HOTHAM, Sir John, 2nd Bt. (1632-89), of Scorborough, Yorks.

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



Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679
11 Jan. - Mar. 1689

Family and Education

bap. 21 Mar. 1632, 1st s. of John Hotham (d.1645) by 1st w. Frances, da. of Sir John Wray, 2nd Bt., of Glentworth, Lincs. educ. Peterhouse, Camb. 1648. m. 8 Aug. 1650, Elizabeth, da. of Sapcote, 2nd Visct. Beaumont of Swords [I], of Cole Orton, Leics., 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 3da. suc. gdfa. 2 Jan. 1645.1

Offices Held

J.p. Beverley 1657, Yorks. (N. and E. Ridings) July 1660-70; commr. for militia, Yorks. Mar. 1660; col. of militia horse (E. Riding) Apr. 1660-1, custos rot. July 1660-70; commr. for assessment (E. Riding) Aug. 1660-80, 1689, (N. Riding) 1661-80; dep. lt. (E. Riding) c. Aug. 1660-?79, commr. for sewers Sept. 1660, corporations, Yorks. 1662-3, concealments 1671, recusants (E. Riding) 1675; gov. Kingston-upon-Hull Jan. 1689-d.2


Hotham’s ancestors had been seated at Scorborough, four miles north of Beverley, since the 12th century, and first represented the borough in 1307. His father and grandfather initially supported Parliament during the Civil War, but were executed in 1645 for attempting to betray Hull to the Cavaliers. The Scorborough estate, valued at £2,000 per annum, was restored to Hotham without composition. He signed the Yorkshire petition for a free Parliament in February 1660, and at the general election he was returned for Beverley after promising to serve at his own charge. He continued to represent the borough for the rest of his life, except in James II’s Parliament. An inactive Member of the Convention, he was named only to the committees for cancelling all grants of titles and offices since May 1642, for nominating commissioners of sewers, and for inquiring into presentations to crown livings. He obtained leave to go into the country on 20 Aug., and may not have attended the second session. His sympathies were probably with the Opposition, but he is unlikely to have opposed the Court on major issues, since he was appointed custos of the East Riding.3

Hotham was moderately active in the Cavalier Parliament with 133 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in 12 sessions, six tellerships, and about 40 recorded speeches. He was among those ordered to devise remedies for the meetings of sectaries on 29 Apr. 1663; but in August he was implicated in the Yorkshire plot, and briefly imprisoned. He was appointed to the committee for the conventicles bill in the next session, but thereafter his activity declined, and he twice defaulted on calls of the House. He was removed from the commission of the peace in 1670, presumably as an opponent of persecution, and became much more active at Westminster. He was teller against supply on 17 Feb. and for the prohibition of foreign brandy a fortnight later, and was named to the committee of 3 Mar. on the bill to prevent the transportation of English prisoners overseas. After (Sir) Thomas Clarges had given the House an account of the assault on Sir John Coventry, ‘Sir John Hotham began with an invective against the thing, but moved not what to do in it, but only to wreak our vengeance upon the assassins that had done this foul and horrid act’. He was added to the committee for drafting a bill to prevent the growth of Popery on 8 Feb. 1671, and acted as teller against a Lords proviso to the subsidy bill.4

Hotham gave voice to the impatience of the House on 22 Feb. 1673 at the delay in the King’s reply to their address against the suspending power. In the autumn session he was among those charged with preparing an address against the Duke of York’s marriage to the Roman Catholic Mary of Modena and with bringing in a general test bill to distinguish between Protestants and Papists. He hoped to ensure the disbandment of the newly raised forces by a resolution against any further supply. He spoke repeatedly against a standing army, which he described as ‘the monster that will devour all your liberties and properties’. In 1674 he was appointed to the committees to prevent illegal exactions, to inquire into the condition of Ireland, to prescribe the fees and powers in judges’ patents, and to reform the collection of hearth-tax. In the spring session of 1675 he was named to committees to prevent the export of wool and to draw up a bill for suppressing the growth of Popery. In the debates on Danby’s conduct of the Treasury he moved for some of the revenue to be appropriated to the use of the navy, and suggested that the office was too big to be entrusted to a single man. He acted as teller against adjourning the debate on Lauderdale on 4 May, and was appointed to the committees to draft an address for the recall of British subjects from the service of France, and to consider the bill for hindering Papists from sitting in Parliament. In the autumn session he was named to the committee for the appropriation bill. After the government victory of 26 Oct. on supply, Hotham’s allegation that several Members had been ‘taken off’ was so ill received by Sir Philip Musgrave and others that, had he ‘not explained himself very nicely, he would have been called to the bar’. Quite undaunted, he went on to support an inquiry into the government whip, and was named to the committee to devise a test to be taken by Members against corruption. He helped to manage a conference on the bill of recall from the French service, to draft an address on the failure to apprehend the violent Jesuit St. Germain, and to prepare reasons for avoiding the revival of differences between the Houses.5

