GUISE, Sir John (c.1654-95), of Elmore, Glos.

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. 1679 - Mar. 1681
1689 - 19 Nov. 1695

Family and Education

b. c.1654, o. s. of Sir Christopher Guise, 1st Bt.†, of Elmore by his 2nd w. Rachel, da. of Lucas Corsellis, merchant, of London.  educ. Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 3 Dec. 1669, aged 15; travelled abroad (France) c.1675.  m. settlement 10 July 1674, Elizabeth, da. of John Grobham Howe† of Little Compton, Glos., and sis. of Sir Scrope Howe* and John Grobham Howe*, 1s. 2da.  suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. Oct. 1670.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Gloucester 1676–85, 1686–d., alderman 1690–d., mayor 1690–1; v.-adm. Glos. 1691–d.; verderer, Forest of Dean by 1693.2

Col. of ft. Nov. 1688–9.


Having given personal support to William of Orange both before and during the Revolution, Guise quickly established himself as a leading Whig back-bencher. For the most part his sympathies lay with the government, but as time passed he grew bitter that his expectations of office were never realized. In a memoir of him, his son (Sir John Guise, 3rd Bt.*) recounted that ‘though my father was too necessary to them to be quite forgot, he received nothing but some few civil looks and wild court promises’. Such treatment deepened Guise’s abhorrence of ‘the tricks and insolence of men of power: deceit, perjury and promise-breaking were things shocking and insupportable to his nature, which he would not dissemble.’ His plain-speaking nature – one versifier hailed him as ‘a man too honest to be wise’ – led him to quarrel with ‘several persons nearest the King’ including the Earl of Portland, and this was held to have ‘hindered the advancement of his fortune’.3

An Exclusionist during the Parliaments of 1679–81, Guise had first achieved notoriety during the mid-1680s, when he indulged his ‘warm unguarded temper’ in criticizing James II’s regime and found success in attracting popular support in his native county of Gloucestershire. His son recalled his affability and ease in the company of those of lower rank, and that ‘of all things he loved popularity, and had an excellent way of managing the common people to obtain it’. He inevitably ran foul of authority under James II and was forced to take refuge in Holland where he made the acquaintance of William of Orange. The story was told by his son that when the Prince lost his nerve shortly before the expedition set out, it was Guise who ‘not a little contributed to the Prince’s resolution’. Accompanying William to Torbay, he was given a colonel’s commission for a regiment of foot, which he raised in Gloucestershire, and in December he assisted the Earl of Shrewsbury in taking Bristol. In January 1689 he was elected for his county to the Convention where his credit among his fellow Whigs rose high. However, his criticism of the King’s choice of ministers evidently caused royal irritation, for when in August Guise became embroiled in an unseemly quarrel with his regimental second-in-command, the King sided against him, upon which Guise immediately resigned his commission. Shortly afterwards, he lost the prospect of the governorship of Portsmouth held out to him by Lord Shrewsbury when Guise’s uncle, the Duke of Bolton (Charles Powlett†), intervened on behalf of another relative. His attitudes towards the government, as apparent from his speeches and other activity in the House, then began to assume a more critical air. He soon became a leading mouthpiece of the Country Whigs, but despite his personal differences with members of the Court, his opposition was constrained by an overall sense of moderation.4

