SHARP, John (1678-1727), of Petty France, Westminster, and Grafton Park, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. 18 June 1678, 1st s. of John Sharp, abp. of York, by Elizabeth Palmer of Winthorp, Lincs. educ. Coneyhatch sch. nr. Highgate (James Ellis); Leeds sch.; Christ’s, Camb. 1693, MA 1695; I. Temple 1698, called 1703. m. lic. 15 Aug. 1710, Anne Maria (with £4,000), da. of Charles Hosier of Wicken Park, Northants. 1s. suc. fa. 1714, uncle James Sharp 1726.1
Member, SPG by 1704.
Commr. revenue [I] 1712–13; ld. of Trade 1713–14.2
Sharp’s grandfather was a wet and dry salter in Bradford, while his father became chaplain in ordinary to James II, but offended the King by refusing to read the Declaration of Indulgence in August 1688. It was said that Sharp’s father ‘not a little disgusted’ William III by declining to accept any see from which a non-juring bishop had been turned out. However, he did not have any qualms about succeeding Thomas Lamplugh at York when that archbishop died in 1691. The new archbishop did not pretend to any fake descent, writing to Ralph Thoresby, the Yorkshire antiquary: ‘if you think it necessary to take notice of my son John, as having some estates about Leeds, I pray say no more of his pedigree than that he is my son’. Archbishop Sharp refused to be influenced by political motives in the distribution of patronage, disapproved of High Church clergy ranting at Dissenters and tried to assist persecuted episcopalians in Scotland. The archbishop’s sons, John and the younger brother Thomas, were educated by a non-juror, ‘a sober, virtuous man and a man of letters’, but they were withdrawn from the school when its head refused the Abjuration.3
Archbishop Sharp usually refused to intervene in parliamentary elections, notably Yorkshire county elections, but as archbishop he was lord of the manor of Ripon and felt himself entitled to use his patronage in that borough. Before the first 1701 election the Ripon borough men requested that the archbishop allow John to be their first choice for Parliament, but it was not until the second election of the year that the archbishop nominated him to the corporation. Sharp was returned along with his kinsman, John Aislabie*, though in a keenly contested election. Sharp was classed as a Tory by Robert Harley* in an analysis of the new Parliament. A contemporary reported on 1 Mar. 1702 that ‘Mr Sharp speeched it against the union [with Scotland] yesterday, and it is said his father will be so indiscreet as to speak against it’ in the Lords. At the 1702 election Sharp was returned unopposed once again. Probably due to the fact that the archbishop believed the Tack was unconstitutional, Sharp did not vote for it on 28 Nov. 1704.4
Following his unopposed re-election for Ripon in 1705, Sharp was classed as ‘Low Church’ in an analysis of the new Parliament. He voted on 25 Oct. 1705 against the Court candidate as Speaker. On 4 Dec. he spoke again on the subject of union with Scotland. He told on 13 Feb. 1706 for an amendment to the bill for better recruiting the army, relating to the 40s. to be given to enlisted men. Sharp was then living in his father’s town house in Petty France, and mixing socially with several bishops and clerics, including Bishop Nicolson of Carlisle. In the 1707–8 session he became embroiled in a dispute with Bishop Nicolson over the latter’s cathedrals bill. Nicolson conducted widespread lobbying when he found Sharp ‘too pert’ on the matter, whereas the archbishop proved to be ‘fair and courteous’ towards him. ‘Spit-fire’ Sharp, as Nicolson called him, was one of the principal opponents of the bill, telling on 28 Feb. 1708 against its committal, and, on 9 Mar., for an amendment to preserve in the crown the right of local visitation of collegiate churches. Returned for Ripon in a contested election in 1708, he was classed as a Tory. On 18 Apr. 1709 he told for adjourning the consideration of an amendment to the bill for improving the Union with Scotland. In the 1709–10 session he acted as a teller on 10 Dec. 1709 for a motion declaring the Tory Allen Bathurst* duly elected for Cirencester. On 11 Jan. 1710 he told in favour of a motion to recommit the report of the articles of impeachment against Dr Sacheverell, and on 24 Mar. against a motion that Sacheverell’s sermon should be burnt by the common hangman. Not surprisingly, Sharp was listed as having voted against the impeachment.5
In the summer of 1710 Sharp’s attention turned away from politics to his own marriage. There were difficulties over the settlement as some lands were held under the archbishopric of York, though estates worth £6,000 in total were eventually settled on him. He sent the mayor of Ripon a buck to celebrate the wedding. Sharp was returned unopposed once more in the 1710 election. On 29 Nov., when the Address was brought into the House, it was observed that ‘it wanted the last paragraph concerning the Pretender . . . which was proposed by Mr Lechmere, but opposed by Mr Sharp’. He was teller on 8 Feb. 1711 in favour of a motion that the episcopal Tory William Livingston* was duly elected for Aberdeen Burghs. In the same year he was included in the ‘white list’ of Tory ‘patriots’ who opposed the continuance of the war, and was also noted as one of the ‘worthy patriots’, who helped to detect the mismanagements of the previous administration. He was also listed on two occasions as a member of the October Club. Archbishop Sharp had been lavish in his praises of the advantages to the Queen and the kingdom of Lord Oxford’s (Robert Harley) appointment as lord treasurer. He was no less effusive when Lord Oxford offered John Sharp a place on the Irish revenue commission:
I am extremely obliged to you upon my son’s account, who I am sure will always acknowledge your kindness with the greatest esteem and gratitude that he is capable of showing. And this I may be bold to say on his behalf that if honest principles and true love to the Queen and the Church can recommend him, he is a just object in your favour.
