Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Howe, John Grubham

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HOWE or HOW, JOHN GRUBHAM (1657–1722), commonly known as 'Jack How,' politician, born in 1657, was second son of John Grubham How of Langar, Nottinghamshire, and member of parliament for Gloucestershire from 1661 to 1679. His mother was Annabella, third and youngest illegitimate daughter and coheiress of Emanuel Scrope, lord Scrope of Bolton and earl of Sunderland. She was legitimised by act of parliament in 1663, died on 20 March 1703-4, and was buried on 30 March in Stowell Church, Gloucestershire, where a monument was placed on the north wall of the chancel to her memory by Howe. Early in life he figured as 'a young amorous spark of the court.' In 1679 he brought an accusation against the Duchess of Richmond, which on investigation proved to be false, and he was forbidden to attend the court. At this period he wrote verses, and, according to Macaulay, was notorious for his savage lampoons. With the Revolution he entered upon a political career. He sat for Cirencester in the Convention parliament, January 1689 to February 1690, and in its two successors 1690-5 and 1695-8. The county of Gloucester returned him in 1698, and again in January 1701. At the subsequent election (December 1701) the whigs concentrated all their efforts against him and ejected him from the seat. In Anne's first parliament (1702) Howe was returned for four constituencies, Bodmin, Gloucester city, Gloucester county, and Newton in Lancashire (Courtney, Parl. Repr. of Cornwall, p.237), and chose his old seat for Gloucestershire. A petition by Sir John Guise, his opponent for the county, against his return was defeated by 219 votes to 98, 'a great and shameful majority' in the opinion of Speaker Onslow, After 1705 he ceased to sit in parliament.

At the beginning of William III's reign Howe urged severe measures against such politicians as Carmarthen and Halifax, who had been identified with the measures of James II. He was then a strong whig, and in 1689 was appointed vice-chamberlain to Queen Mary. Early in March 1691-2 the queen dismissed him from that post, and he at the same time lost the minor position of keeper of the mall. In the following November he was summoned before the court of verge for 'cutting and wounding a servant of his in Whitehall,' and on pleading guilty was pardoned (December 1692). Thenceforward he ranked among the fiercest of the tories. He took an active part against Burnet for his 'Pastoral Letter,' and declaimed vehemently against the prosecution of the war and on behalf of Sir John Fenwick. He took a special pleasure in serving among those appointed by the House of Commons to bring in a bill on the forfeited estates in Ireland (December 1699), and thundered in parliament over the grants to William's Dutch friends of some of the property. Howe's attack on the partition treaty, which he denounced by the title of the 'Felonious Treaty,' was so savage that William exclaimed that but for their disparity of station he would have demanded satisfaction. He invariably denounced foreign settlers in England and standing armies. When the army was reduced (1699) he succeeded in obtaining half-pay for the disbanded officers.

With Queen Anne's accession Howe was once more a courtier, and in 1702 moved that a provision of 100,000l. a year should be secured to her consort, Prince George of Denmark. He was created a privy councillor on 21 April 1702, and vice-admiral of Gloucester county on 7 June. On the retirement of Lord Ranelagh, the post of paymaster-general was divided, and Howe was appointed paymaster of the guards and garrisons at home (4 Jan. 1702-3). On 15 May 1708 he became joint clerk to the privy council of Great Britain. After Anne's death his places were taken from him, and his name was left out of the list of privy councillors. He then retired to Stowell House in Gloucestershire, an estate which he had purchased, and died there in June 1722, being buried in the chancel of the church on 14 June. His wife was Mary, daughter and coheiress of Humphry Baskerville of Poentryllos in Herefordshire, and widow of Sir Edward Morgan of Llanternam, Monmouthshire. His son and heir, John Howe, was the first Lord Chedworth. An account of Stowell House and Park is printed in the 'Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucester Archaeological Society,' ii. 47-52. Howe was possessed of some wit and of vigorous speech, but he lacked judgment. There are verses by him in Nichols's 'Collection of Poetry,' i. 194, 210-12, and he is said to have written a 'Panegyric on King William.' An anecdote by Sir Thomas Lyttelton in illustration of his speaking talents is in the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' xix. 364-5, and he is introduced into Swift's ballad 'On the Game of Traffic.' A satirical speech of Monsieur Jaccou (i.e. Jack How), purporting to be 'made at the general quarter sessions for the county of G—r,' and ridiculing his vanity and French leanings, was printed (Brit. Mus.) Macaulay speaks of him as tall, thin, and haggard in look.

[Henry Sidney's Diary of Charles II, i. 100-122; De la Prynne's Diary (Surtees Soc.),pp.242,243;Rudder's Gloucestershire, p.708; Thoroton's Nottinghamshire, i. 205; Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges,viii.140-1; Lodge's Irish Peerage, ed. Archdall, v. 81; Macaulay's Hist. passim; Luttrell's Brief Hist. Relation, ii. 390, 395, 611, 614, 641, iv. 594, v. 228, 238; Burnet's Own Time, Oxford ed. v. 47-8, 49, 55, 62; Nichols's Poets,viii.284-5;Gloucestershire Notes and Queries, i. 241-2.]

W. P. C.