PELHAM, James (c.1683-1761), of Crowhurst, Suss.
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Capt. 8 Drags. 1711; capt. and lt. col. 1 Ft. Gds. 1716; sec. to ld. chamberlain c.1720-d., to Prince of Wales 1728-37; dep. cofferer of the Household 1749-54.
Having seen active service in the war of the Spanish succession, James Pelham was promoted under George I but, as second cousin of the great Pelhams and a friend of the Walpoles, exchanged his military for a political career. In 1710 he had written to Walpole’s brother, Horace: ‘I am convinced you intend to keep your promise of making me a great man’.1 In the Hastings elections of 1715 and 1722 he acted as the agent of the Duke of Newcastle,2 who about 1722 appointed him his secretary and in 1722 returned him for Newark. At the 1727 election he was returned both for Bridport and Newark, opting to serve for the latter.
On the formation of the Prince of Wales’s household in 1728, Pelham was appointed secretary to the Prince. He resigned the post in 1737 when he voted with the Administration and against his master on the Prince’s allowance. In 1741 he was transferred to Hastings, with a view to relieving him of the expense of the Newark elections. Discontented with his financial position, he complained to Newcastle (22 April), reminding him of the loss which he had suffered by Newcastle’s buying South Sea stock for him, and of £2,000 which he had lent the Duke.
I must observe [he wrote] that I am the only one your Grace has ever suffered to spend scarce any of their own money at any of your towns and add that my small estate is now mortgaged for six thousand pounds and if I was to be out of all employment I should not have fifty pounds a year to live upon at the later end of my days.
Newcastle replied 26 Apr.: ‘I have ever taken it extreme kindly that you have not pressed me for it when it might have been inconvenient to me to pay it’.3 In the course of the next ten years he was made deputy cofferer of the Household under Newcastle’s nephew Lord Lincoln; given a sinecure in the customs of about £700, held for him by his nephew John Pelham;4 and granted a secret service pension of £500 p.a. Still discontented, he wrote to Newcastle, 5 July 1750:
The King is so gracious as to allow me five hundred a year ... but as I have nothing to shew for it ’tis most likely any alteration in the Ministry would put it out of my power to ask a favour of this sort. What I propose is a pension upon Ireland of six hundred for 21 years, the exchange etc. would bring it lower than what I now receive ... I mentioned this to Mr. Pelham who approves of my trying it at this time, both my offices are less than anybody has for near thirty years constant expensive attendance, the cofferer to be sure is a very precarious tenure.
However, on meeting with a refusal from Newcastle, he declared himself ‘entirely satisfied’.5 Needless to say, he voted with the Government in every recorded division.
Throughout these years James Pelham looked after Newcastle’s electoral interests in Sussex, particularly in Hastings, Seaford and Rye. He was also on occasion used as a whip for Newcastle’s private party in the House. On 30 Jan. 1751, when Pitt was in hot water for speaking and voting with the Opposition on the navy estimates, Newcastle sent a letter to ‘dear Jemmy’ desiring that, in view of the ‘able and affectionate manner’ in which Pitt had defended him against attacks in recent debates,
neither you, nor any of my friends would give into any clamour ... that may be made against him from any of the party on account of his differing as to the number of seamen.6
He was to show this letter to seven of the Members owing their election to Newcastle, who presumably dealt with the others himself.
About 1754 James Pelham’s health began to decline. He did not stand in 1761 and died 27 Dec. 1761, still in possession of his pension and sinecure.