HERVEY, Hon. William (1732-1815).

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



24 Feb. 1763 - 1768

Family and Education

b. 13 May 1732, 4th s. of John, Lord Hervey, and bro. of Hon. Augustus John Hervey.  educ. Westminster 1745-7; Corpus Christi Camb. 1751.  unm.

Offices Held

Lt. 44 Ft. 1755, capt. 1756; capt. and lt.-col. 1 Ft. Gds. 1766; col. 1777; maj.-gen. 1782; lt.-gen. 1793; gen. 1798.


William Hervey served in North America 1755-1763, and was returned to Parliament in absentia. At first he followed his brother, Lord Bristol, a friend of Pitt, and in the divisions over Wilkes of 15 Nov. 1763 and 6 and 15 Feb. 1764 voted with Opposition. But on 17 Feb., the day of the critical debate on general warrants, Lord Sandwich wrote about Hervey to Grenville: ‘He has absolutely quarrelled with Lord Bristol; his brother Augustus thinks if you would speak a civil word or two to him if you see him in the House he will certainly vote with you today.’1 However, he voted again with Opposition.

Brother Augustus reconciled him to Administration, but he was indifferent about Parliament and not sorry to find a way of getting out. On 18 Dec. 1764 Augustus wrote to Grenville:2

I cannot resist acquainting you that my brother William ... still persists in his determination to acquaint the House of his having given up his qualification, and ... tells me if he finds himself obliged to go abroad he will then acquaint the Speaker by letter and desire the sense of the House; but I hope when I see him to make him forgo this silly and very wrong idea. I have just wrote the strongest letter to him on that head, for his brother exacts nothing of him, only desires he will keep his seat, and act as he pleases ... I have represented it in the worst of lights to him, and told him he would certainly be questioned for taking his oath and subscribing to it of his being qualified, and then giving that up undesired, unobliged, and only to vacate his seat. I have painted to him the appearance it must have to every one, his doing it at a time that he was soliciting preferment, in such a manner as gave room to suspect he was not acting a very open and right part by those who were so kind in their attentions to his requests.

He remained, and seems to have attended regularly, but there is no record that he ever spoke. From 1765 to 1768 his politics closely followed Bristol’s: he did not vote against the repeal of the Stamp Act, 22 Feb. 1766, and voted with Chatham’s Administration on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, but against them on the nullum tempus bill, 17 Feb. 1768. He did not stand in 1768.

After he left Parliament he spent much time travelling about England, and recorded his experiences in his journal. He does not mention his unsuccessful contest at Bury St. Edmunds in 1775, and his entry for the contest of 1780 reads simply:3 ‘Election at Bury— 22-18-13’.

His mother’s account of him, written in 1766, seems to be near the truth:4

He is now captain in the first regiment of guards, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and a promise of the first company that falls ... though I know not a man in the world more indifferent about money than himself; when he has it he makes use of it; when he has it not he suits his mind to his situation; walks home at night in the rain with as much content and cheerfulness as if he was carried in his coach; eats his mutton cutlet and drinks his glass of water with the same good humour and content as he could feast on turkey or drink Burgundy. He has one of the happiest contented tempers I know; and, added to that, loves reading and improvements of all kinds; is a curious observer and an accurate relater. He is beloved by all the company he keeps.

He died 15 Jan. 1815.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Grenville mss (JM).
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Jnls. Hon. Wm. Hervey, 299.
  • 4. Ibid. p. xxvi.