PAPILLON, Thomas (1623-1702), of Fenchurch Street, London and Acrise Place, Kent

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



16 Jan. 1674 - Mar. 1681
1689 - 1695
1695 - 1700

Family and Education

b. 6 Sept. 1623, 5th but 2nd surv. s. of David Papillon, builder, of Roehampton, Surr. and Lubenham, Leics., being 4th s. of 2nd w. Anne Marie, da. of Jean Calendrine of Sedan, France and Putney, Surr.  educ. Drayton sch. Northants.  m. 30 Oct. 1651, Jane (d. 1698), da. of Thomas Broadnax of Godmersham and Canterbury, Kent, 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 5da. (2 d.v.p.).1

Offices Held

Member, Mercers’ Co. 1646, master 1673–4, 1682–3, 1692–3, 1698–9; member, Eastland Co. 1661; dir. E. I. Co. 1663–71, 1675–6, 1677–80, 1682–3, dep.-gov. 1680–2; member, New Eng. Co. 1668.2

Commr. trade 1668–72, victualling 1689–d.3

Auditor, London 1672–4, 1675–7, 1680–2, common councilman 1672–3, 1675–6, 1681, bridgemaster, 1675–6, alderman Oct.–Dec. 1689; freeman, Dover 1673; treasurer, adventurers settling poor French Protestants, at Ipswich, Suff. 1681; commr. lodemanage ct. Cinque Ports 1689; commr. Greenwich Hosp. 1695–?1704.4

Commr. taking subscriptions to Bank 1694, to land bank 1696.5


By 1690, Papillon had re-established himself in politics after seeing out James II’s reign in exile in the Low Countries. Although not an active plotter, he clearly welcomed the Revolution and returned to play a role in the Convention of 1689. In November 1689 William III persuaded him to become the leading member of the victualling commission, after a Treasury poll, including government ministers, had shown him to be the first choice of those available. This post profoundly affected his view of the politics of the reign, if not the terms in which he described it. Papillon was a man of deep religious conviction; in September 1688 he commented that God had preserved him in business and the victualling office, and that ‘when in public employs in the East India Committee, in the Company of Mercers, in the City, the Lord assisted and carried me through all’. It was to be a recurring theme as he sought to navigate his way through the perils of the 1690s. One historian has explained his public career as the result of ‘a politico-religious drive to struggle against Catholicism’. Be that as it may, Papillon certainly saw English Protestants as divided into two political camps, Tories and Whigs, and made no bones about which group he sided with. In the 1690s he wrote:

Under the name of Tories is comprehended all those that cry up the Church of England in opposition to the churches of Christ in foreign parts, that press the forms and ceremonies more than the doctrines of the Church, which are sound and scriptural; and that either in their own practice are swearers, drunkards, or loose in their conversation, or do allow of and are unwilling such should be punished, but give them all countenance, provided they stickle for the forms and ceremonies, and rail against and endeavour to discountenance all those that are otherwise minded. Under the name Whigs is comprehended most of the sober and religious persons of the Church of England that sincerely embrace the doctrines of the Church, and put no such stress on the forms and ceremonies, but look on them as human institutions, and not as the essentials of religion, and are willing that there might be a Reformation to take away offence, and that desire that all swearing, drunkenness, and ungodliness should be discountenanced.

Papillon himself favoured moderate episcopacy and had no difficulty in attending the Huguenot church in London or services elsewhere which conformed to the Church of England liturgy. For him Protestant unity and moral reformation were the keys to preserve the kingdom against France and Rome. In practical terms Papillon became what one may describe as a conscientious occasional conformist, attending on a regular basis the Huguenot church in Threadneedle Street rather than a parish church. He probably would have favoured a comprehensive Church of England establishment in which he could have engaged in full membership. In his view it was a

misrepresentation of me as if I was a Dissenter from or contrary to the Church of England to which I shall only say that though generally I and my children do receive the sacrament at the French church in London, yet it hath been our practice often at London and always when in the country to attend on the public worship of God and to receive the sacrament according to the liturgy and discipline of the Church of England.6

In the 1690 election, Papillon had some thoughts about contesting the county, but in the end settled for Dover. His victory there, at the head of the poll, was achieved despite the intervention of Sir Charles Hedges*, and possibly owed much to an impromptu hustings speech in which he demolished the attempts of Hedges to secure a seat on the back of the Court’s recommendation. This English government

was so constituted that no law could be made to bind their persons or charge their estates without their own consents by their representatives in Parliament . . . therefore it behoved them to be very careful to whom they committed such a trust, that they be persons well known. Their choice was to be free nothwithstanding any recommendations, they were not to be awed by any threatenings or engaged by any promises for private respects to vote otherwise than according to their own judgments and inclinations, but were to act freely in this matter.

