HAWLES, John (c.1645-1716), of Lincoln's Inn.

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



25 Mar. 1689
4 Mar. 1701
Dec. 1701

Family and Education

b. c.1645, 2nd s. of Thomas Hawles of The Close, Salisbury, Wilts. by Elizabeth, da. and h. of Thomas Antrobus of Heath House, Petersfield, Hants. educ. Winchester; Queen’s, Oxf. matric. 1662, aged 17; L. Inn 1664, called 1670. unm.; 1s. illegit. Kntd. 28 Nov. 1695.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, L. Inn and Wilts. 1690; bencher, L. Inn 1692, treas. 1695.

KC 1694; solicitor-gen. 1695-1702; chairman, committee of elections and privileges 1695-6.2


Hawles’s family moved from the Isle of Wight to Salisbury about the middle of the 16th century, and soon afterwards acquired an estate in Dorset. His father and his uncle were the leaders of the neutralist Clubmen in Wiltshire and Dorset respectively in 1645, while another uncle served as chaplain to the 5th Earl of Pembroke, becoming canon of Windsor at the Restoration. His father appears to have been active in the Old Sarum election of 1661, probably with the purely negative aim of preventing John Norden from attaining parliamentary privilege. By 1672 the family was in embarrassed circumstances, and owed much to the friendship of John Wildman I.3

Hawles, a professional lawyer, soon became known to Aubrey as ‘an exceeding ingenious young gentleman’, and made his name familiar to a wider public with his Remarks upon the Trials of Edward Fitzharris, which appeared in March 1689, and in the same month he was elected for Old Sarum, probably on the Pembroke interest. ‘A great Williamite’, he became a very active Member of the Convention, with 44 committees and 50 recorded speeches. In addition he was eight times given leave to attend the Lords as counsel. Although he can only just have taken his seat, he was probably the ‘Mr Hales’ who, on 28 Mar. 1689, was teller for adhering to the Commons’ resolutions on the removal of Papists. He was among the Members appointed to draw up reasons for a conference on the oaths of supremacy and allegiance on 19 Apr. In his maiden speech on 8 May he opposed the proviso to the bill of settlement to preserve the rights of Protestant princes. He was in favour of suspending habeas corpus. He was twice appointed to inspect the Lords’ Journals for entries concerning the Popish Plot and the conviction of Titus Oates, which he described as ‘the worst judgment ever given in law’. In the case of the Jacobite propagandists, he spoke in favour of impeachment rather than trial by common law, and was named to the committee. ‘I do not think this to be a plain case of treason by 25 Edward III. I do say, no court can judge this offence to be treason; and that statute did plainly not bind the superior court of Parliament, but the inferior only.’ On the indemnity bill he disclaimed any personal grievance, but asserted: ‘If you go about to please those who have offended, you will anger twenty more that are injured’. He helped to draw up reasons for five more conferences in July and August, those on the Oates conviction, the bill of rights, the customs bill, the attainder bill and the bill for recovery of tithes. With Paul Foley he was ordered to take care of the bill for security against Papists; he chaired the committee and carried the bill to the Lords.4

In the second session Hawles and Thomas Lee I were given special responsibility for bringing in a bill to regulate imprisonment. He was appointed to the committees for the more effectual tendering of the oaths and to inquire into the miscarriages of the war. He spoke in favour of the address to inquire about the appointment of Commissary Shales, and helped to draw it up:

We must make use of extraordinary means. If by a precedent we must find out unprecedented things, we shall never do it. If King James II was to come in again, he could not make a better choice of some persons in employment. The King is a stranger to us; councils have recommended persons who did it. It must be in the dark, and this is the best way to discover him and other persons.

He was appointed to the committees for the revenue and for discoveries of treason. Hawles does not seem to have worried about consistency of thought; on 21 Dec., in one and the same speech, he said: ‘If there had been a reconciliation betwixt King James and the Prince of Orange, what would have become of the people? ... When the Prince of Orange came in, they were for a regency, and that is a commonwealth.’ He was again ordered to bring in the imprisonment bill on 31 Dec., and with Sir Thomas Littleton to bring in a bill imposing the oath of allegiance on 9 Jan. 1690, to the committee for which he was later appointed. He is not recorded as speaking in the debates on the bill to restore corporations, although he supported the disabling clause. Probably he was reserving himself for a great effort against (Sir) Robert Sawyer at whom he had been sniping intermittently ever since he had taken his seat:

Some say I encouraged this matter, and I have had hard words given me for it. As for Burton and [Richard] Grahme, they only brought [Sir Thomas] Armstrong up, etc.; but for an attorney-general, when he has that office, how comes it to pass that he must leave all rules of common honesty? I wish this gentleman had been as nice in spilling blood as we are in punishing it.

Hawles lost his seat at the general election, but was made KC to take part in the prosecution of the Lancashire Jacobites, and solicitor-general in 1695 while still out of the House. He was dismissed on the accession of Anne, remaining a Whig. His last public action was to assist in the prosecution of Dr Sacheverell. He inherited the family estates in Wiltshire and Dorset and died on 2 Aug. 1716, leaving no legitimate heir.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Hoare, Wilts. Salisbury, 402; Aubrey, Brief Lives, i. 305; Antrobus Peds. 11.
  • 2. Luttrell, iii. 362.
  • 3. Hutchins, Dorset, iii. 388-9; A. B. Bayley, Civil War in Dorset 262; Add. 34015, p. 105; S. S. Ollard, Deans and Canons of Windsor, 121; Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 10, f. 73, Hawles to Thynne, 9 Mar. 1661; C7/36/17.
  • 4. Wood, Athenae, iv. 528-9; Grey, ix. 241, 267, 290, 305, 319; CJ, x. 252, 266, 267.
  • 5. CJ, x. 276, 320, 328; Grey, ix. 330, 455, 507, 523, 534.