Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Monson, John (1600-1683)

1329543Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 38 — Monson, John (1600-1683)1894Bertha Porter

MONSON, Sir JOHN (1600–1683), second baronet, royalist, eldest son of Sir Thomas Monson [q. v.] of Carlton in Lincolnshire, and of his wife Margaret, daughter of Sir Edmund Anderson [q. v.], lord chief justice of the common pleas, was born in the parish of St. Sepulchre, London, in 1600. Sir William Monson (1569-1643) [q. v.], naval commander, was his uncle, and care must be taken to distinguish him from his uncle's son, also Sir John Monson. Sir William Monson (d. 1672?) [q. v.] was his brother. John, who was not entered at either of the universities, studied law in London, represented the city of Lincoln in the first parliament of Charles I (elected 25 April 1 625), and the county of Lincoln in the second parliament, and was made knight of the Bath by Charles at his coronation, 2 Feb. 1625-6.

In 1635, in view of the necessity of reclaiming and draining the low-lying lands by the banks of the river Ancholme in Lincolnshire, the commissioners for the Fens endeavoured to negotiate with 'some foreign undertakers' for the carrying out of the works, but failed to come to terms. Thereupon Monson offered himself as undertaker, 'out of a noble desire to serve his country,' and his services were accepted (Dugdale, Imbanking and Draining, p. 151). The drainage was completed to the satisfaction of the commissioners on 19 Feb. 1638-9, and 5,827 acres of the reclaimed land were allotted to Monson on 4 March following, in accordance with previous arrangement. Complaints and dissatisfaction, however, arose among the neighbouring landlords. An order made in 1635 by Monson as justice of the peace for Lincolnshire condemned the moral character of John Pregion, registrar of Lincoln. When the Bishop of Lincoln [see Williams, John, archbishop of York] was brought before the Star-chamber in 1637, on a charge of revealing counsels of state, Pregion was one of the bishop's leading witnesses, and Williams endeavoured to obtain a reversal of Monson's judgment. But Monson's decision was upheld, and he was awarded a thousand marks compensation out of the bishop's fine (cf. Monson's letters to Laud, of 11 Dec. 1635 and 9 Aug. 1606, and his petition to the king in Lambeth MSS.}

In 1641 Monson succeeded to his father's baronetcy. His legal acumen had been noticed by the king, and he offered Charles much useful advice during his disagreements with the parliament (1640-2). On the departure of Charles from London, Monson retired to Oxford, where, on 1 (or 2) Nov. 1642, he was created D.C.L. In 1643, when the proximity of the armies threatened the safety of Oxford, Monson sent his wife to London, while he remained behind to take part in the negotiations. In May 1646 Fairfax demanded the surrender of the town, and Monson and Philip Warwick were sent (11 May) to confer with him. Monson was one of the fourteen commissioners for Oxford who met the parliamentary commissioners at 'Mr. Crooke's house at Marston' on 18 May, and for a month was actively occupied in framing the articles for the surrender of the town (agreed to on 22 June). His conduct throughout gained for him the respect of both parties. Subsequently he applied for and was granted permission to compound for his estates on the terms granted by the Oxford articles, according to which the fine should not exceed two years of the revenue. But he failed to pay the composition, and the estate was ordered to be sequestered on 8 March 1648. Sir Thomas Fairfax and Cromwell both deemed his usage needlessly severe, but it was not until July 1651 that parliament removed the sequestration. In December 1652 Monson signed the engagement to the Commonwealth. He was again in difficulties at the end of 1655, when he refused to pay the decimation tax, levied to meet insurrection, and was imprisoned in his own house, but he was discharged from further proceedings on 22 Jan. 1656–7.

