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Richard Oliver (1734?-1784)

This article was written by George Fisher Russell Barker and was published in 1894

Richard Oliver, a politician, was the only surviving son of Rowland Oliver, a puisne judge of the court of common pleas of the Leeward Islands, and grandson of Richard Oliver, speaker of the House of Assembly in Antigua. He was baptised in St. John's, Antigua, on 7 January 1734-5.

At an early age he was sent to London, where he entered the office of his uncle, Richard Oliver, a West India merchant. He took up his freedom in the Drapers' Company on 29 June 1770, and on 4 July following was elected alderman of Billingsgate ward. At a by-election a few days afterwards he was returned to the House of Commons for the city of London, which he continued to represent until the dissolution of parliament in September 1780.

On 6 December 1770 Oliver seconded Serjeant Glynn's motion for a committee to inquire into the administration of criminal justice).

In March 1771 he became engaged in the famous struggle between the city and the House of Commons and was committed to the Tower by order of the speaker on the 26th of that month. On 5 April he was brought up on a writ of habeas corpus before Lord Mansfield, who declined to interfere, as parliament was still sitting. A similar application was made on his behalf to the court of exchequer on 30 April, with the same want of success. The parliamentary session, however, closed on 8 May, when Oliver and Crosby were released from the Tower, and conducted in a triumphal procession to the Mansion House.

Though formerly an active supporter of Wilkes, Oliver refused to serve as sheriff with him in 1771, and was elected to that office with Watkin Lewes on 1 July 1772. The friends of Wilkes were so enraged at the election of Townshend as lord mayor in this year that they appear to have accused Oliver ‘of having taken the vote of the court before their party had arrived’. On 26 January 1773 Oliver spoke in favour of Sawbridge's motion for leave to bring in a bill for shortening the duration of parliaments, and on 1 February 1775 he seconded a similar motion. On 27 November 1775 his proposed address to the king respecting ‘the original authors and advisers’ of the measures against the American colonies was defeated by 163 votes to 10. His name appears for the last time in the Parliamentary History on 10 May 1776, when he seconded Sawbridge's resolution that the American colonies should ‘be continued upon the same footing of giving and granting their money as his Majesty's subjects in Ireland are, by their own representatives’. Oliver resigned his gown at a court of aldermen held at Guildhall on 25 November 1778, and shortly afterwards sailed to Antigua in order to look after his West Indian estates. He died on board the Sandwich packet, while returning to England, on 16 April 1784.

Oliver married, on 2 February 1758, his cousin Mary, daughter of Richard Oliver of Low Leyton, Essex, by whom he had no issue. He was elected a general of the honourable artillery company in August 1773. The silver-gilt cup which was presented to him by the livery in March 1772 ‘for joining with other magistrates in the release of a freeman, who was arrested by order of the House of Commons, and in a warrant for imprisoning the messenger who had arrested the citizen and refused to give bail,’ is preserved among the corporation plate at the Mansion House.

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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