Shaftesbury classed Hotham as ‘thrice worthy’ in 1677, when he acted as teller on the third reading for a bill to prevent frauds and abuses in the import of Irish cattle, and helped to draw up an address promising a credit of £200,000. ‘None of my estate or blood shall be spared in this matter’, he said, though he did not fail to remind the House of the resolution against a standing army. After stressing the need ‘to abate the pride, assuage the malice, and confound the devices of the King of France’, he was among those ordered to draw up an address for an alliance for this purpose. On 29 Jan. 1678 he helped to draw up another address requiring France to withdraw from all territories acquired since the Peace of the Pyrenees in 1659. He seconded the ‘very worthy motion’ of the Hon. William Russell on 14 Mar. ‘of going into a grand committee to consider the deplorable condition we are in’. He was twice among those appointed to prepare reasons for remedies to prevent the growth of Popery, and it was on his motion that the committee continued to sit during the April recess. When the House met again, he led the demand for the terms of the alliances, and he agreed with the sharp criticism of John Birch that ‘the leagues are not pursuant to our address, and are not for the good of the nation’. He supported a motion that any ministers who opposed the address for an alliance against France ‘may be judged as enemies’, and on 7 May he made a strong attack on Lauderdale:

Since I see Lauderdale pursues to act what he hath formerly advised, I am for removing him. I hear it said that Lauderdale is a true churchman and I know not what; and yet he is a man of no morality. I wonder the Church is not ashamed of such a proselyte. ... In Scotland if any man looks but discontented, then kill him, shoot him, eat him up! Will you have him do the same thing here? Are we weary of our properties? ... I am against an adjournment till this question be put off our hands for removing Lauderdale. ... I am a Yorkshireman (neighbour to Scotland), and there they fear the very looks of Lauderdale, that he should bring his army with him.

He was appointed to the committee to prepare the address demanding the removal of counsellors. When (Sir) Joseph Williamson sought to obtain a grant of supply by surprise, Hotham commented: ‘If these pranks go on, we shall be reduced to slavery’. After the Popish Plot he was appointed to the committees to prepare instructions for disbanding the army and to draw up an address protesting against private advices. He moved for the impeachment of the five popish lords. He was noted by Barillon as in receipt of a French bribe of 300 guineas.6

A very active Member of the first Exclusion Parliament, Hotham was appointed to 17 committees, including the elections committee, and those to take the disbandment accounts, to extend habeas corpus, and to provide for the speedier conviction of popish recusants. Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’, and he made six speeches. On 17 Apr. 1679 he moved that money voted for disbanding the army should not be placed in the Exchequer lest it should be directed to other uses. He was a member of the committee of 6 May to prepare the address to the King for the removal of Lauderdale, and two weeks later voted in support of the first exclusion bill. He showed great eagerness to exploit the revelations about the misuse of secret service payments, and was one of the party of Members to accompany (Sir) Stephen Fox in his enforced visit to Whitehall for the books. A member of the committee of inquiry into the state of the navy, he was able to assure the House, on the authority of Titus Oates, that one of the servants of Samuel Pepys was a Jesuit. Together with William Harbord he made repeated visits to Pepys’s discharged butler to obtain signed depositions against his former master.7

