HOLDEN, Samuel (c.1675-1740), of Roehampton, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 1675, s. of Joseph Holden (yr. s. of Henry Holden of Aston, Derbys.), merchant of St. Bride’s, London by his 2nd w. Priscilla Watt; father-in-law of John Jolliffe. m. Jane Whitehalgh of the Whitehaugh, Instones, Staffs., 1s. 3da.
Director, Bank of England 1720-7, 1731-40 (with statutory intervals); dep. gov. 1727-9, gov. 1729-31; gov. Russia Co. 1728-40.
Holden belonged to a junior branch of a good Derbyshire family. Losing his father when he was five, he was sent while young to the Russia Company’s factory at Riga on the Baltic, where he remained several years. He then returned to London, where he had a counting-house in Winchester St., trading mainly with Russia, but also with Smyrna, Leghorn and Lisbon. Having acquired a large fortune, he became a Bank director and a leading man in the city of London. In 1723 Peter the Great entrusted him with the care of Russian apprentices sent to England for training.1
In 1732 Holden was chosen chairman of a committee set up by the Dissenters to consider the question of applying to Parliament for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts. According to Hervey, Walpole, to whom such an application would have been politically embarrassing, contrived to pack the committee with ‘moneyed men in the City’ all ‘absolutely dependent’ on him, and speaking and acting as he prompted. At any rate, after consultation with ministers, Holden and his committee reported to the general assembly of the Dissenters, and with some difficulty eventually got them to agree, that in present circumstances an application to Parliament was unlikely to succeed and was inadvisable.2
In 1732-4 Holden, in his capacity of governor of the Russia Company, advised the board of Trade at all stages of the negotiations for the commercial treaty with Russia of December 1734.3 In February 1735 he was returned for East Looe by the Administration, with whom he voted in all recorded divisions. In the spring of that year, he and John Bance handled the remittances for the Danish subsidy.4 In June he was chosen agent for Massachusetts, as an ‘eminent friend and benefactor’ of that province and as one
whom God has set in the chair among your brethren the Dissenters, and honoured you before the greatest men at court as well as in the city for wisdom, modesty and integrity.
But he refused the post on the ground that
the various affairs I am engaged in, besides my private concerns, make it impossible for me to go through that trust in the manner I ought. But I do assure you and the rest of the gentlemen I will do ‘em all the services in my power, and I do really think what I may say will have more weight and be better attended to without than under the character of agent.5
In 1735, having kept the Dissenters politically quiet during the excise crisis and secured their continued support of the Administration at the general election of 1734, Holden obtained from Walpole a statement that, although the ministry regarded the moment as unpropitious, they would not ask the Dissenters to defer their application any longer, but left it to them to decide whether to make an application at the next session. On this he and the rest of the committee set about organizing an agitation for the repeal of the Acts. But on 14 Jan. 1736, after seeing Walpole again, Holden reported that there was no hope of government backing, and that, without it, there was no prospect of success. In spite of this, and of a further appeal by Holden for reconsideration of the matter, the general assembly decided to proceed with an application to Parliament. On 12 Mar. 1736 he spoke in favour of a motion for the repeal, which was defeated. On the next day he resigned as chairman of the committee:
Neither my strength nor leisure will allow my continuing in this station, yet I do assure you I shall not only contribute what in me lies for removing the grievances we still lament so far as the circumstances of the times and common prudence shall render it fit to be pushed, but likewise on all occasions use my best endeavours for promoting your interest in particular and the common welfare of all.6
In March 1737 he supported Walpole’s plan for reducing the national debt against Sir John Barnard’s. In the summer of that year he became one of the five trustees of a loan to the Emperor on the copper mines of Silesia.7 On 30 Mar. 1739 he spoke for a new motion for the repeal of the Test Act.8 He died 12 June 1740, leaving £60,000 of his fortune to be shared among his wife and two surviving daughters, and the excess to be distributed to charity.9 Holden chapel at Harvard University was a result of this bequest.