STEWART, Simeon (1685-1761), of Hartley Mauditt, Hants.
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Family and Education
bap. 17 Nov. 1685, o. s. of Charles Stewart by Clemence, da. and coh. of Sir William Hovell of Hillingdon, Norf., gds. of Sir Nicholas Steward, 1st Bt.†, of Hartley Mauditt. educ. Eton c.1693. m. 12 June 1701, Elizabeth (d. 1750), da. and coh. of Sir Richard Dereham, 3rd Bt., of West Dereham, Norf., 1s. suc. fa. by May 1709; gdfa. as 2nd Bt. 15 Feb. 1710.1
Dep.-chamberlain of Exchequer 1708–11, chamberlain 1712–d.2
Freeman, Southampton 1708.3
In the early 17th century Stewart’s family had spelt their name ‘Steward’, but this was subsequently altered to ‘Stewart’, ‘Steuart’ or ‘Stuart’. His grandfather, from whom he eventually inherited the baronetcy and the manors of Hartley Mauditt and Norton in Hampshire, had represented Lymington from 1663 to 1679 and held the office of chamberlain of the Exchequer for life. Stewart himself was appointed a deputy-chamberlain of the Exchequer and in the same year entered Parliament at a by-election for Southampton. A Country Tory, he was not particularly prominent in the Whig-dominated House, though he was noted as voting against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.4
At the 1710 election Stewart successfully contested the county with another Tory on the ‘Church interest’, defeating two Whigs. Thereafter he became a more active MP. As one of the leading spokesmen for the October Club, he played a prominent part in forcing its policies on Robert Harley’s* ministry. In this he was no doubt partly prompted by genuine conviction, but he may also have been annoyed at not being appointed chamberlain of the Exchequer, an office that had become virtually hereditary in his family. To make things worse, he lost his job as deputy-chamberlain early in 1711. He was a teller on 3 Feb. 1711 to refer to committee a petition on a minor local matter. On the 5th, as part of the October Club’s initial exertion of pressure on the new ministry, Stewart moved for an address to the Queen for directions to be given for Exchequer and other accounts to be laid before the House. Stewart has also been credited with putting forward the club’s views in the House that day on the reason for the fall in the new ministry’s credit, arguing that since the removal of the previous ministry,
the public credit is sunk, and that it seems it is not in the power of the new ministry to retrieve it. If so, he knew no reason why they were removed. But that probably the secret of that matter being the consequence of the mismanagements of the former ministry who had exhausted all the funds, and squandered the money away. The only thing that was left to this honest Parliament was to inquire into these mismanagements and rectify them as far as possible, and punish the offenders to the terror of others. That this was the thing the country expected from them, and was indeed the thing which was promised to be done, when they solicited the elections; and to return to the country without doing any such thing would be one evidence to the country that they either had been imposed upon when such stories were told them, or that the new had succeeded the old in their integrity, as well as their places. That it was true one honorable gentleman (meaning Mr Harley) had been pleased to let them into a discovery he had made of some abuses in the victualling office, which regarded a Member of the House (one Mr [Thomas] Ridge a brewer in Portsmouth), but that though that was indeed an abuse as great as fell to the share of a commoner, yet there were certainly other abuses which might be made out of some great men in the late ministry, whereby it would appear the public had been cheated in millions and that if that honorable Member (Harley) would not let them in to these secrets likewise he behoved to conclude that a certain great man of the late ministry had compounded matters with another great man in this ministry.
