SARGENT, John (1715-91), of Downing St., and Halsted Place, Kent

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



25 Jan. 1754 - 1761
19 Jan. 1765 - 1768

Family and Education

b. 1715, o.s. of John Sargent, storekeeper of the navy yard at Deptford, by his w. Mary (?Arnold).1  m. Rosamund Chambers, 2s.

Offices Held

Director, Bank of England 1753-67.


Sargent was a draper, trading with North America.2 In October 1755 he obtained jointly with Richard Stratton a contract from the Post Office to supply packet boats for conveyance of mail to and from the West Indies, at £686 per month.3 In the directories for 1755 his firm appears as Sargent, Birch, and Co., of Mincing Lane; from 1757-65 as Sargent, Aufrère, and Co.; and later as Sargent, Chambers, and Co. Grenville refers to him in 1764 as a partner of Sir Samuel Fludyer, but the nature of their partnership is not clear.4

Sargent was introduced to Lord Montagu, the patron of Midhurst, by Henry Pelham. In Parliament he supported the Pelhams: in a humble and effusive letter to Newcastle of 27 June 1755 he speaks of ‘the inviolable attachment and most dutiful respect with which he is ... and ever shall be’ etc. According to his own account he paid Montagu £1,500 for his seat at the general election of 1754: yet the election was contested, and Sargent claimed that it was through his own exertions and at ‘a dear rate’ that he won. He also claimed that he lent Montagu £1,500 under the impression that he was ‘fixed with my Lord for life’, and that Montagu did nothing at Midhurst without his advice. But by 1760 Montagu had entrusted his affairs to his son, who dropped Sargent; nor did Newcastle adopt him as a candidate. On 16 Apr. 1761 he told Bute that a friend ‘with great natural interest’ at Grampound had formed a plan for bringing him into Parliament, but nothing had come of it. From a ‘humble’ but ‘independent’ station he offered Bute his ‘sincere devotion’ and ‘zeal’ for the success of his Administration.5

On 12 Apr. 1764 Sargent wrote to Bute about the by-election at Midhurst (where Bamber Gascoyne was standing, sponsored by Grenville):

May I take the liberty to ask your Lordship’s counsel and assistance upon the occasion? Your Lordship knows how sincerely I am devoted to his Majesty’s service, how much personally attached to your Lordship. There is nothing could make me so happy as, if your Lordship thought fit to pass over the ingratitude of the times and enter upon the scene of action again, to have an opportunity of proving myself ... your faithful and most obedient humble servant.

Bute ignored both the request and the aspiration, and Sargent turned to Grenville for ‘counsel and assistance’. Grenville recommended him to James Buller for a vacant seat at West Looe, and he was returned after a contest.

Sargent and Anthony Bacon had an interest at New Shoreham (of which Bacon probably had the larger share), and in October 1765 Sargent asked Grenville to find them a candidate to oppose Sir Samuel Cornish, who was supported by Newcastle and Rockingham.6 But no suitable candidate could be found. ‘In all our lists’, wrote Rockingham to Newcastle on 8 Oct. 1765, ‘[Bacon and Sargent] are marked plump against us in the House of Commons and I am sure with a little moderation might be changed to plump for us.’7

About 1765 Sargent appears to have been appointed special agent by the New York assembly: according to an American observer, he took a ‘neutral part’ on the repeal of the Stamp Act ‘until the division of the House discovered our side the strength lay’. But an Act of the colony of New York, dated 6 Feb. 1768, provided that ‘a piece of plate of the value of one hundred pounds sterling’ be presented to him ‘as a memorial of the gratitude of this colony in acting as special agent, for which he generously declined any gratuity’.8 He remained politically connected with Grenville, but does not seem to have spoken in the House.

Sargent did not stand at the general election of 1768. He wrote to Grenville on 9 Mar.:9

I quit Parliament, Sir, without regret, but as it separates me from you, and denies me opportunities of showing my attachment, and leave a borough where I have some natural claims and the fairest right to influence, to take the tone of the times and give in to all the venality of them, without any opposition on my part, being totally incapable of coming into any of the conditions necessary for succeeding there at present. But I have two sons, Sir, who I flatter myself will one day make their way to the scene I quit. They will not fail to inherit their father’s sentiments of respect and honour for you.

Sargent was friendly with Benjamin Franklin before 1759. They were among the original promoters of the Ohio scheme, and Sargent seems to have acted as Franklin’s banker in England.10 In 1775 Franklin transferred his money in England to be held by Sargent, and their friendship was resumed after the war.

Sargent died 20 Sept. 1791.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Genealogist, n.s. xxxiii. 189-94; Add. 32711, f. 387; Grenville to Jas. Buller, 11 Dec. 1764, Grenville mss (HL); will of Geo. Arnold, Sargent’s cousin, PCC 197 Bushby.
  • 2. Publns. Col. Soc. Mass. xiii. 318; Cal. Pprs. of Benjamin Franklin, i. 24; APC Col. iv. 648.
  • 3. T54/36/259.
  • 4. Grenville to Jas. Buller, 11 Dec. 1764, to Sargent, 20 Oct. 1765, Grenville letter bk.
  • 5. Add. 32856, f. 321; 32908, ff. 21-22; Bute mss.
  • 6. Grenville to Sargent, 9, 20, 28 Oct., 4, 7 Nov. 1765, Grenville letter bk.
  • 7. Add. 32970, ff. 226-8.
  • 8. Publns. Col. Soc. Mass. xiii. 318; Colonial Laws of New York, iv. 1002-3.
  • 9. Grenville mss (JM).
  • 10. Cal. Pprs. of Benjamin Franklin, i. 130; iii. 500.