PAGET, Hon. Henry (1663-1743), of Beaudesert, Staffs.; West Drayton, Mdx.; and Jermyn Street, 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

1695 - 1 Jan. 1712

Family and Education

bap. 13 Jan. 1663, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of William Paget, 7th Baron Paget, by Frances, da. of Hon. Francis Pierrepont†.  educ. privately by Rev. Samuel Langley at Tamworth 1677; ?Tamworth g.s. 1678; M. Temple 1683.  m. (1) lic. 2 Jan. 1686, Mary (d. 1734), da. and coh. of Thomas Catesby of Whiston, Northants., 2s. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 7 June 1739, Elizabeth, 2nd da. of Sir Walter Bagot, 3rd Bt.*, sis. of Charles* and (Sir) Edward Bagot* (4th Bt.), s.pcr. Baron Burton 1 Jan. 1712; suc. fa. as 8th Baron Paget 26 Feb. 1713; cr. Earl of Uxbridge 19 Oct. 1714.1

Offices Held

Gent. pens. 1689–95; member, council of ld. high adm. 1704–8; ld. of Treasury 1710–May 1711; capt. yeoman of the guard June 1711–by Sept. 1715; PC 14 June 1711; envoy extraordinary to Hanover Apr.–May 1714.2

Freeman, Stafford 1689; ld. lt. Staffs. 17 May 1715–?Sept. 1715; recorder of Lichfield 1715–d.3

Commr. taking subscriptions to land bank 1696.4

Biography

The Pagets had long been established as a leading Staffordshire family, both the 1st and 2nd barons having sat for local constituencies in the 16th century. Paget’s grandfather and father were reputed to be Presbyterians, and Paget himself received an education from a clergyman ejected at the Restoration who had conformed and been restored to his living in December 1663. His father succeeded to the peerage in 1678, joined the opposition to Charles II and voted for Exclusion in 1680. He was one of the peers who petitioned James II for a free Parliament after the Dutch invasion and on 24 Dec. 1688 moved in the Lords that Princess Mary be declared Queen. His father’s reward for supporting the Revolution was successive embassies to Vienna (1689–92) and Turkey (1693–1702). With his father abroad for most of King William’s reign, Paget exercised considerable control over the family estates and political interests. In Staffordshire he was an absentee landowner, a fact underlined by his appointment as a deputy-lieutenant and j.p. for Middlesex in April 1689.5

Paget’s Whiggery was highlighted by family ties: three of his aunts had married, respectively, Richard Hampden I*, Philip Foley* and Sir Henry Ashurst, 1st Bt.* When one of Staffordshire’s county seats became vacant on the death in March 1693 of Walter Chetwynd I*, it was the county Whigs, led by Foley and John Swinfen*, who pressed Paget to enter the fray as a candidate. As a non-resident he was largely unknown in the county although it was the principles of his chief supporters that caused more concern. Indeed, Paget’s unfamiliarity with county institutions gave his opponents an opportunity to thwart his candidature without appearing to show malice. By tradition the county avoided contests by calling a meeting of gentry to agree on candidates, thereby preserving unanimity and preventing acrimonious disputes. Paget unwittingly by-passed this process by declaring his candidature, allowing Sir Walter Bagot, 3rd Bt.*, to receive the endorsement of the meeting. Faced with a choice of uncertain success at the poll and certain vilification for disturbing the calm of the county, he withdrew.6

