REBOW, Isaac Martin (1731-81), of Wivenhoe Park, nr. Colchester, Essex

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



13 Mar. 1755 - 3 Oct. 1781

Family and Education

b. 28 Nov. 1731, o. surv. s. of Isaac Lemyng Rebow, M.P., by Mary, da. of Capt. Matthew Martin, M.P.  educ. Eton 1745-8; Trinity, Camb. 1748.  m. his cos. Mary, da. and coh. of Thomas Martin of Alresford Hall, Essex, 3da.  suc. fa. 3 Mar. 1735; and to Martin estates 1776.

Offices Held

Recorder, Colchester 1763- d.


The Rebows came from the Low Countries in the time of Elizabeth I, settled at Colchester, and became opulent merchants. Rebow’s father, father-in-law, and great-grandfather sat for Colchester, and the four between them held one seat during 67 out of the 91 years 1690-1781. In 1754 Rebow stood as a Whig, was defeated by a narrow margin but seated on petition. In 1761, 1768, and 1774, he stood jointly with Charles Gray: the election of 1768 was contested, and so was that of 1780, but each time Rebow topped the poll.

In Bute’s parliamentary list of December 1761, Rebow was marked ‘Fox’; and Bamber Gascoyne, writing to Jenkinson, 21 Apr. 1763, alleged that Rebow was obliged to Fox for his seat.1 But so little was he in fact dependent on Fox that he does not appear in Fox’s list, compiled at the beginning of December 1762, of Members favourable to the peace preliminaries. He did not vote against them; whether he voted for them does not appear. In the autumn of 1763 Jenkinson classed him as ‘doubtful’; and on 15 Feb. 1764 Rebow voted with the Opposition over general warrants: the only time that his name appears in a division list in the Parliament of 1761-8 (but Gascoyne, in a letter to John Strutt, 31 Jan. 1765, mentioned him as having voted with Opposition the previous day on the same subject).2 In this Parliament no one really knew what to make of him: Newcastle in May 1764, and Rockingham in the summer of 1765, put him down as ‘doubtful’; Rockingham, in November 1766, as ‘Whig’; Charles Townshend in January 1767 left him unclassified; and Newcastle, 2 Mar. 1767, put him down, for some unknown reason, as ‘Bedford and Grenville’. In the Parliament of 1768-74, Rebow ranked as a Government supporter, but only once, on 3 Feb. 1769 when he voted for the expulsion of Wilkes, does his name appear in a division list. In the next Parliament he was again classed by Robinson as ‘pro’, and not a single vote of his is recorded.

In July 1780 Robinson was uncertain whether Rebow would stand again, as he was ‘in a very ill state of health’. He was returned after a contest; and died 3 Oct. 1781. The King wrote to Robinson, 27 Sept. 1781,3 referring to measures taken at Colchester: ‘Rebow was so bad an attender and so doubtful in his conduct that the change seems advantageous.’

To sum up: Rebow was prominent locally, respected, independent, and politically insignificant. During 26 years in Parliament only two or three votes of his are recorded; and not a single speech. His name does not occur in Horace Walpole’s letters and memoirs, and hardly ever in those of other contemporaries; not once in the index of the Historical MSS Commission; and there is only one letter from him in the British Museum mss, addressed to Philip Morant, the Essex historian.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Jenkinson Pprs. 1760-6, p. 148.
  • 2. Strutt mss.
  • 3. Abergavenny mss.