STANLEY, Hans (1721-80), of Paultons, nr. Romsey, Hants, and Ventnor, I.o.W.

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



11 Feb. 1743 - 1747
1754 - 12 Jan. 1780

Family and Education

b. 23 Sept. 1721,1 o.s. of George Stanley of Paultons by Sarah, da. of Sir Hans Sloane of Chelsea, and coh. with her sis., w. of Charles, 2nd Baron Cadogan.  educ. Hackney;2 Switzerland.3 unm.  suc. fa. (who committed suicide) 31 Jan. 1734. His sisters m. Welbore Ellis and Christopher D’Oyly.

Offices Held

Ld. of Admiralty Sept. 1757-July 1765; envoy to Paris May-Sept. 1761; P.C. 26 Nov. 1762; gov. and v.-adm. I.o.W. 1764-6, 1770- d.; ambassador designate to Russia 1766-7; cofferer of Household Dec. 1766-Mar. 1774, Oct. 1776- d.


Hans Stanley’s grandfather was a Southampton merchant and alderman; and Stanley himself was admitted a burgess of Southampton in 1747,4 possibly with a view to contesting the borough. While out of Parliament Stanley visited France, ‘and once resided two years at Paris’; had opportunities of meeting there men of business, ‘of cultivating useful acquaintance’, and, he claimed, ‘was considered there with some degree of esteem’.5 His ‘application to the law of nations’ and to international problems was ‘neither merely occasional, nor entirely superficial’, and at one time he intended offering his services ‘in the department of foreign affairs; but ... no person was then sent to the court for which I was designed, and ... I was during that interval re-elected into Parliament’. When after Pelham’s death Pitt was sketching to Temple a plan of campaign and recommended ‘a little gathering friends about you at dinners’, he named in the first place Stanley.6

Writing to Newcastle, 23 Mar. 1754, Stanley claimed that during the past seven years Pelham had given him the disposal of all vacant places at Southampton, where in view of ‘the strong Tory bias ... no Whig can ever be chose without help of that sort; and even with it, it will not be an easy election’. Still, although a third candidate had been announced, the return was unopposed. Newcastle reckoned Stanley a supporter and his seat a ‘gain’. But Lord Barrington wrote to Newcastle, 2 Oct. 1755:

I have seen Mr. Stanley ... and I find him unengaged and undetermined. Perhaps he may not wait on you immediately; whenever he does, you may conclude that he is disposed to receive any proposition you may do him the honour to make; he will be very explicit in his answer and it may be depended on entirely.

On 4 Mar. 1756, when the plate bill was under fire, Stanley sent Newcastle a long disquisition on the tax: he would have voted against it ‘if the revenue had not been your particular branch of Administration’.7

On the death of Admiral West, 9 Aug. 1757, Anson wanted Sir Edward Hawke to succeed him at the Admiralty Board. But Newcastle insisted upon his engagement to Stanley—‘he would go into the Closet and settle it for Mr. Stanley, or he would never go to the Treasury again’. Anson protested, and thought ‘the circumstances very hard, considering the merits of the two persons proposed, one of whom will in all probability be very troublesome’, and ‘of no use there’. Newcastle, greatly embarrassed, tried to delay announcing Stanley’s appointment in the hope that another vacancy might soon enable him to accommodate both; argued that it might be better for Stanley not to have the borough open for months; and appealed to him through Barrington, who told him that he had forfeited much of Newcastle’s affections and could now regain them. But Stanley’s appointment was declared in September.8

On a vacancy occurring at the Treasury Board in 1759, Stanley applied to Newcastle: ‘the chief employment of my studies has been the revenue and commercial interests of this country’. And in a further letter he reminded Newcastle ‘that protection is due to attachment, and that ... sentiments of friendship to be real and lasting must be reciprocal’. On the death of George II, Stanley wrote to assure Newcastle ‘of the inviolable attachment, which in every ... vicissitude of fortune you may depend upon from one, whom every sentiment both of gratitude and inclination binds to you’.9

