JONES, Thomas I (1614-92), of Shrewsbury, Salop and Cerreghwfa, Mont.
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Family and Education
b. 13 Oct. 1614, 2nd s. of Edward Jones (d.1648) of Shrewsbury and Sandford by Mary, da. of Robert Powell of Whittington Park; bro. of William Jones. educ. Shrewsbury 1627; Emmanuel, Camb. 1629; L. Inn 1629, called 1636. m. c.1640, Jane, da. of Daniel Bavand of Chester, 5s. 6da. Kntd. 26 Oct. 1671; suc. nephew William 1679.1
Alderman, Shrewsbury 1638-62, town clerk Apr. 1660-2; bencher, L. Inn May 1660; j.p. Salop July 1660-87; commr. for assessment, Salop Aug. 1660-80, 1689-90, Shrewsbury 1663-4, Mont. Aug. 1660-1, 1663-80, 1689, Caern. and Denb. 1673-4, Mdx. 1677-9, oyer and terminer, Wales 1661; second justice, N. Wales circuit 1662-70, c.j. 1670-6; commr. for recusants, Salop 1675; freeman, Preston 1682.2
Serjeant-at-law 1669, King’s serjeant 1671; j.K.b. 13 Apr. 1676-83; l.c.j.c.p. 1683-6.
Jones’s ancestors had been prominent in Shrewsbury municipal life since Elizabethan times. His father was steward of the borough, and his elder brother William recorder. Jones himself, after qualifying as a barrister, set up in practice in his home town and was nominated to the corporation in the charter of 1638. While Shrewsbury remained a royalist garrison Prince Rupert resided at his house. He was taken prisoner when the town was surprised by the Parliamentarians in February 1645. But the commissioners for corporations later alleged that he had
declared himself against the commission of array in the time of the wars, which was the dispute between the King and the Parliament, and refused to find a dragoon for the King’s service, for which he was committed by Sir Francis Ottley, then governor of Shrewsbury; which commitment Mr Jones afterwards brought two men to testify to before the Parliament’s committee in that town as an argument of his good affection to them. His brother, that was of the Parliament’s party and recorder of the town in the time of the rebellion, declared him then publicly upon the bench at a quarter sessions a man well-affected to the Parliament.3
Jones’s cousin, Col. Samuel Jones, was elected for Shrewsbury in 1656, the first of the family to sit in Parliament, and they were returned together at the general election of 1660. On the next day Jones was elected town clerk. ‘A great countenancer of the Presbyterian party’ he was marked as a friend by Lord Wharton, and probably voted with the Opposition. But he was not active in the Convention, with no recorded speeches and only five committees, the committee of elections and privileges, and those to prepare the clauses of exception to the indemnity bill and to consider a naturalization bill, a Shropshire estate bill, and the wine licences bill. He advised the corporation how to evade the Act by filling up their vacancies and was alleged to have described the arrest of three local radicals after the Fifth Monarchist rising in London as unlawful.4
Re-elected for Shrewsbury in 1661, Jones is seldom distinguished in the Journals from John Jones, but he probably remained inactive in the Cavalier Parliament. He was certainly appointed to 38 committees, including those to consider the uniformity bill and to inquire into the shortfall in the revenue in the first session. In August 1662 he was made a Welsh judge; but in the same month he was removed from corporation office in his constituency by the commissioners as politically unreliable, and in particular for giving ‘encouragement to the factious ministers there (he being a Parliament man) to preach so boldly and seditiously as they did, and to refuse all along to read the common prayers’. His petition to the House was referred on 5 Mar. 1663 to a committee including all the Shropshire Members, which was ordered to report ‘with what speed they can’, but never did so. He probably took the chair for a Montgomeryshire estate bill in 1665.5
Jones went over to the Court under the Cabal, being promoted to chief justice of the North Wales circuit, knighted, and made a King’s serjeant. The Opposition reckoned him among the court party in 1671, describing him (perhaps ironically) as ‘almost famished for preferment, and a great wheedler to the projectors’, and his name appeared on the Paston list in 1673/4. He became more active in 1675, receiving the government whip for both sessions from Secretary Coventry. He was among those ordered to draw up reasons for demanding the removal of Lauderdale, but he opposed an address against the pardon granted to the Scottish minister: ‘If we have not a confidence in the King’s mercy, he knows not whether we can have confidence in anything’. He also helped to prepare reasons for four conferences on the disputes over the judicature of the Lords. He was listed among the officials and government speakers in the House, and apparently designed by Danby as chairman of the supply committee in the autumn session. ‘Jones being very forward to take the chair, [Sir Thomas] Meres gave him a check, and said he would rather have [Sir Charles] Harbord for his modesty.’ During the recess Sir Richard Wiseman listed Jones among the court supporters in the Commons, but Danby had apparently concluded that he would be more useful elsewhere and he was made a high court judge.6
Roger North described Jones as
a very reverend and learned judge, a gentleman, and impartial, but being of Welsh extraction was apt to be warm, and when much offended often shewed his heats in a rubor of countenance set off by his grey hairs, but appeared in no other disorder, for he restrained himself in due bounds and temper, and seldom or never broke the laws of his gravity.
In 1677 he refused to interfere with the commitment of Shaftesbury to the Tower by the House of Lords, and but for the dissolution of the second Exclusion Parliament he would have been impeached for discharging the Middlesex grand jury to prevent the presentment of the Duke of York as a Popish recusant. When an action for extortion was brought against Serjeant Topham in 1682 by an Abhorrer, Jones was one of the judges who rejected his plea that he had only acted on the orders of the Commons. He pronounced judgment against the corporation of London in the quo warranto proceedings in 1683, and succeeded Sir Francis North as chief justice of common pleas. But he was removed by James II for ruling against the dispensing power. According to his son Jones told the King that:
he was not sorry for himself to be laid aside, being old and worn-out in his service, but that his Majesty should expect such a construction of the law from him as he could not honestly give; and that none but indigent, ignorant, or ambitious people would give their judgments as he expected.
After the Revolution the Commons resolved that his judgment against Topham was a breach of their privileges. He was taken into custody on 19 July 1689, but released on the prorogation a fortnight later. He died in May 1692 and was buried at St. Alkmund’s, Shrewsbury. His grandson Thomas was returned for the borough in three elections as a Whig.7