RUSSELL, Sir Francis, 2nd Bt. (c.1638-1706), of Strensham, Worcs.

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

Constituency

Dates

11 Nov. 1673
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1638, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir William Russell, 1st Bt., of Strensham by Frances, da. of Sir Thomas Reade of Barton, Berks. educ. I. Temple 1656. m. lic. 8 July 1662, aged 23, Anne (d.1710), da. of (Sir) Rowland Lytton of Knebworth, Herts., 3da. suc. fa. 30 Nov. 1669.1

Offices Held

Dep. lt. Worcs. 1662-Feb. 1688, 1690-?d.; j.p. Worcs. 1663-87, ?1689-d., Worcester 1668; commr. for assessment, Worcs. 1664-80, Glos. 1673-80, Glos. and Worcs. 1689-90, recusants, Glos. 1675; freeman, Worcester 1683.2

Biography

Russell’s ancestors were established at Strensham before the end of the 13th century, and represented Worcestershire regularly from 1365. His father followed family tradition by sitting as knight of the shire in 1625; a Royalist in the first Civil War, he was specifically excepted from the terms granted to the garrison of Worcester on its surrender in 1646. In January 1649, when he was in prison for debt, his wife compounded at one-third for £1,500, after surrendering an impropriate rectory of £50 p.a. At the Restoration he was recommended for the order of the Royal Oak, with an annual income of £2,000.3

Russell was returned for Tewkesbury at a contested by-election in 1673 and held the seat at the next five general elections. His home was four miles from the town, where he owned property, and in 1673 he enjoyed the support of the bishop of Worcester. An active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was named to 66 committees in six sessions, and made three speeches. His routine interests, judging from his committee assignments, were in the woollen manufacture, the better recovery of tithes, and the relief of debtors. But he was strongly opposed to Popery, and was named to many committees dealing with its suppression. In his first session he was appointed to the committee of elections and privileges and to two others, but he became more active in 1675, being named to the committees to prevent illegal imprisonment, illegal exactions, and the growth of Popery, a subject that continued to cause him concern in the following sessions. Other committees of less political content included that on the bill for the preservation of fishing in the Severn, Avon and Teme. His eldest sister had recently married the poet Charles Cotton, and Russell was among those appointed to enable his spendthrift brother-in-law to sell land for the payment of debts. In the autumn session he was named to the committee on the bill to hinder Papists from sitting in Parliament, and acted as teller against adjourning the debate on the jurisdiction of the Lords. As a Cavalier’s son, he was naturally regarded as a possible recruit for the court party. On the working lists he was assigned to the management of (Sir) Joseph Williamson, who even listed him among the government speakers. But Sir Richard Wiseman queried his reliability, believing that he had been ‘spoiled’ by his more experienced colleague (Sir) Henry Capel, another Cavalier’s son. Wiseman, who claimed ‘very good acquaintance’ with Russell and Sir Rowland Berkeley, hoped to reclaim them both, since they were ‘out of countenance at it before they left the town’ at the end of the session. But after the long prorogation Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’, and on 21 Feb. 1677 he opposed the motion for £800,000 until Samuel Pepys should justify the demand by giving an account of the state of the navy. On the next day he was named to the committee for the bill recalling British subjects from French service. On 8 Feb. 1678 he seconded Capel’s motion for a grant of £800,000, against the million now demanded by the Court. He was among those ordered to manage a conference on the preservation of fishing in rivers and to inquire into the publication of reasons against the bill for wearing wool before petitions had been received. After the discovery of the Popish Plot he was named to the committee to draw up reasons for belief in it, and on 7 Nov. was added to the committee of inquiry. He helped to draft the addresses asking the King to call out the militia and representing the dangers to the realm and the instructions for disbanding the army.4

