HAMMOND, Anthony (1668-1738), of Somersham Place, Hunts.; Lidlington, Beds.; Piccadilly and Albemarle 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



1695 - 1698
1698 - Nov. 1701
1702 - 1705
5 May - 7 Dec. 1708

Family and Education

b. 1 Sept. 1668, 1st s. of Anthony Hammond of Somersham Place by Amy, da. of Henry Browne of Hasfield House, Glos.  educ. at home (Mr Kay) 1675–6; Willingham, Cambs. (Samuel Saywell) 1676–83; St. Paul’s 1683–5; G. Inn 1684–9; St. John’s, Camb. 1685–6, MA 1698; travelled abroad (Low Countries) 1690.  m. 14 Aug. 1694, Jane, da. of Sir Walter Clarges, 1st Bt.*, half-sis. of Sir Thomas Clarges, 2nd Bt.*, and Robert Clarges*, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p.).  suc. fa. 1680.1

Offices Held

Conservator, Bedford level 1688–93, 1704–12, bailiff 1693–1704; freeman, Huntingdon by 1702, ?Portsmouth 1703.2

Capt. of ft. Thomas Farrington’s* regt. Feb.–Sept. 1694; commr. of navy 1702–12; dep.–paymaster, Brit. forces in Spain 1711–13.3

FRS 1698–aft. 1717.


It was Hammond’s misfortune to possess the temperament and modest intellectual attainments of the dilettante, without sufficient means to enable him to fritter away his opportunities in comfort. Thus he achieved some minor distinction in the worlds of politics and letters but was eventually engulfed by financial ruin. His father, a younger son of an old-established family of greater gentry in Kent, had settled himself in Huntingdonshire, standing unsuccessfully as a Court candidate for the county in the election to the first Exclusion Parliament. Under paternal guidance Hammond was given a baptism in loyalty, ‘kissing the Duke of York’s hand as he [York] passed through Huntingdon on his journey to Scotland’, but after his father’s early death only a year later he drifted through his education, accumulating friendships with remarkable eclecticism. As a schoolboy he had watched the execution of Algernon Sidney†; later he not only became familiar with the writings of such radical Whig theorists, but was admitted into their company. Walter Moyle* was one of his first close friends, and it was probably through Moyle that Hammond entered the circle of Country ideologues and virtuosi, Tory and Whig, which foregathered at the Grecian tavern in the Strand. Of Moyle he later wrote that

as he was a man who judged and spoke freely of things and persons he was a little apt . . . to distinguish between the King and some of his ministers, between the legal, established government and interest of a party. In this some of his friends did not always go along with him, though . . . I seldom varied from him.

The only subject over which they seriously disagreed was Moyle’s violent anticlericalism. Hammond, whose own conventional religious beliefs were reinforced by his reading and reflection, persisted in believing ‘the clergy of the Church of England to be the greatest encouragers of learning among us’, though he was prepared to express deep hostility towards popish ‘priestcraft’. As befitted his father’s son, he remained faithful to the Church of England: suspicious of those who ‘set up new sects of religion’, and unable to contemplate such a thing as occasional conformity, for ‘the administration of all governments is trusted only in the hands of those who are of the national church’. Besides politiques like Moyle, Hammond also enjoyed the society of littérateurs, fancying himself as something of a poet, as his uncle had been before him. A rather cruel character-sketch was left by Thomas Cooke, a literary friend of his maturity. Hammond ‘was a well-bred man’, noted Cooke,

had but a small portion of solid understanding, and was a great flatterer . . . He courted men of letters and genius, and was fond of being taken notice of by them in their writings. He would ask them to mention him in their works; he asked it of me.

That Hammond prided himself on collecting dedications is evident from his commonplace-books, and already by 1695 he had been honoured in this way with a volume of verse and a play (Southerne’s Fatal Marriage), having lent assistance to both authors in their compositions. Among his oldest friendships was that with the dramatist Susanna Centlivre, which apparently began with a curious episode from his Cambridge days, during which she had lived with him for a spell disguised as a young male cousin.4

