TITUS, Silius (c.1623-1704), of Bushey, Herts. and Ramsey Abbey, Hunts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

31 July 1660
3 Feb. 1670
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679
14 Jan. 1691

Family and Education

b. c.1623, 1st s. of Silas Tyto, Salter, of Field Lane, Holborn, London and Bushey by 2nd w. Constance, da. of one Colley. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 16 Mar. 1638, aged 15; M. Temple 1639-at least 1642. m. 1663, Katherine, da. of James Winstanley, counsellor at law, of Gray’s Inn and Braunstone, Leics., 3da. suc. fa. 1637.1

Offices Held

Capt. of ft. (parliamentary) 1642-5, of horse 1645-6, June-Nov. 1660; gov. Deal Castle 1661-9; capt. of ft. Admiralty regt. 1666-7.2

Gent. waiter to Chas. I by 1647-8; groom of the bed chamber to Chas. II 1650-1, by May 1660-75; asst. R. Adventurers into Africa 1663, R. Fishing Co. 1664; commr. for trade 1668-72, plantations 1670-2, trade and plantations 1672-4; PC 6 July-16 Dec. 1688.3

Keeper of Bushey Park, Mdx. July-Aug. 1660; j.p. Herts. July 1660-80, by 1698-d., Hunts. Apr. 1688-?d.; commr. for assessment, Mdx. 1661-3, Kent 1664-9, Leics. 1673-9, Herts. 1673-80, Hunts. 1677-80; col. Cinque Ports militia 1661-?69; surveyor of highways, Bushey 1665, 1680; conservator, Bedford level 1679-d.; dep. lt. Herts. by 1680-1, 1687-9, by 1701-d., commr. for inquiry into recusancy fines 1687; freeman, Ludlow 1691.4

FRS 1669.

Biography

Titus was the grandson of an Italian immigrant. His father became a member of the Salters’ Company and went into the soap trade, leasing ‘the best soaphouse in London’ in 1603. He had acquired a small estate in Hertfordshire by 1625, but more important was the house property off Holborn, which was reckoned to bring in £180 p.a. Titus received a good education, and may have been intended for the law; he was still the nominal joint occupant of a chamber in the Temple in 1652, though it was ‘very ruinous and offensive’. He did not, however, like most of the puritanically inclined young lawyers in 1642, volunteer for the Earl of Essex’s bodyguard at the outset of the Civil War, preferring to accept a commission from the Hertfordshire committee. His military record was not particularly distinguished, though he was present at the siege of Donington Castle in 1644. A Presbyterian, he was not required to serve in the New Model Army, and was appointed by Parliament to attend the King at Holdenby. He soon became a royalist partisan, involved in organizing an attempted escape from the Isle of Wight, and had to go into exile. He accompanied Charles II to Scotland in 1650, and undertook several hazardous missions as a royalist agent during the Interregnum. It was chiefly as a propagandist that he was valued, however, though his part in the production of Killing No Murder appears to have been largely editorial. Early in 1660 he was in England with Edward Massey who wrote to Edward Massey on 27 Mar.:

I have been exceedingly angry at him that he could never be got to write anything in season. He hath wrote something concerning the elections, but so late ere we could get him to it that it will now signify nothing.

Hyde wished that Titus would ‘scatter abroad some sheets of paper to make a republic, its constitution, tyranny and burden, as ridiculous and odious as the argument will bear’. Massey ‘spent much time getting Titus into the Commons’; he believed that through the kindness of Mr Browne of Shefford he had a sure seat for him, presumably at Ludgershall, but whether Titus went to the poll at the general election is not known. He was returned to the Convention at a by-election when William Prynne chose to sit for Bath, and became an active Member. He was named to 16 committees, acted four times as teller and four times as messenger to the Lords, and made twelve recorded speeches. He was appointed to examine a Lords’ amendment to the indemnity bill on 17 Aug. Throughout the debate he took the harshest line against the regicides, acting as teller for the exception of Sir Arthur Hesilrige from pardon and calling on his former commanding officer Richard Browne I to repeat to the House the words which brought Col. Adrian Scrope to the block. He was appointed to the committee and to the conference on the disbandment bill and acted as chairman for the post office bill. He served on the committee for the attainder bill and was added to that to bring in a bill for modified episcopacy. When the Commons agreed to vote Rowland Laugharne £3,000 in compensation for his sufferings, Titus was indefatigable in securing the Lords’ concurrence. On 4 Dec. he moved for the exhumation of the regicides from Westminster Abbey, and carried the resolution to the Lords. With the post office bill he was not very successful; most of the alterations introduced by the committee were struck out on 5 Dec., and a proviso which he opposed was carried by 126 to 116. On 7 Dec. he seconded Prynne’s motion for more executions, specifying Sir Hardress Waller as a royal pensioner who had voted for his benefactor’s death. ‘The Turks would not eat the bread of any man they meant to betray, and a Roman soldier who betrayed his master, though for the public good, was executed.’ On 10 Dec. he moved for reimbursing the corporation of London for their expenditure on the King’s reception, and three days later he brought in a bill to defray their militia costs. On 19 Dec. it was Titus’s turn to be voted £3,000 by the House. The motion was proposed by Sir William Lewis and seconded by Sir John Northcote ‘for his fidelity and service, not for any debt’, and it was resolved to lay the charge on the excise. On 21 Dec. he was at last able to carry the post office bill to the Lords, and he was also instructed to ask for a conference on the abolition of feudal tenures. Still acting as spokesman for the City, presumably at Browne’s instance, he defended them against charges of reluctance to lend money to the restored monarchy, and on 29 Dec. wound up the session with a venomous attack on the Cromwellian soldier-diplomat Sir William Lockhart, saying that ‘there was not a verier villain upon earth’ and regretting that he had not been excepted from the Act of Indemnity.5

