COOKE, George (c.1705-68), of Harefield, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. c.1705, o.s. of Sir George Cooke of Harefield, chief prothonotary in the court of common pleas, by Anne, da. of Edward Jennings of Dudleston, Salop. educ. I. Temple 1717, called 1728, bencher 1733, reader 1742, treasurer 1743. m. July 1735, Catherine, da. of Sir Thomas Twisden, 4th Bt., of East Peckham, Kent, 7s. suc. fa. 4 Nov. 1740.
Chief prothonotary in the court of common pleas 1732- d.; jt. paymaster gen. July 1766- d.
Cooke, the son of a distinguished barrister, practised at the bar at least until he succeeded to the family estate. The office of chief prothonotary, which he held for life, had also been held by his father and grandfather.
In 1754 he was returned unopposed for Middlesex, and under George II was a Tory—Horace Walpole called him ‘a pompous Jacobite’.1 By 1757 he had become attached to Pitt,2 and henceforth remained his follower. This sometimes involved him in contradictions. Thus, on 9 Feb. 1761, true to his Tory principles, he spoke against an estimate of £300,000 due to the Hanoverian chancery;3 but on 13 Nov. ‘strongly supported the German war’.4
On 11 Dec. 1761 Cooke moved for papers on relations with Spain—‘in a plain and decent manner’ wrote Harris; and on 9 Dec. 1762 voted against the peace preliminaries. On 22 Feb. 1763 he supported Sir John Philipps’s motion for a committee on public accounts. He voted with Opposition on Wilkes, and was carried to the House ill of the gout to attend the great debate on general warrants, 17-18 Feb. 1764.5 Between 1761 and 1766 Harris reports over twenty speeches by him. On the prize bill, 3 Mar. 1762, he was ‘not well heard’, but otherwise seems to have been listened to with respect. Still, he owed most of his credit in the House to his connexion with Pitt.
When the Rockingham Administration met Parliament in December 1765 Cooke was asked to second the Address. Newcastle told him that Administration wished ‘to have the sanction of an independent man at their setting out’6—but really much more to appear to have Pitt’s approval. Cooke consulted Pitt:
I look up to you for the rule and conduct of my political life. Were you at the head of affairs the pride of my heart would be to be known and distinguished as your devoted friend. As the ministry are now composed I do not wish to take any part that has the appearance of connexion, where you are not connected.
Pitt disclaimed any tie with Administration, and Cooke declined Newcastle’s request.
In the debate of 17 Dec. 1765 he ‘treated the whole American affair as a mere mob’;7 on 14 Jan. 1766 ‘doubted the power of the legislature of this country to tax the colonies’;8 and on 17 Jan. ‘declared against our right of taxing ... in so gross a manner that Mr. Grenville called him to order’.9 On 28 Jan. he presented the petition from the Stamp Act Congress against the measure. Harris notes him as one of the few Members who would have followed Pitt had there been a division on the Declaratory Act; and in July 1766 he was given office in the Pitt Administration.
No speeches by Cooke are recorded during the last two years of his life. He voted against Administration on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, and apologized to Chatham for his vote:10
My particular situation as Member for Middlesex, and being chose by the unanimous and affectionate voice of my constituents, rendered it impossible for me not to vote for the three shillings, as I am certain had I done otherwise I should at once have forfeited their good opinion ... Under these circumstances I hope your Lordship will not take it amiss.
On nullum tempus, 17 Feb. 1768, he voted with Administration.
His interest in Middlesex was strong enough to ensure his return in the contested election of 1768, although he was ill in bed with gout on election day.11 He ‘never was well after the election, when he underwent a great deal of fatigue’;12 and died 5 June 1768.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: John Brooke
- 1. Mems. Geo. II, i. 13.
- 2. Rigby to Bedford, 28 June 1757, Bedford Corresp. ii. 256.
- 3. Walpole, Mems. Geo. III, i. 29.
- 4. Harris’s ‘Debates’.
- 5. West to Newcastle, 17 Feb. 1764, Yorke, Life of Hardwicke, iii. 563.
- 6. Chatham Corresp. ii. 338-42.
- 7. Harris’s ‘Debates’.
- 8. West to Newcastle, 14 Jan. 1766, Add. 32973, ff. 133-4.
- 9. Harris’s ‘Debates’.
- 10. Chatham Corresp. iii. 222-4.
- 11. Walpole to Mann, 31 Mar. 1768.
- 12. Dennys de Berdt to Richard Carey, 6 July 1768, Colls. Col. Soc. Mass. xiii. 335.