FORD, Sir Richard (c.1614-78), of Seething Lane, London and Baldwins, Dartford, Kent.
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Family and Education
b. c.1614, 2nd s. of Thomas Ford, merchant, of Exeter, Devon by ?Elizabeth, da. of William Frank of Ottery St. Mary, Devon. educ. Exeter, Oxf. 1631. m. Grace, 2s. 3da. Kntd. 16 May 1660.1
Freeman, Exeter 1635, Southampton 1661; capt. blue regt. London militia 1659, col. white auxil. regt. 1661-6, common councilman 1659-61; commr. for assessment, London Aug. 1660-d., Kent 1673-d.; alderman, London 1661-d., sheriff 1663-4, ld. mayor 1670-1, additional coal-meter c.1661-d., dep. lt. 1662-d.; commr. for corporations, Hants 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers, London, Westminster and Hants 1662; jt. farmer of tin coinage, duchy of Cornw. 1664-7; member, Hon. Artillery Co. 1670, commr. for charitable uses 1675, recusants 1675; pres. St. Bartholomew’s hospital 1675-d.2
Member, Merchant Adventurers’ Co. by 1644, gov. by Nov. 1660-75; member, Mercers’ Co. 1654, master 1661-2, 1674-5; committee, E.I. Co. 1658-63, 1664-5; dep. gov. R. Adventurers into Africa 1663, asst. 1664-71; asst. R. Africa Co. 1672-d.3
Commr. for trade 1656-7, Nov. 1660-8, for Tangier 1662-73, for marine treaty with United Provinces 1674-5.4
Ford did not claim kinship with either of the established Devonshire families of that name, nor does his father appear to have belonged to the Exeter patriciate by birth or marriage. His education was presumably intended to fit him for a career in the Church, but he preferred to go into trade. He impressed Samuel Pepys as ‘a very able man of his brains and tongue, and a scholar’, though, like so many merchants, he could not keep a secret. He settled in Rotterdam in 1642, and helped to supply the royalist armies through the western ports. The Earl of Warwick described him as a great ‘malignant’ who sought to embroil Parliament with the United Provinces, and a vote was passed at Westminster to outlaw him. The Royalist Peter Mews, however, later called him ‘a knave in grain ... for when he should have supplied my lord of Ormonde with arms and ammunition, he carried corn to the rebels’. He was allowed to compound on a rather vague particular in 1649 for £129, though the Council of State suspected him of ‘some design of special mischief for Charles Stuart, being a principal man in all their councils’. But he was sufficiently reconciled to the regime to return to England in 1652, to act as supplier to the Protectorate navy and to serve on the committee of trade. As an influential member of the common council and ‘a very loyal, prudent gentleman’, he took a leading part in promoting the Restoration in the City, and on 9 Feb. 1660 the Rump ordered his arrest. At the general election he was involved in a double return at Exeter, which was decided against him. As one of the delegation from the City he was knighted at The Hague, but, despite the Duke of York’s recommendation, he was again unsuccessful at Exeter in 1661, presumably because his association with the great London monopoly companies was distasteful to the provincial trading community. In London, on the other hand, he enjoyed considerable popularity, but was unable to overcome the prejudice against ‘episcopal men’. At Southampton, however, the Duke of York’s letter proved efficacious and he was elected.5
Ford was an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, being appointed to 195 committees, mostly on trade matters, and acting as teller in seven divisions, but despite Pepys’s commendation he seldom spoke in the House. In the opening session he was appointed to the committees for the security, corporations and uniformity bills. He was the principal representative of the East India Company in their negotiations with the Dutch, and a strong advocate of the war. Early in 1662 he was twice ordered to attend the King with resolutions of the House concerning the packing of wool and the dearth of corn. He was teller against a proposal to suspend until Christmas the Merchant Adventurers’ monopoly of cloth exports to Holland and Germany, and helped to manage a conference on the customs. The King ‘had an inclination to serve Sir Richard’, but it was some time before he received any substantial reward for his services, other than his knighthood and some naval contracts. Pepys, however, caught him out in an attempt to pass off ‘old stuff that had been tarred, covered over with new hemp, which is such a cheat as hath not been heard of’, at any rate by the zealous novice in the Navy Office; but his ‘Holland duck’ was excellent. Ford’s syndicate apparently outbid the customs farmers for the additional duties, and were awarded £8,000 compensation when their tender was rejected. In 1663 he was appointed to the parliamentary committee of inquiry into the effects of the suspension of the Merchant Adventurers’ patent. The King gave him £1,500 to cover his expenses as sheriff of London, without which he could not have undertaken the office. In the spring session of 1664, he was marked as a court dependant, and named to the committees for the conventicles bill and for the bill to relieve the creditors of the Merchant Adventurers, which came to nothing; but when it was revived in the autumn he acted as teller against it on the second reading. Later in the same session he took the chair in committees to consider a petition from naval suppliers and to regulate vintners’ measures. He formed a syndicate which received a grant of the crown’s right of ‘coinage’ on all tin mined in England and Wales; although his proposal to issue tin farthings was disallowed, the Treasury would not accept his contention that he had been a loser by the contract. As the leading merchant in the Africa company he was chiefly responsible for the second Dutch war. At Oxford he was teller against the second reading of the bill to prohibit the import of Irish cattle, and in the next session he was among those ordered to prepare reasons for a conference on the subject.6
Apart from serving on the committee for the bill to establish a public accounts commission, Ford took no part in the measures against Clarendon. He probably introduced the bill for reducing the parishes of Southampton from five to two in March 1668, since his name stands first in the list of the committee. He was also appointed to the committee for the conventicles bill, and acted as teller for the bill to reduce rates of interest. Sir Thomas Osborne originally included him among the dependants of the Duke of York in 1669, but transferred him, with (Sir) William Coventry, to the list of those Members who might be ‘engaged’ for the Court. In 1670 Ford served on the committees to enable a deanery to be built for St. Paul’s and to prevent illegal imprisonment, and was among those ordered to attend a conference on the shipping bill. At the same time he was engaged, on commission, to manage negotiations with Hamburg regarding compensation for six English ships destroyed in the Elbe by the Dutch during the war. But his tender for the customs farm was rejected. On 6 Feb. 1671 he seconded the motion of William Garway for an inquiry into the conduct of the London Jews. It was alleged that in London in 1670-1 ‘the laws against conventicles have been laid asleep, and a moderate lord mayor has let the people do what they list’. On laying down office, Ford was compelled to petition the King ‘for such largesse as may enable him to end the life spent in his service without contempt in the City’. His claim to have kept London ‘tranquil’ is substantiated by a report on the corporation in 1672, which stated that while in office he had
suspended the execution of the laws against nonconformists, by which he gained the applause of all that party, though they had used all the villainous arts imaginable to keep him out of the government. He is a man of excellent parts, and may do his Majesty excellent service in the City.
