. 1739, Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss.
- 4. HMC Egmont Diary, iii. 256-7.
- 5. Tracy to Hardwicke, 25 Apr. 1744, Add. 35601, f. 317; Nicholas Taylor to Hardwicke, 4 July 1747, Add. 35589, f. 281 et seq.
- 6. Add. 35603, f. 251.
- 7. H. Walpole Corresp. (Yale ed.), xiv. 199, 215, 224, 229, and see WALPOLE, Hon. Horatio.