ROSE, George (1744-1818), of Cuffnells, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. 17 June 1744, 2nd s. of Rev. David Rose1 of Lethnot, Forfar by 2nd w. Margaret, da. of Donald Rose of Westerclunie. educ. ?Fortrose acad.;2 Westminster. m. 7 July 1769, Theodora, da. of John Duer of Fulham, Mdx. and Antigua, 2s. 1da.
Midshipman RN c.1758-62.
A clerk of Exchequer recs. c.1763; employed in publication of House of Lords recs. from Apr. 1767; jt. keeper of recs. in the Chapter House, Westminster 1773, sole 1791-d.; surveyor of green-wax monies 1774-97; sec. to board of taxes 1777-July 1782; sec. to Treasury July 1782-Apr. 1783, Dec. 1783-Mar. 1801; master of Exchequer pleas office 1784-97; clerk of the Parliaments June 1788-d.; PC 13 Jan. 1802; member of Board of Trade 17 Feb. 1802; jt. paymaster-gen. and vice-pres. Board of Trade June 1804-Feb. 1806; vice-pres. Board of Trade Mar. 1807-Sept. 1812; treasurer of navy Apr. 1807-d.
Agent for Dominica 1784-1805; verderer, New Forest 1788-d., bow bearer and dep. warden 1808-d.; elder, Trinity House Aug. 1811; dir. Greenwich Hosp. 1817-d.
Rose, a self-made placeman with an insatiable appetite for business had found his public lodestar in Pitt in 1783 and wished subsequently only to be regarded as his right-hand man.3 In his official capacity as senior secretary to the Treasury he was both electoral and public relations manager for the government and adjutant to, and apologist for, the premier’s financial measures. As such he was a constant attender and regular spokesman and teller in the House of Commons. Even more than in 1784, he prepared Pitt’s mind for the general election of 1790, offering electoral surveys and calculations from the autumn of 1788 onwards. He had every reason to be satisfied with the results, which he claimed gave Pitt ‘between 20 and 30 more determined friends than in the last [Parliament]’. His own return for Christchurch was a personal triumph, on which he had been working for some time. In 1796 he gained the second seat there for his younger son, having in the meantime secured the return of the elder for Southampton. He was by then playing the Hampshire country gentleman. Lord Liverpool described him in 1804 as ‘a very low man, and very ignorant in all the higher departments of business, and yet at the same time very presumptuous, and he is the very last man under whose management I should be inclined to act’.4 The animus towards him was evident in a court case of 1791 when he was sued by George Smith, a Westminster publican, for expenses incurred in the by-election of 1788. Smith won his case and on 13 Mar. 1792 Thomas Thompson I* pressed for parliamentary inquiry into the matter. Rose cleared himself of the accusation of having remitted an excise fine to Smith. The motion was lost by 221 votes to 84, but the affair provided ammunition for The trial of George Rose Esq., a theme which was taken up from time to time by opposition in Parliament. As late as 1810, the author of a satire on the art of securing a seat in Parliament entitled it The Rosead. As early as 1791 he was dominie or ‘prompter’ of a ‘ministerial spouting society’ for young Members near Grosvenor Square.5
Rose’s copious speeches in the House threw little light on his private views of the development of Pitt’s administration. His correspondence with his friend Lord Auckland did so. A firm believer in the necessity for peace to promote Pitt’s financial plans, he applauded the convention with Spain in 1790, but deplored the armament against Russia. It was, he wrote on 21 June 1791, ‘the only act in Mr Pitt’s time that I have not gone cordially with him in; not considering the reform of Parliament or the slave trade as measures of government’.6 On these last two measures he remained adamant. On 3 May 1793 he secured the defeat of the bill to reform the borough of Stockbridge. Of abolition he wrote, 19 Apr. 1791, ‘we are nevertheless to have it again year after year till it is stopped by some horrible mischief in the islands; this philanthropy and humanity will end in blood and confusion’.7 Through his wife, he had Dominican property (settled on his son George in 1796) and was for more than 20 years a colonial agent. He had other prejudices. He was listed among opponents of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791. In 1790 Henry Dundas* had endorsed Lord Thurlow’s view that Rose’s House of Lords clerkship should be an active one; in 1791 Rose feared that Dundas’s succession to the Home Office would lead to ‘a revival of a cry against the Scotch’, but they were supposed to be competitors for Pitt’s friendship. He disliked the French émigrés and wished to be rid of them.8 He dreaded the merger of the Portland Whigs with government, partly for fear of an extremist opposition rump, but chiefly because they would swamp a cabinet that was to his liking and have views of their own to impress upon it, and because he disliked Portland’s relish for patronage and Windham’s bellicose ideas. (His own view was that the war against revolutionary France should be limited in its aims, to spare resources and avoid unpopularity.) As for his grounds for disliking the duke, jobbery was a charge levelled against Rose himself. His stubborn defence of the Farnham Hop bill, which he put on a level with the war as ‘just and necessary’, 7 June 1793, was in the teeth of legal opinion. On 8 Apr. 1794 Sheridan, with whom he frequently clashed on financial questions, denounced him in the House as a sinecurist, listing his motley collection of places. Rose explained them away and turned the charge onto Fox, but he went on, in October 1795, to secure the reversion of his office of clerk of the Parliaments for his elder son George and offloaded others on his younger son. (A peerage for the elder son was a matter of newspaper gossip.)9 On 13 Mar. 1797 Sheridan returned to his charge in debate; Rose said it was ‘monstrously exaggerated’ and, obliged by Fox to admit the reversion to his son George, added that Fox’s father had done the same for him. The Speaker had to intervene at this point. On 1 June 1797, when Rose voted for the loyalty loan bonus, he did not reveal that he had subscribed £8,000 to it and so stood to benefit. When Tierney moved that his vote be disallowed, he announced that he would take no advantage of the bonus.
