MONCKTON, Robert (c.1659-1722), of Cavill Hall and Hodroyd, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. c.1659, 1st s. of Sir Philip Monckton†, of Cavill by Anne, da. and coh. of Robert Eyre of Highlow, Derbys. educ. Sidney Sussex, Camb. adm. 26 May 1677, aged 17; M. Temple 19 Nov. 1678. m. lic. 7 Apr. 1692, Theodosia, da. and coh. of John Fountayne of Melton-on-the-Hill, Yorks., 2s. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1679.1
Capt. 2nd Visct. Mordaunt Ft. Nov. 1688; ld. of trade 1707–15.2
Although his father had been a Royalist in the Civil War, Monckton was a Whig who went into exile in Holland and returned to England with the Prince of Orange’s invading army, being given a commission signed by the Prince on 10 Nov. 1688. He was returned for Pontefract, where his family had an interest, in 1695. A petition against the return of Monckton and Sir William Lowther was later withdrawn. In January 1696 Monckton was forecast as likely to support the Court in connexion with the proposed council of trade. He signed the Association promptly, and voted in March for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. However, in the 1696–7 session, he voted on 25 Nov. against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. On 13 Jan. 1697 he was one of three Members requested to attend the Lords in relation ‘to some matters which concern the Earl of Monmouth’ (formerly Viscount Mordaunt), in whose regiment Monckton had served in 1688. On 12 Feb. 1697 a complaint of a breach of privilege was made to the House on Monckton’s behalf. The previous day one Thomas Bailey, a servant of Richard Vaughan, a blacksmith, had brought a letter to Monckton’s house in Vine Street, London, with an order to seize his person and goods, and, along with Vaughan and one John Brown, had proceeded to break open the door and assault Monckton and his family. As a result, Bailey, Brown and Vaughan were sent for into custody of the serjeant-at-arms. A petition from Vaughan was referred to the committee of privileges on the 23rd, while on the 26th a petition from Brown and Bailey was held over as Monckton was not in the House at that time. The next day, with Monckton in attendance, the petition was read and rejected. A further petition was read on 8 Mar., while the case was eventually reported on the 13th, when Vaughan was sent to the Gatehouse for the breach, being discharged three days later. On 7 Apr. Monckton was a teller against a supply bill for an additional aid of 1s. in the pound on land. In the following session he managed the bill to prevent the corruption of juries, chairing the committee of the whole on this measure on 12 Feb. 1698, after which the bill lapsed. He was said to have been a firm supporter of disbanding the army in 1697–8.3
Monckton stood again at Pontefract in the 1698 election, but was defeated. A comparative analysis of the old and new House of Commons classed him as a Country supporter. He petitioned against his opponent in the election, in consequence of which it was declared void. He contested the new election on 1 Feb., but was defeated once again. However, his future in Parliament became more secure after attaching himself to the Duke of Newcastle (John Holles†), the great Whig electoral magnate, who secured Monckton’s return for Aldborough at the first 1701 election. At the opening of the session in February, an endeavour was put in motion to address the King ‘to own’ the Duke of Anjou, Louis XIV’s grandson, as ‘King of Spain’. Monckton was reported to have ‘opposed it with great heat, and among other things said, that if this vote was carried, he should expect that the next vote would be for owning the pretended Prince of Wales’. Corroborating this report, the Prussian envoy added that Monckton had argued that the great cause of England and her allies must be supported at all costs and that he, for one, would be prepared to eat only roots for the good of his country. Early in the 1701 session, Monckton was included on a list of those MPs likely to support the Court in agreeing with the supply committee’s resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’. On 15 Apr. he told against a motion that the Whig Thomas White was not duly elected for East Retford. The following day, when the address for the removal from the King’s Council of Lords Portland, Halifax (Charles Montagu*), Orford (Edward Russell*) and Somers (Sir John*) was presented, Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, recorded that Monckton proposed adding the words that the Commons ‘would support the King in preventing the union of France and Spain and in the maintaining of the trade and commerce of this kingdom’. This motion created a lengthy debate during which, according to Cocks, Monckton ‘told us the condition we were in in relation to the union of Spain and France and . . . in relation to our trade, how that must be ruined if we permitted this union to take place and France to be settled in the dominions of Spain’. At this point Speaker Robert Harley intervened by rising and removing his hat, thus requiring the House to listen to him instead. However, Monckton rejoined the debate, stating that he was ‘a true Englishman and had a zeal for his country and would not betray it’. Despite being ‘taken down to order’, he continued, speaking ‘handsomely of our condition in relation to every part of Spain, of the West Indies and trade’. However, the motion was defeated on a division by 208 votes to 120. In a debate on the 17th on frauds in the passing of Exchequer bills he moved that no place in the Exchequer should be worth over £1,000 p.a. He acted as teller on 4 June for reading the engrossed response to Somers’ answer to the articles of impeachment against him. The following day he told for the motion that Richard Porter be included as a commissioner of the land tax in Suffolk.4
