DERING, Sir Edward, 2nd Bt. (1625-84), of Surrenden Dering, Kent and Bloomsbury, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 12 Nov. 1625, 1st s. of Sir Edward Dering, 1st Bt.†, of Surrenden Dering by 2nd w. Anne, da. of Sir John Ashburnham of Ashburnham, Suss. educ. Heathfield 1632, Cripplegate, London (Thomas Farnaby) 1633, Throwley (Mr Craig) 1634-7, Woodford (Mr Copping) 1637-9; Sidney Sussex, Camb. 1640, Emmanuel 1642, BA 1643; Middle Temple, entered 1641; Leyden 1644; travelled abroad (Netherlands and France) 1644-6. m. 5 Apr. 1648, Mary da. of Daniel Harvey, merchant, of Croydon, Surr., 8s. (3 d.v.p.) 9da. suc. fa. 22 June 1644.1
Commr. for militia, Kent Mar. 1660, j.p. July 1660-d., dep. lt. July 1660-2, 1668-d.; commr. for oyer and terminer, Home circuit July 1660, assessment, Kent Aug. 1660-80, Mdx. and Notts. 1677-9, for sewers Rother marshes Oct. 1660, Walland marsh Dec. 1660, recusants, Kent 1675.
Commr. for settlement [I] 1662 9; PC [I] 1667-9; commr. of privy seal 1669-73, customs 1675-9; gov. Merchant Adventurers 1675-d.; commr. for inquiry into the Mint 1677-8; chairman, committees of supply and ways and means 4-23 Feb. 1678; ld. of Treasury 1679-d.2
MP [I] 1662-6.
Dering’s ancestors, said to have been resident in Kent since Saxon times, had held Surrenden since the 15th century, and provided a Member for New Romney in 1547. His father sat for the county in the Long Parliament, and as an advocate of ‘primitive episcopacy’ moved the first reading of the root and branch bill. He joined the King at the outbreak of the Civil War, but soon laid down his commission and submitted to Parliament. On an estate valued at £800 p.a. it was recommended that he should be allowed to compound for £1,000, but the fine was discharged on his death.3
Dering’s father died in financial straits, and Dering, with his large family, was always eager for office to reduce his debt. Nevertheless he ‘most carefully and resolutely refused, during the time of the usurped power, all manner of public employment’ When George Monck declared for a free Parliament, Dering seized ‘the first opportunity since the last King’s death of doing service to my country ... went down to Kent and declared to stand for knight of the shire’. He was returned after a contest, and became a moderately active Member of the Convention. He made no recorded speeches, but was appointed to 26 committees, including that to prepare the bill for abolishing the court of wards. He helped to manage the conference on the declaration about the Irish rebellion on 26 May, and to prepare for a conference on three orders issued by the Lords. He was also appointed to the committees for settling ecclesiastical livings and preparing a report on the revenue. On 27 Aug. the Earl of Winchilsea wrote to Dering desiring him
to get the Act for settling my estate in the north ... for the payment of my debts, etc., to be passed your House with all the speed you can. As also to entreat you to use your endeavours for my lord Marquess of Hertford’s business, and to be tomorrow at two in the afternoon at the committee, where you will find occasions enough to assist my lord.
