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Chairman-LORD BROUGHAM, F.R.S., Mem. of the Nat. Inst. of France.

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| Lord Wrottesley, A.M., F.R.A.S.
THOMAS COATES, Esq., Secretary, 42, Bedford Square.

London: Printed by WILLIAM CLOWES and Sons, Stamford Street,

THE

BIOGRAPHICAL

DICTIONARY

OF THE

SOCIETY FOR THE DIFFUSION OF

USEFUL KNOWLEDGE.

VOLUME IV.

TRANSFERRED TO
U OF W LIBRARY

LONDON:
LONGMAN, BROWN, GREEN, AND LONGMANS,

PATERNOSTER-ROW.

1844.

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ATKYNS, SIR ROBERT, a judge and conciliate. At the coronation of Charles II., an eminent political character in the latter therefore, he was one of the sixty-eight part of the seventeenth century, was de- “ persons of distinction” who were created scended from a family of wealth and influ- | knights of the Bath. In 1661 he was chosen ence in Gloucestershire. His father and recorder of Bristol; and upon the marriage grandfather were both distinguished mem- of the king to Catherine of Portugal, he bers of the profession of the law. His father, was appointed solicitor-general to the queen. Sir Edward Atkyns, was one of the serjeants- | In the ensuing term he was called to the at-law named by the Long Parliament to bench of the Society of Lincoln's Inn. He Charles I. as proper persons to be made was not a member of the Convention Parliajudges, in the proposals sent to the king in ment assembled immediately upon the restoJanuary, 1642-43. (Clarendon's Rebellion, ration, but he was returned to the House of vol. iii. p. 407.) He was made a baron of Commons for the borough of East Looe in the Exchequer in 1645; and although he re- the Parliament which met in May, 1661. fused at first a renewal of his commission He continued to hold his seat in the House of from Cromwell, he afterwards became a Commons until he was raised to the bench: judge of the Court of Common Pleas during and although he retained his practice in the the Commonwealth. Upon the restoration Court of Exchequer, the frequent mention of of Charles II. he was appointed a baron of his name in the journals proves his assiduous the Exchequer, and was named in the com- attention to parliamentary duties. In April, mission for the trial of the regicides. He 1672, he was appointed a judge of the Court died in 1669, at the age of eighty-two. of Common Pleas. No facts are recorded

Sir Robert Atkyns was born in 1621, and which mark his judicial character, and at after receiving the early part of his educa- such a period it was, perhaps, a proof of merit tion in his father's house in Gloucestershire, not to be conspicuous. He is mentioned, was entered at Baliol College, Oxford. He however, as presiding, with other judges, on spent several years at the university, and in the trials of several persons charged with November, 1645, was called to the bar by the being concerned in the Popish Plot; and alSociety of Lincoln's Inn, to which his father though his language and demeanour on those and grandfather had belonged. During the occasions were decorous and moderate, it is Commonwealth he attained to high reputation evident that he fully participated in the deas an advocate, confining his practice to the lusion which pervaded all classes of society Court of Exchequer, which at that particular respecting that transaction. time seems to have disposed of as much busi | In the early part of 1680, Sir Robert Atkyns ness as either of the Superior Courts. (Har- | quitted the bench-whether by dismissal, or dres's Reports.) Although he had taken the by his voluntary resignation, is uncertain. engagement to be true to the Commonwealth, Possibly his disagreement with Chief Justice and was a member of the popular party, he had | North may have led to his retirement. Roger acted no personal part in the more obnoxious North relates that he incited the other judges and violent proceedings against Charles I., to dispute the right of the chief justice to the and being possessed of talents, wealth, and in- exclusive appointment of one of the officers fluence, he was one of those whom at the resto- of the court; and adds, that “ Judge Atkyns ration it was the policy of the government to took all opportunities to cross his lordship."

VOL. IV.

