HUTCHESON, Archibald (c.1660-1740), of the Middle Temple, and Golden Sq., 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



1713 - 1727

Family and Education

b. c.1660, s. of Archibald Hutcheson of Stranocum, Co. Antrim.  educ. M. Temple 1680, called 1683, bencher 1726, reader 1728, treasurer 1739.  m. (1) 29 June 1697, Mary Smith; (2) 19 Aug. 1701, Rebecca Bankes of Topsham, Devon; (3) lic. 18 Aug. 1715, Mary (d. 1727), of Stepney, wid. of Sir John Gayre of London; (4) 30 Oct. 1727, Elizabeth, wid. of Col. Robert Stuart (or Stewart) of Montserrat, s.p.s.1

Offices Held

Attorney-gen. Leeward Is. 1688–?1704; ld. of Trade Dec. 1714–Jan.1716; ld. proprietor of Carolina by 1728.2

FRS 1708.

Dep. steward, Westminster Aug. 1726–Jan. 1727.3


Hutcheson remains something of an enigma, a political gadfly, variously described as a Whig or a Tory, but who seemed comfortable with neither party. A lawyer, with his finger in many pies, he came to the fore as a leading opposition spokesman during the early years of Hanoverian rule. It has been suggested that Jacobite motives lay behind his professions of independence, though the evidence is equivocal. Of Ulster–Scots parentage, Hutcheson trained for the bar in London, and subsequently practised there and afterwards back in Ireland. At the beginning of 1688 he was appointed attorney-general of the Leeward Islands by the outgoing governor, Sir Nathaniel Johnson, on recommendations from the Catholic Earls of Carlingford and Middleton. It would appear that Hutcheson, who may have been reared as a Presbyterian, was recommended as one who would reliably implement James II’s religious policies on the islands. In later life he conformed to the Established Church, but his Anglicanism was of a Latitudinarian kind: in a pamphlet published many years later, he declared, ‘I always have been, and ever will be, an enemy to persecution in every shape: and I esteem it the distinguishing glory of the Church of England that she disdains all principles and practices of that sort.’ Within weeks of arriving in the Caribbean, he was allowing Catholics unimpeded freedom of worship and exempted them from payments towards the upkeep of Protestant ministers on the islands; in March 1688 Johnson reported approvingly to the lords of Trade in London that Hutcheson, ‘a well qualified lawyer . . . has proved worthy of the recommendations, and has been very serviceable, attending in the several islands at their respective sessions of the peace’. In July 1691, however, charges of misgovernment and disloyalty against Johnson’s successor, Colonel Christopher Codrington (father of the celebrated benefactor to All Souls College, Oxford), included the accusation that Hutcheson had never sworn allegiance to William III and had abused the King with ‘disloyal language’. Though Hutcheson was officially cleared of such ‘aspersions’ a year later by the Leewards assembly, continuing criticism about Codrington’s style of governorship, especially his favouritism towards ‘Jacobites and papists’, inevitably called Hutcheson’s own activities and loyalty into question. It was reported in 1697, for instance, that Codrington ‘employs one Hutcheson, a lawyer, in all his intrigues, a confirmed Jacobite’. Hutcheson, however, seems to have been unscathed by these denunciations, and, though summoned before the Treasury commissioners in November 1699 concerning Codrington’s financial management of the islands, he was never required to account for his own conduct.4

Hutcheson appears to have retained the attorney-generalship of the Leewards until 1704, though it is less certain if he maintained a permanent residence there after Codrington’s death in 1697. He resumed his legal practice in London, and by 1705 was serving as a vestryman of St. James’s parish, Westminster. He next surfaces in 1710 as a trustee in the sale of property belonging to the Duke of Ormond. This is the earliest evidence of an association which was to last into the 1730s, though its precise nature needs careful clarification, particularly in view of Ormond’s espousal of the Jacobite cause after the Hanoverian succession. Initially, Hutcheson was just one of many agents and advisers, both in England and Ireland, whom the Duke employed in the management of his tangled financial affairs. Hutcheson told an acquaintance in 1711 that he had no wish to be relied upon by the Duke for any other service than as a trustee appointed under a recent private Act to facilitate the settlement of his debts: ‘I entered into his Grace’s affairs upon the pure motives of good nature and compassion.’ It was in this purely professional capacity, therefore, that Hutcheson was involved with Ormond over the next three or four years. While he appears to have taken a more prominent part in overseeing Ormond’s English and Irish interests during the early years of the Duke’s exile, and certainly visited him in France on several occasions, the connexion was still primarily professional, and he could never be described as the Duke’s principal man of business. It seems to have been as a favour or act of gratitude that in 1713 Ormond, newly appointed warden of the Cinque Ports, arranged with his son-in-law Lord Ashburnham (Hon. John Ashburnham*) to have Hutcheson elected at Hastings.5