Told by Temple on 17 Apr. 1761 that Pitt had named him among those ‘who may, in some capacity, be useful on a future occasion’, Stanley, in a letter descanting upon his own qualifications,10 offered his services for negotiations with France; and was sent across at the end of May. He now showed formal ability, tinged with oddity. On 18 June Jenkinson wrote to Grenville about one of his dispatches: ‘It is the first dispatch in which I ever saw metaphysical reasoning.’11 ‘A long letter was read from your friend Stanley ... ’, wrote Lord Hardwicke to Lord Royston after the Cabinet meeting of 14 Aug. ‘It is a very able one, though with a mixture of flights, and improprieties.’ And to Newcastle, on 27 Sept., wondering how far to trust Stanley’s judgment: ‘He has certainly very good parts, but he has strong passions and excessive vanity and, as plainly appears, a great love of flattery.’12 Recalled at the end of September, on 9 Dec. 1761 Stanley paid in Parliament the highest compliments to Pitt, but also said: ‘I wish ... that the terms of a peace, whenever it shall come, may be moderate, in as much as upon that foundation only can we hope that it will be lasting.’ James West wrote: ‘Mr. Stanley spoke well’; but Harris: ‘he was obscure and affected’.13

Bute, on assuming the Treasury, offered Stanley a place at its Board; he declined as ‘the vacating his seat at Southampton would be attended with some hazard’.14 Repeatedly invited by Newcastle during the summer to Claremont, Stanley showed little desire to visit him15—the ‘inviolable attachment’ was crumbling. Newcastle, though prone to illusions, listed him on 13 Nov., as ‘contra’, and Fox, by early December, among those in favour of the peace preliminaries.

‘Shall Mr. Stanley move the Address?’ wrote Fox to Bute, 17 Nov.16 Next the jewel office was fixed upon for him.17 On 9 Dec. Stanley, according to Harris, ‘spoke the best speech that was heard in the debate. The style was good, and for matter his late negotiations with France gave him lights, which few possessed beside himself.’ And James Hayes: ‘nobody said so much and so well for the peace as Mr. Stanley, to whom Mr. Pitt made the highest compliments imaginable.’18 Similarly Walpole and Rigby.19 ‘Many talk of Mr. Stanley to be secretary at war [on Charles Townshend’s resignation]’, wrote Fox to Bute on 11 Dec. Fox opposed the appointment because of Stanley’s connexions with Pitt ‘and fickleness of temper that may make him liable to be guided by them occasionally. His speech was a very good one, but there were in it declarations that might as well have been spared.’20 Stanley refused the jewel office; and Halifax, on sounding him, found him ‘resolved to keep his present situation’.21 In a huff he set out for Paris—the newspapers had made him Townshend’s successor, reported Rigby to Bedford, 27 Dec., and he was angry ‘that the ministry did not do so too’.22 The same day Lord Strange complained to Bute of Stanley being passed over and insisted ‘on his being sent for home to some very good place to put him in good humour’; Bute replied that he had shown every disposition to befriend Stanley, but must now decline entering into any new engagements.23

To an offer made by Grenville when forming his Administration Stanley replied from Paultons, 7 Apr. 1763:24

The persons to whom you succeed must, Sir, have given you very imperfect informations, if they have not told you that I rejected the removal into the Treasury as an offer not worthy my acceptance; the slightest call to the business of the Admiralty, or of Parliament, should, Sir, have brought me to London, but I cannot leave my house, which happens at this time to be full of people of the first distinction, in order to return you this answer by word of mouth, which I now give in writing, or to form in conversation demands of other preferments, that may suit me better. Any such proposal must be made specifically to me; it will then receive a plain negative or affirmative.
I have served my country in a manner to which every court in Europe has done justice except my own. I have since, from a sense of my duty, supported that Administration which had neglected me. My desire of showing my profound and loyal veneration to the person of the King solely, joined to my resolution of never taking any part that should have the least appearance of faction, has alone prevented my laying the office I actually hold at his Majesty’s feet. I have drawn a line above the Treasury, nor will I ever alter my present situation, unless it be to retire from public business, or to rise to an equality with those who are my juniors in office, and in no other light my superiors. Lord Halifax, who has long honoured me with his friendship, knows all my sentiments on this subject ... Meanwhile I shall trouble no present or future minister with any solicitation.

