ARNOLD, John (c.1635-1703), of Llanfihangel Crucorney, Mon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



26 Nov. 1680 - Mar. 1681
1689 - 1695
1695 - 1698

Family and Education

b. c.1635, o. s. of Nicholas Arnold† of Llanfihangel Crucorney by Letitia, da. and h. of Sir Edward Moore of Mellifont, co. Louth (1st s. d.v.p. of Gerald, 1st Visct. Moore of Drogheda [I]).  m. by 1659 (with £1,500), Margaret, da. of William Cooke I* of Highnam Court, Glos., 1s. 4da.  suc. fa. 1665.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Mon. 1668–9; commr. receiving subscriptions to land bank 1696; receiver, duchy of Lancaster estates, Mon. 1697–1702.2


The notoriety Arnold had acquired during the Exclusion Crisis as an extremist, addicted to political violence in the pursuit of Tory opponents and the persecution of Catholics in his native Monmouthshire, made it undesirable, not to say impossible, for King William to employ him after the Revolution. Arnold’s first priority, however, was to obtain a reversal of the judgment given against him for scandalum magnatum in 1682 over an allegation that the then Marquess of Worcester (Henry Somerset†) was ‘a papist and . . . deeply concerned in the Popish Plot’, a defeat which had cost him £10,000 in damages and a spell in prison, and had left him in financial straits. A bill to debar the claim of Worcester, since created Duke of Beaufort, had been introduced into the Convention, where it had failed for lack of time. Further vain attempts were mounted in the 1690 Parliament before Arnold gave up the campaign and sought to salve his fortune by other means.3

Arnold was re-elected on the Whig interest at Southwark in 1690, believing that his enemies were also ‘the enemies of England’. Naturally he was classed as a Whig in Lord Carmarthen’s analysis of the new House, and on 22 Mar. he responded to Sir Thomas Clarges’ motion to censure anti-Tory literature circulated at the last election by proposing a similar condemnation of anti-Whig blacklists. His appointment on 8 May to draft the bill for confirming the East India Company’s charter prefigured a future interest in East Indian affairs. He told on 30 Apr. against a resolution of the elections committee pertaining to the Hertfordshire election, that refusal of the oaths should disqualify Quakers from voting; on 3 May over a constituency issue, to engross the bill to erect a court of conscience in Southwark; on 8 May on the Whig side against a clause, concerning the mayoralty, of the bill to restore the corporation of London; and on 17 May, on behalf of a fellow Whig in the Aldborough election case. But he was particularly exercised over his own bill, for reversing the 1682 judgment, which was introduced on 3 Apr. and received a first reading four days later, only for him to request and be granted leave to withdraw it on 1 May. The bill was reintroduced in the next session, on 21 Nov., and this time rapidly passed through its stages in the Commons, piloted through by Sir John Guise, 2nd Bt., and assisted in a division, on 1 Dec., on engrossment by two Whig tellers, Samuel Travers and Sir Walter Yonge, 3rd Bt. (in opposition to two Tories). However, Beaufort canvassed hard against the bill and secured its defeat in the Lords, on a division in which Lord Stamford told for Arnold. Added on 11 Oct. to the committee to draft a bill for examining public accounts, Arnold was also nominated on 22 Oct. to prepare a bill for attainting rebels. He told on 26 Nov., for committing the bill to reduce the interest of money; and, after being given leave of absence on 16 Dec., told again on 26 Dec. in favour of calling in counsel during the debate on the bill granting extensive reparations to Edmund Prideaux† out of the estate of Judge Jeffreys for sufferings at Jeffreys’ hands at the time of the Monmouth rebellion. This parliamentary activity does not of itself connote a change of political orientation, but by April 1691 Robert Harley* was listing Arnold as a supporter of the Court.4

