STRACHEY, Henry (1737-1810), of Sutton Court, Som.
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Family and Education
b. 23 May 1737, 1st s. of Henry Strachey of Sutton Court, by Helen, da. of Robert Clerk, M.D., of Listonfield, Midlothian. educ. Westminster 1750. m. 23 May 1770, Jane, da. of John Kelsall of Greenwich, wid. of Capt. Latham, R.N., and cos. of Lady Clive, 3s. 2da. suc. fa. 23 May 1765; cr. Bt. 15 June 1801.
Clerk at War Office to 1765; private sec. to Clive 1764-Nov. 1774; sec. to Howe commission to America May 1776-Aug. 1778; clerk of deliveries at the Ordnance 1778-80, chief storekeeper 1780-2; jt. sec. to Treasury March-July 1782; jt. under-sec. of state for Home affairs July 1782-Apr. 1783; clerk of deliveries at the Ordnance Apr.-Dec. 1783; master of the King’s Household 1794- d.
Strachey, who came of an impoverished Somerset county family, seems to have started as a clerk at the War Office, whose deputy-secretary, Christopher D’Oyly was (or became) one of his closest friends. At the recommendation of Grenville and Charles Jenkinson, Clive in 1764 appointed Strachey his secretary,1 and a confidential relationship developed between them which continued till Clive’s death in November 1774; in his last days in India, when Clive was too ill to transact business, Strachey took much of it on his shoulders, and Clive in his speech of 30 Mar. 1772 declared that without Strachey’s ‘abilities and indefatigable industry I could never have gone through my great and arduous undertaking’.2
In June 1764 Strachey had gone out with him to India hoping to make an independent fortune; and though Clive during his second governorship was scrupulous in not providing any jobs for his ‘family’, he made available to them his own share in various perquisites. On 1 Jan. 1767 Strachey wrote to his attorneys, D’Oyly and his uncle George Quarme, to whom he remitted his money from India: ‘Upon the whole his Lordship’s generosity to me has not fallen short of £18,000. I shall not leave a rupee in this country.’3 On a later occasion, he told the court of directors that during the whole of his residence in Bengal he ‘never received a single rupee except from the hand of Lord Clive’.4 On his return with Clive in July 1767 Strachey paid off the heavy mortgages on the estate which had come to him on his father’s death while he was in India.
At the general election of 1768 Strachey contested Pontefract on the interest of Clive’s friend John Walsh. ‘We all thought you were more secure there than at any other place, or you should have been chosen for Bishop’s Castle’,5 wrote Clive on 22 Apr. after Strachey’s defeat in a riotous election. He was finally returned in December, the previous election having been declared void on petition. During his first two years in Parliament Strachey, following Clive, regularly voted with the Opposition. He was classed in both Robinson’s surveys of March 1772 on the royal marriage bill as Opposition, but like Clive seems to have gone over to Administration soon afterwards; and when he voted with the Opposition on the naval captains’ petition, 9 Feb. 1773, and Grenville’s Election Act, 25 Feb. 1774, he was marked in the King’s list as normally a friend, and in Robinson’s survey of September 1774 was classed as a Government supporter.
Strachey, though not personally involved in East India Company politics, helped John Walsh and Luke Scrafton to manage Clive’s interests at India House. On 25 Jan. 1774 he wrote to Clive that it seemed likely that North would ask him to become a director:
What are your wishes on that head? My opinion is that it will not suit, because if I should have a place in Government, which I know you mean I should have, it would be incompatible. Emolument in some shape is necessary for me, and that is not to be had as a director—but if your Lordship thinks I can be of service by going in, for some time merely till you have obtained something better for me, I shall certainly not have a word to say against it.6
Clive’s reaction is not recorded, but Strachey does not seem to have stood for the direction.
