PARSONS, John (1667-c.1706), of Reigate, Surr.
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Family and Education
bap. 18 Nov. 1667, 1st s. of Sir John Parsons* by his 1st w. educ. Cheam (George Aldridge); Trinity Coll. Camb. 1685; I. Temple 1685. m. 29 Oct. 1691, Cecilia Maria, da. of John Machell* of Horsham, Suss., 1s. 1da.
Steward, Reigate manor 1687–95.
Although remaining firmly in his father’s shadow for his entire parliamentary career, Parsons initially used his family connexions to gain swift political advancement under James II. Barely out of his teens, he was appointed steward of the royal manor of Reigate in recognition of his father’s proprietorial interest in that borough. Within a year, having only just attained the age of eligibility, Parsons was proposed alongside his father as one of the royal nominees for James’s abortive second Parliament. The Revolution obviously delivered a serious blow to the aspirations of a family so closely associated with the previous regime, but their local authority was sufficiently strong to enable Sir John to secure his son’s return at the election of February 1690.
At the outset of his parliamentary career Parsons was cited by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) as a Tory, although, unlike his father, he was seen a probable supporter of the Court. At the end of 1690 Carmarthen thought he could count on Parsons as one of his own supporters, but in April 1691 Robert Harley* bracketed Parsons with the Country Members. He did not prove a prominent figure in the Commons, and his only noteworthy act was no more than a tellership on 1 Mar. 1693 in opposition to a private estate bill, and even this was attributed by Narcissus Luttrell* to Parsons senior. In common with his father, in the 1694–5 session he was listed by the Treasury secretary Henry Guy* as one of his probable supporters. Outside the House his father’s business schemes demanded more of his energies, and by 1692 he had become one of the insurers administering Sir John’s Fire Office. More notably, in June 1695, his name was touted alongside that of his father as a potential lessee of the excise duties, but in spite of submitting the most attractive tender they did not gain the farm.1
Political factors, which may have played their part in denying his family the excise farm, were clearly instrumental in causing Parsons’ removal as steward of Reigate in early 1695. His replacement, Hon. Thomas Windsor* (later Viscount Windsor), featured later that year as one of the Court candidates challenging the Tory interest at the Reigate election, but both Parsons and his father managed to retain their seats. In the new Parliament Parsons soon showed that his loss of royal employment had not weakened his resolve to oppose the Court. He was forecast as one of the ministry’s likely opponents in the division of 31 Jan. 1696 over the proposed council of trade, and in late March voted against fixing the price of guineas. Much more significantly, by 27 Feb. he had declined to sign the Association, an intransigence which his father chose not to emulate. This action no doubt fuelled the suspicions of Jacobitism which subsequently surrounded his family, but a more direct harbinger of Parsons’ political demise was the establishment of Lord Somers (Sir John*) as patron of Reigate in April 1697. With the former royal manor in Whig hands Parsons’ chances of retaining his seat were irreparably harmed, and though only narrowly failing in the contest of July 1698, he did not fight another parliamentary campaign.
Although he was still only 30, his family’s Jacobite sympathies effectively denied Parsons any further political opportunities, a predicament that could have only worsened after he was reported to have paid court to King James at St. Germain in the summer of 1700. He seems to have quickly accepted the fact that he was unlikely to regain his seat, for his last recorded political act was to support his father’s compact with Lord Somers at the Reigate election of November 1701. Ill-health compelled him to draw up a will as early as May 1702, and just as he was willing to forgo his political ambitions to help his father’s cause, so he was prepared to sell his share of the lucrative family brewery to his younger brother Humphrey†, who thereby secured complete control of the business. Although the exact date of Parsons’ death has not been ascertained, his will was proved on 6 May 1706.2
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Perry Gauci
- 1. IGI, London; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 1708; Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act , 250; Luttrell Diary, 455; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 25 June 1695.
- 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 1069; 7th Duke of Manchester, Court and Soc. Eliz. to Anne, ii. 186–7; Surr. RO (Kingston), 445/1; PCC 112 Eedes.