WARD, John II (c.1650-1726), of Clay Hall, Epsom, Surr. and St. Laurence Pountney, 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



Feb. 1701 - 1708
1708 - 1710
1715 - 1722
7 Dec. 1722 - 12 Mar. 1726

Family and Education

b. c.1650, 2nd s. of John Ward of Tanshelf, Yorks. by Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Vincent of Barnbrough, Yorks.  m. 17 Apr. 1684, Mary (d. 1726), da. of Sir William Bucknall† of Oxhey Place, Herts. and bro. of Sir John Bucknall*, 1s. 4da.  Kntd. 25 Sept. 1714.

Offices Held

Freeman, Merchant Taylors’ Co. 1690, master 1709–10; dir. Bank of Eng. 1694–9, 1703–d. (with statutory intervals), dep.-gov. 1699–1701, gov. 1701–3; dir. Old E. I. Co. 1696–8, manager, united trade 1703–7, 1708, dir. E. I. Co. 1709–12; ?trustee, receiving loan to Emperor 1706, poor Palatines 1709; commr. Tower Hamlets sewers 1712, building 50 new churches 1715.

Alderman, London 1709–d., sheriff 1715–16, ld. mayor 1718–19.1


Ward succeeded in establishing himself as one of the leading City merchants and politicians of his day, thereby emulating the achievements of his uncle and mentor, Sir Patience Ward†. After the death of Ward’s father in 1657, Sir Patience took responsibility for the young Ward’s education, and having supervised Ward’s apprenticeship, directed him towards the Mediterranean cloth trade. Ward’s prominence within the City’s mercantile community was confirmed soon after the Revolution by several substantial loans which he made to the government, as well as by his admission in October 1691 to the committee of the interloping merchants trading to the East Indies. However, he was prepared to invest in the East India Company when it sought to enlarge its stock in 1693, thereby betraying a pragmatic approach towards commercial matters which must be acknowledged as a decisive influence on his subsequent political career. He was regarded by contemporaries as a Whig of the most independent variety, a political pedigree which was well suited to the task of appeasing the formidable array of interests which competed for the favour of the City’s leaders. Although his formative years were dominated by the controversial Whig leader Sir Patience, and even though his parliamentary career suggests a strong affinity to Robert Harley*, he could still claim, with some plausibility: ‘my aim . . . has always been to have no by-pass or obligation’.2

Ward’s first notable public appointment came with his election to the original board of directors of the Bank of England, an office which suggested his ready identification with the City’s Whig leaders. However, his prominence within the hierarchy of the interloping merchants brought him less welcome publicity when his name was cited in connexion with the scandal surrounding Sir Thomas Cooke*. The Commons committee appointed to investigate the East India Company reported to the House on 12 Mar. 1695 that Ward had testified that a substantial bribe had been offered to the interlopers as an ‘inducement’ to enter into partnership with the Old Company. After this revelation Ward was summoned to the House to be questioned on 28 Mar., and more damning evidence was forthcoming on 27 Apr. when a committee of both Houses reported the testimony of Sir Basil Firebrace*. Having confirmed that Ward was ‘of the interloping interest’, Firebrace claimed that Ward had proposed that ‘if he [Ward] had 1,000 guineas, he would bring others to the company’s interest’. Ward evidently managed to salvage his reputation, for in August he featured as one of the Bank directors who warned the government of the dangers of importing guineas. However, controversy continued to dog him, and in July 1697 he threatened to resign as a Bank director after ‘some reflections that have been made on the former management’. Following his re-election as a director a month later, he was still said to be angry about such reports, but remained on the board. By that time Ward had actually become one of the directors of the East India Company, but he relinquished the post after the establishment of the New Company in 1698.3