Stanley remained at the Admiralty; but early in November Halifax and Sandwich formed a plan for him to replace Joseph Yorke as ambassador at The Hague. Grenville, however, was averse to the idea, and on 10 Nov. very fully explained to Stanley

the urgent necessity of his bringing forward such people as were personally attached to him, and would stand by him in this critical juncture ... he could never consent that any of the offices held by Members of that House should go through any channel but his own. Mr. Stanley acknowledged the force of his argument, but was not very strong in his professions said he should vote with the Government in Mr. Wilkes’s affair, but seemed to disapprove the proceeding.

In a further conversation on 12 Nov. Stanley was ‘much more explicit’; he meant to support the Government and ‘show his personal regard to Mr. Grenville’.25 Still, only three unimportant interventions by him in parliamentary debates are recorded during the next session, on 16 Nov. 1763 and on 9 and 17 Feb. 1764.26 About that time, in letters to Lord Palmerston27 he was critical of both sides: ‘a man of sense and honour is in the present scene not between two bundles of hay, but ... of thistles’, 23 Oct. 1763; ‘the whole dispute is who shall enjoy the posts and emoluments of Administration’ though the several champions have ‘already by insufficiency and inconsistency lost their claims to the esteem of the country’, 7 Jan. 1764. But on 12 May: ‘Mr. Grenville is generally thought to have shown abilities equal to his station, both his management of the revenue and his exposition of the state of it have done him honour.’ And on 5 July Stanley wrote to Grenville:28

The death of Lord Holmes ... opens to you an opportunity ... of showing me that friendship which I have so steadily and invariably relied upon. I am extremely desirous of succeeding him in the government of the Isle of Wight ... I am very fully persuaded that my promotion to this office will be well approved and received [in Hampshire], at the same time I hope not to be considered as throwing myself out of that general line of business ... into a provincial channel of mere emolument.

Grenville consulted Halifax, Sandwich, and Bedford, who agreed that the office could not ‘be better disposed of than to Mr. Stanley’.29 Stanley was appointed, and Grenville wrote on 17 July to Lord Carnarvon, who had previously applied for the office: ‘Mr. Stanley’s services to the public have for some time disposed his Majesty to reward them, and it was impossible for any of his servants not to agree in the propriety of that appointment.’ Carnarvon replied by resigning his posts of lord lieutenant of Hampshire and lord of the bedchamber. ‘Carnarvon, who never was or can be in Hampshire anything but the tool (and a very poor one) of the Tories’, wrote Stanley on 6 Aug. 1764. And on 17 Aug.: ‘I am ... not to be duped by the factious cry of those people who want to make the name of Whig a mere instrument of their own preferment, but at the same time I have it more at heart than any of them to see the King served upon the real principle of that distinction.’30

‘Very happy with his new government’, Stanley, in the company of Rigby and Lord Farnham, set out ‘on a mere jaunt of pleasure’, to Paris.31 There, ‘in the highest vogue’ and ‘extremely liked’,32 he associated with the great, the fashionable, and the learned. He was ‘literally at home at the Duc de Choiseul’s’, having an apartment at his house at Compiègne33—‘nothing could exceed the politeness of his reception’, wrote Stanley to his cousin, friend, and assistant, Hans Sloane, ‘or the ease and cheerfulness of this place’.34 Gibbon, though he disliked Stanley, speaks of Helvetius’s ‘great attachment to and admiration’ for him, ‘whose character is indeed at Paris beyond anything you can conceive’.35

Lord Holmes’s death had thrown Isle of Wight politics into confusion; from France Stanley instructed Sloane in their management, well satisfied with his own aloofness and his cousin’s ‘dexterity and diligence’.

The approbation with which you are pleased to say my promotion has been received in the Isle of Wight is a great satisfaction to me, but ... the contrary sentiment would not have given me infinite pain; it would be too much vanity to expect the friendship of those who know me not; my candour, moderation, good nature, and firmness should be seen so very clearly in my conduct even in that little sphere of action, that I will be very sure of their good will upon better acquaintance.