In the early stages of the 1691–2 session Arnold was especially active in promoting informations against smugglers and Jacobites, probably with the intention, at least in part, of embarrassing the ministers. On 14 Nov., he brought up a petition from one David Lashley, probably a merchant, alleging that a particular ship at Gravesend was bound for France with a cargo of lead and tin, but this story was repudiated by other Members. A similar allegation surfaced exactly a month later, when Arnold drew to the attention of the House an information he had received from a ship’s captain concerning illicit trading to France ‘for lead, etc.’. The informant, he claimed, had since been ‘taken up’ and held incommunicado by the secretary of state’s messengers, who ‘had refused to bring him up on a habeas corpus’. Once more the Members took no notice: they ‘looked upon it as a trivial matter if true, but did not believe it’. On 16 Nov. Arnold spoke in support of a motion for an address to the King to lay before Parliament the examinations of Lord Preston (Sir Richard Grahme, 3rd Bt.†) and Matthew Crone relating to the so-called ‘Preston Plot’, and in a further such incident on 17 Feb. 1692 he presented a petition from an informer called Dodsworth ‘desiring some consideration of his circumstances for discovering the design that was carrying on by the papists in Lancashire’. But his closest involvement was with the activities of the spy William Fuller. This, however, caused more embarrassment to Arnold than to the administration. On 1 Jan. his name cropped up in the House as one of six MPs requested specifically in a letter from Fuller to be appointed to confer with him and advise how best to ‘bring over the two persons he spoke of’, presumably conspirators willing to turn King’s evidence. In the ensuing debate Arnold spoke in Fuller’s defence, assuring the Commons that ‘the only thing he desires is your protection’. Three days later he spoke again, during a discussion on Fuller’s examination, his principal object being to discomfort some Tory Members accused of misleading the House. Then on 22 Feb. he raised Fuller’s case once more. He reported to the House that he had visited the spy in prison, finding him ‘in a bad condition’. Fuller apparently believed himself to be ‘poisoned’ and likely to die. A motion was proposed, in which Arnold joined, to appoint a small committee to attend Fuller and take his examination. Although nominated to this committee, he was subsequently entrusted by the House with a task on his own. Having declared that Fuller had told him where ‘his two witnesses’ could be found, he was ordered by the House to apprehend them. The following day he was obliged to admit that he ‘had been abused in this matter and did therefore recommend it to the House to do what they thought fit, assuring them that what he did was for the service of the kingdom’. ‘By a paper he met with at Fuller’s’, he added, ‘he believed we were all abused, finding one which reflected highly on this House.’ The House repeated its order that he should arrest the witnesses, this time naming two more MPs to accompany him. Again there was no result. Another instance of muck-raking, although in this case aimed directly at two ministers and unconnected with specifically treasonous activities, had occurred on 29 Dec., when Arnold seconded Sir John Guise in presenting a petition against the Speaker, Sir John Trevor and Sir George Hutchins*, in their capacities as commissioners of the great seal. They were accused of having discouraged the reforming Middlesex justice Edward Stephens (a leading light in a local society for the reformation of manners) in Stephens’ magisterial campaign against Sunday trading. Trevor’s opposition to the reformation of manners movement had provoked particular hostility, and Arnold took a subsequent occasion to rebuke the Speaker on a procedural matter in a way that suggests he was pursuing a vendetta. He had moved on 2 Jan. 1692 the reading of the bill for the relief of debtors, a measure he had himself introduced on 18 Dec., when the Speaker intervened to oppose it. Arnold ‘told him that he must not now think he was in Chancery but in the House of Commons, to whom he was but a servant, and that each Member had a liberty of speech in the House’. It is quite conceivable that Arnold’s outrage over the Stephens case was genuine. His role as MP for Southwark, a hotbed of the reformation of manners movement, would in any case have made him a logical choice to present Stephens’ petition, and some years afterwards, when approached by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge to act as a correspondent in Monmouthshire, he declared his zeal for ‘promoting the business of reformation’ and ‘the suppression of vice and immorality’. Moreover, his name had been inserted into the Middlesex commission of the peace in 1690 at the King’s specific request. His speech on 17 Feb. in support of a motion to refer a petition from the ‘poor French Protestants’ to a committee of the whole House would also tend to confirm this reforming outlook, since enthusiasm for the cause of the persecuted Huguenots was often a hallmark of the moral reformer. Besides his criticisms of individual ministers, his speeches on the subject of the supply tended towards making life difficult for the Court. On 1 Jan. 1692, for example, he intervened twice during discussion of the report of the committee of supply, the first time for agreeing to what was in effect an over-estimate of the yield of the hearth tax in Ireland; and then in favour of a motion to appoint a committee to receive proposals for raising money on the Irish forfeited estates, being afterwards named to that committee. He was, oddly enough, added to the committee subsequently, on 3 Feb., having two days earlier spoken against allowing the reception of a petition relating to the Irish forfeited estates bill, on the practical grounds that ‘if you take the method of receiving petitions there will be no end’. He also told on 12 Feb. for a rider to this bill exempting Quakers from the requirement of taking the oaths stipulated in the bill, an issue on which he felt strongly, for ten days later he was speaking again for the Quakers’ affirmation bill. In another contribution to a supply debate, on 12 Jan., he spoke against a proposal from Paul Foley I to secure an advance from ‘the bankers’ and the East India Company, secured on a perpetual fund: he opposed the idea that ‘a public bank might be established for taking up of money’. Finally on 19 Jan., in a curiously non-partisan debate on the poll tax, he supported a 6d. rather than a shilling rate, arguing that ‘you are now going for the sake perhaps of 100,000 shillings to disoblige and lose the hearts of 100,000 people’. The explanation of his speaking in this instance on the same side as Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt., and Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. II, may be that all three represented or hailed from poorer counties. A note of the Country Member’s suspicion of the executive may also be heard in his denunciation on 20 Feb. of the Shadwell waterworks bill, ‘for that it seemed to give a countenance to the Council board to hear matters of property between party and party’. At other times he was sharp in his defence of the rights and privileges of the Commons against invasion by the Lords, an attitude which cannot have been regarded in ministerial circles as conducive to political harmony. He attacked on 11 Dec. 1691 two of the Lords’ amendments to the treason trials bill, one because it ‘levelled impeachments by this House with indictments, giving the party the same advantages therein’; a second for providing that at the trial of any peer the entire Upper House should be summoned. Then on 13 Feb. 1692 in a debate on a conference with the Lords on the bill appointing commissioners of accounts he ‘moved that, since the Lords were encroaching upon the privileges of this House, that we might remonstrate the same to the King and that it might be known where the fault lay’. His remaining speeches in the session were on 5 Jan. 1692, in favour of the bill to regulate the Thames Fishermen’s Company; on 21 Jan., on the bill to prevent brewers from being maltsters, when he offered a clause ‘to disable brewers from being justices of the peace in the same county where they were brewers’, possibly to forestall any evasion of the alehouse licensing laws; and on 19 Feb., against the bill for confirming Cambridge University’s charter. Two further tellerships occurred on 16 and 19 Feb., for a private bill and on an adjournment respectively.5