Rose’s anxiety to provide for his family was linked to a shift of emphasis, if not also to a reduction in his official activities. As before, he had provided Pitt with an electoral analysis late in 1795 with a view to the next general election and made some of the arrangements to seat friends of the Treasury; but when the election came on in May 1796, he went to Hampshire to supervise his interests there, leaving his colleague Charles Long* to superintend. His growing preoccupation with revenue questions, on which he was a mine of information to Pitt, was sealed by the appearance in 1799 of the sequel, covering the last seven years, to his Brief examination into the increase of the revenue, commerce and manufactures of Great Britain since the peace in 1783, which had appeared in 1793. In the session of 1800, too, he was prominent in the government’s bid to legislate against the abuses arising out of grain scarcity, though his credit was somewhat marred by his stake in the London society for the manufacture of bread and flour which he defended in the House without declaring his interest, 16 June. He withdrew his subscription a few hours before the division of 5 July, so as to be able to vote for it. On 8 Apr. 1800 he had hinted to Pitt that after more than 16 years in his present office, he was ready for a change:
I have felt a real anxiety to remain in my present situation as long as there was a chance of my being useful in it; but the truth is I am wearing out, of which I have lately had symptoms; I shall however most certainly never think of quitting it at a time or in a manner that can put you to the slightest inconvenience.
He left it to Pitt to decide what he deserved, adding ‘I never had a political connexion except with you and I never can with any others’. Pitt reacted with surprise and did nothing, but Rose renewed his application when a reshuffle seemed likely in July.10
Nothing had been done for Rose when Pitt resigned in 1801, and he was horrified by Pitt’s ground, of commitment to Catholic relief, against which he shared the King’s prejudices, but he did not hesitate to resign with Pitt. His contempt for Addington, whom he regarded as having supplanted Pitt by intrigue, was boundless: he would as soon prostitute his daughter as serve under him. He at once tried to combat Pitt’s stance on Catholic relief and urged him to look to restoration to office. He was not mollified when Pitt secured him a privy councillorship through Addington in April 1801 and resolved to decline it, which Pitt reluctantly allowed him to do, 17 May. Events had by then convinced him of what he readily supposed, that Addington was ‘utterly disqualified’ for his office. He was a promoter of and subscriber to the private plan to redeem Pitt’s debts. In June 1801 he entertained the King at Cuffnells and subsequently encouraged him, when he could, to have ‘a proper opinion of Mr Pitt’, at a time when he believed Addington was trying to widen the gap between them. Addington had ignored Rose’s voluntary advice on revenue questions, notably against opening the grain distilleries, and if in December 1801 Rose relented on the privy councillorship, he put it down to his elder son’s persuasion. He wished his acceptance to have no political significance: it was a token reward for past services.11 But he did become a member of the Board of Trade. He seldom uttered in debate and, except on distillation, avoided public criticism of the government, in accordance with Pitt’s line. But Tierney’s allegation that the war had extended the influence of the crown drew a denial from him, 29 Mar. 1802, and he combated opposition on the civil list question, 30 Mar., publishing a pamphlet on the subject soon afterwards.
