PAKINGTON, Sir John, 4th Bt. (1671-1727), of Westwood Park, Worcs.
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Family and Education
b. 16 Mar. 1671, o. s. of Sir John Pakington, 3rd Bt.†, of Westwood by Margaret, da. of Sir John Keyt, 1st Bt., of Ebrington, Glos. educ. St. John’s, Oxf. 1688. m. (1) lic. 28 Aug. 1691 (with £4,000), Frances (d. ?1697), da. of (Sir) Henry Parker* (2nd Bt.), sis. of Hugh Parker*, 4s. d.v.p. 3da. (?2 d.v.p.); (2) 16 Nov. 1700, Hester, da. and h. of Sir Herbert Perrott† of Haroldston, Pemb., 2s. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. as 4th Bt. Mar. 1688.1
Freeman, Evesham by 1695, Droitwich by 1697, Woodstock by 1705; recorder, Worcester 1726–d.2
Sir John Pakington was a central figure in Worcestershire politics throughout this period. He represented a particular strand of principled Country Toryism which drew strength from his family’s history, especially his grandfather’s (Sir John Pakington, 2nd Bt.†) staunch adherence to Anglicanism and the Royalist cause during the Civil Wars and Interregnum. Allusions to these dark days peppered his speeches, usually in the form of dire warnings about the dangerous direction of current events. There seems little doubt that he found worrying parallels between the events of 1688 and 1649, particularly as after the Revolution he gave refuge for a time to the non-juror George Hickes, in much the same way as Westwood had been made a haven by his grandfather for Anglican divines such as John Fell and George Morley. However, in the changed politics of the post-Revolution era, Pakington was able to draw inspiration from another family tradition, that of the country gentleman in politics, independent of the Court and intent on restoring the ancient constitution, qualities again epitomized by his grandfather.3
Pakington inherited the family estates at Hampton Lovett and Westwood in central Worcestershire in March 1688, as well as the lordship of the manors of Aylesbury and Ellesborough in Buckinghamshire. Given his family’s wealth and prestige he could look forward to the county seat occupied by his grandfather and father. In the meantime his father’s will appointed as his guardians Lord Weymouth (Thomas Thynne†) (whose father had married the 2nd Baronet’s aunt) and Weymouth’s two brothers, James* and Henry Frederick Thynne*, ‘that my . . . son may have a good and virtuous education and the estate improved for the best advantage and benefit’. It was presumably under their guidance that Pakington matriculated at Oxford in October 1688. Although still a minor when the 1690 election was called, he sought to gain a seat at Droitwich. The family had a political interest in the borough by virtue of the ownership of fee farm rents worth £100 p.a., plus a small stake in the local salt industry. He was defeated, however, in a contested election after a dispute over the franchise (see DROITWICH, Worcs.). More importantly, he was so incensed at the intervention of Philip Foley* that he decided to challenge the head of the family, Thomas Foley I*, for a county seat. The upshot was that with little preparation he defeated Foley’s partner, Sir Edward Winnington*, to become a knight of the shire at the age of only 19, a powerful tribute to the local influence and reputation of the family name.4
Pakington was obviously unknown in the Parliament which assembled in March 1690. This fact was probably reflected in Carmarthen’s (Sir Thomas Osborne†) tentative assessment of him, when calculating the political complexion of the new Commons, as likely to support the Court. Nothing is known about his activities during his first session, possibly because he kept a low profile in accordance with the convention which precluded Members from speaking before they attained their majority. A month after the prorogation of the session in May 1690, he was reported by Robert Harley* to be ‘dangerously ill of the smallpox’. However, there were signs during 1690 that Pakington was picking up the reins of the family estates and asserting himself in county society. The Buckinghamshire quarter sessions records indicate his vigour in the defence of his rights, whether in challenging the excessive rates demanded on his quit-rents, or in prosecuting poachers. Furthermore, his claims to local office were recognized when he was appointed a deputy-lieutenant in Worcestershire in November 1690. Although the 1690–1 session again saw little activity on his part, Carmarthen now felt able to state his political position without qualification, by including his name on a list of December which probably indicated that Pakington was expected to support the minister in the event of an attack upon him in the Commons. However, Harley classed him as a Country supporter in April 1691. In the following autumn he married a daughter of Henry Parker, a lawyer connected with the Hydes by marriage, a match which must have widened his acquaintance with at least some of the Tory leaders. Again, little is known of Pakington’s actions in the Commons during the next two sessions, although his support for Country measures is confirmed by Harley’s comment on the passage of the triennial bill in January 1693, that ‘both the knights of Worcestershire [were] with us’. In February he also presented the Salwerpe navigation bill to the Commons. A significant upturn in his parliamentary activities is noticeable in the 1693–4 session when he acted as a teller on four occasions. These included his tellership on 16 Feb. 1694 in favour of a motion that a petition from Droitwich against the imposition of a salt tax should lie on the table until the second reading of the bill levying such a duty (Pakington’s support for the petition being guaranteed because of the harm a duty might inflict on the local salt trade and hence on the ability of the town to pay his fee-farm rents). On 15 Mar. he was teller against a motion that the House resolve into a committee of the whole to consider the bill to naturalize Protestants willing to take the oaths to William and Mary and the ‘test against popery’. This motion was lost, the House, like Pakington, preferring to move into a committee on the bill vesting the Irish forfeited estates in the crown for use in financing the war. Pakington seems to have lapsed into inactivity during the last session of this Parliament, although ill-health may have been responsible for this as he was reported in December 1694 to have had ‘a severe fit of the sciatica’.5