This was the authentic voice of ‘true’ Whiggery, which no doubt explains why the Marquess of Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) classed Papillon as a Whig on a list of the new Commons. In the short opening session of the 1690 Parliament, Papillon was heavily involved in party-political battles, and in legislation and inquiry committees concerning trade. In the debate on the King’s Speech on 22 Mar. 1690 he intervened in the discussion over the need for a new book of rates, which he thought a task more appropriate for consideration when the war with France was over, so to avoid wasting time at present. He spoke again on 22 Apr. during the second-reading debate on the bill reversing the quo warranto judgment against London. To him the bill was ‘so far from the title, it is against the thing’ because it confirmed many of the proceedings of the courts rather than declared them illegal. In this he spoke as a former Whig leader in the City, who had been at the heart of the defence of the charter, and one of the Whig radicals who had backed a more popular form of City government. When on 24 Apr. the House debated whether to hear the City’s counsel, Papillon argued forcefully in favour of granting the request on the grounds that ‘however the order is worded, I believe it was the intent, to know what the City has to move; and the House to consider what to allow’. Later that afternoon, Papillon opposed Sir Thomas Clarges’* motion to thank the King for the changes to the lieutenancy in London as being ‘not for your honour’ since it was too late in the day, and because he himself knew ‘not the names of a fourth or half of them [i.e. the new appointees]; they may be obnoxious to the Church of England, and the government’.7

When Parliament resumed in October 1690, Papillon was named to several drafting committees. It was possibly an indication of Papillon’s perceived integrity that on 24 Dec. he was the first-named of six Members given the task of counting the ballot for commissioners of accounts, from which he reported on the 26th. On 2 Jan. 1691 he told against giving a second reading to a bill from the Lords erecting a court of inquiry aimed at relieving the distressed orphans of the City. In April 1691 Robert Harley* classed him as a Court supporter, an indisputable conclusion given all the work Papillon was doing in the victualling of the fleet.

The 1691–2 session saw Papillon still as active in the Commons. On 9 Nov. 1691 he spoke in the debate in the committee of the whole on supply to remind Members of the need for urgency in equipping the navy: ‘you have but little time to prepare your fleet. It must be ready about [the] beginning of April.’ He impressed upon the House the enormous task of supplying the fleet in the time available: ‘this is the time for victualling the ships, 10,000 beefs and 30,000 swine are not soon killed and salted’. Owing to his obvious interest in the outcome of the debate, Papillon was appointed to the select committee ordered to examine the navy estimates. At this point, however, he left London, for on 14 Nov. his wife recorded that he went to Maidstone to support Sir Thomas Roberts, 4th Bt.*, in the Kent by-election held on the 16th. When the committee of supply met on 25 Nov. the Court moved that the committee vote the estimate as it stood. Henry Herbert* and Papillon then proposed a sum not exceeding £1,600,000, only for their motion to be pulled up on procedural grounds, the committee not being able to vote a sum different from that agreed by the House in the estimate. Not surprisingly, Papillon was given the management of a bill in November and December preserving two ship-loads of bay salt for the benefit of the navy, account to be given to the navy victuallers. When the committee of the whole met on 27 Nov. to consider the East India trade, Papillon ‘spoke against the old company very fully, both as to their miscarriages and to their inability to carry on the trade’. He criticized the company’s valuation of their assets in India and ended by moving for the establishment of a new company. The outcome of the debate was a resolution that the trade be regulated by means of a joint-stock company, a more ambiguous result than Papillon had intended because it left open the question of the composition of that company. Before further progress on East India business, Papillon told on 1 Dec. against an unsuccessful motion that Sir Basil Firebrace* was duly elected for Chippenham. On 2 Dec., in the committee of the whole considering the East India trade, Papillon spoke in favour of the proposition that the stock for the trade be no less than £1,500,000. In his capacity as a victualling commissioner, he was given leave on 10 Dec. to attend the Lords’ committee on the bill to preserve two ship-loads of bay salt, which he duly did on the 14th. On 16 Dec. he spoke in favour of a bill for the encouragement of privateers against France and for the better security of trade, it being in his opinion ‘very useful to advance our trade, preventing the taking of our merchant ships, and in a great measure save our charge of keeping a winter guard’. When the committee of the whole on the East India trade met again on 18 Dec. Papillon added his voice to the opponents of the company.8

