Dalton, Michael (DNB00)

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DALTON, MICHAEL (d. 1648?), author of two legal works of high repute in the seventeenth century, was the son of Thomas Dalton of Hildersham, Cambridgeshire. In dedicating his first work, ‘The Countrey Justice’ (1618, fol.), to the masters of Lincoln's Inn, he describes himself as ‘a long yet an unprofitable member’ of this society. He also dates the epistle to the reader ‘from my chamber at Lincoln's Inn.’ His name, however, is not to be found in the Lincoln's Inn register, and as he never calls himself barrister-at-law, it is probable that though he had a room in the Inn he was never admitted to the society. He resided at West Wratting, Cambridgeshire, and was in the commission of the peace for that county. In 1631 he was fined 2,000l. for having permitted his daughter Dorothy to marry her maternal uncle, Sir Giles Allington of Horseheath, Cambridgeshire. The fine, however, was remitted. He married first, Frances, daughter of William Thornton, and secondly, Mary, daughter of Edward Allington.

Dalton was living in 1648, and was then commissioner of sequestrations for the county of Cambridge. He probably died between that date and 1655, when an edition of ‘The Countrey Justice’ was published with a commendatory note by the printer. On the title-page of this edition he is for the first time described as ‘one of the masters of the chancery.’ His name does not occur in the list of masters in chancery edited by Sir Duffus Hardy. The Dalton mentioned by Strype as a member of parliament and a staunch episcopalian is another person. Michael Dalton never had a seat in the house.

Dalton published: 1. ‘The Countrey Justice,’ London, 1618, fol., a treatise on the jurisdiction of justices of the peace out of session. The idea was not altogether novel, as FitzHerbert (‘L'Office et Auctoritee de Justices de Peace,’ 1514, English translation 1538) and Lambarde (‘Eirenarcha,’ 1610) had already devoted substantive treatises to the duties of justices. Dalton's book differed from these in the limitation of its scope and the fulness of its detail. A second edition appeared in 1619 (London, fol.), prefaced by commendatory Latin verses by John Richardson, master of Trinity College, Cambridge, William Burton, regius professor of medicine in the same university, Isaac Barrow, quaintly described as ‘affinis,’ and William de Lisle. A third edition appeared in 1630, and a fourth (probably posthumous) in 1655. In 1666 the work was edited by a certain T. M., of whom nothing is known except that he was a member of Lincoln's Inn, who added a treatise on the jurisdiction in sessions, and much new matter besides. Subsequent editions appeared in 1682, 1690, and 1742. Besides this work Dalton published ‘Officium Vicecomitum, or the Office and Authoritie of Sheriffs,’ London, 1623, fol. An abridgment appeared in 1628, London, 8vo. The last edition of this book was published in 1700. There exists in the British Museum a manuscript in a seventeenth century hand (Sloane MS. 4359) entitled ‘A Breviary of the Roman or Western Church and Empire, containing the decay of True Religion and the rise of the Papacy, from the time of our Lord, the Saviour Jesus Christ, until Martin Luther, gathered by Michael Dalton of Lincoln's Inn, Esq. … A.D. 1642.’ It is an abstract of events in chronological sequence from the foundation of christianity to ‘the discovery of anti-christ’ in the sixteenth century, and consists of 230 closely written 8vo pages.

[Cole MSS. xi. 17; Cal. State Papers (Dom. 1631–3), pp. 41, 62, 91, 102, 108 (Dom. 1635–1636), p. 497; Add. MS. 5494, f. 62; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

J. M. R.