For reasons which are unclear, Pakington did not contest the county election in 1695. It was reported in August 1695 that he would decline the county in preference for the city of Worcester in partnership with Samuel Swift*. However, when electoral calculations precluded such a move, he stuck to his resolve not to enter the fray in the county. This did not prevent him from promoting other candidates against Thomas Foley I, although nothing came of these manoeuvres. Pakington’s wide-ranging electoral interests involved him in at least two other contests in 1695. The Earl of Clarendon (Henry Hyde†) travelled to Honington in an attempt to intercept him in order to solicit his favour for a Mr Knowles at Aylesbury, while at Evesham he led the Tories in polling singly for his father-in-law, Parker. While out of Parliament, Pakington was deprived of his places on the county lieutenancy and commission of the peace as a result of his refusal to sign the Association in 1696. A more personal misfortune struck soon afterwards when his wife died. This prompted thoughts of an extended sojourn abroad, with plans for residence in Geneva ‘to get French, which he has not a word of, without offence at home’, followed by a tour in Italy. By June 1697, however, the whole idea of travel in Europe had been abandoned.6
Pakington was returned as knight of the shire at the 1698 election, helped no doubt by his growing reputation as a critic of the Court. Two lists corroborate this view of his political stance: a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments produced about September 1698 which classed him as a Country supporter, and an annotated printed list of those elected in August 1698 which noted that he was likely to oppose a standing army. There can be no doubt that Pakington harboured a deep distrust of a standing army as he delivered a memorable speech on 18 Jan. 1699 in support of the third reading of the disbanding bill. Salwey Winnington* noted the amusing tenor of his remarks, which were exemplified by Charles Hatton in a contemporary letter. Pakington criticized those Members who sought to justify a larger army with reference to the danger from the exiled King James. This was an empty threat unless King William’s title was precarious and he knew of only one man to question it publicly. The target of Pakington’s speech was thus revealed to be Bishop Burnet of Salisbury, whose Pastoral Letter (1693) had advocated William’s right to the throne by conquest. Pakington reminded Members that this pamphlet had been burnt by order of the Commons, adding that ‘if they had voted the author to be hanged, he believed the whole nation would have been pleased at it’. Moreover, it was not only national issues which interested Pakington: he could be relied on to work on behalf of his constituents. A number of petitions had been presented to the House with the object of removing the remaining duties on glasswares, including one on 6 Mar. 1699 from Stourbridge, on the Worcestershire– Staffordshire border. Pakington managed the resultant bill through the Commons, during which he chaired the committee of the whole House.7
In the next session Pakington renewed his attack against Latitudinarian churchmanship as personified by Burnet. When the House took into consideration on 12 Dec. 1699 the debt due from the crown to Prince George, Sir John Bolles, 4th Bt.*, and Pakington used the debate as a pretext to denounce Burnet in his role as preceptor to the Duke of Gloucester. To the archetypal Country Whig, Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, Pakington’s contribution was a ‘handsome speech’, marred only by ‘his want of judgment in saying that the bishop had said the Duke was so like him that the Princess he believed thought of him in her conception’. This was a misrepresentation as Burnet had been referring to the King, not himself. An anonymous correspondent of the Earl of Annandale picked up Pakington’s reference to the views expressed in the Pastoral Letter, as did Robert Price* who believed he
did lash him [Burnet] severely that it was strange we had not an Englishman fit to be the Duke of Gloucester’s preceptor, but one who was but a bishop in name and a republican in principle, whose merit was bottomed on trickery betraying the Duke of Lauderdale his master, one who wants morals and [is] full of obscene rhetoric.
James Vernon I* thought that the House ‘had a mind to be merry’ with the speakers, but detected a more serious purpose when Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, and John Grobham Howe* added their support. Vernon’s instincts were correct since the following day the attack resumed with a motion to address the King to remove Burnet from his post, which was beaten off by 173 votes to 133. Another of Pakington’s roles during this session was to take up the cases of several individuals seeking redress in relation to forfeited estates in Ireland. On 16 Feb. 1700 Pakington reported two resolutions from the committee appointed to consider the petition of Sir Henry Fitzharris for a bill to restore him to his grandfather’s estates, the Acts settling the Irish forfeitures having made provision for the restitution of innocent Protestants and Roman Catholics. Although the House passed the first resolution which accepted Fitzharris’ case it negated the second proposing a bill.8
The death of the Duke of Gloucester in July 1700 brought into sharp relief the problem of the succession. The view put forward by some historians that Pakington was committed to active Jacobitism at this point and might ‘carry the Tory back-benchers over to the Stuart Prince of Wales’ is probably based on a misreading of a comment written by Vernon in early August 1700, which should in fact read:
I don’t know but our misfortune in losing the Duke of Gloucester may bring more to be of Sir John Pakington’s mind in relation to my Lord Somers [Sir John*], perhaps Sir John might have been for him personally. But if they don’t likewise concur in such measures as my Lord Somers would advise, their private friendships will be of little use to him as they are to the public.