After the Christmas recess, Papillon was named on 1 Jan. 1692 as one of the two MPs the informer William Fuller wished to consult as to the best way of bringing over the two witnesses who could corroborate his evidence. On the 8th Papillon spoke in favour of the bill for reducing the rate of interest, the general argument being that it would raise the value of land and rents and encourage trade. On 16 Jan. he spoke, in the debate on whether to order the engrossment of the bill suppressing hawkers and pedlars, ‘for by this bill you are going to establish a sort of people that are vagrants and foreigners and therefore I desire this bill may lie on the table’, presumably to encourage a more appropriate measure. He later supported an adjournment of the debate, but the motion to engross was lost, and the bill foundered. Three days later, on 19 Jan., he expounded on personal taxation during the committee debate on the poll tax bill, suggesting differential rates according to the number of horses a man kept, a scheme rejected for the simpler device of charging a higher rate for those possessing an estate of more than £300 p.a. On 23 Jan. he supported the engrossment of the bill reducing the rate of interest. His final recorded speech of the session occurred on 6 Feb., again on the question of the East India trade:

I am against dissolving the old company for many mischiefs may happen thereby; their debts may be left unpaid, they may sell their forts etc. Nor am I for setting up a new company. But I think it best to address to the King to terminate the stock of the old company, but not to dissolve them but to lay open their books for new subscriptions. And this I think the only way to preserve the trade.

This was in some respects a compromise, which probably failed to commend itself to either old or new company partisans, and on this occasion the adherents of a new company obtained the kind of address they wanted.9

May 1692 saw Papillon deeply concerned at the discovery of a plot to assassinate the Queen and the arrest of the earls of Marlborough (John Churchill†) and Huntingdon. Furthermore, he was shocked and incredulous at the involvement of the inveterate plotter Robert Ferguson, imprisoned in Newgate: ‘I cannot think that he would fall in to join with those against the Queen and government.’ He was finding his duties in victualling administration increasingly burdensome, and in September 1692 penned a petition begging the King to release him from office, but probably never delivered it. It was by virtue of his role as a victualling commissioner that his name appeared on two lists of placemen drawn up in 1692. On 14 Nov. he presented to the Commons papers from the office relating to the abortive descent on the French coast the previous summer. The next day he reported from the committee to consider a petition from weavers in London and Canterbury to amend the Act prohibiting the import of thrown silk so as to allow Italian silk to be brought overland during the war, and subsequently assisted in the management of a bill. Also on 15 Nov. Papillon intervened when the House, having made a motion for a supply, debated whether to proceed with a committee of the whole or examine the government’s alliances and the state of its accounts, arguing for the first option and acquainting his colleagues ‘that the time for victualling your fleet is now come, and I can assure you without money there can be no provisions got, so it will be impossible for your fleet to be out early’. The House remained deaf to his pleas, however, agreeing to proceed with supply the following week. When on 29 Nov. the committee of supply dealt with the naval estimates, Papillon was able to inform the House that victuals had been provided for 33,000 men in the fleet. He was one of the Members who on 15 Dec. spoke so effectively against the first reading of the Lords’ bill preventing abuses by searchers and weighers of butter and cheese that the bill was ordered to be left on the table and a fresh one prepared. On 17 Dec. Sir Thomas Clarges proposed an additional duty on several imported goods as a result of his examination of the book of rates, which Papillon opposed as being ‘the opinion of but one person’, and that such revisions, as a potential new load upon trade, should not be allowed without detailed consideration. The committee decided against referring the suggested duties to a select committee, but went through each one in turn there and then. On 19 Dec. Papillon spoke on the second reading of the bill to regulate the East India trade, offering ideas on appropriate amendments. When the Commons’ bill preventing abuses in packing and weighing butter and cheese received its second reading on 29 Dec., the London cheesemongers petitioned against it, with Papillon among those supporting allegations that the bill was ‘designed only to carry on a particular interest of the county of Suffolk against all the cheesemongers of London; that it was to repeal a very good law made to prevent abuses in making of butter and cheese’. Finally on the last day of the year, Papillon opposed the second reading of the bill to prevent the export of gold and silver and melting down the coin of the realm, on the grounds that ‘it lessened every man’s estate the twentieth part’, and that the want of money could be remedied by increasing trade.10

