BREWER, John (1654-1724), of Gray’s Inn, and West Farleigh, Kent

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



1689 - 1710

Family and Education

bap. 9 Jan. 1654, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Thomas Brewer of West Farleigh by 1st w. Jane, da. and coh. of Thomas Houghton of Mayfield, Suss.  educ. Wadham, Oxf. matric 1669; G. Inn 1671, called 1678, ancient 1702.  m. Jane (d. 1717), da. of George Baker of Maidstone, Kent.  suc. fa. 1691.1

Offices Held

Freeman, New Romney 1687, Rochester 1696, Reading 1709; standing counsel, Tenterden, 1690–1, 1708–23, Cinque Ports 1691–d.; recorder, New Romney, 1687–1712, Deal 1699–d., Lydd 1702.2

Rec.-gen. of prizes 1702–7.3


Brewer was the second son of a barrister from a family which had been resident at West Farleigh since the reign of Henry VI. His elder brother died before 1681 (when the eldest son of his father’s second marriage was also christened Thomas). Little is known of his father, who petitioned in 1660 for the royal imprimatur for the vacant recordership of Maidstone, which he finally obtained in 1667, but he was added to the Kentish commission of the peace in 1688 by James II’s regulators. Brewer having been appointed recorder under James II’s charter of 1687 and elected a freeman the same year, it was reported in September 1688 that New Romney was ‘inclined’ to choose him as one of its Members should James II call a new Parliament and he was duly returned to the Convention of 1689. Possibly owing to legal uncertainties, Brewer was again sworn a freeman and re-elected as recorder or ‘assistant to the mayor and jurats . . . at their courts and sessions’. Although called to the bar in 1678, he may have been the John Brewer appointed collector and surveyor of customs at Hythe, who was authorized to live at New Romney in 1682 (dismissed 1685). He may also have been the Mr Brewer jnr. of Maidstone (three and a half miles from West Farleigh) who was appointed in July 1688 to the commission in Kent investigating recusancy fines.4

Throughout his career Brewer seems to have been a moderate, hence his non-appearance on ‘the black lists’ of those in favour of agreeing on 5 Feb. 1689 with the Lords’ amendment to the resolution that the throne was vacant, and of those in favour of the disabling clauses of the corporations bill in January 1690. Returned in 1690 Brewer was classed by the Marquess of Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) as a Tory and a probable Court supporter, an assessment in keeping with the tenor of his remarks that New Romney corporation was made up of ‘men eminently steady in the principles of our Established Church, which makes us not only the best Christians, but the best subjects’. As befitted a lawyer with many interests, Brewer was involved in a variety of legislative tasks, including the management of many bills through the Commons. In April 1690 he reported three bills from committee and carried them to the upper House. On 3 May he told against engrossing a bill setting up a court of conscience in Southwark; and on the same day also carried back to the Lords a bill ensuring that the Cinque Ports could hold elections free from the claims of the lord warden, the Commons having agreed to a Lords’ amendment. This bill had failed in the preceding Parliament, but Brewer had clearly envisaged its re-introduction, reporting in January that ‘for the future a short Act is prepared’. The 1690–1 session saw Brewer listed by Carmarthen in December as a likely supporter in event of an attack on him from the opposition. He was named to two drafting committees and reported two bills from committee. In April 1691 Robert Harley* classed him as doubtful but possibly a Court supporter, indicating an awareness that Brewer was not an easy man to categorize.5

The 1691–2 session saw Brewer again active in legislative matters. He defended the East India Company in the debate on 13 Nov. 1691 following the presentation of their accounts to the House. December saw him added to the drafting committee on the bill encouraging the manufacture of saltpetre in England. However, the resultant legislation was so unsatisfactory that he felt compelled to oppose it at second reading on 21 Jan., ‘it being to establish a monopoly for the sole making of saltpetre to some persons when it appears others can make it. And why any should be excluded from making it when there is so great occasion for the thing I understand not.’ On 2 Dec. he presented to the Commons another bill on the escape of prisoners, this time for the relief of creditors, and he was ordered to draft a bill on 22 Jan. 1692 for apprehending highwaymen, which he duly presented on the 29th. On 22 Feb. he spoke on the winning side against the passage of a bill confirming the charters of Cambridge University.6