Rather than evincing a concern with the claims of the Pretender, this passage suggests a more pragmatic mind which saw advantages in employing men of ability like Somers (who had been dismissed in April) to solve the succession question. It may well be that Pakington had some personal regard for Somers, especially as he was not in the forefront of attacks on the former lord chancellor. Furthermore, in December 1700, just before the dissolution of Parliament, Sir Charles Lyttelton, 3rd Bt.†, speculated that ‘endeavours are like to be made to bring off such forward men’, basing his comments on the grounds that Pakington had been visited by Somers before leaving London. He remarried in November 1700, an ‘heiress of about £1,000 [a] year’, which upon examination turned out to be ‘a good £1,000 a year’, with only £3,000 of debts. Observers of Worcestershire politics felt that Pakington would be secure in the election of January 1701, ‘having behaved himself so well that there was no objection to him’. Nevertheless, he lost his position at the top of the poll to the Whig, William Walsh*, an occurrence explained by contemporaries as a consequence of his partnership with Sir Thomas Rous, 4th Bt., which had disobliged an important section of county opinion. Pakington was also reported to have been present at the Droitwich election in order to oppose the pretensions of Robert Steynor, whose challenge to the local salt monopoly had also threatened the security of Pakington’s fee farm rents. By March 1701 he had been restored to the county lieutenancy, the result no doubt of the changing political complexion of the ministry.9
In the new Parliament, Pakington was thought likely to support the Court over the ‘Great Mortgage’. His major contribution to the 1701 Parliament was the promotion of a bill for the better preservation of the Protestant religion and for preventing the translation of bishops. According to Cocks, Pakington introduced his motion for the bill with ‘a very eloquent, fine oration, long but admirably witty’. Although its immediate origin may well have been a rumour that Burnet was about to be translated to Winchester, it also reflected High Church criticism of other careerist Latitudinarian bishops, and, possibly, non-juring ideas that the allocation of a see was inviolable and not to be exchanged for more temporal rewards. Pakington’s motion was seconded by John Grobham Howe, who was responsible for an additional clause aimed at preventing occasional communion. However, so great was Howe’s embarrassment at publicly disowning his Dissenting allies in Gloucestershire, that he secured the omission of his name from the record, leaving Pakington as the bill’s only official sponsor. Cocks later claimed to have heard ‘Sir John curse the Speaker [Robert Harley] so near he must have heard him’, for leaving him exposed as the only public proponent of a measure encompassing ‘these two most ungrateful things both to the bishops and Dissenters’, which ought to have been a load no man could have bore (but his great virtue and piety surmounted all difficulties)’. He introduced the bill on 20 Mar., but the committee of the whole to which it was referred never met. Although named to several other drafting committees, Pakington was involved in managing only one further legislative project, a bill to naturalize Archibald Archer and allow him to settle his estate in Essex, which Pakington presented on 10 Apr. His final action of this session was on 10 May, when he acted as a teller in favour of an adjournment of the Lichfield election case which inadvertently led to a reprieve for William Walmisley*, the Whig chancellor of the diocese. Pakington evidently left London before the end of the session, for on 22 June Lyttelton reported to Lord Hatton (Hon. Christopher†) that as a dinner guest two days previously, Pakington had felt ‘the session not like to end so soon nor so happily and quietly between the Houses’. In fact his initial assessment of an imminent prorogation was correct, the House rising on 24 June.10
During the summer of 1701 rumours abounded that a dissolution to secure ‘more complying Members’ was sought by the Whigs. Pakington was an obvious target but he retained his seat in November by the slender margin of 15 votes, although it was believed that he held Droitwich in reserve. He had to overcome the concerted opposition of Bishop Lloyd of Worcester (see WORCESTERSHIRE). The paper war which accompanied the election elicited from Pakington a statement of his beliefs, in the nature of a personal manifesto. In this he rebutted the accusation that he had prejudiced the rights of the freeholders and claimed that it had always been his care to preserve ‘the happy constitution of England’, and to serve his country, ‘witness my diligence in removing the heavy imposition upon the glassware and coal, and my readiness to serve the city in the woollen manufacturing’. As to Lloyd’s campaign, he claimed that he had been misrepresented to the clergy, declaring,
I was bred up a member of the Church of England and have still continued so, so shall my utmost endeavour be for the service of it, yet not so bigoted but that I shall always think it a christian charity due to tender consciences to allow such persons the liberty of serving God in their own way.
With a final statement that his wealth ensured that he was impervious to bribery, he declared in response to having been blacklisted for opposing preparations for war with France, that ‘none shall more cheerfully hazard his life and fortune for the service of his king and country than Sir John Pakington’. Given these views, Harley had no hesitation in listing him with the Tories in an analysis of the new Parliament in December 1701. Likewise, it was not a surprise to find his name on a ‘white list’ of Members favouring the motion passed on 26 Feb. 1702 vindicating the proceedings of the Commons in relation to the impeachments of William III’s ministers in the previous Parliament. His major concern in the legislative work of the House again centred on the Irish forfeited estates. On 20 Feb. 1702 he acted as a teller against a successful motion that a petition from Lord Haversham (Sir John Thompson*) relating to these estates should lie on the table to be considered with similar petitions. When the House took them into consideration on 28 Feb. he took responsibility for a bill granting relief to Maurice Annesley, which he presented to the Commons on 7 Mar. Pakington performed the same task for William Edgworth (whose case he had supported in the 1699–1700 session), presenting a bill on 21 Mar. According to Arthur Onslow† it was either Pakington or John Granville* who rose in the chamber to respond to Vernon’s announcement of William III’s death, ‘Sir, we have lost a great king, we have got a most generous queen’, describing it as ‘a sort of Tory-gratulation’.11
Before Pakington could take advantage of the transformed political scene under the new monarch, he had to fight yet another fierce election contest. Lyttelton provides an insight into Pakington’s character in the following passage written in June 1702. After describing his election entertainments where over a hundred were treated on consecutive days, he commented on the dangers of such gatherings for Pakington’s health and purse:
I doubt truly he’ll hurt his estate by it, for he is got some thousands in debt and his estate is all settled. He has great compliments made him from the ministry which he is little or nothing the better for, nor is he so much as seen or known at court, or ever kissed the Queen’s hand but in a crowd. I hope in time he’ll be thought on, and have something done for him, but he’ll never solicit it.
