FULLER, Rose (?1708-77), of Rose Hill, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



8 Dec. 1756 - 1761
1761 - 1768
1768 - 7 May 1777

Family and Education

b. ?1708, 2nd s. of John Fuller, M.P., of Brightling, Suss., and bro. of John Fuller. educ. Leyden 26 Apr. 1729, aged 20; graduated M.D. Camb. 1732. m. Apr. 1737, Ithamar (d. 22 Apr. 1738), da. of Richard Mill, receiver gen. and c.j. Jamaica, s.p. suc. to Rose property in Jamaica 1746, and bro. 1755.

Offices Held


Rose Fuller studied medicine at Leyden University, but there is no evidence that he ever practised. His father made over to him the family estates in Jamaica, and before 1735 Fuller settled there. In 1735 he was elected to the assembly, in 1737 was called to the council, and about the same time made judge of the supreme court. Disputes with Governor William Trelawny led in 1740 to his removal from the council and in 1746 from the bench, and in 1749 he was back in England.1 He returned to Jamaica c.1752 when Charles Knowles succeeded Trelawny, and was appointed chief justice. His brother John wrote to Newcastle, 15 July 1753,2 that Knowles wished Rose Fuller to have ‘a dormant commission for lieutenant-governor of the Island in case of ... the governor’s death or absence’; and Halifax, president of the Board of Trade, said

that he had a most extraordinary character of my brother, not only from Mr. Knowles, but from several other people of that island, and that his being made chief justice was with the absolute approbation of the whole island.

But on 14 Jan. 1754 Knowles wrote to the Board of Trade ‘complaining of the tyrannical proceedings of Dr. Fuller in his capacity of judge’, and on 15 Feb. about Fuller’s ‘indecent behaviour’ in leading the opposition to the plan to move the seat of government from St. Iago to Kingston.3 Fuller resigned his post of chief justice, and complained of Knowles’s conduct to the Board of Trade. In 1755, on the death of his elder brother, he returned to England.

He was now a wealthy man—landowner and iron-master in Sussex and one of the biggest planters in Jamaica—and determined to enter Parliament. In August 1756 he stood for New Romney. William Sotheby, who had married Fuller’s niece, wrote to Hardwicke, 18 Sept. 1756:4

Mr. Fuller is a real friend to our constitution and wishes very well to the present Administration, and if in Parliament will always vote with them in any measures that ought to be supported, but is of too much property to desire to be brought in by any interest that should entirely restrain the freedom of his vote.

A contest seemed probable; Fuller spent heavily on treats and presents, and in the end was returned without a poll.

In Parliament Fuller was one of the principal spokesmen for Jamaica. On 8 Feb. 1757 his dispute with Governor Knowles was settled when the Board of Trade disallowed the act transferring the seat of government (the part he played in the Commons inquiry into Knowles’s conduct is uncertain). Fuller was occasionally consulted by the Board of Trade on Jamaica, and in 1764 his brother Stephen, a London merchant, became agent for the colony; he himself, while retaining his interests in Jamaica, seems never to have revisited it.

He attached himself politically to Newcastle, and spoke frequently in the House on various subjects. He took great pains to make his interest at New Romney more secure, but he had no property there and could not prevent Sir Edward Dering acquiring control of the borough. In the autumn of 1760 Fuller told Newcastle he stood no chance of being returned for New Romney at the general election, and Newcastle promised to find him another constituency. Then Fuller accepted an offer of a seat at Midhurst from Sir William Peere Williams; when a contest threatened and it seemed doubtful whether Williams would prevail, Fuller wrote to Newcastle, 6 Jan. 1761:5 ‘if I should not be the sitting Member for that borough, which I am engaged and resolved to try my utmost to be, I have no other resource for a seat in Parliament but your Grace’s promise.’

On 1 Mar. 1761 Newcastle, in a list of ‘persons to be brought into Parliament’, put down Fuller for Plympton. The same day Fuller wrote to him on election affairs in Sussex—‘you have my influence, advice, and purse to support your interest everywhere’; then continued:

I go tomorrow at six of the clock to Maidstone where I have had an interview, countenanced by your nephew Sondes and [Robert] Fairfax. I did not give you previous notice of it for certain reasons you can guess.6

The ‘certain reasons’ were no doubt that Newcastle had promised to support the Tory candidates, Gabriel Hanger and William Northey.7

I am sorry I cannot approve of your going to Maidstone [Newcastle wrote to Fuller on 3 Mar.8] because the little interest I have there ... must be against you. I love and esteem you most sincerely, but if I do not keep my promise and my word I am sure you would not esteem me ... I see the reason you did not mention your intention to me, but if you had I think I should have persuaded you not to attempt it.

