WALLER, Edmund (1652-1700), of Hall Barn, Beaconsfield, Bucks.

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



1689 - 1698

Family and Education

b. 6 Jan. 1652, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Edmund Waller† of Hall Barn, being 2nd s. by 2nd w. Mary Bracey of Thame, Oxon.  educ. Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 1666; M. Temple 1668, called 1675, bencher 1696.  m. 10 July 1686, Abigail (d. 1689), da. of Francis Tylney of Rotherwick, Hants, sis. of Frederick Tylney*, s.psuc. fa. 1687.1

Offices Held

Recorder, Chipping Wycombe 1689–95.2

Commr. taking subscriptions to land bank 1696.3


Waller was the son of a poet, whose family had long been settled at Beaconsfield five and a half miles south of Amersham. His elder brother, Benjamin, being a lunatic, Waller succeeded to his father’s political interest in Buckinghamshire, and augmented it in 1684 by purchasing the manor of Coleshill in Amersham. The interest thereby created enabled him to be returned for Amersham in the Convention and re-elected in 1690. Locally, Waller must not be confused with his namesake (and distant relative) Edmund of Gregories, also within Beaconsfield parish, who served as sheriff in 1689–90, and who was still residing there in 1706, having been the subject of a private Act of Parliament in 1705. Problems of identification also make Waller’s career in the 1690 Parliament difficult to disentangle from that of Robert Waller, the Member for York, as both men are shown in Narcissus Luttrell’s* diary to have been active. Parliamentary activity has thus been ascribed to one or the other according to their known interests.4

In the 1690 Parliament, Waller was classed as a Whig by the Marquess of Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†). In the first session, it seems probable that he was the ‘Mr Waller’ appointed in April 1690 to the committees to draft bills on the East India trade (2nd) and the Abjuration (24th), and likewise on 9 May to draft a bill regulating the wine trade. In April 1691 Robert Harley* thought him a Country supporter. In the following session on 3 Nov. 1691 in the committee of the whole on the state of the nation, he was perhaps the ‘Mr W’ who seemed anxious to shift the focus of the debate from the army to the miscarriages in the fleet. Similarly, when the committee proceeded on this topic on the 7th he seconded a motion to examine Admiral Edward Russell’s* orders, stressing that so far the Admiralty had remained silent on the issue. On 3 Dec., when the report of the commissioners of accounts was debated, he condemned the practice of striking tallies in anticipation as ‘a breach of your Act of Parliament’. On 16 Dec. he may have been the ‘Mr Waller’ who spoke for the third reading of the bill registering servants going to the plantations. On 13 Jan. 1692 he may have been the first speaker after the outcome of two conferences with the Lords on the bill regulating trials for treason had been reported to the House. He offered constructive improvements to the Lords’ amendments in the hope that a compromise could be constructed. He favoured excluding the bishops from treason trials, and a quorum of at least 23 peers so that 12 would be necessary for a conviction. His religious views may indicate that he was the teller on 22 Jan. against giving a first reading to a bill allowing the bishop of London to consolidate his estate. He was almost certainly the Member who complained on 2 Feb. of a breach of privilege against John Backwell*. His Country views suggest it was he who on 15 Feb. supported a motion to tack a clause to the poll bill extending the time for the commission of accounts to sit.5

In the following 1692–3 session, when the House went into a committee of the whole on 21 Nov. to consider what advice should be given to the King, Waller spoke twice: he supported a motion that only foreign officers who had been naturalized should be eligible to command English armies, and he declared himself ‘for addressing to the King to put the Admiralty into such hands as are able, both for skill and fidelity, for that place’. The third sitting of this committee on the 26th saw Waller blame the naval failures on the fact that too few of the King’s advisers had been consulted:

‘cabinet council’ is not a word to be found in our lawbooks. We knew it not before, we took it for a nickname. Nothing can fall out more unhappily than to have a distinction made of the ‘Cabinet’ and ‘Privy Council’. If some of the Privy Council must be trusted, and some not, to whom must any gentleman apply?

Returning to the navy, he declared in the same debate, ‘I think many of our miscarriages come from want of intelligence by the secretary [Nottingham]’. Also on 26 Nov. Waller presented a petition requesting that Quakers be permitted to affirm, rather than take the oaths. Given his political views, it is likely that he was the teller on 10 Jan. 1693 for adding a clause to the land tax bill to prevent pensions being granted out of the crown’s hereditary revenue. In ways and means on 13 Feb. he opposed the proposal by Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. II, for additional duties on East India goods as an ‘irregular’ method of proceeding. On the 22nd he supported a motion to hear the commissioners for forfeited estates in Ireland during a debate on the state of that kingdom. On 6 Mar. he acted as a teller against adding a clause to the bill prohibiting lotteries which sanctioned the payment of £300 p.a. to Colonel Vaughan, and on that day spoke against a bill favouring Lord Pembroke (Thomas Herbert†) by setting aside judgments made in Welsh courts. Finally, on 8 Mar. 1693, he spoke in favour of a complete exclusion of placemen and pensioners from the House.6

Most of the committee appointments designated to ‘Mr Waller’ in the 1693–4 session probably refer to the York Member since on 8 Jan. 1694, Waller was given leave of absence for health reasons. In the following session no committee appointment can be firmly attributed to him, but his name appears on the Treasury secretary Henry Guy’s* list of ‘friends’ during the 1694–5 session.