Before the second general election in 1701, Monckton was numbered among several Yorkshire gentlemen who had promised Newcastle that they would ‘engage themselves’ on behalf of the Whig, Lord Irwin [S] (Arthur Ingram*), in the county election. Monckton himself was returned in a contested election at Aldborough, and in December was noted by Harley as one of the Members ‘doubtful’ or absent. On 16 Feb. 1702 he acted as teller against including in the mutiny bill an amendment to prevent officers from keeping greyhounds and setting dogs. In March he acted as teller in favour of a motion that the younger sons of freemen at East Retford (where the Duke of Newcastle had an interest) did not have the right to demand their freedom (17th), the passing of which ensured confirmation of the election of the two Whig candidates for that borough. On the 25th he acted as a teller in favour of giving a second reading to a bill appointing commissioners for a union with Scotland (25th).5
In the 1702 election Monckton was returned unopposed at Aldborough with another Newcastle nominee, a circumstance that was to be repeated in the next three general elections, the Duke having gained complete control of the borough. In the 1702–3 session Monckton told against adjourning the debate on ways and means (21 Nov. 1702). The following month, on 21 Dec., he reported on a private bill. On 28 Jan. 1703 he acted as teller against a motion that the Whig Thomas Jervoise* was not duly elected for Plympton Erle. He was a teller on 22 Feb. for an amendment to the bill to regulate stamp duties. During this time Monckton had been acting as intermediary between Harley and Newcastle, though in April he cautioned Harley that on some matters he should be prepared to wait on the Duke himself. In the 1703–4 session Monckton acted as teller on 15 Nov. for a motion that the Queen’s Speech be considered. He also told on 14 Jan. 1704 in favour of committing the wine duties bill, and on 8 Feb. for agreeing with the motion that the wearing of calicoes in England, Ireland and the Plantations was destructive to the woollen manufacture in England and should be restrained. Following the session, Newcastle used Monckton as a messenger when he informed Harley on 29 May of ‘three gentlemen’ he wished to recommend for inclusion in the Yorkshire commission of the peace. In the 1704–5 session Monckton was a teller, on 18 Nov., for a motion to adjourn the House instead of proceeding with the prosecution of Lord Halifax. Classed by Harley as a probable opponent of the Tack, he did not vote for it on 28 Nov. On 17 Jan. 1705 he acted as a teller in favour of imposing a duty on goods imported into England from the East Indies, Persia and China, and re-exported to Ireland or the West Indies. He also told on the 31st against an amendment to the bill for remedying abuses in the collection of taxes, while on 12 Mar. he told in favour of an amendment proposed by the Lords to the same bill.6
During 1705 Monckton was involved in a legal case relating to a pretended will, though he did not let it interfere with his election campaign. Having been returned unopposed, Monckton was classed as ‘Low Church’ in an analysis of the new Parliament. He voted on 25 Oct. for the Court candidate as Speaker. In February 1706 he reported and carried up an estate bill (8th, 15th), while on the 18th he supported the Court in the proceedings on the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill. He was actively seeking a government post at this time, courting Harley, getting Newcastle to speak to Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) on his behalf, and accepting instructions in parliamentary matters from Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*), pleading that he be not cast out ‘with the reprobates’. In July, when writing to Harley about the Scottish union negotiations, in which he referred to the proposed 45 Scottish MPs as ‘bonny Blewcaps’, he took care to remind Harley of the many services he had been able to do him in the past. There was some doubt as to whether he would be able to attend at the beginning of the 1706–7 session as the Trent was flooded and he was stranded in Nottingham in mid-November, prompting Newcastle to suggest Parliament be adjourned for a few days to allow him and his northern friends to get to London. However, he was in Parliament on 23 Jan. 1707, when he told for the motion that the Tory Edward Southwell* was not duly elected for Rye. Two days later he reported on the bill for the West Riding land registry, which he carried up on the 29th, and again on 18 Mar. after approval of several Lords’ amendments. He told on three further occasions: for the motion to agree with the ways and means committee’s resolution to issue more Exchequer bills (19 Feb.); against the motion for a second reading of the bill for better payment of tithes (1 Mar.); and for a motion to pass the bill for preventing customs frauds by drawbacks (19 Apr.). While the proceedings on the Union with Scotland were progressing during this session, Monckton wrote to Lord Somers expressing his views on events:
If I were not persuaded that every judge you spoke with would in half a year’s time declare it to be no breach of the union I would not trouble you, but I am apprehensive you will make a sacrifice to the strict letter which the Scotch are so little concerned in themselves that they will scarce thank your lordships and if it is attended with a considerable detriment to the revenue and the ruin of the retailers and trade here will be occasion of incessant [obloquy?] and that instead of gaining 45 you will lose 513 . . . [I] shall act for my part as I see your friends do.7
Monckton’s desire for employment was granted in April 1707 when he became a lord of Trade at a salary of £1,000 p.a. Thereafter, he attended the board regularly, and acted on their behalf in Parliament. During the summer of 1707, though upset at being denied audiences with Harley, he assured him of his continued devotion, but warned him of the dangers of neglecting the Duke of Newcastle. In the 1707–8 session he presented information to the House on convoys on 4 Dec., and on the German ban on imports of woollen manufactures. He was classed early in 1708 as a Whig. Presumably due to his active involvement in the earlier bill for the West Riding land registry, he was appointed to the drafting committee for a similar bill for the East Riding on 21 Jan. 1708. However, on 20 Mar., sharp words were exchanged between Monckton and Lord Downe (Henry Dawnay*) about the bill and the two Members were made to promise not to prosecute their quarrel.8
Monckton and Downe were on opposite sides again in Yorkshire at the general election of that year, when Monckton was described as one of Newcastle’s ‘myrmidons’ who were sent to manage the election. Monckton also still retained an interest in the Pontefract election, writing to his second cousin, Lord Raby on 6 July, requesting that Raby ‘direct Mr Bromley to search for the purchase deeds of those lands I have at Pontefract which pay 8s. p.a. to the major to know their tenure; the use I have of it is to make votes there’. Returned unopposed once more at Aldborough, in the 1708–9 session Monckton told on 20 Jan. 1709 against the motion for adjourning during the debate on the Abingdon election, which was eventually resolved in favour of the Whig candidate. He supported the naturalization of the Palatines in 1709. In the 1709–10 session he had another quarrel with a fellow Member, which required the House’s intervention on 31 Jan. 1710. He told on 19 Feb. in favour of a Whig motion which was aimed at preventing a by-election in Cambridge. However, he was absent from the votes on the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, possibly on account of his illness, as he wrote on 10 Mar. that Newcastle had been kind enough to visit him almost every day during his ‘long indisposition’.9
Monckton was quick to adjust to the changing political circumstances in 1710, writing to Harley on 12 Aug.:
I perceive our mistress is resolved to be master, notwithstanding all the kind advice to the contrary. But what you will believe startles me most is that the Tories tell us positively we are all to be out of her service and that all will not be enough neither . . . I did presume to congratulate my Lord Dartmouth who I am sure cannot but think I have ever been his servant . . . When I sued for his patronage in town he used to refer me to a better friend he said I had, meaning yourself, and which I believe and expect if you are not straitened for room; and I am sure you cannot make room, I mean only in your favour, for one that is more cordially and personally addicted to you.
He warned Harley on the 23rd that the Tories would use him ‘as a necessary ladder, but that as soon as the building has got its foundation, they would throw away that part of the scaffolding’. Three days later he endeavoured to appeal to Harley’s well-known reputation for political moderation, writing that ‘I cannot but again remind you of Burghley [William Cecil†], who never suffered one party to be superior to the other and thereby rendered them both subservient to his mistress’. His close association with Harley led Lord Chancellor Cowper (William*) to refer to Monckton as ‘a spy of Mr Harley’. Although Cowper’s opinion was influenced by the knowledge that Monckton had ‘voted against me . . . for the question framed to reflect on me’, the fact that Harley sent Monckton to try to convince Cowper to remain in office in September 1710 confirmed the latter’s view. Monckton, in his concern to keep his own place at this time, stayed in London during the 1710 election, instead of going to Yorkshire as usual. A letter from Peter Wentworth to his brother Lord Raby, on 22 Sept., throws light on Monckton’s activities at this time:
I met with Mr Monckton, who was just come up to town to take care of his place, and I find by his discourse, which he desired me to say nothing of, he’ll be no Whig any longer, for he says he angered since he came to town some of his old friends by being so reasonable as to maintain ’twas fit the Queen should use her pleasure in disposing employments as she pleases, and he assures me [that] . . . Newcastle his friend is of the same opinion, and that the party will be very angry with him, though he served them as long as he could. But he would not fly in the Queen’s face for them. His policy I suppose for his opening himself so freely to me with an air of confidence is that I should tell it about court.
