MEDLEY, George (1720-96), of Buxted Place, Suss.
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Family and Education
b. 6 Aug. 1720, 4th s. of Thomas Medley of Buxted Place by Annabella, da. and coh. of Sir Samuel Dashwood, M.P., ld. mayor of London 1702. m. (1) 2 June 1757, Elizabeth Jemima (bur. 30 June 1757), da. of Sir Thomas Palmer, 4th Bt., s.p.; (2) 8 Nov. 1762, Jane, da. of Sir Timothy Waldo of Clapham, Surr., s.p. suc. bro. 1751.
George Medley was a wine merchant in Portugal, where he ‘amassed an immense property, a part of which he lost in the ravages occasioned by the earthquake of 1755’;1 he subsequently settled as a country gentleman in Sussex. In January 1761 it was rumoured that at the approaching general election he intended to contest Seaford against Newcastle’s interest. When challenged, Medley answered that ‘he had no such thoughts, though he had joked about it, for that he would not be in Parliament if he could be chosen for nothing’.2 Despite this, in February he declared himself a candidate, and began a vigorous campaign, much to Newcastle’s alarm.
On 12 Feb. William Poole, an agent of Newcastle’s, sent him a report of a conversation with Medley:3
He said he never should have thought of this opposition had he had common civility showed him, that he always attended all public meetings, and showed he thought an inclination to be on good terms with the whole country, but that he had scarce been taken notice of at any of them, while the greatest rout was made with those who had less claim, less property, and they should find less spirit to spend it ... he said he did not suppose he should carry his point now at Seaford ... but though he should lose he would follow them elsewhere ... I took the liberty to say ... that if Mr. Medley had a desire of getting into Parliament and had hinted as much to your Grace, I would not doubt but you would have thought him a proper person, to which he said he did not choose to come in under obligations to anybody.
This ‘rich mad man’, as Newcastle described him, proceeded to give the Duke a good deal of trouble in Sussex. He published an advertisement in the newspapers that he would contest the county; ‘sent to Mr. [John] Fuller to assist him as far as £3,000 to make an opposition at Lewes’;4 and stood also at Steyning. These were however nothing more than flourishes, for neither in Sussex nor at Lewes was opposition pressed to a poll, and at Steyning Medley received only three votes out of about 100.
But he took seriously his attempt at Seaford, and aimed to build up a lasting interest in the borough. To do this he hoped to extend to all householders the franchise, hitherto confined to inhabitants paying scot and lot (whose numbers were deliberately restricted); and after his defeat at the poll hoped for a favourable decision from the House of Commons. But his petition went against him, and a further effort in the law courts also failed.
Still, his position at Seaford remained strong, and in 1767 Thomas Pelham suggested to Newcastle that it would be wise to adopt Medley at the forthcoming general election, lest he should be taken up by Administration. Newcastle was willing to return Medley for any other of his boroughs, ‘upon an assurance of his friendship and disposition to act with me in Parliament’, but did not want him at Seaford.5 Medley however declared ‘that he was an independent man, with a large fortune, and wanted nothing for himself or his family, and that he would never promise anybody how he would vote in Parliament’;6 and made it clear that he would stand only at Seaford. Pressed by Thomas Pelham, who was anxious to avoid a contest, Newcastle grudgingly accepted Medley on his own terms.
Medley’s first speech in the House was on Wilkes’s libel, 2 Feb. 1769; his next on the motion for the civil list accounts, 28 Feb. 1769; and five further speeches followed before the dissolution of 1774. He seems to have inclined to Administration; but he does not appear in any of the ten extant division lists 1768-71. On the royal marriage bill, March 1772, he was classed by Robinson as ‘pro, present’. His only recorded vote in this Parliament was for making Grenville’s Election Act permanent, 25 Feb. 1774, when he was classed in the King’s list as a friend; as he was also in September 1774 by Robinson.
In 1774 he was returned after a contest, apparently again on the Pelham interest. He supported Administration, but voted against them on the motion for an account of pensions, 21 Feb. 1780. In each of the four critical divisions, March-April, 1780, he voted with Administration; and at the dissolution was classed by Robinson as ‘pro’. His support of Administration was, he claimed, purely disinterested, since ‘he never would either ask or accept of any favour from the Crown’.7 At the general election of 1780 he was defeated at Seaford.
In 1783 he was returned for East Grinstead on the Sackville interest. He voted against Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783, but in Robinson’s list of January 1784 was listed as ‘absent’. In Stockdale’s list of 19 Mar. 1784 he is included among the supporters of Pitt, and he voted with Pitt on Richmond’s fortifications plan, 27 Feb. 1786, and on the Regency. Nine speeches by him are reported in the Parliament of 1784: on the shop tax, the land tax, the militia, the drawback on wine, etc.—none on party or political issues. He did not stand in 1790.
He died 1 June 1796.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: John Brooke
- 1. Horsfield, Hist. Lewes, ii. 43.
- 2. John Page to Newcastle, 18 Jan. 1761, Add. 32915, ff. 385-6.
- 3. Add. 32918, f. 487.
- 4. Wm. Michell to Newcastle, 7 Mar. 1761, Add. 32919, ff. 505-6.
- 5. Add. 32985, ff. 434-6; 32986, f. 100.
- 6. Pelham to Newcastle, 26 Oct. 1767, ibid. ff. 114-15.
- 7. Almon, xvii. 594.