SHEPHEARD, Samuel I (c.1648-1719), of St. Magnus the Martyr, and Bishopsgate Street, London

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



8 Jan. - 15 Apr. 1701
1705 - 1708

Family and Education

b. c.1648.  m. 23 Sept. 1673, aged 25, Mary (d. 1723), da. of Edward Chamberlayne of Princethorpe, Warws. 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 1 da. d.v.p.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Vintners’ Co. 1689; common councilman, London 1688–9, 1702–18; freeman, Cambridge 1713.

Asst. Saltpetre Makers’ Co. 1692, R. African Co. 1695–8; dir. New E. I. Co. 1698–1709, united E. I. Co. 1709–11; manager, united trade 1702–6, 1707–8; member, Russia Co. 1699; dir. S. Sea Co. 1711–d., dep.-gov. 1713–18, sub-gov. 1718–d.2

Commr. ?taking subscriptions to Bank 1694, taking subscriptions to New E. I. Co. loan 1698, to S. Sea Co. 1711; trustee, receiving loan to Emperor 1706.

Commr. Greenwich Hosp. 1695.3


Shepheard’s background remains obscure, although his father has been tentatively identified as Joshua Shepheard, who served as Master of the Saddlers’ Company in 1659. However, it was clearly through his own efforts that Shepheard built up an immense fortune, after initial success in the Mediterranean wine trade. Having diversified into many other spheres of commerce, most notably as an interloping trader to the East Indies, he was later hailed as ‘an excellent merchant for shipping, and [for] foreign trade by far the first in England’. Another contemporary simply referred to him as ‘the greatest merchant’. Such eminence helps to differentiate him from several other namesakes, most notably William Sheppard, the banker of Lombard Street, and Samuel Sheppard, a leading City distiller. Despite such celebrity, he did not appear eager for public advancement. One observer commented wryly that even though Shepheard was ‘several times in danger of being knighted’, he ‘always made his escape’. Controversy certainly hindered his political career, and the Duke of Leeds (Sir Thomas Osborne†) was not alone in regarding him as ‘so tricking a person’. Shepheard’s shifting party allegiance often marginalized him politically, but in turn both Whig and Tory ministries welcomed him as a valuable agent in the City.4

On the eve of the Revolution Shepheard was already well established in the capital, judging by the £12,000 which he and his partner Sir Basil Firebrace* were prepared to advance for the collection of a new wine duty. He actually served as a common councilman for Bridge ward in 1688–9, but thereafter revealed little desire for higher civic office. Indeed, he may well have been the ‘Mr Shepherd’ who in March 1694 acted as a solicitor for the London orphans in opposition to the City corporation. Self-interest may have prompted such activity, for on 17 Mar. his name headed a petition to the Lords against a proposed levy on imported wines which was to be introduced through the orphans relief bill. Commercial aspirations certainly took precedence over his political ambitions at this time, and in 1694 the leaders of Newcastle were forced to take legal action to halt his scheme to build a new town at the mouth of the Tyne. He may plausibly be identified as the Samuel Shepheard who was appointed in the same year as one of the commissioners to take the first subscription for the Bank of England, particularly as he invested in the Bank at a later date; it is therefore unlikely that he was the ‘Samuel Shephard’ who subsequently supported the rival land bank.5

Shepheard first gained prominence at Westminster as a leader of the interloping merchants campaigning against the monopoly of the East India Company. In March 1695 Sir Basil Firebrace revealed that Shepheard had refused to take up a tempting offer of £10,000 of East India stock, and later that year Shepheard appeared before the Lords on several occasions to decry the current state of the trade. On 5 Dec. he volunteered information concerning the establishment of the Company of Scotland, revealing that he himself had declined an opportunity to invest in that enterprise. Eight days later his name appeared at the head of a group of Leeward Islands merchants petitioning the Upper House for the East India trade to be opened up, and on 16 and 22 Jan. 1696 he made the same demand as one of the petitioners representing East Indian traders. Alongside his interloping ally, and fellow vintner, Gilbert Heathcote*, he subsequently established close ties with the ministry. By the spring of 1697 both had become government creditors, and both featured among the contractors to advance £30,000 for the collection of plate to be coined. Shepheard duly supported the subscription to circulate Exchequer bills to the tune of £2,000, but failed to be elected one of the trustees for the scheme.6

