HUNGERFORD, John (c.1658-1729), of Lincoln's Inn.
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Family and Education
b. c.1658, 1st s. of Richard Hungerford of Wilts. educ. L. Inn 1677, called 1687, bencher 1707. m. (lic. 5 Aug. 1687) Mary, da. of Abraham Spooner, vintner, of London, s.p.
Commr. of the alienation office 1711-14; cursitor of Yorks. and Westmld. for life.
Hungerford, who bought the manor of Hungerford in 1721, is described in his memorial in its church as ‘descended from the Hungerfords of the Lea and Down Ampney’ in Gloucestershire.1 A successful barrister, he was standing counsel to the East India Company and to King’s College, Cambridge. First returned for Scarborough in 1692, he was expelled from the House of Commons in 1695 for taking a bribe, but was re-elected in 1702 again for Scarborough, which he represented as a Tory in every Parliament till his death.
In 1715 Hungerford spoke against the Address, and vigorously defended Bolingbroke, Ormonde, Strafford and Oxford against the charge of high treason. He spoke and voted against the septennial bill in 1716. Next year, he opposed a vote of credit against Sweden in April, but in June he separated himself from his party by speaking for Lord Cadogan though he voted against him. Later he spoke against a standing army in time of peace, saying that ‘when there is occasion for an army, the officers with a drum, a guinea, and a barrel of ale, can bring one together’.2 He opposed the Address in November 1718, and voted against the repeal of the Occasional Conformity and Schism Acts in 1719. In a list drawn up by Sunderland before the division on the peerage bill, for which he spoke and voted, he is put down to ‘Craggs sen.’, whom he seconded at a meeting of the general court of proprietors of the South Sea Company, 8 Sep. 1720, in a vote of confidence in the directors, saying that in all his experience he had never known such wonderful results to be produced in so short a time. In February 1721 he became chairman of a committee set up by the House of Commons to investigate the numerous flotations of joint-stock companies. The committee’s report presented in April, led to the passing of the so-called Bubble Act, whose object was to protect the South Sea Company against its rivals. He was also chairman of a similar committee set up in 1722 to inquire into the Harburg lottery, whose report led to the expulsion from the Commons of the 1st Lord Barrington.3
At the time of the Atterbury plot, Hungerford opposed the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in October, the special tax on the Roman Catholics in November 1722, and the bill of pains and penalties against Atterbury in March 1723, also acting as counsel for Christopher Layer, one of the agents in the plot.4 In a debate on extending the malt tax to Scotland on 10 Feb. 1724,
Mr. Walpole said he had done no more than errare cum patribus, and that those who had presided in the Treasury before could not find out any way to get it, and yet that gentleman [Hungerford] never thought fit to differ with them so much as with those now. Upon which Hungerford fell upon him and vindicated Lord Oxford, that he went out of the Treasury without an acre of land more than when he came in, and if it was a fault, that gentleman that impeached him should have made it so that it shewed plainly by his not doing it he thought it part of his duty to make the Scotch pay, and in very foul language went on without the least provocation.5
He spoke against the army in November 1724, against the Address in March 1726 and against the supply in April 1727. He was one of the most frequent non-ministerial speakers of his time, rivalling William Shippen and surpassing Archibald Hutcheson in the number of his reported speeches. He proposed and promoted a number of bills against betting and gambling, but his chief claim to fame was
his easy and popular eloquence, intermixing his speeches in matters of the greatest weight and importance with quick facetious turns, which put the House in a good humour and seldom failed of having the intended effect.6
An example of this was his last recorded speech, 23 Feb. 1728, when on a dispute between Walpole and Pulteney, in which warm expressions had passed on both sides, Hungerford ‘interposed in a jocular speech, that put the House in a good humour and so the dispute ended’.7
Hungerford died 8 June 1729, leaving his property in trust for his wife during her life time, after which it was to be sold, two-thirds of the proceeds to go to King’s College, Cambridge, and the remaining third to his friend, Dr. Mangey, canon of Durham, who was said to have taken advantage of Hungerford’s last moments ‘to make him give his estate, or great part of it, away to uses he never intended.’8 The will bitterly attacks Lord Chancellor King for refusing to allow Hungerford to sell his office of cursitor of Yorkshire, ‘upon pretence that the punishment inflicted on the Earl of Macclesfield doth debar him from so doing’; but, really, according to Hungerford, because Lord King proposed to give the office when it became vacant to his son,
the first person of his rank and station that ever acted so meanly as to make his children cursitors, but however I forgive him.9
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Romney R. Sedgwick
- 1. Add. 33412, ff. 145-7; Berks. N. & Q. i. 26-27.
- 2. HMC Stuart, v. 301.
- 3. Pol. State, xx. 180-2; CJ, xix. 392, 418; xx. 75, 88; J. Carswell, South Sea Bubble, 116-17, 138-40.
- 4. Howell's State Trials, xv. 233-7.
- 5. Knatchbull Diary.
- 6. Pol. State, xxxvii. 620-1.
- 7. Chandler, vii. 23.
- 8. HMC Egmont Diary, ii. 250.
- 9. PCC 167 Abbott.