As well as demonstrating an interest in criminal legislation, Brewer may well have been one of those lawyers with an interest in holding local courts. An interesting letter to William Brockman* in September 1692 illustrates the busy schedule Brewer was obliged to keep. Writing from New Romney on Saturday 24th, Brewer explained that on the Monday he had to attend ‘the sessions and trials at Romney’, returning to West Farleigh on the evening of the 27th, ready to travel to London on business the following day. In addition to local legal office, there were his duties as standing counsel for the Cinque Ports, an office to which he had been appointed in 1691, a previous occupant being his stepmother’s father, Richard Kilburne of the Fowlers, Hawkhurst, Kent, an eminent solicitor in chancery and five times principal of Staple Inn.7

In the 1692–3 session, Brewer’s main legislative activity centred on the bill he presented to the Commons on 26 Nov. 1692 for encouraging the apprehension of highwaymen. He reported this bill on 7 Feb. 1693 and also made a motion from the committee for leave to bring in another bill for the prevention of felonies. He carried up the highwaymen bill to the Lords on 11 Feb. Brewer intervened in three debates during the session. On 6 Jan., in the committee of the whole on the land tax, to oppose a clause empowering mortgagees to deduct 4s. in the pound out of the interest they paid; on 23 Feb., when presenting a rider at third reading to the bill for the preservation of game which provided for restraining ‘inferior’ tradesmen and apprentices from hunting, fishing or fowling, etc., which was amended and made part of the bill; and on 6 Mar. against the second reading of the Lords’ bill setting aside amendments and alterations made in the legal records relating to recoveries in Wales. In 1693 Grascome listed ‘John Brewer’ as a placeman, having confused him with Richard Brewer, who had a colonelcy of a regiment of foot.8

In the 1693–4 session Brewer returned to a subject on which he had been active in the preceding session, being appointed on 18 Nov. 1693 to the drafting committee of a bill for apprehending highwaymen. No bill emerged but on 5 Jan. 1694 he was appointed to a committee of inquiry into the problem of highwaymen from which he reported on 15 Feb., being given sole responsibility for drafting a new measure punishing highwaymen by death, but again nothing happened. Having also been given sole responsibility for drafting a bill for regulating hackney coaches, he duly presented it on 13 Dec. 1693 only for it to be withdrawn, ‘there being an appropriation of the money arising by the bill for which there is no order’. Having redrafted the bill, Brewer presented it again on the 16th, but despite orders for a second reading it proceeded no further. He told on one occasion (with the Tory, Peter Shakerley), on 6 Jan. 1694, against the motion that an opponent of the East India Company, Thomas Papillon, take the chair of the committee of the whole on the petition for a new company. His contributions to debate were confined to the discussion in the committee of the whole on 26 Jan. over the King’s veto of the triennial bill, which, since it was ‘liable to exceptions’ and since ‘I gave my vote to make the Prince of Orange king, but will never give my vote to unking him, I think it proper, in this case, for the King to exercise his negative voice’. May 1694 saw him attending the lord warden of the Cinque Ports, the Earl of Romney (Hon. Henry Sidney†), and seemingly in dispute with John Thurbarne* over his rights as counsel to the Cinque Ports, Thurbarne at one stage criticizing his rival’s ‘florid speech’.9

In the last session of the 1690 Parliament, Brewer was nominated to many drafting committees. The most important was his appointment on 4 Jan. 1695 as sole draftsman of a bill for the repair of churches and the more effectual recovery of church rates, which he then presented on the 16th, but which never emerged from committee. On 20 Dec. 1694 he had been appointed to the committee on a petition from hackney coachmen seeking relief from the recent Licensing Act, and he reported on 6 Feb. 1695 from the committee that a witness had refused to attend, whereupon the offender was ordered into custody. On 8 Mar. he reported from the same committee that the coachmen had proved their petition. A second resolution to the effect that some of the commissioners for licensing the coachmen had taken bribes was recommitted so that the committee could identify the offenders. The knowledge that the committee would reveal his brother Richard to be at fault explains the accusations made by Orlando Gee on the 7th that Brewer had accepted a bribe of 30 guineas for promoting a private bill. Brewer vindicated himself the next day, the accusations being voted ‘scandalous’ by the House. No doubt the need to clear his name explains why he did not immediately avail himself of the fortnight’s leave of absence granted him on the 7th.10

