Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 04.djvu/415

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private life. Abingdon was a very frequent speaker in the House of Lords from 1775 until his death. He was an intimate friend of the Marquis of Rockingham, and usually voted with the Rockingham whigs, but he advanced far beyond the principles of his party in his support of popular rights. In his first speech (1775) he denounced the bill for restraining the trade of America as a "most diabolic measure" and he seized every opportunity between 1775 and 1783 of attacking the policy that produced the war with America. In 1777 he published, through Almon, "Thoughts on Mr. Burke's Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol on the Affairs of America," in which he attacked Burke for not following up with sufficient energy or persistency his first great speeches against the war. the pamphlet attracted great attention from all political parties. Horace Walpole, writing to the Rev.william Mason (21 Sept. 1777), says: 'Are you not content with Lord Abingdon's pamphlet? are you not more? are you not glad he has so well puffed away Burke's sophistries?' Burke felt the attack keenly. Before its publication he had met Abingdon at the Marquis of Rockingham's, and had treated the earl with scant respect; but when he saw Abingdon's "Thoughts" announced for publication, he wrote to the author begging him to suppress the book, and Abingdon in a polite reply regretted his inability to accede to the request. After its publication Burke discussed with Rockingham the desirability of replying to it. An anonymous reply to Abingdon's 'Thoughts' was issued by Cadell in 1778, but the popularity of the pamphlet remained unchecked, and after passing through five editions it was republished in 1780 under the new title of "A Dedication to the collective body of the people of England, in which the source of our present political distractions are pointed out, and a plan proposed for their remedy and redress. Abingdon's speech (2 Dec. 1783) in favour of peace with America was issued as a broadside in 1783, with a caricature of the coalition ministry of Fox and North. From 1782 onwards Abingdon mainly devoted his attention to Irish affairs, bringing into the House of Lords a series of bills for the conciliation of the Irish people, but he found few supporters. A speech of his on the affairs of Ireland, with the copy of a bill for reorganising the Irish parliament, was published as a pamphlet in 1782. Abingdon sympathised strongly with the French revolution. He opposed the war with France, and in 1798 published a rhapsodical mlogy on the revolution under the title of A Letter to Lady Loughborough from the Earl of Abingdon in consequence of her presentation of the colours to the Bloomsbury and Inns of Court Association.' This pamphlet passed through nine editions. Abingdon diea on 20 Sept. 1799. He married on 7 July 1708 Charlotte, daughter and coheiress of Admiral Sir Peter Warren, K.B. (at one time M.P. for Westminster). She died on 28 Jan. 1794. By her he had three sons and a daughter. Tne eldest son, Montagu, born on 30 April 1780, succeeded his father as fifth earl, and died on 16 Oct. 1854. Willoughby, the second son, born on 24 June 1787, became a captain in the navy, and was wrecked in the Satellite off the Goodwin Sands in 1810. Abingdon was in the habit of sending copies of his speeches in parliament to the newspapers, 'with' (it is said) 'a handsome fee' to insure their insertion in a prominent position. In a speech delivered in the House of Lords on 17 June 1794 Abingdon called attention to the immoral practices of attorneys, and instanced the conduct of one, Thomas Sermon, an attorney once employed by himself. Abingdon forwarded the speech to the newspapers, and it was published. Sermon thereupon brought a criminal information for libel against the earl in the court of king's bench. The case was heard on 6 Dec. 1794 before Lord Kenyon. Erskine was the prosecuting counsel; the defendant 5 leaded his own case. The jury found Abingon guilty, and he was sentenced, 12 Jan. 1795, to three months' imprisonment, was fined 100l., and was required to find sureties for future good behaviour (Isaac Espinasse's Cases at Nisi Prius, King's Bench', i. 35; Parliamentary Hist, xxxi. 931-5).

[Gent. Mac. lxix. ii. 905; Chalmers's Biog. Dict.; Parl. Hist. 1775-99; Macknight's Life of Burke, ii. 183–5; Burke's Correspondence, 1852; Walpole's Letters (ed. Cunningham), vi. 484, 486, vii. 26; Welch's Westminster Scholars.]

S. L. L.


BERTON, WILLIAM of (fl, 1376), chancellor of Oxford, 1380, is first mentioned in 1376, as B.D. of Merton College, among the witnesses summoned to give information to a royal commission appointed to inquire into a dispute between the faculties of arts and divinity and that of law in the university (Wood, Antiquities of Oxford, i. 489). In February 1379–80 he served on a similar commission nominated to examine the disorderly state of Queen' 8's College (ib. p. 496). By this time he was D.D. and chancellor of the university, having been elected in succession to Robert Aylesham, who died in the autumn of 1379 (Wood, Fasti Oxon. p. 30). Berton's chancellorship is important because of