WARD, John (d.1755), of Hackney, Mdx.
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Family and Education
Bro. of Joshua Ward. m. Rebecca? Knox, 1s.
Director, E.I. Co. 1712-15, 1718-26.
John Ward of Hackney, a wealthy and unscrupulous business man, who appears to have been a Whig under Anne,1 was returned unopposed for Weymouth in 1722, after standing unsuccessfully for it in 1710 and 1713, and for Aldeburgh in 1718. He made his only reported speech on 21 Feb. 1724, against a petition from the subscribers to the Bahama Company2 (see Guise, John). Next year he became involved in a dispute with the executors of the late Duke of Buckingham, from whom he had leased some alum works in Yorkshire for 19 years in 1705. The lease entitled Ward to require the Duke to buy up to 740 tons of alum a year at £10 a ton, the normal price being £15. Ward’s practice was to require the Duke to take up his full quota of alum each year on the ground that there had been a slump in the market for it; to persuade him to store the alum so purchased at Ward’s works pending a recovery in the price; and to sell it himself on the open market, thus being paid twice over for it, once by the purchaser and once by the Duke. Before the fraud was discovered the Duke had been cheated out of over £70,000, of which only £10,000 was recovered from Ward.3
When the lease expired the Duke’s executors, acting on behalf of the new Duke, a minor, instituted proceedings in Chancery against Ward for failing to comply with a covenant requiring him to leave 351 tons of alum on going out. Ward’s defence was that he had been released from this covenant by a note from the Duke, which was proved to relate to another matter but to have been altered by Ward to suit his purpose. On losing his case he set up a claim to parliamentary privilege. When this claim was rejected by the Commons he appealed against the Chancery decree to the House of Lords, who not only rejected his appeal but ordered the attorney-general, Sir Philip Yorke, to prosecute him for forgery.4 He was convicted, expelled from the House of Commons, and, after evading justice for eight months by absconding, was brought up and sentenced to a fine of £500, to stand in the pillory for an hour, and to give security for his good behaviour for nine years. A large crowd, including many members of both Houses, gathered in Palace Yard to witness his ordeal, at the end of which, though protected from pelting by a strong body of constables, he was taken down bleeding at the mouth and senseless for some hours.5 A few weeks later he had recovered sufficiently to write to Yorke that he had instructed his solicitor to retain him in an impending case, adding that he freely forgave him.6
Ward’s subsequent career is summarized in Pope’s note to the line bracketing him with another contemporary scoundrel, Colonel Charteris:
He was suspected of joining in a conveyance with Sir John Blunt, to secrete fifty thousand pounds of that director’s estate, forfeited to the South Sea Company by Act of Parliament. The company recovered the fifty thousand pounds against Ward; but he set up prior conveyances of his real estate to his brother and son [Ralph and Knox Ward] and concealed all his personal, which was computed to be one hundred and fifty thousand pounds. These conveyances being also set aside by a bill in Chancery, Ward was imprisoned, and hazarded the forfeiture of his life, by not giving in his effects till the last day, which was that of his examination. During his confinement, his amusement was to give poison to dogs and cats, and to see them expire by slower or quicker torments. To sum up the worth of this gentleman, at the several eras of his life, at his standing in the pillory he was worth above two hundred thousand pounds; at his commitment to prison, he was worth one hundred and fifty thousand, but has been since so far diminished in his reputation as to be thought a worse man by fifty or sixty thousand.7
He died 30 July 1755, predeceased by his only son, Knox Ward, Clarenceux king of arms, an office purchased for some £3,000 in 1725, when Ward was salting away his assets from his creditors.8
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Romney R. Sedgwick
- 1. W. A. Speck, ‘The choice of a Speaker in 1705’, Bull. Inst. Hist. Res. xxxvii. 44.
- 2. Knatchbull Diary.
- 3. Duchess of Buckingham to Sir Phil. Yorke, undated, Add. 35585, f. 251; Case of the late and present Dukes of Buckingham with John Ward of Hackney, Add. 36148, f. 81.
- 4. CJ, xx. 439-40; LJ, xxii. 513b.
- 5. Brice’s Weekly Jnl. 24 Feb. 1727.
- 6. 13 Apr. 1727, Add. 35585, f. 58.
- 7. Moral Essays, iii. line 20.
- 8. De Gols and Read, assignees of the estate and effects of John Ward, late of London, merchant and a bankrupt, v. Knox Ward and others, Add. 36153, f. 141 et seq.