Arnold’s appointment on 16 Nov. 1692 to the committees to examine the London merchants’ petition over shipping losses and the paper submitted by the transports commissioners was indicative of a close interest in investigating reports of naval mismanagements during the preceding summer. In a debate on 30 Nov. on this very subject he was the only Whig to go beyond generalities and level specific criticisms at the secretary of state, Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†). After one Member had explicitly declined to single out any candidates for dismissal from high office, Arnold interjected:

I will take liberty to name one, and that is the Lord Nottingham, who has beat two secretaries into one, who has prohibit[ed] the licensing some books writ in defence of this government, and has discouraged some witnesses in matters carrying on against this government.

His proposal on 8 Dec. 1692 for a conference with the Lords ‘to consider of the state of the nation and the posture of our affairs’ may have been an attempt to revive the naval inquiry, and later in the session he was appointed to inquire into the failure to intercept the French fleet (3 Feb. 1693). In debates on supply he seems to have spoken once in a vein critical of the administration, or at least at cross-purposes with the administration, when on 10 Feb. he called for ‘a review of the poll bill’. Otherwise his contributions on issues of supply seem to have been influenced by non-political considerations or to have been concerned with details that were tangential to the main business of raising money, such as his motion on 10 Jan. for a clause in a supply bill to tax the King’s bench prison in Southwark, a matter of constituency interest. A speech of 17 Jan. on the land tax bill once again showed his animosity towards the House of Lords: he opposed an amendment by the Lords to the bill which would have ensured that members of the Upper House were rated for the tax by their peers, ‘for that the Lords by this means would pay very little to the tax’. And when he told, on 27 Jan., in favour of agreeing with a resolution of the committee of ways and means for an additional duty on exports of rabbit fur, his principal concern may well have been not the revenue but the regulation of this trade, for on the preceding 3 Dec. he had told for a bill to prevent frauds by the Hudson’s Bay Company, and to prevent the export of rabbit and hare skins. He spoke again in this session for Quaker relief, supporting on 5 Dec. 1692 a petition from Quakers for exemption from the legal obligation to take oaths, and also revived his interest in the relief of debtors, a cause which he may have been led to espouse because of the location of the King’s bench and Marshalsea prisons in his constituency, or conceivably because of his anxiety over the kind of social problems that the reformation of manners societies were tackling. On 19 Dec. he presented a petition from the ‘poor prisoners’ in the King’s bench, and was the first-named Member of the committee appointed to consider it; on 23 Feb. 1693 he presented another, from the prisoners in the Fleet; and on 27 Feb. he tendered a rider to the bill for revising and continuing expired laws, to revive for one year the previous Act for the relief of ‘poor prisoners’, only for this to be rejected by the House as a dangerous precedent. More central to the aims of the moral reform campaign was the lotteries bill, which he moved on 10 Jan. and presented a week later. Its moralistic emphasis, as an attack on the vice of gaming, was heightened by Arnold’s report to the House on 25 Feb. that he had been offered a bribe of as much as £100 p.a. to drop the bill. He was active too in legislation for the regulation of commerce, presenting on 9 Dec. 1692 a petition from the Poulterers’ Company for a clause to be inserted into the bill against hawkers and pedlars, speaking on 2 Feb. 1693 against that bill, and serving as a teller on the same day for a clause in it ‘that any person settling in a town, and paying to Church and poor, may carry goods’. He also acted as a teller on 18 Jan. in a procedural division over the East India bill. On the question of the Wye and Lugg navigation, which divided local opinion in Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, he separated from old friends like Lord Coningsby (Thomas), Sir Rowland Gwynne and the Harleys of Brampton Bryan, to tell against the bill on 13 Jan. Four days later came his one other tellership in this session, for postponing the report of the committee to regulate the privilege of Members in lawsuits. His last speech, in February, was a piece of partisan vindictiveness directed against the press licenser Edmund Bohun, a Tory for whose continued incarceration he successfully moved.6

