NORTH, Henry (c.1609-71), of Mildenhall, Suff.
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Family and Education
b. c.1609, 1st s. of Sir Roger North of Mildenhall by his 1st w. Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir John Gilbert of Great Finborough, Suff. educ. G. Inn 1624. m. Sarah (d. 1 July 1670), da. of John Rayney, Draper, of London and Wrotham, Kent, 1s. 3da. suc. fa. 1651; cr. Bt. 14 June 1660.2
Commr. for assessment, Suff. 1643-52, 1657, Jan. 1660-9, sequestrations 1643, levying of money 1643, eastern assoc. 1644, new model ordinance 1645; elder, Clare classis 1645; commr. for militia, Suff. 1648, Mar. 1660, j.p. by 1650-?d., col. of militia ft. Apr. 1660-d., dep. lt. c. Aug. 1660-d., commr. for oyer and terminer, Norfolk circuit July 1660, loyal and indigent officers 1662; sub-commr. of prizes, London 1665-7; commr. for appeals, Bedford level 1668.3
North’s grandfather, a younger son of the second Lord, acquired the manor of Mildenhall in 1614. His father, a Parliamentarian in the Civil War, represented Eye until Pride’s Purge and was readmitted to the Rump after the execution of the King. North cannot always be readily distinguished from his uncle, Henry North of Laxfield, but it is clear that he was a Presbyterian and held local office throughout the Interregnum. After selling his mother’s property in 1656, his income was reduced to £1,500 p.a., but he represented the county in the second Protectorate Parliament.4
North was returned for Suffolk at the general election of 1660 and marked by Lord Wharton as a friend. A moderately active Member, he made eight recorded speeches and was named to twenty committees, including the committee of elections and privileges and that to consider a bill confirming parliamentary privilege. Presumably a court supporter, he was knighted at the Restoration. In the debate of 30 July on settling ministers in their livings he urged that the bill should be amended, and he was appointed to a committee for this purpose. He was also named to the committees to settle the revenue and the Dunkirk establishment, to improve observance of the Lord’s day, and to support the drainage of the fens. On 18 Aug. he came out strongly in favour of agreeing with the Lords in excepting from the indemnity bill the judges of Charles I, saying that ‘had he a brother or an only son, he would not save him’ and claiming that the King’s proclamation covered only ‘their estates for their wives and children, but not their lives’. In the second session he spoke on 19 Nov. against a land tax to compensate the King for the abolition of the court of wards, and he supported the payment of compensation to the displaced officers of the Court. He supported a motion to impeach the author of an incendiary pamphlet called The Long Parliament Revived. He moved for a grant of £1,000 to Jane Lane for her part in preserving the King’s life after the battle of Worcester, and agreed to making the queen of Bohemia’s debts a charge on public funds.5
Re-elected in 1661, North was an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament with 174 committees, including the elections committee in six sessions and all those for the Clarendon Code. On 17 May he was given leave to bring in a bill enabling church-wardens to impose a rate on their parishes for repairs. Presumably it had already been drafted, for it was read on the next day and passed so rapidly through committee that he was able to carry it to the Lords on 6 July. He may also have brought in the Bedford level bill, since he was the first Member appointed to the committee, but here his experience was to be less fortunate. Before the summer recess he was named to further committees to inquire into the shortfall in the revenue, to provide remedies for mischiefs from Quakers, and to consider the bill of pains and penalties. On 26 Nov., in a notable change of attitude, he acted unsuccessfully as teller on first reading against the bill for executing those under attainder, but he was appointed to the committee. On 13 Mar. 1662 he wrote to his cousin, Sir Dudley North I, one of the few surviving contemporary assessments of the first session:
We are now winding up apace and preparing to rise before Easter, having sat so long as we can and discontented the greater number of men, and now more than ever by granting a tax in perpetuity upon every fire-hearth in England and Wales (some of the poorer sort excepted) of 2s. per annum; which, say some, will amount to near a million yearly, but I believe truly it will come to £500,000, which is a considerable additional revenue to the crown, and will enable the King to stand in less need of his subjects’ supplies in Parliament (though I believe this Prince will never waive so long as he lives, he finds the sweet of them too much) than formerly he hath done, and this is it which divers in our House regret so very much, and were so unadvised as to express their minds to that purpose, for that inclined the major part to pass it the sooner. The bill of the militia which hath been hammering so long in our House is at length also finished and will pass this day, so that the uniformity being settled, which bill we are daily in expectation that the Lords should return to us, we have little left of our present work but may adjourn till winter. ... The works of draining have cost this Parliament and their committees great pains, but, as they are like to be ordered, whether they will be beneficial to the nation is with me a great question. ... The King hath heard the matter of Livingstone’s fine at the council table pleaded as it was before the Lords and us, and for anything I hear will agree to the passing of the bill, so my cousin [Chaloner] Chute hath lost so much of his estate, and in a discontented humour hath withdrawn himself into the country.
His doubts about the drainage measures before the House must have been increased by the reception of his report on the Bedford level in the following month. In its efforts to reconcile conflicting interests, the bill had become a draughtsman’s nightmare, probably the longest and most involved measure of the period. On 29 Apr. it was recommitted, but meanwhile North had been granted a well-earned leave, and (Sir) George Reeve took over the chairmanship, with scarcely greater success.6
In the 1663 session North was the first Member named to bring in reasons for advising the King against any indulgence to dissenters, and he was sent to the Lords on 19 Mar. to seek concurrence in an address for a proclamation against priests and Jesuits. He was also among those appointed to bring in another Sabbatarian bill, which he eventually carried to the Upper House. His other committees included those for regulating printing, reforming the sale of offices and honours, and providing remedies against sectaries. When (Sir) Robert Paston moved for a supply of £2,500,000 on 25 Nov. 1664, North was among the ‘sober men’ who favoured the smaller sum of £1,500,000. Presumably it was thought necessary to buy his support for the second Dutch war with a post in the London prize office. On 8 Nov. 1667 ‘he made a very good speech’ against the impeachment of Clarendon ‘unless there were plainer proofs of it than he yet saw’. He also moved that the articles might be particularly examined to see whether they extended to high treason or only misdemeanour. After this he became much less active in the Commons, and his only committee appointment was on 13 Nov. 1669, when he was added to the elections committee, though Sir Thomas Osborne included him among those Members who usually voted for supply. His wife’s death appears to have aggravated a tendency to melancholia, and on the morning of 26 Aug. 1671 he
was found dead in bed, with a double-barrelled pistol he had shot himself with. The wound was so big that a man’s hand might turn itself in it. He did all things the day before in the same order and manner as usually. The coroner’s inquest notwithstanding found him not compos mentis, and so neither his personal estate subject to forfeiture, nor his body to that scorn and contempt that attends such deaths, though, for his estate, it was all made over to his son some time before.