In keeping with these arguments, Stewart proposed on 17 Feb. that a commission of accounts should be appointed as a means to investigate the suspected financial irregularities in Lord Godolphin’s (Sidney†) administration. With two other members of the club, he brought in the ensuing bill for stating the public accounts, which he managed through the House between February and April. When he came to chair the committee of the whole on this bill on 12 Mar. he was described as ‘a gentleman qualified much above his years for that high trust’. On 17 Apr. his name headed the list of Members chosen as commissioners for the resumption of crown grants. As part of the club’s attack on the previous administration, he acted as a teller on 28 Apr. against a motion to adjourn further consideration of a report on previous failure at the Treasury to ensure that all accountants and cashiers passed their accounts, though originally in the debate that day he had wished the report to apply only to the lord treasurer. During this session he also managed a bill through the House relating to the road from Petersfield to Portsmouth.5
In the next session Stewart returned to the attack on 17 Jan. 1712 when he acted as a teller in favour of a motion to expel Robert Walpole II for irregularities in connexion with two forage contracts. On the 24th he was one of several ‘Country gentlemen’ and October Club MPs who overturned arguments that money taken by the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) from the funds for bread contracts had been entirely legal and warrantable. He was also active in securing the passage of a bill designed to secure toleration for the episcopal church in Scotland, which he presented in February. He took the chair in one session of the committee of the whole on the bill, and acted as teller for its third reading on 7 Feb. On the 16th he and another October Club member, George Lockhart, were tellers in favour of a motion that several clauses in the barrier treaty would be destructive to the trade and interest of Britain. Six days later he led the attack on Britain’s allies, accusing them of failing to carry a fair share of the burden of the war. On 6 Mar. he acted as a teller against hearing the petition from the electors of King’s Lynn, thus clearing the way for declaring Walpole incapable of being elected to sit in the present Parliament, while on 15 Apr. he told in favour of committing a bill for explaining the elections Act in relation to the Hampshire poll. After this he became much less active, almost certainly on account of his appointment for life as chamberlain of the Exchequer. Stewart’s closer association with the Court, and especially his role in introducing Henry St. John II* to the October Club, accounts for his exclusion from the break-away March Club. However, no matter how much Stewart may have criticized other policies of the Harley administration, there was no doubt of his support for the peace. He took a prominent part in an elaborate celebration of the peace in Alton, a town near his principal seat, and afterwards entertained many of the leading gentlemen of the town and neighbourhood at the Tavern Inn. Although initially suggested as a potential candidate for Hampshire for the 1713 election, Stewart decided against standing. He was unsuccessful for Hampshire in 1734, and died on 11 Aug. 1761.6
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Paula Watson / Ivar McGrath
- 1. IGI, Hants, Norfolk; VCH Hants, iii. 9.
- 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxii. 295; xxv. 225, 340; xxvi. 340.
- 3. Southampton RO, Southampton bor. recs. SC3/1/2, f. 42.
- 4. VCH Hants, ii. 509; iii. 9.
- 5. EHR, lvi. 82; Bodl. Ballard 15, f. 21; Huntington Lib. Q. xxxiii. 159–60; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxv. 225, 340; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 251, 342; Scots Courant, 9–12 Feb. 1711; SRO, Montrose mss, GD220/5/808/15, Mungo Graham* to Duke of Montrose, 6 Feb. 1711; Mar and Kellie mss, GD124/15/1020/13, Sir James Dunbar, 1st Bt.*, to Ld. Grange [Hon. James Erskine†], 17 Feb. 1711; D. Szechi, Jacobitism and Tory Pol. 62, 74, 77, 80; Pittis, Present Parl. 100, 167; Boyer, Pol. State, i. 170, 253, 283; Chandler, iv. 196, 203; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. iv. 1014; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 5, f. 193.
- 6. Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 6, ff. 93, 96; BL, Trumbull Add. mss 136, Ralph Bridges to Sir William Trumbull*, 25 Jan. 1712; Szechi, 96, 98, 106–8, 112; Chandler, 250, 255; Boyer, iii. 24, 26, 69, 387; Clarke thesis, 294; Huntington Lib. Q. 166–8; Huntington Lib. Stowe 57(7), p. 117; Scots Courant, 27–30 June 1712; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvi. 340; Post Boy, 24–26 June 1712, 19–21 May 1713; Beaufort mss at Badminton House, Beaufort to [?], 1713; VCH Hants, iii. 9.