DAWES, William (1671-1724)

DAWES, William (1671–1724)

cons. 8 Feb. 1708 bp. of CHESTER; transl. 9 Mar. 1714 abp. of YORK

First sat 2 Mar. 1708; last sat 15 Apr. 1724

b. 12 Sept. 1671, 3rd s. of Sir John Dawes, bt. (1644-71) of Bocking, Essex and Christian, da. of Robert Hawkins (d.1654) of Bocking, Essex, freeman of London.1 educ. Merchant Taylors’ Sch. 1680-7; St John’s, Oxf., scholar 1687-9; St Catherine’s, Camb. fell. and MA 1695, DD 1696. m. 1 Dec. 1692, Frances (c.1676-1705), da. and event. coh. of Sir Thomas Darcy, bt. of Braxted Lodge, Essex, 5s. (4 d.v.p.), 2da. (1 d.v.p.).2 suc. bro. as 3rd bt. bef. 29 July 1690. d. 30 Apr. 1724; will 29 Apr., pr. 20 May 1724.3

Chap. to William III 1697,4 to Anne 1702.

Preb. Worcester 1698-1708; rect. and dean Bocking, Essex 1699-1714.

Master, St Catherine’s, Camb. 1697-1714; v.-chan. Camb. 1698-9; commr. 50 new churches 1712-d.5

Ld. justice 1714; PC 1714-d.

Also associated with: Lyons, Braintree, Essex; Putney, Surr.; Church Lane, Kensington, London 1708-24.

Likenesses: oil on canvas by Claude Laudius Guynier, 1714, St Catherine's, Camb.; line engraving by S. Gribelin after J. Closterman, NPG D31420; line engraving by G. Vertue after T. Murray, NPG D34828.

Before the Civil War, the great-grandfather of Dawes, Sir Abraham Dawes, had been accounted ‘one of the richest commoners of his age’.6 In 1643 the estates of Sir Abraham, and his two sons, Sir Thomas and John Dawes, were ordered to be sequestrated, an order not lifted until the end of 1645.7 Sir Thomas’s son, also named John Dawes, was advanced from a knighthood to a baronetcy in June 1663 as partial compensation for the family’s losses and generous loans to the court in exile.8 It was ‘to repair his damaged fortune’ that he sought to marry a young heiress, Christian Hawkins. Although the earliest biographer of Dawes and the Complete Baronetage have confused both her name and pedigree, it is clear that Christian Hawkins was a woman of substance who had inherited from her father estates in Suffolk and several properties in Lamb Alley, St Giles-in-the-Fields, as well as Bocking.9 She was ‘worth £1,000 per annum present good land and some money’, when she absconded at the age of 16 from Sir Andrew Riccard, her wealthy guardian, although her aunt (Riccard’s wife) had given her consent.10 After Sir John Dawes’s death, in 1678 she married again, to Sir Anthony Deane.

As a younger son, William Dawes was destined for a career in the Church. The death of his two older brothers, Sir Robert Dawes and John Dawes, a lieutenant in the navy, and thus his inheritance of the family estates and baronetcy, did not alter his career path.11 It did mean that he was able to draw upon considerable private resources to supplement his income from ecclesiastical sources. By the time Dawes became a bishop he had ‘a good living or two’ in addition to his Worcester prebend.12 His marriage in 1692 to a daughter of Sir Thomas Darcy, who died the following year, added to his wealth following the death in 1698 of his wife’s brother; as Ralph Palmer put it, `Sir George Darcy is dead in three days time of the smallpox, Sir William Dawes wife’s brother, so that a good estate comes to the three sisters.’13

Early career in the Church

Dawes made steady progress in his clerical career and seems to have made a good impression on William III when he preached before the king on 5 Nov. 1696. It led to the promise of further preferment.14 On 20 Feb. 1697 Edmund Gibson, the future bishop of London, thought Dawes a candidate to succeed Dr William Payne as a prebend of Westminster as ‘he’s very much in the good opinion of the king and the great ones at court’.15 By May 1697 Dawes was thought to be making an interest for the deanery of York in competition with Henry Finch, brother of Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham, and Robert Booth, the uncle of George Booth, 2nd earl of Warrington.16 In the event another candidate altogether secured the post and Dawes gained instead a place on the Worcester chapter in July 1698.17 At some point the parishioners of Bocking apparently petitioned Thomas Tenison, archbishop of Canterbury, for Dawes to be presented as their minister and on 10 Nov. 1698 he was collated as rector and on 19 Dec. as dean of Bocking.18

Dawes was re-appointed a royal chaplain upon Queen Anne’s accession, preaching a sermon on 15 Nov. 1702 that William Nicolson, bishop of Carlisle, thought an ‘excellent discourse’.19 Dawes’s career prospects had improved markedly, given that Anne’s main religious confidante was his own patron, John Sharp, archbishop of York. Indeed, on 28 May 1703 Henry St John, the future Viscount Bolingbroke, noted that Sharp had ‘struggled hard’ for Dawes to succeed as bishop of St Asaph, and a newsletter of 1 June reported this rumour, although the appointment went to George Hooper, later bishop of Bath and Wells, as part of the court’s strategy for reducing conflict in Convocation.20 Sidney Godolphin, Baron (later earl of) Godolphin, noted on 19 Nov. 1704 that Dawes had preached ‘an admirable’ sermon before the queen that day.21 The death of James Gardiner, bishop of Lincoln, on 1 Mar. 1705 provided another opportunity for his elevation to the episcopate and he was widely anticipated to be the queen’s first choice. By mid April Francis Atterbury, later bishop of Rochester, was sure that Dawes was to be elevated since Sharp had ‘struggled hard’ for him.22 However, the general political situation in the wake of the ‘tack’ told against Dawes. His outspoken sermon at court on 30 Jan. 1705, in which he made derogatory observations about the Whig Junto, combined with Whig political imperatives following the 1705 parliamentary election, meant that his promotion was blocked.23 On 16 July 1705 Anne finally succumbed to ministerial pressure and appointed William Wake, the future archbishop of Canterbury, to Lincoln instead. Dawes dismissed the observation that his sermon had been responsible for his failure to gain the bishopric, with the comment that he never thought to gain one by preaching.24