Monckton himself explained his absence from Aldborough in a letter of 5 Oct. to Andrew Wilkinson, who controlled an important electoral interest in the borough:
upon the dissolution of Parliament I did desire I might be permitted to come down and wait on my masters at your borough, but was answered by Lord Dartmouth, secretary of state, that if I would say my election depended upon my going down, my defence would be dispensed with. Otherwise my attendance was expected here at this time. But I, having had an assurance (as you know) from all the honest and good men in the borough, under every man’s hand, that they would choose me at the next election, I durst not tell so great an untruth to the Queen’s great minister. I have acquainted my Lord Duke with this very fact as I now inform you, and he is satisfied that I cannot come down at this time.
With Newcastle’s support, Monckton was returned unopposed with his cousin, William Jessop, being classed as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’ of this Parliament. During the 1710–11 session, as befitted a lord of Trade, he was particularly active in relation to the bill for the preservation of white pine trees in America. Having been first-named to the drafting committee on 19 Dec. 1710, he managed the bill through all stages in the House. On 26 Jan. 1711 he presented papers relating to the Palatines. In May he became involved once again in the bill for preservation of white pine trees, being first-named on the 5th to the committee for a conference on the Lords’ amendments, while on the 10th he reported back from the committee, was ordered to request a conference with the Lords, and reported the Lords’ answer and the results of the conference. On the 25th he told for an amendment to the bill for satisfying the public debts and erecting a South Sea Company, which gave the crown the right to nominate the first governor and directors of such a company.10
On the death of Newcastle in 1711, Monckton initially tried to act as an intermediary in the dispute over the estate between the widowed dowager Duchess and the late Duke’s nephew and adopted heir, Thomas Pelham. However, his prevarication over whom to support in the dispute was eventually to backfire on him. In August the Duchess notified Harley (now Lord Oxford) that Monckton had solicited her support at Aldborough in any forthcoming election, but that she would do nothing ‘without your lordship’s directions’. From this time on, Monckton was less active in Parliament, while in April 1712 it was rumoured that he was to be replaced at the Board of Trade, though on this occasion he survived in office. In the 1713 session he presented papers on 14 May dealing with the merchants’ memorials concerning the treaty of commerce with France. As a member of the Board of Trade, he was one of the few Whigs to vote for the bill confirming the 8th and 9th articles of the treaty on 18 June 1713. Although this vote was the final reason why Pelham decided to drop Monckton at Aldborough, it had been evident from as early as February that Pelham was not keen to support Monckton’s candidature. Having failed to win the support of both the Duchess and Pelham at Aldborough, Monckton resolved to stand for Pontefract at the 1713 election, but was not elected.11
Out of Parliament, but not out of office, Monckton was active in giving evidence before Parliament on behalf of the Board of Trade. In July 1714 Lord Halifax and other Whig leaders planned an attack on Lord Bolingbroke (Henry St. John II*) and his protégé Arthur Moore* for corruption in their dealings in relation to the treaty of commerce with Spain. On the 6th Monckton gave evidence to the Lords that Moore had negotiated the three explanatory articles of the treaty without the knowledge or consent of his fellow lords of Trade. It was unfortunate that as the inquiry unfolded, Monckton, in substantiation of the case against Moore, admitted to knowledge of a letter referring to the annual 2,000 louis d’or that Moore expected in return for getting the articles of the treaty ratified. There was naturally some suspicion that Oxford had deliberately ‘used’ Monckton in this way as part of his vendetta against Bolingbroke. Monckton’s actions ensured that by the end of the month he had been removed from the board, presumably on Bolingbroke’s initiative, though as the new commission did not pass before the Queen’s death, he continued to sit until December when he was finally removed. He died in 1722, his burial taking place on 13 Nov. His son John represented Pontefract under George II, and was raised to the Irish peerage as Viscount Galway.12