LEWIS, Sir William, 1st Bt. (1598-1677), of Llangorse, Brec. and Bordean House, East Meon, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. 26 Mar. 1598, 1st s. of Lodowick Lewis of Trewalter, Brec. by Elizabeth, da. and h. of William Watkins of Llangorse. educ. Univ. Coll. Oxf. 1613, BA 1616; L. Inn 1616. m. c. Feb. 1622, Mary (d. Feb. 1636), da. of Robert Calton of Goring, Oxon., wid. of Sir Thomas Neale of Warnford, Hants, 1s. d.v.p. 2da. suc. fa. 1614; cr. Bt. 14 Sept. 1628.2
Sheriff, Brec. 1619-20, 1636-7; j.p. Hants 1627-?47, Brec. 1647, Hants and Brec. Mar. 1660-d.; dep. lt. Hants by 1640-2, Brec. c. Aug. 1660-74; commr. for assessment, Hants 1643-7, Brec. 1647, Rad. Jan. 1660, Hants and Brec. Aug. 1660-d., sequestration, Hants 1643, levying of money 1643, defence 1643, execution of ordinances 1644; freeman, Portsmouth 1644, 1662, Lymington 1661; commr. for appeals, Oxford Univ. 1647, militia, Hants 1648, Hants and Brec. Mar. 1660; custos rot. Brec. Aug. 1660-d.; commr. for recusants, Hants 1675.3
Gov. Portsmouth (parliamentary) 1642-3.4
Commr. for excise 1645, Admiralty 1645-8, abuses in heraldry 1646, exclusion from sacrament 1646, bishops’ lands 1646, obstructions 1648, scandalous offences 1648; Councillor of State 25 Feb.-31 May 1660.
Lewis, the grandson of a Brecon mercer, inherited a Welsh estate of £600 p.a.; but on his marriage to a Hampshire widow he leased a small property, three miles from Petersfield, from the bishop of Winchester. A ship-money sheriff and a devout Presbyterian, he was returned for the borough at both elections of 1640, the first of his family to enter Parliament. He was appointed governor when Portsmouth capitulated to the parliamentary forces in 1642, and served on the Hampshire committee during the first Civil War. But he was forced by the army to withdraw from Parliament in 1647, and treated with particular severity at Pride’s Purge, being unable to obtain his release till 1651. He was out of politics till the return of the secluded Members, when he was elected to the Council of State. He was reckoned at this time among the leaders of the moderate Presbyterian group which aimed at a conditional restoration.5
Lewis was elected for his native county in 1660, and listed by Lord Wharton as a friend. When the Convention met, he seconded the nomination of the ‘rigid’ Protectorate official Jessop as clerk of the Commons, but he undertook privately not to call in question the elections of Cavaliers and their sons, contrary to the last ordinance of the Long Parliament. An active Member, he took a prominent part in devising the legislation necessary for the Restoration. He made 25 recorded speeches and was appointed to 61 committees, helping to manage five conferences and to prepare for four others, and acted as teller in three divisions. He also took a prominent part in preparing for the Restoration. He was among those ordered to draft a reply to the King’s letter, to consider the necessary legal forms and to prepare an answer to the Declaration of Breda, and he was twice sent to the Lords to ensure that the two Houses kept in step. He helped to draft the instructions for the messengers to the King, and served on the joint committee to arrange for his reception. He was appointed to the committee for the indemnity bill on 15 May, and helped to manage a conference on the regicides four days later and to prepare for another. He was on the drafting committees for a letter to congratulate the King on his safe arrival and for a petition for a day of thanksgiving. In the proceedings on the indemnity bill he was teller for the motions to except no more than 20 from the benefits of its provisions and for imposing no more penalty on Francis Lascelles than on John Hutchinson. He was appointed to the committees to inquire into the publication of parliamentary proceedings and of unauthorized Anglican works, and to propose names for the army commission. On 2 July he urged that the indemnity bill should be passed before supply was granted ‘that people may be more willing to pay’. He spoke ‘excellently’ against the proposal to except those who would not take the oath of supremacy, ‘though he were no friend to the Papists’. On 11 July he had the satisfaction, with Arthur Annesley, of carrying the bill to the Lords. On the report from the grand committee for religion on 20 July he seconded the motion of Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper for an address for a synod. In the debate on settling ecclesiastical livings on 30 July ‘Sir William Lewis said ’twas impossible to come per saltum to the old government, but to let it alone to the King’s consideration, and not press so earnestly for the subscribing the articles’. It was at once agreed to refer the matter to a committee, to which he was appointed. He was also named to the revenue committee. On 4 Aug. William Wilde was ordered to hand over to Lewis for the use of his constituency an acquittance given by the former assessment commissioners. When the King reminded Parliament of the urgency of providing for the pay of the army and navy, Lewis hoped that this would encourage the Lords to expedite the passing of the indemnity bill, and he was among those appointed to prepare for a conference; but he could not accept the Lords’ arguments for expanding the scope of the bill. He also helped to draft the protestation on the missing college leases bill, to manage the conference on the indemnity bill on 22 Aug., and to consider the establishment for Dunkirk.6