He meant to establish a parliamentary interest at Newport; would co-operate with those who left one seat to him; but not open his purse farther ‘where the nomination is not left to me’; and asked Sloane to discover ‘who may be the most proper persons at Newport to fill up the present vacancies [in the corporation]. I would wish them to be such as are unconnected with the great men of the Island, and as I may be likely to attach to myself.’36 On the death of T. L. Dummer, 5 Oct. 1765, Stanley failed to obtain the seat for Sloane, but a year later, under the Chatham Administration, secured for him, by agreement with Leonard Holmes, its reversion at the next general election.

Stanley returned to England in November 1764; was officiously attentive to Grenville’s interests and wishes both in the Isle of Wight and in Parliament where he spoke several times (receiving little notice in extant reports). On the formation of the Rockingham Administration he lost his place at the Admiralty, but was left the governorship of the Isle of Wight—though the question of replacing him by the Duke of Bolton seems to have been considered.37 He went for the summer to Italy. Walpole, introducing him to Mann, wrote, 14 May: ‘I am well acquainted with him, but have no friendship ... He has good parts, much knowledge, and good breeding, but his manner is not agreeable.’ Mann should be on his guard and avoid talking politics with Stanley: ‘In these distractions, I do not know which way he particularly leans.’ Stanley returned to England in October; was offered, so he told Grenville on 14 Oct., ‘restitution to office’ but declined, wishing to support ‘those measures for which I have voted during your wise and honourable Administration, and which I hear are to be attacked’. In a further letter, of 7 Nov., he claimed to have declared that intention to the King, and to have offered to resign the office he still held, but to have been desired to retain it ‘as his immediate gift to me’.38 Stanley repeatedly spoke and voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act: on 14 Jan. was strong for enforcing it, ‘and declared if it had produced only a peppercorn the insisting upon it was worth more than a million paid into the Exchequer, as it established the right which was of infinite consequence to this country’.39 ‘The decision of the question on America’ would ‘decide whether this country was to be the mistress of the world’.40 He also voted against the Government over the Anstruther Burghs election (31 Jan.), and was mentioned in the list which Conway sent to the King ‘of those who were particularly remarked on this occasion’.41 And on 3 Feb., speaking on the scheme of the Rockinghams concerning America, he desired to know whether it was ‘a specious preliminary to the surrender of all our rights in America, or a proper measure to the parliamentary execution of them’.42

When Pitt, on assuming office, planned a ‘Northern alliance’ with Prussia and Russia, he chose Stanley for his special envoy. He wrote to the King on 25 July:

Mr. Stanley is all duty for your Majesty’s service. His abilities, which extend to either pole, are ready to be devoted to your royal service, towards the northern if it is your Majesty’s pleasure he will undertake the embassy to Russia. His private affairs and every other circumstance make him hope for your Majesty’s gracious permission to limit the time of his absence to two years, a term, Sir, fully ample enough to complete whatever good is to be done, or to prove that none can be attainable.

The King replied: ‘Mr. Stanley’s conduct causes me no surprise as I am thoroughly persuaded of his attachment and zeal for my service.’43

Talking to Lord Hertford a few days later, Stanley said that ‘of all things in the world he disliked going to Russia’, and quoted the time limit he had secured; similarly, to Grenville (29 July): the appointment was not of his seeking, ‘but tired and disgusted with all the late scenes of domestic politics ... I have accepted the embassy to Petersburg as a temporary retreat from the present confusion’.44 By November the failure of Chatham’s plan was obvious, and on 4 Dec. Stanley was appointed cofferer of the Household, vacating the Isle of Wight. His embassy having in fact been abandoned, he acted, as Walpole puts it, ‘with singular honour’, and in January desired to give up also its emoluments although ready ‘to continue nominally ambassador to Russia’ as long as was required to keep up appearances with the Russian court.45 Then on 24 Mar. 1767, George Grenville, perhaps resenting Stanley’s having left him for Chatham, spoke in the House about ambassadors who drew salaries while absent from their posts.

