BARRINGTON, John (1678-1734), of Beckett, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. 1678, 3rd s. of Benjamin Shute by Elizabeth, da. of Rev. Joseph Caryll. educ. Utrecht c.1694-8; I. Temple 1695. m. 23 June 1713, Anne, da. and coh. of Sir William Daines, 5s. 3da. suc. to Beckett and Shrivenham, Berks., bequeathed to him by John Wildman 1710; to Tofts, Essex, settled on him by Francis Barrington, taking name of Barrington 1711 and arms by Act of Parliament 1716, cr. Visct. Barrington [I] 1 July 1720.
Commr. of customs 1708-11.
In 1704-5 John Shute, a young Presbyterian, attracted the attention of the Whig ministers by a work entitled The Rights of Protestant Dissenters, on the strength of which they sent him to Scotland to win Presbyterian support for the Union. Rewarded for his services with a commissionership of customs, which he lost after the Tories came to power in 1710, he inherited property in Berkshire from an admirer, John Wildman, and in Essex from a distant connexion by marriage, Francis Barrington, whose name he assumed. Returned for Berwick on the local nonconformist interest in 1715, he was commissioned by James Stanhope to draw up a statement of the case for repealing the Occasional Conformity Act.1 On 12 Apr. 1717, replying in the House of Commons to opposition Whig criticism of the Sunderland-Stanhope Government for failing to pass an Act of Indemnity in respect of the late rebellion, while planning to repeal the Occasional Conformity Act, he expressed surprise that a Whig should count it ‘a mistake on the one hand not to give an indemnity to H.M.’s declared enemies; and a mistake on the other hand to make H.M.’s undoubted friends easy’. In 1718 he sent Sunderland a memorandum for the perusal of the King on the best way of relieving the Dissenters without offending the Church of England.2 He spoke in favour of the bill for repealing the Occasional Conformity and Schism Acts, 9 Jan. 1719; was created an Irish peer in 1720; spoke for the Government on a subsidy to Sweden, 17 June 1721; and was re-elected for Berwick in 1722.
Meanwhile Barrington had become sub-governor of the Harburg Company, founded to carry on trade between Great Britain and Hanover, with the King’s grandson, Prince Frederick, as its titular governor. Under a charter granted in 1720 by George I as Elector the Company were granted a number of commercial privileges in Hanover, including the right to hold a lottery at Harburg, where they undertook to develop the port. The lottery aimed at raising £1,500,000 by the sale of 500,000 £3 tickets, one third of which would carry prizes totalling £1,000,000, leaving a profit of £500,000, less charges for managing the lottery, to constitute the capital of the Company, of which the holders of the non-prize-winning tickets would be the shareholders. The catch lay in the provision for managing the lottery, under which Barrington and his co-directors, three of whom were subsequently the ringleaders of the Charitable Corporation frauds, were to pocket no less than £210,000 of the £500,000 profit.
Barrington’s role in this swindle was to use his influence with ministers to obtain a British charter authorizing the lottery to be held in London, without which there was no hope of raising the money. But when in Aug. 1720 he approached the chief ministers, Walpole, Townshend, and Carteret, he was told that a British charter could not be granted, as such a lottery would be neither legal nor prudent. Nevertheless, on 4 Dec. 1722 the Company issued a press notice giving the addresses where tickets were being sold for the lottery in London, on terms already advertised; denying reports that it was being abandoned; and stigmatizing their opponents as the enemies of the King, under whose auspices they were acting. A week later the House of Commons appointed a committee to inquire into this and any other foreign lottery carrying on in the city of London.
On 1 Feb. 1723 the committee presented a report, setting out the above facts.3 Without a division the House of Commons passed resolutions declaring the lottery to be fraudulent and illegal; condemning the unauthorized use of the King’s name; and ordering a bill to be introduced to oblige the managers of the lottery to refund the money they had received to the contributors.4 Consideration of Barrington’s case was deferred till 14 Feb. to give him time to prepare his defence.5
On 14 Feb. the House spent the whole day till 7 at night re-examining the witnesses who had given evidence to the committee. Next day Barrington was heard in his place.
As he was making his defence and going to shew the hopes he had of the British charter, Mr. Walpole stood up and gave him a piece of advice, as he called it, not to go on in that way, for he could assure the House that he as a minister had refused it in every shape and he never heard any of the English ministers but were of the same mind and so his Lordship altered his note.6
Again without a dissentient the Commons resolved that Barrington had been guilty of promoting, abetting, and carrying on a fraudulent undertaking, and that he should be expelled the House.
After standing unsuccessfully for Berwick in 1727, Barrington in 1732 set himself at the head of an agitation among the Dissenters for an application to be made to Parliament for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts. The 1st Lord Egmont heard that
Lord Barrington, who has been the active man in the affair, had told the Ministry that if they would make him an English peer the Dissenters should drop their application, which the ministry, who despise him, have told to everybody ... and it has greatly lessened that gentleman’s esteem among his friends.7
In 1733 Barrington announced his intention of standing again for Berwick, where he still had a strong interest, especially among the corporation, with whom he was ‘a great favourite’.8 George Liddell, one of the sitting Members for the borough, reported to Walpole that Barrington was giving out
that when he waited on the Queen she wished him success at Berwick, and that he was on good terms with you: neither of which I believe.
Barrington was also telling his friends that
he has writ to several great men, and doubts not but he shall have the Government’s interest, and does not think that they will judge so ill, as to oppose him at this time who is no enemy to you. That he can be chose for a trifle elsewhere but cares not for being obliged that way. That he had rather spend £1,000 for Berwick, than a hogshead of ale elsewhere. ’Tis, I believe, genuinely related and is like the man.9
Walpole assured Liddell that Barrington should in no circumstances have the government interest: that he would have no transaction with him on any account. That if no other person could be brought in, he must come in, but not by his means.10
In the event he was defeated by 4 votes. He died 14 Dec. 1734.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Romney R. Sedgwick
- 1. Sir Dudley Ryder's Diary, 154.
- 2. Barrington to Sunderland, 27 May 1718, Sunderland (Blenheim) mss.
- 3. CJ, xx. 115-25.
- 4. Ibid. A bill for this purpose was introduced and amalgamated with a coinage bill, which got no further than the committee stage.
- 5. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 266.
- 6. Knatchbull Diary, 15 Feb. 1722.
- 7. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 304.
- 8. Geo. Liddell to Walpole, 24 Nov. 1732, Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss.
- 9. Same to same, 10 July 1733, loc. cit.
- 10. E. Hughes, N. Country Life in 18th Cent. 274 n.2.