JEFFREYS, John (1706-66), of The Priory, Brecon, and Sheen, Surr.

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



1734 - 1747
1747 - Jan. 1766

Family and Education

b. 1706, 1st surv. s. of John Jeffreys, M.P., by Elizabeth, da. of Anthony Sturt of London. unm.  suc. fa. 20 Oct. 1715.

Offices Held

Jt. sec. of the Treasury Nov. 1742-May 1746; sec. to chancellor of the Exchequer May 1752-Apr. 1754; warden of the mint July 1754- d.; dep. ranger of St. James’s and Hyde Parks Dec. 1757- d.


‘Little Jeffreys’, as he was known, was a gamester, a member of White’s, and of the set of Lord Lincoln, Newcastle’s nephew and heir and Henry Pelham’s son-in-law. He soon ran through his private fortune; and his political career is the record of his struggle to keep his head above water at the public expense.

Henry Pelham had provided for Jeffreys by appointing him to the sinecure of secretary to the chancellor of the Exchequer, and billeting him for £800 p.a. on Nicholas Hardinge, junior secretary to the Treasury. On Pelham’s death in 1754 the new chancellor of the Exchequer, Legge, refused to retain Jeffreys as his secretary but Newcastle was almost at once able to make good the loss by appointing him warden of the mint. Two years later Newcastle and West went out of office for a short time, during which Hardinge replaced West as senior secretary and Jeffreys was transferred to the new junior secretary, Samuel Martin. When in July 1757 West returned to the Treasury, replacing Martin, Hardinge refused to resume paying Jeffreys, who appealed to Newcastle:

Your Grace well knows I have been oft obliged to plague and trouble your Grace about Mr. Hardinge’s payment from the Treasury, and had I not been necessitated to take it I would not have received it from him because he has used me so ill. I therefore must entreat your Grace that if you please to appoint him my paymaster he may be told to pay Mr. West for me.1

Under pressure from Lord Lincoln and Lord Ashburnham Newcastle did his best to persuade one or other of the secretaries to accept liability for Jeffreys, and eventually fell back on a payment of £500 from the secret service funds.2 Lord Ashburnham, as ranger of St. James’s and Hyde Parks, also helped by appointing Jeffreys his deputy; and in 1761 he was given a regular secret service pension of £500 p.a.

As soon as Newcastle was forced out of office in 1762 Jeffreys got the Duke of Bedford to represent his ‘situation in a kind and compassionate manner’ to Bute. When Newcastle went into open opposition George III heard that ‘little Jeffreys ... was to be ordered by the D. of N. to retire, he must then starve, being these many years a bankrupt.’3 He did not retire but continued to support and be supported by successive Governments till the formation of the Rockingham Administration, when he wrote to Newcastle from Bath, where he was recuperating from a severe illness, ‘to congratulate your Grace and the public on this most agreeable and happy change in the Administration’ and ‘to beg the favour of your Grace to recommend me to Lord Rockingham’s protection. I now receive 1,100 per annum, in your Grace’s Administration it was 200 more.’4

He had no occasion to congratulate yet another minister, for he died in January 1766.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Add. 32875, f. 275.
  • 2. Namier, Structure, 403-4.
  • 3. Sedgwick, 163-164.
  • 4. Add. 32907, f. 385.