Ward’s association with the New East India Company clearly smoothed his path into Parliament. The rivalry between the two companies provided a stormy back-drop to the general election of January 1701, and Ward took advantage of his links with one of the New Company’s candidates for election in the City, Sir Robert Clayton*, to secure his own return at Bletchingley. Beyond their mutual interest in the East India trade, the two businessmen may already have given an indication of their reciprocal dealings to Parliament itself, for on 9 Apr. 1696 ‘John Ward’, almost certainly this John Ward, petitioned the House to secure a post office annuity purchased from Clayton. As lord of the manor of Bletchingley, Clayton ensured Ward’s return at the next three elections as well, although ample testimony was paid to Ward’s public prominence by his elevation to the governorship of the Bank in April 1701. Within days of his election Ward was summoned by Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) to give a personal assurance that the Bank directors would promote ‘in their private and public capacities’ the government’s latest subscription of Exchequer bills. In his first Parliament Ward was not an active legislator. However, his anxiety at the prospect of renewed warfare moved him to speak in the House on at least two occasions. On 1 Mar. 1701 it was reported that he had warned the House of the dangers of any ‘funeste’ delay in responding to European developments. However, on 16 Apr. he preferred to stress the dangers of an overzealous commitment to a European war, warning the House that ‘we ought not to go hastily into a war and these words might engage us further than we intended’.4

On the eve of the next general election, Robert Harley was informed by an electoral agent that Ward, as a man of ‘consequence’, ought to be canvassed for support, particularly as he was reported to share Harley’s ‘sentiments’ concerning Parliament’s recent dissolution. Once Ward had been ‘prevailed with’ to stand, his return at Bletchingley was a foregone conclusion, and his Whiggish sympathies were subsequently confirmed by Harley. In the 1701–2 Parliament, his only significant preoccupation is suggested by his inclusion on a committee to prepare a bill concerning the poor (6 Jan. 1702). The advent of war and the accession of a new monarch did not cause Ward to alter his political stance, voting as he did on 13 Feb. 1703 in favour of the amendments made by the Lords to the abjuration bill. Unfortunately, in the wake of the entry of John Ward III* into the House in December 1703, his subsequent parliamentary activity is less easy to ascertain. In an effort to bring some coherence to the references to ‘Mr Ward’ in the Journals, several tentative assumptions must rest on the basis of Ward’s loyalties and likely parliamentary interests. The evident political differences between the two namesakes allow some distinctions to be made, although both Members, the merchant in particular, abandoned the party line at key points in the period. More significantly, Ward’s mercantile background suggests that he, rather than the lawyer of Capesthorne, should be identified as the more active sponsor of financial and commercial legislation in the House.

In the 1703–4 session Ward was probably the principal sponsor of a bill to ensure the regular payment of annuities. In October 1704, he was forecast as a probable opponent of the Tack, and either voted against the measure or was absent upon the division on 28 Nov. After his fourth successive victory at Bletchingley in May 1705, Ward was cited as a ‘Churchman’, although his support for the Court’s nominee in the division for the Speakership on 25 Oct. suggested no divergence in his political outlook. He probably made little noteworthy contribution to the business of the House in the first session, but he certainly spoke in debate on 10 Jan. 1706, when the Commons considered the regency bill’s treason clauses. Outside the House, his City status and past support for government subscriptions may well have earned him an appointment in February as one of the commissioners to raise a loan for the Emperor. Of a more personal benefit, his privileged status as a Member permitted him to escape the burden of another public office after he had been elected in June 1706 as one of the sheriffs of London. On that occasion he was described as ‘much concerned in the Bank and New East India Company’ and was reported to have earned ‘great estates’ through government contracts.5

The second session of the 1705 Parliament saw no apparent change in Ward’s politics or activity, his only probable appearance of any significance occurring on 3 Apr. 1707 when he acted as a teller to reject an amendment to a clause concerning wine measures. However, the next session saw an almost certain rise in his prominence within the House, as well as a notable shift in his political outlook. On 19 Nov. ‘Mr Ward the merchant’ moved in a committee of the whole House that the Russia merchants petitioning against the inadequacy of naval protection had proved their case against the Admiralty. Moreover, on the same day he may well have moved the House to investigate complaints levelled against a naval officer who had failed to protect ships en route to Portugal. Alongside the considerable mercantile presence of (Sir) Gilbert Heathcote*, Ward kept up the pressure on the Admiralty in the committee of the whole on 13 Dec., thereby displaying evident signs of impatience with the effect of prolonged warfare on national trade. Ward’s anxiety was further displayed on 27 Jan. 1708 when he offered a clause to the committee on a convoy bill which proposed that greater incentives be given to encourage ‘the taking of ships from the enemy’. Such strident criticism of the ministry’s handling of the war actually led one political commentator to identify Ward as a Tory in early 1708.