Hotham was even more active in the second Exclusion Parliament, with 26 committee appointments and 11 speeches, thus earning inclusion by Barillon among the most considerable Members of the Lower House. He was named to the elections committee and the committee of inquiry into abhorring, moving for the expulsion of Sir Robert Cann for publicly denying the existence of the Popish Plot. He was also among those ordered to bring in the second exclusion bill and a bill for uniting Protestants. After its rejection by the Lords Hotham broke the prolonged silence in the Commons by saying:

If the wisdom of this House has turned the affairs of Christendom, they have shown it particularly in the bill for excluding the Duke. Our only wisdom now is to preserve our wives and children, estates and religion and all that is dear to us. If these are not arguments to persuade gentlemen, I cannot hear better to be spoken to, nor do I know what to propose. But if it fare with other men as with me, I am not able to utter anything to secure us after this defeat of the bill. But yet I would not lose courage, but rally up our thoughts, and the way to consider well what to do is to adjourn till to-morrow, and let every man lay his hand upon his heart, and consider what to propose by that time.

Later in the day he urged the removal of Lord Halifax from the Privy Council as ‘the great occasion of throwing out this bill’. On 13 Dec. he declared: ‘I think there is not a Papist of quality in England but is guilty of cutting all your throats’, and he was among those appointed to bring in bills to associate all Protestant subjects on the Elizabethan model, and for security against arbitrary power. He helped to prepare the address insisting on exclusion, and was named to the committee for the repeal of the Corporations Act. In the Oxford Parliament he was again named to the elections committee, and on 24 Mar. 1681 proposed that the resolutions of the House, with the rest of their proceedings, should be printed. He was among those ordered to prepare for a conference on the loss of the bill to repeal the Elizabethan statute against Protestant nonconformists.8

Hotham was implicated in Monmouth’s confession after the Rye House Plot, but no action was taken against him. He quarrelled with the corporation of Beverley, and was defeated by Sir Ralph Warton at the general election of 1685. His petition was never reported. Danby included him among the Opposition, and in 1687 he fled to Holland. Returning with the Prince of Orange in November 1688, he and Harbord showed much anxiety lest their electoral interest should have suffered from their absence. But he was invited to stand for Hull and Beverley, and was returned for the latter constituency both at the abortive election and at the general election of 1689. He played no known part in the Convention, and returned to Yorkshire after the coronation as governor of Hull. The bitter winter weather proved too much for him, however, and he was buried at South Dalton on 29 Mar. 1689.9

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: P. A. Bolton / Paula Watson


  • 1. Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. iii. 263.
  • 2. Stowe 744, f. 4v; C181/7/44; HMC 8th Rep. pt. 1 (1881), 275; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 912; J. Tickell, Kingston-upon-Hull, 586.
  • 3. A. M. W. Stirling, The Hothams, i. 20, 100; P. Saltmarshe, Hothams of Scorborough, 178-84; Keeler, Long Parl. 222-3; Beverley Bor. Recs. (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. lxxxiv), 103.
  • 4. Reresby Mems. 47; CJ, viii. 663; ix. 49, 123, 130, 210; Dering, 44.
  • 5. Dering, 128; Grey, ii. 205-6, 390-1; iii. 36, 367; Eg. 3345, f. 34v; Bulstrode Pprs. 320; CJ, ix. 372.
  • 6. CJ, ix. 415, 424; Eg. 3345, ff. 47v, 50v; Grey, iv. 364; v. 225, 273, 280, 322, 332-3, 359-60, 384; vi. 320; Dalrymple Mems. i. 382.
  • 7. Grey, vii. 119, 305; CJ, ix. 629.
  • 8. PRO 31/3, bdle. 146, f. 28; Grey, vii. 382; viii. 4, 30, 129, 292-3; HMC Ormonde, n.s.v. 496-7; Clarke, Jas. II, i. 619.
  • 9. Clarke, i. 742; CSP Dom. July-Sept. 1683, p. 173; Beverley Bor. Recs. 108, 170-2; CJ, ix. 723; Stirling, 103-4; Reresby Mems. 525; Clarendon Corresp. ii. 219; Saltmarshe, 183-4.