Upon being re-elected for Gloucestershire in 1690, Guise was classed as a Whig by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†). At the outset of the new Parliament on 20 Mar. the disunity among Whig back-benchers was fully exposed when the motion tabled by himself and Sir John Thompson, 1st Bt., to re-elect Henry Powle as Speaker against the Tory Court candidate, Sir John Trevor, failed to win sufficient support from their colleagues. On the 24th he was a teller for the Whigs in the disputed Plympton Erle election. Over the next fortnight he intervened frequently in supply debates, raising doubts about ministerial probity in financial matters. In an important speech on the 28th he condemned the ministry’s request that all ordinary revenue should be made for the life of the King and Queen, pointing out that the hereditary revenues were ‘encumbered with advices from other persons, not from hence [viz. the Commons]’. He argued that the power of granting these funds should be retained by Parliament, as otherwise, in ministerial hands, ‘ill management’ and corruption would flourish unchecked. On 31 Mar. he questioned the need for a fresh grant to meet the massive shortfall in the previous year’s supply when it was clear that all needs had been ‘well weighed’. Neither was he happy with suggestions that the House was responsible for the mismanagement of public money and must ‘answer this to our country’ when it was the ministry’s responsibility to explain ‘how came the French to be landed in Ireland, and your militia not settled in England?’ The next day he reluctantly supported the proposed war supply of £1,200,000, but not without attacking the secrecy shrouding the role of the Privy Council in tendering advice to the King: ‘if by that way our misfortunes have come, it ought to be rectified’. To all appearances it was a thinly veiled attack on Carmarthen, the lord president of the Council. On 2 Apr. he opposed in the severest terms the levy of a land tax to make up part of the supply: ‘it looks to me as an extremity, the utmost shock, and the way to bring in King James, if you go first to the dernier resort’. His concerns regarding ministerial expenditure led to his inclusion on the 14th in a committee to draft a bill for a commission of accounts. On the 17th he was among the appointees to draft a bill vesting £500 forfeitures in the crown, and on the 21st moved for a bill to improve poor relief, which he never introduced despite being ordered to do so. During the following day’s proceedings on the bill to reverse the quo warranto against the corporation of London, he was anxious that its sole concern with the judgment itself might confirm, rather than overturn, James II’s other actions against the City. He used the opportunity, also, to denounce the Tories for misrepresenting the bill’s provisions to ‘lay imputations upon people of a commonwealth’. Appointed on 24 Apr. to the committee for drafting the Whigs’ abjuration bill, he enlarged two days later upon the necessity for such a measure in view of the prevailing notion that King James was still ruler de jure. He argued the Whig position that oaths to a monarch could only be maintained while the monarch was able to govern effectively. One, evidently biased, report of the debate dismissed Guise’s speech as containing ‘nothing to the purpose’ except that ‘if King James comes, he would cut his throat and run away’. Following the rejection of the bill, Guise was appointed on the 29th to the committee for drafting an alternative measure, to ‘secure the government’ against its enemies. The next day, on the regency bill, he stressed that it was a measure that raised fundamental issues requiring careful consideration. He urged the House on 2 May to ‘agree on moderation’ in the question of censuring the Whig MP Anthony Rowe for exposing the names of Tories who in February 1689 had voted that the throne was not vacant. In committee proceedings on the regency bill on 6 May he first of all refuted a suggestion by Heneage Finch I that matters involving the King’s prerogative could not be debated by Parliament. He later questioned the wisdom of the King’s resolution to lead the campaign in Ireland in person. ‘Have you not anything to regard but Ireland?’, he asked. ‘Should the King go and fail, or a greater misfortune, his death, what a posture are we then in, in relation to England? . . . should there be any ill-management or disorders here, the French will make their advantages of it.’ Such warnings by Guise and others did not go unheeded for on 13 May further progress on the regency bill prompted Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt., to move that the preservation of peace at home be separately considered in committee of the whole. This produced a wave of fresh criticism against the ministers, levels of taxation, expenditure and the nation’s debts. Roger Morrice recorded, ‘that which made greatest noise . . . was that which was said by Sir Edward Seymour and some others’, adding that ‘Sir John Guise fell in with them’. Grey’s account, however, shows that Guise simply stated that the matter was ‘too weighty’ for immediate attention and moved, successfully, for the committee to sit the next day. He played a leading part, however, in the debate on the 14th. He objected to the idea that internal security might be assisted by suspending habeas corpus. In another intervention he stated that the real solution lay in the dismissal of those in high office ‘who have done amiss formerly’, thus reopening the previous day’s rumblings against the ministers; only this time Carmarthen was directly named in the attack by John Granville. Guise supported him, and in the strongest terms urged proceedings to be commenced against him, insisting that Carmarthen’s pardon in 1679 was no plea in mitigation:

he has nothing to plead but the pardon; a man at that time questioned for French money, and ’tis easy for me to believe he will do so again. This nobleman has been formerly concerned in this House; we know what went off. We had such reasons as I can never forget, why a pardon cannot be pleaded by an impeachment. He is president of the Council, and I could wish Lowther [Sir John, 2nd Bt. II*] would tell what good that Council had done. For my own common safety, I confess, I cannot have confidence in him. I second the motion and desire ‘that during the King’s absence the Lord Marquess of Carmarthen may not be left one of the Council’.