The bishoprics crisis of 1707

The death of Peter Mews, bishop of Winchester, in November 1706, and the subsequent vacancy following the expected promotion of Jonathan Trelawny, bishop of Exeter, to succeed him, plus the death of Nicholas Stratford, bishop of Chester, in February 1707 saw the queen promise the vacancies to Dawes and to Offspring Blackall, another Tory. In so doing, the queen created a problem of political management for Godolphin. As the lord treasurer put it,

the misfortune is that [the queen] happens to be entangled in a promise [to Dawes and Blackall] that is extremely inconvenient, and upon which so much weight is laid, and such inference made, that to affect this promise would be destruction; at the same time [the queen] is uneasy with everybody that but endeavours to show the true consequences which attend it.25

Godolphin needed to demonstrate his support for the Whigs in order to ensure the successful management of the next parliamentary session. According to Gilbert Burnet, of Salisbury, Dawes was ‘looked on as an aspiring man, who would set himself at the head of the Tory party; so this nomination gave a great disgust’ to the Whigs.26 The Whigs already had their own candidates, including Charles Trimnell, who later became bishop of Norwich. A protracted delay ensued as Godolphin tried to find a solution to the crisis and during the next few months conflicting reports emanated from London. On 19 May 1707, the Rev. Ralph Bridges thought that Dawes would succeed at Chester, and in Chester on the 23rd the deputy registrar, Henry Prescott, received the news that Dawes would be the man.27 Things were less sure on the 26th when Prescott and several companions downed two bottles of claret ‘in votes for Sir William Dawes or his rich competitor’, Dr Samuel Freeman. June saw Henry Prescott’s diary entries preoccupied with the uncertainty.28 Bridges reported on 4 June that Dawes and Blackall were still expected to be appointed to the vacant sees, and also noted the death (on 31 May) of Simon Patrick, bishop of Ely, and his immediate replacement by John Moore, bishop of Norwich, a man acceptable to all sides.29 Norwich was now vacant and herein lay the germ of a solution. Meanwhile, in mid-July Charles Montagu, Baron Halifax, informed his namesake Charles Montagu, 4th earl of Manchester, that discontent amongst their friends could result in the matter being ‘compounded’ with Dawes’s posting being withdrawn.30 Further, Nathaniel Crew, bishop of Durham, feared that Dawes would not like Chester ‘since the living is gone from it’, a reference to the rectory of Wigan, commonly used as a commendam for the bishop but which had been taken over by Edward Finch, another of Nottingham’s brothers. On 2 July Sharp wrote to Dawes:

is there any hope of your coming among us? ... we are all here very much pleased with it, but I must confess I shall still be doubtful till we hear of it in the prints that you have kissed the queen’s hand for the bishopric ... will you give me leave to ask you in good earnest whether the bishopric of Chester has been offered you or no ... [and], if it has why you have not accepted it. It is not so mean a bishopric as perhaps you may have represented to you.... it may be valued at £900 per annum without the living of Wigan and if so I take it to be as good as Lincoln.

On 1 Aug. 1707 Dawes sent a tactful reply, hoping that Sharp would consecrate him but doubting that his nomination would be imminent; ‘on the contrary, I have reason to believe, that none will be made, until the queen’s coming to town in winter; and about that time, I hope your grace will be in town likewise.’31 It was common knowledge that the promise to Dawes came from the queen in person.32 Indeed, in response to the point made by John Churchill, duke of Marlborough, that she would have to choose to follow the measures proposed by Godolphin or Robert Harley, the future earl of Oxford, she claimed to know only those measures laid down by Godolphin and Marlborough when he was in England, adding that ‘my having nominated’ Dawes and Blackall was ‘no breach of them, they being worthy men; and all the clamour that is raised against them proceeds only from the malice of the Whigs’. She flatly denied that Harley had recommended them: ‘these men were my own choice’, and she felt ‘obliged to fill the bishops’ bench with those that will be a credit to it’.33 On 29 Aug. Gibson thought that

Exeter and Chester will go to Dr Blackall and Sir William [Dawes], and Norwich to Dr Trimnell. ’Tis certain the two first have been in the Closet; and, considering how long that was made a secret, somebody may have been there for Norwich too, for ought we can tell. ... His grace (I find) is in no pain about it. There are those who are sanguine enough to hope well of the other two, especially Chester; but how is it possible for the Court (if they were so disposed) to retire, after the steps the[y], are certainly known to have taken.34

John Somers, Baron Somers, wrote to Archbishop Tenison on 3 June to complain that ‘when I have remonstrated pretty strongly upon occasion of the talk of supplying late vacancies, to have been told that the Archbishop is principally in fault who does not speak plainly and fully to the Queen, when the Archbishop of York never suffers her to rest.’35 Dawes’s elevation also exercised William Cowper, Baron (later Earl) Cowper, who, in conference on 1 Sept. with Godolphin, learned that the treasurer had informed the queen of ‘the necessity of agreeing with the Whigs and court’, and ‘did not think it possible to go on with [the] other party’. Godolphin put it down to the queen’s ‘personal inclination and engagements’, and to him ‘not being able when asked to tell her they were obnoxious to any’.36 On 2 Oct. Gibson wrote that the episcopal ‘promotions’ are in a ‘status quo’; ‘with this only difference, that within these eight or nine days, Chester seems to our friends to be in a more hopeful way than before. Norwich and the Professorship [the regius professorship of divinity at Oxford, destined for Dr John Potter, the future archbishop of Canterbury, Marlborough’s candidate] are reckon[ed], safe; and it seems to be agreed, on the Whig side, that Dr Blackall’s going to Exeter shall break no squares.’37

When the first Parliament of Great Britain assembled on 23 Oct. 1707 the appointments of Dawes and Blackall had still not been announced officially. Gibson reflected that the present situation could not continue as long as the court, which was ‘thought to be much devoted to the side that thinks itself extremely disobliged by these two promotions’ gave secular offices to the Whigs but ecclesiastical appointments to the Tories like Dawes.38 Dawes’s elevation was finally confirmed on 7 Jan. 1708. He was consecrated in Westminster Abbey on 8 Feb. by Archbishop Sharp. Tenison, meanwhile, consecrated Blackall and Trimnell at Lambeth.39 On 16 Feb. Dawes visited his friend Nicolson (with the gift of a pair of consecration gloves) and read over with approval Nicolson’s legal case against Francis Atterbury (at that point the dean of Carlisle) which led ultimately to Somers’ cathedrals bill.40