Paget was certainly prepared to invest in the Williamite regime, lending nearly £1,600 to the government in October 1693 and another £300 in November 1694. His conciliatory gesture in withdrawing from the 1693 by-election probably redounded to his advantage at the election of 1695. With the retirement of Bagot, the gentry agreed at the quarter sessions to unite behind the other sitting Member, Hon. John Grey, and Paget. They were returned unopposed. Whether due to the exigencies of his political position in Tory-dominated Staffordshire or to the influence of his uncle and assorted Foley relations, Paget opposed the Court on many of the most important issues which came before this Parliament. He was forecast in January 1696 as likely to oppose the Court in the divisions over the proposed council of trade, and in March voted against fixing the price of guineas at 22s. He did, however, sign the Association in February 1696. Paget quickly became involved in the legislative work of the Commons. He managed a bill to re-invest the honor of Tutbury (which included land in Staffordshire) in the King through all its stages in the Commons, apart from the report stage. During this session he was also appointed a commissioner for taking subscriptions to the land bank, possibly a further indication of his close ties with the Foleys. In the debates the following session on Sir John Fenwick’s† attainder bill, he intervened on 17 and 25 Nov. Unlike many opponents of the bill, his youth enabled him to avoid elaborate justifications of his behaviour in the previous two reigns; he argued consistently that it was a dangerous precedent to convict people for treason on the evidence of only one witness, especially as it contradicted the statute passed in the previous session for regulating treason trials which was, in his words, ‘so much for the liberty of the people of England, that I think it will be very hard to repeal that substantial part of the law so soon after it was made’. He duly voted against the attainder on the 25th. Later in the session, on 26 Jan. 1697, he acted as a teller in favour of receiving a clause touching the qualification of Members which was presented as a rider at the third reading of the land tax bill. One may assume from this action that he favoured the traditional Country proposal of a landed property qualification for Members. On 18 Feb. he acted as a teller against a motion to commit a bill for the better preservation of the navigation of King’s Lynn, a controversial measure opposed by the conservators of Bedford level and landed interests in neighbouring Huntingdonshire. In the 1697–8 session, he piloted through the Commons a bill to explain an Act passed in the preceding session to supply some defects in the laws for the relief of the poor, reporting it in committee and managing several conferences with the Lords, after which the Upper Chamber waived its amendments to the bill.7

At the 1698 election, Paget was returned on a joint interest with Edward Bagot*, despite a spirited intervention by Hon. Robert Shirley, eldest son of Lord Ferrers, which broke the studied calm of electioneering for the county seats. Paget’s political stance is indicated by his appearance as a Country supporter on a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments compiled in around September 1698. Similarly, he was forecast about this time as an opponent of the standing army. Further evidence of Paget’s association with the Foley–Harley group occurs in the first session of the new Parliament. On 16 Jan. 1699 Lord Godolphin (Sidney†), wrote to Robert Harley* apropos the report of the Amersham election case which was due before the House later that day: ‘I have been informed that some of your friends and mine too I hope, as Mr Paget, and the Foleys, will be for Sir John Garrard [3rd Bt.*]’. Indeed, it was Paget, seconded by Harley, who moved on 31 Jan. 1699 to re-schedule a sitting of the committee of ways and means, prompting James Vernon I* to comment, ‘thus the management is passing into other hands’, away from the ministry. On 7 Feb. he acted as a teller in favour of a resolution that Robert Dormer* was elected for Aylesbury. In February and March 1699, he managed the Trent navigation bill through the Commons. Some indication of the skill he brought to this task can be seen from the report to the Earl of Huntingdon by his agent: ‘Mr Paget’s interest is so considerable in the House . . . it will be vain to make any further opposition there.’ However, like a good manager, Paget was willing to accept a proviso to ensure that Huntingdon would receive full satisfaction for any damage to his property as long as it did not hinder the navigation. Paget also seems to have been a champion of the Old East India Company as he was involved in, and may have presented on the Old Company’s behalf, a petition against paying a 5 per cent duty on trade to the New Company on 24 Feb. 1699. Paget was far less active in the following session, although he was in London in January 1700 when he on one occasion dined with Hon. James Brydges*. The only important occasion on which he was known to have taken sides occurred on 14 Mar. 1700 when he presented a petition to the Commons from the Duchess of Norfolk against her husband’s bill for a divorce without first proceeding through the ecclesiastical courts.8

