STANLEY (afterwards SMITH STANLEY), James, Lord Strange (1717-71).

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



1741 - 1 June 1771

Family and Education

b. 7 Jan. 1717, 1st s. of Sir Edward Stanley, 11th Earl of Derby. educ. Westminster 1729; Leyden Univ. 1735; Grand Tour c.1737. m. 17 Mar. 1747 (with £100,000), Lucy, da. and coh. of Hugh Smith of Weald Hall, Essex, and assumed name of Smith bef. Stanley, 3s. 4da.

Offices Held

Ld. lt. Lancs. 1757-d.; P.C. 15 Dec. 1762; chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster Dec. 1762-d.


‘A Whig in principle’ but one who ‘always acts according to the dictates of conscience’,1 Strange, throughout his thirty years as knight of the shire for Lancashire was the extreme type of independent Member. Horace Walpole in 1749 described him as ‘of a party by himself, yet voting generally with the Tories’; a short time later, as ‘a busy young lord, very disinterested, often quick, as often injudicious, and not the less troublesome for either’, and as ‘the most absurd man that ever existed with a very clear head’.2 Philip Yorke in 1745 referred to his ‘cavilling acuteness’;3 the 2nd Lord Egmont, in his electoral survey c.1749-50, wished ‘he was called to the House of Lords for he will always trouble the waters in the Commons’; and George III wrote about him in March 1763 as ‘forever running counter’.4

Strange made his first reported speech in May 1742, when he moved that the rejection by the Lords of the bill indemnifying witnesses against Walpole was ‘an obstruction to justice and might prove fatal to liberties of the nation’.5 In the next session he supported a new place bill and opposed taking Hanoverian troops into British pay. During the threatened French invasion in February 1744 and the rebellion of 1745 he strongly rallied to the House of Hanover: ‘though I never flattered him [the King] I will freely lose my life rather than see him supplanted by any of that rascally family’; but he opposed the voluntary subscription for raising troops, which he compared to the benevolences of Charles I.6 After the rebellion he continued in opposition to the Pelhams, calling the resignations of February 1746 ‘a plot against the King’s sovereignty’. He was critical of the regency bill, in 1751 asking

if it was probable that there would be no dissensions in the council of regency, which was to be composed of the present ministry? Survey them; with what cordiality have they concurred in all measures for some years! May not it happen, that if the Regent should refuse to employ some person recommended by them, the junto may threaten to resign? An insult, such as within my own time I have almost seen offered to a crowned head! We shall see all that repeated scramble for power, that I have two or three times seen acted over. Can the Duke [of Cumberland] be removed by address of Parliament? I won’t say that he is most likely to do mischief, but certainly he is most capable of doing it. As to the praemunire clause, the person who drew it deserves to incur it.

He spoke against the subsidy treaty with Saxony, 22 Jan. 1752. But in December 1751 he supported the Government in continuing the land tax at 3s. in the pound,7 remarkable in a knight of the shire who usually acted with the Opposition.

He died v.p. 1 June 1771.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Bute Register, Add. 36796.
  • 2. To Horace Mann, 4 Mar. 1749; Mems. Geo. II, i. 108; ii. 145.
  • 3. Yorke’s parl. jnl. Parl. Hist. xiii. 1051.
  • 4. Sedgwick, Letters Geo. III to Bute, 198.
  • 5. Coxe, Walpole, i. 715.
  • 6. To Jas. Oswald, 20 Aug. 1745, Oswald mss; Yorke, Hardwicke, i. 418.
  • 7. Mems. Geo. II, i. 130-1, 219, 243.