HARDINGE, Nicholas (1699-1758), of Kingston-upon-Thames, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 7 Feb. 1699, 1st s. of Rev. Gideon Hardinge, vicar of Kingston-upon-Thames, by his w. Mary Westbrooke. educ. Eton c.1711-18; King’s, Camb. 1718, fellow 1722; M. Temple 1721, called 1725. m. 19 Dec. 1738, Jane, da. of Sir John Pratt, l.c.j. of the King’s bench 1718-25, sis. of Charles, 1st Earl Camden, 9s. 3da. suc. fa. 1712.
Clerk of the House of Commons 1731-48, law reader to the Duke of Cumberland 1732; attorney-gen. to the Duke 1733-51; auditor to Princess Emily 1751; jt. sec. to Treasury 1752-d.
Hardinge probably owed his appointment as clerk of the House of Commons to Walpole, like himself an Eton and King’s man, who is referred to as his patron in the well-known story of Hardinge’s deciding against him on a bet with Pulteney as to the correctness of a Latin quotation. The first clerk of the House to receive a regular salary from the civil list in addition to his fees and to £10 a year granted by his letters patent, he was the author of a report in 1742 on the condition of the journals of the House, which led to their being printed under his direction. ‘Though well and promptly paid himself’ for the work, ‘he was extremely dilatory in paying his debts to Samuel Richardson, the printer and novelist, putting him off with repeated promises to pay and, on the last occasion, only brought to discharge his debt by the firm intervention of Arthur Onslow, the Speaker’.1 He was said to have persuaded the universities to agree to limit the number of livings held by the colleges to half the number of fellows in return for being excepted from the Mortmain Act of 1736.2 After 17 years as clerk he was returned by Lord Cornwallis for Eye, selling his office to Jeremiah Dyson, who did not follow this example when he himself resigned the office to enter the House.3 He is described by Horace Walpole as ‘a sensible knowing man, who’ as a former clerk of the House was ‘not well received as a speaker’. In 1751 he spoke on the Westminster election petition, citing precedents showing that the House had committed offenders to Newgate and made them receive their sentence on their knees; opposed receiving a petition against a Member, as out of order; and supported the restrictions placed on the regent by the regency bill, adding ‘that in his opinion even the Duke [of Cumberland] might be removed from the council’ of regency, which was ‘the more honest as he was actually the Duke’s attorney’.4 Next year he was appointed joint secretary to the Treasury on condition that he paid £800 a year out of his salary to John Jeffreys. He died after a short illness 9 Apr. 1758.