LOWTHER, James (1673-1755), of the Middle 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



26 Nov. 1694 - 1702
1708 - 1722
2 May 1723 - 1727
1727 - 2 Jan. 1755

Family and Education

bap. 5 Aug. 1673, 2nd s. of Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. I*.  educ. Hatton Garden, London; M. Temple 1682, called 1712, bencher 1714; Queen’s, Oxf. 1688. unmsuc. to family estates 1706, bro. as 4th Bt. 2 Oct. 1731.1

Offices Held

Clerk of deliveries to Ordnance 1696–1701, principal storekeeper 1701–8; steward of Richmond fee 1708–?; PC Aug. 1714.2

V.-adm. Cumb. and Westmld. 1714–?; alderman, Carlisle 1739–d.

Gov. St. Thomas’ Hosp. 1719; vice-pres. London Infirmary 1747, Foundling Hosp. 1753.3

Dir. S. Sea Co. 1733–6.4

FRS 1736.5


The younger son of a wealthy landowner and industrial entrepreneur, Lowther initially trained for the law. In the 1690s, supported by the influence of his kinsman Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. II*, he embarked on a career in government office and entered the Commons. His prospects were, however, dramatically improved when his dissolute elder brother, Christopher, was disinherited in Lowther’s favour, so that on his father’s death in 1706 he succeeded to extensive estates and mining interests in Cumberland and Westmorland. In the succeeding 50 years Lowther exploited, enhanced and diversified these assets so that in later life he was frequently referred to as the nation’s richest commoner, the capital value of his lands estimated by a modern historian as exceeding £650,000. His brother had written in 1698 that Lowther had ‘made virtue and sobriety habitual to him [James]’, characteristics Lowther himself acknowledged four years later when he wrote that ‘my sobriety gives me more solid satisfaction than I can perceive anyone else has in their way of living’. Such qualities were demonstrated in his dutiful and painstaking application to his careers as government official, businessman, and Member of Parliament.6

Lowther’s opportunity to enter the Commons occurred at the Carlisle by-election of November 1694, after his father had persuaded Sir John Lowther II that the opportunities London presented for his elder son Christopher to be led astray made James the more suitable candidate. An indication of his early application to the minutiae of business in the House can be seen in his nominations to many committees in the final four months of the 1694–5 session. He was also a teller on 7 Feb. 1695 against an amendment to the land tax bill. Having been returned for Carlisle in 1695, he followed the example of both his father and Sir John Lowther II in offering consistent support to the ministry. He was forecast as likely to support the ministry in the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 over the council of trade; signed the Association promptly in February; and in March voted with the Court in fixing the price of guineas at 22s. This support for the ministry, and the patronage of Sir John Lowther II, gained Lowther appointment to the Ordnance shortly after the end of the session, but little more can be said of his contribution to the 1695 Parliament. He absented himself from the vote of 25 Nov. 1696 on the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. On at least two occasions during the 1697–8 session he presented information to the House on behalf of the Ordnance. Ties of family loyalty were demonstrated on 11 Mar. 1698 when he supported Sir William Lowther’s* attempt to have three-quarters of the land tax fixed to wards within counties, and in May, in addition to being nominated to prepare an address requesting the investigation of arrears to soldiers disbanded after the reduction of Ireland, he managed through the Commons a bill to suspend for a year the patent for manufacturing copper coin. The closing weeks of the session saw him act as teller in favour of a bill to encourage the development of a hand-pump designed to aid ships (28 May), and against a clause to the ‘Two Million Fund’ bill enforcing the payment of bank bills on demand (18 June).7

