PALMES, William (c.1638-1716), of Lindley, Yorks. and Ashwell, Rutland

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



6 Oct. 1668 - Mar. 1681
1689 - 1708
14 Dec. 1708 - 1713

Family and Education

b. c.1638, 6th but 2nd surv. s. of Sir Brian Palmes†, of Lindley and Ashwell by Mary, da. and coh. of Gervase Tevery of Stapleford, Notts.  educ. Wadham, Oxf. 1655–9.  m. 15 July 1663, aged 24, Mary, da. and coh. of William Eure of Malton, 4s. 4da.  suc. bro. 1657.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Rutland May–Nov. 1662, receiver-gen. by 1664–?9.


Palmes was lord of the manor of Malton, by right of his wife, and was able to control both seats there from 1690 until 1713. Although during his political career he tended to support the Court, on occasion he took an independent line and adopted a ‘Country’ viewpoint in Parliament. However, his later career was disrupted by severe financial problems, though as early as 1690 it was rumoured that he was in debt. Classed as a Whig by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) in March 1690, he was a teller on the 29th against the motion for referring the Exclusionist Sir William Francklyn’s† petition about the Bedford return to the elections committee. He spoke for the recognition bill on 9 Apr., asking that the measure define the time from which William and Mary ‘are and were’ King and Queen. Later that month he acted as a teller in favour of two separate motions: for sending the mayor of Plympton Erle into custody for his conduct at the late election (14th), which motion stemmed from a successful attack on the return of two Tories; and for calling in the sheriffs of London to present a petition from the City (17th). On 17 May he told against a motion biased against the Tories in the Aldborough election case. At this time, he was one of the ‘Whiggishly inclined’ deputy-lieutenants in the East Riding militia turned out by Carmarthen.2

In the 1690–1 session Palmes continued to display his Whig affiliations, telling in favour of two Whigs in the Sandwich and Cirencester election cases (31 Oct., 25 Nov.), while on 22 Dec. he told against a motion that the Tory Sir Thomas Fowle was duly elected for Devizes. In April 1691 Robert Harley* listed Palmes as a Court supporter. In the 1691–2 session he acted as a teller against a bill to lessen interest rates (12 Nov.). Later that month he spoke in favour of an itemized consideration of the army estimates, or else ‘some gentlemen will take away our liberty of advising and considering of these things’. He agreed with Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt., on 1 Dec., when the latter congratulated the commissioners of public accounts on their work and requested that a call of the House be made before their report was heard. On the 8th he told for the motion that the Whig Silius Titus was duly elected for Ludlow. In the debate on the report of the accounts commission on 12 Dec., when Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt., suggested that no Member should be a receiver of taxes or of the excise, Palmes declared ‘if you will lay your hands upon offices of great profit in this House and if you will make distribution of it to the public use, I am for it’, and moved that all civil government officials should contribute towards the cost of the war, for the next year, that part of their salaries or profits which exceeded £500 p.a. Only the Speaker, commissioners of the great seal and the judges were to be exempt. Four days later, he spoke in favour of a bill for registering servants sent to the plantations. On 6 Jan. 1692 he moved that particulars of the civil list and a state of the revenue might be laid before the House, while on the 12th he argued that the business of the committee of supply was ‘to raise monies for carrying on the war and not how to pay old debts of the crown’. Later that month he opposed a tax of 30s. a quarter for gentlemen with incomes of £500 p.a., to be paid towards the cost of the militia. Early in February he managed two separate bills for vesting in the crown the forfeited estates in England and in Ireland, to be applied to the cost of the war.3

In the 1692–3 session Palmes drew the attention of the House on 14 Nov. 1692 to the number of Members employed in the foreign service or abroad for other reasons, and a committee was appointed to search for precedents, to which Palmes was first-named. The next day he asked the House to go into a scrutiny of the accounts before considering the King’s Speech. On the 26th he reported from the committee inquiring into the proceedings and papers of the transport commissioners. On the 25th he urged the House not to be ‘hasty’ in considering the supply, adding that last session ‘a great sum more came upon us after the estimate was given in’. Again on supply, on the 29th, he called for ‘the old way of asking a supply’ to be observed ‘by the King in a speech to the Commons’, not by estimates for the army and navy. The next day he reproved Seymour for criticizing the report on the abortive descent on the French coast, declaring

I was in the chair of this committee and do assure you I have no letters or papers in my hands or which were before the committee but they are reported, unless where there be several to the same effect. And though some gentlemen now by their places or offices are taken off, yet in former Parliaments the greatest men have not thought themselves too good to attend committees for the service of the House.

