MOLESWORTH, Sir William, 6th Bt. (1758-98), of Pencarrow, Cornw.

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



25 Feb. 1784 - 1790

Family and Education

b. 30 June 1758, 1st s. of John Molesworth.  educ. Eton 1769-74; St. John’s, Camb. 1776.  m. 27 May 1786, Catherine Treby, da. of Paul Henry Ourry, 2s. 2da.  suc. fa. as 6th Bt. 20 Oct. 1775.

Offices Held


Molesworth was returned unopposed in February 1784 and at the general election. In Stockdale’s list of 19 Mar. and Adam’s of May, he was classed as ‘Administration’, and on 24 May seconded the Address. But he voted with Opposition on Richmond’s fortifications plan, 27 Feb. 1786, and the Regency, 1788-9. As appears also from his speeches, which became more frequent towards the end of his time in Parliament, he was essentially independent. On 2 May 1787 he declared that he supported a tax ‘because he thought it was a good tax. Could it be proved to the satisfaction of his mind that it was not so, he should oppose it.’1 He opposed a clause in the mutiny bill, 12 Mar. 1788, for incorporating the newly-raised corps of military artificers, because he considered it ‘a dangerous precedent, as the beginning of a system which could not be too narrowly guarded; they ought to repel innovation in limine’. He supported, April 1788, proposals for considering the case of naval officers passed over for promotion: ‘He never expected to have seen in the present Administration such men ... passed over and disgraced ... to have seen merit so rewarded by the present ministry.’ During the debates on the Regency bill, while he defended the motives of his friend John Rolle in moving an amendment unpopular with the Opposition, he himself moved that the Prince and not Parliament should have control of the privy purse. In a debate on the Ordnance estimates, 16 Mar. 1789, he pressed the House for further consideration of the sums involved; and, 31 Mar., spoke of ‘the constitutional right of all Members ... to scrutinize and inquire into every matter which they were called upon to vote under the head of public expense’. It was his intention to ‘stand on the constitutional ground of objection to any specific work whatsoever attended with expense to the public, being carried on without that House being properly informed of the nature of the work, and the extent of the expense. If such a matter were once overlooked, it might establish a precedent, and that precedent might be carried to a length, that would ultimately ruin the country.’2

In September 1789, when it became clear that Molesworth would be opposed at the general election, he declined entering into the contest, saying: ‘You called me unsolicited on my part to be your representative, and if you no longer wish for my services I am ready to return to the private situation from whence you took me.’3  He died 22 Feb. 1798.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Mary M. Drummond


  • 1. Debrett, xxii. 244.
  • 2. Stockdale, xiv. 17, 170-1; xvii. 58-59.
  • 3. Jonathan Elford to Lady Bute, Wharncliffe mss, Sheffield.