MINCHIN, Humphrey (c.1727-96), of Soberton, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. c.1727, 1st s. of Paul Minchin of Ballinakill, King’s Co. by Henrietta, da. of Joseph Bunbury of Johnstown, co. Carlow. educ. Trinity, Dublin, 11 Jan. 1742, aged 14. m. 4 Aug. 1750, Clarinda, da. of George Cuppidge of Dublin, 4s. 6da.
Clerk of the Ordnance Apr.-Dec. 1783.
Minchin canvassed Wootton Bassett in 1774, but withdrew without becoming a candidate. In June 1778 he was returned for Okehampton on the interest of John, 1st Earl Spencer, and re-elected after a contest in 1780. In Parliament Minchin, like Spencer, opposed North’s Administration, frequently making vehement speeches against the Government, particularly on its naval and military measures. He voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, and was made clerk of the Ordnance in the Coalition. Lord Althorp wrote to his mother, Lady Spencer, on 17 May 1783:1
I am told they like Minchin very much at the Ordnance office, he is very attentive to the business and very anxious that everything should be done as economically as possible, and much afraid of the animadversions of the House of Commons.
Lady Spencer replied, 20 May 1783:
I am glad Minchin does well in his office, he is really I believe an honest man, and is very intelligent and diligent in business, but is apt to think a little too highly of his own importance.
Minchin voted against parliamentary reform, 7 May 1783.2 He voted for Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov., and in Robinson’s list of January 1784 and Stockdale’s of 19 Mar. was classed as a Foxite. At the general election of 1784 he was again nominated by the Spencer family at Okehampton, and though defeated was seated on petition in April 1785. Minchin did not vote on Pitt’s Irish propositions, but on 30 May he moved that consideration of them should be postponed:3
In the whole progress of the important business ... he daily attended the numerous debates and conversations that had taken place, but had not given one single vote on any ... because it had not been in his power to understand the resolutions ... he believed he might very fairly go farther and declare that the bulk of the people were equally ignorant with him of the true scope and meaning of the resolutions ... He begged, entreated, and implored most earnestly for more time.
Reporting the speech, Wraxall commented:4 ‘Minchin possessed extensive information, was versed in parliamentary business, and performed a conspicuous part among the Opposition leaders.’ Minchin did not vote on Richmond’s fortifications plan, 27 Feb. 1786. In April 1787, when asked to support the motion for the payment of the Prince of Wales’s debts, he declared that though he would vote for it, he would go no further, and he considered the consequences would be pernicious.5
In the autumn of 1787 Spencer made it clear to Minchin that he was determined to give up his interest at Okehampton, whereupon Minchin wrote to him on 23 Nov.:
To keep a seat in Parliament some years longer if I live is to me a matter of great importance, not for amusement or the little feather of vanity but that there are some things which may be done for a family ... Excluded from that seat to which, by an arrangement of your affairs which I must approve, I had looked to but can no longer, I must turn my views another way and to secure it I will frankly say I see I must take a political line of acting different from what I have generally ... but not always done ... since the present ministers came last into office I have seen more in my conscience to approve and less to condemn in their conduct respecting the general benefit of the state than in that of their opponents. Thinking that, I have seldom attended, scarce ever voted, nor since that period have I been in that warm and steady opposition I was to Lord North, nor should I, I will frankly say, have been in opposition at all but that having that political connexion with you which I thought likely to last, I could not bring myself to oppose entirely those with whom you were connected.
And on 3 Dec., after paying tribute to Pitt, he wrote:
It is impossible for a man not utterly devoid of spirit not to feel the manner those your Lordship calls our friends but whom I never found mine (always except indeed the Duke of Portland) have uniformly behaved to me. They have never once deigned to consult me, have never taken notice of me, never asked me to any one of their houses or parties but have considered me, ‘not as a hound to hunt in the pack but one to fill up the cry’ and so marked that if at any time since I first sat in Parliament I undertook anything, my giving notice was a signal for them, and most particularly Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan, to absent themselves or if they stayed never I do declare, never once to support me.
He concluded that if Spencer opposed his becoming an Administration supporter, he would remain a spectator for the remainder of the Parliament and then retire altogether, but on receiving a reassuring reply from Spencer he went over to Administration. On 20 Aug. 1788 he applied for an Irish peerage;6 he voted with Pitt over the Regency, 1788-9, and on 20 Mar. 1789 renewed his application for a peerage.7
Minchin died 26 Mar. 1796.