CROUCH, Thomas (1607-79), of Trinity Hall, Cambridge.
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Family and Education
bap. 18 Oct. 1607, 2nd s. of Thomas Crouch (d.1616) of Corneybury, Wyddial, Herts., fellow of King’s 1585-98, by Sarah, da. of Henry Galliard, mercer, of Norwich, Norf. educ. Eton 1622-6; King’s, Camb. 1626, BA 1630, MA 1633. unm.1
Fellow of King’s 1629-50; proctor, Camb. Univ. 1643, 1649-50; commr. for assessment, Camb. Univ. and Cambridge Aug. 1660-3, 1664-74, 1677-9, loyal and indigent officers, Cambs. 1662, complaints, Bedford level 1663, recusants, Cambs. 1675.
Crouch’s grandfather, a London Clothworker, bought the manor of Corneybury in 1583. Though only minor gentry, they achieved two notable marriages into the Montagu family. Although Crouch inherited an inn at Buntingford and the leases of two local farms, he became a fellow of King’s, like his father before him. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was said to have ‘maligned Parliament’ and helped to convey the college plate to the King, but he was not ejected until 1650, when he was received as a fellow commoner at Trinity Hall. He was returned at the general election of 1660 as a Royalist and a staunch Anglican. As befitted a university representative he was much concerned with ecclesiastical matters. A moderately active Member of the Convention, he was named to 21 committees, including that on the indemnity bill, and made six recorded speeches. He ‘spoke excellently’ on 23 June against the petition from the intruded dons at Oxford, and was named to the committee to consider it. On 4 July he was among those appointed to prepare for a conference on three orders issued by the Lords. Two days later he spoke in favour of consulting with divines over the religious settlement, and in grand committee he spoke against the bill drafted by the Presbyterian Thomas Bampfield. He favoured committing the bill for settling ecclesiastical livings and was named to the committee. He spoke against the proposal to exclude ‘scandalous’ or ‘ignorant’ ministers, asking who was to be the judge of scandal, and attacked the Presbyterian practice of restricted admission to the sacrament, which should be open to ‘all but such as were very notorious and not [merely] suspected’. He took a prominent part in the college leases bill, helping to transpose the wording at one point and to insert a clause confirming fellows and scholars. On 1 Sept. he carried up the bill to provide a maintenance for the vicar of Royston. After the recess he supported the committal of the bill to endow vicarages out of impropriate rectories and was named to the committee. He was added on 17 Nov. to the committee to bring in the bill for modified episcopacy. He chaired the committee to confirm the grant of a Suffolk advowson to Emmanuel College, and carried up the bill. He also took the chair for a Bedfordshire estate bill. He was appointed to the committee to report on bills depending on the Lords, of which the most important was the college leases bill. On 20 Dec. he supported the exemption of the universities from the nationalization of postal services.2
Despite a recommendation from his kinsman, the Earl of Manchester, who became chancellor of the university at the Restoration, Crouch never regained his fellowship at King’s. Nevertheless he was re-elected unopposed in 1661, and listed as a moderate by Lord Wharton. He must have already made his mark as an efficient chairman in the Convention, for his record in the Cavalier Parliament was prodigious. Of his 742 committees, he took the chair in 47, apparently specializing in estate bills, though he had no formal legal training. In public affairs he remained an indefatigable defender of his university and his Church. He was also active in the routine business of the House, such as examining the Journals and reporting on bills depending. He acted eight times as teller and carried 15 bills to the Lords; but he was less prominent in debate: only 24 of his speeches (apart from reports) were recorded. In the opening session he was appointed to the committees for the uniformity bill and the bill of pains and penalites. He took the chair for the bill to prevent mischiefs from Quakers and carried it up on 19 July. He also steered through committee the bill under which the father of James Scudamore was enabled to endow several churches. As one of those entrusted with perfecting the bill for regulating printing, he successfully defended the university press against the London printers. After Christmas he chaired the bills to confirm three Acts of the Convention and to increase the stipends of the urban