Lowther was returned again for Carlisle in 1698, despite allegations of Dissenting sympathies, and in September was listed as a placeman and classed as a Court supporter in a comparison of the old and new Houses. His appointment on 17 Dec. to draft a bill for the preservation of game presaged a busy session for him. Since his father was absent from London, Lowther took pains to keep him informed on parliamentary proceedings, and these letters document in some detail Lowther’s contribution to the passage of business and his loyalty to the Court. This allegiance was demonstrated, for instance, in his vote on 18 Jan. 1699 against the disbanding bill, but can also be illustrated from his other work in the Commons. From January Lowther managed five naturalization bills through the House, a burden due in large part to the desire by many foreign officers disbanded from the army to obtain English nationality. Lowther’s contribution to the passage of this legislation may have been an attempt to enhance his standing in ministerial circles, since having reported on 25 Apr. one such bill to naturalize ‘fourscore foreigners that are in the three troops of guards and the troops of grenadiers’, he described it as ‘a bill the Court is not a little concerned for’. The Commons’ objection to the Lords’ addition of 76 individuals to this bill involved Lowther on 26 Apr. in drawing up reasons to disagree with the amendment. Having managed the subsequent conference, Lowther delivered the bill back to the Lords on 3 May. Ministerial loyalties explain Lowther’s tellerships against the opposition-sponsored motion to confirm the right of the Old East India Company to trade as a separate entity (7 Mar.), and the unseating of the Court supporter William Culliford (6 Apr.), but his interests and activity in this session extended to other matters. As would be expected, given Lowther’s background, trade and financial matters frequently attracted his attention. Throughout February, for example, he wrote repeatedly of his concern that the quarrelsome conduct of the Commons threatened to undermine public credit. Having been appointed on 14 Mar. to draft a bill to suspend the patent for milling copper coin, Lowther subsequently managed this bill through the Commons. He also took a close interest in the passage of a bill prohibiting the import of Irish wool. The exclusion of Whitehaven from the ports exempted from such restrictions particularly worried Lowther since his father had been engaged in promoting a Cumbrian textile industry which depended on wool imports. Before consideration on 14 Apr. of the Lords’ amendments to this bill, Lowther ‘spoke . . . to a great many . . . to get Whitehaven’ inserted in the list of exempted ports, but his proposal, on the 14th, of such an addition, seconded by Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt.*, was unsuccessful, a failure which Lowther attributed to Musgrave’s lukewarm support and the vigorous opposition of Lord Coningsby (Thomas). On 1 May Lowther told for the motion that the House consider the report of the bill to encourage trade with Newfoundland, but the same month saw a further blow to his family’s and his locality’s trading interests following the acceptance of a clause in the bill levying a duty on sweets and low wines which Lowther described as ‘prohibit[ing] the importation of tobacco in bulk’. On either 1 or 2 May he opposed this proposal, unsuccessfully, and though he managed to carry a clause which he judged ‘material’ for Whitehaven’s ‘small shipping’, he confessed that ‘while trading counties are no better represented, I do not see how matters are like to succeed better’. This concern for the interests of Whitehaven was also evident in Lowther’s detailed reports concerning the bills relating to the harbour at Great Yarmouth and the creation of a new parish at Liverpool, similar measures being contemplated at this time for the improvement of the Cumberland port. In a more personal context, during April, Lowther managed the estate bill of Sir William Pulteney* through the Commons on behalf of his fellow Ordnance officer John Pulteney*. Lowther’s sober nature was demonstrated by his close involvement in the bill to suppress the Royal Oak lottery. Having been the first-named Member of the second reading committee appointed on 13 Apr., Lowther reported the measure on the 25th and wrote to his father that ‘the House is entirely satisfied with [the bill], as I have altered it at the committee’. He carried the measure to the Lords two days later, and claimed that his role in the passage of the bill had earned him ‘thanks on all hands’. With evident pride, he informed his father that he had ‘had [a] good store of business at committees all this session’.8

