HARRIS, John (1703-68), of Pickwell Manor, Devon, and Wrotham, Kent
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Family and Education
bap. 6 Sept. 1703, s. of William Harris of Pickwell Manor by Honor, da. of R. Scott Bickford of Dunsland. educ. I. Temple 1724. m. 1731, Dorothy, da. of Francis Herbert of Oakley Park, Mont., sis. of Henry Arthur, 1st Earl of Powis, 2s. 2da. suc. fa. bef. 1724.
At the general election of 1754 Harris stood for Barnstaple, where the Government candidate was George Amyand, and the manager, John Clevland, himself possessed influence in the borough. Lord Powis sounded Harris about his attitude towards Administration, and wrote to Pelham, 13 May 1753:1
An answer I have had, which is very satisfactory in relation to his future conduct in Parliament. He has put himself into my hands, and since he has done so, I wish now, with all my heart, that Mr. Clevland’s friend and Mr. Harris could be brought to join their forces in support of each other ... Mr. Harris has certainly the best interest in that borough of any of the candidates; and by what I can learn, the best single interest that any man has. This is the circumstance you said would be required by you ... I have added another ... (viz) that I will be answerable for his public conduct. Under this assurance, I shall be glad to settle this affair to your’s and Mr. Clevland’s satisfaction, on the part of Mr. Harris ... The other candidates will probably give up the point.
John Fortescue did not; but Harris and Amyand were returned after a contest. Harris’s feelings toward Clevland appear, however, from his letter to James Buller, 13 Oct. 1753:2
I hear Clevland is opposed at Saltash, I hope you will strenuously join in that opposition. It is very surprizing that in so opulent a country as Cornwall, that persons unknown to them, nay the very scrubs of the earth, should carry off their boroughs triumphantly.
In Dupplin’s list of 1754 Harris was classed as a ‘country gentleman, for’. But when Edward Boscawen, a very independent Whig, to Newcastle’s great embarrassment came forward as candidate for Cornwall, Harris wrote to James Buller, in a style indistinguishable from that of a Tory country gentleman in sharpest opposition to Government:3
Permit me, Sir, in the first place, to express my surprise that ministerial influence should now take such bold strides in your county, as not only to carry all your boroughs but to attempt even the county itself; I always thought that the first was owing to the want of true spirit in gentlemen of fortune in your county that have it in their power to enforce there a natural and true interest. I am glad however to find that you are determined to oppose such proceedings, as to the latter; and be assured that you command absolutely the little interest I can make in your country.
He did not stand again in 1761 and died in February 1768.