PHILLIPSON, John (1698-1756), of Park Hall, nr. Harwich, Essex.

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



1734 - 1741
1741 - 27 Nov. 1756

Family and Education

b. 28 Apr. 1698, o.s. of John Phillipson, agent of the Harwich packet boats, who m. (1) Rachel, da. of Robert Lane, and (2) Grace, da. of Kendrick Edisbury, M.P., of Harwich.1 m. 29 Aug. 1717, da. of Richard Burton, commr. of the navy, 1da. suc. fa. 1742.

Offices Held

Clerk in the navy office; chief clerk of the navy ticket office to 1739; commr. of the navy 1739-43; ld. of Admiralty 1743-4; surveyor gen. of woods and forests north and south of Trent 1745-d.; director, South Sea Co. 1733-55, dep. gov. 1756.


Phillipson’s father started life as an ordinary seaman on a Harwich packet boat at the end of the seventeenth century, rose to command a packet in the wars with France, and, having married the daughter of a previous agent of the Harwich packet boats, was appointed to that post by Bolingbroke, then recorder of Harwich. As agent he managed the influence exercised by the Post Office in Harwich through the packet service, claiming that during his twenty years’ tenure of the post he had

always endeavoured to get the majority of the electors in the interest of the Government and on every vacancy of a capital burgess ... espoused such as had any dependence on it.

A capital burgess, alderman, and several times mayor of Harwich, he amassed a considerable fortune, building up a strong interest, which he strengthened by marrying his son to the daughter of a commissioner of the navy.

Young Phillipson, like his father-in-law, began as a clerk in the navy office, which he combined with outside business interests. In 1727 he stood as a candidate for Harwich, but was withdrawn by his father at the request of Walpole, who was committed to Lord Perceval and Sir Philip Parker.2 At the beginning of 1733 he was elected a director of the South Sea Company on the proprietors’ list, which defeated the house list, i.e. the old directors, by a great majority.3 Later in the year it was learned at Shoreham that

Mr. Phillipson, a merchant and director of the South Sea Company, is coming in about a fortnight to offer his services for the said borough, who will be strongly assisted by the shipbuilders and corporation.4

Discussing this development with the Duke of Richmond, who was setting up a candidate of his own for Shoreham, Walpole told Sir Charles Wager, the first lord of the Admiralty, that ‘of all men in the world he must desire he would not espouse’ Phillipson as ‘being the reputed author of the South Sea calculation against him,’5 i.e. behind the recent agitation which had led to the overthrow of the old directors and to a demand in the House of Lords for a parliamentary inquiry into the alleged mismanagement of the Company’s affairs. Returned by a large majority, he voted with the Government on the Spanish convention in 1739, when he was made a commissioner of the navy.

In 1741 Phillipson transferred himself to Harwich, where he had been elected a capital burgess in 1736.6 Retaining his place after Walpole’s fall, he was made a lord of the Admiralty by Carteret in 1743.7 When in 1744 the Duke of Bedford, on becoming first lord of the Admiralty, refused to have him on the board on the ground that as a former clerk he was ‘not of quality enough’, he was compensated with the post of surveyor of woods and forests.8

In 1746 Phillipson married his only daughter to Robert Bristow, who was returned next year for Shoreham. He himself was again returned at Harwich where, the 2nd Lord Egmont states in his electoral survey, c.1749-50,

Phillipson has now got so great a footing ... that he can carry two Members. But for a good employment he must always bring in one for the Court. Though he is a bold kind of man, and gives himself great airs to the Ministers about this borough on all occasions, yet he cannot afford to lose an employment, or to contend at great expense against power.

According to his own account, he was sent for in 1754 by Newcastle, who ‘after kissing and hugging him, and that sort of stuff, as he termed it, begged he would take Shoreham in hand, which to oblige him he had undertaken, and had cost him near £5,000’. In fact he received £1,000 from the secret service money for his son-in-law’s election at Shoreham.9

Phillipson died 27 Nov. 1756, leaving his fortune to his daughter. On his death the Phillipson interest at Harwich became extinct.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. J. H. Bloom, Heraldry and Mon. Inscriptions in Harwich, 27 and ped. of Phillipson at end.
  • 2. Structure, 359 et seq.; HMC Egmont Diary, i. 78, 423; ii. 60, 168; iii. 325, 327.
  • 3. Gent. Mag. 1733, p. 97.
  • 4. R. Masters to Newcastle, 1 Oct. 1733, Add. 32688, f. 437.
  • 5. M.E. Matcham, A Forgotten Russell, 46.
  • 6. HMC Egmont Diary, ii. 310.
  • 7. Walpole to Mann, 30 Nov. 1743.
  • 8. Corresp. H. Walpole (Yale ed.), xviii. 550 n. 12.
  • 9. Structure, 364, 430.