BLOUNT, Sir Thomas Pope, 1st Bt. (1649-97), of Tittenhanger, Ridge, Herts.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 12 Sept. 1649, 1st s. of Sir Henry Blount of Tittenhanger by Hester, da. and h. of Christopher Wase of Islington, Mdx., wid. of Sir William Mainwaring of Chester, Cheshire. educ. at home; L. Inn 1668. m. 22 July 1669, Jane (d. 1726), da. of Sir Henry Caesar† of Bennington, Herts., 5s. (1 d.v.p.) 9da. cr. Bt. 27 Jan. 1680; suc. mother to Tittenhanger 1678, fa. to rest of estates 1682.
Commr. inquiry into recusancy fines, Herts. 1687–8, taking subscriptions to land bank 1696.1
Commr. for public accounts 1694–6.
As befitted the descendant of the founder of Trinity College, Oxford, Blount strove after that rare intellectual perfection which he described as ‘true freedom and ingenuity of the mind’. In his Essays, published in 1691, he championed reason above superstition or custom. Like his brother and fellow author Charles, he attacked what he perceived as the irrationality of popery and the tyranny of sacerdotal priestcraft. Sympathetic to Dissent, he believed that men should not be forced into conformity with unnecessary ecclesiastical ceremonies, and that the ‘Christian religion is a plain, simple, easy thing’. Aware that such views might antagonize the clergy, he prefaced his work with a characteristically frank declaration that he was ‘unfeignedly . . . a true honourer of them, I mean such of them as live up to the honour of that holy profession, and of those that do not, I as little court their favour as I value their censure’. Again, like his brother, he disapproved of suppressing books, and argued that the wisest princes always granted the greatest liberty to their subjects. Accordingly he castigated the reigns of Charles II and James II, but thought it prudent to declare that ‘of all sorts of governments, monarchy is the most agreeable to my genius’. Yet despite his wide-ranging learning and erudition, he was convinced that ‘it is not a man’s cloistering himself up in his study or his continual poring upon books’ that made him wise, and accordingly he entered Parliament in 1679. Even at Westminster, however, he may have seen a struggle for reason and truth, for he wrote that ‘a plurality of voices, ’tis true, carries the question in all our debates, but rather as an expedient for peace, than any eviction of right’. He was no party hack, refraining from ‘no man’s company because his opinion comes not up to mine’, and self-righteously observed that ‘when people once separate and rendezvous themselves into distinct sects and parties, they always confine their kindness to their own party, and look with a scornful and malignant aspect upon all the rest of mankind’.2
Blount joined the Green Ribbon Club in February 1679, evidently recruited in the aftermath of the Popish Plot, but he may not have been as radical in his outlook as his brother Charles, since he played a rather inconspicuous role during the Exclusion Crisis. Returned for Hertfordshire in 1689 and again in 1690, Blount was classed as a Whig by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) and tended to side with the Court. He was therefore classified in December 1690 as one of those who might defend Carmarthen from attack, and was ranked in the Court party in the spring of 1693, though the marks by his name on Robert Harley’s* list compiled in April 1691 suggest that this characterization of his views was not without doubt. In 1692 James II sent Blount’s wife an invitation to witness the birth of his child at St. Germain, but Blount was so far from being a crypto-Jacobite that the following year the non-juror Samuel Grascome suggested that he was one of four Members whose visit to a robber in prison had produced a ‘Williamite plot’ against James’ supporters. Although Blount’s prior purpose on this occasion probably related to recent thefts from his house, in which he had lost £1,000 in money and plate, the incident seems further confirmation of his identification as a Court Whig.3
On 21 Jan. 1693 the House ordered the burning of a tract, King William and Mary Conquerors, which had been written by Charles Blount, either to ensnare the Tory licenser of books, Edmund Bohun, or, as has been alternatively suggested, genuinely to advance justification of the ideology of conquest for the transfer of the crown to William. It is difficult to tell, however, whether Sir Thomas’ silence on the matter signifies embarrassment about the affair, or agreement with his brother’s views. His independent mind nevertheless made him a natural choice on 12 Apr. 1694 for the commission of accounts, attracting as many votes as Paul Foley I*, and, despite his Court stance, he was on excellent terms with Robert Harley*, whom he assured ‘that without anything of a compliment there is no person living more Mr Harley’s humble servant’. On 7 Jan. 1695 he told against a motion to hear the report of the committee on the place bill, and although he came sixth on the ballot in March for the following year’s commission of accounts, he won more votes than before. On 27 Mar. he was nominated to prepare the articles of impeachment against Lord Carmarthen, now Duke of Leeds.4
Re-elected for the county in 1695, Blount was preoccupied when Parliament assembled with a personal bill to provide for his large family after the marriage of his eldest son in December. Weddings were again his concern on 21 Apr. 1696 when he told in favour of the bill to enforce laws restraining marriages without licences. Blount was forecast as likely to support the Court in the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 on the council of trade. Ten days earlier he had told against an instruction to the committee on clipped coin to consider the price of guineas, and in March duly voted for fixing the price at 22s. His closeness to the Court now lost him his place on the commission of accounts, though he headed the ministerial slate in the ballot, and at the start of the following session, on 3 Nov., he told against the referral of the commissioners’ report on the deficiencies of funds. Having subscribed the Association earlier in the year, he voted on 25 Nov. 1696 for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†, and on 21 Jan. 1697 again told for the Court, against the clause exempting from the land tax the Queen Dowager’s annuity. Six days later he told on a motion to read a report from the committee on abuses in prisons, acting with the leader of the Rose Club, Sir Henry Hobart, 4th Bt.* As one of the club’s candidates, he topped the poll in February for commissioners of accounts, though the bill renewing the commission fell later the same month. He died ‘of an apoplexy’ on 30 June 1697. The main part of the estate passed to his eldest son Thomas, who was engaged in a suit against Ralph Freman I* and Charles Caesar*, the trustees of the estate of his great-grandmother, and at the 1697 and 1708 county elections the 2nd baronet voted for the Whig candidates.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Mark Knights
- 1. Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 1695–6; CJ, xii. 508.
- 2. T. Blount, A Natural History (1693); Essays, preface to 1691 ed.; Essays (3rd and enlarged edn, 1697), 63–65, 74, 87, 92, 200, 234, 253, 256, 267.
- 3. Magdalene, Camb. PL 2875, f. 470, Green Ribbon Club mins.; CSP Dom. 1692, p. 264; S. Grascome, New Court Contrivances (1693), 4–7; Add. 70116, Abigail to Robert Harley, 27 Aug. 1692.
- 4. N and Q, ccxxiii. 527–32; HMC Portland, iii. 556–7; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 132.
- 5. HMC Kenyon, 399; Horwitz, 191; Harl. 1492–5, passim; Add. 36242, f. 157; Herts. RO, Q/PE/1, f. 31, pollbk. 1697; D/EX/294/Z1, f. 97, pollbk. 1708.