MOORE, Arthur (c.1666-1730), of Bloomsbury Square, Mdx., and Fetcham Park, Surr.

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 - 1700
Dec. 1701 - 1715
11 Feb. 1721 - 1722

Family and Education

b. c.1666.  m. (1) 17 Mar. 1692, Susannah (d. 23 Feb. 1695), da. of Dr Edward Browne of Crane Court, London, 2da. d.v.p.; (2) 4 Nov. 1696, aged about 30, Theophila, da. and h. of William Smythe, of Devonshire Street, Holborn, Mdx., paymaster of the gent. pens., 3s. 3da.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Harwich 1690; high steward, Great Grimsby 1715–d.2

Member, R. Fishery Co. [I] 1691; asst. R. Mines Co. 1693, R. African Co. 1709–10; commr. taking subscriptions to land bank 1696; cttee. Old E. I. Co. 1698–1704, 1705–9; manager, united trade 1703–4, 1705–9; dir. (united) E. I. Co. 1709–10, S. Sea Co. 1711–14.3

Comptroller, army accts. 1704–7; ld. of Trade 1710–14.4


Moore enjoyed a remarkable career, rising from a humble station to become, under the administration of Lord Oxford (Robert Harley*), the most influential figure in English commerce, portrayed by one critic as the self-styled ‘Prime Minister of Trade’. His impoverished Irish heritage made him an easy target for satire, but none could ignore the talents of this self-made man, who built his own fortune from scratch and emerged as a key figure in the final stages of Anne’s reign. Speaker Arthur Onslow†, his Surrey neighbour, praised his ‘extraordinary parts’, and gave a vivid account of the skills which had brought him advancement:

he had materials of discourse for all sorts of company, to whom he knew how to accommodate himself, and never offended by forwardness, or pride or any impropriety . . . He knew everybody and could talk of everybody, which with his acquaintance and readiness in all the current business of the times he had lived in, made his conversation a sort of history of the age . . . He had great notions, and was generous and magnificent and wrote and spoke with the accuracy and politeness of the best education. His aspect and outward figure were disadvantageous enough to him, but he wanted nothing else to make him a man of the first fashion . . . He was so eminent an instance of extraordinary rise from mean beginnings, by the mere force of natural genius . . . if he had raised himself by a course of virtue, would have been justly deemed one of the greatest among those who have wrought their own fortunes.

Such achievements owed much to a relentless ambition, which clearly persuaded him on occasion to employ mercenary and corrupt methods. He was indeed fortunate to have such formidable political allies as Henry St. John II* to rescue him in moments of acute embarrassment. Although managing to escape censure several times, he could not avoid political eclipse after 1714, and was ultimately ruined by his own ‘profusion’, which consumed most of his considerable fortune by the time of his death.5

Of obscure parentage, Moore came from Monaghan in Ireland. A hostile pamphleteer suggested that he was ‘born at the paternal seat of his family, the tap-house at the prison gate’, while another contemporary described him as ‘the gaoler’s son’. An Irish source, who evidently boasted some familiarity with Moore’s family, corroborated these accounts, and claimed to have known Moore’s parents, revealing that ‘this Moore, who calls himself Arthur, his name is Archibald Moore, son to one Quentin Moore, gaoler of Monaghan . . . I knew both his father and mother, two sectaries, both Scotch Presbyterians’. No evidence has been found to substantiate this assertion, but it appears that Moore’s early years were spent in service, he being variously described as a groom or, according to Bishop Burnet, ‘a footman, without any education’ from which he rose ‘to be a great dealer in trade’. Even his critics agreed that he was extremely able, one of whom concluded that he had ‘good understanding, and talks well, but makes a bad use of all his talents; he has, however, raised himself by his genius from a mean native of the town of Monaghan’.6

The date of Moore’s arrival in London is unknown, but his surviving papers suggest that he found initial employment at the alnage office, perhaps as early as 1681. A keen opportunist, he was doubtless the Arthur Moore who petitioned on 4 Dec. 1686, and again on 11 Apr. 1687, for an eight-year farm of the customs of Virginia and Maryland. An important contact in his early career was the 2nd Duke of Albemarle (Charles Monck†), for whom he acted as co-ordinating agent for several expeditions to raise the wreck of a Spanish treasure ship in the Caribbean. This enterprise was enormously successful, and Moore kept close contact with the Duke’s widow after his death in 1688, testifying in her defence on 6 Nov. 1690 at a hearing before the Upper House. In early 1690 Moore was involved in the election at Harwich, where he became a freeman on the Albemarle interest. His growing City stature was attested soon afterwards by his participation in several commercial endeavours, ranging from the Royal Fishery of Ireland to the Company of Mines. He was also an active promoter of a street lighting scheme, claiming in June 1692 to have ‘much improved’ existing methods when seeking a 14-year patent to illuminate Irish towns. However, his eagerness to protect his investment, when threatened by the London orphans bill of 1694, landed him before the Lords after it was discovered that he had offered a share in the company to a contact of Lord Normanby in the hope of aiding the cause of the projectors. He ultimately received no censure, but experienced some torrid questioning before the Upper House in the spring of 1695, and eight peers took note of Moore’s part in the scandal when entering their dissent against the acquittal of Normanby.7