Lowther remained in London attending to his official duties throughout the prorogation, writing in November 1699 of his belief that ‘the Court will find no alteration for the better’ in the forthcoming session. He remained concerned with many of the issues which had preoccupied him in the previous session. His support for moral reform was again evident on 18 Dec. 1699 when he told against referring to a committee a petition for a bill to allow the running of two lotteries, and in the new year his concern with trading issues was revealed on 23 Jan. 1700 when he told in favour of proceeding upon a bill to extend the Act prohibiting the export of corn. Lowther’s forecast of failure for this proposal was borne out early the same month. His concern for the interests of provincial merchants would explain his acting as teller, on 13 Feb., against the committal of a petition from London merchants requesting that ‘merchant aliens’ be prohibited from exporting woollen manufactures. His support for the ministry’s initiative for union with Scotland was evident the following month when he expressed concern that the measure would be lost to opposition objections. March saw Lowther report one naturalization bill and carry up another. His tellership on the 26th against an amendment to the address on the lieutenancies and commission of the peace, that implied a restoration of Tories removed during the later 1690s, confirms his allegiance to the ministry and indicates his Whig sympathies. The session also saw Lowther tell against two amendments to the Irish forfeitures bill (22 Mar., 1 Apr.) and his appointment to inspect the ballot for Irish forfeited estates’ commissioners (28 Mar.). An analysis of the Commons, prepared between January and May, classed Lowther as a placeman.9

The death of his cousin Lord Lonsdale in July 1700 greatly weakened Lowther’s interest at Carlisle, and his return at the first 1701 election was only achieved after considerable struggle. Lonsdale’s death did not, however, affect Lowther’s claims for promotion at the Ordnance, as shortly before the start of the session, supported by letters from his father to Lord Godolphin (Sidney†) and Lord Romney (Henry Sidney†), Lowther was appointed general storekeeper, kissing the King’s hand at the end of January and assuming his new post on 15 Feb. The same month Lowther was included on a list of those Members willing to support the Court and agree to the resolution of the supply committee to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’. On 22 Feb. he was teller against the attempt to expel Gilbert Heathcote from the Commons on the basis of a contentious interpretation of a place clause in the 1694 Salt and Excise Duty Act. Though Lowther took steps in April to ascertain attitudes in Cumberland to the proposal to continue the Act preventing theft and rapine on the Scottish border, this concern with the passage of legislation in the 1698 Parliament was superseded during 1701 by Lowther’s need to answer the petition of Thomas Stanwix* against his return. He spent much time attending the elections committee to observe the consideration of other petitions and, though he was sure of the support of the prominent Whig Edward Clarke I* and the Whiggish chairman of the election committees, Sir Rowland Gwynne, he observed in April that ‘whatever the merits of elections . . . no one cause has gone in favour of anybody that differs from Sir E[dward] S[eymour] [4th Bt.*] and Sir C[hristopher] M[usgrave] in opinion and voting’. Lowther’s Whiggery, evident in his dismissal of Kidd’s accusations against Lord Halifax (Charles Montagu*) as ‘a foolish story’, and the local rivalry between his family and the Musgraves, therefore led him into detailed preparations for the hearing of Stanwix’s petition, expecting that the struggle would be fiercely partisan.10