After a subsequent ‘broadside’ from Seymour, however, the momentum of attack was lost, and the proceedings closed with the appointment of a select committee to investigate papists’ activities, Guise being one of the nominees. On 20 May it was declared that he had been elected to the commission of accounts. Although the bill establishing the commission failed a few days later when the session was closed, the ballot had shown how popular a choice he was, as he took second place with 173 votes. Even so, he took the opportunity to demonstrate soon afterwards the urgent need for such a body with an allegation that the Earl of Marlborough (John Churchill†) had misappropriated a large sum of public money.5

During the summer months Guise caused a stir when he had a number of Gloucester’s Tory clergymen ‘clapped up’ on the pretext that they were disaffected, but chiefly, it was thought, for having opposed him in the March election. His action was warmly appreciated by the Whig corporation and early in October they elected him mayor. No record of any of his speeches survives for the 1690–1 session, but the outline of his activities drawn from the Journals indicates a number of significant preoccupations, several of which reveal a greater co-operation with the government. On 14 Oct. he moved for, and was ordered to prepare, the mutiny bill, which he subsequently saw through all its stages, managing a conference with the Lords on 17 Dec. concerning several amendments. His interest in a number of other projected measures, mostly concerned with the war and internal security, is indicated by his appointment to their drafting committees, concerning the regulation of the militia (14 Oct.); the recruitment of seamen (15 Oct.); the regulation of abuses at Smithfield market (17 Oct.); the attainder of English and Irish rebels (22 Oct.); the employment of foreign seamen (31 Oct.); and the prohibition of all trade and commerce with France (1 Dec.). Among the handful of investigative committees to which he was nominated, and certainly of interest from the viewpoint of his wool-producing constituents, was that of 11 Oct. concerning abuses in the collection of the aulnage duty. In December he saw through its final stages the resulting bill to transfer these duties to the customs. On 10 Nov. he was first-named on an address committee calling for the fleet to be manned with sufficient numbers of seamen. On 27 Dec. he reported from a committee on proposals to raise extra revenue by way of ‘fines and forfeitures’. He was a teller on four occasions: on 26 Nov. in favour of the bill for reducing interest rates; on the 28th in favour of the Whig side in the disputed Cardiganshire election; on the 29th for extending the attainder bill to include those who had served in Ireland under commissions from King James since 8 July 1690; and on 27 Dec. in favour of a bill for the speedier determination of elections.6

In late December, as the session drew to a close, the King approved an application Guise had made for a grant of the underwood in the Forest of Dean, and by March 1691 the draft lease was nearly complete. The timing of the grant clearly suggests that it was a reward, not only for Guise’s services at the Revolution, but also for his co-operation in the Commons during the 1690–1 session, evidence for which is provided by Robert Harley’s* list of April 1691 wherein he was classed as a Court supporter. Indeed, in February his conduct had led many to speak of him as a favourite contender for a vacancy on the Admiralty Board. Instead, he had to make do with the lesser position of vice-admiral of Gloucestershire with responsibility for recruiting seamen in his county, assisted by a Treasury allowance of £100. Guise’s moderation and willingness to assist the government was much in evidence again in the session of 1691–2. Undoubtedly his most demanding task was to chair the committee of the whole on the East India trade, which began on 29 Oct. and sat regularly until 18 Dec. On 31 Oct. he identified with the ‘Country’ wing of his party by helping to initiate a bill for regulating abuses in elections. During a debate on 3 Nov. on Paul Foley I’s* scheme for ‘informing his Majesty in sea affairs’, he attacked what he believed amounted to an infringement of the King’s prerogative, and demonstrated his continued distaste for Carmarthen and Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) by holding them wholly responsible for the fleet’s recent inactivity. Although three days later he and his brother-in-law John Grobham Howe insisted on having full estimates for the land forces, Guise drew attention to the effectiveness of a substantial army as shown by the recent victory at Aughrim, and appealed to MPs to grant the supply ‘readily and willingly’. On 7 Nov., when the much-awaited attack on Carmarthen was aborted owing to the King’s last-minute intervention with the minister’s chief detractor, the Whig admiral Edward Russell*, Guise acted as the teller in favour of closing the committee of the whole after it had sat in silence for half an hour. Earlier in the day, more parochial concerns had brought him to move for a bill for clarifying existing legislation on the welfare of the poor. He helped on the 14th to defend the Court’s proposals to enlarge the fleet by building four new fourth-rate ships. In a debate on subsidies on the 18th, he defended Court policy and upbraided a Tory MP for disparaging the princes of Germany as ‘beggarly’. Next day, the 19th, he replied to Paul Foley’s criticism of the number of troops requested in the army estimates:

I do not wonder the Member that spoke last understands not what belongs to an army; he has not been used to those things. But now suppose we do as that gentleman would have us – not agree to the list brought in. Here is the confederacy broke – which is the consequence thereof – and we have nothing to do but defend ourselves at sea. The proportion now as to your fleet with the Dutch is you are to be two-thirds and the Dutch one, and both of us joined together are but now strong enough for the French. But if the French should overrun Holland and force the Dutch to join their fleet with his, what would become of you then? You have voted a war with France, that you would give his Majesty supplies for carrying on the same vigorously; you have entered alliances for that end; and it will be a fine thing to have it appear that for the carrying on the war vigorously this year you thought fit to disband 30,000 men.

Another account of Guise’s speech indicates that he also responded to Foley’s arguments about the burden of rising taxation: ‘I see not that anybody wears less, spends less, or does less than before.’ In a later intervention he opposed the wish of Country MPs for an itemized ‘head by head’ scrutiny. He made further speeches on 25, 28 and 30 Nov. fully supportive of the government’s requirements for the army, and on the last occasion, as discussion became increasingly bogged down, was appointed to the select committee ordered to consider the estimates in greater detail. It was Guise who reported from this committee on 14 Dec., as he did from another, the next day, on the army in Ireland. On 9 Dec., when the Commons were faced with William Fuller’s allegations of Jacobitism against several leading politicians, he condemned Fuller as a liar and a cheat. Two days later, after participating in a conference on the treason trials bill, he opposed the Lords’ amendment allowing peers to be tried by the entire Upper House; and on a later occasion, 13 Jan. 1692, with this contentious clause still unresolved, he put it to the House that if the whole body of peers were given the right to try their own kind, ‘you must have half the country’ in the trial of commoners. He was teller on 23 Jan. in favour of the Commons’ original preference for trials to be conducted by a limited panel of peers. In the meantime his grudge against Lord Nottingham was in evidence on 14 Dec. when he moved to adjourn on a motion exonerating the Earl from suspicion of communicating with the French. On the 16th he helped to move for a bill to encourage privateering against France in order to assist in the protection of trade, and presented it himself. On presentation of a petition from his Gloucestershire constituents, he undertook the preparation of a bill to suppress ‘broggers’ and factors in the wool trade. He introduced this bill on 28 Jan. 1692, but was later forced to abandon it in select committee. When the supply resolutions were finally reported on 2 Jan. 1692, he joined the chorus of discontent expressed over the proposed reductions in the Irish military establishment, and was a teller when the House divided on the committee’s resolution. On the 7th he moved for a bill to raise the militia in 1692 and, after introducing it, supervised its subsequent passage. His initiative in this respect undoubtedly arose from his own continuing zeal in searching out suspected Jacobites in Gloucestershire and recognition of a general need for lord lieutenants to have adequate musters of horse and foot on hand. During consideration of ways and means, Guise spoke several times in favour of the proposed ‘quarterly poll’, telling MPs on the 19th: ‘I doubt you can raise taxes but what will be oppressive to some people, but it cannot be helped if you will support this government.’ Even so, his other interventions on this subject show his concern that the tax be equitably levied. Once the formalities of his chairman’s role on the East India issue were over, he was free to demonstrate his antipathy towards the East India Company, as he did on 22 Jan. when he was teller in favour of establishing a new company. Moreover, on 6 Feb., he himself proposed an address to the King for the company’s dissolution. In the remainder of the session he supported the government’s line on a number of other issues. On 12 Feb. he spoke against a move to reserve a third of the proceeds from forfeited estates to officers and soldiers who had served in Ireland, and on the 15th was teller against the renewal of the commission of accounts. Then, on 18 Feb., he opposed the suggestion for withholding the poll bill until the Lords were put in mind of the bills on forfeited English and Irish estates.7