Moore’s parliamentary ambitions were first apparent in 1693 when he was touted as a candidate for a by-election at the pocket borough of Stockbridge. A relative of his father-in-law encouraged him to put up, confidently predicting that Moore ‘will stand steady to the Country interest’, but he did not appear at the November poll. At the general election of 1695 Moore found success when competing at Great Grimsby, another notoriously venal borough. He had no obvious links with the town, but was able to build a formidable following there, thanks to his electoral largesse and provision of services for the locality. In particular, he may already have embarked upon a scheme to improve the town’s haven, and in the course of this Parliament he sponsored projects to revitalize the local fishery, and establish woollen manufacture there. In political terms, he quickly revealed the Tory principles which he maintained for most of his career at Westminster, but in his first Parliament it is often impossible to distinguish his activities from those of Richard More. Given Moore’s mercantile background, however, and his subsequent record of attention to Commons business, it is quite likely that it was he who took part in proceedings on the East India Company early in 1696 and who was subsequently nominated to join the drafting committee of a bill to regulate the East India trade. Similarly, he may have made a significant contribution to the debate on the coinage crisis, since a Mr Moore acted as a teller on 21 Jan. in favour of an instruction for considering the price of guineas, and was teller on 26 Mar. against the Court motion to bring in an engrossed clause for settling the price of guineas. His Grimsby investments argue strongly for his identification as the Member named to draft several other commercial bills, to prevent the export of wool, for encouraging the fishery, and for cleansing and deepening havens. At once ensconced in Tory ranks, he was forecast in January 1696 as a probable opponent of the Court in the division on the proposed council of trade, and later became one of the commissioners to take subscriptions for the abortive land bank. However, he found no difficulty in adding his name to the Association.8

During the recess the secretary of state, Sir William Trumbull*, revealed that Moore had protested over ‘misrepresentations’ of his conduct during the preceding session, and had made overtures to unite with the Court, at the price of advancement for his brother. No accommodation was reached, and Moore appears to have remained in opposition. In the 1696–7 session he may well have been the ‘Mr Moore’ who managed a bill to import guineas and coin gold at the Mint, and who was a teller on 21 Nov. in support of an amendment to the bill to remedy the state of the coinage. In the same way, it is possible that he took an active interest in supply issues, particularly in the preparation of bills to raise a land tax and other imposts, and was closely involved in the passage of a bill to admit merchants into the Russia Company. There is the possibility, too, that he took part in framing the bills for the improvement of poor relief and for the licensing of the press that were introduced during the session.9

In the third session Moore may have told on three occasions in connexion with trade and fiscal issues: on 3 Jan. 1698 against a proposal to coin old hammered money at provincial mints; on 24 Jan. against the second reading of the bill to restrain the wearing of East Indian stuffs; and on 30 Apr. against a move to exempt inland coals from duty. Moreover, on 9 Mar., he was possibly nominated as one of the managers of the conference to decide on the punishment for the corrupt financier (Sir) Charles Duncombe*. During the 1697–8 session he became a committeeman of the Old East India Company, and emerged as one of its leading spokesmen in the Commons, arguing on 7 June for full compensation if the company was dissolved. Two days later he made another speech on its behalf, and on the 18th insisted that the public was better served by the Old Company charter than the New Company bill currently under review. Moreover, he even ‘seemed to assure’ the House that the Old Company might raise the £1 million required by the bill to incorporate any future scheme. On 20 June he personally pledged £2,000 to the Old Company’s proposed loan to the government, but his efforts could not prevent the establishment of the New Company.10

Returned for Grimsby in 1698, Moore was classed as a Country supporter in around September, and his name appeared in a probable list of opponents of the standing army. Although it is unclear how he voted on this issue, he was certainly prepared to speak against the Court, expressing hope on 16 Feb. 1699 for savings in naval expenditure. Furthermore, on 2 Mar. he voiced concern that the King should not exceed the provision for the reduced number of guard and garrison soldiers. Two days later he revealed his professional expertise when discussing the problems of defending the colonies. In particular, he was anxious to protect the trade of Newfoundland and New York, an interest perhaps already motivated by investment in the Hudson’s Bay Company. He was nominated to committees to draft bills to encourage fishing, to reform the East India trade, and to regulate pawnbrokers. He also steered through the House a bill to exempt certain ships from the Navigation Act, and was appointed to conference committees on bills to prevent the export and distillation of corn, to restore the Blackwell Hall cloth market, and to make Billingsgate open to all. He also showed continuing concern for the poor, being added to the drafting committee for the bill to set them to work.11

During the next session Moore was again conspicuous in debates on the future of the East India trade, being appointed to the committee to draw up a bill to maintain the Old Company, and on 4 Apr. 1700 acting as teller against the second reading of a clause for a bill to lay extra duties on East Indian goods. Of wider commercial significance were the bills to prevent illegal trade and to repeal the Act banning the import of bone-lace, on whose drafting committees Moore was included. He was also named to the conference committee on the bill to remove duties on exported woollen goods. Most significantly, on 2 Dec. 1699 he initiated the Tory attack on Lord Somers (Sir John*) and his Junto allies for their part in sponsoring the notorious pirate Captain Kidd. James Vernon I* reported that

Mr Moore began the debate with inveighing against high interest, and that trade could not flourish while so much money was to be laid out at 8 per cent. He went next to the piracies, which increased so fast, that our ports in the West Indies were in danger to be shut up; and this led him in to discourse of Kidd, that he plundered with a commission under the broad seal in his pocket, and was encouraged to it by those who were in partnership with him, and had obtained a grant of all he should steal.

The following month he was drawn into party controversy over the report of the commissioners inquiring into Irish forfeitures, which contained an account of the alienation of part of the hereditary crown lands in Ireland to the King’s former mistress, Elizabeth Villiers. There had been some disagreement among the commissioners whether this grant should be listed with the forfeited estates, and Moore had written to commissioner Francis Annesley*, arguing that it should be included. On 15 Jan. 1700 Charles Montagu* informed the House that Moore had advised this in order to ‘reflect upon somebody’, i.e. the King, but this Court offensive floundered when Montagu’s informant, the Irish chancellor John Methuen*, denied the minister’s claim. The following day (Sir) Richard Levinge* told the House that Annesley had misrepresented the contents of this letter when attempting to convince his fellow commissioners that the grant should appear in their report. At Moore’s request, the letter was read together with others on the same subject, ‘but none of them mentioned the King; only Moore gave his opinion for reporting the private estate’. The Court counter-attack completely misfired, and Moore went uncensured.12