However, the dissolution of November 1701 replaced Lowther’s impending contest in the elections committee with a battle on the hustings. At a contested election in December Lowther was again successful for Carlisle, though he was uncertain of the extent of his support from Lord Carlisle (Charles Howard*) in the borough, and at one point Sir John Lowther I suggested his son stand for the county. In an analysis of the new House, Robert Harley* classed Lowther as a Whig. The accuracy of this ascription was borne out by Lowther’s attendance on 17 Dec. at a pre-sessional meeting attended by leading Court Whigs, at which Sir Thomas Littleton, 3rd Bt., was chosen as their candidate for Speaker. Lowther’s ministerial and Whig loyalties were also evident in the new year, when on 3 Jan. 1702 he joined other Whig Members from the ‘northern counties’ for what was intended to be the first of a series of weekly dinners organized by Lord Carlisle. Lowther felt the need to cultivate other Whigs as Stanwix had again petitioned against the Carlisle return. Lowther’s success in this regard became apparent when Stanwix’s petition was read at the elections committee in early January and Lowther’s request for two months to prepare his defence was supported by such notable Whigs as Littleton, John Smith I, Sir Richard Onslow, 3rd Bt., and Sir Walter Yonge, 3rd Bt., and was agreed by the committee. Lowther believed that this delay would ensure that the petition was not heard in the current session, though he continued to prepare his defence in readiness for an eventual hearing. Despite this success, Lowther had grown disenchanted with the exertions required to secure his election, irritated at the qualified support he enjoyed from Lord Carlisle, and dubious as to the usefulness of remaining in a Commons riven by party jealousy and where the demands of attendance, in ‘heat which is almost intolerable’, were increasing. As early as 24 Jan. 1702 he was informing his father that ‘the parties in the House are so enraged that people in office are much happier out of the House than in’. By February he was writing of his growing conviction that it might be more prudent for him to pursue his administrative career outside the Commons. He began to canvass for a further official post, specifically mentioning to his father the possibility of a place in a branch of the revenue, and in March he wrote that ‘unless it be made easy’, he had no intention of standing for Carlisle at the election occasioned by the death of the King. Although meetings of Cumberland Members saw Lowther mentioned as a possible candidate for Cockermouth and Cumberland, he did not stand at the 1702 election. Instead, with a pro-Tory reshuffle of places expected, Lowther focused his energies on retaining his place at the Ordnance. Despite assiduous lobbying of such notable figures as Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†), gaining the support of Sir Robert Southwell† and Sir Charles Turner*, and letters on his behalf from Sir John Lowther I to Lords Nottingham and Weymouth (Thomas Thynne†), he was still uncertain as late as June whether he would be retained in office. Such wariness was well founded. The hostility of Sir Christopher Musgrave to the Lowthers had influenced the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) to lobby for Lowther’s dismissal, and it was not until the end of July that Marlborough abandoned these attempts, having received a more favourable report of Lowther from Lord Godolphin.11

Lowther’s post at the Ordnance was confirmed in August 1702, and he set about his duties, increased with the renewal of war, in a typically methodical and efficient manner. He was careful to take steps to strengthen his position, informing his father that in order to make ‘interest . . . with great persons’ he went ‘at least twice a week to court, sometimes to the Prince’s levee and sometimes at noon and then stay out the Queen’s dinner. I go often to the lord treasurer’s but there is no meeting with him’. He continued to send his father reports of political and parliamentary news, paying particularly close attention in the winter of 1704–5 to the possibility that a bill for the development of the harbour at Parton, a potential rival to Whitehaven, was due to be introduced by Thomas Lamplugh*. Nevertheless, he was unwilling to stand at the 1705 election, being particularly mindful that ‘I am joined in an office [the Ordnance], with people very opposite in all parliamentary business, who came in with great prejudice to me, which I have removed with no small difficulties’. Though such wariness was justified, it may be that the introduction in December 1705 of a Parton harbour bill caused Lowther to regret his decision not to stand. Forced to organize parliamentary opposition to the measure from outside the Commons, he was confident in November that he had assembled ‘a very strong party in the House’ to oppose the bill, and the following month wrote that ‘by the favour of the Speaker [John Smith I]’ he had ‘got my particular friends to make up the greatest part of the committee’. Such preparations, which Lowther claimed included speaking to three-quarters of the Commons, were, however, undermined in January by the poor health and death of his father. Lowther was forced to return to Cumberland and, despite opposition to the Parton bill from such leading figures as Littleton in the Commons and Lord Wharton (Hon. Thomas*) and Lord Halifax in the Lords, the measure passed. Having inherited extensive estates and colliery interests, Lowther now applied himself to the management of these assets with the same diligence he had shown in his official duties. The disadvantage of being out of the Commons was again evident at the beginning of 1707 when an attempt to have Whitehaven added to the list of ports allowed to import Irish wool failed once again, and by March the same year he had begun canvassing support against the next Cumberland election. In the year leading up to the election it became clear that Lowther’s political opinions had undergone a notable shift of emphasis, as exemplified by his comment in February 1708 that ‘country gentlemen are fitter to be k[nights] of the shire than officers of the army . . . for a man that has a good clear estate and a handsome parcel of money in his pocket, there is not so much to be got by a middling place as people imagine’. Indeed, such Country sentiments, also evident in his remark that ‘there never was more need of men of estates to be chosen, when officers of the army and merchants of London are jostling the landed men everywhere out of their elections’, typified his political outlook for the remainder of Anne’s reign, though such sympathies never led him to depart from his Whig beliefs. Consequently, shortly after his election he wrote to Lord Godolphin of his intention to resign his place at the Ordnance, and in September was replaced by his cousin Robert Lowther*.12