Preparatory to the 1692–3 session, Guise was included on a working list of Court supporters drawn up at some stage between May and November 1692. Although he continued his support for the government, the pattern of evidence shows that in the new session he was much less conspicuous upon essential supply matters than formerly. The background to this change of attitude can be found in the King’s volte-face over his original promise of the Forest of Dean grant, which occurred towards the end of the preceding session. Upon being informed that the grant would in fact produce the princely sum of around £20,000, the King was advised that it was ‘unfit’ that Guise should have this entire sum. According to the account left by Guise’s son, ‘though the reasons given were coloured with pretence of inconvenience to the public, ’tis certain the private advantages of the givers were the true motives of this their opposition to his Majesty’s promise’. The King told Guise that his request for any sum out of the £20,000 would be met. ‘Upon which’, Guise’s son wrote:

he told the King he owed one thousand pounds and wanted six to marry his eldest daughter, which if his Majesty would give him, he should be well satisfied. And now if any one should demand why he did not ask twelve thousand for his two daughters or a greater sum which would have been as easily given him as the seven, I think ’twas a great proof of his moderation.

The privy seal for this purpose, of 29 Feb. 1692, duly granted Guise £7,000 in seven yearly instalments, and some £11,500 of the residue to Admiral Russell. It stated that the gift was in acknowledgment of Guise’s great services at the Revolution ‘in attending us both in our voyage and expedition, and bringing with him several officers, soldiers and others necessary to us on the said occasion’. Despite Guise’s recent drift away from Country principles, the episode served as a salutary reminder of ‘the tricks and insolence of men in power’.8

On 4 Nov., the first day of the 1692–3 session, Guise opposed Sir Thomas Clarges’ motion for a week’s adjournment, the House as yet being ‘thin’, on the premise that ‘you have so much to do’. None the less, Clarges’ reasoning prevailed. On the 15th Guise spoke in favour of proceeding immediately upon the King’s Speech rather than with consideration of the nation’s treaty obligations with foreign powers. Fresh proceedings on the East India Company engaged Guise’s attention from the first, and on the 17th he spoke in support of a measure to impose new regulations on the existing company. The eventual bill sought to establish a new joint-stock company, and at the committee stage Guise took the chair of the committee of the whole. On 4 Jan. 1693 he at first refused to take the chair until ordered to do so by the House, in the belief that he had been aspersed during a debate earlier in the day regarding bribes and gratuities to Members, particularly committee chairmen, in connexion with the passage of bills. On the 18th he served as teller in favour of a further sitting on the bill, but owing to persistent obstruction from the company none took place. The company’s future was next debated on 22 and 25 Feb. when, once more, Guise supported addressing the King for its dissolution. The treason trials bill was also reintroduced. Guise spoke in favour of its committal on 18 Nov., but on the 28th joined other government supporters in arguing that the bill should not take effect until the war was over. On 23 Nov., as the House proceeded upon its ‘advice’ to the King, Guise offered moderating words to the volley of criticism against foreign general officers in the army, most notably Count Solms, who was widely blamed for the defeat at Steenkirk in July. Guise’s proposal to word the resolution so as to bar the employment of foreign officers ‘for the future’ recognized the impracticalities of removing them from their commissions immediately. There was no softening of his old hatred of Nottingham, however. On the 30th he gave the House his opinion that the King’s ministers should be made to explain the circumstances whereby the planned ‘descent’ on France had come to be abandoned. In a further sitting on ‘advice’ on 8 Dec., he attempted to alleviate concern over the drain of specie through expenditure abroad on the army by pointing out that the cheapness of goods in Holland, compared to England, allowed the government to pay less to the troops stationed there. Arising from this debate, he was appointed on the 12th to a committee to consider ways of supplying the army without incurring large exports of coin. The ‘advice’ committee reported on 11 Jan. 1693 with a resolution that the King be addressed to reconstitute the Admiralty Board with persons experienced in maritime affairs. Guise opposed, arguing that at no time had the fleet been so well managed and administered as in the last year. He went on to remind the House that formerly they had actually turned down an Admiralty proposal for several new ‘cruising frigates’ for the protection of trade. He omitted mentioning, however, that on this occasion, 19 Nov. 1691, he himself had been among those had who voiced objections on the grounds of ‘some formality’. Besides the proceedings on advice, he had spoken several times on ways and means business. On 3 Dec. he supported the proposal to appoint officials to ‘review’ the poll tax, ‘so that you may perhaps get £300,000 or £400,000 of persons who have as yet paid nothing towards it’. He opposed Clarges’ motion to report but to move on immediately to the army estimates, which was agreed. When renewal of the land tax was considered in ways and means on the 13th, he supported a pound rate, as distinct from a monthly assessment, as being ‘the equallest way of taxing’. On the 23rd he was a teller in favour of opening the land tax bill’s committee stage at the earliest opportunity. All the while he had been preoccupied with a detailed review of customs duties. Named in first place on 18 Nov. to a committee to examine the book of rates, he reported on 14 Dec.

