SHOWER, Sir Bartholomew (1658-1701), of the Middle Temple, and Chelsea and Pinner, Mdx.

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



1698 - 4 Dec. 1701

Family and Education

b. 14 Dec. 1658, 3rd s. of William Shower, merchant, of Exeter by Dorcas, da. of John Anthony, merchant, of Exeter.  educ. Exeter until 1675, Newington Green acad. (Charles Morton) 1675; M. Temple 1676, called 1680, bencher 1688, reader 1691, treasurer 1699.  m. 21 Jan. 1682, Anna, s.p.  Kntd. 12 May 1687.1

Offices Held

Dep.-recorder of London 1686, recorder 1688; KC 1688.2

Commr. Greenwich Hosp. 1695.


Nicknamed by one enemy as ‘Sir Bartlemew Shatterbrains’, Shower was one of the most vilified and despised Tories of his generation. Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, thought him the ‘littlest maliciousest man living’ and an ‘impertinent fellow’, and satires lampooned him as a Francophile, mercenary and popish tool of James II. Yet he also had admirers as a patriot who stood up for right and justice:

          When in the noble senate of our land
          He did a pillar of his country stand,
          None could his zeal or courage there abate,
          Against the underminers of our state,
          But bravely did our Church and land defend,
          True peace and justice was his only end . . .
          He boldly spoke and always with applause,
          In true defence of England’s peace and laws,
          The greatest lawyer, both for wit and sense
          Not only good but beautiful and fair.3

Shower’s father, the younger son of a country gentleman, became a wealthy merchant in Exeter, but his death in 1661 meant that Bartholomew’s mother, described as ‘very strictly pious’, was the more influential in her son’s childhood and career. The family was ‘related to several worthy ministers in and about Exeter’, and in 1675 moved to London, where Shower and his elder brother, John, attended the Dissenting academy at Stoke Newington. John became a leading Dissenting minister, and although Shower later claimed that he himself had been ‘a constant communicant’ with the Established Church since his 18th year, the evidence suggests that he had continued to mix in Nonconformist circles. In January 1680 he was a subscriber to London’s mass petition calling for Parliament to sit, signing on the same sheet as a number of known conventiclers. In 1681 he appears to have moderated his views, for it was later alleged that he was the inspiration behind the Middle Temple’s loyalist address of June 1681; though in 1682 he was married by Samuel Johnson, domestic chaplain to Lord Russell (William†). The same year Johnson published the highly controversial tract Julian the Apostate, which was thought to justify opposition to the future James II.4

Whether or not Shower had a connexion with the Russell household is unknown, but in 1683 he became a vigorous defender of the legality of Russell’s conviction for treason, publishing An Antidote against Poison to justify the conduct of the trial, a pamphlet which Lady Russell believed to be the most effective of the Tory attacks on her husband. Perhaps writing with some inside knowledge, Shower suggested that Russell’s ‘faithful confessor’ Johnson had been the inspiration behind the peer’s printed vindication, and he now attacked ‘that venomous book of Julian’. Shower rejected the notion that there existed ‘a liberty in the people to acquire that which they apprehend to be their right and for their preservation by force, which they cannot obtain from their princes by fair means upon the account of supreme law for preservation of themselves and their religion’. But although he had become a violent Tory in state matters, and a Churchman, he did not embrace religious intolerance. In 1698 he was to make it clear that he was against persecution, asserting that ‘no man should suffer for acting according to his conscience in matters merely religious’. Indeed, in the last years of Charles II’s reign, Shower defended a number of Nonconformists against prosecution, though he despised occasional conformists for subordinating conscience to their desire for office.5

Shower attached himself to rising Tory lawyers in the 1680s. By 1683 he was a protégé of Sir Francis Wythens†, who had become a King’s bench judge, and the following year ‘moved into Chancery Place’ to live with ‘Mr Jennings’, possibly Edward*. In 1686 Sir William Holt was appointed recorder of London, and made Shower his deputy, in which capacity he sentenced a number of soldiers to death for desertion, an act that was later to be used against him as proof of his cruelty. In 1687 he was appointed chairman of Middlesex quarter sessions, and was knighted in May, when he was renewed as deputy-recorder, this time under Sir John Tite. When, in February 1688, Tite became a judge, Shower was advanced to the recordership and made a King’s Counsel, though it was later claimed that his patent ‘never passed all the seals and he had another patent which dispensed with the taking of the sacrament and subscribing the test with a non obstante’. In June 1688 he spoke for the crown at the trial of the Seven Bishops, when he again attacked Samuel Johnson and even questioned the right of the subject to petition. Being so closely identified with James’s policies, he was removed from office in the autumn ‘upon the restitution of the City franchises’, and felt it necessary at his election in 1698 to protest that, although he had been ‘in the service of the late king’, he was ‘so far from being a papist that [he] constantly was a communicant in the Church of England’. He stated that he was not even consulted about the repeal of the Test Act and had only served James loyally and to the best of his ability, claiming somewhat implausibly that had he been in William’s service he ‘should have been so true’.6

