COLMAN, Richard (c.1633-72), of Lincoln's Inn and Melchet Park, Wilts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



8 Feb. 1665 - 13 Oct. 1672

Family and Education

b. c.1633, 1st s. of Edward Colman of Brent Eleigh, Suff. by Dionise, da. of Richard Hale of Claybury, Essex. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1648; L. Inn 1650, called 1657. m. 11 July 1661, Anne, da. and coh. of Edward Hyde, DD, rector of Brightwell, Berks., 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. gdfa. 1653.1

Offices Held

Freeman and standing counsel, Salisbury 1662, recorder 1663-8, commr. for assessment 1663-9.2


Colman’s great-grandfather acquired a small estate in West Suffolk in Elizabethan times. After qualifying as a barrister, Colman rode the Norfolk circuit, where he and Francis North were reckoned the brightest stars. He had a ‘a very comely aspect and a very voluble tongue’, but his marriage to a cousin of Lord Chancellor Clarendon was even more useful to his career. She brought him an estate on the borders of Wiltshire and Hampshire, and in 1663 her uncle, Sir Robert Hyde, resigned the recordership of Salisbury in his favour. He sat for the city as a conservative Anglican in eight sessions of the Cavalier Parliament, an active Member appointed to 90 committees and making 28 recorded speeches. He took a prominent part in the Oxford session. On 12 Oct. 1665 he was instructed with (Sir) John Maynard I and Richard Dowdeswell I to prepare a bill for the better recovery of tithes. He was on the committees for the five-mile bill and preventing the spread of the plague, being sent to the Lords on 31 Oct. to desire a conference. He was appointed to the committee for the punishment of English officers in the Dutch service, and helped to draw up a proviso to the attainders bill. In the next session he was among those ordered to draft a new clause in the poll bill and to bring in bills for encouraging exports and controlling prices. He was one of the managers of Lord Mordaunt’s impeachment.3

During the proceedings against Clarendon in the autumn of 1667, Colman showed courage and discretion, as well as forensic skill. He intervened only in the major debates, observing on 6 Nov.: ‘What is laid before you is only by hearsay, but no assurance that it will be made good’. His principal speech, three days later, on the first charge was so crushing that Anchitell Grey suppressed it altogether from his account of the debate:

The question is, whether it be in your power to declare this article treason by 25 Ed. 3. ... Your enacting power is a kind of omnipotency, but in a declaratory power you can declare no more than is committed to you, and with safety to the subject you cannot declare this treason. Then, what must be our rule in declaring I dare not say. For scarce a man can tell what was treason, before 25 Ed. 3 was made to bring things to a certainty, and what was uncertain to them who made the law can [not] be certain to us now.

On the dispute between the Houses, he observed on 2 Dec.: ‘No man can commit in capital matters without taking examinations beforehand; otherwise no man can justify a commitment. Therefore I am not satisfied that the Lords had not reason to deny’.4

Colman’s defence of Clarendon was very far from damaging his status in the House. He was chosen chairman of the committee to consider the petition of Alexander Fitton against Lord Gerard of Brandon about the Gawsworth estate, presented two reports, and was named to the committee to consider the claim of the Upper House to jurisdiction. He helped to draw up the impeachment of (Sir) William Penn and was ordered to attend a conference. On 7 May 1668 he was among the Members entrusted with emending the articles against Henry Brouncker. In 1669 Sir Thomas Osborne regarded him as one to be engaged for the court by the Duke of York and his friends, and he gave his opinion that the charges against Lord Orrery (Roger Boyle) fell within the Statute of Treasons. In this session he was asked to recommend changes in the poor law, and was appointed to the committee for the continuance of the Conventicles Act. He opposed the divorce bill introduced on behalf of Lord Roos (John Manners): ‘In all laws of divorce the woman is not deprived of her estate ... We must be satisfied somewhat further in matter of fact.’ He intervened in the debate on the sale of fee-farm rents on behalf of his constituency. On 7 Apr. 1670 he was appointed to the committee to consider the privilege case brought by Sir John Pretyman,and he was one of five Members selected to ensure that the resolution of the House was correctly entered in the Journal. He was also ordered to attend a conference on shipping.5

Colman achieved his greatest prominence in his last session. He was ordered to report on defects in the Conventicles and Militia Acts, and on 19 Dec. 1670 he was named to the committee to examine protections granted by Members. His name stands first on the committee for the continuance of Acts for coal prices and to prevent delays in extending property for debt, where he took the chair. After Christmas he acted as chairman of the committee of the whole House to punish the assault on Sir John Coventry, and both in the House and in conference he spoke in favour of the bill to make nose-slitting a felony. He took part in four other conferences, on the subsidy bill, the growth of Popery, the excise bill, and the increase in import duties, stoutly resisting any claim by the Upper House to emend money bills. On 21 Apr. 1671 he reported from the conference on fee-farm rents. Colman was marked out for preferment, and it was said that but for his early death while still in his thirties he would have been appointed solicitor-general instead of Sir William Jones. He was buried at Brent Eleigh on 29 Oct. 1672, leaving the tithes to augment the living under the Act of 1665; which he had helped to prepare. None of his sons entered Parliament, and the family became extinct in the male line in 1740.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 2), i. 373-4;. Vis Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 209; Westminster City Lib. St. Mary le Strand par. reg.; J. Harris, Epitaphs in Salisbury Cathedral, 58; Wilts N. and Q. vi. 435; Copinger, Suff. Manors, i. 41; PCC 147 Eure.
  • 2. Hoare, Wilts. Salisbury, 449, 711.
  • 3. Copinger, i. 40-42; Harl. 1560, f. 250; North, Lives, i. 61; VCH Hants, iv. 541;, A. G. Matthews, Walker Revised, 69; CJ, viii. 623, 627, 656, 671, 681.
  • 4. Clarendon Impeachment, 28, 34, 92.
  • 5. CJ, ix. 54, 88, 100, 157; Grey, i. 184, 255, 259, 266.
  • 6. CJ, ix. 181, 189, 211, 214, 235; Grey, i. 345, 382-3, 465; North, loc. cit.; Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser 2), i. 350, 373.