NEWPORT, Hon. Thomas (c.1655-1719), of Brigstock, Northants.
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Family and Education
b. c.1655, 5th s. of Francis Newport†, 1st Earl of Bradford; bro. of Hon. Richard Newport I*. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 21 May 1672, aged 17; I. Temple 1674, called 1678, reader 1700–2. m. (1) 20 Jan. 1655, Lucy (d. 1696), da. of Sir Edward Atkyns†, of Hensington, Oxon. and South Pickenham, Norf., l.c. baron of the Exchequer, s.p.; (2) 22 July 1700, Penelope (d. 1705), da. of Sir Orlando Bridgeman, 1st Bt.†, of Ridley, Cheshire, s.p.; (3) lic. 8 July 1709, Anne, da. of Robert Pierrepont† of Nottingham, s.p. suc. uncle Hon. Andrew Newport* 1699; cr. Baron Torrington 20 June 1716.1
Freeman, Ludlow 1695.2
Commr. of customs 1699–1712; ld. of Treasury 1715–Mar. 1718; PC 30 Mar. 1717; teller of Exchequer Mar. 1718–d.3
A younger son put to the law, Newport stood for Parliament for the first time at Ludlow in 1695. Although he was not able to draw upon the resources of any proprietary political interest there, the fact that his family was pre-eminent among the Shropshire Whigs enabled him to secure the support of the powerful Whig faction in the borough. In addition, government patronage was deployed on his behalf: before the election the Earl of Bradford received ‘a grant of Ludlow Castle’ (the former headquarters of the defunct council in the marches), which, as Robert Harley* correctly surmised, was ‘but temporary, to countenance his son’s election for the town’. Newport was returned after a contest with two other Whigs, Charles Baldwyn* and Francis Lloyd*, but his subsequent parliamentary activity is difficult to distinguish from that of his uncle, Hon. Andrew Newport, also an MP in this Parliament. He was forecast as likely to support the Court in the division over the proposed council of trade on 31 Jan. 1696, and he readily subscribed to the Association. In November 1696, however, he both spoke and voted against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†, the Jacobite plotter. Newport’s uncle, Hon. Andrew, had been indirectly involved in Fenwick’s activities; and his father-in-law, Sir Edward Atkyns, himself a non-juror, was a friend of Lord Ailesbury (Thomas, Lord Bruce†), another of those who had been arrested after the discovery of the conspiracy. Newport did not claim to be persuaded of Fenwick’s innocence, merely of the grievous error, as he saw it, of the crown’s having recourse to a bill of attainder as the instrument of conviction. In a speech in which he went out of his way to dissociate himself from Fenwick, he sought to expose the perils attendant upon the passing of such a bill. It would set a bad precedent, he claimed, in such ‘unsettled’ times, and he reminded the House of the case of the Whig martyr, Algernon Sidney, who had been attainted and executed in 1683 on evidence as meagre as that being offered against Fenwick. His peroration was apologetic in tone:
I ask your pardon for troubling you so long: I am a judge in this matter, and ought to deliver my opinion. I hope no man doubts but I am as zealous for this government as any man whatsoever; but let what will come of it, I can’t give my vote for the passing of this bill.4
In April 1697 Newport was thought to ‘stand fair’ to be the next chief justice of the Chester circuit, but was not given the place. He was probably the ‘Mr Newport’ who in May 1698 brought to the attention of the committee of ways and means a proposal he claimed to have ‘met with by chance’, that the East India Company should lend £700,000 to the public at 6 per cent in return for being established by Act of Parliament. Newport then referred his hearers to George Bohun*, the governor of the company, who gave evidence that ‘there had been discourses’ on such a scheme but said that, as the general court of the company had not yet deliberated on the matter, he was not in a position to offer a firm and detailed proposal. The idea met with a mixed response from the committee, Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt., being the only Member named as having supported it, and eventually it was agreed to defer further discussion until such time as more information became available. Bohun, it was said, ‘would have been glad to have had some better handle for bringing it under debate at their court’. A ‘Mr Newport’ was subsequently appointed on 4 May 1698 as chairman of the committee to consider proposals which had been submitted by the East India Company.5
In 1698 Newport was narrowly defeated at Ludlow in a contest with two Tories, even though he still had the support of the local Whigs and had exploited the prestige enjoyed by his family, and despite his brother Lord Newport (Richard) having appeared with him in the borough on the day before the poll. However, he was seated on petition on 1 Mar. 1699, in place of William Gower*. The committee of elections had originally decided against his petition, but the House did not accept its verdict. Meanwhile, Newport’s name had been included in a parliamentary list, prepared about September 1698, as a supporter of the Court. In June 1699 it was given out that he was to be made a customs commissioner, ‘Lord Chancellor [Sir John Somers*] and Mr [Charles] Montagu* having told him that they have writ to the King in his behalf’. Newport was appointed in November. In the debate on 13 Feb. 1700 in which crown grants were criticized, Newport maintained ‘the King’s power of granting and the just liberty of the lord chancellor [Somers] in taking, by many precedents from most reigns to this very time’. At the general election in January 1701 he did not stand at Ludlow, and for a time it seemed as if he would not be returned at all. On 2 Jan. a correspondent of Robert Harley confidently forecast the election of Sir Thomas Powys* ‘in Squire Newport’s place at Ludlow, who will hardly get in anywhere’. But eventually Newport was ‘brought in’ at Winchelsea, together with Robert Bristow, by the mayor of that borough, who was a customs officer. On a petition from the defeated candidates, Robert Austen* and John Hayes*, the election was declared void on 27 Feb. The mayor, having been found guilty of issuing threats and employing other ‘indirect practices’ to procure the return of Newport and Bristow, was thereupon taken into custody and subsequently at the request of the Commons dismissed from his place in the customs. No new writ for Winchelsea was issued before Parliament was prorogued, and Newport was not a candidate there at the next election.6
Newport was continued in office after Queen Anne’s accession, but did not stand for Parliament in her reign. He had succeeded to his uncle Andrew’s estate in 1699, and by 1710 he had acquired over £4,000 in Bank stock. After the fall of Lord Godolphin’s (Sidney†) ministry in that year it was expected that Newport and two other Whig commissioners would be dismissed: in fact, they kept their places until January 1712. Returned at Much Wenlock in the 1715 election, on the interest of his uncle Sir William Forester*, he was listed as a Whig in a comparative analysis of the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments, was included in the Treasury commission appointed in October of that year, and was raised to the peerage in the following June. Newport died on 27 May 1719.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. IGI, London; Mar. Lic. Fac. Off. (Brit. Rec. Soc. xxxiii), 246.
- 2. Salop RO, Ludlow bor. recs. min. bk. 1690–1712.
- 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. xv. 201; xxii. 242, 264.
- 4. HMC Portland, iii. 565; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 1062–4; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 63.
- 5. Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 217; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 188.
- 6. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 315; Add. 40774, ff. 104–5; Luttrell, iv. 579; Cocks Diary, 51; Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/4, James* to Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. I*, 27 Feb. 1701.
- 7. HMC Portland, iv. 11; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 226; xxvii. 118; xxix. 295; Luttrell, vi. 664, 717; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. ser. 3, ii. 338.