SCOBELL, Francis (1664-1740), of Menegwins and Tregonan, Cornw.
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Family and Education
bap. 24 Aug. 1664, 1st s. of Richard Scobell of Polruddan, Cornw. by Barbara, da. and h. of Henry Carlyon of Menaguins. educ. M. Temple 1681, called 1688. m. aft. 1704, Mary, da. and coh. of Sir Joseph Tredenham*, 1s. 2da. suc. fa.1
Commr. public accts. 1702–14; receiver-gen. duchy of Cornwall 1712–14.2
Stannator, Foymore 1703, 1710.3
Capt. St. Mawes 1710–14.4
Scobell’s grandfather, Henry, was clerk of the Parliament during the Interregnum. At the time of Scobell’s admission to the Middle Temple, his father’s address was given as St. Austell, and it is possible that Scobell acquired Menegwins in St. Austell through his mother. In 1690, two years after being called to the bar, he stood successfully for Mitchell. He was classed as a Tory by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†), and in December 1690 was listed among those thought likely to defend Carmarthen from Parliamentary attack. In April 1691 he was classed as a Country supporter by Robert Harley*. Initially an inactive member, he became much more involved in the work of the chamber during the 1692–3 session. His activities included nomination to a drafting committee on 18 Nov. and a speech on 14 Dec. against the abjuration bill in which he argued that ‘there were laws sufficient to punish offenders if they were executed’. In March 1693 he was deputed to take messages to the Lords on three occasions, twice relating to the bill enabling the King to grant leases in the duchy of Cornwall. In the following session he acted as teller on three occasions: on 5 Mar. 1694 to agree with a Lords’ amendment on the mutiny bill; on the 8th against adding a clause to the London orphans bill; and on the 22nd for a motion to lay further duties on wines. Also on the 22nd the House was informed of ‘some words of heat and a quarrel that had been between Mr [?Hon. Thomas] Wharton and Mr Scobell in the House’ and they were enjoined to forbear. In October Scobell was the hero of the moment after an incident in Pall Mall when ‘my Lord Mohun had a fancy to the killing of a poor coachman . . . but was baulked in it by Mr Scobell, whom he had liked to have killed afterwards for hindering him’. In the 1694–5 session Scobell told on 19 Jan. 1695 in favour of hearing a London merchants’ petition against the establishment of the Bank of England, and on 12 Feb. was named to draft a bill against highway robbery. A second tellership followed on 12 Apr. against going into committee on a supply bill. However, his major interest in this session appears to have been the vexed problem of coin-clipping. Following his report on 12 Mar. from the committee set up to inquire into methods of preventing this crime and the associated export of silver, he chaired the committee of the whole on the resultant legislation in April.5
Scobell does not appear to have stood in 1695. In 1697 he and Henry Vincent I* were granted a lease under the duchy of Cornwall to search for copper and other minerals, except tin, being ‘gentlemen of reputation and interest in the county of Cornwall and for that reason . . . more capable of encouraging the working of such mines than strangers’. Scobell and Vincent had petitioned for such a grant as early as 1693. As Scobell did not stand in 1698 he was available to contest the by-election at Grampound in January 1699, which he continued to represent in the next four Parliaments. On his return to the Commons, Scobell was very active in a legislative capacity. February saw him nominated to three drafting committees: on election returns (6th), encouraging the fishery (20th) and encouraging the Newfoundland trade (also 20th). On 6 Mar. 1699, Narcissus Luttrell* reported that at the committee hearing of the Tamworth election petition
some words arising in the debates between Mr Scobell and Sir William St. Quintin, it proceeded so far that the first challenged the latter, upon which diverse Members interposed, and endeavoured reconciliation, but could not then accomplish it, so that the committee was forced to adjourn the farther consideration of the election to another time, and the difference, I am told, is since made up.
Scobell was teller on 6 Apr. for a motion that William Culliford*, a Whig, was not duly elected for Corfe Castle, and later that month managed two private bills through the Commons. He told on 2 May for an amendment to a supply bill to allow the import of cowries (seashells) from Holland. In the following session he was named on 4 Dec. 1699 to prepare a bill for the preservation of game and on the 18th told for a motion to consider a petition in favour of land lotteries. Further tellerships continued after the Christmas recess: on 12 Jan. 1700 against a motion to refer the report on the state of the fleet to a committee of supply; on 2 Feb. to give a second reading to a bill extending the Act prohibiting the export of corn; on 7 Feb. against an amendment to a procedural motion which would the House would not consider the state of the nation in a committee of the whole; on 14 Mar. to read the reports of the committee of privileges; on 4 Apr. to give a second reading to a clause relating to the import of cowries in a supply bill. Following his report on a petition from the goldsmiths on 6 Feb., he presented a bill on the 26th to appoint assay-masters in most cities and to regulate goldsmiths. On 13 Feb. he spoke against the legality of the crown grants made by the King, and for the question condemning those ministers that had helped to procure them.