Rose successfully defended his Hampshire electoral interests at the election of 1802 and in the ensuing Parliament appeared in the new role of castigator of electoral corruption. Behind the scenes, he was working discreetly for Pitt’s restoration to power. In November and December 1802 he was at Bath with Pitt, encouraging his discoveries of Addington’s faux pas in budgeting, and welcoming Canning’s open attacks on the government, of which he kept Pitt informed. At the same time he discouraged Canning’s scheme for a petition to Addington to resign in Pitt’s favour; Pitt must not appear to be ambitious to return to power and his popularity must remain unsullied. Failing to stir Pitt into hostility to the ministry, he turned his back on the negotiations for a merger of Pitt with Addington in April 1803, though the latter was prepared to consider him for office. He disliked the inclusion of Lord Grenville, the leader of the war party, and dreaded its potential effect on Pitt:
I am convinced great risk would be incurred if any measures were adopted by him or forced upon others by him that would infallibly lead to a renewal of the war, which the country is so extremely averse to.
When war was resumed, Rose kept his peace, contenting himself with a vote for Pitt’s question of 3 June 1803. Canning, who had hoped for more aggression from him, commented ‘Rose is miserable, he dare not act. There is no shabbiness in his inaction, he really cannot when Pitt forbids.’ He was stung into activity by a pamphlet which the ‘Near Observer’ wrote against Pitt, to which he helped Thomas Peregrine Courtenay* reply; and at the beginning of the session of 1803-4, while eschewing ‘systematic opposition’, admitted that there was ‘no possible way of effectually opening the eyes of the King or the public to the utter and absolute incapacity of the ministers, in any way but by their blunders, neglect and timidity being exposed in Parliament'.12
Accordingly, posing ‘as a magistrate and country gentleman’, Rose attacked the inadequate provision for the volunteers in the army estimates, 12, 13 Dec. 1803; he went away before the division of 7 Mar., but on 22 Mar. 1804 attacked the volunteer consolidation bill. He voted in the minorities on defence that brought Addington down, 23, 25 Apr. It was he who informed the House on 7 May that Pitt had the King’s command to form a government. He had procured from Charles Long an analysis of the House which showed that opposition to Pitt might assume alarming proportions, and was a firm supporter of a broad-based administration including Fox and Grenville, much as he disliked the former’s principles and had been hurt by the latter’s ‘most supercilious neglect and marked inattention’. So much he impressed on Lord Chancellor Eldon, with a view to reconciling the King to the coalition; failing in this he despaired, and urged Pitt’s abdication. It is clear that he would have preferred to see substituted a weak government in other hands, the failure of which would enable Pitt to return on his own terms, than see Pitt govern with any other allies. The fear of a junction with Addington probably triggered this alarmism. Once Pitt decided to carry on without alliances, Rose was soon confident of ‘a very tolerable parliamentary support’. He still hankered after Fox and Grenville, but the failure of his bid to win the King round at Weymouth in September discouraged him.13
Apart from the disregard of his advice, Rose had met with another disappointment in the distribution of offices. He had set his heart on the treasurership of the navy (probably the office he had in mind in 1800), which was bestowed on Canning. To his friend the bishop of Lincoln he revealed all, 14 May 1804:
Such an attachment as mine to Mr Pitt! So manifested! the length and zeal of services—the political influence obtained without any aid from government rewarded as Mr Steele was thirteen years ago (subsequent to which he was offered the treasurership of the navy) will not hold me up very high to the world in the estimation of Mr Pitt.