clergy. He was among those ordered to expedite a report on measures for the relief of loyalists. On 10 Apr. 1662 he carried up a bill to give effect to the charitable bequests of Sir Robert Hitcham†, a great benefactor of Pembroke College. He helped to check the text of the Prayer Book, to draft a new paragraph for the uniformity bill, and to prepare reasons for a conference on it. Before Parliament was prorogued he was able to report that he had extracted the records of the triers and ejectors from Philip Nye, and helped to manage a conference on the printers’ bill. When the House met again in 1663, he was among those appointed to bring in the urban clergy bill again, and to report on defects in the Act of Uniformity. He took the chair for a leaseholds bill and for the bill to establish turnpikes on the Cambridge road. He helped to inquire into the conduct of Sir Richard Temple and to manage a conference on the Duke of York’s revenue. Although he was appointed to the committees to prevent the growth of Popery and meetings of sectaries, on 18 July he carried up a bill to grant relief from the Act of Uniformity to those who had been prevented by circumstances from subscribing to it, and he was sent to invite the witty Presbyterian minister, Vincent Alsop, to preach to the House. He was listed as a court dependant in 1664, when his most important committee was to manage a conference on Falmouth church. He reported another Herefordshire highways bill on 1 Feb. 1665 and took the chair for the bill to unite city churches in both sessions of 1665. At Oxford he helped to consider the five mile bill and acted as teller against the bill to encourage the growth of hemp and flax. He invited Dr Perrinchief to preach to the House on 9 Nov., and was afterwards ordered to thank him. An authority on relations between town and gown in Cambridge, he was teller on 24 Nov. 1666 for giving precedence to the vice-chancellor over the mayor in the plague bill. In another division three days later, he favoured deleting the description of Irish cattle imports as a nuisance. On 10 Dec. 1666 he was sent to thank the rector of St. Margaret’s, one of the best and ablest of the conformists, for his sermon. He reported on 22 Jan. 1667 in favour of a petition from certain merchants who had imported prohibited French wines.3
Crouch’s work in the session which followed the fall of Clarendon was particularly important. Among his major committees were those to draw up the address of thanks for the lord chancellor’s dismissal, to inquire into the miscarriages of the second Dutch war and the sale of Dunkirk, and to consider the charges against Lord Mordaunt. He showed particular concern over the hearth-tax, which had aroused great resentment in both universities. After he had reported on abuses in its collection on 7 Dec. 1667, his committee was ordered to bring in a bill to reform them. When Crouch reported the bill on 27 Mar. he had to fend off a motion for recommittal; but he was able to carry it up four days later. He opposed the enfranchisement of Durham, saying that the Midlands were overrated because of their under-representation in Parliament. He also acted as chairman and teller for extending the Conventicles Act, and was appointed to the committee on the bill to prevent the refusal of habeas corpus. With Sir Charles Wheler, the other Member for the university, he was teller on 5 May for confirming the allotments made for the rebuilding of Thames Street after the fire of London; and in the following year he took the chair for the bill to enable a house to be built for the dean of St. Paul’s. He was also among those ordered to consider a petition from Magdalene College, but the committee never reported. His name was on both lists of the court party at this time among those to be engaged by the Duke of York. He feared that the bill for the divorce of Lord Roos (John Manners) might be against divine law, and suggested consulting Convocation. He was given special responsibility on 7 Apr. 1670 for investigating a letter of protection given by Sir John Pretyman, and on the following day reported that ‘the House had been ill dealt with’. He was anxious to ensure that jurors were not fined for non-attendance, and after the summer recess he helped to prepare reasons for a conference on regulating juries. In a debate on augmenting vicarages on 22 Nov. he declared:
All the revenues of Trinity College in Cambridge are impropriations. Henry VIII took away all their revenue in lands, leaving them but three manors. Henry VIII, called them ‘the Trinity in Unity’. Would have laymen used as you will use churchmen and begin when you please.