Bishop of Chester

Dawes took his seat in the House of Lords on 2 Mar. 1708. He attended only eight sittings before the prorogation on 1 Apr. 1708 (30 per cent). Following the dissolution of Parliament in spring 1708, Dawes was unsurprisingly recorded as a Tory in a printed list of the first Parliament of Great Britain. He arrived back in his episcopal palace on 22 May, attended services in Chester cathedral, entertained the mayor and aldermen at the bishop’s palace and spent the summer of 1708 meeting local worthies and performing numerous confirmations. On 16 Aug. he conversed with the nonjuror Peter Legh on ‘the subject of complying with the government and abjuration’, with discussions continuing over the following days. At one of his convivial dinners he was ‘provoked’ into admitting that he thought the Pretender ‘an imposture’. On 12 Aug. he dined with a group of clergy and gentry, including Cecil Booth (Warrington’s uncle), with whom he held an animated conversation about nonconformity. Dawes maintained that ‘he never knew any Dissenter that differed from [him], upon a principle, but upon humour, pride, prejudice or the like’, satisfying the Tories among the assembled company with his defence of the Church of England. 41

Dawes set out from Cheshire again about 22 Sept. 1708.42 He was present when the new Parliament opened on 16 Nov., attending on 33 days of the session (36 per cent). Dawes may have voted on 21 Jan. 1709 against the motion that a Scottish peer with a British title had the right to vote in the election of Scottish representative peers, but the way the division list was compiled makes it possible that he was one of the bishops in attendance that day who did not vote, especially as Sharp voted the other way. During the consideration of the general naturalization bill in the committee of the whole on 15 Mar., Dawes offered an amendment to enforce worship not in ‘some Protestant Reformed congregation’ but in a ‘parochial church’, a change which would have made Anglican conformity for all Protestant ‘strangers’ a condition of British citizenship. In the division that followed, Dawes had the support of ten bishops but the clause was rejected 45-15.43 Burnet claimed that he ‘spoke copiously’ in favour of the bill, but that Dawes ‘spoke as zealously against it, for he seemed resolved to distinguish himself as a zealot for that which was called high church’.44 On 30 Mar. 1709 Dawes attended the session for the last time, missing the last three weeks of business.

During the recess, Dawes went into his diocese, arriving back in Chester on 7 May 1709. On 24 May he delivered his visitation charge, in which, it was reported, he directed his clergy to ‘preserve their people from atheism, socianism, [and] to beware of the popish and Protestant dissenters’, distinguished between ‘toleration and establishment’, and said ‘the schism is schism still’. He then commenced upon his primary visitation. Having proceeded into Lonsdale hundred he took the opportunity of waiting upon Bishop Nicolson at Rose Castle on 12 July.45 On the 13th Nicolson recorded the bishop as ‘open against the bishop of Ely [Moore], and Lord Treasurer for the wardenship of Manchester in commendam, great with the queen &c’. After a visit to Carlisle, he left again on the 14th.46

As Nicolson wrote on 18 July, ‘our robust brother of Chester’,

came hither the last week from Whitehaven; and went hence to Newcastle upon Tyne. He is now at Durham, from where he comes back to the remaining part of his visitation at Richmond and Boroughbridge about the end of this week. When his own necessary duties are over, he goes into Bishopsthorp, and thence returning (by Nottingham) to Chester, will have visited every county in this whole province.47

On 15 Nov. 1709 Dawes was again present on the first day of the new parliamentary session, subsequently attending on 40 days (43 per cent). He attended the House on 27 Feb. 1710 when the Sacheverell trial opened in Westminster Hall, and was consistent in his sympathy towards the doctor. On 14 Mar. he registered his dissent against the resolution not to adjourn the House and subsequently protested against the resolution that it was unnecessary to include in the impeachment the particular words supposed to be criminal spoken by Sacheverell. On 16 Mar. Dawes entered his dissent to the decision to put the question on whether the Commons had proved the first article of their impeachment, and then to the resolution itself, which he was noted as voting against.48 On the 17th he again registered his protest against Lords’ resolutions that the Commons had made good its charges in the second, third and fourth articles of the impeachment. The following day he dissented from the resolution limiting peers to a single verdict of guilty or not guilty upon all articles of impeachment and, on 20 Mar., when the Lords finally voted on Sacheverell’s guilt, Dawes voted against the majority verdict and registered his dissent. He attended the session for the last time on 25 March. Dawes then went into his diocese, arriving at Broxton on 19 April.49 While there he hosted a visit to Chester from Sacheverell during the latter’s triumphalist progress.50 He was still in his diocese in the latter part of July 1710.51

On 25 Nov. 1710 Dawes attended the House for the first day of the new Parliament and was present on 45 days (40 per cent) of the session. On 3 Jan. 1711 he was ordered by the Lords to preach the sermon on the martyrdom of Charles I at the end of January. In what Nicolson found to be ‘a loyal and honest sermon’ in its appeal against extremism, Dawes took the opportunity to make his most outspoken challenge on the party system.52 In one passage he argued that, ‘we ought to take great care never to list ourselves, as thorough members of any party’, because

there never yet was, and I fear, never will be any party upon earth, that has not, or will not ... run into extravagancies. And how few have been ever found of such parties, that have been able to forbear running along with them? that have been resolute enough to endure the shame of forsaking their party, the hard looks, opprobrious language, and malicious usage, of it, and to stick fast to their reason and religion, in spite of them? So small has the number of these heroic souls ever been, such vast toil have they undergone, and so much opposition and contradiction have they fought their way through; that I cannot but think it too great and dangerous a risk, for a man to tie himself to any party. Besides, if there were no danger, yet certainly there is always a great deal of trouble in it: and why should a wise man give himself that trouble, which he may so easily avoid?53

Dawes was thanked by the House the following day.

