HUNT, John (c.1639-1721), of Compton Pauncefoot, Som.
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Family and Education
b. c.1639, 1st s. of Robert Hunt† of Compton Pauncefoot by Elizabeth, da. of John Browne† of Frampton, Dorset. educ. L. Inn 1658. m. (1) lic. 26 Oct. 1672, Elizabeth (d. 1698), da. and coh. of Charles Roscarrock† of Trevenna, St. Neot, Cornw., s.p.; (2) Elizabeth (d. 1758), da. of Edmund Lloyd of London, 4s. 1da. suc. fa. 1680.1
Commr. for rebels’ estates 1686.2
Hunt had represented Milborne Port, a borough some three miles from his seat at Compton Pauncefoot, since 1677. Locally, he had been an active militia commander and a staunch upholder of the Church. In 1690 he had been proposing to stand once more at Milborne Port, but his apparently declining interest there had confronted him with the prospect of an opposition. He took instead the more convenient option of an uncontested election at Ilchester, offered by William Helyar†, who was standing down and who esteemed Hunt ‘an extraordinarily honest gentleman’. He was classed by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) as a Tory and probable government supporter. In Robert Harley’s list of April 1691 he was marked as a Country supporter. His name is almost completely absent from the formal record of proceedings during the 1690 Parliament, the exception being his service as a teller on 15 Apr. 1695 on the Court side in favour of assigning the bill obliging ‘certain persons’ to take the oaths to the King. In the same session the Treasury secretary Henry Guy* listed him as a ‘friend’, almost certainly in connexion with the projected attack on Guy in the Commons.3
Re-elected at Ilchester in 1695, Hunt soon afterwards went into opposition. He was forecast as likely to oppose the Court on 31 Jan. 1696 over the proposed council of trade and voted against the Court in March on fixing the price of guineas at 22s., though he had promptly signed the Association in February. On 22 Apr. he was teller in favour of making receivers of taxes declare on oath that any clipped money they paid in was solely from tax receipts. He voted against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick† on 25 Nov. 1696, and on 15 Apr. 1697 was a teller against passing a bill preventing the counterfeiting of coin. He was granted a month’s leave of absence on 7 Mar. 1698. In the 1698 election Hunt withdrew his candidacy at Ilchester in order to pursue one of the shire seats, and fought to a successful finish. His opposition during the preceding Parliament is confirmed in an analysis of the House compiled around September in which he was noted as a Country supporter, and by his inclusion in a forecast of likely opposition to a standing army. On 27 Jan. 1699 he obtained leave for a bill for the improvement and drainage of Sedgmoor in order to render it ‘healthful and profitable to the commoners and inhabitants thereabouts’, and presented it on 18 Feb. Continuing to represent the county in the first 1701 Parliament, he was deemed likely to support the Court in agreeing with the supply committee’s resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’, and on 26 Feb. 1702 voted for the motion vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachments of William III’s Whig ministers. He was granted three weeks’ leave on 14 May. A sharp decline in Hunt’s popularity militated heavily against his readoption in the election at the end of the year. Since his election in 1698 he had made himself many enemies by provoking disputes with members of the Somerset clergy, and in particular had become embroiled with a local archdeacon in a protracted tithes case. One cleric, whose election to the Convocation Hunt had taken pains to block, informed Sir Stephen Fox* that in addition ‘the measures which he took with the populace were so offensive to the clergy, and the gentry also, that he soon lost their common interest’. However, a vacancy at his former constituency, Milborne Port, enabled him to re-enter Parliament in February 1702.4
In the first election of Queen Anne’s reign Hunt stood and lost in the county contest but retained his seat at Milborne Port in a double return, and was declared duly elected by the House on 8 Dec. His animosity towards the clergy continued unabated and it was observed that ‘he rages at the whole order, and shows his hatred to every clergyman when he can, except only some few that have always observed his commands and interest’. He took little part in proceedings, reporting on one occasion on a private bill, and on another supporting a motion for a similar measure. He was accorded a month’s leave on 23 Dec. 1703. In mid-March 1704 he was listed as a supporter of Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) in relation to his handling of the Scotch Plot crisis, but did not vote for the Tack in the division on 28 Nov. Declining to stand in the 1705 election, he appears to have withdrawn from active politics. He died on 26 Apr. 1721, aged 82, and was buried at Compton Pauncefoot.5