BOSCAWEN, Hugh I (1625-1701), of Tregothnan, Cornw. and Greek Street, Westminster

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



1 Dec. 1646 - 6 Dec. 1648
21 Feb. - 16 Mar. 1660
25 Apr. - 12 July 1660
12 July - 29 Dec. 1660
1661 - Mar. 1681
1689 - 13 May 1701

Family and Education

bap. 21 Aug. 1625, 2nd s. of Hugh Boscawen of Tregothnan by Margaret, da. of Robert Rolle of Heanton Satchville, Devon, bro. of Charles† and Edward Boscawen†.  m. (1) by 1649, Lady Margaret (d. 1688), da. of Theophilus Clinton, 4th Earl of Lincoln, 8s. d.v.p. 2da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 7 Sept. 1693, Lady Mary (d. 1715), da. of Gilbert Holles†, 3rd Earl of Clare, sis. of John Holles†, 4th Earl of Clare, s.p.  suc. bro. Nicholas 1645.1

Offices Held

Stannator, Blackmore, 1673; commr. recusants Cornw. 1675; Capt. St. Mawes Castle 1696–d.; recorder, Tregony by 1690–d.2

PC 14 Feb. 1689–d.; commr. appeal for prizes 1694–8; taking subscriptions to New E.I. Co. loan 1698.3

Commr. Greenwich Hosp. 1695; Member, New Eng. Co. by 1698.4


Boscawen was already a veteran parliamentarian in 1690, having served in the Long Parliament. In the Restoration period he had been seen as one of the leading Presbyterians in Cornwall, although as early as the 1670s he may have been conformable enough to retain local office as a j.p. He remained friendly with other Presbyterian families such as the Harleys, even giving Robert Harley* his entrée into the Commons for Tregony in 1689. As well as Tregony, where he was recorder, Boscawen had a strong interest at Truro and St. Mawes. However, he aspired to the county seat and reclaimed it at the elections to the Convention. As a strong supporter of the new regime he was made a Privy Councillor, but not given high office. He was returned again for the county in 1690, despite the opposition of Bishop Trelawny, whose endorsement of two other candidates suggested that he viewed Boscawen as overly sympathetic to Dissent. In the opening session of the new Parliament he was listed as a Whig by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†). As early as March 1690, Narcissus Luttrell* recorded a rumour that Boscawen would be raised to the peerage, but he remained in the Lower House. In the opening session of the 1690 Parliament Boscawen was named to two drafting committees, including that for damages to Edmund Prideaux† following a fine levied in 1685 by Judge Jeffreys.5

In a list drawn up to aid the Court’s parliamentary management in the following session, Boscawen was noted as a Privy Councillor ‘that ought to assist’ the King’s directions. If appointments to draft legislation are a guide he was certainly active in the 1690–1 session, when he was included in the nominations to prepare three bills. After the close of the session, in March 1691, Boscawen’s brother-in-law, Lord Godolphin (Sidney†), put his name forward as a possible replacement for Sir Thomas Lee, 1st Bt.*, at the Admiralty, but without success. In April 1691 Harley classed him as a Court supporter.6

With the survival of more accounts of debates for the 1691–2 session, Boscawen’s contribution to parliamentary business as a Court manager becomes clearer. In October he was named to three drafting committees. On 12 Nov. he seconded a motion for a bill suppressing hawkers and pedlars, but was dissatisfied with the bill as it emerged from committee on 16 Jan. 1692: although still in favour of legislation ‘because it restrains a pernicious sort of people who carry about your treasonable libels, scandalous letters and papers’, he felt that it should be left on the table and a new bill brought in. On the 13 Nov. he spoke in favour of a new East India Company (and was critical of the Old Company in debate on 18 Dec.). On 18 Nov. on the bill for abrogating the oath of supremacy in Ireland and appointing other oaths, he declared:

we that have estates in Ireland, are apprehensive that that clause [exempting lawyers inhabiting Irish-held towns when the articles of Limerick were signed] will spoil all the bill. Juries will be most Irish, and you cannot believe, but that Irish lawyers will be retained. Would you have these people live again to give a third rebellion in Ireland?