In early 1700 Moore was bracketed with the Old East India Company ‘interest’ in the Lower House, and by the end of the year had become inextricably linked with the the company’s corrupt attempts to ensure self-preservation, a satire spuriously suggesting that he would introduce a bill to ‘declare it high treason for any Member to take money for his vote from any person whatsoever, body politic or corporate, the Old East India Company excepted’. In February 1701 he fought two election campaigns, finishing third at Southwark, and being defeated at Grimsby. Such was his prominence that his opponents at Southwark were backed by Sir Basil Firebrace*, a particularly bitter rival in the East India trade, and Sir John Parsons*, an ally of Lord Somers. When Moore’s petition for Grimsby came before the House on 6 Mar., both he and his successful adversary, William Cotesworth, were found guilty of bribery. The latter was unseated but the Commons resolved not to issue a new writ that session, and the whole affair only consolidated Moore’s reputation for sharp practice. Although out of the House, he remained an active public figure, especially as a stubborn opponent of the union of the East India Companies. One report suggested that his influence within the Old Company had ‘much declined’, but he was conspicuous in negotiations between the two trading bodies, exasperating Lord Godolphin (Sidney†), who found him ‘very averse to the agreement proposed, if not to any agreement, and particularly he insisted that writing their £315,000 into the stock of the New Company was absolute destruction’.13

Moore managed to regain his Grimsby seat at the second general election of 1701, and retained it until 1715. In the new Parliament he voted on 26 Feb. 1702 for the motion vindicating the Commons’ proceedings over the impeachment of the King’s Whig ministers in the preceding Parliament. He was very busy, with nominations to six drafting committees, although for once his legislative concerns were not restricted solely to trade but included another initiative to provide for the poor, and a measure to examine the public accounts. In a more familiar vein, he was nominated to the committee to draft the bill to prevent clandestine imports from France, and exhibited great interest in the regulation of the brandy trade, chairing the committee on a petition of London distillers, and then managing a bill to reform the industry. He was clearly in the confidence of Tory leaders at this time, attending a meeting of party notables on 4 Mar. 1702 to choose their candidates for the commission of accounts. On the death of the King he was eager for his allies to seize the opportunity presented by the succession. However, he feared for Tory unity, observing on 14 Mar. that ‘the party are at a loss how to behave on this occasion, which happened in the midst of their greatness’. Displaying an obvious interest in Irish affairs, he presented the bill for the relief of certain Protestant tenants of forfeited Irish estates, and later chaired the committee on a private bill to the same end.14

In July 1702 Moore managed to secure his seat in a close contest at Grimsby, and in the ensuing first session of the Parliament was appointed to six drafting committees. Once again he was involved with measures to set the poor to work, and to regulate the brandy trade. More significantly, he was one of the Members ordered to redraft the Lords’ amendments to the occasional conformity bill. On 12 Jan. 1703 he appeared keen to regulate public spending, being named to drafting committees for bills to revive the Act appointing commissioners for army debts and prizes, and to bring an individual to account for sums received from the treasurer of the navy. The following month, he voted with other Tories against agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the Abjuration. His only other significant area of action is indicated by his inclusion on the committee to bring in a bill extending the time permitted for the export of debentured goods.

In the next session Moore’s chief concern was a bill to extend the period for the import of Italian thrown silk, which he managed through the House. He was also appointed to the drafting committee on a bill to regulate the watch within the bills of mortality. On 27 Nov. 1703 in a committee of the whole, he criticized Robert Harley for suggesting that apprentices be taken from farming areas, and made an impassioned plea in favour of an Anglo-Scottish Union, arguing that ‘the fisheries will be lost’ without it. When the House returned to the debate on 4 Dec. he bemoaned the seizure of the English carrying trade by foreigners, and proposed a limited naturalization, being reportedly ‘always for a general one’.15

The following year saw a major upturn in Moore’s political fortunes, for the Court sought to bolster its strength by accommodating Harleyite Tories such as his close friend and patron St. John. In mid-April 1704 it was falsely reported that Moore was to be added to the Admiralty Board, but he did not have to wait long for preferment. On 12 June he was made one of the comptrollers of the army accounts, having gained the full backing of the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†), whose recent dealings with Moore led him to hope that he would prove ‘a very useful man’. Although later called upon to defend his activities in this office, Moore appears to have satisfied his political masters, who agreed to pay him an annual £500 bonus as a reward for ‘his extraordinary pains and service’. His new status was immediately reflected in his voting in the next session, when he was listed as a probable opponent of the Tack in October and duly voted against the High Tory measure in November, an apostasy which did not go unheeded by the Tory press. His administrative duties probably helped to curtail his activity in the 1704–5 session. He was named to three drafting committees, one of which concerned a measure to augment the vicarage of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. On 22 Feb. 1705 he acted as a teller in favour of reading a bill to grant the Queen a further subsidy on wines and imported East India merchandise. Outside the Commons he sought to strengthen his ties with the government still further, putting in an unsuccessful tender to act as an agent for remittances abroad.16

Having purchased a seat at Fetcham, Moore was able to support the Tory cause in Surrey at the general election of 1705, voting for Edward Harvey*. Following his own return at Grimsby, Moore was identified as a High Church Court supporter, and displayed his loyalty to the ministry at the opening of the new Parliament by backing the Court candidate for Speaker on 25 Oct. However, somewhat to the disgust of the Court Whigs, he joined with the Tories on 1 Dec. in support of Sir Samuel Garrard, 4th Bt.*, in a disputed election case at Amersham, and did so again on 16 Feb. 1706 in connection with the Bewdley hearing. In other matters he maintained the ministerial line, particularly during the debates on the regency bill. He expressed concern for the order of debate on 19 Dec. when the Tories endeavoured to delay the second reading of the bill, and on 12 Jan. rebutted a Tory attempt to secure the place clause in the Act of Settlement, observing that ‘an instruction not to alter a law [is] extraordinary’. Three days later he argued strongly that Parliament had to be assembled in the event of the succession, and on 18 Jan. was listed as one of the administration’s supporters on the ‘place clause’ issue. His contribution to business in the House reflected his official responsibilities, since he was named to the drafting committees for bills to disband three regiments, and to continue the Mutiny Act.17

