CARTER, Lawrence II (1671-1744), of The Newarke, Leicester

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 - Nov. 1701
1710 - 1722
1722 - 7 Sept. 1726

Family and Education

bap. 30 Sept. 1671, 1st s. of Lawrence Carter I* by his 1st w.  educ. Trinity, Oxf. 1688; I. Temple, adm. 1689, called 1694; L. Inn 1702. unm.  Kntd. 4 May 1724.1

Offices Held

Recorder, Leicester 1697–1729.2

Solicitor-gen. to Prince of Wales 1715–26; KC 1715; serjeant-at-law 1724; baron of the Exchequer 1726–d.


Carter’s standing within Leicester’s ruling elite was overshadowed, at least initially, by that of his father. His almost unanimous election as recorder in 1697, just three years after qualifying at the bar, paved the way for his unopposed election at the next election. He also benefited from the assistance of his father’s patron, the Earl of Stamford, to whose ‘interest’ Carter was also stated to belong in a list of early 1700. Carter quickly became a regular participant in Commons proceedings and earned nomination to committees on a wide range of business. A Whig, he was identified with the Country party in a list of about September 1698. In February 1699 he managed a private naturalization bill through the House. On the 20th he was teller against committing the Derwent navigation bill which Leicester’s corporation had resolved to oppose, being ‘injurious to the trade and market of Leicester’: it was probably Carter who had presented their petition (3 Feb.) and who subsequently led the case against the bill which resulted in its rejection. He was granted leave of absence on the 28th, though was back in attendance before the session closed.3

In the opening weeks of the next session Carter piloted through the House a private bill for selling part of an estate in Leicestershire. He was a teller on 15 Jan. 1700 against adjourning a debate on the Company of Scotland, and on 10 Feb. reported from the committee on a bill setting up a ‘judicature’ to deal with cases of hardship and arrears of pay among military personnel. On 15 Feb. he spoke against a motion for the resumption of grants, possibly not without some thoughts of the fate of his father’s licence from the duchy of Lancaster for piping a water supply in Leicester. On 28 Feb. he reported from the committee on the petition of Sir Nathaniel Curzon and John Kent alleging their right, against the corporation of London, to establish a market under grants made to them by James II. Returned in January 1701, he was included in a list, probably of those likely to support the Court in agreeing with the committee of supply’s resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’. He presented an unsuccessful bill on 2 June designed to apply the proceeds from sequestrated Catholic lands to the maintenance of Greenwich Hospital, of which his patron, Lord Stamford, was a commissioner.4

Carter’s consuming preoccupation during the 1698 Parliament was the problem of abuse and malpractice in the running of two of London’s debtor prisons, the Fleet and King’s Bench. His involvement originated with the case of John Goodall, a prominent Leicester tradesman and former mayor, who had petitioned about the fate of his legal pursuit of a bankrupt. On being arrested, the man had been removed to King’s Bench where, owing to the notorious liberties allowed inmates, he escaped before the bankruptcy commissioners could ascertain his estate. As a result Goodall himself was arrested and incarcerated in Leicester gaol for failing to satisfy his own creditors. Carter was a member of the committee appointed on 2 Jan. 1699 to examine Goodall’s petition and look into ‘the ill practices and abuses’ of the Fleet and King’s Bench. The inquiry took four months to complete, and a report was made on the final day of the session, 4 May. Other complaints, similar to Goodall’s, came before the committee, and it emerged that creditors who brought ‘actions of escape’ against the principal officials of either gaol could obtain judgment only to be confronted with judicial refusal to grant a sequestration. It was a well-established practice for the owners of these two gaolerships to use them as security for loans or mortgages, and in cases of escape these ‘incumbrances’ left creditors entirely without further remedy at law, which made a nonsense of recently enacted laws for the ease of creditors. A legislative solution was proposed to prevent habeas corpus removals to the London debtor prisons, to discharge existing encumbrances, and to outlaw such practices for the future. With the session about to close, there was a gesture of endorsement for the committee’s recommendations in an order for a bill, which Carter and two other MPs were to prepare.5

