HALES, Sir Christopher, 2nd Bt. (1670-1717), of Whitefriars, Coventry, Warws.
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Family and Education
bap. 4 June 1670, 1st s. of Sir John Hales, 1st Bt., by Anne, da. of Abraham Johnson, fishmonger, of Langborn, London and Ilford, Essex. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 1689. unm. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. c.1677.1
Commr. taking subscriptions to land bank 1696.2
In the course of an often stormy career Hales expended considerable energy and funds in maintaining the Tory hold over Coventry’s parliamentary seats. His Whig cousin and sometime opponent Edward Hopkins* later recalled that ‘his blindly adhering to a violent party completed his ruin, to whom and his own stupidity and wrong judgment it is to be imputed’. Though Hopkins’ verdict was not unbiased, it was none the less an accurate view of the firebrand recklessness which left Hales at the end of his life with a much diminished patrimony. The family’s connexions with Coventry dated back to the reign of Henry VIII when an ancestor purchased Whitefriars, formerly a Carmelite priory, during the dissolution of the monasteries. Since then it had continued to be their principal residence. In standing for election for the city in 1698 Hales greatly annoyed his uncle (by marriage) Richard Hopkins*, who believed the Hales family were under ‘many obligations’ to him. Hopkins, who was retiring after many years of parliamentary service, disapproved of his nephew’s association with the town’s leading Tories, and was so ‘provoked’ when Hales declared himself a candidate ‘without any previous notice or decent compliment’, that he changed his mind and stood, ‘to show his nephew that our family had a superior interest’. In the ensuing contest, however, both uncle and nephew were returned.3
At the opening of the 1698 Parliament Hales was noted as a supporter of the Country party and forecast as likely to oppose a standing army. His involvement in proceedings during his early years in the House was negligible, however. He was returned again to both Parliaments of 1701, the first time unchallenged, but in the second forced to undergo an arduous campaign. Before this election he had been blacklisted as an opponent of the preparations for war with France, but his name also appeared among those appended to a Tory pamphlet refuting these accusations. At the election the two sheriffs returned Hopkins’ son Edward, who stood to show his ‘resentment to my kinsman, Sir Christopher, for his treatment of my father’, but made a double return of Hales and the other Whig contestant Henry Neale. The under-sheriff publicly declared that he would never be for Hales on account of a vote he had given for Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, on an unspecified occasion. After ‘a great many nights’ the committee of elections concluded in his favour on 11 Feb. 1702, though the proceedings were estimated to have cost him £1,000, which it was believed ‘he is very little able to bear’. When the report was made on the 24th, several Whig MPs complained about the ‘injustice’ practised during the committee hearing. One of them, the diarist Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt., caused a stir among the Tories by his confession that he could not see that Hales had ‘any colour of a majority unless that his being one of the black list, that I heard so much commended within doors and without by the historian of the late Parliament, would create him right to be a Member’. The House nevertheless confirmed Hales’s election.4
In the Parliament of December 1701 Hales was classed by Robert Harley* as a Tory. He voted on 26 Feb. 1702 for the motion vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachments of the King’s ministers. The ardour with which he had fought his election case had given him a certain notoriety in the House, for within weeks of the successful outcome he began to appear regularly as a teller. The first time was on 17 Mar., at the report on the East Retford election, when he told against the Whig candidate, Thomas White*. On 27 Mar. he told against the second reading of the bill appointing commissioners to treat for an Anglo-Scottish union. His other tellerships (2, 9 Apr., 12 and 19 May) were on local or private measures, and on 23 May he told for an address to ‘bestow some dignity in the church of Windsor’ on Dr Francis Gastrell, the Speaker’s chaplain. During the session he handled the passage of two private estate bills, although this was the only occasion in his career that he took responsibility for legislation of any kind. With the onset of a further election in 1702 and the likelihood of another heated campaign in Coventry, Edward Hopkins suggested to Hales that they might forge an ‘amicable composition’ in order to forestall ‘vexation’. Consultation in fact took place between their respective mothers, but Lady Hales informed her sister that her son ‘could not leave his party, and that with them only he should take his measures’. However, fears among the Whigs of a violently partisan contest were such that they declined to set up candidates, and Hales was returned unopposed with another Tory, Thomas Gery.5