On 30 Oct. 1700, Lord Manchester, the English ambassador in France, reported that Scobell had been to visit the late King James at St. Germain, ‘in order to serve the late king better’ at his return. Manchester also believed that Scobell was the western Member who
when he was asked why their friends were so violent against the papists, as to promote the passing of such a law as they have lately done [for further preventing the growth of popery], he said the Roman Catholics run so much into the court in all elections, and otherwise, that they did him (King James) so much disservice, that his friends were not able to carry on their designs for his advantage,
adding, ‘his way of living here is such that none can tell what he does with himself. He is poor, I am satisfied, so the likelier to engage in any design whatsoever.’ In the first Parliament of 1701, he was listed as likely to support the Court over the ‘Great Mortgage’. Again, his legislative undertakings were varied. He managed a private bill through all its stages in the House and was named to the drafting committees for bills for regulating elections (20 Mar.) and for encouraging the fishery (15 May). More importantly, he was added on 15 Apr. to the committee drawing up the impeachments of the King’s ministers. Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, recorded several of his interventions in debates on supply: on 17 Apr. he proposed a method of cutting the government debt; and on 23 May he proposed that more than £3,000 per week could be trimmed from the civil list and 1s. saved on the land tax. He was a teller twice, on both occasions on the Tory side in election cases. This session saw his first attempt to gain election to the commission of accounts when he received a mere 20 votes.6
Despite being blacklisted for opposing the preparations for war against France, Scobell was returned in December 1701. Harley classed him as a Tory. In the new session he was named to five drafting committees, dealing with privateers, elections, trade and the naturalization of Charlotte Boscawen (wife of Hugh II*), but only managed the first of these through the Commons. On 16 Feb. he told for adding a clause to the mutiny bill preventing army officers from keeping greyhounds and setting dogs, and voted on 26 Feb. 1702 for the motion vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachment of the King’s ministers. He was named on 8 Mar. to the committee to draw up the address to Queen Anne on her accession, and was noted by Hon. James Brydges* as one of the Members present at Mr Finch’s house to draw up a rough draft. On 18 Mar. he was declared elected to the commission of accounts with 188 votes, though Cocks commented, ‘he was a man of no great fortune nor repute’. In this office, which entitled him to a salary of £500 p.a., he signed reports which were severely critical of the accounts of Lord Ranelagh (Richard Jones*), paymaster to the army, and of those of Lord Orford (Edward Russell*) as treasurer to the navy.7
In Queen Anne’s reign Scobell’s legislative activity tailed off to some extent. But he continued to rank as a figure of moderate importance in the House, as exemplified by his nomination to several address committees, beginning on 16 Dec. to that against alienating any revenue of the crown to the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†), and continuing with that on 1 Feb. 1703 condemning Ranelagh. He also voted on 13 Feb. against agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration. With Hon. John Granville as lord warden of the Stannaries, Scobell’s brother Henry was appointed to the lucrative and influential post of receiver-general of the new tin farm, a place apparently held on behalf of Scobell himself. Charles Sergison noted that Scobell spoke on 27 Nov. in the committee of the whole on the problem of manning the fleet. He came second in the ballot for commissioners of accounts on 21 Feb. 1704. Harley forecast him as likely to support the Tack, and he duly voted for it on 28 Nov. 1704. He was also appointed to four conference committees including that concerning the Aylesbury case.8
Scobell was one of the Tackers re-elected in 1705. He was classed as a placeman and noted as having ‘places held in trust for him by his brother’, and on another list as ‘True Church’. He voted on 25 Oct. against the Court candidate for Speaker. In the debate on the Church on 8 Dec., he denounced the practice of occasional conformity as a danger to the Church. On the regency bill on 10 Jan. 1706 he opposed changes to the treason laws, and probably later in the same debate worried that the immediate summoning of Parliament upon Anne’s death would be to the detriment of Members from Devon and Cornwall. On the 15th he again spoke about the summoning of Parliament, and on the 19th made an intervention over the composition of the regency. On 18 Feb. he supported the ‘place clauses’ in the bill. He was also named to three conference committees, including that on the regency bill.9