Returned for New Romney at the 1695 election, Brewer faced a petition on 5 Dec. but no action resulted. Again he was active as a legislator. He was sole draftsman for a bill to prevent escapes and to relieve creditors, which he presented on 11 Jan. 1696 and reported from committee on 16 Mar. Brewer was also first-named to the committee on 28 Feb. to consider the petition from the weavers’ company in Canterbury, expressing concern that their former economic troubles would return if the East India Company was established on a statutory basis without any restraint being placed upon their import of silks and bengals. Brewer was also involved in the management of several estate bills, some of which involved Kentish lands, including that of Sir William Barkham, 3rd Bt., for which he told in favour of giving a third reading on 13 Mar. Brewer received leave of absence on 19 Mar. for three weeks and there is no reason to assume he returned before the end of the session. He was one of numerous Members who stood on 1 Feb. in the ballot for commissioners of public accounts, but only obtained one vote. His political attitude was as ever not easy to fathom: he was forecast as likely to oppose the Court in the divisions on 31 Jan. 1696 on the proposed council of trade, but signed the Association promptly and voted in March for fixing the price of guineas at 22s.11

Brewer spent considerable time during each parliamentary recess in London, as can be seen from two items of correspondence in 1696. In June John Mascall of New Romney inquired of James Vernon I* about a reward for their apprehension of Sir John Fenwick†, noting that Brewer would wait on Secretary Shrewsbury about it. Similarly, when Richard Coffin made an inquiry in September about the price of hops, his correspondent consulted Brewer who had ‘lately come out of Kent’. In the 1696–7 session, Brewer was only appointed to one committee in November, to draft a bill to prevent and prosecute escapes (a consistent interest of his), and he did not vote on the 25th in the division on Fenwick’s attainder. Among the bills he was associated with were a bill to repair decayed havens, and following a petition on 23 Dec. from the Cinque Ports and adjacent areas, a bill for preventing the export of wool. Also, on 18 Feb., he was the sole Member appointed to prepare a bill to repeal a clause in the supply act relating to party guiles. This had originated from two petitions from Kentish brewers on 14 and 23 Feb., which were referred to a committee on a petition from the London brewers, to which Brewer had been nominated. The report found their grievances genuine. After Brewer had presented the resultant bill he took no further part in its management, receiving leave of absence on 6 Mar., the same day it was given a second reading.12

Somewhat surprisingly Brewer’s first committee appointment in the 1697–8 session occurred as late as 26 Jan. 1698 when he was again named to draft a bill to prevent the export of wool. However, he was in London before this date, attending at the Treasury on the 18th about the purchase by Sir Francis Leigh* of the outlaw John Stafford’s Kentish estate. Brewer was given leave of absence on 11 Mar. upon ‘extraordinary occasions’, presumably legal business outside London. He had returned before the end of March when he was again active in managing a private bill through the House. He was a teller on 28 Apr. at the report of the committee considering the Act levying a duty on births, marriages and burials, in favour of an unsuccessful resolution which would have obliged bachelors and widowers to supply a written account of themselves.13

Brewer may have joined forces with his erstwhile opponent, Sir Charles Sedley, 5th Bt.*, at the 1698 election for together they presented silver flagons to St. Nicholas’ church, New Romney. Upon his return Brewer was classed as a Court supporter on a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments, but another list forecast him as likely to oppose a standing army. He confirmed the latter analysis on 23 Dec. 1698 when he intervened in the debate on the second reading of the disbanding bill to note that ‘gentlemen whose interest is to keep up an arm[y] are for it; the number agreed to by him of 7,000, you may fill up the blanks’, which is also consistent with his absence from those ‘blacklisted’ for voting against the disbanding bill on 18 Jan. 1699. He spoke in the debate on 9 Mar. 1699, against giving a second reading to the bill enabling the Old East India Company to continue trading for the remainder of the 21-year term it was granted in 1693. Having noted his original opposition to the Act setting up the New Company in 1698, Brewer continued that ‘now it was an Act he was for maintaining of it since so many people had lent their money on it’, an intervention which clearly coincided with the opinion of the House since the bill was rejected. Brewer’s normal run of appointments does not occur in this session and he was given leave of absence on 16 Mar. The most likely explanation for Brewer’s lack of involvement in the parliamentary session concerns his heavy involvement elsewhere, particularly as part of Deal’s campaign to obtain a charter and thereby break free from Sandwich. His old antagonist, Thurbarne, was very critical of Brewer’s actions, accusing him of betraying the Cinque Ports. When Brewer was debarred from appearing in the case as counsel in March, Thurbarne reported that ‘the port’s modest counsel is gravelled that his mouth is stopped’. Significantly, Brewer’s activity in the Commons picked up from this point. His reward for promoting Deal’s cause was to be named recorder in the town’s first charter. Brewer was also involved in representing local grievances over the conduct of customs officers and the illegal export of wool. In May he asked the Treasury’s leave to produce a scheme for preventing smuggling, but desired three weeks in which to write it ‘because he must be in the country to hold courts’.14

