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Clerk, George (DNB00)


CLERK, Sir GEORGE (1787–1867), statesman, elder son of James Clerk, by his wife, Janet, daughter of George Irving of Newton, Lanarkshire, and grandson of Sir George Clerk Maxwell [q. v.], was born on 19 Nov. 1787, and educated at the High School, Edinburgh, and at Trinity College, Oxford, where he was admitted on 21 Jan. 1806. His father died in 1793, and in 1798 he succeeded his uncle, Sir John Clerk, as the sixth baronet. He was admitted an advocate in 1809, and created a D.C.L. of Oxford 5 July 1810. At a bye-election in the following year he was elected M.P. for Midlothian, for which constituency he continued to sit in the next six parliaments. On 5 March 1819 Clerk was appointed one of the lords of the admiralty in the Liverpool administration. This post he held until May 1827, when he became clerk of the ordnance. He was gazetted one of the council of the Duke of Clarence, the lord high admiral, 4 Feb. 1828, but upon the duke's resignation was reappointed a lord of the admiralty. On 5 Aug. 1830 he became under-secretary for the home department for the few remaining months of the Wellington administration. At the first general election after the passing of the Reform Bill, which took place in December 1832, Clerk lost his seat for Midlothian, being defeated by Sir John Dalrymple (afterwards eighth earl of Stair), the whig candidate, by 601 to 536. He was re-elected, however, in January 1835 for his old constituency, but at the next general election, in August 1837, was

defeated by William Gibson Craig. In April of the following year he was elected without any contest for the borough of Stamford, which he also represented in the succeeding parliament. In July 1847 Clerk was returned for Dover, but, after unsuccessfully contesting that constituency in July 1852 and March 1857, made no further attempt to re-enter parliament. He held the post of secretary to the treasury in Sir Robert Peel's administration from December 1834 to April 1835, and from September 1841 to February 1845. On 5 Feb. 1845 he was appointed vice-president of the board of trade, and was at the same time sworn a member of the privy council. In the same month he was made master of the mint on the retirement of W. E. Gladstone. Clerk held both these offices until July 1846, when Sir Robert Peel's second administration came to an end. For many years he was an able and zealous supporter of the tory party. He, however, became an earlier convert to the principles of free trade than the majority of his party (see Hansard, 3rd ser. lxxxiii. 1420-39), and continued to belong to the Peelite section until it was finally broken up. On 13 Aug. 1810 he married Maria, second daughter of Ewan Law of Horsted Place, Sussex, by whom he had eight sons and four daughters. His wife died on 7 Sept. 1866. Clerk, who was a fellow of the Royal Society, chairman of the Royal Academy of Music, an elder of the kirk of Scotland, and a deputy-lieutenant of Midlothian, died on 23 Dec. 1867, at Penicuik House, near Edinburgh, in his eighty-first year. He was succeeded in the title by his eldest son, James, whose son, Sir George Douglas Clerk, is the present baronet. There are two portraits of Clerk, one painted by Dyce in 1830, and the other by Watson Gordon. James Clerk Maxwell [see under Maxwell] was his grand-nephew.

[Gent. Mag. 1868, new ser. v. 246-7; Men of the Time (seventh edition); Times, 25 Dec. 1867; Parliamentary Papers, 1878, vol. lxii. pt. ii.; Foster's Members of Parliament, Scotland (1822), p. 70; Dod's Peerage, &c. (1866); London Gazettes.]

G. F. R. B.