Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Shippen, William
SHIPPEN, WILLIAM (1673–1743), parliamentary Jacobite, born in 1673, was the second son of Dr. William Shippen, and grandson of ‘William Shippen, gent.,’ of Stockport, Cheshire, who died in 1681. Dr. Shippen, the father, born in 1635, matriculated from University College, Oxford, as a servitor in 1653, subsequently became a fellow of his college and a proctor of the university (1665), and was preferred successively to Prestbury (1667), Kirkheaton (1670), Aldford (1676), and finally, in February 1678, to the rectory of Stockport, where he died on 29 Sept. 1693. His younger brother Edward (1639–1712) emigrated to Boston in 1668, turned quaker, became first mayor of Philadelphia (1701), and died on 2 Oct. 1712, leaving great wealth and numerous issue, from whom the Shippen family in America descend (cf. Roberdeau Buchan, Shippen Genealogy, Washington, 1877; Appleton, Cyclopædia, v. 512).
The younger William was educated at Stockport grammar school under Roger Dale, and at Westminster, where he was elected a queen's scholar in 1688; he matriculated from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1691, graduated B.A. in 1694, and then entered the Middle Temple. In 1707 he entered parliament as member for Bramber in Sussex, by the interest of Lord Plymouth, whose son, Dixie Windsor, was his brother-in-law. He represented this borough until 1713, when he was returned for Saltash. In 1714 he was elected for Newton in Lancashire, through the interest of Peter Legh (into whose family his brother had married), and he retained this seat for the rest of his life. He commenced his political career by two dreary satires in verse against the whigs, entitled ‘Faction Displayed’ (in which the whig lords are portrayed under the names of the leaders in Catiline's conspiracy) and ‘Moderation Display'd’ (1708), both of which were reprinted in ‘A Collection of the Best English Poetry’ (London, 2 vols. 1717, 8vo). When the tory parliament met in 1710 he was known as a prominent member of the ‘October Club.’ In 1711 he was elected one of the commissioners to investigate the Duke of Marlborough's alleged peculations, and he warmly supported the Occasional Conformity Bill and the Schism Bill, while in August 1714 he boldly opposed the offer of a reward for the apprehension of the Pretender.
Upon the accession of George I, he loyally defended his old leader, Harley (January 1716), and in April spoke against the Septennial Bill, on the ground that long parliaments ‘would grow either formidable or contemptible.’ His speech was printed, and deserves attention as marking an era in tory strategy; Shippen frankly invoking a democratic sanction in politics and showing himself willing to relax rigid tory dogmas in order to gain popular sympathy. Similar tactics were employed in 1738, when Shippen attacked standing armies as instruments of oppression, and defended the tories as the true upholders of revolution principles in a typical outburst of party rhetoric. Early in 1718 Shippen opposed the Mutiny Bill, and he used every opportunity, with some small measure of success, to move the reduction of votes for military purposes. In December of this year, after opposing the reception of the king's message, asking for a grant of money to provide against a Swedish invasion, he discussed the king's speech and the measures recommended in it with a freedom which was then entirely novel. The speech, he maintained, was to be treated wholly as a concoction of the ministers. The solicitor-general, Lechmere, moved that words in which he drew attention to the king's ignorance of ‘our language and constitution’ be taken down, and Shippen be sent to the Tower. Shippen would not retract, and, in spite of the attempts to shield him made by Walpole (now in opposition) and others, he was sent to the Tower by a vote of 175 to 81 (4 Dec.). The intrepidity he showed was so popular as to elicit three anonymous offers of gifts of 1,000l. each, which he declined with appropriate dignity. One of the would-be donors was the Prince of Wales. Shippen's speech was printed, and deemed worthy of a confutation by Steele in his ‘Guardian.’ Sheffield celebrated his incorruptibility in his ‘Poem on the Election of a Poet Laureate.’ He was released at the close of the session (cf. Gent. Mag. 1812, ii. 411).
Henceforth Shippen was a leader of the Jacobite squires in the house, a party which was ridiculed with some effect in Cibber's ‘Nonjuror.’ His reputation, as Stanhope says, grew much more from his courage, his incorruptibility, his good humour, and frankness of purpose than from any superior eloquence or talent.
