Ellis, John (1643?-1738) (DNB00)

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ELLIS, JOHN (1643?–1738), under-secretary of state, born in or about 1643, was the eldest son of John Ellis, author of ‘Vindiciæ Catholicæ’ [q. v.], by his wife Susannah, daughter of William Welbore of Cambridge (pedigree in the Ellis Correspondence, 1829, i. xxiii). He received his education at Westminster School, whence he was elected student of Christ Church, Oxford, in 1664 (Welch, Alumni Westmon. 1852, p. 159). At college he met Humphrey Prideaux [q. v.], with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. Ellis did not take a degree, but obtained employment in the secretary of state's office. In March 1672 he was under Sir Joseph Williamson in the paper office, Whitehall. On 31 Jan. 1673–4 he was summoned before the House of Lords (Addit. MS. 28875, f. 10), but no allusion is made to him in the ‘Journal’ of that day. On the promotion of Williamson to be secretary of state in the autumn of 1674 Ellis lost his situation, and remained idle for several months, during which he had thoughts of becoming a proctor at Doctors' Commons. He obtained, however, the appointment of secretary to Sir Leoline Jenkins, one of the envoys chosen to attend the conference at Nimeguen, Holland, and set out thither 20 Dec. 1675 (ib. 28953, f. 16). He was employed in this capacity until September 1677. His doings during this busy period of his life may be read in his ‘Journal of Proceedings of the Nimeguen Conference, 1674–1677’ (ib. 28953), and ‘Note Book at Nimeguen, 1675–6’ (ib. 28954). From 1678 to 1680 Ellis acted as secretary to Thomas, earl of Ossory. At the beginning of 1680 he again made a journey into Holland to lay before the States-General the claims of Lord Ossory to the rank of general, which the latter had received from the Prince of Orange. He was successful in obtaining the necessary confirmation. After the death of Ossory in August 1680 Ellis became secretary to his father, James, duke of Ormonde, then lord-lieutenant of Ireland. In October 1682 he received the appointment of secretary to the commissioners of the revenue of Ireland, in which post he continued until the revolution. Having left Dublin for England early in 1689, doubtless to satisfy himself with which party it would be safest to side, his place at the Irish treasury was filled up by some one on the spot, and he was forced to spend nearly a year in idleness. Towards the end of 1689 he became secretary to the young Duke of Ormonde, as he had been before to his father, the Earl of Ossory. Two years later he was one of the commissioners of transports, and finally under-secretary of state in May 1695. He filled for ten years the office of under-secretary to four successive secretaries of state (Luttrell, Relation of State Affairs, 1857, iii. 468, iv. 316, 705, v. 127, 129, 169); but, owing to some misunderstanding with his then chief, Sir Charles Hedges, he resigned in May 1705 (ib. v. 555). If credit can be given to his own account, Ellis was a favourite with William III, who bestowed on him the place of comptroller of the mint, worth 500l. a year, 23 May 1701, ‘as to an old acquaintance,’ he having been with the king ‘when he besieged the city of Maestricht, and afterwards in the campaign where he beat the Marshal of Luxembourg at the battle of Mons or St. Denis (Egerton MS. 929, f. 148; Luttrell, v. 48). Ellis's history borders dangerously on fiction. The office was confirmed to him in the next reign by letters patent of 11 June 1702 (Addit. MS. 28946, ff. 151, 153). In 1711 he was deprived of it by Harley, and he accordingly petitioned to be reinstated at the accession of George I (Egerton MS. 929, f. 148).

Ellis sat for Harwich, Essex, in the parliaments of 1702–5 and 1705–8 (Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. ii. p. 3), and in 1710 unsuccessfully contested Rye, Sussex (Smith, Parliaments of England, ii. 90; Luttrell, vi. 686, 688). He died unmarried at his house in Pall Mall 8 July 1738, having attained the patriarchal age of ninety-five (Gent. Mag. viii. 380; Hist. Reg. xxiii., Chron. Diary, p. 27). By making good use of his opportunities while in office he had contrived to amass enormous wealth. His will of 2 March 1733 was proved at London 15 July 1738 (registered in P. C. C., 173, Brodrepp). He gave 50l. towards the buildings in Peckwater quadrangle at Christ Church, Oxford. To his brother, Sir William Ellis [q. v.], he had lent on his own showing 1,231l. principal money, in consideration of which debt he received a grant of the former's forfeited estate in Ireland from William III. The estate, ‘which was encumber'd to near its value,’ having been ‘resumed’ and vested in trustees by the Act of Resumption (11 and 12 Will. III) ‘before he had received any benefit by it,’ Ellis in the next reign petitioned parliament for a bill of relief, and obtained it in May 1702 (The Case of Mr. John Ellis, s. sh. folio, London, 1702; John Ellis appellant, John Whinery respondent. The Respondent's Case, folio, London, 1720; Commons' Journals, xiii. 556, 841–2, 855, 890, 893, 897). He died possessed of the estate.

Ellis left a large collection of letters addressed to him on both public and private matters, from which we may judge him to have been a man of excellent business habits, industrious, good-tempered, and obliging. Two volumes of his correspondence during 1686, 1687, and 1688 were edited in 1829 from the Additional (Birch) MS. 4194, by the Hon. G. J. W. Agar-Ellis [q. v.], afterwards Lord Dover, the descendant of his brother Welbore Ellis. Attention had already been drawn to the value of the manuscript by Sir Henry Ellis, who published some extracts in vol. iv., 2nd ser., of his ‘Original Letters.’ In 1872 the trustees of the British Museum purchased from the Earl of Macclesfield a voluminous collection of Ellis's official and private correspondence and papers extending from 1643 to 1720, now numbered Addit. MSS. 28875–956. Deeds relating to his family, 1669–98, are Addit. Charters 19517–39. The letters from Humphrey Prideaux (Addit. MS. 28929), ranging from 1674 to 1722, but unfortunately with many gaps, were edited for the Camden Society in 1875 by Sir Edward Maunde Thompson. Ellis's letters to George Stepney, 1700–8, are in Addit. MSS. 7074, f. 1, 7078, ff. 5, 35, 41, 92; a letter to Adam de Cardonnel of 6 Oct. 1702 is Addit. MS. 7074, f. 154, and at f. 159 of the same collection is preserved a letter to Charles Whitworth, the resident at Ratisbon, dated 17 Nov. 1702. Others of his letters are mentioned in the ‘Reports of the Historical Manuscripts Commission.’

Ellis was one of the many lovers of the Duchess of Cleveland. His intrigue is mysteriously alluded to in six lines of Pope's ‘Sober Advice from Horace,’ from which it would seem that, having offended the duchess by boasting of the intimacy, he was, at her instigation, reduced to the condition of Atys (Pope, Works, ed. Warton, 1797, vi. 45). In a poem called ‘The Town Life’ he is singled out from certain disreputable company as ‘that epitome of lewdness, Ellys’ (Poems on Affairs of State, ed. 1703–7, i. 192). There is also allusion to him in ‘The Session of the Poets’ (ib. i. 210).

[Ellis's Introduction to the Ellis Correspondence, 1829; Thompson's Preface (pp. vi–viii) and Notes to Letters of H. Prideaux to J. Ellis (Camd. Soc. new ser. 15); authorities cited in the text.]

G. G.