The 1699–1700 session saw Brewer active in the Commons, mainly on matters of local concern. Three of the bills he was named to draft had identifiable Kentish interests. His one recorded contribution to debate occurred on 13 Feb., when Lord Somers (Sir John*) was attacked over his acquisition of fee farm rents in order to uphold the dignity of his peerage. Brewer stepped in to defend his legal contemporary: ‘L[or]d Ch[ancellor’s] behaviour hath been to the satisfaction of all even different parties, that the grants are not contrary to law nor oath’, continuing with reference to Somers’ service on behalf of the Seven Bishops and as attorney-general and noting that no one ‘does love a poor lord, nor a poor H[ouse] of L[or]ds’. An analysis of the Commons into ‘interests’ undertaken in the first half of 1700 left Brewer as doubtful, or possibly as opposition, again signifying the difficulty contemporaries had in categorizing him.15

The dissolution of the Parliament saw Brewer writing to New Romney in December 1700 to offer his services at the subsequent election. After citing his experience, he continued ‘I do think ’tis more than probable that matters of the greatest consequence will be treated and transacted in this Parliament’, and ended by excusing himself from personal attendance on the corporation owing to ‘the ways and weather in some measure (but more the Act of Parliament that will not allow us to drink together)’. Duly elected, he was listed as likely to support the Court in February 1701 over the ‘Great Mortgage’. Brewer’s parliamentary activity in this session included drafting committees for a local initiative to erect a hospital and workhouse at Ashford in Kent and a similar measure to establish a corporation of the poor in the parish of St. James’s, Westminster. He also managed three private bills through the Commons, including one in favour of Sir Robert Marsham, 4th Bt.* He made two recorded interventions in debate. On 14 Apr. he spoke at the report stage against the bill enacting Ryder’s scheme for a waterworks at Deal on the grounds that it unjustly deprived another undertaker, who had spent £1,600 on a rival project. Although Brewer’s role in the debate was clearly based on local considerations, Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, felt that the House favoured Ryder’s bill because he was a ‘Jacobite and a sportsman’, thereby implying that Brewer was neither of these things. On 5 May, when the Court opposed a report from the committee of ways and means that since the Duke of Gloucester was dead £100,000 be appropriated from the civil list for the use of the public, ‘Brewer said he was always for giving of taxes and for that reason was esteemed a courtier’, but that since the reason for the £100,000 had now ceased with Gloucester’s demise then it should be applied ‘to the use of the public’.16

Returned after a contest at New Romney in November 1701, Brewer was classed by Robert Harley as a Tory. He was very active in the Commons in the 1701–2 session, especially in being nominated to drafting committees. After being first-named on 7 Feb. 1702 to a committee on the petition of hoymen and farmers in Kent and Essex, complaining of their difficulties in transporting corn and other inland provisions to London, he reported favourably, being one of two Members charged with drafting the necessary legislation for their relief. He managed the resultant legislation through the Commons. He also told on 21 May in favour of offering a rider to the Earl of Carlingford’s relief bill concerning Trant’s outlawry. Despite his defence of Somers two years before, Brewer was listed as supporting the motion on 26 Feb. vindicating the Commons’ proceedings over the impeachments of the previous session. Extant contributions to debate show that on 7 Feb. Brewer disagreed with Cocks and Thomas Stringer while defending the conduct of Thomas Bliss*, the Tory candidate at the Maidstone election, and that on the 11th Brewer failed to appear as promised to support a motion sponsored by Cocks for raising revenue from all the grants made since the Revolution and from the sale of crown lands. On 6 Mar. it was reported that Brewer and Lord William Powlett had gone out of the House together to pursue a quarrel, thereby precipitating an adjournment. However, Cocks noted that Lord William had in fact remained in the Commons and the Journals do not mention the incident.17