Arnold’s designation as a Court supporter with a place or a pension in Samuel Grascome’s list in the spring of 1693 would have been more accurate if applied during and after the 1693–4 session of Parliament when Arnold’s Whig party colleagues were more comfortably ensconced in the ministry. Indeed, in a satirical ballad written in 1694 Arnold was included among the members of the Court Whig Rose Club, an assumption borne out by his appointment on 29 Dec. 1693 to the committee to examine Sir Charles Meredith on the articles of impeachment against the Irish lords justices Lord Coningsby and Sir Charles Porter*, his tellership (with another Whig) on 16 Jan. 1694 in favour of an amendment to the land tax bill, and his nomination on 3 Feb. to the committee on the bill to prevent the export of bullion. The one aberration was his appearance as a teller on 20 Mar. against a rider offered to the salt duties bill. His colleague in the division was the Tory Sir Samuel Dashwood, while their opponents were the Court Whigs Edward Clarke I and Sir Walter Yonge, 3rd Bt. In purely party matters Arnold was heartily and consistently Whig. He intervened in the debate of 1 Mar. 1694 over the Bristol Tory MP Sir John Knight’s published speech on the naturalization question, to request ‘that the speech might be burnt at Bristol for the justification of the Member’, while on 17 Apr. he acted as a teller in favour of the Whig Hon. Fitton Gerard* in the Clitheroe election case. Much of his parliamentary activity in this session concerned the affairs of the metropolis. He was a teller on 23 Dec. 1693 for a bill to erect a court of conscience for Holborn and Finsbury, and on 7 Mar. 1694 in favour of going into a committee of the whole House the next day on the London orphans’ relief bill. On 17 Apr. he reported upon a petition from the ‘traders and poor inhabitants’ of London and Southwark, complaining about the quality of halfpence and farthings, and three days later reported from a further committee to draw up an address on the same theme. Familiar issues attracted his attention too: he and his parliamentary colleague at Southwark, Anthony Bowyer, were ordered on 28 Nov. 1693 to prepare another debtors’ relief bill, and on 26 Feb. 1694 he told against another bill against hawkers and pedlars. He also told in a privilege case, and on three private bills, one of them concerning his distant connexion Sir Ralph Dutton, 1st Bt.* He was most active in the last session of the 1690 Parliament on what were distinctly party matters. The imposition of the oaths of allegiance and supremacy constituted one example. On 14 Jan. Arnold and Fitton Gerard were ordered to prepare a bill to disfranchise all those refusing ‘the oaths to the government’. Later he told on 4 Feb. against an amendment to the land tax bill which would have omitted the necessity of tendering ‘the oath’ to the assessors, and on 11 Mar. in favour of a bill requiring ‘certain persons’ to take the oaths. His tellership on 20 Feb., against discharging from custody the mayor of Liverpool, who had been committed for irregularities in a recent by-election there, should probably be interpreted as a partisan gesture. He was active in pursuing the various inquiries into corruption instigated at this time: telling on 26 Feb. against recommitting the representation to the King over the abuses of army agents, on 18 Apr. against the bill of indemnity to Sir Thomas Cooke*, and on 1 May on a procedural motion relating to the impeachment of the Duke of Leeds. There may also have been partisan overtones to the division of 30 Apr. on the bill to reverse the attainder of the New York radical Jacob Leisler, Arnold acting as a teller for the bill. During this session he also reported, on 20 Apr., upon a private petition.7

