PLUMER, Walter (?1682-1746), of Cavendish Sq. and Chediston Hall, Suff.
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Family and Education
b. ?1682, 1st surv. s. of John Plumer; bro. of Richard and William Plumer. educ. Eton 1698; Peterhouse, Camb. 26 Apr. 1699, aged 16; G. Inn 1702. m. Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Hanbury of Kelmarsh, Northants., s.p. suc. to fa.’s Berks., Essex and Mdx. estates and to his Bank of England stock 1719.
Plumer was the son of a wealthy London merchant, who bought Blakesware in 1685 and the manors of Eastwick and Gilston a few years later. Soon after succeeding to his patrimony he stood with government support for Aldeburgh in Suffolk, spending money liberally against Lord Strafford’s interest. Writing to one of the Aldeburgh electors, Strafford described him as a ‘gentleman of the Inns of Court’, adding, ‘though his father had a large estate he left it to his younger brother, not to him.’1 Returned against Strafford’s candidate, within a week of taking his seat he made his maiden speech in support of the peerage bill, continuing to support the Government for the rest of that Parliament.
Returned unopposed at the general election, Plumer was one of the leading ministerial supporters in the Commons who attended a private meeting in Walpole’s house at the beginning of that Parliament about the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, which he opposed. During the next two sessions he spoke against the Government on the army estimates.2 In 1725 he was appointed to the committee for drawing up the articles of Lord Macclesfield’s impeachment, of which he was one of the managers.
Plumer did not stand for Aldeburgh in 1727, presumably because he had lost the government interest there. In 1730 he was brought in by Lord Thanet (Sackville Tufton*) for Appleby, which he continued to represent till he retired in 1741. He quickly established himself as one of the leading spokesmen of the opposition Whigs, taking a particularly active part in securing the repeal of the salt duty in 1730 and in opposing its re-imposition in 1732. It was alleged that
the secret why he is against the Court and so strenuous against the revival of the salt duty, it is that he has an estate where salt works may be carried on, but by the former Act establishing that duty, no new works were to be made; the revival therefore of that duty deprived him of opening works, but had the duty been re-imposed by a new Act with a clause that he might work, he had not been against it.
But he did not belong to the extreme wing of the Opposition. When the more violent members of his party were for insisting on the formal rejection of the excise bill, he was among those who ‘expressed themselves satisfied with attaining their end, the dropping the bill, and thought the mortification enough that Sir Robert had failed in his attempt’, after which he obtained more votes than any other opposition Member in the ballot for a committee on frauds in the customs. On the Princess Royal’s marriage, he took the opportunity of dissociating himself from the Tories by warmly supporting the Address and a handsome portion. A strong supporter of the nonconformists, moving for the repeal of the Test Act in 1736, he made his last recorded speech on a similar motion in 1739.
Plumer had a caustic tongue. On a report in 1737 that Walpole had offered to make him secretary at war he was said to have observed that he would not accept ‘unless a sum of money be given him, merely saying Sir William Yonge has made that office to stink and he must be paid for perfumes to sweeten it’.3 When Pelham turned Sandys and Rushout out of the Treasury by promoting them in 1743, Plumer delighted Horace Walpole by the comment:
Zounds, Mr. Pulteney took those old dishclouts to wipe out the Treasury and now they are going to lace them and lay them up.4
He died 2 Mar. 1746.