Shower, perhaps in collaboration with Sir Francis Pemberton, published a number of tracts shortly after the Revolution which justified the condemnation and execution of Lord Russell and which provoked replies from the Whig lawyers Sir Robert Atkyns† and Sir John Hawles*. Shower bewailed the fashion of clipping the prerogative ‘even to such a degree as doth absolutely deprive it of those rights, powers and authorities which the ancient law, continued usage and the present representatives consent to allow it’, though he did argue that ‘perhaps it would be difficult to justify a standing army as warrantable when there’s no occasion of it’. To his third Vindication Shower appended a call for a general act of indemnity, declaring that ‘a veil over the past is certainly the most politic’.7

This concern for the safety and rights of Tory subjects after the Revolution culminated in 1692 in the publication of a tract, attributed to Shower, which called for a new bill of rights. In an appeal for moderate Whig support, he now ironically used the memory of James II’s reign to argue that ‘the late bill for regulating trials in cases of treason is a clear evidence of the imperfect defence which the laws in being afford to men’s lives’. He answered the objection that in extraordinary times the King might need extraordinary powers by declaring that the constitution provided for Parliament to give its advice: ‘the use of that assembly is not barely the gift of subsidies, but to help the King and people according to their respective occasions’. Shower was bewildered by Whig opposition to further safeguards when it was

evident beyond contradiction that within 12 years past many would have resigned the half of their estates for the procurement of such a law . . . the fact admits of no reason but revenge or the change of their principles upon the occasion of power and employments.

Shower also called for a ‘purge’ of the law, particularly a reform of the Habeas Corpus Act to tighten the subject’s liberties, and the removal of the constraint on Dissenting academies. He ended by urging MPs to take advantage of the Court’s need for supply by extracting these concessions, and ended by asking ‘what new security have we got that if the war cease we shall have a frequency of those assemblies?’ The tract reveals how Shower now looked to Parliament as the safeguard of liberty, and how concern for the rights of the subject led him to appeal to Country sentiment in the House.8

Shower was instrumental in the appearance of two other important publications in the 1690s. First, the highly controversial Letter to a Convocation Man was written in collaboration with Francis Atterbury, who admitted that his own part had been ‘only to cook it and put it into a handsome, genteel dress’. Secondly, in 1698 he published a collection of cases judged by the House of Lords. He argued that he aimed to show ‘the privileges and birthright of the English subject by the common law, and how far that law extends’, and that the compilation could only offend those ‘who mislike the small remainders we have left of us of the aristocratical part of our government’. It would, he suggested, be a public service to outline the judicial powers of the Upper House so that Englishmen

may neither be over-run with the schemes of absolute monarchy men, who would have all judicial power, even the dernier resort, lodged in the crown or in delegates appointed by it and not in the Parliament, nor be crumbled into the disorders which must follow the notions of those who aim at a pure democracy.

The comments which Shower made on the cases nevertheless irritated the Lords, who resolved on 27 Feb. 1699 that ‘it was a breach of the privilege of this House for any person whatsoever to print or publish in print anything relating to the proceedings of this House, without the leave of this House’.9

The cases in the collection were mostly suits in which Shower had himself been employed as a lawyer, and it was the persuasiveness of his tongue in court as well as his skill as a propagandist that gained him the reputation ‘as a counsel . . . for traitors’. He frequently worked alongside Sir Thomas Powys*, James II’s attorney-general, and the pair pleaded ‘with a great deal of humour and mirth, playing upon their log-headed brethren’. In 1694 Shower acted for those involved in the alleged Lancashire Plot, and was examined by the House about that matter on 22 Dec. The following year he moved for the bail of the Scottish Jacobite intriguer Sir James Montgomerie, taking the occasion to fall

very foul upon the principal secretaries of state, denying them to have any power to imprison malefactors by virtue of their authority, saying it was a violation of the law, an oppression to the subject . . . he also denied the Tower to be a prison, and with a great deal of unbecoming zeal bitterly inveighed against detaining prisoners in the custody of messengers . . . the court stood amazed at his boldness.10