In addition to his two opponents, Pakington had to face another vigorous campaign conducted against him by Bishop Lloyd. In particular, Lloyd used the occasion of his episcopal visitation to issue veiled exhortations to the voters to eschew Pakington, and in private excoriated the baronet for debauchery and adherence to the Pretender (see WORCESTERSHIRE). The dispute between Pakington and Lloyd epitomized one of the most important divisions within the Church, that between an increasingly Whiggish, Latitudinarian episcopate and a High Anglican, Tory squirearchy. Pakington emerged victorious from what was a bruising encounter at the polls, and complained to the Commons on 2 Nov. 1702 of a breach of privilege against the bishop. The upshot was that on 18 Nov. the House voted Bishop Lloyd and his son guilty of ‘malicious, unchristian and arbitrary’ proceedings which were ‘in high violation of the liberties and privileges of the Commons of England’, and proceeded to address the Queen to remove the bishop from his position as lord almoner. Furthermore, it was doubtless Pakington’s appreciation of Sacheverell’s polemical skills which persuaded him to attempt to help that volatile cleric on to the ladder of ecclesiastical preferment. In September 1702, Thomas Foley III* passed on to his brother-in-law, Robert Harley (widely expected to be re-elected Speaker in the new Parliament), a request from Pakington that Sacheverell be considered for the post of Speaker’s chaplain, a sure route to further advancement in the Church. His solicitation failed, however, as Harley chose William Stratford. On 9 Dec. 1702 he acted as a teller against a motion that the Speaker leave the Chair so that the House could go into committee of the whole on the land tax. This motion was lost, the majority with Pakington preferring to consider the amendments made by the Lords to the occasional conformity bill. The Queen’s message to the Commons on 10 Dec. in favour of providing the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) with a pension of £5,000 p.a. left Pakington feeling that it would set a bad precedent, and hoped that an alternative could be found. His main legislative interest during the session concerned the promotion of a bill to revive the moribund project to make the Salwarpe and Stour navigable, which had originally received legislative sanction 40 years before. The 2nd Earl of Plymouth (a supporter of Pakington in Worcestershire elections, and the ultimate beneficiary if the scheme were to be completed) petitioned on 7 Dec. 1702 for a bill to put the old Act into operation. Pakington presented it to the Commons on the 9th. Local opposition to the bill arose quickly, led by Sir John Talbot†, and encompassed most of the Droitwich salted proprietors who had raised over £3,000 towards the original project. Since these conflicting interests could not be reconciled, the bill never emerged from committee. Indeed, as late as March 1703, Lyttelton informed Lord Hatton that he had entertained Pakington and Philip Foley to dinner where the latter had tried to enlist his support in order to dissuade Pakington from pursuing the bill, ‘which I think he is the deeper engaged in by being so opposed in it by Sir J[ohn] Talbot, they having had very hard words passed between them’.12
Sacheverell had portrayed Pakington as a man who ‘believes separation from the Church of England to be a dangerous schism’ and that, moreover, the Dissenters were ‘in a very dangerous state notwithstanding the Toleration’. Not surprisingly, therefore, Pakington supported the second occasional conformity bill, delivering a speech in its favour which appeared in print in February 1704. It began with an attack on those at the head of the ministry, chiefly the Duke of Marlborough and Lord Godolphin (Sidney†), who had engineered the defeat of the first occasional conformity bill in the Lords. Ministers that stood ‘neuter in matters that nearly concern the interest of the Church of England and have not courage to own their opinion, I think they very well deserve to be turned out’. Furthermore, they were appeasing a party whose malice towards the house of Stuart ‘descends to them by inheritance’, a pointed reference to the role of Nonconformists in the Civil War and execution of Charles I. Opposition to the bill from the bishops did not escape censure either. Pakington attributed the stance of certain bishops to the fact that they were ‘of the same principles with the Dissenters’. Those who objected to the current bill on the grounds that it was unseasonable, divisive and inexpedient were charged with advancing contradictory arguments: it made no sense to allow a schism in order to avoid a division, or to refuse action for fear of alienating large numbers of Dissenters when their very strength necessitated legislative action to defend the Church. In conclusion, he acknowledged the twofold purpose of the bill – the prevention of hypocrisy in religion and the continuation of the Anglican monopoly of political power:
I think this practice of occasional conformity to elude the force of one of the last laws made in the Church of England’s defence, that it is scandalous and knavish in itself; and I will pretend to foretell, that by the benefit of this occasional conformity, the Dissenters will come to be the majority of this House, and then I’ll venture to pronounce the days of the Church of England few.
Pakington’s name later appeared on a list of those likely to support the Earl of Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) over the Scotch Plot.13
On the opening day of the 1704–5 session (24 Oct.), Pakington was reported as intending to set out for London on the following Monday, having informed his friends, wrongly as it turned out, that ‘the Speaker [Harley] will be for the occasional bill this session’. Little is known of Pakington’s activities during this session except in relation to the Tack. He was forecast as a probable supporter in October and voted for it on 28 Nov. Given Harley’s role in defeating the Tack, it is probable that an undated letter from a William Courtenay relates to this period of his secretaryship. The author warned Harley of a malicious design levelled against him by Seymour and Pakington, whom he reported as saying that the secretary ‘was their only enemy in the world’, an exaggerated, but nevertheless pointed, illustration of the odium in which Harley was held by High Churchmen after this event. Pakington himself was unrepentant over his role in promoting the occasional conformity bill and the Tack: ‘the bill was good in itself, and the evil (if any attended it) would be owing to the Lords who would sacrifice the Church to the caprice of a party. I must own it’s an hereditary vice in me to choose in some respects to suffer for a Church and my country.’14