Fuller replied, 12 Mar. 1761:9

I was ... invited to offer myself at that town by the Whig interest, which before I was twenty years of age I was convinced was the only one by which the religion, power and internal peace of this nation could be preserved ... Upon these principles I set out and have continued to act upon and shall persevere in to the end of my life. I attached myself to your Grace because I knew these principles were rivetted in your soul, and not upon account of your birth, riches or power.

Despite the Treasury interest being against him he was returned head of the poll.

On 14 Aug. 1761 Lord Boston wrote to Bute about an application for Church patronage from Fuller’s brother, Henry:10 ‘The favour asked seems to me to be an affair of no great difficulty, and if you should think it proper to interfere in it your Lordship will lay the family of the Fullers under an obligation to you.’ In Bute’s list of December 1761 Fuller is marked: ‘Newcastle. But not certain. Supposed Government.’ He appears in Newcastle’s list, 27 Sept. 1762, of ‘persons to be sent to’ for the opening of Parliament; about which Newcastle wrote to Thomas Pelham on 23 Oct.: ‘I wish you would convey my desire also to Rose Fuller; but say nothing about the meeting at the Cockpit to him. It is reported that Rose Fuller talks oddly; I think I may depend upon him after all he has said to me.’11 But Fuller is included in Henry Fox’s list of Members favourable to the peace preliminaries; voted with Administration on the motion to postpone their consideration, 1 Dec.; and does not appear in any list of those who voted against them, 9 and 10 Dec.

Yet he voted consistently against the Grenville Administration; spoke against them in the debate on general warrants of 17-18 Feb. 1764; belonged to Wildman’s Club; and was classed by Newcastle, 10 May 1764, as one of his ‘sure friends’. When Grenville announced his intention to lay a stamp tax on America, 9 Mar. 1764, Fuller ‘got up to express his satisfaction in the plan’;12 but in the debate on the Stamp Act resolution of 6 Feb. 1765 spoke and voted against it, and on 15 Feb. presented a petition against it from merchants trading to Jamaica. On 1 Apr. he spoke against a bill to allow troops in America to be quartered upon private houses. He was also active in the debates on the Regency bill, proposed that the Queen should be appointed, 9 May 1765, and spoke ‘though in very moderate terms’ against the amendment to include the Princess Dowager among those capable of becoming Regent, 10 May.13

On the formation of the Rockingham ministry Newcastle wrote to Rockingham, 12 July 1765:14 ‘I would most earnestly recommend for the public service Mr. Rose Fuller’; and suggested he might go to the Board of Trade. No offer seems to have been made, but Fuller did good service as chairman of the committee of the whole House which considered American affairs. He was also a prominent member of the committee of West India merchants and planters, and helped to reach agreement between them and the North American committee about the proposed free port in Dominica. ‘I send you the agreement of the West India committee,’ wrote James West to Newcastle on 8 May 1766,15 ‘which Rose and Stephen Fuller have had infinite merit in procuring.’

In March 1766, two years before the general election was expected, Fuller asked Newcastle for his support at Rye—a borough normally under Treasury control but which had remained faithful to Newcastle and which he regarded as his own. Newcastle readily agreed, but took offence when Fuller asked that the matter be put in writing and the local manager and the Treasury be informed—he feared, with reason, that Fuller was hoping to establish his own interest at Rye. Fuller supported the Chatham Administration even after Newcastle had gone into opposition, which increased Newcastle’s dissatisfaction with him; still he remained his candidate at Rye, and in 1768 was returned unopposed. He built up an interest in the borough, in 1774 was again returned unopposed, and at his death was succeeded by his niece’s husband, William Dickinson.

On 2 Feb. 1769 he spoke and voted against the court over Wilkes’s libel, but voted with them in three other divisions this year over Wilkes and Middlesex. Generally he supported Administration, but took a different line on America— ‘the most important business that can come before the House’. On 8 Feb. 1769 he warned the Commons that coercion in America would achieve nothing: ‘Where do gentlemen wish to end? Do they expect that before it is ended the Americans should in their assemblies declare the power of taxing them to be in this country?’16 And on 5 Mar. 1770 he spoke for the repeal of the tea duty.