On reaching his majority in 1689 Hammond was immediately appointed to the Huntingdonshire lieutenancy and given a colonelcy in the county militia. Presumably his name was also added to the commission of the peace, and he completed his hand of local honours with office in the corporation of the Bedford level. Even though an attempt to marry him into a branch of the highly influential Montagu family failed, he was clearly possessed of considerable local prestige. He later claimed that ‘he would have stood Parliament-man for Huntingdonshire’ at a by-election in 1693 had his mother not ‘dissuaded me from it’, and he did in fact put up at the next general election (possibly with the assistance of the Montagus of Sandwich) and was returned after a stiff contest at the expense of the Whig Silius Titus*. This was not the inevitable progression it might seem to have been, however, for in the interim efforts had been made to launch Hammond’s career in different directions, first towards the law, then the army, with his own constant preference being for a literary life. It may have been his marriage in 1694 into the highly political Clarges family, mainstays of the Tory party, which finally pushed him to seek a parliamentary seat. In the House he followed a course of which his new connexions, as Country Tories themselves, heartily approved but which was also of a piece with his own loyalist background and intellectual predilection for civic humanist texts. Forecast as likely to oppose the ministry in the divisions on 31 Jan. 1696 over the proposed council of trade, he voted in March against fixing the price of guineas at 22s, and, most dramatically, refused to subscribe the Association at first, an act which served as a suitable pretext for his removal from the commission of the peace, though he himself recalled that the reason had been his more general ‘voting against the Court’. When Parliament resumed he was active in opposing the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. At the division on 23 Nov. 1696 Hammond told against engrossment, and at the third reading, on 25 Nov., he answered Court arguments concerning the implications of the bill for national security by pointing to the even greater danger to liberty and to the ultimate security of government arising from Parliament itself going beyond the law:

that Sir John Fenwick was in the hands of the law, and nobody should say, that the government must sink if he did not die; but if they went by [i.e. passed by] the rules of justice, he believed it would be a great blow to the government.

He added that he himself had visited in prison the witness Peter Cook, who had derided the evidence of the absconded Cardell Goodman. Not surprisingly he was named as having voted against the attainder. When Parliament resumed he told on 7 Dec. 1697 for an opposition motion to consider grievances before supply, and a week later was first-named to a drafting committee for a bill to enable disbanded soldiers to exercise their trades, a preliminary step towards the expected Country onslaught against the standing army. He also managed a private bill through the House from the second-reading committee stage, but achieved his greatest prominence in this session in a quite different way – as a result of a duel with Lord William Powlett*, after a quarrel ignited during a debate in the committee of privileges over the Cambridgeshire election. It was one of a number fought by Hammond during his career, evidently with more enthusiasm than skill: on this occasion he was wounded, though not seriously.5

At the 1698 general election Hammond transferred from Huntingdonshire to Cambridge University, receiving an honorary master’s degree from his alma mater to facilitate his candidature. He was also beholden to ‘the non-jurors of St. John’s College’, who had ‘put him up’ to stand; to Bishop Compton of London, who allegedly sent to Cambridge a chaplain armed with 40 letters of recommendation on his behalf; and to Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) who also ‘writ very zealously’ to the university for him, and in particular exerted such influence as he possessed over Christ’s College. The contest, for second place behind the Country Whig Hon. Henry Boyle*, was very much a party cause, and not even the support of the vice-chancellor, as acting returning officer, could save Hammond’s opponent, James Montagu I*. Before Parliament met, Hammond contributed a short pamphlet to the ‘Country’ interest, Considerations upon the Choice of a Speaker (1698), which justified the existence of a ‘Country party’ to defend the people’s liberties against the Court. By implication he not only scorned the favoured ministerial candidate for the Chair, Sir Thomas Littleton, 3rd Bt.*, on the grounds that no Treasury official should be elected, but also savaged one of the possible Tory candidates, Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, because of Seymour’s history of corruption, referring to him as ‘some old prostitute of the exploded pensioned Parliament’, a remark indicative of Country principles and of Hammond’s membership of a circle of younger Tories who were less deferential to veterans like Seymour and looked elsewhere for political leadership. When the House met he was naturally to the fore in debating against Littleton’s nomination as Speaker. He had been classed as a supporter of the Country party in a comparative analysis of the old and new Commons in about September 1698, and was subsequently forecast as likely to vote against a standing army. While nothing is known of his contribution to the debates on the disbanding bill (and he certainly was attending the Commons at that time), he seconded an opposition motion in the committee of supply on 2 Mar. 1699 for a smaller sum to be granted for the upkeep of the army than the Court had proposed, and on 22 Mar. was added to the committee to prepare a bill to enable disbanded soldiers to resume the exercise of their trades in corporate towns. The inquiry into naval mismanagements also loosened his tongue. In the committee on the state of the navy, on 10 Mar., he focused the opposition’s criticisms on to the person of the first lord of the Admiralty, Lord Orford (Edward Russell*), declaring that Orford was ‘one he should be unwilling to leave at the head of the fleet’. At the end of the inquiry Hammond’s name was included in the committee of 27 Mar. to draw up an address on the committee’s resolutions. On another party issue, he acted as a teller on 7 Feb., on the Tory side, against (Sir) Thomas Lee* (2nd Bt.) in the Aylesbury election case. But he was most closely involved in the prosecution of a measure that attracted cross-party support, for the reform of the Poor Law. Named on 20 Dec. to a committee to consider better ways of providing for the poor and especially of setting them to work (from which he reported on 8 Feb. and again on 1 Mar.), on 21 Mar. he presented a general bill to facilitate the establishment of a system of workhouses, having taken advice from various interested parties. His association with the workhouse movement, combined with an interest in earlier legislation against profane cursing, and in attempts to regulate lotteries so that the public should not be ‘cheated’, suggests that he would at least have felt a strong affinity to the advocates of ‘moral reform’ who in support of the voluntary reformation of manners societies were endeavouring in this session to secure an ‘immorality bill’ against prostitution, and adultery in general. He shared their self-conscious piety and strong belief in providentialism. Yet he seems to have opposed the immorality bill in the House, perhaps because of his friendship with heterodox thinkers like Walter Moyle and John Trenchard†, who figure among his most frequent correspondents at this time, or, more probably, because of his own Anglican prejudices, reacting against the participation of Dissenters as well as Churchmen in the reformation societies and the threat allegedly posed by the bill to the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts. Although opposing the immorality bill, he seems to have given some support to bills for the regulation of the press, which his ‘Commonwealthsmen’ friends regarded with equal abhorrence.6