As early as 28 May 1801 Rose had informed the bishop that he felt that Pitt had treated him ‘during the last few years ... sometimes with an apparent unkindness’. Out of office, their intimacy had been renewed. Now that Pitt was back at the helm, Rose felt neglected again. The preference given to his former junior colleague Charles Long, who had no quarrel with Addington, was an omen. Pitt did not deign to inform him of his reconciliation with Addington in December 1804, which was anathema to him, and a promised explanation never arrived; so he did not send a remonstrance he had prepared. His conduct in Parliament at times betrayed his exasperation. He was absent from the debate on Pitt’s additional force bill on 8 June, though he appeared on the 11th; on the 15th, when government was defeated on a clause of the bill, he rebuked Fox and at least six others for voting without having been in the House to hear the question put. He openly regretted Pitt’s liberal views on the slave trade, 27 June 1804. Otherwise he spoke only in his official capacities, or on his special subjects. Having been re-elected on accepting office before his colleague as paymaster-general was named, he felt obliged to repeat the process, 4 Aug. 1804. He was content to vote silently in the government minority on Melville’s conduct, 8 Apr. 1805, and was supposed to derive satisfaction from the downfall of a past rival for Pitt’s confidence, but also to be in danger himself of scrutiny in his official capacity. The House was amused at his concession that he had been ‘a decided friend to enquiries of this kind’, 29 Apr., but learnt that he was in favour of a vote of thanks to the naval commissioners only ‘so far as yet appears’ (2 May)—a point that he carried—and that he thought Melville’s conduct far less blameworthy than that of Fox’s father, 16 May. That day he was himself examined by the committee on the tenth naval report. From start to finish that session he was an outspoken protagonist of the Duke of Atholl’s claims to compensation. His hopes of a negotiation with Fox and Grenville in the summer of 1805 were disappointed.14
On 27 Jan. 1806 Rose saw to it that the world was given an edifying account of Pitt’s death. He was among Pitt’s friends who met to consider the payment of his debts and on 3 Feb. advocated public payment of them. Next day he insisted that Lord Grenville was combining incompatible offices as first lord of the Treasury and auditor of the Exchequer; but pointed out how the difficulty could be overcome. He was prepared to see Grenville as Pitt’s natural successor. The only difficulty was Grenville’s alliance with the Foxites to the exclusion of Pitt’s friends. He concurred with the line adopted by Lords Castlereagh, Hawkesbury and Camden in February 1806 that they should oppose the new ministry only when Pitt’s principles were at stake or if the Foxites got the upper hand. At the same time he would not acknowledge the claims of these three men, who had clung to office without Pitt, to dictate to Pitt’s friends. He was now his own man, as Canning discovered when he in his turn sounded Rose as to the possibility of a collaboration of Pitt’s friends out of office. Rose had no objection to a nominal leader of them, but he did not consider Canning a suitable candidate. He would not even commit himself to dining regularly with the Pittites, though he occasionally did so. His only guideline was to act ‘as I thought Mr Pitt would have wished me to do’. Thus he voted against Ellenborough’s seat in the cabinet, 3 Mar. 1806. He objected in the budget debate of 28 Mar. only to the credit claimed by ministers (but really due to Pitt) for investigating allegations of fraud in the West Indian accounts. He proceeded to object to the pig iron duty, which ministers eventually gave up. He disappointed Wilberforce by remaining hostile to legislation to mitigate the slave trade—he was listed ‘adverse’—and in his speeches furnished fresh grounds for it. He voted against the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr., and criticized Windham’s military plan as a blow against the volunteers, 21 May. He was the leading critic of the American intercourse bill, which undermined a measure of his own of March 1805 and infringed the navigation laws, 22 May, 17 June 1806—regardless of the fact that there were more exports to the New World than British ships could hope to carry. He defended Pitt’s administration against the charge of arrears in public accounts, 23 May, turned the charge on to a nephew of Windham’s, 12 June, and described the commissioners created under the West Indian accounts and audit of public accounts bills as sinecurists, 16, 23 June. On the latter occasion, when the same accusation was levelled at him, he sprang to his own defence and concluded that he opposed ministers only when Pitt’s honour was at stake. He saw eye to eye with ministers in opposing the charges against the Marquess Wellesley, on the increased grants to the royal dukes and provision for Lord Nelson’s family, which he regarded as a special trust of his own.15