Between December 1702 and February 1703 Hales watched over the progress of the appeal proceedings in the House of Lords brought by several corporations against that of Coventry concerning its alleged misappropriation of money belonging to the Sir Thomas White charity (see COVENTRY, Warws.) Despite his later pre-electoral boasts about his diligence in the matter, judgment was given against Coventry’s corporation. In the Commons Hales continued to be in frequent demand as a teller. On 8 Dec., when the Maidstone election was declared void, he told in favour of a motion that no new writ be issued in the current session. In the debate on the state of the war on 5 Jan. 1703 he told for a Tory amendment strengthening the proposed address of support, and on 11 Feb. he was a teller for agreeing with an address condemning the Earl of Ranelagh (Richard Jones*). In the following months he was occupied with the legal action he had commenced against Abraham Owen and John Collins, the two sheriffs of Coventry who had denied him a proper return in the December 1701 election. The case concluded on 11 May 1703 in Queen’s bench with a verdict in his favour plus £600 damages and £200 costs. He also initiated separate proceedings against Owen for libelling him in a pamphlet distributed and published at Warwick called ‘the Black Book’, almost certainly a version of the 1701 ‘black list’. The case was heard at the Warwick assizes but after several adjournments Owen was acquitted. At the third reading of the occasional conformity bill on 7 Dec. 1703, he was teller in favour of its passage. His next two tellerships related to local matters: on 23 Dec., against consideration of an extension to a turnpike scheme for roads in Cambridgeshire; and on 20 Jan. 1704, for an additional clause to a bill for establishing a registry of deeds for the West Riding, prohibiting the registrar from interfering in parliamentary elections. On 7 Mar. he told for recommitting the recruiting bill, and on the 18th against reading the reports from the trustees for forfeited estates in Ireland. Around the middle of the month Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) noted him as a likely supporter of the government’s actions in the Scotch Plot.6
Further substance to Hales’s reputation as an all-round hothead was given by an account of his alleged attack on, and possibly rape of, a certain Mrs Pallavicini, possibly a daughter or some other relation of the wealthy London merchant Sir Peter Pallavicini. A piece of doggerel dated March 1704, which identifies him as the perpetrator of the deed, recites in uncompromising terms:
Madam, I’ve heard how surely knight
Did ill your kindnesses requite
And rudely ruffling up your smock
Belaboured furiously your ladyship’s dock.
In the new parliamentary session he told on 18 Nov. against an adjournment motion, and on the 25th against excusing Henry Manaton*, a Tory, for being absent at a call of the House. He was deemed a ‘probable supporter’ of the Tack in a forecast of 30 Oct., a prediction which he duly fulfilled at the crucial division on 28 Nov. Subsequently, on 14 Dec., he was a teller in favour of passing the occasional conformity bill. Before Parliament was dissolved he was a teller on three more occasions: on 31 Jan. 1705, on an amendment to a bill to remedy abuses in tax collection; on 22 Feb., concerning a private naturalization bill; and the next day, on the addition of a rider to the bill prohibiting trade and commerce with France. In a letter of 24 Feb. 1705 Hales informed the mayor of Coventry of his intention to stand at the forthcoming election, boldly asserting his qualification to do so: ‘My ancestors have been benefactors to the town, and without vanity I may say I have served the city not only in the House of Commons with fidelity, but in the House of Lords in their late trial for Sir Thomas White’s estate with the utmost diligence and sincerity.’ At Coventry the 1705 election was conducted amid alarming scenes of mob violence and disorder, a good deal of which was said to have been provoked by Hales and his fellow Tory candidate Thomas Gery in defiance of all efforts by the civic authorities, headed by the Whig mayor, to avoid disruption. The Tories had the upper hand, but though Hales was returned with Gery, the affair continued to agitate party feelings. Hales probably took a leading part in bringing various leading Coventry Whigs to trial in August 1705, including the mayor and several magistrates who were charged with having incited assaults against Tory voters. A petition lodged with the Commons in November by the Coventry freemen against both Members was not proceeded upon, but in August 1706 Hales was involved in further trials for riot, initiated this time by the Whigs.7
