Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 01.djvu/19

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Abbot
Abbot
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speaker on the occasion referred to should not be drawn into a precedent. The motion was defeated by a large majority, but, according to Sir Erskine May, the correctness of the doctrine upheld by the opposition has since been recognised in practice, and the speaker in addressing her majesty adverts only to the most important measures which have received the sanction of parliament during the session.

Seventy years ago the office of speaker was more laborious than it is now, and in 1816 Abbot’s health gave way, and he was obliged to send in his resignation. He retired with a peerage, and selected the title of Colchester; he received a pension of 4,000l. a year for himself, and 3,000l. for his immediate successor.

Abbot is certainly to be classed among the most distinguished men who have ever occupied the chair. Perceval vainly urged him to become secretary of state in 1809. Whitbread said that he was superior to any other speaker he had ever known. He was formally thanked by the House of Commons in 1808 for his upright, able, and impartial conduct; and both Lord Liverpool and Lord Castlereagh spoke of him on his retirement in terms significant of the general high opinion in which his qualities were held. His short speeches recorded in the Journals of the House of Commons, thanking admirals and generals for their exploits during the great war, are models of dignified panegyric. These speeches were collected into one volume by Mr. John Rickman, Lord Colchester’s secretary, and published in 1829.

Abbot’s services as an ex-officio trustee of the British Museum had been so valuable that on his retirement from office the number of trustees was increased in order that he might be elected. The appointment of days for the free admission of the public, the opening of the library for the accommodation of students, and the purchase of almost all the collections that were added to it between the years 1802 and 1817, are due to his suggestions.

The five years immediately following his retirement from the speakership were devoted to the restoration of his health; and from 1819 to 1822 he travelled through the greater part of France and Italy, returning to England just before the reconstruction of the ministry consequent on the death of Lord Londonderry. During the next seven years he continued to take an active part in politics. He was a tory of the Sidmouth rather than the Pitt school. He was strongly opposed to the admission of the Roman catholics to parliament; and he has left us a very full account of the political negotiations of 1827, adopting the strong anti-Canning view which distinguished all that section of the tories. On 6 Feb. 1829 he made his last speech in the House of Lords. He was then far from well; in the following month he became seriously ill. He lingered on through April, and died rather suddenly on 7 May, in the 72nd year of his age.

Shortly after his acceptance of the speakership, Abbot purchased the estate of Kidbrooke, in Sussex, which was his country retreat for the remainder of his life. Here he amused himself with planting and gardening, with drilling volunteers, and discharging the duties of a magistrate. He had married, in Dec. 1796, Miss Elizabeth Gibbes, eldest daughter of Sir Philip Gibbes, and was succeeded at his death by his eldest son Charles, who was postmaster-general in 1858, and, dying in 1867, was succeeded by the present Lord Colchester, the third peer.

Lord Colchester’s Diary and Correspondence were published by his son in 1861; they extend over a period of thirty-four years, from 1795 to 1829, and are among the most valuable collections of the kind. The memoir by the editor is the principal source of information. A selection from Abbot’s speeches on the Roman catholic question appeared in 1828, and the collection of his addresses to military and naval commanders, which have been already referred to, was published in 1829.

[Diary and Correspondence of Lord Colchester, by the second Lord Colchester, 3 vols. 1861; Life of Mr. Perceval, by Spencer Walpole, 1874; Manning’s Lives of the Speakers; Annual Register, 1829.]

T. E. K.

ABBOT, GEORGE (1562–1633), archbishop of Canterbury, was born at Guildford on 29 Oct. 1562. His father, Maurice Abbot, was a clothworker of the town; his mother’s maiden name was Alice March or Marsh; their cottage, the birthplace of the archbishop, was ‘by the river’s side, near to the bridge on the north side in St. Nicolas’ parish,’ and, after serving for some years in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as an alehouse with the sign of ‘The Three Mariners,’ remained standing until 1864 (Murray’s Surrey, p. 74). Abbot’s parents were staunch protestants; they had first ‘embraced the truth of the Gospel in King Edward’s days, and were persecuted for it in Queen Mary’s reign (by Dr. Story of infamous memory), and notwithstanding all troubles and molestations continued constant in the profession of the truth till their death,’ which took place within ten days of each other in September 1606. George was their second