SCAWEN, James (1734-1801), of Carshalton, Surr. and Maidwell, Northants.

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



1761 - 1774
1774 - 1780

Family and Education

b. 1734,1 o.s. of Thomas Scawen, M.P., by Tryphena, da. and h. of Lord James Russell of Maidwell, Northants. unm.  suc. fa. 1774.

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Scawen’s family was Cornish by origin, and retained an interest at Mitchell. But his grandfather and great-uncle, prosperous London merchants, had acquired large estates in Surrey, inherited by his father who represented the county 1727-41.

In 1761 Scawen was nominated at Mitchell by his father, and returned unopposed. In Parliament he voted with the Opposition on the peace preliminaries, 9, 10 Dec. 1762; was classed by Jenkinson in the autumn of 1763 as opponent; voted against the Grenville Administration over Wilkes and general warrants, and was counted by Newcastle on 10 May 1764 as a ‘sure friend’. Rockingham in July 1765 listed him as a supporter, and in November 1766 as ‘Whig’. He voted against the Chatham Administration on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, and on nullum tempus, 17 Feb. 1768.

At the general election of 1768 Scawen was returned for Mitchell after a contest. During this Parliament he continued to vote regularly with the Opposition. His only reported speech in the House was on 25 Mar. 1771 when he said he had only with difficulty escaped from the mob surrounding the House, which had pressed him to say which way he would vote: ‘That was not to be asked me without or within these walls. I came an independent man into this House.’2 In Robinson’s first survey of March 1772 on the royal marriage bill Scawen was listed as ‘contra, present’, and in that of 8 Mar. as ‘doubtful, present’. He himself wrote to Rockingham 16 Mar. that he was in the country,

where my being at this time when such important business is depending in the House of Commons, and not giving my attendance there, has no doubt surprised my good lord and many of my friends, who know how sincerely I am attached to them upon most occasions, and ever ready to oppose any arbitrary measures.
The reason of my present absence is truly, and shortly this. At the earnest request of Lord Chancellor [Lord Apsley, his brother-in-law] I have promised not to attend the royal marriage bill: his Lordship so strongly solicited this first political favour, and likewise by my father’s desire to oblige Lord C[hancellor] I could not refuse to comply with their requests.
Your Lordship will easily believe this act is not to my inclination, for I agree with you that the bill has no regard to the natural rights of men.3

Scawen voted with the Opposition on the Middlesex election, 26 Apr. 1773, and Grenville’s Election Act, 25 Feb. 1774, and in Robinson’s survey of September 1774 was classed as ‘contra’.

Scawen attended the Surrey county meeting of October 1774, without the intention of becoming a candidate; but was persuaded to stand, with the support of the leading interests in the county, in order to keep out Sir Joseph Mawbey. During this Parliament he continued to vote regularly with Opposition.

Scawen began to sell some of his Surrey property in 1774, shortly after succeeding his father, and during the next few years mortgaged or sold more of it, till in 1781 his remaining estates were disposed of by the trustees in whom they were finally vested.4 Scawen did not stand again for Surrey in 1780, and apparently made no other attempt to re-enter Parliament.

He died 7 Jan. 1801.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Mary M. Drummond


  • 1. G. W. J. Gyll, Hist. Wraysbury.
  • 2. Cavendish’s ‘Debates’, Egerton 227, p. 145.
  • 3. Rockingham mss.
  • 4. Manning Bray, Surr. i. 307; ii. 185, 222, 424, 512.