Morice, Humphry (DNB00)
|←Moriarty, David||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 39
MORICE, HUMPHRY (1671?–1731), governor of the Bank of England, born about 1671, was son of Humphry Morice (1640?-1696) [see under Morice, Sir William]. As a Turkey merchant, he carried on an extensive business with the East. At the general election of September 1713 he was returned to parliament for the borough of Newport, Cornwall, which was in the patronage of his first cousin, Sir Nicholas Morice, bart., of Werrington, Devonshire, his colleague in the representation. In the House of Commons he steadily supported the policy of Walpole, voting in 1714 against the expulsion of Steele for his published attacks upon the Harley-Bolingbroke ministry; in 1716, in support of the Septennial Bill; and in 1719, against a measure to restrict the creation of peers. Sir Nicholas Morice, in such of these divisions as he voted, sided with the tories; and, therefore, at the dissolution of March 1722, Humphry had to leave Newport for Grampound, another Cornish borough, where he was chosen as colleague of William Cavendish, marquis of Hartington, afterwards third Duke of Devonshire [q. v.] For Grampound he sat till his death, supporting Walpole to the last. Having in 1716 been chosen a director of the Bank of England, he occupied the post of deputy-governor for the years 1725-6, and of governor for 1727-8; but within a very few days after his death, on 16 Nov. 1731, it was discovered by his co-directors, with whom he had had financial relations up to a day or two before, that his apparent wealth was fictitious, and even based upon fraudulent pretences. The bank had discounted for him a great number of notes and bills of exchange, Morice having been 'for many Years before, and until his Death, reputed to be a Person of great Wealth, and of undoubted Fairness and Integrity in his Dealings.' But shortly after his decease they 'found, to their great Surprize, that several of the Bills of Exchange, which, on the Face thereof appear'd to be foreign Bills, and drawn at different Places beyond the Seas, were not real but fictitious Bills, and feigned Names set thereto, by the Order of the said Humphry Morice, to gain Credit with the Appellants.' His widow, indeed, whom he had left sole executrix, admitted in an affidavit that, upon his death, 'his Affairs were found very much involved with Debts, and in the greatest Disorder and Confusion, insomuch that she had not been able to settle, and reduce the same to any Certainty as to [his] Debts, and the several Natures and Kinds thereof.' But the worst feature of the transaction was not in the debts due to tradesmen for work done or 'for Gold and Elephants' Teeth,' or even the alleged frauds upon the Bank of England; it was the absorption of moneys left in trust for his motherless daughters by a maternal uncle, as well as other trust-moneys, by which the children were the heaviest losers. The result was a complicated series of lawsuits, which extended over five years, and ended, upon appeal in the House of Lords, in the virtual defeat of his widow, who had struggled hard to secure something from the wreck for her stepdaughters and the other children involved. Among the portraits at Hartwell, Buckinghamshire, formerly the seat of Sir Thomas Lee, bart. M.P. for Aylesbury (who married a sister of Morice's first wife, and whose son, Sir George Lee [q.v.], married one of Morice's daughters), was one by Sir Godfrey Kneller of Morice, who is described as having appeared therein as 'an intelligent-looking middle-aged gentleman.' He married, as his first wife, Judith, daughter of Thomas Sandys or Sandes, a London merchant, by whom he had five daughters, two of whom died young; and his second wife, to whom he was married in June 1722, was Catherine, daughter of Peter Paggen of Wandsworth, and widow of William Hale of Hertfordshire, by whom he had. two sons, Humphry (see below) and Nicholas (d. November 1748) . This lady died on 30 August 1743, and was buried in the Paggen family vault at Mount Nod, the burial-ground of the Huguenots at Wandsworth.