Though analysis of Lowther’s subsequent contribution to the business of the House is complicated by the presence in the Commons of his kinsman William Lowther II, his concern to further his private interests is indicated by his management through the Commons between December 1708 and February 1709 of a bill for the improvement of Whitehaven harbour. Prompted, almost certainly, by the Parton Harbour Act, its passage in the Lords in March was welcomed by Bishop Nicolson as ‘to the ease of Mr James Lowther and myself’. Lowther’s political opinions at this time are difficult to discern. His failure to support the naturalization of the Palatines in 1709 may have been due to a concern for the commercial implications of naturalizing large numbers of foreign Protestants, but it could also suggest disenchantment with the Whig ministry. In early 1710, after a meeting with Lowther, Nicolson recorded that the Cumberland Member had been ‘jealous of the Court and Bank [of England]’. It should be noted, however, that in March 1710 Lowther held over £500 of Bank stock. Further indications of this alienation can be found in Lowther’s opinions during the 1709–10 session. Though Lowther did not arrive in London until after the opening of this session, in January 1710 he bemoaned the passage of a window tax, writing that ‘the country will see now what they get by choosing so many foreigners and officers’. Having supported the place bill, he was prompted by the defeat of this measure in the Lords to warn that ‘a good many of those that were for throwing it out will wish for it in a few years’. It is also noticeable that though Lowther frequently wrote to his steward of the proceedings on the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, he appears to have abstained from the various divisions on this issue. Lowther’s later claim that this Parliament had seen him ‘standing out against the violent proceedings of both parties’ is borne out by the sparse evidence of his parliamentary activity. His preference for non-partisan matters relating to his business interests was demonstrated in February when the House considered the removal of drawback on tobacco re-exported to the Isle of Man, it appearing that tobacco merchants based at Liverpool were making large profits from this allowance. Prompted by ‘representations’ from Whitehaven, it appears that clauses to effect this alteration were initially incorporated into a bill presented on 14 Feb. to grant new excises, but Lowther noted that the proposals were vigorously opposed by the Liverpool Members (Sir) Thomas Johnson and Richard Norris on the basis of their own interest in the tobacco trade and their being ‘so devoted to my Lord Derby [James Stanley*]’, lord of the Isle of Man. The clauses were defeated, and an attempt in March to add similar clauses to a ‘money bill’, possibly the measure to levy a duty on candles, met the same fate.13

Having already begun preparations to stand for Cumberland at the next dissolution, Lowther’s concern in the summer of 1710 for the consequences of the ministerial alterations and the Tory fervour prompted by the Sacheverell trial is clearly evident in his correspondence. In June he wrote of his fear that ‘in this ferment the nation is put to’ a dissolution would lead to a Tory Parliament and that ‘the Toleration [Act] will either be taken quite away or made ineffectual’. Lowther also worried that dissolution and ministerial alterations would undermine public credit. Between fretting about such developments and canvassing support in Cumberland by letter, he also found time to lobby the Privy Council against a bill passed by the Irish parliament to restrict the practice whereby coal landed in Ireland, the principal market for Lowther’s collieries, was sold to Irish retailers who would then release the coal onto the market at a controlled rate in order to bolster prices. Lowther approached Lord President Somers (Sir John*) and the Duke of Somerset, writing that the measure was intended to ‘destroy our trade and to give it to the owners of coals in Ireland’, but his confidence that the Council would act on his objections was misplaced. By August Lowther had recognized the near inevitability of a dissolution and as his concerns for the national consequences of this, particularly the financial ones, intensified he began to doubt his prospects of being returned for Cumberland, given the popularity of High Church sentiments in the nation as a whole. He bemoaned particularly that Tory addresses were being ‘levelled to represent those that are for the Toleration as men of republican principles’. He claimed to be ‘indifferent’ about being returned for Cumberland, writing that he would willingly spend £300 instead to ‘come in at a borough’, but in the event was eventually returned unopposed. His continuing hostility to placemen was evident in his observations that the Tory victory at the election could be attributed in large part to the placing of official patronage in their hands.14

