BOND, John (c.1550-1612), of Taunton, Som.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. c.1550. educ. Winchester; New Coll. Oxf. 1569, aged c.19, BA 1574, MA 1579.1 m. Anstice, 1da.2 d. 3 Aug. 1612.3

Offices Held

?Chaplain, New Coll. by 1574;4 master, Taunton g.s. 1579-at least 1599.5


Bond is sometimes described as a Somerset man, but he himself claimed that he was born in Devon. Despite his obscure parentage, he became one of the foremost classical scholars of his age. Already ‘much noted for his proficiency in academical learning’ when he took his first Oxford degree in 1574, he remained at New College for a further five years, but failed to secure a fellowship, perhaps debarred from this rank by marriage. Instead, the college provided him with the mastership of Taunton grammar school, which he held for more than 20 years, numbering James Clarke I* among his pupils. Latterly, ‘worn out with the drudgery of a school’, he turned to the study of medicine, and despite his lack of formal qualifications ‘became at length eminent therein’.6 He sat for Taunton in the 1601 Parliament, establishing a reputation for independent thought with outspoken attacks on magistrates’ powers and compulsory church attendance.7

Re-elected for Taunton to the first Jacobean Parliament, Bond continued to make his presence felt in the Commons, though with around 26 recorded speeches and just 29 committee appointments, he never became one of the leading figures. During the 1604 session, he introduced a bill on 31 Mar. to end benefit of clergy for certain kinds of manslaughter. When the measure received its first reading he and some other Members proposed that a ‘project and provision might be thought on, to prevent quarrels’ (20 April). Named five days later to the bill’s committee, he became dissatisfied with its progress, and successfully moved on 4 May for additional members to be appointed. Sir Robert Napper reported the bill on 12 May, but it was rejected upon its third reading a week later, and replaced by a narrower measure limited to cases of stabbing.8 Bond was also nominated to scrutinize bills to prevent rustlers from claiming benefit of clergy, and to repress alehouses (21 Apr. and 23 May).9 He attacked as disproportionate the penalties proposed in the bill against hunting with guns, helping to secure its rejection on 19 May. However, he was named to the committee for a milder replacement measure, and spoke again during its third reading debate, though his views were not recorded (30 May and 8 June).10

In the second session Bond firmly supported the Crown’s request for supply. When this subject was broached in the Commons on 10 Feb. 1606, he waxed lyrical about the ‘manifold benefits’ of James I’s rule: formerly ‘of a weak, feeble, and breathless estate’, England had now ‘become the most opulent, rich and mighty empire of Christendom’. Lapsing into Latin, he warned that in peacetime it was still advisable to guard against future troubles, and declared optimistically that if the royal coffers were filled, the king would prove a trustworthy storekeeper. He was named to the committee for the subsidy bill, and when the measure was reported he quoted from the Roman philosopher Seneca, observing that a necessary service performed tardily was as much use as rock-hard bread (10 Feb. and 25 March).11

Bond was less co-operative over the reform of purveyance. On 6 Mar. he attacked the government’s preferred strategy of compounding for this feudal service, declaring that ‘to enter into composition is to fall a sartagine in ignem’, as an afterthought providing an English translation, ‘from the frying-pan into the fire’. Nevertheless, he again highlighted the Crown’s urgent financial needs, employing medical parlance to compare James’s massive debts to a ‘body wasted with a continual burning fever’. The kingdom’s strength, or its ‘sinews’, was ‘chiefly founded in the head; if there be a contraction in the treasure, the head, there must be a cramp in the whole’. Accordingly, he argued for a larger subsidy grant of three subsidies and six fifteenths.12 He maintained the same dual approach when he opened the supply debate on 11 Mar., again opposing composition for purveyance, and asserting that ‘the country expects we should proceed by bill’, the more radical option. However, while favouring a short bill against the board of Greencloth, which he viewed as the main source of the present grievances, he also praised Sir Edwin Sandys’s call three days earlier for efforts to improve the king’s ordinary revenues, by way of compensation for the loss of purveyance. Recognizing that this would be a slow process, he again urged the House to consider a larger subsidy grant: ‘whereas we have with all alacrity given two subsidies and four fifteenths, now, forasmuch as the king’s occasions do require more, and for that fifteenths do fall on the poorer sort, he wished we might grant two subsidies more’.13 He apparently also sprang to the government’s defence on 7 Apr., when the general grievances for presentation to James were first reported to the Commons. Finding that the list was headed by the contentious new imposition on currants, he ‘adviseth that nothing [be] said to be grievous that is not’.14

Bond was named on 25 Jan. to the committee for the bill prohibiting the residence of married men with their families in university premises, which was presumably of personal interest. He was also appointed to legislative committees on the local treatment of foundlings and the confirmation of land grants made to corporations for charitable purposes, a matter of much concern to his constituency (19 March).15 Following the second reading of the bill on legal fees, on 14 Feb., he argued against appealing to custom in order to defend current practices, and pleaded for at least a partial reform of the charges for copying documents. This intervention earned him a place on the committee. He was also added on 21 Mar. to the committee for the bill to reform abuses in the court of Marshalsea. On 14 Apr. Bond criticized the bill against recusancy, calling for the removal of the clause whereby convicted recusants would be classed as outlaws, on the grounds that it was ‘against nature, and cruel’ to deprive such people completely of legal protection.16

