LUTTRELL, Hon. James (c.1751-88).
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Family and Education
Lt. R.N. 1770, capt. 1781; surveyor-gen. of Ordnance Mar. 1784- d.
James Luttrell was returned after a contest for the seat at Stockbridge vacated for him by his brother. Like his brothers Temple Simon and John he had been in America and opposed the American war. In language resembling Temple’s, he said, 3 Dec. 1777:1
I cannot agree to vote away the lives and properties of my fellow subjects, merely for the purpose of enriching and aggrandising a few favourites and flatterers placed near the throne.
And on 12 Mar. 1778 he moved to allow the conciliation commissioners to promise the removal of ministers who stood in the way of reconciliation.
But he did not share completely the Opposition view of the war.
I acknowledge I wished the Americans success [he said on 25 May 1778] so long as you waged an unjust, rash, and savage war against them ... the same sentiments which warmed me in their cause, must animate me to call strenuously upon Ministry for vigorous measures against France and Spain.2
Yet till 1780 he regularly voted against the court.
Part of the bargain which Lord Irnham made with the court in 1780 was that James Luttrell should have a command at sea. Luttrell wished to be promoted captain, but Sandwich wrote to John Robinson on 15 July 1780:
I perfectly approve the letter you have written for Luttrell, except that it wants one word of addition, namely, that he will be sent out again with Lord North’s recommendation to a commander-in-chief on a foreign station. Without these words which are underlined he would claim a promise to be made a post captain at home, which is utterly impracticable.
Robinson wrote to Luttrell on 16 July:
I do really believe Lord Sandwich does not act upon any personal grounds towards you ... and I have not the least doubt but if you would consent to make a short cruise, the business would soon be put in such a train as would end to your satisfaction.
A fortnight later Luttrell was appointed first lieutenant of the Belliqueux. Sandwich, wrote Robinson to Luttrell on 29 July,
will take care this ship shall not be ordered off the Channel service while you are in her, and that he will take an early opportunity of making you master and commander. This I hope will be agreeable to you, and that it will lead to the speedy completion of your prayers.3
Promoted captain on 23 Feb. 1781, in 1782 Luttrell was in command of the Mediator in the action with the French fleet off Ferrol. About his part in this affair, the King wrote to Keppel, first lord of the Admiralty, 22 Dec. 1782:4 ‘The skill as well as bravery shown by Captain Luttrell ... deserve much approbation.’
He returned to Parliament in 1783, and probably voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries.5 On 12 May 1783 he attacked Sandwich as ‘the chief cause of our navy being in the wretched state it was at the commencement of the war, as well as in the mismanagement of the navy through the whole of its progress’. He did not vote on Fox’s East India bill, and when Pitt came to office seems to have played a waiting game. Only one speech is reported between the dismissal of the Coalition and the general election—on 2 Feb. 1784 when he seconded Thomas Grosvenor’s motion for a ‘firm, efficient, extended, united Administration’. ‘He had declined for some years attending party questions founded on private ambition but was happy to join with independent men, whose object was the public good.’6
On 30 Mar. 1784 the King wrote to Pitt:7 ‘Mr. James Luttrell I have always understood to be the best of that strange family, I have therefore signed the appointment of him as surveyor of the Ordnance.’ On 5 Apr. he was elected after a contest for Dover, where he had Government support. Henceforth, of course, he regularly voted with Pitt.
He died 23 Dec. 1788.