HUNGERFORD, John (c.1658-1729), of Lincoln’s Inn

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



28 Apr. 1692 - 26 Mar. 1695
1702 - 1705
22 Nov. 1707 - 8 June 1729

Family and Education

b. c.1658, 1st s. of Richard Hungerford of Wilts. by Ann, da. of Ellis Price of Gatcome, I.o.W.  educ. L. Inn 1677, called 1687, bencher 1707, treasurer 1713.  m. lic. 5 Aug. 1687, Mary (d. 1740), da. of Abraham Spooner, vintner, of London, s.p.1

Offices Held

Cursitor of Yorks. and Westmld. by 1691–d.

Commr. of alienation office 1711–15.2


Descended, according to the inscription on his memorial, from the Hungerfords of Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, and returned for Scarborough possibly through his own influence as cursitor of Yorkshire, a post he held for life, Hungerford was soon active in Parliament. He made his first recorded speech on 14 Dec. 1692, against the second reading of the bill for the preservation of their Majesties’ persons and government, of which he said ‘there was not one good thing in the bill save the title’:

I look upon it as a very pernicious bill. By the Act of Frauds and Perjuries, a man by word of mouth can’t make a bargain for above £10, and yet here by words a man shall talk himself out of his life and estate and ruin him in all his posterity. Then to the oath in the bill, I do not remember in history that ever an oath was imposed in assertion of the right of one against the right of another, but it ended in the ruin of them for whose end it was or else brought in them again against whom it was intended. I look upon this bill to be a means of dividing us more and that I think we need not be; our divisions are great enough already.

He proposed an additional clause to the land tax bill on 9 Jan. 1693, appropriating some of the proceeds of the tax to the use of the navy; presented the following day a petition on behalf of Sir William Scawen* and others, for encouragement to be given to the Greenland trade; and joined Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt., on 1 Feb. in proposing the thanks of the House to their preacher of 30 Jan. On 2 Feb. he spoke in favour of the triennial bill, ‘though he thought the law already to be that we ought to have a new Parliament every three years’, and he repeated this sentiment at the bill’s commitment eight days later: ‘except the last clause, the bill is only declarative of the ancient law; yet perhaps it is not amiss to have this present sanction of a law’. His view was that ‘a Parliament that sits long, cannot be a true representative of the people of England’, and ‘I am for having a new Parliament, that the King may be acquainted with all his people’. He also spoke on 6 Mar., against a bill to set aside amendments to the records of two recoveries in Wales, which would have benefited Lord Pembroke (Thomas Herbert†). During this session he presented three private bills, two of which he was later ordered to carry to the Lords. Presumably at some time shortly after he had entered the Commons, Hungerford had been classed by Robert Harley* as ‘d[oubtful]’, but in 1693 Grascome included him upon a list of placemen and also classed him as a Court supporter. On 7 Dec. 1693 he spoke in defence of Lord Falkland (Anthony Carey*), but added, ‘I am as forward as any to punish, when corruption is digging the grave of our English liberties’, and four days later spoke on the opposition side in a debate on the army estimates. In the former debate Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt., made a barbed reference to the zeal Hungerford had shown on a previous occasion to have the votes of the House printed. He told four times in the 1693–4 session: on 18 Dec., in favour of the arrest of one complained against for breach of privilege against Sir Thomas Miller*; on 23 Dec., against a bill to establish a ‘court of conscience’ for small claims in Holborn and Finsbury; on 2 Jan. 1694, against going into committee on the treason trials bill; and on 16 Jan., on the Tory side, for leaving out from the land tax bill the ‘oath to the assessors’. On 20 Dec. he reported upon a petition for a bill to improve the highways at Islington, and he subsequently presented, on 2 Jan. 1694, such a measure. He was similarly involved with a private bill in favour of Sir Charles Holt, 3rd Bt.†, reporting on 16 Jan. from the committee on Holt’s petition, and presenting the bill a week later. Hungerford was also named to the committee of 1 Jan. 1694, to receive proposals concerning the Irish forfeitures, and to that of 12 Jan., to prepare a bill vesting these estates in the crown. In the debate of 1 Feb., on the King’s answer to the Commons’ representation on denying the Royal Assent to bills, he pointed out that ‘the King says “He will have regard to the advice of Parliaments”, yet he may have greater to the Cabinet council, to the Privy Council, or any single person’. In February and March he managed through the Commons a bill for the exportation of iron, and on 3 Mar. he chaired the committee of the whole upon the London orphans bill, a measure he was ordered to carry to the Lords on 12 Mar. His conduct as chairman was subsequently exposed as either foolish or dishonest. Listed among Henry Guy’s* ‘friends’ during the 1694–5 session, in connexion with the Commons’ attack upon Guy, he reported from committees charged with considering the petition of the Royal African Company (14 Feb.); the bill against the importation of earthenware (25 Feb.); and the working of the Tonnage Act as it related to the Solent ports (27 Feb.). He subsequently chaired, on 6 Mar., the committee of the whole considering the report upon the Tonnage Act. When the committee investigating the accusations of bribery against the East India Company and the chamberlainry of London reported on 12 Mar., it was disclosed that Hungerford had received a sum of 20 guineas from the City the previous year to facilitate the passage of the orphans bill. He admitted the fact, arguing unconvincingly that because this douceur had been given him after the bill had passed, it did not constitute proof that he had sold his services beforehand. This was not accepted by the House; he was voted guilty of a ‘high crime and misdemeanour’ and expelled. Robert Yard* reported that Hungerford’s expulsion owed as much to his ‘ill defence’ as the original offence.3