On 2 Dec. he was for going immediately into ways and means in order to provide for the fleet, while in the debate on the naval miscarriages on the 20th he spoke in defence of Admiral Russell (Edward*) and supported the demand for a public acknowledgement of his services. On 7 Jan. 1693 he told for adjourning the report of the land tax till the following Monday. On the 10th he spoke in favour of a proposed clause for suspending all pensions during the war, as the existing pensions were diverting revenue which should be applied to the cost of carrying on the war. On the land tax, two days later, he opposed Hugh Boscawen I’s proposal that no one should be a land tax commissioner in his own parish. On the 20th he argued that the licencer and printer of Bishop Lloyd’s book, A Discourse upon God’s way of disposing of Kingdoms, which claimed that William was king by right of conquest, should be sent into custody, but on the 23rd he told against having Bishop Burnet’s Pastoral Letter, which made the same claim, burnt by the common hangman. He spoke for the triennial bill in February, and praised the work of the commissioners of accounts ‘if but to let you know what your aids you give do raise, the value of the revenue, and how your money is disposed of’. At the end of the month, he strongly supported Harley’s demand for an inquiry into the disposal of Irish forfeitures and how their value to the public had been eroded. He also spoke for rejecting a bill from the Lords for finding sureties for those pardoned for felony. On 8 Mar. he reported from the committee inquiring into precedents concerning Members absent at home or overseas, and supported a proposal that a new writ should be issued whenever a Member ‘accepts any place or employment that requires his attendance from the service of the House’, thinking it should be recorded in the Journals. On the 10th he supported Hon. John Granville’s* covert attack on Carmarthen, and the following day he opposed a bill from the Lords, drafted at the request of the bishop of Lincoln, to explain the laws relating to tithes on hemp and flax, arguing that it would discourage their cultivation.4

The following session, Palmes supported the triennial bill on 28 Nov. 1693, declaring that ‘frequent Parliaments, and the dissolution of this was the thing I aimed at before, and so I do now’. The next day a complaint of breach of privilege was made on his behalf over the arrest of his servant, with the result that the perpetrators were ordered to be sent for into custody. In the debate on 7 Dec. on accusations by the commissioners of accounts that Lord Falkland (Anthony Carey*) had appropriated Admiralty money for his own use, Palmes congratulated the commissioners, but thought sending Falkland to the Tower would be ‘too hasty’. On the 11th he spoke in the supply debate, against addressing the King over the burdens on England imposed by the treaties with the King’s allies. The following day Palmes presented a bill for the naturalization of foreign Protestants. When the articles of impeachment against Lord Coningsby (Thomas*) and Sir Charles Porter* relating to Irish forfeitures were considered on the 16th, he urged the House to consider them carefully before deciding whether to refer them to a committee or to hear the evidence at once. On the triennial bill two days later, he insisted that the clause that a Parliament ‘be holden’ must be retained at all costs: ‘if it intrenches upon the prerogative, or the liberties of the people, or the great privilege of the Lords spoken of, debate them, but do not postpone this clause’. On 4 Jan. 1694 Palmes acted as a teller in favour of committing the bill to naturalize foreign Protestants, while on the 18th he told in favour of an amendment to the land tax bill.5