Classed as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’, Lowther’s experiences and attitudes towards the political upheavals of 1710 may explain his greater level of partisan activity in the new Parliament. Though his continuing support for Country measures was evident from Bishop Nicolson’s comment in December that Lowther was ‘earnest for the passing of the officer-bill’, his Whig loyalties are much more in evidence during the 1710–11 session. Indeed, he confided his opinion to Nicolson that the ‘new ministry cannot support the public credit’. The first indication of his commitment to the Whig cause came on 4 Dec. when Lowther told in favour of the Cockermouth election petition being referred to the elections committee rather than being heard at the bar, a vote in favour of the Sacheverell manager James Stanhope*. He again demonstrated Whig sympathies by telling on 19 Dec. against the Tory motion declaring the Bewdley charter illegal, and other tellerships in the new year can also be attributed to similar motives. During the consideration of the Carlisle election petition, for example, he told against setting a date for hearing accusations against the Whig (Sir) James Montagu I* (20 Feb. 1711) and, having assisted Montagu in preparation of his defence, told on 14 Mar. against the motion that Bishop Nicolson had infringed the liberties of the Commons. On 7 Apr. Lowther told for a motion to delay consideration of the Cockermouth election petition. The unseating of the Whig Stanhope on this date may well have prompted Lowther’s letter three days later expressing a willingness to buy ‘two or three’ burgages at Cockermouth, presumably so as to gain a small interest there. Lowther told twice in this session on questions relating to trade: on 13 Mar. against disabling individuals from holding concurrently directorships of the Bank and the South Sea Company; and on 25 May against an amendment to the South Sea bill intended to allow the crown to nominate the first board of directors of this company, in which Lowther had purchased £3,552 of stock. Lowther’s attentions were not, however, entirely dominated by partisan matters. In February, for example, he was voicing his objections to the attempt by his fellow knight of the shire, Gilfrid Lawson, to have the place of Cumberland elections fixed by statute. More notably, however, he revived his attempt to remove the drawback upon tobacco re-exported to the Isle of Man. Having brought this abuse to the attention of the Treasury in April, he claimed to have extracted from William Lowndes* a promise that a clause to remedy the problem would be added to ‘the next money bill’. On 9 May, such a clause was moved by Lowndes and seconded by Lowther, who claimed to have ‘acquainted the House with the ill practices and how the revenue and fair traders suffer’ from the ‘running’ of tobacco to the Isle of Man. The opposition that Lowther had anticipated from Lord Derby soon became apparent. Derby gained the support of the customs commissioners, and the effectiveness of his lobbying allowed the Lancashire peer to add to the support he had from ‘the Members of Lancashire and Cheshire, of both parties’, so that, despite a speech in favour of the clauses by Lowther and the support of Lowndes and Nicholas Lechmere, the clauses fell on 1 June.15