Titus lost his seat at the general election, and was out of Parliament for nine years. He had some difficulty in collecting his three thousand pounds from the excise, and complained to his puritan friends that he had become ‘a mere cipher’; but his post at Court, where his Mediterranean vivacity was more appreciated than in the Commons, brought him some compensation. During the second Dutch war he was in command of a mixed force of regulars, new army and militia on England’s classic ‘invasion coast’ from Deal to Thanet. He was returned for Lostwithiel on the government interest at a by-election in 1670. He became an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament with 128 committee appointments and 116 speeches to his credit. Listed as a court supporter by the Opposition in 1671, he was appointed to the committee for naval estimates and accounts, and complained of the unreadiness of the commissioners of public accounts, an example of man biting dog which must have given much pleasure to the navy board. On 10 Jan. 1671 he spoke against suspending all other business for the Coventry bill. He urged that nonconformist marriage and funeral services should be made illegal. He was one of eight Members appointed to prepare and bring in the foreign commodities bill, and secured a lunch-time adjournment for it on 18 Mar., but failed in a division against the coal export clause two days later. Though Titus was described in an opposition pamphlet as ‘once a rebel, now groom of the chamber’, and his name appeared on the Paston list, he was moving into opposition. On 10 Feb, he moved for an address to the King ‘that Penal Laws in ecclesiastical matters may not have their force till the Parliament shall declare some Act in the business’, and was appointed to the committee to draw it up. He was against admitting any except Anglicans to the House, but in favour of a bill of ease for Protestant dissenters in other respects. ‘When you were angry at the Declaration [of Indulgence]’, he told the House on 28 Mar., ‘it was at the manner, not the matter of it. If this law of ease be lost, it will occasion great inconveniences.’ He was one of those ordered to draw up reasons for a conference on the bill. In the debate on Lauderdale in 1674, Sir John Coventry named Titus as a witness. The latter rose up ‘very unwillingly’, he said, for he had been ‘under a misfortune’ from the duke; but he had heard from (Sir) Thomas Williams that Lauderdale had called the King a knave. A similar device had been fatal to Scrope in the Convention, as William Sacheverell probably remembered, for he immediately rose to declare with freezing contempt that there was no intention of hanging the Duke, and Titus’s mischievous intervention died. In this session he also served on the committees for the test bill and Irish affairs.6

On 22 Apr. 1675, Titus moved for a grand committee to consider the dangerous condition of the nation, which he itemized in an elaborate speech. He appears to have been genuinely hurt when Sir Nicholas Carew interrupted his rhetoric to suggest that he had omitted the danger from servants quarrelling over who should cheat their master most. He condemned the attack on Danby in no uncertain terms. A week later he reminded the House that he had no place at Court except what he had held for 25 years. In this session he served on the committees for the appropriation of the customs to the use of the navy, the exclusion of Papists from Parliament and the suppression of Popery, and was appointed to draw up reasons for a conference on the Four Lawyers’ case. During the recess he resigned his post as groom of the bedchamber and bought Ramsey Abbey from the heirs of Henry Williams. An independent country gentleman at last, he seems to have been content in the autumn session to attribute the sole responsibility for the breaking of the Triple Alliance and the promotion of the league with France to Thomas Clifford, and it is not clear why Sir Richard Wiseman included him among the irredeemable Cornish Members and blamed him for the ‘corruption’ of Robert Apreece. In 1677 he was appointed to the committees for recalling British subjects from the French service and for barring Members’ claims for wages from their constituencies, and took part in drawing up the address on alliances. In May 1678 he helped to draw up the address for the removal of counsellors and to prepare reasons for the conference on burying in woollen.7