In the Whiggish remodelling of the administration in 1694, it was considered essential to provide for Palmes, and his merits were urged by Lord Keeper Somers (Sir John*), Lord Shrewsbury and Lord Sunderland. At first he was considered for a place on the Treasury Board, or as secretary of state in succession to Sir John Trenchard*. Shrewsbury suggested that a tellership of the Exchequer, a lucrative but undemanding office, should be offered, reminding the King ‘of how great consequence the obliging him will be to the success of your business in Parliament’. Both Somers and Sir John Trevor, the Speaker, urged Lord Portland to represent to the King ‘of what great consequence it is to his service that Mr Palmes should not be disappointed in the expression he has . . . and that so much does depend upon that gentleman’s assistance in the House of Commons’. Regarded as indispensable on account of his ‘great ability’ in Parliament, Palmes found himself in an invidious position in the light of his previous invectives against placemen. In the end, he asked for the teller’s place, not for himself but for his eldest son, Guy, though he did not obtain the life patent he had sought. While these negotiations were proceeding, Palmes had remained at Malton, whence he acknowledged his great obligations to his ‘good friend’ Henry Guy* for this and past favours. Contemporaries were not deceived, however, and lampoons against Palmes began to appear:

          Palmes will have no place, but his son he puts in,
          The cheat is too shallow, the mask is too thin,
          When the knave and the fool are so near a kin.

Criticisms were all the more fierce as Guy Palmes was said by some to be incapable of counting beyond six and by others only up to ten. In the 1694–5 session Palmes told in favour of committing the bill to indemnify Sir Thomas Cooke* in return for evidence on the money distributed as bribes by the East India Company (18 Apr. 1695). He was also included on Henry Guy’s list of ‘friends’, in the event of a Commons attack upon Guy; at some point during 1693–5 Palmes was listed by Samuel Grascome as a Court supporter with a place or pension, this latter classification presumably relating to his son. In May 1695 Henry Guy reported that Palmes and John Smith I were endeavouring ‘worthily and honestly to prepare men to do what they should do for the public good; I do not know how either of them will well agree for the future with [Charles Montagu*], from whom they both complain of very ill usage’. In preparing for measures for the next session, Guy sought Palmes’s assistance, while in June Somers sought advice from Palmes on how Montagu might be curbed and how the divisions among the Whigs in Parliament might best be healed. In August Palmes endeavoured to help Sir William Trumbull* find a new seat for the forthcoming election.6

Returned for Malton in the 1695 election, Palmes was listed in January 1696 as likely to support the government on the proposed council of trade, and signed the Association promptly. In February he played a crucial part as chairman of the committee for fixing the price of guineas. In order to facilitate remittances to pay the army in the Netherlands during the coming campaign, it was thought essential by the government to devalue the guinea. Montagu wanted it fixed at 24s., while Paul Foley I* advocated 28s. On the 13th Palmes was appointed to the chair of the committee of the whole on the price of guineas, and reported to the House on the 15th, when a contemporary noted that ‘there were some endeavours used to have reduced them to 24 shillings and Mr Palmes behaved himself with such partiality to them of his opinion, as was never seen in Parliament and he was deservedly checked by old Members’. Not surprisingly, Palmes voted for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. In the following session he voted for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick† on 25 Nov.7

In May 1697 a disaster befell Palmes’s son, which forced Palmes to take a less active part in the House and led to his eventual financial ruin. Some of the Exchequer tellers had been acting as bankers and the scandal broke out in Guy Palmes’s office, around John Peters, his under-teller. James Vernon I* commented, ‘I pity Mr Palmes, but I think he has always been thought unfortunate in the management of his own affairs’. Seventeen thousand pounds were missing from Guy Palmes’s office and the King gave immediate orders that the money be recovered and the teller suspended or prosecuted. Palmes undertook to make good the whole of his son’s debt, though Vernon doubted if he could: ‘it is a great sum to be raised, and the establishing a reputation that is shaken in money matters is yet harder’. By mid-June he had raised half the money, and by the beginning of July had discharged his son’s debt, so that Guy Palmes was able to retain his office as teller. However, the operation left Palmes with £6,000 worth of debts. The King later agreed to grant him £2,000 towards his son’s losses but the money was never paid. On 7 Dec. 1697, Vernon was reporting that there seemed to be ‘a pretty near balance in the House’, as the Court had a majority of only three for going into supply before considering grievances, partly because Palmes was ‘still out of humour’, and ‘he and his friends stayed in with the opposing party’ on the division. Palmes also absented himself from the debates of the next few days. He was much less active in the House subsequently and could not have been pleased that the frauds in his son’s office came before the House in January 1698 as part of the investigation into the false endorsements of Exchequer bills. He was in the House, however, on 4 Feb. when he told in favour of rejecting a petition from Cambridgeshire freeholders, against the election of the Whig Sir Rushout Cullen, 3rd Bt. On the 24th a motion was defeated for receiving a petition from several citizens of York involved in a lawsuit against Palmes, as he had already informed the House that he agreed to waive his privilege in relation to the case. On 29 Mar. he was a teller against an amendment to the land tax bill, that the first general meeting of the commissioners for the West Riding sit at Pontefract instead of Leeds.8