that they found it a matter of great concern, worthy the examination of this House; that the field was very large, but that they had only considered of the trade of France, which was now more immediately concerned, and that they found the duties on all French commodities very low; and therefore they had thought to raise them in several particulars as to which they had come to several resolutions.

After a short debate the report was referred to ways and means. Apart from the mainstream issues of war and finance, Guise’s time was also taken up with issues which bore directly upon the economic wellbeing of his constituents. In this and during his next few years in Parliament, these priorities assumed increasing importance to him as he became less active on behalf of the government. On 19 Nov. he presented a general bill ‘for the encouragement of the woollen manufactory of this kingdom’. Its second reading was delayed until 19 Jan. 1693, when it was opposed as a design ‘drove on’ by the Blackwell Hall factors ‘for their own interest’, and defeated. Guise, departing from the usual Whiggish arguments against monopolies, took the view that one of the main reasons for the decay of woollen manufacturing in recent years had been the way in which mercantile control had been largely supplanted by that of the ‘packers’ and ‘factors’. This was the premise of a petition which he presented on 1 Dec. and which called for the re-establishment of the Hamburg Company which had been ‘broken’ by an Act of 1689. The ensuing debate revealed strong differences of opinion over whether the ‘free trade’ in wool, allowed under this statute which was soon to expire, necessarily encouraged exports to maximum levels. Accordingly, it was proposed, against Guise’s wishes, to refer his county’s petition to a recently appointed committee under Sir Walter Yonge, 3rd Bt., to consider the renewal of this legislation, as requested by west-country clothiers, but the motion failed, Guise acting as a teller for the opposers, and a separate committee was named with Guise at its head. Though this committee never reported, an additional clause was offered on 19 Jan. to Yonge’s bill, recognizing the Hamburg Company’s exclusive rights to export cloth to the rivers Elbe, Weser and Eider, and was enthusiastically supported by Guise and others. However, their argument that the company played a vital part in preserving the ‘credit’ of the nation’s woollen industry abroad failed to win acceptance. Guise’s efforts on 17 Feb. to include another clause in favour of the Hamburg Company in Yonge’s bill also failed. He had the satisfaction that day, however, of seeing the bill vigorously opposed, and was a teller in the division which resulted in the bill’s rejection. There were a number of other measures to which Guise paid passing attention: the abjuration bill, which he supported (14 Dec.); the bill prolonging the terms of a patent for street lighting, which he opposed (30 Dec.); the militia bill, which he partly supervised; a bill for the navigation of the Wye and Lugg, against which he was a teller (13 Jan.); a bill for the regulation of vestries, which he moved and presented (10, 13 Feb.); a bill to indemnify from prosecution actions taken by individuals while in the government’s service, which he justified (27 Feb.); and the London orphans bill, which he told in favour of on 1 Mar. On four other occasions he was named to assist in conferences with the Lords. As an owner of land abutting the Severn, he presented a bill on 7 Jan. for repealing the penalties against fishing in its waters. But most interesting of all were his contributions in the debates on the triennial bill. After opposing the bill at second reading on 2 Feb., and speaking in committee on the 7th against a clause requiring annual sessions of Parliament, there were signs of equivocation on the 10th when his intervention was ‘not very short . . . but it was difficult to perceive whether he was for or against the bill’.9