Shepheard’s association with the ministry was even further strengthened the following year by his prominent role in the foundation of the New East India Company. He was actually cited as the ‘chief’ of the merchants who proposed to loan the government £2 million in exchange for a monopoly of the East India trade, and attended the House on 20 May 1698 to report that a subscription of £1,200,000 had already been raised. Shepheard reportedly advanced £35,000, and, after the New Company had gained parliamentary sanction, finished second in the poll for its founding board of directors. However, his close relationship with the chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Montagu*, in this affair made him a target for the ministry’s opponents. As early as June he found himself at the centre of controversy, having advised a group of impeached merchants to plead guilty to the Upper House to charges of having secretly traded with France in wartime. Rumours circulated that he had counselled them to subscribe £300,000 to the New Company to improve their prospects, acting on the instructions of Montagu, whose ‘creature’ he was. However, when appearing before the Upper House on 30 June, Shepheard protested that he had only sought to promote the merchants’ interests, and denied that he had received any orders on the matter. James Vernon I* observed that this examination ‘is thought to be aimed at Mr Montagu, as if the advice came from him’, but ‘it appeared a groundless clamour’, and the Lords took no punitive action against Shepheard.7

A fortnight later Shepheard was chosen as London sheriff alongside his ally Heathcote, though both merchants were fined, probably to clear the way for their candidacy in the City’s forthcoming parliamentary election. Both were disappointed at the polls, Shepheard finishing sixth, only 140 votes behind the fourth-placed Thomas Papillon*. In spite of this defeat Shepheard remained a prominent figure in City affairs, gaining election in February 1699 as one of the New Company representatives to negotiate with the Old Company. He was also a member of a cartel which in May 1700 tendered unsuccessfully for the farm of the excise and salt duties.8

In the preparations for the general election of January 1701 Shepheard proved himself an indefatigable campaigner in the interest of the New Company, desperate to gain an advantage over the Old Company in the new House of Commons. In order to provide seats for himself and his two sons, he sought to influence returns at five small boroughs, employing his considerable fortune to some effect. He secured a seat at Newport for himself, and places at Andover and Malmesbury for his two sons, leading one observer to jest of the new Parliament that ‘certainly the sheep can never go astray when they have so many Shepheards’. However, the House had barely assembled before Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, launched a bitter attack on electoral corruption, accusing Shepheard on 13 Feb. 1701 of bribing his way to victory in several constituencies. Shepheard responded by ‘insisting on his innocency’, but only two days later the House formally charged him with having ‘endeavoured to corrupt’ the electors of five boroughs. A series of election hearings at the bar ensued, beginning on 12 Mar. with an inquiry into the Bramber contest. The following day the House condemned Shepheard for corruption, and for attempting to influence witnesses for their inquiry. On 14 Mar. he was found guilty of electoral malpractice at Wootton Bassett, and the next day received similar censure for his electioneering at Malmesbury. Although he was cleared of charges relating to the Ilchester election on the 15th, the Commons resolved three days later that he had practised ‘notorious bribery’ at Newport and he was sent to the Tower. The House did not finally resolve on his expulsion until 15 Apr., by which time it was generally expected that he would be impeached for his crimes. Seymour remained his chief antagonist, insisting that Shepheard be made an example, and even suggesting that ‘he believed that the impeached Lords had a hand in Shepheard’s election’. However, although Shepheard was subjected on 16 Apr. to the humiliation of receiving sentence on his knees at the bar, and was then recommitted to the Tower, no further punishment followed.9

The exact duration of Shepheard’s incarceration is unclear, but he was certainly in the Tower on 23 May, for on that day the Commons gave permission for him to be visited there by the committee to draw up impeachment articles against Lord Orford (Edward Russell*). Political observers interpreted this order as a threat to several of the Junto lords, Shepheard being cited as their intermediary in connexion with various misdemeanours. Most significantly, one commentator thought that Shepheard might reveal damning evidence against Charles Montagu, now Lord Halifax, concerning the foundation of the New Company. Shepheard appears to have remained loyal to his political master, since in September he was in all probability the ‘Mr Shepherd’ who attended a meeting of New Company leaders and ministers at Halifax’s home. His rehabilitation in City circles may also have been swift, for in November a correspondent of Robert Harley* reported that ‘Samuel Shephard’ had declined an invitation from a meeting of ‘citizens’ to stand for Parliament. Presumably this refers to Shepheard’s possible candidacy at the City election, particularly as the observer also expressed hope that ‘humour and resentment will not make him mad as it has done some others’.10