Clearly Winchilsea relied chiefly on Dering’s influence with his ‘brother solicitor’ (Sir) Heneage Finch. Dering was promptly added to the committees for the bill restoring the dukedom of Somerset and for the Winchilsea estate bill. Shortly thereafter Winchilsea wrote that Dering had been ‘very industrious in assisting me upon all occasions to serve his Majesty before the King came into England’ praised his work as deputy lieutenant and ‘in all other things which concerned his Majesty’s service’ After the recess he was added to the committees to bring in the militia bill and the bill for modified episcopacy.4
Dering did not stand in 1661, ‘thinking of nothing more than settling myself quietly at home to govern my small fortune and many children as well as I could’ He was not allowed to rusticate for long, being appointed in July 1662 one of the six commissioners for executing the Act of Settlement in Ireland. He was returned to the Dublin Parliament for Lismore, and won the respect of the lord lieutenant, the Duke of Ormonde, as a ‘loyal servant’ who was also ‘knowing and able in business’. By 1665 his sights were set again on a seat at Westminster. Sir Robert Southwell asked Sir Thomas Peyton to let him know of any vacancy in Kent or the Cinque Ports, ‘so that his father-in-law, Sir Edward Dering, a man of talent, might serve his Majesty in the House of Commons’. He was proposed for Winchelsea, but the Duke of York preferred to nominate Baptist May. When the Irish claims commission was wound up in 1669, Dering returned to England as a commissioner of the privy seal. He received the ‘court commendation’ for a seat at East Retford, where he was ‘totally a stranger’ and was unanimously elected on the Duke of Newcastle’s interest.5
Dering was a very active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, being named to 207 committees, in eight of which he took the chair. Over 60 of his speeches were recorded by other diarists, the first being on 5 Apr. 1671 when, in the debate on the third reading of the conventicles bill, he argued that the bill would ‘involve the justices in many inconveniences’. As a placeman he was already regarded as a court supporter by the Opposition. At the beginning of the next session, on 6 Feb. 1673, when the debate on the issue of the writs by the lord chancellor during the prorogation had become ‘warm’, he displayed the moderation which was to be his hall mark, and seconded the unsuccessful motion of Sir Anthony Irby to refer the matter to a committee to consider precedents, ‘which was certainly regular and parliamentary’. Again taking a moderate stance, he argued on 10 Feb., with others of the court party, for proceeding against the Declaration of Indulgence by petition, as in 1628, rather than by resolution:
I was no advocate for that clause in the Declaration which was now under debate because that I did not see any material difference between a universal, indefinite, unlimited suspension of laws, as this seemed to be by the Declaration, and a total repeal and abrogation, which no man had yet affirmed the King had power to do. But yet I did most willingly join with these gentlemen who had made it their desires that it might be suffered at least decenter cadere, that there might pass no vote upon this occasion which might so much as in appearance lessen the entire happy harmony that was between the King and this House. ... No man could yet say that anybody’s liberty or property had been invaded in the least, or that suffered to the value of a hair of his head. That what we complained of was rather what we feared than what we felt; that I would not deny but these fears were worthy of our consideration by men in the trust under which we were.
Though the resolution against the suspending power was passed by a large majority, Dering was named to the committee to draw up the address. He was more successful in persuading the House to accept the King’s ‘gracious assurances and promises’ on 24 Feb. With regard to the exclusion of dissenters from Parliament, he opposed tacking a clause to the bill of ease or any other measure, and the House again accepted his preference for ‘a distinct bill by itself, it being the speediest, safest, and most effectual way’. But his attempt to exempt the existing members of the Queen’s household from the oaths against Popery by a ‘moderation’ of the Lords’ proviso was wrecked by an indiscreet speech from Lord Ancram (Charles Kerr). Soon after the adjournment Dering, to his dismay, lost his post when the privy seal was taken out of commission. ‘You had ill offices done you by my Lord Clifford [Thomas Clifford]’ wrote Finch, ‘as being a zealot in the House upon imaginations of Popery.’ He failed to secure another appointment, but after much agony he was granted a pension. A great friend of Danby, whom he in no way blamed for his disappointment, he spoke in favour of supply in the autumn session. In 1674 he was named to 16 committees, including those to bring in a bill for regulating elections and to provide relief under habeas corpus. He also helped to consider the general test bill and the bill to prevent illegal exactions. His name appears on the Paston list.6
