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Significant Scots
George Rose


ROSE, GEORGE, an eminent modern political character, was born at Brechin, June 11, 1744. He was the son of a poor non-jurant clergyman of the Scottish episcopal communion, who, through the persecution which his order endured from the government after the insurrection of 1745, seems to have lost the means of supporting his family. Under these unfortunate circumstances, George Rose was received by an uncle who kept an academy near Hampstead, by whom he was, at a very early period of life, placed in a surgeon’s shop. Not liking this employment, he had the good fortune to attract the attention of the earl of Marchmont, who, from sympathy for the cause of his father’s distresses, and other considerations, procured him a situation on board a ship of war. Here the office of purser, to which George soon attained, enabled him to display his qualities of activity, industry, and punctuality in so extraordinary a manner, as to attract the notice of the earl of Sandwich, then at the head of the admiralty. After occupying several subordinate situations in the public offices, he was appointed keeper of the records, for which his qualifications were entirely suited. The confused mass of papers which filled this office, were by him arranged and classed in such a manner, that any one could be found immediately when wanted. This achievement was attended with such extreme convenience to the ministry, that it attracted the particular attention of lord North, and established Mr Rose as the man whose services were to be resorted to for all such systematic and laborious work.

In 1767, he was appointed to complete the Journals of the House of Lords in thirty-one folio volumes; a laborious and creditable duty, for which he received a very handsome sum. Mr Rose from this time found regular employment in the public offices; but it was not till the Pitt and Dundas administration, that he was raised to any eminent station in the public service. He was then appointed joint-secretary to the treasury, and introduced into that department his habits of order, of regularity, and of careful attention to details. Mr Rose’s qualifications were not of that order which make a great display; but which, nevertheless, are so necessary, that the want of them soon becomes conspicuous. In the business of every administration, there is a great deal of laborious second-rate work, which cannot be conveniently executed by the highest class of statesmen. The bold and comprehensive plans which they are called upon to form, require talents and habits which are very seldom found united with the power of minute calculation and patient inquiry. A laborious man, therefore, whose diligence and accuracy can be depended on, is an important acquisition to every administration. Such a one, who does not venture into the high and uncertain ground of political contention, may survive many ministerial shocks, and may recommend himself without discredit to cabinets differing considerably in their political aspect. Such an assistant was found by Mr Pitt in the subject of the present memoir, who, with the exception of two short intervals, continued, during half a century, a sort of ministerial fixture, carrying on the routine of public offices, with many useful plans and objects of a subordinate nature. While superintending the business of the treasury, his vigilance was unremitted in inspecting and keeping on the alert every department of the widely ramified system. Trade also occupied a considerable share of his attention; and no man was more intimately acquainted with its facts and details; though he does not seem to have reached those sound and comprehensive views which were familiar to Mr Pitt. Amid a variety of delicate employments, no charge was ever made against his integrity, except one, which turned out quite groundless.

On the accession of the Addington administration in 1801, and afterwards on the formation of that of the Talents in 1806, Mr Rose retired along with Mr Pitt, but resumed the public service in both cases on the restoration of the Tories. On Mr Pitt’s return to power, he was made vice-president, and soon after, president of the Board of Trade, with a salary of 4000 a-year; in which situation, excepting during the Talents administration, he continued till his death. As a matter of course, Mr Rose was in parliament during the greater part of his public career. His speeches in that assembly were generally on subjects connected with trade, and were confined chiefly to details of facts, which he stated in a manner that aimed at nothing like ornament. He deserves particular praise for the zeal with which he engaged in plans no way connected with ministerial influence, and having for their sole object to improve the condition of the indigent classes of society. He gave his full support to friendly societies and savings’ banks; and introduced laws to encourage, and secure the property of those establishments. In questions relating to the corn laws, he usually took part with the people against the landed interest. The plans for taking a census of the population were conducted under his auspices.

Early in life, Mr Rose married a lady connected with the island of Dominica by whom he had a large family. He purchased the estate of Cuffnells, in the New Forest, which he spent a large sum in ornamenting. His regular and temperate life was prolonged to a greater extent, than might have been expected from the laborious way in which he had spent it. He died at Cuffnells, January 13, 1818, in the 75th year of his age. It was the singular fortune of Mr Rose, that he could declare in his last moments, in reference to his family, that "they had been a blessing to him during the long series of years, and had never caused him one hour’s pain."

Mr Rose was the author of a considerable number of fugitive political writings, and of a respectable historical treatise, which he published with his name, under the title of "Observations on the Historical Work of Mr Fox." These "Observations" were prompted partly by a dissent from some of the political views in the History of James II., and partly by a wish to clear some charges brought against Sir Patrick Hume, the ancestor of his patron and friend, the earl of Marchmont, whose executor he was. The political opinions in the work, though opposed in some points to those of Mr Fox, are considered liberal, considering the general strain of the author’s political life. Mr Rose also superintended, under the direction of the House of Lords, the publication of a superb engraved edition of Doomsday Book.


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