BENTINCK, John Albert (1737-75), of Terrington St. Clement, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. 29 Dec. 1737, 2nd s. of Count William Bentinck by Charlotte Sophia, da. and h. of Anthony II, Count of Aldenburg. m. 17 July 1763, Renira, da. of John, Baron de Tuyll de Serooskerken, 2s. 3da.
Lt. R.N. 1757; cdr. May 1758; capt. Oct. 1758.
Bentinck’s father, a count of the Holy Roman Empire, was a son of Hans William, 1st Earl of Portland; and though he owned property in England, he lived mostly in Holland, where he was politically prominent as leader of the pro-British party. John Bentinck entered the navy about 1752; distinguished himself in 1758 in an engagement with the French; took part in the expedition against St. Malo; and in as captain of a frigate, captured three French ships.
His father wrote to the Duke of Newcastle from The Hague, 27 May 1760:1
I should reckon it a great honour, as well as a great advantage to him, if he could be elected for the next ensuing Parliament under your Grace’s favour and protection. I will answer for his gratefulness.
Newcastle replied, 6 June 1760, that he would ‘take care that Mr. Bentinck shall be chose at some sure and reasonable place’.2 He named Bentinck for Rye, a Treasury borough where expenses were negligible but where preference was usually given to men with local connexions prepared to exert themselves on behalf of their constituents. Still, as Newcastle promised to assist Bentinck ‘in his attention to the interest of the town and every member of it’, his candidature was ‘unanimously agreed to’.3
During the first two sessions of the new Parliament, Bentinck was probably away most of the time on active service. When on 6 June 1763 Sandwich, then at the Admiralty, offered Count Bentinck (with whom he had worked at the conference of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748) a guardship for his son, the Count welcomed the chance of a post which in peace time would enable Bentinck to continue in the service and yet attend Parliament.4 In further correspondence there seems to have been a good deal of sparring, Sandwich trying to pin down Bentinck politically, and the Count trying to evade the issue by saying that he could not undertake to answer for his son, ‘much less to direct him in the detail of his conduct’.5 But, he wrote on 7 Oct. 1763,6
I am very much mistaken if he flings himself headlong into any party which would be equally contrary to his honour and to common prudence. I am sure your Lordship will find him perfectly disposed to give the attention due to what may be imparted to him by you ... neither I nor my son will ever appear in the list of your enemies.
In fact, however, Bentinck had, early in September, connected himself with the Opposition,7 and, to Sandwich’s annoyance, joined them on his return to England in November.8 He voted with them in the divisions over Wilkes and general warrants; was classed by Newcastle, 10 May 1764, as a ‘sure friend’; and belonged to Wildman’s Club. On 6 Mar. 1765 he made his only recorded speech in the House, in a debate on the proposals for discovering longitude at sea.9
On 9 Jan. 1765 Count Bentinck wrote to Newcastle from The Hague:10
This letter will be delivered to your Grace by my son, who has made me a visit ... that he may receive from me the information necessary for his conduct ... Resolved, as he is, to follow principally his profession, and making himself a point of duty and honour of keeping clear of all imputation or suspicion of feeling in point of gratefulness towards his protectors ... he has hitherto made no use of, nor accepted, the advantages offered to him in his profession, fearing that his absence might be misinterpreted, notwithstanding those offers were made without any condition ... Pray, my Lord, tell my son clearly and plainly whether his presence is absolutely necessary, and if his vote can be of any use to his friends. And if not, I believe your Grace will be enough his friend and mine to advise him to follow his profession and not to remain idle at his time of life, rather than plunge himself into another sort of affairs in which he can never satisfy himself nor be of any use to his friends.
Newcastle replied on 28 Feb.:11
Your son ... is beloved, esteemed, and greatly commended by those who are at the head of his profession ... There are few commands in time of peace that can be of service to him, and those few are, and must be, always given to older officers; and the commander of a guardship in time of peace can by no means be in view to Captain Bentinck. I therefore most sincerely concur in opinion with the Duke of Portland that it is by no means worth his while to think of it.
Bentinck supported the Rockingham Administration, by whom he was appointed to the command of a ship; and subsequently went with Rockingham into opposition. In a memorandum to Portland of 11 July 176712 he asked for a place of business at the Admiralty should Rockingham’s negotiations for a new Administration be successful.
He did not take much interest in his Rye electors; ‘he has never been here since his election, at which the freemen are not a little angry’, wrote on 16 Aug. 1763 Thomas Lamb,13 the Treasury manager at Rye, who adhered to Newcastle even after his resignation. In the much more difficult circumstances of 1768, Newcastle could not risk putting Bentinck up again, nor could he find another constituency for him. Meantime Portland had been induced, at considerable expense, to contest Callington, where he had no ‘natural’ interest of his own; and his candidates were Bentinck and David Hartley, both complete strangers to the borough. They were defeated, and Bentinck does not seem to have stood again for Parliament.
Bentinck continued in the navy. He is described in the DNB as having ‘great ingenuity in mechanical pursuits’, and is stated to have made some notable improvements in ships’ pumps.
He died 23 Sept. 1775.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. Add. 32906, ff. 307-8.
- 2. Add. 32907, f. 28.
- 3. Mayor of Rye to Newcastle, 25 Mar. 1761, Add. 32921, f. 53.
- 4. Count Bentinck to Sandwich, 14 June 1763, Sandwich mss.
- 5. Same to same, 15 Sept. 1763, ibid.
- 6. Ibid.
- 7. Add. 32950, f. 315.
- 8. Greffier Fagel to Sandwich, Dec. 1763. Sandwich mss.
- 9. Harris’s ‘Debates’.
- 10. Add. 32965, ff. 107-8.
- 11. Ibid. ff. 406-7.
- 12. Portland mss.
- 13. Add. 32950, f. 148.