In the 1695 general election Arnold succeeded in winning back his old seat at Monmouth, but only after prolonged negotiations with all the various principals in the county, both Whigs and Tories, ending in an agreement that he resign in turn at the next election to Henry Probert*. A teller on the Whig side on 16 Jan. 1696 in a division on the Hertfordshire election case, Arnold was forecast as likely to support the Court in the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 on the proposed council of trade, and signed the Association promptly. He told for the Court on 3 Feb., in favour of a rider to the land tax bill to maintain the previous year’s levels of assessment, and again on 17 Feb. for a motion to adjourn all committees. Support for the naturalization of foreign Protestants, evident in his speech in the 1690 Parliament against Sir John Knight, was evident in his presenting, on 29 Jan., a bill to naturalize, inter alios, the future Whig MP James Stanhope, and in his telling on 24 Apr. in favour of retaining a clause in the salt duties and land bank establishment bill for naturalizing subscribers to the bank. His interest in East Indian affairs was evident in a tellership on 2 Apr. to allow consideration of a merchants’ petition objecting to any extension of the East India Company’s monopoly to areas on the subcontinent not covered by the existing charter. Pet subjects which again engaged his interest were the regulation of street trading and the problem of debt. He was a teller on 12 Mar. for leave for a clause to be added to a further bill against hawkers and pedlars, on behalf of an interest-group he had represented before, the Poulterers’ Company, to preserve their monopoly of the street trade in meat in London and Westminster. And on 23 Mar. he told in favour of the bill for improving the security enjoyed by creditors, and to prevent debtors from absconding. A subsequent tellership, on 18 Apr., against an amendment to the bill to stop Catholics disinheriting their Protestant heirs, which would have weakened the bill’s provisions and allowed the testators more freedom of manoeuvre, in part reflected his old anti-papist bigotry. But there was a more immediate consideration, too, which may have motivated him – the involvement of his cousin Sir Henry Dutton Colt, 1st Bt.*, with whom he was still closely allied, in schemes to make money through the discovery of ‘concealed’ Catholic lands. The other teller against the amendment was Sir Henry’s brother, John Dutton Colt*.8

