SHIPPEN, William (1673-1743), of Norfolk Street, London

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



29 Dec. 1707 - 15 Jan. 1709
8 Dec. 1710 - 1713
1713 - 1715
1715 - 1 May 1743

Family and Education

bap. 30 July 1673, 2nd s. of Rev. William Shippen, DD, rector of Stockport, Cheshire, proctor, Oxf. 1665.  educ. Stockport g.s.; Brasenose, Oxf. 1687; Westminster 1688; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1691, BA 1695; M. Temple 1693, called 1699.  m. lic. 17 July 1712 (with £70,000), Frances (d. 1747), da. of Sir Richard Stote, serjeant-at-law, of Jesmond Hall, Northumb., coh. to her bro. Bertram Stote*, s.p.1

Offices Held

Commr. public accts. 1711–14.


As the younger son of a clergyman, Shippen inherited only a small income, which he later greatly improved by marriage to a wealthy heiress. Rather unusually, he was admitted to Oxford but then returned to school, at Westminster, and then went on to Cambridge. Although trained as a lawyer, Shippen does not seem to have practised. Evidently a keen follower of public affairs, he indulged his talent for writing political satires which reveal strong Tory and Jacobite sympathies. However, he guarded his anonymity with care, and few poems can be assigned to him with absolute certainty. He may have been the author of Advice to a Painter (1697), describing a Tory patriot’s reactions to the Peace of Ryswick and attacking Whig placemen. This was followed by A Conference (June 1700) dealing with the negotiations between King William and the Earl of Sunderland on the appointment of a successor to Lord Chancellor Somers (Sir John*). If Shippen was the author of this piece, he showed considerable disillusionment with the King’s ministers, writing

          There’s no man among you, whate’er he pretends
          But laughs at the public and acts for self ends.

He was probably the author of the well-known Faction Displayed, written in 1702 and published in 1704, which contained overtly Jacobite sentiments and savage caricatures of the Whig leaders. It provoked several Whig replies. He probably also wrote Moderation Displayed, published in December 1704, attacking ‘moderates’ such as Robert Harley* who were prepared to work with Lord Treasurer Godolphin’s (Sidney†) ministry. A little over a year later, he ran into trouble with the law when he was arrested in February 1706 on a warrant signed by Harley. According to Luttrell, he was charged with ‘bantering Mr Secretary Harley about discovering the authors of The Memorial of the Church of England, while another account claimed that he was accused of publishing seditious libels. Whatever the cause, the hearing of his case was postponed in June 1706 and then apparently dropped.2

Perhaps to safeguard himself from any further arrests, Shippen entered Parliament in December 1707 at a by-election for Bramber on the interest of his friend Lord Windsor (Thomas*) whose brother Dixie* subsequently became his brother-in-law. Shippen and Lord Windsor successfully contested the borough in 1708, Shippen being classed as a Tory in a list of early 1708. In July he may have written, although not published, a satirical poem, ‘Duke Humphrey’s Answer’, a Jacobite piece which attacked the ambitions of the Duchess of Marlborough. Six months later in January 1709, Shippen was unseated on petition. While out of Parliament he wrote a poem, ‘The Junto’, attacking the Whig lords.3

Shippen did not stand at the general election of 1710 but came in at a by-election in December for Bramber when Lord Windsor chose to sit for Monmouthshire. Somewhat surprisingly, on 12 Dec. 1710 he told for the Court against the place bill. On 19 Dec. he joined with Ralph Freman II in leading the attack on former Lord Chancellor Cowper (William*) over the Bewdley charter, which he was reported as saying ‘was arbitrary and illegal and tended to the destroying of the constitution’. He acted as a teller in favour of declaring the charter ‘void, illegal and destructive’, and moved the subsequent resolution, that an address be made to the Queen to repeal it. In the new year, he was closely associated with the measures promoted by the October Club, and although his name was omitted from a list of members drawn up by Boyer, he was classed as a member by both Swift and Defoe. On 1 Mar. he seconded the club’s motion for a bill to resume William III’s grants, in which he compared the reign of James II (‘too good and too well tempered to be king of England’) with the present ‘miserable state of the nation’ which he blamed on William III’s treatment of England as ‘a find for plunder to his favourites’. He and two other Tories, Thomas Strangways and George Lockhart, were directed to draft the bill. On 19 Mar. he was elected one of the commissioners of accounts. On 10 Apr. he was a teller with fellow High Tory, Henry Campion, against an amendment to a motion allowing Sir John Anstruther, 1st Bt., to continue sitting despite having inherited an office. He invited Dr Adams to preach before the House, later thanking him for his sermon.4

