JENNINGS, Philip (1722-88), of Duddleston Hall, Salop, and Lyndhurst, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. 1722, 1st s. of Philip Jennings of Duddleston Hall by his 2nd w. Dorothy, da. of George Clerke. educ. Westminster, Jan. 1733, aged 10; Oriel, Oxf. 7 Nov. 1739, aged 17. m. bef. 1756, Anne, da. of Col. Richard Thompson of Jamaica and Coley Park, Reading, 2s. 1da. suc. to estates of his uncle Sir Talbot Clerke, 6th Bt., 1774, and took add. name of Clerke; cr. Bt. 26 Oct. 1774.
Lt. 36 Ft. 1741; capt. 8 Ft. 1744; maj. 1 Troop Horse Gds. 1746, lt.-col. 1761; ret. 1770.
Jennings was connected in politics with Harry Powlett, 6th Duke of Bolton, and sat on his interest at Totnes. Bolton professed himself a follower of Chatham, and from 1768 to 1774 Jennings was in opposition. He was a frequent speaker, and attended the Opposition dinner at the Thatched House Tavern, 9 May 1769.
In March 1774 he spoke strongly against the Government’s punitive legislation against Massachusetts Bay: the Boston port bill would ‘punish the innocent’;1 the annulment of the charter was ‘tyranny and oppression’;2 the bill to regulate the administration of justice was ‘unnecessary, unlawful, unjust’.3 But on 7 June Lord Sandwich wrote to his son Lord Hinchingbrooke:4
I saw Colonel Jennings the day I left London and I must do him the justice to say that no man could talk more sensibly or more explicitly than he did upon political matters ... I have no doubt of his sincerity, because I see that he with great propriety perceives that the nicest measure he can pursue is to engage the Duke of Bolton in a close connection with you and me. I would therefore advise you to cultivate the Colonel as much as you can ... and you will do well to tell him that I am much pleased with his sensible language and behaviour in our late interviews, and that I am determined to lose no opportunity of improving our acquaintance.
And in a postscript: ‘If you see Lord North it would not be amiss if you was to tell him how well Colonel Jennings behaves.’
On 29 Sept. North wrote to the King:5
The Duke of Bolton having declared himself a friend to Government, and being about to bring in three persons who will be favourable to us, asks it as a favour that Colonel Jennings may be made a baronet. The Colonel himself who will be one of the Duke’s Members wishes for it. Lord North humbly recommends to his Majesty that it will be of service at this time to grant that favour.
In the debate on the Address of 18 Nov. 1777, Jennings Clerke (as he now was) said:6
Having constantly opposed the American war from the commencement of it as thinking it might and ought to have been avoided, and for other reasons which I have frequently offered in this House ... it will not be wondered at that I should now refuse to give my assent to those parts of the Address which are to convey assurances to the Throne of our intentions to furnish means of prolonging and continuing the war.
The first part of this sweeping statement is not borne out by the extant records of debates and divisions 1774-7. The one speech on America which he is known to have made, 27 Feb. 1775, during this period was critical of the Government but not hostile;7 and he did not vote against them in the division of 26 Oct. 1775 on American policy. But from November 1777 he voted consistently against the war.
On 13 Apr. 1778 he introduced a bill to exclude from the House Government contractors, except those who held their contracts as the result of public auction. In his speech he said:8
Members of Parliament would not be contractors, if extraordinary and improper advantages were not given them ... giving these contracts to Members was an arrant job, and did create a dangerous influence in that House, which must operate much to the injury of the nation.
The bill was defeated on 4 May by 113 to 109, but became a favourite Opposition point, and was introduced each year. In 1779 it was again defeated; in 1780 it passed the Commons but was rejected by the Lords; and in 1781 was defeated in the Commons. Towards the end of the American war Jennings Clerke became the spokesman of those who complained of excessive Government expenditure: on 21 Mar. 1781 his main argument for the contractors bill was that Government contractors gained excessive profits; on 21 May he proposed a tax on placemen in the Commons; and on 28 May moved for an account of the money spent on the American loyalists.
He introduced his contractors bill for the fifth time on 1 Mar. 1782. Three weeks later North’s resignation and Rockingham’s accession to power ensured that the bill would become law. It received the royal assent on 19 June, after a conference between Lords and Commons at which the Lords withdrew their amendments. Its effect on the composition of the House was much less than its sponsor had professed to believe.
Jennings Clerke voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783; opposed Pitt’s proposals for parliamentary reform, 7 May 1783, but supported Sawbridge’s motion for shortening the duration of Parliaments, 15 May 1783;9 and voted for Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783. After 1783 only two speeches by him are recorded, and his only known vote was for parliamentary reform, 18 Apr. 1783—why he changed his opinion is not known. He died 14 Jan. 1788.