SLOANE, James (1655-1704), of Boswell Court, Little Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London
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Family and Education
b. 1655, 1st s. of Alexander Sloane of Killyleagh, co. Down by Sarah, prob. da. of William Hicks, preb. of Wightring 1620–37 and residentiary canon of Chichester 1632–7. educ. Killyleagh; I. Temple 1672, called 1680. m. by 1690, Mary, da. of William Rumbold of Parson’s Green, Mdx., 1s. suc. fa. 1666.1
MP [I] 1692–9.
Sec. to c.j. in eyre, S. of Trent 1697–1702.
Freeman, Portsmouth 1703.2
Sloane, brother of Sir Hans Sloane, was a successful lawyer, noted for his blustering manner and described by one contemporary satirist as ‘of negro phyz. and impudence replete’. His family probably originated in Ayrshire, his father (an agent for the planter James Hamilton†, 1st Viscount Clandeboye) being the first to settle in Ireland. Sloane’s patrimony was not large – his Irish property was sold after his death for some £1,200. He too began as a ‘man of business’ for the Hamiltons, and was a particular confidant of the dowager Countess Alice, widow of the 3rd Viscount. It was probably her patronage that secured him his place at the Inner Temple. He had also attached himself by 1680 to Lord Conway, another leading county Down landowner, and by 1687 had become a confidential friend and agent of Sir Joseph Williamson*.3
After the Revolution Sloane built up a considerable legal practice in London. Lord Ranelagh (Richard Jones*) recommended him as ‘a very true friend, and a diligent man for his client . . . if he pleads before you use him kindly, and when you have nothing to do bestow a bottle upon him . . . and if he gets money, you may easily win it off him’. In 1692 Sloane was elected to the Irish parliament on the Hamilton interest for Killyleagh. He was among those described by Lord Lieutenant Sydney (Henry Sidney†) as ‘sent out of England purposely to obstruct everything in this parliament’. Another such troublemaker identified by Sydney was James Hamilton of Bangor, county Down, a brother-in-law of the vehement Whig Lord Monmouth and in all likelihood Sloane’s political mentor at this time. Sloane was an active member of the Country opposition. After the parliament had been abruptly prorogued, he went over to England, and was soon ‘talking loudly of the affronts given him’ in Dublin ‘both from the civil and military officers’. With Hamilton, he was one of the Irish witnesses who in February and March 1693 gave evidence of abuses in the government of Ireland before committees of both Houses of the English Parliament. Chosen again for Killyleagh in the next Irish parliament, in 1695, he remained in opposition, unlike the majority of his Country party colleagues, who supported the new administration of the Whig Lord Capell (Hon. Sir Henry Capel*). His patron Sir Joseph Williamson was active on the same side, but Sloane’s behaviour was imputed to the influence of Hon. Thomas Wharton*. It was said that Sloane ‘was a great bawler and stickler . . . for Wharton’. Sloane had probably come into contact with him as executor in 1692 for Lord Lisburne, whose daughter and heiress Wharton had married. In October 1695, with the Parliament in Dublin still in session, Sloane went over to England, and in January 1696 he was returned at Williamson’s nomination for Thetford, his patron having vacated the seat on his behalf. He never again attended the Irish parliament.4
Sloane rapidly took a prominent part in the business of the House. He was nominated on 21 Jan. 1696 to draft articles of impeachment against the Company of Scotland. It was forecast that he would oppose the Court over the proposed council of trade on 31 Jan. 1696. He signed the Association in February and voted in March for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. On 20 Feb. he was nominated to the drafting committee for a bill to regulate the East India Company. A week later he was ordered to bring in a bill to discharge husbands from liability for the debts of their wives after elopement or separation. He assisted in the parliamentary management of a private bill concerning the Conway estates. He told on 13 Mar. in favour of the Quakers’ affirmation bill, and on 2 Apr. against a petition opposing the bill to regulate the East India Company. He spoke on 11 Apr., during a debate on the King’s rejection of the Commons qualification bill, and was almost ‘called to the bar for saying the bill was partial’. He told on 17 Apr. in favour of an amendment to the wine duties bill, and five days later for an additional clause to the salt duties bill.5
Sloane began the 1696–7 session as an aggressive supporter of the Junto ministry. He clashed in debate with Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, on 28 Oct. 1696, threatening to call Seymour to the bar (for allegations about politically motivated changes in local government), but his proposal was not seconded. He spoke several times for the bill of attainder against Sir John Fenwick†, using his legal expertise to justify the proceedings. On 13 Nov., when it was moved that Fenwick be given more time to produce his witnesses, Sloane remarked, ‘I think the favour you have given is abused, and that it is perfect trifling from the bar’. At the third reading on 25 Nov. he made a speech ‘coming from dinner’ which James Vernon I* considered to have been ‘terrible loud and long’. In Vernon’s opinion this harangue had effectively ended the debate, Sloane ‘giving defiance to answer his points of law, which, though they were pertinent, yet people grew impatient for the question, and the interruption given him might have extended to others’. Among other things Sloane had said:
It is insisted on one side, that here are the laws and liberties of England at stake, and nobody knows whose case it may be next; but pray turn the tables on the other side, and see what the case will be, that here is a gentleman that everybody of the House does believe guilty; that he has been in a conspiracy to bring in the French, and depose the King, and the man came before us, and we had no power to reach him? What will be the precedent on the other side? It will be easy to take off one of the witnesses by men of great estates, and then there is no coming at them even by Parliament themselves; for this Parliament was of opinion, that they could not come at Sir John Fenwick, though they were of opinion that he was guilty.
