EYLES, John (1683-1745), of Gidea Hall, Essex.
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Family and Education
b. 1683, 1st surv. s. of Sir Francis Eyles, 1st Bt., of London by Elizabeth, da. of Richard Ayley, London merchant; bro. of Joseph Eyles. m. his cos. Mary, da. of Joseph Haskins Stiles by Sarah, sis. of Francis Eyles, 1s. 1da. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 24 May 1716.
Director, E. I. Co. 1710-14, 1717-21; director, Bank of England 1715-17; alderman, London 1716-d., lord mayor 1726-7; commr. for forfeited estates 1716-25; master, Haberdashers’ Co. 1716-17; sub-gov. South Sea Co. Feb. 1721-33; pres. St. Thomas’s Hospital 1737-d.; jt. postmaster gen. 1739-d.
John Eyles, a Wiltshire mercer and wool stapler, had two sons, John and Francis, who made their fortunes as London merchants; became aldermen and, in John’s case, lord mayor of London and M.P. Devizes 1679-81; and ended with a knighthood and a baronetcy respectively. Francis’s eldest son, John, was a leading figure in the city of London when he was returned as a Whig in 1713 for Chippenham, not far from the Eyles estates in Wiltshire. Voting regularly with the Government after George I’s accession, he was elected by the Commons to be a commissioner for the sale of the estates forfeited by English Jacobites in the 1715 rebellion. In 1721 he was called in to salvage the South Sea Company, over whose affairs he presided as sub-governor for the next 12 years, speaking frequently on the Company’s behalf in Parliament.
On the third reading of the bill to regulate elections for London, 19 Mar. 1725, Eyles successfully proposed an amendment to alter the qualification for householders from 20s. to 30s., although the House had already debated and agreed to 20s. in committee. A year later, on a petition from Richard Hampden to compound for his debts as treasurer of the navy, Eyles asserted that Hampden so far from being a great loser in the South Sea bubble had actually gained £9,000, as appeared from the Company’s books.1
At the general election of 1727 Eyles was returned at the head of the poll for the city of London, where he was ‘the great support of the ministry interest’.2 In 1732 he incurred a reprimand from the House of Commons for having authorized the secretary to the forfeited estates commission to sign for him in his absence, thus making possible the fraudulent sale of the Derwentwater estates (see Bond, Denis). In a public apology he wrote:
If the great weight of business which the disordered affairs of the South Sea Company laid upon him within that remarkable period of time be not forgot, he can not but hope to find a generous apology from the breast of everyone before whom he is now in judgment.3
In the same session he was attacked by Edward Vernon, who insinuated
that the directors of the Company had carried on a private trade, contrary to their oaths and hurtful to the company ... having his eye all the time on Sir John Eyles (who by the universal vogue has been greatly guilty in this respect). Sir John, in his reply, took this as a charge levelled at himself, and said that gentleman had accused him in the House of what he dared not say to him out of it. Upon this several gentlemen interposed, and required the Speaker to enjoin both of them to give their words that nothing should ensue; accordingly they both declared they would not prosecute their resentment.4
Next January, presiding as sub-governor over a general meeting of the South Sea Company, he announced ‘in a pathetic speech’ that he
thanked the Company for the honours they had done him in choosing him four times successively into that post; that his close application to the Company’s affairs had impaired his health to that degree as to determine him not to stand candidate at the next election for the station he was in; and therefore desired them to think of another.5
Voting against the excise bill in 1733, he did not stand for London in 1734 and was defeated at Chippenham. He became father of the city in 1737, but ‘seldom or never’ attended a corporation meeting.6 Made joint postmaster general in 1739, he died 11 Mar. 1745.