On 29 Dec. he moved for a committee of inquiry into precedents following Lord De La Warre’s petition against Sir John Cutler’s attempts to resume his privilege, but his advice was ignored.7

On 8 Jan. 1692 Boscawen declared that a petition from Cornish merchants asking for ‘a free trade to all parts of the world’ should be considered when the East India trade was settled. On the following day he was first-named to draft a bill reviving the Act encouraging shipbuilding, which he managed subsequently through most of its stages in the Commons, although it failed to pass the Lords. In the committee of the whole on ways and means on 15 Jan. he argued for continuing the excise longer than the one and a half years proposed by other Court spokesmen:

there is great complaint by the merchants for want of convoys and by the Admiralty that that sort of ships – fourth and fifth rates – are more wanted than any, and therefore I desire we may continue it for two years and then there will be one half year to be applied to the building ships for convoys.

On the 19th he was first-named to consider the petition for charity from the exiled French Protestants. In the debate in ways and means on the merits of a poll tax on the same day, he spoke of the need for caution in case the measure encouraged disaffection. On the following day he pointed out that it was a tax upon gentlemen and commoners only, and that peers would appoint their own commissioners to fix rates for themselves. A second intervention saw him support levying the tax on those that kept a coach but who did not pay towards the militia. When the poll bill was discussed in committee of the whole on 3 Feb. he opposed a motion to tax Dissenting ministers and teachers because it would widen the differences between Protestants rather than unite them, a typical intervention from a man with a long-standing sympathy towards Dissent. On 5 Feb. he was first-named to the second-reading committee on the bill allowing the crown to make leases in the Duchy of Cornwall, subsequently managing the bill through the House, although it failed to pass the Lords. On the same day he was one of those Members who at the report stage of the bill vesting the Irish forfeited estates in the crown forced the reinstatement of a clause which had vested some of the estates in the crown in fee simple. At the third reading of the same bill on the 12th he opposed a rider that a third of the forfeited estates should be given to officers and soldiers who had served in Ireland, this time being on the losing side. On 13 Feb. he was named to draft a bill for the relief of the London orphans, which he presented on the 18th, but upon which no further action was taken in this session. At the report stage of the poll bill on the 15th he argued for a clause for commissioners to be appointed to assess the inns of court and chancery. Following a second petition from the French Protestants, this time forwarded by the King on the 17th, he supported moves to go into a committee of the whole since the issue involved money. When, three days later, the House went into committee on the bill against corresponding with their Majesties’ enemies, ‘some cried Mr Boscawen to the chair’, but Secretary Trenchard was chosen instead. On 22 Feb. he was one of those who spoke for the committal of the Lords’ bill for taking a solemn declaration from Quakers.8

In March 1692, Boscawen, together with the Earls of Bath and Radnor (Charles Bodvile Robartes†) and other Cornish gentlemen, subscribed £70,000 towards building two trading vessels under the terms of the grant made by Charles I to allow Cornwall to send two ships a year to India independently of the East India Company. He was classed as a placeman on two parliamentary lists of 1692 and in November was prepared to back his support for the government by lending £500 on the poll tax. He was again active in the 1692–3 session, beginning on 13 Dec. with a speech in the committee of the whole on ways and means in favour of a land tax levied by a pound rate. The following day he spoke for the committal of the abjuration bill. On the 19th he moved to bring in a bill repealing the Act prohibiting the export of copper, but had to be content with appointment (in 3rd place) to the resultant inquiry committee. On the same day he spoke in the second-reading debate on the bill regulating the East India trade. On the 22nd he proposed a rider at the third reading of the place bill to make the act temporary, but this move was negated. On the 30th he was one of those who opposed the bill extending the life of the patent concerning convex lights because it was against the public interest. Finally, on the 31st he spoke against the bill preventing the export of gold and silver and melting down the coin of the realm as ‘it lessened so much of every man’s estate as you lessened your money’.9

On 6 Jan. 1693 Boscawen was the sole Member named to draft a bill for rebuilding ships, which he managed through the House until the committee stage from which it failed to emerge. Significantly, he spoke on 11 Jan. at the report stage of the committee of the whole considering advice to the King, to oppose the resolution that the King should constitute his Admiralty commission of people with experience in maritime affairs. On the following day he offered a rider to the land tax bill to prohibit commissioners from having a role in the assessment of their resident parish. On the 17th he presented another bill allowing the crown to make leases of lands in the Duchy of Cornwall, which although he was first-named to the second-reading committee he did not report. However, following its amendment by the Lords, he objected on 8 Mar. to the Upper House changing the fees in the bill because it was a charge upon the subject, and was first-named to the resultant conference committee. On 19 Jan. at the report stage of the bill preventing the export of wool, he spoke against a clause promoted on behalf of the Hamburg Company because he felt it would hinder woollen exports. Again showing concern for the London orphans, he presented a petition on their behalf on 25 Jan. On 8 Feb. he was one of those who unsuccessfully pressed for the committal of the bill for preserving timber within the New Forest. On the 13th he opposed a clause of credit for dealing with a shortfall in the revenue, preferring only a review of the poll tax. Continuing his support for the bill preventing the export of wool at its third reading on 17 Feb., he argued that in order to encourage the export of woollens ‘the more exporters the cheaper it would go out, and the cheaper it is the more you will send abroad and the better able to undersell your neighbours’. On 22 Feb. he intervened in the committee of the whole discussing the state of Ireland to note that ‘Ireland is under a discontent but why I cannot tell’, although the ‘unseasonable’ prorogation of parliament might have contributed to it. Thus, he thought further inquiry should be made rather than the anti-Court address which was eventually adopted. The following day he was one of those who successfully sought the rejection of a Lords’ bill repealing a law for finding sureties for pardoned felons. On 1 Mar. he supported the bill for indemnifying persons giving evidence in treason cases. On 6 Mar. he was in favour of committing the bill setting aside amendments and alterations in the records of the Glamorgan grand sessions, in favour of the Earl of Pembroke (Hon. Thomas Herbert†).10

In 1693 Grascome classed Boscawen as a placeman. In August, together with Lord Keeper Somers (Sir John*), Sir John Trenchard, Richard Hampden I* and Lord Chief Justice Sir John Holt†, Boscawen was one of the Privy Councillors appointed to conduct an inquiry into the miscarriages of the Smyrna fleet. Somewhat surprisingly, given his age, he married in September the sister of the prominent Whig magnate the Earl of Clare (soon to be Duke of Newcastle) and hence into the Holles family which was noted for its Presbyterianism. After a sojourn in Tunbridge Wells, he was in London in September. Perhaps it was marriage which led him to solicit from Francis Tallents, the Nonconformist divine, the name of a person ‘well qualified for a public living and of a quiet temper’ to administer to St. Michael’s Penkevel. Boscawen’s chaplain, Joseph Halsey, had been ejected from the living in 1662, but ‘is still desirous the place should be well supplied’, and Boscawen hoped that Tallents ‘may be acquainted with the best of those that conform upon that account’. Clearly, Boscawen still had extensive links with the ‘moderate’ Presbyterian elite, while himself conforming to the Church of England.11

