MARRIOTT, Sir James (?1730-1803), of Twinstead Hall, Essex

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



26 Apr. 1781 - 1784
1796 - 1802

Family and Education

b. ?1730, s. of Benjamin Marriott, attorney in Hatton Garden, by Esther, da. of Abraham Chambers of Twinstead, Essex.  educ. Trinity Hall, Camb. 1746, fellow 1756-64; master June 1764-d. unm.  Kntd. 9 Oct. 1778.

Offices Held

Adv. Doctors’ Commons 1757; King’s adv. 1764-78; judge of the Admiralty 1778-99, when given a pension of £2,000 p.a.


An 18th century anecdote book1relates that Marriott often came to Grafton when first lord of the Treasury, ‘under pretence of business’; finally refused admission, he claimed a right to it by virtue of his office; whereupon Grafton sent word that if he found it to be so, he would resign. Marriott’s numerous and voluminous, fawning, self-important letters to the long-suffering Newcastle, to Bute, Grenville, Sandwich, Jenkinson, etc., point the story. A light-weight, he owed his academic and professional advancement to the politicians he importuned, but had to wait 25 years for a seat in Parliament.

In 1754, working ‘8 hours in the day for above 3 months’, Marriott arranged Newcastle’s library;2 and henceforth, calling himself the Duke’s ‘most devoted dependant’ and ‘almost a domestic’ in his house,3 claimed his patronage: first, in 1756, for a fellowship of Trinity Hall. A long correspondence finished by his asking Newcastle to sign ‘the enclosed order to Dr. Simpson’, master of the college, to signify to its fellows ‘that they will be doing a thing agreeable to his Grace ... in giving their vote for Mr. Marriott’; and thus he imposed himself on them. The posts Newcastle was next asked to obtain for him were: ‘naval officer at Jamaica’; chancellor of Bristol diocese; its registrar; receiver of the land tax for part of Suffolk; chancellor of Winchester or of Salisbury; professor of modern history or of law.4

The receivership of the land tax affected the electoral position at Sudbury, where in 1760 Marriott thought of standing himself; but next, preferring ‘to continue to have an interest’ in that expensive borough rather than contest it, he suggested that Newcastle should place him where he would bear ‘the ordinary expenses of an election entertainment’.5 ‘Given no hopes of coming into Parliament’ under the Duke’s patronage, he turned to Bute; subsequently claimed authorship of a pamphlet, Political Considerations, which, he said, furnished public reasons to Newcastle’s friends to leave him ‘in the opposition to the peace’; and boasted of having done Newcastle ‘more hurt than any person in his life’.6 On 3 Nov. 1763 Marriott wrote to Bute: ‘I shall continue to visit the Duke of Newcastle or not as your Lordship shall approve ... I have some hopes of being soon in the House of Commons ... it shall not be under his patronage.’ But on 8 Nov., told by John Roberts that Newcastle had meant to procure for him a seat in Parliament, Marriott wrote him an abject letter of apology:7

Vanity in a young man, quick feelings of an imagined neglect, and above all ill advice and even enticements of men more hackneyed in the world’s way, are my apology.

It was accepted by Newcastle, and early in 1764 Marriott supported Hardwicke against Sandwich for high steward of Cambridge University. But when the imminent death of Dr. Simpson opened a prospect of vacancies, Marriott once more felt determined to conduct himself ‘as a man submissive to Government’:8 he assured Jenkinson that he had voted for Hardwicke ‘on a private family account’ and had been ‘by no means active in that affair’. Sandwich, to keep out Dr. Wynne, Newcastle’s candidate for master of Trinity Hall, and unable to carry his own, transferred his support to Marriott;9 and on 17 June was congratulated by Grenville on his success. But Sandwich’s unvarnished opinion of Marriott appears in a letter to Grenville of 30 June on the choice of the King’s advocate:10

I prevented his being in question for it while it was likely to be sought after by any person of consequence in the profession; but as it now absolutely goes a-begging, I cannot help wishing you would give him your support, as I know of no competitor he can have but Dr. Wynne, whose demerits in our late Cambridge contests are so great that it would be absolute destruction to our cause if it was given to him.

On a vacancy at Brackley in February 1765 Marriott unsuccessfully applied for the seat, which was at Bedford’s disposal.11 How often he applied and for what variety of seats during the next 15 years is not known. But at last in 1780 he contested Sudbury; asked Jenkinson, then secretary at war, to have all his letters ‘for furlough to my soldiers or militiamen, freemen of this place ... officially despatched with the utmost expedition’; and accused P. C. Crespigny, the King’s proctor, a rival candidate, of illegal measures—‘I have wrote more fully to the three secretaries of state about his conduct’.12 Defeated by Crespigny on the poll, Marriott was seated on petition.

In the House he regularly voted with the Government, and his two reported speeches, 28 Jan. and 15 Mar. 1782, were primarily a defence of Sandwich.13 In the debate of 15 Mar. Robinson, to gain time in order to collect Government supporters, sent to Marriott ‘who was up, to keep talking by the hour’;14 which Marriott did, producing the following proof of the justice of the American war:15

If taxation and representation were to go hand in hand, then this country had an undoubted right to tax America, because she was represented in the British Parliament: she was represented by the Members for the county of Kent, of which the thirteen provinces were a part or parcel; for in their charters they were to hold of the manor of Greenwich in Kent, of which manor they were by charter to be parcel.

After the fall of the North Administration Marriott, as ‘a man submissive to Government’, adhered to Shelburne; tried to mediate between him and Sandwich;16 voted for the peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783; and next, for Fox’s East India bill. In January 1784 he was classed by Robinson as doubtful, but in March by Stockdale as an opponent of Pitt. In an advertisement in the Ipswich Journal of 27 Mar., he gave as his reasons for retiring from Parliament: ‘the state of my health, my time of life, the fatigues of a great judicial office during four wars, and the late severe attendance upon the House of Commons’.

He died on 21 Mar. 1803, aged 72.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Of Henry, 2nd Visct. Palmerston (q.v.) quoted by B. Connell, Portrait of a Whig Peer, 88.
  • 2. Add. 32737, ff. 511-12; 32868, ff. 466-7.
  • 3. Add. 32852, f. 495; 32863, f. 298.
  • 4. Add. 32860, f. 465; 32861, f. 17; 32862, ff. 151, 269; 32863, f. 298; 32865, ff. 368-9; 32868, ff. 466-7; 32876, f. 106; 32878, f. 424; 32887, ff. 223, 359; 32916, ff. 252-3; 32922, f. 91; 32927, f. 48; 32941, ff. 175-6.
  • 5. Add. 32916, ff. 252-3; also 32917, f. 447.
  • 6. Jenkinson Pprs. 296-9; Marriott to Bute, 3 Nov. 1763, Bute mss.
  • 7. Add. 32952, f. 298.
  • 8. To Jenkinson, 18 May, Jenkinson Pprs. 298.
  • 9. Sandwich to Marriott, 25 May; to Dr. R. Dale, 1 June; to Dr. Ridlington, two letters of 8 June, Sandwich mss.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. Jenkinson Pprs. 348-50.
  • 12. Add. 38458, f. 121.
  • 13. Debrett, v. 268-70; vi. 459-61.
  • 14. Robinson to Sandwich, 15 Mar., Sandwich mss.
  • 15. Debrett, vi. 461.
  • 16. Marriott to Sandwich, 25 Nov. [1782], Sandwich mss.