DUCKETT, Thomas (1713-1766), of Hartham, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. 10 Feb. 1713, 2nd s. of George Duckett, M.P. for Calne, by Grace, da. and h. of Thomas Skinner of Dewlish, Dorset. m. 31 Mar. I765, Anne Ferrier of Haverfordwest, s.p.
The Duckett family owned the manor of Calne and Calstone, and eight of their name represented the borough between 1584 and 1766. Thomas Duckett was a merchant trading to Portugal, and appears in London commercial directories at various addresses, 1752-64. He was returned unopposed in 1754, and politically connected himself with Lord Sandwich who reported to Newcastle, 24 Dec. 1755, that he had learnt from Robert Jones that Duckett had ‘attended and voted in every question this sessions in support of the measures of the Government’. Duckett ‘was a great sufferer’ in the Lisbon earthquake of that year,1 which possibly caused him in June 1757 to vacate his seat in Parliament, then required by the Government, against a secret service pension of £500 p.a. ‘till an office of that value can be found for him’.2Meantime the question of Duckett’s selling Calne manor had arisen. ‘Mr. Duckket’, wrote John Bull, the local election manager,3 to Lord Shelburne, 30 Oct. 1756, ‘had an uncle prepossessed with a mistaken notion that his being elected Member for Calne was expensive to him, and therefore often desired he would sell his manor here in order to prevent his having any connection with his borough, and nothing that Mr. Duckett could say, could undeceive him.’ The uncle died lately, ‘and has given him his estate about £600 p.a. after his widow, upon condition he’ll sell this manor, otherwise he has given it to his next brother’. The manor secured to its owners ‘a natural interest in this borough ... near half the burgesses being their tenants’. ‘Whether Mr. Duckett is obliged to sell immediately, or stay till his aunt’s death, I don’t know ... though if a good purchaser offered, I believe he would do it immediately.’4 The matter was discussed, but nothing came of it, and in 1761 Duckett was determined to stand again for Parliament. Henry Fox wrote to Lord Fitzmaurice, 24 Jan. 1761:
Mr. Duckett has been with me. He has so often and so lately declared to the electors of Calne that he will stand, that he shall be looked upon as a very fickle and silly man if he should not. But if a year or two hence I make any proposal to him he shall be very glad to resign to any friend of yours and mine; or, if ever he thinks of it himself we shall have the refusal. This was all I could get out of him.
And Sandwich wrote to Newcastle, 29 Jan.: ‘I have sounded Mr. D. as to his present political creed’, and found him disposed ‘to concur in everything that can support or strengthen your Administration’.5 In Bute’s list of 1761 Duckett is marked ‘Government’; he is not in Fox’s list of Members favourable to the peace preliminaries in December 1762; but does not appear in any minority list either; is marked by Jenkinson in the autumn of 1763 as ‘pro’, and by Rockingham in the summer of 1765 as ‘contra’; but by that time he was hardly capable of attending Parliament. There is no record of his having spoken in the House.
In September 1762 the question of purchasing Duckett’s estate reappears in Bull’s letters to Shelburne; in February-March 1763 an agreement was concluded, the price being £28,637. On 5 Mar. 1764 Bull suggested to Shelburne to examine whether in view ‘of the precariousness of Mr. Duckett’s health’, it might not be advisable for him to inform his friends at Caine that he had purchased Duckett’s estate, and hoped they would give him ‘leave to recommend a gentleman upon that interest’. But the purchase does not seem to have been as yet completed. On 31 Mar. 1765 Duckett married a girl of 20; the next day Bull paid them a visit; and found it difficult to form a judgment of Duckett’s mental condition as he had ‘so far lost his speech by the palsy in his tongue and mouth, that nobody but those about him know what he says’. If the marriage settlement affected Shelburne’s purchase, and her concurrence is required, ‘the completion of that affair must be postponed till she’s of age’. And on 10 Feb. 1766, Bull wrote to Shelburne who wished to return John Calcraft in Duckett’s place:
In regard to Mr. Duckett his affairs are at present so circumstanced, that if he quits his seat in Parliament, he is sure to be in a gaol in a week afterwards, unless he had a few thousands to answer some of his voracious creditors, which is not in his power to advance till he receives his purchase money of your Lordship; therefore I can’t think of proposing to him to vacate his seat in Parliament till the affair with your Lordship is completed, or a further sum advanced sufficient to make his creditors easy.
Duckett died in March 1766. His executors refused at first to complete the sale; ‘so infirm that he could not express himself in correct words’, he was understood to have denied having sold Calne or having got married;6 but his brother William stepped in and the sale was soon afterwards concluded.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. See ‘Mr. Bowman’s Abstract and Observations’ in Sir G. Duckett’s Duchetiana, 66.
- 2. W. Pitt to Newcastle, 26 June 1757, Add. 32871, f. 406; for payments of that pension see Namier, Structure, and ‘Thomas Duckett and Daniel Bull’, Wilts. Arch. Mag. xliv. 2.
- 3. About him see Namier, Structure, 146.
- 4. Lansdowne mss.
- 5. Add. 32918, f. 110.
- 6. See memo. by Sir George (Jackson) Duckett (q.v.) in Duchetiana, 65-66.