PULTENEY, Daniel (?1674-1731), of Harefield, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer



23 Mar. - 10 Oct. 1721
7 Nov. 1721 - 1722
1722 - 7 Sept. 1731

Family and Education

b. ?1674, 1st s. of John Pulteney, M.P., surveyor of crown lands, by Lucy Colville of Northants.; 1st cos. of William Pulteney. educ. Westminster; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 15 July 1699, aged 15; Grand Tour (Holland, Germany) 1704-6. m. 14 Dec. 1717, Margaret, da. and coh. of Benjamin Tichborne, yr. bro. of Henry Tichborne, 1st Baron Ferrard of Beaulieu [I], (her yr. sis. m. Charles Spencer, 4th Earl of Sunderland), 3s. d.v.p. 4da. suc. fa. 1726 in estate and as clerk to the council in Ireland under a reversion granted by Queen Anne.

Offices Held

Envoy extraordinary to Denmark 1706-15; ld. of Trade 1717-21, of Admiralty 10 Oct. 1721-5.


Speaker Onslow regarded Daniel Pulteney as the founder of the opposition to Walpole’s Administration. In his autobiographical notes he wrote:

He who first endeavoured to form this opposition into a system or regular method of proceeding, with a view only to ruin Mr. Walpole, and for that purpose, to unite people of every character and principle, and in which he took the most indefatigable pains, was Mr. Daniel Pulteney, in all other respects almost a very worthy man, very knowing and laborious in business especially in foreign affairs, of strong but not lively parts, a clear and weighty speaker, grace in his deportment, and of great virtue and decorum in his private life, generous and friendly; but, with all this, of most implacable hatred where he did hate, violent, keen and most bitter in his resentments, gave up all pleasures and comforts, and every other consideration to his anger.1

Pulteney served as envoy to Denmark in the reign of Queen Anne. Recalled on the accession of George I, in 1717 he was appointed to the board of Trade, going in November 1719 as one of H.M. commissaries to France, where he received the board’s thanks ‘for the exact information he has constantly sent them’.2 He longed to return to England, where he had ‘expectations’ from his brother-in-law, Lord Sunderland, and from his cousin William Pulteney, who wrote to him (7 May 1720):

You may depend upon it, that I will take care of you; and if it should happen, that there should be a vacancy at Hedon, before a new Parliament, you shall certainly be brought in, if not, ’tis not a great while you have to wait.3

In December 1720, he confided to a friend:

I am preparing to return to London, my leave came this week ... Mr. Craggs [James Craggs, jun.] says in a private letter to me, I hope your stay here will be short, and that we shall hit upon something that may be to your satisfaction; the first part of the sentence seems to imply a return to France, but the latter can’t be understood that way.

He went on to criticize Walpole’s scheme for dealing with the financial crisis caused by the collapse of the South Sea bubble:

After a good deal of private management, in which the public was very little considered, Mr. Walpole has produced a scheme for the South Sea, which in my poor opinion, is liable to many objections, one I think very material. It obliges the proprietors of, and subscribers to, the South Sea, to take one-fourth of their stock in Bank and another fourth in East India stock at a fixed rate ... I don’t like either of these stocks, must I take them against my will and contrary to my judgement? This is compulsive disposal of private property, which, I believe, was never practised before by a Parliament.

In March 1721 he was brought in by the Government for Tregony, where he was faced with an opposition, which he believed to be inspired by Walpole, thus showing, as he wrote, ‘how sincere he is to his brother minister, Sunderland, upon whose account only he could think of opposing me’. He bitterly resented the attacks made on Sunderland by the committee appointed by the House of Commons to inquire into the South Sea Company’s affairs, writing on 13 April 1721:

I am told the secret committee intend to make another attack on Lord Sunderland and for this purpose to enter upon matters foreign to those they were employed about ... credit will not revive, nor money circulate so long as terrors are kept over people ... those, who are to be punished, should be punished quickly, and the rest set free from all apprehensions.

In June 1721, when the House of Commons was considering ‘proper means to restore public credit’, he expressed the opinion

that the first consideration should have been to do something to please the people in general, by easing them of some burdensome tax, as that on candles, and the matter might have been managed so as to give the King the opportunity of recommending such a popular act; this seemed to be necessary, not only with respect to the elections for the next Parliament, but to consequences more important and, I fear, not very distant. But what can we hope for, when in a time of common calamity and common danger we look only to ourselves and are divided by private resentments, by ambition and by avarice.4

Promoted to the Admiralty board in October 1721, at the ensuing by-election he was returned by William Pulteney for Hedon, which he exchanged for Preston at the general election of 1722. Sunderland’s death in April 1722 was a crushing blow to him.

