William Gerard Hamilton

William Gerard Hamilton (28 January 1729 – 16 July 1796), was an English statesman and Irish politician, popularly known as "Single Speech Hamilton".

William Gerard Hamilton
Right Honourable William Gerard Hamilton, one of his Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council and chancellor of the Exchequer, in Ireland.jpg
Member of Parliament
In office
ConstituencyHaslemere (1790–1796)
Wilton (1780–1790)
Wareham (1774–1780)
Old Sarum (1768–1774)
Pontefract (1761–1768)
Petersfield (1754–1761)
Chancellor of the Exchequer of Ireland
In office
Preceded byLord Yorke
Succeeded byJohn Foster
Chief Secretary for Ireland
In office
Member of Parliament for Killybegs
In office
Personal details
Born28 January 1729
London, Great Britain
Died16 July 1796 (aged 67)
London, Great Britain
Resting placeSt Martin-in-the-Fields, City of Westminster, London
EducationWinchester College
Alma materOriel College, Oxford


He was born in London, the son of William Hamilton, a Scottish bencher of Lincoln's Inn, and succeeded his father in 1754. He was educated at Winchester, Lincoln's Inn and Oriel College, Oxford. With his father's fortune he entered political life and became Member of Parliament for Petersfield in Hampshire. His maiden speech, delivered on 13 November 1755, during the debate on the address, which excited Walpole's admiration, is generally supposed to have been his only effort in the House of Commons. But the nickname "Single Speech" is undoubtedly misleading, and Hamilton is known to have spoken with success on other occasions, both in the House of Commons and in the Irish parliament.[1]

Political officesEdit

In 1756 he was appointed one of the commissioners for trade and plantations, and in 1761 he became chief secretary to Lord Halifax, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, as well as MP of the Irish House of Commons for Killybegs (until 1768) and English MP for Pontefract.[1]

He was appointed Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1763, and subsequently filled various other administrative offices. Hamilton was thought very highly of by Samuel Johnson, and it is certain that he was strongly opposed to the British taxation of America.[1] He was close to the Prince Regent, serving as a trusted adviser.[2] In 1784 he exchanged his office as Chancellor of the Exchequer for a pension of £2,000 p.a.[2] Hamilton had held the office for over 20 years, although had treated the role as a largely ceremonial position. He was succeeded by John Foster, who went on to bring in changes credited with greatly boosting the rural Irish economy.[3]

Ill health and deathEdit

He suffered from a severe paralytic stroke in the winter of 1791–92. This had not been his first, and by August 1792 he remained in a poor state. On 4 March 1793 he received a leave of absence from the House of Commons due to his ill health. He died in London on 16 July 1796, and was buried in the chancel vault of St Martins-in-the-Fields. His death came "just in time to save him from absolute poverty."[2] He was unmarried.

Two of his speeches in the Irish House of Commons, and some other miscellaneous works—including previously unpublished notes on the Corn Laws by Johnson—were published by Edmond Malone after his death under the title Parliamentary Logick.[4]




  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hamilton, William Gerard". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 890.
  • Martin, Peter (2005). Edmond Malone, Shakespearean Scholar: A Literary Biography. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-61982-3.

External linksEdit

Parliament of Ireland
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Killybegs
With: Richard Jones
Succeeded by
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Petersfield
With: John Jolliffe 1754
William Beckford 1754
Sir John Philipps 1754–1761
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Pontefract
With: The Viscount Galway
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Old Sarum
With: John Craufurd
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Wareham
With: Christopher D'Oyly
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Wilton
With: Lord Herbert 1780–1785, 1788–1790
Philip Goldsworthy 1785–1788
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Haslemere
With: James Lowther 1790
Richard Penn 1790–1791
James Clarke Satterthwaite 1791–1796
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Chief Secretary for Ireland
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chancellor of the Exchequer of Ireland
Succeeded by