HUNT, George (?1720-98), of Lanhydrock, nr. Bodmin, Cornw.
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Family and Education
b. ?1720, 2nd s. of Thomas Hunt of Mollington, Cheshire by Mary Vere, da. of Russell Robartes, M.P., sis. and h. of Henry, 3rd Earl of Radnor; bro. of Thomas Hunt. educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 10 Mar. 1738, aged 17. unm. suc. uncle at Lanhydrock 1741.
Having secured control of Bodmin corporation,1 Hunt was returned at a by-election in 1753. He even thought of putting up his brother Thomas for the other seat at the next general election, but gave up the attempt which would have been very unpopular with the borough and with neighbouring country gentlemen. Elected in 1754 without a contest he is classed in Dupplin’s lists as a Government supporter.
In June 1760 Thomas Jones, Edgcumbe’s Cornish election agent, wrote about Bodmin: ‘Mr. Hunt hath met with great difficulties of late and ’tis still a question whether his interest is well established.’2 He was again returned unopposed; in October 1761 received his parliamentary whip direct from the Duke of Newcastle; and in Bute’s list of December 1761 is marked ‘Without connexion of Government otherwise than inclination.’ His name appears in Fox’s list of Members in favour of the peace preliminaries; and on 26 Dec. 1762 Hunt wrote to Bute when recommending his brother for some employment: ‘I take this opportunity of making the strongest professions to your Lordship of my attachment to his Majesty’s person and Government; as also of my hearty concurrence in support of the present system.’3 It can therefore be taken as certain that he had voted for the peace preliminaries on 9 and 10 Dec. He went, however, into opposition over Wilkes and general warrants, and voted with the minority on 15 Nov. 1763, and 6, 15, and 18 Feb. 1764. Newcastle therefore counted him among his ‘sure friends’ (10 May 1764); and, on 12 July 1765, wrote to Rockingham, when his Administration was being formed, suggesting office for Hunt because of his ‘steadiness, and invariable attachment to our friends and the Whig cause’.4 But there is no evidence that Hunt desired office, and he never held any. In Rockingham’s list, November 1766, he is classed as ‘Whig’; in Charles Townshend’s of January 1767 as ‘Administration’; and in Newcastle’s, March 1767, as ‘doubtful or absent’. His name does not appear either in the division lists on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, or on the nullum tempus bill, 17 Feb. 1768.
In 1768 Hunt topped the poll, and in the ensuing Parliament, over Wilkes and the Middlesex election voted consistently with Opposition, present in almost every division for which a list is extant; similarly on Grenville’s Election Act, 25 Feb. 1774. In the next Parliament he again voted steadily with Opposition, and was mostly present at important divisions. The Public Ledger wrote of Hunt in 1779: ‘A very upright Member of Parliament, of Whig principles, and generally votes in the minority.’
John Robinson naturally classed him as an opponent, and in his survey of July 1780 wrote about Bodmin: ‘It is said that Mr. Hunt will be thrown out’, but added he feared that ‘Sir James Laroche may fall’—which did happen. The English Chronicle wrote in 1780:
George Hunt, Esq. is a gentleman of independent fortune, and resides in the neighbourhood of this borough, in which he possesses sufficient influence to command an exclusive nomination for at least one Member. He has had the honour of representing it above thirty years, during which period he has never condescended to accept any favour, nor to become the creature of any Administration. He is attached to no set of political tenets in particular, but following the dictates of an independent and upright mind, has uniformly voted for or against such a system as he thought any way advantageous or inimical to the real interests of his country. Since the commencement of the American war, he has been a steady opponent to all the measures of ministry, and has taken a very active part both in town and country in resisting the effect of measures, in his estimation, so eminently injurious to the State. He can neither be said to possess the shining qualities necessary for constituting a public orator, nor the systematic solidity requisite in a great statesman, but is nevertheless eminently qualified for the important trust he holds, viz. the honest representative of a free people.
He voted with the Opposition in the decisive divisions 1781-March 1782; for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783; but also for Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783; and against Pitt in the divisions preceding the dissolution of 1784. He did not stand again at the general election but ceded his seat to his brother Thomas. No speech of his is recorded during his 31 years in the House.
He died 8 Nov. 1798.