From at least 1696 onwards Arnold became closely involved with these cousins’ schemes to forward their search for preferment by the patronage and encouragement of various disreputable spies, informers and agents provocateurs, whose exposures of alleged Jacobite conspiracies were to serve both as a testimony to the Colts’ and Arnold’s loyalty and devotion to the Williamite regime and as a source of embarrassment and anxiety to ministers. The Duke of Shrewsbury seemed particularly vulnerable, given that he had been cited as a Jacobite sympathizer by Sir John Fenwick† and several informants at the time of the Assassination Plot, and he became the prime target. Towards the end of the 1696–7 session it was planned to bring before the House of Commons the informer Matthew Smith, who in himself represented one of the skeletons in Shrewsbury’s cupboard, in so far as Smith’s early information on the Assassination Plot had been unwisely discounted and ignored by Shrewsbury when secretary of state. The scheme, which came to nothing, was to introduce Smith’s evidence into the deliberations of a committee, under Arnold’s chairmanship, inquiring into abuses in the Mint. Arnold’s appointment to the chair of this committee had been prefigured by his earlier involvement in complaints over the copper coinage, and by his appointment to the committee of 14 Jan. 1697 to draw up clauses to explain the Recoinage Acts. The first victim of the Mint committee was the engraver John Roettiers, denounced as a security risk in a report of 2 Feb. because he was himself a Catholic and allegedly ‘kept an Irish papist in his house’. A further report dwelt on evidence of coin-clipping connived at or even committed by the officers of the Mint, and on 8 Apr. Arnold was named to a small drafting committee on a bill ‘for regulating the corporation of moneyers’. Besides its general value as a means of ferreting out scandals, some with political overtones, the Mint committee had a more specific use as far as Arnold was concerned, for one of the places on which his cousin John Dutton Colt had fixed his ambition was that of master of the Mint, likely to fall vacant because of the ill-health of the occupant, Thomas Neale*. Arnold was also the probable instigator of another complaint of corruption in government, this time in the victualling office, for he gave evidence to a committee examining a petition on this matter from a protégé of his, John Tutchin, formerly a clerk in this office. The contents of Arnold’s evidence was made clear to the House when this committee reported on 15 Apr. He claimed that in 1696 he had personally advanced a small sum of money to the purser of a man-of-war to facilitate the purchase of ‘necessaries’ for the ship’s voyage, on a promise of reimbursement from the victualling commissioner Thomas Papillon*, but that Papillon had failed to fulfil his part of the agreement. The effect of this campaign of mischief-making could be seen in a recommendation from Sir William Trumbull* to the Earl of Sunderland in April 1697 that Arnold and John Dutton Colt might be considered for some reward in the light of their ‘good service’ in the Commons. Sunderland, however, informed Trumbull that though he was willing to find places for Dutton Colt and Arnold this could not be done ‘without the Duke of Shrewsbury’s consent’. Arnold received nothing more than a minor local office under the duchy of Lancaster, and it does seem that this should probably be attributed to the (justifiable) animosity of Shrewsbury, whose deputy James Vernon I* wrote in September 1697, ‘I have a great contempt for the Arnolds, Colts, and all that would rise by accusations, and should have a stubbornness not to give way to them.’ Arnold seems to have been fully aware of the opposition his pretensions had encountered in this quarter for in early December 1697 he and John Dutton Colt made approaches to Shrewsbury via Vernon, who reported that ‘Mr Arnold has desired to make me a visit to tell me how he was put upon in relation to your grace’. Vernon added, with an air of considerable satisfaction, ‘I can’t but think you have done the world a great kindness in giving the occasion to these fellows to lay one another open. Here is a bag of poison now broken, and I hope it will be no more infectious.’ Meanwhile, Sunderland had been able to overcome opposition from Shrewsbury, at least as far as to persuade the King to appoint Colt to a vacant commissionership in the excise, with Arnold to succeed the new commissioner in Colt’s current post as customs collector in Bristol. This arrangement was, however, far from attractive. Vernon wrote again to Shrewsbury on 9 Dec.:

Arnold came to me yesterday and would have made a merit of not making his report last sessions [on Smith’s evidence to the Mint committee], but I was not of his opinion, and he had another book of Smith’s, called his ‘vindication’, in manuscript, and asked me if I would read it . . . He said he came to ask my opinion whether he should have anything to do with him. I left him to his discretion . . . The mystery is unriddled tonight, for Colt hath desired me to excuse him from accepting a commissioner’s place in the excise, if it should be intended, since he would rather wait for a vacancy in the customs, but added that his cousin Jack Arnold had rather be in the excise than anywhere. This is the reformation and zeal for the public that these rogues ever designed and I am glad it is out.

Five days later Vernon reported that he had been

haunted again by Arnold, who would needs show me a petition of Smith’s that was put into his hands to be presented to the House, but I refused to read it. And I should think he don’t intend to present it, by giving me notice, but that he designs one should silence him by the promise of a place, which is more than I can undertake for, or think he deserves; and when he saw my indifference as to the stopping him, he asked me to acquaint the lord chancellor [Sir John Somers*] with it, whom he could satisfy that some in both Houses were concerned in that matter. That I think of doing . . . For my own particular, since one sees no end of this knavery, I had rather he should present his petition now than at another time. I don’t think there is any disposition in the House to meddle with it, and I shall not spare letting them [the Commons] know what would have quieted them.