Brewer applied to New Romney in April 1702 in preparation for the election necessitated by the death of William III. His letter stressed his experience and public service, rather pompously pronouncing: ‘’tis of the greatest satisfaction to me that I have acquitted myself with such integrity and application of mind in your service’. The advent of a new regime also turned Brewer’s thoughts towards advancement. From a letter penned to the Earl of Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) in June, it would seem that Brewer sought ‘an honourable sinecure in the law’, which although his ‘present practice is more profitable than this office’, would secure his financial independence and thereby allow him more time to devote to the Queen’s service. Despite assurances of support from Nottingham, Sir Charles Hedges* (an Admiralty judge and a newly appointed secretary of state), Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, the master of the rolls (Sir John Trevor*), Sir Benjamin Bathurst* (soon to partner him at Romney), and even, ‘if I am not flattered’, the Earl of Rochester (Laurence Hyde†), Brewer had been baulked of his desire by the intervention of a great minister, ‘who hath more means of obliging friends’ and one who had encroached on areas which were the ‘right of others to prepare for the Royal Stamp’ (possibly a reference to Lord Treasurer Godolphin [Sidney†]). In the event Brewer had to settle for the potentially lucrative post of receiver-general or treasurer of the prizes. With the Earl of Winchilsea reporting to Nottingham on 12 July that Bathurst and Brewer ‘cannot fail’ at Romney, they were duly returned ten days later.18

In the opening session of Queen Anne’s first Parliament Brewer was appointed to six drafting committees. These included a bill to ascertain the tithes of hops (of obvious relevance to Kent), several estate bills, one of which concerned to Sir Thomas Stanley, 3rd Bt., who was related through marriage to Sir Stephen Lennard, 2nd Bt., the knight of the shire for Kent, and a bill to prevent the export of wool, which he presented. He also managed the Lords’ bill in favour of Hon. Mildmay Fane†, younger son of the 4th Earl of Westmorland, an influential Kentish figure.

Brewer was much busier in the 1703–4 session. On 9 Nov. 1703 Lord Godolphin wrote to Harley that he had spoken to Brewer, finding him ‘convinced of the unseasonableness of this bill’, presumably a reference to the second occasional conformity bill, leave for which was granted later that month. A sign of his stature (and Toryism) was his deputation, with John Sharp*, on 3 Mar. to ask the High Tory Francis Atterbury to preach before the House, and its corollary on the 9th, the Commons’ message of thanks for the same. Brewer managed three bills through the House, two private measures involving first Sir Charles Bickerstaffe, a Kentish deputy-lieutenant in the 1690s, and, second Sir Thomas Style, 2nd Bt.†, formerly MP for Hythe, and, most important, a bill to continue the Dover Harbour Act, which necessitated his chairing a committee of the whole on 26 Jan. 1704, before the bill passed the Commons in February. On 17 Jan. he was the first-named to a committee of seven to search the Lords’ Journals for their proceedings in the cases of Ashby v. White (see AYLESBURY, Bucks.) and Soames v. Barnardiston, a committee which was then given several related tasks and from which Brewer reported on 21 and 24 Jan. after inquiring into the proceedings in Queen’s bench on the two cases. He was a teller on 18 Jan., successfully opposing the third reading of the bill establishing a land registry for the West Riding.19