Hammond maintained his Country Whig and High Tory connexions during the summer of 1699, corresponding with Moyle and other Whigs and spending some time with his wife’s family before going up to London in time for Parliament, where he immediately distinguished himself by being named to the drafting committee for a place bill on 25 Nov. 1699 and presenting the resulting bill to the House on 29 Nov. He was as much of a thorn in the side of the Junto ministers as before, and was listed in early 1700 as doubtful or possibly as a supporter of the opposition. And yet a subtle change can be detected in his politics, prefigured by a note entered into his commonplace-book on 14 July, in which he mused: ‘It is an honest ambition to raise a man’s self by serving his country; the means to do it are chiefly: first, his own personal abilities, which is the foundation; two, assistance of friends.’ There can be no doubt that Hammond had always viewed a seat in Parliament as in part a means to a career. That he stood in need of patronage, or of access to influence, would have been brought home to him by his earlier inability to settle upon some satisfactory employment and by the various difficulties he had encountered in 1692–4 in preventing part of his inheritance from being regranted away from him by the Treasury. His exact financial position at this time is unclear, though no very healthy diagnosis can be made on the basis of his transfer to a new constituency in the 1698 election, or of his somewhat discreditable conduct towards the family of Lady Kenmare (a Jacobite title), after her death in 1700, when, having in the past acted for her in business matters, he obtained the guardianship of her children, with the intention of securing for himself the annuity of £400 her family had been granted from her husband’s forfeited estates in Ireland. Aside from his father- and brother-in-law, Hammond’s closest Tory friends were young men, some of them ambitious or needy and consequently future courtiers: Hon. Arthur Annesley*, John Conyers*, Charles Davenant*, John Tredenham*, and above all Hon. James Brydges*. Such may well have been the complexion of the Tory club he and Brydges attended at the Goat tavern in Bloomsbury Square. Politically, this new generation of Tories was more susceptible to the leadership of Robert Harley* than to the party’s traditional spokesmen, and like Harley they were looking to replace the Whigs in administration. Thus their opposition became less factious and more constructive. On 9 Dec. 1699, for example, Hammond differed from Sir Edward Seymour and Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt.*, in speaking in favour of providing for the debt owed to the Prince of Denmark and of referring this question to the committee of supply; and much later in the session, on 8 Mar. 1700, in a debate on appropriating the surplus of the revenue, he raised the subject of the bankers’ debt, in which he was again opposed by Musgrave, but supported by the Treasury secretary William Lowndes*. When it was a matter of embarrassing the Whig ministers, however, he was as violent as any, unsuccessfully moving on 15 Feb. 1700, in the debate on crown grants, that Charles Montagu* be asked to withdraw once his name had come up in evidence. Party loyalty probably explains his other recorded speech in this session, on 7 Feb., when he moved for a committee to inquire into the prosecution of the recusancy laws, part of a Tory initiative to deflect criticism of High Churchmen as favourers of papists. But the impression he left at the end of the Parliament was of a man with an eye for a job. Even his support for the bill for taking the public accounts was looked upon as calculated to find employment for himself as a commissioner.7

