STRATTON, George (?1734-1800), of Great Tew, Oxon.
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Family and Education
b. ?1734, 1st s. of John Stratton, chief counsel at Vizapatam (1741), and 5th member of council of Madras (1742), by his w. Mary Houghton. m. 1768, Hester Eleanora, sis. of Wm. Light, a Madras writer, 2s. 1da.
George Stratton was appointed a writer in the East India Company’s service on 31 Oct. 1750 and proceeded to Fort St. George in 1751. He had an uneventful career, and in 1768 became a member of the Governor’s council, but never rose to the highest station. He showed no jealousy of those placed over his head, and was on good terms with his colleagues. In 1776, however, when a conflict arose between the council and the governor, Lord Pigot, he found himself, nominally at least, at the head of the faction opposing the governor, and obtained sudden notoriety for his part in Pigot’s arrest and detention, and as acting governor while instructions from the Company were awaited. After Pigot’s death he and his colleagues were indicted for murder in Madras, but the proceedings were quashed. Recalled by order of the general court, Stratton returned to England in 1778. He approached Lord Sandwich (who, according to the English Chronicle, ‘had laboured at a previous period under personal obligations’ to him) about a seat in Parliament, and, recommended by Sandwich, was put up for Callington on the Orford interest. Returned after a contest, 5 Dec., he was unseated, but re-elected on 1 Mar. On 16 Apr. his treatment of Pigot was impugned in Parliament by the governor’s brother, Admiral Hugh Pigot, who moved that the House should ask for an official prosecution. Stratton answered that the council had only acted ‘upon the most pressing necessity’—
that Lord Pigot’s behaviour was in the highest degree tyrannical and arbitrary ... [He] had acted in council to the prejudice of the interest of both the Company and the presidency; those of the council, who were instrumental in deposing the governor saw most clearly, that there was no other possible line of conduct for them to pursue to preserve the Company’s interests from absolute ruin, but by depriving the governor of his power ... so far was he [Stratton] from disavowing having taken part in the measures ... he made no scruple to own that he was a principal mover of the revolution and a principal agent in every measure pursued by the Company respecting it. He contended that the measure was necessary, expedient and strictly justifiable.
But Hugh Pigot’s resolution was passed by the House; Stratton and his associates were tried before the court of King’s bench, and in February 1780 were fined £1,000 each. On 21 Mar. he was again attacked in the House and accused of subverting the government in Madras, to which he replied
that he had undergone a trial for the facts now charged against him; that the sentence at that trial plainly showed that none of the persons concerned in the arrest of Lord Pigot were deemed as having intended to subvert government ... He acted from a sense of duty.1
No other speech by him is reported.
In 1780 Stratton, again recommended by Sandwich, was returned unopposed on the Orford interest at Callington. In the House he continued to support Administration, and on 22 Mar. 1782 Sandwich wrote to North: ‘I think I can carry Stratton on with me entirely.’2 In October 1782 it was reported that Stratton was selling his house in Oxfordshire, and that he and his wife had gone abroad. John Call wrote to Lord Shelburne on the 29th that it seemed possible Stratton might vacate his seat, since ‘the object of his being in Parliament is partly if not wholly at an end’.3 In fact Stratton voted with the Opposition on Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, and did not resign his seat, but he did not vote on Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783, and was noted as ‘absent’ by Robinson in January 1784 and in Stockdale’s list of 19 Mar. He did not stand again at the general election of 1784.
The English Chronicle, an Opposition newspaper, wrote about Stratton in 1781:
All his fortune, which is now very considerable, has been acquired in the service of the East India Company, and except in the part he took in the revolution at Madras, few men have emerged into sudden consequence with less noise, and, what is better, with less cause for serious imputation than himself.
He died 20 Mar. 1800, aged 65.