KECK, Sir Anthony (1630-95), of the Inner Temple, London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

20 Apr. 1691 - 1695

Family and Education

bap. 28 Mar. 1630, 5th s. of Nicholas Keck of Old Cowcliffe, Oxon. and Long Marston, Warws. by Margaret, da. of John Morris of Bretforton, Worcs.  educ. I. Temple 1653, called 1659, bencher 1677.  m. 11 June 1660, Mary, da. of Francis Thorne, 1s. 7da.  Kntd. 5 Mar. 1689.1

Offices Held

Commr. gt. seal Feb. 1689–May 1690.2

Biography

A lawyer, Keck had been counsel for Lord Stafford during the impeachment of the five popish lords in 1678 and thereafter appeared in many cases before the House of Lords. Specializing in Chancery cases, he also acted as legal adviser to Lord Hatton (Christopher Hatton†). In 1689 he was appointed as a commissioner of the great seal with a salary of £1,500 p.a. His tenure ceased in May 1690 and shortly afterwards he declined promotion to first commissioner, which was regarded as ‘a great act of self-denial’. He was returned for Tiverton at a by-election in 1691. In May he subscribed £283 to a crown loan. He spoke on 13 Nov. in favour of hearing complaints against the East India Company and in support of setting up a new company. He supported the triennial bill of 1693, but being lame with the gout was accorded the concession of not having to move across the House upon a division in a committee of the whole. Sir Joseph Williamson* recorded the episode in his notes on parliamentary procedure:

A member totally lame is to change sides, another Member of contrary opinion in the division chooses to go over and be told in his place, etc. So Mr [Charles] Montagu for Sir Anthony Keck in the division as to the triennial bill, 8 Feb. 1693. No notice take of it.

Keck spoke the following day against the third reading of the bill, maintaining that it did not

invade the King’s prerogative, for . . . nothing tends more to it than frequent Parliaments, and to settle this government on a lasting foundation, which was also the opinion of King James II in several of his speeches. And you will find all your grievances and the mismanagements of government have been committed in the interval of Parliaments.

On one occasion he described the Commons to Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, as ‘a bear garden’, adding that

we have generally a very thin House and at committees for elections . . . some of the Members come in drunk, some sleep and some tumultuous, and seldom any mind the justice but his friend or the party. I remember one gentleman whose election was contested desired me to attend at the committee and he told me he had a very just cause. I told him, Sir, I have been now some little time in the House and I can easily tell the right without examining the merits. Have you voted in the great points with the majority? If so, you have a just and consequently a safe and good cause.

Keck did not stand in 1695, presumably because of ill-health. He died at his house in Bell Yard, Chancery Lane, on 16 Dec. 1695, leaving property in Drury Lane, Fulham, Hampstead, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire to his only son Francis, with provision to lay out £29,000 on further purchases of lands for him. According to Roger North†, Keck was

a person that had raised himself by his wits, and, barring some hardness in his character, which might be ascribed to . . . gout, he was a man of a polite merry genius. He believed the best form of government was a republic or, which was the same thing, a King always in check.3

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks