BANKS, Jacob (1662-1724), of Milton Abbas, Dorset and Somerford, Hants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1698 - 1715

Family and Education

b. 22 Aug. 1662, 2nd s. of Lars Bengtsson Banck of Stockholm, Sweden by his w. Kristina Barckman.  m. 1696, Mary, da. and h. of John Tregonwell of Milton Abbas, wid. of Francis Luttrell*, 2s.  kntd. 6 or 7 Dec. 1698.1

Offices Held

Capt. RN 1690–7.2

Freeman, Bath 1707.3


Banks was a Swede by birth. His father was a supervisor at the ‘packhouse’ in Stockholm. Banks himself came to London in 1680 or 1681, joining his brother, Lars, who was secretary to their maternal uncle, Baron Johan Barckman Leijonberg, the Swedish ambassador to the English court. He subsequently made his home in England and entered the Royal Navy in 1681. Afterwards he saw active service in the West Indies, and at the battle of Beachy Head in 1690 assumed command of his ship when the captain was wounded. In the same year he was promoted to captain, and served inconspicuously in various commands throughout the war. After the Peace of Ryswick he was placed on half-pay, and, although his financial predicament was made considerably easier by his marriage to a wealthy widow, it became a matter of smouldering annoyance to him to that he was never again offered a commission. His wife brought him an estate in Dorset and a connexion with the family of her first husband, the Luttrells of Dunster Castle, who had a controlling interest at Minehead which was placed at Banks’s disposal in 1698, and he was returned for the borough after a contest. A Tory, he was at first classed as a placeman and Court supporter, presumably because of his naval commission, and voted on 18 Jan. 1699 in favour of a standing army. In February 1701 he was noted as likely to support the Court in agreeing with the committee of supply’s resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’, and on 26 Feb. 1702 voted in favour of the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachments of William III’s Whig ministers.4

In Minehead, shortly after Anne’s accession Banks made a bold display of his Toryism by donating to the town a statue of her. Classed by Lord Spencer (Charles*) as a ‘loss’ for the Whigs following the 1702 election, Banks’s next recorded vote was on 13 Feb. 1703 against agreeing to the Whig Lords’ amendments to the bill extending the period allowed for taking the oath of abjuration. He was forecast in October 1704 as a probable opponent of the Tack, and although included in Robert Harley’s* lobbying list against the measure, actually voted in its favour on 28 Nov. Accordingly, he was noted as ‘True Church’ in a list published after the 1705 election. With fewer Tories in the Commons during the ensuing Parliament he became a more active figure in the House. In the first session he voted on 25 Oct. against the Court candidate for Speaker, and acted as a teller in two election cases: on 10 Nov. on a procedural question in connexion with the disputed Cheshire election; and on the 24th against declaring the Court Tory Henry Killigrew* duly elected for St. Albans. Banks was a teller again on 22 Feb. 1707 against going into committee on the bill for the Union with Scotland, and on three more occasions during the 1707–8 session, the most politically obvious question concerning the repeal of the game laws in which Banks told against. Classed as a Tory early in 1708, he was several times a teller in the opening session of the new Parliament, twice on procedural matters, and on 7 Dec. 1708 in support of Anthony Hammond* in a question to declare him ineligible for a seat in Parliament. A quarrel in the House between Banks and fellow Tory Gilbert Dolben on 22 Jan. 1709 resulted in their having to make a formal pledge to prosecute the matter no further. On 31 Jan. 1710 he was teller against the motion for the sermon given to the House on the anniversary of Charles I’s execution to be printed, and later voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.

During his election campaign at Minehead in 1710 Banks expressed his support for Sacheverell by expounding the notion of passive obedience to the crown in all circumstances, which one of his Whig opponents, William Benson, dubbed the ‘Minehead doctrine’ in a pamphlet published the following year. Listed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’ of the new Parliament, Banks was classed as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who in the first session detected the mismanagements of the previous administration. One political observer described him at this time as ‘a Swede, one of the most violent Tories in the House. He procured one of the highest addresses last summer . . . He has a good estate, and he is very forward to speak in the House, though no foreigner speaks worse English.’ Next session, on 24 May 1712, he was teller in connexion with a complaint from several marine officers. Although he was gaining in prominence among the High Tories, he was bitter at being constantly overlooked in naval promotions despite having ‘constantly’ offered his services to the Admiralty commissioners. He petitioned the Queen directly in May 1712, stating

that he has not even obtained during your Majesty’s happy and glorious reign what he was allowed to the death of his late Majesty King William, and as he hopes that no action of his life hath occasioned your Majesty’s displeasure, . . . so does he humbly pray your Majesty’s gracious direction that the arrears of his half-pay as captain may be paid him.

In a private letter to Lord Treasurer Oxford (Harley) some months later, by which time his claim for arrears was under active consideration, he attributed his lack of success in his naval career to many years of political victimization by the Whigs: ‘your Lordship not being ignorant of those reasons for which I was debarred from it in the last administration’. By now a leading member of the October Club, he treated its members in June to a magnificent supper to celebrate the peace. His close friend Lord Strafford chose him to act as his proxy at his installation as a Knight of the Garter at Windsor on 4 Aug. 1713. Early in 1714 he was elected president of the October Club. In the last Parliament of the reign he acted as a teller on 15 June in proceedings on the disputed Southwark election. On the Worsley list he appeared as a Tory. He declined to stand for re-election after the accession of George I, but appears to have dabbled mildly in Jacobitism and in 1717 was a leading suspect in the Swedish Plot. He was arrested and interrogated, but the authorities, having failed to find proof of his guilt, released him on £5,000 bail. He died on 22 Dec. 1724.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Paula Watson / Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. Hutchins, Dorset, i. 161; iv. 385, 401; info. from Mr Bengt Nilsson.
  • 2. Charnock, ii. 306.
  • 3. Bath AO, Bath council bk. 3, p. 474.
  • 4. Info. from Mr Nilsson; Charnock, Biographia Navalis, ii. 306; CSP Dom. 1697, p. 213; CJ, xv. 374; C. H. Firth and J. K. Chance, Notes of Diplomatic Relations of England with N. of Europe, 29; H. C. Maxwell Lyte, Dunster and its Lords, 100; Hist. Dunster, 217; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 142.
  • 5. Hutchins, iv. 385, 401; Bull. IHR, xlvi. 177; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs, letters Quarto 5, f. 130; Add. 70317, Banks’s memorial to Queen, May 1712; 70279, Banks to Oxford, 24 Feb. 1712–13; 31138, f. 274; NSA, Kreienberg despatch 10 June 1712; P. S. Fritz, Ministers and Jacobitism 171545, 23, 25; The Gen. n.s. vi. 181.