On 10 Jan. 1693 Papillon intervened in debate to protect the victualling office from Hon. Goodwin Wharton’s amendment to the bill granting a 4s. aid, which sought to insist that various payments relating to the navy should be made in course. As Papillon and others pointed out, to do this when the office was £200,000 in debt would mean that no one would agree to supply victuals for the following summer. Thus the House was forced to divide over whether an exemption for the victualling office should remain part of the bill, which was achieved by a comfortable majority. On 19 Jan. Papillon was a teller for an amendment to a bill encouraging woollen manufactures, to add a power for the Hamburg Company to retain their right to export cloth to the rivers Elbe, Weser and Eider. Papillon’s case rested on the argument that the Merchant Adventurers was an ancient company of proven benefit to the nation, which kept up credit abroad and prevented profits accruing to foreigners, but the division was lost. He consequently spoke against the bill at its third reading on 17 Feb. Likewise on 23 Feb., at the second reading of the bill satisfying the debts due to the orphans of the City, Papillon ‘spoke largely against’ it, but it was nevertheless committed. After the end of the session in March, two unrelated events demonstrate Papillon’s prominence in political affairs. First, both the Earl of Denbigh’s newsletter-writer and Richard Lapthorne thought that the most noticeable fact about Edward Ward, the new solicitor-general, was the fact that he was married to one of Papillon’s daughters. Secondly, in May 1693, Archbishop Tillotson used the fact that a Mr Burgess had lived in the Papillon household for the previous two years to recommend him for a living to Lord Keeper Somers (Sir John†).11

Papillon’s office was causing him increasing anxiety due to constant criticism over the victualling of the fleet, the financial shortfall and the failure of the commissioners to settle bills in course. A glimpse of what was in store when Parliament reassembled may be seen in a letter from Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt.*, to Robert Harley in July: ‘I thought it impossible to charge Mr Papillon with the least neglect. The fault could not be want of money, but cannot think our admirals wholly excusable’, a reference to the failure of the navy to protect the Smyrna convoy the previous month. Before the session began Papillon waited on the King and the Treasury lords to explain the victuallers’ ‘very great difficulties, both from the greatness of the action, the dearness of provisions, and the scarcity of money’. The basic cause of their problems was that ‘the estimates to Parliament were made much less than the charge came to, and that greater qualities of provisions were called for, than were put in the estimates’. When the matter of payments in course came to a head, Papillon wrote to Secretary Sir John Trenchard* (brother-in-law to William Joliffe, his own son Philip’s* father-in-law), informing him that he had set out his position on payments in course and ‘under the present circumstances such an injunction [to pay in course] will render me incapable to do it [serve the King] in the victualling office’. Furthermore, since the proposed meeting with the King was to be held on Sunday,

as I make conscience of serving the King faithfully, so I desire conscientiously to observe the Lord’s Day, in the exercise of religious duties, both public, private, and with my family, and I believe that unless it be in any case of necessity, I am bound by the word of God so to do.

On 22 Nov. Papillon was appointed to the committee to consider the petition of London merchants over shipping losses. Later that day, in an adjourned debate on naval miscarriages, the question of whether the fleet was prevented from properly carrying out its tasks due to insufficient victuals was answered by Papillon, who noted that ‘the admirals had nine weeks’ provision’. It was probably during this debate that Musgrave stated, ‘it is said that the fleet was provisioned partly in kind and partly on credit; I consider it no credit to Papillon that he should follow in the steps of Parsons [Sir John*]’, who when a victualling commissioner had been imprisoned by the Convention for his misdeeds. In this instance the House ordered the victuallers to provide the Commons with an account of what provisions had been put on board in specie and all the orders they had received during the summer for victualling the fleet. Papillon duly presented the papers on the 27th. When on 9 Dec. the commissioners of accounts reported to the Commons details of secret service payments to MPs, Papillon’s name was on the list. The amount was recorded as a gift of the King’s royal bounty in recompense for his retirement from trade in order to execute the office of victualler and was over and above his salary of £400 p.a. Papillon’s explanation to the House corroborated the report: ‘I did petition the King to be excused from taking upon me the victuallers’ place. I was in business, and had trade to follow, and must neglect all till ten o’clock at night. I received a year and a half at £500 p.a.’12

At the beginning of the new year, Papillon was again involved in parliamentary manoeuvres concerning the East India trade. After a division on 6 Jan. 1694, he took the chair of the committee of the whole considering a petition for the establishment of a new East India company. One of the many petitions referred to this committee concerned the grievances of the owners of the ship Redbridge, which had been prevented from trading after the East India Company had petitioned the Privy Council alleging that the ship was destined for an area covered by the company’s charter. On 8 Jan. Papillon reported a resolution that stopping the ship was a grievance, a discouragement to trade and contrary to the known laws of the kingdom. But such wording was too strong for the Commons, which ordered the recommittal. Papillon chaired further sessions of the committee of the whole on 15 and 19 Jan., reporting on the latter occasion a resolution that the subjects of England had an equal right to trade to the East Indies unless prohibited by Act of Parliament, and again on 14 Feb., after which attention switched to linking the renewal of the charter with a loan of £600,000 to the government. The crucial debates on the merits of this proposal took place at the committee of ways and means on 24 and 26 Mar. Jottings made by Papillon for a speech indicate that he was critical of the idea. He thought it would ‘be a tacit approval of all the evil proceedings of this company which was proved before them’, no doubt a reference to the Redbridge affair. Such a loan would ‘obstruct all loans on the other funds’, as well as proving prejudicial to both clothiers and consumers by maintaining the powers of a monopoly. Finally he jibbed at the way in which the proposal copied Dutch methods. Papillon’s Presbyterian leanings were visible when he told on 23 Apr. against retaining in the bill for licensing and regulating hackney and stage coaches a clause which permitted them to ply their trade on Sundays. Even after the end of the parliamentary session in April, Papillon was not free of the attentions of the legislature, for the commissioners of accounts were determined to harry the victuallers with requests for further information.13