In 1696 he defended most of the conspirators in the Assassination Plot, and now argued, on the basis of the repeal of Lord Russell’s attainder, that simply consulting to levy war was not treason. He played a very prominent part in defending Sir John Fenwick†, again using Whig precedent (this time the reversal of Algernon Sidney’s† attainder) to argue that the admission of written evidence could not stand as corroboratory proof of treason. The same year Powys and Shower acted as the Earl of Ailesbury’s (Thomas Bruce†) counsel and ‘did their part becoming great lawyers as they were, besides as well-wishers’. Shower’s sympathy for non-jurors is also evident in his friendship with George Hickes, who in 1683 had published Jovian in reply to Johnson’s Julian. In 1701 Hickes dedicated a book to him, and despite suffering ‘a wonderful hoarseness’, Shower eulogized the treatise for over an hour.11

Although specialists in defending at treason trials, Shower and Powys also built up one of the most important civil practices of the 1690s. Shower’s clients were often Tories and included Simon Harcourt I* in 1693; Sir Thomas Cooke* in 1695; Sir Thomas Dyke, 1st Bt.*, and John Conyers*, whom he defended against a Whig election petition for East Grinstead; (Sir) Joseph Herne* in 1697; Charles Duncombe* and the Marquess of Carmarthen in 1698; the bishop of St. David’s and Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, in 1699; and his friend Sir Edward Turnor* in 1700. In 1696 his standing was such that Hon. Robert Bertie* was advised to seek an education in the law under him. Nevertheless, Shower’s clientele was not exclusively Tory. In 1690 he represented a Southwark citizen who was prosecuted by Sir Peter Rich for alleging that Rich had ‘empanelled juries that murdered those brave men the Lord Russell and others’. He was also employed on mercantile and financial matters, acting in 1694 ‘to prepare by-laws for the new bank’, in which he invested £500. He spoke the same year for the London mercers against the silk importation bill and in 1696 for the Lustring Company against the lustring bill, as well as on behalf of the Eastland merchants. The same year he was even employed by the City of London, firstly over the tax on coal and secondly to object to the provisions of the elections bill which would have disqualified those without estates, a measure which had also been opposed by his native Exeter. Nevertheless, his most significant commercial brief was for the East India Company. Although in 1691 and 1692 he was one of the counsel retained by the interlopers, he, like his patron Sir Edward Seymour, deserted their cause to plead on behalf of the old company. In June 1698 he appeared before a Commons committee and ‘learnedly argued as to the right of the said company by virtue of his Majesty’s charter’. When he entered the House he continued to work for the company, for on 27 Feb. 1699 he was appointed to the East India bill’s drafting committee. In June 1700 he again pleaded for the Old Company in a trial over the charter, and in October 1701 negotiated the union of the two companies.12

It was presumably no coincidence that Shower was brought in by Seymour in 1698 at Exeter, where Sir Bartholomew was ‘very industrious to strengthen his party, and the bishop [Trelawny] and Churchmen were all sticklers for him’. He took the opportunity of addressing the electorate, partly to vindicate himself from an attack made in a ‘scandalous libel or queries posted at the Guildhall’, but also partly to justify himself to a wider public, since his speech was immediately printed. Having denied any inclination to popery, he thanked God that

the Church of England hath a competent support and I pray for its continuance; but cannot well wish ’em more, least it increase the envy against it, which is more than enough already; tho’ the motion was made to me, I thought it very unseasonable when the people labour under so great taxes.

He unashamedly admitted his prominence in defending those accused of treason, saying that he had done it ‘with such manners as never disgusted my superiors’ and that ‘those men have been reckoned the greatest among Romans, who undertook to defend persons; sure I am it is much more difficult to defend than to accuse’. Having declared that he wished to know the sentiments of his voters and that he would ‘never vote contrary to [their] general inclinations without a satisfactory reason’, Shower launched into a detailed description of his own views on religion, government and trade. His conversations with townsmen had convinced him that they believed the Established Church to be ‘the best in the world, and the most necessary in respect of public government; its doctrines the most rational and primitive; its public liturgy the best framed to raise and to express devotion’, and he had deserted his Nonconformist roots to adhere to it. But he was

not for taking away the toleration as limited by the laws of the land, tho’ that has been industriously spread abroad throughout the town . . . no, my aim is only to maintain the Church as now supported and fenced; and I hope that the Dissenters will now be satisfied with this, since it is that and that only which for 20 or 30 years they have prayed for.
As for the government, the best we can do is to serve it by obedience to the laws; and to prevent taxes as much as possible; and in case taxes are necessary, to take care that they be laid equally and with as little burden to trade as can be. And I hope you will agree that trade is not to be forced or restrained, but ought to have its full liberty; that is in the interest of this kingdom in general, as well as of this country, that Ireland should be humbled. Not that the country should be drowned or the people massacred, but that a check be put to their bold attempts for turning the woollen manufactures out of its old channel, by removing it from hence thither. It must impoverish us, and I wonder our gentry are not more sensible of the danger, for it will lessen the value of their lands. Trade and rents must be encouraged equally.