It is possible that by this time Brewer had removed his residence out of his chambers in Coney Court, Gray’s Inn, which were being used by the Pipe Office. He may have taken lodgings in Swallow Street, for on 28 Oct. 1704 Bishop Nicolson recorded a conversation with his ‘fellow lodger, Mr Brewer of Kent’ in which Brewer ‘protests against the humour of consolidating’, i.e. tacking. This evidence is consistent with a forecast that Brewer would probably oppose the Tack, although his name did appear on Harley’s lobbying list as one to be approached by the chancellor of the Exchequer, Hon. Henry Boyle*. About this time Godolphin informed Harley that he had deputed William Lowndes* to lobby Brewer and the prize commissioners on the same issue, an effort which was evidently successful for on 26 Nov. Nicolson described Brewer as ‘zealous against Tacking’, and indeed he was not recorded as voting for it. On 17 Dec. Nicolson recorded Brewer’s prediction that a similar measure must pass ‘the next year’, an indication that it was tacking to which he objected rather than legislation against the practice of occasional conformity. This may explain why one analysis of 1705 called him a ‘sneaker’. Brewer’s other actions in the 1704–5 session conformed to the same pattern. He was appointed to five drafting committees including one to waive duties on exported prize goods, which followed a petition from John Mascall, a prominent constituent who had served as mayor of New Romney on three occasions, and another on a supply bill continuing duties on low wines, coffee, etc. Brewer also chaired a committee of the whole on the bill to encourage the import of American naval stores, reporting it and carrying it to the Lords. On at least one occasion Brewer acted as a manager with a group of senior Tories including Sir Thomas Powys, Sir Humphrey Mackworth and William Bromley II at a conference on the vexed issue of the writ of error for the Aylesbury men.20

By virtue of his office as receiver of prizes, Brewer was classed as a placeman on a list of 1705. His letter to New Romney in March offering his services at the forthcoming general election made much of his office, and betrayed a certain unease that it might be used against him:

I can’t believe my being employed by her Majesty in office will put me under any disadvantage with any of you and the rather because ’tis wholly consistent with my duty to your trust which I have not neglected one day since I undertook it. I must say there is not one member of the House who with more diligence constantly attends the service of the House and when the bill against offices was first moved for I then openly declared in the House that I would quit my present or any other office, for the service of the public, if you would please to favour me in the next election.

Brewer was duly returned and after again being lobbied by Godolphin, voted for the Court candidate as Speaker. However, his Tory inclinations were revealed by Lord Halifax (Charles Montagu*) in a letter to the Duchess of Marlborough which named Brewer as one of ‘about 20’ who, although they had voted for John Smith I in the Speakership contest, had voted in December for the Tacker, Sir Samuel Garrard, 4th Bt.*, in the Amersham election case. Legislatively, Brewer managed three private bills through the Commons, all of which favoured people with Kentish connexions, and assisted in the management of others. Brewer’s recorded interventions in debate in this session were limited to interventions during the regency bill. On 19 Dec., at second reading, he pronounced himself for the bill’s committal and although he spoke on 12 Jan. 1706 over the instruction to the committee of the whole to receive amendments to explain the place clauses of the Act of Settlement, his comments were not recorded. Finally, on 19 Jan. on the composition of the regency Brewer was noted as saying that he ‘would not have this bill drop in hopes of the expedient’. This is a trifle cryptic but probably indicates that Brewer was not part of the Tory attempts to obstruct the bill. Indeed, he duly supported the Court on 18 Feb. over the ‘place clause’. The following day, he again upset the Whigs by joining other Court Tories in refusing to set a date for hearing the Bewdley election case, an action which favoured the Tory, Salwey Winnington*, over his Whig rival, Hon. Henry Herbert*.21

The 1706–7 session saw Brewer perhaps a little less active in the Commons. He had two tellerships: on 5 Dec. 1706 in favour of bringing up a petition from the six clerks in Chancery for relief against loss of fees, the success of which led to his appointment as first-named to the committee to consider their relief; and on 7 Jan. 1707 in favour of giving a second reading to a bill suppressing new glass-houses, etc., within one mile of Whitehall and St. James’s. He was also appointed to four drafting committees, but did not manage any of the resultant legislation. By mid-April Brewer was attending the county sessions in Kent, but was unable to return to London as expected during May owing to ill-health. His absence makes it difficult to credit a report by Hon. James Brydges* on 8 May that

by virtue of the Parliament being agreed to be a new Parliament the clause [under the Regency Act] for incapacitating such and such offices from being in the House hath taken place and thereupon Mr Mo[o]re [Arthur*] hath resigned his, with Brewer of prizes.