In the 1706–7 session Scobell was sent to invite Dr Moss to preach on the anniversary of Charles I’s execution. He told on 23 Jan. 1707 against a motion that Edward Southwell* was not duly elected for Rye. He was named to two drafting committees: on the 29th to draft a bill relating to the poor laws and on 27 Feb. to equalize export allowances with Scotland. The following session saw him more active in legislation. He was involved in six drafting committees, mostly on trading matters, but including one to allow the crown to grant leases of duchy of Cornwall land, which he managed through the House. He also told on 5 Feb. 1708 for bringing up a clause in a supply bill. In the committee of the whole on supply on 13 Feb. Scobell advanced a proposal for raising £900,000 in opposition to that suggested by Lowndes. On the 16th he renewed his proposal, which amounted to using the same funds earmarked by Lowndes, but instead of using them to fund annuities he wanted them used to pay 6 per cent interest on a loan of £900,000 redeemable by Parliament after five years. The prospective creditors were called in whereupon ‘they appeared to be the corporation of the Hollow Sword Blade Company’. Their proposal foundered when it was seen to be in breach of the Act establishing the Bank of England.10
In the 1708 election Scobell was forced to transfer from Grampound to St. Germans, although not before he had denounced his successor in the former seat as a danger to the constitution and had been accused in turn by James Craggs I, the other Grampound MP, of hypocrisy for being the true recipient of the £1,000 p.a. post held by his brother (see GRAMPOUND, Cornw.). On 12 Jan. 1709, he supported Robert Harley’s attempt to include in an address sentiments to the effect that the war effort should concentrate on putting the Austrian claimant in complete control of Spain, instead of being diverted to Portugal and Catalonia. He brought in a bill to prevent bribery at elections on 17 Jan., and on 8 Apr. supported a clause in the bill for improving the Union with Scotland regarding treason trials, enacting that no attainder for treason should extend to disinheriting the legal heirs. In the next session, he appears to have been relatively inactive. He told on 6 Feb. 1710 against a resolution from ways and means for a perennial duty on candles and voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.11
By this time Scobell had probably gained control of Tregonan and other estates belonging to his father-in-law, Sir Joseph Tredenham, which were ‘greatly encumbered with debts’. At the 1710 election, he signed the paper backing the Tory candidates in the shire contest and switched his own seat to Launceston. He was classed as a Tory on the ‘Hanover list’ and his name also appears as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who detected the mismanagements of the previous administration in 1711 (and as a member of the October Club). However, in February 1711, when the Club first made its appearance, Mungo Graham* was surprised that it was not led by men such as Scobell, whom he described as one ‘of the old Tories, who are not yet provided, and who have shewn a great uneasiness all this session’. This was contradicted on 15 Feb. by another Scottish correspondent, who included Scobell among the Club’s three leaders. By May, his name appeared in Boyer’s list as one of the Club’s leaders. In the Commons, when leave was given to repeal the General Naturalization Act on 15 Jan. he was reported to have ‘made a most excellent speech against the dangerous tendency of that Act’. However, although named to many inquiry and address committees, some of them into the iniquities of the previous regime, he was appointed to draft only two pieces of legislation: that altering the standard of plate (17 Apr.) and on the militia (25th). At some point during this session, he put forward a proposal for raising a considerable sum by a tax on traders and retailers. He was also named on 17 Mar. to count the ballot for commissioners of accounts, reporting the result to the House two days later. A memorandum in Harley’s hand of 4 June 1711 suggests that Harley was thinking of giving Scobell employment as receiver of tin in Cornwall. A letter the following day from Arthur Maynwaring* related Scobell’s appointment to the Board of Trade, and other sources also tipped him for the job. However, when the new commission was issued on 11 June Scobell was not included. George Granville* wrote to Harley on 3 July:
it would be a very great favour if Mr Scobell might be dismissed to his satisfaction and a wonderful ease to me, who am teased to death in that matter by so many hands. Mr Auditor Harley [Edward*] told me you was come to a resolution in it, and would settle it upon being reminded.12
A memorandum from Granville to Oxford on 28 Sept. earmarked Scobell ‘to be receiver of the Stannaries’, and although Luttrell reported his appointment as joint receiver of the tin in Cornwall (the place from which his brother had been turned out by Hugh Boscawen II* in 1708) in January 1712, no new writ for a by-election was issued until 4 Mar., over two months after the beginning of the session. Scobell was duly returned on the 15th. Owing to this hiatus in his parliamentary career, his recorded activity in the 1711–12 session was minimal, being restricted to a tellership on 29 Apr. in favour of committing the black latten duty bill. He does not appear to have attended Parliament at all in the 1713 session. Nor did he seem particularly satisfied with his office, for on 18 July 1713 Lord Lansdown (Granville) forwarded a letter from Scobell to Lord Treasurer Oxford (Harley), with the comment ‘you have certainly been misinformed about the value of his employment which is no more than he represented it’. Scobell’s letter elaborated on the point: ‘there has been little or no surplus of late, so ’tis not likely there ever now will be any more: since the Queen is obliged to take two hundred tuns of tin more in peace than in war. The salary is but £500 p.a. out of which [I] am to pay several deputies.’13
In 1713 Scobell came in for St. Mawes, where he had been captain of the castle since 1710, and almost certainly on the interest of his wife’s Tredenham relatives. Scobell was classed as a Tory in the Worsley list, and on 22 Apr. 1714 spoke on the government side on the motion that the peace was ‘safe, honourable and advantageous’. He was removed from his place on the accession of George I. In late August 1714 he was planning to stand at St. Mawes again, but apparently desisted. He was classed as ‘dubious’ in the list of supporters sent to the Pretender in 1721. He stood again, however, for St. Mawes in 1722 when he was defeated. He died 20 Sept. 1740, and was buried at St. Ewe, Cornwall.14
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley
- 1. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 456; Polsue, Complete Paroch. Hist. Cornw. i. 386; Maclean, Trigg Minor, i. 319.
- 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvii. 246; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 715.
- 3. J. Tregoning, Stannary Laws, 118.
- 4. R. Inst. Cornw. Tonkins’ ms hist. Cornw. ii. 244.
- 5. DNB (Scobell, Henry); Luttrell Diary, 317; Bodl. Carte 79, f. 645; Egerton 920, ff. 79–80; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss. U1590/O59/3, Robert Yard* to Alexander Stanhope, 9 Oct. 1694; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 381.
- 6. 7th Duke of Manchester, Court and Soc. Eliz. to Anne, ii. 119–20; Cocks Diary, 54, 102, 144; Yorks. Arch. Soc. Copley mss DD38, box H–J, mss poll for commrs. of accts.
- 7. Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 26(2), Brydges diary, 8 Mar. 1702; Luttrell, v. 250; Add. 7078, f. 78; Cocks Diary, 249; HMC Lords, n.s. v. 58–63, 366–452.
- 8. Cal. Treas. Bks. xviii. 89; NMM, Sergison pprs. Ser/103, ff. 450–2.
- 9. Cam. Misc. xxiii. 47, 58, 60, 73.
- 10. Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/190, James Vernon I* to Duke of Shrewsbury, 17 Feb. 1707–8.
- 11. Stowe mss 58(2), p. 242; DZA, Bonet despatch 14/25 Jan. 1709; Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 8 Apr. 1709.
- 12. Polsue, 376, 380; Add. 70099, copy of resolution at Liskeard, 4 Oct. 1710; 70332, Harley’s notes 4 June 1711; 57861, f. 162; 70288, Granville to Harley, 3 July 1711; Huntington Lib. Q. xxxiii. 159; SRO, Montrose mss GD220/5/808/15, Graham to Montrose, 6 Feb. 1711; NLS, Advocates’ mss Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto, 5, f. 130; Trans. R. Hist. Soc. ser. 5, xxvii. 51–52; Stowe mss 57(5), pp. 91–92; Scots Courant, 19–22 Jan. 1711.
- 13. Add. 70288, Granville’s memo. 28 Sept. 1711; 70229, Lansdown to Oxford, 18 July 1713, Scobell to same, 15 July 1713; Luttrell, vi. 715; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvi. 433.
- 14. Wilts. RO, Ailesbury mss 1300/1437, Samuel Rolt to Ld. Bruce (Charles*), 27 Aug. 1714; Douglas diary (Hist. of Parl. trans.), 22 Apr. 1714; P. S. Fritz, Ministers and Jacobitism 1715–45, p. 148; Polsue, 380.