Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Scobell, Henry

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SCOBELL, HENRY (d. 1660), clerk of the parliament, is said to have been born at Menagwin in St. Austell, Cornwall, and to have owned the estates of Menagwin and Polruddan in that parish. He also possessed property in Westminster and Norfolk. On 5 Jan. 1648 he was appointed clerk of the parliament, and an act was passed on the following 14 May giving him the post for life. On 30 Aug. in the same year it was granted to him under the great seal for life, and a salary of 500l. per annum was attached to the office. Under the Press Act of 20 Sept. 1649 the duty of licensing newspapers and political pamphlets was entrusted to him and two colleagues, and on 16 Dec. 1653 he was appointed assistant secretary to the council of state. Nevertheless, on 4 Sept. 1654, the day of meeting of Oliver Cromwell's first parliament, he was formally reappointed clerk. In the parliament which met in January 1657–8 John Smythe was appointed in his place, and Scobell was ordered to deliver all papers in his possession to the new official.

Scobell was not in favour with the restored Rump of 1659, and it was ordered that a bill should be brought in to repeal the act under which he held the clerkship for life. He was summoned to the bar of the house on 7 Jan. 1659–60, for entering in the journal for 20 April 1653 the words ‘this day his excellence the lord G[eneral] Cromwell dissolved this house.’ His answer did not give satisfaction, and a committee was appointed to report whether ‘this crime did come within the act of indemnity or no.’ The lords commissioners of the great seal sat upon the same case on 10 Feb., and one of them ‘took him up very roughly about some things that he said’ (Pepys, Diary, 9 Jan. and 10 Feb. 1659–60). Scobell died in 1660, his will being proved on 29 Sept. in that year. His wife, Jane Scobell, survived him without issue.

Scobell was the author of: 1. ‘A Collection of several Acts of Parliament, 1648–1651,’ 1651. 2. ‘Memorials of Method and Manner of Proceedings of Parliament in passing Bills,’ by H. S. E. C. P. [i.e. Henry Scobell, Esquire, Clerk of Parliament], 1656; reissued in 1658, 1670, and again at Dublin in 1692. 3. ‘Remembrances of some Methods, Orders, and Proceedings of House of Lords,’ by H. S. E. C. P., 1657; and with ‘Priviledges of the Baronage of England,’ collected by John Selden, 1689. 4. ‘Collection of Acts and Ordinances from 3 Nov. 1640 to 17 Sept. 1656,’ 2 parts, London, 1658 and 1657; this is a continuation of Ferdinando Pulton's collection of statutes; a supplement and continuation of it, with Scobell's manuscript notes and corrections and with manuscript additions, is in the Forster library at South Kensington.

A tract, signed H. S., and attributed to Scobell, on the ‘Power of Lords and Commons in Parliament in Points of Judicature,’ 1680, is reprinted in the ‘Somers Tracts’ (1752 ed. vol. ii., and 1809 ed. vol. viii.). Many letters to him, mostly relating to the condition of the independent and presbyterian ministers, are in Peck's ‘Desiderata Curiosa’ (ii. 491–512). He is sometimes represented in the caricatures of the day.

[Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. ii. 632–3, 1333; Boase's Collect. Cornub. p. 876; Burton's Diary, i. 299, ii. 313, 317, 349–50, 403–4, iii. 2; Satirical Prints of Brit. Museum, i. 479, 537–8; Hatsell's Precedents, ii. 261–2; Journals of House of Commons.]

W. P. C.