FOLEY, Edward (1676-1747).

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



Dec. 1701 - 11 June 1711
15 Apr. 1732 - 1741

Family and Education

bap. 23 Sept. 1676, 2nd s. of Thomas Foley I*, and bro. of Richard Foley* and Thomas Foley III*.  educ. L. Inn 1717. unm.  suc. bro. Richard 1732.1

Offices Held

Asst. R. African Co. 1704–5.2

Freeman, Bewdley 1706.3

Receiver-gen. of leather duty 1711–15; commr. taking subscriptions to S. Sea Co. 1711.4


A dabbler in commerce before eventually taking up the law in a similarly desultory fashion, ‘Ned’ Foley was evidently in danger of becoming the black sheep of his highly moral family: in 1704 he was reported to have lost £1,000 ‘at play in private company’ in Tunbridge Wells, and his connexions were being urged to intervene to prevent him from gambling his way to ruin. They may well have succeeded in doing so, since no subsequent references to his gaming have survived. Politically, however, he seems always to have stayed within the fold. Succeeding his father (after a brief interval) to a seat at Droitwich on the family interest in the second general election of 1701, he was classed with the Tories by his brother-in-law Robert Harley* in his list of this Parliament, and voted on 26 Feb. 1702 in vindication of the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachment of the four Whig lords. Forecast at the beginning of the 1704–5 session as a probable opponent of the Tack, he did not vote for it on 28 Nov. It is impossible to distinguish his parliamentary activity from that of the many other Foleys in the House, except when he reported a multiple naturalization bill in February 1705. In common with two of his kinsmen he was given the designation ‘No Church’ in an analysis of the new House of Commons in 1705, and, although he was listed as having voted with the rest of the Foleys on 25 Oct. in favour of the Court candidate for Speaker, his name was queried by the compiler of the list. The family as a whole was uncomfortable with the ministry’s turn to the Whigs and the Foleys were reported as intending to reaffirm their party loyalties in December 1705 by voting for the Tory Sir Samuel Garrard, 4th Bt.*, in the disputed election for Amersham. These difficulties continued, and may well have been reflected in Edward’s appearance first as a Whig and then as a Tory in two parliamentary lists from early 1708. His relationship with his parliamentary colleague at Droitwich, the Whig Charles Cocks*, was not a happy one, and Foley found himself left out of the preparations in the winter of 1707–8 for a bill to preserve the borough’s salt-springs, which Cocks tried to pilot through the House. The exclusion, however, worked in his favour, for the bill failed, and though he was re-elected in 1708, Cocks was not. The ministerial changes of that year had clarified his own political position: he voted in 1710 against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, and, following his re-election that year, he was marked as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’. He was subsequently listed among the ‘worthy patriots’ who in the first session of the Parliament exposed the mismanagements of the old ministry, and the ‘Tory patriots’ who supported the new administration’s peace policy. He was also a member of the October Club, possibly a pro-ministerial infiltrator, for in June 1711 he was nominated by Harley (now Earl of Oxford) to an office under the leather duty commissioners at a salary of £350 p.a. He thereupon gave up his parliamentary seat to his younger brother, Richard. Harley may also have considered him as a potential candidate for a South Sea Company directorship, but nothing transpired.5

Although Foley lost office after the Hanoverian succession, he made no attempt to return to Parliament until Richard Foley’s death in 1731, when, besides inheriting his brother’s property, he recovered the Droitwich seat. Having made his will in December 1746, when he was residing in Carey Street, though still keeping his chambers at Lincoln’s Inn, he died ‘of a mortification in his foot’, on 4 Apr. 1747. His estate passed to his nephew, the 2nd Lord Foley.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Nash, Worcs. ii. 464, 468.
  • 2. K. G. Davies, R. African Co. 381.
  • 3. Birmingham Univ. Hist. Jnl. i. 125.
  • 4. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxv. 300; xxix. 488; Pittis, Present Parl. 349.
  • 5. Add. 70520, Edward Ashe* to [?Robert Harley], 6 Aug. [1704]; 70145, Elizabeth Foley to Abigail Harley, 10 Aug. 1704; 70284, Ld. Godolphin (Sidney†) to Harley, ‘Monday morning’ [Dec. 1705]; 70332, memo. by Harley, 4 June 1711; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/193, James Vernon I* to Duke of Shrewsbury, 24 Feb. 1707–8; Boyer, Pol. State, iii. 19; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxv. 300; Hist. Jnl. iv. 196.
  • 6. Hearne Colls. xi. 48; PCC 96 Potter; Gent. Mag. 1747, p. 199.