In an analysis of the 1705 Parliament Hales was classed as ‘True Church’. He naturally voted against the Court candidate for the Speakership, and in the course of the first session served nine times as a teller, beginning on 4 Dec. when he opposed giving consideration in committee to the proceedings of the Scottish parliament with regard to the Union and the succession. On the 6th he told against giving further consideration that day to the disputed Norwich election in which the Whigs appeared to have the stronger case; on the 14th against endorsing an address prepared in a conference between Lords and Commons, denying that the Church was ‘in danger’; and later that same day against retaining Coventry’s aldermen as land tax commissioners. On 12 Jan. 1706 he told in favour of a Tory motion that the committee on the regency bill receive a clause to implement the ‘place clause’ of the 1701 Act of Settlement; on the 17th against the Whig petitioners in the East Retford election; on 13 Feb. in favour of adding a clause to the recruitment bill prohibiting the ‘irregular’ enlistment of men; on the 25th in support of adding a clause to a private naturalization bill that would prevent the parties concerned from voting in parliamentary elections; and two days later against agreeing that the Whig Crewe Offley* was duly elected for Newcastle-under-Lyme.8
At the beginning of the 1706–7 session the Coventry freemen raised a fresh petition against Hales and Gery for their conduct in 1705, and the case was this time taken up in the elections committee. When the report was made on 5 Feb. 1707 the House concurred with the committee that the election was void, and writs for a new election were ordered two days later. Hales immediately put himself forward, but the contest went badly. On his way to Coventry, shortly before polling began, Hales was ‘most unmercifully set upon by the Whiggish, fanatical party, and arrested, and carried to gaol, where they kept him so close that he could not speak to those that passed by and were inclined to vote for him’. Both he and Gery were defeated, albeit narrowly, by their Whig opponents. He participated in neither the 1708 nor the 1710 general election, quite possibly owing to the financially draining effects of previous contests, but came forward again when he was offered the prospect of an easy, unopposed election in April 1711, following the sudden death of the Speaker’s son, Clobery Bromley*. At the end of that session he was listed as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who had supported exposure of the previous ministry’s mismanagements. Following a period of almost complete inactivity in the House, he acted as teller in June 1713, twice against the Africa trade bill, and on the 16th against the Quakers’ affirmation bill. On 18 June he voted for the French commerce bill. After his re-election in 1713 Hales’s parliamentary activity again lapsed. He was classed in the Worsley list as a Tory. Submitting himself for re-election in 1715, he was unable to defend his seat against the Whigs, who now campaigned in Coventry from a position of strength. Though he and his partner, Sir Fulwar Skipwith, 2nd Bt.*, petitioned jointly, their case went unheard.9
Hales died on 7 Jan. 1717, leaving a trail of accumulated debts and mortgages, mostly the result of his expensive electioneering activities and litigation. In early adulthood, he had been forced to mortgage his estate at Whitmore Park to the 2nd Lord Guilford in order to realize his father’s legacies to his younger brother and sister, while in 1715 straitened circumstances obliged him to sell off property at Willenhall. His will, made in September 1716, stipulated that entailed estates be left intact and his debts met from the sale of unentailed estates. This provision proved inadequate, however, and in 1720 his brother and successor, Sir Edward Hales, 3rd Bt., was compelled to secure private legislation permitting the sale of demesne property in the city and elsewhere, including the family’s ancestral seat at Whitefriars, thus severing their long association with the city.10
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Andrew A. Hanham
- 1. IGI, Warws.; Misc. Gen. et Her. n.s. i. 69–70; J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London (London and Mdx. Arch. Soc.), 99.
- 2. CJ, xii. 508.
- 3. Hopkins mss (Hist. of Parl. trans.), ‘Travels and Mems. of . . . Edward Hopkins . . .’; VCH Warws. viii. 132; EHR, xxxiv. 495–6.
- 4. An Answer to the Black-List: Or, the Vine-Tavern Queries (1701), 4; ‘Travels and Mems. of . . . Edward Hopkins . . .’; BL, Lothian mss, ‘Sir Christopher Hales’s case upon the double return for Coventry’; Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/5, James* to Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. I*, 12 Feb. 1702; Cocks Diary, 223–4.
- 5. ‘Travels and Mems. of . . . Edward Hopkins . . .’.
- 6. HMC Lords, n.s. v. 161–3; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 297, 307–8; Add. 70075, newsletter 15 May 1703; Whitley, Parl. Rep. Coventry, 132; Lothian mss, ‘Sir Christopher Hales’s case . . .’.
- 7. Add. 40060, f. 55; Whitley, 133; ‘Travels and Mems. of . . . Edward Hopkins . . .’; EHR, xxxiv. 501–2; Add. 70264, mayor and aldermen of Coventry to Robert Harley, 27 May 1705; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 9 Aug. 1705; HMC Portland, iv. 320.
- 8. Cam. Misc. xxiii. 36.
- 9. Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 135; Hearne Colls. i. 336–7.
- 10. Whitley, 144–5; PCC 214 Whitfield; LJ, xxi. 241; Misc. Gen. et Her. n.s. i. 70; Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. li), 437–8.