HALSEY, Thomas (1655-1715), of Great Gaddesden and Hemel Hempstead, Herts.
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Family and Education
bap. 12 Mar. 1655, 7th but 2nd surv. s. of Sir John Halsey (d.1670), master in Chancery, of Great Gaddesden by Judith, da. and coh. of James Necton of London. educ. Magdalen Coll. Oxf. 1671; L. Inn 1671. m. 4 Feb. 1679, Anne (d. 1719), da. and h. of Thomas Henshaw of Kensington, Mdx., 10s. (1 d.v.p.) 4da. suc. bro. 1670.
Alderman, St. Albans 1685–?87; freeman, Hertford 1698.1
In 1685 Halsey had been inserted as alderman in the remodelled St. Albans charter, and given Court support to enter Parliament, but had subsequently opposed James II’s religious policy. He is often referred to as Major Halsey, a possible source of confusion with a regular army officer, Major Edward Halsey, and it is not clear which, if either, was the Mr Halsey who enrolled in Bishop Compton’s troop at Nottingham in 1688. Thomas stood for his county in 1695 after the political retirement of Ralph Freman I* had necessitated finding another Anglican Tory candidate; but despite sitting in every Parliament bar one until the Hanoverian succession, he made little impression on national politics. Having successfully fought off a petition against his return, he was forecast as likely to oppose the Court on 31 Jan. 1696 over the proposed council of trade, and voted against fixing the price of guineas at 22s. He signed the Association, but on 25 Nov. voted against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. On 13 Mar. 1696 he told for the third reading of a private estate bill, and on 2 Dec. 1697 was given leave of absence.2
In October 1698 he was forecast as likely to oppose a standing army, and the next month was marked as a Country supporter, though once again made little contribution to the business of the House. In February 1701 Halsey was listed as likely to support the Court in the supply committee’s resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’. Though blacklisted as having opposed the preparations for war with France, Halsey nevertheless retained his seat at the second election of 1701 and in December Robert Harley* listed him with the Tories. He told twice in the 1701–2 Parliament, first on 6 Feb. 1702 for the minority against referring a petition about army arrears to the committee of supply, and then on the 20th against a proposal that the petition from Lord Haversham (Sir John Thompson*) about Irish forfeitures lie on the table. Six days later he favoured the motion vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachments of William III’s ministers. On 28 Jan. 1703, as executor of the will of his wife’s father, he successfully petitioned for £1,000 owed by the government. In February 1704 Halsey reported and carried to the Lords two private bills, and the following month Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) listed him as a likely supporter in the Scotch Plot proceedings. Although apparently a staunch Anglican, being forecast in October 1704 as a probable supporter of the Tack, Halsey may nevertheless have been sensitive to the strong Dissenting presence in his own parish of Great Gaddesden, where Nonconformist meetings were licensed in 1691, 1703 and 1704, and on 28 Nov. 1704 he either voted against the Tack or was absent from the division.3
Yet ironically Halsey, rather than his Tacking colleague Ralph Freman II*, was the victim of a Whig challenge at the polls in 1705. Re-elected in 1708, his election being classed by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) as a loss to the Whigs, Halsey still failed to make any significant impact at Westminster, though he voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell in early 1710. Marked as Tory on the ‘Hanover list’ of the new Parliament, he was in 1711 included on the list of ‘worthy patriots’ who had assisted in uncovering the mismanagements of the previous ministry. He also became a member of the October Club. Little more is known of his contribution to the 1710 and 1713 Parliaments, though he made sufficient impression upon contemporaries to be classed as a Tory in the Worsley list. He died on 15 May 1715, and his will provided generously for his large family, with his three surviving daughters each receiving portions of £1,500, and his sons receiving sums ranging from £300 to £1,100, though the two youngest were to be bound apprentices. He gave £6 to the poor of his parish, £10 to the treasurer of Christ’s Hospital, and his will also refers proudly to two pictures by Sir Peter Lely and one by Sir Godfrey Kneller. His monumental inscription declares that ‘he was a most faithful and affectionate husband, a very kind and careful father, much beloved by most of his country’, whose wife ‘had a true and Christian contempt of the vanities of this world’, though such virtue did not apparently deter Halsey from leaving her £200 of jewels and plate.4