Although reluctant to stand for Parliament, in 1702 Shepheard resumed his career as a common councilman, gaining election for Bishopsgate, where he had established a residence from at least 1697. This office gave him some leverage in City politics, but his interest in the capital appeared to have waned. His position in the New East India Company in February 1703 was evidently a source of concern, one observer commenting ‘poor Mr. Shepheard [is] as low in interest as he ever was in mind; ’tis almost impossible to believe how much he is humbled and how patiently he bears it; his whole party is routed and he only kept in to be used as a cipher’. Despite this gloomy outlook, only a few months later Shepheard was actively campaigning to gain the seat at Higham Ferrers for his son Samuel, albeit without success. In March 1705 he even sought to influence the Liverpool election in favour of William Clayton*, viewing him as ‘a very necessary man in Parliament’. He did not neglect his own parliamentary ambitions either, standing with the Whigs at the City contest only two months later. He finished second in the poll as his party allies scored a resounding success against their Tory rivals, and his return was duly classed by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) as a gain for the Whigs.11

In the 1705–6 session Shepheard quickly established himself as a supporter of the Court, voting for its candidate on 25 Oct. in the division on the Speakership, and backing it on 18 Feb. 1706 during proceedings over the regency bill. A parliamentary list of the new Parliament also described him as ‘No Church’, but although several historians have questioned his religious principles, there is little evidence of any close attachment to the Nonconformists. Due to the presence of his son Francis in the House, his Commons activity is also difficult to delineate, but he may well have been the Shepheard who on 24 Jan. was placed on the committee to consider the Newfoundland trade, for he was subsequently said to have ‘the best notion . . . in all England’ of the Greenland fishery. Such repute also argues for his identification as the ‘Samuel Sheppard’ who in June 1706 proposed that £200,000 be raised to promote coastal fishing in Scotland. During that summer he acted as one of the managers for remitting the loan to the Emperor, in which capacity he was able to pass on his congratulations to the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) for the success of his campaigns.12

In the next session Shepheard may well have acted as manager of a bill to prevent the storage and carriage of gunpowder in the City. Moreover, his commercial interests probably prompted him to act as teller on two occasions: on 1 Apr. 1707 to block a motion to instruct the committee on the supply to receive a clause to ascertain wine measures; and two days later against agreeing with an amendment concerning the same issue. Most significantly, a report circulated during this session that he was attempting to establish himself as an independent force within the East India trade, striving to emerge ‘at the head of a third party hoping to turn the scale and be the balance of power’ between the warring Old and New Company factions. Such coolness towards former allies may have reflected his general dissatisfaction with Whig leaders both in the City and at Westminster. His family was clearly shifting its loyalties at this time, for his son Samuel actually sought an alliance with the Tories at Cambridge in preparation for the general election of 1708. The activity of Shepheard and his son Francis in the rest of the Parliament gives little clue to their political allegiance. However, in February 1708 the Tory Hon. Arthur Annesley* spoke warmly of both Shepheards, who had joined with his party ‘in the most material votes that have been proposed this Parliament’. The failure of Samuel Shepheard snr. to appear on the Whig platform for the ensuing City election can thus be regarded as confirmation of his break with his former political allies.13

Although now out of the House, Shepheard remained a prominent City figure, appearing before the Treasury in September 1708 to discuss the merger of the two East India companies, and the following year he was elected one of the first directors of the united company. However, it was only with the appointment of the Harley administration in the summer of 1710 that his rapprochement with the Tories brought him back into the political limelight. In August Shepheard demonstrated his Tory allegiance by writing directly to Harley to discuss electoral strategy for his son’s campaign at Cambridge. That same month he was a member of the cartel of merchants who agreed to advance £350,000 for the subsistence of the army in Flanders. His close association with the new ministry suggests that he was the ‘Mr Sheppard’ who in October liaised with Lord Keeper Harcourt (Simon I*) and Harley to alter the City lieutenancy in favour of the Tories, particularly as Shepheard voted Tory at the ensuing London poll.14

Under the Harley administration Shepheard proved himself a valuable political contact, helping to promote Tory initiatives in the City. Even though Harley had been advised that Shepheard was ‘no banker’, the latter continued to undertake the government’s remittances to the Low Countries. Moreover, in April 1711 he stood as an unsuccessful ministerial candidate at the elections for the Bank. He subsequently played a very prominent role in the fledgling South Sea Company, investing a considerable sum in its inaugural subscription, and becoming its deputy-governor two years later. Indeed, so close was his identification with the ministry that when the Upper House threw out a bill in July 1713 which would have compensated Shepheard for the loss of a cargo of French wine, it was observed of the Lords that ‘tho’ the House of C[ommons] will do jobs . . . for the Lord T[reasurer], they won’t’. During that session, however, his family’s loyalty to Harley wavered, his son voting against the French commerce bill. Although the elder Shepheard’s position on the issue remains unclear, he may also have drifted towards the Whigs, for in April 1714 his erstwhile ally Heathcote was reported to have gained his interest in preparation for the East India Company elections. He clearly maintained a great reputation in the City, leading a delegation of the South Sea Company to present an address to the Queen in July.15

