Halifax, George Montagu Dunk, 2nd earl of

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Halifax, George Montagu Dunk, 2nd earl of (1716–71). Halifax was a hard-working and useful administrator. He inherited the title at the age of 23 and two years later made a lucrative marriage to the heiress of a London merchant, taking the name of Dunk. He began in opposition as a supporter of the prince of Wales and from 1742 to 1744 was a lord of the bedchamber to the prince. But in 1744 he joined the Pelhams and began his governmental career as master of the buckhounds 1744–6 and as 1st lord of Trade 1748–61. He worked hard on colonial questions and in 1749 the town of Halifax in Nova Scotia was named after him. In 1761–3 he was lord-lieutenant of Ireland, next served with Grenville as secretary of state for the north, and then the south, 1762–5. He was given the Garter in 1764. As secretary in 1763, he signed the general warrant under which John Wilkes was apprehended and seven years later, after general warrants had been declared illegal, had to pay £4,000 damages. Despite his marriage, he was usually short of money, building heavily at Horton in Northamptonshire, running an expensive mistress, and facing ruin after a costly election contest at Northampton in 1768. This may have persuaded him to accept office again under his nephew Lord North in 1770, though Horace Walpole commented that he was ‘too old to learn’. In 1770–1 he was lord privy seal and for a few months before his death resumed his old office as secretary for the north. George III mourned him politely as ‘an amiable man’.

J. A. Cannon