Rose found it increasingly difficult to reconcile respect for Lord Grenville as potential leader of Pitt’s friends with contempt for his colleagues in the government. When he said so in the House, 12 June 1806, Grenville’s nephew Lord Temple retorted that ‘he spoke the language and sentiments of his noble relation when he stated that he thanked no man for compliments paid to him at the expense of his colleagues’. Canning, noting that Rose was well-disposed to a compromise with Grenville in July when Fox’s illness adumbrated a government reshuffle, confided in him the overtures made to him by Grenville and was prepared to stipulate Rose’s inclusion. Rose’s friend the bishop of Lincoln, who got wind of these feelers, was prepared to try his influence with Grenville to procure an individual offer for him; but Rose indicated that he would have to consult his Pittite friends first. When the overtures failed, Rose revealed them to the bishop in such a disgruntled way that Lord Carysfort, who was shown the letter, hinted to Grenville that Rose, in the last resort, ‘would treat separately’, but that as the bishop too interested himself only for Rose, Grenville might as well ignore both of them. The honeymoon was ended, in any case, when at the dissolution Rose found his interests under ministerial attack in Christchurch, Southampton and the constituency of Hampshire. He clung to the two boroughs, but failed in the county. To his friends he sent long complaints of ministerial interference. Even now he was prepared to give Lord Grenville a loophole, if he disclaimed responsibility, but Grenville frankly stated in an apologia to the bishop of Lincoln, 27 Dec. 1806, that the choice had all along been Rose’s. He had resigned on Pitt’s death and had opposed government measures and government candidates in Hampshire. In self-defence Grenville had indeed taken the offensive, but what riled him most was Rose’s claim to a monopoly of respect for Pitt’s memory.16
Rose resumed a temperate opposition in the House, 23 Jan. 1807, and on 12 Feb. objected to the new plan of finance, though he dismissed Castlereagh’s counter-resolutions. Next day he stated his case against ministers’ interference in the Hampshire election, though with some reluctance: his opponents were prepared to rake up his own past sins. He returned with more relish to detailed criticism of the plan for finance and prepared to expose Lord Temple for ‘a most flagrant job’ at the pay office. But in all this he had not given up hope of a reconciliation between Grenville and Pitt’s friends, though Grenville’s were urging him to omit Rose when he resumed negotiations with Canning. Rose was prepared to abide by Canning’s decision in these and Canning had to fight Rose’s battle when Grenville revealed his reservations about admitting him to office. The Catholic question clinched his hostility; he was seen to cheer Perceval’s attack on the Maynooth seminary in February 1807 and prepared to support the King’s quest for an alternative ministry. On 9 Apr. 1807, opposing Brand’s motion, he informed the House that he was not willing to see the King’s conduct tried ‘at the bar of the House’. He was also active in discouraging the inclusion of Sidmouth in the Portland ministry.17
Rose returned to office not as chancellor of the Exchequer, as report made him, but as vice-president of the Board of Trade and as treasurer of the navy. Charles Long grumbled, ‘I fear the new government will be attacked for adding a sinecure of £4,000 per annum to another of the same value, but I understand my late worthy colleague (in very bad taste I think) made a point of this office ...’.18 He was indeed criticized in the House, 2 July 1807, but only when he raised the question of Lord Temple’s job over an army clothing contract. He challenged inquiry into his own places, 7 July. It was the signal for steady participation in debate throughout that Parliament. On 28 Jan. 1808 he introduced modifications into the American Intercourse Act when it was due for renewal, and he defended the orders in council, 18 Feb., denying that war with the United States was inevitable. He was a spokesman for the West India sugar planters on the distillation question, 23 May 1808. Commercial and naval questions apart, he was also one of the most resolute opponents of John Palmer’s* claims to compensation from May 1808 onwards and thought the charges against the Duke of York had not been proved, 14 Mar. 1809. His evidence before the committee on the Dutch commissioners, given on 24 Feb. 1809, was described as unsatisfactory, 1 May, and he had to explain it. He opposed the oath clause in Curwen’s reform bill, 1, 6 June, and on 2 June attempted to strike a blow against sinecure reform by reference to the economical reforms introduced by Pitt and the reduction in the number of sinecures since his administration. He pointed out, in reply to Whitbread’s motion to remove 25 placemen from the House, 8 June, that 25 had already been removed since 1781.
Rose’s cordial relations with Canning underwent some strain after 1807. He had declined a trade mission to Brazil in 1808 and was hurt at Canning’s failure to promote his son in the diplomatic service. But he agreed with Canning’s plan in April 1809 to secure the removal of Castlereagh from the War Office and was spared the embarrassment of facing a visit to Flanders to advise on a trading base only by the worse one of Canning’s showdown with the ministry in September 1809. It was readily supposed that he would go out of office with Canning, though he was not impressed by Canning’s case and, on perusing Canning’s correspondence with Perceval, could find nothing in the latter’s conduct to justify his own resignation from the government. As usual, he asked himself what Pitt would have done. On 19 Sept. Canning informed his wife: ‘Old Rose came to me today—cried, and remains treasurer of the navy—with professions in abundance. Upon the whole I am not sure that it is not better that he should.’ Next day Lord Bathurst reported, ‘Rose was doubtful, he has since declared for us, but says the government cannot be formed without the opposition’. In fact, Rose anticipated that Perceval must submit to Lords Grenville and Grey and, ruling out recourse to Sidmouth or Melville as distasteful, concluded, when the Whig leaders refused a junction, that Perceval might as well give up. On 23 Oct. Perceval offered him the chancellorship of the Exchequer. Canning, on hearing of it, commented ‘this is a way of making old Rose do the business of secretary of the Treasury in the House of Commons’. With many a sigh, Rose declined, with reference to his age. Whig gossips had it that his price for acceptance was a peerage for his wife. The King had objected that the office was incompatible with his clerkship of Parliaments and, though this might have been overcome, the arrangement was intended to be only temporary.19
