GERARD, Gilbert II (d.1687), of Fiskerton, Lincs. and Pall Mall, Westminster.

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

1st s. of Radcliffe Gerard of Barton, Lancs. by Jennet, illegit. da. of Devereux Barrett of Tenby, Pemb. m. (1) c.1646, Mary, da. of Sir John Brereton of Brereton Hall, Cheshire, wid. of Sir Michael Hutchinson, gent. pens., of Westminster, 2s. 2da.; (2) by 1660, Mary (bur. 5 Dec. 1680), da. of John Cosin, dean of Peterborough 1640, bp. of Durham Dec. 1660-72, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. c.1662; cr. Bt. 17 Nov. 1666.1

Offices Held

Capt. of ft. (royalist) 1642, horse 1643-6; lt. King’s 1 Life Gds. 1661-8.2

Gent. of the privy chamber by June 1660-?85; commr. for disbandment 1679.3

Jt. farmer of excise, Cumb. and Westmld. c.1661, co. Dur. and Northumb. by 1661-5; constable, Durham 1661-76; commr. for assessment, co. Dur. 1661-80, Westminster 1661-3, Mdx. 1665-9, 1679-80, Lincs. 1673-4, Yorks. (N. and W. Ridings) 1673-80, (E. Riding) 1679-80, improvement, Kingswood chase 1661, corporations, Yorks, 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers, co. Dur., London and Westminster 1662; j.p. co. Dur. 1663-80, (N. Riding) 1676-80, Mdx. 1677-80; dep. lt. co. Dur. 1663-?80, (N. Riding) by 1679-?80; master of Greatham hosp. co. Dur. 1663-?d.; freeman, Hartlepool 1665; sheriff, co. Dur. 1665-75; commr. for recusants, co. Dur. and N. Riding 1675.4

Biography

Gerard has to be distinguished not only from his cousins who sat in the Convention, but also from his uncle, the royalist governor of Worcester during the first Civil War, and the parliamentarian colonel, Gilbert Gerard of Crewood. He was the first cousin of Lord Gerard of Brandon, the royalist general, under whom his father served as lieutenant-colonel, while Gerard himself commanded a troop of the Life Guards. On 29 Aug. 1645 a warrant was made out in his favour for a baronetcy, but it never passed the seals. He was captured at St. Neots in the second Civil War, but given a pass overseas a year later. He must have returned to England before Easter 1654, when he came up from Worcestershire to London ostensibly to sell land, and was thrown into the Tower in close custody. He was not brought to trial for the conspiracy to kill ‘a certain mechanic fellow by name Oliver Cromwell’, for which his brother John was executed, and on 1 Sept. he was banished. He was included in a list of the ‘gentlemen that follow the Court’ in exile, but returned to England after the death of the ‘mechanic’, and by May 1659 was described as leader of a party of young Cavaliers, whose zeal might induce them to make a premature attempt on Bristol and Gloucester.5

At the Restoration Gerard hoped to be appointed clerk of the green cloth, but had to be satisfied with an unpaid post in the privy chamber, a share in the northern excise farm, and a commission in the guards under his cousin. His second wife’s father held office as dean of Peterborough for a few months before being raised to the Bishopric of Durham, and in each capacity was able to reward him, first with a lease of Fiskerton and then with the office of constable of Durham. It was to Bishop Cosin’s interest also as lord of the manor that he owed his first return for Northallerton as ‘Sir Gilbert Gerard, bt.’. Ormonde chose him to administer the oaths at the meeting of the Cavalier Parliament, no doubt in confusion with the experienced Sir Gilbert Gerard, 1st Bt., who had not been re-elected. As ‘Sir Gilbert Gerard’ he was appointed to the committees for the uniformity bill, the Hilton charity bill, and the Weaver navigation bill, and acted as teller for finding that James Philipps had condemned John Gerard to death in 1654. In the second session he was among those instructed to inspect the excise administration and to consider the staple bill and the petition from the loyal and indigent officers, whose relief continued to be a matter of concern to him. He was listed as a court dependant in 1664. On 7 Feb. 1665 he was given leave to bring in a bill for the repair of Hartlepool pier. It was defeated on first reading, with Gerard twice acting as teller for the minority; but the grateful corporation gave him the freedom of the borough. In the Oxford session he was named to the committees for the five mile bill and the bill to prohibit the import of foreign cattle. He was also among those ordered to devise remedies for the insolence of the Jesuits, who had converted his brother-in-law, the bishop’s only son, and carried him off to the Continent. The anomaly over his rank was corrected by a fresh grant of a baronetcy on 17 Nov. 1666, with special remainder to the issue of his second marriage. In the same month he was appointed to the committee on the bill to empower his father-in-law to lease certain flooded lead-mines to Humphrey Wharton.6