His financial troubles cannot have been too severe, for he was able to take a lease from Eton of a country house in Kent, and when his London house was destroyed in the Navy Office fire in January 1673, he transferred his business to premises on Tower Hill.7
In the debate on the Declaration of Indulgence, Ford moved for a committee of inquiry ‘to offer you such an expedient as may be for the good of the nation’. He was among those ordered to bring in a bill for the general naturalization of foreign Protestants, which he opposed as entailing the ‘prostitution’ of corporations. He was on the committee for rebuilding the Navy Office, and his was the first name among those appointed in 1674 to bring in a bill for paving the streets of the City and completing the rebuilding of churches and other public works. He was named on the Paston list. During the summer the Merchant Adventurers voted to replace him as governor by Sir Edward Dering, who described his predecessor as ‘a man of ill reputation’. In the autumn session of 1675 he was roused from his usual silence in the House by John Ernle, who impugned the solvency of the City chamber. He was appointed to inquire into the assault by a Jesuit on a Protestant convert and to hear a petition against the East India Company. His name appears on the working lists as one of those ‘to be remembered’ and was added by Osborne (now Lord Treasurer Danby), though with some hesitation, to the list drawn up by Sir Richard Wiseman at the end of the session. In 1677 he was among the Members ordered to bring in a bill to regulate the collection of hearth-tax, to consider another petition from the creditors of the Merchant Adventurers, and to abolish the penalty of burning for heresy. Lord Shaftesbury ( Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper), who had been his friend over the tin farm, marked him ‘worthy’, but in A Seasonable Argument he was described as ‘the joint contriver of the two Dutch wars, for which he had £10,000, and yet is scarce able to live’, and he was posthumously included in the ‘unanimous club’ of court voters. His last committee in June 1678 was once again on the affairs of the Merchant Adventurers. He died in his sixty-fifth year on 31 Aug. and was buried at Bexley, under a memorial that speaks of his
great talents and even greater integrity (for he knew everything except deceit). [He was] most skilled in several languages and almost every art ... an exile with his prince (as was seemly) and a leader in his return. How many offices he enjoyed cannot be determined, but they were far fewer than he deserved. ... Heaven remained the only reward which he could earn.
But his intestacy, and the obscurity into which his family lapsed, suggest that his career, largely devoted to one of the declining sectors of English trade, had brought him less profit than was merited by his ability.8
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: M. W. Helms / Paula Watson
- 1. Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 49; Exeter Mar. Lic. 16; C6/32/27.
- 2. Exeter Freemen (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. extra ser. i), 131; J. S. Davies, Hist. Southampton, 205; Mordaunt Letter Bk. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, lxix), 150-1; J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London, 71; Stowe 186, f. 15; CJ, x. 236; Ancient Vellum Bk. ed. Raikes, 98.
- 3. CSP Dom. 1644, p. 320; 1660-1, p. 372; 1663-4, p. 310; Woodhead, 71; HMC 11th Rep. III, 55.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1655-6, p. 188; 1663-4, p. 660; 1673-5, p. 287; Pepys Diary, 27 Oct. 1662; Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 280.
- 5. Plymouth City Lib. mss, J. Prince, Devon Worthies; Pepys Diary, 17 Mar. 1663, 18 Oct. 1664; CSP Dom. 1644, pp. 190, 312; 1649-50, p. 370; 1657-8, p. 328; 1660-1, p. 538; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 538; v. 209; HMC Hodgkin, 107, 111; Nicholas Pprs. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xl), 267; SP23/216, ff. 410, 414; HMC Popham, 217, 229; CJ, vii. 837; viii. 55; Adm. 2/1745, ff. 31, 33.
- 6. Cal. Ct. Mins. E.I. Co. ed. Sainsbury, vi. 85, 111; Cal. Cl. SP, v. 398, 457; CJ, viii. 340, 358, 399, 418, 577, 591, 611, 617, 660; CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 331; 1661-2, p. 433; 1663-4, pp. 358, 467; 1668-9, p. 642; 1676-7, p. 258; Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 280; Camb. Hist. Jnl. xii. 113.
- 7. Milward, 209; CJ, ix. 64, 79, 157; CSP Dom. 1670, pp. 446, 457; 1671, pp. 368, 546; 1671-2, p. 541; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 690, 691; Dering, 71; Gent. Mag. xxxix. 516; J. Donkin, Hist. Dartford, 334; Bulstrode Pprs. 259.
- 8. Grey, ii. 12, 154; iii. 357; Kent AO, U1713/A37; CJ, ix. 250; CSP Dom. 1664-5, p. 495; Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1650-79, pp. 187-8.