Although he did not enjoy Perceval’s confidence, Rose rallied to ministers in the session of 1810 and made himself useful in the House by defending the licence trade, 26 Jan., and by carrying the prohibition of distillation from grain in February. He was an advocate of retrenchment at home as the only means of pursuing the war effort, 26 Feb. He had, for Pitt’s greater glory, recently published a pamphlet Observations respecting the public expenditure and the influence of the crown to illustrate the decline of the influence of the crown since 1782 by reference to the elimination of places and sinecures. His conclusions were contested in the House, 19 Mar., though he replied ‘with some warmth’. (They were also contradicted by Brougham in the Edinburgh Review.) He defended the Admiralty court against Lord Cochrane’s attacks and on 29 Mar., in his only speech on the subject, approved the aims of the Scheldt expedition. The Whigs had no difficulty in classing him ‘against the Opposition’ at that time. He helped Thomas Buckler Lethbridge frame his motion against Burdett and voted against the discharge of Burdett’s fellow traveller Gale Jones, 16 Apr.20 He voted against sinecure and parliamentary reform, 17 and 21 May. He was a critic, both in the House, 5 June, and in a pamphlet, of the suggested naval arsenal at Northfleet. ‘Quite a proselyte to Perceval’s superiority’, he rallied in support of his Regency proposals, speaking on 4, 17 and 21 Jan. 1811 and being named for the conference with the Lords, 4 Feb. As a member of the committee on commercial credit he advocated relief for the hard-pressed merchants, 11 Mar. That session he again upheld the sugar distilleries against the agricultural interest. He had declined to be of the committee on bullion and, after some impatience at the delay in debating its report, denounced it for two-and-a-half hours, 6 May 1811. This indigestible speech was published. He ‘heartily concurred’ in the bank-note bill, 19 July. On 18 Jan. 1812 he reviewed the census returns for which he had moved a year before and congratulated the country on the growth of its population, even in wartime. On 25 Feb. he obtained leave for a bill to improve parish registers. On 3 Mar. and throughout the rest of the session he was a spokesman on behalf of the orders in council and of licensed trade—indeed on 16 June he was described as ‘foster parent’ of the system, when it was given up by government. He remained unrepentant.
Early in March 1812 Rose offered to resign. His bad relations with the president of the Board of Trade, Lord Bathurst, were thought to be the reason. The defalcation of William Chinnery, a government official who had been formerly Rose’s secretary, was another sore point. Perceval disclaimed all responsibility for Rose’s decision. As soon as he discovered that his resignation would be welcome to Perceval as a means of making room in the government for Lord Sidmouth, Rose changed his mind. On 31 Mar. Perceval wrote:
Rose, who, sometime since, had applied to me through Lord Bathurst to resign his treasurership of the navy, wishes now to stay till about two months after the session is up, to put a finishing hand to some navy pay office arrangements, to which he attaches great utility ...
Perceval’s death intervened. Rose was accidentally shut out of the division of 21 May, when like his son he would have voted against a remodelled administration. He declined to become president of the Board of Trade in Liverpool’s ministry for health reasons and offered to remain where he was until the end of the session, when government might dispose of his offices as they thought fit. He was particularly willing to surrender them to facilitate a merger of Canning with the ministry and if his son were offered a diplomatic post. Failing this, he retained the treasurership of the navy only, and dismissed Canning’s friend Sturges Bourne from the representation of Christchurch, which the latter had earned by paying Rose’s son’s election expenses at Southampton.21
Called ‘the Nestor of the House’, 11 Dec. 1812, Rose was nevertheless a very active Member of his last Parliament. He was still prepared to advise the Treasury on the loyalties of Members when they did their calculations. He opposed the committee on Catholic relief, 2 Mar. 1813, claiming that if Pitt were at that moment in the House, he would have done likewise. On 25 Mar. he lectured the House on Pitt’s sinking fund scheme, but denied that it was inviolable, 2 Apr. He advocated, as a select committeeman, participation by the outports in East India trade, 16 June, and voted for Christian missions to India, 12 July. He opposed even piecemeal parliamentary reform, 1 Apr., 30 June 1813, but was prepared to legislate on election expenses, 29 Mar., 26 Apr., 9 May 1814. From 1813 to 1815, however, his chief contribution to debate was against the proposed alteration of the Corn Laws. He published his speech of 5 May 1814 and was placed on the select committee of 6 June. He