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Welsh History Review


Vol. 7, nos. 1-4 1974-75

The House of Commons in the early eighteenth century : Book review.

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Holmes has had many perceptive things to say26) is to be seen from a
breakdown of the list of 'principal industrialists', a quarter of whom were
Tories or are described as Tories in the biographies.
The distinction is an important one, because it is not always clear
what the grounds are for designating a Tory or a Whig, and where the
grounds can be discovered, they are not always very convincing. The list
of 'Tories' who became 'Whigs' during the period 1715-54 is a clear case
in point. Working back from the list to the biographies it soon becomes
apparent that some of the uncertainties of political identity present in
the biographies have got lost in the process of collation. Take the case of
John Hardres (H.P., II, 108). His voting record was anti-government,
except on the peerage bill which he supported, receiving through
Sunderland money from the King's bounty in 1720-21. At the same time,
he appeared to others a Jacobite, his name being amongst those sent to
the Pretender in 1721 as probable supporters in the event of a rising.
He retired in 1722 before he had an opportunity of expressing his allegedly
new political loyalties. It scarcely seems conclusive evidence of a con-
version to Whiggery. Nor, apparently, did it seem so to his biographer,
who forbears to comment on Hardres's ultimate political resting place.
He is one problem among many. In fifteen out of forty-five cases of
Tories who became Whigs, the evidence seems too ambiguous or too
incomplete to warrant such a definite construction being placed upon it.27
How much more uncertain, therefore, is the evidence for regarding the
Tory party as committed to the Jacobite cause, an uncertainty which has
unfortunately been raised to the level of almost dogmatic certainty in
Sedgwick's preface and in his idiosyncratic introductory survey (H.P., I,
ix, 20, 62-78). There can be no such certainty where there are so few
facts. The most solid facts about Jacobitism appear in what happened
in 1715 and 1745: the really crucial test of Jacobite loyalty is what Jacobites
did on the day. Very few English or Welsh Jacobites-and even fewer
'Jacobite' M.P.s-­did anything. Another test, it may be suggested, is the
extent to which Jacobites were prepared to dip into their pockets for the
sake of the Jacobite cause. Some passed this test. English Jacobites
informed the Young Pretender upon his arrival in Scotland that £ 10,000
had been collected for him in London, though in that case, as Sir Thomas
Sheridan complained, 'why the Devil did they not send it?'28 Some were
capable not only of giving, but of giving generously, for whatever truth
there may be in the argument that in so far as Jacobitism received popular
support it was the support of the broken-down gentry and depressed
peasantry of backward, remote regions of the country,29 the parliamentary
leadership contained some rich men. One of the richest was Watkin
16 Holmes, British Politics, pp. 148-82.
17 The evidence seems to me insufficient or ambiguous in the following cases: Hon. H.
Bathurst, Jacob des Bouverie, John Comyns, Sir Alexander Cumming, Sir Robert Gordon,
John Hardres, Clement Kent, Sir William Milner, James Oglethorpe, George Pitt, Robert
Pitt, John Proby, Sir Hugh Smithson, George Venables Vernon, Sir Robert Worsley.
H.P., I, 618; A Short Account of the Affairs of Scotland in the years 1744, 1745, 1746, by
David Lord Elcho, with a memoir and annotations by the Hon. Evan Charteris (Edinburgh,
1907), p. 363 f. 1.
"J. H. Plumb, The Growth of Political Stability in England, 1675-1725 (1967), p. 169.
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