BUTLER, James (c.1651-96), of Amberley and Patcham, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1651, 1st s. of James Butler, Clothworker, of London and Amberley by 2nd w. Prudence, da. of John van Acker, merchant, of London. educ. St. Edmund Hall, Oxf. matric. 5 May 1668, aged 17; travelled abroad c.1669. m. by 1674, Grace (d. 11 Nov. 1734), da. and coh. of Richard Caldicott of Sherrington, Selmeston, 1s. 4da. suc. fa 1660.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Suss. 1677-80, 1689-90, enclosures, Ashdown forest 1677; dep. lt. Suss. by 1683-5, j.p. 1690-d.2

Biography

Butler may have been of Dutch descent. His father, a wealthy London merchant, married a Dutchwoman and was a deacon and later a benefactor of the Dutch church in the City. He held local office throughout the Interregnum, and bought the bishop of Chichester’s property of Amberley Castle at the sale of church lands in 1648 for £3,341. This was of course forfeited at the Restoration, but the family trustees succeeded in obtaining a lease from Bishop King.3

Upon coming down from Oxford Butler may have travelled in accordance with his father’s will in the Netherlands, Germany or France, but ‘by no means’ Italy or Spain. He retained certain business interests as a stockholder in the East India Company, but lived as a country gentleman, marrying into a well-established Sussex gentry family. In 1677 he was pricked for sheriff but did not serve. Probably a nonconformist, he was never a county magistrate until after the Revolution.4

Butler was returned, apparently unopposed, for Arundel, four miles from Amberley, to all three Exclusion Parliaments. Listed as ‘honest’ by Shaftesbury, on 6 May 1679 he was granted leave to go into the country for a week and he was absent from the division on the exclusion bill, though meanwhile he had been named to his only committee, which was appointed to search the journals for precedents for the Speaker’s action in carrying up the supply bill without order. When the Duke of Monmouth visited Chichester in February 1680, Bishop Carleton reported that Butler and his brother-in-law were the only local gentlemen who attended him. In the second Exclusion Parliament he was named only to the committee of elections and privileges, and he left no trace of the records of the Oxford Parliament. In September 1681 he was reported as one of the candidates chosen by ‘the dissenting party’ for the county.5

Unfortunately for Butler his lease of Amberley Castle ran out in 1682, and he had to negotiate for its renewal with Carleton, who complained to Archbishop Sancroft of his ‘vexatious suits’ and his hope ‘to force me to his terms by his heavy purse’. The bishop went on to say that ‘I need not tell your Grace how pernicious a man Mr Butler is in his principles, how rebellious in his practices, bei