Gerard is unlikely to have welcomed the fall of Clarendon, though he was appointed to the committee for the banishment bill. He carried Wharton’s bill to the Lords on 31 Oct. 1667, but much of his energy in this session was devoted to warding off attacks on Lord Gerard and the proposal to enfranchise Durham, which Cosin regarded as an infringement on the bishop’s prerogative. When his cousin gave up the command of the guards to the Duke of Monmouth, Gerard sold his commission for £1,200; but he was still included by Sir Thomas Osborne among the court dependants in the House. Though less active under the Cabal, he was appointed to all the committees against conventicles at this time, and according to his father-in-law ‘did no small service’ towards keeping the Commons from imposing a land-tax on 1 Dec. 1670. Cosin granted him a reversion to the manors of Gateshead and Wickham, the King overriding the objections of the dean and chapter, and on the bishop’s death in 1672 he inherited the North Riding manor of Brafferton.7

On 10 Mar. 1673 Gerard moved for a bill to disable dissenters from becoming Members of Parliament, and was again among those appointed to consider the enfranchisement of Durham. His name appeared on the Paston list, though at this time he was reckoned a satellite of Buckingham. He introduced the charges against Lord Arlington on 13 Jan. 1674, and spoke frequently and vehemently about the minister’s Popish proclivities. But he was unable to produce evidence, and Arlington’s position was actually strengthened by the appointment of a committee (on which Gerard served) to consider whether there were grounds for impeachment. Gerard was so humiliated by this failure that he did not speak again in the House for four years, though he was named in the same session to the committees to consider illegal exactions, the judges’ patents, and the condition of Ireland. He attended the meeting of the court caucus at the beginning of the spring session of 1675, and was among those Members appointed to bring in a bill for preventing Papists from sitting in Parliament and to consider another to prevent the growth of Popery. Henceforward he seldom missed any anti-papal measures. In June he conducted the first Durham county election (apart from those held under the Protectorate). He received the government whip for the autumn session, and promised Secretary Williamson to attend. On 13 Nov. he was among those instructed to prepare an address protesting at the failure to apprehend the Jesuit St. Germain.8

During the long recess that followed, the whole Gerard connexion, for reasons that have not been definitely elucidated, went over to the Opposition. Gerard’s name appeared on the working lists, and Sir Richard Wiseman relied on his interest with the Cheshire Members; but he was marked ‘doubly worthy’ by Shaftesbury in 1677. In this session he was named to the committees for the bills for the recall of British subjects from the French service and the Protestant education of the royal children. He seems to have taken a particular interest in the naturalization of English children born abroad during the Interregnum, and twice carried up a bill for this purpose. He was also appointed to committees to hear a petition from the parish of St. Martin in the Fields and to consider a bill to establish a ‘court of conscience’ in Westminster for small claims. He broke his long silence on 20 Feb. 1678 to demand a resumption of crown lands in Ireland, where Arlington had received extensive grants. He opened the debate of 14 Mar. on the state of the nation with an important speech:

The King has had unhappy counsels. I will not exasperate matters, nor ravel into counsels. I will only say that, if the advice of the Parliament had been taken, we had not been in this situation. ... Our outworks are already taken, the Spanish Netherlands, and I fear the French army is so great that the Prince of Orange cannot make head against it; and the worst of all is, we have jealousies amongst ourselves ... I will not sit down therefore without a motion, viz. ‘that we may humbly move his Majesty to declare war against the French King’, the consequence whereof will be the bringing in our allies; and we will venture our hearts and lives, and our purses will be open like Englishmen, and I hope for good success.