Apart from his profession, Hutcheson pursued an interest in politics and continental affairs, and his connexions gained him admittance into the highest social circles. At the time of his election – certainly in the weeks just before – he was travelling in Germany in the company of the young Duke of Montagu and shared in the Duke’s audiences with the Elector Palatine and the Archbishop-Electors of Cologne and Mainz. To Kreienberg, the Hanoverian resident in London, Hutcheson reported that his conversations with ‘a great variety of people, and some of them lately from France’, left him in no doubt that the ‘the happiness of Britain and the liberties of all Europe’ depended upon the succession of the crown in the Hanoverian dynasty. Hutcheson was clearly intent at this time on ingratiating himself with the Hanoverian court, which he also visited. He had already made himself known to the leading Hanoverian diplomat, Bothmer, and they had discussed ‘what is prudent with relation to the present unhappy party divisions in Great Britain’. Furthermore, as he told Kreienberg, he was anxious to apprise the Elector of his views, ‘and whatever instructions or hints are given me, shall on my return be faithfully pursued’, being happy to ‘contribute some small mites to the service of that illustrious family’. While nothing is known of his reception at Hanover, he had previously, while at Frankfurt, made a favourable impression on both the exiled Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†), from whom he had received ‘great civilities’, and General Cadogan (William*). Party disunity at home had evidently dominated their discussions, and, in September, as plans were being hatched to bring Whigs and Hanoverian Tories together, Cadogan was quick to recommend Hutcheson, ‘an avowed Tory, and having great credit among the party’, as an ideal asset to the Whigs in Parliament, the kind of moderate or ‘whimsical’ Tory who might be relied upon to table motions discrediting the ministry, and thus to help forge a rapport with the Tories.6

During the 1714 session, when Hutcheson began to feature in Commons’ proceedings, his position was a distinctly Whiggish one. One historian has included him in a select group of ‘independent whimsicals’ whose co-operation with the Whigs was closer than with any of the Tory ‘whimsical’ groups. This behaviour resulted in Hutcheson’s being marked as ‘Whig’ in several parliamentary analyses produced in the aftermath of the 1715 general election and in the Worsley list as a Whig who would often vote with the Tories. One of his first acts was to divide on 18 Mar. 1714 against the motion leading to the expulsion of Richard Steele. He opposed the schism bill ‘heartily’ during its transit through the Commons in May, and on the 25th served as teller against considering the case of the Tory petitioner in the recent Harwich by-election. He was particularly conspicuous, however, in the attention he gave to trade and commercial issues. On 12 May he headed the list of nominees to the second-reading committee on a bill to elucidate a previous Act for encouraging woollen manufacture; and on the 21st told in favour of giving early attention to the African slave trade. He had ‘a principal share’ in the bill for encouraging the tobacco trade, which he conveyed to the Lords on the 31st, and was similarly involved in a bill for lowering interest rates, which he presented on 21 June and carried up to the Lords on 2 July. His name was included in a list of moderate Tories canvassed during mid-June for the commission of public accounts, but with the October Club’s list of diehards scooping the ballot declared on the 18th, Hutcheson failed to obtain a place. A few days later, on the 23rd, he reaffirmed his stand against the schism bill on its return from the Lords, telling for those opposed to a detailed set of amendments. Following the death of Queen Anne he signified his personal loyalty to the incoming dynasty by joining the signatories to the proclamation of George I at St. James’s.7

Hutcheson’s public and private politicking on behalf of the Hanoverian dynasty paid off handsomely. At the end of the year he was appointed a lord commissioner in the reconstituted Board of Trade, with a salary of £1,000, and in the election early the following year was returned again for Hastings, this time with the goodwill of the Earl of Clare, soon to become Duke of Newcastle. However, Hutcheson’s acceptability to the new Whig establishment soon waned. When the impeachment and attainder of the Duke of Ormond was moved in the Commons on 21 June, he made a fulsome defence of his old patron, an act which in subsequent years left him open to accusations of crypto-Jacobitism, though in an election pamphlet published in 1722 he defiantly justified his conduct: ‘if my justice to a great man in distress, and my friendship to his family since, be any objection against me, I am willing it should have its weight’. In the same publication he strenuously denied that his resignation from the Board of Trade in January 1716 had been motivated by the ministers’ refusal to consider pardoning the Duke, repudiating as a ‘scandalous insinuation’ the suggestion that he had personally advised Ormond to flee his country. He maintained that his disillusionment with ministerial measures, ‘inconsistent with my duty to the country’, was what had driven him from office. Hutcheson’s continued links with Ormond were dictated by personal necessity rather than political motives. Apart from having become an authority on the Duke’s troubled finances, he had also become one of the Duke’s main creditors, and could only renounce the association at considerable personal cost. During 1717–18 he was leading negotiations with the Treasury to secure payments from the Duke’s forfeited estates. It was inevitable, however, that outside observers should perceive him as ‘a great friend personally to the Duke of Ormond’ and even as ‘a Hanoverian Jacobite’. As a self-styled independent, he appears to have been in permanent opposition, and had the reputation of being ‘a gentleman not a little attached to his own thoughts’. He was characterized in 1718 by Robert Arbuthnot, brother of Hutcheson’s friend, the Tory polemicist Dr John Arbuthnot, as formerly ‘a great Whig, and is still of the Revolution principles, but heartily wishes a new revolution as far as I can guess. He seems to think George an obstinate, German-ridden fool, and is more sparing of the son, though he does not deny him to be a poor thing without understanding’. The ‘revolution’ which Hutcheson had in mind amounted to both a wholesale reordering of the nation’s blighted finances and, more profoundly, the establishment of what he saw as a much-needed political consensus. These radical attitudes were set forth in a series of tracts and pamphlets published between 1718 and 1723. In his Present State of the Public Debts and Funds (1718) he produced a detailed critique of the management of the national debt; but his intentions were darkly misconstrued from an apparently innocent reference to Charles II’s restoration which he had included in his dedication. Responding for the government, John Crookshanks noted: ‘one would think that Mr Hutcheson aims at something more than the reconciliation of his Majesty’s subjects in Great Britain’. Hutcheson refuted these charges of disaffection in 1722 by insisting that his own correctives, if implemented, would support the Hanoverian dynasty more than ‘all the alliances which have hitherto, or which can ever be, entered into’. His calls for political unity became more strident and insistent, and took on a distinctly ‘neo-Harringtonian’ tone, as he watched politicians grapple with the chaos left by the South Sea crisis. ‘My most earnest good wishes’, he wrote, [are] ‘that all good Englishmen would lay aside their differences, either in political or religious matters, and heartily unite in those measures which are absolutely necessary for our common safety, and to prevent that ruin which I think will be inevitable, if our unhappy disunion continue any longer.’ In a series of meetings with Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) in 1721–2 he sought a rapprochement between the government and the Tories, expressing his particular concern that large sections of the political class [i.e. Tories] were ‘considered only in the nature of proscribed persons’. But Hutcheson’s approach, undertaken on his own initiative rather than in collaboration with fellow party men, was idealistic and uncompromising. As he argued in several follow-up letters, later published, ministerial fulfilment of the traditional Tory desire for ‘free Parliaments’, triennial or even annual, was an essential prerequisite: only then could there be a return to ‘common honesty and morality . . . and halcyon days once more return to Britain’.8

Hutcheson’s several long visits to the Continent during these years doubtless sustained suspicion that he was in collusion with exiled Jacobites. He was, however, as his earlier career affirms, an inveterate traveller, and there may also have been some need to escape the strains of his unhappy marriage to the wealthy widow of the West India merchant Sir John Gayre, which ended in their separation in around 1720. Even so, his name was publicly associated with the Jacobite cause in 1723 when, during the Commons’ investigation of the Atterbury Plot, he was named as one of the ‘Burford Club’, the group supposedly responsible for co-ordinating the plot. He immediately distributed a printed rebuttal, declaring that the so-called club had never existed. While not denying he had met Atterbury, he insisted it was only the slightest acquaintance. Nevertheless, his continued association with Jacobitism could still be inferred from his capacity as a financial adviser to Lord Arran, Ormond’s brother and representative in England, who had been one of the principal plotters. Hutcheson maintained his friendships with Ormond, whom he is known to have visited in Paris in the early 1730s, and with Atterbury. Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that Horatio Walpole II*, and thus probably (Sir) Robert (II*) himself, were by no means oblivious of these connexions. But in the highest Jacobite circles Hutcheson was represented as a man whose loyalties were never quite certain. Although ill-health had almost forced him to retire from Parliament in 1722, he was re-elected for Hastings and finally stood down in 1727.9

His death, as reported in the Gentleman’s Magazine, occurred on 12 Aug. 1740.10

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. M. T. Bench Bk. 162; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 734; IGI, London and Devon; Atterbury Epistolary Corresp. iv. 226, v. 109; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 444; Add. 18683, f. 3.
  • 2. V. L. Oliver, Hist. Antigua, iii. 322; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxix. 395, xxx. 471; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1720–8, p. 534.
  • 3. Atterbury Epistolary Corresp. iv. 226.
  • 4. Oliver, i. p. lxvii; iii. 336; CSP Col. 1685–8, p. 512; 1689–92, pp. 481–2; 1696–7, p. 477; 1697–8, p. 125; [A. Hutcheson], A Collection of Advertisements, Letters and Papers . . . Relating to the Late Elections at Westminster and Hastings (1722), p. vii; Cal. Treas. Bks. xv. 25.
  • 5. Oliver, iii. 322; A Collection . . ., 5; NLI, Ormond mss 2476, pp. 103–7, Hutcheson to Joseph Henry, 25 Apr. 1717; 2474, p. 349, same to Sir Richard Cox, 11 Aug. 1711, pp. 37–38, 383–4, 513, Hugh Henry to Hutcheson, 2 Sept. 1714, Sir William Robinson and John Ellis* to John Cotton, 18 Sept. 1711, John Cotton to [–], 5 Jan. 1711.
  • 6. Huntington Lib. HM44710, ff. 147–8, Hutcheson to Kreienberg, 2/13 Aug. 1713; Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, ii. 502.
  • 7. G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 283; A Collection . . ., pp. vii, 5; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow letters Quarto 8, f. 138; HMC Portland v. 460; Boyer, Pol. State, viii. 118.
  • 8. S. H. Nulle, Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle, 62, 180; The Commons 1715–54, i. 163; A Collection . . ., pp. viii, ix, 6, 16; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxxii. 11, 107, 165; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1720–8, p. 295; Ormond mss 2477, pp. 103–7, Hutcheson to Joseph Henry, 25 Apr. 1717; HMC Stuart v. 524; vii. 314, 526; Durham Univ. Jnl. n.s. xlvi. 211–18; Add. 61493, ff. 48–9, 62, 64.
  • 9. A Collection . . ., 15–16, 40; Jacobite Challenge, ed. Cruickshanks and Black, 96; Cobbett, Parlty Hist. viii. 205–6; Ormond mss 2477, pp. 315–27, 375–6, 399–400, 407–8, 415–16, Hutcheson to Hon. James Bertie*, 24 Aug. 1723, to Alexander Clayton, 2 Jan. 1723[–4?], to John Cotton, 6, 13 Jan. 1723[–4?]; 2518, pp. 1–14; Atterbury Epistolary Corresp. v. 109.
  • 10. Cf. M.T. Bench Bk. 162.