was steadily in the minority and at length conceded the 80s. threshold price for import. He enjoyed a kind of immunity; his ‘vanities and importance, his "vows to God", his unfeignedly sorrys" and " unaffectedly glads"' were 'much softened down', and his health was breaking. In November 1813 he exclaimed loudly at the conclusion of one of Whitbread's speeches, 'very fair', and on 30 July 1814 laughed, unabashed, when Castlereagh disclaimed any wish, on the part of ministers, that the Princess of Wales should leave the country. On 28 Nov. 1814 Tierney pointedly asked him at what age a treasurer ought to retire. Next day his peculiar habit of substituting cash payments for perquisites in his office came under fire. He had indignantly repelled an attempt in July to prise him out of office for the accommodation of Canning's friends in their merger with government.22 He remained a supporter of the Bank restriction and of the property tax both in 1815 and 1816, as a legacy from Pitt. The speech of 1815 was published. The House was amused to learn that he was a member of the Military Club, attacked by the Whigs on 4 Mar. 1816. In his son's absence abroad, he regarded himself as representative for Southampton as well. On 1 Apr. 1816 he resisted a motion to reduce by half his official salary of £4,000 p.a. Tierney claimed that the office was sinecure, 3 Apr., but that Rose justified his keep by contriving 'to ferret out employment'. Rose did not lack champions. On 14 June 1816 he described his salary as 'a fair reward for persons who had served the public faithfully in the course of a long life, and had made no provision for the latter end of their days'. William Cobbett† in his 'A New Year's Gift to old George Rose' (Political Register January 1817) accused him of taking £11,857 p.a. from the public. A member of the secret committee, he made his last major speech in opposition to inquiry into commercial and manufacturing distress, 13 Mar. 1817: in his view Parliament could suggest no practical remedy. He last spoke on 5 June 1817 and died 13 Jan. 1818 'less rich than expected'. Since 1816 he had parried further bids by the government to relieve him of his treasurership.23 He had long arranged for his son to post home from Berlin to seize his reversion of the clerkship of Parliaments.
Rose was one of the most active Members of his time and it was only in his last Parliament that he was sufficiently free from official duties to develop his abiding interests, of which symptoms had appeared many years before. He had meanwhile complicated matters by acting as spokesman in the House for the trustees of the British Museum and, later, of Trinity House. But he found relief from his public role of a placeman hounded by Members of independent means and lofty ideals in the quest for practical improvements for the underdog. To better the lot of the provident poor he had secured legislative protection in 1793 for Friendly Societies, which by 1803, he boasted, had over 600,000 members. He shared Pitt's interest in poor relief, on which he wrote a pamphlet in 1802. He objected to workhouses except for the old and lunatic poor. In 1803 and 1804 he proposed statutory regulation of disputes between employers and employees in cotton manufacture. On 21 May 1806 he informed the House that he had proposals for the employment of the poor and regretted that he had not been able to air them. He was not unsympathetic to Whitbread's, 19 Feb. 1807, but warned that, like Pitt's, they were too ambitious. In his last session in Parliament he was a member of the Poor Laws committee. He doubted the efficacy of general education, but was an advocate of maritime schools, 24 Apr. 1807, 7 June 1810. On 19 May 1808 he failed in a bid to introduce a minimum wage for cotton weavers and supported their subsequent petitions to the same end, as he could find no other remedy (5 June 1811). He secured a central institution for vaccine inoculation, 9 June 1808. In 1813 and 1814 he supported a bid to extend apprenticeship regulations to all trades. His opposition to agricultural protection involved concern about the price of bread for the masses. In 1814, 1815 and 1816 he attempted to regulate private asylums by statute. On 8 June 1815 he secured a committee of inquiry into mendicity in London and kept the House informed of its findings. On 2 Apr. 1816 he obtained leave for a bill to protect savings banks, on which he wrote a pamphlet that year: it finally passed on 23 May 1817. This, the most interesting side of his character, was never given full scope. The same can be said of his activities as a publiccist. Apart from his occasional pamphlets, he was a member of the public record committee of 1800 at his own request and in 1809 used his legacy of the Marchmont papers to criticize Fox's history of the reign of James II.24
On hearing of Rose's death, John William Ward* commented:
It was quite absurd that in a country which has produced such a work as the Wealth of Nations, a man of such limited views should have so great an influence upon almost every branch of the economy: yet I could not help feeling rather sorry for him, when I read the account of his death. I had grown accustomed to him in the House of Commons, just as one grows accustomed to an old, clumsy, ill-contrived piece of furniture in an appartment, which one is loath to part with, though it only holds the place of something neater and more convenient.25
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: Brian Murphy / R. G. Thorne
- 1. Contemporaries hinted that George Rose’s real father was his early patron
- 2. Bristol Univ. Lib. Pinney mss, Watson to Baillie, 7 Feb. 1810.
