MONSON, John (c.1628-74), of South Carlton, Lincs.
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Family and Education
b. c.1628, o.s. of Sir John Monson†, 2nd Bt. (d.1683), of South Carlton and Broxbourne, Herts. by Ursula, da. and h. of Sir Robert Oxenbridge† of Hurstbourne Priors, Hants. m. 7 June 1647, Judith (d. 21 Dec. 1700), da. of Sir Thomas Pelham, 2nd Bt.†, of Halland, Laughton, Suss., 10s. (5 d.v.p.) 1 da. KB 23 Apr. 1661.1
Commr. for militia, Lincs. Mar. 1660; j.p. Lincs. (Lindsey and Kesteven) July 1660-d.; commr. for oyer and terminer, Midland circuit July 1660, assessment, Lindsey and Lincoln Aug. 1660-1, Lincs. 1661-3, 1664-d., Lindsey 1663-4, Herts. 1673-d., sewers, Hatfield chase and Lincs. Aug. 1660, corporations, Lincs. 1662-3; dep. lt. Lincs. 1664-d., Herts. 1671-d.2
Monson’s ancestors can be traced back in Lincolnshire to the 14th century and first sat for Lincoln in 1563. His father, an active Royalist in the Civil War, compounded for £1,338 on the Oxford articles, but was treated with unusual severity by the decimators, and calculated that his loyalty cost him £30,000 in all. With Monson he was ‘active in furthering Sir George Booth’s design, and had a party to second it’; but he was disabled by ill health from playing any further part in public life, though he lived on for another quarter of a century in retirement on his wife’s property in Hertfordshire.3
Monson, who thus became the effective head of the family in Lincolnshire, was remembered as ‘a gentleman of a brisk humour, a ready wit, clear parts, quick apprehension, good elocution, an excellent temper, great prudence, free from partiality, admired by the gentry, and in all things well accomplished for business’. Although ineligible under the Long Parliament ordinance as a Cavalier’s son, he was returned for Lincoln at the general election of 1660, and marked by Lord Wharton as a friend. An inactive Member of the Convention, he was named only to the committee of elections and privileges and to three others of secondary importance, those to reduce interest to 6 per cent, to sever the entail on a Lincolnshire estate, and to compensate the royalist Marquess of Winchester. He was sent to the Lords on 22 May to desire a free conference about the order for detaining regicides. He doubtless in general supported the Court, but in ecclesiastical matters, perhaps under the influence of his wife’s family, he was a moderate Churchman. He spoke in favour of the Worcester House declaration for modified episcopacy, though he was against giving it statutory force. He was teller against a grant of £500 to the orphan children of Henry Elsyng the younger, who had resigned the clerkship of the Commons on the execution of Charles I and died in poverty.4
Monson lost his seat at the general election of 1661 to the Cavalier Sir Robert Bolles. His father, who had been ‘ery successful in advancing your Majesty’s service both in Parliament and elsewhere by his pains and interest in the country’, had been promised a peerage; but there may have been some awkwardness over the position of his cousin William Monson†, formerly Lord Monson, who had been stripped of his title, imprisoned for life, and sentenced to an annual public humiliation for his part in the King’s trial, and the family had to wait for the honour until 1728. Otherwise their interests were well protected; their petition for the drainage of the Axholme level, where they were regarded as patrons of the commoners, was introduced on 14 May, and a bill was drafted and steered successfully through committee by Sir John Goodricke. On the death of Bolles, Monson regained his seat, and became a moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, with 58 committee appointments, 26 recorded speeches, and six tellerships. His committees in his first session included those to settle marshlands recovered from the sea and to sell a Lincolnshire manor for the benefit of the Armine coheirs. On 8 Jan. 1667 he acted as teller with his brother-in-law Sir John Pelham against complaining that the Lords had petitioned the King over the proposed public accounts commission while the matter was still under discussion between the Houses, and in the following month he twice acted as teller for the bill to encourage the planting of flax and hemp. His attitude to the fall of Clarendon is not known, but on 21 Feb. 1668 he was appointed to a committee to establish how much of the money voted for the second Dutch war had been properly spent. In the same session he was named to the committees to inspect the Militia Acts and to consider a bill to prevent the refusal of writs of habeas corpus. In the debate on prolonging the Conventicles Act, he was teller against a proviso for putting the laws into execution against Papists. Although as a friend of Ormonde he supported the impeachment of Lord Orrery (Roger Boyle), he voted with the Opposition for the suspension of Sir George Carteret on 10 Dec. 1669. It was probably his speech after the assault on Sir John Coventry that first brought him into prominence. He had been lately in the country, he told the House, ‘and never saw a greater concern for a business. They fear we shall come under the government of France to be governed by an army.’ He proposed a bill to banish the assailants, and when it was later returned from the Lords with amendments, he was sent to desire a conference.5
On 10 Feb. 1673 Monson seconded the motion of William Cavendish, Lord Cavendish for reading the Commons address of 1663 against the first Declaration of Indulgence. Later in the same month came his most notable parliamentary achievement, when with doubtful propriety he tacked the corn bounty to the supply bill. He took the chair for an estate bill on behalf of the Earl of Salisbury, the leader of the country party in Hertfordshire. In the autumn session he reminded the House that the anniversary of Gunpowder Plot was approaching, and was sent to ask the latitudinarian Stillingfleet to preach on the occasion. He ‘very eloquently’ seconded the motion of the Hon. William Russell for no further supply, declaring in a set speech:
In the French Gazette the Pope approves of the progress of the French arms. The last fight was as if the English and Dutch had been the gladiators for the French spectators. ... We gave two millions to get out but part of a navy for a summer. What greater encouragement can be given to the Dutch? Our native commodities give no price; want of coals makes us want fire, and floods have destroyed grass and hay: fire and water against us! We have want of people; many are sent away, and he will say nothing of the end for which they are sent.
When Parliament reconvened in January 1674 Monson spoke forcefully against the French influence and expressed the hope that ‘we shall be rid of Popery and popish counsellors’. He then turned on those counsellors, asking what security the kingdom could have when they ‘have pardons in their pockets from murder to petty larceny’. He wondered scornfully that Buckingham ‘should interpret the weighty affairs of this House to be his own private affairs’, and he twice attacked Arlington, concluding:
This standing army begat all our grievances. This not a single act but a habit; it makes a man remarkable, the Triple League, etc. and England but accessory, not principal. Believes Arlington not a Papist, because a Papist would not do so weak a thing as to go by himself in their business.
He was named to the committee to examine the charges and report on what was fit for an impeachment. He declared that the Hertfordshire estate of Sir Thomas Byde lay beyond the jurisdiction of the board of green cloth, and was among those ordered to report on the dispute. He was also appointed to committees on bills to prevent clandestine imprisonment and illegal exactions and to ensure that judges were not removable at pleasure. He was added to the bill for a general test and included among those Members instructed to inquire into the condition of Ireland. He died before the next session, on 14 Oct., and was buried at South Carlton, aged 46. His early death prevented him from attaining the same prominence in opposition as Russell and Cavendish. But the corn bounty, one of the most beneficial mercantilist measures of the period, was perhaps a more solid achievement.6
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: M. W. Helms / J. S. Crossette
- 1. Clutterbuck, Herts. ii. 55; Suss. N. and Q. ix. 180.
- 2. Kesteven Q. Sess. Mins. (Lincs. Rec. Soc. xxv), p. cxlii; C181/7/21, 76; CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 466; 1671-3, p. 53; J. W. F. Hill, Tudor and Stuart Lincoln, 173.
- 3. Collins, Peerage, vii. 228, 240-1; Cal. Comm. Comp. 1431-2; CSP Dom. 1655-6, p. 50; 1663-4, p. 466; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 236.
- 4. Chauncy, Herts. i. 566; CJ, viii. 41, 231; W. B. Stonehouse, Isle of Axholme, 103; Old Parl. Hist. xxiii. 28.
- 5. SP29/47/125; C. Holmes, 17th Cent. Lincs. 226-7, 238; CJ, viii. 248, 369, 688; ix. 90, 114, 120, 194; Grey, i. 334.
- 6. Dering, 115, 126, 155, 157; CJ, ix. 268, 282, 296, 303; Grey, ii. 198-9, 226, 253, 328, 380.