Morice, William (DNB00)


MORICE, Sir WILLIAM (1602–1676), secretary of state and theologian, born in St. Martin's parish, Exeter, 6 Nov. 1602, was the elder son of Dr. Evan Morice of Carnarvonshire, who was chancellor of Exeter diocese in 1594, and died in 1605. His mother was Mary, daughter of John Castle of Scobchester in Ashbury, Devonshire; she became in 1611 the third wife of Sir Nicholas Prideaux of Solden, Devonshire, and died on 2 Oct. 1647. His younger brother, Laurence, died young, and the whole property came into the possession of the elder boy. William was educated 'in grammar learning' at Exeter, and entered at Exeter College, Oxford, as a fellow-commoner about 1619, when he was placed under the care of the Rev. Nathanael Carpenter [q. v.] and was patronised by Dr. Prideaux, its rector, who prophesied his rise in life. He graduated B.A. on 27 June 1622, and gave his college a silver bowl weighing seventeen and three-quarter ounces. For some years his life was spent in his native county, first at West Putford and afterwards at Werrington, which he bought of Sir Francis Drake in 1651. He also made considerable purchases of landed property near Plymouth, including the manor of Stoke Damerel. In 1640 he was made a county justice, and in 1651 he was appointed high sheriff of Devonshire. On 15 Aug. 1648 Morice was returned to parliament for Devonshire, but never sat, and was excluded in 'Pride's Purge.' On 12 July 1654 he was re-elected, and he was again returned in 1656, but was not allowed to sit, as he had not received the approval of the Protector's council, whereupon he and many others in a similar position published a remonstrance (Whitelocke, Memorials, pp. 651-3, 698). The borough of Newport in Cornwall, where he enjoyed great interest, chose him in 1658 and again in April 1660, when he preferred to sit for Plymouth, for which he had been returned 'by the freemen,' and he continued to represent that seaport until his death. Morice was related, through his wife, to General Monck, whose property in Devonshire was placed under his care. The general possessed 'a great opinion of his prudence and integrity,' and imposed implicit reliance in his assurance that the residents in the west of England desired the king's return. When he followed Monck to London in 1659 and became an inmate at Monck's house as 'his elbow-counsellor and a state-blind,' they were greatly pleased. It was the duty of Morice 'to keep the expiring session of parliament steady and clear from intermeddling,' a task which he executed with great judgment. He received, through Sir John Grenville, a letter from Charles, urging him to bring Monck over to the restoration, which he answered with warmth, and he arranged the meeting of Grenville and Monck, guarding the door of the chamber while they were settling the terms for the king's return. In February 1659-60 Charles bestowed on him, with the general's approbation, 'the seal and signet, as the badge of the secretary of state's office,' and in the next month he was created by Monck colonel of a regiment of foot, and made governor with his son of the fort and island of Plymouth. Morice was knighted by Charles on his landing, and at Canterbury, during the king's journey to London, was confirmed in the post of secretary and sworn a privy councillor (26 May 1660). Many favours were bestowed upon him. He and his son William received the offices of keeper of the port of Plymouth, with certain ports in Cornwall and of Avenor of the duchy, and on their surrendering the patent for the governorship of Plymouth, a pension of 200l. a year was settled on the son, who was made a baronet on 20 April 1661. The father obtained an extended grant of land in Old Spring Gardens, London, and a charter for two fairs yearly at Broad Clist, Devonshire. With the old court party his tenure of the secretaryship was not popular. They complained of his lack of familiarity with foreign languages and of his ignorance of external affairs. His friends endeavoured in 1666 to make out that he was principal secretary of state, above Lord Arlington, but failed in their attempt, and at Michaelmas 1668 Morice found his position so intolerable that he resigned his office and retired to his property, where he spent the rest of his days in collecting a fine library and in studying literature. A letter about him, expressing his deep disgust against Charles II for not keeping his promises and for debauching the nation, is in 'Notes and Queries' (1st ser. ix. 7-8). Morice died at Werrington on 12 Dec. 1676, and was buried in the family aisle of its church. His wife was Elizabeth, younger daughter of Humphry Prideaux (eldest son of Sir Nicholas Prideaux), by his wife, Honour, daughter of Edmund Fortescue of Fallapit, Devonshire. She predeceased him in December 1663, having borne four sons (William, John, Humphry [see below], and N icholas) and four daughters. Morice founded an almshouse in Sutcombe, near Holsworthy, Devonshire, for six poor people, and endowed it with lands.

There is a portrait of him in Houbraken and Birch's 'Heads' (1747, ii. 35-6) ; another hangs in Exeter College Hall (Boase, Exeter Coll. 1893).