In the next session Moore again aided the passage of the mutiny bill, chairing the requisite committee in March 1707. Equally predictably, he was one of the Members ordered to draw up a bill to boost recruitment to the land forces and marines. He was also nominated to bring in a bill to oblige several individuals to surrender themselves to the Royal African Company. On the dissolution of the Parliament after the Union, he decided to resign his army comptrollership in order to maintain his seat at Westminster. His allies expected that he would receive compensation for the loss of an ‘invidious employment’, but in spite of assurances of support from the Duke of Marlborough, he did not gain further preferment. It is unclear whether his resignation had an immediate impact on his political outlook. As if to underline the uncertainty surrounding his loyalties, the compiler of a parliamentary list of 1707–8 marked him as both Tory and Whig. Despite the loss of his place, he maintained close involvement with military issues in the 1707–8 session, being named to drafting committees for the mutiny bill, and for new measures to encourage recruitment to the armed forces, and to revive the Naval Discipline Act. He was also appointed to bring in a bill to promote the fishery, a long-term personal crusade. In late January 1708 he was severely criticized, along with St. John and Harley, for their administration of the war in Spain.18

Following an unopposed victory at Grimsby in May 1708, Moore proved in general a less prominent Member, although still keen to promote commercial legislation. His attention may well have been distracted by the final round of negotiations over the union of the East India Companies. One report suggested that he was angry with Godolphin for having ‘neglected’ him in this matter, but he was again prominent in these talks. In the first session he was appointed to a committee to draft another bill to encourage the fishery, and was later similarly involved in framing a bill to set duties on captured fish oil. Eager to advance City affairs, he told on 10 Mar. 1709 in favour of committing a bill to restrain building on new foundations in London and Westminster. Despite his previous backing for immigration, he was not listed as a supporter of the naturalization of the Palatines in early 1709. His mercantile status was even further enhanced in the course of the year when he became an assistant in the Royal African Company, an appointment which was reflected in the second session by his nomination to the drafting committee on the bill to relieve the company’s creditors. Confirmation of his return to Tory ranks came with his vote against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.19

The most important phase of Moore’s career began with the change of administration in the summer of 1710, which catapulted him back into Court favour. Burnet stressed the extent of his new-found influence, remarking that

he had a confidence with the ministers in their most secret measures, first with the treasurer [Harley], then the Lord Bolingbroke [formerly St. John], and always with the [lord] chancellor [Simon Harcourt I*], and mediated between them in their quarrels, but when he found them incurable, took his part with the Lord Bolingbroke.

As a sign of his intimacy with these Tory ministers, it was quickly rumoured that he was to replace Hon. James Brydges* as paymaster. Brydges suspected him of seeking his ouster, informing John Drummond on 24 Aug. 1710 that

I cannot altogether clear him in my mind from having attempted it, and on the other side I cannot entirely bring myself to believe him guilty of so black a piece of ingratitude and folly. Of ingratitude, in regard I have preserved him from ruin to a degree I dare not own, lest the world should censure my discretion; and of folly, because he knows it is still in my power to bring it upon him.

Despite his fears that Moore was ‘forming an underhand game to blow me up, if possible in Parliament’, Brydges kept his post, and on 30 Sept. Moore was made one of the commissioners of trade, an appointment which Boyer thought a reward for ‘his being a stickler for the Church party in the city of London, but this choice was generally disapproved’. Moore duly voted for the Tory candidates at the Surrey election, and after a successful defence of his Grimsby seat, was classed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’. In the first session he was appointed to several committees charged with discovering the maladministration of the previous ministry, and was cited as a ‘worthy patriot’ for so doing. Furthermore, he was deemed a ‘Tory patriot’ for opposing the continuation of the war. Motivated by his office to promote colonial commerce, he was named to the drafting committee for a bill to repeal part of the Act encouraging American trade, and was one of the managers of the conference on the bill to preserve American pine trees. In addition, he was one of the Members ordered to examine the state of the plantations, and the methods of rating duties on East Indian goods.20

Moore’s activities in office came under very close scrutiny during the course of 1711. During the recess he was suspected of aiding secret negotiations with the French, Swift accusing him of having arranged the clandestine departure of Matthew Prior* to the Continent, and Defoe suggesting that both officers were out for personal gain from the Anglo-French deliberations. Moreover, according to a memorial later penned by Harley, in that year Moore and St. John defrauded the crown in the preparations for the Canada expedition. Harley, recently ennobled as Earl of Oxford and appointed lord treasurer, claimed that on 4 June,

comes a demand for £28,036 5s. . . . for clothes sent to Canada. The treasurer sampled payment (with very good reason); upon this Mr Secretary St. John came with much passion, as also Mr Moore, who said it was hard he should be made the first example. This made me have some suspicion, but Mr Secretary procured the Queen’s positive pleasure to have it paid, as appears by his letters; and June 21 the Queen signed a warrant for it. But, however, the treasurer took all the precaution he could to find out the truth, but the things being conveyed away, and no further light to be found . . . Upon the return from that expedition, it was discovered that the whole had cost but £7,000 and that £21,036 5s. was divided between them. I have borne the larger upon this because it was the only occasion for their anger; though it occasioned much more mischief, for those who had unjustly got this, being masters of the secret of the treaty of peace, laid it out upon stock.

This was not the only opportunity for profit taken by St. John and Moore during that summer, since they had also connived with Brydges to send inferior equipment to Spain. The deputy-commissioner for stores in Barcelona had written to Brydges on 17 July 1711 criticizing the supplies from England, particularly the holsters for the dragoons, which he described as an ‘exquisite cheat’. On hearing that inspectors were to be sent out, Brydges wrote to St. John on 20 Oct., warning him that

the holsters and accoutrements . . . were provided by Arthur Moore and paid for by warrants countersigned by yourself, expressing that they had been duly and carefully surveyed. I hope the inspectors going are enough in your interest and power to wink at this representation, which they cannot fail of meeting with upon their arrival, one of the principal articles of their instructions being . . . to inquire into the accounts and remains of all the stores.