In the new session of Parliament Boscawen was ordered on 14 Nov. 1693 to draft yet another bill for building ‘defensible’ ships, which this time reached the statute book. On 6 Dec. he presented a petition from Cornish merchants for the encouragement of privateers, and was named to a draft a bill after inquiry into the matter. Subsequently, he managed the bill through the House following its committal, carrying it to the Lords on 16 Apr. 1694. On 8 Dec. he was first-named to the second reading on the bill allowing the crown to grant leases in the Duchy of Cornwall, which, although he did not report, he carried up on 16 Apr. On 22 Dec. he was one of those Members who spoke against a clause in the triennial bill that ‘a Parliament shall be understood to be holden, although no act of judgment shall pass within the time of their assembly’. On 29 Dec. he presented an estate bill on behalf of Thomas Vivian*, which he reported on 8 Jan. 1694. On 2 Jan. Boscawen was named to draft a bill to fix the assize of bread. On the 25th he was ordered to draft a bill to prevent abuses in the spoils of wrecks, which he managed until its committal stage from which it failed to emerge. On 1 Feb., during the debate on how the Commons should respond to the King’s answer to their representation over the veto of the place bill, he advocated caution, suggesting that considering the posture of affairs Members should be satisfied with the royal answer. It was rumoured in February that Boscawen would replace the Earl of Bath as lord lieutenant of Cornwall, and a month later that he would be made a baron. Philip Foley* had also heard this rumour, noting on 1 Mar. that ‘our great debate now is excise . . . Mr Bosca[wen] still remains for it; some say he is to be a baron’. Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt.*, reported to Harley on 3 May 1694 that Boscawen was about to be made a peer, a promotion which in his view would have been ‘a great loss’ to the House, but though the rumour continued to circulate, Boscawen remained a commoner. However, from the tone of one of the Marquess of Normanby’s complaints in May when he referred to ‘Mr Boscawen or the last of the Privy Councillors’, it would seem that he was regarded as one of its least important members. Financially, Boscawen’s commitment to the new regime remained as strong as ever, as he invested over £4,000 in the newly established Bank of England.12

At the beginning of the 1694–5 session on 12 Nov. Boscawen was sympathetic about the need to give Members more time to arrive in London, but moved that the King’s Speech should be taken into consideration on the 19th. He was again to the fore in the last week in November when he was one of those who spoke in favour of voting a supply as the House was ‘bound in honour to a prosecution of the war with vigour and consequently to accord a substantial supply, otherwise it would be a great discouragement to the confederates’. He was named to three drafting committees, presenting a bill to prevent the import of pottery on 20 Dec. He was named to the committee ordered to draw up articles of impeachment against Carmarthen, now Duke of Leeds (27 Apr.). On 23 Apr. he was elected in 5th place with 100 votes to the committee charged with examining Sir Thomas Cooke*.13

Boscawen was heavily involved in the 1695 election campaign in Cornwall. Moves were again made to oppose him for the county, but in the event he was unopposed. He was also active at St. Mawes and Tregony. He was forecast as likely to support the Court in the division on 31 Jan. over the proposed council of trade, signed the Association promptly, and voted in March for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. During the summer he was active in London, sitting on prize disputes in June and attending the Privy Council in August.14

In the early days of the 1696–7 session Boscawen was summoned to a meeting of the leading Junto Whigs and ministerialists to decide how to proceed following Sir John Fenwick’s† confession, although no resolutions were taken at that meeting. On 6 Nov. James Vernon I* reported that he had been one of those who in the debate on Fenwick had ‘stood to it resolutely’, defending Edward Russell*, the Duke of Shrewsbury and Marlborough (John Churchill†), as well no doubt as his brother-in-law, Lord Godolphin, and was thus instrumental in ensuring that the Commons ordered a bill of attainder against Fenwick. Following the first-reading debate on the 13th Vernon again praised him in a letter to Shrewsbury: ‘Mr Boscawen is to be esteemed and commended for rousing the spirit of the House to that degree which afterwards kept itself up.’ In his speech he was reported to have said

The great thing, say some gentlemen, we must take care of, is the blood of a man: does anyone say he is innocent? No: but we must have some way or another that he must not be brought to his trial. I desire, as Englishmen, you will not only take care of the life of one man, but of the life of the King; of the lives of our wives and children, and all our families.

