SEYS, Evan (c.1604-85), of Boverton, Glam.

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

b. c.1604, 4th s. but h. of Richard Seys, barrister, of Lincoln’s Inn and Swansea, Glam. by Mary, da. of Lyson Evans of the Gnoll, Neath, Glam. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 7 Dec. 1621, aged 17; L. Inn 1624, called 1631. m. settlement July 1638, Margaret (d.1651), da. of Roger Bridges of Woodchester, Glos., 1s. 2da. suc. fa. 1639.1

Offices Held

Attorney-gen. Glam. 1635-68; commr. for assessment, Glos. 1643, 1647, 1657, Jan. 1660-80, Glam. 1647-52, 1657, Aug. 1660-80, Gloucester 1661-80, militia, Glos., Mon., Brec. and Glam. 1648, Glos., Gloucester and Glam. 1659, Glam. Mar. 1660; bencher, L. Inn 1648; j.p. Glam. by 1650-3, Glos. and Glam. 1656-July 1660, 1662-80, commr. for security 1656; second justice, N. Wales circuit 1658-9, c.j. Mar.-June 1660; recorder, Gloucester Nov. 1660-2, freeman 1661; commr. for oyer and terminer, Oxford circuit 1661, recusants, Glos. 1675.2

Serjeant-at-law 1649-d.

Biography

Seys came of a family established in Glamorgan since the 14th century. His grandfather, attorney-general for Wales under Elizabeth, acquired Boverton by marrying one of her maids of honour. Seys also became a lawyer, taking over from his father as attorney-general of Glamorgan, but his elder brother was disinherited, and he succeeded to the estate. A Parliamentarian during the Civil War, he was raised to the coif in 1649. Under the Protectorate he became the first of his family to enter Parliament. He finally lost his judgeship at the Restoration, but his serjeancy was confirmed, and he became recorder of Gloucester in November 1660. He was returned for the city at the general election, and listed as a friend by Lord Wharton. A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was named to 87 committees. On 21 Feb. 1662 he was given leave to go into the country, apparently for the purpose of resigning his recordership. Presumably he knew that he would be unacceptable to the Gloucestershire commissioners of corporations, and he also took the precaution of suing out a general pardon under the great seal. He had returned to Westminster by 22 Apr. when he was one of four Members instructed to bring in a technical proviso to the uniformity bill.3

Most of Seys’s committee assignments during the Clarendon administration were limited to those for which his legal knowledge would be useful, and it was not until January 1667 that he was named to a committee of any political importance, when he was among those ordered to consider the bill illegitimizing Lady Roos’s children, and to manage the evidence against Lord Mordaunt. In the next session he was named to the committee to inquire into the sale of Dunkirk. He probably opposed the impeachment of Clarendon, citing the Act of 1547 which required two witnesses in treason cases. In 1668 he resigned as attorney-general of Glamorgan in favour of his son. In the next two sessions he was inactive, but in the debate on the Declaration of Indulgence on 10 Feb. 1673 he spoke strongly against this use of the suspending power:

The carrying out wool, and bringing in Gascon wines, and transporting bell-metal out of England, were particular things, and not at all invading the rights of the subject. From the dispensing of cart wheels to jump to that of conscience, is a parvis ad magnum, that makes us have reason to fear. ... The laws are no ways to be suspended but by Act of Parliament.

He was named to the committee to prepare the address against the Declaration. On 28 Mar. he similarly opposed the Lords’ amendment to the bill of ease for Protestant dissenters, giving the King power to restrain or enlarge it by proclamation:

Will any dislike a liberty, because it comes by Act of Parliament? Does any Act pass without the King’s liking it? Can any man define what restrictions and latitude the proclamation will have? And doubts will arise whether [it is] according to the Act, and raise such questions that the people will not know what to do. We have seen the effect of the Declaration; it had good effect upon some, and bad upon others. Would not agree with the Lords; but if the people make an ill use of this Act, the King may restrain them.

