BLADEN, Martin (?1680-1746), of Aldborough Hatch, Essex.
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Family and Education
b. ?1680, 3rd s. of Nathaniel Bladen of Bolton Percy, Yorks. by Isabella, da. of Sir William Fairfax of Steeton, Yorks. educ. Westminster 1795-7; St. John’s Camb. 17 Apr. 1697, aged 16; I. Temple 1697. m. (1) Mary, da. of Col. Gibbs, 2da.; (2) 29 Mar. 1728, Frances, niece and coh. of Col. Joseph Jory, of Aldborough Hatch, Essex, West India merchant, wid. of John Fouch.
M.P. [I] 1715-27; P.C. [I] 1715.
Ensign, Col. T. Fairfax’s regt. of Ft. 1697; capt. Sir Charles Hotham’s regt. 1705; col. of regt. raised in Spain 1709, sold out 26 June 1710; comptroller of the mint 17 Dec. 1714-28; sec. to lords justices of Ireland 1715-17; ld. of Trade July 1717-d.; director, R. African Co. 1717-26; commr. to court of France 1719-20; commr. for settling commerce at Antwerp June 1732-Feb. 1742.1
Bladen began his career in the army, serving under Marlborough in Flanders and Galway in Spain. Selling out in 1710, he stood unsuccessfully for Saltash in 1713 and again in 1715, when he was returned for Stockbridge. After a spell as secretary to the lords justices of Ireland, he was appointed to the board of Trade where he remained for the rest of his life, discharging his duties with such unusual efficiency that he was known as Trade and his colleagues as the Board.
Bladen was one of the three speakers who ‘bore the heat of the day for the Court’ in the debate on the Address on 22 Nov. 1718.2 In 1719 he and Daniel Pulteney went as joint commissioners to the court of France ‘to settle such matters relating to the respective limits of the plantations of the two Crowns in America’ as were left undecided at the Peace of Utrecht.3 A frequent government speaker, usually on trade matters, he was responsible for laying papers relating to his department before the House. In 1725 he was among the African Company directors who divested themselves of their stock to avoid appearing as ‘interested persons or speaking with a design to promote their own private fortunes’ in matters relating to the Company.4 On 18 Feb. 1730 he spoke in favour of the petition for a subsidy towards the maintenance of the African Company’s forts and settlements.5 On 11 Mar. 1729 a merchant giving evidence as to his losses from Spanish depredations told the House that
on reading in his papers that the merchants were desired to lay an account of their losses by the Spaniards before the Board of Trade in order to have it transmitted to the congress at Soissons, he did attend the Board to lay his losses before them, that there were but three commissioners there and that they told him the paragraph was inserted without their knowledge and that they could not help him. Upon which Colonel Bladen stood up in a good deal of anger and said it was false. Sandys and others excepted to this as if it was giving the merchants the lie and intimidating them from giving their evidence, and insinuated as if he should be sent to the Tower or the Bar, but his friends endeavoured to excuse it as well as they could, however it did not avail so far but he was forced to beg pardon of the committee.6
He spoke in the debate on the Hessians, 4 Feb. 1730, observing
that the peace of Seville was lately represented of no advantage to us, since the Emperor was so very terrible, that he could alone withstand all the allies together and defeat our schemes, but now the Hessian troops are proposed, he is represented so insignificant that we need not take any measure to resist him.7
Bladen, whose wife had inherited a large sugar plantation on the island of Nevis in the West Indies,8 was one of the leaders of the West Indians in Parliament. As such he was a prime supporter of the Molasses Act of 1733, designed to compel North Americans to buy more sugar, rum and molasses from the English sugar colonies.9 Introducing the clauses of the bill imposing duties on foreign importations of these commodities into the North American colonies he said that
the duties proposed would not prove an absolute prohibition, but he owned that he meant them as something that should come very near it, for in the way the northern colonies are, they raise the French islands at the expense of ours, and raise themselves also too high, even to an independency ... By discouraging the colonies from making rum of French molasses we shall turn them to sowing corn, making malt, and extracting spirits from thence, which is a manufacture we shall not envy them.10
On the outbreak of war with Spain in 1739, Bladen was ‘among the first and oftenest consulted by the ministers and their committees, in the preparation of their plans for war’.11 In common with other sugar planters, he was opposed to colonial expansion in the tropics, deprecating a conquest of Porto Rico, on the ground that ‘we have more land already than we can people, more sugar and tobacco than we can dispose of to advantage’.12 He spoke against the motion for the removal of Walpole on 13 Feb. 1741.
After Walpole’s fall, there were rumours that Bladen was to be impeached for his share in the Spanish convention.13 However, he continued in office, speaking in support of the Hanoverian troops on 10 Dec. 1742. In January 1744 he was one of the West Indians in the House who combined with the Opposition to defeat Pelham’s proposal for an additional duty on sugar, making an ‘elaborate speech’ against it.14 His last recorded speech was made in the debate of 10 Apr. 1745 on the question of court martialling Admirals Mathews and Lestock, he himself espousing the cause of Mathews.
He died 14 Feb. 1746.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. See under TUFNELL, Samuel.
- 2. HMC Stuart, vii. 570.
- 3. Bd. Trade Jnl. 1715-18, p. 86.
- 4. Wm. Wood to Humphry Morice, 22 Oct. 1725, Morice mss at Bank of England.
- 5. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 51.
- 6. Knatchbull Diary.
- 7. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 29.
- 8. Add. 35337, f. 46; Oliver, Antigua, i. lxvi; Caribbeana, iii. 174.
- 9. F. Wesley Pitman, Development of British W. Indies 1700-63, pp. 248-63.
- 10. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 336; CJ, xxii. 55-56.
- 11. R. Pares, War and Trade in W. Indies 1739-63, pp. 78-79.
- 12. To Ld. Harrington, 12 June 1739, Add. 32694, f. 21, quoted ibid. 83-84.
- 13. Walpole to Mann, 18 Feb. 1742.
- 14. Add. 35337, ff. 45-46.