On 5 Feb. 1711 Dawes dissented from the Lords’ rejection of the bill to repeal the general naturalization act. The following day he hosted Nicolson and Blackall for dinner at Kensington where they joined Sir John Cotton and his son, John Hynde Cotton, who ‘explained’ the October Club, in what Nicolson described as ‘Tory discourse’. On 7 Feb. he received the proxy of Bishop Hooper. On 14 Mar. he reported from select committees on the Burgoyne, Grosvenor and Poynter estate bills (all three having been referred to the same committee). On 14 Mar. he confessed his shame ‘of having Dr S[acheverell], to read the prayers on Thursday last’ at St Botolph, Aldgate, to celebrate the opening of a charity school. Dawes had preached the sermon, but Sacheverell’s prayers had made ‘a mob and noise’ during the procession to a public hall for dinner.54 He last attended on 5 Apr. 1711, when he wrote a letter to the physician, Dr Hans Sloane, asking him to visit his home, ‘because I am to go into the country on the morrow: I live in Church Lane in Kensington, and desire your company after four because I cannot be sure of getting home from the House of Lords before that time’.55 He was expected at Broxton on 25 Apr. 1711. He left Broxton again at the beginning of September.56

Dawes was in London in good time for the opening of the 1711-12 session, attending the prorogations of 13 and 27 Nov. 1711, and fitting a visit into the ‘country’, presumably his Essex estates, in between.57 On 28 Nov. Sharp, not able to attend Parliament, informed Oxford that he had ‘some time ago’ sent his proxy to Dawes who, he was sure, ‘will on all occasions vote honestly’.58 Dawes received the proxy, vital for Oxford in his political management of the House, on 1 Dec. 1711; it was vacated on 31 Jan. 1712 by Sharp’s attendance. On 29 Nov. 1711 Dawes also received the proxy of his colleague Blackall, who informed Oxford that he would do everything possible to ensure that his (and the queen’s) voting intentions were ‘punctually complied with’.59 The proxy was vacated by Blackall’s attendance on 11 Feb. 1712. Dawes was in the House on 7 Dec. 1711 for the start of the new session, and able to employ the two proxies on the ministerial side in the division on whether to include a reference to ‘No Peace without Spain’ in the address.60 Dawes was present on 80 days (75 per cent) of the session.

On 19 Dec. 1711 Dawes was forecast by Oxford as being in favour of allowing James Hamilton, duke of Hamilton [S] the right to sit in the Lords by virtue of his British peerage, and on the 20th voted against the motion that such peers could not sit in the House. He continued to support the Oxford ministry on 2 Jan. 1712 following the creation of 12 Tory peers and voted in favour of Oxford’s adjournment motion, using Blackall’s and Sharp’s proxies to support the ministry.61 On 9 Jan. Nicolson visited Dawes’s ‘pleasant house’ in Kensington. On 22 Jan. Nicolson recorded being at the House, where he and Dawes ‘cooked Dr Dent’s bill’, Dent being a canon of Westminster. On 26 Feb. Dawes voted to pass the Scottish episcopal toleration bill, complete with the Commons’ amendments that were more favourable to the episcopalians. On 21 Feb. Dawes had been ordered to preach before the Lords on 8 Mar. to commemorate the anniversary of the queen’s accession. His preaching on this occasion was uncontroversial and he was thanked by the House on 10 Mar. for his ‘excellent sermon’. That day he was also present at a committee meeting in the Banqueting House with Nicolson and William Fleetwood, bishop of St Asaph.62

Dawes was active in non-parliamentary matters. He regularly attended meetings of the commissioners of Queen Anne’s Bounty in Whitehall.63 More pertinently for religious divisions, he was involved in April 1712 in the baptism controversy and the Tory opposition to Tenison’s proposed letter to the clergy on the validity of lay baptism. Summoned by Sharp (together with Blackall and George Bull, bishop of St Davids) to discuss the ramifications of Tenison’s proposals, Dawes shared Sharp’s misgivings. Tenison was informed that they could not concur with the letter, since it would be an encouragement to nonconformists. The issue led to further political polarization on the episcopal bench which Dawes did nothing to defuse despite his disavowal of party extremism.64 On 13 Apr. he received the proxy of Bishop Blackall and on 7 June that of Archbishop Sharp. On 15 May he examined the Lords’ Journal for a period up to 4 February. On 28 May he voted against the ministry in the division on the ‘restraining orders’ sent to James Butler, 2nd duke of Ormond, a harbinger of a more critical stance towards the administration. An absent Bishop Nicolson commented on 9 June that he was expecting a busy day at Carlisle, ‘my two great fellow suffragans (Durham and Chester) giving me the honour of their proxies on this occasion, whilst they are personally ratifying the safe and honourable peace at Westminster.’65 Dawes was present on the adjournment of 21 June, the effective end of the session.

Dawes arrived back at his episcopal palace on 3 July 1712. On 8 July he gave his visitation charge, ‘founded on her majesty’s late letter to the bishops’.66 On 31 July Nicolson wrote that ‘our brother of Chester is now in my neighbourhood, at Kendal and will be yet nearer the next week. Whether he’ll do this place the usual honour of a call, in his road from Cockermouth to Richmond, is that [sic] he has yet been pleased to notify’.67 Dawes left his episcopal palace on 3 September.68 By 7 Oct. he was back in London where White Kennett, the future bishop of Peterborough, informed Wake that Dawes had been with Tenison to obtain leave ‘for a longer remove in B[ock]ing because of debts on his estate’.69 As early as April 1712, Dawes had sought and gained a legal opinion from the attorney general allowing for a new dispensation to be issued for him to hold the rectory of Bocking in commendam with his bishopric.70

