CAREW, Thomas (1702-66), of Crowcombe, nr. Minehead, Som.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer



9 Feb. 1739 - 1747

Family and Education

b. c.1702, 1st s. of Thomas Carew of Camerton, Som. by Elizabeth, da. of John Sanford of Nynehead, nr. Wellington, Som. educ. M. Temple 1720, called 1737. m. (1) Mary (d. 25 May 1738), da. of Francis Drewe, of the Grange, Broadhembury, Devon, 3da.; (2) 10 Feb. 1743, Mary, sis. of John Horne, late gov. of Bombay, s.p. suc. fa. bef. 1720.1

Offices Held

Steward of anniversary dinner of independent electors of Westminister 1747.


Thomas Carew came of a branch of the Carews of Pembroke Castle, who had been settled in Somerset since the 16th century. He is described by Horace Walpole as

a crazy zealot, who believed himself possessed by the devil, till he was cured by his apothecary’s assuring him that he had met the devil upon the stairs coming from him. He was the author of the Gaming and Swearing Acts and would have been glad in the latter to have prohibited the taking of oaths, being a stout Jacobite.2

Returned on the Luttrell interest for Minehead, he made his first recorded speech, 1 Apr. 1740, in support of a motion for repealing an Act taking off the duties on Irish yarn. On 28 Jan. 1741 he moved for a state of the colony of Georgia to be laid before the House.3 In the following February he was one of the Tories who withdrew on the motion for removing Walpole, and spoke twice on the mutiny bill, criticizing a government amendment dealing with the billeting of troops on innkeepers. In 1742 he introduced bills for restraining the partiality of returning officers in England and to disqualify pensioners from sitting in the Commons, both of which were rejected by the Lords. He also opposed a proposal to transfer two regiments from the Irish to the English establishment in April 1742. In the following December he supported a place bill, which had been opposed by Samuel Sandys for the Government, quoting the arguments used by Sandys himself in favour of such a bill in the last session.4 In 1743 he introduced bills for making it more easy to convict persons found at large who had been ordered for transportation, and against rogues and vagabonds, which became law, though in the latter case not till 1744. On 29 Jan.1744 he moved for leave to introduce a bill for annual Parliaments, a measure calculated to embarrass the ex-opposition Whig ministers, to whom he referred in sardonic terms. On the same date he and another Tory, Thomas Bramston, were given leave to introduce a bill for the enforcement of the law relating to the qualifications of justices of the peace, which was ‘by no means agreeable to the Whigs’ but could not be rejected without a breach with their Tory allies.5 With the same object, on 18 Feb., he attacked the subterfuge by which, to save the faces of the new Whig members of the Government, the Hanoverian troops had been taken over by the Queen of Hungary in return for a proportionate increase in her subsidy. During the same session he took part in the debates on the naval action off Toulon in February 1744, calling for an address demanding to know which minister had been responsible for establishing the joint command which had led to the miscarriage. He also succeeded in carrying a bill for the prohibition of ‘a certain pernicious game called roulet or roly-poly’, following it up in the next session with a bill to prevent cursing and swearing by fines of one shilling for labourers, two shillings for those above the class of labourers but below that of gentlemen, and five shillings for gentlemen and upwards. During the rebellion he spoke against the voluntary subscription for raising troops.6 In the debate of 11 Apr. 1746, on a grant of £300,000 for taking back the Hanoverians into British pay, he derided Pitt’s changed attitude. His last reported speech was made on 28 May 1747, when he moved for the erection of a monument in Westminister Abbey to Captain James Cornewall, who had been killed in the action off Toulon.7

At the general election Carew was expected to stand either for the county or for Minehead, but in the end he stood for neither.8 In 1755 he published anonymously, with a dedication to Speaker Onslow, An Historical Account of the Rights of Elections, a compilation of all the reports of the elections committees of the House of Commons down to 1727 (though described as ‘to the year 1754’), taken from the Commons Journals and arranged under the various constituencies. In the preface to this useful work he writes:

In the end of the year 1738, I had the honour to be chosen a representative of my county in parliament; an honour, for which I thought exerting my zeal for the support of the religion, laws and liberties of England, was the only return I could make; and as in the votes I was to give, (thinking myself accountable to God, and my conscience) I was always of opinion, that it was my duty to make myself master of the matters in debate. Amongst others, the determining the rights of elections (which were frequently contested in the House of Commons) became no small part of the trust I had undertaken. For the better understanding of this subject, I frequently amused myself in turning over collections relating thereto ... and from these I proposed to make an index, that I might easily resort to upon occasion.
This work I began in the year 1741, when God thought fit to visit me with an illness, which confined me pretty much at home; but, it having pleased him in some months, (in great measure) to remove my complaint, the public and other affairs, called for my attention; so, that I laid it, (in some sort) aside ...
In the year 1750, it pleased God, again, to visit me with my former complaints, and (though in a more violent manner than before) I found amusement necessary; I therefore resumed my former design.

He concludes his preface by expressing the hope that his book may do something ‘perhaps, [to] terrify candidates, agents, and electors from engaging in ... indirect practices’.

He died 13 Mar. 1766, aged 64.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Shirley Matthews


  • 1. His father is described as deceased in the M. Temple entry of his admittance.
  • 2. Horace Walpole's notes to his ms poems, ex inf. W. S. Lewis.
  • 3. HMC Egmont Diary, iii. 125, 182, 184.
  • 4. CJ, xxiv. 103, 383, 387, 424, 474.
  • 5. Owen, Pelhams, 253, 260.
  • 6. P. Yorke, Hardwicke, i. 478.
  • 7. Debrett, Debates, ii. 137-8.
  • 8. HMC 15th Rep. VII, 125.