REBOW, Isaac (1655-1726), of Head Street, Colchester, Essex, and Pall Mall, Westminster, Mdx.

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



1689 - 1690
12 Nov. 1692 - 21 Nov. 1702
14 Dec. 1702 - 6 May 1714
1715 - 1722

Family and Education

bap. 15 July 1655, o. s. of John Rebow, clothier, of Colchester by Sarah, da. of Francis Tapsill, merchant, of Colchester.  m. (1) Mary (d. 1681), da. of James Lemyng of Greyfriars, Colchester, 2s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2) Dec. 1685, Mary, da. of Thomas Macro, apothecary, of Bury St. Edmunds, Suff., 1s. d.v.p. 3da.; (3) lic. 19 Nov. 1694, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir William Wiseman, 1st Bt.†, of Rivenhall, Essex, wid. of John Lamotte Honywood*, s.p.  Kntd. 26 Mar. 1693; suc. fa. 1699.

Offices Held

V.-adm. Essex 1692–1702; freeman, Colchester 1694, high steward 1703, mayor 1716–17, recorder 1723.1

Commr. taking subscriptions to land bank 1696, to S. Sea Co. 1711; trustee, receiving loans to Emperor 1706.2


Rebow’s family, of Flemish origin, had settled in Colchester early in the 17th century, and had rapidly risen to local prominence and fortune. Rebow himself was a wealthy clothier who sought to dominate the political, social and religious life of the city, and represented Colchester almost continuously throughout the period. By 1689 he was sufficiently influential to secure return to the Convention, where he showed strong support for the new regime. At the general election of March 1690, however, he lost his seat, twice unsuccessfully petitioning that he had won a majority of votes. The defeat taught him an early lesson about how much influence the borough’s officials had over parliamentary returns, together with the importance of manipulating the number of freemen eligible to vote, and his later career was closely tied to the vagaries of the corporation’s internal politics. Although out of Parliament in 1690 he was inserted into the commission of the peace and was immediately prompted into activity, taking the examinations of allegedly ‘dangerous persons’ who had attempted to escape beyond seas. In the same year he acted as patron for the appointment to the benefice of Salcot Virley parish of one Francis Dezee, whose name would suggest that Rebow retained a loyalty to the Dutch Protestantism of his family despite involving himself closely in the concerns of the Established Church. In August 1692, Rebow was appointed vice-admiral of Essex and was paid £150 annually until 1697 for impressing 300 men to serve the war effort.3

Rebow regained his seat at a by-election in November 1692. Samuel Grascome listed him as a placeman and Court supporter in 1693. The King honoured him by dining at his house in March, on which occasion he was knighted. He may have used this meeting to further both his and the town’s interests since he was able in August to ride back triumphantly from London with the corporation’s restored charter, no doubt having thereby strengthened his interest among the freemen, who greeted him with ‘loud acclamation and all expressions of duty and thankfulness to their Majesties’. Perhaps he basked for too long in such local popularity to the neglect of his parliamentary duties, since he was found to be absent when the House was called over on 14 Mar. 1695. On 23 Apr., however, he was present in the House acting as teller in favour of engrossing a bill for the better encouragement of privateers, though once again he may have been combining personal and governmental interests since he probably wished to safeguard the supply of seamen that he impressed for the navy.4

Rebow almost certainly headed the poll at the 1695 election and can be identified as a Court Whig on a number of lists for 1696: he was marked as likely to support the Court over the proposed council of trade in January, subscribed the Association in February, and voted for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. in March. Coinciding with this concern in financial matters, though not with the administration’s inclinations, he was appointed as a commissioner for taking subscriptions to the Country Tory-inspired land bank. That his financial investments were not influenced by party considerations also seems to be indicated by the fact that he does not appear to have been a significant investor in the more Whiggish Bank of England. During the parliamentary recess in the summer of 1696 he was again energetic in his office of vice-admiral, this time gathering information about goods smuggled from Holland; but, apart from voting for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick† on 25 Nov. it was his personal concerns that mainly preoccupied him when MPs met again in October. Two days after the opening of the second session, a complaint was lodged that John Wheely, his steward, had been arrested for debt, in breach of parliamentary privilege. Wheely was by all accounts an obstreperous individual, who had refused to pay the poor rate since 1686, and although Rebow had employed him for four years it would seem that his creditors took at face value Sir Isaac’s comment that he ‘would not protect any person from paying their just debts’. Ironically, although the House discharged Wheely from custody, Rebow found himself in the care of the serjeant-at-arms on 27 Jan. 1697 for having absented himself from attendance at Westminster without permission.5