Emphasizing the bishop of Exeter’s ‘utmost endeavours for the promotion of the wool bill’, Shower reminded voters that he himself had been overseeing the passage of the bill, ‘from nine till one for several days together, four or five days a week, for a long time’. The speech may have succeeded in boosting his popularity, for when at the end of August he left Exeter he was ‘attended four miles out of town by six coaches filled with gentlemen and by about 500 horse of the clergy, gentlemen and others’.13

Although he was a newcomer to the House, Shower’s parliamentary experience as a lawyer and his eloquence were sufficient to mark him out as a possible candidate for Speaker. Although this and a rumour that he would be made a judge of King’s bench came to nothing, Shower’s activity in his first session was evidence of his zeal, ability and confidence. Marked soon after the election as a Country supporter and as likely to oppose a standing army, he was appointed on 17 Dec. to the drafting committee for the disbanding bill and spoke in its favour on 4 Jan. 1699, arguing that ‘justice well administered’, rather than troops, would suppress plots. Shower also distinguished himself by his opposition to the management of the navy under Lord Orford (Edward Russell*). On 3 Feb. he opened a heated debate on whether the proposed number of seamen should include marines, and on 27 Mar. was appointed to the committee to draft an address about naval mismanagement. As promised in his election speech, he was also instrumental in fostering the passage of the bill to prevent the export of wool. His legal expertise involved him in a number of bills to reform and regulate the law. His 1692 tract had included a graphic description of prison evils, and argued that ‘it cannot be denied that both law and equity in their practice need a regulation’. Thus, on 2 Jan. 1699 he was named to a committee to form a bill to remedy abuses in the King’s Bench and Fleet prisons, first-named three days later to a drafting committee for a bill to set a time limit for writs of error, and appointed on 19 Jan. 1699 to the drafting committee for a bill for the register of deeds. Shower’s legal skills may also have brought him into demand as a drafter and adviser on other legislation, for he seems to have worked in March 1699 behind the scenes, with Gervase Pierrepont*, Sir Godfrey Copley, 2nd Bt.*, and Lord Cheyne* (Hon. William), on the bill for public accounts.14

Shower was also prominent in promoting measures for moral reform, a concern which he shared with his Nonconformist brother, who was active in the movement for the reformation of manners. Shower’s own views may be reflected in the Letter to a Convocation Man, which lamented the decline in moral standards, and in his funeral elegy, which noted the rarity of a lawyer who gave to the poor. A newspaper obituary later declared that his death would be regretted by ‘necessitous young men of all parties and persuasions because they ever partook of his generous charities, as well did many of his poorer relations, in a much higher degree than is usually among men who get their own estates’. On 11 Mar. 1699 he was added to the drafting committee of the bill to set the poor to work; but Cocks noted that (though not named to its drafting committee) Shower ‘lost’ the bill to suppress vice and immorality. On 25 Apr. he acted as a teller against reading an additional clause for the bill to suppress lotteries that would have suppressed basset, though the reason behind his opposition is unclear, particularly since one of the tellers on the opposite side was the notorious gambler, James Sloane. In Jan. 1699 Shower and three other ‘topping men’ had defended the mayor of Hertford against a suit argued by William Cowper*, who had assisted Shower in the division over the gaming bill but who held divergent political views. The pair were again in agreement in the next session, concurring in a legal point over the Dartmouth election case.15

On 28 Nov. 1699 Shower was named, perhaps in the light of his part in the Hertford case, to an inquiry about town charters. Moral issues continued to concern him in the 1699–1700 session, and on this same day he was appointed to the committee to draft the bill against gambling and duelling promoted by Seymour after the death of his own son in a duel. Co-ordination with Seymour was less evident, however, on 9 Dec. when Shower and Anthony Hammond ‘spoke roundly’ against Seymour’s suggestion that the Prince of Denmark’s debts be paid out of the civil list. On 13 Dec. Shower joined the attack on the appointment of Bishop Burnet as governor of the Duke of Gloucester, telling the House that it had a right to address on such occasions, and that ‘he had known us appoint governors to our princes’. Two days later he was named to the drafting committee for the Irish forfeitures resumption bill, and in March he and John Grobham Howe spoke against Harley and Musgrave over the composition of the trustees, Howe openly admitting that by restricting membership to the four previous commissioners of inquiry into Irish forfeitures ‘they need only to find out one good man to make them a majority to conduct that whole matter’. He was also active in representing Exeter’s trading interest, presenting on 8 Jan. 1700 an address from the city’s goldsmiths, and subsequently drafting and carrying up a bill to regulate the trade.16

