YORKE, Hon. John (1728-1801), of Sonning, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. 27 Aug. 1728, 4th s. of Philip, 1st Earl of Hardwicke, and bro. of Philip, Visct. Royston, Hon. Charles and Hon. Joseph Yorke. educ. Hackney; Corpus Christi, Camb. 1746; L. Inn 1746, called 1754. m. 1 Jan. 1762, Elizabeth, da. of Reginald Lygon of Madresfield, Worcs., 1da.
Clerk of the Crown in Chancery 1746- d.; chaff-wax 1752-5; patentee for commissions of bankruptcy 1755- d.; a ld. of Trade 1761-3, July-Dec. 1765; ld. of Admiralty Dec. 1765-Aug. 1766.
In 1753 Lord Rockingham offered John Yorke a seat for Higham Ferrers free of expense. ‘I had no intention of bringing Jack into Parliament’, wrote Lord Hardwicke, ‘but on the contrary many reasons against it.’1 Nevertheless, the offer was too good to be refused. But John Yorke never took a prominent part in political life. He was retiring by nature, found long debates exhausting, and does not seem ever to have spoken. Much of his time was spent at Wimpole as ‘the constant attendant’ on Lord and Lady Hardwicke.2 On 22 Aug. 1760 Hardwicke wrote to Newcastle to ask for some post in Administration for him:3
Jack was for several years unfortunate in his health, which stopped his progress in his profession. But he has not been idle, is very honest, has good parts, good temper, and is very well behaved. He is very dutiful to me (as indeed they all are) but I have more of his company, which is a comfort to me ... He is very capable of business; and if no notice should be taken of him, after having sat so long in Parliament, he will appear to be in the line of forgetfulness.
Early in 1761 he was appointed to the Board of Trade.
During the next few years he followed the twists and turns of his family’s political course. His obligation to Rockingham might have pulled him towards Opposition, but on 1 Dec. 1762 he voted with Bute’s Administration, and when Newcastle’s friends opposed the peace preliminaries on 9 and 10 Dec., Yorke and his brother Charles absented themselves.4 He resigned in November 1763 at his father’s wish, and voted with Opposition on general warrants, 15 and 18 Feb. 1764, but was reluctant to go into whole-hearted opposition. On 19 Apr. 1764, six weeks after his father’s death, he wrote to the new Lord Hardwicke:5
Though we sacrifice our employments we intend to reserve to ourselves the free use of our understandings and judgments, and do not consider ourselves as having been absolutely bequeathed as a legacy to his Grace [Newcastle] for ever.
But he drifted with the rest of his family into the Rockingham camp, and in 1765, when they came in, was given office.
At the general election of 1768 he succeeded his brother Charles at Reigate. He voted with Opposition on Wilkes in the spring of 1769, but supported Administration on the Falkland Islands settlement in February 1771.6 When he voted with Opposition on the naval captains’ petition, 9 Feb. 1773, he was marked by Robinson as one who usually supported Government. In the Parliament of 1774-80, though counted as a supporter of the ministry, he did not vote in any recorded division. He had intended to retire at the next general election, and wrote to Hardwicke, 1 Sept. 1780:
I have for some time past found my health so unequal to the fatigues of attendance, that I am ashamed any longer to pretend to a seat there ... As I do not find that my belonging to that assembly can be of the smallest service to anybody, I think it is the part of an honest as well as a prudent man to make way for those who may be able to serve better.
But Hardwicke’s plans for the borough had been disrupted by the sudden dissolution, and it was found necessary to return John Yorke again. ‘Rather than create embarrassment at present’, he told Hardwicke, ‘I would submit to what I had absolutely determined against.’7 He voted in support of Lord North until the end, but took no part after 1782, and retired at the general election of 1784.
Yorke’s letters to his brother reveal a pleasant, sunny personality, and John Nichols called him ‘one of the most amiable men that ever I knew; modest, enlightened, elegant; and engaging in his manners, universally beloved’.8
He died 4 Sept. 1801.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: J. A. Cannon
- 1. Add. 35359, f. 378.
- 2. Add. 35374, f. 194.
- 3. P. C. Yorke, Hardwicke, ii. 596.
- 4. The reference to John Yorke in Sedgwick, Letters of Geo. III to Bute, 173, is almost certainly a mistake for his brother Royston.
- 5. Add. 35374, f. 215.
- 6. Burke to Rockingham, 16 Feb. 1771.
- 7. Add. 35375, ff. 243, 245.
- 8. Lit. Hist. i. 130.