MORGAN, Sir John, 2nd Bt. (c.1650-93), of Kinnersley Castle, Herefs.
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Family and Education
b. c.1650, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Morgan, 1st Bt., of Chanston Court, Herefs., and bro. of James Morgan*. educ. Lincoln, Oxf. 1667. m. 10 Apr. 1677, Hester, da. and coh. of James Price of Pilleth, Rad., 1s. 3da. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 13 Apr. 1679.1
Ensign, Jersey garrison 1671; capt. ft. 1672–4, (Dutch army) 1674–9; lt.-col. regt. of Henry Cornewall* 1685–7; capt. Carne’s Ft. Oct. 1688–9; gov. Chester May 1689–d.; col. 23 Ft. 1692–d.
Capital burgess, New Radnor by 1681–d.; alderman, Hereford 1682–?Oct. 1688; steward of crown manors, Rad. 1682–Apr. 1688.2
Morgan, nephew of Sir Henry Morgan the buccaneer, was a professional soldier from a military family. A Court Tory, he surprised King James by refusing to promise his consent to the repeal of the Penal Laws and Test Act, even under threat of dismissal, and in consequence lost his commission. At the Revolution he took up arms for the Prince of Orange, and was rewarded with the governorship of Chester, an active office and an important one, since it involved monitoring the Jacobite traffic to Ireland.3
Morgan had been returned for Herefordshire in 1689 alongside Sir Edward Harley* of Brampton Bryan, with whom his relations were formally correct, if somewhat strained. In 1690 he hoped to be returned unopposed again, and to have the Harleys’ support, but when the more extreme Tory Viscount Scudamore (John†) threatened to stand as well, suspicions were voiced at Brampton Bryan as to Morgan’s response. His role in the defeat of Sir Edward Harley, which Sir Edward’s sons considered an outrageous betrayal, is not clear: certainly there is no evidence that blame was ever attached to him. In April 1691 he made a point of attending the Herefordshire assizes and ‘addressing’ Sir Edward Harley ‘with much respect . . . said there was a great mistake in the last election’. It was about this time that Robert Harley* listed Morgan, implausibly, as a member of the Country party in the Commons. He had been put down as ‘doubtful’ and a Court supporter by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) in March 1690, and in December 1690 as a probable supporter of Carmarthen in the event of an attack upon him in the Commons. He subsequently appeared on two lists of placemen in 1692. Little is known of his conduct in Parliament, and it is likely that the combination of official duties and ill-health, in particular the recurrence of incapacitating fits, prevented him from attending regularly. When in November 1691 he wished to claim a breach of privilege, Robert Price* had to make the complaint on his behalf. In other respects he showed an appetite for office characteristic of the professional placeman. In July 1691 he solicited the colonelcy of the 23rd Foot regiment. ‘He says he raised it’, wrote Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†), ‘or very much contributed to it, and therefore has the fairest right to it, besides his other pretensions to his Majesty’s favour.’ A month later it was the vacant auditorship of Wales that attracted his attention. He persuaded Lord President Carmarthen to intercede with the King, reminding Carmarthen that he had been given ‘some encouragement before’ concerning this post, and arguing that he had ‘a better claim now’ because of the diligence he had shown and expenses incurred as governor of Chester. Then in October there were reports that he had come to town to press for the governorship of the Isle of Wight. Eventually he received his colonelcy, almost a year after asking for it.4
Although Morgan had made efforts to conciliate Sir Edward Harley over Herefordshire elections in April 1691, he was already aligning himself with the Harleys’ rivals in Radnorshire, where he too had ‘a considerable estate’, a move perhaps prompted by insecurity over his position in Herefordshire. In March 1691 he had sent a message to ‘his friends . . . that he would stand for the county of Radnor or for the corporation, if there should be a new Parliament’, and he went on to ally himself with Richard Williams* and the anti-Harley faction in New Radnor in their struggle for control of the borough. It was natural, therefore, for him to ascribe his exclusion in 1692 from the Radnorshire commission of the peace to the machinations of the Harleys. The coincidence of this dispute with a by-election for the New Radnor county seat in November 1692 threatened to provoke a full-scale conflict between the Harley and Morgan families. Robert Harley’s explanation, that the purge of the commission had been no more than a routine removal of ‘honorary’ justices and that no personal slight had been intended, seemed to appease Morgan, who then reassured the Harleys that he would not ‘meddle’. But while he made no public opposition to the Harley candidate, he was said to be busy behind the scenes, he and Sir Rowland Gwynne* ‘attempting the utmost that their malice could suggest’. The ease of the Harley victory would have been an ill omen for Morgan’s prospects of re-election to the next Parliament, had he not died soon afterwards, on 8 Jan. 1693. In the day’s interim before the news reached London he was discovered absent at a call, but the House condescended to take no action. His contemporaries had little to say about a Member of whom one Herefordshire squire could write dismissively, ‘that uncertain man Sir John Morgan’.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Bradney, Mon. i. 254.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1693, p. 52; Add. 700275, Robert Price* to Robert Harley, 13 May 1691; 70235, Sir Edward Harley to same, 17 Jan. 1692[–3]; Williams, Herefs. MPs, 57.
- 3. HMC 12th Rep. IX, 89–90; Hopkins thesis, 409; Cheshire RO, Shakerley mss, Sir Robert Owen* to Sir Richard Myddelton, 3rd Bt.*, ‘Friday night’ [Dec. 1688]; HMC Le Fleming, 227; Add. 38695, ff. 179, 195–8, 202–6, 209–11; CSP Dom. 1689–90, pp. 220, 229, 232, 260, 460–1; 1691–2, p. 126; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 723–4, 892, 996; HMC Finch, iii. 401, 411.
- 4. Add. 70014, ff. 284, 299; 70239, Martha to Robert Harley, 3 Apr. 1691; 70119, Robert to Sir Edward Harley, 22, 25 Dec. 1691; 70015, f. 218; 38695, ff. 167–8, 205–6, 210–11; HMC Portland, iii. 446; Luttrell Diary, 7; HMC Finch, iii. 163, 169; CSP Dom. 1689–90, pp. 529–30; 1690–1, p. 502.
- 5. Add. 70237, Edward Harley* to Robert Harley, 16 Mar. 1690–1, 18 Sept. 1691; 70120, James Morgan to Sir Edward Harley, 27 Oct. 1692; 70234, Sir Edward to Robert Harley, 1 Nov. 1692; 70249, Robert Harley to James Morgan, 5 Nov. 1692; 70016, ff. 192–3, 196, 205, 210, 217; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 10 Jan. 1692–3; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 8; C. G. S. Foljambe and C. Reade, House of Cornewall, 101.