FLETCHER, Henry (c.1727-1807), of Clea Hall, Cumb.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



16 Dec. 1768 - 1806

Family and Education

b. c.1727, 7th s. of John Fletcher of Clea Hall by his 2nd w. Isabella, da. and coh. of John Senhouse of Netherhall, Cumb. m. 20 Oct. 1768, Catherine, da. and h. of John Lintot of Southwater, Suss., 1s. 1da. suc. bro. 1759;  cr. Bt. 20 May 1782.

Offices Held

Director, E.I. Co. 1769, 1771-5, 1777-80; dep. chairman Apr.-July 1782; chairman July 1782-Nov. 1783.


Fletcher was an officer in the naval service of the East India Company, from which he retired in 1766. In 1768 he stood for Cumberland on the anti-Lowther interest, backed by the Duke of Portland; and though he obtained a majority on the poll the sheriff rejected sufficient of his votes to enable Lowther to be returned. Fletcher was seated on petition. In Parliament he voted consistently with the Rockingham party, and seems to have been regular in his attendance. Before 1782 he is known to have made only one speech: 5 June 1780, on the Cumberland petition; and at the county meeting of 1780 his opponents charged him with being ‘by no means equal to the important trust of a Member of the House of Commons’ because ‘he never spoke upon any question whatsoever’.1

As chairman of the East India Company in 1782-3, Fletcher had much to do with Shelburne’s peace negotiations. In spite of his close connexion with Portland and Fox he defended the East India articles of Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, said they were acceptable to the directors, and in the division of 18 Feb. 1783 abstained from voting. Between February and November 1783 he made 15 speeches in the Commons, all on East Indian affairs.

Francis Baring, who probably knew as much about the East India Company as anyone, wrote to Shelburne on 20 Nov. 1783:2

In the state which Mr. Fox gave of the Company’s affairs he made several capital mistakes, but which I do not wonder at, as he received his information from Fletcher, who is neither capable of forming accounts himself nor of digesting those which are formed by others: the blunders which Sir Henry has made in some commercial arrangements during the present Administration are far more injurious although not obvious to the public eye, but under his management will the great commercial concerns of the Company fall.

In Fox’s East India bill Fletcher was nominated one of the seven commissioners for Indian affairs. On 24 Nov., as chairman of the Company, he presented a petition against the bill; then resigned, as he told the Commons on 27 Nov., ‘that his mind might be free and open to judge of a question of such great importance’.3 His judgment was that the bill was a good one, and he both spoke and voted for it.

Fletcher after his resignation lapsed into insignificance. Although he remained connected with Portland and Fox and voted with them in opposition to Pitt, he took no part in the impeachment of Warren Hastings—which is surprising in view of his long East Indian experience. Between 1784 and 1790 only one speech by him is recorded, 12 July 1784, on a matter concerning Cumberland.

He died 29 Mar. 1807, aged about 80.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. T. Benson to the Duke of Portland, 11 Sept. 1780, Portland mss.
  • 2. Lansdowne mss.
  • 3. Debrett, xii. 199-202.