Soon after the accession of George I Shepheard’s return to Whig ranks was confirmed by his involvement with the club campaigning to advance the party’s cause in the capital. Moreover, in April 1716 he was identified as a Whig in a review of the City’s common council elections. At the time of his death, on 4 Jan. 1719, he still retained great influence in commercial circles, and only a month before his demise he was elected sub-governor of the South Sea Company. His vast estate, valued by one contemporary at £800,000, subsequently passed to his two sons, but neither of them sought to build upon his interest in London.16

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Paula Watson / Perry Gauci


  • 1. Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. (Harl. Soc. xxxiv), 101; J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London (London and Mdx. Arch. Soc.), 44, 147; Guildhall Lib. mic. 11361.
  • 2. CLRO, CF1/28/186; Guildhall Lib. ms 15208; Woodhead, 147; De Krey thesis, 660; Cambs. RO (Cambridge), Cambridge bor. recs. common day bk. 1681–1722, p. 511; CSP Dom. 1691–2, p. 249; K. G. Davies, R. African Co. 388; info. from Prof. H. G. Horwitz; Add. 38871 (unfol.); Trans. Amer. Phil. Soc. li. 109; J. Carswell, S. Sea Bubble, 283; Beaven, Aldermen, i. 291.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. xiii. 102; Pittis, Present Parl. 352; Boyer, Anne Annals, iv. 126; Add. 10120, ff. 232–6.
  • 4. EHR, lxxi. 229–30; HMC Portland, iv. 559; Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/4/, James Lowther* to Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. I*, 13 Feb. 1701; N. Yorks. RO, Swinton mss, Danby pprs. Duke of Leeds to Ld. Danby, 2 Aug. 1703.
  • 5. Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 2109; HMC Portland, viii. 366–7; i. 105; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 902–3; HMC Lords, n.s. i. 372; iii. 143; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Bank of Eng. pprs. 31. 1. 7, ff. 101, 146; Egerton 3359 (unfol.).
  • 6. HMC Lords, n.s. i. 556; ii. 4, 8–9, 21, 32, 34; iii. 157; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1697–1702, p. 18; Univ. London ms 65, item 3; Cal. Treas. Bks. xii. 143.
  • 7. Cobbett, v. 1178; CSP Dom. 1698, pp. 259, 333, 379–80; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 403; Add. 30000B, ff. 157, 208; HMC Lords, n.s. iii. 230–2; Vernon–Shrewsbury Corresp. ii. 118.
  • 8. Luttrell, iv. 401, 404, 485, 649; Cal. Treas. Bks. xv. 91.
  • 9. EHR, 235–6; Cocks Diary, 64–68, 79, 84–85, 95–97; Luttrell, v. 39; Liverpool RO, Norris mss 920NOR 1/109, William Clayton* to Richard Norris*, 15 Apr. 1701.
  • 10. Cocks Diary, 143–4; Add. 30000E, f. 222; 17677 WW, ff. 274–5; HMC Portland, iv. 22, 26.
  • 11. HMC Lords, n.s. ii. 350; Add. 22852, ff. 73–76; Huntington Lib. Hastings mss 10794, Shepheard to Ld. Ferrers, 3 June 1703; Norris Pprs. (Chetham Soc. ser. 1, ix), 142.
  • 12. G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 17; HMC Portland, v. 10; Yale Univ. Lib. Osborn Coll. Biscoe-Maunsell newsletter 1 June 1706; Add. 61135, ff. 95–107.
  • 13. C 110/28, John Dolben* to Thomas Pitt I*, 1 Mar. 1708; Speck thesis, 389.
  • 14. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxii. 42–43; xxiv. 459; HMC Portland, iv. 579; Add. 70230, Harcourt to Robert Harley, 7 Oct. 1710; London Poll of 1710.
  • 15. HMC Portland, iv. 559; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxv. 9, 35–36, 76; G. S. De Krey, Fractured Soc. 240; Carswell, 57; Wentworth Pprs. 343; Add. 70273, Matthew Decker to Thomas Harley*, 2 Apr. 1714; Boyer, Pol. State, vii. 610.
  • 16. London Rec. Soc. xvii. 29, 37–40, 48; EHR, 230; PCC 16 Browning.