Richardson, John (1771-1841) (DNB00)

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RICHARDSON, Sir JOHN (1771–1841), judge, third son of Anthony Richardson, merchant, of London, was born in Copthall Court, Lothbury, on 3 March 1771. He was educated at Harrow and Oxford, where he matriculated from University College on 26 Jan. 1789, graduated B.A. in 1792, taking the same year the Latin verse prize (subject, ‘Mary Queen of Scots’), and proceeded M.A. in 1795. He was admitted in June 1793 a student at Lincoln's Inn, where, after practising for some years as a special pleader below the bar, he was called to it in June 1803. In early life he was closely associated with William Stevens, treasurer of Queen Anne's Bounty, by whom he was assisted with money while at college, and with whom he laboured for the repeal of the penal laws against the Scottish episcopal church. Richardson was an original member of the Nobody's Club, founded in his honour.

Richardson was counsel for Cobbett on his trial, 24 May 1804, for printing and publishing libels on the lord-lieutenant of Ireland and other officials, and also in the concurrent civil action of a similar nature brought against him by William Conyngham Plunket [q. v.] The author of the libel on the Irish officials was an Irish judge, Robert Johnson, on whose indictment at Westminster in June of the following year Richardson argued with much ingenuity an unsubstantial plea to the jurisdiction, viz. that, the union notwithstanding, the court of king's bench had no cognisance of offences done by Irishmen in Ireland. The plea being disallowed, Richardson appeared for Johnson in the trial which followed, and which ended in a nolle prosequi. About the same time he found congenial occupation in converting the defence of Henry Delahay Symonds on his trial for libelling Dr. John Thomas Troy [q. v.], Roman catholic archbishop of Dublin, into an attack upon the catholic religion. Not long afterwards he was chosen to fill the post of ‘devil’ to the attorney-general; and on 30 Nov. 1818 he succeeded Sir Robert Dallas [q. v.] as puisne judge of the court of common pleas, being at the same time made serjeant-at-law. On 3 June 1819 he was knighted by the prince regent at Carlton House. His tenure of office was brief, ill-health compelling his retirement in May 1824, when he had already given proof of high judicial capacity. Great part of his later life was passed at Malta, where he amused himself by editing ‘The Harlequin, or Anglo-Maltese Miscellany,’ and drafting a code of laws for the island. He died at his house in Bedford Square, London, on 19 March 1841. By his wife Harriet (d. 1839), Richardson had issue a son, John Joseph, who was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1832.

[Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Parke's Life of William Stevens, 1859, pp. 29, 115, 125, 175; Howell's State Trials, xxix. 2, 54, 394, 423; Gent. Mag. 1839 pt. i. p. 442, 1841 pt. ii. p. 94; London Gazette, 8 June 1819; Ann. Reg. 1818 Chron. p. 196, 1819 Chron. p. 113, 1841 App. to Chron. p. 191; Times, 20 March 1841; Foss's Lives of the Judges; Henderson's Recollections of John Adolphus, p. 220.]

J. M. R.