At the general election of 1774 Strachey was returned by Clive for Bishop’s Castle; and when at the time of that general election John Robinson, secretary to the Treasury, fell ill and there were doubts about his being able to carry on, Clive wrote to North, 27 Sept., recommending Strachey for successor. No office was, however, found for him before Clive’s death in November. In January 1775 Philip Francis wrote7 to suggest that Strachey should be sent out to Calcutta to fill a vacancy on the council: ‘Besides integrity, which in our circumstances is a sine qua non, we want men of knowledge and business.’ Nothing came of the suggestion, and Strachey remained without employment till May 1776 when he was appointed secretary to Lord Howe, head of the commission for negotiating peace with America, with a pension of £587 for life.8 ‘The employment was unsolicited and the choice does honour to both parties’, wrote Strachey’s friend T. Falconer to Charles Gray on 22 May.9 And Alexander Wedderburn wrote to the 2nd Lord Clive on 2 July:10
Strachey is not at all obliged to me or to anybody for his appointment. The conduct he had held with your father was his recommendation to one of the most important situations that this country affords. I have great confidence in the temper, abilities and principles that he possesses, and rely much upon them for the conclusion of a very difficult, though now a very hopeful undertaking ... Strachey is very well informed of the essential points in dispute, he has had a very good opportunity of knowing that the only possible means of restoring order and authority are firmness and decision; his judgment will be of singular use to those with whom he acts and his excellent temper will reconcile all men to whatever measures it is necessary to execute.
Strachey, on his return from America, was given office in the Ordnance, and when this vacated his seat at Bishop’s Castle, in a reshuffle of constituencies, was returned for Saltash. Even while sitting for a Government borough and holding office he continued loyal to Howe, and in the naval debates of 3 and 8 Mar. 1779, though present for part of the time, refrained from voting with the Government.11 He voted, however, with them in all the ten crucial divisions, February 1780-March 1782, for which lists are extant.
Almost unique is Strachey’s official career after the fall of the North Administration: he, a regular supporter of the late Government, was appointed by Rockingham in March 1782 to the key post of joint secretary to the Treasury (with Richard Burke, a complete nonentity, for colleague); next, in July, by Shelburne to the confidential and important post of under-secretary in the Home Department (and as such was one of the negotiators of the peace treaty with America); and in April 1783 was re-established by the Coalition in the Ordnance. It was only on the formation of the Pitt Government that Strachey was left without office. The need for effective civil servants was increasingly felt, and his was an early quasi civil service career. Strachey himself wrote on 15 Sept. 1785 to Lord Lansdowne (as Shelburne now was):12
For myself I never was a party man. But from habit, I am fond of business; and in the various situations into which almost mere chance has thrown me, my own credit, and the honour of my employers, have always been my only objects. Having religiously maintained those principles in the early part of life, when a deviation from them might have been convenient to my private fortune, I shall probably retain them in any future office which I may happen to find in the world of politics.
Strachey voted against Pitt on the Irish propositions, 13 May 1785, and the Regency, 1788-9.
Strachey seldom spoke in the House—one or two speeches on departmental matters are recorded—but he more than once defended Clive. And similarly he came to Howe’s defence when on 29 Apr. 1788 it was suggested in the House that Howe had unfairly discriminated against Hood’s officers.13
Strachey died 3 Jan. 1810.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Mary M. Drummond
- 1. Clive’s speech, 30 Mar. 1772, Parl. Hist. xvii. 328-80.
- 2. Ibid.
- 3. Strachey mss.
- 4. H. Strachey to P. Mitchell, 14 Dec. 1774, ibid.
- 5. Ibid.
- 6. Ibid.
- 7. To Clive, ibid. Reports of his death had not yet reached India.
- 8. T52/64/336.
- 9. HMC 14th Rep. IX. 309.
- 10. Powis mss.
- 11. Fortescue, iv. 299, 469-70 (misdated).
- 12. Strachey mss.
- 13. Stockdale, ix. 81-82; xiv. 177.