Dawes and the Whimsical Tories

On 26 Dec. 1712 Dawes attended the St Stephen’s dinner at Lambeth.71 Between 13 Jan. and 26 Mar. 1713, he attended the House on seven occasions for further prorogations of Parliament. On 26 Jan. Sharp hoped (in vain) that since he had ‘appointed so good a proxy’ as Dawes the queen would dispense with his attendance at the House for the remainder of the session.72 Blackall was equally trusting of Dawes, informing Oxford in response to a summons to Parliament that until he arrived his proxy was registered with Dawes who would give his vote ‘as shall be most for her majesty’s service, and the public good’.73 Oxford may not have been pleased with their choice, for Dawes was exhibiting more signs of being unhappy with the ministry’s foreign policy. On 3 Mar. the Hanoverian resident Kreienberg reported that Dawes had been publicly voicing his worries over the peace.74 This was reflected in Oxford’s assessment of the situation before the session began in a list in Swift’s hand, which placed Dawes among the probable opponents of the ministry. Dawes was present when the session opened on 9 Apr. attending on 42 days (64 per cent) of the session. Oxford’s suspicions of Dawes’s intentions were confirmed when on the opening day of the session, Dawes joined both Nottingham and Heneage Finch, Baron Guernsey, to vote with the Whig opposition on their motion regarding the peace negotiations, to oppose the address of thanks for the Queen’s Speech.75 News of Dawes’s defection spread rapidly; that evening, Jonathan Swift was visiting George Hamilton, earl of Orkney [S], where he heard that Dawes, despite being a ‘high Tory’, was now in political opposition. According to the account Swift heard there, Dawes had been summoned by the duchess of Marlborough shortly before her departure from court in January ‘to justify herself to him in relation to the queen, and showed him letters, and told him stories, which the weak man believed, and was perverted’.76 This story was corroborated by Ralph Bridges who noted that just prior to the departure of the duchess for the continent, Dawes ‘had a private conference with her and they say was her confessor’. He explained though, that in the 9 Apr. debate Dawes had been careful to avoid complete adherence to the Whigs: ‘in the debate about thanking the queen he pretends amongst his Church acquaintance to [ha]ve been guided much by Lord Guernsey’s speech and his stating the words of the question’, and although ‘he voted with the Whigs, yet he refused to protest and attended the Lords with their address at St James’s’.77 In September Oxford learned from John Drummond that upon being told that she had ‘converted’ Dawes by telling him that the queen favoured the Pretender, the duchess denied ever hearing the queen speak favourably of the Pretender.78

Bolingbroke’s strategy for uniting the Tories behind his own leadership was to promote legislation which would drive a wedge between the so-called Hanoverian or Whimsical Tories and the Whigs. One such measure was a bill, drafted by Atterbury, to prevent the too frequent use of excommunication in the exercise of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, which was introduced to the Lords on 5 May 1713. Dawes took the chair of the committee of the whole on it on 18 June, reporting it on the following day. The bill subsequently fell at the end of the session as the two Houses could not agree on one of its clauses.79 Dawes’s name appears on a second list compiled by Swift, for Oxford, probably in May, which indicated his opposition to the ministry or possibly that he was to be canvassed over the French commercial treaty. About 13 June Dawes was listed as likely to oppose the French commercial bill, and about the same date his name appears on a list of court supporters expected to desert the government over the commerce bill and also on Oxford’s estimate of the voting on the bill.

On 5 June 1713 Dawes chaired the committees on the Harrington, Constable and Chamberlen estate bills, reporting from the first two, although there were no further proceedings on the latter.80 On the following day he reported two further bills from committee, an estate bill and the bill allowing for enclosures in the West Riding to endow poor vicarages and chapelries. On 23 June Dawes attended the House for the last time that session. Ensconced at Christ Church Oxford, he missed the contentious ‘Lorraine’ motion of 30 June. His host, Dr William Stratford (son of Dawes’s predecessor, and a friend of Oxford), reported to Edward Harley, styled Lord Harley, later 2nd earl of Oxford, that he expected Dawes to let him ‘into the secret of the trade bill’ and to reveal all the ministry’s faults. He also noted that Dawes appeared ‘disinterested’ since he felt able to leave London while Henry Compton, of London, was reportedly very ill.81

The Hanoverian envoy Schütz had warned on 23 Oct. 1713 that in the opinion of Dawes, without direct encouragement from the elector, Tories with similar views to his own would not break cover.82 Dawes was back in London by 12 Nov., when John Chamberlayne reported that he had an audience with the queen about the rules and regulations of Queen Anne’s Bounty.83 Dawes, assisted by Philip Bisse, bishop of Hereford, had administered the sacrament to the queen and had then been granted an audience the following morning.84 He attended the prorogation on 10 Dec. 1713. Before the appointment of Bishop Thomas Lindsey to the Irish primacy, Charles Talbot, duke of Shrewsbury, had suggested an Englishman, and named Dawes as a possible candidate.85

Archbishop of York

Archbishop Sharp died on 2 Feb. 1714. On 5 Feb. Stratford thought that Dawes and Bisse would be the two competitors for the archbishopric. He told Lord Harley that Dawes

will certainly vote against you if he has not York, and I am afraid will not be firm to you, if he has it. He will then hope for no more from you and think himself at liberty to do as he pleases, and the very best you can hope for from him will be to be whimsical. It is a very unaccountable part that he has taken on him ever since the change of the ministry, to reflect publicly in all companies on your father [Oxford], and for that too for which no other person ever pretended to tax him, for want of sense.86

On 10 Feb. Stratford added that in his diocese Dawes’s credit ‘was sunk to a degree, scarce credible, for his votes in the last session’ as not one gentleman ‘would converse with him, of those amongst whom he had been very popular’. Further, Dawes had been fortunate in receiving more in entry fines than the previous bishop had done in 18 years, and had refused to renew one lease that had previously been used to augment the salaries of the petty canons, giving it instead to his own son. Despite being a wealthy man, Dawes had ‘so stripped it’, as to impoverish his successor.87

Six days later Stratford wrote again, of having heard of a ‘design in which many Tories have combined to move to bring over Hanover’, in which case Dawes would be one of those implicated.88 Dawes attended the House for the first day of the new Parliament that day, 16 Feb. 1714, and was present on 59 days (78 per cent) of the session. A congé d’élire was issued on 20 Feb. for his election as archbishop of York, the queen, without consulting her ministers, having honoured Sharp’s wishes despite the rival candidacy of John Robinson, bishop of London.89 Oxford was not consulted over the appointment. There was a slight hiatus between 6 Mar. when Dawes sat as bishop of Chester and 17 Mar. when he took his seat as archbishop. At least one contemporary was pleased; the dowager viscountess of Irwin thought him ‘a fine young bishop, who is not much above 40 and a baronet and has a good estate’, so much so that she expected the Minster to become ‘a very fashionable place’.90

Tories of the stamp of George Lockhart were as dismayed by the translation of Dawes as they were by the election of Sir Thomas Hanmer as Speaker of the Commons, since they had ‘in the last session of Parliament voted in most material points against the ministry, which rendered it unaccountable and unexcusable in them, to prefer men of such principles and practices to posts of so great weight in church and state’. Lockhart attributed Dawes’s promotion to the hope that it would ‘draw him off to their interest’, but felt the ‘prelate’s intrinsic worth was not of any equal value to so great a prize’ even if it had succeeded in its attempt.91