Yet Shower’s principal activity in the session was directed against the Junto. On 6 Dec. 1699 he began a debate on the patent for Captain Kidd’s venture by poking fun at fellow moral reformer Sir Richard Cocks, who noted that Shower

asked me as he came by me what was the name of my house. I at first refused to tell him but after he told me ’twas for my service and he would tell me something, I unthinkingly told him ‘Dumbleton’. He said the grant [for Kidd] was unusual . . . and then asked a question whether he should suppose it a good grant to have the K[ing] grant the manor of Dumbleton in the county of Glo[uces]ter quantum in nobis est, whether that would be a legal grant; then he complimented me for bringing in the bill for quieting the minds of the subjects. He exclaimed much against the patent and proposed a question that it was dishonourable to the K[ing], against the laws and statutes of the realm, against the law of nations, destructive to trade and commerce and invasive of property.17

Shower ‘undertook by several arguments’ to prove that the grant had been illegal and ‘with all his malicious foolish oratory reflected upon my lord chancellor, particularly for his skill and knowledge’. James Vernon I* noted that the motion condemning the grant had been ‘concerted’ with other Tories. On 13 Feb. 1700 Shower supported a motion attacking the grants made to Junto ministers, but two days later

thought himself obliged to vindicate himself. He said what he did [under James II] was occasioned by his youth, that he was but 27 years old, but poor, and the great offers tempted him at that age, that the chief thing to be laid to his charge was the hanging of a soldier, that [the Whig Sir George] Treby* had done the same in my Lord Russell’s case. He commended Treby; this made the House laugh.

He nevertheless returned to his attack, moving on 10 Apr. for the reading of the vote against Privy Councillors passing grants to themselves, which sparked a long debate directed against Lord Somers (Sir John*).18

Shower also launched a personal attack against the King on 5 Mar. during debate on the bill to authorize commissioners to negotiate union with Scotland. As the Prussian ambassador noted, he took

cette occasion pour dire qu’il ne s’étonnait pas du désir que les Ecossais avaient de voire le Roi parmi eux; que l’on remarquait ici le tort que l’absence du Roi causait à l’Angleterre par les voyages de six mois, dit-il, qu’il faisait tous les ans en Hollande; que les manufaitures en languissaient; qu’il en coûtait £300,000 par année; et qu’aucune affaire ne s’expédiait. On lui laissa discourir tout seul, et personne ne daigna ni l’appuyer ni lui répondre.19

In June 1700, as in 1692, there was a rumour that Shower would regain the recordership of London if Sir Salathiell Lovell was made a judge; but Vernon reported that the King opposed Lovell’s advancement ‘because he would not make way’ for Shower’s appointment. After Shower’s effrontery in the House, the King’s opposition is not surprising, but it is also possible that he was shown a memorandum decrying Shower’s suitability. ‘All people know’, the document asserted, ‘he was King James’s grand tool; that old Hills the papist printer and all that gang made him their instrument to prosecute honest persons . . . he assisted to his power that King to trample and overturn the laws’. Shower was said to have associated after the Revolution with Sir Francis Pemberton, Sir Creswell Levinz, Hon. Heneage Finch I* ‘and others of that stamp . . . and should he be Recorder would certainly be much influenced by the Tory party his old companions’.20

Re-elected in January 1701 (despite one report that he had ‘lost it’), and his attitude perhaps sharpened by personal disappointment, Shower made careful preparations for the new Parliament. In late January 1701 Hon. James Brydges*, Sir Francis Child* and (Sir) Charles Duncombe – significantly all members of the Old East India Company – met at Shower’s house and ‘talked about elections’, discussions that may have been the preliminaries for the two elections bills introduced in the forthcoming session, for Shower was named to both drafting committees. On 25 Mar. 1701 he was also appointed to help draft the bill for taking the public accounts, and on 10 Apr. Brydges again visited Shower’s house where they ‘finished the act’. Perhaps in acknowledgement of this work, Shower was chosen in fifth place in the ballot on 17 June for the election of commissioners, though the Lords vetoed his nomination, ostensibly because his legal practice gave him too much ‘other business to do’, but probably because he had again been zealous against the Junto peers. In debate on 29 Mar. he supported the motion tabled by Sir John Leveson Gower, 5th Bt., against the Partition Treaty and Lord Portland in particular, saying that ‘if this was such a wicked treaty there must be more than this lord, this st[ran]ger, concerned in it . . . and so he moved after his usual harangue to put the same question upon John, Lord Somers’. Sir Rowland Gwynne retorted that Shower’s motion ‘put him in mind of a famous story in Hudibras which tells of a silly fellow who fancied that if he could kill a wise great beautiful man he should possess his qualities’. On 1 Apr. he was duly named to the committee drawing up articles of impeachment against Portland (and subsequently of the other Junto lords), and on 12 Apr. to the committee to translate the letter from Vernon to Portland about the first Partition Treaty. Two days later, when the letter was debated, Shower