Titus’s activity greatly increased with the Popish Plot revelations in the autumn, though on one occasion he had to be sent for as a defaulter. He served on the committees for the examination of Coleman and the translation of his papers, and was one of the five Members sent to interrogate him in Newgate on 31 Oct. He deflated one of the favourite court arguments about the danger of ‘tearing the Duke from the King’ with the remark:

There are ways to make things look tragical. ... That is not the question, but whether the Duke shall withdraw from the King’s person for some time till some laws are passed, which we fear he may obstruct.

On 6 Nov. Titus communicated to the House the French version of the London Gazette, and was appointed to the committee to inquire into the employment as translator of a French Papist, who had alleged that Roman Catholics were to be expelled from London ‘for not conforming to the Protestant religion’. On 12 Nov. he produced a manacle, found (he said) at Somerset House, a theatrical gesture that fell flat. Titus was now reckoned a good enough Churchman to convey the thanks of the Commons to the latitudinarian Dr Stillingfleet for his sermon. He took part in drawing up addresses for calling up part of the militia, for the continued imprisonment of Secretary Williamson and for the removal from Court and apprehension of all Papist suspects. On the Plot, he told the Commons on 28 Nov.: ‘I do not believe a story because Mr Oates and Mr Bedloe say it is true; but because it is probable to be true, therefore I believe it’. He was appointed to the committee for the disbandment of the army, and helped to manage the conference on 9 Dec. Ten days later he was among the Members appointed to attend the King with the vote regarding the charges against Ralph Montagu and to prepare articles of impeachment against Danby. Titus brazenly admitted to Peregrine Bertie I, and subsequently to the House, ‘that what made him so against the treasurer was because he paid him not the £4,000 that the King owed him’ (for four years’ salary as groom of the bedchamber and member of the council of plantations). He objected to recording in the Journals any reference to Ruvigny’s dealings with the Hon. William Russell on the grounds that ‘all we here very well understand Lord Russell’s character, but how after ages may understand it, I know not’.8

Despite all the Court could do, and his own reluctance to incur the expense of a poll, Titus was elected for Hertfordshire to the first Exclusion Parliament. Marked ‘worthy’ by Shaftesbury, he was very active, being named to 28 committees and making at least as many speeches. At the beginning of the session he was appointed to the committee of secrecy on the Popish Plot, but although he attended its meetings his principal concern in this Parliament was in achieving the ruin of Danby. For this he received, with a clear conscience, 500 guineas from the French embassy. ‘It is no crime at all’, he told the House on another occasion, ‘to have money or pension, but to have it for an ill use.’ He took part in three conferences on Danby’s case, and on 4 Apr. 1679 moved for an address, which he subsequently helped to draft, for the apprehension of the fallen minister. He was also one of the committee appointed to receive evidence against him. On 10 May he was sent to demand a conference on the trial of the lords in the Tower, and he was one of the joint committee appointed to consider propositions and circumstances. He was also concerned with the habeas corpus amendment bill and the bill for security against Popery, the addresses for the removal of Lauderdale and the embodiment of the militia, and a conference on the supply bill. In marked contrast was his backwardness over exclusion, in which perhaps he followed William, Lord Cavendish, to whose family he always acknowledged peculiar obligations. In a shuffling speech on 27 Apr. he said: ‘We know the Duke has been the cause, but not the greatest encouragement to Popery’. He was uncharacteristically silent in the principal debate on exclusion, and was not named to the committee for the bill. He appears on the lists as voting for it, but Sir Robert Peyton spread the rumour that he had voted against it, and the Hertfordshire electors ‘resolved against Titus ... for his ill behaviour in the matter of the Duke’. He accepted the advice of Sir Charles Caesar and migrated to Huntingdonshire, where the Ramsey estate gave him an interest, and Apreece was ready to make way for him.9

Titus was even more active in the second Exclusion Parliament, in which he was appointed to 28 committees and made over 60 speeches. He took part in drawing up the address for full pardons to discoverers of the Plot and for supporting the Protestant religion at home and abroad. He initiated the attack on the Abhorrers in the House on 27 Oct. 1680, declaring: ‘I am of opinion that, as they were not willing that we should sit here, so we should be as willing not to have them sit among us’. He named Sir Francis Wythens and was appointed to the committee to inquire into abhorring. In the exclusion debate of 2 Nov. he said:

No man rises with more unwillingness to speak at this time than myself; but all is now at stake, and I am come hither to do my duty and speak plain. Was there any place left for moderation or expedient, I would run into it. ... No man advises you to love your wife and children moderately, or to serve God moderately.