At the start of the 1711–12 session, the commission of accounts, tacitly encouraged by the Court, began to present evidence against the previous Whig ministry. On 21 Dec. 1711 the first report on abuses in the army was presented to the House by Lockhart, accusing the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) of receiving bribes from the bread contractor to the army. Shippen followed the next day by presenting the depositions and evidence in support of the allegations. Shippen may have occupied part of the Christmas recess by writing ‘Character of a Certain Whig’, a verse satire on the character of Lord Wharton (Hon. Thomas*). Back in Parliament, on 24 Jan. he was a leading speaker and a teller in favour of a motion condemning Marlborough’s actions as ‘unwarrantable and illegal’. On 1 Mar. he was teller against recommitting the address on the state of the war. On the same day, he supported (Sir) Thomas Hanmer II’s resolutions condemning the Barrier Treaty. He played a leading part in the October Club’s attempt to reintroduce the grants resumption bill, being one of the original proposers of the measure on 22 Mar., and was first-named to the committee to prepare it. He was teller on 21 Apr. in favour of tacking the measure to the lottery bill, which it was rumoured the Court had connived at with the October Club. If so, the Octobrists were disappointed when the decision was not only attacked by members of the March Club, but ‘disavowed’ by the ministry on 6 May, Shippen speaking and then telling against ‘untacking’ the bill.5

In the last session of this Parliament Shippen presented a further report from the commissioners of accounts on army debts on 16 Apr. 1713, and on 7 May brought in the commission’s evidence of bribery against William Churchill*, a commissioner of the sick and wounded, and a report criticizing Wharton for accepting bribes to grant offices. Like the other Octobrists he co-operated with the ministry over the peace, and voted for the French commerce bill on 18 June.

In October 1712, Shippen had written that he was expecting ‘violent opposition’ at the next election and was already considering seeking a seat elsewhere. He had indeed lost the patronage of the Windsor family (who had become Hanoverian Tories, a group he despised), and for the 1713 election was obliged to transfer to Saltash in Cornwall, presumably on the interest of Lord Lansdown (George Granville*). In Queen Anne’s last Parliament he emerged as one of the leaders of the Jacobites in the Commons. On 15 Apr. 1714, in a committee of the whole, he supported the Court motion that the Protestant succession was not in danger. On this occasion he criticized an attempt by Sir Arthur Kaye, 3rd Bt., to stifle debate with a motion for the chairman to leave the chair, and reflected on a speech by the leading Hanoverian Tory Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) in the Lords’ debates on 5 Apr. on a similar question. He acted as a teller on 6 July in favour of allowing Catholics to sell advowsons to Anglicans at a fair price. After the Queen’s death he supported the payment of the arrears to the Hanoverian troops. Boyer reported that on 13 Aug. ‘Mr Shippen very ingenuously owned he had opposed that payment in the late reign, but that he was for it now’. The next day he opposed a move to increase to £100,000 the reward offered for the Pretender’s capture. After the accession of George I he was the leader of the Jacobites in the Commons for some years. He died on 1 May 1743.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Paula Watson / Sonya Wynne


  • 1. J. P. Earwaker, East Cheshire, i. 392–4; G. F. R. Barker and A. H. Stenning, Old Westminsters, ii. 845.
  • 2. DNB; Clavering Corresp. (Surtees Soc. clxxviii), 50; Poems on Affairs of State ed. Ellis, vi. 12–25, 210–23, 517–29, 622–30, 648–73; vii. 19–42, 332; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 57.
  • 3. Poems on Affairs of State, vii. 330–7, 361–6.
  • 4. D. Szechi, Jacobitism and Tory Pol. 71, 77; Clavering Corresp. 105; Huntington Lib. Q. xxxiii. 157, 161; SRO, Breadalbane mss GD 112/39/251/14, ‘Letter from a Gentleman in London, n.d. Mar. 1710’; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. vi. 1009.
  • 5. Szechi, 107–9, 112–13; Poems on Affairs of State, vii. 536–8; Huntington Lib. Q. 166, 168, 170; NSA, Kreienberg despatches 25 Jan., 25 Mar., 25 Apr. 1712.
  • 6. John Rylands Univ. Lib. Manchester, Legh of Lyme mss corresp. Shippen to [?John Ward III*], 2 Oct. 1712; Burnet, v. 339; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 279; Douglas Diary (Hist of Parl. trans.), 15 Apr. 1714; Szechi, 171; Boyer, Pol. State, viii. 155; Earwaker, 394.