On 16 Nov. he argued in favour of admitting Goodman’s evidence. On the 17th in a series of moves by those accused by Fenwick, he moved that Godolphin be heard at the bar to answer Fenwick’s charges, according to Vernon pre-empting a similar motion from Lord Coningsby. Later in the day during the debate on committal, Boscawen’s passion was again evident as he believed ‘it is the consequence of bringing in a French army that is to be considered’, and that the ‘destruction of the people of England and the Protestant religion, will bring your people to go in wooden shoes’. At the third reading of the bill on the 25th he pronounced Fenwick guilty because he had fled and did not deny the fact of his crime and that even though there was not enough evidence to convict him in Westminster Hall, there was sufficient to satisfy his own conscience. Naturally, he voted for the attainder. Boscawen’s main activity related to the grievances of the Cornish tinners. Having been first-named on 3 Mar. 1697 to a committee on a petition against the high duties on tin, he reported two resolutions from the committee on the 20th, being named to draft a bill to encourage the consumption of tin, which he presented on 6 Apr. The second resolution, being a matter of public finance, was referred to a committee of the whole, and upon a favourable report on 1 Apr. he was named to draft a bill to lessen the duty on tin which he helped to manage through the Commons.15

Boscawen was keenly interested in local appointments for the political influence they exerted. Thus, he warned in May 1697 that it was essential not to provoke Sir Francis Drake, 3rd Bt.*, to resign as recorder of Plymouth as it would result in electoral defeat for the Whigs in that borough. At the start of the new session, he seconded the motion for the Address on 3 Dec. 1697. Later that month he was named to bring in bills to prevent correspondence with King James and to remove certain payments associated with the shrievalty (both on the 7th), presenting the latter on the 14th and reporting it on 17 June 1698, although it fell in the Lords. His next legislative involvement concerned the will of (Sir) William Godolphin†, who had spent most of his later years in Spain. He was first-named to a committee on a petition relating to it and subsequently named to draft a bill which he presented on 10 Feb., the purpose of which was to ensure that Charles Godolphin* and other members of the Godolphin family would benefit rather than the Jesuits. On the question of disbanding the army, on 8 Jan. 1698 Boscawen moved to try to retrieve a situation lost for the Court in December by proposing an instruction to the committee of supply to consider the charge for guards and garrisons for 1698, with the aim of settling sufficient funds to provide for 15,000 men, but the opposition was strong enough to defeat him. On 29 Jan. he was appointed to draft a bill to prevent robberies and on 9 Feb. spoke in favour of an address for a proclamation to suppress profaneness, debauchery and the publication of blasphemous pamphlets, being nominated to the committee to draw it up. The remainder of the session saw him ordered to prepare three other bills. He also informed the Commons that the King would provide a list of persons licensed to return from abroad. Finally, he reported several times from a committee dealing with Molyneux’s Case of Ireland and related issues.16

Boscawen was returned again for Cornwall in 1698, being classed as a placeman (in his capacity as governor of St. Mawes) and also as a Court supporter on a list comparing the old and new Parliaments. He spoke on 4 Jan. 1699, presumably supporting moves to allow the committee on the disbanding bill to alter the number of men allowed in England, although no evidence remains of what he said. Furthermore, at the third-reading stage of the disbanding bill on 18 Jan. he seemed to be arguing for a revision upwards of the number of men permitted from 7,000 to 10,000. His name appears on both lists of Members voting against the bill. His other activities in the Commons included nomination to two drafting committees, including a bill suppressing vice and immorality (23 Dec. 1698). Towards the end of the session there is evidence that his health was beginning to fail. On 8 Apr. Lady Anne Clinton reported that Boscawen was lodging at Kensington, ‘having been very ill with a cold, but is now on a mending hand’. However, he fell ill again following a journey into Cornwall. Indeed, at the end of June Vernon was sufficiently concerned to tell Lord Coningsby that it would be ‘a great loss’ if Boscawen ‘should go off’.17

