BOOTLE, Thomas (1685-1753), of Lathom Hall, nr. Liverpool, Lancs.
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Family and Education
b. 1685, 1st s. of Robert Bootle of Maghull, Lancs. educ. L. Inn 1708; I. Temple, 1712, called 1713. unm. suc. fa. 1708. Kntd. 23 Nov. 1745.
King’s attorney and serjeant within the duchy of Lancaster 1712-27; K.C. by 1726; mayor of Liverpool 1726-7; attorney-gen. of the county palatine of Durham 1733-53; chancellor to Frederick, Prince of Wales 1740-51; chancellor to George, Prince of Wales 1751-d.
In 1711 Bootle was employed by the corporation of his native town, Liverpool, to draw up affidavits testifying to the validity of their charter, then being attacked in the courts. But it was as the champion of the anti-corporation party that, after standing unsuccessfully for Liverpool in 1722 and 1723, he was returned unopposed in 1724 and re-elected after a hard contest in 1727.1
In Parliament Bootle adhered to the Whig opposition. A Jacobite agent reported that in a debate on 21 Feb. 1726 Bootle, ‘one of King George’s counsel at law and a Whig, said ... that the Hanover Treaty was in violation of the Act of Succession ... It was a wonder he was not sent to the Tower’. He spoke against the Government on the civil list arrears in 1729 and on the Hessians in 1730, when he ‘hinted at a design to bring in a bill to explain and amend an old Act by which placemen and pensioners are excluded the House’. On a pension bill in 1731 he ‘said the Court had no need of an additional influence by secret pensions, for a way had of late years been found to split offices, as the Treasury, Admiralty, etc., and so to fill the House with members, who held their places by no other tenure but the mischief they did their country in this House’. Later in the debate he drew analogies between Danby and Walpole.2
By this time Bootle had become a flourishing Chancery lawyer, getting 12 guineas a day for his cases, then an exceedingly high fee. His professional activities reflected his politics. When in 1731 the Government prosecuted Franklin, the printer and publisher of The Craftsman, for seditious libel, the leading counsel for the defence were Bootle and Fazakerley, both opposition M.P.s and Lancashire men. Among his clients were Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, bitterly anti-government; Pulteney, the leader of the Whig opposition, who employed him ‘in several dirty causes’; and the 11th Earl of Derby, an opposition Whig. He was also the confidential adviser and man of business of the greatest of the opposition Whig peers, the ‘proud’ Duke of Somerset.3
In 1734 Bootle, anticipating defeat at Liverpool, wrote to the Duke of Somerset:
Finding myself so closely pursued by him whom some call the great man [Walpole], makes it necessary for me to secure another borough, in case of a disappointment at Liverpool, that he may not have his will, which he so often had declared, that I shall not be in the next Parliament ... The only retreat I have is to your Grace, encouraged to it from the long experience of your benevolence and good will towards me; and what I beg leave is to repeat the request I made to your Grace, when last in town, that your Grace will be pleased to bring me in at one of your boroughs. The expense of the election, with your Grace’s permission, I will very gladly take upon myself, and if I succeed at Liverpool shall make my option for that place ... I must always esteem your Grace my patron and defender against one who would render his country a sacrifice to his avarice and his ambition, and would destroy me from private resentment and because I will not become a tool.
Ousted at Liverpool, he was returned by the Duke at Midhurst, which he represented for the rest of his life:
The singular favour and honour you have done me, [he wrote to the Duke on his election] and the true friendship I have met with at your Grace’s hands command my acknowledgment beyond what I am able to express ... your Grace is the best friend I have in the world.
