BOSCAWEN, Hugh (1625-1701), of Tregothnan, Penkevil, Cornw.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



21 Dec. 1646
25 Apr. - 12 July 1660
12 July 1660
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679
6 Feb. - 13 May 1701

Family and Education

bap. 21 Aug. 1625, 2nd s. of Hugh Boscawen (d.1641) of Tregothnan, and bro. of Charles Boscawen and Edward Boscawen. m. by 1651, Lady Margaret Clinton (bur. 21 Nov. 1688), da. and coh. of Theophilus, 4th Earl of Lincoln, 8s. d.v.p. 2da. suc. bro. 1645.2

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Cornw. 1647-52, 1657 1661-80, 1689-90, Westminster 1679-80; j.p. Cornw. 1651-80, June 1688-d., commr. for militia 1648, Mar. 1660, col. of militia ft. Apr. 1660-80; commr. for oyer and terminer, Western circuit July 1660; stannator Blackmore 1673; commr. for recusants, Cornw. 1675; recorder, Tregony by 1690-d.; gov. St. Mawes 1698-d.3

PC 14 Feb. 1689-d.; commr. for subscriptions, new E.I. Co. 1698.


Boscawen’s family acquired Tregothnan by marriage in 1334, and his father bought the manor of Tregony in 1626. His elder brother raised a regiment of cavalry for the parliamentary army in the Civil War, and he himself became the first of the family to sit when he was returned for Cornwall as a recruiter. Although he refused to sit after Pride’s Purge, he held county office during the Interregnum. A correspondent of Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, he attacked the abuses of the Protectorate in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament, signed the Cornish address for a free Parliament in December, and helped to secure Pendennis against the Anabaptists.4

At the general election of 1660 Boscawen stood for Cornwall and Grampound. In the county election, which was contested, he was originally adjudged to have been narrowly defeated by Robert Robartes, and accordingly sat for the borough until the other result was reversed on petition. He was probably moderately active in the Convention, though none of the 32 committee references gives his Christian name, and there is the possibility of confusion with his brother Edward. Marked as a friend on Lord Wharton’s list, he clearly acted with the Opposition, though he was recommended for the order of the Royal Oak, with an estate of £4,000 p.a. He defended, vainly as it turned out, the Cornish enthusiast Hugh Peter in the debate of 19 June on exceptions to the indemnity bill, and he was among those to whom the petition from the intruded dons at Oxford was referred. On 4 July he was named to the committee to prepare for a con ference on three orders issued by the House of Lords. He favoured the adjournment of the long debate on religion on 16 July, and was appointed to the committees to consider settling ministers in their livings, the navigation bill, the Dunkirk establishment, and additional rules for disbandment. On 12 Sept. he helped to manage a conference on assessing peers for the poll-tax, and proposed that a committee should be appointed to draw up a petition urging the King to marry a Protestant; but he found no seconder. Wharton sent him a copy of the case for modified episcopacy with objections and answers during the recess; he acted as teller for reading the bill to give effect to the Worcester House declaration, and was added to the committee. On 27 Nov. he moved for an inquiry into the revenue before voting on the excise, and later took issue with John Birch for misrepresenting the views of the committee. He twice acted as teller on the bill to prevent marital separation, and opposed empowering the corporation of London to charge the rate-payers with the expenditure on celebrating the Restoration. He supported the privilege of franking letters, and in the debate on wine duties urged a reduction in the rate on the now unfashionable sack to 1s.5d. On the last day of the session he produced a book to show that the demand of the Lords to tax themselves had been ruled out of order early in the Long Parliament.5

At the general election of 1661 Boscawen had to step down to the family borough of Tregony. He was probably active again in the Cavalier Parliament, in which he may have served on as many as 362 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in every session, made 88 recorded speeches, and told in 12 divisions. Wharton still listed him as a friend, and he was regarded as a leader of the Presbyterians in the House, refusing to kneel for the corporate communion. In the first session he was also named to the committees to consider the security and corporations bills, to restore the bishops to the House of Lords, and to inquire into the shortfall in the revenue. On 19 Mar. 1662 he acted as teller for an unsuccessful proviso to the customs frauds bill intended to encourage the export of tin to the Mediterranean. He supported the proposals to debate the amendments made by Convocation to the Prayer Book and to give incumbents until Michaelmas to conform. In May he was teller against the Lords’ amendments about assessing peers for the militia. He served on the committee for the bill to regulate the press, and supported the proviso to exempt reprints. In 1663 his most important committee was for hindering the growth of Popery, and in the following year he was named to the committee for the conventicles bill, besides helping to consider the Falmouth church bill and to manage a conference. In his own county he gave much anxiety to Bishop Ward of Exeter by maintaining Presbyterian chaplains, and he distinguished himself with John Buller and John Tanner I in opposition to the crown right of preemption of tin. At Westminster he was less prominent until the last session of the Clarendon administration, when he helped to manage conferences on the import of Irish cattle and the encouragement of coinage, and to prepare reasons for objecting to the petition from the Lords for a public accounts commission and their amendments to the poll bill.6

