CLEVLAND, John (c.1707-63), of Tapley, Devon

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1741 - Mar. 1743
1747 - 1761
1761 - 19 June 1763

Family and Education

b. c.1707, 1st s. of Capt. William Clevland, R.N., a commissioner of the navy, by Anne, da. of John Davie of Orleigh, Devon. educ. Westminster 1718; M. Temple 1723 m. (1) Elizabeth, da. of Sir Caesar Child, 2nd Bt., of Woodford, Essex, sis. of Sir Caesar Child, 3rd and last Bt., 2s. 2da.; (2) 1747,1 Sarah, da. of Richard Shuckburgh of Longborough, Glos., sis. of Sir G. A. Shuckburgh, 6th Bt., 2s. 2da. suc. fa. 1715.

Offices Held

Clerk in the navy office c.1723-31; clerk of the cheque, Plymouth 1731-43; commr. of the navy Mar. 1743-6; second sec. to the Admiralty 1746-51, sec. 1751- d.


Clevland’s father was a Scotsman by birth, a distinguished naval commander, and the first of the family to settle in Devon; his mother was of an old Devonshire family. John Clevland’s career is best summed up in the ‘Memorial’ which some time in 1762 he presented to the King.2

That he has been near forty years in the naval service ... That he was the active commissioner of the navy in the former Spanish war, and some time after the commencement of that with France, Mr. Corbett, then secretary of the Admiralty, being very infirm and frequently incapable of his duty, Mr. Clevland was made joint secretary with him, and carried on the business till the peace in 1748.
That the extensive and arduous operations of the present war have brought such an increase of business on the office of secretary of the Admiralty, that Mr. Clevland’s health and eyesight is greatly impaired by incessant application to the faithful discharge of his trust, which he flatters himself to have done to the satisfaction of his superiors, and will not fail in his endeavours to continue the same whilst his health will permit.
But having a wife and great number of children, is very anxious to make some better provision for them than his own fortune will allow of after his death.
Therefore most ardently implores his Majesty, in consideration of his long and faithful services, to grant to Mrs. Clevland such pension as shall be thought proper, upon the Irish or any other establishment, which provision for his family will add greatly to his happiness, and be the means of prolonging a life entirely devoted to the public.

Clevland sat at Sandwich and Saltash on the Admiralty interest, and he managed both boroughs for the Government, besides Barnstaple where, with Tapley in its neighbourhood, he had an interest of his own. As an official he was in the House a regular Government supporter; while as the key man in his office, highly esteemed by successive chiefs, he enjoyed very nearly the permanency of a modern civil servant. Mrs. Edward Boscawen wrote on 4 Oct. 1756 to her husband, the Admiral:3

It astonished me that Lord Anson should not have wrote to you. That Clevland is angry at your anger is very likely, but that his Lordship should adopt his secretary’s resentment—that is surely very unworthy and would tend to confirm a vulgar opinion that Clevland is lord high admiral.

Clevland seemed indeed so closely identified with Anson’s administration of the Admiralty that when Anson resigned in November 1756, his dismissal was expected.4 But the new ministry knew better than to remove in the middle of a war the man best acquainted with naval business. Temple, now first lord, wrote on 14 Dec. 1756, to George Grenville, treasurer of the navy:5‘Will you be so kind as to call here tomorrow morning, that Mr. Clevland may explain to you some matters relating to the 55,000 men which are to be voted tomorrow?’ And in September 1758 Pitt was concerting with Clevland ‘an attempt on Martinico, if practicable’.6 When Anson died, 6 June 1762, his successor, Lord Halifax, before accepting ‘took care to be assured from Clevland that he would continue secretary during the war’.7 Clevland himself reported to Newcastle, 16 June: ‘Lord Halifax ... has done me the honour to call upon me, and given me the strongest assurances of his friendship, and desired I would be upon the same footing with him as I was with Lord Anson.’8 And Newcastle wrote to Hardwicke on 24 June: he has heard that Clevland is very pleased with Halifax—‘I am sure it is wise in my Lord Halifax to make him so’.9

To Clevland Newcastle replied on 16 June:10

I am heartily glad of it [Halifax’s appointment], upon your account, and indeed upon my own; for I dare say, he will receive most favourably any applications you shall make to him in behalf of my friends.
I long to have one hour’s discourse with you. Come to me, whenever you can; you will always find the same affectionate friend, though a useless one in, Dear Clevland, your etc.

In October 1762, when Halifax was urging Bute to bring Newcastle back into office, Clevland kept the Duke informed of developments, possibly to prepare the ground for Halifax.11 But when the break came between Newcastle and the court, Clevland naturally followed the official line, voted with the Government on 1 Dec. 1762, and was listed by Fox as supporting the peace preliminaries.

He died 19 June 1763. No evidence has been found of any pension to his widow; fairly ample provision had previously been made for his eldest son. His own salary as secretary of the Admiralty had been £800 p.a. but with fees and perquisites over £2,000 net;12 in addition as secretary, since 1751, to the charity for the relief of poor widows of officers of the navy he had £200 p.a. In surviving lists he appears as subscriber to Government loans: thus in 1746 Sampson Gideon signed for him for £2,000;13in 1760 he was billeted for £10,000 on Amyand’s list;14 and at his death he left £17,000 in Government stock.15 Yet he was, it seems, heavily in debt to the Admiralty—North wrote to Sandwich, 15 June 1778:16

It may not perhaps at first appear very becoming a lord of the Treasury to solicit for granting a longer delay of payment for a public debtor, but as I really believe that it would be almost ruin to Mr. Clevland [jun.] if he were forced to discharge his father’s debt by instalments of £4,000 a year, I most earnestly hope that you may be satisfy [sic] with smaller instalments. Mr. Clevland wished to have them reduced to £2,000 a year, and shall be very glad to hear that you are able to comply with his request, but whatever indulgence you can give him, your Lordship may set down to my account, as I am very desirous of giving him every reasonable degree of favour and assistance.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Mrs. Edw. Boscawen to her husband, the Admiral, 29 Nov. 1747, C. Aspinall-Oglander, Admiral’s Wife, 64.
  • 2. Add. 32945, f. 449; a copy of it is among the Townshend mss at Dalkeith House. Printed in Namier, Structure, 40-41.
  • 3. Aspinall-Oglander, 209.
  • 4. Symmer to A. Mitchell, 12 Nov., Add. 6839, f. 22; Mrs. Boscawen to her husband, 16 Nov., op. cit. 228.
  • 5. Grenville Pprs. i. 187.
  • 6. Newcastle to Hardwicke, 4 Sept. 1758, Add. 32883, f. 274.
  • 7. Hardwicke to Newcastle, 17 June, Add. 32939, f. 384.
  • 8. Ibid. f. 367.
  • 9. Add. 32940, f. 58.
  • 10. Add. 32939, f. 374.
  • 11. Add. 32943, ff. 143-4.
  • 12. Reports on Emoluments in Public Offices, 3rd Rep. ‘Admiralty’ (1786), p. 40.
  • 13. T1/319.
  • 14. Add. 32901, f. 242.
  • 15. Bank of England recs.
  • 16. Sandwich mss.