He naturally voted for the bill. Between December 1696 and February 1697 Sloane assisted in the management of a private bill. In February he was chosen to fill the empty place on the commission of accounts, after Lord William Powlett* had refused to serve. His election was, however, a ministerial ploy to undermine and destroy the commission. A Tory explained it: ‘We have damned our commission of accounts: we agreed to put in . . . Sloane, who is the height of impudence and buffoonery, and brought such a contempt on the bill that the negative was put upon it’. His two tellerships in this session were on 18 Feb. 1697 in favour of committing the King’s Lynn harbour bill, and on 16 Apr. over an extra clause to the marriage of infants bill. On 24 Apr. Wharton named Sloane as his secretary in his new post of chief justice in eyre south of the Trent.6
Sloane was a teller for the Court on 7 Dec. 1697 against a Tory motion that the House consider grievances before voting a supply, and again on 11 Dec. against the report of the committee on the King’s Speech, with its resolution to disband all the land forces. His own comment on the latter vote, in a private letter to Williamson, was that the outcome had been
a great disappointment at court, and it is reckoned they may thank themselves for it; for some of them, as they say, projected the keeping up 35,000 and all the foreigners; such as were to be disbanded to be English. The sending the French into Ireland and bringing Lord Portland’s regiment here, and other things, which they say were projected, put people in such a flame that on Sunday no less than a prorogation or a dissolution was talked of. But I know that the King never had a thought of it, and God forbid, for, in this little time, many of those who were so hot have grown much easier, and I doubt not but that all will end well.
On 18 Dec. Sloane joined other back-bench Whigs in an attack on Lord Sunderland. Bearing in mind Sloane’s connexion with Wharton, Members began to ‘ask one another, whether my lord chamberlain and Lord Wharton were upon ill terms’. On 28 Nov. 1697 Sir William Trumbull* had been told by Lord Peterborough that ‘Sloane called Ld. S[underland] a rogue etc. and would have the honour of impeaching him and that Lord Wharton [was] in it’. Sloane’s attitude to Sunderland, expressed in letters to Williamson, was that ‘most people generally reckon everybody as a saint to him, and think the King will be far better and safer without him . . . for my part, I care for nothing but his destruction’. Sloane intervened in a debate on 20 Dec. on the bill to prevent correspondence with King James. Sir Rowland Gwynne* had clumsily proposed a clause to make it treason for anyone to accept a pardon from ‘King James’, for which there was to be ‘no indemnity but the King’s mercy’. This gave rise to laughter and Sloane
told them I was glad to see everybody so well pleased . . . for by that I knew we had nobody there concerned in the question; but that for people abroad it was no hardship, for I took it that such owning King James’s power was as much as owning the Pope’s jurisdiction, for, though we had heard of two kings of Brentford, we never allowed two Kings of England.
On 20 Jan. 1698 Sloane followed Charles Montagu’s* attack on Charles Duncombe* with a demand that Sir Francis Child* account for sums of public money he had received. Sloane was a teller on 21 Mar. against an amendment to the bill for suppressing blasphemy, and on 7 Apr. in favour of agreeing with a resolution of the committee of supply. He told again on 15 Apr. against adjourning the report of the committee on the bill to prevent counterfeiting of coin, on 30 Apr. for the coal duty bill, and on 17 May against the bill for the relief of debtors. In this session he also assisted in the preparation of a bill to regulate the ecclesiastical courts, and introduced another private bill. A manager at a conference with the Lords on 21 June, on questions of procedure at impeachments, he caused embarrassment and anger among his colleagues with some tactless remarks. It was reported that he had
repeated a great deal of old learning to show that the Lords and Commons had once sat together, and when some of the lords had said that care was to be taken to prevent innovations, he commended the precaution, instancing, in strange innovations that had been introduced, particularly that of declaring the Lords useless. The managers for the Commons would have stopped him, and afterwards excused it to the lords.
Another observer thought that Sloane’s intention had been ‘to show his animosity as well as his learning’, and added, ‘when the report of the conference is made, he will escape well if he be not sent to the Tower’. Sloane, however, managed to avoid the expected ‘scouring’.7
Listed in July as a placeman by virtue of his post as secretary to Wharton, Sloane was returned again at Thetford in the 1698 election, alongside Williamson who had recommended him strongly to the voters, his letters ‘calling him in every line his dear Sloane, and telling them that they could not be kind to him if they were not so to his dear Sloane also’. Sloane had some interest of his own now with the corporation, which he had been cultivating, and his position there was said to be ‘immovable’. Commenting on Sloane’s re-election, Vernon wrote, ‘he is one of the troublesome gentlemen that some wish out of the House, and for the same reason, some few others would keep him’. Sloane was classed as a placeman and as a supporter of the Court in lists of the new Parliament. On 18 Jan. 1699 he spoke and voted against the third reading of the disbanding bill. He acted as a teller four times in the first session of this Parliament: on 14 Feb. 1699 against expelling Samuel Atkinson*; on 1 Mar. against William Gower* in a disputed election for Ludlow; on 25 Apr. in favour of an amendment to the bill suppressing lotteries which would have outlawed the game of basset; and finally on 4 May to bring in a bill to put right abuses in the administration of the King’s Bench and Fleet prisons. He had also managed a private bill through the House in March and April. At the beginning of the next session, on 15 Dec., he seconded Simon Harcourt I’s motion to resume the Irish forfeited estates for ‘the use of the public’, a proposal that was unpopular both at court and in his native Ireland. He was subsequently nominated to prepare a bill to this end. On 26 Jan. 1700 a long-delayed petition against his election was heard, and he was found to have broken the law by ‘treating’ the corporation. Although ‘protected by the Court party’, he was unseated. At the by-election he was returned again, but had another petition brought against him. On 2 Mar. 1700 a motion that he was capable of sitting for the borough wa