SALT, Samuel (c.1723-92), of the Inner Temple.

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



1768 - 1784
1784 - 1790

Family and Education

b. c.1723, s. and h. of Rev. John Salt, vicar of Audley, Staffs.1  educ. M. Temple 1741; I. Temple 1745.  unm.

Offices Held

Called associate to the bar 1745; under-treasurer I. Temple 1745-68, called 1753, bencher 1782 treasurer 1787.

Director, South Sea Co. 1769-75. dep. gov. 1775- d.


Salt was legal agent to the family of Eliot of Port Eliot, and sat at Liskeard on their interest. ‘I approve mightily of Mr. Salt as a lawyer’, wrote Harriet Eliot to her son Edward on 28 Mar. 1748; and again a little later: ‘I love and honour honest Salt.’2 Eliot allowed Salt to take his own line in Parliament: from 1768-82 he voted regularly with Opposition, although Eliot held office until 1776. There is no evidence that Salt ever spoke in the House.

At the general election of 1780 Eliot placed his seats at the disposal of Opposition, and Salt seems to have taken this as an exclusion of himself. The Duke of Portland wrote to Rockingham on 3 Sept.:3

To my great surprise I found yesterday that Mr. Salt had doubts of his being any longer a part of Mr. Eliot’s corps, and conceived that it was owing either to his not having applied to Mr. E. through you, or not having the necessary requisite of £3,000. That this last objection was now removed, but the difficulty was how to break it to Mr. E. I have undertaken that task, and I do assure you that I feel the weight of it, not because I conceive Mr. Salt’s fears to be well founded but because I feel they ought to have no foundation at all but in one possible case.

Then Salt changed his mind, ‘resolved to retire’, and asked Portland to inform Eliot. But the Duchess wrote to Portland on 8 Sept.:

Mr. Plumer hopes you will not write to Mr. E. to counteract what you had said before for Mr. S.—he says it is his nice feelings which have occasioned his doing what may appear strange to you.

Eliot ‘instantly determined to bring him in’. He wrote to Portland on 14 Sept.:

In the afternoon that Salt was actually elected in the morning, I received an express from him repenting of every thing he had said to your Grace, desiring to be out of Parliament, and assuring me he chose to be so. This hurt me at first beyond measure; accustomed as I am to his refinements and irresolution I did not expect this instance of it. However I soon recovered myself, wrote him word that he had changed his mind too late, and that I was very certain he ardently wished to be in the House of Commons upon the whole: that he would have been lastingly unhappy if he had not been there, notwithstanding what he might say (or even think) at the moment of writing his last letter.

In 1783 Salt was naturally expected to follow Eliot who supported Shelburne and Pitt. But political calculations about him seem to have been based on little knowledge. He appears in the division list of 18 Feb. as having voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, and is noted as a follower of North which he never was. In Robinson’s list of March 1783 he is included among Shelburne’s connexions, yet he voted for Fox’s India bill. And Robinson in his survey for the general election of 1784 noted that Eliot ‘would most likely bring in Mr. Salt again ... who would be with Administration’. But in fact Eliot did not return Salt and in Stockdale’s list of 19 Mar. 1784 Salt was noted as a follower of Fox.

Robinson wrote about Aldeburgh before the general election of 1784:

Mr. Rose says Crespigny has settled with Fonnereau that Crespigny has power to sell one and come in for the other.

This was Philip Champion Crespigny; his brother Claude was a director of the South Sea Company, and presumably it was through him that Salt was introduced to Aldeburgh. He voted against Pitt between 1784 and 1790.

John Lamb, father of Charles Lamb the essayist, was Salt’s clerk, and here is the description Charles Lamb gives of him:4

Salt had the reputation of being a very clever man, and of excellent discernment in the chamber practice of the law. I suspect his knowledge did not amount to much ... It was incredible what repute for talents Salt enjoyed by the mere trick of gravity. He was a shy man ... indolent and procrastinating to the last degree. Yet men would give him credit for vast application in spite of himself ... [Salt] never knew what he was worth in the world; and having but a competency for his rank, which his indolent habits were little calculated to improve, might have suffered severely if he had not had honest people about him.

He died 27 July 1792.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. N. & Q. (ser. 7), vi. 85.
  • 2. Eliot mss.
  • 3. Portland mss.
  • 4. Old Benchers of I. Temple.