COLLETON, Sir Peter, 2nd Bt. (1635-94), of Exmouth, Devon and Golden Square, Westminster

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



Mar. 1681
1689 - 24 Mar. 1694

Family and Education

bap. 17 Sept. 1635, 1st s. of Sir John Colleton, 1st Bt., of Exeter, Devon and London by Catherine, da. of William Amy of Exeter.  m. c.1669, Elizabeth, sis. of John Leslie of Barbados, wid. of William Johnston, 1s. 3da.; 1s. illegit.  suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. c.Mar. 1667.1

Offices Held

Member of council, Barbados 1664–84, pres. of council 1672–?77, dep. gov. 1673; ld. proprietor, Carolina 1666–d., high steward 1669, chancellor 1670–d.; ld. proprietor, Bahamas 1670–d.2

Member, R. Adventurers to Africa 1667–72, Hudson’s Bay Co. 1670–d.; asst. R. African Co. 1677–9, 1683–5, 1688–90.3

FRS 1677.

Freeman, Exeter 1678.4

Commr. public accts. 1691–d.5


Owner of extensive plantations in Barbados and a former associate of the 1st Earl of Shaftesbury (Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper†) in the proprietorship of Carolina, Colleton was one of the most important representatives in the Commons of transatlantic trading interests, and a staunch adherent of Country Whiggism. Re-elected in 1690 for Bossiney, a borough in which he enjoyed an interest through his mother’s family, he was listed as a Whig by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†). In the first session of this Parliament he was named to two drafting committees: to settle the East India trade (2 Apr.), and to prevent the export of coin (8 May). When Parliament resumed in the autumn, he reported on 26 Nov. 1690 from the inquiry into the African trade, and was then named to the drafting committee of the resultant bill to settle the trade, which he presented on 5 Dec. On 26 Dec., he was elected a commissioner of accounts, in sixth place, and went on to be one of the most active members of the commission, keeping a detailed record of its proceedings. Not surprisingly, Robert Harley* classed him as a Country supporter. He appears to have been absent from the commission between 24 July and 26 Aug. 1691, but was very regular in his attendance in September and October.6

Colleton was very active in the 1691–2 session. He was quickly to the fore when Parliament reassembled, and on 31 Oct. 1691 was appointed to two drafting committees, and to another such committee on 3 Nov. A further four drafting committees followed before the end of the session, including one of more personal interest on 2 Feb. 1692, to prepare a bill which would allow English ships voyaging to the West Indies to be crewed by foreign seamen, which he duly presented on the 5th. Colleton was also prominent in Country party manoeuvres over estimates and supply. He seconded Sir Thomas Clarges’ motion on 6 Nov. 1691 requesting army estimates, and on the 9th supported moves to take into custody the author and printer of a libel reflecting on the proceedings of the House. On 30 Nov. he sought to include a clause exempting Quakers from the requirements of the bill to appoint new oaths in Ireland, and the same day seconded another proposal from Clarges, to refer the army estimates to a select committee. On 3 Dec. he was one of four public accounts commissioners who informed the House of the ill management of accounts. Then on 1 Jan. 1692 he supported the estimate that £17,000 might be raised from the Irish hearth tax, and later was one of those who moved successfully for the establishment of a committee to receive proposals for the raising of money on forfeited estates in Ireland, to which he was duly nominated. In the debates on 8 and 23 Jan. 1692 he opposed the bill to lessen the rate of interest. Following the adjournment of the House in February Colleton appears to taken a cure for his health at Epsom. On 22 Mar. he wrote to Harley: ‘since I came hither I have found some amendment but so little that I am still dubious whether I shall get the better of my distemper or it of me.’7