Rebuked by Laurence Hyde for jesting with the House, Titus was allowed to reply: ‘Jests are not jests without being sharp, nor are things serious because they are dull. I protest, I was as serious as I was able to be, and I was as honest in this as ever I was in my life, and so I am for the bill.’ He was nominated to the committee to prepare it. He helped to manage a conference on the alleged Irish plot, and to draw up addresses on exclusion and for the removal of Jeffreys and Halifax. When the Court tried to divert the attention of the Commons to Tangier, Titus set the tone of the debate with the remark: ‘To talk of the condition of Tangier now is like Nero, when Rome was on fire, to fiddle’. He acted as teller against re-committing the address for the removal of Halifax on 22 Nov. Having just completed his second stint as surveyor of Bushey, he descended to parochial affairs, and brought in a bill for repair of highways, always a grievance to the counties traversed by the great highways to London, from which they derived no benefit, though Sir Nicholas Carew hoped it would ease Titus’s way to Tyburn. He was one of the managers for the Commons of Lord Stafford’s trial, and was sent to ask Burnet to preach to them, and to give him thanks for his sermon.10

Titus had been shaken by the firm oppostion of the Court to exclusion, and, as he revealed to Burnet, he and Montagu were only restrained from moving for supply by fear of losing their credit with the House. Widespread rumours credited him with aiming at a secretaryship of state, but he sought to cover his tracks by a bitter attack on Peyton’s double dealing: ‘Gentlemen to be great patriots here, and then to truckle and go to the Court to get places!’ he exclaimed in horror. But during the debate on the King’s speech on the following day he reminded the House:

We are not only to consider what will satisfy us, but those that sent us hither. Some say we have an intention to alter the government, and if we say nothing to the King, will not that justify the report? Our own interest, civility and duty oblige us to answer. For my part, I would give money, and not be penny-wise and pound-foolish.

He urged the House to accept the defeat of the exclusion bill and press on with the bills for the banishment of Papists and the Protestant Association as a second-best. He was named to the committee to draw up the answer of the Commons on 18 Dec. Titus’s zeal against Danby and Halifax was now recoiling on his own head. ‘They talk of our flying at great men, as common traducers of government’, he complained. ‘Some may think this is not to punish malefactors, but to put ourselves in their places.’ Finally on 30 Dec. he was compelled to deal with the rumours in plain terms:

As I came to the House this morning, I heard myself to be a great man, and that I had a place at Court, and had so many compliments upon being a great minister that I began to flatter myself that I was really so. ... I met with another report, that I had been with the Duchess of Portsmouth. If any man can prove, whilst I was of the bedchamber to his Majesty, that even I spoke a word to her, I will lie under all your accusations. I know not a better design, nor more dexterous, to carry on Popery than this of raising jealousies.

Not every Member was so alert as Anchitell Grey to realize that Titus had not denied his recent dealings with the King’s mistress, and he seems to have regained his position in the House. He was appointed to manage another conference on Ireland on 6 Jan. 1681, and on the next day made his most famous speech on exclusion:

To accept of expedients to secure the Protestant religion would be as strange as if there were a lion in the lobby, and we should vote that we would rather secure ourselves by letting him in and chaining him than by keeping him out.

With this success behind him (in which he may have exercised his talent for impromptu verse) he was recommended by the Earls of Essex and Salisbury ( James Cecil) in 1681 for readoption in his former constituency, but rejected by the Hertfordshire gentry. Although ‘great opposition against him’ was also expected in Huntingdonshire, he was re-elected to the Oxford Parliament, in which he was appointed to the committee of elections and privileges. He spoke in favour of a conference with the Lords about the disappearance of the bill repealing the Penal Laws against Protestant dissenters, and helped to manage it. But he made no contribution to any of the more controversial debates.11