In 1737 he spoke in support of the opposition motion for an address to the King to settle £100,000 p.a. from the civil list on the Prince of Wales, to whom he was appointed chancellor on Somerset’s recommendation in 1740. During the general election of 1741 he corresponded on Frederick’s behalf with Lord Falmouth and Thomas Pitt about their electioneering activities in Cornwall, interviewing possible candidates for Grampound and Bossiney. When a petition for Bossiney came up on the opening of the new Parliament, he
made a most long and stupid speech; and afterwards Sir Robert called to him, ‘Brother Bootle, take care you don’t get my old name’. ‘What’s that?’ ‘Blunderer.’4
After Walpole’s fall Bootle’s name was submitted to the King for the office of chief baron of the Exchequer, which he refused as it meant giving up the post of chancellor to the Prince. Classed ‘Prince’ in the Cockpit list of October 1742, he supported the new Government and was knighted on the occasion of a loyal address from the bar during the rebellion.5
When the Prince decided to revert to opposition he appealed to Bootle (1 Oct. 1746): ‘Find you, Dear Bootle, but boroughs, I’ll find people, and good ones... . Burn this, and depend always on your sincere friend, Frederick P.’. On learning that the Government were considering a snap dissolution Frederick at once notified Bootle, telling him to inform Lord Carlisle and Dr. Lee and appointing a time to meet and discuss the steps to be taken. It was to Bootle that, in June 1747, Frederick addressed the well-known letter justifying his opposition:
Pray God they have not a strong majority or adieu to my children, this constitution, and to everything that is dear to me. My upright intentions are known to you, my duty towards my father calls for it, and one must redeem him out of those hands that have sullied the Crown, and very near to ruin all. I’ll endeavour it, and I hope with my friends’ assistance to rescue a second time this nation out of wicked hands.
The draft of a will which Bootle about this time prepared for Frederick enjoins Prince George to ‘have regard to the opinions and advice of the Earl of Carlisle, the Earl of Harrington, Lord Baltimore, Sir Thomas Bootle, and Dr. Lee’. In the Leicester House lists of persons to receive office on Frederick’s accession, Bootle’s long service and Lancashire connections were recognised by earmarking the office of chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster for him.6
Bootle’s blunders, as Sir Robert Walpole had warned him, made him a laughing stock. According to Horace Walpole, hearing guns, ‘Chancellor Bootle ... concluded the Princess was brought to bed, and went to court upon it’. Finding her dressed, he said:
I have always heard, Madam, that women in your country have very easy labours, but I could not have believed it was as well as I see.
After the death of his old patron, the Duke of Somerset, leaving him his burgages at Midhurst and appointing him a guardian of his daughters, he proposed to the Duchess:
his love-letter has been copied and dispersed everywhere. To give you a sufficient instance of his absurdity, the first time he went with the Prince to Cliveden, he made a nightgown, cap, and slippers of gold brocade, in which he came down to breakfast the next morning.
Finally, on Frederick’s death:
You will be entertained with a story of Bootle: his washerwoman came to a friend of hers in great perplexity, and said, ‘I don’t know what to do, pray advise me; my master is gone to the circuit, and left me particular orders to send him an express if the King died: but here’s the Prince dead, and he said nothing about him’. You could easily believe this story if you knew what a mere law-pedant it is.’7
Re-appointed chancellor to the new Prince of Wales, he died 25 Dec. 1753.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
Bought from Henry Furnese, VCH Lancs. iii. 253.
- 1. Sir Jas. Picton, Liverpool Recs. ii. 5, 15-16.
- 2. Stuart mss 91/6; Knatchbull Diary, App. D, 141, 151; HMC Egmont Diary, i. 31, 134, 136, 137.
- 3. HMC Carlisle, 101n; Corresp. H. Walpole (Yale ed.), xvii. 234; Bootle mss, Royal archives.
- 4. HMC 15th Rep. VII, 121-2, 123; Harley Diary; Frederick to Somerset, 21 May 1738, Ld. Falmouth to Bootle, 12 May 1741, Bootle mss; Egmont mss, Add. 47091, ff. 1-9; Walpole to Mann, 10 Dec. 1741.
- 5. Hardwicke to Newcastle, 2 July 1742; Add. 32699, f. 305; Gent. Mag. 1745, p. 612; Harrowby mss 21 (L.Inn), 13 July, 7 Aug. 1742.
- 6. Bootle mss; Egmont mss.
- 7. Walpole to Montagu, 26 May 1748; to Mann, 1 Sept. 1750, 22 Apr. 1751.