The government made use of Rebow’s local influence in August of that year to ‘dispose’ Colchester to quarter two companies of troops, and it was perhaps to recompense its citizens for this burden that he was particularly active on their behalf in the following session. On 14 Jan. 1698 he was one of three Members ordered to bring in a bill to make navigable the channel from the town to Wivenhoe, which he duly presented on 4 Mar., and on 22 Mar. he presented another bill for erecting hospitals and workhouses within Colchester for the better employment and maintenance of the poor, both bills receiving the Royal Assent on 16 May. The end of the session was dominated by the East India Company’s business, and his financial expertise drew him into the controversy. On 22 June, in a debate on a salt duties bill, he acted as teller for the provision that the company should only borrow at 6 per cent interest. Rebow may not have been acting impartially since he had his own interests in the eastern trade: in 1700 it emerged that since 1697 he had exported over 10,000 pieces of silver to India, and by 1710 he had a large shareholding in the United Company.6

Re-elected in July 1698, Rebow was again marked as a Court supporter. On 14 Feb. 1699 he was given leave to go into the country on account of his father’s mortal illness. He was noted as ‘doubtful’ in an analysis of the Commons in early 1700. In January 1699 the governors of the Dutch bay hall at Colchester had petitioned the Commons for bans on Irish exports of bays and on exports of wool from England, and it may be that a report that Rebow was ‘cursed’ for having obtained a free trade in bays relates to this time. Rebow nevertheless still retained the King’s favour, for in October 1700 William once again dined with him, and he was re-elected in January 1701. On 5 June 1701 he defended the interests of the navy, acting as a teller during a debate on its expenses. Securing re-election later in the year, he was marked in December as a Whig by Robert Harley*, and was still apparently acting on the Court’s behalf when telling on 6 Feb. 1702 on a motion about arrears of army officers’ pay. He was a teller on two more occasions this session, supporting on 8 Apr. the provisions for the Protestant children of the Earl of Clanricarde and Lord Bophin, and acting with the Tory Peter Shakerley* on 13 May, in favour of agreeing with an amendment to the bill for regulating frauds and abuses in the salt duties bill.7

While King William was alive Rebow’s hold on Colchester’s corporation seemed invincible; but he was never to achieve the same rapport with the Tory-minded Queen Anne, nor the same undisputed local ascendancy. He was deprived of his vice-admiralty in June 1702 and, although returned at the election in August, suffered the indignity of seeing his steward once more hauled before the House, this time for using ‘corrupt practices’ to procure his master’s election. On 2 Dec. Wheely acknowledged his offence, and the Commons declared the poll void, thereby putting Rebow through the trouble of resubmitting himself to the electorate, who nevertheless chose him again on 14 Dec. On 13 Feb. 1703 he showed his loyalty to the Hanoverian succession by supporting the Whig amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration; but it was local, rather than national, conflicts that increasingly preoccupied him. A controversy seems to have grown out of the bitterness of the previous election concerning the election of the high steward for Colchester after the death of the Earl of Oxford. Rebow evidently regarded the post as the jewel in the crown of his local supremacy, and his candidacy was supported by the mayor, the recorder and a number of Dissenters whom, it was alleged, he had inserted into the corporation’s offices over the years. However, his nomination was opposed by a group of burgesses, led by John Potter, the mayor who had been responsible for failing to name Rebow on the return of MPs in 1690, and who had stood against him at the 1702 election. The case is also significant because Sir Thomas Cooke*, a Court Tory, championed the election of the alternative candidate, the Prince of Denmark, probably in revenge for Sir Isaac’s encouragement of a number of burgesses to petition against his election in 1702. A third MP, John Comyns*, also became embroiled in the contest, successfully moving in the court of Queen’s bench for a mandamus to have the Prince officially enrolled in the post. This the mayor refused to do, because Rebow claimed that he himself had been legally elected, and Sir Isaac seems to have been the victor since soon after he is to be found styling himself by the title.8

