RUSHOUT, Sir James, 1st Bt. (1644-98), of Northwick Park, Worcs.
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Family and Education
b. 22 Mar. 1644, 5th but o. surv. s. of John Rushout, Fishmonger, of St. Dionis Backchurch, London, and Maylords, Essex by 1st w. Anne, da. of Joas Godschalk, merchant, of Fenchurch Street, London. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1660, MA 1661. m. c.1670, Alice (d. 1698), da. and h. of Edmund Pitt of Sudbury Court, Harrow, Mdx., wid. of Edward Palmer† of the Middle Temple, 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1653; cr. Bt. 17 June 1661.1
Ambassador to Turkey Apr. 1697–d.
By the time Rushout entered the Commons in 1670 he was a wealthy man, his capital assets in that year being estimated at over £45,000. During the Restoration period he had built up his interest in and around Evesham, chiefly through the judicious purchase of estates from the Courteen and Childe families in south Worcestershire. His estates included the manor of Bengeworth, adjacent to Evesham, to which he added Northwick Park (now in Gloucestershire) in 1683. Thus, Rushout conformed to the traditional model of a man purchasing land in the provinces with wealth acquired in the metropolis. Indeed, it would appear that his Worcestershire estates gradually became more important to him than his other property in Essex and Kent. After 1688 he held local office in the county as a justice and lieutenant-colonel of the militia, and his acceptability to local society was demonstrated by his election to the Convention of 1689 as knight of the shire.2
At the election of 1690 Rushout opted to stand for Evesham, a move he prepared carefully. Up to this point his previous parliamentary career had seen him as an opponent of the Court as exemplified in his comment in October 1675 that he would return to London ‘to give my vote for as little money as may be’. It certainly fitted easily with his opposition to the Earl of Danby (Sir Thomas Osborne†) and subsequent Whig career. Contemporaries, writing in 1690, clearly perceived him to be a Whig, Hon. James Thynne* noting that ‘he pretends to be a very good son of the Church of England and equally afraid of popery and presbytery but I have much ado to believe the first and last’. The Marquess of Carmarthen (as Danby had become) classed him as a Whig on a list of the 1690 Parliament. In April 1691, Robert Harley* considered him to be a Country supporter, although qualified this as ‘doubtful’. Early in 1690 Rushout was in correspondence with the Earl of Shrewsbury (secretary of state and lord lieutenant of Worcestershire) over information he had obtained concerning a design against the government. A corollary of this interest was his role in supplying local information to the Commons in support of Dodsworth’s claims. His first intervention was on 15 May 1690; two days later he was added to the committee ordered to prepare a bill to secure the government against conspiracy. On 20 May Sir Francis Blake* was sent to him to obtain the information Rushout had collected concerning conspiracies against the government, ill-health preventing Rushout’s attendance in person. Poor health in fact seems to have dogged his parliamentary career: on 15 Nov. 1690 he was given leave to go to Bath for six weeks and was again granted leave for health reasons on 19 Dec. 1692.3
Rushout was clearly delighted by the promotion of his Worcestershire colleague Sir John Somers* to be lord keeper in March 1693. He sought to flatter Somers by telling him that his counsels would help in the preservation of the government, religion and laws of the kingdom and ‘then will their Majesties’ throne be established, then shall we be secured from our foreign and domestic enemies and then shall we sit under our own vines to reap the benefit of this Revolution’. He does not appear to have been an active Member at this time as he received further leave to go into the country to recover his health on 21 Mar. 1695. However, he did act as a teller on one occasion, on 18 Apr. 1695, against the committal of a bill from the Lords to indemnify Sir Thomas Cooke* from any actions he might be liable to for making discoveries about payments to people out of East India Company funds.4
Rushout’s concern for the political balance of representation in Worcestershire as a whole placed him in a dilemma as the general election of 1695 approached. Rumours abounded that he would contest the county, while Rushout himself sought the advice of Somers. His calculations were complicated by the need to consider the fate of his ‘cousin’ William Bromley I* at Worcester. Although he expressed himself ‘ready to exert myself the best I can for the service of this government’, he showed little inclination to fight for the county. Instead, he stood again at Evesham with his nephew Sir Rushout Cullen, 3rd Bt.* His broader political view is perhaps best illustrated by a comment he made to Somers regarding the Middlesex county election in which he had an interest by virtue of his estate at Harrow. After expressing the hope that ‘the Admiral’ [Edward Russell*] and Sir John Wolstenholme, 3rd Bt.*, would succeed, he added, ‘and that my parson will behave himself like a good Williamite upon that occasion’. Having been returned in 1695, Rushout was forecast as likely to support the Court in a division on 31 Jan. 1696 over the proposed council of trade, signed the Association, and in March voted for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. The last action was somewhat surprising, given that on 10 Mar. he had received leave to go into the country for three weeks to recover his health. During 1696 Rushout made overtures to his friends at court to procure him a diplomatic posting overseas in the hope that a warmer climate would improve his health. His first choice appears to have been Italy, followed by Portugal, where the envoy, John Methuen*, had lately been appointed to the Board of Trade. However, Methuen’s desire to see how Parliament would react to the new board made any change unlikely until after the 1696–7 session. Rushout voted for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick† on 25 Nov. 1696. In January 1697 he again made approaches about the Portuguese embassy, using Somers and Shrewsbury as channels of access to Portland and the King. Once again he was disappointed and had to be content with vague promises of a post in Italy. However, continued exertion on his behalf led to his appointment in April 1697 as ambassador to the Ottoman court in Constantinople. His illness was well known, however, John Tucker describing him to Matthew Prior* as ‘an old, rich, unhealthy gentleman’. Unfortunately, his weak condition meant that although he signed articles of agreement with the Levant Company in January 1698, promising to serve for five years, he never set sail, dying on 16 Feb. 1698. In an extremely detailed will, he made provision for his burial in a vault in Blockley church, Worcestershire, complete with family monument. At his death he held estates in Essex, Gloucestershire, Kent and Middlesex, as well as in Worcestershire, most of which passed to his eldest son, Sir James Rushout, 2nd Bt.*5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Vis. Eng. and Wales Notes ed. Crisp, xii. 182–5; Vis. Worcs. ed. Metcalfe, 83–84.
- 2. Hereford and Worcester RO (Worcester, St. Helen’s), Northwick mss 705: 66/BA4231/5/V, balance of credit, 30 Sept. 1670; VCH Worcs. iii. 211, 270; Egerton 1626, f. 52.
- 3. Northwick mss 705: 66/BA4231/5/V, Rushout to Sir John Cullen, 28 Oct. 1675; Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 13, f. 259; CSP Dom. 1689–90, pp. 484, 496.
- 4. Surr. RO (Kingston), Somers mss 371/14/N1, Rushout to Somers, 29 Mar. 1693.
- 5. Ibid. 371/14/J4–7, E6, same to same, 3, 10 Aug., 28 Oct., 4 Nov. 1695, 18 July 1696; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/51, James Vernon I* to Shrewsbury, 14 Jan. 1696[–7]; Shrewsbury Corresp. 473–4; Br. Dipl. Reps. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xlvi), 151; HMC Bath, iii. 109; CSP Dom. 1697, pp. 148, 422; 1698, pp. 34, 96–97; Northwick mss 705: 66/BA4231/44; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 17; PCC 84 Lort.