JAMES, John (c.1661-1718), of Finmere, Oxon.

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



1702 - 1705

Family and Education

b. c.1661, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of John James of Felstead, Essex.  educ. M. Temple and I. Temple 1690; G. Inn May 1691, called June 1691.  m. lic. 29 June 1691, aged about 30, Dorothy (d. 1712), da. and coh. of Thomas Waller, serjeant-at-law, of Finmere, 1s.  suc. fa.-in-law at Finmere c.1700.1

Offices Held

?Clerk to clerk of Acts 1677–81; commr. victualling 1702–4.2


James came from an Essex family whose origins are obscure. It is possible that he began his career at the age of 16 with a minor clerkship at the Navy Board. He was certainly called to the bar in 1691 at the direction of the commissioners of the great seal, ‘having served in an office of quality belonging to the great seal for ten years past’, presumably to allow him to plead in Chancery. He came into possession of Finmere on the death of his father-in-law, probably in 1700, for in October of that year he was given leave to construct a pew in the parish church for himself and family; the appropriate entry in the churchwardens’ book refers to his status on this occasion as ‘lord of the town and patron of the said church’. He first stood for the nearby borough of Brackley in November 1701 when he was out-polled, but was returned in the election of 1702, possibly with assistance from the young 5th Earl of Bridgwater whose political colouring was then still Tory. James’s own Tory politics were not in doubt as his election was seen by Lord Spencer (Charles*) as a ‘loss’ to the Whigs. In November he was one of those admitted to office under the auspices, it would seem, of the High Church Tory ministers Lords Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) and Rochester (Laurence Hyde†), being appointed a commissioner of victualling at £500 p.a. During his brief spell as a parliamentarian he appears to have played a mostly passive part in proceedings. He voted on 13 Feb. 1703 against concurring with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for allowing further time in which the oath of abjuration could be taken; he appears in two forecasts as a probable supporter of the Tack and satisfied these expectations in the division itself on 24 Nov. 1704. Before then, in July, he had resigned his post, ‘for some reason best known to himself’, as one news writer announced. The timing of his exit from the administration, closely following the departure of Nottingham and other High Tories, suggests it may have been a calculated demonstration of his adherence to their faction. At about the same time James’s relations with Brackley’s corporation were being undermined by Hon. Harry Mordaunt*, whom he had displaced in 1702, and who now sought to re-establish amicable relations among the burgesses preparatory to the next election. Even so, the situation does not seem to have concerned him overmuch since it was reported that ‘he doth not intend to give any public treat at Brackley but at his own house when he thinks fit’. As it turned out, Mordaunt did not stand in 1705, but James’s previous level of Tory backing collapsed under the pressure of a vigorous Whig campaign which no doubt capitalized on his recent approval of the Tack. After this defeat James made no attempt to regain his seat, but lived on in retirement at Finmere, keeping up neighbourly contacts with such local Tory families as the Caves of Stanford and the Verneys of Claydon. He died at the beginning of April 1718 and was interred at his parish church on the 10th. His will, drawn up in January 1716, desired that he might be laid to rest ‘as near my dear wife as may be and with the like privacy that she was’.3

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. J. C. Blomfield, Hist. Finmere, Oxon. 15; VCH Oxon. vi. 119.
  • 2. Watson thesis, 396.
  • 3. Blomfield, 15, 37; Pens. Bk. G. Inn, ii. 111; Midland Hist. iii. 32; Add. 70076, newsletter 27 July 1704; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 452; Watson, 302; Northants. RO, Ellesmere (Brackley) mss 171/12/3, John Garland to Mr Macastree, 9 Aug.; 171/12/1, same to same, 16 Aug. 1704; Verney Letters 18th Cent. i. 323; ii. 223; PCC 177 Shaller.