HARE, James (1747-1804).

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



5 May 1772 - 1774
3 July 1781 - 17 Mar. 1804

Family and Education

bap. 9 Apr. 1747 at Somerton, Som., 2nd s. of Joseph Hare, apothecary, by w. Frances. educ. T. Hodgkinson’s sch. at Exeter; Eton 1760-5; King’s, Camb. 1765, fellow 1768-74; L. Inn 1768. m. 21 Jan. 1774, Hannah, da. of Sir Abraham Hume, 1st Bt., of Wormleybury, Herts., 1da.

Offices Held


Hare ‘had no connexions but such as his merits procured him at school, at college, and in the world’. Physically unprepossessing (Sir Augustus Clifford described him as ‘the tallest, thinnest man I ever saw, his face like a surprised cockatoo, and as white’), the brilliance of his conversation gained him the patronage and friendship of many of his fellow students, notably Charles James Fox*. His injudicious marriage to a lady with ‘money but no beauty’ soon ended in a separation. He had at least five children by subsequent liaisons. About 1775 Hare became a partner in Fox’s faro bank at Brooks’s Club and thereafter used his gambling profits to supplement the hospitality of his friends.1

‘In politics, he was a follower and almost a worshipper of Mr Fox’, who brought him into Parliament for Stockbridge. Later he was returned by another friend, the 5th Duke of Devonshire, for Knaresborough. A founder member of the Whig Club, he voted consistently with opposition, and was listed favourable to repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791, but disappointed his patron’s expectations by never speaking in the House. According to Lord Holland, in his only attempted speech (defending Fox on a point of order) ‘rage almost choked his utterance’ and he was forced to sit down. Incapacity as a public speaker did not render Hare ‘politically indifferent or unuseful’, for his wit was continually at the service of the Whig party and his acid comments on government policy were widely quoted.2

On 1 May 1792, siding with Fox in the Whig schism, he offered to resign his seat if his patron disapproved, with the excuse of ill health. Proceeding to the House to support Fox’s stand against war with France, 18 Feb. 1793, he said ‘I am going, I fear, to hear the oraison funèbre d’un homme illustre’. He never wavered in his opposition to the war and twitted his patron for deserting it. He was left free to take his own line, remaining the leading entertainer of the household at Chatsworth and wherever he went. He voted for the abolition of the slave trade, 15 Mar. 1796. After voting for parliamentary reform, 26 May 1797, he seceded with Fox, returning like him to oppose Pitt’s assessed taxes in December 1797 and the conduct of the Irish government in June 1798. Finding his patron not as decided as he was against the Irish union, he abstained on the question, 7 Feb. 1799. He voted against the failure of peace negotiations, 3 Feb. 1800, and against the address, 2 Feb. 1801. He urged Fox to air the question of Irish Catholic relief that session.3 He opposed the indemnification of government for repressive measures at home, 5 June 1801, having voted against them in 1795.

Hare ridiculed Addington remorselessly in private in his accounts of the peace debates in November 1801. He was in the minorities on the civil list, 29, 31 Mar. 1802, and voted his approval of the downfall of Pitt, 7 May. He joined Fox in Paris that summer and was taken ill with asthma; he recovered but was in danger of being detained there when war was resumed. He suffered a relapse on his return home and there is no evidence of his attending the new Parliament. He died at Bath on 17 Mar. 1804, leaving his friends to do justice to the claims of his illegitimate children on his modest estate.4

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: Winifred Stokes


  • 1. Holland, Further Mems. Whig Party, 351, 352; D. M. Stuart, Dearest Bess, 39; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 1-2.
  • 2. Holland, 353; Farington, vii. 216.
  • 3. Diary of Madame d’Arblay ed. Dobson, v. 180; Chatsworth mss, Hare to Devonshire, 1 May 1792; Lady E. Foster jnl. 21 Jan. 1794, 7 Feb. 1799; Add. 47565, f. 35.
  • 4. Leveson Gower, i. 306, 308, 324, 353, 360, 365, 366, 418; Chatsworth mss, Hare to Duchess of Devonshire, 4 June 1803, Duchess to her mother [21 May 1804]; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F127/65.