Morice's learning was undoubted. When young he wrote poetry, and Prince had seen some of his verses that were 'full of life and briskness.' But his chief preoccupation was theology, and he continued through life a scrupulous censor of orthodox divinity. On a visit to Oxford in November 1665 he and some others complained of a sermon at St. Mary's with such effect that the preacher was forced to recant, and when William Oliver was ejected in 1662 from the church of St. Mary Magdalene, Launceston, he received from Morice 'a yearly pension for the support of his family.' The independent party in religion made it a rule in parochial cures to admit to the communion none but those who were 'most peculiarly their own flock,' and in Morice's district the sacrament was administered in the church of Pyworthy only. His views on this point, composed in two days, were set before the ministers, and about two years later their official answer came to him. He then composed a ponderous treatise in refutation of their arguments which he issued in 1657, with the title of 'Cœna, quasi Κοινη?. The new Inclosures broken down and the Lord's Supper laid forth in common for all Church-members.' A second edition, 'corrected and much enlarged,' was published in 1660, with a dedication to General Monck. Many theologians took part in this controversy, and among them John Beverley of Rothwell, John Humfrey, Humphrey Saunders of Holsworthy, Anthony Palmer of Bourton-on-the-Water, Roger Drake, M.D., and John Timson, 'a private Christian of Great Bowden in Leicestershire.' From the heading of an article (v. 215) of the 'Weekly Pacquet of Advice from Rome,' it would seem that Morice printed a letter to Peter du Moulin [q. v.] on the share of the Jesuits in causing the civil war in England, and two political pamphlets (1) 'A Letter to General Monck in answer to his directed to Mr. Rolle for the Gentlemen of Devon. By one of the excluded Members of Parliament. Signed R. M., 1659;' and (2) 'Animadversions upon General Monck's Letter to the Gentry of Devon. By M. W., 1659,' are sometimes attributed to him (Halkett and Laing, Dict. of Anon. Literature, i. 98, ii. 1380). John Owen dedicated to him the first volume (1668) of ' Exercitations on the Epistle to the Hebrews,' and Malachy Thruston, M.D., did him a like honour in his thesis 'De Respirationis Usu Primario' (1670). A letter to Morice from Sir Bevil Grenville (who made him his trustee), written at Newcastle, 15 May 1639, is in the 'Thurloe State Papers' (i. 2-3).

The third son, Humphrey Morice (1640?-1696), was in March 1663 granted the reversion of one of the seven auditorships of the exchequer, and ultimately succeeded to the position. His youngest brother, Nicholas, sat in parliament for Newport, Cornwall, from 1667 to 1679, and one of the two went to the Hague early in 1667 as secretary to Lord Holies and Henry Coventry, the commissioners engaged in an abortive endeavour to arrange a treaty with the Dutch. Of the appointment Pepys wrote : 'That which troubles me most is that we have chosen a son of Secretary Morris, a boy never used to any business, to go secretary to the embassy.' Humphrey married on 8 Jan. 1670 Alice, daughter of Lady Mary Trollope of Stamford, Lincolnshire. In his later years he engaged in mercantile pursuits, chiefly with Hamburg. He died in the winter of 1696, and on 29 Dec., as 'Magr. Humphrey Morice,' was buried at Werrington, Devonshire, the family seat, then occupied by his nephew, Sir Nicholas Morice, bart. His son Humphry is separately noticed.

[For the father: Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss, iii. 1087-90; Boase's Exeter Coll. p. lix Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Vivian's Devon Visitation, p. 621; Worth's Plymouth, pp. 163, 168, 191, 421; Robbins's Launceston, pp. 208-9, 214; Worthington's Diary (Chetham' Soc.), vol. ii. pt. i. p. 152; Wood's Life (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), ii. 66; Price's King's Restoration, passim; London Christian Instructor, vii. 1-4, 57-60 (1824); State Papers, 1659-67; Lysons's Devonshire, pt.ii. pp. 74, 466, 552. An elaborate monument to the families of Morice and Prideaux is printed in W. H. H. Rogers's Sepulchral Effigies of Devon, pp. 292-3. Several extracts, by the Rev. Edward King, from Werrington parish registers relating to his descendants are printed in the Genealogist, iv. 61-3. For the son: information from A. F. Robbins, esq.; Collins's English Baronetage, vol. iii. pt. i. p. 269; Pepys's Diary, iii. 65; Calendar of Domestic State Papers, 1663-4, pp. 94, 538, 1666-7, pp. 523, 601; Calendar of Treasury Papers, 1702-7, p. 121; Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 28052, f. 72; Chester's London Marriage Licences, 1521-1869, p. 944; Western Antiquary, viii. 53, xi. 6.]

W. P. C.