WALPOLE, Edward (1621-68), of Houghton, Norf.

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

Constituency

Dates

1661 - 18 Mar. 1668

Family and Education

bap. 9 Nov. 1621, o.s. of Robert Walpole of Houghton by Susan, da. of Sir Edward Barkham of South Acre, ld. mayor of London 1621-2. educ. M. Temple 1640. m. c. 1649, Susan (d. 7 July 1667), da. and coh. of Sir Robert Crane, 1st Bt., of Chilton, Suff., 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 8da. KB 19 Apr. 1661; suc. fa. 1663.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Norf. 1657, Aug. 1660-d., sewers 1658, 1659, Sept. 1660, militia Mar. 1660, lt.-col. of militia ft. Apr. 1660-?d., j.p. June 1660-d., dep. lt. c. Aug. 1660-d., commr. for corporations 1662-3.2

Commr. for trade with Scotland 1668.3

Biography

Walpole’s ancestors had been merchants in Lynn in the 13th century, rising to gentry status in early Tudor times. One of them sat for the borough under Edward VI, but owing to their subsequent recusancy the family dropped out of public life under Elizabeth and were all but exterminated. Walpole’s father came from the only Protestant branch. With an estate of £750 p.a. he was inactive during the Civil War, but held local office throughout the Interregnum.4

At the general election of 1660 Walpole was returned for Lynn with his wife’s brother-in-law Sir Ralph Hare by a unanimous vote of the freemen. He was marked by Lord Wharton as a friend, but he was not active in the Convention, being added to the committee of elections and privileges, and named to only ten others. An Anglican and a court supporter in the debate on religion of 16 July he ‘was for putting the question, which was the Protestant faith according to the scriptures and the government of the Church according to law’. He was appointed to the committee for settling ministers in their livings, though on 2 Aug. he censured those who habitually neglected their duties. After the recess he opposed the marital separation bill, saying that if it became law ‘England, that was formerly the heaven, would now be the hell of women’. Nevertheless he was named to the committee.5

Walpole was re-elected in 1661 unopposed and made a knight of the Bath for the coronation. An active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed to 136 committees, including the election committee in six sessions, and made five recorded speeches. In the opening session he was named to the committees for restoring bishops to the House of Lords, to inquire into the shortfall in revenue, to prevent tumultuous petitioning, and to consider the uniformity bill and the bill of pains and penalties. In 1663 he was among those ordered to bring in reasons against any indulgence to dissenters, and he was given special responsibility for recommending improvements in the customs revenue. He was appointed to the committee to unite the Commons resolution and the Lords petition for expelling Popish priests and Jesuits, and he served on the delegation to thank the King for his proclamation to this effect. His other committees in this session included those to bring in bills for the advancement of trade and the prohibition of cattle imports and to consider the bills to regulate the sale of offices and honours, and to provide remedies for sectarian meetings. He was appointed to the committee for the conventicles bill in 1664, and helped to manage the conference of 21 Apr. on injuries received from the Dutch. He served on the committee for the bill to levy forfeitures on vintners, which was subsequently found to have been ‘much altered by some private hand’, and on 13 May he reported to the House that William Prynne had admitted responsibility. On the same day he was added to the managers of a conference on the conventicles bill. As a follower of Sir Horatio Townshend he went into opposition over the second Dutch war. He strongly supported the motion to discuss ways and means before supply on 25 Nov., and acted as teller with Sir John Holland against the figure of £2,500,000 proposed by (Sir) Robert Paston, the leader of the rival faction in Norfolk politics and the government stalking-horse for the occasion, though he was prepared to support an immediate supply of £500,000. In September 1666 he was named to the committee for the bill to prohibit cattle imports, although his county profited from fattening Irish cattle for the London market. When it was proposed to redeem the hearth-tax, he took the chair in a committee to estimate the yield, which he reckoned at £200,000 p.a. On 11 Dec. he was nominated to the abortive parliamentary public accounts commission, but excused from service. After Christmas he helped to prepare reasons for proceeding by bill rather than petition, and was sent to remind the Lords of two matters that the Government would have preferred forgotten, the Canaries Company patent and the impeachment of Lord Mordaunt.6

On the fall of Clarendon, Walpole was appointed to the committees of inquiry into restraints on jurors, the miscarriages of the second Dutch war, and the charges against Mordaunt. He was also among those instructed to bring in bills regulating wine measures and improving the supply of timber, and to consider a bill to prevent the growth of Popery, as well as another to enable Townshend to exchange land with the rector of East Raynham. In prosecuting the fallen minister he advised deliberation, ‘and to proceed in a just cause justly’. He could not regard the sale of Dunkirk as a betrayal, since it had not been conquered by the English, ‘but surrendered by contract by the King of France. ... What power have princes in peace and war if not power to take and give in treaties?’ Nevertheless he was among those appointed to prepare reasons for the Commons proceedings against Clarendon. On 19 Nov. he spoke for the acquittal of John Ashburnham I, ‘but the House would not admit it’. His latest important committees were to manage a conference about Clarendon on 14 Dec. and three days later to consider the bill for settling the balance of trade with Scotland. Early in the New Year he was appointed to the joint commission on this subject, but it is not known whether he attended the sessions or resumed his seat in the House. He died on 18 Mar. 1668 and was buried at Houghton. Family tradition, which the paucity of records for the greater part of his parliamentary career makes it impossible to confirm, represented him as remarkable for weight and eloquence, with the knack of providing a form of words able to reconcile opposing views. It is at least clear that he was the first of the family to achieve real stature in the House.7

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / Eveline Cruickshanks / Basil Duke Henning

Notes

  • 1. J. H. Broome, Houghton and the Walpoles, 35; Collins, Peerage, v. 650-1.