MORICE, Humphry (c.1671-1731), of the Grove, Chiswick, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. c.1671, o.s. of Humphry Morice, London merchant (a yr. bro. of Sir William Morice, 1st Bt., M.P.), by Alice, da. of Sir Thomas Trollope, 1st Bt., of Casewick, Lincs. m. (1) 1704, Judith (d.1720), da. of Thomas Sandes, London merchant, 3da.; (2) 2 June 1722, Catherine, da. of Peter Paggen of the Manor House, Wandsworth, Surr., wid. of William Hale, 2s. suc. fa. 1689.
Director, Bank of England 1716-31 (with statutory intervals), dep. gov. 1725-6, gov. 1727-9.
Humphry Morice lost his mother while still a boy and was brought up at Werrington with his cousin, Sir Nicholas Morice. At about the age of 18 he succeeded to his father’s business, carrying on an extensive trade with Africa, America, Holland and Russia.
In 1710 Humphry asked Nicholas to bring him into Parliament but was told that all the seats for Newport and Launceston were already bespoken. Returned for Newport in 1713, on 6 Mar. 1714 he voted with the Whigs against Sir Robert Steele’s expulsion. On the Prince of Wales’s birthday later in the year Nicholas was displeased to learn that Humphry had ‘appeared in a most splendid manner at court, being the finest there, drawing ... all the killing eyes of the ladies and the admiration of the men’. Worse still, he ‘heartily voted for’ the septennial bill after giving Nicholas the impression at breakfast that morning that he was ‘zealous against’ it.1
The politics of the cousins were temporarily reconciled when Humphry followed his friend Walpole into opposition, voting against the bill repealing the Occasional Conformity and Schism Acts in 1719. But they diverged again when Walpole, after rejoining the Government in 1720, used Humphry as a whip for the London Members, writing to him on 14 Dec. 1720:
The question of the forces comes on this morning, and I am certainly informed the Tories are resolved to give a direct opposition. Pray go to the Bank and speak to all our friends there, and send to all our Members that live in the city to beg they will be in the House before one o’clock.
On 10 Oct. 1721 Nicholas gave Humphry notice that he did not propose to bring him in again for Newport:
I perceive you are very solicitous and seem to rely on me to be elected again, which I can scarce believe considering when you gave up the right and privileges of your borough in voting for the septennial bill on no pretence that induced you to it but to please the ambition of Mr. Walpole who, no doubt, will take care of you at the ensuing election for so signal a piece of service.
And again, on 3 Mar. 1722, beginning his letter with ‘Dear Sir’ instead of the usual ‘Dear Brother’:
I ... assure you that my love and affection for you is as great as ever, and were you my own brother I could not love you with more sincerity, but you very well know when you voted for the septennial bill I then told you that was not the way to Cornwall, nor can I imagine that you will lose your seat in Parliament if I don’t recommend you, for it stands with reason that the great Mr. Walpole cannot in justice desert you for whom you have done so much.2
In the end Humphry was brought in for Grampound by the Administration.
Humphry Morice died suddenly on 16 Nov. 1731. He was said to have taken poison3 to forestall the discovery that he had used his position as director of the Bank of England to defraud the Bank of more than £29,000 by getting them to discount fictitious bills of exchange. He had also embezzled trust funds left to his own daughters by an uncle, leaving debts amounting to nearly £150,000. As the widow refused to admit liability for the £29,000, the Bank brought an action against her, which after 43 years of litigation resulted in their recovering £12,000 and writing off the balance.4