At the 1705 election Pakington was very active ‘on account of my own and other gentlemen’s elections’. His attention was divided chiefly between the Worcestershire county contest and Aylesbury. Partisan politics had reached its apogee in the latter constituency during the previous Parliament with a major constitutional clash between the Lords and the Commons over the Ashby v. White case (see AYLESBURY). Pakington, as lord of the manor of Aylesbury, was a committed supporter of the local Tories, and, indeed, of sufficient influence in November 1704 to secure the return in a by-election of his former father-in-law, (Sir) Henry Parker, in time to vote for the Tack. In 1705, in an attempt at ‘improving my interest at that place’, Pakington stood there himself, only to be defeated in a close contest. In so doing he nearly fell victim to a piece of sharp practice by the Worcestershire Whigs who hoped to hold a snap poll in the county while Pakington was absent in Buckinghamshire. This manoeuvre failed, however, as he returned to lead his supporters to victory. The theme of the ‘Church in danger’, following the defeat of the Tack, had obvious resonance with some voters, one informed observer regarding the election as a ‘dispute between the Church and the Presbyterians’ and hoping that Pakington’s speech of 1703 about Dissenting dominance of the legislature would not prove prophetic. Bishop Lloyd’s inability to refrain from meddling in elections prompted a long missive from Pakington, justifying his own actions, proclaiming his loyalty to the Church and criticizing the prelate for actions inconsistent with a free Parliament, ‘it being contrary to the constitution that threats or any other compulsive methods should be made use of to gain or hinder any elector from voting which way he pleases’. The implication was that if Bishop Lloyd continued to harass his friends with vexatious prosecutions in the ecclesiastical courts, Pakington would again refer his actions to the Commons. On this occasion the dispute went no further, and there appears to have been a reconciliation between them; in September 1706 Pakington and his wife brought their daughter to the bishop’s palace at Hartlebury to be confirmed, and a week later the bishop dined at Westwood.15
In an analysis of the Parliament elected in 1705, Pakington, in common with many other Tackers, was classed as ‘True Church’, and on 25 Oct. he voted against the Court candidate for Speaker. Three speeches of Pakington’s are known for the 1705–6 session, one printed in extenso, the other two surviving in summary form. On 4 Dec. 1705, during a committee of the whole on the proceedings of the Scottish parliament relating to the Union and the succession, the Tories rather cynically attempted to embarrass the ministry with a motion to secure an invitation to the Electress Sophia to reside in England. Pakington would have none of this, citing the divisions which had been caused by the Duke of Monmouth’s presence in Charles II’s reign, and the likelihood that the Electress’s residence would diminish the standing of the Queen in the eyes of her subjects. On 6 Dec. the Lords passed a motion that the Church of England was in a ‘flourishing condition’ under Queen Anne, and that anyone who suggested otherwise was ‘an enemy to the Queen, the Church, and the kingdom’. Under no circumstances could Pakington suffer such an analysis to pass unchallenged, so that when the Commons were invited to concur in this resolution on the 7th, he responded with a speech setting forth the contrary case. Though not doubting Queen Anne’s affection for the Church, he enumerated four dangers to its position. The first was that the freedom to publish pamphlets against the Church and clergy, a state of affairs he likened to ‘before and in the Great Rebellion’ when the Church was dismantled, would have the same damaging consequences, ‘for no Church or state can be long secure where its enemies are suffered to write what they please against them’. It was, in short, a toleration given to the Dissenters to ‘libel and abuse’ Anglicans. Secondly, there was the increase in the number of Dissenting schools and seminaries, which were ‘nurseries of rebellion’. Thirdly, the increase in the number of conventicles which, with the practice of occasional conformity, threatened to fill ‘all places of magistracy, profit, honour and trust with those that hate her’. Finally, there was ‘the Presbyterian Kirk in Scotland which with her English allies once more portend danger to the Church’. The Kirk’s antipathy to episcopacy had been evident during the Civil Wars and again in 1688. These episodes indicated to Pakington that the Presbyterians felt impelled to attack the Church, as ‘they believe and teach episcopacy to be unlawful and contrary to the word of God’. Pakington’s speech was replete with historical analysis and grave warnings about the future unless Parliament acted to secure the Church against the enemies he had identified. Despite his efforts, the Commons voted on party lines to agree with the Lords’ resolution. The second reading of the regency bill on 19 Dec. 1705 was the occasion of Pakington’s third speech. For him the appointment of lords justices was unnecessary, as the security of the succession would be left to a meeting of Parliament (if not already in session) and the continuance of the Privy Council. He felt that the succession was more likely to be endangered by the regency arrangements, whereby the army, fleet and revenue might all be placed in the hands of dangerous men. Pakington had originally intended to depart from London well before the end of the session, but wrote on 10 Jan. 1706 that he would remain at Westminster to support Salwey Winnington* who was facing an election petition. He expected this to be dealt with by 18 Jan., but in fact it was not settled until 23 Feb.16
Pakington was clearly relishing his role as an outspoken but principled critic of the ministry. His chief target in the 1706–7 session was the parliamentary ratification of the union with Scotland which had been concluded in July 1706. At the end of August, John Netterville reported to Harley that Pakington was ‘very angry, [and] resolves in Parliament to speak his mind freely’. As before, the threat to the Church of England posed by Presbyterian Scotland weighed heavily on his mind and he was not likely to have been satisfied by the religious settlement proposed in the articles. Indeed, many episcopalians north of the border regarded him as their champion, so much so that the author of The Restoration of Episcopacy in Scotland, the only Foundation for a lasting Union with England (1705) adopted the form of a letter to Pakington in arguing his case, along with the view that a united Parliament should be restricted to episcopalians. Thus, when the Commons came to consider the articles of Union in a committee of the whole on 4 Feb. 1707, Pakington followed Charles Caesar* in criticizing ‘this incorporating Union . . . that was carried on by corruption and bribery within doors, and by force and violence without’. He felt clearly that the presence of Scottish Members would merely enhance the ministry’s control over the Commons, and that the Queen would be placed in an impossible position, as by her coronation oaths she would be sworn to maintain the Church of England and the Presbyterian Kirk within the same kingdom. In view of this he moved that the first article of the Union be postponed, a motion wittily opposed by the Hon. Harry Mordaunt*. Other Members were so angered by his disparaging reflections on the government when the committee resumed on 8 Feb. that the House threatened to commit him to the Tower. The affairs of Droitwich also impinged upon Pakington’s parliamentary conduct in this session. On 14 Feb. 1707, leave was given to introduce a bill for the better preservation of the ancient