He also gave notice of the impending storm to Moore, but the matter appears to have been hushed up, for the two ministers were never arraigned for such corruption. Although the subject of much adverse comment, Moore continued to find government favour, being named in September as one of the directors of the newly formed South Sea Company.21

In the 1711–12 session Moore was keen to maintain pressure on the former Whig ministry, his name featuring in several committees of inquiry into unaccounted public monies and abuses in military supply. On 14 Feb. 1712 he supported St. John in attacking the Barrier Treaty, taking the opportunity to remind the Commons that the Dutch were ‘our great rivals in trade’ and had contributed little aid at the time of the abortive invasion of 1708. Four days later he was appointed to the committee to draft a representation to the Queen on the state of the war. Such was his prominence in ministerial ranks that he was singled out by the March Club to show its disapproval of the administration. On 10 Mar. the House’s attention was drawn to a petition from a family requesting that Moore waive his privilege so that they could take legal proceedings against him to recover a debt. The committee of privileges reported on 2 Apr. that in their opinion ‘the said petition is frivolous and vexatious’, but when it was moved that the House should agree with the committee, the March Club joined with the Whigs to defeat the Court by 125 votes to 104, even though ‘great men’, led by St. John, ‘laboured . . . with all their might’ on Moore’s behalf. Doubtless chastened, Moore made little impact in the rest of the session.22

Ensuing controversy over the settlement of Europe shaped Moore’s fortunes for the rest of the reign. Ever since his patron St. John had become involved in the peace negotiations in April 1711, Moore had been acting as his adviser on trade, frequently corresponding with diplomats over the commercial treaties to be signed with France and Spain. Such close involvement brought inevitable attacks from the Whig press, Arthur Maynwaring* commenting in 1711:

          A box is just landed by which we may find,
          Our work done in France and Peru is,
          And the long wished for peace already is signed
          Betwixt Arthur Moore and King Lewis.

Most importantly, he was considered almost entirely responsible for the controversial 8th and 9th articles of the French commercial treaty, by which England and France guaranteed each other ‘most favoured’ trading status. This settlement was bitterly opposed by certain trading interests, and he was also criticized for the high-handed and secretive manner in which he had conducted himself, Burnet remarking:

it was manifest that none of the trading bodies had been consulted in it [the treaty], and the commissioners for trade and plantations had made very material observations on the first project, which was sent to them for their opinion: and afterwards, when this present project was formed, it was also transmitted to that board by the Queen’s order and they were required to make their remarks on it, but Arthur Moore . . . moved that they might first read it every one apart, and then debate it; and he desired to have the first perusal: so he took it away and never brought it back to them, but gave it to the Lord Bolingbroke who carried it to Paris and there it was settled.

The treaty was signed in April 1713, and only a month later Moore responded to a wave of protest by launching the tri-weekly Mercator in collaboration with Daniel Defoe, using it to propagate government arguments on key commercial issues.23

Moore’s activity in the 1713 session was predictably dominated by French trade, as he was appointed on 2 May to the committee to draft the bill to suspend the duties on French wine, a preparatory measure for enacting the full Anglo-French agreement. Three days later he successfully moved to address the Queen for the Dutch Barrier Treaty to be laid before the House, and on 8 May spoke for the government when the House debated tolls on French wines. Six days later he attempted to justify the French commercial treaty, opening the discussion

by setting forth what advantage the Queen had obtained for her subjects from France by this treaty, and talked for an hour and a half very well and ended with this motion that the committee would come to a resolution to move the House for leave to bring in a bill to enable the Queen to make the eighth and ninth articles effectual.

The motion was carried and on 15 May Moore was appointed to the committee to draw up the bill. He still had time to broach other mercantile matters, moving the House on 28 May to examine the Queen’s speech in reference to the fishery. On 18 June he made an impassioned plea on behalf of the commerce bill. However, ‘some of his arguments being thought strained and precarious by his own party’, the motion for its engrossment was rejected. The Dutch envoy also thought Moore’s contribution to debate extravagant, and speculated whether he had been paid to give such an oration. The failure of the bill represented a huge personal defeat for Moore, who was probably the politician said to look ‘20 years older since the loss of the commerce bill’. If it was he, then he soon met with the bill’s principal adversary (Sir) Thomas Hanmer II* (4th Bt.), in order to restore Tory unity, and salvage something from the treaty. Following these overtures, Moore was nominated on 23 June to the committee to urge the Queen to appoint commissioners to renegotiate with the French.24

Although widely criticized for his role in negotiating the French treaty, Moore kept his office, and in the summer of 1713 was used by Oxford to mend relations with Bolingbroke. It was even rumoured in August that he would be made paymaster of the forces abroad, but the post went to his brother Thomas instead, which was at least some compensation for the disappointments of the session. Throughout the rest of the year he was actively engaged in talks leading to the modification of the Spanish treaty of commerce, which resulted in the redrafting of the three explanatory clauses. These discussions lasted until December, and even ministerial allies expressed doubts as to his capacity to represent British interests effectively, John Drummond† advising Oxford that merchants experienced in Spanish trade should be consulted to supplement Moore’s own ‘well informed’ position. Soon Moore had to face censure from another quarter, when the commissioners of public accounts presented a report to the Commons on 13 Apr. 1714, criticizing irregularities in army clothing contracts arranged by Moore in 1706 when he had been comptroller. Although no formal charges were levelled against him, the evidence reflected badly on his professional judgment, and he only escaped reprimand by insisting that he had sought the cheapest terms in the national interest.25

Possibly anticipating these difficulties, Moore had spoken on 11 Mar. 1714 against condemning Richard Steele* unheard. But he had certainly not deserted his Tory allies, having subsequently blamed a recent fall in credit on the appearance of Steele’s Crisis, and he did not vote on 18 Mar. against Steele’s expulsion. Moreover, an important meeting of Tory leaders was held on 11 Apr. at Moore’s house, where it was determined that remaining Whig office-holders should be removed. Four days later, when the Commons debated the dangers facing the Hanoverian succession, he spoke three times, putting up a stubborn defence of government policy. Most significantly, he answered criticisms of the preamble to the Treaty of Utrecht by remarking ‘that the very same words were in the preamble to the Gertruydenberg Treaty, when Mr [Robert] Walpole [II*] was secretary [at war]’, and reassured the House of the ministry’s vigilance over the movements of suspect persons. On 22 Apr. he was again on the defensive, seeking to parry criticism from James Stanhope that the duties agreed with the Spanish did not amount to a ‘prohibition’ of English trade with Spain.26

In the remainder of the session Moore faced a sustained and ferocious offensive, launched by the government’s opponents, but also cultivated by friends of Lord Oxford, who saw him as a convenient target for undermining their now-bitter rival Bolingbroke. Moore was condemned on three counts, all of which related to the commercial treaty with Spain. First, the revised settlement, particularly the three explanatory clauses, was considered extremely unfavourable to British traders, and Moore was blamed for this inadequacy. Even more damningly, an attempt was made to prove that he had received bribes from the Spanish court to agree to these amendments. The second line of attack concerned the asiento, the contract for the slave trade to the South Seas ceded by Spain to Britain, a substantial share of which Moore and his cronies had supposedly appropriated to their own use. On top of all this, he was eventually accused of endeavouring to secrete his own cargoes on a royal ship assigned to the asiento trade. The combination of these charges earned Moore nationwide infamy in the final months of the reign, and it was only the influence of his ally Bolingbroke that saved him from disgrace.

The South Sea Company was the first to take Moore to task, its leaders being strongly opposed to the terms of the asiento. In accordance with the Spanish commerce treaty, the contract was granted to Queen Anne, with a quarter of the profits reserved to the Spanish throne. Most observers, including the South Sea Company, assumed that the Queen would entrust the asiento to the company, and were correspondingly shocked to learn that a quarter of the profits were to be reserved to the Queen and 7.5 per cent to Manasses Gilligan, a key figure in the negotiations held in Madrid. Moreover, even though the nominal assignees for the Queen were William Lowndes* and John Taylor, it was ‘strongly suspected’ that the real beneficiaries were to be Bolingbroke, Lady Masham and Moore. This view was supported by the Hanoverian diplomat, Bothmer, who thought that the quarrel between Oxford and Bolingbroke had been inflamed by

a project which had been formed, of dividing in 16 shares the profits which the Queen was to have from the trade to the South Sea, of which five were designed for the treasurer [Oxford], five for Bolingbroke, four for Lady Masham and two for Arthur Moore. The treasurer having had his reasons for refusing the share destined for him, was suspected on that account, and at last became odious to the other sharers. He afterwards furnished their enemies with means of discovering this mystery which gave them occasion to examine the treaty of commerce.

Edward Harley*, Oxford’s brother, later made even bolder claims, suggesting that

Lord Bolingbroke and others, by the help of Arthur Moore, contrived to gratify her [Lady Masham’s] avarice in obtaining for her a share in the asiento contract, and also a great sum that was to arise by the three explanatory articles in the Spanish Treaty which was a very material alteration from the first plan settled and adjusted by the plenipotentiaries.

Not surprisingly, on 17 Feb. 1714, when the general court of the South Sea Company was informed of the conditions of the grant, ‘several members were strangely surprised at these proposals . . . so that Mr Arthur Moore, who spoke in behalf of the trade, had not the good fortune to make many proselytes to his opinion’. However, following another appeal by Moore on 24 Feb., the general court voted to accept the asiento contract as it stood.27

Despite this resolution, opposition within the company grew as Moore’s enemies endeavoured to learn the names of the real grantees. Amid these inquiries came another damaging blow to his reputation, when it was disclosed to a meeting of the directors on 16 June that he had tried to use a Royal Navy convoy ship to trade on his own account. This accusation came from Richard Johnson, captain of the Warwick, who claimed that at a meeting at Moore’s house on 4 June he found,

Mr Moore, Mr John De Costa and an Irish gentleman: we sat down together some time, . . . then Mr Moore said he was obliged to go to the Parliament House, and would leave us here to settle the affair. Then Mr John De Costa moved and said that Mr Moore and he had thoughts of sending a cargo of about £20,000 in the ship I commanded, which would amount to about 60 ton of goods, and that Mr John De Costa was to be half the cargo at his own charge and asked the other gentleman and me if we would be concerned in that stock, that we were to have ten per cent out and home. I told them it was contrary to my instructions to receive any merchandise on board but what did belong to the South Sea Company, and rejected the offer . . . Then they adjourned till Tuesday the 8th instant . . ., but before that my ship was ordered of[f] the voyage.

Johnson’s attack was clearly motivated by revenge, for it was at Bolingbroke’s direction that the Admiralty had recently given orders for the substitution of the Anglesey for the Warwick. In reply, Moore made a stubborn defence of his actions before the directors, describing

the accusation as false and malicious, but Captain Johnson, who was within call being immediately sent for, maintained to Mr Moore’s face, what he had advanced in his letter, and said he was ready to prove it; whereupon a committee was appointed to inquire into that matter, and report it to the general court. Mr Moore still insisted on his integrity; but being apprehensive that if any breach of trust should be made out against him, he should forfeit all the stock he had in the company, he prudently thought fit to transfer it the next day, which was generally looked upon as a plain indication that he was not altogether innocent.