(Life of Lord Keeper North, p. 184, 4to. edit.) 1 “State Trials," vol. xii. p. 1380, it is stated He was, however, too consistent in his prin- | that Sir Robert Atkyns openly appeared and ciples, as well as too independent in character argued for the defendant as counsel, “although and circumstances, to submit to the abject he was at that time resident in the country, subserviency which the court at that time re and had so entirely retired from the profesquired from the judges; and soon after he sion, that he was obliged to borrow a gown left the Bench, a committee of the House to appear in court.” In the contemporary of Commons, appointed to inquire into cer reports of the proceedings, however, Pollextain judicial misdemeanours of Sir William fen and Jones are mentioned as the defenScroggs, notice “an ill representation which dant's counsel, and Sir Robert Atkyns is not had been made by the Lord Chief Justice to named. It is improbable, therefore, that he the King of some expressions Atkyns had actually delivered his argument, although he used in favour of the right of petitioning." formally composed it for the occasion, and (Commons' Journals, December 23, 1680.) afterwards published it. The argument is a

In the year 1682 Sir Robert Atkyns re laborious piece of legal reasoning, clearly signed his office of recorder of Bristol, in arranged, and displaying great historical reconsequence of his being involved in an search, and a careful and acute examination alleged irregular civic election in that city, of the various authorities on the subject. It which led to his being indicted and found | was published by himself in 1689, under the guilty of a riot and conspiracy. The whole title of “The Power, Jurisdiction, and Priviproceeding obviously originated in the vio- lege of Parliament, and the Antiquity of the lent party-spirit of the time, inflamed by a House of Commons, asserted ;” and was rerecent parliamentary election for Bristol, at l published after his death among his “ Parliawhich Sir Robert Atkyns had been proposed mentary and Political Tracts.' (apparently against his will) as a candidate. In the reign of James II. Atkyns composed He succeeded in arresting the judgment in another legal argument, which was suggested the Court of King's Bench, where he argued by the case of Sir Edward Hales, and was his own case with great moderation and skill; directed against the king's prerogative of but by the advice of Chief Justice Pemberton, dispensing with penal statutes, which had and his brother, Sir Edward Atkyns, who was | been asserted in that case. a baron of the Exchequer, he resigned his re It is not recorded in any of the histories of cordership--which was, in fact, the object of the Revolution in 1688 that Sir Robert Atkyns the prosecution. (Modern Reports, vol. iii. took any prominent part in the promotion of p. 3.)

that event. Nevertheless, his character and Upon quitting the bench, in 1680, Sir Ro-opinions, as well as his political associations bert Atkyns withdrew from all public occu- and the marks of distinction afterwards bepation to his seat in Gloucestershire, where stowed upon him by the new government, he lived for several years in great seclusion ; afford a strong presumption that he was not and “keeping no correspondence” (as he an inactive spectator of the change. In himself says in one of his letters) about pub April, 1689, he was appointed chief baron of lic affairs. There is no doubt, however, that the Exchequer, Sir John Holt being at the at this time he was privy to the consultations same time made lord chief justice, and Sir and designs of the popular party; and, in Henry Pollexfen chief justice of the Com1683, he was applied to for his opinion re mon Pleas. In the same year he was chosen specting the management of the defence of speaker of the House of Lords, and continued Lord Russell. He readily gave his advice to hold that office until the great seal was on this occasion; and, in the letter which given to Lord Somers in 1693. In the course contained it, censures in strong terms the of the following year he signified his intention doctrine of constructive treason, and expresses of retiring from public life; the immediate his sympathy for the unfortunate gentlemen cause of this determination being disappointwho were then under prosecution. After the ment in his desire to obtain the office of masRevolution he published two tracts, entitled a ter of the rolls, which was given to Sir Tho“ Defence of Lord Russell's Innocency," in mas Trevor. Attempts were made to induce which he argues against the sufficiency of the him to continue in his office of lord chief evidence for the prosecution, and the validity baron until certain difficulties respecting the of the indictment. Both these tracts, and choice of his successor were removed; but he also his letter of advice respecting Lord Rus persisted in his determination, and retired to sell's defence, are published among his “ Par his seat at Sapperton, near Cirencester, where liamentary and Political Tracts."

he spent the remainder of his life. He died Upon the occasion of the prosecution of in the year 1709, at the age of eighty-eight Sir William Williams, in 1684, for having, years. as Speaker of the House of Commons, and by Early in life Sir Robert Atkyns married order of the House, directed Dangerfield's the daughter of Sir George Clerk of Walford, “ Narrative" to be printed, Sir Robert Atkyns in Northamptonshire, by whom he had no composed an elaborate argument for the de- | issue. By his second wife, who was a daughter fence. In the account of this case in Howell's of Sir Thomas Dacres of Cheshunt, in Hert

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