Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Doddridge, John

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DODDRIDGE or DODERIDGE, Sir JOHN (1555–1628), judge, son of Richard Doddridge, merchant, of Barnstaple, born in 1555, was educated at Exeter College, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. on 16 Feb. 1576-7, entering the Middle Temple about the same time. He early became a member of the Society of Antiquaries, then lately founded (Archaeologia, i.; Hearne, Curious Discourses). In 1602 and 1603 he delivered some lectures at New Inn on the law of advowsons. In Lent 1603 he discharged the duties of reader at his inn. On 20 Jan. 1603-4 he took the degree of serjeant-at-law. About the same time he was appointed Prince Henry's Serjeant. He was relieved of the status of Serjeant and appointed solicitor-general on 29 Oct. 1604. Between 1603 and 1611 he sat in parliament as member for Horsham, Sussex. He took part in the celebrated conference in the painted chamber at Westminster, held 25 Feb. 1606, on the question whether Englishmen and Scotchmen born after the accession of James I to the English throne were naturalised by that event in the other kingdom. Doddridge adopted the common-law view that no such reciprocal naturalisation took place, and the majority in the conference were with him. The question was, however, subsequently decided in the opposite sense by Lord-chancellor Ellesmere and twelve judges in the exchequer chamber (Calvin's Case, State Trials, ii. 658). Doddridge was knighted on 5 July 1607, and created a justice of the king's bench on 25 Nov. 1612. On 4 Feb. 1613-14 the university of Oxford, in requital for services rendered by him in connection with some litigation in which the university had been involved, conferred upon him the degree of M.A., the vice-chancellor and proctors attending in Serjeants' Inn for the purpose. Unlike Coke, he showed no reluctance to give extra-judicial opinions. Thus Bacon writes to the king (27 Jan. 1614-15) with reference to Peacham's case that Doddridge was ' very ready to give an opinion in secret.' Nevertheless he signed the letter refusing to stay proceedings at the instance of the king in the commendam case (27 April 1616). On being summoned to the king's presence, all the judges except Coke receded from the position they had taken in the letter. Doddridge, however, went still further in subserviency, promising that 'he would conclude for the king that the church was void and in his majesty's gift,' adding 'that the king might give a commendam to a bishop either before or after consecration, and that he might give it him during his life or for a certain number of years.' Doddridge sat on the commission appointed in October 1621 to examine into the right of the archbishop (Abbot) to install the newly elected bishops Williams, Davenant, and Cary who objected to be consecrated by him on account of his accidental homicide. Being directed (August 1623) by warrant under the great seal to soften the rigour of the statutes against popish recusants–a concession to Spain intended to facilitate the conclusion of the marriage contract–Doddridge, according to Yonge, was hopeful of discovering a way to dispense with the statutes altogether. He concurred in the judgment delivered by Chief-justice Hyde on 28 Nov. 1627 refusing to admit to bail the five knights committed to prison for refusing to subscribe the forced loan of that year, and was arraigned by the House of Lords in April of the following year to justify his conduct. His plea was that the 'king holds of none but God.' He added somewhat querulously, 'I am old and have one foot in the grave, therefore I will look to the better part as near as I can. But omnia habere in memoria et in nullo errare divinum potius est quam humanum.'

He died on 13 Sept. 1628, at his house, Forsters, near Egham, and was buried in Exeter Cathedral. He married thrice, his last wife being Dorothy, daughter of Sir Amias Bampfield of North Molton, Devonshire, relict of Edward Hancock of Combe Martin. He left no issue. Fuller observes that 'it is hard to say whether he was better artist, divine, civil or canon lawyer,' and that 'he held the scales of justice with so steady an hand that neither love nor lucre, fear nor flattery, could bow him to either side,' praise which is hardly borne out by his conduct in the commendam case and the five knights' case. Hearing him pleading at the bar, Bacon is said to have remarked, 'It is done like a good archer, he shoots a fair compass.' From a habit of shutting his eyes while listening intently to a case, he acquired the sobriquet of 'the sleeping judge.' A curious incident occurred at the Huntingdon assizes in 1619. Doddridge having severely animadverted on the quality of the jurors, the sheriff gave to the next panel a fictitious set of names, such as Mamilian, prince of Tozland; Henry, prince of Godmanchester, and the like, which being read over with great solemnity, Doddridge is said not to have detected the imposition.

Doddridge is the author of the following posthumous works:

  1. 'The Lawyer's Light' (a manual for students), London, 1629, 4to.
  2. 'History of Wales, Cornwall, and Chester' (chiefly from records at the Tower), London, 1630, 4to.
  3. 'A Compleat Parson' (based on the lectures on advowsons referred to in the text), London, 1630, 4to; 2nd ed. 1641.
  4. 'The English Lawyer' (including a reprint of the 'Lawyer's Light' and a treatise for practitioners and judges), London, 1631, 4to.
  5. 'Law of Nobility and Peerage,' London, 1658, 8vo.

Hearne's 'Curious Discourses' contain two brief tracts by Doddridge: (1) 'Of the Dimensions of the Land of England;' (2) 'A Consideration of the Office and Duty of the Heralds in England.' A 'Dissertation on Parliament' was published as the work of Doddridge by his nephew John Doddridge of the Middle Temple, in a volume entitled 'Opinions of sundry learned Antiquaries touching the Antiquity, Power, &c. of the High Court of Parliament in England,' London, 1658, 12mo: reprinted in 1679, 8vo. It is of doubtful authenticity. The original edition of the work on deeds known as 'Sheppard's Touchstone of Common Assurances,' and the work on the 'Office of Executor,' assigned by Wood to Thomas Wentworth, both of which were published anonymously in 1641, have been ascribed to Doddridge. A small treatise on the royal prerogative (Harl. MS. 5220) also purports to be his work.

[Wood's Fasti Oxon. (Bliss), i. 201, 355; Spelman's Four Terms of the Year (Preface); Dugdale's Orig. 219; Dugdale's Chron. Ser. 99, 100; Willis's Not. Parl. iii. 1 56; Cobbett's State Trials, iii. 51, 163; Metcalfe's Book of Knights, 158; Cal. State Papers (1611-18), 158; Spedding's Letters and Life of Bacon, v. 100, 360; Yonge's Diary (Camd. Soc.), 44, 69; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. ii. 463; Whitelocke's Liber Famel. (Camd. Soc.), 109; Manningham's Diary (Camd. Soc.), 63; Harl. Misc. iii. 499; Fuller's Worthies (Devon).]

J. M. R.