Morice, Humphrey (1723-1785), politician, born in 1723, elder son of the preceding, succeeded upon the death of his second cousin, Sir William Morice, third baronet, in January 1750, to the entailed estate of Werrington, and to the representation of Launceston in parliament. At the dissolution in April 1754 he put forward his full electoral powers over the parliamentary representation both of Launceston and Newport, pocket boroughs of the owners of Werrington, and secured the election, as his colleague for Launceston, of Sir George Lee [q.v.], the husband of his step-sister Judith. He secured for Newport, after a contest with the Duke of Bedford's nominees, the return of Sir George's brother, Colonel John Lee, and Edward Bacon, a connection of the Walpoles. Morice at once sought a reward for his electoral successes from his leader, the Duke of Newcastle, and asked, among other things, for a place on the board of green cloth (June 1755). For the moment it was withheld; but Newcastle who, on 23 Oct. 1755, wrote to Morice desiring to see him in order to explain, before parliament met, 'the measures which have been taken for the support of the Rights and Possessions of His Majesty's crown in North America' was reminded of the green cloth promise in the later days of April 1757, when he was trying to form a ministry without Pitt. On 5 May Morice kissed hands on his appointment as one of the clerks-comptrollers of the household of George II ; and a fortnight later he was re-elected for Launceston without opposition. In the winter of 1758, on Sir George Lee's death, Morice declared himself unable to secure the return for Launceston, as Newcastle requested, of Dr. (afterwards Sir Edward) Simpson, Lee's successor as Dean of the Arches. He himself put forward John, second earl Tylney, an Irish peer, in order that he might arrange an accommodation with the Duke of Bedford, with whom Tylney was connected; but Tylney was withdrawn owing to the local unpopularity of the Duke of Bedford, and Morice chose Peter Burrell of Haslemere to represent the constituency. Sir John St. Aubyn, a nephew of Sir William Morice, who had sat for the borough in the previous parliament, was, however, declared by the mayor to be returned by a majority of a single vote fifteen to fourteen. But a petition was immediately presented to the House of Commons, and, owing to Morice's influence with the administration, Burrell was declared duly elected.
Later in 1759 Morice received threatening letters in an endeavour to extort money under peril of being accused of a serious offence. He at once faced the accusers, two of whom were sentenced to be imprisoned for three years in Newgate, and to stand in the pillory in Cheapside and Fleet Street; another accuser fled and the fourth turned informer. The sympathy of the populace was entirely with Morice, but it is evident from his various communications at that time to Newcastle that his health suffered from the consequent worry. In the spring of 1760 he went abroad, and Horace Walpole, with whom Morice had many tastes in common, recommended to the attention of Sir Horace Mann 'Mr. Morrice, Clerk of the Green Cloth, heir of Sir William Morrice, and of vast wealth,' who 'will ere long be at Florence, in his way to Naples for his health.'
Morice was still abroad when, in October 1760, George II died; and, despite the urgent appeal of some friends, his household appointment was not renewed. The Duke of Newcastle was in vain reminded that Morice had spent 20,000l. in support of the administration which had 'turn'd him adrift on the first occasion that offer'd.' Morice took the humiliation quietly; and when his protege, Colonel Lee, M.P. for Newport, was dying, in September 1761, he sent from Naples an offer to place the coming vacancy at the disposal of the government. William de Grey, solicitor-general to the queen, afterwards first Baron Walsingham, was accordingly returned. His accommodating disposition was recognised by Bute, who at once appointed Morice comptroller of the household. He was re-elected for Launceston on 3 Jan. 1763, and seven days later was sworn of the privy council.
Although Bute gave place to George Grenville in the first week of the ensuing April, Morice's tenure of the comptrollership was continued; and he was also appointed lord warden of the stannaries, high steward of the duchy of Cornwall, and rider and master of the forest of Dartmoor. The question was at once raised in the commons, at Morice's own suggestion, whether, by accepting these latter appointments, he vacated his seat; but a motion that the seat was vacant was negatived without a division (19 April 1763), although, owing to his own scruples, his appointment was not formally made out till 28 June. With the fall of the Grenville ministry, in July 1765, Morice's ministerial career approached its end. On 4 Feb. 1771 he was chosen recorder of Launceston, and was sworn on the following 9 Dec. In October 1774, at the general election, there was a struggle against his influence; although he himself was returned for both Launceston and Newport, his power in the former borough was shown to be waning, and in the next year he sold Werrington, and with it the electoral patronage, to Hugh, first duke of Northumberland of the present creation 'a noble purchase,' as was said at the time, 'near 100,000l.' In 1780 Morice retired from parliament; in 1782 he resigned the recordership; and on 20 Nov. 1783 the coalition ministry of North and Fox ousted him from the lord wardenship of the stannaries, whereupon Sir Francis Basset, M.P. for Penryn (subsequently Lord de Dunstanville), who was related to Morice by marriage, wrote an indignant letter of protest to the Duke of Portland, the nominal prime minister, declaring it impossible for him to support the dministration any longer.