By January 1701, when he was re-elected, Paget’s standing in Parliament was assured. It was matched by his local prestige as a deputy-lieutenant in the counties of Buckinghamshire, Middlesex and Staffordshire. In the latter, he occupied a special position as heir to the absentee lord lieutenant. Thus, when the Privy Council requested a list of the county’s deputy-lieutenants it was to Paget that the letter was sent. In February 1701 he was listed as one of those Members likely to support the Court over the ‘Great Mortgage’. On 19 Feb. he was one of the four Members ordered to prepare a bill for regulating the militia, which he presented on 3 Apr., although it later failed to emerge from committee. Paget was also active in debate during this session. On 16 Apr. he intervened in a debate on the wording of an address asking the King to remove Lord Somers (Sir John*), Lord Orford (Edward Russell*) and Lord Halifax (Charles Montagu*) from his counsels: an amendment had been moved which sought to support the King’s policy of preventing a union between France and Spain. To Paget, this addition was superfluous as it had already been covered in a previous amendment to support the King against his enemies at home and abroad, and so moved that the question not be put. In this he was unsuccessful, but the amendment was then defeated. On 9 May, the House debated its response, to a letter from the King accompanied by a memorial from the Dutch States General on the French threat. Paget was in favour of a positive response, noting ‘that he could not help differing from those gentlemen he did seldom differ from’, and that ‘it was our interest to animate those by a general vote that were ready to come into the common assistance and to encourage our friends and to make as many more as we could’. This was clearly closer to the King’s position than to Tories such as Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, and its impact was recognized by the Earl of Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley*) who wrote that ‘there is a great and worthy young man who has signalized himself in this last debate by speaking beyond all others for the interest of Holland, the Protestant religion and Europe. It is Lord Paget’s son.’ On 20 May Paget answered Hon. Maurice Thompson’s* motion to impeach the Earl of Jersey for his role in the Partition Treaty with reference to his father’s role as an ambassador and his duty to follow the King’s orders.9

In the general election of November 1701, Paget was returned unopposed once more in partnership with Bagot. Not surprisingly, given the growing influence of the Harley group, and his own contributions in the House, there were rumours even before the election that he would replace Lord Haversham (Sir John Thompson*) at the Admiralty Board. According to Brydges, only Secretary Vernon’s obstructionist tactics had prevented his appointment earlier in the year. Although speculation over an Admiralty appointment for him continued during December, it ended without Paget’s advancement when the King replaced the whole commission with a lord high admiral, the Earl of Pembroke (Hon. Thomas Herbert†). Paget’s name appears on a parliamentary list annotated by Harley in December 1701 in which he is grouped among the Tories. On 14 Jan. 1702 his friend Brydges suggested to Thomas Coke* that Paget was the man to prevent the latter’s opponents from discovering ‘bad’ votes about Stapenhill in the fiercely contested Derbyshire election of November 1701. By February 1702, rumours of his advancement had switched to the Treasury, where his appointment as a commissioner was mooted by at least one commentator. But any such move was thwarted by the King’s death. During the session he undertook the management of two estate bills through the Commons, one dealing with land in Staffordshire, and the other with the Irish estates of the young Earl of Thomond (Henry O’Brien*). On 4 May, he intervened in the debate over the constitutional propriety of accepting a clause at the third-reading stage of the supply bill making good several deficiencies and preserving public credit. His argument in support of the clause to provide for the transport service and officers noted that such proceedings were irregular, but continued that ‘gentlemen opposed the petition when it was lodged here, and when it was to be considered of in the committee of ways and means they said it would be best when we went upon the deficiency and now they oppose it’. In these circumstances, he argued, it was right to accept the clause, sentiments with which the House agreed. At the report stage of the bill for the relief of the Protestant purchasers of forfeited estates in Ireland on 12 May, Paget brought in a clause that the purchasers of Lady Orkney’s grant should be ‘repaid their increase of rent’. During the debate on this clause Paget again sought to play down his disagreement with other Tories by noting how much he mistrusted his own judgment when he differed from Seymour. When Seymour rebuffed this compliment, Paget rose to observe that ‘since he had never given occasion for gentlemen to think that he said one thing and thought another he must say that he believed that honourable gentleman judged of him by himself’.10