Ward’s evident concern for mercantile interests appears to have directed him to promote a wide miscellany of commercial measures in the course of the 1707–8 session, and it seems that he, rather than the lawyer Ward, was named in the preparation of no fewer than nine trade bills. Most notably, the merchant may have acted as the principal sponsor of measures to repeal the Garbling Act, to formulate a settlement between the Treasury and Richard Parke, a London trader, and to permit the import of cochineal in neutral ships. Three divisions may have also seen him act as teller: on 28 Feb. 1708 to ensure the second reading of a clause for addition to a bill to naturalize two Russian ships; on 17 Mar. to prevent the reading of a bill to encourage American trade; and on 18 Mar. to block an instruction which required an explanation of the Act securing the Bank of England’s monopoly. Given Ward’s position within the City, he can with some confidence be identified as the Member who subsequently presented a bill to regulate elections at the Bank.

Such attentiveness to parliamentary business was a necessary prelude to the successful campaign which Ward fought to secure election for the city of London. However, the fact that Ward was prepared to align himself with the City Tories highlighted his current dissatisfaction with the ministry. The death of Sir Robert Clayton in July 1707 clearly lessened Ward’s chances of retaining his seat at Bletchingley, and, forced to turn to his natural power base in the capital, Ward emerged triumphantly in the most significant trial of his political interest to date. His recent promotion of commercial legislation, although often self-interested, stood him in good stead for the contest, but he took a great gamble by deciding to run with the City Tories. Such an incongruous alliance of City interests was clearly facilitated by the fluid politics of the metropolis, for one of Ward’s fellow Tory candidates, Sir William Withers*, was also associated with the Whiggish New East India Company. The City Tories evidently hoped to split the Whig vote by promoting Ward and Withers, and the eventual return of two Whigs and two Tories reflected the confusion of loyalties which the Tory platform had engendered. However, Ward’s desertion of his former political allies was far from complete, a view corroborated by a parliamentary list compiled after the election which, when noting the loss of his seat at Bletchingley, cited Ward as a Whig.6

Echoing the spirit of compromise which had helped him gain his London seat, Ward’s next important task was to partake in the negotiations between the two East India companies which finally led to the formation of the United Company. However, it was his uncompromising criticism of the ministry that was most probably responsible for the circulation of a rumour in February 1709 that he might soon be appointed an Admiralty commissioner. Ward did not gain the appointment but such speculation suggests that he had earned beneficial publicity through his stance over convoy protection in the previous Parliament. Unfortunately, his current identification with the ministry’s opponents does not aid the task of distinguishing between Ward and his namesake of Capesthorne, but the first session of the 1708 Parliament again reveals much evidence of Ward’s possible involvement in commercial legislation. Most significantly, from February 1709 he may have made a series of reports from the committee of the whole House reviewing the African trade, even though his involvement in that sphere of commerce remains obscure. There can be little doubt, however, that he presented a bill to restrain the spread of new building in London and Westminster. Despite the failure of this local initiative, he finally gained election, before the session was over, as an alderman of London, a significant victory for it came in Candlewick ward, a notable Whig stronghold. Even though doubts over his politics continued, he probably gained selection in June 1709 as one of the commissioners for the poor Palatines, an issue of special concern to the capital’s leaders.7