- 3. Rose Diaries, i. 32.
- 4. Add. 34432, f. 85; 38311, f. 171.
- 5. Morning Chron. 18 Feb. 1791, 14 Jan. 1792.
- 6. Add. 34434, f. 22; 34438, f. 3.
- 7. Add. 33104, f. 138; 34436, f. 440.
- 8. Geo. III Corresp. i. 501; Stanhope, Pitt, ii. p. xii; Add. 34437, f. 401; 34445, f. 1; Morning Chron. 8 Mar. 1797.
- 9. Add. 34444, ff. 106, 224; 34450, f. 436; Rose Diaries, i. 194, 202; Glenbervie Jnls. 77; Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1313; Oracle, 28 Oct. 1795; Morning Chron. 3 Mar., 29 July 1797.
- 10. Farington Diary (Yale ed.), ii. 551; Rose Diaries, i. 275-7, 277-8; PRO, Dacres Adams mss 3/17, 42.
- 11. Glenbervie Diaries, i. 171; Rose Diaries, i. 340-2, 345, 352, 368; E. Suff. RO, Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 6, 25 Feb., 28 May, 21 July, 12, 18, 27 Nov., 10, 29 Dec. 1801; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 13 Jan. 1802.
- 12. Rose Diaries, i. 435-516; ii. 22-66; W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Addington, 11, 28 Jan., 1 May; Dacres Adams mss 4/93; Creevey mss, Creevey to Currie, 7 May; Add. 35714, ff. 81, 89; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 31 May 1803.
- 13. Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lowther, 8 Mar. 1804; Rose Diaries, ii. 77-132, 173.
- 14. Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 28 May 1801, 14 May, 18 Dec. 1804, 15 July 1805; Add. 42772, f. 200; 45038, f. 88; Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to Yorke, 13 June 1804; Colchester, i. 520; Rose Diaries, ii. 198.
- 15. Holland, Mems. Whig Party, 207-8; Leveson Gower, ii. 170, 172; Rose Diaries, ii. 246-9, 262-5; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 11 Mar.; NLS mss 3795, ff. 143-6; Add. 34456, f. 483; Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 7 Dec. 1806.
- 16. Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 5 July; Add. 42773, ff. 53-62, 115-131, 177; Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 8, 15 Aug., 29 Sept., 18 Nov.; Fortescue mss, Carysfort to Grenville, 20 Aug.; Lonsdale mss, Rose to Lowther, 6, 16 Nov. 1806; Kent AO, Stanhope mss 729/14, Grenville to bp. of Lincoln, 27 Dec. 1806.
- 17. Add. 42773, ff. 68, 74, 85; HMC Fortescue, ix. 53-4; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iv. 125; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 4, 16 Feb., 7, 18 Mar.; NLS mss 12917, Newport to Elliot, 21 Feb. 1807.
- 18. Buckingham, iv. 146; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3416; Lonsdale mss, Long to Lowther, 28 Mar. .
- 19. Rose Diaries, ii. 310, 352, 367, 368, 412, 414, 423; Twiss, Eldon, ii. 94-6; Buckingham, iv. 382-3; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 19 Sept., 26 Oct.; NLI, Richmond mss 72/1522; Lonsdale mss, Rose to Lonsdale, 29 Sept.; Malmesbury mss, Rose to Malmesbury, 17 Oct., Palmerston to same, 18 Oct.; Add. 49188, f. 51; Fitzwilliam mss, Plumer to Fitzwilliam, 5 Nov. 1809; Geo. III Corresp. v. 4007.
- 20. Lonsdale mss, Rose to Lonsdale, 16 Feb., Ward to same, 19 Mar. 1810; Colchester, ii. 242.
- 21. Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. i. 302; HMC Bathurst, 167-9, 670; HMC Fortescue, x. 227; Rose Diaries, ii. 502, 508; Richmond mss 67/1038, 74/1909; Add. 34460, f. 325; 38248, f. 22; 38739, f. 68; Romilly, Mems. iii. 39; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 27 Jan. 1810.
- 22. Glenbervie Jnls. 210; Add. 34458, f. 609; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 14 July 1814; NLS mss 3796, ff. 94-5.
- 23. Malmesbury mss, Malmesbury to FitzHarris, 21 Feb. 1818; Add. 38270, f. 80; 42773, f. 254.
- 24. Colchester, i. 197; Brougham mss 26070-1; Ward, Letters to 'Ivy', 68; Sydney Smith Letters ed. N. C. Smith, i. 164, 213.
- 25. Ward, Letters to Bishop Llandaff, 197.