PRATT, Hon. John Jeffreys (1759-1840).
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Family and Education
b. 11 Feb. 1759, o. surv. s. of Charles Pratt. educ. Fawley, Bucks.; Trinity, Camb. 1776. m. 31 Dec. 1785, Frances, da. and h. of William Molesworth of Wenbury, Devon, 1s. 3da. Styled Visct. Bayham 1786-94. suc. fa. as 2nd Earl Camden 18 Apr. 1794; to Suss. and Kent estates of his cos. John Pratt 1797; K.G. 14 Aug. 1799; cr. Mq. Camden 7 Sept. 1812.
Teller of Exchequer 1780-1834; ld. of Admiralty July 1782-Apr. 1783, Dec. 1783-Aug. 1789; ld. of Treasury 1789-94; P.C. 21 June 1793; ld. lt. [I] 1795-8; sec. for war and colonies 1804-5; ld. pres. 1805-6, 1807-12.
At the general election of 1780 Pratt was put up at Bath by his father, recorder of the city since 1759. ‘How it will turn out finally I cannot pronounce with any degree of certainty’, Camden wrote to his daughter Frances Stewart, on 23 Oct. 1779. ‘But it is worth the trial, and it will cost nothing but a little trouble if it fails.’1 Still, a seat at Westbury was kept in reserve till it was clear that Pratt would be returned without opposition.
During Pratt’s first months in Parliament he was, according to his father, leading the life of a typical young man about town:
They go to bed about 3 in the morning: rise at eleven, breakfast, ride to the park, till it is time to dress—then dinner, and the evening of course dedicated to amusement ... They talk a little politics at their clubs ... but with respect to the real state of the country they neither know nor care about it.2
But on 29 Mar. Camden told Robert Stewart that while he himself took no part in divisions, ‘Jack is my representative and attends them all’: he voted consistently against North’s Administration till its fall. In the House Pratt spoke for the first time on 12 June 1781, ‘with evident embarrassment and diffidence arising most likely from the uncommon respect that was paid to him’; he maintained that the reduction of America was not feasible, and urged taking ‘every possible step’ towards a reconciliation. Apparently unable to overcome his nervousness and almost inaudible, he only appears to have spoken on one other occasion when, during a debate on economical reform on 6 May 1782, he said that though as a teller of the Exchequer he ‘would not be very willing to give up his patent, still he would not stand in the way of any economical regulations which might be thought necessary in the Exchequer’.3 He voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783; for parliamentary reform, 7 May 1783; and against Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783.
Though holding minor ministerial office almost continuously, in the Commons he made no political impact till his appointment as lord lieutenant of Ireland in 1795. The English Chronicle wrote about him in 1781:
As his abilities are rather solid than splendid, an early display of them, or an ostentatious display of them is not to be expected. Modesty, reserve, and diffidence, are the leading peculiarities of his disposition, and all conspire with the natural turn of his endowments to make him rather an interesting companion in private life than a conspicuous figure in the senate.
He died 8 Oct. 1840.