reflected upon the treaty, that it was worse than that that was censured [i.e. the second Partition Treaty] because of the unjustness of giving these dominions to the Duke of Bavaria in case his son died; down he sat, and then rose up in disorder and said he did not fear being beat down, he sat again and up again . . . [and] aggravated the matter and spoke of sealing the powers with great blanks and moved that John Lord Somers was guilty of great crimes and misdemeanours.

So obsessed had he become with the impeachments that the following day he interrupted the discussion about Samuel Shepheard I’s* punishment for electoral corruption ‘to desire that the impeached lords might give security for their appearances’, forcing Seymour to have to steer the debate back to the matter in hand.21

L’Hermitage observed that Shower had been ‘chargé de dresser les chefs d’accusation contre les quatre seigneurs accusés’, and proof of his co-ordinating role comes from Brydges’ diary, which shows that in late April Bromley, Harcourt, Hammond and other leading Tories met at Shower’s house ‘about the articles for impeachment’. On 7 May Shower reported the articles of impeachment against Orford and ‘endeavoured to maintain them, which he very easily did having a majority to suppor[t] him’. Cocks sourly observed that Shower had again ‘prated against the treaty of partition in the conclusion of his speech and reflected upon the impeached lords and the treaty of partition as the cause of all our ills’ and had again pressed for the impeached lords to give security. On 12 May he again supported Seymour over sending troops from Ireland to help the Dutch. The next day he attacked the Kentish Petitioners, as ‘instruments of the impeached lords’, and on both the 14th and 17th supported Howe’s attack on the preparations in London for a similar petition. He complained about a copperplate engraving depicting the four impeached lords on one side and the five Kentish Petitioners on the other, and was said to have pressed for the imprisonment of the Petitioners. In November 1701 he even acted as counsel for the House’s serjeant-at-arms, who had been prosecuted by one of the subscribers, David Polhill*.22

On 16 May Shower moved to proceed to the articles against Somers, in opposition to a motion to attack the Tory Lord Jersey, which put the House ‘in a great uproar’: when Speaker Harley, with whom Shower had dined the previous month, ruled in his favour, Sir Bartholomew attacked Somers for passing grants, which he claimed ‘tended to the disherison of the King and to burthen the commons with taxes and ought not to be done at any time, especially in times of such wants and expenses’. Three days later, when the articles against Somers were read, Shower again demanded bail. On 23 May he was in the chair of the committee drafting a reply to Lord Orford’s (Edward Russell*) answer to his impeachment, and ‘discoursed about precedents’ concerning the correct format; he also moved that the committee be empowered to ‘send for persons, papers and records, that shall be thought necessary to be used to the trial of the said Earl’ and to examine Samuel Shepheard I* ‘in relation to a bargain drove between some lords and the French lustring merchants’ whom the Junto had promised immunity from prosecution. Cocks thought that all this was ‘done with an intent only to throw dirt’. On 31 May Shower was again at the bar with a reply to Somers’ ‘shuffling answer’ to the charges against him, and on 3 June moved that the House read his committee’s response. On 13 June the two Houses met for a conference over the provisions for Somers’ trial: both Shower and his old ally Powys spoke and, according to Lord Haversham (Sir John Thompson, 1st Bt.*), Shower ‘departed from the subject matter of the free conference and inveighing against the manner of the Lords’ judicature, asserted by their resolutions, said that it was abhorrent to justice’. Haversham replied in a similarly offensive vein, claiming that the impeachments were partial and selective. This provoked the Commons to demand ‘satisfaction’ and to argue that the Upper House had ‘no minutes to show of the speeches of either side, but the Commons have of both, which wholly discharge Sir Bartholomew from the above-mentioned crime’. The incident greatly contributed to the soured relations between Lords and Commons.23

