Perry of London: A Family and a Firm on the Seaborne Frontier, 1615-1753

By Jacob M. Price | Go to book overview

6 / The Perils of Politics

The political option marked a fundamental break in the family's observable behavior. With their Nonconformist antecedents, the family were natural Whigs and it was in fact the Whig ministry of 1708 that placed Micaiah I and his son Richard on the lieutenancy of London. In 1713-1717 the elder Micaiah is listed as a member of a Whig club. 1 Nevertheless, during the politically unstable years of 1689-1714, Micaiah the elder was probably not the only businessman who thought it expedient to keep his politics as much to himself as possible, for his American business would frequently make it necessary for him to lobby and petition Tory ministers as well as Whig. In the changed political situation after 1714, the less experienced young Micajah may have thought it less risky to play the political card. Any demonstration of political weight would, he may well have imagined, show the Virginians that he was someone they would do well to respect and cultivate.

After a generation of intense and inconclusive squabbling between Whigs and Tories, the political control of the City of London appeared to have shifted decisively toward the Whigs and ministerialists after the Hanoverian succession. In the City of London parliamentary election of 1715, three Whigs and a moderate Hanoverian Tory defeated four extreme Tories. However, the Tories remained an important outlet for popular dissatisfaction in the City and soon showed increased electoral effectiveness. In the parliamentary election of 1722, all four seats were taken by anti-ministerialists, including two or three Tories. Among the Whigs defeated in this election was a sitting member for the City, Robert Heysham, a West India merchant and mild anti-ministerialist, who died the next year. His nephew and partner, William Heysham the younger, M.P. for Lancas

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