However, Brydges had defined the dilemma facing Brewer: whether to retain office or membership of the Commons. In the event, when the Commons took the matter into account on 18 Nov. 1707 a new writ was ordered for New Romney on the grounds that Brewer had ‘been receiver of the prizes since the commencement of this present Parliament’, the post-Union session being declared a new Parliament. Somewhat surprisingly, Brewer attended at the Treasury on the following day to resign his office. If this was in order to facilitate his success at the ensuing by-election, it certainly worked, because on 28 Nov. he was returned unopposed. There is no record of Brewer being given another office compatible with a seat at Westminster, which would have explained the otherwise surprising fact that he continued to support the Whig-dominated ministry. The reference to a Mr Brewer of the Escheat office in 1713 probably refers to his ownership of the building housing that office.22

An analysis of the Commons compiled after the Union marks Brewer as a Tory. He does not appear in a legislative capacity in the 1707–8 session until February 1708, possibly being involved in legal duties before then: Bishop Nicolson twice mentions visits to him in January and February, possibly concerning the cathedrals bill, which the bishop saw as a way of resolving his own conflict with Dean Atterbury. In March he chaired the committee of the whole on the bill extending the East India Company Act, and on 18 Mar. 1708 he took over the functions of the chair of ways and means, reporting the bill (which John Conyers had chaired) to continue half-subsidies.23

Re-elected again in 1708, Brewer was classed as a Tory in a list of the Commons with the 1708 returns added. In the opening session, he supported the naturalization of the Palatines, and was named to one drafting committee. There is little clue as to why his legislative activity should have fallen off so sharply, although he may have been active behind the scenes for in 1709 he was made a freeman of Reading ‘in regard for the great service he hath done for this corporation’. Conceivably this involved legal and parliamentary work for the town and corporation in opposing the Kennet navigation bill which failed to pass the Commons. Brewer could plausibly have been interested in such work by his brother James, a medical man, who resided in Reading. The 1709–10 session saw Brewer’s legislative involvement increase, but most of it concerned Kentish matters, for example the Sevenoaks to Tunbridge Wells road bill which he presented in December and subsequently managed through the Commons. He also voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.24

In the month before the dissolution of the Parliament, Edward Knatchbull* wrote to New Romney intimating that a number of the corporation had been unhappy with Brewer for some time: ‘it having been discoursed in the county at the last election that if any neighbouring gentleman had offered his service he might probably have succeeded’. Certainly Brewer’s Whiggish votes in 1709–10 would not have been favourably looked upon by Tories like Knatchbull. As if to confirm his vulnerability, Brewer’s letter to Romney was a trifle defensive in that he admitted that after representing them for so long his conduct was bound to be excepted against by some, but that, if so, he was guilty of ‘oversights not errors’. His reasons for standing were given as ‘the security of our present happy establishment both in Church and state, together with the interest and prosperity of our town in general and everyone of you’. He ended ominously by saying that it was easy to set up against him and make promises. Brewer was defeated after a poll, petitioning on 1 Dec. 1710 against the return of Robert Furnese, but withdrawing his petition subsequently.25

Brewer continued to be active in politics despite being outside the Commons. In July 1712 Tenterden corporation returned Brewer’s draft address for presentation to the Queen. Although discharged in May 1712 from his place as counsel and assistant to the corporation, ostensibly owing to lack of business, Brewer sought to return to the Commons at the New Romney by-election of 1713, writing to the corporation that after his previous defeat he had not solicited a seat elsewhere, but had retired from ‘public’ business. However, he was alarmed at reports which suggested he was over-confident of the corporation’s support and explained his reticence in treating by saying that ‘nothing but submission to an Act of Parliament could excuse me in not directing an entertainment’. Whether because of these faults or some others, there is no evidence that he stood at the by-election held in April 1713 or at the general election of August that year. This is perhaps strange, given that in June 1713 when he presented an address to the Queen from Deal, thanking her for the peace, he was able to procure an introduction into the royal presence from Lord Treasurer Oxford (Harley). Brewer continued to act in a legal capacity until the end of his life, serving as chairman of West Kent quarter sessions from at least as early as February 1712 until he was ousted in 1715, and retaining his place as counsel to the Cinque Ports until his death on 2 June 1724. In his will, written before his wife’s death in 1717, he refers to the estate he had settled on his nephew Thomas (son of Dr James Brewer) on the latter’s marriage. He mentioned rooms in New Court of Gray’s Inn which he leased out and to others in use by the Pipe and Escheat Office. He also held £1,000 in Bank stock, valued at £1,300 and ‘unsettled’ real and personal estate of ‘at least £4,000’.26

