Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 34.djvu/216

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

home-grown wool into cloth and import it thence into England duty-free. The proposal was referred to a committee of the whole house in the same year, but was apparently shelved or thrown out (Commons' Journals, xxiv. 882, 886). With the project for supplying the navy with salt he had better fortune. English salt was at this time unquestionably bad, and large quantities were annually imported. Upon a method of improving its quality Lowndes had spent, he averred, ‘ten of the best years of his life, and no inconsiderable sum of money.’ His specimens were highly praised by the Royal College of Physicians (Report, dated 27 Aug. 1745, printed with the pamphlet), but the admiralty refused his terms. He carried the scheme to the House of Commons, and in June 1746 the house petitioned his majesty to instruct the admiralty to accept the terms (Commons' Journals, xxv. 157, 163). In September he published the pamphlet ‘Brine Salt improved; or a Method of making Salt from Brine that shall be as good, or better, than French Bay Salt,’ 1746, headed with grotesque taste by a motto from Lucretius. On 23 April 1748 he printed his ‘Letter to the Salt Proprietors of Great Britain,’ suspicious of rivals, yet confident in his method. But he did not live to see its value fully tested. Two weeks later, on 6 May, he signed his will, and on 12 May he died. He left Overton, which he had bought from his elder brother's daughter, and all his other property in Cheshire to found a chair of astronomy in Cambridge University—the present Lowndean professorship. Roger Long [q. v.] was appointed in 1750 as the first professor.

[The chief authorities are his own letters filed among the Colonial Papers at the Record Office; they have not yet been calendared, but several have been printed by Mr. Chase in his Memoir on the Lowndes family, Boston, 1874; Documents, pp. 60–80. In addition to the letters, &c., already quoted, Colonial Records, B. T. South Carolina, 4, C. 49, 56, 58, 72, 73; 5, D. 6, 10, 45, 46, 47, 52; 6, E. 12, 13, 15, 16, 30, 34; B. T. Plantations General, 12, N. 35, 50, 51, 53; Gent. Mag. xviii. 236; Hist. MSS. Comm. App. to 8th Rep. p. 232, App. to 11th Rep. pt. iv. pp. 267–8, 354; Cole MS. Athenæ Cantabr. art. ‘Lowndes,’ also xxxiii. 468–9; Chase's Lowndes of Carolina, Boston, 1874, pp. 13, 14, 44–5, 47–8; Burke's Dict. of Landed Gentry, ii. 1145.]

J. A. C.

LOWNDES, WILLIAM (1652–1724), secretary to the treasury, was great-grandson of Robert Lowndes, a descendant of the Lowndeses of Legh Hall, an old Cheshire family, a branch of which settled at Winslow, Buckinghamshire, early in the sixteenth century. He was born at Winslow on 1 Nov. 1652. His father, Robert Lowndes (1619–1683), on the outbreak of the civil war, took refuge in America, but returning after the execution of the king, lived at Winslow till his death in 1683. His mother was Elizabeth Fitz-William. Lowndes was educated at the free school in Buckingham. In 1679 he seems to have begun his lifelong connection with the treasury. During his first sixteen years there he was mainly employed in reporting upon the various petitions brought before the board, but on 24 April 1695, when already chief clerk, he succeeded Henry Guy [q. v.] as secretary. His share of the fees for the first year of office approached 2,400l. On 5 May 1695 Evelyn heard him read at the Guildhall the commission for the endowment of Greenwich Hospital.

In 1695 the long-continued debasement of the silver coins threatened the national credit. The parliament of that year faced the difficulty of a re-coinage, and the treasury entrusted the preliminary investigation to Lowndes. In his report, containing an essay for the amendment of the silver coins, issued in September 1695, he reviewed the expedients of former reigns, urged a re-coinage, and, to meet the current demand for money, suggested a change in the standard by raising the nominal value of all coins 25 per cent.—the 5s. piece to be equivalent to 6s. 3d., and so proportionately. Silver was still the only standard, and the proposal was therefore to degrade the standard 25 per cent. The wide-reaching evils that would have followed the scheme are beyond dispute. m'Culloch brands it as a ‘nefarious project,’ whilst Macaulay credits Lowndes and his immediate followers with merely well-intentioned dulness. Lowndes's mistake, however, was the mistake of the age; the economic principles, which Locke and Somers had even then divined, only became common property a century after his death. The treasury ordered the publication of the report and invited discussion. This led to Locke's second treatise on the coinage, containing, along with a graceful tribute to Lowndes's financial abilities, a complete refutation of his arguments point by point. In the debate on the standard the opposition took up Lowndes's position; the government defended itself with Locke's arguments, and on 10 Dec. 1695 carried the measure for the re-coinage upon the old standard by a majority of 225 against 114 (Commons' Journals, xi. 358).

Meanwhile, on 12 Nov. 1695, Lowndes had been returned for Seaford, one of the Cinque ports, which he continued to represent until the close of Anne's reign. His