Parliamentary Diary: 1722-1730

Parliamentary Diary: 1722-1730

Parliamentary Diary: 1722-1730

Parliamentary Diary: 1722-1730

Excerpt

The author of this diary, Sir Edward Knatchbull, fourth Baronet, was a member of an ancient Kentish family, connected with such other families as the Derings, the Filmers and the Honywoods. During the seventeenth century the Knatchbulls had risen in prestige, avoiding any entanglements with either Royalists or Parliamentarians, Court or Country, and had become worthy of providing a member of Parliament for the county. Sir Norton, the first baronet, represented Kent in the Short Parliament and New Romney in the Long and Cavalier Parliaments. His son, Sir John, elected for the county in 1685, showed himself a supporter of the Church under James II, and was rewarded by a place under William III. Sir John's brother, Thomas, the third baronet, took no active part in Kent politics. The early life of Sir Thomas' son, Edward, is obscure. Nothing is known of him before his marriage in 1698, not even the date of his birth. He began his political career before he succeeded to the title in 1712, entering Parliament in 1702 for Rochester, an Admiralty borough. His father seems to have had an Admiralty appointment at this time, and Sir Edward, too, was given a minor place, being made a subcommissioner of prizes. He was promoted in 1704 to be Muster Master General of Marines, and though he lost his seat in Parliament in 1705 he retained this place till 1709, the year that many Tories were dismissed. In 1713 he was again elected for Kent, in company with another High Tory. He was a leading member of Bolingbroke's faction in the Commons. A fragment of diary written by him in 1714, bound into the main diary, shows his position as a man learned in the procedure of the House. In April 1714 he was summoned twice to meetings of Tories at the Secretary of State's office; on the 4th it was agreed 'that we should exert ourselves and not let a majority in Parliament slip through our hands, and that we should meet twice a week for a mutual confidence', and on the 10th it was agreed 'to push the point of the succession with vigour, notwithstanding our whimsical friends differ from us'. Knatchbull's Toryism in its political and religious aspects appears clearly in this fragment. It was Knatchbull who moved the famous resolution on 16 April 1714 'that the Protestant Succession in the House of Hanover is in no danger under Her Majesty's Government', while in the debate on the Schism Bill he objected to an amendment whereby dissenters could be allowed to teach writing, which, he thought, 'destroyed the Bill, because under the notion of writing they learn to read'. He was defeated at the election of 1715, but was re-elected in 1722, and with the opening of that session the text of this diary begins.

From the beginning his experience in the ways of the House is shown; he introduced and piloted through the House of Commons in the first session an amendment to the Poor Law, by which the officers of separate parishes could hire buildings and maintain them as Poor houses. Other measures in the Commons for which Knatchbull was technically responsible, however, are not mentioned in this diary, nor the many select committees to which he was named.

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