PRISE (PRICE), John (c.1674-1738), of Wistaston Court, Marden, Herefs.
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Family and Education
b. c.1674, o. s. of Thomas Prise (Price)† of Wistaston Court and Scotland Yard, Westminster, Mdx. by his 2nd w. Mary, da. of Thomas Carne of Nash, Glam. educ. Magdalen Coll. Oxf. matric. 9 July 1690, aged 16. m. his 2nd cos. Elizabeth, da. and h. of Herbert Prise (Price) of Benchesham, Croydon, Surr., 2s. d.v.p. 1da. suc. fa. c.1699.1
Commr. of excise 1712–Nov. 1714, of soap duty July–Nov. 1714.2
The Prises owed their ascent in the 16th century to profits made from the dissolution of the monasteries, and their decline in the 17th to losses incurred in the service of the Royalist cause during the Civil War. The Member’s father calculated that his family were over £20,000 worse off for their loyalty to King Charles I, and his own shabby treatment by the Treasury in 1668, when a debt to the crown was ruthlessly enforced, consummated the process of impoverishment, though, as if in recompense, he was subsequently given the lifeline of a royal pension from Charles II. By the Revolution all unentailed property had been sold off, and such was the condition of the estate – ‘deeply encumbered’, as the Prises confessed – that the portion of £3,000 which had been due to Thomas Prise’s deceased daughter by his first marriage could not be paid. Her widower pursued the matter, and in 1694 John Prise, acting for his father, agreed to settle the debt in instalments, but then could not raise more than about £850 of the first £1,000, and finally reneged on all agreements, claiming that his grandmother’s will, which had provided for the portion, was in this respect invalid. His brother-in-law began litigation, to which John Prise was the principal defendant, his father having died either in 1698 or by 21 Apr. 1699.3
It was while this case was in progress that Prise first broached his desire to enter Parliament. ‘Jack Price is to bellow it out that he will stand to be knight of the shire’, wrote one Herefordshire landowner in October 1701. The link between Prise’s legal predicament and his parliamentary ambitions was underlined by the fact that his likely partner in the county election was his fellow defendant (as a trustee under the will of Prise’s grandmother), Herbert Westfaling†. In the event, the two men did not put up; nor was Prise successful in promoting his candidature in the 1702 election, when he wrote in vain to ask Robert Harley* to persuade one of two Tory rivals in the county to stand down, boasting of the support of ‘most of the gentlemen’, in effect most of the leading Whig interests. By June 1702 judgment in Chancery had gone against him, and the decree, providing for the sale of more land, was upheld by the Lords on appeal the following November. Prise’s next strategy was to seek some official post through the intercession of Lord Coningsby (Thomas*), hitherto an opponent in local disputes over property, and Harley. He asked in 1705 for a commissionership of appeals in excise, but received nothing.4
When Prise did enter Parliament, in 1708, it was on the coat-tails of Lord Scudamore (James*), who proposed him as his partner in the county election in order to dish the other outgoing Tory Member, Henry Gorges. At the same time there was also an unfounded rumour that Prise was going to marry Scudamore’s sister. Because he had effectively replaced Gorges, Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) marked his election as a gain for the Whigs, but Prise’s sympathies were soon revealed as lying with the opposite party. On 22 Dec. a correspondent of the Country Tory Sir John Pakington, 4th Bt.*, wrote:
I am very glad to hear that Mr Prise withstands assaults and votes so well in the House: we all here [Hereford] highly applaud his prudence in slighting his old bosom adviser, and adhering to the wholesome dictates of Sir John Pakington. Pray God keep him steady, and send that this conformity of his be more than occasional.
A teller on the Tory side on 20 Jan. 1709, in a division on the Abingdon election, Prise voted against the naturalization bill and acted as a teller on 7 Mar. in favour of a rider to disenfranchise those naturalized. Further tellerships in this session occurred on 6 Apr. 1709, to agree with the committee of ways and means in a resolution to lay a further duty on imported woollen and worsted yarn; and 13 days later, for a rider to the Middlesex registry bill. In the following session he presented a bill on 9 Feb. 1710 for the relief of insolvent debtors, a subject in which he had an obvious personal interest, while he also voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.5
The 1710 general election saw the same three candidates in Herefordshire, all ‘loyal gentlemen’ according to Dyer, and the same result. This time Prise had been given the support of the Harley interest as well as that of Scudamore, and although among local Tories he appeared a high-flyer, even venting Jacobite sentiments, he proved himself a Court Tory at Westminster. Classed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’, he figured in the lists of ‘Tory patriots’ who voted for peace in April 1711, and ‘worthy patriots’ who in 1710–11 exposed the mismanagements of the previous administration, but he was never a member of the October Club. He acted as a teller on 10 Mar. 1711 against hearing a petition from Exeter against the bill to permit the importation of French wines, and on 17 Apr. for the bill to prevent bribery at elections. He acted as a teller four times in the 1711–12 session: twice on resolutions of the committee of ways and means, against a duty on soap (24 Mar. 1712) and in favour of taxing building materials held in London and Westminster (5 Apr.); once on an election case, for William Wallis* at Steyning (8 May); and once on a private bill (27 May). Having proved his loyalty, he was rewarded in July 1712 by Lord Treasurer Oxford (Robert Harley) with the office he had long solicited, a commissioner of excise, which debarred him from sitting in Parliament. To this was added in July 1714 a second revenue commissionership, ironically in administering the soap duty whose imposition he had opposed two years before.6
Deprived of his appointments at the Hanoverian succession, Prise seems to have withdrawn from political life. He may, however, have been the John ‘Price’ or ‘Prise’ who was defeated in a by-election for Hereford city in 1723. He died on 27 Feb. 1738, aged 64, leaving what remained of the Wistaston estate to his daughter, the wife of Thomas Hayton. He directed that his body be buried in the family vault in Wistaston chapel, under the inscription: ‘Here lies an honest man, John Prise of Wistaston’.
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Williams, Parlty. Hist. Herefs. 59; Manning and Bray, Surr. ii. 544, 548.
- 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvi. 343; xxviii. 343; xxix. 149, 156.
- 3. T. Coningsby, Manor of Marden, i. 85, 305, 307–11.
- 4. Ibid. 85, 307–11; HMC Lords, n.s. v. 57–58; Add. 70254, Robert Price to Harley, 11 Oct. 1701, Prise to same, 28 Mar. 1702, Harley to Prise, 17 Apr. 1702; 70256, H. Seward to [?Harley], 13 Apr. 1702; 70024, Prise to same, 7 Jan. 1704[–5].
- 5. HMC Portland, iv. 486–7; Hereford and Worcester RO (Worcester), Pakington mss, 6705/349/4657/iii/29, Robert Trahern to [Pakington], 22 Dec. 1708.
- 6. Add. 70421, Dyer’s newsletter 31 Oct. 1710; 70055, Prise to [Harley], 14 Oct. 1710; Harley mss at Brampton Bryan, Harley to [?Edward Harley*], 23 Sept. 1710; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 93.