Scrope, John (1662?-1752) (DNB00)

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SCROPE, JOHN (1662?–1752), judge, son of Thomas Scrope of Bristol, a scion of the family of Scrope or Scroop of Wormsley, Oxfordshire [see Scrope, Adrian], was born about 1662. Bred a strong protestant, he entered the service of the Duke of Monmouth, and carried despatches, in the disguise of a woman, between Holland and England. On the revolution of 1688 he entered himself at the Middle Temple, where he was called to the bar in 1692. On 13 May 1708 he was appointed baron of the newly constituted court of exchequer in Scotland, with a salary of 500l. a year and 1000l. a year for giving up his practice at the English bar. He was also one of the commissioners of the great seal in the interval (20 Sept.–19 Oct. 1710) between its surrender by Lord Cowper and its delivery to his successor, Sir Simon Harcourt. On 28 March 1722 he was returned to parliament for Ripon, but retained his Scottish judgeship until 25 March 1724, when he resigned, having on the preceding 21 Jan. received the post of secretary to the treasury; he held the latter until his death. In 1727 he was returned to parliament for Bristol, of which he was afterwards elected recorder. Scrope is characterised by Tindal (cited in Parl. Hist. viii. 1196) as ‘perhaps the coolest, the most experienced, faithful, and sagacious friend the minister (Walpole) had.’ He adds that ‘he was greatly trusted in all matters of the revenue, and seldom or never spoke but to facts, and when he was clear in his point.’ On his motion on 23 April 1729 an increment of 115,000l. was voted for the civil list; he defended the salt duty bill against Pulteney's criticisms on its second reading, 2 March 1731–2; he supported the motion for the exclusion of Ireland from the colonial sugar trade, 21 Feb. 1732–3, and the subsequent proposal (23 Feb.) to draw on the sinking fund to the extent of 500,000l. for the service of the current year. His fidelity to Walpole during the heated contests on the excise bill of the same year (14 and 16 March), and the motion for the repeal of the Septennial Act, 13 March 1733–4, lost him the Bristol seat at the subsequent general election, when he was returned (30 April) for Lyme Regis, Dorset, which he continued to represent until his death. On Walpole's fall he was summoned by the committee of secrecy to give evidence as to the minister's disposal of the secret-service money, but declined to be sworn (14 June 1742), saying that he was fourscore years of age, and did not care whether he spent the few months he had to live in the Tower or not, but that the last thing he would do was to betray the king, and next to the king the Earl of Orford. On 8 Dec. 1744 he opposed the bill for doubling the taxes on places and pensions. He died on 21 April 1752. There is a portrait of Scrope in the treasury, presented in 1776 by the Right Hon. George Onslow.

Scrope was author of ‘Exercitatio Politica de Cive Protestante in Republica Pontificia’ (a tractate against the papal power), Utrecht, 1686, 4to; and joint author with Baron Clerk of ‘Historical View of the Forms and Powers of the Court of Exchequer in Scotland,’ Edinburgh, 1820, 4to [see Clerk, Sir John].

[Collins's Peerage, iii. 302; Visitation of Oxfordshire (Harl. Soc.); Burnet's Own Time, 1823, v. 348 n.; Luttrell's Relation of State Affairs, vi. 300, 304, 633; Walpole's Letters, ed. Cunningham, i. 176, 178, 198; Coxe's Memoirs of Sir Robert Walpole, ii. 519; Seyer's Bristol, ii. 577, 580; Parl. Hist. viii. 702, 1015, 1196, 1214, 1328, ix. 482, xi. 441, xii. 825, xiii. 1031; Hist. MSS. Comm. 8th Rep. pt. i. App. pp. 79, 85; Swift's Works, ed. Scott, xvi. 64, 66; Gent. Mag. 1752, p. 192; Foss's Lives of the Judges; notes kindly supplied by G. L. Ryder, esq.]

J. M. R.