Bond’s helpfulness over supply did not go unnoticed in government circles, and he was permitted to dedicate his Commentaries on Horace to Prince Henry. The book rapidly achieved an international reputation, and was still regarded as a definitive work of scholarship two centuries later. The first edition appeared on 7 Aug. 1606, and two days later Bond was granted a reversionary lease of some property in Taunton.17

When Parliament resumed for the 1606-7 session, Bond continued to back the Crown, this time over the proposed Anglo-Scottish Union. He was appointed on 24 Nov. to attend a conference with the Lords on this topic, and three days later delivered a lengthy speech lambasting the project’s critics. Arguing that the king and his councillors were best placed to judge the correct course of action, he reminded the House that James’s accession to the English throne had already effected a personal union of the two kingdoms, and that this was something that Henry VII and Edward VI had long before vainly sought to achieve, either by diplomacy or war. The fact that both countries occupied the same island meant that there was a natural inevitability of union, with ‘one shepherd to guide that flock’ which was already joined in the same religion, and he marvelled at the fierce opposition in Parliament to the current proposals. He maintained this line of reasoning on 6 May, when objections were raised to the bill for the abolition of hostile laws, complaining that there was ‘less care of a commonwealth, [of] what it shall be a thousand years hence, than what it shall be at the present’.18

On 28 Feb. Bond was granted privilege over an action for trespass brought against his servant at the Exeter assizes.19 His attitude to the problems of urban sprawl and overcrowding was more realistic than that of many Members. On 11 Mar., during a debate on the bill to prohibit subletting and division of tenements in London, he observed that there were inevitably more people to be housed in areas which offered the most employment. This measure was shortly afterwards rejected, but when a new bill on the same topic appeared in the House, Bond was nominated on 15 May to its committee. He also opposed a further bill to limit the construction of new buildings in London’s suburbs (19 June).20 On 7 May he was named to help scrutinize the bill to prevent the murder of illegitimate children by their parents. As the representative of a cloth-producing district, he objected on 11 May to a proviso in the bill for the true making of woollen cloth, which was recommitted.21 By now he was well known in the Commons, and his propensity for Latin quotations was lampooned in the scurrilous ‘Parliament Fart’ poem, which originated in this session: ‘ "Silence", quoth Bond, "though words be but wind, Yet I much mislike of this motion behind, For", quoth he, "it stinks the more you stir it, Naturam expellas furca licet usque recurrit" ’.22 In the autumn of 1607, Bond was apparently back at Westminster, albeit not in his parliamentary capacity, for he brought a suit in Chancery to restrict the level of tithes payable by Taunton residents to the lay rectors of St. Mary Magdalene parish.23

In the first session of 1610, Bond was named to the committee for the Minehead harbour bill, which he twice supported in debate, explaining ‘the great and extraordinary charge’ incurred by George Luttrell in reconstructing this haven (23 Feb., 28 March). He also revived the bill to prevent the murder of bastard children (26 Apr.), but it made no progress. Given his track record on supply, he probably supported the Crown’s Great Contract proposals, but this was unlikely to win him friends in the Commons. On 2 May, as the House prepared to reject the government’s latest overtures, Bond delivered what ‘seemed an impertinent speech’, which was greeted with ‘much hissing and spitting’, and calls for the Speaker to interrupt him.24 During the Parliament’s final session, he chaired the committee for a Somerset estate bill, which he reported on 14 November 1610.25

Bond drew up his will on 14 June 1612, noting that he had made provision for the creation of some almshouses in Taunton. Subject to his wife’s interest he left his property to his son-in-law Roger Prowse*, his executor, who subsequently published his edition of the Roman satirist Persius. The will was witnessed on 2 Aug. by Lewis Pope*. Bond died the next day, and was buried in St. Mary Magdalene, Taunton, with a Latin memorial inscription celebrating his medical skill, discretion, eloquence, and piety.26

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Al. Ox.; Ath. Ox. ii. 115.
  • 2. PROB 11/120, f. 333v.
  • 3. Ath. Ox. ii. 115.
  • 4. Ibid. ii. 115.
  • 5. Collinson, Som. iii. 239; Oxford DNB.
  • 6. H. Townshend, Hist. Colls. (1680), p. 306; Ath. Ox. ii. 115.
  • 7. HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 455.
  • 8. CJ, i. 160b, 179a, 184a, 198a, 207b, 215a, 233b.
  • 9. Ibid. 182b, 222b.
  • 10. Ibid. 214b, 229a, 234b.
  • 11. Ibid. 266a-b, 289a.
  • 12. Bowyer Diary, 62; CJ, i. 278b (which incorrectly renders ‘sartagine’ as ‘sarpagine’).
  • 13. CJ, i. 282a; Bowyer Diary, 73-4.
  • 14. CJ, i. 294b.
  • 15. Ibid. 260b, 286b-7a.
  • 16. Ibid. 268b, 288a, 298a; Bowyer Diary, 125.
  • 17. Oxford DNB; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 328.
  • 18. CJ, i. 324b, 1041b; Bowyer Diary, 195.
  • 19. CJ, i. 345a.
  • 20. Ibid. 374b, 1029a, 1053b.
  • 21. Ibid. 370b, 1043b.
  • 22. Bodl. ms Malone 23. The Latin tag, a well-known Roman proverb by Horace, translates as: ‘even if you drive out someone’s true nature with a pitchfork, it will always hasten back’.
  • 23. C2/Jas.I/B3/82.
  • 24. CJ, i. 399a, 416a, 421b, 423b.
  • 25. ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 30.
  • 26. PROB 11/120, f. 333v; Ath. Ox. ii. 115.