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SIR FRANCIS BURDETT (1770-1844)

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Originally appearing in Volume V04, Page 811 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SIR FRANCIS BURDETT (1770-1844), English politician, was the son of Francis Burdett by his wife Eleanor, daughter of William Jones of Rainsbury manor, Wiltshire, and grandson of Sir Robert Burdett, Bart. Born on the 25th of January 1770, he was educated at Westminster school and Oxford, and after-wards travelled in France and Switzerland. He was in Paris during the earlier days of the French Revolution, a visit which doubtless influenced his political opinions. Returning to England he married in 1793 Sophia, daughter of Thomas Coutts the banker, and this lady brought him a large fortune. In 1796 he became member of parliament for Boroughbridge, having purchased this seat from the representatives of the 4th duke of Newcastle, and in 1797 succeeded his grandfather as fifth baronet. In parliament he soon `became prominent as an opponent of Pitt, and as an advocate of popular rights. He denounced the war with France, the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, the proposed exclusion of John Horne Tooke from parliament, and quickly became the idol of the people. He was instrumental in securing an inquiry into the condition of Coldbath Fields prison, but as a result of this step he was for a time prevented by the government from visiting any prison in the kingdom. In 1797 he made the acquaintance of Home Tooke, whose pupil he became, not only in politics, but also in philology. At the general election of 1802 Burdett was a candidate for the county of Middlesex, but his return was declared void in 1804, and in the subsequent contest he was defeated. In 18o5 this return was amended in his favour, but as this was again quickly reversed, Burdett, who had spent an immense sum of money over the affair, declared he would not stand for parliament again. At the general election of 18o6 Burdett was a leading supporter of James Paull, the reform candidate for the city of Westminster; but in the following year a misunderstanding led to a duel between Burdett and Paull in which both combatants were wounded. At the general election in 1807 Burdett, in spite of his reluctance, was nominated for Westminster, and amid great enthusiasm was returned at the top of the poll. He took up again the congenial work of attacking abuses and agitating for reform, and in 1810 came sharply into collision with the House of Commons. A radical named John Gale Jones had been committed to prison by the House, a proceeding which was denounced by Burdett, who questioned the power of the House to take this step, and vainly attempted to secure the release of Jones. He then issued a revised edition of his speech on this occasion, and it was published by William Cobbett in the Weekly Register. The House voted this action a breach of privilege, and the speaker issued a warrant for Burdett's arrest. Barring himself in his house, he defied the authorities, while the mob gathered in his defence. At length his house was entered, and under an escort of soldiers he was conveyed to the Tower. Released when parliament was prorogued, he caused his supporters much disappointment by returning to Westminster by water, and so avoiding a demonstrz Lion in his honour. He then brought actions against the speaker and the serjeant-at-arms, but the courts upheld the action of the House. In parliament Burdett denounced corporal punishment in the army, and supported all attempts to check corruption, but his principal efforts were directed towards procuring a reform of parliament, and the removal of Roman Catholic disabilities. In 1809 he had pro-posed a scheme of parliamentary reform, and returning to the subject in 1817 and 1818 he anticipated the Chartist movement by suggesting universal male suffrage, equal electoral districts, vote by ballot, and annual parliaments; but his motions met with very little support. He succeeded, however, in carrying a resolution in 1825 that the House should consider the laws concerning Roman Catholics. This was followed by a bill embodying his proposals, which passed the Commons but was rejected by the Lords. In 1827 and 1828 he again proposed resolutions on this subject, and saw his proposals become law in 1829. In 182o Burdett had again come into serious conflict with the government. Having severely censured its action with reference to the " Manchester massacre," he was prosecuted at Leicester assizes, fined 1000, and committed to prison for three months. After the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832 the ardour of the veteran reformer was somewhat abated, and a number of his constituents soon took umbrage at his changed attitude. Consequently he resigned his seat early in 1837, but was re-elected. However, at the general election in the same year he forsook Westminster and was elected member for North Wiltshire, which seat he retained, acting in general with the Conservatives, until his death on the 23rd of January 1844. He left a son, Robert, who succeeded to the baronetcy, and five daughters,the youngest of whom became the celebrated Baroness Burdett-Coutts. Impetuous and illogical, Burdett did good work as an advocate of free speech, and an enemy of corruption. He was exceedingly generous, and spent money lavishly in furthering projects of reform. See A. Stephens, Life of Horne Tooke (London, 1813); Spencer Walpole, History of England (London, 1878–1886) ; C. Abbot, Baron Colchester, Diary and Correspondence (London, 1861). (A. W. H.