Russell refused the lord lieutenant’s invitation to stand as court candidate for Worcestershire at the first general election of 1679, and Shaftesbury again marked him ‘worthy’. An active Member of the first Exclusion Parliament, he twice acted as teller and was named to 18 committees, including those to report on matters depending in the last Parliament and to examine the disbandment accounts. He drew to the attention of the House the departure of Danby’s son, Peregrine Osborne, during the debate of 3 Apr. on providing for the safety of the informer Bedloe. When exception was taken to the writing of notes during a report from the committee of secrecy, Russell retorted that ‘it is the right of every commoner of England to have your votes communicated to him, and it were better if your proceedings were printed’. He was teller for seating the country candidates for Windsor. Echoing Capel’s argument of 1675, he opposed lodging the money raised for disbanding the army in the chamber of London:

How can we answer it to the country if you put this money into the chamberlain of London’s hands and he break? You can have no such security for it as in the Exchequer.

On the motion to banish Papists from London, he proposed

an explanatory vote that the Duke of York is the occasion of all these jealousies of the Papists, and so have the Lords’ concurrence to it, and then you will have some ground to go upon.

His was the first name on the committees to bring in bills for the better regulation of the poor laws, and to search for precedents about Danby’s pardon. He helped to prepare the address promising revenge on the Papists if the King should die by violence. Although he had previously acted as teller against the second reading of the bill to prohibit the import of Irish cattle, on 13 May he was named to the committee. Morrice listed him as voting for exclusion, but according to the state papers list he was against committing the bill, and this is probably correct, since he was not removed from local office.5

Russell was re-elected with Capel in August, and kept in touch with him during the repeated prorogations of the second Exclusion Parliament. When it at last met he became a very active Member. He was named to 26 committees, and acted as teller in four divisions. On 27 Oct. 1680 he was appointed to the committee to inquire into abhorring, and was later added to that to examine the proceedings of the judges. He was named to the committee to prepare the second exclusion bill. He helped to draw up three addresses, reporting from committee on 23 Nov. the address for a day of fasting and humiliation. Three days later he spoke against committing the articles of impeachment against Edward Seymour, arguing that ‘to refer it to a committee to hear the proof is against all law and method’. When Sir William Jones revived the proposal to banish all Papists from London on 13 Dec., Russell thought the measure was not stringent enough, saying that it ‘will do no good; you will send them out of London into the country to cut our throats. Let them all have six months time to sell their estates, and be gone.’ On 17 Dec. he was named to the committees to consider the bill for disarming Papists and to bring in bills for security against arbitrary power. On 4 Jan. 1681 he argued that the King’s message insisting on the legitimate succession must be debated in a full House. ‘Whenever you appoint a day for it,’ he said, ‘I would have the doors shut, and that no man may go out without leave of the House.’ Two days later he was appointed to the committee for the repeal of the Corporations Act. But he was not a blind partisan; in the debate of 7 Jan. he opposed the removal of Laurence Hyde from the treasury board. ‘His relation to the Duke [of York] is no argument,’ he said, ‘when he is but one of five.’ On the same day he acted as teller for exonerating Thomas Street, the court Member for Worcester, from paying the fees of the serjeant-at-arms, who had taken him into custody as a defaulter. He was returned unopposed to the Oxford Parliament, and was named to the committees to prepare the articles of Fitzharris’s impeachment and the third exclusion bill, which he supported in debate.6

During the Tory reaction, Russell was ‘very industrious in maintaining his interest’ at Tewkesbury, and even after the Rye House Plot Richard Coote reported that his ‘bosom friend’, probably Thomas Nanfan, who lived in the town, ‘seems to be very cocksure of his carrying an election there’, though, as regards the alleged murder of his colleague’s brother, the Earl of Essex, he ‘did express himself (as much as durst do) a disciple of Roger L’Estrange’. He was probably returned to James II’s Parliament as a Tory, though Danby listed him among the Opposition. A moderately active Member, he was named to six committees, including those to recommend the continuation of expiring laws, to inquire into the fall in corn and wool prices, and to consider the relief of insolvent debtors. He served as teller on 10 June for the election of the Whig candidate at Cricklade, and six days later for the successful motion to bring in a bill for the general naturalization of foreign Protestants. After the recess he was teller for seeking the concurrence of the Lords to the address against popish officers in the army. His removal from the commission of the peace was ordered in December 1686. As a deputy lieutenant he replied to the questions on the repeal of the Penal Laws and Test Act that:

He did not pretend to be a Parliament man, but in case he were, he conceived it not fit to declare his mind until he was in Parliament; but acknowledged that he could not consent to the taking away of the Test because it was chiefly promoted by the late King’s servants and those esteemed the court party, which he observed, being at that time a Member in Parliament.7

Russell was returned for Tewkesbury to the Convention on the old franchise; there is no evidence of a contest. He was a very active Member, being named to 90 committees and acting as teller in nine divisions. Reverting to his Cavalier youth, he voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant, and acted consistently with the court Tories. He helped to devise the new coronation oath, and on 26 Feb. he was the first Member appointed to bring in a bill for regulating elections. He also helped to draft the address of thanks for the King’s message about the hearth-tax, later taking the chair for the bill to abolish it, which he carried to the Lords. He was on the committee for both mutiny bills, and acted as teller on 20 Mar. for appointing a committee to estimate defence expenditure in time of peace. He was appointed to the committee for the repeal of the Corporations Act, and helped to draft the address thanking the King for his care of the Church and to prepare reasons for a conference on disarming Papists. On 14 May he acted as teller against unseating the Tory, Sir Christopher Wren. He helped to consider the toleration bill and to manage a conference on it. On the same day, 22 May, he made his only recorded speech in this Parliament. After John Hampden had moved the suspension of habeas corpus, Russell replied,

if this were taken away, possibly I might be for it, for a habeas corpus is the law already, without the new Act; and when we shall see better judges, that law will have its course. This seems as if there were a defect in government, and I hope you will rather take away the last Act quite, than prolong the last Act that suspends it.

He was appointed to the committee of inquiry into the delays in relieving Londonderry, and on the same day reported from the committee to promote the export of beer, ale and mum that they had also made provision for cider. He carried the amended bill to the Lords on 4 June. He helped to draw up the address for leave to inspect the Privy Council records about Ireland, and to prepare reasons for reversing the judgments on Titus Oates.8

After the recess Russell was named to the committees for restoring corporations and inquiring into the miscarriages and expenses of the war. He acted as teller against the bill to reverse the attainder of Thomas Walcot, who had been executed after the Rye House Plot. He was among those ordered to draw up an address asking who had recommended Commissary Shales. He twice endeavoured to obtain a debate on the Lords’ bill to facilitate the collection of tithes. He was teller against the Whig candidate at Abingdon, and for the prolongation of debate on the disabling clause. At the general election of 1690 he was replaced by his former mentor, Capel, who had remained a Whig, and there is no evidence that he stood again. He died on 25 Jan. 1706, aged 68, and was buried at Strensham, the last of his family.9

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Basil Duke Henning

Notes

  • 1. Vis. Worcs. ed. Metcalfe, 84-85.
  • 2. List of Worcester Freemen (1747).
  • 3. VCH Worcs. iv. 203-4; Diary of Henry Townshend, i. 185; Cal. Comm. Comp. 1890-1.
  • 4. M. F. Redmond, ‘Bor. of Tewkesbury, 1574-1714’ (Birmingham Univ. MA thesis, 1950), 55; J. Bennett, Tewkesbury, 252-3; CJ, ix. 379, 452; Grey, iv. 113; v. 174.
  • 5. Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxii), 174; Grey, vii. 18, 74, 118-19, 149; CJ, ix. 568, 613.
  • 6. HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 302, 328; Grey, viii. 91, 133, 237, 314; HMC 12th Rep. IX, 114; Prot. Intell. 15 Feb. 1681.
  • 7. Add. 34730, ff. 89, 91; CJ, ix. 758.
  • 8. CJ, x. 75, 82, 143, 162; Grey, ix. 263.
  • 9.