Defeated at Scarborough in the general election of December 1701, Hungerford eventually returned to the Commons in 1702. He spoke in the debate of 30 Dec. on the motion for a pension to Prince George of Denmark. When one Tory moved to give the Prince the title of ‘King’, Hungerford, ‘to defuse this bomb, proposed to make him admiral and generalissimo in perpetuity’, but, the Court party opposing this suggestion, it was dropped. Having reported and carried to the Lords a private bill, he told on 18 Feb. for an additional clause to the bill for the sale of the Irish forfeitures. In the following session he reported upon private bills, and, on 3 Jan. 1704, from the committee which investigated an offensive issue of the Observator and recommended the arrest of John Tutchin. In March Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) included Hungerford upon a list of likely supporters in the Scotch Plot proceedings. Forecast on 30 Oct. 1704 as a probable supporter of the Tack, he figured on Robert Harley’s lobbying list, and with some result for although he spoke on 15 Nov. in favour of bringing in the occasional conformity bill, the kind of measure in support of which, according to John Oldmixon, he ‘never spared his lungs’, he did not vote for the Tack on 28 Nov. He was none the less included the following year in Defoe’s satire The Diet of Poland, an attack on the extremists of both parties, as ‘mad Crakerovsky’,

          Of all the Polish deputies the worst;
          Mean to a proverb, and below lampoon,
          Was born too late, and may be hung too soon.

Having lost his seat in the 1705 election, possibly because he had ‘sneaked’ over the Tack, he came in unopposed at a by-election in 1707, and in 1708 was twice classed as a Tory in lists. During the 1708–9 session he introduced a bill to put an end to ‘the laying of wagers, relating to the public’ (3 Dec. 1708), a measure he subsequently managed through the Commons, and on 29 Mar. 1709 he was ordered to carry to the Lords a bill to prevent the embezzlement of goods cast away near the coast of Britain. He continued his campaign against gambling in the following session, when on 3 Dec. 1709 he ‘made a motion . . . against excessive gaming’ and secured an order for a bill to this purpose. He subsequently guided this measure through the Commons. A partisan of Dr Sacheverell, he opposed a Whig motion on 13 Dec. to have Sacheverell’s printed sermons declared ‘malicious, scandalous and seditious libels’; voted against the impeachment; and in June 1710 acted as counsel for George Purchase on an appeal against conviction for high treason for having taken part in the London riots in support of the doctor.4

Marked as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’ of 1710, he was again appointed, on 29 Nov., to draw up the Address. In the preceding debate he had, according to Mungo Graham*,

made a long, warm speech, which concluded in an overture of making this one of the heads of the Address, viz. that they would support her Majesty’s crown and dignity against all republicans etc., and a great deal of stuff which was too gross to be taken any notice of.

He told on 21 Dec. 1710, against committing the place bill, but nevertheless appears to have had misgivings about the Harley administration. In the ways and means committee of 19 Jan. 1711 Hungerford supported a proposal to lift the ban on importing French wines, a course of action quickly blocked by Harley, and in February Hungerford was reported to be quite disenchanted with the ministry, which, he commented, ‘differed from the last, as a cat in a window from a cat out of it’. He presented two bills: to continue the 1706 Act for the better preservation of game (17 Feb.), and to curb excessive gambling (11 Apr.), the latter a revised version of his own previous bill, which had ‘miscarried’. He managed both bills through the Commons, and led the Commons’ delegations at various conferences with the Lords about the game bill. He also reported upon two private bills, and told twice: for passing the game bill (24 Apr.), and against adjourning consideration of the amendments to the bill to encourage the transportation of naval stores from Scotland (30 May). His vote on 25 May against the amendment to the South Sea bill should not be seen as indicating any dwindling of his Tory sympathies, and should instead be attributed to his position as standing counsel of the East India Company. Indeed, Hungerford was listed as both a ‘Tory patriot’ who had opposed the continuation of the war, and as a ‘worthy patriot’ who in this session laid open the mismanagements of the previous ministers. He was also a leading member of the October Club, and when in June Lord Treasurer Oxford (as Harley had become) was considering ministerial changes in order to placate his back-bench Tory critics, Hungerford was one of those included upon a list of possible appointments. Despite reports that he considered the post ‘below him’, Hungerford accepted appointment as one of the commissioners of the alienation office, with an allowance of £40 a term. In the 1711–12 session he told with the Whigs and against the High Tories on three occasions: on 17 Jan. 1712, in the debate on the expulsion of Robert Walpole II*, in favour of moderating the terms of the resolution stating his guilt; on 24 Jan., during the attack on the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†), for an amendment mitigating similarly the terms of the resolution about the bread contract; and on 23 Feb., in favour of (Sir) James Montagu I* in the Carlisle election. On 24 Jan. Hungerford had also spoken in Marlborough’s defence. His remaining two tellerships this session were on 8 May, against Lord Bellew (Richard*) in the Steyning election, and on 24 May, against an adjournment motion. He also reported, on 11 Apr., upon the publication of a particular issue of the Daily Courant; managed through the House a bill for the relief of Sir William Hodges, 1st Bt.*; and chaired, on 2 June, the committee of the whole on the bill for securing payments on East Indian imports. On 10 June, speaking for the Court party, he entered a complaint against the ‘preface’ to the recently published Four Sermons of Bishop Fleetwood. During the 1713 session he presented bills against duelling (16 May) and to continue the Quakers’ Affirmation Act (16 June), telling on 16 June for the second reading of the latter. He voted for the French commerce bill on 18 June. A teller on 8 July against an amendment to the tobacco trade bill, he subsequently chaired, on 14 July, the committee of the whole on the bill to make excommunications less frequent.5

