PEARCE, Thomas (aft.1664-1739), of Chelsea

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



1710 - 1713

Family and Education

b. aft. 1664, 2nd surv. s. of Edward Pearce of Parson’s Green, Mdx. and Whitlingham, Norf. by Mary, da. and coh. of Sir Dudley Carleton of Holcombe Newington, Oxon.  m. at least 1s. 1da.1

Offices Held

?Ensign 1689; capt. Coldstream Gds. 1692–Nov. 1702, maj. ft. gds. Nov. 1702–Apr. 1703, col. of ft. Apr. 1703–Feb. 1704, 5 Ft. Feb. 1704–Sept. 1732, 4 Drag. Gds. Sept. 1732–d.; brig.-gen. 1707, maj.-gen. 1710, lt.-gen. 1727; dep. c.-in-c. Portugal 1711–13; gov. Limerick 1715–?d.2

MP [I] 1703–13, 1727–d.

?PC [I] by 1737–d.


Originally from Sussex, the Pearces had migrated first to London and thence to Norfolk, where Pearce’s father had bought an estate. Pearce was one of two brothers who enjoyed distinguished military careers and were both field officers in the Peninsula during the War of Spanish Succession. It was probably his part in the Cadiz expedition of 1702, during which he was wounded, that first brought him to the attention of the Duke of Ormond, and in 1703 he was given command of a new regiment on the Irish establishment. Though he changed regiments a year later, he remained under Ormond and his old colonel Lord Cutts (John*) in Ireland. He became one of Ormond’s staunchest adherents, regarding the Duke’s dismissal as viceroy in 1707 as a personal ‘affliction’, and wrote on that occasion to Ormond from Dublin that ‘the people here seem generally to have a hearty concern for their loss, and those fools that were rogues enough to oppose the Queen’s and their own interest while your Grace was labouring for their good, seem not so much rejoiced’. His commission as brigadier he attributed to Ormond’s influence, reiterating that he was ‘entirely devoted to your grace’s service’. In Portugal, he fought bravely at the battle of the Caya in April 1709 and was taken prisoner. He was held for only a few months, however, and after his return home was promoted major-general.3

Brought in at Ludgershall ‘on the coat-tails’ of another Tory general, John Richmond Webb*, and also with the long-range support of the Duke of Beaufort, Pearce was classed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’ of the new Parliament and was listed among the ‘worthy patriots’ who in the 1710–11 session exposed the mismanagements of the previous ministry. In March 1711 a Lieutenant-Colonel Fitzpatrick was taken into custody for breach of privilege in challenging him for some words Pearce had spoken in a debate. Not long afterwards Pearce went out again to Portugal as deputy commander-in-chief of the forces there. He became an object of criticism from fellow officers and complaint from the French for having taken it upon himself to bring his men into the field after the cessation of hostilities, but was excused by the ministers on the grounds that he had not received his orders in time, and was not punished on his arrival back in England in February 1713. His regiment was trimmed down but not broken and was transferred to the Gibraltar garrison. Remaining loyal to the ministry, he voted on 18 June 1713 for the French commerce bill. He did not, however, stand at the 1713 election. In October 1713 the Treasury was told that he had been arrested ‘for bills drawn by him . . . for money he took up in Portugal’, and the paymaster of the forces was obliged to settle his account.4

Pearce survived the Hanoverian succession, his regiment being transferred to the Irish establishment. In 1724 he was granted additional pay on the recommendation of the lord lieutenant, Carteret, ‘as he has distinguished himself by his vigilance and care’, and three weeks later came the long-awaited advancement to lieutenant-general. At Limerick he involved himself in violent disputes with the ruling Whig faction in the corporation, and took the rare step for a garrison governor of becoming an active member of the corporation, standing successfully as mayor and then as MP.5

Pearce died on 16 Jan. 1739 and was buried on the 20th at Donnybrook, just outside Dublin, near his nephew Sir Edward Lovett Pearce, the celebrated architect of the new Irish parliament house.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Vis. Mdx. ed. Foster, 94; Verney Letters 18th Cent. i. 259–62; Blomefield, Norf. v. 456; Burke, Commoners, iii. 260; Shaw, Knights, ii. 197; G. E. Aylmer, King’s Servants, 389; B. H. Blacker, Sketches of Booterstown and Donnybrook (1874), 277.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1702–3, p. 387; 1703–4, p. 268; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 240; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1708–14, p. 247; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvii. 313–14; Evening Post, 19–21 Feb. 1713; M. Lenihan, Hist. Limerick, 324, 705.
  • 3. HMC Ormonde, n.s. viii. 244, 296–8, 315–18; Boyer, Anne Annals, viii. 94–95; ix. 415; Luttrell, vi. 474.
  • 4. G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 264; Wilts. RO, Ailesbury mss 1300/1020, Robert* to Ld. Bruce (Charles*), 22 Sept. 1710; Beaufort mss at Badminton House, Beaufort to Mr Albert, 14 Sept. 1710; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1708–14, p. 247; Add. 70218, Portmore to Ld. Oxford, [c.July 1712]; Bolingbroke Corresp. iii. 185; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvii. 52, 98, 430; xxix. 9; CJ, xvii. 295, 382, 526, 548.
  • 5. Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1720–8, p. 315; Lenihan, 324; N. and Q. ser. 2, viii. 227.
  • 6. London Mag. 1739, p. 49; Blacker, 279; DNB (Pearce, Sir Edward Lovett).