Stanley, a very warm man [wrote Walpole],46 took this invective to himself, and showed how much he resented it. He complained that Grenville had given him no notice of the intended attack; and observed how delicate his own situation was in speaking, or not speaking, between private honour and the duty he owed to the King of secrecy ... The employment he had not sought. In France he had served to his loss ... foreign ministers had no means of raising a fortune. Had he himself a son, he would say to him, ‘Get into Parliament; make tiresome speeches, you will have great offers; do not accept them at first; then do; then make great provision for yourself and family, and then call yourself an independent country gentleman.’ For himself, he was ready to answer Mr. Grenville there or anywhere else. Severe as the picture was, Grenville had drawn it on himself.

Stanley henceforth invariably supported Administration: he spoke on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, and on the East India inquiry, 9 Mar.;47 and in the next Parliament became one of the most frequent Government speakers dealing with a great variety of subjects. Yet usually his speeches are merely noted and not reported. The Public Ledger wrote about him in 1779: ‘He is cried up as a man of parts, but has not the art of setting them off, being little attended to in Parliament.’ With an elaborate façade, but poor analytical capacity, he seldom rose above the commonplace. Perhaps his most sensible speeches were on diplomatic topics, e.g. during the Falkland Islands crisis; and his most inane on America. He was glad that the Townshend duties ‘put the obedience of the Americans to the test’, he declared on 8 Nov. 1768; their behaviour calls ‘loudly for our correction’, and ‘a degree of salutory rigour’. ‘What will become of this insolent town of Boston ...?’ Were they to contend with us, it ‘would dwindle into a contemptible village’.48 He went on repeating similar stuff through the years. ‘He wanted nothing but the Americans to submit’, 6 Feb. 1775; ‘with rebels in arms ... no treaty of conciliation could be made’, 28 Nov. 1777;49 etc.

But with all his devotion to the Government he made little headway in his official career: perhaps unconsciously he himself avoided being put to a serious test. Thomas Bradshaw wrote to Barrington on 11 Sept. 1767 when the latter’s transfer to the Exchequer was mooted: ‘I have some reason to think Mr. Stanley will be your successor but I am sure with the regard I know you have for him, you will not think him qualified for the War Office.’50 In 1770, on the Duke of Bolton resigning the Isle of Wight, Stanley was re-appointed to it; and this post was given to him for life in March 1774 when he resigned that of cofferer wanted for Jeremiah Dyson. When Dyson had a stroke, and Stanley asked to be restored, North wrote to the King, 20 Oct.: ‘When Mr. Stanley resigned the cofferer’s office, he [North] certainly did give him hopes that he should be restored to a Privy Councillor’s place as soon as an opportunity offered.’ The King replied: in view of ‘the very handsome manner with which Mr. Stanley conducted himself on that occasion added to his zealous support on all occasions ... he ... stands first for that or any other Privy Council office that may suit his inclination’.51 But Dyson lived another two years; and Stanley wrote to Lady Spencer in September 1776: ‘the terms made formerly with me, when I resigned the office of cofferer, have been very punctually and directly kept by the King’s servants, and most graciously and obligingly pursued by himself.’52 He was re-appointed cofferer in October 1776.

While on a visit at Althorp, 12 Jan. 1780, he committed suicide by cutting his throat. ‘Our poor friend Stanley has followed his father’s example’, wrote Lord Cadogan to Lord Buckinghamshire. ‘He ... left me ... but a few days ago in the greatest appearance of health and tranquillity of mind.’53 He willed his property to his sisters Mrs. Ellis and Mrs. D’Oyly for life, with reversion to Hans Sloane of his Hampshire estates, and to Cadogan of his moiety in their joint Chelsea estate. He also made provision for a natural son then at sea.

