|"Samuel Squire," artist unknown|
Samuel Squire was born and baptized at Warminster, Wiltshire in 1714. He was the son of the town druggist or apothecary, Thomas, and his wife, Susan. On 23 June 1730, he was admitted to St. John’s College, a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, and became a Somerset scholar. Since Squire was admitted pensioner, which meant he was paying his own tuition and fees, he started tutoring his fellow students as a way to help alleviate the cost and kept extensive account books to track his spending and income. During his school years, Squire studied an eclectic array of languages, including Greek, Latin, Old English, Hebrew, Icelandic, and Gothic. He quickly graduated BA in 1734 and then MA in 1737. He was also a recipient of the Craven Scholarship and was elected a fellow at St. John’s in 1735. He finally received his Doctor of Divinity in 1749.
Although Squire was set up for a successful career at the church, he first chose to go on a year-long tour before shouldering his ecclesiastical responsibilities. Although most young men at the time embarked on a continental tour, Squire chose to remain in Great Britain. It appears during this exploration he acquired a personal prejudice toward things Scottish, which can be seen in his later writings. In 1747, he refers to Scotland as “’the land of mountains, bareness and rebellion’” (Browning).
After gallivanting around Europe for a year, Squire was ordained Deacon in London on 17 June 1739 and so began his clerical career. Squire became an ordained priest in Norwich on 31 May 1741 and became vicar of Minting in Lincolnshire. For a period he served as the domestic chaplain for Dr. John Wynne in 1742. From 1743 to 1761 he served as the archdeacon of Bath and prebendary of Wells Cathedral in Wells. The duke of Newcastle appointed Squire his chaplain in 1743. He was rector of Toppesfield, Essex in 1749 but left in 1750 to be rector of St. Anne’s in Soho, London from 1750 to 1766. Not long after this appointment, Squire became vicar of Greenwich in London in 1751, which he held until his death in 1766. Once he had secured this living in Greenwich, he married a woman named Charlotte, who was the daughter of Thomas Ardesoif. The couple would have four children, the youngest of which, Samuel, published a biography of his father in 1817. In 1757, he became part of the royal court when he was appointed clerk of the closet to George, prince of Wales. In 1760, he was appointed Dean of Bristol and reached the height of his clerical career on 24 May 1761 when he was appointed bishop of St. David’s in Pembrokeshire (this promotion was likely due to the influence of James Stuart, earl of Bute and advisor to the prince of Wales).
Squire’s career is an example of the Whig system of patronage for they were infamous for their use of patronage to further their political interest and intelligence. Reed Browning states, “The political realities of the Hanoverian age specified that a cleric ambitious for a successful ecclesiastical career should provide useful support to the Whig cause.” By attaching himself early on to prominent Whigs, such as the Duke of Newcastle, Squire put himself on a path toward clerical prominence. His position as a fellow at Cambridge allowed him to provide the duke of Newcastle intel on the political conspiracies plotted at the university throughout the 1740s. Yet, Squire’s position also required him to make public Whig statements, which he accomplished in several essays published periodically (also during the 1740s).
The first essay, Letter to a Young Gentleman of Distinction (1740), he advocated for a standing army, as opposed to a militia, as the best form of protection against Spain and France. The Important Questions Discussed (1746) he wrote in defense of the placement of Britain’s troops on the continent. In a show of support for the Pelham ministry and its Whig principles, he wrote A Letter to a Tory Friend (1746). In 1748, he also published two essays in response to Jacobite historian, Thomas Carte. Carte’s published works were in support of the Stuart house and Squire attempted use natural law theory in his essay, Remarks upon Mr. Carte’s Specimen, to tear down the Jacobite’s argument. A Letter to John-Trot Plaid was a satirical piece that mocked Carte’s tendency to describe the past in terms of the present.
Due to his expansive language studies while at St. John’s, when not publishing political pieces Squire wrote essays on language and history. His study of Greek led him to write Inquiry into the Origin of the Greek Language (1741), in which he presented Greek as a descendant of Hebrew. He also wrote an unpublished work on the Saxon language. Squire held an enthusiasm for ancient civilizations and wrote Ancient History of the Hebrews Vindicated in 1741 commending Pentateuch’s works and published A new edition of Plutarch’s Discourse on Iris and Osiris with his own commentary.
Some of his greatest works were essays he wrote on the English constitution, An Enquiry into the Foundation of the English Constitution (1745) and its sequel Historical Essay on the Balance of Civil Power in England (1748). An Enquiry examined the Anglo- Saxon constitution and concluded that it possessed many similarities to the current English constitution, both of which “existed to defend liberty, property, and justice” (Browning). According to Reed Browning, “An Enquiry had a political message: since the Court Whigs had the truest understanding of the constitution, they deserved the kingdom’s trust as guardians of English liberties” (Browning, 14). The Historical Essay was published to further this point, however, by the 1750s Squire had begun to revert from these earlier views. As research on Medieval England expanded and accumulated, Squire began to see inconsistencies with his earlier arguments and ceased to publish historical writings after 1748.
While clerk of the closet for the Prince of Wales, he wrote two Christian apologetics: Indifference of Religion Inexcusable (1758) and The Principles of Religion Made Easy to Young Persons (1763). He had written a memoir of Thomas Herring, archbishop of Canterbury, which was published as an appendix in a book of Herring’s sermons. The Royal Society recognized his work with language and history and inducted Squire as a fellow in May 1746, stating he was “A Gentleman well known to the Learned World by Several valuable Treatises.” He was also elected a fellow on the Society of Antiquaries in 1748.
The fact that a clergyman spent part of his career as a pamphleteer on behalf of the Whigs was not unusual. The pamphleteering culture in the mid-eighteenth century could be brutal on both sides and the Court Whigs relied on the talents of the educated churchmen who understood how to organize textual and historical evidence. In exchange for their service, the clergymen were usually rewarded with positions that advanced them on the ecclesiastical hierarchy. In light of this, Squire could easily be seen as an unrelenting “climber” but perhaps his actions were in accordance with the time. The mid-eighteenth century was an “era of patronage,” where men who advanced positions usually did so through the favor of an influential individual. Although his cotemporaries had harsh words for his pathway of advancement, Squire was still considered a generous man who acted in a way a clergyman was expected.
“Squire, Samuel.” A Cambridge Alumni Database. Accessed July 13, 2015. http://venn.lib.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/search.pl?sur=&suro=c&fir=&firo=c&cit=&cito=c&c=all&tex=%22SKR730S%22&sye=&eye=&col=all&maxcount=50.
“The Library Archives and Catalogue.” Royal Society. Accessed July 13, 2015. https://collections.royalsociety.org/DServe.exe?dsqIni=Dserve.ini&dsqApp=Archive&dsqCmd=Show.tcl&dsqDb=Persons&dsqPos=4&dsqSearch=%28%28text%29%3D%27Squire%27%29/
Browning, Reed. “Samuel Squire: Pamphleteering Churchman.” Eighteenth Century Life, vol. 5 no. 1, 1978. https://illiad.luc.edu/illiad/IAL/illiad.dll?Action=10&Form=75&Value=403999.
Browning, Reed. “Squire, Samuel (bap. 1714, d. 1766).” Reed Browning In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman. Oxford: OUP, 2004. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/26192 (accessed July 14, 2015).