The 1711–12 session saw Lowther display both his determination to further his business interests and his partisan loyalties. Having voted on 7 Dec. 1711 for the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion, on the 12th Lowther introduced a Whitehaven harbour bill, which he had been drafting and lobbying support for since at least the previous month. Despite the ambivalent support offered to the measure by Lawson, Lowther guided the measure through most of its stages in the Commons. On 17 Jan. 1712 he told against the motion that Robert Walpole II* was guilty of corruption, and later the same month expressed to Bishop Nicolson his ‘good hopes of Sir J[ames] M[ontagu’s]’ success on the hearing of the Carlisle election petition. His concern to protect his commercial interests was demonstrated on 9 Apr. in the ways and means committee when it was proposed to take advantage of the expiry of Ireland’s import duty on tobacco to impose a 2d. deduction from the drawback on tobacco re-exported to Ireland. Joining with the Liverpool Members in his efforts, Lowther was unsuccessful when the committee reported this proposal on the 11th, but at the beginning of May he was able to report that ‘we have prevailed to stop the duty on drawback of tobacco for Ireland’, though he bemoaned the lack of support he had received from fellow Cumberland Members. A more general concern for trading matters was in evidence in the later stages of the session, when on 23 May he told against going into committee on the bill to relieve the creditors of the Royal African Company, and on 4 June he was nominated to draft a bill for the relief of a London merchant. In January and February 1713 he joined the Tories James Grahme* and Gilfrid Lawson in attempting to pursue concerns about the financial impact on Cumberland of a strict enforcement of the window tax, but Lowther was excluded from the delegation which in February presented the county’s representation on this matter to the Treasury, the task being undertaken by the Tories Lawson, Christopher Musgrave* and Sir Christopher Musgrave, 5th Bt.* Lowther also claimed to be active in pursuing the renewal of the Act to prevent crime on the northern border, despite being formally nominated to none of the significant committees concerned with this measure, and though he believed that passage of this measure was unlikely in the view of the hostility of the Scottish Members and the indifference of his Cumberland colleagues, he was able to report at the end of June that he had joined with the Northumberland Members Lord Hertford (Algernon Seymour) and Thomas Forster II to take ‘off most of the opposition that was raised against it’, and expressed his belief that passage of the measure was now likely. Aside from local matters, his hostility to the ministry’s peace policy was unequivocal. Having written of his uncertainty whether the bill to reduce the duties on imported French wines would pass the Commons, Lowther voted against it on 6 May. Three days later he was writing of his belief that in London ‘it is with too many a greater crime to speak favourably of the late ministry than of him [the Pretender]’, and at the beginning of June he commented upon the alarm that the French commercial treaty was creating among ‘all the trading people’. On 9 June Lowther presented to the House the petition of Whitehaven merchants trading to the Iberian peninsula against the reduction of duties upon French wines, and on the 18th he voted against the French commerce bill, being listed as a Whig in the subsequently printed division list.16

Returned for Cumberland unopposed in 1713, Lowther welcomed the Queen’s Speech and the Address for the ‘zeal’ they showed ‘for the Protestant succession’, and on 18 Mar. 1714 he underlined his Whig loyalties by voting against the expulsion of Richard Steele. He was also a teller on 27 May against the schism bill and on the Whig side in the Harwich election case (28 May, 29 June). The session also saw him report on a naturalization bill (28 May); named to draft a naturalization bill and a bill to reduce interest rates (8, 18 June); and tell against bringing up a clause to the bill to enforce the Bristol Workhouse Act (8 June). The Worsley list of the 1713 House classed him as a Whig, as did another comparison of the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments. He soon received reward for his staunch Whiggery with his appointment to the Privy Council and as vice-admiral of Cumberland and Westmorland. With only one short break in the 1720s, he remained in the Commons for the remainder of his long life. He proved a dedicated, if independent, Whig, continuing to pursue both his business interests and the concerns of his county while in the Commons, and expanding his commercial and industrial interests outside the House. He died on 2 Jan. 1755.17

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison


Unless otherwise stated this article is based upon J. V. Beckett, ‘A Back-Bench MP in the 18th Century: Sir James Lowther of Whitehaven’, Parlty. Hist. i. 79-97.