In January 1714 it was rumoured, though falsely, that Hungerford was to be made a commissioner of appeals in the excise. He moved on 11 Mar. that the House consider that part of the Queen’s speech relating to ‘seditious libels’ and in particular complained of ‘several scandalous papers’ recently published by Richard Steele*. In the debate a week later he spoke in favour of Steele’s expulsion. Also in March he introduced, on the 11th, a bill for the repair of highways in Wiltshire. One of the ‘chief sticklers for’ the schism bill, he took part in the main debate on it, in which he ‘recapitulated’ the arguments of others of his side and, as Whig observers reported, ‘in his usual ludicrous way, faintly laboured to confute what he had been offered by the Whig Members’. He was popularly supposed to be one of the ‘madmen’ referred to by Lord Wharton (Hon. Thomas*) in Wharton’s sneering description of the promoters of the bill. When the Lords’ amendments were reported on 23 June, Hungerford rallied the Tories to resist the temptation of an amendment offered by James Stanhope*, to extend the provisions against Dissenting tutors in the families of peers to cover the families of MPs as well, a move clearly designed to embroil the two Houses and waste time, saying that ‘the least amendment now made in the House, might occasion the loss of the bill’. On 28 June he presented a bill for quieting corporations by limiting the time allowed to dispute municipal elections, and after the Hanoverian succession he brought in a bill to continue the royal revenue from the Queen’s death (11 Aug.). Removed from the alienation office in June 1715, he was classed as a Tory in two lists of the Members re-elected in 1715.6

Hungerford died on 8 June 1729 after a long illness, aged 71, and was buried at Hungerford, Berkshire, where he had purchased an estate eight years previously. He left his property in trust for his wife for her lifetime, after which it was to be sold, two-thirds of the proceeds going to King’s College, Cambridge and the remainder to his friend Dr Thomas Mangey, canon of Durham, who may have influenced Hungerford in his last moments to make this decision.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Add. 33412, f. 144; Top. and Gen. v. 361.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxv. 295; xxix. 553.
  • 3. Luttrell Diary, 314–15, 356, 377, 395, 398, 469; Grey, x. 308, 354–7, 362, 384; Chandler, ii. 455, 457; Add. 17677 PP, f. 211; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/059/4, Yard to Alexander Stanhope, 26 Mar. 1695.
  • 4. O. Klopp, Correspondance de Leibniz avec l’Electrice Sophie, ii. 406–7; Bull. IHR, xli. 179; J. Oldmixon, Hist. Eng. (1735), 108; Poems on Affairs of State ed. Ellis, vii. 124–5; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 518, 597; G. Holmes, Trial of Sacheverell, 89–90; Add. 70421, newsletter 22 June 1710.
  • 5. SRO, Montrose mss GD220/5/807/4a, Graham to Montrose, 30 Nov. 1710; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto, 5, ff. 107–8; Add. 70332, memo. 4 June 1711; 70199, T. Harrison to [Oxford], 23 June [1711]; Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 541; BL, Trumbull Add. mss 136, Ralph Bridges to Sir William Trumbull*, 25 Jan. 1711–12; Boyer, Pol. State, iii. 119; Boyer, Anne Annals, ix. 360; Hist. Jnl. iv. 195; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxv. 295, 313; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. vi. 1155; Chandler, v. 12.
  • 6. Add. 70070, newsletter 16 Jan. 1713[–4]; Cobbett, vi. 1266; Douglas diary (Hist. of Parl. trans.), 18 Mar. 1714; NSA, Kreienberg despatch 19 Mar. 1714; Boyer, Pol. State, vii. 500, 529; Oldmixon, 553; Wharton Mems. 102; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxix. 338, 553.
  • 7. Berks. N. and Q. i. 26–27; The Gen. n.s. viii. 168; R. C. Hoare, Hungerfordiana, 75.