Acland, Thomas Dyke (1809-1898) (DNB01)

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ACLAND, Sir THOMAS DYKE (1809-1898), politician and educational reformer, born at Killerton, Devonshire, on 25 May 1809, was the eldest son of Sir Thomas Dyke Acland (1787-1871) [q.v.], by his wife Lydia Elizabeth, only daughter of Henry Hoare of Mitcham Grove, head partner in the well-known firm of bankers. Sir Henry Wentworth Acland [q. v. Suppl.] was his younger brother. Thomas was educated at Harrow—where in 1826 he won the Peel prize with a dissertation published in the same year as 'Oratio numismate Peeliano dignata et in Scholae Harroviensis Auditorio recitata die lun. 1 a.d. mdcccxxvi' (London, 8vo)—and at Christ Church, Oxford, whence he matriculated on 28 June 1827, and graduated B.A. with a double first in 1831, and M.A. in 1835. His tutor was Thomas Vowler Short [q.v.], and among his friends were W. E. Gladstone, Sir Francis Doyle, Lord Blachford, Lord Elgin, and Frederick Denison Maurice. From 1831 to 1839 he was fellow of All Souls', and in 1837 he was returned to parliament as conservative member for West Somerset. At the general election of 1841 he declined to identify himself with the protectionists, and though he showed leanings towards the Young England party during that parliament, he followed Peel on his conversion to free trade, and did not seek re-election to parliament in 1847.

Acland had from the first interested himself in educational matters; his early efforts were devoted to the maintenance and defence of church schools, and to the establishment of diocesan theological colleges, but later on he became an advocate of more liberal educational projects. In 1857-8 he took the leading part in the establishment of the Oxford local examinations system, publishing in 1858 'Some Account of the Origin and Objects of the new Oxford Examinations' (London, 8vo), which reached a second edition in the same year; on 14 June in the same year he was created D.C.L. of Oxford University. He had equally at heart the improvement of English agriculture and the promotion of technical education for the benefit of practical farmers, and much of the success of the Bath and West of England Agricultural Society (the 'Journal' of which he conducted for seven years) was due to his efforts. In 1851 he published 'The Farming of Somersetshire' (London, 8vo), and forty years later he wrote an 'Introduction to the Chemistry of Farming, specially prepared for Practical Farmers ' (London, 1891, 8vo).

Acland also took an active part in the volunteer movement; he raised five corps of mounted rifles, was lieutenant-colonel of the 3rd Devonshire volunteer rifles from 1860 to 1881, major of the 1st Devonshire yeomanry cavalry from 1872, and published 'Mounted Rifles' (London, 1860, 12mo) and 'Principles and Practice of Volunteer Discipline' (London, 1868, 8vo). Acland was at the same time a discriminating patron of art, and was one of the early admirers of Millais, purchasing in 1854 his well-known portrait of Ruskin standing by the river Finlass; two sketches by Millais, in which Acland figures, both dating from 1853, are reproduced in J. G. Millais's 'Life of Millais' (1899, i. 202-3). Another of his friends was Ruskin, and in 1871 Acland and William Francis Cowper (afterwards Baron Mount-Temple) [q. v. Suppl.] were the original trustees of Ruskin's Guild of St. George [see Ruskin, John, Suppl.]

In 1859 Acland unsuccessfully contested Birmingham as a moderate liberal against John Bright [q.v. Suppl.], but in 1865 he was returned as a liberal for North Devonshire, the representation of which he shared with Sir Stafford Northcote [q. v.] (afterwards Earl of Iddesleigh) for twenty years. He served on the schools commission in 1864-7, and took an unusually active part in the debates in committee on W. E. Forster's education bill in 1870-1. He succeeded his father as eleventh baronet on 22 July 1871, and was sworn of the privy council in

1883; on 30 April 1880 he moved the re-election of Henry Bouverie William Brand (afterwards Viscount Hampden) [q. v. Suppl.] to the speakership. In November 1885 he was returned to parliament for West Somerset. In the following June he voted in favour of Gladstone's first home rule bill, and, as a consequence, was defeated by Charles Isaac Elton [q. v. Suppl.] in July 1886. This closed his political career; he died at Killerton on 29 May 1898, ten days after his friend Gladstone, who was seven months his junior; he was buried in the family vault at Culm St. John on 3 June. A committee has recently been formed for the purpose of erecting at Oxford a memorial to Acland in recognition of his services to the cause of education (see Times, 6 Nov. 1900).

Acland married, first, on 14 March 1841, Mary, eldest daughter of Sir Charles Mordaunt, bart., by whom he had issue two daughters and three sons, viz. Sir Charles Thomas Dyke Acland, twelfth and present baronet, Francis Gilbert {d. 1874), and the Right Hon. Arthur Herbert Dyke Acland, vice-president of the committee of council on education from 1892 to 1895. His first wife died on 11 June 1851, and on 8 June 1856 Acland married Mary, only surviving child of John Erskine, and niece of the second earl of Rosslyn; she died on 14 May 1892.

Besides the works mentioned above, and a number of speeches and pamphlets, Acland published:

  1. 'Meat, Milk, and Wheat … to which is added a Review of the Questions at issue between Mr. [afterwards Sir John Bennett] Lawes [q.v. Suppl.] and Baron Liebig,' London, 1867, 8vo; and
  2. 'Knowledge, Duty, and Faith; suggestions for the Study of Principles … ,' London, 1896, 8vo.

[Times, 30 May and 4 June, 1898, and 6 Nov. 1900; Daily News, 30 May 1898; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715-1886; Annual Register, 1898; Hansard's Pari. Debates; Official Keturn of Members of Pari.; Burke's and Foster's Peerages; Men of the Time, 1895; Andrew Lang's Life and Letters of Sir Stafford Northcote, 1890; H. L. Thompson's Memoir of Dean Liddell, 1900, pp. 258, 271-2; Collingwood's Life of Kuskin; Mowbray's Seventy Years at Westminster, p. 47; Tuckwell's Reminicences of Oxford, 1900; J. G. Millais's Life of Millais, 1899; Acland's works in Brit. Mus. Library.]

A. F. P.