On the fall of Clarendon Boscawen was among those ordered to inquire into the miscarriages of the war, to bring in a public accounts bill, and to examine the case of the merchants trading with France. Like Andrew Marvell, he opposed sending the ‘fanatic’ Peter Pett to the Tower for neglect of duty in the defence of Chatham. In the debate on Clarendon’s banishment he supported a preamble to the bill reflecting on the refusal of the Lords to take him into custody. Boscawen was named to the committee to inquire into nonconformist insolence on 5 Mar. 1668, though in the debate he said: ‘Let us not compel people in point of conscience, as the Spaniards baptized by driving thousands of Indians into the river at once’. He supported the impeachment of William Penn, observing that ‘the poor soldiers and seamen want pay, and the officers grow fat’. In the next session he was appointed to the committee on the bill to enable the King to grant leases of the duchy of Cornwall lands after opening the second reading debate:

It is the interest both of the King and that country to have this let for lives that it may be improved, reserving the old rents. Desires that the lords of the Treasury may take care that the lands be not let over their heads, and so both tenants and lands impoverished and the houses ruined.

With (Sir) Thomas Clarges, Sir Charles Harbord and (Sir) Lancelot Lake he was ordered to peruse before engrossment the bill to prevent thefts and robberies. On 11 Nov. 1669 he was teller for denying counsel to Sir George Carteret, and on 28 Mar. 1670 for hearing the report on customs fees in the outports. A fortnight later he attended a conference on the surrender of English ships to pirates. He made several interventions in the supply debates of 1670-1, opposing taxes on tobacco, currants, and French canvas, and urging a fairer apportionment of the land tax. No MP, he thought, should also act as commissioner: ‘it is not reasonable the law-makers should be the executors of it’. After the assault on Sir John Coventry he favoured suspending all other business. When it was proposed to tax coal, lead and tin mines he said:

Where one gets, a hundred lose, and if they do but make wages they think they do well, for the people that work consume the provision of the country. How much tin you bring up, so much silver, and so much addition to the stock of the whole nation. It encourages iron and smiths and other manufactures. They go forty or fifty fathom deep, and sometimes lose all their work by starting aside. Seeing that they are so many industrious bees, that work not for themselves so much as for the nation, hopes you will favour them.

Bankers, he thought, should be taxed, but not ruined, and office-holders should pay less than landowners. The law duties he described, perhaps with unconscious humour, as ‘blacker than the chimney-money’, because they would prevent the reform of the extravagant legal system, especially in the stannary courts. Together with Harbord and Sir Edward Dering he was ordered to bring in a new clause to enable pauper children to be apprenticed as domestic servants. He roundly attacked the second conventicles bill:

No exception of ages and qualities and persons, and thinks it will be a reproach upon us abroad to send a person of quality to the house of correction. Physic of different natures is not to be administered at the same time. The world is not the same as formerly; things of reconciliation will bring us to a better temper; and why may not this bill be forborne now? Matters of faith are not to be done by force; we have laws sufficient already.

He was himself sufficiently conformable to remain on the commission of the peace, despite the purge.7

On 29 Mar. 1673 Boscawen supported the Lords’ proviso to retain the suspending power in the bill of ease for Protestant dissenters. He also served on the committee that produced the test bill. In the autumn session he insisted that supply should be conditional on the conclusion of peace with the Dutch. But on 27 Jan. 1674 he recommended that the Commons should not ‘meddle with the articles’, since they had not been consulted about the declaration of war, and he helped to prepare reasons for a conference. He took the chair for a bill to enable Sir Francis Drake, 3rd Bt., to make a jointure for his wife. He seems to have been reluctant to press home the attack on the surviving ministers of the Cabal. On Lauderdale he protested that he had ‘no kindness nor relation to the Duke, but we ought to hear him. Your judgment will not be thought just, though it is so in truth, by persons that understand not the reasons.’ After five days spent in debating Arlington’s case he said:

[I] shall not extenuate, nor aggravate, the charge against this lord. Can any man show precedents of impeaching a man in the House of Commons out of kindness? ... The summary way is the quickest way, but whether more honourable?