Several visits to the Jacobite Lady Sandwich at Hinchingbrooke House in the summer of 1700 may have been intended by Hammond to pave the way for an application for the Sandwich interest at Huntingdon borough in the ensuing general election, but in the event his position at Cambridge University turned out to be so safe that his return could be counted on well in advance, and he was chosen without opposition. Happy to support the new Tory administration, he was forecast in February 1701 as likely to support the Court in agreeing with the committee of supply’s resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’. His first drafting committee in this Parliament concerned a perennial Country issue, a bill to prevent bribery and corruption in borough elections (20 Mar.), and shortly afterwards, on 31 Mar., he was first-named to the committee for a bill to halt the growth in the numbers of attorneys and solicitors and to regulate their practices, presenting the bill on 1 Apr. He was particularly prominent in the pursuit of the old ministers. On 28 Mar. he sought to revive the affair of Captain Kidd’s patent, when, ‘observing a great silence in the House, [he] moved to have two clauses in the Bill of Rights read, which condemned the granting of felon’s goods before conviction’. He was a member of the committee of 1 Apr., to prepare the articles of impeachment against Lord Portland, and on 14 Apr. told in favour of the motion that Lord Halifax (Charles Montagu) was guilty of a high crime and misdemeanour. The next day he was a teller against the Whig Thomas White* in the East Retford election, and that evening dined at Speaker Harley’s with James Brydges and Sir Bartholomew Shower*. Then on the 26th he, Brydges, William Bromley II*, Simon Harcourt I* and others met at Shower’s, ‘about the articles of impeachment’. His intimacy with Harley’s clique of Commons managers was evident again on 2 May, in a debate in ways and means. Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, reported that Hammond, Harcourt and some others ‘were let into the secret to oppose or divert [John Grobham] Howe’s motion’, which was to consider a reduction in the civil list, ‘and to get 4s. in the pound [land tax] in order to establish and show the interest and credit of the new ministry in our House’. Three days later, on the same topic, Hammond once more spoke against the proposal to repeal part of the Act establishing the civil list and grant £100,000 of this money ‘for the use of the public’. Cocks observed acidly that in doing so Hammond and others ‘spoke against . . . themselves’, that is to say their previous principles, and that ‘it was evident’ they had been ‘altered’ by ‘gifts or hopes’. While prepared to compromise on supply questions to accommodate the Court, however, Hammond remained among the more implacable, and vocal, opponents of Whiggery. One of the Members who had pressed most strongly for the imprisonment of the Kentish Petitioners, he was a teller on 13 May in favour of a motion to transfer the four remaining prisoners to the Gatehouse following the escape of one of their number from the custody of the serjeant. Together with Brydges he had invested in Old East India Company stock the previous summer, and on 17 May, at the report of the committee to consider the Old Company’s proposal to re-establish its monopoly in return for a loan to government, he spoke for the proposal ‘in commendation of the old, that they ought to have the thanks of the House . . . and in the condition we were in that we ought to be good husbands and lessen our interest and pay off our debts’. On 31 May he was named to the committee to examine the petitions concerning Irish forfeitures: his position as guardian to Lady Kenmare’s children gave him one reason to be interested in the subject; a promise to take care of Lord Carlingford’s petition afforded another. He spoke in the debate on the trials of the Whig lords on 4 June, with some vituperative remarks about Whigs in the House of Lords, where ‘those that are the criminals are the judges also’, and their sympathisers in the Commons, ‘relations of criminals sit here and are their advocates who ought to be removed’, remarks clearly aimed at the lawyer Sir Joseph Jekyll, brother-in-law of Lord Somers. His two remaining tellerships occurred on 5 June, against the engrossment of the amended Halifax workhouse bill, on the surface a strange departure from his previous commitment to Poor Law reform; and on 16 June, for an additional clause to the excise appropriation bill. But he was able to end the session with a small triumph. One of the moving spirits behind efforts to re-establish a commission of accounts, he spoke in committee on 7 June against Court amendments to the bill, and was rewarded with election as a commissioner, albeit in next to last place on the list, though the bill later failed. As the session ended, and Hammond left London to spend some time visiting ‘Jack’ Howe in Gloucestershire, where he may have begun to write Considerations upon Corrupt Elections of Members to Serve in Parliament . . . (his contribution to the paper war between the parties in the approach to the next election), he could take pleasure in having achieved some status on the Tory benches, as a speaker if not as a statesman. A contemporary satire on the Tories observed that

          He runs among the herd;
          Is violent and strong;
          Would fain seem grave without a beard;
          But he needs never to be feared;
          His judgment is too young.

Much later, Lord Chesterfield’s (Philip Dormer Stanhope†) retrospective character-sketch drew a similar conclusion. Hammond, he said, was

accounted a good speaker in Parliament and [was] well known by the name of silver-tongued Hammond, given him by Lord Bolingbroke [Henry St. John II*]. He was a man of wit, but, not unlike other orators, wanted conduct, and had . . . ‘all the senses but common sense’.8