In September 1692 Colleton was in London, and again attending the commission of accounts regularly. In this session he undertook significantly fewer legislative initiatives, but he continued to speak regularly in debates. At the beginning of the parliamentary session, on 10 Nov. 1692, he seconded Clarges’ motion to go into committee of the whole on the state of the nation, rather than supply. The next day in committee of the whole he proposed that Admiral Edward Russell* attend the House to face questions about the fleet’s actions that summer, but later in the debate seconded a motion from Hon. Goodwin Wharton that Russell be thanked for his conduct. On 12 Nov. he moved that the Admiralty’s account of the summer’s expedition be read, and later in the debate supported those who wished to know who was in charge of the descent. On the 15th, in order to solve a procedural wrangle, he suggested reading the orders of the day to determine the order of business. Following the presentation of a book of accounts, he then suggested that the House consider alliances before going on to the King’s Speech. On 23 Nov., in the committee of the whole on the advice to be given to the King, he launched a bitter attack on the behaviour of foreign officers in the battle of Steenkerk, concluding,

I think it is not consistent with the interest of this kingdom for to have foreign officers over an English army when we have so many brave, courageous men among us . . . I think it is a head worthy of your advice that our English armies may be commanded by natives of our own.

On the following day, in a debate in the committee of the whole considering the heads of a bill to regulate the East India trade, he declared himself to be ‘against the old and against the new company, and a joint stock as pernicious to trade, but was for a regulated company, being most for the interest of the nation’. He supported Harley’s proposal of 3 Dec. that the Commons vote the 20,000 men suggested for domestic defence, before going on to consider the total number of men suggested for the service. On 10 Dec., together with Goodwin Wharton, he opposed the resolution which favoured George Balch* at Bridgwater. On the 15th he supported Paul Foley I’s proposal in the committee of supply for raising £70,000 p.a. That this was his last speech recorded in the session suggests that ill-health henceforth limited his activities.8

Colleton was clearly not a well man a year later, for on 23 Dec. 1693 Narcissus Luttrell* reported his death the previous day. However, on the 27th Colleton wrote to Harley about ordering some wine from Alicante. On 2 Jan. 1694 Colleton was reported to be ‘dangerously ill of an asthma’. Although probably absent from the Commons he kept a close watch on proceedings. At some point following the presentation of a petition on 24 Jan. 1694 from the Royal African Company for a bill establishing the trade by a joint-stock company, he wrote to Harley, the chairman of the select committee inquiring into the petition. Specifically, he was worried that ‘if the committee have voted to settle that trade in a joint-stock exclusive to others and there be not sufficient care taken to supply the English plantations with negroes at moderate rates in a little time there will be an end of your plantation trade’. Colleton died on 24 Mar. 1694.9

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. PCC 72 Box; CSP Dom. 1666–7, p. 575.
  • 2. CSP Col. 1661–8, p. 195; 1669–74, pp. 43–44, 52, 122, 478, 481; 1681–5, p. 938; V. Harlow, Barbados, 212; K. H. D. Haley, Shaftesbury, 233, 242.
  • 3. K. G. Davies, R. African Co. 379; P. C. Newman, Co. of Adventurers, i. 320; B. Willson, Gt. Co. i. 47.
  • 4. Exeter Freemen (Devon and Cornwall Rec. Soc. extra ser. i), 169.
  • 5. EHR, xci. 36.
  • 6. Caribbeana, iii. 299; PCC 91 Carr; EHR, 33, 39; Harl. 6837.
  • 7. Luttrell Diary, 4, 8, 50, 52, 60, 102–3, 117, 150; Add. 70218, Colleton to Harley, 22 Mar. 1691[–2].
  • 8. Add. 70218, Colleton to Harley, 17 Sept. 1692; Harl. 6837; Luttrell Diary, 217–20, 224, 228, 252, 258, 290, 308, 322; Grey, x. 253.
  • 9. Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 244; Add. 70218, Colleton to Harley, 27 Dec. 1693; 70307, same to same, n.d. [Jan.–Mar. 1694]; Nat. Archs. Ire. Wyche mss 1/99, William Ball to Sir Cyril Wyche*, 2 Jan. 1694.