Probably in an attempt to head off further inquiries, Bolingbroke informed the company on 17 June that the Queen was pleased to make over to them her quarter share of the asiento, in response to which the company postponed its deliberations on the Warwick affair.28

Unfortunately for Moore, the Commons immediately took up the matter, ordering the company, on 18 June, to lay before them all the papers relating to the asiento, and drawing up an address to the Queen that she would instruct the Admiralty to lay before them an account of all orders concerning the fitting out of ships for the service of the company. However, the timely announcement that the Queen had granted her share of the asiento to the company enabled Bolingbroke’s supporters to stifle any further action in the Lower House, and on 22 June the Commons voted an address of thanks to Anne. On the other hand, Bolingbroke was less successful in taming the company, which continued to interrogate Moore. At another hearing, on 23 June, Moore maintained that ‘no man was bound to accuse himself; and he, being charged by the captain, ’twas the business of the latter to make good his accusations’. His case was boosted by the testimony of De Costa, who, while admitting to having asked the captain to take on board some goods for him, denied he had been requested by Moore to do so. Nevertheless, at a general court on 7 July, with ‘near a thousand persons’ in attendance, it was resolved

that Arthur Moore . . . while a director of this company, was privy to, and encouraged a design of carrying on a clandestine trade to the prejudice of this corporation, contrary to his oath and in breach of the trust reposed in him.

He was declared incapable of being a director or holding any other office in the company, ‘which censure made a great noise and was highly resented by the Lord Bolingbroke, who countenanced Arthur Moore’.29

Meanwhile the Upper House had launched its own investigation into the Spanish commercial treaty, and on 2 July focused on the explanatory articles, a move backed by Lord Oxford. Most significantly, Robert Monckton*, one of the commissioners of trade and a close ally of Oxford, gave evidence that the board had not been consulted about the Spanish treaty after 14 Oct. 1713, and had been prevented by Moore from seeing the final form of the explanatory articles. The House duly resolved to address the Queen to inform them of the manner in which the controversial three articles were settled, but her reply on 5 July gave no clue as to who had advised the ratification. This rebuff caused considerable annoyance to the Whig lords, who prevailed to issue another address pressing her to alter the treaty and articles so as to remove the ‘insuperable difficulties’ facing the nation’s traders.30

The Lords’ inquiry continued on 6 July, when the Earl of Wharton (Hon. Thomas*) began the debate by ironically remarking, ‘he did not doubt one of these gentlemen could make it appear, that the treaty of commerce with Spain was very advantageous’. Boyer inferred that he meant Moore, ‘who had the chief management of that affair, and who contradicted himself in several questions that were asked by Lord Cowper’ (William*). Some of the clerks to the Board of Trade were questioned about the existence of a letter from Jean Orry, financial adviser to King Philip of Spain, in which he allegedly warned that no payment would be made to Moore until the treaty of commerce was ratified. Only one, Bryan Wheelock, claimed to have seen such a letter

at Mr Moore’s house; and he showed it [to] me himself, to the best of my remembrance . . . Mr Moore has taken notice in some of his letters of the great honour the king of Spain designed him, in employing him as one of his agents or factors relating to the asiento.

According to Boyer, the board’s secretary, William Popple, also deposed,

that Mr Moore had shown him a letter in French from Monsieur Orry, directed to Don Arturio Moro, importing in substance that he must not expect the two thousand Louis d’or per annum that had been promised him unless he got the three explanatory articles ratified.

There is no mention of this particularly damning evidence in the Lords’ records, but it is significant that Popple subsequently changed his story, admitting that he had only heard of the letter from Wheelock.31

On 8 July the Lords continued their inquiries into this letter, but neither Monckton nor Popple claimed to have actually seen it. Of the clerks to the Board only Wheelock ventured new evidence, alleging that he had seen a paper in French, by which the king of Spain granted the Queen certain reservations out of the asiento contract. Furthermore, by an endorsement which he himself wrote on it, he asserted that the Queen had transferred these advantages to Moore. Moore admitted the existence of two promissory notes concerning this grant from the king of Spain, but denied the endorsement, eventually producing the two papers in question to substantiate his claim. Lowndes and Taylor were also examined on that day, and admitted they had only been trustees for the Queen’s share of the asiento, but they could not reveal the real assignees. Worryingly for Moore, several members of the South Sea Company accused him of suggesting that ‘a sum of money might make things go easy’ in relation to the asiento, but without naming who should receive such benefits. Despite these charges, the opposition attack began to falter, as a succession of their motions were defeated, including one to condemn those who had undermined the asiento ‘by unwarrantable endeavours to gain private advantage to particular persons’. Twenty-one peers entered their dissent to these votes, insisting that ‘the interest of particular persons was the chief aim in this transaction [of the treaty]’. According to Boyer this debate lasted until nine o’clock in the evening, ‘so that they had no time, as some Whig lords designed it, to proceed to the censure of Mr Moore’. The next day the Queen prorogued Parliament, thus preventing further inquiries. Boyer sensed a missed opportunity, observing that

it was the general opinion, that if the Parliament had sat one day longer, Mr Arthur Moore would have been censured by the Lords and ordered to be prosecuted; nay, many hoped that their lordships would have carried the resentment of his and the Lord Bolingbroke’s collusory and corrupt conduct in relation to the treaty of commerce with Spain, as far as to send them both to the Tower.

Not surprisingly, a ministerial supporter rejoiced in ‘a glorious victory’, and suggested that Moore’s enemies only had themselves to blame, since they suffered

the usual fate of such unreasonable reflections. Those who proposed the resolutions were blamed for their violence, and the person accused, appearing to be less guilty than they made him, was thought to be more innocent than I doubt he is.