Returned yet again with Bagot at the 1702 election, Paget’s main involvement in the first session of the new Parliament seems to have been the militia bill. It took over two months to pass the Commons, from 3 Dec., when he presented it, to 16 Feb., when it passed its third reading, and it involved him in chairing the committee of the whole. In the 1703–4 session, he managed an estate bill. At the end of April 1704, he received his reward for supporting the ministry with a place on the council advising Prince George on Admiralty matters. Given that such close allies of Robert Harley as Henry St. John II* and Thomas Mansel I* joined the ministry around that date, it is probable that his post was part of the general promotion which preceded Harley’s appointment as secretary of state. At the beginning of November 1704 he sent a congratulatory letter to the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) following his victory at Blenheim. Paget adopted a clear stance on the Tack, appearing on one forecast as a probable opponent of the measure and he did not vote for it on 28 Nov. 1704. On 9 Jan. 1705 he was deputed to ask Dr Stanhope, dean of Canterbury, to preach before the House on 30 Jan. He acted as a teller on 26 Feb. against the motion that the report on the Aylesbury case be adjourned until after the House had attended the Queen, which was carried. Two days later he was appointed one of the managers of the Commons in a conference with the Lords on the rights of Englishmen which arose from the case. By virtue of his Admiralty office his name appeared on a list of placemen published in 1705.11

At the 1705 election, Paget was again returned unopposed, being listed as ‘Low Church’, probably on the evidence of his position on the Tack. He continued to cultivate Marlborough, sending him congratulations on 17 June 1705 and ending his letter with a request ‘that I may be happy in the continuance of your Grace’s patronage’. His increasing association with the Court was clearly shown by his vote for the Court candidate as Speaker on 25 Oct. 1705. During this session he was involved in the management of several bills. On 23 Nov. 1705 he presented Sir John Humble’s estate bill to the House, the management of which was taken over by William Farrer*. The following month he presented a bill of some significance to Staffordshire, to increase the number of residential canons at Lichfield Cathedral and to improve the income of the dean and chapter, which he managed through all its stages. He was also named to draft bills remedying the defects in the Trent navigation Act, to increase the number of seamen and, possibly as a result of knowledge obtained via his father, to prevent clandestine trade with Turkey, which he duly presented on 16 Feb. 1706. He also played a significant role in the debates over the regency bill, three of his interventions having been recorded. With regard to Charles Caesar’s* accusation that Lord Godolphin had been in correspondence with the Pretender during the previous reign, he seconded the motion on 19 Dec. 1705 that the charge was ‘highly dishonourable to her Majesty’s person and government’ and that Caesar should be sent to the Tower. On 12 Jan. 1706, in the debate on whether to instruct the committee of the whole to secure the provisions relating to placemen in the Act of Settlement, he was opposed to clogging the bill with such detail, preferring to keep the general place clauses of the original Act. On 15 Jan. 1706, he intervened in the debate over how to summon a Parliament on the Queen’s death to note that gentlemen summoned to the Convention had not been visited by any ill consequences for their actions. Not surprisingly, he supported the Court in the divisions on 18 Feb. 1706 on the ‘place clauses’ of the bill.12