Early in the new session the matter was revived, probably at Carter’s instigation, for it was he who took the chair of a committee to recapitulate the outcome of the inquiry. Carter made further reports, in December 1699 and January 1700, giving fuller details of the existing encumbrances. In the meantime, on 20 and 26 Jan. he presented separate bills for each gaol, to discharge all encumbrances, and, more drastically, abolishing the two prisons completely. Both measures were committed on 17 Feb., but not surprisingly failed to re-emerge. Another bill was presented by Carter on 27 Jan., with the broader intention of regulating all prisons, but in this too, following its committee stage, he was unable to make further headway. Undeterred, he repeated his efforts in the next session, presenting a single rationalized version of his previous bills, still directed at the Fleet and King’s Bench, which completed its Commons stages on 22 Mar. 1701. In the Lords the bill was altered beyond recognition: one of its two other sponsors, Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, recorded on 15 May in his diary:

The Lords desired a conference about the bill for regulating the prisons in which they would give their reasons for the amendments drawn by the judges: and indeed there were amendments, for nothing but the preamble of our bill was left: and the amendments were unjust and impracticable: Nota, the judges spoiled our bill for fear they should lose their new year gifts of £200 from the keepers of the King’s Bench and Fleet.

The amendments were never considered and Carter’s initiative lapsed.6

Replaced at Leicester by his father in the second general election of 1701, Carter stood again in 1702, with assistance from the Earl of Rutland (John Manners†), but was defeated. He was shortly afterwards reported as intending to rendezvous with Lord Stamford at Hanover. Failing again in the 1705 election, he petitioned against James Winstanley*, and after a lengthy and bitter hearing the committee found in his favour on 29 Jan. 1706 (by 113 votes to 107), only for the Commons to overturn the verdict. During the ensuing nine-year interlude in his parliamentary career, Carter continued his legal practice in London, where his business included acting as counsel in several appeal cases before the House of Lords.7

In the 1710 election Carter was returned by Lord Stamford for Bere Alston, a seat he held until 1722, Stamford having died two years before. The next three sessions saw him much less active than he had been as Member for Leicester. His position in relation to the new Tory government was noted as ‘doubtful’ in the ‘Hanover list’ of the 1710 Parliament. On 21 Dec. he acted as a teller for committing a place bill, and on 28 Feb. 1711 obtained a leave of absence. He voted for the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion on 7 Dec. but earlier in 1711 his name had been included in a list of ‘worthy patriots’ who had exposed the mismanagements of the last administration. On 6 Mar. 1712, in a debate on the King’s Lynn election, he told for the Whig minority against a motion that the expulsion of Robert Walpole II* debarred Walpole from re-election. In May Carter took charge of a private bill for selling part of a Kentish estate, and on the 12th was one of a group of lawyer-MPs who moved for a bill against duelling. On 5 June he was teller against an amendment to a bill enabling the son of a receiver-general to compound with the lord treasurer for his father’s debts. Towards the end of the following session, on 18 June 1713, he voted against the French commerce bill, and was noted as a Whig on the Worsley list of the next Parliament. He reported on 30 Apr. 1714 from a committee investigating the management and application of turnpike dues. He was classed as a Whig in two lists of MPs re-elected in 1715.8

Carter’s legal career flourished under the Whig regime from 1715, culminating in a knighthood and his appointment in 1726 as a baron of the Exchequer. He died on 14 Mar. 1744 and was buried at St Mary de Castro, Leicester, where a monumental inscription attests that ‘in every station of his life [he] acquitted himself with integrity and honour’.9

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. IGI, Leics.; Nichols, Leics. i. 319.
  • 2. Nichols, 319.
  • 3. Leicester Bor. Recs. ed. Chinnery, v. 27, 518.
  • 4. Som. RO, Sanford mss DD/SF 4107(a) notes of debate, 15 Feb. 1700; CP, xii. 222.
  • 5. Hartopp, Mayors of Leicester, 113.
  • 6. Cocks Diary, 128–29.
  • 7. HMC Rutland, ii. 171; BL, Trumbull Add. mss 133, Henry St. John II* to Sir William Trumbull*, 14 Aug. 1702; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 6, 10–11, 14; HMC Lords, n.s. vi. 4; vii. 4, 35, 338.
  • 8. HMC Lords, n.s. x. 366.
  • 9. Nichols, 319.