BULL, Frederick (c.1714-84), of Leadenhall St., London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



23 Dec. 1773 - 10 Jan. 1784

Family and Education

b. c.1714, 2nd s. of John Bull, ‘gentleman’, of London, by his w. Hannah. m. 26 Aug. 1737, Judith Dickinson of Ware. suc. his mother in property at Little Paxton, Hunts. 1746.

Offices Held

Sheriff, London 1771-2, alderman 1772, ld. mayor 1773-4.


From about 1744 Bull was in business on his own account as a tea merchant in Leadenhall Street, then from about 1757 in partnership with Samuel Moody. In 1760 and 1761 each of the partners was drawing a net profit of £1,000 p.a., and Bull’s share of the capital was well over £11,000.1 He retired from business about 1782.

Bull was a Dissenter—probably a Baptist, for he left a legacy of £1,000 to the British Education Society connected with the Baptist meeting house, Broad Mead, Bristol—and his politics were dominated by radicalism and anti-Popery. During most of his public career he was intimately connected with John Wilkes (in 1773 Horace Walpole called Bull ‘entirely his creature’2). In 1771 he was acting as treasurer to the Society of Supporters of the Bill of Rights, and during the next two years he took a violently anti-ministerial line in City politics. In 1773 Bull stood at the London by-election, and on 9 Nov., in an election address to the livery, he set forth a modified version of the Bill of Rights Society programme, to which he was to adhere throughout his parliamentary career:3

The shortening the duration of Parliaments is of indispensable necessity for the recovery of our ancient constitution and the integrity of the legislative body itself. Frequent appeals to the people are of the very essence of government founded on liberty and the surest means of calling to a speedy account all wicked and corrupt ministers ... The exclusion of placemen and pensioners from sitting in Parliament, an equal representation of the people, a law to subject each candidate to an oath, that he has not used bribery, or any other illegal means of compassing his election, the restoration of the American liberties to our meritorious brethren in the new world, and relief to the oppressed condition of our fellow subjects in Ireland, are points of extreme importance ... I will exert my poor abilities on this noble cause.

He concluded by promising not to take Crown money in any way. Bull was returned after a fierce contest, and both his subsequent elections were contested.

In Parliament he steadily opposed the North Administration. On 5 Apr. 1775, in a long speech on the third reading of the bill to restrain the trade of the southern colonies, he declared that the Government’s policy with regard to the sale of East India Company tea in the colonies had been adopted less to relieve the Company than to assert a dictatorial authority, and with a side-blow at the Quebec Act, concluded: ‘I hitherto have, and shall continue to the utmost of my power, to support the Americans, thus injured and oppressed by the cruel and vindictive measures of an Administration, whose whole conduct breathes the spirit of persecution and popery.’4‘I hope we shall have a confirmation of the American news and that Boston is cleared of the brutes that have too long been suffered to live there’, he wrote to Wilkes, 5 Dec. 1775, when the first news of armed colonial resistance to Gage’s troops had reached England.5 On 29 Feb. 1776, in a debate on treaties for raising German mercenaries, he condemned

the cruel and arbitrary measures ... fatally carried into execution by ... an unrelenting Administration, who have dared to abuse the throne by their wicked and sanguinary councils, and whose whole conduct has proved them entirely destitute of every principle of justice, humanity and the religion of their country. Their insatiable thirst for Protestant blood has been long evident; and it cries aloud to Heaven for vengeance, as well as for the just indignation of a long abused, insulted, oppressed people. To exult in the destruction of our most valuable commercial friends, and Protestant fellow-subjects; to pray that the same horrid scenes may be repeated; that war, desolation and bloodshed may pervade the whole continent of America, unless it shall bow its devoted head to Popery, to poverty, to the most abject and ignominious slavery, were not the fact on record, would be thought incredible! That record, Sir, to a nation professing a regard for liberty, and the rights of humanity, will remain an eternal monument of reproach.6

On 6 Mar. 1776 and several times subsequently, Bull spoke in support of Sawbridge’s perennial motion for shorter Parliaments. In the debate on the Address, 18 Nov. 1777, he vigorously supported Granby’s amendment calling for the cessation of hostilities and a declaration to assure the Americans of their rights: taxation without consent was mere robbery—

Can there be any reason urged, why our brethren in America should not enjoy as fully all the privileges of the constitution as our brethren in Ireland? Can there be any reason urged, why our brethren in Ireland should not enjoy all the privileges to which Englishmen are entitled? I am confident there cannot.7

In April 1778 Bull signed an association ‘for lawfully labouring to obtain a more equal parliamentary representation’.8 In the spring of 1780 he was a conspicuous supporter of Lord George Gordon’s Protestant crusade which gave rise to the riots of early June: on 19 June he made a vehement speech criticizing the Catholic Relief Act of 1778, expatiating with some violence upon the opening of Catholic schools and the fear of Catholic proselytising: ‘opposition to a set of men holding such horrid opinions is not persecution, much less religious persecution ... it is benevolence to ourselves and our connections’.9

In November 1782 Bull was reckoned as a supporter of the Shelburne ministry;10 he did not vote on the peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, but in March was counted by Robinson as a supporter of Shelburne. His last recorded vote was in favour of parliamentary reform, 7 May 1783, and in his last reported speech, 16 May 1783, he once more seconded Sawbridge’s motion for shorter Parliaments.

Bull died 10 Jan. 1784.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: I. R. Christie


  • 1. Transcript from the firm’s ledger for 1760 and 1761, Noble Coll. C. 78, Guildhall Lib.
  • 2. Last Jnls. i. 250.
  • 3. Noble Coll. C. 78.
  • 4. Almon, i. 419-21.
  • 5. Add. 30871, f. 228.
  • 6. Almon, iii. 359.
  • 7. Almon, viii. 14-15.
  • 8. General Evening Post, 9-12 Sept. 1780.
  • 9. Almon, xvii. 730.
  • 10. List of the Parliament, Lansdowne mss.