During the recess Paget exchanged his annual letters of congratulation with Marlborough on the general’s exploits during the campaign. He was inactive during the 1706–7 session. During the 1707–8 session he was much preoccupied in defending the Admiralty against charges of negligence in the protection of trade. After providing the Commons with papers relating to the instructions given to Admiral Whetstone in Jamaica on 4 Dec. 1707, he justified the Admiralty’s orders, along with George Churchill* and Robert Walpole II*, on the grounds that they had employed all the ships available, but that the extensive nature of the war precluded the adequate protection of all shipping routes. On the 18th he was ordered to prepare a bill to protect trade. He played a key role in the failure of the bill for preserving the salt springs at Droitwich: at the committee on 24 Feb. a question from Paget revealed that the corporation had not given their formal consent to the bill. This caused it to fail for lack of time, a fate which did not altogether displease Edward Foley, Member for Droitwich, who had not been consulted in the early stages of the project by his fellow Member, Charles Cocks. If Paget felt any sympathy for Harley’s plight in being forced from office in February 1708, he did not show it by resigning although Sir John Cropley, 2nd Bt.*, thought him ‘uncertain’ about quitting. Nevertheless, a list of the 1705 Parliament with the Scottish Members added, classed him as a Tory.13

The retirement of Bagot at the 1708 election saw Paget returned for the county with a new partner. A list of returns from this election classed him as a Whig. The assessment probably owed much to his office in a government which was increasingly dominated by the Whigs. However, shortly before the new Parliament assembled, Paget’s tenure of office at the Admiralty was terminated by the death on 28 Oct. 1708 of Prince George. Despite rumours of a place on an interim council, the Queen quickly appointed the Earl of Pembroke as lord high admiral. Paget does not seem to have been compensated for his loss of office. In the first session of this Parliament, he reported on a bill sent down from the Lords concerning the Duke of Newcastle’s (John Holles†) estate. In 1710 he voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. He continued to correspond with Marlborough during the summer of 1710 in an attempt to secure the release from French custody of his heir, Thomas Catesby Paget†, who had been captured between Cologne and Frankfurt en route for Italy. Marlborough duly approached the French, but the last recorded correspondence between them implies that the French proposal for an exchange of prisoners was unacceptable.14

Paget’s fortunes changed with the inauguration of the Harley ministry in 1710. His appointment as a Treasury lord fitted in well with Harley’s professed desire for a moderate ministry. Abel Boyer portrayed his qualities thus:

Mr Paget, son to the Lord Paget, sufficiently known abroad by his embassies, is a gentleman, whose bright parts and spirits have often been admired in the House of Commons, and who is perfectly well acquainted with the business of the navy, having been one of the council to his late Royal Highness the Prince.

Harley was aware of the political advantages of the appointment, writing to Newcastle that ‘the Queen thinks [it] will be agreeable to your Grace’. Indeed, Newcastle offered Paget his support at the 1710 election, in contrast to the Duke of Devonshire (William Cavendish*), who remarked that ‘he intended to be for him, but since there was a new commission of the Treasury, he would be against him’. Indeed, Paget may have had more difficulty than normal in securing his election in 1710, with several men threatening to set up against him. However, there does not seem to have been a contest. He was classed as a Tory on the ‘Hanover list’. He seems to have attended regularly at the Treasury Board, though in the Commons his activity was largely restricted to the promotion of a bill with local ramifications, for reviving legislation to prevent fraud in the manufacture of cloth and iron. His name appeared on a list of ‘worthy patriots’ who had helped to detect the mismanagements of the previous ministry. In April 1711 it was rumoured that he would be made secretary of state; Harley’s appointment as lord treasurer in May meant that in any case Paget had to be found a new place in the ministry. Contemporary speculation earmarked him as either first lord of the Admiralty in a new commission, or as plenipotentiary to the United Provinces. But instead, he had to be content with the captaincy of the yeomen of the guard and a place on the Privy Council. The former appointment necessitated his seeking re-election upon taking the office, but the writ for the ensuing by-election could not be moved until Parliament sat in December 1711. No sooner had he secured re-election than he was almost immediately raised to the peerage as Baron Burton.15