In 1720, during the South Sea crisis, he opposed Walpole's measure for the restoration of public credit as too lenient; his plan, he said, was a mere palliative, designed to evade the public demand for vengeance. He moved for a list of South Sea directors to be submitted to the house, and so exasperated Craggs that he expressed readiness to give any man satisfaction where and when he pleased. By such manœuvres, though his following scarcely ever exceeded fifty, he frequently got the upper hand in debate, and his co-operation was eagerly courted by the whig opposition. But his probity was best displayed in 1727 when, singlehanded, he opposed the settlement of the civil list, urging its reduction by 200,000l. annually, in a speech of great frankness. He spoke of the ‘frequent journeyings to Hanover’ and the ‘bottomless pit of secret service;’ but no member could be found to second his motion. From this time Shippen's energy greatly declined as a leader of opposition, though in 1728 he inveighed against Admiral Hosier's expedition, and in February 1733 opposed Walpole's excise scheme as ‘destructive to the liberties and the trade of the nation.’ His Jacobitism, too, was getting otiose; and when Lord Barrymore came over in 1740 on a secret embassy, he was advised that Shippen was much too timid and ineffective a conspirator to be consulted. In December 1741, when the cabal against Walpole culminated in the moving of an address to George II to remove that minister from his presence and counsels, Shippen unexpectedly seceded from the opposition, and was followed by thirty-four of his ‘friends.’ He explained that he regarded the motion merely as a scheme for turning out one ill-affected minister and bringing in another; and subsequently proposed as an amendment that his majesty should be entreated not to engage the kingdom in war for the safety of his foreign dominions. He and Walpole had a mutual regard. ‘Robin and I,’ he said, ‘are two honest men: he is for King George and I for King James, but those men in long cravats [Sandys, Rushout, Pulteney, and their following] only desire places under either one or the other.’ Shippen was no doubt right in judging that he would lose rather than gain by Walpole's ejection in their favour. This was Shippen's last prominent appearance in the house, where as ‘honest Shippen’ (so Pope called him) he had long been conspicuous. Though not a first-rate speaker—for he had a low voice, and, according to Horace Walpole, constantly spoke ‘with his glove before his mouth’—he became animated when, as was usual with him, his speech was reaching the point (expressed in some smart and effective phrase) which he desired to enforce. Though he affected to take orders from Rome, and regularly corresponded with Atterbury (on whose account his house in Norfolk Street was searched in 1723), Shippen seems to have been little regarded by the real leaders of the Jacobite party. He is chiefly interesting as a pioneer of constitutional opposition. The main purpose of the forlorn hope which he led was to harass the government. Walpole's contemptuous lenity was doubtless rightly explained by the member who wrote to Shippen in 1728: ‘All your stuff about serving high church and monarchy is absurd, and your principle is self-contradictory and felo-de-se. For were it possible for your endeavours to succeed, and to bring about what your friends traitorously desire, your beloved church and monarchy would be destroyed. The event would unavoidably be popery and slavery’ (An Epistle to W.——S.——,Esq., by a Member of Parliament, 1728, 8vo).
Shippen died in Norfolk Street, Strand, on 1 May 1743, and was buried on 7 May in St. Andrew's, Holborn. He married, about 1695, a sister of his schoolfellow, Bertram Stote, daughter and coheir of Sir Richard Stote, knt., of Jesmund Hall, Northumberland, serjeant-at-law. With her he had a fortune of 70,000l. He had a private fortune of 400l. a year, upon which he mainly subsisted at his London house, where he was fond of exercising a modest hospitality to persons of distinction. His wife, who had a house at Richmond, is said to have been incurably mean and suspicious. She survived her husband until 22 Aug. 1747, and died intestate, whereupon her property reverted to her sister, Mrs. Dixie Windsor. Shippen, having no issue, left what property he had to dispose of to be divided between his brothers Robert and John. A rough portrait of Shippen was lithographed for Harding's ‘Biographical Mirrour’ (iii. 88).
The politician's next and eldest surviving brother, Robert Shippen (1675–1745), was sent from Stockport grammar school to Oxford, where he matriculated from Merton College on 6 April 1693. He thence graduated B.A. in 1696, but subsequently removed to Brasenose, where he was elected fellow. Having acted as tutor for some years and graduated M.A. (4 July 1699), he was elected professor of music at Gresham College on 4 Dec. 1705, and F.R.S. in the following year. In 1710 he was elected principal of Brasenose College and created D.D. In the same year he married Frances (d. 1728), daughter of Richard Legh of Lyme, and widow of Sir Gilbert Clerke, knt., of Chilcote, and thereupon (3 Oct. 1710) resigned his professorship at Gresham College in favour of his elder brother, Edward (1671–1724), who was also an Oxford man, and had graduated from Brasenose M.A. in 1693, and M.D. in 1699. Robert Shippen's presentation in 1716 to the rectory of Whitechapel elicited a tract entitled ‘The Spiritual Intruder Unmasked,’ in deprecation of his ‘high-flying’ views. Thomas Hearne, though he sympathised with him politically, stigmatised Shippen as sly, wheedling, and worldly; and he attributes his election at Brasenose to the anxiety of the fellows to secure an ignorant head, who would not require them to put off their habitual sloth (Collections, ed. Doble, iii. passim). When in London he resided in Goodman's Fields. He was vice-chancellor of his university 1718–22, and, dying in 1745, was buried in the chapel at Brasenose, where he is commemorated by an epitaph (by Dr. Frewin) and a bust (cf. Ward, Gresham Professors, p. 234; Chalmers, Hist. of the Univ. of Oxford, i. 255). William's youngest brother, John, became a Spanish merchant, was English consul at Lisbon 1710–20, died unmarried, and was buried at St. Andrew's, Holborn, on 24 Sept. 1747.
[Earwaker's East Cheshire, i. 394, 410; Ormerod's Cheshire, vol. iii.; Boyer's Queen Anne, 1735, pp. 530, 631; Wentworth's Diary, pp. 457, 539; Lady Cowper's Diary, p. 160; Hervey's Memoirs of George II, i. 127; Swift's Works, iii. 128; Pope's Works, ed. Elwin and Courthope, ii. 447, iii. 293, 312, 496; Oldmixon's History, vol. iii. passim; Tindal's Continuation of Rapin; Pointer's Chronolog. Hist. iii. 1111; Parliamentary History, vols. vii.–xi.; Atterbury's Memoirs and Correspondence; Warburton's H. Walpole and his Contemporaries, i. 304 sq.; Coxe's Memoirs of Walpole, 1808, vol. iii. passim; Coxe's Marlborough, vol. iii.; Stanhope's Hist. of England, i. 125, 297, ii. 123, 139, iii. 30, 72, 95, 114; Cook's Hist. of Party, vol. ii. passim; Torrens's Hist. of Cabinets, i. 156–74, 367; Georgian Era, i. 533; Welch's Alumni Westmon. p. 220; Hist. Register, 1720, Chron. Diary, p. 47; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, i. 293; Gent. Mag. 1745 p. 614, 1747 p. 399; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. xi. 247, 415, 439; Addit. MS. 6194, ff. 186–7; Noble's Biogr. Hist. of England, 1806, iii. 243.]