At some point during the 1694–5 session, Papillon wrote a memorandum again offering to resign. In it he referred to his service in office of ‘upwards of five years’ and to the fact that ‘in his 72nd year’ he found ‘the infirmities of age daily growing upon me’. More to the point, he continued, ‘I yesterday told the House of Commons, and am ready to make oath thereof, that during the whole time I have not made one penny profit to myself, beyond what his Majesty hath been pleased to allow me’. A letter to the Speaker, probably dating from 1694 in referring to his 20 years in Parliament, demonstrates why Papillon was so prickly about the remuneration he received for his public service: it concerned charges made in the House by Sir John Parsons, to the effect that Papillon and his son, Philip, had made thousands of pounds out of paying creditors with tallies and taking a percentage when these were converted into currency. Papillon indignantly denied this charge. On 28 Jan. 1695 he was ordered to prepare a bill for the relief of some merchants who had imported wine in English ships manned by men of the same country of origin as the produce, only to be prosecuted. On 8 Feb. he told in favour of according a first reading to it. However, opposition to the bill was too strong and it was allowed quietly to lapse. Although Papillon had been listed among the ‘friends’ of Henry Guy* in this session in connexion with the Commons’ investigation of Guy for corruption, he told on 26 Feb. for recommitting a representation to the King on the abuses of army agents. The motion was defeated but the purpose of the recommittal had been to make the representation critical of Guy, and the division reflected competition between Whigs and Tories in the ministry, Papillon’s fellow teller also being a ministerial Whig. On 23 Apr. Papillon was elected in 21st place, with 70 votes, to the committee charged with the examination of Sir Thomas Cooke*.14

At the 1695 election, Papillon’s prestige was sufficient to secure his return for London. In the new Parliament he was forecast as likely to support the Court in the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 over the proposed council of trade. Notes survive of Papillon’s contribution to the debate on 19 Feb. in the committee on the state of the nation relating to the East India trade. He felt he could agree to the resolutions that a joint stock be set up, not to exceed £2,000,000, and that it be made by a new subscription with regard to the real value of the existing company’s stock. However, he did not favour the way the two provisions were linked together, fearing that ‘the new subscription shall be added to the present stock and engrafted thereupon’, something he was ‘totally against’. Papillon was evidently assured from ‘the Chair’ that such was not the case and he was appointed on 20 Feb. to the committee to draft a bill settling and regulating the East India trade. Further notes suggest that he was unhappy with the resultant bill as he had had no notice of the meeting of the drafting committee, and ‘the bill as it is drawn seems to be contrary to the intentions of the House’, being ‘to establish the joint stock etc. and make it perpetual’, by the very process of engraftment he had opposed all along. The bill eventually died in committee, no doubt to Papillon’s satisfaction. This year also saw publication of a tract he had first written in 1680, which promoted the formation of a joint-stock company for the East India trade rather than an open trade or a regulated company. In February Papillon signed the Association, and in March he voted for fixing the price of guineas at 22s.15

In the next session, Papillon voted on 25 Nov. 1696 for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. An interesting insight into his views on economics and the conciliatory way in which he sought to promote financial measures can be found in a letter he wrote on 2 Dec. to Charles Montagu*. Its subject was Montagu’s proposal to ‘graft’ almost £10 million of outstanding tallies on to the stock of the Bank of England. Papillon began by explaining, ‘I have chosen to intimate my apprehensions by this paper rather than by speech in the House’, before going on to the meat of his objection, which criticized the plan from the standpoint of the ordinary merchant or tally-holder: the Bank could not force men to bring their tallies in. For the ordinary person,

they want money for their tallies to carry on their trades, and I do not see a prospect how the Bank can furnish them with money, and if they should deliver their tallies in, to receive Bank notes, the multitude of those notes given out would enhance their price, and so those persons would be in as bad a condition with the bank notes as the tallies, and the trade of stock-jobbing as much carried on for buying and selling of Bank stock and Bank notes as ever.

