FREDERICK, John (1601-85), of Old Jewry, London.

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

Constituency

Dates

10 Mar. 1663

Family and Education

bap. 25 Oct. 1601, 5th but 3rd surv. s. of Christopher Frederick, surgeon, of London by 2nd w. Mary, sis. of John Saunders of London. m. 10 Jan. 1637, Mary, da. of Thomas Rous, merchant, of Lime Street, London, s. (3 d.v.p.) 8da. Kntd. 26 June 1660.1

Offices Held

Member, Barber Surgeons’ Co. 1632, livery 1635, asst. 1645, master 1654-5, 1658-9; freeman, E.I. Co. 1647, committee 1657-8, 1660-2; alderman, London 1653-83, sheriff 1655-6, ld. mayor 1661-2, commr. for security 1656, militia 1659, assessment Aug. 1660-80, oyer and terminer Nov. 1660; member, Grocers’ Co. 1661, master 1677-8; member, Hon. Artillery Co. 1661; dep. lt. London 1662-70; pres. Christ’s Hosp. 1662-83; commr. for recusants, London 1675.2

Commr. for trade 1656-7.3

Biography

Frederick’s father, who emigrated from the Low Countries about 1580, became sergeant-surgeon to James I and twice master of the Barber Surgeons. Frederick never practised his father’s profession, but by 1656 he had become a leading merchant, interested especially in the Spanish trade, and a hipowner. One of his ships was called the Anne of Dartmouth, and he had probably already entered into partnership with some of the local merchants, and acquired an interest in that port. An elder brother had fought in the parliamentary army in the first Civil War, but Frederick himself scrupulously avoided political commitment, even after Cromwell’s war with Spain. In religion he was Presbyterian, though he must have conformed after the Restoration. His name appears on the London list of proposed Knights of the Royal Oak, with an income of £2,000 p.a. Though not yet outstandingly wealthy, his credit status was among the highest in the Convention; he took the leading part in trying to procure a loan of £30,000 in the City in May 1660, and received the thanks of the House. Altogether he was moderately active in 1660, his name being mentioned on 27 occasions in the Journals, and he spoke four times. But he confined himself almost exclusively to mercantile matters, twice opposing as inequitable the replacement of feudal dues on land by an excise on consumers, and, as a leading importer of sherry, seconding the motion of Thomas Chafe I (from the neighbouring constituency of Totnes) for laying a penalty on the adulteration of wine with lime. Besides his membership of the committee for the excise clause in the bill for abolition of the court of wards, Frederick was asked to take care during the autumn recess of the redemption of English slaves in Barbary, and with (Sir) John Robinson I to rebuke the lord mayor for his backwardness in collecting London’s assessments.4

Frederick’s election as lord mayor in November 1661 was a sign that the anti-royalist reaction in London manifested so sensationally in the general election eight months before was far from spent. When he himself entered the House shortly after his term of office had expired, the Restoration honeymoon was clearly over. In his first session he took part in considering a bill to hinder the growth of Popery, acted against two court Devonians, Thomas Clifford and Edward Seymour, in a division on the wine licences bill, and presented an address to the King for the strict enforcement of the Navigation Act. But his relations with the Government, especially while the tolerant Arlington (Sir Henry Bennet) was in power, never degenerated into hostility; in 1667 he was asked for advice on paying off the fleet, and he was described as ‘the only merchant who has had kindness and most singular favours’ from the Post Office. These favours were doubtless of great commercial value to Frederick; on the other hand his extensive correspondence with the Mediterranean and the New World provided the Government with a useful intelligence network, and his credit financed the diplomatic missions of Sir Leoline Jenkins. His political activity was again directed to forwarding the concerns of the trading community in general and London in particular. He retained an interest at Dartmouth, handling the grant for its fortification in the second Dutch war, but failed to seat his candidates there either in 1667 or 1673, when Nathaniel Herne was defeated at the poll. In the Cavalier Parliament he was moderately active, acting as teller on six occasions and serving on 90 committees, but he made no recorded speeches. His real political importance in the second half of Charles II’s reign was as one of the leaders in the City of the moderate and responsible opposition to the Court. In marked contrast to his predecessor John Fowke, he returned his parliamentary wages to the corporation, he rebuilt his house after the great Fire on a palatial scale (though on an old-fashioned plan), and he was a munificent benefactor to Christ’s Hospital. Because of his known opposition to the Conventicles Act, he was removed from the lieutenancy in 1670, and two years later the Government received the following unfavourable report on him:

By reason of his age he is apt to be led by others. ... A man of little dispatch, very ready to run into mistakes; he hates a soldier, and cannot endure to see any of the King’s guards.