Waller was re-elected for Amersham in 1695, and the absence of his namesake for York in this Parliament makes it much easier to detail his activity in the House. In January 1696 Waller was forecast as likely to oppose the government on the proposed council of trade, signed the Association, and in March voted against fixing the price of guineas at 22s. However, his main achievement in this session occurred during February and March 1696 when he managed the Quaker affirmation bill through all its stages in the Commons, a task symptomatic of his growing identification with the Friends. In the following session he was appointed to the drafting committees for bills to regulate printing and to prevent the export of wool. Although John Oldmixon records that Waller spoke for the bill of attainder against Sir John Fenwick† in November, his one extant speech on the issue, of 13 Nov., related to the justice of allowing Fenwick more time to prepare his case. Such concerns for the liberty of the subject possibly explain his vote against the attainder bill on 25 Nov. Revealingly, Secretary Vernon (James Vernon I*) saw the influence of men like Waller behind the King’s thinking on the deployment of the fleet. On 8 Dec. 1696 Vernon wrote to the Duke of Shrewsbury: ‘it is very ridiculous, now the admirals and Admiralty have so much business on their hands, that they should be forced to dance attendance to please Jack Howe* and Waller, and give them occasion to make their unreasonable reflections’.7

About the same time as the 1697–8 session opened, Luttrell reported that Waller was one of the principal authors of a pamphlet entitled Arguments Against a Standing Army. By 14 Dec. a correspondent of Viscount Weymouth (Thomas Thynne†) was referring to him as the man ‘at first thought to be the author’. By then Waller had gained yet further notoriety by attempting to force his way to see the King with news of a plot against him. As Vernon reported on the 16th, Waller, in a ‘seeming frenzy’ went to court,

threatened mischief, if he were not immediately brought to the King (both he and his men who he left in the coach having a pistol); he said he had something to discover to the King that concerned his safety. Whether he saw the King or not I know not, but being carried to my Lord Portland, he talked with him as one that was well in his senses, and owned he was under a mistake in opposing the keeping up of any force.

Many remarked upon Waller’s ‘splenetic’ character and some thought him ‘somewhat crazed’, or ‘a very hot man’. Those that thought so had their interpretation confirmed when ‘Mun Waller was no sooner recovered out of one distraction but he is fallen into another, being lately turned Quaker. He is got into their dress and sees no other company. Penn, Mead and Whitehead are his inseparable companions.’ Early in 1698 Waller began to attend Quaker meetings, although one Friend noted that ‘for some years, he have had a particular love and care for us’. His conversion brought hopes that ‘he may lead the way to a further openness among persons of his rank – a man of learning and great qualities of mind and of a good family’. His new faith probably explains the paucity of his activity in the Commons after December 1697, and there are hints that he chose not to attend the Commons.8

Waller did not stand in 1698, to the relief of some Quakers, who were nervous of a backlash against them following John Archdale’s election. On a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments in 1698 he was classed as a Country supporter, and in February 1699 he wrote to Robert Harley of his concerns about a petition against Quakers from Norfolk and Suffolk

by which it is designed to deprive them of their liberties. I am like to be a sufferer by this, being convinced of the innocency and agreeableness of their principles and practices to the Holy Scriptures and the civil government.

Waller died at Bath and was buried in the Quaker cemetery near the town, Luttrell reporting his death on 6 Jan. 1700. The publisher of the 1712 edition of his father’s poems considered that Waller:

never espoused the Court or Country, but as he thought it for their mutual interest, whence he was generally looked upon as the head of the flying squadron. He accepted of the commissions which his father refused, and was esteemed in his county as a very honest gentleman, and a man of good sense.

By his will Waller confirmed his religious conversion: ‘I have embraced and do own the principles of the people called Quakers, firmly believing them to be in the truth and warranted by the Holy Scriptures’, and ensured that Hall Barn would devolve via his brother, the civilian Dr Stephen Waller, to his nephew, Edmund†.9

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Beaconsfield par. reg.; East Anglian Peds. (Harl. Soc. xci), 220–1; Guildhall Lib. St. Bride’s par. reg.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 268; 1695, p. 57.
  • 3. CJ, xii. 510.
  • 4. Waller, Poems (1712), p. xliv; VCH Bucks. iii. 151, 158–9; Bucks. Sess. Recs. ii. 456; Bucks. Dissent and Parish Life 1669–1712 ed. Broad (Bucks. Rec. Soc. xxviii), 100.
  • 5. Grey, x. 167, 196, 237; Add. 42592, f. 175; Luttrell Diary, 83, 127–8, 167, 187.
  • 6. Grey, 260, 268, 276; Luttrell Diary, 244, 261, 263, 277–8, 420, 439, 464, 469, 471; Bodl. Carte 130, f. 340; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 2389 notes of debate, 21 Nov. 1692; PwA 2837, notes 26 Nov.; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 105–7, 111.
  • 7. Oldmixon, Hist. Eng. 152; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 1022; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 110.
  • 8. Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 313, 354; Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 24, f. 382; Add. 17677 SS, f. 87; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, 442–3, 444–5; HMC Cowper, ii. 376; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/87, Vernon to Shrewsbury n.d. [?Feb. 1698]; Yale Univ. Beineke Lib. Osborn coll. Maunsell-Briscoe newsletter 12 Mar. 1697[–8]; S. F. Locker-Lampson, A Quaker Post Bag, 66, 69, 71–73, 139, 148.
  • 9. Locker-Lampson, 71, 73; HMC Portland, iii. 602; Luttrell, iv. 601; Waller, pp. xliv–xlvi, lxix; PCC 108 Noel.