Paget succeeded his father in February 1713 and was soon exhorting Lord Oxford (Harley) to prevail with the Queen to grant him an earldom. This matter was of some importance when Oxford chose Paget for a delicate embassy to Hanover to prevent the Electoral Prince from being sent to England to take his seat in the Lords. Paget’s conditions for accepting the post were an assurance that he would be given leave to return home in the summer, and that he would receive an earldom before he went, to bolster his authority. Oxford was unable, or unwilling, to procure him this honour, and so Paget declined to depart on his mission, being replaced by the Earl of Clarendon (Edward Hyde*). Paget’s known support for the Hanoverian succession, together with the favourable light in which his refusal to serve in 1713 could be portrayed, secured him the earldom of Uxbridge from George I in October 1714. This honour did not prevent him from resigning from his posts at court in the autumn of 1715, nor from continuing as an active Tory opponent of the ministry in the Lords. He died on 30 Aug. 1743 at West Drayton, and was succeeded by his grandson, Henry. In his will he instructed that he be buried at Hillingdon church in Middlesex. He left his unentailed estates in Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Staffordshire to his cousin, Sir William Irby, 2nd Bt.† Among his bequests were £6,000 to his wife (in addition to his house in Grosvenor Street); £12,000 to endow ten fellowships at All Souls, Oxford; £12,000 to endow a further ten at Worcester College, Oxford; and £12,000 to be divided among several hospitals.16

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Stuart Handley

Notes

  • 1. IGI, London; Shaw, Staffs. i. 220; Add. 30013, ff. 23–25; info. from Dr D. F. Lemmings.
  • 2. Beaufort mss at Badminton House, bk. of procs. of gent. pens.; info. from Prof. R. O. Bucholz.
  • 3. Staffs. RO, D1323/A/1/1, p. 358.
  • 4. CJ, xii. 508.
  • 5. Party and Management ed. C. Jones, 32; D. Lacey, Dissent and Parlty. Pol. 1661–89, p. 470; A. G. Matthews, Calamy Revised, 314; Br. Dipl. Reps. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xlvi), 28, 151; CSP Dom. 1689–90, pp. 53, 74.
  • 6. Hereford and Worcester RO (Hereford), Foley mss E12/F/IV, [?] to ‘Hon. Sir’ [Philip Foley], n.d.; E12/F/IV/BE/269, Henry Paget to same, 11 Oct. 1693; 271, Philip Foley to Sir Walter Bagot, 17 Oct. 1693.
  • 7. Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 378, 907; Add. 70018, f. 85v; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 1102, 1144.
  • 8. Wm. Salt Lib. Stafford, Bagot mss D1721/3/291, Edward Bagot to Henry Paget, n.d. [1698], Paget to Bagot, Mar. [1698]; Add. 70284–5, Godolphin to Harley, [16 Jan. 1699]; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 258; Huntington Lib. Hastings mss HA 4569, Robert Hardisty to Earl of Huntingdon, 18 Mar. 1699; Huntington Lib. Stowe 26(1), James Brydges’ diary, 23 Feb. 1699, 16 Jan. 1700; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/45, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 14 Mar. 1699[–1700].
  • 9. CSP Dom. 1700–2, pp. 225, 250, 248; Cocks Diary, 101, 119, 138; 30/24/20/56, Shaftesbury to Furley, 9 May 1701.
  • 10. HMC Cowper, ii. 438, 444, 449; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 140; Cocks Diary, 282, 287–8.
  • 11. Add. 61363, f. 175.
  • 12. Add. 61364, f. 56; Cam. Misc. xxiii. 52, 64, 70.
  • 13. Add. 61364, ff. 117, 131, 178; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 286–7; Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/193, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 24 Feb. 1707–8; 30/24/21/11, Cropley to Shaftesbury, 7 Feb. 1707–8.
  • 14. Huntington Lib. Q. xv. 41; Add. 61367, f. 165; 61281, ff. 200, 202; 61130, f. 160.
  • 15. Boyer, Anne Annals, ix. App. 60; HMC Portland, ii. 213, 216; v. 15; iv. 608–9; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 5, f. 188; Add. 17677 EEE, ff. 170, 217, 219.
  • 16. HMC Portland, v. 283, 423, 429, 432, 43