An unforeseen incident temporarily arrested Hammond’s political career. Back in London in September 1701 he accompanied his friends Charles Davenant and John Tredenham to supper at the Blue Posts tavern with an old acquaintance of Davenant’s, the Spanish consul Navarra. In the course of the evening they were joined, unexpectedly as far as Hammond was concerned, by the French chargé d’affaires, Poussin. According to Davenant, Hammond was from the first ‘uneasy’ at Poussin’s presence and left with Davenant as soon as he could. But the damage had been done. The supper party had been noticed by a government messenger, and the details of the meeting confirmed by Whig ministers and secretaries. This was a propaganda coup, and the Whigs made the most of it. Their ‘black list’, published before the November general election, and purporting to give the names of those, including Hammond, who had voted in the last Parliament against making preparations for war, dwelt on the discovery of the three Members supposedly in flagrante delicto with their French paymaster. Naturally, the three ‘Poussineers’ suffered the acutest embarrassment, and in Hammond’s case electoral repercussions. In spite of the efforts of his friends – Brydges solicited Lord Keeper Wright’s assistance, who despatched two of his chaplains to Cambridge to vote, and Lord Jersey wrote as well on his behalf – Hammond suffered a crushing defeat at the university. Out of Parliament he continued to associate with Tory politicians: his presence was recorded at a pre-sessional gathering in December 1701 at the Thatched House tavern; and he assisted James Drake in composing The History of the Last Parliament . . ., a detailed defence of the conduct of the Commons in the 1701 Parliament, especially in the matter of the impeachments. Hammond’s hand can be seen in the pamphlet’s denunciation of electoral corruption and defence of the accounts commission, in its extensive use of classical exemplars, and its deployment of quotations from Sidney’s Discourses to condemn the Kentish Petitioners, turning back on the Whigs the dicta of ‘a late author, who has always been esteemed canonical by that party’.9

With King William’s death, Hammond’s thoughts bent towards the recovery of his seat in Parliament, and if possible the acquisition of a place in Queen Anne’s Tory administration. Abandoning the university, he reverted to his own county and the comparative security of the borough of Huntingdon, where the Sandwich interest was paramount and where, for the time being, Lady Sandwich enjoyed the power of nomination. His election was listed by Lord Spencer (Charles*) as a loss for the Whigs. Hammond had already begun to seek patrons at court, in May 1702 travelling to Margate to attend the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†). In July he was made a commissioner of the navy, at a salary of £500 a year. His dealings with the Kenmare family illustrate how important this official salary had become to him. For all his intriguing, he had made no money from his guardianship, the fly in the ointment being his even less scrupulous friend John Asgill*, who had purchased from the parliamentary trustees for Irish forfeitures a life interest in the Kenmare estate, and who thus controlled the source from which Lady Kenmare’s pension was to be paid. In 1703 Asgill persuaded Hammond to sell him the arrears of the pension, but failed to pay for it. Then Asgill agreed with Hammond for the disposal of woods on the property in order to raise capital from which an annuity of £250 would be secured to Hammond. Again Asgill kept the proceeds. The Kenmare children were barely consulted in any of these negotiations over estates whose reversion remained in the family. Asgill was the only beneficiary, and Hammond was left without financial recompense, but with lawsuits against both his business partner and his wards. The outcome may be regarded as typical of his financial affairs, and goes some way to explain his eagerness to gain office in 1702 and to keep it thereafter. Possession of a place transformed him with surprising speed not only into a Court Tory but into a ‘moderate man’ generally. In the first session of the 1702 Parliament, he managed a bill for establishing a public accounts commission through all its stages in the Commons, finally carrying it up to the Lords on 3 Feb. 1703. In political satire he was no longer a ‘violent’ orator but ‘Harmonious Hammond’. At the same time he took his commissioner’s duties very seriously, attending the Navy Board assiduously. An upturn in his fortunes is indicated by his purchase in 1702 of a house in Albemarle Street, and his acquisition the following year of another Irish annuity, a pension on the civil list in Ireland which he bought from Lord Granard. In the 1703–4 parliamentary session his profile was essentially that of the naval bureaucrat: he managed a bill for encouraging an increase in numbers of seamen; reported on 25 Jan. 1704 from the committee investigating a petition for a bill to confirm by statute the royal grant of letters patent for a school of navigation; and on 7 Mar. acted as a teller against a clause offered to the recruiting bill relating to the impressment of seamen. His other tellership, on 23 Dec. 1703, concerned a local issue, in favour of referring to the committee on a Cambridgeshire highways bill a petition from the Huntingdonshire borough of Godmanchester for an extension of the geographical area covered by the bill. The degree to which Hammond had diverged from his former political sentiments in aligning himself with the ministry was most clearly evident during the debates on the Tack in 1704. Whereas he had previously opposed the practice of occasional conformity, he was now forecast as likely to vote against the Tack, and did not vote for it on 28 Nov. 1704. In his commonplace-book he noted that ‘a man may be of the principles of the Tories, but is not allowed to be of their party, unless he will go all their lengths’. He expanded on this theme in drawing up ‘a character . . . of himself’. Though it gives glimpses of candid self-awareness, the dominant motif was self-satisfaction. Writing in the third person, he noted that

