Bathurst, Henry (1714-1794) (DNB00)

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BATHURST, HENRY (1714–1794), second Earl Bathurst, lord chancellor, was the second but eldest surviving son of Allen, first Earl Bathurst, and was born on 2 May 1714. He matriculated at Balliol College, Oxford, 14 May 1730, and graduated B.A., according to Foss, in 1733. He was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1736, becoming K.C. in Jan. 1745–6. Through the influence of his family he sat in parliament for Cirencester from April 1735 to April 1754, allying himself with the opposition until the death of Frederick, prince of Wales, when he ranked with the supporters of the Pelham ministry. His attachment to the former party was rewarded by the offices of solicitor-general (1746) and attorney-general (1747) to the prince, and on Lord Hardwicke's recommendation his support of the Pelhams was acknowledged by his appointment as a judge of the common pleas on 2 May 1754. On the sudden death of Charles Yorke the great seal was entrusted to three commissioners on 21 Jan. 1770, of whom Justice Bathurst was the second, and to the surprise of the world he was in the following year, on 23 Jan. 1771, created lord chancellor and raised to the peerage as Baron Apsley, whereupon it was remarked that three judges who were unequal to the discharge of their duties were superseded by the least competent of the three. This high office he retained until June 1778, when he was called upon to resign so that Lord North's cabinet might be strengthened by the presence of Thurlow; but Earl Bathurst—for he succeeded to the earldom on his father's death in 1775—again became a member of the ministry in November 1779 as lord president of the council, and continued in that position until Lord North's fall in 1782. After this event he gradually withdrew from public life, and died at Oakley Grove, near Cirencester, on 6 Aug. 1794. His first wife, whom he married on 19 Sept. 1754, was Anne, daughter of Mr. James and widow of Charles Philips, and she died on 8 Feb. 1758. In the next year, on 7 June 1759, he took to wife Tryphena, daughter of Thomas Scawen of Northamptonshire; by her, who died at Abb's Court, Surrey, on 2 Dec. 1807, he had issue two sons and four daughters. The ‘Case of the unfortunate Martha Sophia Swordfeager’ (1771), an unhappy woman who was apparently entrapped into a pretended marriage, is attributed to the pen of Lord Bathurst, and the work on the ‘Law relative to Trials at Nisi Prius,’ which bears the name of Justice Buller, is sometimes said to have been founded on the collections of the older lawyer. Bathurst's judgments whilst in the court of common pleas are in the reports of Serjeant G. Wilson; his decrees whilst presiding in chancery are preserved in the reports of Mr. John Dickens. By a universal consensus of opinion Earl Bathurst is pronounced to have been the least efficient lord chancellor of the last century, his successor, Lord Campbell, not shrinking from the statement that the building of Apsley House was ‘perhaps the most memorable act in the life of Lord Chancellor Bathurst;’ but it is recorded to his honour that his patronage was distributed fairly and judiciously, both in the law and the church. Among those upon whom he conferred office was Sir William Jones, who in return dedicated to Earl Bathurst his translation of the speeches of Isæus. As a politician he concurred in all the acts of the North ministry, and on Chatham's death was one of the four peers who signed the protest against the grant of an annuity to the successors of that title.

[Foss, viii. 239–43; Campbell's Chancellors, v. 436–72; Gent. Mag. (1794), lxiv. 771; Walpole's Letters, vi. 299; Correspondence of George III and Lord North, ii. 175; Wraxall, ii. 202–3; Stanhope's Hist. of England, v. 292, vi. 233.]

W. P. C.