Vernon believed that ‘all the use Mr Arnold would make’ of Smith’s ‘papers’ would be to ‘recommend himself for an employment, which he was looking after, and when that was once secured he would discharge himself of them into some other hands, who should present them to the House’. He professed to dismiss the threat, thinking that Arnold’s ‘behaviour the last session would be remembered’ by the House, ‘when he had a report tending to this matter and kept out of the way the time it was called for’.9

Little was done at the beginning of the 1697–8 session to pursue Smith’s case or any of the other information available for Arnold and his friends to exploit. He was named with John Perry* on 13 Dec. 1697 to prepare a bill to regulate the assize of bread, a response to the growing social problems with which Arnold, as a supporter of the movement for the reformation of manners, was deeply concerned. In the new year, on 9 Feb. 1698, Arnold spoke in support of (Sir) John Philipps’ motion for an address to the King requesting the suppression of blasphemy and profaneness, and was nominated to the committee appointed upon this motion. On 6 Jan. there had occurred a strange incident, when he told for a minority of two against the bill to perpetuate the imprisonment of those accused of complicity in the Assassination Plot who were being held without trial, his colleague as a teller being the Lancashire Tory Thomas Brotherton. As late as the middle of January 1698 Vernon was ignorant of any attempt on the part of Arnold or the Colts to ‘stir . . . old matters’, but within a month the cousins were back at their old game. Their instruments this time were William Chaloner and Aubrey Price, two informers who the previous year had fed information to the government through Sir Henry Dutton Colt about imaginary Jacobite plots. Unmasked, they had been committed to custody and temporarily disowned by their patron. On 18 Feb., however, Chaloner petitioned the House, claiming that his imprisonment was in itself the result of a conspiracy, on the part of ‘some persons at the Mint’, in revenge for previous disclosures of misdeeds. The petition was referred to a committee, of which Arnold was the first-named Member, his former chairmanship of the Mint committee of 1697 making him a natural choice. Vernon observed that during the cross-examination of Chaloner’s witnesses by the committee Arnold showed ‘too much regard for Chaloner’s reputation’. Arnold was also rebuked for sending for ‘examinations’ and other papers without consulting the committee at large. When little progress was achieved along the lines Arnold and the Colts would have liked, they ‘grew weary of it’, and no report was made. But Arnold did not abandon the pursuit of scandal. In May it was said that he and Sir Rowland Gwynne were ‘upon the hunt’ for a copy of William Molyneux’s Case of Ireland . . . Stated in order to be able to complain about his assertions of Irish legislative independence before any representative of the Irish administration could do so, and thus imply negligence on the ministry’s part. Less significant, perhaps, was his communication to James Vernon of evidence of coin-clipping in Exeter, which, if it had had any relevance to his quest for office, would only have served to underline his usefulness to government. His other parliamentary activity in what turned out to be his last session included the presentation of three bills: a multiple naturalization bill (1 Mar.), a measure to prevent the use of the King’s ships for imports (19 Apr.), and a bill against gaming (2 May), the latter inspired by the societies for the reformation of manners. He told a further five times in this session: on 1 Feb. 1698, against committing the Don navigation bill; on 29 Mar. for nominating the Whig Edward Owen as a land tax commissioner for Coventry; on 19 Apr., in favour of a clause offered to the elections bill, to regulate the admission of honorary freemen; on 5 May, against receiving a petition from Northumberland concerning the halfpenny and farthing coinage; and on 17 May (with Sir Henry Dutton Colt) for committing yet another debtors’ relief bill. He reported, on 25 Jan., upon a private petition and on 16 May was ordered (again with Sir Henry Dutton Colt) to prepare a second private bill on behalf of Sir Ralph Dutton.10

Arnold’s claims to substantial preferment were still unrecognized at the end of the 1695 Parliament, although by way of some small compensation he was lent £200 by the Treasury in June 1698 and the following year received a further £200 as royal bounty. His financial circumstances were such that he was only able to repay half the loan before his death, and he only gave a portion to one of his four daughters, each of whom had been entitled to the sum of £1,000 on reaching the age of 17. It must be reckoned extremely unlikely, therefore, that he was the ‘John Arnold’ who himself lent £9,000 to the crown between March and July 1698. In accordance with the electoral treaty concluded at Monmouth three years before, he gave up his seat on the 1698 general election, being listed in an analysis of the old and new Parliaments as a member of the Court party ‘left out’. Rumours that Thomas Morgan* of Tredegar would bring him in, to represent one of two constituencies for which Morgan expected to be returned, proved groundless. Arnold would appear to have retired to Monmouthshire during this Parliament, for when in December 1699 the House of Lords took up again the case of the informer Matthew Smith, and Arnold was shown to have ‘employed’ Smith, paid him money and corresponded with him when Smith was abroad, it was observed by Vernon that ‘Mr Arnold is in the country and if he be sent for from Wales I know not whom he will be out of humour withal’. The Lords decided against summoning Arnold to hear his explanation, and when the matter was raised in the Commons the evidence against him was simply disbelieved. When early the following year a by-election for Monmouthshire seemed imminent, Arnold canvassed the county in opposition to Sir Charles, 3rd Bt.* No such election occurred, but Arnold held high hopes of returning to the Commons at the first election of 1701. According to the electoral treaty of 1695, he should have been returned for Monmouth again at this election, but by this time the political balance in the county had undergone several important shifts, and Arnold found himself frozen out by an alliance between the Morgans of Tredegar and the Williamses of Llangibby. He canvassed for the borough seat but did not force the issue to a poll, retiring with fulminations against those ‘gentlemen’ whose ‘solemn promises’ were, he said, no more to be relied upon than ‘the King of France’s’. He was not, however, by any means innocent himself, for the year before he had sought to contest a vacancy for knight of the shire against Sir Charles Kemys, 3rd Bt.*, the proper candidate for the county seat in 1701 according to the electoral compact. Ironically, he then tried to form an alliance with Kemys at the general election on the basis of their common grievances against the Morgans and Williamses, conveniently forgetting the bitterness of the by-election dispute, in which eventually both men had lost out.11