he is one whose estate has always afforded him the conveniences and pleasures of life, and he enjoyed them freely, but with such a regard to the main chance that some have thought him covetous, though he knows himself to be only not profuse. Ambition is his private inclination and covetousness never was, though he thinks no man can use riches as he ought that does not know the just value of them. In public affairs he is naturally moderate, something uncertain in his opinions, from which two causes he has been thought to be of both sides, or sometimes of one and sometimes of the other, though as to the Jacobites, in his heart he never was inclined to them; if any of them think themselves disappointed in him he is sorry that a man cannot say a civil thing, but they are so fond to interpret a promise of marriage . . . Business (for which he has no aversion) and a general acquaintance has [sic] made him lose that warmth in friendship which some of less experience have, but he thinks himself honest enough to be capable of being a friend . . . He loves books, but is not of a temper fixed enough ever to have much learning . . . He has more religion than some think he has, for he is always firm in his sentiments on that head and never doubts . . . He fancies what has been said has something of his character in it now, but whether it will be like him a year hence he knows not.10

Listed as a placeman in 1705, at the general election of that year Hammond did what he could to help Lord Treasurer Godolphin’s (Sidney†) son, Hon. Francis*, in the Cambridge University constituency but did not seek re-election himself. In his commonplace-book he wrote of his resolve to retreat from the world of affairs, at least in some measure:

I would take care not to involve myself too far in business. Ease and pleasure are to be considered, and then public affairs; unless my pains and application were of more importance than they are, or, as far as I can judge, are ever like to be to the public. Without watching this matter carefully, I find business will grow upon me, and therefore it is proper to consider how to divest myself by degrees of all engagements that are superfluous and unnecessary.

As far as Parliament was concerned, this was probably making a virtue out of necessity. His safe seat at Huntingdon had disappeared: Lady Sandwich was losing control of her husband and thus of his family interest in the borough; and she would in any case have displayed little admiration or sympathy for Hammond in his present political incarnation. Significantly, by the time of the next election he was busy canvassing for knight of the shire, where he hoped to form a cross-party, pro-Court alliance with the Whig, John Pocklington*, nominee of the Duke of Manchester and an opponent of Hammond’s in the borough in 1702. Such a prospect depended, however, on a partnership being settled between the other two candidates, a High Tory and an independent Whig, and when this failed to materialize Hammond rapidly withdrew. He was not prepared for the financial strain of a hard-fought contest in a county, even one as small as Huntingdonshire, an indication that prosperity was beginning to desert him. Instead, he found a bolt-hole in the Admiralty borough of Shoreham. He was classed as a Court Tory in a list of early 1708 with the election returns added, but in the political circumstances of late 1708 such a rare creature as this was acutely vulnerable, and Hammond was quickly made conscious of his isolation. On 6 Dec. 1708 he submitted some official documents to the Commons, but the very next day found his presence in the House questioned. Tory and Country Whig Members sought the expulsion of the navy commissioners on the grounds that they worked in the out-ports and were therefore specifically excluded from sitting in Parliament under the terms of the 1706 Regency Act. This the ministry resisted, but the opportunity to appease the Country Whigs and revenge some old wounds proved tempting, and Hammond was singled out for expulsion on the pretext of a recent warrant which had empowered him to inspect the business of the register office and thus brought him within the definition of an out-ports officer. The Whig Junto were certainly hostile to him, regarding him as ‘a creature of the Treasurer’s’, and his election had even been accounted a ‘loss’ by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*). In the end it was some Tories who vainly tried to defend him. According to James Brydges, ‘the Whigs’ were primarily to blame for what Brydges regarded as an unjust decision, while ‘the Court’ had been ‘only passive’ in Hammond’s support. Out of the House, Hammond was forced to depend entirely on the confidence of Marlborough and Godolphin. He began to incur real financial hardship: Micawber-like, he told his friends in 1709 that ‘money was rising to get him out of all his troubles’, but this was at the cost of selling property and in February 1710 a bill was brought into Parliament, by John Manley*, to enable him to dispose of more of his estate. Since early in 1708, in fact, his letters to the Duke of Marlborough had tinged their flattery with increasingly abject appeals for protection. Hammond dated his financial decline to the death of an uncle in 1707, which had been an unexpected, even devastating, blow to his prospects. His renewed enthusiasm for a parliamentary seat had been in part a desire to serve the Court; in part a response to these gathering difficulties. Whether or not the Junto, as he feared, intended his removal from office as well as from the Commons, the favour he had cultivated in the ‘duumvirs’ stood as sufficient protection. But when the political tide began to turn with the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, so Hammond’s old party colouring began to reappear. The impeachment, he wrote, imperilled ‘the liberties and lives of the subjects’, and to one correspondent he penned a blistering denunciation not only of the Whigs but of his erstwhile patrons:

When I see attempts made upon the constitution of our government, which in conscience, honour and interest we are bound to support, it is time to speak; attempts too plain to be disproved, too criminal to be justified. When others foresaw these things earlier than myself, I was rash in imputing it in them to an unreasonable heat of temper, or to the being carried away by a party, especially when I was told that moderation was all that was expected of me. I was deceived by this, and by the professions I have heard two great men make. I was . . . for some time deluded. What are words, when facts speak? Are the encouraging and paying for villainous libels against the Established Church, moderation? Are violent persecutions, moderation? Is the governing the kingdom by the measures of a Junto, moderation? A Junto that need only be named and not described to make it odious and detestable. Is modelling all the offices, civil and military, by sea and land, to serve the ends of the Junto, moderation? In a word, is putting the crown into commission, and making an impudent toleration jostle out a modest establishment; is all this, and ten times more of the like nature, moderation? God forgive the wicked and deceitful use these men have made of that word! But perhaps you are still as low as I was, and will ask me what can they design; will they alter the government? Most certainly they intend it, as certainly as you have never heard ’em speak of late of the Hanover Succession. Why is that forgot? Why do they now advance the doctrines of resistance under so good a Queen, but in the first place to terrify her and to awe her to their own will, and upon occasion to justify their own resistance in maintenance of their oppressive usurpations?11

The ministerial revolution of 1710 was doubly welcome to Hammond – the establishment was saved from the Whigs, and the new chief minister was his longstanding political friend, Robert Harley. He wrote to Harley in December 1710, with due submission,

I don’t know, Sir, how far you will have a confidence in me, but if you think it proper to give me an opportunity of speaking with you, I shall convince you my intentions are to act as becomes one that has a just sense of duty to her Majesty, joined with an unfeigned esteem for your person and character.

He even offered what influence he might possess over the Duke of Marlborough’s opinions to the service of Harley’s administration. But he need not have worried. Harley had no intention of casting off such a natural courtier, especially a close friend of Brydges. At the same time he clearly perceived Hammond to be a broken reed, holding a post that could more profitably be disposed of to someone else. So in 1711 Harley provided him with an alternative situation, potentially even more valuable though far less convenient, as paymaster to the forces in Spain under Brydges. The salary alone was over £1,000 a year, but Hammond was obliged to act on the spot, and in the summer of 1711 left for the Peninsula, taking a long and circuitous overland route which enabled him to visit Germany and northern Italy. His time in Spain was not a success, spoiled by quarrels (one of which led to a duel) with disgruntled army officers provoked by his inefficiency. He claimed to have received encouragement to stand for Huntingdonshire in 1713, while he was stationed at Minorca, but wisely decided to forgo the opportunity.12

Peace brought unemployment, and Hammond returned briefly to England in 1715, but ventured once again to the Continent later that year as an agent for Lord Stair, ambassador in Paris, for whom he took messages and collected intelligence. In 1716 he was employed by Stair to relay information to King George I in Hanover, and, via agents of his own, to infiltrate the Jacobite court. There was even a rumour that Stair had entrusted him with a mission to assassinate the Pretender at Dunkirk during the Fifteen, which he supposedly failed to complete because loyal Jacobites made him too drunk to act before the Pretender departed. He was back in England for good in 1717, spending much of his time with Brydges at Canons or with other friends in London and Bath. His finances were now in complete disarray, and in 1719 he was arrested for debt, joining his friend Asgill in lodgings in Southwark. The remainder of his life was spent in and out of debtors’ prisons, though he did secure in 1727 ‘a recovery in the court of common pleas of the estate in Huntingdonshire in favour of my eldest son’, which saved what was left of his patrimony for his heirs. This was the most fertile period of his literary career: he published poetry, political tracts, and in 1727 an edition of Walter Moyle’s works. Unpublished observations and aphorisms on politics and religion littered his diaries and commonplace-books, and he became a celebrity of sorts on the London literary scene, an arbiter of taste to a coterie of fashionable would-be poets. He made no impression on Thomas Hearne, who wrote of him as someone ‘known formerly for his noisy Tory eloquence, since a Proteus, since a beggar, said to have attempted the life of the chevalier on his Scotch embarkation, at present prisoner in the King’s Bench and a prostitutor of his pen for bread’. The government, however, thought well enough of his past services to grant him in 1729 a pension of £250 a year. Even this proved insufficient to help him to solvency, and he died in the Fleet prison in 1738, probably after April in that year. So involved were his affairs that it took 11 years for an administration to be granted of his estate.13

