MOMPESSON, Roger (c.1661-1715), of Lincoln’s Inn, London and Durnford, Dorset
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Family and Education
b. c.1661, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of George Mompesson of Durnford by Elizabeth, da. of Roger Clavell of Smedmore, Isle of Purbeck, Dorset. educ. Magdalen Hall, Oxf. matric. 19 July 1677, aged 15; L. Inn 1678, called 1685. m. (1) Sarah, 1s.; (2) da. of William Pinhorne, judge, of New York. suc. fa. by 1695.1
Steward, Andover 1697–1703; freeman, Southampton 1698, recorder 1698–1703; freeman, Winchester 1701.2
Judge vice-admiralty, Massachusetts Bay, New Hampshire, Rhode Is., Pennsylvania 1703–4, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey 1703–d.; c.j. New York 1704–d., New Jersey 1705–Apr. 1709, Aug. 1709–11, Pennsylvania 1706; member, council of New York 1705–d., New Jersey 1705–d.3
Mompesson was descended from a junior branch of the Mompessons of Bathampton, Wylye, Wiltshire; Sir Thomas Mompesson* was his distant kinsman. His ancestors had bought the manor of Durnford in Dorset in 1598. A practising lawyer, he appeared as one of the counsel for the defence in the treason trial of Lord Preston (Sir Richard Grahme†) in January 1691 and that of Rookewood, implicated in Sir John Fenwick’s† accusations in 1696. In August 1693 Luttrell recorded that Mompesson had ‘entered the House of the Duke of Bolton [Charles Powlett†], drew his sword and wounded him, for which a messenger was ordered to take him into custody’. The cause of this quarrel is not known, but the Duke complained to the Privy Council, and the case was heard on 12 Oct. Mompesson ‘begged pardon of the board and desired their intercession with his Grace’, but Bolton ‘not being content herewith’ pressed that ‘the matter should be pushed as far as it could’. The Council decided they had no power to intervene further and that Bolton would have to pursue the matter at law. This he does not seem to have done and the affair was dropped.4
In May 1698 Mompesson was appointed recorder of Southampton and in the following year successfully contested at a by-election there. On 16 Jan. 1700 James Vernon I* reported that there had been a debate the previous day ‘upon a motion of Mr Mompesson on behalf of the Irish commissioners [of inquiry into the forfeited estates], who desired to be vindicated against the aspersions thrown upon them’ in an earlier debate. Mompesson also spoke in the debate on crown grants on 13 Feb. 1700, though his further activity in Parliament is not always possible to distinguish from that of his kinsman, Charles Mompesson. However, it seems probable that it was Roger Mompesson the lawyer who played a managerial role in four bills between February and April: for continuing expiring laws; to prevent disputes that might arise through members of corporations having neglected to sign the Association; to regulate Thames watermen; and for the speedier determination of the right to offices in corporations, the last of which did not get beyond a second reading. In an analysis of Parliament into ‘interests’ in that year he was listed as ‘doubtful’ or of the opposition. He successfully contested at Southampton in the first 1701 election. On 10 Mar. 1701 he was ordered by the House to attend in his place the following morning, while between March and June it is probable that he played a leading part in managing two private bills. In the debate on the impeachment of Lord Chancellor Somers (Sir John*) on 16 May, he spoke in relation to the article concerning crown grants. Mompesson, who ‘spoke warmly and made the House merry’, stated that he had ‘in his hand’ a statute from 1535 which ‘commended the King’s making of grants’. The use of this same argument later in the year in the pamphlet Jus Regium: Or, the King’s right to Grant Forfeitures, which was perceived as a ministerial production, would suggest that Mompesson had some sense of affiliation to the Court, or at least to Somers, who was a fellow legal practitioner. It is probable that it was Mompesson who acted as a teller on 17 June against the reading of the report on the bill for relief of insolvent debtors. Around this time he was included in the ‘black list’ of MPs who were opposed to the preparations for war with France.5
Mompesson lost his seat to Adam de Cardonnel* in the election of November 1701 and did not stand in 1702. In 1703 his connexion with Southampton was severed when his recordership was declared void on the grounds of his continued absence and neglect of the town’s business. By this time he was becoming involved in financial embarrassments and was glad in 1703 to accept the office of vice-admiralty judge in the North American colonies, secured through the good offices of William Penn, the Quaker, for whom Mompesson had acted as counsel for several years. He arrived in the colonies in 1704 and quickly established good relations with Lord Cornbury (Edward Hyde*), the governor of New York and New Jersey, who in the following November appointed Mompesson chief justice of New York, to which, in 1705, was added the chief justiceship of New Jersey and membership of the councils of both states. A newsletter in England reported on the event:
Roger Mompesson, Esq., some time since a Member of Parliament for Southampton . . . but withdrawing to America upon account of some encumbrances, is made chief justice of New York and other colonies under the government of Lord Cornbury, which is worth about £500 p.a.; he is an honest gentleman and a learned lawyer.
In 1711 Mompesson asked to be relieved of the chief justiceship of New Jersey on ‘finding himself obnoxious to the generality of the people of that province’, but he remained chief justice of New York. In May the new governor, Colonel Hunter, described him as ‘a person of ability and great knowledge of the laws’. Mompesson died in America in March 1715.6
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Paula Watson / Ivar McGrath
- 1. Hutchins, Dorset, i. 632; Appleton’s Cyclopedia of Amer. Biog. 354; CSP Col. 1710–11, p. 478.
- 2. Andover Pub. Lib. town mins. 4/M1/5, pp. 32, 101; Southampton RO. SC3/1/1, f. 249; J. S. Davies, Hist. Southampton, 185; Hants RO, Winchester bor. recs. ordnance bk. 7, f. 166.
- 3. APC Col. 1680–1720, 664; CSP Col. 1702–3, pp. 570–1, 651; 1704–5, pp. 50, 306, 387, 392, 459, 558, 709, 722; 1708–9, p. 566; 1710–11, p. 482; 1714–15, pp. 137, 244, 268.
- 4. Hutchins, 632; Bodl. Fleming newsletters, iv. f. 195; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss, U1590/059/2, Robert Yard* to Alexander Stanhope, 29 Aug. 1693; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 168, 179–80, 202; Add. 34350, f. 9.
- 5. Info. from Prof. H. Horwitz; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 409; Cocks Diary, 52, 132.
- 6. Davies, 185; CSP Col. 1702–3, pp. 570–1; 1704–5, pp. 50, 306, 387, 392, 459, 558, 709, 722; 1710–11, pp. 482, 484; 1714–15, p. 137; HMC Portland, iv. 262.