In Robinson’s first survey on the royal marriage bill Fuller was classed as ‘doubtful’; in the second, 8 Mar. 1772, as ‘contra’. On 23 Mar. he moved to confine the bill to the duration of the King’s life: ‘He had talked, he said, with men of all sides, and all thought that the Act ought to be but temporary.’17 He voted with the court on the naval captains’ petition, 9 Feb. 1773, and the Middlesex motion, 26 Apr. 1773, but against them on Grenville’s Election Act, 25 Feb. 1774.

In the spring of 1774 he opposed the measures taken against America. On 21 Mar. 1774 he said on the second reading of the Boston port bill:

I am from the bottom of my heart convinced that if this bill passes as it now is it will ruin this country. I would alter the mode of the bill for it destroys all trade. I would lay a large fine ... I am sure it would be complied with. If they did not pay it by such a day I would have this bill take place.

And on the third reading, 25 Mar.: ‘Had I in the course of this debate learnt that the tea duty would have been repealed, I would have voted for it. But as I have rather had the contrary intimated I must vote against it, for I think a rebellion will be raised.’ He said of the tea duty, 28 Mar.: ‘I know it is the genuine foundation of our evils’; and on 19 Apr. moved its repeal (when Burke made his celebrated speech on American taxation):

I mean it as an olive branch to show that the House means to act just and reasonably towards the Americans. The Boston Port Act we passed the other day will be looked on by the Americans as a very cruel one ... The bill we have now before us for regulating the colony will not be less relished; they may and I think will resist the execution of them by violence or by confederacy ... and America as they are now united will be difficult to overcome.18

On 6 May he was one of the 24 who voted against the third reading of the Massachusetts Bay bill. Yet Robinson, in his electoral survey, September 1774, classed him as a Government supporter.

On 19 Dec. 1774 he made his last recorded speech in the House:19

Mr. Rose Fuller said that we were too precipitate in our last measures; and that was the chief reason why they miscarried; that he foresaw at the time they would answer no end but to inflame; nor ever would while they were continued to be directed to the same end; on which account he would be much better pleased that the affairs of America ... were taken up on mature deliberation, and discussed with coolness, in order, in the end, to come to a wise, deliberate, and rational decision.

But on 12 Jan. 1775 Burke wrote to Rockingham about a petition on America:

Mr. [John] Ellis [agent for Dominica] has done a great deal towards bringing the West India merchants and planters to a right sense of their situation. He would have succeeded better, if your Lordship’s old withered Rose, who in his best was no better than a dog rose, had not, within these few weeks, totally altered his hue. He has seen his brother, and he has seen Lord North. He had drawn a set of resolutions as the basis of a petition, in which no shadow of censure was thrown upon any of the Acts; nor did he admit the most remote allusion to the advantages derived from your Lordship’s repeal ... But I showed Ellis the Journals yesterday morning, where Rose Fuller was in the chair of the committee for repealing that Act, one of the tellers on the division, and a principal actor and zealous manager in the whole. It seems our Rosicrucian philosopher had lost all memory of this transaction. Ellis instantly called on him, revived his recollection, and for the mere sake of consistency he consented to admit a hint concerning the repeal.

He seems to have reverted to Administration; and his name does not appear in any of the four minority division lists between 22 Feb. 1775 and his death on 7 May 1777.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Add. 19038, ff. 44-45.
  • 2. Add. 32732, ff. 270-1.
  • 3. Bd. Trade Jnl. 1754-8, pp. 39, 58.
  • 4. Add. 35692, f. 374.
  • 5. Add. 32917, f. 155.
  • 6. Add. 32919, ff. 344, 348.
  • 7. Namier, Structure, 113-18.
  • 8. Add. 32919, ff. 410-11.
  • 9. Add. 32920, ff. 121-2.
  • 10. Bute mss.
  • 11. Add. 33000, ff. 129-35; 32943, ff. 402-3.
  • 12. Harris’s ‘Debates’.
  • 13. Grenville to the King, 11 May 1765, Fortescue, i. 87.
  • 14. Add. 32967, f. 349.
  • 15. Add. 32975, f. 114.
  • 16. Cavendish’s ‘Debates’, Egerton 217, ff. 248-9.
  • 17. Walpole, Last Jnls. i. 65.
  • 18. Brickdale’s ‘Debates’.
  • 19. Almon, i. 26.