KER, Richard Gervas (1756-1822), of Redhall, nr. Carrickfergus, co. Antrim.
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Family and Education
b. 1756, 4th but 2nd surv. s. of David Ker of Tottenham, Mdx. by Martha née Mackpheadris. educ. Brasenose, Oxf. 30 Mar. 1775, aged 18. unm.
Sheriff, co. Antrim 1791-2; trustee, linen board [I] 1805.
Ker’s father, of a Scots family settled in Antrim, migrated to London. Ker reversed the process and purchased an Antrim estate in 1780. He was worth nearly £4,000 p.a. there in 1802.1 Early in 1796 he canvassed the county, but withdrew in the face of a contest with John Staples*. Writing to his friend Speaker Addington, 22 Feb. 1796, Ker assured him that he was a firm friend of government.2 It was doubtless Addington who procured his return to Westminster for Newport, where the patron Lord Holmes took paying guests.
Ker supported Addington’s ministry. In his first known speech, 28 July 1803, he claimed that martial law had benefited Ireland. From the Irish viewpoint, he could not be quite happy about the export tax on linen, 7 Mar. 1804, and on 3 May presented petitions against it. He grew restive when a debate on these was postponed for the benefit of Pitt’s defence bill, 31 May, spoke of ‘the late administration which he rejoiced in the recollection of having supported’ and of the ‘delay, indecision, want of energy and promptitude’ of Pitt’s new one. He opposed the additional force bill, June 1804, and wrote to Addington from Ireland to confirm its failure there, 22 Oct.3 On 6 Mar. 1805 he voted for its repeal, and again on 30 Apr. 1806. His speeches were largely confined to Irish topics. He criticized Foster’s linen manufacture bill, 13 June 1804, objected to his tax on freehold registration, 20 June, to the insolvent debtors bill introduced by a Dublin Member, 13, 28 June, and had something to say on the Irish spirits warehousing bill, 13 July 1804. On 27 Nov. he applied for a trusteeship of the linen board.4 Listed a supporter of Addington in 1804 and 1805, he nevertheless favoured the suspension of habeas corpus in Ireland, 14 Feb. 1805. He explained that although he lived in a tranquil part of Ireland, sedition was not eradicated in other counties and the opposition offered to the same measure a few years before had been proved misguided. On 15 Feb. and 15 Mar. he was a critic of the six per cent tax on packages imported into Ireland for retail. He was a member of the Anglo-Irish finance committees of 1805 and 1806. He voted in the majority for the criminal prosecution of Melville, 12 June 1805, and on 25 June announced that he would vote for it again and not for impeachment, for the sake of consistency.
As Lord Sidmouth was a member of it, he was well disposed to the Grenville ministry. He opposed Paull’s motion for copious papers on Wellesley’s Indian administration, being confident that most Members would not read them and that they might disclose information to the enemy, 17 Mar. 1806. He saw no reason why foreigners investing in British stock should not pay property tax and asked for statistics on the subject, 28 Apr., 12 May 1806.
Ker was not in the next Parliament, though it is surprising that he did not seek election. He had become a trustee of the linen board. He died 24 Sept. 1822.