During the civil wars Monson's drainage works were injured and neglected. On his petition (15 Dec. 1654) the business was referred to the committee for the Fens, without result, but he petitioned again on 14 May 1661, and, despite the opposition of two of the Fen towns—Winterton and Bishop Norton—a bill confirming Monson's former privileges was passed by parliament early in 1662. As guardian and trustee for John Sheffield, third earl of Mulgrave and duke of Buckinghamshire (1649–1720), Monson undertook in December 1663 to farm the earl's alum mines at Mulgrave in Yorkshire, allowing the king almost half the profits. He died on 29 Dec. 1683, and was buried at South Carlton. He built and endowed a free school in South Carlton and a hospital in Burton, and left money to the towns in Lincolnshire of which he was lord.

Monson married Ursula, daughter of Sir Robert Oxenbridge of Hurstbourne in Hampshire. Through his wife he became possessed in 1645 of the manor of Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, which was the seat of the family for many years. His widow died in December 1692. His only son, John (1628–1674), M.P. for Lincoln from 1660 till his death, and made K.B. 20 April 1660, was father of both Henry (1653–1718), third baronet, who was M.P. for Lincoln from 1675 to 1689, and high sheriff for the county in 1685 and 1688; and of William (1654–1727), fourth baronet, who was M.P. for Lincoln and high sheriff of the county in 1695. The fourth baronet's nephew and successor, John Monson, first baron Monson, is separately noticed.

Monson published: 1. ‘A Short Essay of Afflictions. Or, Balm to Comfort if not Cure those that Sinke or Languish under present Misfortunes,’ London, 1647 (anon.). Monson's name can be spelt out from a curious monogram on the title-page. It was written as advice to his son while he was in the garrison at Oxford. After the Restoration it was reprinted. 2. ‘An Antidote against the Errors and Opinions of many in their days, concerning some of the Highest and Chiefest Duties of Religion’ (anon.), London, 1647, 1661–2. 3. ‘A Short Answer to several Questions proposed to a Gentleman of Quality by a great Minister of State’ (anon.), London, 1678. 4. ‘A Discourse concerning Supreme Power and Common Right. By a Person of Quality,’ London, 1680.

[Jacob's Peerage, ii. 531; Visitation of Lincolnshire, Harl. MS. No. 1550, f. 69; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1611–66; Metcalfe's Knights, p. 186; Official Returns of Members of Parliament, pt. i. pp. 464, 470, 525, 536, 542, 543, 560, pt. ii. pp. 46, 53, 64; Dugdale's Imbanking and Draining, pp. 151–3; Wood's Fasti (Bliss), vol. ii. cols. 40–1; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Lords' Journals, iv. 254, vi. 806, x. 222–5, xi. 395, 397, 398, 399, 406, 473; Commons' Journals, vi. 610–11, vii. 402, viii. 186, 248, 252, 257, 296, 374; Rushworth's Hist. Collections, ii. 416 et seq.; Hacket's Life of Williams, pt. ii. pp. 123, 128; Rossingham's News Letter; State Papers, Car. I, 1637, vol. ccclxiii. f. 119; Lambeth MS. 1030, ff. 39, 40, 41, 42, 48; The Passage of the Treaty for the Surrender of Oxford, pp. 1–3 (E. 337 [30]); The Kingdom's Weekly Intelligencer, 12–19 May 1646; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. x. 64–5, 95–6, 136; Cal. of the Committee for the Advance of Money, pp. 745, 1047; Cal. of the Committee for Compounding, pp. 623, 1431–3, 2047–8; contemporary sheet respecting Monson's bill (816, m. 8 [20]); Foster's Peerage; Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. pt. ii. pp. 74–5; Clutterbuck's Hertfordshire, ii. 55; Chauncey's Antiquities of Hertfordshire, pp. 289–90; Kennett's Reg. p. 410; Tables of the High Sheriffs of the County of Lincoln, p. 38; Harl. Soc. Publications, x. 12, xxiv. 132, 189, xxxi. 134, 254; P. C. C. 6 Hare, 81 Tenison, 68 Farrant, 247 Straham, Admon. Act Book, 1674; information from the Rev. John Salwey of Broxbourne.]

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