TRENCHARD, John (?1668-1723), of Abbot's Leigh, Som.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1722 - 16 Dec. 1723

Family and Education

b. ?1668, 1st s. of William Trenchard of Cutteridge, Wilts. by Ellen, da. and h. of Sir George Norton of Abbot’s Leigh, Som. educ. Trinity, Dublin 29 May 1685, aged 16; I. Temple, called 1689. m. (1) da. of Sir Thomas Scawen, who cut her own throat Nov. 1718, s.p.1; (2) lic. 19 Nov. 1719, Anne, da. of Sir William Blackett, 1st Bt., M.P., of Wallington, sis. of Sir William Blackett, 2nd Bt., s.p. suc. fa. 1710.

Offices Held

Commr. of forfeited estates [I] 1699.


Distantly related to Sir John Trenchard, M.P., secretary of state to William III, Trenchard, a Somerset landowner, made his reputation at the end of William III’s reign as the most effective of the Whig pamphleteers who raised an outcry against a standing army, and as the author, in his capacity as a member of the forfeited Irish lands commission, of a vitriolic report reflecting on the King. He seems to have taken no further part in politics till a letter from him to an unknown person shows that he made overtures to Sunderland to succeed William Pynsent at Taunton, which in the past had been represented by Sir John Trenchard. The letter is undated but the references to Pynsent’s not attending and to Sunderland’s acting on ‘principles of liberty’ suggest that it was written soon after the repeal of the Occasional Conformity and Schism Acts in 1719, the subject of Pynsent’s last recorded vote. Trenchard wrote:

When I was last to wait upon your Lordship you informed me that Lord Sunderland continued in the disposition to bring me into the House and the only obstacle to it was that he could not readily find a proper place for a gentleman of Mr. Pynsent’s condition: I confess I always doubted it, and do so now more than ever since there are reasons to believe the Court are upon a new plan of politics, but I have now an opportunity to try the sincerity of great men’s promises, for Mr. Pynsent is content to quit the House upon any terms, and will accept any place to do it which he will give up again immediately, so that my Lord can have no objection but what must be personal to me, for Mr. Pynsent never attends.
If my Lord continues to act upon the principles of liberty he is sure of my utmost assistance and there can scarce such a circumstance of affairs happen, but my attachment to the present ministry will be greater than to any who now appear to oppose them.2

Not getting Pynsent’s seat, he later in the year wrote a pamphlet against the peerage bill. In 1720 he began his collaboration with Thomas Gordon, a Scotch journalist, in the Independent Whig, where they attacked the High Church party, and in the London Journal, a precursor of the Craftsman, in the famous ‘Cato Letters’, where they called ‘for public justice upon the wicked managers of the late fatal South Sea scheme’.3 When in August 1721 they were about to print the reports of the secret committee set up by the House of Commons to inquire into the scheme, the Government had the papers seized and broke the printing press. Soon after this, negotiations began which ended in the London Journal becoming a government newspaper, with Gordon going over into the pay of the Government.4 In Sunderland’s plans for the 1722 Parliament drawn up c. October 1721 Trenchard is put down to replace Pynsent at Taunton. Returned there as an independent Whig, he opposed Walpole’s proposal to remit two millions owed to the Government by the South Sea Company, 12 Dec. 1722. On 29 Jan. next, in a debate on the frauds on the tobacco duty, he denounced the ‘great frauds made by the North Britons upon the English’, moving that they should be subjected to discriminatory regulations, but failed to find a seconder. On 3 Feb. he moved for an inquiry into the collection and payment of the malt duty in Scotland, declaring that ‘the Scotch had cheated us in everything’; but ‘like an irresolute man did not insist on his motion’ after Walpole had described his speech as ‘inflammatory’ and tending to break the Union.5 On II Mar. he opposed proceedings against one of the Atterbury plot conspirators by a bill of pains and penalties, arguing that the proper procedure was by a bill of attainder, but again found no support. He died 16 Dec. 1723, shortly before the opening of the next session.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. PCC 47 Bolton; HMC Portland, v. 573; N. and Q. (ser. 2), xi. 215.
  • 2. Undated, addressee unknown, Sunderland (Blenheim) mss.
  • 3. Cato’s Letters (1733 ed.), p. xlii.
  • 4. C. B. Realey, ‘The London Journal and its Authors’, Bull. Univ. Kansas, v. no. 3, pp. 1-34.
  • 5. Knatchbull Diary, which credits another speaker with a speech on 6 May attributed by Chandler to Trenchard.