SLOPER, William (?1658-1743), of West Woodhay, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. ?1658, s. of William Sloper of Great Bedwyn, Wilts. educ. New Coll. Oxf. 5 June 1679, aged 20. m. bef. 1708, Rebecca Abbott, 2s.
Clerk to paymaster gen. by 1702; dep. paymaster gen. 1714-20; dep. cofferer of the Household by 1730-d.
In 1714 William Sloper bought the estate of West Woodhay,1 not far from his native town of Great Bedwyn. Returned unopposed in 1715 for Great Bedwyn, which he represented for most of his parliamentary career, he voted with the Government in all recorded divisions of this Parliament. As deputy paymaster general he handled Walpole’s official accounts both while and after he held the office of paymaster, including a transaction involving the sale of £9,000 South Sea stock in January 1720 on which Walpole made a profit of nearly £3,700.2 Turned out on Walpole’s return to the Pay Office in 1720, he took an active part in the parliamentary proceedings following the collapse of the South Sea bubble, attacking the directors, 15 Dec. 1720, and carrying a resolution, 19 Dec., that ‘the present calamity was mainly owing to the vile arts of stock jobbers’. Elected to the secret committee set up in January 1721 by the Commons to investigate the affair, he was one of the three members of the committee who abstained from voting on the case of Charles Stanhope,3 but he strongly supported severity in the cases of Sir John Blunt and John Aislabie. He opposed Walpole’s engraftment scheme, 7 Feb., and opened the debate on the relief to be extended to subscribers to the Company’s stock, 2 May. In the same session he also spoke against the Government on the Bere Alston election, 11 May, and on a proposal for defraying the civil list arrears, 12 July; joined in protests against obnoxious newspaper articles, which led to the prosecution of the publisher, 28 May; and backed a petition for a Quaker relief bill, 13 Dec. 1721. In the next Parliament he spoke against the Government on the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, 16 Oct. 1722; the special levy on Papists, 26 Nov. 1722; the army, 22 Jan. 1724; and on the civil list arrears, 17 Apr. 1725.
After George II’s accession, when Sloper obtained a place under Walpole’s brother, Horace, no more anti-government speeches by him are reported. He became a member of the council of the Georgia Society in January 1733, attending meetings regularly till 1741. On 12 Feb. 1734 he spoke in favour of the abolition of the duty on Irish yarn, observing that
no Member of this House will speak for the advantage of Ireland but as it concurs with the interest of England, and yet we ought to look on that people as part of ourselves ... What millions have been lost to England by the prohibition of Irish manufacture 36 years ago.4
On 29 Apr. 1737 he opposed Sir John Barnard’s financial proposals. In the final debate of 9 Mar. 1739 on the convention with Spain, ‘old Sloper’ ‘was asleep till the House was begun to be told, and they would not let him go out after he was awake, so he voted against his inclinations’,5 i.e. against the convention. His last recorded speeches were for repealing the Test Act, 30 Mar. 1739, and for an increase in the army, 10 Dec. 1740. He did not stand in 1741, but was brought in for Whitchurch at a by-election in January 1742. He died 14 Jan. 1743.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: R. S. Lea
- 1. HMC 15th Rep. VII, 217.