MORICE, Sir Nicholas, 2nd Bt. (1681-1726), of Werrington, Devon
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Family and Education
b. 1681, 1st surv. s. of Sir William Morice, 1st Bt.†, of Werrington by his 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of Richard Reynell of Ogwell, Devon, half-brother of William†. educ. Exeter, Oxf. 1698. m. lic. 21 Mar. 1704, Lady Catherine, da. of Thomas Herbert†, 8th Earl of Pembroke, 1s. 2da. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. Feb. 1690.1
Stannator, Foymore 1710.2
Morice was only nine when his father died, and in accordance with his father’s will Morice’s uncles, Nicholas Morice† and John Coplestone, acted as guardians. In fact Morice was brought up at Werrington, together with his cousin Humphry Morice*, by Nicholas Morice, a staunch Whig who was sympathetic towards Presbyterianism. His uncle Nicholas administered Morice’s estates and controlled his parliamentary interest at Newport and Launceston during his minority. As soon as he came of age, Morice was returned at Newport which he represented in seven successive Parliaments. He does not appear to have been very active initially. Unlike his uncle, he was a Tory, voting against agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration on 13 Feb. 1703, but he was listed as a probable opponent of the Tack and did not vote for it on 28 Nov. 1704.3
Returned again for Newport in 1705, Morice was classed as a ‘Churchman’, and voted against the Court candidate for Speaker on 25 Oct. On 1 Feb. 1706 he was teller in favour of the addition of a clause to a supply bill which sought to regulate fees in the Exchequer. In the next session his only significant act was when he was a teller on 21 Feb. 1707 against a procedural motion relating to the Union with Scotland. Early in 1708 he was again noted as a Tory. Returned again in 1708, he was a teller in the opening session, three times on the Tory side in election cases, and once in favour of a supply resolution for a further duty on imported woollens and worsted yarns. Morice’s interest in trade, and particularly in his investments, is revealed by his correspondence with his cousin, Humphry, who often acted for him in the capital. Thus, on 11 June 1709 he wrote, ‘I find Bank stock is extremely fallen with the peace being vanished, and therefore am off from selling, but if it should come to that height again would start with it and buy again when it fell’. In the following session Morice received leave of absence for six weeks on 7 Feb. 1710, possibly in relation to the convocation of tinners scheduled to meet on the 20th, and he was certainly in the country on 19 Feb. with no indication that he would return to Westminster. However, he was listed as having voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. When the convocation of tinners finally convened in April 1710 he took a leading part in the opposition to Hugh Boscawen II*, the Whig lord warden of the Stannaries.4
After the fall of Lord Godolphin (Sidney†) in 1710, Morice was ‘very busy canvassing for Parliament men’, in Cornwall, where he signed the circular letter in support of the Tory ticket in the county election, and in Devon, where he attended the county meeting at Exeter. He reported to Humphry Morice, ‘I am glad to hear elections go so well on my side, I hope our opinions don’t differ in that particular. I am sorry to find the Bank have made a call [against the peace]. I doubt not it is on purpose to do mischief in elections.’ Morice was classed as a Tory on the ‘Hanover list’. Under a ministry more attuned to his own views, Morice was more active in the new Parliament. With (Sir) William Pole (4th Bt.) he was appointed on 5 Dec. to draft a bill ratifying purchases made with Devon’s public stock which he presented on the 18th, and was teller against a proposal that elections cases be decided by ballot (9th), against a clause allowing Quakers to affirm (10 Jan. 1711), and on the Tory side in the Honiton election case (3 Feb.). He was also included on lists of ‘Tory patriots’ opposed to the war and of ‘worthy patriots’ who helped to detect the mismanagements of the previous ministry, and became a member of the October Club. On 14 Apr. 1711 he was granted one month’s leave of absence.5
During the summer of 1711 Morice thanked Robert Harley* for the appointment of his cousin, Joseph Moyle*, to a place on the lottery commission. Shortly afterwards, George Granville* highlighted Morice’s usefulness to the Tory interest in the west by observing that, if George Courtnay* (Morice’s fellow MP for Newport) was given a post requiring him to seek re-election to the Commons, Morice ‘will supply it [a seat] as you [Harley] please’. John Trevanion* confirmed Morice’s continuing hold over Newport and substantial interest at Launceston in his analysis of Cornish seats in May 1712. However, Morice’s ownership of the manor of Stoke Damerel in Devon, adjacent to the naval dockyard at Plymouth and upon which many naval buildings had been erected, involved him in some deft negotiation at this time since the existing lease was up for renewal. As he outlined to Harley in May 1712: ‘I would fain have it compulsive law to buy the inheritance which is not in my power to sell.’ Previously there had been a bill in the Commons ‘alienating it to the crown’, of which Harley had helped secure the rejection. Morice had now ‘offered to grant the crown a college lease upon very reasonable terms, which I perceive is next to a perpetuity’. Thus, after some bargaining in May 1713, Lord Treasurer Oxford (Harley) renewed it for 21 years at £100 p.a. rent and £1,000 fine.6
In the 1713 session Morice was inactive and appears to have abstained from the division over the French commerce bill on 18 June 1713. Re-elected in 1713, Morice seems to have left activity in the Commons to his cousin Humphry. It is possible that he was by now out of sympathy with the Oxford ministry since in the Worsley list of the next Parliament he was classed as a Tory who would often vote with the Whigs. Another list comparing the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments classed him as a Tory. Morice’s electoral interest was impregnable at Newport and he was re-elected in 1715. In November 1715, however, Sir William Pole reported that Morice had been taken into custody on suspicion of Jacobite activity, but immediately pronounced him to be innocent as ‘he has too great a stake in the hedge than to enter into such wild measures’. Morice continued to sit in the Commons until his death on 27 Jan. 1726. The extent of his wealth can be seen from his will, the main beneficiary of which was his son, William†. He left £500 to his married daughter and added £4,000 to the £6,000 already provided for his unmarried daughter, with a further £2,000 when she gave birth to a live child.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley
- 1. N. and Q. cxcii. 179; Mar. Lic. Fac. Off. (Br. Rec. Soc. xxxiii), 204.
- 2. R. Inst. Cornw. Tonkins’ hist. Cornw. ii. 244.
- 3. PCC 46 Dyke, 16 Leeds.
- 4. Bank of Eng. Morice mss, Sir Nicholas to Humphry Morice, 11 June 1709, 19 Feb. 1709–10; Tonkins, 246.
- 5. Morice mss, Sir Nicholas to Humphry Morice, 26 Aug., 19 Sept. 17 Oct. 1710; Add. 70099, meeting at Liskeard, 4 Oct. 1710.
- 6. Add. 70202, Morice to Harley, 26 June 1711; 70288, Granville to same, 3 July 1711; 70314–15, Trevanion’s list 1712; 70174, Morice to Harley, 4 May 1712; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvi. 208, 256, 342; xxvii. 125, 188, 223.
- 7. Morice mss, Pole to Humphry Morice, 13 Nov. ; N. and Q. 179; PCC 105 Plymouth.