During the Easter recess (19-31 Mar.) Dawes was recruited to an alliance between the Whigs and the Hanoverian Tories to secure the succession. As Schütz reported on 26 Mar., Dawes would meet on the following day with Nottingham and John Campbell, duke of Argyll [S].92 Another meeting was held on 1 Apr. involving Dawes, Nottingham, Hanmer and Arthur Annesley, 5th earl of Anglesey, at which agreement was reached with the Whigs over a variety of issues, including the succession, the expulsion of the Pretender from Lorraine, trade, and even the need for a treasury commission to succeed Oxford.93

When the Queen’s Speech was taken into further consideration on 5 Apr. 1714, the court sprung a surprise with a motion that the Protestant succession was not in danger. According to George Baillie, Dawes followed Anglesey in speaking ‘well’ against the motion, and when the House divided over the addition of an amendment to add the words ‘under her majesty’s government’ and on the procedural motion that the full question be put, Dawes was able to draw ‘after him the whole bench of bishops, three courtiers only excepted’.94 Lockhart noted that Dawes had ‘said he could not say but it was in danger whilst the Pretender was alive and had friends, but if the question was meant [to mean] that it was not in danger under the queen’s administration, he would vote as he had done in the former address’. However, ‘the worthless bishop of York notwithstanding of his speech’ had then ‘deserted’ the Tories.95 Following this vote, which showed the strength of the whimsical Tories when allied to the Whigs, the queen closeted Dawes and Anglesey.96 The effect of the queen’s intervention was seen on 8 Apr. when the Lords considered their address over the Pretender; the court was able to make the final version more palatable to the queen and Thomas Wentworth, earl of Strafford, reported that Dawes was one of ‘four straggling lords returned to us’.97 When the Lords considered the queen’s answer to this address (in the wake of Schütz’s request for a writ for the future George II, as duke of Cambridge) on 13 Apr., Dawes was joined by 11 other Tories, including Bishops Robinson, Hooper and George Smalridge, of Bristol in voting for a second address, a vote won by the ministry only after the proxies had been counted.98

Facing opposition not only from the Whigs but also from whimsicals such as Dawes, Oxford penned a memorandum on 19 Apr. 1714 for an audience with the queen in which he advised her to ‘send for such persons of the clergy and laity, Lords and Commons, and she in her great wisdom shall think fit, and let them know from her own mouth her majesty’s thoughts about the succession’.99 On 1 May James Johnston reported that Oxford had got the queen ‘to send for the Archbishop of York and solemnly declare herself for Hanover and that she was ever so’.100 Nevertheless, rumours circulated that Dawes had in fact told the queen that he was against the present ministers.101 On 27 Apr., John Chamberlayne wrote to the Electress Sophia that Dawes (‘there is no man in England more devoted to your interest’) had informed him of his meeting with the queen, wherein the queen had permitted Dawes had ‘with great liberty, and with that candour and sincerity that is natural to his grace, to lay before her his thoughts of the people’s fears and jealousies concerning the Pretender, and the dangers to the succession so much apprehended by all good Protestants’, after which the queen had assured him of her unalterable support for the electoral family.102 As Thomas Bateman reported it on 27 Apr.:

I hear that the Archbishop of York had a free conference with the queen last Friday [23 Apr.], and one point was the Hanover Succession, for which she made a very solemn declaration, which may satisfy some fears that have been expressed, tho’ they say it may fall hard on Lord B[olingbro]ke, and that our friend [Oxford], may be safe.103

Almost immediately, Dawes wrote to the Electress Sophia to express not only his personal loyalty but that of the English clergy:

Madam, I want words to express my deep sense of the great honour, which your royal highness has done me, in vouchsafing to take notice of, and kindly accept, my poor endeavours, to serve your illustrious house, and, in that, the protestant interest, in general, and our own happy constitution in church and state, in particular. ... I hope your royal highness will, every day more and more, have the satisfaction of seeing that, not only I myself, but the whole body of our clergy, are faithful and zealous, as becomes us, in this respect; and that the same good spirit is still amongst us, which so laudably, and through the blessing of God, successfully opposed and got the better of the attempts of France and popery in King James’ reign ... I ... pray to God ... that he would guard and maintain your right of succeeding to the crown of these realms, as now by law established.104

When Dawes’s conversation with the queen was reported to the duchess of Marlborough, she thought it ‘disagreeable what [Dawes] says himself, that he introduced the discourse with the q[ueen], by saying it was not merely noise and faction the fears of popery. What a way that is of treating men of consideration that are struggling to save their country’. She then mentioned hearing ‘a very strange account’ of one of Dawes’s recent sermons in which he mentioned not only the war but ‘the gainers by it’ which she described as ‘monstrous ... and only to bring in malice … when he allowed there was but few that got and one of them that he meant I suppose, the chief, was the duke of Marlborough at Antwerp’. Dawes, according to the duchess, had entertained no such scruples when the duke was in political favour.105 On 7 May William Cadogan, the future Baron Cadogan, wrote to the Hanoverian diplomat Bothmer that if Prince George did not come to England, then ‘our new allies’, namely Anglesey, Dawes and Hanmer ‘will leave us soon: for they declare publicly enough, that the succession cannot be secured but by the presence of the prince’.106

Other legislative matters engaged Dawes during the session. On 7 May 1714 Dawes reported from the committee on the act to remove mortuaries in the diocese of St Asaph. Presumably, he was instrumental in passing a series of amendments to the bill which annexed valuable livings to university colleges, including his own.107 The bill that received the royal assent on 5 June had a much wider scope, reflected in its amended title: ‘an act for taking away mortuaries, within the dioceses of Bangor, Landaff, St Davids, and St Asaph, and giving a recompence therefore to the bishops of the said respective dioceses; and for confirming several letters patents granted by her majesty, for perpetually annexing a prebend of Gloucester to the mastership of Pembroke College in Oxford, and a prebend of Rochester to the provostship of Oriel College in Oxford, and a prebend of Norwich to the mastership of Catherine Hall in Cambridge’. With Bishop Robinson he was forced to dissociate himself from a story that ‘they applied to the queen in favour of [the nonjuror Hilkiah] Bedford, but the ministry give the last the lie in express words.’ James Johnston wrote on 14 May 1714 that ‘the papists’

have trumped up a new title to make void my brother’s grant and have restitution etc. visibly upon the supposition of the Pretender’s being in possession and upon the same foot an appeal from Scotland was to be heard before the House of Lords on Wednesday last [12 May], but the matter made such a noise that the Court interposed and the archbishop of York, in the queen’s name, made the appellant desist, which the adverse party would not agree to without security, so the Lords reconfirmed their decree without hearing the cause.108

This related to the estates of the Jacobite exile Sir Roger Strickland, which Johnston claimed, although this was contested by General George Cholmondeley and Strickland himself, who hoped for a pardon.109 On 13 May Dawes received Blackall’s proxy (vacated at the end of the session).