In his diary for 1675, Dering describes several meetings of the government caucus under Danby’s chairmanship. In the spring session he was among those appointed to bring in a bill for preventing Papists from sitting in Parliament, and on 3 May he defended Danby against the charge of misusing the royal prerogative. He took a prominent part in the debates on the recall of British subjects from French service, moving unsuccessfully for the adjournment on 10 May and proposing the omission of the word ‘all’. Though he opposed making an address, he was named to the committee to prepare it. He took the chair for two bills of concern to churchmen, those for the augmentation of small vicarages and the better recovery of tithes. He tried to reduce the tension between the Houses, urging that Arthur Onslow and Thomas Dalmahoy would suffer hardship if their appeals were not heard by the Lords, and counselling moderation over Shirley v. Fagg. He helped to manage a conference on this case, and to draw up reasons on the Four Lawyers. In the autumn he was given leave to reintroduce the vicarages bill. In accordance with Danby’s tactics he sought to defer the debate on supply until more of the court supporters had reached Westminster. He twice unsuccessfully moved to increase the vote from £300,000 to £380,000. On 11 Nov. he was appointed to the committee to annex an appropriation clause to the bill for building 20 warships. When complaint was made that (Sir) Edmund Jennings had been pricked as sheriff, Dering considered that it was sufficient to address the King requesting that no more Members should be thus disabled from attending the House; but he was named to the committee to find a way of superseding the appointment. He reported the vicarages bill on 19 Nov., but it was lost on the prorogation four days later. Understandably Dering’s name appears on the government lists of court supporters, including that labelled ‘officials’, for on 22 Dec. 1675 he was, at last, given employment as a commissioner of customs with an annual salary of £1,200. In the following spring Dering’s brother-in-law, now Lord Chancellor Finch, hoped that he would succeed Sir John Duncombe as chancellor of the Exchequer, but the post went to Sir John Ernle.7
When Parliament met, after the long prorogation, Dering continued his support of the Court, and was marked ‘doubly vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list. On 5 Mar. 1677 he spoke against the opposition motion appropriating the customs (which was defeated) and on the next day, in the debate on alliances against France, he said that ‘he thinks we are not fully apprized of how things stand abroad, and therefore he would leave treaties to the King’. He argued for the second reading of the bill for the education of the royal children as Protestants, a measure which the country party opposed, since it admitted the possibility of a Catholic successor. He again took the chair on the bill for the better repair of churches. He was named to the committee to consider the petition of the creditors of the Merchant Adventurers, of which he was governor. He helped to draw up the address promising assistance for a war and took the chair of the committee of the whole House in the debate on the Irish cattle bill. He was among those appointed to manage the conference on the building of the 20 warships, and on 16 Apr. reported the bill for the relief of insolvent debtors.8
Dering acted as chairman of the supply committee during the first session of 1678, presiding over 14 days of debate. On 16 Feb. he spoke in support of the bill to prevent the export of wool:
If we vent our wool beyond sea, we cannot vent our cloth. I would have this committee empowered to find a way of securing the wearing of it at home. Sumptuary laws here have lately had no effect. The people have been in jollity and gaiety since the Restoration of the King, and it is no wonder they are wanton in their plenty.
When Dering reported from the committee of ways and means in favour of a poll-tax, he was ordered, together with Sir Francis Winnington, Sir Thomas Meres and Sir Charles Harbord, to bring in a bill accordingly, and he took the chair in grand committee on its second reading. He reported on 27 Feb. in favour of an additional clause to prohibit the import of French goods, and was among those ordered to bring it in. He carried two messages to the Lords, to remind them of the bill against Popery on 8 Mar. and six days later to inform them that the Commons agreed with their amendments to the supply bill. On the same day he was among those appointed to draw up the address for declaring war on France. On 7 May, during the attack on Lauderdale, he said:
We never judge a man without hearing him. ... In what is past, the Act of Indemnity has pardoned some, and Lauderdale has been here now two years, and all this has passed in silence. If any man be ready with articles against him, I am ready for impeachment against him; and I would have him sent for to answer here, but not condemn him unheard.
He was again summoned to a caucus meeting on 29 May, presumably to prepare for another debate on supply, in which however he is not recorded as speaking. On 5 June he was named to the revived committee to consider the petition of the Merchant Adventurers’ creditors. He again took the chair on the bill for the relief of insolvent debtors. He was appointed to the committee for the bill to prevent Papists from sitting in Parliament, and on 20 June managed the conference on disbanding the army.9
When the last session of the Cavalier Parliament opened in the fevered atmosphere of the Popish Plot, Dering was named to the committees to inquire into the plot, to consider the bill disabling Papists from sitting in Parliament, and to translate Coleman’s letters. He furnished two of the translations himself. He helped to draw up reasons for the conference of 1 Nov. on the plot, and a fortnight later he complained:
The Lords promised their concurrence for remedies for preservation of the King’s person, etc. Nothing yet is done in it; nor is the King’s speech considered, though we sat upon an unusual day. Are we bolder than we were, or safer? I think not. ... I declare, if nothing be done this session for the Protestant religion ... nothing remains but to make our graves and lie down in them.
But he urged the House to exempt the Duke of York from the disabling bill:
If we disagree with the Lords in this proviso, and leave it out, and the King give not his consent to the bill, your bill must fall, or runs a great hazard. I would agree; and when that is done, move the King to give an immediate consent to the bill. You have then but one Popish peer in the Lords’ House (if the Duke be one).