This is hardly a convincing portrait of a City magnate, apart from the anti-militarism; in fact it is clear that Frederick was a remarkably active man, both in business and on the bench, and keenly interested in politics till well past his 80th year. He was prominent in the leading committees conducting corporation business and patronage. Some of the best commercial brains of the next generation served their apprenticeship with him, and he was uncommonly ready to delegate authority to his junior partners. Until he was removed from the bench in 1683 he was a firm friend to nonconformists; an informer who applied for a warrant to raid a conventicle in 1675 was told that the alderman was otherwise engaged. On 27 May he was named to his most important parliamentary committee, on the bill to prevent the growth of Popery. Sir Richard Wiseman wrote to Danby of the four London Members in 1676:

If there be so good a work in hand as the ascertaining the interest of the bankers’ debt (as I hear there is) it may be an inducement for the citizens to give money, though I will not answer for them. But I am sure such a work will be generally very acceptable, and the King will lose nothing by it, but gain undoubtedly both honour and profit, and truly your lordship will gain great repute by it too.

In 1677 Shaftesbury classed Frederick as ‘doubly worthy’. There was no perceptible decrease in his attendance record in the closing sessions of the Cavalier Parliament, though in February 1678, (Sir) Joseph Williamson complained of ‘not having had the opportunity of meeting you in the Parliament House’. An Edinburgh correspondent of his remarked about this time on ‘your Puritan humour’ and grumbled: ‘You will always maintain the Presbyterian principles and justify their practices’. In spite of his age he might have been disappointed at his failure to be re-elected to the Exclusion Parliaments; his son-in-law reflected bitterly on the time ‘when the City chose men of estates and experience’. Though Frederick’s court connexions may have told against him at this time, causing him to be dropped from the main committees of the corporation, his principles were unchanged; he was noted as remaining on the bench with the lord mayor to receive a Whig petition on 27 June 1681, and two months later as one of the dissenting aldermen who were sent for to dine with the Prince of Orange. In 1682 an informer ‘going about to deliver warrants to suppress unlawful conventicles’ complained to the Privy Council that he had been dragged before Frederick by a rabble, and ignominiously bound over to the next sessions. But in the same year Secretary Jenkins described his company to a fledgling diplomat as ‘persons of the chiefest rank and wealth in London, as well as of a general credit all Europe over’.5

Frederick was buried at St. Olave Jewry on 19 Mar. 1685. His will shows a personal estate of £42,000. His son was probably a dissenter; but his grandsons achieved parliamentary honours as well as a baronetcy and a country estate. Frederick himself is a recognizable and honourable type of City man; he lacked the showmanship of Sir Robert Viner, and the demagogic appeal of Thomas Papillon. But his credit was always good, and his business ethics (whatever use he made of his post office connexions) conformed to the standards of his age and class. Nor did he wish to rise above his class in any other way; he bought no country estate, and none of his children married into the gentry or aristocracy. It is fitting that his name should remain in daily use in the City, for the site of his mansion (demolished in 1776) is still called Frederick’s Place.

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / John. P. Ferris

Notes

  • 1. E. H. Fellowes, Frederick Fam. 1-21; A. T. Young, Annals of Barber-Surgeons , 550-3; Inhabitants of London in 1638 ed. Dale, 47, 171.
  • 2. J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London, 73; CSP Dom. 1655-6, p. 280; 1657-8, p. 330; 1661-2, p. 505; Add. 36916, f. 179; Luttrell, i. 83; Cal. Ct. Mins. E.I. Co. ed. Sainsbury, iii. 219; Ancient Vellum Bk. ed. Raikes, 85.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1655-6, p. 18.
  • 4. Aliens in London (Huguenot Soc. x), 316; CSP Dom. 1655, p. 67; 1655-6, p. 200; 1678, p. 353; APC Col. i. 462; Fellowes, 5; Old Parl. Hist. xxiii. 18, 21, 65-66; CJ, viii. 45. 171, 185.
  • 5. CJ, viii. 503, 522; CSP Dom. 1665-6, p. 374; 1666-7, p. 451; 1667, p. 277; 1667-8, p. 35; 1677-8, p. 680; 1678, pp. 293, 353; 1678-9, p. 77; 1680-1, p. 332; 1682, p. 446; Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 62, 99; EHR, li. 35; Add. 36916, f. 179; Gent. Mag. xxxix. 515; HMC 7th Rep. 353; HMC Portland, iii. 349; HMC Ormonde, n.s. vi. 118.
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