SCOTT, Claude (1742-1830), of Sundridge Park, Kent.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 11 May 1742. m. 8 Sept. 1767, Martha, da. and h. of John Eyre of Stepney, Mdx., 1s. cr. Bt. 7 Sept. 1821.
Scott was a self-made entrepreneur in the corn trade. Farington the diarist was informed in 1803 that when ‘the late Ben Kenton ... kept the Magpie alehouse in Whitechapel, Claude Scott, about 30 years ago, applied to him offering to keep his books, being then seeking for employment’. On 13 Dec. 1794 he wrote to Charles Long* pointing out that while corn was scarce and dear at home, he could procure plentiful supplies abroad. By June 1796 he had received £1,341,327 12s. 7d. from government for the freight of foreign grain and, after outgoings of £1,220,000, hoped to be £285,000 the richer when he had disposed of the surplus grain not contracted for by government. He remained a government contractor until 1800. Farington was told he was worth £300,000; by another estimate he made just £50,000 from his grain contracts. At any rate, the kingdom was said to be indebted to him for a supply of wheat at a reasonable price, and in September 1795 he was spoken of as a candidate for the city of London at the next election. His only son, supposed to have married into ‘half a million’, also aspired to a seat at that time. Scott (and his son) signed the loyal London merchants’ declaration of 1795 and subscribed £50,000 to the loyalty loan for 1797. He invested in East India Company stock, and lived ‘splendidly’ near Bromley, on an estate he purchased in 1797.1
In 1802 Scott and his son entered Parliament as guests of Edmund Wilkins at Malmesbury, his son following his line. His attachment was to Pitt, whose question for the orders of the day he supported, 3 June 1803. In March 1804 he was listed a Pittite when he supported Pitt’s naval motion, 15 Mar. He also joined opposition to Addington on the defence questions that brought him down, 23, 25 Apr. Listed a supporter of Pitt’s second ministry, he was in the government minority on the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. 1805. He himself came under attack from William Draper Best in the House over a transaction of ten years before, when Scott was government agent for the disposal of provisions seized en route to France in neutral vessels. Best claimed (26 Apr. 1805) that the sale realized £200,000, which Scott retained for speculation and interest until 1800. Scott in his only known speech denied the charge: more than £200,000 was involved and he had deposited it in the Bank until ordered to hand it over to the treasurer of the navy. George Rose* confirmed that his conduct had been ‘perfectly correct and honourable’. Nevertheless, access to the documents was conceded.
Scott was not a friend of the Grenville ministry, opposing their repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr., and their American intercourse bill, 17 June 1806. He did not obtain a seat at the general election that year, or in 1807, but in 1809 came in for an Irish borough placed by Lord Northland at government disposal. (He had meanwhile given evidence to a select committee, on the corn import trade, 28 Mar. 1808.) He supported Perceval’s ministry throughout on the Scheldt inquiry, January-March 1810, and was listed ‘Government’ by the Whigs at that time. On 21 May 1810 he voted against parliamentary reform. He sided with ministers on the Regency, 1 Jan. 1811. After voting for the abolition of offices in reversion, 7 Feb., he opposed sinecure regulation, 4 May 1812.
Scott had retired from business in 1810 and purchased the Lytchet Minster estate in Dorset from John Jeffery*. He moved there from Kent for the sake of his wife’s health. In the election of 1812 he was an unsuccessful candidate at Bridport. It seems to have been his last attempt to return to Westminster. By 1818 he was described as
immensely rich and does a good deal of good by employing the people to improve the roads etc. ... he is a man of very strong clear sense, and never pretends to knowledge that he has not. By this plain conduct he has acquired the esteem of the gentlemen in his neighbourhood, who are a very aristocratic body.
About 1824, having been created a baronet, he became principal in the London bank of Scott, Dent & Co. He died 27 Mar. 1830, one of seven London bankers who died within two months of one another.2