SCOTT, John (1747-1819), of Kinton, Salop.
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Family and Education
b. 24 Oct. 1747, 1st s. of Jonathan Scott of Shrewsbury by Mary, da. of Humphrey Sandford of the Isle of Rossal, Salop. m. (1) 22 June 1772, Elizabeth (d. 26 Oct. 1796), da. of Alexander Blackrie of Bromley, Kent, 2s. 2da.; (2) 1796, Mary, da. of Samuel Hughes of Seskin, Tipperary, 1s. 1da.; (3) 15 Oct. 1812, Harriet Pye, née Bennet, s.p. suc. cos. Richard Hill Waring 1798 and took add. name of Waring.
Cadet E.I. Co. forces Bombay 1766; transfd. to Bengal army 1767; adj. 1 Bengal European Regt. 1774; a.d.c. to Hastings Sept. 1778.
Sheriff, Cheshire 1801-2.
When in 1778, after twelve years service in India, Scott was appointed aide-de-camp to Warren Hastings, he began an association which was to dominate his life for nearly 20 years. But it was only after his arrival in London, 17 Dec. 1781, as Hastings’s special agent in England, that he assumed any prominence. ‘In giving me your confidence, my dear sir, and in employing me in so distinguished an office’, he wrote to Hastings, ‘you have lifted me from obscurity to consideration, and my name will be handed down to posterity with your own.’1 His considerable energies were now devoted to presenting Hastings’s case and refuting the accusations of Burke and Francis. Authorized by Hastings to draw upon his private fortune, Scott published numerous pamphlets, bombarded the newspapers with letters and articles, and by a voluminous and costly correspondence kept Hastings minutely informed of current events.
The Coalition, made up as it was of Hastings’s bitter opponents, was the target of his fierce attack, and he was exultant when the ministry was dismissed. ‘Many of the party give me the credit of having contributed more than anyone amongst them to overturn the late ministry’, he wrote to Hastings on 11 Jan. 1784.2 He warmly welcomed the appointment of Pitt—‘this wonderful young man’, as he called him; and turned his thoughts to entering Parliament. Thurlow urged him to it, and Lord Bathurst promised to recommend him to his nephew, John Buller, for a seat at West Looe. But Administration feared that the Opposition would represent his return in ‘an invidious light’, and, Scott reported to Hastings on 11 Jan. 1784, though wishing ‘most earnestly that I should be in the House, they rather were inclined to defer my appearance for the first weeks’. At the general election of 1784 he refused to consider John Robinson’s suggestion that he should buy two seats, one for himself and the other to be held for Hastings, thereby securing two votes for Administration. He wrote to Hastings on 11 Mar.:
There is no reason ... why you, who have stood aloof from all parties, who have been defended upon the most independent and honourable terms that ever man was, by your own great and glorious actions, should be made the instrument of a party in this country, which you would be at once if you returned two Members in the ensuing Parliament.
He now took advantage of Bathurst’s offer, and rejected a Treasury suggestion that he should come in at Hindon. ‘It would be unbecoming for me to come in for a rotten borough and to be concerned in election squabbles’, he wrote to Hastings on 27 Mar.; anyway his connexions and family entitled him to a seat ‘equally with any Member in that House’. He was returned unopposed at West Looe, and his seat cost Hastings £4,000.3
‘I have now complete access to all the records’, he wrote to Hastings on 8 May 1784, ‘and whenever Parliament meets we shall feel the good consequences of my having a seat in the House, since it will enable me to reply to any falsehood which our enemies may dare to publish in that assembly.’4 And throughout the ensuing Parliament he seized every opportunity to put Hastings’s case, in great detail and at wearisome length. ‘Although Mr. Hastings is not here in person’, Philip Francis remarked during the debate of 2 July 1784, ‘he appears fully by his representative.’5 Besides his defence of Hastings, Scott’s declared intention was ‘to detect and expose the most fallacious and ridiculous accounts which have been detailed in this House and elsewhere, and disseminated with so much industry throughout this nation ... of the state of Bengal and its dependencies’.6 Wraxall, after commenting on the unremitting frequency of his speeches, wrote:7
Unfortunately for Hastings the prudence and caution of his parliamentary representative did not equal the purity of his intentions. Relying on the meritorious public services rendered by the governor general ... Scott, imperfectly acquainted with the secret ministerial springs, reckoned too confidently on the permanent friendship of Administration, while he always spoke from behind the Treasury bench, and supported Pitt on almost every question, he expected reciprocal assistance from that quarter.
Hastings ‘certainly in a great measure owes his misfortune to the mistaken zeal of his friend Major Scott, who bullied Burke into the persecution’, wrote General Grant to Earl Cornwallis, 6 Apr. 1788.8 But according to Mrs. Hastings, Scott, when on 24 Jan. 1786 he urged Burke to proceed with his threatened inquiry, was merely following the instructions of her husband, who had requested him ‘to ask Mr. Burke what he meant by his abuse of Mr. Hastings—he desired to be impeached that he might clear his character of various calumnies which had been thrown out against him’.9 Though after Hastings’s return Scott ceased to act as his paid agent, he continued as his spokesman in the House, and of his numerous speeches only one or two refer to matters unconnected with India.
He died 5 May 1819.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Mary M. Drummond
- 1. 24 Apr. 1784, Add. 29163, f. 186.
- 2. Gleig, Life of Hastings, ii. 109.
- 3. Add. 29161, ff. 240, 325; 29162, ff. 138, 326; 29163, ff. 49-50, 186.
- 4. Add. 29163, f. 344.
- 5. Debrett, xv. 345.
- 6. Stockdale, xvii. 398-9.
- 7. Mems. iii. 436.
- 8. Cornwallis Corresp. i. 376.
- 9. Quoted S. Weitzman, Warren Hastings and Philip Francis, 175 n. 2.