salt springs in Droitwich, which involved laying a pipe to carry salt water to the Severn. Although Pakington had an interest in the salt pits, his main concern was the security of his fee farm rents, payment of which had fallen into arrears following Robert Steynor’s successful challenge to the monopoly of the old pits. Thus he was not opposed in principle to the bill (indeed he was the second Member named to the second-reading committee on 21 Feb.), but his interests were substantially different from those of the majority of the old salt proprietors. In an attempt to secure his interests, he petitioned the Commons on 24 Feb., praying to be heard by counsel against the bill as it then stood. It seems clear that Pakington wanted the bill amended, as on the following day one of its leading promoters, Sir John Talbot, described his move as a desire ‘to have his fee farm rent secured’, and that ‘he doth it not to oppose the bill’ through a wrecking amendment. At this point, however, he signalled his determination to protect his interests by making arrangements to stay in London longer than he had originally intended. The committee considered Pakington’s petition on 6 Mar. when his counsel insisted ‘that his arrear of rent should be paid down by the prosecutors of the bill’, otherwise it would alter the state of the lawsuit currently in progress over their payment. In the event the bill never emerged from committee, an outcome with which Pakington was probably satisfied.17
Before the beginning of the 1707–8 session, Charlwood Lawton wrote to Harley: ‘I believe it would not be a false step if the promises which I am sure have been made to Sir John Pakington were now upon the death of Mr [George] Stepney made good.’ The obvious implication of these remarks was that Pakington had previously been promised an office, or some other reward, which could now be fulfilled by his appointment to Stepney’s place at the Board of Trade. Such a possibility is given credence by Lord Weymouth’s comments when the issue came up again in 1710–11, especially as Weymouth had been the head of that board until April 1707. However, nothing more was heard of Lawton’s suggestion, as the political trend of appointments was entirely in the other direction. The 1707–8 session saw Pakington strangely silent, even though a further attempt was made to legislate on behalf of Droitwich’s salt proprietors. Yet in the correspondence relating to this legislation Pakington is only mentioned insofar as the bill was expected to go forward if he supported it. This inactivity did not presage any change of political allegiance, and a parliamentary list of early 1708 classed him as a Tory.18
The deaths of William Bromley I* and William Walsh simplified the electoral situation in Worcestershire, allowing Pakington to be returned unopposed in 1708. Another parliamentary list of early 1708, with the returns of the general election later added, classed him as a Tory. As usual Pakington could be counted on to help in the management of private bills for the relief of his friends. Thus, when the Earl of Plymouth petitioned for an estate bill on 22 Dec. 1708, Pakington was one of four Members ordered to prepare it, and subsequently managed it through the Commons. However, he was prevented by ill-health from attending the Lords’ committee on 22 Mar. to accept the trust placed on him by the bill. On a more political note, Pakington was involved on the Tory side in two disputed election cases. On 20 Jan. 1709 he was a teller in favour of an adjournment of the Abingdon dispute, the defeat of which saw (Sir) Simon Harcourt I* declared unduly elected. On 8 Feb. he acted as a teller against a successful motion that John Soley, the recorder of Bewdley, be admitted to prove certain acts of the corporation before the new charter to that borough was granted. Pakington was instrumental in making a cause célèbre out of an episode whereby the acquisition of a new charter had led to the defeat of Bewdley’s long-serving Tory Member Salwey Winnington. It prompted him to deliver a ‘flaming speech’ denouncing the ministry. He began by castigating the Commons for allowing ministers to intimidate Members intent on redressing the grievances of the subject:
if he finds fault with the ministry, he is said to reflect upon the Queen, if he speaks against the continuance of the war, to prevent the beggary of the nation, to prevent the moneyed and military men becoming lords of us who have the lands, then he is to be no object of her Majesty’s favour and encouragement.
He then developed his view that the House lay under an ‘arbitrary ministerial power’, the case of Bewdley being proof of the fact for here was ‘a new charter forced upon an ancient corporation, at the single instance of a noble Lord [Herbert (Henry*)], without a surrender of the old, contrary to law, to reason, and the right of the members thereof’. This state of affairs was then compared unfavourably with the actions of James II, which at least had the merit of being done publicly and thereby roused the people to defend their liberties. By such methods all elections would come to depend on the will of the Prince and then ‘there will be no difference between a Parliament of Great Britain and a Parliament of Paris’. Pakington was expected to publish this speech, but it does not seem to have appeared in print until the more welcoming climate of 1710–11, when the Bewdley case was being used to attack the record of the previous Whig administration. Pakington seems to have been inactive in the 1709–10 session, although he voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. He was also committed to the campaign to secure a dissolution during the summer of 1710, presenting an address from Pembrokeshire (his wife’s native county) with that end in view.19
By 1710 Thomas Lyttelton believed Pakington might wish to forgo the expense and fatigue of another election, but as Tory prospects revived with the installation of the Harley ministry and the likelihood of a favourable Parliament, the possibility that he might stand down became increasingly remote. As he himself put it in June: ‘the Church party have now some prospect upon the turn of affairs upon this late alteration of the ministry’. He was returned unopposed and obviously relished the prospect of reversing the ill effects of Whig rule and its attendant frustrations. Furthermore, it seems that he had legitimate aspirations to office; as early as July 1710, his one-time guardian, Lord Weymouth, was pressing Harley for Pakington to be included in a revamped Board of Trade by referring to his ‘just pretensions’ despite having twice refused to accept ‘onus cum honore’. Nothing resulted from Weymouth’s approach, however, as probably Harley was intent on a ministry composed of moderate men wherein Pakington’s vociferous partisanship would have been out of place. Classed as a Tory on the ‘Hanover list’ of the 1710 Parliament, he continued to espouse his own particular brand of Country Toryism, which now found a ready echo among the large numbers of newly elected back-benchers. In addition, the House set in train the repeal of the Bewdley charter, prompting Pakington to remark that he ‘was glad to see the face of a British Parliament, the former one looking like military ones’. In legislative business, he was probably not very active, even leaving the management of another bill on behalf of the Earl of Plymouth to his fellow knight of the shire. His name appears on two lists originating from events in the 1710–11 session, which illustrate his commitment to popular Tory causes: a list of ‘Tory patriots’ who opposed the continuance of the war, and a list of ‘worthy patriots’ who had helped to detect the mismanagements of the previous administration.20