On 27 May 1714, the day after the Lords resumed after an adjournment of two weeks, Dawes presented to the House (with the queen’s consent), a bill to secure the maintenance of poor clergy (part of Queen Anne’s Bounty). About this date he was forecast by Nottingham as a supporter of the schism bill. In part, this bill was promoted by Bolingbroke to unite the Tory party, and Dawes duly supported it at its first reading on 4 June.110 Dawes chaired the committee of the whole on the schism bill from 9th to the 11th, reporting back to the House on each occasion that they had made progress but needed further time to deliberate. On the 11th the committee requested the power to receive a clause extending the bill’s provisions to Ireland, which was carried by a single vote, with Dawes casting his own vote, and Blackall’s proxy, in favour.111 Dawes reported the bill on the 14th, and the bill with the amendment extending it to Ireland was agreed to. On 15 June Dawes voted with the majority of bishops present in favour of bill and it passed the House by eight votes.112 He last attended the House on 8 July, the day before the prorogation. Dawes was still championing James Greenshields, more specifically his quest for a pension which the queen had apparently granted in 1711, but which had not been paid. According to a later petition, the queen assured Dawes on 11 July that it would be paid, but events overtook the order.113

Reign of George I

At the end of the July 1714 Dawes had travelled north following the prorogation and had just arrived at his palace when he learnt of the queen’s death.114 He joined the lord mayor of York in proclaiming the king, and then returned to London.115 By 9 Aug. he had arrived back in the capital when he first attended the parliamentary session summoned on the death of the queen. Dawes was in an important position, having been named (albeit ex officio as archbishop of York) by George I as one of the regents to govern the kingdom in his absence.116 One indication of this appears in a memorandum by Oxford which indicated that the former lord treasurer had already paid a courtesy call on the archbishop by 10 August.117 On 13, 21 and 25 Aug. Dawes also sat in the House as one of the lords justices. On 13 Aug. it was reported that Dawes and Hanmer had recommended Samuel Hill for the vacant bishopric of Ely.118

Dawes attended for further prorogations on 23 Sept. and 21 Oct. 1714 and was now embarking on a career as political advisor to George I. Having already secured his position with the Hanoverians, unlike many of his less flexible colleagues, Dawes was one of the Tories to remain in favour at the start of the new reign. Ralph Palmer reported on 30 Oct. that Dawes had told a ‘great man’ that ‘he might depend upon it, that among the Tories he wanted not able and hearty friends (however he might be misinformed) that would be faithful and zealous to serve him’.119 In an account of the king’s Lutheran faith Dawes attempted to persuade Lutherans that the Church of England was no threat and, in essence, little different.120 On 26 Jan. 1715 he was listed as a Tory still in office. His subsequent parliamentary career will be considered in the next phase of this work.

Dawes died suddenly on 30 Apr. 1724 in Cecil Street, London, of an acute attack of ‘inflammation of the bowels’.121 He had outlived his wife and most of his children, naming as the executors of his will his son-in-law Sir William Milner and Peniston Lamb of Lincoln’s Inn. He placed his entire real and personal estate in trust for the benefit of his only son, Darcy Dawes. According to his own wishes, Dawes was buried next to his wife in a family vault in the chapel of St Catherine’s Hall, Cambridge.

Dawes rose through the Church hierarchy to the archbishopric of York earning the praise of one biographer as ‘the most complete pulpit orator of his age’.122 Socially and financially, the urbane Dawes was hardly typical of the early modern episcopate. One contemporary scribbler commented on his patrician charm:

Sir William does in every church display
the air of something new and something gay
’tis heaven, at least, to hear him preach or pray
He dignifies his pulpit, see, and lawn,
and is a very angel of a man.123

In parliamentary terms, Dawes was most important as a leading Hanoverian Tory during the last years of Anne’s reign. Indeed, Arthur Onslow later noted that ‘he always adhered very strongly to the protestant succession’, and was one of the ‘chief’ Hanoverian Tories.124


