FAGG, John I (1627-1701), of Wiston, Suss.
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Family and Education
b. 4 Oct. 1627, o.s. of John Fagg of Rye by Elizabeth, da. of Barnaby Hodgson of Framfield. educ. Emmanuel, Camb. 1644; G. Inn 1644. m. (1) 19 Mar. 1646, Mary (d. 20 Nov. 1687), da. of Robert Morley of Glynde, 9s. (4 d.v.p.) 5da.; (2) Anne (d. 11 May 1694), da. of Philip Weston of Newbury, Berks., wid. of Thomas Henshaw of Billingshurst, Suss., s.p. suc. fa. 1645; cr. Bt. 11 Dec. 1660.2
Commr. for assessment, Suss. 1645-52, 1657, Jan. 1660-80, 1689-90, Kent Jan. 1660, 1673-80, 1690, militia, Suss. 1648, Kent and Suss. 1659, Suss. Mar. 1660; j.p. Suss. 1649-July 1660, May 1688-d., commr. for scandalous ministers 1654, sewers, rapes of Lewes and Pevensey 1659, Sept. 1660, 1660, Denge marsh Oct. 1660, Walland marsh Dec. 1660; dep. lt. Suss. May 1688-d.; commr. for derelict lands 1696, col. of militia ft. by 1697-d.3
Commr. for high court of justice 1649; Councillor of State 31 Dec. 1659-25 Feb. 1660.4
Col. of ft. 1659, Feb.-July 1660.5
Fagg’s father, the wealthiest inhabitant of Rye before the Civil War, served as mayor in 1642-3 and advanced £1,000 to the parliamentary cause. Fagg himself became the ward and brother-in-law of Herbert Morley, under whose guidance he chiefly acted in his earlier years. He was returned for Rye as a recruiter, the first of his family to enter Parliament. In 1649 he sat for three days as one of the King’s judges, and took his seat in the Rump after some hesitation. In the same year he acquired the Shirley estate at Wiston, two miles from Steyning, valued at £1,000 p.a. and carrying with it an unchallengeable interest in the borough. He held local office throughout the Interregnum, though he was excluded from the second Protectorate Parliament in 1656. He was commissioned to raise a regiment of foot by the Rump in 1659, and taken prisoner by forces loyal to the military junta in an attempt to assist Morley at Portsmouth in December. The Rump gave him a vote of thanks, and appointed him to the Council of State.6
Fagg was returned for Steyning at every election from 1660 till his death more than 40 years later. Lord Wharton marked him as a friend in the Convention, to be managed by Sir Richard Onslow, but he was named only to the committee of elections and privileges, and made no recorded speeches. Like his brother-in-law he was slow to perceive the inevitability of the Restoration, and it was not until May that he took steps to obtain a pardon. He was removed from the commission of the peace and his regiment given to Lord Mordaunt, but he was not otherwise molested. He was even created a baronet, and he represented Rye as one of the bearers of the canopy at the coronation. Presumably Wharton was disappointed in him, for his name disappeared from the 1661 list of friends, though he remained a Presbyterian, sheltering ejected ministers and educating his sons at a dissenting academy. He was again inactive in the Cavalier Parliament, in which he was appointed to 41 committees, none of much political significance, and acted as teller in four divisions. His attendance was probably irregular, for he defaulted on a call of the House in 1663, but he was doubtless in opposition to the Clarendon administration. On 29 Apr. 1668 he reminded the House of the Lords bill for the improvement of Ashdown forest, but it was resolved to proceed no further that session. He acted as teller on 1 Mar. 1670 for the total prohibition of imported brandy.7
In 1675 Fagg acquired a niche in constitutional history as defendant in an action brought by Thomas Shirley, a court physician, for the lands which (he asserted) his grandfather had no power to sell. Waiving his privilege, Fagg was successful both in Exchequer and Chancery, but Shirley appealed to the House of Lords. Fagg appeared in the Upper House on 3 May, but on the next day he desired the opinion of the House whether his privilege did not excuse him from defending his case in the Lords. In the course of the prolonged struggle between the Houses that followed Fagg was sent to the Tower by order of the Commons for breach of their privileges. He was released after a couple of days, and, with ‘the noise of the lions ... scarce out of his ears’, was promised the protection of the House. The unaccustomed limelight may have been otherwise not to his distaste, for when Parliament reassembled for the autumn session he made one of his rare interventions in debate in the character of ‘a broken timber-merchant’. He believed that Sussex alone could provide twice the quantity of timber required for the naval programme, and when Samuel Pepys, on behalf of the Admiralty, offered £55 a load for any of suitable quality, Fagg replied that he sold his produce for far less, though he did not know what the royal dockyards paid. Shirley renewed his appeal to the Lords on 17 Nov. 1676, and for the second time that year the session had to be brought to a premature end to prevent deadlock. In the end, Shirley lost his case in the Upper House.8
Shaftesbury marked Fagg ‘doubly worthy’ in 1677. On 10 May 1678 he acted as teller for continuing the debate on a resolution against Lauderdale. He was again marked ‘worthy’ in 1679. In the first Exclusion Parliament he was appointed to the elections committee and acted as teller for the adjournment on 10 Apr., apparently hoping to prevent the introduction of a bill extending the prohibition of Irish cattle. He was given leave to go into the country on 17 Apr., and was absent from the division on the first exclusion bill. In the autumn election he stood unsuccessfully for the county, and was described as a ‘most zealous’ supporter of Algernon Sidney at Bramber. He remained inactive in the second Exclusion Parliament, in which he was appointed to the elections committee and to that to consider the regulation of the poor. He was returned both for Steyning and the county in 1681, setting out for Oxford ‘with a gallant train’. He opted to serve for Sussex and was as usual appointed to the elections committee, but left no other trace on the records of the third Exclusion Parliament. The local dissenters in September chose him as one of their candidates for Sussex, with his two sons for Steyning, and his son-in-law (probably Philip Gell) for Shoreham. Even in 1682 he was active in the municipal politics of Rye in the country interest.9
Fagg returned to his borough at the general election of 1685. On 3 June he applied for leave to go into the country, but this was refused, perhaps to prevent him from joining Monmouth’s rebellion. For the rest of the session he was kept more busy with committee work than in any previous Parliament. On the same day he was appointed to the revived committee to recommend expunctions from the Journals, and altogether he served on eight committees in James II’s Parliament. In the second session he was added to that to consider reform of the bankruptcy laws. Although included among the Sussex Opposition as one ‘considerable for interest’, he was a friend of Penn and probably became a Whig collaborator in 1688. He was appointed a j.p. and deputy lieutenant and approved as court candidate for Sussex. But it was again for Steyning that he served in the Convention, though he may not have taken his seat until the summer, for on 3 May 1689 he was reported ill in the country. His only committee in the first session was on the bill for the relief of poor prisoners (22 May). He was listed among the supporters of the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations, and in the New Year helped to consider the bill of indemnity for the revolution, the illegitimization of children born to the wife of John Lewknor II during her elopement, and the poor law. He remained a court Whig under William III, and died on 18 Jan. 1701, a few days after he had been returned for the eleventh time.