Papillon had further criticism of Montagu’s other proposals for the Bank. He favoured the annual rotation of the offices of governor and deputy and the membership of a number of the committees; and argued that ‘the trade of exchange should not be allowed them but only the buying of bullion and gold and silver’, because if permitted it ‘destroys that trade to all the merchants of England’. His papers indicate considerable deliberation over the various financial expedients of the period, no doubt because the current crisis in public credit made it so much harder for him to do his job as victualler.16

In the new year Papillon faced investigation by the Commons into the victualling accounts. On 14 Jan. 1697 he presented accounts of the debts owing at the victualling office in September and December 1696. On 18 Jan. these accounts were referred to a select committee which failed to report. It may well have been on this day that Papillon delivered a speech for which notes survive in his papers. His remarks centred on an explanation of the victualling debt and how it had accumulated, and laid particular stress on the variables which prevented commissioners from abiding by formal procedures. The failure of credit was ascribed to its inordinate extension rather than any failure to pay debts in course, and he ended with a pre-emptive strike against accusations of mismanagement, noting that ‘others possibly may do better but I always did honestly, justly and faithfully without any private interest’. On 6 Apr. more potential trouble for the victualling commissioners emerged from a petition from John Tutchin, a former clerk in the office, who claimed that the commissioners had deprived him of the just profits of his place. The select committee appointed to investigate was also given leave to ‘receive information of any abuses relating to the victualling office’. From the report on 15 Apr. it is clear that Papillon had appeared before it to defend the victuallers against charges that they had given undue preference in paying their bills and had received profits and gratuities for the payment of money. Furthermore, as Papillon wrote to Montagu, he was unhappy at the absence of allies in defending himself before the House on the 15th:

nothing troubles me so much as what passed yesterday, as that none of the King’s ministers, and your honour in particular, who knows the service I have done, should speak one word in my vindication . . . the petition and a committee appointed to examine abuses, and nothing said afterwards (though the very report saith that the petitioner proved nothing) seems a tacit aspersion, and I am so sensible of it, that were I in a condition of health . . . to go on with the service, I should decline it unless something were done for the just vindication of the office under the management of myself and the other commissioners.

Despite this slight and despite ‘having by the palsy lost the use of writing’, Papillon continued in office. He was clearly undeterred by charges of abuse, reporting to the Admiralty on 11 Jan. that he himself had received two anonymous letters offering to discover malpractice in the office in return for a pardon. Of more serious concern to him was the Treasury proposal to cut the Gordian knot of the victualling debts by paying off creditors with tallies and instituting a strict payment-in-course regime for new debts. When Vernon outlined this plan to the Duke of Shrewsbury in May 1697, he added, ‘this Mr Papillon hitherto opposes, and if the [Treasury] lords can induce him or his creditors to give way to the proposal they will do a great work, otherwise they don’t think anything less than a Parliament can use compulsion in this case’. From the minutes of the lords justices, it is clear that Papillon, pragmatic as ever, opposed the plan on the grounds that tallies were not seen as a satisfactory form of payment and that to impose them would destroy credit. A better course of action would be to continue to pay part of the arrears and then gain further credit from suppliers. Papillon seems to have lost this battle, however, for on 30 July Lord Orford (Edward Russell*) wrote to the King, ‘we have forced him [Papillon] at last to pay in course, which . . . he has so violently contested against’.17

In November 1697, before the start of the parliamentary session, Papillon again made a plea for release from his burdensome office. On 8 Dec. 1697 Jane Papillon indicated in a letter that her husband would shortly be travelling down to Dover to assist his son at the by-election to be held there on the 15th. This family duty explains why on the 16th Papillon was sent for into custody by the Commons for failing to attend a call of the House. He was released four days later. He still retained a reputation for probity, or else John Knight would not have appealed to Papillon to acknowledge that many of the allegations against him for false endorsements of Exchequer bills merely constituted the common practice of government departments with large expenditure. On 10 Jan. 1698 Papillon told against a successful motion for leave to bring in a bill to restrain the wearing of all wrought silks. Ill-health now affected his attendance on the House, and on 15 Mar. he wrote to Montagu that he had kept to his chamber since the 5th owing to the palsy and the gout. This indisposition, described by Philip Papillon as ‘the gout and dropsy’, continued until mid-April. On 27 May a petition of various employees of the victualling commissioners was referred to a select committee, which ordered the victualling commissioners to attend to explain why they had only been offered three months of their 15 months’ arrears of pay, and then only in salt tallies. Papillon attended the committee on the 31st and pointed out that the commissioners ‘never meddle with any money’, and that by order of the Treasury they had to pay wages due before May in salt tallies. On 12 July he wrote to Montagu implying that he had been discharged from the victualling commission. A newsletter of the 16th also reported a rumour to this effect, although no new victualling commission was promulgated and Papillon was still in place the following year. In any case his name remained on two lists of placemen published in July and September 1698.18