No doubt at the behest of his demanding constituents, Ward appears to have remained an active Member in the second session, probably presenting three bills of a commercial nature: to settle matters between the Treasury and the family of Richard Parke; to regulate the manufacture of buttons; and to crack down on fraudulent practices in the coopers’ trade. He may have also been appointed to drafting committees on three other commercial issues, including another measure to settle the African trade. He almost certainly led the City’s subsequent opposition to the Liverpool dock bill, probably acting as a teller on 23 Feb. to block its engrossment, and again on 18 Mar. in a last-ditch effort to prevent its passage to the Lords. He may also have acted as chairman of the committee which reviewed a merchant petition against the seizure of a consignment of captured wines. Frustratingly, his attitude towards the great Sacheverell issue remains unclear, parliamentary commentators citing him both as an opponent and a supporter of the Tory champion. This may have been the result of a deliberate attempt on Ward’s part to remain aloof from the controversy, for he did reveal a typically pragmatic view on the matter on 28 Mar., when advising the Commons not to burn Sacheverell’s writings within the City’s precincts for fear of causing widespread disorder.

The uncertainty surrounding Ward’s political position in 1710, epitomized by his equivocal position over Sacheverell, encouraged both political parties to make overtures for his support in the run-up to the election later that year. In early August he played a notable part in the events leading up to the fall of Godolphin, for he featured as one of the four Bank directors who visited the lord treasurer to warn him that the Bank was finding increasing difficulty in meeting the government’s financial demands. Within weeks of Godolphin’s fall, Ward had already been tipped by Hon. James Brydges* as a likely fiscal agent for the new ministry, Brydges flattering Ward with the observation, ‘I know nothing can more conduce to the effectual carrying-on of public affairs . . . than a person of your known worth, credit and hability to engage in the support of them’. In reply, Ward gave Brydges a stern reminder of his political independence on 20 Sept. when refusing to undertake a loan to pay the British forces in Portugal. Two days later he thanked Harley for his support, but recorded his disapproval of Tory attempts to obstruct the election of Sir Gilbert Heathcote as lord mayor, observing that ‘men are reconciled by degrees more by kind treatment than by opposition and force’. Yet he promised Harley that he would aid the ministry in its dealings with the Bank, a much more conciliatory stance than that subsequently adopted by City Whigs such as Heathcote. At the subsequent City election he did campaign alongside his natural Whig allies, but was unable to prevail against the tide of High Church feeling in the capital. His re-election bid only failed by 16 votes, and even though reports suggested that he would win the ensuing scrutiny, he was destined to remain out of Parliament until the next reign.8

While exiled from Westminster Ward did not decline to play an active political role, and he was particularly anxious to warn the new administration of the consequences of any purge of the City directorates. In March 1711 he lectured Brydges on the need to maintain the confidence of the mercantile community, cautioning him that ‘credit is of that nature it ought not to be disturbed nor the secrets of it too much diffused’. Moreover, he simply sidestepped the ministry’s attempt to ban the holding of multiple directorships by transferring his Bank stock to his son and then standing for election for the board of the East India Company instead. In the run-up to elections for the Bank, Ward was instrumental in preserving the City establishment, obstructing on 5 Apr. a vote of censure against the Whig directors who had tried to influence the Queen the year before, and then leading a successful campaign to reject the ministerial candidates put forward for election. His subsequent attempt to become sheriff the following June ended in disappointment, but the contest confirmed that, in spite of his conditional support for the new ministry, he had managed to retain the confidence of his Whig allies in the capital. Despite Whiggish leanings, he continued to act as a government adviser, expressing concern in October at the present state of public credit to Lord Treasurer Oxford (Robert Harley).9

By the time of the City election of October 1713 the London merchant community had become deeply divided over the French commerce treaty, but Ward’s campaign did little to clarify his position on that controversial issue. He was promoted by the Whigs as one of the ‘four eminent merchants’ who, it was hoped, would capitalize on the unpopularity of the treaty within the City. However, a foreign observer drew attention to the incongruity of the Whig platform when he described Ward and two of the other Whig candidates as moderate Tories, and the poll itself reveals that Ward actually voted for three of the Tory candidates. Despite Ward’s anomalous position, he performed very creditably to finish a close fifth, only 33 votes behind the fourth-placed Tory. A scrutiny was held but could not be completed before the writs had to be returned, thereby providing Ward with ample grounds for petitioning the House. However, he did not gain re-election in that Parliament, even though he was cited in March 1714 as a possible replacement for one of the Tory City Members, the late Sir George Newland. Not surprisingly, Ward was regarded as a likely compromise candidate who would ‘be by consent of both parties elected’.10

