HUTCHINS, Sir George (1640-1705), of Gray’s Inn, and Greville Street, Holborn, London
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Family and Education
bap. 16 Aug. 1640, o. s. of Edmund Hutchins of Georgeham, Devon, parish clerk of Barnstaple, Devon, by Elizabeth Perreman. educ. G. Inn 1666, called 1667. m. (1) (d. 1695), 2da.; (2) 26 Dec. 1697, Sarah (d. 1700), da. of Sir William Leman, 2nd Bt.*, of Northaw, Herts., 1s. d.v.p. 3da. suc. fa. 1655; kntd. 31 Oct. 1689.1
Serjeant-at-law Apr. 1686; solicitor to the customs 1687; King’s serjeant 1689–90, 1693–?1702; commr. of the great seal 1690–Mar. 1693.2
Freeman, Bath 1697, Hertford 1698.3
From comparatively humble beginnings, Hutchins became a wealthy and high-profile lawyer in the reign of Charles II, and from the later 1670s was employed as counsel in many cases before the House of Lords. He was knighted in 1689 by William III soon after becoming King’s serjeant. In the 1690 general election he was returned for his native borough of Barnstaple, Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) noting him in several lists of the new Parliament as a supporter of the Court. On 26 and 29 Apr. he was probably the ‘Serjeant Hutchinson’ [sic] who spoke in favour of imposing the abjuration oath. In the House on 5 May he ventured his opinions on the problems of retaining a balance of authority in both the King and the Queen in the regency bill:
this doubt, whether the Queen is not so amply and fully Queen as in the Act of Settlement, may be of dangerous consequence, and how far the commissions of the peace may be void. This may affect our alliances abroad. The King may see more in Ireland than can be seen here. I humbly propose that this may so pass, as not totally to divest the King of his executive power . . . Possibly there may be many inconveniences for the administration of the government in two persons, and to divert the King of it is not to be thought of. I move that the government may be executed in the name of the King and Queen.
In May he was appointed third commissioner of the great seal, replacing Sir Anthony Keck*. During the preparations for the next session Hutchins was minuted as one of the Commoners who ‘have greatly assisted the King’s affairs’ and who were to be ‘complimented’ at a ‘general meeting’. His conduct in the ensuing session enabled Carmarthen to class him once more as pro-Court in December. On 28 Nov. 1691 he spoke on behalf of the East India Company, and in doing so may well have offended his fellow MP, Arthur Champneys, who was one of the interloping syndicate who were aiming to break the company’s monopoly. He was the target of a minor ‘Country’ attack on him and his fellow commissioner of the seal, Speaker Trevor, on 29 Dec. for having discouraged Edward Stephens, a Middlesex j.p., from prosecuting small traders for breach of the Lord’s Day. He effectively parried this by indicating that Stephens and several associates had gone farther than the law permitted by running ‘an informing office in Lincoln’s Inn’ and fining transgressors when the law only permitted him to confiscate goods and merchandise being sold. On 2 Jan. 1692, on the bill to prevent the escape of prisoners, he put forward an instruction to its committee that bail procedures be simplified, and that local commissioners, rather than judges, be empowered to take affidavits. He opposed the bill for lessening the rate of interest at its second reading on the 8th; and in accordance with his previously expressed support for the East India Company opposed the bill for a new company on the 22nd. In the next session he opposed the triennial bill on 9 Feb. 1693 on the premise that it took ‘away the inherent right in the King to preserve himself and his people. That the dissolution of parliaments by Act of Parliament was the last consequence especially at this time when the nation is involved in such a war as it is.’ In discussion on a private bill on 6 Mar. touching Lord Pembroke (Thomas Herbert†) he spoke ‘strongly’ against the suggestion that certain legal records in relation to a suit could be altered.4
Hutchins’ term as a commissioner of the great seal (which had brought him £1,500 p.a.) came to an end in the spring of 1693 when Sir John Somers* was made lord keeper, and he resumed his practice at the bar. He claimed to retain his former position of King’s serjeant, but when the judges ruled against him on the grounds that it was an office conferred by the crown, the King reappointed him. A grant which he had made to the crown of £750 was repaid to him at this time. During the 1694–5 session the Treasury secretary Henry Guy* listed him as a ‘friend’, probably in connexion with the projected attack on Guy in the Commons. At the time of his first wife’s death in July 1695 Hutchins was said to be worth £60,000, and on the marriages of his two daughters, one to the lawyer and future MP Williams Peere Williams, he gave each a dowry of £20,000. Having stood down at the October 1695 election, he made no subsequent attempt to re-enter the House. He was reported as ‘dangerously ill’ in September 1703 but lived on until dying at his house in Greville Street on 6 July 1705. He was buried at St. Andrew’s Holborn.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Andrew A. Hanham
- 1. Info. from J. R. Hutchins; Foss, Judges, vii. 320–1; DNB; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 427–8.
- 2. Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 52; iii. 60, 93.
- 3. Bath AO, Bath council bk. 3, p. 236; Herts. RO, Hertford bor. recs. 25/100.
- 4. HMC Lords, i. and ii. passim; Bodl. Rawl. A.79, ff. 79, 89; Grey, x. 118; CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 211; Luttrell Diary, 46, 94, 105, 117, 148, 415, 469; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1153; x. 424.
- 5. Foss, 320–1; Portledge Pprs. 208; Luttrell, iii. 93; iv. 289; v. 341, 570; Frag. Gen. n.s. i. 129; info. from J. R. Hutchins.