At the 1698 election Papillon was again returned for London, being classed as a Court placeman on a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments. Before Parliament assembled, he seems to have taken some initiative himself to solve the impasse surrounding the organization of the East India trade. On 22 Oct. 1698 he wrote to his great rival Sir Josiah Child, 1st Bt.†, setting out the need for agreement between the two companies. At a meeting on 8 Nov. of the New Company’s court, Papillon put forward proposals for an accommodation with the Old Company. The New Company’s subscribers met on 17 Nov. to discuss this plan and agreed to proceed if the Old Company appeared reasonable. Having facilitated contact between the two groups, Papillon faded into the background, possibly because he held no office in the New Company, and the negotiations subsequently failed in February 1699 when the Old Company petitioned the Commons. An alternative explanation for his absence from subsequent negotiations was ill-health. On 20 Dec. his son reported him to be ‘pretty well again and made shift to get this day to the Parliament House’. However, his name does not appear on a forecast of those likely to oppose a standing army, nor on the two extant versions of the division list on 18 Jan. 1699 of the Court side on the disbanding bill. Absence in this case may indicate illness, or, perhaps, the vestiges of an ‘Old Whig’ conscience over a standing army in peacetime. Apart from an intervention in the committee of the whole on supply on 16 Feb. 1699, when he opposed Harley’s suggestion of a victualling allowance of £4 per man per month as too small an allowance when calculating supply, Papillon’s main concern was the Commons’ inquiries into the state of the navy, which included a close examination of the practice of victualling the fleet. An undated memorandum in Harley’s papers refers to the need to call Papillon to account for the manner in which Orford had victualled the fleet and the circumstances in which Matthew Aylmer* had been ordered to supply the Straits fleet. When the committee of the whole on the state of the navy sat on 6 Feb. concerning Aylmer’s ‘performing the office of victualler in the Mediterranean’, information from Papillon reportedly revealed nothing culpable and the debate ended in a general resolution. More seriously, on 17 Feb., Papillon presented to the House accounts of the monies received by Orford when commander in the Straits. These were referred to the committee of the whole on the navy, which took them into consideration on 15 Mar. According to Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, ‘Papillon to save himself discovered secrets in relation to my Lord Orford’, which made it appear that ‘he had cheated the nation in victualling at Cadiz’, mainly by charging the King 12d. per gallon for wine which had only cost 9d. Orford escaped censure by one vote. The strain on Papillon must have been considerable and on 15 Apr. Philip reported that his father was ‘much indisposed and has got the gout in his right hand’. In May 1699 Papillon drafted yet another resignation petition, but did not deliver it. Indeed, he retained a healthy interest in government appointments, strongly pressing the case in June for Thomas Colby to be included in the new victualling commission, ‘he having been bred to that sort of business’, and got his way when the new commission was sealed in September 1699. In late August, Philip Papillon feared that his father’s latest bout of ill-health might be ‘a lingering disease’. By 14 Sept. Papillon’s life was despaired of and Luttrell reported his death, only to retract it in October when he was known to be recovering. Finally, after being confined to his house for 13 weeks, Papillon ventured back to ‘the office’.19

Following his troubles in the 1698–9 session, Papillon sent Harley a memorandum in January 1700 about the victualling service in which, while commending the need for ‘good husbandry’, he argued that the ‘way to save money to the kingdom is not by raising less to the service than the service requires, for by that means all things are purchased at dearer rates and at the long run the kingdom must pay for it’. In early 1700, Papillon was noted in an analysis of the House as a placeman. On 12 Feb. the report of the committee on the petition from Dover for the repair of the harbour noted that Papillon, on behalf of the victualling service, supported its improvement. Clearly ailing, Papillon did not stand for Parliament again. There was another false report of his death in July 1700, and in October a newspaper reported him ‘so dangerously ill, that his recovery is despaired of’. A detailed account exists of an illness he suffered between 30 Jan. and 8 Mar. 1701. A shaky signature by him on a recommendation for office dated 1 Feb. 1702 demonstrates that he continued to struggle on. He died on 5 May 1702, and was buried at Acrise. In his will he left his estates to his son Philip. Charitable bequests included £1,000 to the Mercers’ Company, £100 each to Christ’s Hospital and the French congregation in Threadneedle Street, and £50 to the poor of St. Katherine Coleman. A freehold worth £400 p.a. was to be raised to settle on his son Philip’s wife for her jointure and £400 to Philip to purchase property in Dover for a trust to fund apprenticeships for the sons of freemen or for the relief of aged freemen.20