Arnold was still in good enough health to retain his place in the Monmouthshire lieutenancy in March 1701 but during the following year was replaced as duchy of Lancaster receiver, possibly as an act of party-political spite, and then as a county land tax commissioner, where he was succeeded by his only son. He died in 1703. After his son’s death in 1726, s.p.m., the estates were sold by his granddaughters to Edward Harley*.12

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Bradney, Mon. i. 219; Lodge, Peerage of Ire. (1754), i. 320; Mar. Lic. Fac. Off. (Harl. Soc. xxiv), 186; HMC Lords, n.s. vii. 348.
  • 2. CJ, xii. 508; Somerville, Duchy of Lancaster Official Lists, 231.
  • 3. Hist. Jnl. xxiii. 275, 282, 284, 287–8.
  • 4. NLW, Penrice and Margam mss L1385, Arnold to [–], [c.1690]; Bodl. Ballard 22, f. 15; Wilts. RO, Ailesbury mss 1300/812A, Duchess of Beaufort to Earl of Ailesbury (Thomas Bruce†), [Dec. 1690]; Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 140; HMC Lords, iii. 208–9.
  • 5. Luttrell Diary, 17, 23, 75, 78, 94, 102–4, 111, 125, 139, 146, 167, 184, 191–2, 194, 196, 198–9, 203; Grey, x. 225; Hopkins thesis, 216; Chapter in Eng. Church Hist. ed. McClure, 349; CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 537.
  • 6. H. Horwitz, Revolution Politicks, 137; Luttrell Diary, 275–6, 293, 302–3, 327, 357, 360, 379, 397, 417, 445, 448, 453; Diary of Edmund Bohun ed. Wilton Rix, 118.
  • 7. Poems on Affairs of State ed. Cameron, v. 435; Bodl. Carte 130, f. 347.
  • 8. Hist. Jnl. xxix. 566.
  • 9. Hopkins, 222–3; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 192; VernonShrewsbury Letters, i. 405, 440, 442, 445; BL, Trumbull Add. mss 125 (Trumbull’s diary), pp. 8–9, 11; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/161–2, 164, 168, 181, James Vernon I to Shrewsbury, 7, 9, 14, 21 Dec. 1697, 18 Jan. 1697[–8].
  • 10. Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/181, 78–79, 81, 86, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 18 Jan., 11, 14, 18 Mar. 1697[–8]; Hopkins thesis, 226; VernonShrewsbury Letters, ii. 83; Add. 40771, f. 167; 70019, f. 21.
  • 11. Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 829, 860; xiv. 133; HMC Lords, n.s. vii. 348; VernonShrewsbury Letters, ii. 152, 366, 392; Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/11, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 16 Dec. 1699; Shrewsbury Corresp. 597; Hist. Jnl. xxix. 566–7; NLW, Kemeys–Tynte mss 374, Charles Price to Sir Charles Kemys, 5 Mar. 1699–1700; 375, Edward Perkins to same, 9 Mar. 1699–1700; 377, Charles Hutchins to Tracy Catchmay, 11 Mar. 1699–1700; 384, Arnold to Kemys, 10 Jan. 1700[–1].
  • 12. CSP Dom. 1700–2, p. 254; Bradney, 215.