DRAKE, William II (1747-95), of Shardeloes, nr. Amersham, Bucks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1768 - 18 May 1795

Family and Education

b. 3 Dec. 1747,1 1st s. of William Drake I*, and bro. of Thomas Drake Tyrwhitt* and Charles Drake Garrard*. educ. Westminster 1759-64; Brasenose, Oxf. 1765; Grand Tour. m. (1) 19 Feb. 1778, Mary (d. 23 Oct. 1778), da. and h. of William Hussey* of Upper Eldon, Hants., s.p.; (2) 20 Aug. 1781, Rachel Elizabeth, da. and h. of Jeremiah Ives, alderman and merchant of Norwich, Norf., 2da.

Offices Held

Capt. Bucks. yeomanry 1795.


Drake, who was again returned for the family pocket borough in 1790, continued to give general support to government, while retaining the spiritedly independent outlook which distinguished him from his father. While it is impossible to be entirely confident on the point, it seems reasonable to assume that all the speeches, over 30 in number, recorded in the names of ‘Mr Drake’ and, in a few cases, of ‘Mr Drake jun.’, were made by this Member. He is known to have been a frequent speaker in the 1784 Parliament, whereas his father had evidently remained silent in the House for over 40 years, and the speeches have a uniformity of style and sentiment.

In 1815 Sheridan recalled

independent Drake, a gaunt, pale, tall fellow, getting up one night in the House to attack the minister’s delay, and saying ... with his arm stretched out towards Pitt, and looking like a ghost: ‘Behold the very figure of procrastination!’ The House burst into a laugh, and Drake sat down.2

The incident referred to has not been found, but the anecdote rings true, for Drake’s standpoint, tenaciously held, was that of the archetypal country gentleman and his vehement expression of his views was often a source of amusement to the House. When opposing Grey’s attack on the Spanish convention, 13 Dec. 1790, he ‘pronounced a eulogium upon confidence’, the ‘great cement of society’, but asserted that ‘he was on no side of the House’ and was one of the ‘chosen band’ who were ‘neither the spaniels of ministers nor the followers of parties’. Drake substantiated his claim by attacking the additional malt duty, 20 and 23 Dec. 1790. He opposed the lottery bill, 4 Apr. 1792, and declared:

In every other part of ... [Pitt’s] conduct he admired him: he was the greatest minister England ever had; he was great beyond great and immense beyond immensity [loud laugh]: he was assiduous, active, and deserved to be immortal [laugh]: but in this instance he could not support him.

John Courtenay* observed that Drake

always doubled, trebled and quadrupled his panegyrics upon ... [Pitt] (and his encomiums were always ecclesiastic, fantastic, hudibrastic, and enthusiastic) exactly in proportion as he condemned his measures.3

Drake praised Pitt’s budget proposals, which included the repeal of the additional malt duty, 17 Feb. 1792, and bestowed on them the accolade of ‘the jubilee of finance’.

In the debate on the royal proclamation, 25 May 1792, he again eulogized Pitt, set his face against reform and avowed that he would ‘rather die a loyalist, than live a republican’. He was equally forthright in his hostility to events in France, and his speech in the debate on the address, 15 Dec. 1792, when he called on loyal Members to suppress ‘the very semen of a revolution, which was but too manifest in the volcanic, subterranean, infernal, diabolical eloquence’ of the Foxite opposition, evidently caused much merriment. He supported the aliens bill, 31 Dec. 1792; welcomed the decision to go to war, 28 Jan. and 21 Feb.; opposed Fox’s peace motion, 17 June 1793, and concurred in measures to provide the sinews of war. When opposing, with government, Adam’s bill to provide an appeal to the Lords from Scottish courts, 4 Feb. 1794, he took his stand on the Baconian maxim of resisting ‘every innovation, unless the utility was evident, and the necessity urgent’.

Drake’s critical faculties were not totally deadened by patriotic ardour. He spoke against the loan scheme, 27 Mar. 1793; rebuked Pitt for his performance in the clash with Fox on the war, 26 Mar., and supported Adair’s amendment to the volunteer corps bill, 7 Apr. 1794. He spoke and voted against abolition of the slave trade, 19 Apr. 1791, but on 23 and 25 Apr. 1792 declared his conversion to gradual abolition.

Had Drake survived his father and added the main family estates to his own ‘immense property’, he would have become, so his obituary considered, ‘one of the richest men in the country’,4 but he died 18 May 1795.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Mon. Inscrips. St. Anne’s Church Soho ed. Hughes, 54.
  • 2. Broughton, Recollections, i. 207.
  • 3. Senator, v. 547-8.
  • 4. Gent. Mag. (1795), i. 445.