HAMILTON, William Gerard (1729-96), of Hampton Court, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 28 Jan. 1729, 1st surv. s. of William Hamilton, barrister, of Lincoln’s Inn, Mdx. by 1st w. Helen, da. of David Hay of Woodcockdale, Linlithgow. educ. Harrow 1742-5; L. Inn 1744; Oriel, Oxf. 1745. unm. suc. fa. 1754.
MP [I] 1761-8.
Commr. of Trade Apr. 1756-Mar. 1761; chief sec. to ld. lt. [I] 1761-4; chancellor of exchequer [I] May 1763-1784, when he exchanged the office for an Irish pension of £2,000 p.a.
Hamilton’s reputation as a time-server was confirmed when he deserted Pitt for the Prince of Wales during the Regency crisis. Sir Gilbert Elliot reported to his wife:
The Prince of Wales has got very much into the hands of Single-speech Hamilton, who, though a friend of yours is the worst man alive. He is drawing the Prince to very bad steps for his own interest. I mean for Hamilton’s interest; and besides he prevents the Prince from consulting and being advised by his real friends and those with whom he professes to be connected.
The Prince was unable to induce Lord Pembroke to retain Hamilton as one of his Members for Wilton, but he found another seat, free of expense, as the 1st Earl of Lonsdale’s nominee for Haslemere. Perhaps, like Lonsdale, he reverted to support for Pitt from 1790. In any case, he made no mark in his last Parliament. He was listed ‘doubtful’ on the Test Act repeal question in April 1791.
In the winter of 1791-2 he suffered a severe paralytic stroke, ‘not his first and he is not expected to recover’. In August 1792 he was still ‘in a very uncertain state’. Lord Charlemont, informed of this, commented, ‘There was a man whose talents were equal to every undertaking and yet from indolence, or from a too fastidious vanity, or from what cause I know not, he has done nothing’. On 4 Mar. 1793 he obtained leave of absence from the House for ill health. At the approach of the dissolution he wrote, ‘At my age and with my infirmities a seat in Parliament can be an object neither of interest nor of ambition’. His death, 16 July 1796, came ‘just in time to save him from absolute poverty’. His Parliamentary Logic, a repertorium of adages for debaters, was published posthumously by his friend Edmund Malone.
Minto, i. 356-7; ii. 2; HMC Charlemont, ii. 197-8; Parliamentary Logic ed. Kenny, p. viii; Add. 51725, Egremont to Holland, 27 Apr. 1834.