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SPENCER PERCEVAL (1762-1812)

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Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 133 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SPENCER PERCEVAL (1762-1812), prime minister of England from 18o9 to 1812, second son of John, and earl of Egmont, was born in Audley Square, London, on the 1st of November 1762. He was educated at Harrow and at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1786. A very able speech in connexion with a famous forgery case having drawn attention to his talents, his success was from that time rapid, he was soon regarded as the leading counsel on the Midland circuit, and in 1796 became a K.C. Entering parliament for Northampton in April of that year, he distinguished himself by his speeches in support of the administration of Pitt. In 1801, on the formation of the Addington administration, he was appointed solicitor-general, and in 1802 he became attorney-general. An ardent opponent of Catholic Emancipation, he delivered in 1807 a speech on the subject which helped to give the deathblow to the Grenville administration, upon which he became chancellor of the exchequer under the duke of Portland, whom in 1809 he succeeded in the premiership. Notwithstanding that he had the assistance in the cabinet of no statesman of the first rank, he succeeded in retaining office till he was shot by a man named Bellingham, a bankrupt with a grievance, who had vainly applied to him for redress, in the lobby of the House of Commons on the 11th of May 1812. Bellingham was certainly insane, but the plea was set aside and he was hanged. Perceval was a vigorous debater, specially excelling in replies, in which his thorough mastery of all the details of his subject gave him a great advantage. He married in 1790 and had six sons and six daughters; one of the latter married Spencer Horatio Walpole (d. 1898), home secretary, and their son Sir Spencer Walpole, the well-known historian, published an excellent biography of Perceval in 1874. See also P. Treherne, Spencer Perceval (19o9).
End of Article: SPENCER PERCEVAL (1762-1812)
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