*) BURDETT-COUTTS, ANGELA GEORGINA BURDETTCOUTTS, BARONESS (1814-1906), English philanthropist, youngest daughter of Sir Francis Burdett, was born on the 21st of April 1814. When she was three-and-twenty, she inherited practically the whole of the immense wealth of her grandfather Thomas Coutts (approaching two millions sterling, a fabulous sum in those days), by the will of the duchess of St Albans, who, as the actress Henrietta Mellon, had been his second wife and had been left it on his death in 1821. Miss Burdett then took the name of Coutts in addition to her own. " The faymale heiress, Miss Anjaley Coutts," as the author of the Itagoldsby Legends called her in his ballad on the queen's coronation in that year (1837), at once became a notable subject of public curiosity and private cupidity; she received numerous offers of marriage, but remained resolutely single, devoting herself and her riches to philanthropic work, which made her famous for well-applied generosity. In May 1$71 she was created a peeress, as Baroness Burdett-Coutts of Highgate and Brookfield, Middlesex. On the 18th of July 1872 she was presented at the Guildhall with the freedom of the city of London, the first case of a woman being admitted to that fellowship. It was not till 1881 that, when sixty-seven years old, she married William Lehman Ashmead-Bartlett, an American by birth, and brother of Sir E. A. Ashmead-Bartlett, the Conservative member of parliament; and he then took his wife's name, entering the House of Commons as member for Westminster, 1885. Full of good works, and of social interest and influence, the baroness lived to the great age of ninety-two, dying at her house in Stratton Street, Piccadilly, on the 3oth of December 1906, of bronchitis. She was buried in Westminster Abbey. The extent of her benefactions during her long and active life can only be briefly indicated; but the baroness must remain a striking figure in the social history of Victorian England, for the thoughtful and conscientious care with which she " held her wealth in trust " for innumerable good objects. It was her aim to benefit the working-classes in ways involving no loss of independence or self-respect. She carefully avoided taking any side in party politics, but she was actively interested in phases of Imperial extension which were calculated to improve the condition of the black races, as in Africa, or the education and relief of the poor or suffering in any part of the world. Though she made no special distinction of creed in her charities, she was a notable benefactor of the Church of England, building and endowing churches and church schools, endowing the bishoprics of Cape Town and of Adelaide (1847), and founding the bishopric of British Columbia (1857). Among her many educational endowments may be specified the St Stephen's Institute in Vincent Square, Westminster (1846); she started sewing schools in Spitalfields when the silk trade began to fail; helped to found the shoe-black brigade; and placed hundreds of destitute boys in training-ships for the navy and merchant service. She established Columbia fish market (1869) in Bethnal Green, and presented it to the city, but owing to commercial difficulties this effort, which cost her over £200,000, proved abortive. She supported various schemes of emigration to the colonies; and in Ireland helped to promote the fishing industry by starting schools, and providing boats, besides advancing £250,000 in 188o for supplying seed to the impoverished tenants. She was devoted to the protection of animals and prevention of cruelty, and took up with characteristic zeal the cause of the costermongers' donkeys, building stables for them on her Columbia market estate, and giving prizes for the best-kept animals. She helped to inaugurate the society for the prevention of cruelty to children, and was a keen supporter of the ragged school union. Missionary efforts of all sorts; hospitals and nursing; industrial homes and refuges; relief funds, &c., found in her a generous supporter. She was associated with Louisa Twining and Florence Nightingale; and in 1877-'878 raised the Turkish compassionate fund for the starving peasantry and fugitives in the Russo-Turkish War (for which she obtained the order of the Medjidieh, a solitary case of its conference on a woman). She relieved the distressed in far-off lands as well as at home, her helping hand being stretched out to the Dyaks of Borneo and the aborigines of Australia. She was a liberal patroness of the stage, literature and the arts, and delighted in knowing all the cultured people of the day. In short, her position in England for half a century may well be summed up in words attributed to King Edward VII., " after my mother (Queen Victoria) the most remarkable woman in the kingdom." BURDON-SANDERSON, SIR JOHN SCOTT, Bart. (1828-1905), English physiologist, was born at West Jesmand, near Newcastle, on the 21st of December 1828. A member of a well-known Northumbrian family, he received his medical education at the university of Edinburgh and at Paris. Settling in London, he became medical officer of health for Paddington in 1856 and four years later physician to the Middlesex and the Brompton Consumption hospitals. When diphtheria appeared in England in 1858 he was sent to investigate the disease at the different points of outbreak, and in subsequent years he carried out a number of similar inquiries, e.g. into the cattle plague and into cholera in 1866. He became first principal of the Brown Institution at Lambeth in 1871, and in 1874 was appointed Jodrell professor of physiology at University College, London, retaining that post till 1882. When the Waynflete chair of physiology was established at Oxford in 1882, he was chosen to be its first occupant, and immediately found himself the object of a furious anti-vivisectionist agitation. The proposal that the university should spend £1o,00o in providing him with a suitable laboratory, lecture-rooms, &c., in which to carry on his work, was strongly opposed, by some on grounds of economy, but largely because he was an upholder of the usefulness and necessity of experiments upon animals. It was, however, eventually carried by a small majority (88 to 85), and in the same year the Royal Society awarded him a royal medal in recognition of his researches into the electrical phenomena exhibited by plants and the relations of minute organisms to disease, and of the services he had rendered to physiology and pathology. In 1885 the university of Oxford was asked to vote £500 a year for three years for the purposes of the laboratory, then approaching completion. This proposal was fought with the utmost bitterness by Sander-son's opponents, the anti-vivisectionists including E. A. Freeman, John Ruskin and Bishop Mackarness of Oxford. Ultimately the money was granted by 412 to 244 votes. In 1895 Sanderson was appointed regius professor of medicine at Oxford, resigning the post in 1904; in 1899 he was created a baronet. His attainments, both in biology and medicine, brought him many honours. He was Croonian lecturer to the'Royal Society in 1867 and 1877 and to the Royal College of Physicians in 1891; gave the Harveian oration before the College of Physicians in 1878; acted as president of the British Association at Nottingham in 1893; and served on three royal commissions—Hospitals (1883), Tuberculosis, Meat and Milk (1890), and University for London (1892). He died at Oxford on the 23rd of November 1905.
End of Article: SIR FRANCIS BURDETT (1770-1844)
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