CROFT, Sir Archer, 2nd Bt. (1683-1753), of Croft Castle, nr. Leominster, Herefs.
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Family and Education
bap. 3 Apr. 1683, 1st surv. s. of Sir Herbert Croft, 1st Bt., M.P., by Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Archer, M.P., of Umberslade, Warws. educ. New Coll. Oxf. 1702. m. 10 Jan. 1723, Frances, da. and h. of Brig.-Gen. Richard Waring of Dunston Park, Berks., 3s. 1da. suc. fa. 3 Nov. 1720.
Ld. of Trade 1730-41.
Croft came of a prominent Herefordshire family, who had represented the county in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. After unsuccessfully contesting Leominster in 1713, he was returned head of the poll in 1722. When Parliament was recalled on the death of George I, Croft, assuming that the Speaker, Sir Spencer Compton, was going to oust Walpole, applied to him to ‘open’ the Address, which he seconded, 28 June 1727. When it became apparent that Walpole would remain in power, Croft wrote to him, 29 July 1727:
Having too much reason to apprehend that you resent my application to the Speaker to open the King’s Speech, I can’t but be encouraged from the friendship you have been pleased to show and express for me, to endeavour to set this matter in a true light, and in the most solemn manner to assure you, that I had no other thought or intention by applying to the Speaker, but that I was persuaded it would give the Tory Party a very sensible mortification to see the honour done to one in every respect so entirely opposite to their interests.
Protesting his ‘unalterable regard’ and pleading not to be ‘laid aside only for a mistake’, he concluded:
I can hardly, Sir, doubt that after this plain declaration, you will not do me the honour, which I may justly say not a few think I deserve, to admit me to sit at the board of Treasury, Admiralty, or of Trade, as there is no man will more sincerely and heartily use his utmost endeavours to serve you.1
Defeated at Leominster in the general election, he wrote to Mrs. Clayton, the Queen’s favourite (see under Clayton, William, of Sundon), 15 Dec. 1727:
I am very sensible how much I ought to ask pardon for taking this liberty with a lady to whom I am a complete stranger ... As I was ambitious to distinguish myself early in the last session of Parliament upon his Majesty’s accession to the Crown, so I beg leave to assure you I had no other view in doing it than to testify the regard I ever had for the success of the illustrious House of Hanover. With these thoughts I cannot be easy to find myself not in the same capacity of serving my country occasioned by the hard usage I had at my election. If you, Madam, shall approve of laying this before her Majesty ... I shall yet hope to be restored to my seat in Parliament upon some double return; in which if I am so happy to have her Majesty’s recommendation it shall be my constant endeavour to the utmost of my ability to approve myself worthy of so distinguishing a mark of her Majesty’s favour.
He was returned on the Treasury interest for Winchelsea but chose to sit for Bere Alston, where he was also returned on the Drake interest.
When Frederick, Prince of Wales, was brought over from Hanover in December 1728, Croft again applied to Mrs. Clayton:
If I have not already too far presumed on your goodness ... I would take the liberty once more to put myself under your protection ... The happy prospect we now have of a Prince of Wales to reside among us must make every one who is desirous to distinguish himself in the service of his King and country proud of being a servant to his Royal Highness. I will not be so vain, and put my merit into the balance with those who have been thought worthy of the royal favour; but I hope I may say my zeal for the royal family is at least equal to theirs: which I shall always be ready to give the best proof of that I am able, upon every occasion that offers itself in Parliament. It will not perhaps become me to say what employment I would choose, any further than that I doubt my indifferent health will not allow me to accept of one that requires long and constant attendance.2
His application was unsuccessful. In a debate on the army, 31 Jan. 1729, he made ‘a set speech on the Ministry’s side’ but ‘the House had heard the best speakers before, and grew impatient’. He also spoke for the Government on the civil list arrears, 24 Apr. Next year on the Hessians he said, ‘in his zeal ... that he would be for maintaining the Hessians, though the defence of Hanover should be alone the reason, because the King has done so much for us that we cannot do enough for him ....’ Rewarded with a seat on the board of Trade, he spoke first for the Government on 17 Feb. 1731 against a bill for excluding pensioners from the House of Commons, declaring
his dislike of the bill, because it restrained freedom of debate. At this there was a loud laugh, and gentlemen asked if a pensioner were free. He proceeded to show the necessity there is, that the Crown should have an influence over the House, to carry on the nation’s interest and service, and instanced King William’s reign, which Prince was continually thwarted, and his wise measures spoiled, by a wicked and desperate faction, for want of a proper influence over the House of Commons; so that he must needs say a wicked and desperate opposition to court measures in Parliament has done more hurt to the nation than a base submission to them. Here the House laughed again as loud as before.
After some further observations by Croft,
Mr. Oglethorpe said he was unwilling to interrupt that gentleman while speaking, but now he must call him to order, and desire him to explain himself what he meant by the words ‘wicked and desperate opposition’. That he hoped he meant none within the House, for none who speak for liberty can do it wickedly and desperately. Upon this, Sir Archer explained himself that he only meant an opposition without doors, and the opposition made in former Parliaments, which excuse, though a lame one, was indulgently accepted.
On 2 Feb. 1733 he opposed a reduction of the army on the ground that the existing force, while ‘not sufficient to enslave us’, was ‘sufficient to prevent home insurrections with the assistance of the loyal body of the nation’, and that it was impossible to be entirely secure while there were ‘such numbers of priests, and so many converts daily made to Popery’. Next year he published a pamphlet on popery which ‘made all parties unite in this particular, that there never was so unintelligible and ridiculous a political writer’.3
Having failed to secure a seat at the general election of 1734, Croft wrote to Walpole, 24 Dec. 1737:
I can truly say, it has been the business of my life to serve you ever since my first coming into Parliament, and I most thankfully acknowledge your goodness to me in many respects. But as nothing can absolutely secure me in the possession of what you have done for me, but my being in Parliament I earnestly ask that favour of you for the present vacancy at Dunwich.4
He did not obtain a seat but was allowed to retain his place till shortly before Walpole’s fall, when he resigned with a pension of £1,000 a year.5
He died 10 Dec. 1753.