Belsham, William (DNB00)

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BELSHAM, WILLIAM (1752–1827), political writer and historian, brother of Thomas Belsham [q. v.], the unitarian minister and writer, was born at Bedford in 1752. He devoted his life to the support, by his pen, of whig principles, commencing his career as an author by publishing ‘Essays, Philosophical, Historical, and Literary,’ two vols. 1789–91. In 1792 he published ‘Examination of an Appeal from the Old to the New Whigs,’ and in 1793 ‘Remarks on the Nature and Necessity of Political Reform.’ He also wrote on the test laws, the French revolution, the treaty of Amiens, and the poor laws. In 1793 he published, in two volumes, ‘Memoirs of the Kings of Great Britain of the House of Brunswick-Luneburg,’ and this was followed in 1795 by ‘Memoirs of the Reign of George III to the Session of Parliament 1793,’ in four volumes, a fifth and sixth volume appearing in 1801, bringing it down to 1799. In 1798 he published, in two volumes, ‘A History of Great Britain from the Revolution to the Accession of the House of Hanover,’ and in 1806 all the volumes were reissued, with two additional volumes, the twelve volumes appearing under the title, ‘History of Great Britain to the Conclusion of the Peace of Amiens in 1802.’ The style of Belsham is clear and simple, his information extensive, and his opinions enlightened and liberal, if not philosophical. He justified the Americans in their resistance to the demands of England, and he was a strenuous advocate of progressive political liberty. He died near Hammersmith 17 Nov. 1827.

[Literary Gazette for 1827; Gent. Mag. vol. xcviii. pt. i. pp. 274–5.]

T. F. H.