TOKE, John (1671-1746), of Godinton, Kent
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Family and Education
b. 1 June 1671, 1st s. of Nicholas Toke of Godinton by his 1st w. Catherine, da. of Sir Thomas Dyke, 1st Bt.* educ. Trinity, Oxf. 1689; M. Temple 1689. m. 28 June 1701, Susanna (d. 1744), da. and coh. of Rev. Daniel Milles of Crutched Friars, London, 1s.1
Toke’s family had been settled in Kent since the early 16th century, acquiring Godinton by marriage in the reign of Henry VIII. His father had been sheriff of Kent in 1693, but none of the Toke family had sat in Parliament since 1554. Toke was returned for East Grinstead in 1702 on the interest of his maternal grandfather and, following his grandfather’s political tradition, quickly established himself as one of the leaders of the young back-bench Tories. He was regularly called upon to act as a teller, the first occasion being on 18 Feb. 1703 against the second reading of a clause in the bill to advance the sale of Irish forfeitures. In the next session he was a teller on 29 Jan. 1704 against the House going immediately into a committee of supply, and on 11 Mar. for a motion condemning the Earl of Orford (Edward Russell*), former treasurer of the navy, for his delays in presenting his accounts.2
Before the start of the next session Toke had a brush with Defoe, who wrote to Robert Harley* on 28 Sept. 1704: ‘I happened of a smart rencounter with Mr Toke of East Grinstead’, possibly meaning a duel. Defoe’s animosity was further excited by Toke’s actions during the session. Forecast as a probable supporter of the Tack, Toke duly voted for it on 28 Nov., prompting Defoe to coin the word ‘Tookites’ to denote a parliamentary obstructionist, and to satirize him in The Dyet of Poland (1705). The poem alleged that at the beginning of the session Toke had hoped to replace Harley in the Speaker’s chair, and also caricatured Toke as Tocoski:
A forward Southern Pole,
A polish’d Carcass and a burnish’d soul;
We cannot say, he did the silence break,
For he did always little else but speak . . .
A troop of TACKERS at his elbow stand,
Ready to move at his usurped command,
Who all the image of their captain bear,
And in his name may read their character:
The word in Polish signifies a Fool,
A man without meaning, called a Tool,
A weighty block-head with an empty skull.
In this session he was a teller on four occasions: for a motion to allow alterations in the land tax commissions (24 Nov.); in favour of the committee for the army and navy recruitment bill receiving a clause concerning j.p.s’ qualifications (an attempted Tory tacking move) (19 Dec.), and then to add a clause to the bill concerning enlistment (7 Feb. 1705); and finally, against an amendment to the supply bill for providing tighter regulation of distillers (12 Feb.).3
Returned again for East Grinstead in 1705, Toke was classed as ‘True Church’ shortly after the election and voted against the Court candidate for Speaker on 25 Oct. 1705. He told on the Tory side on 13 Nov. against hearing the Coventry election petition at the bar of the House, and again on 22 Nov. in favour of an amendment to a resolution to raise funds for replacing horses lost in the Flanders campaign. He was active for the opposition in the proceedings on the regency bill, acting as a teller on 19 Dec. in a Tory attempt to adjourn the House before the bill was discussed, and speaking in the subsequent debate. On 10 Jan. 1706 he again spoke and told for the Tories in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the House going into committee on the bill, and on 18 Feb. was teller in favour of activating the ‘place clause’ at the end of that session rather than at the dissolution. He was also a teller for the Tories in divisions on three election disputes (East Retford, Huntingdon and Newcastle-under-Lyme); in favour of the bill for a further duty on wine and restricting certain imported goods (25 Feb. 1706); and against agreeing with the Lords in declaring a pamphlet called A Letter from Sir Rowland Gwynne to the Earl of Stamford, a seditious libel (11 Mar.).
In the next session Toke was teller for his party in two election cases, the continuing dispute over the Coventry election on 5 Feb. 1707, and that of Colchester on 10 Feb., and additionally was teller on 21 Feb. against a motion to consider the bill for union with Scotland the next day. He also brought in and managed two private estate bills, concerning the Sussex Members Sir Thomas May and William Elson II. He was listed as a Tory in early 1708, but his activity diminished abruptly during the 1707–8 session and he did not stand in 1708. Making no further attempt to re-enter the House, he died in 1746.