In the spring of 1693 Guise was listed by Grascome as a Court supporter and a placeman. During the 1693–4 session he stepped up his efforts to secure legislation to revitalize the cloth industries, particularly those in the Gloucestershire region. His willingness to do battle with strong rival interests, such as the factors at Blackwell Hall, led one MP to describe him at this time as the ‘clothiers’ patron’. On 14 Nov. his name headed a large committee appointed ‘to inspect all the laws concerning clothing’ and to draft a bill ‘for the better encouragement of the clothing trade’. Immediately afterwards he moved for a bill to repeal part of the Elizabethan statute of artificers (1563) with the aim of easing the apprenticeship regulations applying to cloth weavers. Having presented his bill on the 23rd, he subsequently found on consultation with several local clothiers that it conflicted with their views in several major respects, though it would appear that these difficulties were ironed out in the course of a 12week committee stage which Guise himself oversaw. He was finally able to deliver the bill to the Lords on 1 Mar. 1694. Before then, however, he was made to suffer mild indignity at the hands of the commissioners of public accounts. In his report to the House on 9 Dec. 1693, Robert Harley drew attention to a number of secret service and other payments to certain MPs, including those made to Guise. Guise immediately informed the House, quoting from his privy seal instrument, that a secret service payment to him of £400 had indeed been made ‘in consideration of my service beyond sea, and the charge of our expedition, to the hazard of my person . . . I thank the gentleman for putting me down. This is not very much for the service I have done.’ Turning next to the Forest of Dean grant, he told MPs, not without a hint of bitterness: ‘it is but part of what the King promised me.’ However, Guise never allowed his private grievances to obstruct what he saw as his duty to support the national interest. His reliability as a Court supporter was such that on 31 Jan. 1694 he was chosen to deputize for Sir Thomas Littleton, 3rd Bt., in the chair of ways and means and the next day made the report. Three days later, on 3 Feb., he moved for a bill to tighten the penalties against exporters of wool and to regulate the activities of the factors at Blackwell Hall, presenting it on the 9th. The committee stage was not finished until Guise’s report on 2 Apr., a certain indication of the resistance put up by the Blackwell Hall factors. But with the session practically over, the report was never considered. Guise’s continuing concern with unemployment in the woollen industry prompted him to a new initiative to improve relief for the poor. He moved for a new bill on 15 Feb., but after introducing it on the 24th, progressed with it no further.10

Guise’s involvement in a semi-official scheme against Catholics threatened to embroil him in a damaging scandal at the outset of the 1694–5 session. Early in 1693 he and his brother-in-law Sir Scrope Howe* became party to an initiative approved by the Treasury whereby three undertakers, described as ‘commissioners for superstitious lands’, were empowered to ‘discover’ estates illegally made over to the Catholic church, and to claim them for the crown, while retaining a third share for themselves. One of the undertakers was a ‘trustee’ for Guise and Howe, in return for whose patronage the commission was to pay them a share of the gains. The commission chose to concentrate its efforts against Catholics in Lancashire. However, the allegation of a ‘Lancashire Plot’ and the fiasco of the subsequent treason trials at Manchester during the summer of 1694 highlighted the gains that were to be made through the malice of certain ‘witnesses’ who were prepared to condemn various Catholic landowners in the county as Jacobite. Leading Country MPs arriving for the new session in November were scandalized, none more so than Robert Harley, whose suspicions had been trained on Guise during the previous session. Harley informed his father Sir Edward* that ‘the affair in Lancashire is scandalously vile. Sir J[ohn] Guise and Sir S[crope] Howe are under censure for the management.’ Although it is not known whether Guise and his brother-in-law actually received any proceeds from the commission’s activities, the mood against them seems to have quickly subsided once the House began its inquiry into the Lancashire prosecutions. In this last session of the Parliament Guise continued to press for legislation to assist the clothiers of Gloucestershire, perhaps as a means of recovering his credibility. On 1 Dec. he presented a petition from them complaining of the clothiers’ seriously distressed plight. The report, which Guise made on the 18th, upheld the petitioners’ request for a bill similar to the one he had attempted the previous session, primarily to check the export of wool, but also to ensure the preservation of ‘the public market at Blackwell Hall’, and to speed the payment of wages. Having presented it on 3 Jan. 1695, he headed the second-reading committee appointed on the 8th. However, though he gave notice of his report on 25 Feb., it was never considered. He appears to have been one of the prime movers behind an initiative to tighten the laws against highway robbery, his name heading the inquiry named on 31 Jan. which he reported on 12 Feb. All but one of the committee’s five resolutions were rejected, however, and the bill that Guise and others were ordered to draft never materialized.11