Morice in his last years was a confirmed valetudinarian, visiting various health resorts. He was lying ill in 1782 at Bath, when he was cheered, according to Walpole, by the bequest of an estate for life of 1,500l. a year from 'old Lady Brown,' the widow of Sir Robert Brown, who had been a merchant at Venice. On 24 July 1782, just before leaving England for the last time, and while at his favourite residence, The Grove, Chiswick, he made his will. Three months later, when arrived at Nice, he executed a codicil giving to his trustees 600l. yearly from the estates he still possessed in Devonshire and Cornwall, 'to pay for the maintenance of the horses and dogs I leave behind me, and for the expense of servants to look after them,' such portion as was not required as the animals died off to be paid to the lady Mrs. Levina Luther whom he had made his heiress. He was always a lover of animals. According to George Colman the younger, 'all the stray animals which happened to follow him in London he sent down to this villa [The Grove, Chiswick]. . . . The honours shown by Mr. Morrice to his beasts of burthen were only inferior to those which Caligula lavished on his charger.' A year later Horace Walpole wrote of Morice to Lady Ossory that, whether he was better in health or worse, he was always in good spirits. But he was steadily preparing for death. A second codicil, executed at Naples on 14 March 1784, was characteristic. 'I desire,' he wrote, 'to be buried at Naples if I die there, and in a leaden coffin, if such a thing is to be had. Just before it is soldered I request the surgeon in Lord Tylney's house, or some other surgeon, to take out my heart, or to perform some other operation, to ascertain my being really dead.' He died at Naples on 18 Oct. 1785. A portrait at Hartwell shows him 'in an easy, reclining attitude, resting from field sports, with his dogs and gun, in a fine landscape scene.'
[For the father: Cases in Parliament, Wills, &c., 1684–1737 (in British Museum), ff. 106–12; Lords' Journals, xxv. 26–129–30; W. H. Smyth's Ædes Hartwellianæ, p. 114; Western Antiquary, xi. 6; A. F. Robbins's Launceston Past and Present, pp. 244–8–51; J. T. Squire's Mount Nod, p. 44. For the son see British Museum Addit. MSS. (Newcastle Correspondence) 32856 ff. 17, 459, 32860 ff. 142, 199, 32870 f. 457, 32871 f. 23, 32876 f. 108, 32879 f. 348, 32886 ff. 397, 505, 539, 32887 ff. 99, 197, 408, 32905 f. 250, 32907 f. 70, 32914 f. 37, 32920 ff. 57, 62, 308, 315, 362, 32930 ff. 70, 72, 32935 f. 133, 33067 f. 161: 21553 f. 55; Annual Register, 1759, pp. 99–100; European Mag. viii. 395*; Gent. Mag. vol. lv. pt. ii. p. 919; The Pocket Mag. xiii. 171; Calendar of Home Office Papers, 1760–5, pp. 285, 288, 289, 360; Domestic State Papers, George III, parcel 79, Nos. 37, 39, 45; Commons' Journals, xxix. 646; Ockerby's Book of Dignities, pp. 201, 292; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornubiensis, pp. 1052, 1362; W. H. Smyth's Ædes Hartwellianæ, p. 114, and Addenda, p. 137; George Colman's Random Records, i. 280; Thomas Faulkner's History and Antiquities of Brentford, Ealing, and Chiswick, pp. 484–5; Horace Walpole's Letters, vol. i. p. lxx, iii. 302, iv. 1, 50, vi. 359, 461, 510, vii. 214, 421, 440, 448, 449, 458, 475, viii. 52, 66, 75, 94, 167, 266, 285, 286, 297, 310, 386, 388, 407, 526; D. Lysons's Magna Britannia, vol. vi. pp. cxxvii, 114, 323, 552; R. and O. B. Peter's Histories of Launceston and Dunheved, p. 406; A. F. Robbins's Launceston Past and Present, pp. 259, 260, 261, 262, 265, 268, 270, 271, 276; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. ix. 486; Western Antiquary, viii. 20, 53, 75, 146, ix. 61, 85, 111, xi. 6–9; J. T. Squire's Mount Nod, pp. 44, 45; W. P. Courtney's Parliamentary History of Cornwall, pp. 370, 384.]