Walpole wrote to Mason, 29 Jan. 1780:

Hans Stanley has left various works: one is a defence of our seizing the French ships previous to the last war. It is a dialogue in imitation of Tully’s philosophic works, and is written in Latin too.54 Do you wonder he cut his throat? I formerly was obliged to read a poem of his in three cantos at Lady Hervey’s, and what was fifty times worse, before him ... Awkward he was, and brayed, but I never knew why he could not read his own work.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. According to a Sloane-Stanley ms, which also states that Hans Stanley was baptized at Holyrood, Southampton, in Oct. 1721.
  • 2. Yorke, Hardwicke, iii. 320.
  • 3. Stanley to Ld. Palmerston, 28 Oct. 1763, Palmerston mss.
  • 4. ‘Reg. of Burgess’ Admissions 1697-1835’, Southampton City recs.
  • 5. Chatham Corresp. ii. 116-19.
  • 6. Grenville Pprs. i. 112-14.
  • 7. Add. 32734, f. 310; 33034, ff. 173-6, 195; 32859, f. 333; 32863, ff. 188-90.
  • 8. Add. 35359, ff. 399-400; 32872, ff. 526-7.
  • 9. Add. 32891, ff. 113-14; 32892, ff. 245-6.
  • 10. Chatham. Corresp. ii. 116-19.
  • 11. Grenville Pprs. i. 367, 372.
  • 12. Yorke, Hardwicke, iii. 320, 327.
  • 13. Add. 38334, ff. 46-47; 32932, ff. 74-77.
  • 14. Add. 36796, ff. 143-145.
  • 15. Add. 32939, f. 329; 32940, f. 116; 32941, ff. 9, 201; 32942, f. 328.
  • 16. Bute mss.
  • 17. Bedford mss 46, f. 166.
  • 18. Bedford Corresp. iii. 168.
  • 19. Mems. Geo. III, i. 178; Bedford mss 46, f. 170.
  • 20. Bute mss.
  • 21. Bute to Fox, 18 Dec. 1762, Henry Fox mss.
  • 22. Bedford mss 46, f. 218.
  • 23. Fox to Shelburne, 28 Dec. 1762, Lansdowne mss; Add. 36796, f. 183.
  • 24. Grenville Pprs. ii. 42-44.
  • 25. Ibid. 219-22.
  • 26. Newdigate’s ‘Debates’; S. Peach, Life of R. Allen, 201.
  • 27. Palmerston mss.
  • 28. Grenville mss (JM).
  • 29. Grenville letter bk.; Grenville mss (JM).
  • 30. Sloane-Stanley mss.
  • 31. Ilchester, Letters to Hen. Fox, 197-9.
  • 32. Walpole to Mann, 14 May 1765; to Lady Suffolk, 20 Sept. 1765.
  • 33. Bedford mss 50, f. 58.
  • 34. Compi‘gne, 6 Aug. 1764, Sloane-Stanley mss.
  • 35. To his stepmother, Paris, 12 Feb. 1763.
  • 36. Stanley to Sloane, 17 and 24 Aug., 2 Oct. 1764, Sloane-Stanley mss.
  • 37. Fortescue, i. 125.
  • 38. Grenville Pprs. iii. 99; Grenville mss (JM).
  • 39. Add. 32937, ff. 133-4; Walpole, Mems. Geo. III, ii. 184.
  • 40. Fortescue, i. 224.
  • 41. Fortescue, i. 249-50, where Stanley’s name is misspelt into ‘Helmley’.
  • 42. Ryder’s ‘Debates’, Harrowby mss.
  • 43. Fortescue, i. 381-2; Namier, Add. Corr. 61.
  • 44. Ilchester, Letters to Hen. Fox, 267; Grenville Pprs. iii. 284-5.
  • 45. Mems. Geo. III, ii. 311; Conway to Chatham, 24 Jan. 1767, Chatham mss.
  • 46. Mems. Geo. III, ii. 311.
  • 47. Fortescue, i. 454, 465.
  • 48. Cavendish’s ‘Debates’, Egerton 215, ff. 97-104.
  • 49. Almon, i. 154; viii. 77.
  • 50. Barrington mss.
  • 51. Fortescue, iii. 149.
  • 52. Spencer mss.
  • 53. HMC Lothian, 360-1.
  • 54. The ms, in Stanley’s own hand, was among the Sloane-Stanley mss at Paultons in 1952: ‘Cotta: De Statu et Jure Belli Imperfecti Dialogus.’