ST. AUBYN, Sir John, 3rd Bt. (?1702-44), of Clowance and St. Michael's Mount, Cornw.
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Family and Education
b. ? 1702, 1st s. of Sir John St. Aubyn, 2nd Bt., M.P., by Mary, da. and coh. of Peter de la Hay of St. Margaret’s, Westminster. educ. Exeter, Oxf. 12 June 1718, aged 15. m. 3 Oct. 1725 (with £20,000), Catherine, da. of Sir Nicholas Morice, 2nd Bt., of Werrington, Devon, coh. to her bro. Sir William Morice, 3rd Bt., 1s. 4da. suc. fa. 20 June 1714.
While still under age St. Aubyn, whose family had long represented Cornish boroughs, was returned for the county, which he continued to represent unopposed until his death. An extreme Tory, he was to have been one of the leaders of the rising planned for the 1722 elections; he was in contact with Jacobite agents acting for Atterbury; and in 1730 the Pretender was asked ‘to write to Sir John St. Aubyn to acknowledge his sense of his service’.1
In Parliament St. Aubyn is described as ‘constant in his attendance and application to the business of the House of Commons; he soon learnt to speak well, but spoke seldom, and never but on points of consequence’. He is recorded as speaking against the Hessians, 3 Feb. 1730, in support of a bill excluding pensioners from the House, 17 Feb. 1731, against an army of 18,000 men, 2 Feb. 1733, and against its augmentation by 1,800 men, 6 Feb. 1734.2 On 13 Mar. 1734, he seconded the opposition motion for the repeal of the Septennial Act. The following report of his speech was sent to the Pretender:
That although septennial parliaments might be looked on as no hardship to those who might perhaps be paid for doing what they ought not to do, yet it certainly was a hardship to tie down country gentlemen to so long and expensive a service of their country. That not only the length of Parliament, but the time for the meeting of the sessions of Parliament seemed to be calculated by ministers to deter country gentlemen from attempting to serve in them; that they were obliged to attend in them at the very time when their country affairs required their presence elsewhere, and while they were attending the sessions of Parliament, the election-mongers, and agents of the ministry were buying them out of their natural interest in the country ... That no man could say these practices were so frequent before the septennial bill passed. That he lived in a country where he had a misfortune to be too well informed of them, for the many boroughs that were in his county there were but few represented by any man who had ever been in the county that long ... Men were not to be debauched all at once ... it would always take some time for a minister to find out who were the men to be seduced, and what was the proper bait for each man. That one man might be pleased with a place or employment. Honours or ribbons might be the properest baits for others. All which might be accomplished in seven years, but could not possibly in one, or even in three ... Long Parliaments like country ponds gathered filth and corruption, and became nauseous to every by-stander, but frequent new Parliaments remain clear and uncorrupted like water just come from the fountain-head.3
He also spoke against the bill restricting the number of livings held by the two Universities, 5 Apr., and ‘very strongly’ against the Quakers’ tithe bill, 30 Apr. 1736.4
In 1739 St. Aubyn discussed the possibility of a rising without foreign assistance with Thomas Carte, the Jacobite historian, who wrote to the Pretender:
Sir John St. Aubyn gave me a commission to assure your Majesty and the Duke of Ormonde when I had a safe opportunity of doing so that whenever your Majesty or his Grace will think fit to land in England, though but with your single persons, he would venture himself with the power he could raise to support the attempt, for he did not desire a man from abroad, being satisfied there was strength enough in the kingdom to overpower the standing forces and effect your Majesty’s restoration.
Carte went on to say that in the
parish of Camborne and the three next continuous thereto viz. Ludgvan, Redruth and St. Agnes, there are not less than 2800 tinners, fighting-men all devoted to that gentleman and zealous in your Majesty’s cause. Sir John has assured me he does not doubt of putting himself at the head of 8 or 10,000 of these any day in the world, and they are the best men we have in England.5
He was abroad for most of 1740 but returned in time to witness the defeat of the motion of February 1741 for Walpole’s dismissal, of which he wrote:
Such insolence in administration, such wantonness in power, which surely nothing could produce but that mistaken vote of innocence, which so lately happened ... [yet] this is the man against whom we want evidence to advise his removal, when at my very door there are such glaring proofs, which, in less corrupt times, would deprive him of his head.
At the 1741 election, he was among the Cornish gentry who agreed to contribute in proportion to their estates to a fund for gaining the venal boroughs in the county. He seconded the two motions for a secret committee to inquire into Walpole’s Administration, to which he was unanimously elected, ‘an honour neither then nor before (as far as the records of Parliament can reach) ever conferred on any [other] Member, as Mr. Speaker Onslow on the spot observed’.6 His last recorded speech was in the debate against the Hanoverian troops of 10 Dec. 1742, on which Thomas Carte reported to the Pretender:
Sir John St. Aubyn, than whom none is more universally esteemed in the House or better beloved in the country, prefaced his speech with the remarkable words, viz. that he considered that day as the last day of liberty in England, and the last day of freedom of debate in that House, and therefore it was high time to speak out, for there was no mincing matters in such an extremity ... he accordingly declared it to be his sentiment that we lived under a Prince who being used to arbitrary power in his dominions abroad, was minded to establish it here: that all his measures were calculated for that end and this of Hanover troops in particular. This speech made him in a moment the darling toast of the city of London ... I give the words here as I had them from his own mouth.7
In 1743 he was among the Members to whom the plan for a French invasion was communicated, described as
Le chevalier Jean St. Aubin, député au Parlement pour la province de Cornouailles est, par rapport a son esprit, son jugement, son érudition, sa probité, le beau röle qu’il joue au Parlement, et la vertu qui paröit dans toutes ses actions, estimé universellement par tout le royaume, mais il est encore plus considérable dans sa province par sa demeure au fort du pais d’étain à Clowance dans la paroisse de Chambron.8
He did not live to see the Forty-five, dying of a fever, 15 Aug. 1744.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. Rep. from the Cttee. to examine Christopher Layer and others (1723), App. F. 11; Stuart mss 133/151, 216/111.
- 2. Quarterly Rev. cxxxix. 376; HMC Egmont Diary, i. 31, 134, 140, 317; ii. 24.
- 3. Stuart mss 169/156.
- 4. Harley Diary.
- 5. Stuart mss 216/111.
- 6. Ibid. 219/91; Quarterly Rev. cxxxix. 378.
- 7. Stuart mss 249/113.
- 8. AEM and D. Angl. 82, ff. 4-23, 62-109.