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Bodl. Rawl. A.245, ff. 34, 41–42, 46–53, 56, 62–63, 65, 67–69, 72, 111–12, 114; D.386, ff. 40, 44, 58; D.968, f. 10; Lansd. 921, f. 50; VCH Glos. viii. 284–5; Reg. St. Paul’s Sch. 245.
  • 2. Rawl. A.245, ff. 54, 60, 68–69, 74, 112; S. Wells, Drainage of the Bedford Level, i. 464, 466–76; CSP Dom. 1694–5, p. 303; Cambs. RO (Huntingdon), Huntingdon bor. recs. H26/19, pollbk. 1702; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 373.
  • 3. Boyer, Anne Annals, i. 73.
  • 4. Rawl. A.245, ff. 39, 45, 49, 57, 59–60, 85; D.836, A.36, 56; D.1207 (unfol.); Add. 22584, ff. 50, 58–59, 61; VCH Hunts. ii. 227–8; Works of Walter Moyle ed. Hammond (1727), 4–5; DNB; T. Southerne, The Fatal Marriage . . . (1694), preface; J. W. Bowyer, The Celebrated Mrs Centlivre, 8–11.
  • 5. Rawl. A.245, ff. 54–55, 58–59, 62–64; Add. 70018, f. 83; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 544; iv. 337; HMC Lords, n.s. ii. 209; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 123; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 1132–3; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 55.
  • 6. Add. 28931, f. 192; Camb. Univ. Lib. Add. ms 3, f. 13; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 151, 227; H. Horwitz, Revol. Politicks, 158; Rawl. A.245, ff. 59, 64, 85; D.1207; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 248; Wm. III State Tracts, ii. 651–3; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 424; Cam. Misc. xxix. 397; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/155, James Vernon I* to Duke of Shrewsbury, 11 Mar. 1698–9; Moyle Works, 240–3; Huntington Lib. Ellesmere mss EL9930.
  • 7. Rawl. A.245, f. 85; D.174, ff. 5, 35; D.360, f. 80; CSP Dom. 1691–2, pp. 113–14; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 523, 537–8, 625; Kenmare Mss (Irish Mss Comm.), 315–20; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 26(2), James Brydges’ diary, 21 Dec. 1699, 13 Jan. 1700, 6 Mar. 1701; Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/8, 51, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 9 Dec. 1699, 28 Mar. 1700; Cocks Diary, 53, 57; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 428.
  • 8. Rawl. A.245, f. 66; 7th Duke of Manchester, Court and Soc. Eliz. to Anne, ii. 84; HMC Cowper, ii. 411, 413, 415, 425, 428, 432, 434–5; Cocks Diary, 73, 108, 111, 132, 163–4; Stowe mss 26(2), Brydges’ diary, 1 Aug. 1700, 15, 26 Apr. 1701; Cobbett, v. p. cxci; Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 292; Add. 70044, f. 186; Poems on Affairs of State ed. Ellis, vi. 348–9; Chesterfield, Works (1777), i. 47.
  • 9. Rawl. A.245, ff. 67–68; D.174, ff. 41–42; Add. 40775, ff. 109–10, 198, 215, 220; 17677 WW, f. 343; 30000 E, f. 402; Clarendon Corresp. ed. Singer, ii. 398; Ailesbury Mems. 573; Stowe mss 26(2), Brydges’ diary, 13 Nov. 1701; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 161–2; C. H. Cooper, Annals of Camb. iv. 47; S. B. Baxter, Wm. III, 394; NLW, ms 14362E, Sir Humphrey Mackworth’s* diary, p. 129; [J. Drake] Hist. Last Parl. (1702), esp. 132–4, 148–52, 195–204.
  • 10. Rawl. A.245, ff. 68–69; D.386, ff. 43, 56; D.174, ff. 87–88; VCH Hunts. 36; Kenmare Mss, 3, 6, 15, 17, 28–29, 295, 315–20; Poems on Affairs of State, 503; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 355–6.
  • 11. Rawl. A.245, ff. 6–7, 17, 71, 109–10; D.386, ff. 36, 63–64; D.360, ff. 31, 138; Lincs. AO, Massingberd Mundy mss 2MM/B/5, Burrell Massingberd to John Proby*, 14 Jan. 1707[–8]; R. Walcott, Pol. Early 18th Cent. 38; Add. 61366, ff. 50, 55, 110; HMC Downshire, i. 866; Stowe mss 57(2), p. 124; Huntington Lib. Q. iv. 334.
  • 12. Add. 70230, Hammond to [Harley], 25 Dec. 1710; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1708–14, p. 393; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxx. 334; Rawl. D.360, ff. 110–15; HMC Portland, v. 240–1, 250.
  • 13. Rawl. A.245, ff. 74, 113–14, 116–17, 132; D.968, ff. 4, 7, 10–11, 47–48, 52; D.738 (unfol.); HMC Stuart, ii. 218–19, 331, 342–3, 432–3; iii. 187, 191; HMC Egmont Diary, iii. 349; Add. 22584, ff. 11–14, 16–18, 20, 25, 27, 35, 38–44, 48, 50, 58–59, 61; VCH Hunts. 227–8; DNB; HMC Carlisle, 94–95, 98; Hearne Colls. ix. 264; Cal. Treas. Bks. and Pprs. 1729–30, p. 221; Hist. Reg. Chron. 1738, p. 14.