Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Manners-Sutton, Thomas

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MANNERS-SUTTON, THOMAS, first Baron Manners (1766–1842), lord chancellor of Ireland, fifth son of Lord George Manners-Sutton by his first wife, Diana, daughter of Thomas Chaplin of Blankney, Lincolnshire, and grandson of John Manners, third duke of Rutland, was born on 24 Feb. 1766. Charles Manners-Sutton [q. v.], archbishop of Canterbury, was his elder brother. On the death of his uncle, Lord Robert Sutton, in 1762, the estates of his great-grandfather, Robert Sutton, lord Lexinton [q. v.], devolved on his father, who thereupon assumed the additional surname of Sutton. Thomas was educated at the Charterhouse and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where, as fifth wrangler, he graduated B.A. 1777, M.A. 1780. He was admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn on 16 Nov. 1776, and was called to the bar on 18 Nov. 1780. He gradually obtained a considerable practice in the court of chancery, and at the general election in May 1796 was returned to the House of Commons for the borough of Newark-upon-Trent, for which he continued to sit until February 1806. In July 1797 he was appointed a Welsh judge, and in 1800 became a king's counsel, and received the appointment of solicitor-general to the Prince of Wales. In February and March 1802 he unsuccessfully urged the claims of the prince to the revenues of the duchy of Cornwall (Parl. Hist. xxxvi. 322–6, 332, 406–13, 441). He was appointed solicitor-general in Addington's administration on 11 May 1802, and received the honour of knighthood on the 19th of the same month. Though no longer in his service, Manners-Sutton addressed the House of Commons on behalf of the Prince of Wales during the debate on the king's message in February 1803 (ib. xxxvi. 1202–3). He took part in the prosecution of Edward Marcus Despard for high treason, of Jean Peltier for libelling Napoleon Buonaparte, and of William Cobbett for libelling the lord-lieutenant of Ireland (Howell, State Trials, xxviii. 346–528, 529–620, xxix. 1–54). Manners-Sutton succeeded Sir Beaumont Hotham [q. v.] as a baron of the exchequer, and having been called to the degree of serjeant-at-law took his seat on the bench on 4 Feb. 1805. On 20 April 1807 he was created Baron Manners or Foston, Lincolnshire, and two days afterwards was sworn a member of the privy council. On the 23rd he was appointed lord chancellor of Ireland in the place of George Ponsonby, and on the 24th took his seat in the House of Lords for the first time (Journals of the House of Lords, xlvi. 191). Manners was a staunch protestant, and was greatly influenced in his conduct by William Saurin, who cordially detested the Roman catholics. The case of Patrick O'Hanlon, who was removed from the bench of magistrates by Manners for supporting the catholic claims, was brought before the House of Commons on 13 June 1816 (Parl. Debates, 1st ser. xxxiv. 1103-7; see also O'Hanlon, Letter to the Lord Manners . . . on alleged partial exercise of Authority by his Lordship, &c, Dublin [1817], 8vo). The controversy between Manners and Lord Cloncurry will be found in detail in the 'Personal Recollections of Lord Cloncurry,' 1849 (pp. 256-66). In 1820 Manners took a somewhat active part in the proceedings against Queen Caroline, and both spoke and voted in favour of the second reading of the Bill of Pains and Penalties, the arguments in support of which 'he considered to be irresistible' (Parl. Debates, 2nd ser. ii. 997-999, iii. 735-6, 891-2, 1646-9, 1698). His presence at the Orange dinner given by the Dublin Beefsteak Club in 1823, when the lord-lieutenant's health was drunk in solemn silence, gave great offence to Lord Wellesley, but the quarrel was ultimately patched up (Lord Colchester, Diary, iii. 274; and the Duke of Buckingham, Memoirs of the Court of George IV, i. 429-35, 443). After holding office for twenty years Manners sent in his resignation and sat for the last time in the Irish court of chancery on 31 July 1827.

