SCROPE, Thomas (1723-92), of Coleby, Lincs.
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Family and Education
b. 17 Apr. 1723, 5th s. of Gervase Scrope of Cockerington, Lincs. by Frances, da. and coh. of Thomas Lister, M.P., of Coleby. educ. at sch. in Lincoln; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1740; travelled in France and Italy 1751-2.1 m. 30 Dec. 1780, Eliza Maria, da. of William Clay of Burgage Hill, Southwell, Notts., s.p.
Scrope’s first attempt to enter Parliament was at a by-election for New Romney. ‘Mr. Scrope’, wrote Benjamin Cobb, its mayor, to Sir Francis Dashwood on 12 Sept. 1756, ‘stayed amongst us spending or throwing away his money till Thursday [9 Sept.], when two gentlemen who came after him prevailed on him to leave Romney.’2 Yet on the 10th he applied to Dashwood for his interest, and, in spite of a dissuading reply, wrote to him again from New Romney on the 23rd:
I did you an act of friendship at New Romney yesterday; I called you before several of the corporation a friend of your country and a friend to your electors, and a gentleman willing and able to serve them. Do not the times require two representatives whose hearts are good, and who are capable of speaking their sentiments? I know you think they do. I beg as far as you can serve me, you will, if possible.
On the 30th Scrope published in the London General Evening Post an election address which started like a recruiting appeal:
To all loyal subjects of H.M. King George II in general and more particular to all such as have property and equitable interests in New Romney, one of his Majesty’s Cinque Ports.
On 27 Nov. he was in London and wrote to Charles Monson from his lodgings in Conduit Street asking him to call: ‘I have been confined much above a fortnight by a nervous fever contracted by the fatigue of a contested election at New Romney’; and next, unsuccessfully, applied to Monson for a loan: he did not mean to throw away his money but meant to stand the poll3—which in the end he did not do.
When in 1757 two battalions of militia were raised in Lincolnshire, Scrope commanded a company in the southern battalion which had Sir John Cust for colonel; and Scrope ‘was always giving and creating trouble’.4
Before the general election of 1761 Scrope asked Monson to mention him to Newcastle as anxious to enter Parliament—which Monson did, presumably to get him out of the way; but Newcastle had already more engagements than he could perform, and Scrope’s next electoral adventure was at Lincoln. Lord Monson wrote to Newcastle on 28 Mar. 1761:
We had no thought of Mr. Scrope’s offering himself a candidate till the day before the election, when he came to Lincoln attended by a great many people, many not freemen, and giving out that he came to support the liberties of the free and independent voters, occasioned a great riot and the mob broke into the Town Hall and drove everybody out, broke all the windows and did other mischief, but on the magistrates of the city ordering the constables to attend and giving proper orders everything then went very well.
Scrope came out bottom of the poll.5
Aggrieved by Sir William Meredith’s failure to present his petition against Humphrey Sibthorp’s return, and by neglect from ‘some inferior officers of the House’, Scrope tried to address the Speaker, Sir John Cust, from the gallery, and is alleged to have drawn his sword. James Harris notes in his parliamentary diary on 18 Nov. 1761: ‘A madman but gentleman Thomas Scrope, committed to custody for indecent behaviour’; 19 Nov.: ‘Much debate about the form and manner of discharging Thomas Scrope.’ ‘Tom Scrope’s misfortune I lamented’, wrote Lt.-Col. Welby of the Lincolnshire militia to Cust on 21 Nov., ‘but it is what I expected.’6
Scrope was removed to a madhouse. When at length he got out, he addressed on 31 Dec. 1761 a letter of excuse to the Speaker:7
I have behaved like a fool and have been treated like a madman. I never drew my sword. I firmly believed the House up, when I spoke to you from the gallery ... I could not know that you was still in the Chair.
He claimed to have voluntarily surrendered to the serjeant at arms—
had my brother come up to me on Thursday night, Nov. 19, and in a friendly manner advised me to go home, and submit to a proper regime even from the mad doctor, I had submitted.
And he concluded:
For happiness during the remainder of my life I must have recourse to the internal resources of my own mind, which I thank my Creator will never fail me.
In January 1764 Scrope was a candidate at the by-election at Aylesbury caused by Wilkes’s expulsion from the House; one of the items in Scrope’s accounts of that time is ‘for banners, with his own arms emblazoned on one side, and “Wilkes and Liberty” on the other’.8 It is not certain whether he stood the poll, but he pressed the contest far enough for his opponent Anthony Bacon to have to pay heavily for his election. In May 1764 Scrope was declared insane by a commission of lunacy, and the administration of his estates was vested in his half-brother Gervase Scrope; but he was released 30 Nov. 1764.
In 1768 Scrope stood once more for Lincoln, and by rank bribery managed to head the poll. In the House he voted with the Opposition, and did not apparently speak. He stood again for Lincoln in 1774 but received only about half the vote of the two successful candidates, Lord Lumley and Robert Vyner. John Robinson in his electoral survey of 1780 noted against Lincoln: ‘The same again probably, although Mr Scrope threatens an opposition here.’ He obtained four votes in an electorate of nearly a thousand; and apparently did not stand again, either at Lincoln or anywhere else.
He died 28 April 1792.