He was among those appointed to draw up an address accordingly. On 15 Apr. he supported the motion of Sir John Hotham, 2nd Bt., to draw up reasons during the recess for apprehending the growth of Popery, and was named to the committee. On 7 May he said: ‘I should examine this, whether the army was not put upon you upon the bare pretence of a war with France’, and he helped to draw up the address for removal of counsellors. He was named to the principal committees in the last session arising out of the Popish Plot. On 18 Nov. he moved for an address for ‘at least half the militia of England to be in readiness till we are in some measure secure from the attempts of the Papists’. The House resolved that a slightly lesser proportion would suffice, and he helped to draw up the address for a third part of the militia to be called out. He also proposed that (Sir) Joseph Williamson should be sent to the Tower for counter-signing commissions to Roman Catholic officers, and helped to draft an address asking the King not to release the peccant secretary. He was among those ordered to prepare reasons for disagreeing with the Lords about the Roman Catholic servants of the Queen and the Duchess of York, and to bring in a series of anti-papal bills. He helped to prepare instructions for disbanding the army, and was nominated commissioner for this purpose. When it was announced that the Government had seized the cabinets of Ralph Montagu*, Gerard urged that they should be delivered unopened to the House. An active Member, he had been named to 249 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in 15 sessions, acted as teller in four divisions, and made 33 recorded speeches.9

Gerard was re-elected to the Exclusion Parliaments on the Lascelles interest, and marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list. A very active Member in 1679, he was appointed to 28 committees, including those to report on the state of matters pending in the last Parliament, to investigate the conduct of the sheriff of Durham in the county election, to examine the disbandment accounts, and to consider the habeas corpus amendment bill and the bill for security against Popery. He was again nominated to the disbandment commission, and helped to draw up the address for the removal of Lauderdale. Denounced as an excise pensioner on 9 May, he satisfied the House that his £300 p.a. was not a bribe, but compensation for the loss of his farm. In the debate on the shipping of artillery to Portsmouth he expressed suspicion of the Duke of York. He was appointed to the committee of inquiry, and voted for exclusion.10

When Gerard presented a petition from Westminster in January 1680 for the second Exclusion Parliament to be allowed to meet, the King replied that he did not expect to find a Gerard in such a thing, and refused to hear his explanation. In April he was fetched up from Yorkshire under the escort of a gentleman usher, and questioned by the Privy Council about the famous ‘black box’, alleged to contain the marriage certificate of Monmouth’s parents and to have been bequeathed to him by Cosin. He denied on oath all knowledge of the matter, but was removed from local office. Barillon included him in his list of the most considerable Members. When Parliament met in the autumn he initiated the inquiry into abhorring in an able speech:

I crave leave to remind you of a great infringement which hath been made of the liberty of the subject since the last session of Parliament. Sir, many good Protestants ... resolved to petition his Majesty ... to let the Parliament sit. ... But although this was conformable to law and the duty of good subjects, considering what danger his Majesty’s person and the Protestant religion was [sic] in, yet it was traduced to his Majesty as seditious and tumultuous, and forbidden by a proclamation, and great affronts and discouragements given to such as either promoted or delivered such petitions; and at last several persons in many places were set up to declare at the assizes and other public places an abhorrency and detestation of such petitioning. Sir, I humbly conceive the subjects of England have an undoubted right to petition his Majesty for the sitting of Parliaments and redressing of grievances. ... I think it is so necessary and material a privilege of the subject as that we ought without loss of time to assert our rights to it, and therefore I humbly move you to make some vote to that purpose.

He was appointed to the committee of inquiry, and helped to prepare the addresses promising to support the Protestant religion at home and abroad, demanding the removal of Jeffreys, and representing to the King the dangerous state of the kingdom. On 20 Nov. he introduced articles of impeachment against Edward Seymour, served on the committee to examine them, and carried them up to the Lords. After the defeat of the second exclusion bill in the Upper House, he said: ‘We shall appear neglectful of our duty if we do not try what security can be contrived by an association bill’, and he was appointed to a committee to prepare another address insisting on exclusion. He was a very active Member, with 31 committee appointments and seven speeches. In the Oxford Parliament he was named to five committees, including those to impeach Fitzharris and to bring in the third exclusion bill.11

In December 1681 Gerard was wounded and disarmed by Edmund Webb in a political duel arising out of the exclusion debates. There were rumours in 1683 that he was seeking a reconciliation with the Court, but they seem to have lacked foundation. He stood for Westminster as a Whig in 1685; but ‘some people got a black box and carried it about on a pole, crying:

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: P. A. Bolton