On 9 June 1828 Manners spoke in the House of Lords on the subject of the catholic claims, and declared that it was impossible 'to grant the catholics the concessions they sought, and to afford any protection to the established reformed church of Ireland in the present temper of the Irish nation' (Parl. Debates, 2nd ser. xix. 1170). He voted against the second reading of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill on 4 April 1829 (ib. xxi. 396), and two days afterwards spoke in favour of the Qualification of Freeholders (Ireland) Bill, which he looked upon ' as an act of justice, and one which would confer considerable benefit upon a great portion of the forty-shilling freeholders themselves' (ib. 413-15). Manners does not appear to have spoken in the House of Lords alter the passing of the Reform Bill. He died in Brook Street, London, on 31 May 1842, aged 86, and was buried at Kelham, Nottinghamshire.

Manners was a dignified and courteous judge. His judgments, many of which are recorded in the reports of Ball and Beatty (1813-24) and Beatty (1847), do not carry great weight, notwithstanding the assertion of Joy, the Irish attorney-general, that out of his 4,469 Irish decisions 'only fourteen have been reversed and seven varied in some particulars' (O'Flanagan, ii. 370). O'Connell declared that 'he was a bad lawyer, but he was the most sensible-looking man talking nonsense he ever saw' (Burke, History of the Lord Chancellors of Ireland, p. 203) ; and during the debate on the choice of a speaker in the House of Commons on 29 Jan. 1833 drew a most unflattering sketch of the lord chancellor's career (Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. xv. 55-6). While in Dublin he lived at 51 Stephen's Green East, where he kept great state, and was 'preceded by his ten servants walking two and two 'when he went to church on a Sunday (O'Flanagan, ii. 363).

Manners gave Lady Morgan her first lesson in salad-making, but when he discovered the emancipating tendency of her novel 'O'Donnel' he ordered the book 'to be burnt' (wrote Lady Morgan) 'in the servants' hall, and then said to Laay Manners (who told it to my sister), "Jenny, I wish I had not given her the secret of my salad." Ever after he only bowed to me when we met at court, never spoke to me' (Memoirs, 1863, ii. 495).

He married, first, on 4 Nov. 1803, Anne, daughter of Sir Joseph Copley of Sprotborough, Yorkshire, bart., by whom he had no issue. She died very suddenly at Thomas's Hotel, Berkeley Square, on 5 Aug. 1814, and on 28 Oct. 1815 he married, secondly, the Hon. Jane Butler, daughter of James, ninth baron Cahir, and sister of Richard, first earl of Glengall, by whom he had an only son, John Thomas, who succeeded him as second Baron Manners. His widow died at Fornham Hall, Bury St. Edmunds, on 2 Nov. 1846, aged 67. The present peer is a grandson of the first baron. Manners was for some years the recorder of Grantham. He was elected a bencher of Lincoln's Inn on 16 July 1800, but retired from the society in February 1805, upon his elevation to the judicial bench. There is an engraving of Manners by Cardon after Comerford.

[O'Flanagan's Lives of the Lord Chancellors of Ireland, 1879, ii. 336-75; Burke's Lord Chancellors of Ireland, 1879, pp. 197-204; Shell's Sketches of the Irish Bar, 1856, ii. 172-91; Foss's Judges of England, 1864, viii. 371-3 ; Parker's Sir Robert Peel, 1891, pp. 196, 314, 400; Diary and Correspondence of Charles Abbot, Lord Colchester, 1861, iii. 341, 416, 488, 598 ; Georgian Era, 1833, ii. 323; Gent. Mag. 1842, ii. 202, 677; Annual Register, 1842, App. to Chron. p. 270; Burke's Peerage, 1891, pp. 916, 1197; Grad. Cantabr. 1823, p. 465; Lincoln'slnn Registers ; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. ii. pp. 205, 220 ; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1890; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. xii. 388, 465, 8th ser. i. 35.]

G. F. R. B.