Sharp was not appointed officially until July 1712. It was reported in January 1712 that at the time of the Union with Scotland Sharp had asked for toleration for the episcopalians, and now returned to this issue. On the previous occasion he was told by the Scottish Members that there was no law against the episcopalians in Scotland and they were free to preach and pray, provided they took the oaths to the government. In reviving the matter Sharp and other Tory Members showed that their ‘zeal is more predominant than their prudence’. Sharp obviously shared his father’s compassion for the ejected episcopalians, probably the more so being relatives of the murdered Archbishop Sharp of St. Andrews. On 10 Apr. 1712 Sharp told for the motion that George Hamilton*, another episcopal Tory, was duly elected for Anstruther Easter Burghs. In June Sharp acted as a teller against an amendment to the bill for the easier recovery of small legacies and gifts for charitable uses (7th), and against a motion to censure the writings of the bishop of St. Asaph (10th). He was one of the October men promoted, when he was appointed to the Board of Trade in February 1713, with a salary of £1,000 p.a. The archbishop wrote once more to thank Oxford, promising that his son ‘will behave himself in the post to which he is advanced to your lordship’s satisfaction and that you will never have occasion to repent of your favour to him’. During 1711–13 Sharp had begun to subscribe to all the lotteries on behalf of himself and his brother-in-law, Dean Dering of Ripon. At the same time, through the offices of his fellow Member, Aislabie, he made substantial investments in South Sea Company stock. It was presumably at this time that he acquired 11 burgages at Ripon. He voted for the French commerce bill on 18 June.6
Returned unopposed for Ripon in 1713, and re-elected in March 1714 due to his appointment to office, Sharp spoke on 22 Apr. 1714 in the debate on the motion to agree with the Lords’ address that the peace was ‘safe, honourable and advantageous’. On 24 May he was appointed to a committee to draft a bill for the better maintenance of Church of England curates, and acted as a teller for a motion to instruct the committee to prevent the sale of any ecclesiastical living with cure of souls. In the summer he was involved as a lord of Trade in the investigations into the activities of Arthur Moore*, who had been accused of accepting money from the king of Spain in the negotiations over the treaty of commerce with Spain and the asiento contract. Sharp gave evidence before the Lords that he had never heard of nor seen ‘such a letter’ from the king of Spain. In July Sharp was added to the Surrey commission of the peace as part of a purge of Whig j.p.s. Not surprisingly, he was classed as a Tory in the Worsley list.7
Although Archbishop Sharp had moderated his former High Church stance in the Lords, had sought a comprehension with the Lutheran Church as a means of paving the way for the Hanoverian succession and, before his death in 1714, had recommended to Queen Anne Bishop Dawes of Chester, a Hanoverian Tory, as his successor at York, this did not save his son from being turned out of the Board of Trade in December 1714. Sharp suffered the further ignominy of being defeated at Ripon by a Whig, who was supported by Aislabie. Dean Dering congratulated Sharp on his resolution to spend the rest of his days in retirement ‘where you may most certainly enjoy a greater content of mind than ever you found in the bustle of the world’. He took no further part in the affairs of Ripon, and sold his burgages to Aislabie. Sharp died at Grafton Park on 9 Mar. 1727 and was buried at Wicken, described by his brother Thomas Sharp, archdeacon of Northumberland, as ‘a polite scholar, an accomplished gentleman, a most affectionate husband and father, a true friend and desirable companion, beloved and esteemed by all who knew him’.8