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John Calcraft, the younger (1765-1831)

John Calcraft, the younger (1765-183), politician, was the eldest son of John Calcraft, the elder. He was born 16 October 1765, and as he inherited his father's instincts soon entered upon political life. Before he was twenty-one he was returned for the family borough of Wareham in Dorsetshire (15 July 1786), and sat for it until the dissolution in 1790. For ten years after this he remained out of parliament, but on a casual vacancy was again elected for Wareham (16 June 1800), retaining his seat until 1806. At this time he was identified with the principles of the whig party, and was numbered among the personal friends of the Prince of Wales, his attachment being shown by his motion in March 1803 for a select committee to inquire into the prince's pecuniary embarrassments.

In the Grenville administration of 1806 he was appointed clerk of the ordnance, and acquired considerable reputation for the efficient manner in which he discharged his duties. At the general election in that year he was returned for the city of Rochester, defeating Admiral Sir Sidney Smith both at the polling-booth and before the election committee of the House of Commons. For Rochester he sat until 1818, when he was again returned for Wareham, which he represented until 1831.

Down to 1828 Calcraft had been a staunch whig, but on the formation of the Duke of Wellington's administration he consented to hold the post of paymaster-general (1828-30), and was created a privy councillor 16 June 1828. In 1831 he reverted to his old faith, voting for the Reform Bill when it was carried by one vote 22 March 1831, and at the subsequent dissolution he contested and carried the county of Dorset in the reform interest.

Under the reproaches of the tories, with whom he had co-operated from 1828 to 1830, his mind became unhinged, and he committed suicide at Whitehall Place, London, 11 September 1831. On 17 September he was buried in the chancel vault of St. James's Church, Piccadilly, and at a later date a monument was erected to his memory in St. Mary's, Wareham.

He married, on 5 March 1790, Elizabeth, third daughter and coheiress of Sir Thomas Pym Hales of Bekesbourne, Kent. She died at Clifford Street, London, 2 July 1815, aged 45.

Calcraft was one of the earliest reformers of the liquor traffic, his proposition being to ‘throw open the retail trade in malt liquor.’ There is in the British Museum ‘a dispassionate appeal to the legislature, magistrates, and clergy,’ by a county magistrate against this suggestion.

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