Re-elected in 1698, Palmes was classed as a member of the Court party in an analysis of the old and new Parliaments, and voted against the third reading of the disbanding bill on 18 Jan. 1699. However, creditors were beginning to press him and he was forced to sell Ashwell at this time, and Lindley soon after. In an analysis of the House into factions and interests in 1700 Palmes was classed as an adherent of the Junto. Having been ill in late 1700, he had recovered by January 1701 when he was re-elected for Malton. He was first-named on 27 Feb. to the drafting committee on a bill for making the Derwent navigable in Yorkshire, which he presented on 19 Mar.9

Returned once more for Malton in the second 1701 election, Palmes was classed as a Whig by Harley in an analysis of the new Parliament. Following the accession of Queen Anne, the archbishop of York initially persuaded the Queen to let Palmes’s son keep his tellership, but the intervention of Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) ensured that Guy Palmes was given a pension of £1,000 p.a. on the Post Office instead of retaining his office. Thereafter, Palmes himself became a permanent supplicant. This, of course, enabled Harley to put pressure on him in Parliament. In the 1704–5 session Palmes was forecast as a probable opponent of the Tack, and did not vote for it on 28 Nov. Earlier in November, on the 15th, Palmes complained of a breach of privilege against him for a distraint on his manorial tenants at Malton, but he came to an accommodation with the parties involved by 6 Dec.10

Classed as a placeman in 1705, presumably in respect of his son’s pension, Palmes was re-elected in the election of that year, and was listed as ‘High Church’ in an analysis of the new Parliament. He voted on 25 Oct. for the Court candidate as Speaker. He spoke in the debate on 19 Dec. concerning the comments made by the Tory Charles Caesar about Lord Godolphin (Sydney†), while he supported the Court on 18 Feb. 1706 in the proceedings on the regency bill. The appeal of the men of York against Palmes for taking up £5,000 of clipped money on the recoinage but not repaying in new money, the suit stopped in the Commons previously, was at last heard in the Lords on 21 Feb., when many lords were ‘loath to give sentence against a man of Mr Palmes’s kidney’, but to repeated shouts of ‘affirm, affirm’ the decree against Palmes was confirmed without opposition. Next month, Palmes sent a memo to Godolphin, saying that the last decree at law against him by Lord Keeper Wright had given ‘the finishing stroke’ to his now small estate, and he applied for a grant of the fee farms of the manors of Cookham and Bray, part of the jointure of the late Queen Dowager, but it was judged too soon as her executors had not settled her affairs. He also applied for forfeited estates, felons’ estates, anything that was going, without much success. In July 1707 Sir Abstrupus Danby* appears to have secured a Chancery decree against Palmes for ‘near £20,000’, though Palmes supposedly threatened to appeal to the Lords. His son’s pension came before the Commons as one of the crown grants in November 1707.11

Listed as a Whig in an analysis of Parliament in early 1708, Palmes was returned for Malton that year, but only after a successful petition following a double return. He was noted as a Whig once again in an analysis of the new Parliament, and in the 1708–9 session supported the naturalization of the Palatines. The necessity for a by-election in Malton in 1709 due to the appointment of William Strickland to office brought forth rumours about Palmes’s financial difficulties, and the possibility that he would have to sell his wife’s estate, and with it the electoral interest. In 1710 he voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. Returned in a contested election in 1710, he was classed as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’ of that year. His financial problems continued, and on 11 Jan. 1711 a petition was heard in the House which stated that Palmes was using his privilege to avoid a suit against him for payment of debts of £17,825. Palmes asserted that he would waive his privilege ‘in any suit between him and the petitioners’. In February he obtained a grant for a licence to coin copper halfpence and farthings, but in this, as in everything else, he sustained a loss. Renewed petitions for a grant of the manors of Cookham and Bray failed. In November 1712 he beseeched Harley, now Lord Oxford, to renew the grant for copper coinage, due to ‘the importunities of my creditors and the straitness of my circumstances’. In January 1714 he made the same request, as he feared that ‘I shall be put to sea again’. However, his reliance on Oxford did not cause Palmes to abandon his Whig principles, for he voted for the motion demanding ‘No Peace without Spain’ on 7 Dec. 1711, and voted against the French commerce bill on 18 June 1713, on which occasion he was noted as a Whig. Despite opposition from his wife, the manor of Malton had to be sold in that year. Losing his seat in Parliament, Palmes spent his last years in obscurity, probably in the Fleet prison, for he was buried nearby at St. Martin Ludgate on 5 Feb. 1716.12

