Titus, Silius (DNB00)

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TITUS, SILIUS (1623?–1704), politician, born about 1623, was son of Silius Titus of Bushey, Hertfordshire. His family is said to have been of Italian origin. He matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, 16 March 1638, aged 15, and was admitted a student of the Middle Temple in 1639 (Foster, Alumni Oxon. i. 1490; Wood, Athenæ, iv. 623). Titus took up arms for the parliament at the opening of the civil war, became a captain in the regiment of Colonel Ayloffe, and took part in the siege of Donnington Castle in October 1644 (Clutterbuck, Hertfordshire, i. 344; Kingston, Civil War in Hertfordshire, p. 124). He never served in the new model. On 4 June 1647 Titus, who seems to have been in attendance upon Charles I at Holdenby, brought the House of Commons the news of Joyce's seizure of the king, and was rewarded by a gratuity of 50l. His name appears in the list of the king's household in the Isle of Wight which was approved by the commons on 20 Nov. 1647 (Commons' Journals, v. 198, 364). By this time Titus, who was a strong presbyterian, had also become an ardent royalist, and devoted himself to contriving schemes for the king's escape. On 6 April 1648 Cromwell warned Colonel Hammond that Titus was not to be trusted, and about a fortnight later Hammond expelled him from Carisbrook. Titus, however, remained in the island, corresponding with the king, and devising fresh plans for his escape. In September 1648, when the Newport treaty came into force, he was once more allowed to attend the king, and appears to have remained with him till his seizure by the army in November (Hillier, King Charles in the Isle of Wight, 1852, pp. 108, 116, 250; the fifteen letters which Charles wrote to Titus are printed in this volume).

In December 1649 Titus was sent to Jersey as the agent of the English presbyterians, bearing an address setting forth the policy they wished him to pursue. The discovery of this intrigue by the government prevented his return to England, but the presbyterians commissioned Titus, with Major-general Massey and three others, to represent their opinions in the negotiations carried on at Breda between Charles and the commissioners of Scotland (ib. pp. 321–324; Report on the Duke of Portland's MSS. i. 585, 593; State Trials, v. 43). Thanks to the orthodoxy of his religious and political views, Titus was allowed by the Scots to be one of the king's bedchamber when Charles II came to Scotland (Walker, Historical Discourses, p. 177). Charles sent him to France in the spring of 1651 to carry to Henrietta Maria the proposals for the king's marriage with the Marquis of Argyll's daughter (Hill, p. 325). After the overthrow of the royalist cause at Worcester, Titus appears to have attached himself to George Villiers, second duke of Buckingham [q. v.], and is described as Buckingham's agent in his intrigues with the presbyterians, levellers, and other English malcontents (Cal. Clarendon Papers, ii. 146, iii. 109, 114). Discouraged by the defeat of the royalist cause, he applied himself to Cromwell, asking leave to return to England, and promising not to act against the government (20 Nov. 1654); but his request was not granted (Thurloe, ii. 720). A year later, 16 Nov. 1655, Charles wrote to Titus thanking him for his services (Cal. Clarendon Papers, iii. 66). In October 1656 Titus, who uses the pseudonym of ‘Jennings,’ became one of Clarendon's correspondents, and was the chief intermediary between the royalists and the levellers. Colonel Edward Sexby [q. v.] was his intimate friend; he assisted him in concerting a rising against Cromwell, and kept Clarendon well informed of the plots for the Protector's assassination. It is possible that he had a hand in the composition of ‘Killing no Murder,’ though he did not as yet lay claim to its authorship (ib. pp. 189, 384, 397). Titus was specially active in concerting the royalist insurrection of August 1659 (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. vi. 196).