Although the impeachments dominated Shower’s activity, they were part of a two-pronged Tory strategy to denigrate the Whigs and supplant them in the King’s favour by reversing the earlier policy of opposition to the resumption of the war. In February Shower was thus numbered among those likely to support the Court in agreeing a supply resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’, and on 14 Apr. ‘spoke in great commendations of the King and reflect[ed] upon the late ministry’. Sir Thomas Powys, who also ‘highly commended the King’, sat opposite Shower, ‘and their speeches were taken note of as if they both made their court to be acceptable to the new ministry and to outdo each other’. Thus, when Shower seconded a Whig motion to include, in the vote about the war, a condemnation of the ‘unjust union of Spain and France’, Thomas Stringer*, ‘not liking his second, waived the motion; this made the House merry’. Following the lead of his patron Seymour, on this as on other matters, Shower had signalled his readiness to support a war, but Cocks found nothing but hypocrisy in Shower’s speeches, and on 29 Apr. observed that there was ‘no man in England [that] has done worse things to raise himself than Sir Bartholomew Shower, yet no man rails against rogues like him’. On 12 June Shower seconded Seymour’s speech in favour of war, though his zeal led him to call for the reduction of the exorbitant power of France, which the Prussian ambassador thought went further than other Tory leaders had intended. Thus, although like Seymour he was blacklisted as an opponent of the war with France and had been satirized as such in a number of pamphlets that appeared in the autumn, Shower had come to support war by the end of the session. He may consequently have expected some reward, for he was one of the unsuccessful Tory lawyers who ‘put in to be attorney-general’ that summer.24

More consistently, Shower had again pursued the trading concerns of his constituents. He was also instrumental in promoting the bill to preserve the Cottonian library, presenting the legislation on 14 May and subsequently steering it through the House. His interest in books and their collectors is also evident from a letter of 19 Jan. 1700 to Narcissus Luttrell*, in which he praised Luttrell’s ‘care and curiosity in collecting all things worthy of observation’ and requested the loan of a ‘treatise made by divines and others learned in the laws of the realm concerning the power of the clergy and the laws of the realm’. This request is also evidence of his continued involvement in the controversy over the constitutional position of the Church and perhaps also, in the light of their earlier collaboration, of his involvement in research for Francis Atterbury’s Rights, Powers and Privileges of an English Convocation, which was published in March 1700.25

One of the tracts published in the autumn against Rochester and his circle accused Shower of having been involved in the drafting of the address presented to James II in 1685 thanking him for taking the customs. Such a bad press, together with a letter that he is said to have written ‘to excuse himself from standing’, resulted in rumours that he would fail to be re-elected, though he was again returned for Exeter and listed by Robert Harley as a Tory. However, Shower was taken ill at church shortly before Parliament sat, his fever allegedly the result of ‘a debauch of ill wine, which he made after the term with his brother lawyers’. Despite ‘hopes of his recovery’, he died of ‘a high pleurisy’ on the morning of 4 Dec. 1701 and was buried at his country seat at Pinner. Childless, he left his estate in the first instance to his wife, and subsequently to his brother William and then to his nephew Bartholomew, son of his Nonconformist brother John. Although an obituary claimed that ‘his great veracity made him very acceptable to both Houses of Parliament and all other places where the business of his client carried him’, his partisan activity must have given cause for mourning only among the Tories who, as Bonet observed, had lost one of their best speakers, or among members of the East India Company, whose coalition with the interlopers was temporarily put ‘at a stand’ by Shower’s death. A flattering epitaph appeared in the collection of his legal reports, published in 1708:

His vivacity of parts and felicity of expression soon distinguished and led him betimes into a crowd of business . . . [he] was so free and impartial, without regard to parties and denominations, that indigence and worth always found a patron in him, in which he gratified himself at the same time that he relieved the objects of his charity; and, that his kindness might be better esteemed by the receivers, he was wont to give them some opportunity of service, that it might appear an act of justice rather than of compassion; and this way he covered their modesty at the same time he helped their necessity. As to his religion, it was that of the Church of England established by law; nor was he only satisfied in relation to its government, discipline and doctrines, but those who were intimately acquainted with him knew he defended them as he likewise did our civil constitution.26