He supported the reform of habeas corpus to prevent imprisonment overseas, and saw no reason why the King should not part with his guards as easily as with Dunkirk. In the spring session of 1675 he was named to the committees to inquire into the condition of Ireland and to prepare reasons for the dismissal of Lauderdale. He supported the appropriation of the customs revenue to the use of the navy and its deposit with the corporation of London rather than in the Exchequer. Much as he disliked the proliferating bureaucracy of the excise, he preferred it to the land-tax, which discriminated against those counties like Cornwall and Norfolk that required a numerous militia for their defence. ‘There is no kind of proportion between counties, and some parts in them’, he complained. ‘He is much against land-tax, and had rather pay £100,000 more by way of subsidy.’ On 17 May he attended a conference on Shirley v. Fagg. In the autumn he again spoke as a Cornishman, this time on the electoral reform bill:

’Tis looked on as a privilege of their county to have so many to serve in Parliament; but strangers are chosen that look not after the county. ... The world is so altered now that some forget for what place they serve.

Sir Richard Wiseman included Boscawen among the Cornish Opposition, and Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice worthy’ in 1677. In this session he was named to the committees on the bills to prevent illegal exactions and the growth of Popery and to preserve the liberty of the subject. He helped to draw up the addresses promising a credit of £200,000 for war with France and demanding the formation of an alliance against her. In May 1678 he supported the opposition motion that the terms arranged with the Dutch were not ‘agreeable to the addresses of the House, nor the safety of the nation’. He helped to draw up the address of 10 May for the removal of counsellors, and urged that no supply should be granted until the King sent an answer. He was among those instructed to prepare reasons for burial in woollen and measuring colliers, acted as teller against the stannaries bill, and reported another private bill. In the autumn he supported the offer of £5,000 reward for information leading to the discovery of the murderers of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey. He took part in several examinations of Coleman, and in the consideration of the bill to expedite the conviction of recusants. He was anxious that no further supply should be given before disbandment, explaining:

If we have a Popish successor, it is likely that commissions will be given to those of his opinion ... Will you sit still and have your throats cut and be mastered by the lesser part of the nation? ... Gentlemen are in danger as much as any sort of people in popular commotions. I would have gentlemen calmly discourse it. If our safety may be obtained any reasonable way, I care not which.

The French rewarded his services with a gift of £500. On the prorogation of the Cavalier Parliament, he concurred with the moderate country party, led by Denzil Holles, in promising supply and the preservation of Danby’s life and fortune, provided that he resigned and the King dissolved Parliament and disbanded the army.8

At the first general election of 1679 the Boscawen family won all four seats at Tregony and Truro. Boscawen himself, who was marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list, was probably very active in the first Exclusion Parliament, with 27 committee ap pointments and 15 speeches. He remained a strong supporter of the prohibition of cattle imports, observing that ‘those gentlemen that are for bringing in Irish cattle are not disposed to the interest of their country’. He helped to draw up three addresses, demanding the immediate execution of the Jesuit Pickering and the removal of Lauderdale, and promising revenge on the Papists. He was among those ordered to prepare reasons for a conference on disbandment. Despite his undertaking to Danby, he had some discourse with the fallen minister’s lawyers at the door of the House, after which ‘they were not forward to appear in the business’. His most celebrated speech was delivered in the debate on exclusion of 11 May:

Now you have an opportunity to secure the Protestant religion, do it; else posterity will curse you in your graves. The whole Protestant religion in Europe is struck at in a Popish succession in England. If the Protestant religion keeps not up its head now, under a Protestant king, it must be drowned under a Popish. ... If the King consents not to such an Act, etc., you are not to blame, you are but in your private capacity as commoners. But I presume an Act in this case will pass royal assent. It is for the King’s security, ours, and Scotland’s that it should pass. But I intend to go no farther in it but to have a Protestant prince.... Popery and French government are almost checkmate with us; there is no probability of security the other way proposed.

