LITTLETON, alias POYNTZ, Sir Thomas, 3rd Bt. (1647-1710), of North Ockendon, Essex Stoke St. Milborough, Salop.
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Family and Education
b. 3 Apr. 1647, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Thomas Littleton alias Poyntz, 2nd Bt.* educ. St. Edmund Hall, Oxf. 1665; I. Temple 1666, called 1671. m. 6 Sept. 1682, Anne (d. 21 July 1714), da. of Benjamin Baun alias Baron of Westcote, Glos., s.p. suc. fa. 12 Apr. 1681.1
Freeman, Woodstock 1686, Oxford 1691; j.p. Mdx. 1689-d., Essex, Oxon., Oxford and Salop by 1701-d.; commr. for assessment, Essex, London, Westminster, Oxon. and Salop 1689-90, Mdx. 1690; common councilman and recorder, Woodstock 1695-d.; dep. lt. Oxon. by 1701-2.2
Commr. of prizes 1689-90; clerk of the Ordnance 1689-96; chairman of supply committee and ways and means 16 Nov. 1693-7 July 1698; ld. of Treasury 1696-9; treas. of navy 1699-d.3
Speaker of House of Commons 6 Dec. 1698-19 Dec. 1700.
Although clearly a Whig sympathizer, Littleton was expelled from the Green Ribbon Club in November 1678 ‘during his father’s life’. His unopposed election to the Convention for New Woodstock was presumably due to the influence there of his kinsman, Sir Littleton Osbaldeston, 1st Bt. An ultra-Whig at the outset, Littleton became one of the chief supporters of government policy. He was very active, sitting on 91 committees, 11 of which he chaired. He made 31 recorded speeches, helped to manage nine conferences, and was six times teller. An ardent supporter of the Revolution, he was appointed, early in the session, to committees to bring in a list of essentials for securing religion, laws and liberties, and to prepare reasons on the state of the throne, declaring on 2 Feb. 1689:
The Lords cannot expect that we, who have said the throne is vacant, should not intend to fill it up. The best way is to go on and fill it up and put all out of doubt.
As one of the managers of the conference, he told the House that:
If the administration of the Government should only be in the Prince, the great design of the Kingdom will be frustrated. The power of the Parliament of England being once asserted, it will establish our foreign affairs. If it be not a time now to strengthen our interest against France, we shall never be preserved but fall into the same misfortune we were in in the late King’s time.
He was appointed to the committee for amending the Lords’ resolution. On 1 Mar. in the debate on the King’s message about conspiracy against the Government, he declared:
’Tis of great consequence what advice the Lords and Commons shall give in this. In the meantime, I desire the King may make no proceeding against these men, and I would add thanks to the King for asking your advice: a thing not very usual in this place.
After this, having served only two months in the House, he was appointed chairman of the committee for the suspension of habeas corpus, twice carrying the amended bill to the Lords. He favoured the unsuccessful motion for printing the votes of the House, stating that:
England has from the clerks all you do, but not the truth of what you do, and it is fit England should know both. In former Parliaments when they were invading and undermining the people they were ashamed of it, but we are now under a King that preserves our liberties. ... It is fit the people should know the good things transacted between the King and this House. Such a union may have great influence both abroad and at home.
In the debate on supply of 11 Mar., Littleton spoke in favour of temporary settlement of the revenue, saying:
The King does not expect that you should settle the revenue immediately, without great caution and consideration. Therefore, that the King may be in no inconvenience, settle it for three months, which will be so far from a distrust that it is kindly and gratefully done by the people, and the King will take it well from you.
He spoke in favour of comprehension on 25 Mar. and was appointed to the committee for the bill. On 14 May he was voted into the chair of the committee of the whole House on the indemnity bill against Thomas Done and Sir William Williams, and delivered four reports on the subject. In April and May, he helped to manage conferences on the oaths of allegiance and supremacy and on the poll tax. When (Sir) Thomas Clarges expressed anxiety about the bill for continuing the suspension of habeas corpus on 24 May, Littleton replied:
I think there is a necessity of such a bill: the peace of the Government depends upon it now there are a sort of people disturbing the Government. I observe how tender the Government is now; in the last reign, everything was ‘conspiring the death of the King.’
On 3 June he reported from the committee to inquire into delays in the relief of Londonderry. He was made a commissioner of prizes on 19 June but held the post for only a year. He was chairman of the committee to prepare reasons for the conference on reversing the judgments against Titus Oates, and reported from the conference on 22 July.4
In the second session, Littleton was appointed to the committees to restore and confirm corporations and to inquire into the miscarriages of the war, when he advocated the rooting out and punishment of offenders, such as Sir Richard Haddock, according to their degree of guilt. In the debate of 27 Nov. for removing John Shales as commissary-general of provisions, Littleton as a place holder was opposed to the particular demand that an address be sent to the King requesting him to dismiss those who had recommended Shales’s appointment. In the closing months of the Convention he brought in the bill for reversing the attainder of Thomas Walcot, chaired the committee for reversing the attainder of Sir Thomas Armstrong, served as teller in three divisions over disputed elections and was given special responsibility, with John Hawles, to prepare a bill for enforcing a general oath of allegiance. In the bill to restore corporations he supported the more moderate form of the disabling clause to affect only ‘such as forcibly delivered up the charters without consent of the majority’. He wound up the debate of 20 Jan. 1690 on annulling Armstrong’s attainder with an effective speech which led to the expulsion of (Sir) Robert Sawyer. On 22 Jan. he was appointed to ask Dr Tillotson to preach on the anniversary of Charles I’s execution, evidence of his high standing in the House. Owing chiefly to his effectiveness as a speaker he achieved rapid promotion in succeeding Parliaments. He voted consistently as a court Whig under William, but was sufficiently flexible under Anne to hold office till his death on 1 Jan. 1710. He was buried at North Ockendon. Although the baronetcy then became extinct, his estates were inherited by a cousin, James, who sat as a Whig in several Parliaments between 1710 and 1723.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: Leonard Naylor / Geoffrey Jaggar
- 1. Glos. Par. Regs. xiv. 144.
- 2. Woodstock council acts; Oxford Council Acts (Oxf. Hist. Soc. n.s. ii), 219.
- 3. Sp44/165/212; CSP Dom. 1689-90, p. 516; 1696, p. 154; Cal. Treas. Bks. xx. 248.
- 4. CJ, x. 18, 39, 43, 44, 93, 127, 130, 136, 138, 143, 145, 161; Grey, ix. 49, 76, 130, 145, 156-7, 192, 271; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 2, p. 556.
- 5. Grey, ix. 416, 446, 454, 520, 537-8; CJ, x. 287, 307, 322, 327, 328; Morrice, 3, p. 73.