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Mark Knights


  • 1. DNB; PCC 12 Herne; PCC 186 May; IGI, Devon; info. from Dr D. F. Lemmings.
  • 2. Lansd. 1105, Shower’s notes appended to his bk. of legal cases.
  • 3. Add. 70267, Sir Thomas Colepeper, 3rd Bt.*, to Dr Morelli, n.d.; Cocks Diary, 104, 117; Add. 47126, ff. 73–74; CSP Dom. 1698, pp. 377–8; Elegy on . . . Death of Sir Bartholomew Shower (1701).
  • 4. Some Mems. of . . . Rev. Mr John Shower (1716), 2–9; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 378; Huntington Lib. mss HM 68, sheet 180; Hist. Jnl. xxxvi. 55; New Year’s Gift for Sir Bartholomew Shower (1695); Lansd. 1105 (unfol. biog. notes).
  • 5. Jnl. Brit. Stud. xxiv. 57; An Antidote, 1, 5; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 378; Lansd. 1105, ff. 1, 6–7, 19–20.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1686–7, pp. 262, 378; Procs. and Tryal (1689), 62.
  • 7. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Harley) mss Pw2 Hy502, ‘Reasons against Sir Bartholomew Shower’s being Recorder of London’; Second Vindication of Magistracy and Gov. Eng. 2, 6; Magistracy and Gov. Eng. (1690), 34.
  • 8. Reasons for a New Bill of Rights (1692).
  • 9. Hearne Colls. ii. 88; iii. 279; HMC Downshire, i. 691; G. V. Bennett, Tory Crisis, 48; Cases in Parliament Resolved and Abridged (1698), ‘To the Reader’; Campbell, Lives, iv. 136.
  • 10. CSP Dom. 1698, p. 377; Ailesbury Mems. i. 305; HMC Kenyon, 326, 399; Egerton 920, ff. 79–80; HMC Downshire, i. 581.
  • 11. Bodl. Carte 130, f. 365; Bodl. Ballard 11, f. 166; Ralph, Hist. Eng. ii. 700; Ailesbury Mems. ii. 426.
  • 12. DNB; New Year’s Gift; HMC Lords, n.s. i. 8, 321, 549; ii. 139, 151, 217, 239; iii. 137, 258; iv. 93; Cal. Treas. Bks. xii. 6; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 357; iv. 96, 391, 398, 426, 589, 658; v. 96; W. Suss. RO, Shillinglee mss Ac. 454/974, Nathaniel Gooding to Sir Edward Turnor, 17 Oct. 1698; Ballard 11, f. 135; Morrice ent’ring bk. 3, f. 202; Bodl. Rawl. C.449, interlopers’ min. bk. (12 Oct. 1691, 24 Nov. 1692).
  • 13. Add. 40772, ff. 7–8; CSP Dom. 1698, pp. 377–81; Post Man, 3–6 Sept. 1698.
  • 14. Ballard 5, f. 131; Flying Post, 20–22 Sept. 1698; Cam. Misc. xxix, 383, 393; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/140, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 4 Feb. 1699; Reasons for a New Bill of Rights, 10, 24; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 26 (1), James Brydges’ diary, 25 Mar. 1699.
  • 15. Some Mems. . . . Shower, 2; Elegy on . . . Shower; Post Boy, 4–6 Dec. 1701; Cornw. RO, Liskeard bor. recs. BO/23/72/23, P. Lyne to Liskeard corp., 31 Jan. 1699; Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/17, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 9 Jan. 1700.
  • 16. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 382; Cocks Diary, 42; Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/46, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 16 Mar. 1700.
  • 17. Cocks Diary, 39–40.
  • 18. Cocks Diary, 59; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 19, 378.
  • 19. Add. 30000 D, f. 84.
  • 20. Luttrell, ii. 374; Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/77, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 4 June 1700; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 74; Portland (Harley) mss Pw2 Hy502, ‘Reasons’.
  • 21. Carte 228, f. 353; Stowe mss 26 (2), Brydges’ diary, 26 Jan. 1701; Add. 17677 WW f. 388; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 149; Cocks Diary, 90–91, 99–100, 104–5.
  • 22. Add. 17677 WW, f. 251; Stowe mss 26(2), Brydges’ diary, 26 Apr. 1701; Cocks Diary, 119, 122, 125, 127; SRO, Hamilton mss GD406/1/6508, Orkney to Hamilton, 14 May 1701; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. p. cxci.
  • 23. Cocks Diary, 134, 142–3; Stowe mss 26 (2) Brydges’ diary, 15 Apr. 1701; Chandler, iii. 176; Carte 23, ff. 108–9.
  • 24. Cocks Diary, 99–100, 104–5; Add. 30000 E, ff. 261, 283; Add. 17677 WW, f. 292; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 157; Tindal, Hist. Eng. i. 449; Poems on Affairs of State, ed. Ellis, vi. 331, 350; Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/4, James* to Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. I*, 1 July 1701.
  • 25. Add. 41843, f. 17.
  • 26. Add. 40775, f. 116; Post Boy, 2–4 Dec., 4–6 Dec., 9–11 Dec. 1701; Algemeen Rijksarchief, The Hague, Heinsius 730, Robethon to Heinsius, 2 Dec. 1701 (ex inf. Prof. H. G. Horwitz); HMC Cowper, ii. 441; BL, mic. M/799 Dyer’s newsletters 2, 6 Dec. 1701; PCC 12 Herne; Add. 30000 E, f. 414; BL, Dept. of Printed Bks. 228.k.3, Reports (1708), ‘To the Reader’.