Titus was out of Parliament for the next ten years, and for most of the time out of politics too, though he came under suspicion of complicity in the Rye House Plot and Monmouth’s rebellion. He intended to stand for Huntingdonshire in 1685, but a short canvass convinced him that his candidature was hopeless. He appears on Danby’s list of the country opposition to James II as an eminent parliamentarian with a considerable interest in Hertfordshire. Locally, however, he attracted attention by speaking in favour of the repeal of the Penal Laws. In November 1687 ‘he was sent for to Court and there appeared more a courtier than he would, merely upon the hopes of getting an arrear of seven or eight thousand pounds that is owing to him’. ‘Suspected by some and censured by more’, Titus was soon disillusioned with James, especially over the remodelling of the army, and tried to reinsure himself with William of Orange. But he could not escape from the consequences of collaboration; in the summer he was made a Privy Councillor, attending ten meetings between July and the date of William’s landing at Brixham, and took an active part in regulating the electoral preparations in Huntingdonshire. He came in to William at Windsor in December, but was refused an audience, after which he returned to Whitehall and attended the last meeting of James’s Privy council on 16 Dec. 1688. With no family connexions to support him, his political career was at an end, though he sat for Ludlow as a country Whig and contested both Huntingdonshire and Hertfordshire under William III. He died in December 1704. A colourful and entertaining speaker in the House, it is hard to credit Titus with serious political principles, unless perhaps for toleration. His experiences during the Interregnum inspired him with a love of intrigue, to which his miscalculations of 1687 may be attributed.12

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / Eveline Cruickshanks

Notes

  • 1. Gen. Mag. vii. 461; M.T. Recs. ii. 884, 1043; Clutterbuck, Herts. i. 342; Nichols, Leics. iv. 629.
  • 2. Clutterbuck, i. 344; CSP Dom. 1645-7, p. 146; 1660-1, p. 598; 1665-6, p. 510; HMC 8th Rep. pt. 1 (1881), 8-10; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 901; Arch. Cant. xvii. 383.
  • 3. CJ, v. 365; HMC 4th Rep. 274; CSP Dom. 1650, p. 321; 1675-6, p. 200; Pepys Diary, 7 May 1660; Sel. Charters (Selden Soc. xxviii), 179, 183; Bulstrode Pprs. 147; PC2/72/697.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1660-1, pp. 137, 174, 598; 1665-6. p. 280; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 901; viii. 1695; Trans. St. Albans and Herts. Arch. Soc. (1928), 152; S. Wells, Drainage of the Bedford Level, i. 462-73; Salop RO, Ludlow bor. recs.
  • 5. Gen. Mag. vii. 460; Barwick, Life, 87; Cal. Comm. Adv. Money, 1421; A. Kingston, Herts. in the Civil War, 125; EHR, xvii. 308-11; Thurloe, vii. 867, 872; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 624, 661, 677; CJ, viii. 135, 165, 191, 193, 198; Old Parl. Hist. xxii. 453; xxiii. 38, 42, 46, 50, 58, 75, 80.
  • 6. Barnes Mems. (Surtees Soc. 1), 175; HMC Rutland, ii. 11; Grey, i. 234, 406; ii. 23-24, 90, 166-7, 255; Dering, 46; CJ, ix. 159, 250, 280.
  • 7. Grey, iii. 22, 72, 355, 427; Browning, Danby, i. 157; VCH Hunts. ii. 194.
  • 8. Grey, vi. 148, 153, 192, 298, 362, 364.
  • 9. Beaufort mss, Ld. Worcester to Lady Worcester, 20 Feb. 1679; Add. 33573, f. 126; Dalrymple, Mems. i. 382; Grey, iii. 315; vii. 80, 150, 329; viii. 140; CJ, ix. 574, 577, 584, 615, 616; HMC 13th Rep. VI, 20.
  • 10. Exact Coll. Debates 1680 Parl. 23; Grey, vii. 400-1, 403; viii. 11; CJ, ix. 640, 641, 645, 648, 650, 653, 655; HMC 3rd Rep. 269; E. C. Legh, Lady Newton, House of Lyme, 298.
  • 11. Burnet Supp. ed. Foxcroft, 137; HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 562; Clarke, Jas. II, i. 649; HMC Finch, ii. 99, Grey, viii. 144, 150-1, 210, 222-3, 302; Exact Coll. Debates 1680 Parl. 167, 261; HMC 12th Rep. IX, 105; CJ, ix. 701, 708; Herts. RO, D/Elw/F29/4, James to Sir Jacob Wittewronge, 2 Feb. 1681.
  • 12. Luttrell, i. 266; iii. 544; Herts. Co. Recs. vi. 390; HMC Frankland, 60; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 308; 1698, p. 381; HMC Downshire, i. 276; Macaulay, Hist. 1062-3; Add. 34515, ff. 37, 47-48; Bramston Autobiog. (Cam. Soc. xxxii), 311, 312; PC 2/72, passim.

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