An additional bill for regulating hearth-tax was ordered on 2 Mar. 1671, and Crouch was the first Member appointed to bring it in; but even after receiving orders to expedite the matter 12 days later he failed to galvanize the committee into activity. He again chaired a committee for renewing the Conventicles Act, reporting three times, and speaking on 30 Mar. 1671 in support of the clause to indemnify those whose zeal against dissent had led them to exceed their powers:
You have made a law to indemnify persons for treasons and murders and robberies, etc. This is for indemnifying persons for executing the laws. Suits are commenced upon account of this law; you are tied in justice to do it.
He carried up the bill on 5 Apr., and later in the month returned to the Lords the important intestacy bill (the Statute of Distribution) which he had chaired in committee, together with a bill for the maintenance of the clergy in the London parishes affected by the Great Fire.4
In the debate on the Declaration of Indulgence, Crouch moved on 8 Feb. 1673 to proceed with the consideration of the King’s speech. On 10 Feb. he was appointed to the committee to prepare an address against the Declaration, and on the report stage opposed any reference to Protestant unity. As a staunch Anglican he was not entirely happy over the concessionary bill to ease Protestant dissenters, declaring on 19 Feb.
Ease implies a burden of some weight. Would any physician advise with a patient without knowing what he ails? Would know what it is would satisfy these people before we proceed any farther.
He was particularly concerned over where dissenters should be allowed to meet, protesting that they were certainly not wanted at Cambridge, where they would ‘be disturbed by the youths there with disputing’. Shortly afterwards he was appointed to the committee to draw up an address for preventing the growth of Popery, and was among those named to manage a conference on the test bill. On 28 Jan. 1674 he spoke against reading the petition of Bernard Howard, brother of the Duke of Norfolk, declaring:
This petition is to dispense with a Papist contrary to the law. Can you repeal a law upon a particular man’s account by petition?
He was named to the committee to prepare a general test bill, and attained the summit of his political career as chairman of the committee appointed to consider the charges against Arlington. On 17 Feb. he reported that ‘some difficulties had occurred’ and nothing further was done. As chairman of the committee on bills depending when Parliament met again, he recommended proceeding with the bill for the repair of churches and the recovery of small tithes. In both sessions of 1675 he was appointed to the committees for recalling British subjects from the French service, appropriating the customs to the use of the navy and hindering Papists from sitting in Parliament. He helped to draw up reasons for a conference on the Four Lawyers on 3 June. In the autumn session he was one of the five Members sent to ask Col. Thomas Howard if he were responsible for publishing a violent attack on William Cavendish, Lord Cavendish, and he appears, like Sir Thomas Hatton, to have voted against the Danby administration. Although earmarked for special attention by Sir Richard Wiseman during the long recess which followed, he was included among the government speakers, and he appears on the working lists as under the influence of Peter Gunning, the Arminian bishop of Ely. A hostile account describes him as ‘the priests’ mad jade who rides without fear or wit, preserved by the Court into whose interest he long since has matriculated’. In the 1677 session Crouch opposed the bill to abolish payment of wages to Members, though to reassure his constituents he signed on 3 Mar. a formal release of all claims before Sir Harbottle Grimston. In the House he stated that:
He never received wages for the place he serves for, and never will. But the bill is not fit to pass. Will you take away any man’s land? Why will you take away his wages?
He was appointed to the committees for preserving the liberty of the subject, preventing the growth of Popery, and ensuring a Protestant education for the royal children, and took the chair for the bill to enable small vicarages to be augmented. He carried this bill to the Lords, together with those to prevent simony and to facilitate the taking of affidavits in the country. Shaftesbury, who had originally marked Crouch ‘doubly vile’, saw reason later to halve this assessment, and in fact he probably went over to the Opposition in 1678, for his name appears in neither list of the court party. On 30 Apr. he reported a bill to increase the endowments of St. Asaph’s Cathedral, and was appointed to the committee to summarize foreign commitments. In the closing session he was named to the committees to inquire into the Popish Plot and to disable Papists from sitting in Parliament. He offered himself for re-election, but apparently withdrew before the poll. He was buried in King’s College Chapel on 30 Aug. 1679, the only member of his family to sit in Parliament. He bequeathed his library to the college.5