CURZON, John (c.1674-1727), of Kedleston, Derbys.
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Family and Education
b. c.1674, 1st s. of Sir Nathaniel Curzon, 2nd Bt., by Sarah, da. of William Penn of Penn, Bucks.; bro. of Nathaniel* and William Curzon†. educ. Trinity, Oxf. matric. 18 July 1690, aged 16, BA 1693; I. Temple 1692. unm. suc. fa. as 3rd Bt. 4 Mar. 1719.1
The Curzons had been settled in Derbyshire since the reign of Henry I, their chief residence being at Kedleston on the main Buxton–Derby road, and they had provided Members for the county since the late 14th century. Curzon’s grandfather had sat for Brackley in 1628–9, and for Derbyshire in both the Short and Long Parliaments until excluded at Pride’s Purge. He had also stood again, unsuccessfully, in 1661. However, the second baronet never entered the fray himself as a candidate, preferring instead to exercise his political influence on behalf of his son.2
The first intimation of Curzon’s parliamentary ambition occurred during the preparations for the county election of 1698, when there was a strong suggestion that he had been persuaded to withdraw to facilitate the election of Thomas Coke* with the Marquess of Hartington (William Cavendish*). In the confused circumstances pertaining to the representation of the county in the election of January 1701, there were indications that Curzon would stand in partnership with Coke against Hartington and Lord Roos (John Manners*). In all likelihood the rumour, indecision, and consequent recrimination which surrounded this election deterred the Curzon interest from becoming involved. By the next election, however, in November 1701, Curzon had reached an agreement with Coke which was strong enough not only to defeat the two lords but to forestall any further serious dispute over the county seats until 1710.3
Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) was in no doubt that Curzon’s election in 1701 represented a loss to the Whigs, a judgment with which Robert Harley*, in another list, concurred, classing Curzon as a Tory. He voted on 26 Feb. 1702 for the motion to vindicate the Commons’ proceedings on the impeachments of the previous session, thus confirming his Tory credentials. His one tellership, on 27 Apr., was on a procedural matter. It is also clear from Coke’s papers that during his first session his constituents expected activity on their behalf, whether it concerned the promotion of legislation favourable to the county’s lead mines or the application of pressure at the Admiralty over convoys at Hull which affected the traders of Chesterfield. Despite persistent rumours, and some Whig activity, Curzon and Coke were returned again, unopposed, at the general election of July 1702. Curzon then turned his mind to securing the removal of Dissenting justices from the bench and even suggested that much trouble would be avoided in the future if the leading Whig deputy-lieutenants were dismissed.4
Curzon set out for the new Parliament on 12 Oct. 1702, travelling via his wife’s family estate at Penn, and was in London by 27 Oct., when he was named to a select committee. He also acted as a teller twice during the session: on 2 Nov. for a motion that the Commons had not had right done them on the question of the impeachments, and on 23 Dec. against a place clause in the bill to allow the Queen to settle a revenue on Prince George. He also followed the Tory line on 13 Feb. 1703, when he voted against agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time to take the abjuration oath. Soon after the end of the session he was back in Derby, where on 17 Mar. 1703 he attended a dinner at the assizes for the lord chief justice. A few weeks before the next parliamentary session opened, a letter written by a correspondent of Coke suggested that Curzon was not enamoured with life at Westminster, for ‘he talks dangerously as if representing us again would be a fatigue to him’. Nevertheless, he was diligent enough to be present on the opening day of the new session, when he was appointed on 9 Nov. 1703 to the committee on the Address. He served as a teller twice during this session: on 18 Jan. 1704 against giving a third reading to the bill establishing a land registry in the West Riding, thereby securing a postponement and enabling the House to receive a report on the Bramber election; and on 8 Feb. against a resolution from the committee of the whole, that the printing and using of calicoes was destructive of the woollen industry and ought to be restrained. Although nominated to two drafting committees on private estate bills, he did not undertake their management. On