Rebow was forecast as a probable opponent of the Tack in October 1704, and in the division on 28 Nov. either voted against the measure or was absent. He was marked as ‘Low Church’ on an analysis of the new Parliament in 1705, to which he had been re-elected, though possibly with the help of dubiously qualified freemen. He voted for the Court Whig candidate as Speaker on the first day of the opening session, but he has been described by one historian as a Country Whig early the next year on the grounds that he did not vote for the Court on the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill. Certainly he no longer held office, and although on 26 Feb. he was appointed a trustee for taking the loan for the Emperor, this may have been as much an indication of his importance in the financial world as of sympathy with the Court. Despite his recent tangle with lawyers over his high stewardship, he acted on 18 Mar. 1706 as a teller against adding a clause to a bill for the better advancement of justice, for fixing the fees of clerks. He was active at this time on his own behalf, pressing the Treasury for the reversionary lease of two lighthouses, in which he had inherited a partial interest through his first wife, the granddaughter and heiress of Sir William Batten†. He was successful in his claims, for in October 1707 it was reported that he had obtained a patent allowing him to charge all ships that passed the lights. He was categorized as a Whig on two separate lists early in 1708, and was re-elected in April. Evidence supporting his possible shift to a Country affiliation might be seen in his tellership on 7 Dec. during the debate on Anthony Hammond’s expulsion from the House for being employed as an out-ports officer, though this may have been no more than resentment at his own loss of office, and even if he did occasionally act with Country elements, he remained a steadfast Whig. Himself the descendant of an émigré, it is not surprising to find Rebow listed as a supporter of the naturalization of the Palatines in the spring of 1709. He also voted in support of the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell the following session.9

Heading the poll in October 1710, Rebow was again marked as a Whig, this time on the ‘Hanover list’. He acted as teller on 5 Apr. 1711 in favour of an amendment to the bill to prevent bribery and corruption at elections, somewhat ironically considering his own conduct at Colchester in previous elections. His investment at this time of £3,000 in the Harleyite South Sea Company, enough to qualify him for a directorship, is further proof of his non-partisan approach to business, and he did not oppose the amendment to the South Sea bill which would have given nomination of the company’s governors and directors to the Queen. On national issues, however, he remained loyal to the Whigs, supporting on the opening day of the second session the motion of ‘No Peace without Spain’. He was given leave of absence from the House on 11 Mar. 1712. The following session he acted as a teller, on 21 Apr. 1713, against a motion that they should sit the next day as a committee of the whole to consider ways and means, an indication that his antipathy to the High Church Tories had overruled any former loyalty to the Court. The Colchester Tories may have been emboldened by the appointment of Lord Bolingbroke (Henry St. John II*) as lord lieutenant of Essex, for the election in August 1713 was contested, and Rebow was placed under the necessity of procuring votes from illegally qualified freemen to win sufficient support. He voted on 18 Mar. against the expulsion of Richard Steele, before the House could consider the petition against his own return, but he was unseated on 6 May. In December that year he fell critically ill and was thought ‘like to die’. Removed from the Suffolk bench in July 1714, he nevertheless regained his seat after the Hanoverian succession, and was marked as a Whig on the various lists comparing the membership of the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments. He died in September 1726, leaving his estate, which included manors in Essex, Kent, Middlesex, Somerset and Suffolk, to his grandson Isaac Lemyng Rebow†, his own son having predeceased him, as well as providing for an £8,000 portion for his daughter Mary’s marriage to Sir Edmund Bacon, 5th Bt.† With some sense of humour, or malice, he left the ruined Colchester Castle, which he had bought from the indebted Wheely, to his other ‘disobedient and undutiful grandson’ Charles.10

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Mark Knights


  • 1. EHR, xxiii. 743; Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. xxiii. 312.
  • 2. CJ, xii. 510; Pittis, Present Parl. 351; Boyer, Anne Annals, iv. 126.
  • 3. Essex Review, iii. 177; vi. 176; CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 252; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 46, 485, 902, 1290; xv. 323; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1697–1702, p. 296.
  • 4. Luttrell Diary, 232; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 65; Essex Review, xix. 44.
  • 5. Essex Review, ii. 226; Luttrell, iii. 543; CJ, xii. 510; Cal. Treas. Bks. xi. 201; Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. xii. 331.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1697, p. 289; CJ, xii. 150.
  • 7. Luttrell, iv. 698; Boyer, Wm. III, iii. 460; Essex Review, li. 210.
  • 8. Bodl. Rawl. C.441, ff. 1–16; Luttrell, v. 303; Essex Review, xlvii. 74; liii. 103; Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. xxiii. 313.
  • 9. G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 222; Anne Annals, iv. 126; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxi. 19, 170, 241; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1720–8, p. 535.
  • 10. Hist. Jnl. iv. 196; Suff. RO (Bury St. Edmunds) mss P733/5b, S. Macro to da., 31 Dec. 1713 (ex inf. Dr P. Murrell); L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 225; PCC 192 Plymouth.