The proviso was accepted by a majority of two. Dering both took the chair in the committee to draw up reasons and reported from the subsequent conference on 26 Nov. On the proposed address to represent the state and danger of the nation, he remarked that ‘the present danger is not so much from principles of government as from Popery and the army’, and wished to proceed with the disbandment bill. He was one of the few friends of Danby named to the committee to prepare his impeachment, and, though included in the government list of court supporters, was not mentioned in the ‘unanimous club’.10
Dering sat for Hythe in the Exclusion Parliaments, while his son represented the county. Both elections of 1679 were contested, but his return was unopposed. He was again marked ‘vile’ by Shaftesbury. In the dispute between King and Commons over the Speakership he warned the House against proceeding with normal business until the authority of the chair was beyond cavil, and considered that the best expedient was to choose a third person, as was eventually done. On his appointment to the Treasury board on 26 Mar. at a salary of £1,600 p.a. he wrote in his diary that he
was never more surprised at anything than the news I was to be one, having not made the least application to the King or any person at the Court for it, nor ever having entertained a thought of it.
The appointment was made ‘solely upon the recommendation and good character’ given of him by Sidney Godolphin I, ‘an absolute stranger’. His work at the Treasury may have reduced his attendance at the House, and he was only moderately active, being named to the committee of elections and privileges, and to six others, including those for the amendment of habeas corpus and the speedier conviction of recusants. He voted against the exclusion bill, and on 14 May, in the violent debate on supply, moved successfully for the adjournment. Dering was again only moderately active in the second Exclusion Parliament, being named to five committees. On 3 Nov. 1680 he was among those given leave to bring in a bill for uniting Protestants and was put on the committee. Ironically enough he was himself labelled a Papist in a pamphlet written by Dr Tonge, and on 9 Nov. invoked, for the only time in his parliamentary career, his privilege.
The compliment he gives me, of ‘wise and learned’ is like poison boiled in wine, to operate the more violently. ... In this libel I am accused plainly of no less than Popery, and of the worst of crimes, of being ‘an active and seditious Papist, a correspondent of the Pope and the nuncio’.
The House voted the allegation ‘false, scandalous and libellous’. He was named to the committee appointed to draw up the address for the removal of Halifax. In the debate on a supply for Tangier he urged the House to ascertain the facts before taking any action. He was named to the committee to examine the proceedings of the judges in dismissing grand juries. It was not until two days before the end of the Parliament that Dering announced his conversion to exclusion, and even then he couched the announcement in his usual moderate tones. ‘I think the bill the best expedient’, he said, ‘as I always did’, conveniently forgetting his vote against the first bill.
You have been told of a conference with the Lords about it, if it may be done in a parliamentary way. ... The King’s denial of the bill in his message is very favourable and gentle to us. ... If the King lays his reasonable refusal upon the Lords, and if once you give reasons to satisfy the Lords, if they be with us, the argument is very favourable for the King’s consent.
Dering accordingly moved for an address to the King for a conference with the Lords on exclusion, but the motion did not find a seconder.11
Dering was returned unopposed in 1681. He attended the Oxford Parliament, but was named only to the committee to prepare for a conference with the Lords on the loss of the bill repealing the Elizabethan statute against dissenters. Despite his swing to exclusion and his son’s hostility he remained at his post at the Treasury and on the commission of the peace. He died on 24 Apr. 1684 in his town house and was buried at Pluckley.12
Dering was an inveterate diarist, keeping both personal and parliamentary diaries. The former reveal his constant preoccupation with his finances and indicate how dependent he was on office. When he drew up his accounts for the period 1648-79 he calculated his receipts at £39,989 and his expenses at £42,057. This deficit was reduced, he wrote ‘out of some moneys I had saved out of my employment in Ireland’, and in 1680 he calculated that if he lost his post at the Treasury his income would be reduced to less than half. In his parliamentary diaries he shows more interest in procedure and precedents than Anchitell Grey. Like John Milward he gains in clarity by not attempting to report each speech separately. He apparently took notes during sittings, and very shortly thereafter worked them up into narrative accounts of each day’s proceedings, which, since he regarded each debate as a whole, are easy to follow.