the major issue of the 1704–5 session, he was forecast as a probable supporter of the Tack, and duly voted for it on 28 Nov. 1704. He acted as a teller on 28 Feb. 1705 against considering the Queen’s answer over writs of error in the Aylesbury case, a masterpiece of evasion designed to free the crown from further involvement in the affair. Curzon’s stance on the Tack had created a few problems for his partnership with Coke. In March 1705 Coke’s electoral agent, Robert Harding, reported that Curzon had written ‘to him about some of the populace being angry at him for tacking and some other at you for the contrary’. Harding’s concern here was that any delay in declaring the continuation of the joint interest would encourage enemies to sow dissension among their supporters and even put up rival candidates. In the event Harding need not have worried. As the Whig Samuel Pole remarked, ‘for the county the devil cannot stir Curzon and Coke’. The two Tories were returned unopposed.5
An analysis of the new House in 1705 noted Curzon as a ‘True Churchman’, presumably because of his vote for the Tack, and he duly voted against the Court candidate for Speaker on 20 Oct. 1705. However, in contrast to the previous Parliament Curzon’s activity in the chamber was now much reduced. A list of this Parliament compiled in early 1708 indicates that he remained a Tory. Re-elected without opposition in 1708, the only vote he recorded during that Parliament was against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. In June 1710, Curzon presented a loyal address from Derbyshire, a calculated snub to his fellow Member, Coke. This signalled a break with his erstwhile partner at the election later in the year, when Curzon joined with Godfrey Clarke* in a combination which proved sufficiently strong to deter Coke from forcing a poll.6
In the first session of the new Parliament Curzon was more active. He was classed as a Tory on the ‘Hanover list’ and included among the ‘Tory patriots’ favouring peace, and as a ‘worthy patriot’ who had helped to detect the mismanagements of the previous ministry. He was also listed as a member of the October Club. In the following session he acted as a teller on 15 Apr. 1712 against adding a clause relating to Cheshire to the bill for more effectively preventing fraud in county elections. During the summer William Bromley II* sent a reminder to Lord Oxford (Harley) commending Curzon as ‘a valuable man in his person and fortunes’. If this was a solicitation concerning an office it was ignored by the lord treasurer, and may have led to a lack of enthusiasm for the ministry on Curzon’s part. Certainly, a ‘Mr Curzon’ told on 2 May 1713 against giving leave to bring in a bill to suspend the duty on French wines, but by that date he had been joined in the Commons by his brother, making it impossible to isolate his parliamentary activities. This measure was a precursor to the French commerce bill, and John Curzon (unlike his brother) did not vote on 18 June in the crucial division on this bill. Re-elected unopposed in 1713, either Curzon or his brother was involved in the management through the House of a bill to make more effectual an Act passed in William III’s reign for the navigation of the Trent. He was marked as a Tory on the Worsley list and on two lists comparing the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments.7
Curzon continued to sit as a Tory for Derbyshire until his death on 7 Aug. 1727, two days after the dissolution of Parliament. The circumstances of his death were unfortunate: he died following ‘a mortification in his leg, which he got about three weeks ago, by one of his spurs striking through his boot in a fall he got from his horse while hunting’. His estate, valued at around £10,000 p.a., thereupon descended to his brother, Nathaniel.8
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Collins, Peerage, vii. 298–9.
- 2. Lysons, Derbys. p. lii.; W. Woolley, Hist. Derbys. (Derbys. Recs. Soc. vi.), 95.
- 3. BL, Lothian mss, Sir Gilbert Clarke* to Coke, 21 July 1698, Sir Philip Gell, 3rd Bt.†, to same, 13 Dec. 1700, John Beresford to same, 14 Dec. 1700; HMC Cowper, ii. 408, 411–12.
- 4. HMC Cowper, ii. 457; iii. 4, 9, 11–12; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 154; Lothian mss, John Fisher to Coke, 28 Mar. 1702.
- 5. HMC Cowper, iii. 23, 54–55; Lothian mss, Walter Burdett to Coke, 30 Oct. 1703, Robert Harding to same, 5 Mar. 1704[–5].
- 6. Add. 70421, newsletter 27 June 1710; HMC Cowper, iii. 86.
- 7. HMC Cowper, iii. 89–99; Add. 70287, Bromley to Oxford, 26 June 1712.
- 8. The Gen. n.s. vii. 110; PCC 204 Farrant.