He helped to bring in the bill, and voted for its committal. On 20 May he was ordered to prepare a message to the Lords about the condemned priests. He probably introduced the bill to regulate the coinage of tin, since his name stands first on the committee list. It was his threats of confiscation and execution that induced (Sir) Stephen Fox to disclose the names of the court pensioners in the Cavalier Parliament.9

The Boscawen interest was less successful in the autumn election, when the senior seat at Tregony was lost to the court supporter Charles Trevanion. Boscawen himself was again very active in the second Exclusion Parliament, helping to draw up seven addresses. He may have served on 31 committees and made 20 speeches. Though described as one of the ‘hot and violent conductors’ of the Opposition, his speeches were far from revolutionary in manner:

The King’s prerogative and the subject’s privilege is [sic] the greatest security of the nation; and when that is out of frame the government, like a clock, is useless. ... In order to create in his Majesty a good opinion of this House, let us make a humble address to his Majesty to assure him of our loyalty and readiness to stand by him with our lives and fortunes; and that when his Majesty shall be pleased to grant us such bills as are absolutely necessary for the security of the Protestant religion, we will be ready to supply him with what money his occasions may require for the support of his government and the Protestant religion, both at home and abroad.

On 2 Nov. 1680 he declared: ‘How often I have been for expedients and moderation is well known; but we are now come to that pass that we must be either Papists or Protestants, and I see no expedient in the case’. It repeatedly fell to Boscawen to initiate debates on the subject; he again helped to bring in the exclusion bill, and sought to stifle attempts to name a successor. He was also among those entrusted with preparing a bill for religious comprehension and managing a conference on the Irish plot. When Daniel Finch reminded the House that Papists were also Christians, Boscawen rejoined:

All good Protestants think them to be anti-Christian. Can any man think them the disciples of Christ that have murdered so many good Christians and committed that massacre in Ireland, where the government was Protestant? After all kind usage and intermarriages amongst them, the Papists in Ireland murdered some hundred thousands, a thing not heard of among heathens! These I cannot call Christians. If this be so, we cannot expect better usage from them than our ancestors had. ... I think the sun is not more visible at noon-day than that the Papists have a design to extirpate our religion, and that they have done great things in order thereto, even now while we live under the government of a Protestant king.

It was Boscawen who chose Lord Stafford from the five Popish lords in the Tower to stand trial; ‘the people else would think that there is nothing against the lords because you have not in all this time proceeded against any of them’. He spoke in support of the bill for uniting Protestants that he had helped to draft, and, after seconding the motion for the repeal of the Corporations Act, he was named to the committee. He was among those instructed to prepare reasons for describing the Duke of York’s religion as giving ‘the greatest countenance and encouragement ... to the horrid Popish Plot’. He acted as teller against admitting Thomas Street to the House without paying the serjeant’s usual extortionate fees. At the 1681 election Boscawen relegated Trevanion to the junior seat. In the Oxford Parliament he was named to the elections committee and once more helped to bring in the exclusion bill. He supported a motion for publishing the resolutions of the House, and scornfully dismissed the expedient of appointing a regent for the Duke of York. He also helped to prepare for a conference on the disappearance of the bill to repeal the Elizabethan Act against Protestant nonconformity. Despite his notorious hostility to the Court he joined the syndicate of Cornish Members headed by Hon. Francis Robartes to bid for the Tangier victualling contract. After the Rye House Plot it was rumoured that he was to be taken into custody.10

Boscawen’s interest at Truro was eclipsed by the new charter, while at Tregony Trevanion took both seats in 1685, and Boscawen’s petition never emerged from committee. Although still regarded as ‘the great pillar of the Presbyterians’, he drew nearer to the Church as the tendency of James II’s policy became more obvious. Listed among the Opposition, he was one of the few eminent Parliament men equally useful for parts, interest, and estates. Lord Bath suggested to the Government that he should be ‘treated with’ before the abortive elections of 1688, but he never became a Whig collaborator. During the Revolution he signed the Association, armed his tenants and parishioners, and broke open the town hall at Truro. There were complaints, however, that he was concerned only with establishing his own interest, using his wife’s death and his brother’s melancholia as excuses for not leaving Cornwall.11

At the general election of 1689 Boscawen regained the county seat after 28 years, and retained it for the rest of his life. A very active Member of the Convention, he was appointed to 82 committees and delivered 34 recorded speeches. When (Sir) Robert Sawyer suggested that the Commons had no claim to speak for three-quarters of the nation, Boscawen replied:

I think we represent the people fully. ... I do not speak of copyholders, whose lord represents them, nor of the meanest freeholders, much less of servants or women and children; but I speak of all that have a share in the government, or are fit to have a share in it.