In the 1674 session Seys was appointed to the committees for the bill to prevent vexatious suits and the general test bill. On 22 Jan. he joined in the debate on misconduct in parliamentary elections:

The penalty of a sheriff for a false return is but one hundred pounds; and in the spending £1,500 the sheriff may be well gratified by the party returned for his fine.

He was among those appointed to bring in a bill or bills to regulate elections and returns, and provide for the better attendance of Members.4

As might be expected of a lawyer, Seys took a keen interest in the disputes over the jurisdiction of the Lords in 1675. With regard to Shirley v. Fagg he told the House:

In cases of great concern, your Members cannot waive their privileges without leave. For appeals, ’tis not denied they [the Lords] are a court of record; but appeals must come from courts of record to them.

On 21 May he objected to the Lords’ answer at the conference of the preceding day:

When the Lords [are] trusted with the King’s conscience, as a court of equity, he knows not the end of it. ... If they make themselves masters of all cases by pretence of failure of justice, all cases may come into their hands.

When the serjeant-at-arms allowed the Four Lawyers to escape, Seys insisted that he must be impeached for misfeasance and neglect of duty, which would render his patent of office void. On 7 June the House was informed that the Lords were about to issue a writ of habeas corpus summoning the Four Lawyers before the bar of their House. In the ensuing debate Seys helped to persuade the Commons to search the Lords’ journals for precedents before taking action, and on the following day he was named to the committee appointed to draw up reasons for a conference. He spoke again on the same subject after the recess:

Writs of error [lie] in Parliament on a judgement in King’s bench. ... But how they came first to take this qua barones he knows not; and at this day, though the Lords have encroached, they do assign certain judges with the committee. What they formerly got upon law, they would now get upon conscience.

Two days later, Sir Nicholas Carew having moved that no lawyer should plead in the Upper House in Fagg’s case, Seys urged that the Commons should ‘first declare that the Lords have no power in appeals in general, and then what is moved’.5

Seys was now clearly identified with the Opposition, though Sir Richard Wiseman still hoped that the lord chancellor (Heneage Finch) might ‘work miracles’ on him, if he were pleased to try, presumably by an offer of preferment. Shaftesbury classified him as ‘thrice worthy’ in 1677, but his only tellership on 15 Feb. 1678 is not consistent with this rating. Together with his fellow-serjeant Edward Rigby, he supported committing the Lords’ bill to reduce the penalties for recusancy, which was vehemently denounced by William Williams. He took the chair for the first time during the summer session, reporting the bill to prevent maintenance and embracery on 2 July. In the last session he helped to prepare the impeachment of Lord Arundell of Wardour, and took the chair for the inquiry into the mendacious translation of the Gazette.6

Seys was re-elected to the first Exclusion Parliament, and marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list. He did not speak, but was active as a committeeman. Among his 18 committees were those on the bills for the attainder of Danby, the speedier conviction of recusants, security against Popery, and the prevention of illegal exactions. He probably drafted the bill for the re-engrossment of records destroyed in the fire in the Temple; he was the first Member named to the committee, reported the bill on 14 May, and carried it to the Lords. He voted for the exclusion bill, and after his success in a contested election in September, he was removed from the commission of the peace. He was only moderately active in the second Exclusion Parliament, serving on six committees. On 17 Dec. 1680 he reported the bill to abolish the court of the marches, and he was named to the committee for the repeal of the Corporations Act. He was replaced by the Tory Lord Herbert of Raglan (Charles Somerset) at the general election of 1681, and died some four years later, between 30 Aug. 1684, when he added a codicil to his will, and 23 Feb. 1685, when it was proved. He was the only member of his family to sit in Parliament.7

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Basil Duke Henning

Notes

  • 1. G. T. Clark, Limbus Patrum, 219; Vis. Glos. ed. Fenwick and Metcalf, 26.
  • 2. W. R. Williams, Great Sessions in Wales, 100, 154; Gloucester Guildhall, common council bk. 1656-86, ff. 163, 168.
  • 3. Williams, 100.
  • 4. Add.