WARREN, John Borlase (1753-1822), of Little Marlow, Bucks. and Stapleford, Notts.

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



1774 - 1784
11 Nov. 1797 - 1806
23 Mar. - 29 Apr. 1807

Family and Education

b. 2 Sept. 1753, 1st s. of John Borlase Warren of Stapleford by Bridget, da. of Gervase Rosell of Radcliff-on-Trent, Notts.  educ. Winchester; Emmanuel, Camb. 1769.  m. 12 Dec. 1780, Caroline, da. of Lt.-Gen. Sir John Clavering, 2s. 3da.  suc. fa. 5 Aug. 1763; cr. Bt. 1 June 1775; K.B. 30 May 1794.

Offices Held

Midshipman R.N. 1777; lt. 1778; cdr. 1779; capt. 1781; r.-adm. 1799; v.-adm. 1805; adm. 1810.

P.C. 8 Sept. 1802; ambassador to Russia 1802-4.


Warren was determined on a naval life, and is said to have run away from Winchester to enlist.1 Later he pursued an intermittent career as university student and able seaman. In 1774, when just of age, he stood for Great Marlow, where his family had property, and was returned top of the poll. He supported Administration, and within a year was granted a baronetcy as the representative of the Borlase family. In the autumn of 1777 he went to sea again—it was said to recoup his gambling losses—and began to press for promotion. To Lord Sandwich, first lord of the Admiralty, he wrote, ‘I am still to hope you will not forget me, more especially as ever since my second entry into the service [in 1771] I have considered you as my patron.’2 He was promoted lieutenant in 1778, and given his first command, of the sloop Helena, in 1779. He continued to appeal for favour, and on 29 June 1780 Grey Cooper wrote to Sandwich to apologize on Warren’s behalf for ‘the importunity of his solicitation for promotion’. Dissatisfaction seems to have turned him against Government: on 6 Apr. 1780 he voted with Opposition on Dunning’s motion, and again on 13 Apr. Robinson now classed him as an opponent of the ministry, and wondered whether it would be possible to turn him out of Marlow at the general election: ‘Sir J. B. Warren does not stand well, having been near the place but seldom since he was elected ... if a proper friend could be found it might be carried for Administration.’ When the time came, Administration supported Paul Benfield, a wealthy nabob, and though Warren managed to hold his seat by six votes, the contest cost him more than he could afford: in 1781 he was forced to begin selling his Buckinghamshire estates.3

In February 1781, having been discharged from the Helena, he wrote to Sandwich for another post, was appointed to the Merlin, and made up to captain. But this did not sweeten him for long. In the critical divisions during the spring of 1782, Sandwich had to exert all his influence to keep Warren supporting the ministry. On 25 Feb. 1782 he wrote to Robinson: ‘Sir John Warren certainly stayed and voted the other day. I have seen him since, and he told me that my second letter decided him to attend and give his vote.’4 But Warren was still complaining to Sandwich that Lord North had not given adequate reward for his services, though ‘every trifling character is noticed and brought forward in life by him’:

I owe no obligation to him and have received no favour at his hands. Indeed my last election had convinced me how friendly his intentions were by the great opposition I met with from him which was well meant though it failed in its effect. I was notwithstanding £2,000 out of pocket by it. These and many other reasons will prevent me supporting any member of Administration except your Lordship. I have supported the Government in two Parliaments, in which I obtained a seat by my own interest and my own expense, in return for which I have never received any favour.5

On 15 Mar. 1782, when Sir John Rous moved a motion of no confidence in the ministers, Warren absented himself. Sandwich brushed aside his explanation:6

You may be assured that I shall never again trouble you on any parliamentary occasion ... All I attempted to point out to you was that voting against Lord North or me when the question was put upon either of us was exactly the same thing, as the fate of the one depended upon that of the other; but how you could distinguish that when the question was levelled at the whole Administration I was not a principal object of that question, I own is a mystery I cannot unravel.

To Robinson, Sandwich sent Warren’s letter, with the terse comment: ‘I believe you will join me in opinion that the writer of the enclosed is not only a rat but an idiot.’7

Warren now resolved ‘not to interfere with the opinions of Parliament again these sessions’.8 He did not vote on Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, nor on Fox’s East India bill. In the spring of 1784 he attended the St. Alban’s Tavern meetings to promote a union of parties: Robinson considered him a supporter of Pitt’s ministry. He had some intention of standing for re-election at Marlow, but declined after he had failed to secure the support of the Lee family, who were Coalitionists.9 During the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars Warren had a very distinguished career at sea.

He died 27 Feb. 1822.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: J. A. Cannon


  • 1. British Public Characters, vii. 5.
  • 2. Sandwich mss.
  • 3. B. Sparke to W. Lee, 22 Aug. 1781, Lee mss Bucks RO.
  • 4. Abergavenny mss,
  • 5. 25 Feb. 1782, Sandwich mss.
  • 6. 19 Mar. 1782, ibid.
  • 7. 18 Mar. 1782 Abergavenny mss.
  • 8. Warren to Sandwich, 20 Mar. 1782, Sandwich mss.
  • 9. Warren to Lee, 20 Dec. 1783, Lee to Warren, 21 Dec. 1783, Lee mss.