  • 1. W. Jackson, Cumb. and Westmld. Peds. and Pprs. ii. 169.
  • 2. H. C. Tomlinson, Guns and Govt. 225; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxii. 187, 240.
  • 3. J. Aubrey, Surrey (1719), 316; Gent. Mag. 1747, p. 564.
  • 4. Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. ser. 2, lxxxii. 145.
  • 5. H. Owen, Lowther Fam. 250.
  • 6. Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Lonsdale mss D/Lons/L2/6, f. 15; Jackson, 181–4; J. V. Beckett, Coal and Tobacco, passim; Lowther Corresp. ed. Hainsworth, 615; D/Lons/W2/2/5, James to Sir John Lowther I, 2 June 1702.
  • 7. Lowther Corresp. 132–3, 143, 148–51, 155; HMC Le Fleming, 350
  • 8. Lowther Corresp. 631, 634–5, 637; Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/2, James to Sir John Lowther I, 14, 24 Jan. 11, 18, 28 Feb. 1698–9, 8, 15, 19, 25, 29 Apr., 2 May 1699; Beckett, 144.
  • 9. Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/2, James to Sir John Lowther I, 25 Nov. 1699; 3, same to same, 23 Jan., 3 Feb., 2 Mar. 1699[–1700].
  • 10. Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/4, James to Sir John Lowther I, 23, 30 Jan., 15 Feb., 20, 22 Mar. 1700[–1], 25, 27 Mar., 3, 8, 10, 12, 22 Apr., 1, 8, 17 May 1701; D/Lons/W1/21, Sir John Lowther I to Godolphin, 27 Jan. 1700–1, same to Romney, 27 Jan. 1700–1.
  • 11. Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/4, James to Sir John Lowther I, 29 Nov., 18 Dec. 1701; 5, same to same, 3, 8, 17, 22, 24, 27 Jan., 7, 10, 12, 19, 21 Feb., 12, 14, 17, 21 Mar. 1701[–2], 26 Mar., 14, 16, 25 Apr., 7 May, 2, 27 June 1702; D/Lons/W1/22, Sir John Lowther I to Weymouth, 19 Apr. 1702; Lowther Corresp. 659; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 81, 84, 95, 101.
  • 12. Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/5, James to Sir John Lowther I, 1, 30 Dec. 1702; 7, same to same, 16, 19 Dec. 1704; 8, same to same, 1 Nov., 4, 25 Dec. 1705, Littleton to [James Lowther], 2 Mar. 1705–6; D/Lons/W2/1/40, James Lowther to William Gilpin, 21 Jan. 1706[–7]; 41, same to same, 3, 12 Feb. 1707[–8]; Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 351, 354, 357, 425; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 129; W. A. Speck, Tory and Whig, 4; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 1036; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 353.
  • 13. Beckett, 161; Nicolson Diaries, 477, 485; Egerton 3359; Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/3/11, Robert to James Lowther, 17 Nov. 1709; D/Lons/W1/43, Lowther to Gilpin, 9, 19 Jan., 2, 11, 16, 28 Feb., 11, 16, 21, 28 Mar. 1709[–10], 8 June 1710; Holmes, 127.
  • 14. Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W1/43, Lowther to Gilpin, 8, 20 June, 1, 8, 11, 13, 20, 22 July, 10, 14, 15, 24 Aug., 2, 26 Sept., 7 Oct. 1710; Holmes, 104; Beckett, 96–97; L. M. Cullen, Anglo-Irish Trade 1660–1800, pp. 124–5; W. A. Speck, Birth of Britain, 190.
  • 15. Nicolson Diaries, 521, 524, 542, 555–6; Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W1/44, Lowther to Gilpin, 10, 17 Apr., 5, 10, 19, 22, 24, 29 May, 2 June 1711; Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. 145; Speck, Tory and Whig, 156.
  • 16. Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W1/44, Lowther to Gilpin, 29 Nov., 8, 11, 13, 18, 20 Dec. 1711; 45, same to same, 10 Apr., 1 May 1712; 46, same to same, 27, 29, 31 Jan., 17 Feb. 1712[–3], 5, 9 May, 4, 9, 20, 25 June, 4 July 1713; Nicolson Diaries, 592; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvii. 8.
  • 17. Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W1/47, Lowther to Gilpin, 6 Mar. 1713[–4].