Titus sat in the Convention parliament as member for Ludgershall (31 July 1660), distinguishing himself by his zeal against the regicides, and by proposing the disinterment of Cromwell, Ireton, and Bradshaw (Old Parliamentary History, xxiii. 16, 38, 42, 50, 56, 80). That assembly voted him 3,000l., chargeable on the excise, as a reward for his eminent services to the royal cause (ib. xxiii. 58, 77). It is doubtful, however, whether this sum was ever paid him (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1661–2, pp. 172, 284). But on 31 May 1661 Titus, who is described as groom of the bedchamber, was made keeper of Deal Castle (ib. 1660–1, p. 598). In 1666, during the Dutch war, he was captain of a company in the lord-admiral's regiment of foot (2 July) and colonel of a regiment of Kentish militia (ib. 1665–6, pp. 280, 487, 510). On 3 Feb. 1670 he was returned to parliament for Loswithiel, in February 1679 for Hertfordshire, in August 1679 and in February 1681 for Huntingdonshire. During the excitement of the popish plot and the exclusion bill Titus became one of the leaders of the House of Commons. He was one of the first to attack Danby (Grey, Debates, vi. 352, 362, vii. 135), urged the removal of Lauderdale from the king's councils, and in 1680 that of Halifax (ib. vii. 196, viii. 22, 282). No one believed more entirely in the plot or was more eager against papists. He was one of the managers of Lord Stafford's trial, and did not hesitate to denounce the judges when they showed any doubts of the evidence for the plot or discouraged protestant petitioners. Titus was not eloquent, but he was a vigorous speaker with a gift of humorous illustration which made his speeches effective. Lawrence Hyde, who was incapable of jesting himself, once complained that Titus had made the house sport, to which Titus retorted that things were not necessarily serious because they were dull. A good specimen of his style is the speech on moderation in dealing with papists, which called forth Hyde's criticism (Grey, vii. 400). But his most famous speech was against the limitation which Charles offered to impose upon a catholic sovereign, rather than pass the bill for excluding his brother from the throne. Titus argued with great effect that when a sovereign was once upon the throne, it would be practically impossible to maintain these restrictions. ‘To accept of expedients to secure the protestant religion, after such a king had mounted the throne, would be as strange as if there were a lion in the lobby, and we should vote that we would rather secure ourselves by letting him in and chaining him than by keeping him out’ (ib. viii. 279; Chandler, Debates, ii. 93). The illustration is versified in Bramston's ‘Art of Politics’ (1729).

After the dissolution of the parliament of 1681 Titus kept aloof from the conspiracies in which some of the whig leaders engaged, though in July 1683, when the Rye House plot was discovered, it was rumoured that a warrant was out against him (Luttrell, Diary, i. 266). Five years later, when James II was striving to win over the nonconformists, Titus was one of the persons to whom he applied. He approved of the repeal of the penal laws, but by February 1688 declared that he would have no more to do with James, and that he was convinced that the design of the government was to bring in popery (Mackintosh, James II, p. 210). Nevertheless on 6 July 1688 he accepted a seat in the privy council, allured, according to Macaulay, by the honour offered him and the hope of obtaining a large sum due to him from the crown (Hist. of England, i. 534, people's edit.). He was present at the last council meeting held by James after his return from Feversham, but he had no hesitation in transferring his allegiance to William (Bramston, Autobiography, p. 340; Diary of Henry, Earl of Clarendon, ed. Singer, ii. 180, 228).

His compliance with James had destroyed his former popularity, but he succeeded in getting returned to the parliament of 1690 for Ludlow (Luttrell, Diary, ii. 311). His speeches had lost their effectiveness, but sometimes a flash of his old humour appeared in them. He was zealous for triennial parliaments, and urged the passing of the triennial bill, even though it had originated in the lords. At the same time he owned it was natural that the commons should dislike to have the lords prescribe to them times when to meet and when to be dissolved. ‘St. Paul desired to be dissolved; but if any of his friends had set him a day, he would not have taken it well of them’ (Grey, Debates, x. 373, cf. x. 298, 308). At the general election of 1695 Titus stood for Huntingdonshire, and his defeat then terminated his political career (Luttrell, iii. 544). He died in December 1704, and was buried at Bushey (Le Neve, Monumenta Anglicana, 1700–15, p. 92). Titus left three daughters.

The grant of an addition to his coat-of-arms made to Titus in 1665 enumerates, among his services, that ‘by his pen and practices against the then usurper, Oliver, he vigorously endeavoured the destruction of that tyrant and his government.’ This probably refers to the fact that Titus claimed the authorship of ‘Killing no Murder.’ Evelyn in his ‘Diary’ under 2 April 1669 attributes the pamphlet to Titus. On the other hand, Titus, when referring to it in his correspondence with Clarendon at the time of its publication, makes no claim for himself (Cal. Clarendon Papers, iii. 397). Moreover, Sexby before his death confessed to having written it (Thurloe, vi. 560), and internal evidence supports his statement. Titus, however, was very intimate with Sexby, and may well have helped him in composing it.

Wood also attributes to Titus ‘A seasonable speech made by a member of parliament in the House of Commons concerning the other House in March 1659,’ reprinted in Morgan's ‘Phœnix Britannicus,’ 1732, p. 167. In this case the attribution is probably correct, though it was assigned many years later to Anthony Ashley Cooper, first earl of Shaftesbury [q. v.] (Christie, Life of Shaftesbury, i. app. iv.).

[Wood's Athenæ Oxonienses, ed. Bliss, iv. 623; Clutterbuck's Hertfordshire, i. 342–5; Kingston's Civil War in Hertfordshire, 1894, p. 124; Hillier's Charles I in the Isle of Wight, 1852. The letters of Charles I to Titus, and other documents printed by Hillier, are in the British Museum, Egerton MS. 1533.]

C. H. F.