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Stuart Handley


  • 1. IGI, Kent; PCC 21 Vere; Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. liv), 26; Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1650–79, p. 130; Arch. Cant. lxii. 80–81.
  • 2. Centre Kentish Stud. New Romney bor. recs. NR/AC2, pp. 660, 662, 675–6; NR/AC3, p. 75; info. from Medway Area Archs.; Berks. RO, R/Ac1/1/19, f. 105v.; Arch. Cant. xxxiii. 102; Cal. White and Black Bks. (Kent Recs. xix), 546, 555; London Gazette, 26–30 Mar. 1702.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 251; xxi. 51.
  • 4. G. Inn Pension Bk. i. 368, 453; ii. 29; IGI, Kent; CSP Dom. 1660–1, p. 246; Recs. of Maidstone ed. Martin, 154; Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act (1882), 350, 360; Add. 33923, f. 434; New Romney bor. recs. NR/AC2, pp. 660, 662, 673, 675; Cal. Treas. Bks. vi. 502, 537; vii. 444; viii. 280, 2028.
  • 5. New Romney bor. recs. NR/AEp 56/1, Brewer to corporation, 8 Feb. 1689[-90]; Add. 33512, f. 118.
  • 6. Luttrell Diary, 16, 146, 200.
  • 7. Stilling the Grumbling Hive ed. Davison et al., 55, 59; G. Holmes, Augustan Eng. 138–42; Add. 42586, ff. 155–6, 190; Cal. White and Black Bks. 525, 535.
  • 8. Luttrell Diary, 354, 444, 469.
  • 9. Grey, x. 376; Add. 33512, ff. 132–4.
  • 10. Som. RO, Sanford mss DD/SF 2980, Edward Clarke I* to Ld. Capell (Hon. Sir Henry Capel*), 23 Mar. 1695; Add. 17677 PP, f. 184; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 148–9.
  • 11. Hereford and Worcester RO (Hereford), Harley mss C64/117, ballot of commrs. of accts.
  • 12. CSP Dom. 1696, pp. 228–9; Portledge Pprs. 238.
  • 13. Cal. Treas. Bks. xiii. 55–56; Cam. Misc. xx. 49–50.
  • 14. Arch. Cant. xiii. 479; Cam. Misc. xxix. 380; Cocks Diary, 19; Add. 33512, ff. 158–60; CSP Dom. 1699–1700, p. 252; Cal. Treas. Bks. xiv. 78–79.
  • 15. Horwitz, 265–6; Sanford mss DD/SF 4107(a), ‘notes of the debate on my ld. Chancellor’, 13 Feb. 1699[–1700].
  • 16. New Romney bor. recs. NR/AEp 59/1, Brewer to New Romney, 19 Dec. 1700; Cocks Diary, 97, 110.
  • 17. Cocks Diary, 203, 211, 235.
  • 18. New Romney bor. recs. NR/Aep 60/3, Brewer to corporation, 23 Apr. 1702; Add. 29568, ff. 79–80.
  • 19. Bath mss at Longleat House, Portland misc. mss, ff. 209–10, [Godolphin] to [Harley], 9 Nov. [1703]; Bull. IHR, xli. 175.
  • 20. G. Inn Pension Bk. ii. 143; Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 215–16, 236, 256; Bull. IHR, xxxiv. 95; xli. 182; Portland misc. mss, ff. 196–7; Arch. Cant. xcv. 213, 220; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 529.
  • 21. New Romney bor. recs. NR/AEp 60/1, Brewer to New Romney, 15 Mar. 1704[-5]; HMC Bath, i. 57; Bull. IHR xxxv. 28; xlv. 47, 48; Cam. Misc. xxiii. 50, 66, 74; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 91.
  • 22. Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 58(1), pp. 143, 189; 57(1), p. 97; 57(2), pp. 104–5; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxi. 51.
  • 23. Nicolson Diaries, 442, 448.
  • 24. Berks. RO, R/Ac1/1/19, f. 105v.
  • 25. New Romney bor. recs. NR/AEp 63/1, Knatchbull to corporation, 14 Aug. [1710]; Brewer to same, 14 Sept. 1710.
  • 26. Arch. Cant. xxxiii. 101; New Romney bor. recs. NR/AC3, p. 75; NR/AEp 64/2, Brewer to corporation, 3 Feb. 1712[-13]; N. Landau, JPs, 253, 280; London Gazette, 6–9 June 1713; Add. 62648, f. 67; PCC 132 Bolton; Boyer, Pol. State, xxvii. 623.