  • 1 CSP Dom. Addenda 1660-85, p. 83.
  • 2 Whole Works of … Sir William Dawes ed. J. Wilford (1733), i. pp. xlviii-li.
  • 3 TNA, PROB 11/597.
  • 4 Whole Works, i. p. xx.
  • 5 Commissions for Building Fifty New Churches ed. M.H. Port (London Rec. Soc. xxiii), pp. xxxiv-v.
  • 6 Whole Works, i. p. vi.
  • 7 CCAM, 273.
  • 8 Whole Works, i. pp. vi-vii.
  • 9 PROB 11/242 (Robert Hawkins); Survey of London, v. 109-10.
  • 10 Pepys Diary, iv. 121-2.
  • 11 Whole Works, i. pp. xi-xiii.
  • 12 Add. 61458, ff. 61-62.
  • 13 Verney, ms mic. M636/51. R. Palmer to Sir J. Verney, 15 Nov. 1698.
  • 14 Whole Works, i. p. xx.
  • 15 Bodl. Tanner 24, f. 131.
  • 16 Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 219.
  • 17 CSP Dom. 1698, p. 361.
  • 18 Whole Works, i. p. xviii.
  • 19 Nicolson, London Diaries, 126.
  • 20 Eighteenth-Century Life, xxxii. (3), 124; Add. 70075, newsletter, 1 June 1703.
  • 21 Longleat, Bath mss, Portland misc. ff. 199-200.
  • 22 Christ Church Lib. Oxf. Wake mss 17, ff. 87-88; EHR, lxxxii. 730.
  • 23 Duke of Manchester, Court and Society from Elizabeth to Anne, ii. 231; EHR, xlv. 265; Wake mss 17, f. 95.
  • 24 Whole Works, i. p. xxx.
  • 25 Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp. 932.
  • 26 Burnet, v. 339.
  • 27 Add. 72494, ff. 29-30; Prescott Diary, i. 149.
  • 28 Prescott Diary, i. 149, 151-55.
  • 29 Add. 72494, ff. 33-34.
  • 30 Beinecke Lib. Manchester pprs. 1696-1732, p. 5. Halifax to Manchester 19-30 July 1707.
  • 31 A. Tindal Hart, Life of Sharp, 242-3.
  • 32 NLW, Plas-yn-Cefn, 2736.
  • 33 Coxe, Marlborough, ii. 158.
  • 34 Wake mss 17, f. 174.
  • 35 Ibid. 7, ff. 346-7.
  • 36 HALS, DE/P/F131, notes of conference, 1 Sept. 1707.
  • 37 Wake mss 17, f. 176.
  • 38 NLW, Plas-yn-Cefn, 2740.
  • 39 Luttrell, vi. 254, 265; Nicolson, London Diaries, 449.
  • 40 Nicolson, London Diaries, 452-3.
  • 41 Prescott Diary, i. 175-95.
  • 42 Ibid. 195.
  • 43 Nicolson, London Diaries, 471-2, 486.
  • 44 Burnet, v. 411.
  • 45 Prescott Diary, i. 234, 238-44.
  • 46 Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. xxxv. 103-4.
  • 47 Wake mss 17, f. 213.
  • 48 Add. 72494, ff. 169-70.
  • 49 Prescott Diary, i. 279.
  • 50 G. Holmes, Trial of Dr Sacheverell, 245.
  • 51 Prescott Diary, i. 290.
  • 52 Nicolson, London Diaries, 540.
  • 53 Whole Works, i. 329-30.
  • 54 Nicolson, London Diaries, 543, 559; Holmes, Dr Sacheverell, 258.
  • 55 Sloane 4042, f. 268.
  • 56 Prescott Diary, ii 308, 324.
  • 57 HMC Kenyon, 449.
  • 58 Add. 70257, Sharp to Oxford, 28 Nov. 1711.
  • 59 HMC Portland, v. 117-18.
  • 60 Rev. Pols. 234n.3.
  • 61 Brit. Pols. 517n.62.
  • 62 Nicolson, London Diaries, 577, 580, 593.
  • 63 Ibid. 594-5, 597.
  • 64 Carpenter, Tenison, 318.
  • 65 Wake mss 17, f. 327.
  • 66 Prescott Diary, ii. 364-5.
  • 67 Wake mss 17, f. 330.
  • 68 Prescott Diary, ii. 366.
  • 69 Wake mss 17, ff. 340-1.
  • 70 TNA, SP34/18/58.
  • 71 LPL, ms 1770 (Wake diary), f. 128.
  • 72 Add. 70257, Sharp to Oxford, 26 Jan., 14 Feb. 1713.
  • 73 Add. 70211, Blackall to Oxford, 14 Feb. 1713.
  • 74 BLJ, xvi. 120.
  • 75 BLJ, xix. 165-6.
  • 76 Jnl. to Stella ed. Williams, 658.
  • 77 Add. 72496, ff. 64-65.
  • 78 HMC Portland, v. 338.
  • 79 HMC Lords, n.s. x. 65.
  • 80 Ibid. 94.
  • 81 HMC Portland, vii. 150.
  • 82 Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 326.
  • 83 Add. 70216, Chamberlayne to Oxford, 12 Nov. 1713.
  • 84 Wake mss 17, ff. 347-8.
  • 85 HMC Bath, i. 245.
  • 86 HMC Portland, vii. 178.
  • 87 Ibid. 179, 182.
  • 88 Ibid. vii. 181.
  • 89 Tindall Hart, i. 332-3.
  • 90 HMC Var. viii. 90.
  • 91 Lockhart Pprs. i. 440.
  • 92 Macpherson, Orig. Pprs. ii. 585.
  • 93 Macpherson, ii. 587-9; Rev. Pols. 242; Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 356-7.
  • 94 Haddington mss, Mellerstain letters VI, Baillie to wife, 6 Apr. 1714; Boyer, 683; BLJ, xix. 170; Bodl. Ballard 38, f. 197; Wentworth Pprs. 366; Gent, Hist. of the First and Second Session of the Last Parliament, 41.
  • 95 Lockhart Letters, 93.
  • 96 Holmes, ‘Great Ministry’, 365.
  • 97 Wentworth Pprs. 366-7; Mellerstain letters VI, Baillie to wife, 10 Apr. 1714.
  • 98 Mellerstain letters VI, Baillie to wife, 13 Apr. 1714; Add. 47087, f. 68; Add. 17677HHH, f. 180; Gent, p. 50.
  • 99 Add. 70331, memo. 19 Apr. 1714.
  • 100 Add. 72488, ff. 79-80.
  • 101 G.V. Bennett Tory Crisis in Church and State, 1688-1730, 176.
  • 102 EHR, i. 770.
  • 103 Add. 72501, f. 118.
  • 104 Stowe 227, f. 15.
  • 105 Add. 61463, ff. 124-7.
  • 106 Macpherson, ii. 615.
  • 107 Whole Works, i. p. xxviii.
  • 108 Add. 72488, ff. 81-82.
  • 109 CTB, xxviii. 64, 323.
  • 110 Brit. Pols. 424.
  • 111 Nicolson, London Diaries, 612.
  • 112 Verney, ms mic. M636/55, Ld. Fermanagh notes, 15 June 1714; Add. 70070, newsletter, 15 June 1714.
  • 113 Add. 61624, f. 122.
  • 114 Add. 72501, f. 155.
  • 115 Lady Mary Wortley Montagu Letters, i. 213-15.
  • 116 Add. 70278, List of ‘The Electorice’s Regents copied by Earl Rivers at Hanover’.
  • 117 Add. 70331, Oxford memo. 10 Aug. 1714.
  • 118 Macpherson, ii. 642.
  • 119 Verney ms mic. M636/55, Palmer to R. Verney, 30 Oct. 1714.
  • 120 W. Dawes, Exact Account of King George’s Religion (1714); W. Gibson, Church of England, 188.
  • 121 Whole Works, i. pp. xxxii-xxxiii.
  • 122 Ibid. p. xxxvii.
  • 123 Life and Errors of John Dunton, ii. 669.
  • 124 Burnet, v. 339.