In 1682 Sir George Jeffreys had written, ‘I know Mr Papillon’s humour so well, that I am confident he would rather have been contented to sit in his counting-house than in Guildhall in a scarlet gown’. Papillon’s career after 1688 necessitates a partial reassessment of Jeffreys’ view, for mercantile concerns then took second place to the arduous task of victualling the navy. The origin of this metamorphosis from merchant to servant of the state probably lies in his religious views, which underlay his commitment to Whiggism, and the Revolution of 1688. This being the case, it was a peculiar irony that he should have been drawn thereby into the murky waters of war finance, where his integrity was continually put at risk in the service of the Williamite regime.21

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Stuart Handley


  • 1. A. F. W. Papillon, Papillon Mems. 11, 41, 46; Northants. RO, Papillon (Lubenham) mss P(L) 11, genealogical notes by Thomas Papillon; Centre Kentish Stud. Papillon mss U1015/T21, mar. settlement, Aug. 1651.
  • 2. J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London (London and Mdx. Arch. Soc.), 125; W. Kellaway, New England Co. 299.
  • 3. J. Ehrman, Navy in War of Wm. III, 316.
  • 4. Woodhead, 125; Add. 29625, f. 107; 10120, f. 236; Papillon, 117; CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 210.
  • 5. NLS, Advocates’ mss, Bank of Eng. pprs. 31.1.7; CJ xii. 510.
  • 6. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 65; Papillon mss U1015 F15/5, 6 Sept. 1688; C13/4, Papillon to Sir Joseph Ashe, 11 June 1684; Studies in Modern Kentish Hist. ed. Detsicas and Yates, 131–3; Papillon, 374–6.
  • 7. Papillon mss, U1015/O24/6, ‘touching the election at Dover . . .’; Grey, x. 7, 59, 63, 67; G. S. De Krey, Fractured Soc. 48–50, 53.
  • 8. Luttrell Diary, 10, 25, 43–44, 56, 73–74, 83, 88; Bodl. Carte 130, ff. 326–8; Papillon mss U1015/F12, Jane Papillon’s ‘Diurnal’, 14 Nov. 1691; HMC Lords, iii. 445.
  • 9. Luttrell Diary, 103, 117, 133, 142, 150, 175.
  • 10. Papillon mss U1015 C29/15, Papillon to Mrs Papillon, 9 May 1692; Papillon, 364–5; Luttrell Diary, 224, 230, 268, 320, 326, 328, 339.
  • 11. Luttrell Diary, 358, 374, 430, 444; HMC 7th Rep. 213; Portledge Pprs. 160; Surr. RO (Kingston), Somers mss 371/14/D1, Tillotson to Somers, 8 May 1693.
  • 12. Add. 70017, f. 120; Papillon, 307–8, 358–60; Grey, 321, 357.
  • 13. Papillon mss U1015/O16/9; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm III, 130; HMC Portland, x. 5–6.
  • 14. Papillon, 365–7; Papillon mss U1015/O37/8; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm III, 147.
  • 15. Papillon mss U1015/O16/9; A Treatise Concerning the East India Trade . . .
  • 16. Papillon mss U1015/O36/3, Papillon to Montagu, 2 Dec. 1696 (copy).
  • 17. Papillon mss U1015/O36/8, n.d. notes of a speech; Papillon, 369; CSP Dom. 1697, pp. 10, 153, 158, 161, 171–2; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 253; Add. 28103, ff. 86–87; HMC Lords, n.s. v. 413–19.
  • 18. Papillon, 371–2, 372–3; Papillon mss, U1015/C11/34, Jane to Thomas Papillon, 8 Dec. [1697]; U1015/C44, pp. 89, 95; Cam. Misc. xx. 48–49; Yale Univ. Beinecke Lib. Biscoe-Maunsell newsletter 16 July 1698.
  • 19. Papillon, 88; A True Relation of What Passed between the English Company Trading to the East Indies . . ., 1–4; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 451, 494, 561, 568; Add. 30000 B, f. 263; 40773, ff. 70–71, 152; Papillon mss U1015, pp. 107, 125, 163, 167, 177; Cam. Misc. xxix. 394; HMC Portland, x. 32; Cocks Diary, 3–4; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/157, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 16 Mar. 1698[–9]; Horwitz, 254.
  • 20. Add. 70173, Papillon to Harley, Jan. 1699–1700; 22851, f. 27; Thoresby Letters, i. 397; Post Boy, 12–15 Oct. 1700; Papillon, 377; PCC 101 Herne.
  • 21. Procs. Huguenot Soc. of London, xviii. 61.