In the 1699–1700 session Boscawen’s legislative work was further reduced, resulting in just one drafting committee. However, he was active in February 1700 in defending Lord Chancellor Somers over a motion which sought to criticize ministers for procuring grants from the crown, referring to history in the process and citing the relationship between William Cecil† and Queen Elizabeth. Despite his advanced age, Boscawen still commanded the respect of the leading local politicians, Charles Trelawny* reporting that a plan to dispose of seats in Cornwall had foundered upon Lord Godolphin’s refusal to ‘disoblige old gurnet head’. Consequently, he was returned for the county again in January 1701.18

In the 1701 Parliament Boscawen was more active, being named to three drafting committees. As late as March he was being referred to by his brother-in-law, Newcastle, as someone to be applied to in case there was a problem over the investigation of his lieutenancy appointments. However, Boscawen died at his house in Greek Street on 13 May 1701. One contemporary thought him ‘exhausted with age and laborious services for the public . . . not only the oldest person, but also the oldest Member in the House, as being one that had sat in more Parliaments in the same capacity of knight of the shire, than any other representative whatever’. Rather less charitably the Earl of Ailesbury (Hon. Thomas Bruce†) considered him to have been one of those ‘asserters of liberty and freedom of speech in Parliament, but were hindered into others’ measures through ambition of being great and rich’. Most of his Cornish estates went to his nephew, Hugh Boscawen II*.19

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 47; Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 54; iii. 141; Dorm. and Extinct Peerages, 281; IGI, London; Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1700–15, 301; CSP Dom. 1645–7, p. 150.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. iv. 695; Add. 6713, f. 175; 70244, Henry Julian to Harley, 13 Feb. 1689–90; Shrewsbury Corresp. 117; CSP Dom. 1696, p. 162.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1694–5, p. 204; Cal. Treas. Bks. xiii. 386.
  • 4. Add. 10120, f. 232; W. Kellaway, New England Co. 291.
  • 5. ‘Collectanea Trelawniana’, 268 (Speck trans.); Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 280.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 290.
  • 7. Luttrell Diary, 14, 16, 88, 95, 133; Grey, x. 189.
  • 8. Luttrell Diary, 118, 131, 141, 143, 145, 169, 171, 182, 185, 186, 192, 197, 198.
  • 9. Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 375; Luttrell Diary, 312, 319, 327, 328, 336, 340, 343; CJ, x. 724.
  • 10. Luttrell Diary, 364, 365, 374, 387, 410, 419, 429, 440, 443, 455, 469, 470.
  • 11. Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 166; Carstares, State Pprs. 194; Add. 15857, f. 67.
  • 12. Grey, 373, 385; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 275; Wood, Life and Times, iii. 446; Add. 30013, f. 55; 42592, f. 40; HMC Portland, iii. 550; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss, PwA 1151a, Normanby to Portland, 15 May 1694; DZA, Bonet despatch 6/16 June 1694.
  • 13. Add. 46527, f. 22; Bodl. Carte 76, ff. 531–2;
  • 14. Add. 70018, ff. 94–95; HMC Downshire, i. 675; CJ, xiii. 38–39.
  • 15. Coxe, Shrewsbury, 417; VernonShrewsbury Letters, i. 49, 64; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/21, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 13 Nov. 1696; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 1025, 1032, 1052, 1099–1101, 1140–1.
  • 16. Add. 17677 SS, ff. 113, 115; Cam. Misc. xxix. 358; Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 229; Add. 70019, Edward* to Sir Edward Harley*, 12 Feb. 1697[-8].
  • 17. Cam. Misc. xxix. 384–5; Add. 70113, Lady Clinton to Sir Edward Harley, 8 Apr. [1699]; 57861, f. 46; Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/204, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 29 June 1699; VernonShrewsbury Letters, ii. 317.
  • 18. Som. RO, Sanford mss DD/SF 410a, debates 13 Feb. 1699[-1700]; Add. 28052, f. 100.
  • 19. Add. 33084, f. 165; 27440, f. 159; English Post, 12–14 May 1701; Post Boy, 13–15 May 1701; Ailesbury Mems. 359; PCC 151 Dyer.