Very soon after the death of Queen Anne it became apparent that Ward had been careful to maintain his long-term contacts with the City Whigs, a prudent policy which was to reap rich dividends under Hanoverian rule. In September he was one of several London Whigs to be honoured with a knighthood as the new Court sent out a clear message of its political intent. Another cause for celebration soon followed when Ward was returned for London in January 1715, his first victory as a Whig candidate for the City. Although his Whiggish allegiance was confirmed by two parliamentary lists produced in the wake of that election, Ward’s subsequent parliamentary career revealed that he had not lost his independence. A government supporter over the septennial bill, he then sided with the opposition Whigs between 1717 and 1720. Under Robert Walpole II* he was once again reconciled to the ministry, and his success at Dunwich was a reward for the service which he performed on the government’s behalf in the City. His influence within the capital reached its peak in 1718 with his election as lord mayor, and it was later claimed that Ward was one of three great merchants chosen by Walpole ‘to govern the three companies which govern the City’. At his death in March 1726 Ward held considerable investments in the East India and South Sea companies as well as the Bank, and such was his standing that his son John had found little problem in advancing to the City’s boardrooms. However, Ward’s will prescribed that his funeral was to be conducted ‘in the most private manner’ and the epitaph which he penned for himself dwelt as much on his wife and offspring as it did on his civic and parliamentary honours.11

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Perry Gauci


This article attempts to clarify the confusions and misleading identifications in The Commons 1715-54, ii. 519-20.

  • 1. N. and Q. clxxix. 41; H. B. Wilson, St. Laurence Pountney, 236–7; Add. 38871.
  • 2. Guildhall Lib. MF318, xvi. 106; G. S. De Krey, Fractured Soc. 154–5; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 42, 1975, 1977; Bodl. Rawl. C.449; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 358.
  • 3. Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 925; BL, Trumbull Add. mss 116, notes, 6 Aug. 1695; CSP Dom. 1697, p. 268; Add. 34348, f. 70.
  • 4. EHR, lxxi. 236; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 35; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvi. 60; AN, K1301/41; Cocks Diary, 101.
  • 5. HMC Portland, iv. 26; Boyer, Anne Annals, iv. 126; Cam. Misc. xxiii. 59; Hereford and Worcester RO (Worcester, St. Helen’s), Cal. Wm. Lygon letters 195, Thomas Tuckfield to William Lygon, 25 June 1706.
  • 6. Vernon–Shrewsbury Corresp. iii. 283, 293, 326; Luttrell, vi. 236.
  • 7. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxii. 42–43; Add. 70420, Dyer’s newsletters 24 Feb., 31 Mar., 7 Apr. 1709; Boyer, Anne Annals, viii, app. 41.
  • 8. Trumbull Alphab. mss 54, Ralph Bridges to Sir William Trumbull, 28 Mar., 13 Nov. 1710; Huntington Lib. Q. iii. 228; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 57(4), p. 93; Econ. Hist. Rev. (ser. 2), xxiv. 407; Add. 70208, Ward to Harley, 22 Sept. 1710; Holmes, 358; Hist. Jnl. iv. 196.
  • 9. Stowe mss 58(8), pp. 117–18; Boyer, Pol. State, i. 261, 265; Boyer, Anne Annals, x. 217; Add. 70296, Ward to Ld. Oxford, 17 Oct. 1712.
  • 10. Boyer, Pol. State, vi. 189, 287–92; De Krey, 246; London Record Soc. xvii. 124; Add. 70273, (Sir) Matthew Decker† to Thomas Harley*, 26 Mar. 1714.
  • 11. De Krey, 265; HMC Portland, v. 615; PCC 63 Plymouth.