Guise defended his seat in the autumn general election ‘with great majority and applause’. However, while at Gloucester, as the poll was taken, he fell ill, was bled and died from an ‘inflammation’ the day after the result was declared, 19 Nov. He was buried at Elmore. His son’s memoir records that he left no will, only ‘a half sheet of paper, blotted and underlined all over, without his name, seal or any witness’, in which he increased his wife’s jointure by £200 p.a. and gave his two daughters the £6,000 granted from the Forest of Dean to be divided between them. The fulfilment of these wishes was nevertheless undertaken by his only son, who was elected knight of the shire in 1705.12

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. iii. 72; Guise Mems. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xxviii), 134.
  • 2. Gloucester Freemen (Glos. Rec. Ser. iv), 32; VCH Glos. iv. 378; Glos. RO, Gloucester bor. recs. GBR/B3/7, f. 11; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1553; x. 46, 488, 901; Bodl. Rawl. D.846.
  • 3. Guise Mems. 135–6, 138; Poems on Affairs of State ed. Ellis, v. 265.
  • 4. Guise Mems. 136, 137–8; Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 480, 580; CSP Dom. 1689–90, pp. 228, 278.
  • 5. Morrice ent’ring bk. 3, pp. 125, 146; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 53; Grey, x. 16, 20–21, 24, 33–34, 36, 59, 78, 81, 100, 126, 132, 137, 140–5; Bodl. Rawl. A.79, f. 73; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/053/1, James Vernon I* to Alexander Stanhope, 27 May 1690; Luttrell, ii. 44; CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 34.
  • 6. Trinity, Dublin, Clarke mss 749/1/103, John Edisbury to George Clarke*, 5 Aug. 1690; Northants. RO, Isham mss IC3317, newsletter 7 Aug. 1690; Gloucester bor. recs. GBR/B3/7, f. 11.
  • 7. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 901, 918–19, 945, 1047; PRO NI, De Ros mss D638/6/2, Ld. Ranelagh (Richard Jones*) to Thomas Coningsby*, 28 Feb. 1690[–1]; Horwitz, 70; Luttrell Diary, 4, 6, 19, 26, 30, 32, 41, 48, 52, 68, 75, 79, 83, 99, 105, 128, 138, 140, 144–5, 174, 182, 194; Bodl. Carte 130, f. 326; Grey, 176, 238; CSP Dom. 1691–2, p. 260.
  • 8. Guise Mems. 136–7; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1495–7; x. 117, 381, 412.
  • 9. Luttrell Diary, 19, 214–15, 227–8, 238, 255, 265, 275, 277, 287, 302, 312–13, 316, 351, 363, 374, 398, 407, 427–8, 436, 449–50; Grey, 295, 308; CSP Dom. 1696, p. 154.
  • 10. Grumbling Hive ed. Davison et al. 14; Add. 70017, f. 208; Grey, 358.
  • 11. Recusant Hist. xv. 270; HMC Portland, iii. 559.
  • 12. Guise Mems. 137–8; Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. iii. 72.