On the following day he urged the House not to decide on the future of the monarchy before issuing a declaration of rights: ‘Arbitrary government was not only by the late King that is gone, but by his ministers, and furthered by extravagant Acts of the long [i.e. Cavalier] Parliament’. He was named to the committee to bring in a list of the essentials for securing religion, law and liberty, and helped to state the Commons’ case in their differences with the Lords over the constitutional issues. ‘We impose not upon the Lords. You say ’tis vacant without distinguishing, and nothing less than to say the kingdom is elective. Public security ought to be considered, and in that we all agree.’ William thought him a blockhead and rejected him as a candidate for the board of Admiralty, even when proposed by Lord Halifax (Sir George Savile). However, he was made a Privy Councillor. In the interests of Lord Macclesfield he opposed the abolition of the presidency of Wales. He helped to manage a conference on assisting the King in support of his allies and defence of the Protestant religion, and to prepare an address promising assistance for a war against France. He was among those to whom the House committed the first mutiny bill and the King’s message urging a bill of indemnity. The death of his brother Charles enabled him to launch Robert Harley II on his parliamentary career. He was appointed to the committees to bring in a comprehension bill and to consider the toleration bill. He objected to the Lords’ proposal to exempt the clergy from the new oaths, and helped to draw up reasons for a conference. Indignant at the apathetic response of the Commons to Jacobite propaganda, he declared:

These papers disturb the peace of the nation and invite people to stir up in arms. We ought to be sensible how this reflects on the House and yourself, Mr Speaker. I am sorry we should pass this over in so much silence. I would have it burnt by the hangman.

He defended the suspension of habeas corpus. ‘If dispensed with by the executive power, ’tis fatal always; by the legislative power, there is no danger.’ He wished to attaint Judge Jeffreys, and opposed a general amnesty; nevertheless he was among those ordered to bring in an indemnity bill. He was anxious to reverse the conviction of Oates for perjury ‘not for Oates’s sake, but for the sake of the Popish Plot’, and helped to draw up reasons for a conference. After the recess he was named to the inquiry into the miscarriages of the war. A member of the committee on the bill for restoring corporations, he was listed as a supporter of the disabling clause. But to the anguish of Richard Hampden he voted for the proviso about Hereford moved by Paul Foley.12

Despite these connexions with the new country party, Boscawen remained a court Whig. He died on 30 May 1701 and was buried at St. Michael Penkevil.

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Abstained after Pride’s Purge, 6 Dec. 1648.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 47; CSP Dom. 1645-7, p. 150.
  • 3. Parl. Intell. 9 Apr. 1660; BL Loan 29/148/4; Add. 6713, f. 377; Cal. Treas. Bks. xiii. 386.
  • 4. Gilbert, Paroch. Hist. Cornw. iii. 345; J. Maclean, Trigg Minor, iii. 72; M. Coate, Cornw. in Gt. Civil War, 301, 307; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 168, 512, 525.
  • 5. Bowman diary, ff. 10v, 86v; Old Parl. Hist. xxii. 478; xxiii. 25, 50, 56, 65, 70, 79; CJ, viii. 155, 191, 195.
  • 6. Reymes diary, 26 June 1661; CJ, viii. 408, 409, 433, 435, 564, 670, 674; D. R. Lacey, Dissent and Parl. Pols. 382-3; Devon and Cornw. N. and Q. xxi. 330-2; SP29/81/8.
  • 7. Milward, 108, 221; Clarendon Impeachment, 137; CJ, ix. 61, 72, 157, 229; Grey, i. 106, 135, 138, 226, 326, 331, 351, 365, 409-10, 421; Dering, 45.
  • 8. Grey, ii. 178, 211-12, 252, 320, 352-3, 390, 392; iii. 38, 360, 427-8; iv. 2, 155-6; v. 326, 383; vi. 123, 282, 331-2; CJ, ix. 306, 339, 501; Dalrymple, Mems. i. 383; Burnet, ii. 187-8.
  • 9. Grey, vii. 101, 222, 258-9, 317; CJ, ix. 620; HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 111.
  • 10. HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 561; Grey, vii. 372, 399, 411-13, 439; viii. 293, 331-2; Exact Coll. Debates, 18-19, 47-49; CJ, ix. 648, 701; HMC 12th Rep. IX, 101; Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 148-9; CSP Dom. Jan.-June 1683, p. 363.
  • 11. CJ, ix. 718; Lacey, 383; English Currant, 12, 26 Dec. 1688, 3 Jan. 1689; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 2, p. 333.
  • 12. IHR Bull. xlix. 254-5; Grey, ix. 31-32, 63, 216, 233, 255, 263, 292, 341; CJ, x. 20, 42, 93, 217; Foxcroft, Halifax, ii. 222, 233; Clarendon Corresp. ii. 265; HMC Portland, iii. 435; Morrice, 3, p. 73.