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Ivar McGrath


  • 1. Vis. Notts. (Thoroton Rec. Ser. xviii), 81.
  • 2. BL, Verney mss mic. 636/44, William Denton to Sir Ralph Verney, 1st Bt.†, 13, 19 Aug. 1690; Grey, x. 46; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 581; Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 230.
  • 3. Luttrell Diary, 33, 52, 55, 65, 83, 114, 124, 145; Grey, 216; Cobbett, 681–2; PRO NI, De Ros mss D638/13/82, John Pulteney* to Coningsby, 12 Dec. 1691.
  • 4. Luttrell Diary, 225, 228, 269, 273, 284, 330, 360, 365, 377, 407, 421, 439, 443, 448, 472, 475–6; Grey, 280, 292; Cobbett, 734, 744; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 107.
  • 5. Grey, 331, 355, 362, 366, 368–9; Cobbett, 788, 815, 819.
  • 6. J. P. Kenyon, Sunderland, 270, 273; HMC Buccleuch, ii. 132; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 273, 376; Horwitz, 134, 149, 155; Add. 70017, ff. 241, 297; 6911, f. 6; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 1176, 502–3, Somers to Portland, 14 Sept. 1694, Henry Guy to same, 31 May, 14 June 1695; BL, Trumbull Add. mss 118, Trumbull to Palmes, 13 Aug. 1695; CSP Dom. 1694–5, pp. 297, 316; Poems on Affairs of State ed. Cameron, v. 429, 432; Acct. of Procs. in House of Commons Relating to Clipped Money (1696), 8; EHR, lxxi. 595, 597–8.
  • 7. Horwitz, 167–8; Acct. of Procs. 7–8; Ralph, Hist. Eng. ii. 622.
  • 8. Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/053/7, James Vernon I to Alexander Stanhope, 31 May 1697; CSP Dom. 1697, pp. 174–9, 185, 187, 198, 202–3, 206, 211, 231, 240, 277; 1698, pp. 41–44; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1697–1702, pp. 56, 293, 492; Add. 29584, ff. 87–92; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/161, 163, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 9, 11 Dec. 1697; Kenyon, 291.
  • 9. N. Yorks. RO, Worsley mss ZON 13/1/241, Mary Palmes to Thomas Worsley I*, [?Oct] 1700; Cocks Diary, 129.
  • 10. Glos. RO, Hardwick Ct. mss, Sharp pprs. box 78, A22, Ld. Nottingham to Abp. Sharp, 1702; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 48, 50; Luttrell, v. 187; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 225.
  • 11. Cam. Misc. xxiii. 55; Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 381–2; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1702–7, pp. 355–6, 371, 381, 421–2, 466; Cal. Treas. Bks. xix. 478; xx. 196; xxv. 624; xxvii. 317, 547; N. Yorks. RO, Swinton mss, Danby pprs. ZS, Danby to Thomas Johnson, 5 July 1707.
  • 12. Luttrell, vi. 383; Worsley mss ZON 13/1/303, (Sir) Thomas Frankland I* (2nd Bt.) to Thomas Worsley I, 11 Aug. 1709; Add. 70205, Palmes to Oxford [1711], 25 Nov. 1712, 4 Jan. 1713–14; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 360; Malcolm, Londinium Redivivum, iv. 358; Guildhall Lib. mic. St. Martin Ludgate par. reg.