His animosity to Mr. Walpole [Onslow writes] arose from his intimacy with my Lord Sunderland, to whom he was brother-in-law by having married the sister of my Lord Sunderland’s last wife. He was in the depth of all that Lord’s political secrets as far at least as he trusted anybody, and was designed by him to be secretary of state in the scheme he formed of a new Administration, if he had lived long enough to have once more overset Mr. Walpole and my Lord Townshend. But my Lord Sunderland’s death putting an end to the other’s hopes, so soured his mind that from the moment of his disappointment, I verily believe he scarcely thought of anything else but to revenge it in an opposition to him who had been the chief opponent of his friend and patron. This was at first carried on in whispers and insinuations and raising private prejudices against Mr. Walpole, for he still continued one of the commissioners of the Admiralty and so still voted with the Administration.5

On 7 Nov. 1723 he wrote:

I ... should think myself at present more likely to lose what I have, than get better; at least, I am sure it would be so if Mr. Walpole can do it, since he seems determined to remove everyone who continued in the King’s service when he thought fit to leave it.

And again on 22 Feb. 1725:

A seat there may be agreeable enough to one who can and will act independently, but I had rather have a place of £500 a year out of Parliament than one of £1000 and be in it; I think the difficulties to an honest man increase daily, and after all I can find no true satisfaction in life without an easy conscience.6

According to Onslow he was largely responsible for William Pulteney’s decision to go into opposition, whereupon he himself resigned his own office ‘which he had great joy in being disentangled from, that he might, as he soon did, act openly and without reserve against the Ministry in everything’. In a letter to Townshend on 10 Dec. 1725 Walpole forecast the main lines of the new Opposition:

The Pulteneys build great hopes upon the difficulties they promise themselves will arise from the foreign affairs, and especially from the Hanover treaty. I had a curiosity to open some of their letters, and find them full of this language ... Wise Daniel fills all his inland correspondence with reflection of the same kind, and gives all their fools great hopes of doing wonders: their two only topics are the civil list and the Hanover treaty.7

Pulteney’s first recorded speech in opposition was made on 9 Feb. 1726 when he moved that a committee be appointed to state the public debt since 1714 and

took upon him to explain how the debt of the navy accrued and thought it was through mismanagement. He said since 1721 the navy debt was increased £400,000 by not granting the extra repairs that were annually demanded and by arrears of the seamen’s wages and endeavoured to prove this mismanagement in 4 years.

Walpole answered ‘he was very glad he had that gentleman’s assistance now, for when he was in the office of Admiralty, though it was his duty, he never took notice of that practice’. Pulteney then ‘insinuated as if what had been appropriated to the navy had been applied to other uses’, which Walpole denied and ‘defied any one to prove’. The motion was defeated.8 He was one of the chief opposition speakers in the debate on the treaties of Hanover and Vienna on 16 Feb. 1726. The same year he, William Pulteney and Bolingbroke jointly founded the Craftsman, of which they became the directing triumvirate.

At the general election of 1727 a candidate chosen by the King himself was sent to Preston to keep out Pulteney but found his interest so strong that there was ‘not the least room either to hope success or give vexation’.9 Returned unopposed, Pulteney continued in violent opposition. He opened the debate on the Hessian troops on 31 Jan. 1729, arguing that a ‘great army’ raised against a threatened invasion was unnecessary in time of peace.10 On 3 Feb. 1730 he declared that

the continuing these troops is so great a charge to Great Britain, and so unnecessary to her service and security, so evidently designed for the defence alone of the Hanover dominions, and so certain an entail upon these nations of a standing army for interest which Great Britain has no concern to support, that the House ought to receive the motion with contempt and disdain, and reject it without a debate.

In the same month, he was one of the organizers of an opposition manoeuvre to raise unexpectedly the question of the repairs carried on by the French to the port of Dunkirk by producing eye-witnesses at the bar of the House of Commons. Another of his moves to embarrass Walpole was to instigate an agitation by the Dissenters for the repeal of the Test Act, since if Walpole ‘complied with the Dissenters and consented to the repeal he would lose the Churchmen; if he complied not he would lose the Dissenters’.11 He became, in Onslow’s words, ‘a sort of magazine for all the materials necessary to the work’ of the Opposition, until he ‘fell at last a martyr’ to his quarrel with Walpole;

for his not succeeding in it preyed upon his spirits, which and with his living much with the Lord Bolingbroke (as an enemy to Mr. Walpole) threw him into an irregularity of drinking that occasioned his death.12

He died 7 Sept. 1731.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. HMC 14th Rep. IX, 465.
  • 2. Bd. Trade Jnl. 1718-22, p. 133.
  • 3. HMC Var. viii. 287; Coxe, Walpole, ii. 186.
  • 4. HMC Var. viii. 289, 305, 330,
  • 5. HMC 14th Rep. IX, 466.
  • 6. HMC Var. viii. 367, 386.
  • 7. HMC 14th Rep. IX, 466; Coxe, Walpole, ii. 492-3.
  • 8. Knatchbull Diary.
  • 9. See PRESTON.
  • 10. Knatchbull Diary.
  • 11. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 24, 35-39, 83; ii. 244.
  • 12. HMC 14th Rep. IX, 465-6.