RUDGE, John (1669-1740), of Mark Lane, London and Evesham Abbey, Worcs.
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Family and Education
b. 15 Oct. 1669, 1st surv. s. of Edward Rudge*. m. 10 Jan. 1699, Susanna, da. and h. of John Letten of London, 1s. 2da. suc. fa. 1696.1
Mayor, Evesham 1691.2
Asst. R. African Co. 1697–1701; cttee. E. I. Co. 1697–8; dir. New E. I. Co. 1704–8; dir. Bank of Eng. 1699–1711, 1715–40 (with statutory intervals), dep.-gov. 1711–13, gov. 1713–15; dep.-gov. S. Sea Co. 1721–30.3
The appointment of Rudge as an assistant in the Royal African Company and to the committee of the East India Company in 1697 suggests that he rapidly took control over his father’s trading interests after his father’s death the previous year. Rudge was active in the Mediterranean trade, lending money to the consul at Alicante and signing a petition of merchants trading to Portugal in 1700. He even joined in a venture with his father’s old partner Sir John Banks*. His election as a director of the Bank of England in 1699, and later involvement with the South Sea Company, indicates a strong interest in finance which during Anne’s reign may have superseded his trading activities. In June 1698 he provided £2,000 towards the £2 million to be raised as part of the bill incorporating the New East India Company. By 1702 he had sold his stock in the Old Company, preferring to invest in the New. He was an advocate of a united company, writing to Thomas Pitt I* in March 1702 that a ‘united trade . . . with good management is capable of making mighty improvements and great profit’.4
Rudge was equally adept at re-establishing the family’s interest at Evesham following the 1695 election. His opportunity came at a by-election caused by the death of Sir James Rushout, 1st Bt.*, in March 1698 when he defeated Hon. Thomas Windsor*. Rudge may have been fairly independent, or an unknown quantity, for in May 1698 the Duke of Shrewsbury commented to Lord Somers (Sir John*) that ‘it were well one knew how Rudge behaves himself in the House’. In reply Somers wrote that ‘Rudge is not to be depended upon, if he be not mistaken by our friends’. Taken together, these remarks imply an expectation that he ought to remain true to his Whiggish background and support the ministry, but had not done so. Nevertheless, Rudge was returned again at the general election later in 1698. The possibility that he was a Country Whig is not negated by his appearance on two lists compiled around this time: on the first he was forecast as a likely opponent of the standing army and on the second, a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments, as a Country supporter. He acted as a teller on one occasion during this Parliament, on 8 Feb. 1700, against a successful motion for an adjournment of the bill hindering papists from disinheriting their Protestant heirs. In reality, this may well have been a tactical division to bring forward discussion on the bill for continuing the Old East India Company which was due to be considered before a committee of the whole later in the day. Significantly, one of the tellers in opposition to Rudge was Sir Thomas Cooke*. After being returned in January 1701 Rudge was defeated in the ballot for commissioners of accounts, receiving only 20 votes. He lost his seat in the Commons in the election of November 1701, his interest having been weakened by a dispute with his relatives in the town ‘about money matters’.5
Rudge lost his seat in November 1701, but regained it in 1702. He does not seem to have been active on important committees, possibly due to his responsibility as a director of the Bank, and later the New East India Company. He voted on 13 Feb. 1703 for agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill extending the time for taking the abjuration oath. On the most controversial question of the Parliament he was forecast as a probable opponent of the Tack on 30 Oct. 1704, and did not vote for it on 28 Nov. On 23 Feb. 1705 he acted as a teller in favour of a clause to be added at the third reading to the bill prohibiting all trade and commerce with France. His support for this clause illustrated his detailed knowledge of trading practice for it allowed the import of French wines contracted for at places in amity with the Queen before a certain time and from whence they might have imported them before the Act. Re-elected at Evesham in 1705, an analysis of the Parliament considered him to be a ‘Churchman’. He voted on 25 Oct. for the Court candidate for Speaker. He was not an active Member in this Parliament. There were contradictory analyses of his political stance in 1708, a list produced early in the year noting him as a Tory, while in another list with the returns of the general election of that year added, he was marked as a Whig. The latter would seem to be the more plausible assessment given that in 1709 he supported the naturalization of the Palatines, and in 1710 he voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. However, his position at Evesham was now stronger than ever and he was returned unopposed in 1710. The ‘Hanover list’ of this Parliament classed him as a Whig. By 1710 he was also credited with £4,000 of stock in the Bank of England and his interest in its affairs led to his election as deputy-governor in May 1711 on the Whig ticket. This brought him into contact with the ministry of Robert Harley*. In July 1712 he was representing the Bank at a meeting with the Treasury, and his brother Edward was appointed a lottery commissioner in 1712–14. However, in the Commons he adopted an unequivocally Whig stance. On 25 May 1711 he voted against an amendment on the South Sea bill which has been seen as an indication of a staunch Whig position, and on 7 Dec. he voted for the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion. On 9 June 1713 he acted as a teller in favour of a motion to recommit the report of the committee appointed to inquire into the proceedings of 1674 relating to the treaty of commerce then depending between France and England, the committee having stated that there were no proceedings in that year. Following this on 18 June he was listed as a Whig who voted against the French commerce bill. A letter he penned at this time to one of his constituents provides further evidence of the close interest he took in fiscal legislation.6
Re-elected in 1713, Rudge maintained his commitment to the Whig cause. On 18 Mar. he voted against the expulsion of Richard Steele and he was classed as a Whig both on the Worsley list and on another list reclassifying those Members re-elected in 1715. He continued to sit for Evesham until 1734. His successful career as both merchant and financier enabled him to purchase the lordship of Braybrooke in Northamptonshire, jointly with John Hopkins* in 1717, and an estate at Farnborough, Warwickshire, in 1725. In his will he instructed that he be buried in the family vault at Wheatfield, Oxfordshire, where his son and heir Edward, an FRS, resided. Rudge died on 22 Mar. 1740.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Vis. Eng. and Wales Notes ed. Crisp, xii. 35–39.
- 2. G. May, Hist. Evesham, 189.
- 3. K. G. Davies, R. African Co. 387; India Office Lib. H.O. misc. mss 762 (Horwitz trans.); info. from Prof. R. Walcott; N. and Q. clxxix. 59.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1697, p. 126; 1700–2, p. 36; D. C. Coleman, Sir John Banks, 162; CJ, xii. 321; EHR, lxxi. 227; Add. 22851, f. 109.
- 5. Surr. RO (Kingston), Somers mss 371/14/E14, Shrewsbury to same, 11 May 1698; Shrewsbury Corresp. 538; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 222; Yorks. Arch. Soc. Copley mss DD38, box H–J, mss poll for commrs. of accts. [Feb. 1701].
- 6. List of Names of all those Proprietors in the Bank (1710); Boyer, Pol. State, i. 264; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvi. 54; Add. 70155, ‘list of persons recommended to be commissioners . . .’; Hist. Jnl. iv. 193, 202; Hereford and Worcester RO (Worcester, St. Helen’s), Cal. Wm. Lygon Letters, 476, Rudge to Lygon, 21 Apr. 1713.
- 7. Williams, Worcs. MPs, 149; PCC 89 Browne; Gent. Mag. 1740, p. 148.