Bolingbroke was credited with having influenced the Queen to save Moore, his so-called ‘creature and understrapper’, and was doubtless instrumental in securing him a place in the new commission of trade issued only days before the Queen died.32

Although Moore was said to have emerged from his travails ‘with flying colours’, Anne’s death proved disastrous for his political career. In particular, her passing destroyed Bolingbroke’s plan for a new administration, in which Moore was reportedly earmarked for the chancellorship of the Exchequer. Moore signed the proclamation of George I, but his Tory connexions, attested by the Worsley list, ensured his swift removal from the Board of Trade. Some Whig rivals even anticipated that he might experience ‘a martyrdom by hemp’ if he did not hurry back to his homeland, but he was not persecuted under the new regime. He did lose his seat at Grimsby, but appears to have made his peace with the ministry by 1718, and briefly returned to Parliament in 1721–2. However, he was unable to regain office, and the impairment of his fortune hastened his political demise. His mansion at Fetcham, which he transformed ‘at an immense charge’ with the help of William Talman and Louis Laguerre, consumed much of his wealth, and a few months before his death he had to sell his coach and take rented accommodation. His will betrayed deep bitterness at his plight, recording that ‘by the unjust prosecutions and persecutions I have fallen under for my faithful service to the public, and having also been disappointed of many just demands, my personal estate hath been greatly diminished’. He died on 4 May 1730, and was buried at Fetcham. Although he appears to have left ample provision for his family, Fetcham had to be sold within a few years to clear his outstanding debts.33

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Paula Watson / Perry Gauci


  • 1. Westminster Abbey Reg. (Harl. Soc. x), 34; N. and Q. ser. 1, xi. 198.
  • 2. Essex RO (Chelmsford), Harwich bor. recs. 98/4, f. 163; Letters and Pprs. Banks Fam. ed. Hill (Lincoln Rec. Soc. xlv), p. xx.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1691–2, p. 3; 1693, p. 207; K. G. Davies, R. African Co. 385; CJ, xii. 509; info. from Prof. H. G. Horwitz; Add. 38871 (unfol.).
  • 4. Cal. Treas. Bks. xix. 38; xxi. 29; xxiv. 525; xxix. 633.
  • 5. Letter to A[rthur] M[oore] [1714], 24; Burnet, vi. 162–3.
  • 6. Letter to A[rthur] M[oore], 24; N. and Q. ser. 1, xi. 157; Add. 70298, L.G. to Ld. Oxford, 17 Aug. 1713; Burnet, 162–3.
  • 7. Univ. Kansas Spencer Research Lib. Moore mss 143 Aa, alnage office pprs.; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 1042, 1299; info. from Dr P. A. Hopkins; HMC 13th Rep. V, 149; CSP Dom. 1691–2, p. 328; HMC Lords, n.s. i. 372–3, 541–5; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 953.
  • 8. Moore mss 143 Ab, Stanley Garway to Edward Browne, 31 Aug., 2, 5 Sept. 1693, same to Moore, 13 Sept. 1693; Surtees Soc. liv. 155–6.
  • 9. HMC Downshire, i. 677.
  • 10. CSP Dom. 1698, pp. 283, 289, 308–9.
  • 11. Cam. Misc. xxix. 395, 398, 400; I. K. Steele, Pol. of Colonial Policy, 135.
  • 12. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 372, 410; Ralph, Hist. Eng. ii. 836–9.
  • 13. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 2714, Titles of Several Acts [?1700]; HMC Portland, iv. 11, 22–23; Herts. RO, Panshanger mss D/EP/F83, ‘Results of Cabaret [1701]’; C 110/28, John Dolben* to Thomas Pitt I*, 19 July 1701.
  • 14. Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 26(2), Brydges’ diary, 4 Mar. 1702; Add. 22851, f. 58.
  • 15. NMM, Sergison pprs. 103, ff. 450–2, 454–6.
  • 16. Add. 70075, newsletter 15 Apr. 1704; 61164, ff. 163, 166; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 280, 310, 336; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxxi. 130; Poems on Affairs of State ed. Ellis, vii. 49; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1702–7, p. 401.
  • 17. Surr. Poll 1705, 59; Bull. IHR, xlv. 47–48; Cam. Misc. xxiii. 55, 62, 68.
  • 18. Stowe mss 57(2), pp. 104–5; Bodl. North mss c.11, ff. 10–11, 14–15; Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 446–7; Moore mss 143 Ac, George Clayton to Moore, 9 Apr. 1703.
  • 19. C110/28, Dolben to Pitt, 20 Oct. 1708; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxii. 42.
  • 20. Burnet, 162–3; Stowe mss 57(4), pp. 116, 158; Boyer, Pol. State, i. 6; Surr. Poll 1710, 24.
  • 21. Swift Works ed. Davis, iii. 211; HMC Portland, v. 465; Huntington Lib. Bull. ix. 130–1.
  • 22. Wentworth Pprs. 226, 269; Christ Church, Oxf. Wake mss 17, ff. 318–19; NSA, Kreienberg despatch 4 Apr. 1712.
  • 23. Bolingbroke Corresp. iii. 329, 514; Oldmixon, Maynwaring, 338; HMC Portland, v. 492; Burnet, 162–3.
  • 24. Add. 17677 GGG, ff. 158, 229–30; Kreienberg despatch 8 May 1713; Wentworth Pprs. 334; Boyer, v. 335, 388; Bodl. North mss c.9, f. 5.
  • 25. Add. 22233, f. 298; Stowe mss 57(9), p. 170; HMC Portland, v. 337, 468; Boyer, vii. 345–6.
  • 26. Chandler, v. 63; Add. 17677 HHH, f. 118; Bull. IHR, xxxiv. 214; Douglas diary (Hist. of Parl. trans.), 15, 22 Apr. 1714; Wentworth Pprs. 370.
  • 27. Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, 635; HMC Portland, v. 661; Boyer, vii. 175–6.
  • 28. HMC Lords, n.s. x. 432–3, 454–5; Boyer, vii. 539–40.
  • 29. Boyer, vii. 568–70.
  • 30. HMC Lords, n.s. x. 481; LJ, xix. 741, 746.
  • 31. Boyer, vii. 568; LJ, xix. 749.
  • 32. LJ, xix. 755–6; Wentworth Pprs. 398–9; Boyer, vii. 571–2, 613, 624; Swift Corresp. ed. Williams, ii. 58–59; Cobbett, vi. 1365.
  • 33. Add. 31139, f. 263; Burnet, 162–3; Boyer, viii. 117; Poems on Affairs of State, 609–10; Defoe, Tour ed. Cole, 147; N. and Q. ser. 4, ix. 307; Moore mss 143 Fc, Moore to wife, 26 Dec. 1729; PCC 133 Auber; Westminster Abbey Reg. 34.