After the recess, Lewis was appointed to the committees for the attainder bill and for the bill to prevent marital separation, although he had urged the House to reject it. On 16 Nov. he moved for more time to consider the militia bill. Wharton sent him a copy of the case for modified episcopacy, but he took no part in the debate. He was among those ordered to prepare for a conference on the college leases bill. On 22 Dec. he ‘very handsomely’ moved for a composition of the dispute about the excise bill between John Birch and Edward King. He carried the assessment bill to the Lords, and on the last day of the session proposed that part of the excise should be used for redeeming English slaves in Algiers.7
Lewis was unable to find a seat on his own interest in 1661. He was returned for Lymington after a contest, probably on the interest of John Bulkeley, and again listed by Wharton as a friend. He was again an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, with 206 committees, including those for the corporations and uniformity bills and the bill of pains and penalties, to which he succeeded in annexing a proviso in his own interests. In the first session he also helped to manage conferences on the bill to confirm private Acts, the corporations bill, the execution of those under attainder, and the loyal and indigent officers fund, and to prepare reasons on the poor law amendment bill. His only chairmanship was on Colfe’s charities in 1664.8
On the dismissal of Clarendon, Lewis was appointed to the committees to draw up an address of thanks, to prepare a public accounts bill, to report on restraints on juries, to inquire into the miscarriages of the war, to establish precedents for impeachment, to reduce the charges against the fallen minister into heads, and to consider the bill to prevent the growth of Popery. His contributions to debate were not calculated to assist Clarendon’s enemies; he emphasized the need to proceed legally, found nothing to substantiate the gravest charge of saying that the King was unfit to govern, and doubted whether the article on the sale of Dunkirk was properly based, because the bill to annex the town did not receive the royal assent. He blamed faulty intelligence for the losses in the Four Days’ battle, and laid the responsibility at the door of Lord Arlington (Sir Henry Bennet). Of the thirty or so speeches attributed to him by the diarists, however, most concerned points of procedure and order. It was presumably on procedural grounds rather than from intolerance that he opposed the reading of the Declaration of Breda in the House on 11 Mar. 1668, although no links with the Presbyterians can be traced at this time. Sir Thomas Osborne listed him among the Members who usually voted for supply. He was among those instructed to consider the bill to prevent abuses in parliamentary elections in 1669 and to examine the debts of the navy in 1670. In 1674 he was appointed to the committees to consider the charges against Arlington and to prepare a general test. He moved to retain the petition of Bernard Howard ‘till the rest of the bills of Popery come in’. His last important committee was for hindering Papists from sitting in Parliament, on the bill introduced in the autumn session of 1675. There is no evidence that he attended again after the long recess, although he had presumably moved into opposition, for Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice worthy’. His will was proved on 28 Nov. 1677. His only son, Lodowick Lewis, who had sat with him in the Long Parliament as recruiter for Brecon, had predeceased him, and the estate was divided among his granddaughters, one of whom married John Lewis.9
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: M. W. Helms / Paula Watson
- 1. Disabled 27 Jan. 1648, readmitted 8 June, secluded at Pride’s Purge 6 Dec., readmitted 21 Feb. 1660.
- 2. Wards 7/51/264; PCC 102 Lawe.
- 3. CSP Dom. 1640, p. 438; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 353, 357, E. King, Old Times Revisited, 178.
- 4. Ludlow Mems. i. 34; G. N. Godwin, Civil War in Hants, 76.
- 5. Keeler, Long Parl. 250-1; Eg. 1048, f. 74; D. Underdown, Pride’s Purge, 195, 346; Clarendon, Rebellion, vi. 191.
- 6. Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 675, 686; CJ, viii. 11, 19, 38, 59, 60, 106, 115; Bowman diary, ff. 40v, 54v, 90v, 110v, 134.
- 7. Old Parl. Hist. xxiii. 13, 15, 65, 80; CJ, viii. 219, 233.
- 8. CJ, viii 301, 332, 335, 355, 426, 431, 554.
- 9. Milward, 100; 214; Grey, i. 18; ii. 361; Clarendon Impeachment, 44; Jones, Brec. iii. 65.