Pakington was also listed as a member of the October Club, which had been formed to promote a thoroughgoing Tory reform of men and measures, which Harley had hitherto blocked. This conjunction of Tory back-benchers made the ministry’s hold on the Commons somewhat precarious by the end of the session. In June 1711 Harley (now Earl of Oxford) responded by strengthening his administration, and there is considerable evidence that Pakington was one of the candidates for office he had in mind. A memorandum in Oxford’s hand, dated 4 June 1711, included Pakington’s name along with other Members who received promotions later that month, such as Hon. Henry Paget*, Robert Benson* and Thomas Mansel I*. Furthermore, Arthur Maynwaring* wrote of the ‘four new commissioners of trade’, namely Pakington, Sir George Beaumont, 4th Bt.*, Robert Byerley* and Francis Scobell*, although none of these was included in the commission issued on 12 June. It seems likely that Oxford successfully enticed Pakington into a closer relationship with the ministry by getting him to accept a secret pension of £800 p.a. on the Irish establishment, given under the name of Edwards, and, incidentally, incompatible with a seat in the Commons under the Regency Act. Thus, it would seem probable that whatever restraining influence Pakington was able to exercise over the October Club, and its pressure upon the ministry during the 1711–12 session, had rather more to do with this secret financial inducement than action taken in obedience to the Pretender’s orders.21
Pakington’s most notable speech of the new session was on 24 Jan. 1712 in support of an attack on Marlborough, wherein he appears to have floated the idea of a bill to make the Duke ‘refund the many thousands he has cheated the public’. This was certainly consistent with Oxford’s objective of destroying the general’s reputation. Pakington may have acted as a teller on one occasion in this session in favour of a petition from the Quakers referring to the extension of the Act allowing a solemn affirmation as opposed to an oath. It was rejected by 101 votes to 80, the Journals recording the teller’s name as Sir Jo. Pockington which may, of course, be a clerk’s error for John Pocklington*. Pakington’s other preoccupation appears to have been to support the Bewdley Tories in their protracted legal battle to obtain annulment in Chancery of the 1708 charter. Towards the end of the 1711–12 session, he wrote a very revealing letter to Oxford in which he referred to the grant of the Queen’s favour (his pension) which he had received through the good offices of the lord treasurer and the Duke of Shrewsbury, but which he now feared was in danger of becoming public knowledge, the consequence of which would have been his exclusion from the House plus a damaged reputation. Feeling exposed, he went on to request a more public mark of royal favour which would help to establish an ‘invincible’ interest in Worcestershire for the future. In this he was rebuffed, as were the Tories generally in their demands for the wholesale removal of the remaining Whigs from office. Pakington again seemed fairly subdued during the 1713 session. His main political acts were the proposal that Sacheverell preach before the Commons on the anniversary of Charles II’s restoration, the cleric duly obliging with a ‘full-blooded party sermon’, and his advocacy of the English Country Tories’ plan to extend the malt tax to Scotland as the prelude to reducing the land tax, which succeeded despite fierce Scottish opposition. He supported the ministry in the crucial division on 18 June 1713 over the French commerce bill.22
With an election looming in 1713, the Jacobite elements inside the Tory party began to discuss a more aggressive parliamentary strategy intended to pressurize the ministry into more open support for the Pretender. By August 1713 plans were afoot to attack the legal basis of the Hanoverian succession. According to John Netterville, Pakington had promised to be a ‘leading man’ in a move to call for the box containing the names of the nominees for the council of regency. As they were widely supposed to be the Whig leaders, the intention was to declare them enemies of the constitution and in the ensuing crisis the ministry would be destroyed and the Act settling the succession overturned. As the Pretender would not countenance such a direct assault on the ministry, preferring to rely on the goodwill of Oxford and others, nothing happened at this juncture.23
Pakington was returned unopposed at the 1713 election, being classed as a Tory in the Worsley list. In the 1714 session he was involved in several legislative projects. He managed a turnpike bill for repairing the road between Worcester and Droitwich heavily used by the salt trade. He was also ordered on 10 Mar. to prepare a bill to vest part of Worcester Castle in trustees for use as a house of correction, but it was never introduced. He also managed a bill to enable the Earl of Bellomont to sell some of his Irish estates. On the major issue of the 1714 session, he was associated with the more radical Jacobites who wished to pressurize the ministry to act in their favour on the succession. At an early point, Pakington and George Lockhart* were deputed to tell Lord Bolingbroke (Henry St. John II*) that
as their patience could last no longer, something to purpose must be quickly done, or he was not to expect that they would longer support an administration which did more harm by dilatures and off puts, than they could by an open professed opposition.
To Pakington the most useful gesture the ministry could undertake was a purge of Whig army officers. However, open opposition to the ministry was still at odds with the exiled court’s faith in the ministry’s goodwill and most Jacobites’ willingness to believe Bolingbroke’s promises. After two frustrating months of the 1714 session, Pakington addressed a meeting of about 80 Tories and again pressed the idea of moving for the box containing the names of the regents to be examined by the Commons. However, this manoeuvre was again deemed too risky by the majority of those present. The more committed Jacobites were finally galvanized into action by the proclamation issued on 21 June, putting a price of £5,000 on the Pretender’s head (increased by £100,000 in the Commons on 24 June). Initially, it was suggested that the Jacobites should show their resentment at the proclamation by moving for the Duke of Cambridge (the future George II) to come to Britain. When this course was rejected, the Jacobite Members joined with other elements of the opposition to obstruct the remaining supply bill of the session, the stamp duty. Locked into a struggle for power with Oxford, Bolingbroke approached both Pakington and Lockhart with promises of support if they would help to bring the session to a close. This they agreed to do: the ministry’s financial business was completed, and Parliament was prorogued on 9 July 1714. Oxford was dismissed in late July and rumours abounded of Pakington’s imminent appointment to a new Treasury commission as part of the ministry’s reconstruction under Bolingbroke. All these plans were upset by the death of Queen Anne on 1 Aug. Indeed, Pakington was so upset by this event that on 6 Aug. he attempted to have Dr John Radcliffe* expelled from the House for not attending the Queen when sent for, but failed to find a seconder for his motion.24
