ROBERTS, John (d.1782), of Taunton, Som.

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



1780 - 9 Feb. 1782

Family and Education

m. Betty (surname unknown), s.p.

Offices Held

Capt. 18 Ft. 1755, maj. 1760; lt.-col. 123 Ft. 1762, half-pay 1763; col. army 1777; maj.-gen. 1781.


Roberts was a Taunton man, a member of the corporation, and mayor in 1774. At the general election of that year he was returning officer, and helped to secure the return of the Government candidates. The election

was followed by various actions for bribery, and the mayor, at the suit of each member, was prosecuted for a false return: on one he was acquitted and on the other convicted. He was also convicted on an action for refusing the vote of a respectable householder.1

In 1780 Roberts was returned unopposed on a joint interest with John Halliday; Government contributed £3,000 towards the expenses of their election. On 31 Jan. 1781 Roberts was absent at the call of the House; ordered to attend on 15 Feb., he was again absent, and was committed to the custody of the serjeant-at-arms. On 19 Feb. he was discharged after apologizing to the House and assuring the Speaker that it was illness, not ‘contempt or negligence’ which had caused him to be absent.2So far as is known, he was the only Member during this period committed for this offence.

Roberts was a strong supporter of North’s Administration.

In his opinion the war with America was a just one [he said in the House on 14 Mar. 1781], and that if any dissatisfaction appeared in the people it was not from what the minister had done, but from factious notions being instilled by those who called themselves republicans.

And here is the report of his speech of 8 May 1781:

So far from the assertions that the increased influence of the Crown would soon prove fatal to the liberties of this country and that the public money was improvidently squandered, the very reverse was the contrary.
This trifling error occasioned a hearty laugh. Mr. Roberts felt himself somewhat confused, and not easily recovering his self-possession, he apologized by saying that whenever he spoke in that assembly he felt himself greatly awed.3

Illness prevented his attendance during the session of 1781-2, and he died on 9 Feb. 1782.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Toulmin, Hist. Taunton (1822), p. 337.
  • 2. Debrett, i. 506.
  • 3. Ibid. ii. 253; iii. 219.