DICKINSON, Marshe (?1703-65), of Cheapside, London and Dunstable, Beds.

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



1754 - 6 Feb. 1765

Family and Education

b. ?1703, 3rd s. of John Dickinson, London merchant, by Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Powell, London merchant, gd.-da. and h. of Francis Marshe. educ. Westminster 1718, aged 15; I. Temple 1728. m., issue.

Offices Held

Common councillor, London 1738-43, alderman 1749- d., sheriff 1751-2, ld. mayor 1756-7.

Chairman of ways and mean Nov. 1761- d.


Dickinson seems to have been a City attorney—Dupplin in 1754 listed him as a practising lawyer. The Duke of Bedford wrote from Woburn on 5 Aug. 1753 to his nephew, the young Duke of Bridgwater, then on his Grand Tour: ‘As he [Dickinson] is one for whom I have the greatest esteem and a near neighbour to me in this county, I was determined to bring him into Parliament and did intend him for the town of Bedford, but as our plan is altered there I take the liberty to recommend him to you for Brackley.’1 Bridgwater accepted Bedford’s recommendation, and after a contest Dickinson was returned, though not his colleague Henry Vernon. Philip Yorke wrote to Lord Hardwicke, 5 Aug. 1753, that Dickinson ‘is reckoned a moderate Tory’;2 in a parliamentary list, mainly of merchant M.P.s, 1754-5,3 he is described as ‘a friend of Sir William Calvert’; by L. C. J. Willes as ‘a particular friend’ of the City recorder, Sir William Moreton;4 and by James West as ‘the most intimate friend of Sir Robert Ladbroke’.5

When on 20 Aug. 1756, after the loss of Minorca, the City address was presented to the King asking for ‘the authors of our late losses and disappointments to be inquired into and punished’, which the King told them would be done,6 Hardwicke, who attended the King, wrote to Newcastle:7 ‘There were 15 aldermen but amongst them neither Sir John Barnard, nor any one of those who are called Whig-aldermen. Sir Robert Ladbroke and Alderman Dickinson were there. A great number of the common council attended.’ Next year, at the time of Byng’s trial and execution, Dickinson was lord mayor; and according to Walpole,8 on 9 Mar. four Tory aldermen went to him ‘to desire he would summon a common council, intending to promote a petition to the King to spare the admiral’; but Dickinson, ‘unfeelingly formal’, replied it was too late. And nothing more happened. Had such a petition been made, ‘the King could not have pleaded his promise of severity pledged to the City’.

At a meeting of the livery at Guildhall, 4 Mar. 1761, Dickinson was ‘put in nomination’ for the general election, but failed to receive sufficient support.9 On 10 Oct. 1761, Newcastle wrote to Bedford, discussing candidates for Speaker: ‘I wish your Grace could suggest somebody. Alderman Dickinson has been named but his being an alderman is thought a great objection and your Grace knows he is designed for the money chair.’10 Dickinson was duly elected chairman of the committee of ways and means (stipend: £500 p.a. from secret service funds). Three interventions of his in debate reported by Harris are on very secondary matters: 24 Nov. 1761, a clause to the Insolvent Debtors’ Act; on 2 Feb. 1762, the toll on London Bridge; while on the third occasion, 29 Mar. 1762, he appears but too clearly as a Bedford agent in the House. Here is Harris’s account:

A bill had come to us from the Lords about certain trust lands at Tavistock, relating to the Duke of Bedford’s affairs, and which he had brought in. There was a clause in it to declare that those lands were to convey no right of voting in that borough. This got among the Commons as a breach of their privileges, and the bill had certainly been flung out had not Alderman Dickinson moved that it be withdrawn. He was mistaken in the manner of doing this, by beginning that he had authority from a noble duke, etc. We want no authority from noble dukes, nor from those greater than dukes, to empower us to do our acts.

Similarly on 23 Mar., over ‘excepting Covent Garden Market out of the fish bill’—‘The commitment of the bill’, wrote Dickinson to the Duke, ‘I have got put off till to-morrow and shall be glad to receive your Grace’s directions thereon that I may prevent opposition.’11

On one occasion Dickinson stood up to the Duke—for a short while. Lord Tavistock, a friend of Dickinson’s son, John Marshe Dickinson, had obtained for young Dickinson the office of superintendent of his Majesty’s gardens.12 But when in April 1764, over a reshuffle in which Bedford wanted a place at the Board of the Green Cloth for Richard Vernon, John Dickinson was asked to surrender his place in exchange for a pension, old Dickinson took offence; looked upon it as a slur intended ‘to be put on his family’; wrote a ‘warm’ and ‘wrongheaded’ note to the Duke; who even appealed to the King (only to be told ‘that he must make his friends agree as they could, for that I [the King] had no part in this dispute’). In the end the Dickinsons agreed to the transaction, having received ample assurances that they should not suffer the least financial loss. Tavistock’s comment on old Dickinson’s behaviour was ‘that those who have the least pretensions to pride have the most and that it was one of these fits that took him’ on this occasion.13

In the House Dickinson naturally supported the peace treaty negotiated by Bedford, and exerted himself on the side of the Grenville-Bedford Government. When he died, 6 Feb. 1765, Mary Townshend wrote to her uncle, George Selwyn, that he ‘died of general warrants’.14

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Bedford mss 29, f. 85, 103.
  • 2. Add. 35351, ff. 248-51.
  • 3. Lowther mss.
  • 4. Willes to Bedford, 19 Mar. 1754, Bedford mss 30, f. 16.
  • 5. West to Newcastle, 14 Aug. 1756, Add. 32866, ff. 448-9.
  • 6. For text of the address and the King’s reply, see Gent. Mag. 1756, p. 408.
  • 7. Add. 32866, ff. 492-4; see also ff. 448-9.
  • 8. Mems. Geo. II, ii. 368.
  • 9. British Chron. 4 Mar.; see also Add. 32906, f. 488.
  • 10. Bedford mss 44, f. 194.
  • 11. Ibid. f. 54.
  • 12. Tavistock to Bute, 11 May 1763, Bute mss and T52/55/18.
  • 13. Bedford to Grenville, 14, 17, 25 Apr., Grenville mss (JM); Grenville to Bedford, 14 Apr. Bedford mss 49, f. 134; 17 Apr., Grenville letter bk.; 28 Apr., Bedford mss 49, f. 174; Tavistock to Bedford, 22 Apr.; ibid. 158; the King to Bute, c.18 and 19 Apr., Sedgwick, 237-8.
  • 14. Jesse, Selwyn, i. 358.