Pakington felt the ill-wind of the Hanoverian succession almost immediately, being removed from the Worcestershire commission of the peace in September 1714, although he was reinstated in November. He also faced a Whig challenge at the county election in 1715, but in a three-way contest he achieved first place in the poll. Yet again he had cause to rebuke Bishop Lloyd for being ‘very hot and violent against me’ and for acting contrary to ‘the nature of a free Parliament in which ’tis supposed the freeholders ought to be left to their own choice’. As an afterthought he added, ‘I well hoped parties would have been laid aside on seeing the King come in with so unanimous consent’. He remained a Tory, being classed as such on a list of the 1713 Parliament reclassifying those Members returned in 1715. The recently installed Whig ministry was certainly suspicious of Pakington, and when news of the impending Jacobite invasion broke, he was one of the nine MPs ordered into custody on 21 Sept. Forewarned, he was ready to greet the messenger at Westwood with the news that he had arranged comfortable transportation to London in the stagecoach departing from Worcester the following day. Given his confident performance before the Privy Council, one may infer that he was indeed innocent of plotting an armed restoration of the Stuarts. It is doubtful whether, given his abhorrence of the Civil Wars and defence of the Church and the ancient constitution, he would have countenanced an insurrection backed by foreign troops. He was certainly wise enough to steer clear of any involvement in the ‘Fifteen’, but the Jacobite court continued to regard him as a potential supporter. He remained active in the parliamentary opposition, enjoying great popularity, which enabled him to defeat the Whig Earl of Coventry (William Coventry*) to become recorder of Worcester in 1726, although he was himself not in the best of health. Indeed, when the Whig oppositionist Samuel Sandys† was informed that Pakington would shortly visit the city to take the oaths for that office, his correspondent added, ‘in all probability his vanity and popularity may cost him his life’. Pakington died on 13 Aug. 1727, a few days after the dissolution of Parliament, thereby allowing his son, Sir Herbert Perrott Pakington, 5th Bt.†, a smooth succession as knight of the shire. In his will Sir John instructed that he be buried in the parish church of Hampton Lovett. The real estate had already been devised to his son by another settlement. A monument with the following inscription was set up at Hampton Lovett:
an indulgent father to his children, a kind master to his servants, charitable to the poor, loyal to the king, and faithful to his country. Who served in many Parliaments for the county of Worcester, speaking his mind there without reserve, neither fearing nor flattering those in power, but despising all their offers of title and preferment upon base and dishonourable terms of compliance.
It was perhaps fortunate that rumours of his secret pension did not begin to surface until 1731, despite having been known about in some circles as early as 1717.25
Pakington was a man of forthright opinion. His ‘vociferous and unrelenting Toryism’ drew pungent verdicts on his role in politics. But any assessment of him must take into account his family history. The Civil Wars and Interregnum were traumatic events for the Pakingtons, as his speeches illustrate, and he was ever watchful to prevent a return to these dark days, perceiving the Anglican Church as the chief bulwark against a recurrence. This explains his consistent defence of, and attempts to tighten up, its monopoly of civil and political office. Such an approach won him the plaudits of historians of the Tory party such as Keith Feiling, for whom he was the ‘hereditary Maecenas of High Churchmen’. Not surprisingly, Whiggish historians were more critical, a tribute perhaps to the emotional power apparent in his speeches. Thus the 5th Earl Stanhope saw him as a ‘cross-grained and conceited politician . . . a most rancorous partisan, delighting in coarse invectives and spiteful attacks’.26
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Williams, Worcs. MPs, 54; Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. (Harl. Soc. xxxi), 191; Add. 29578, f. 264; Trans. Worcs. Arch. Soc. xiii. 48.
- 2. Surr. RO, (Kingston), Somers mss 371/14/J6, Sir James Rushout, 1st Bt.*, to Somers, 28 Oct. 1695; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 77/85 list of Droitwich freemen, 1697–1712; Hereford and Worcester RO (Worcester), Hampton mss 705: 349/BA4657/iii/37, Thomas Rowney* to Pakington, 25 Apr. 1705.
- 3. Nash, Worcs. i. 353.
- 4. VCH Worcs. ii. 151, 155; VCH Bucks. iii. 7; ii. 332; PCC 44 Ent; Nash, 299; Epistolary Curiosities ed. Warner, 141–2; Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 13, f. 263.
- 5. Add. 70270, Robert Harley to his wife, 24 June 1690; 70017, same to Sir Edward Harley*, 10 Jan. 1692[–3]; 29578, f. 482; Bucks. Sessions Recs. i. 354, 364, 388, 411–12, 414, 424, 425, 427; CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 165.
- 6. Somers mss 371/14/J4, 7, 6, Rushout to Somers, 3 Aug., 4 Nov., 28 Oct. 1695; Add. 18675, f. 39; 29578, ff. 615, 627; CSP Dom. 1696, p. 287; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs. 127.
- 7. Cam. Misc. xxix. 386; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxiii), 238.
- 8. Cocks Diary, 41–42; HMC Johnstone, 114; Bodl. Carte 130, f. 406; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 387.
- 9. Hist. Jnl. xxx. 307; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 121; Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/102, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 3 Aug. 1700; Add. 29579, ff. 201, 242, 254; 70227, Thomas Foley III to Harley, 5 Feb. 1700[–1]; Somers mss 371/14/B18, Walsh to Somers, 4 Dec. 1700.
- 10. Cocks Diary, 81–82; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 293; Ideology and Conspiracy ed. Cruickshanks, 29; Add. 29579, f. 293.
- 11. Add. 29579, ff. 298, 342; Hereford and Worcester RO (Hereford), Foley mss E12/F/IV/BE, R. Baker to Philip Foley, 28 Nov. 1701; Somers mss 371/14/B20, Walsh to Somers, 26 Oct. 1701; Beaufort mss at Badminton House, Coventry pprs. 503 i. 2, p. 3, ‘Sir John Pakington’s answer to the papers put up against him’; Burnet, v. 3.
- 12. Add. 29579, ff. 391, 394, 396, 332, 441; G. Holmes, Trial of Sacheverell, 18–19; HMC Portland, iv. 45; Barré thesis, 237–8.
- 13. The Character of a Low Churchman, 26; Lansd. 773, f. 17; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. vi. 153–5; Add. 32501, f. 4.
- 14. Add. 29579, f. 507; 70220, William Courtenay to Harley, n.d., ‘11 o’clock Saturday morning’; Hereford and Worcester RO (Worcester, St. Helen’s) Cal. Wm. Lygon letters 110, Pakington to Lygon, 3 Feb. 17