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Charles Manners-Sutton, first Viscount Canterbury (1780-1845)

This article was written by George Fisher Russell Barker and was published in 1893

Manners-SuttonCharles Manners-Sutton, speaker of the House of Commons, the elder son of Charles Manners-Sutton, archbishop of Canterbury, by his wife Mary, daughter of Thomas Thoroton of Screveton, Nottinghamshire, was born on 29 January 1780. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, where as fourth junior optime he graduated B.A. 1802, M.A. 1805, and LL.D. 1824.

Having been admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn on 19 May 1802, Manners-Sutton was called to the bar on 9 May 1806, and for a few years went the western circuit. At the general election in November 1806 he was returned in the tory interest for Scarborough, and continued to represent that borough in the House of Commons until the dissolution in December 1832. On 1 November 1809 he was appointed judge-advocate-general in Spencer Perceval's administration, and on the 8th of the same month was sworn a member of the privy council. He opposed Lord Morpeth's motion for an inquiry into the state of Ireland on 4 February 1812, and declared that the government of that country had been ‘deeply slandered’.

In March 1813 he both spoke and voted against Grattan's motion for a committee on the claims of the Roman catholics. On 30 April 1817 he brought in his Clergy Residence Bill, which subsequently became law (57 Geo. III, p. 99). With these exceptions his speeches in the house were chiefly confined to subjects relating to his own official duties. On 2 June 1817 he was elected to the chair of the House of Commons, in the place of Charles Abbot, afterwards Baron Colchester, by a majority of 162 votes over C. W. W. Wynn, the whig candidate, and thereupon resigned the office of judge-advocate-general.

Manners-Sutton was re-elected speaker without opposition in January 1819, April 1820, November 1826, October 1830, and June 1831. During this period he was twice pressed to take office. On Canning's accession to power in April 1827 Manners-Sutton was offered the post of home secretary, which he declined ‘from his feelings on the catholic question’, and in May 1832 he refused, after some hesitation, to undertake the formation of a tory ministry. On 30 July 1832 Manners-Sutton intimated his wish to retire from the chair at the close of the parliament, and a vote of thanks to him for his services was proposed by Lord Althorp and seconded by Goulburn and carried unanimously . An annuity of £4,000 was also granted to him for life, and one of £3,000 after his death to his heir male.

At the general election in December 1832 Manners-Sutton was returned for the university of Cambridge with Henry Goulburn as a colleague. Owing to their hesitation to meet the reformed parliament with an inexperienced speaker, the ministers persuaded Manners-Sutton to postpone his retirement. Annoyed at this decision of the whig cabinet, the radicals opposed his re-election to the chair at the meeting of the new parliament on 29 January 1833. Their candidate, Edward John Littleton, afterwards Lord Hatherton, was defeated by a majority of 210, and Manners-Sutton was thereupon elected unanimously. He was made G.C.B. on 4 September 1833, as ‘a reward for his conduct during the session, in which he has done government good and handsome service’, and at the general election in January 1835 he was again returned for the university of Cambridge.

On the opening of parliament on 19 February 1835 his re-election was opposed by the whigs, who complained bitterly of his partisanship outside the house. Though Manners-Sutton effectually disproved the charges which had been brought against him, namely,

  1. that being speaker he had busied himself in the subversion of the late government,
  2. that he had assisted with others in the formation of the new government, and
  3. that he had counselled and advised the late dissolution of parliament,

his opponent, James Abercromby, afterwards Lord Dunfermline, was elected speaker by a majority of ten votes. Manners-Sutton was created Baron Bottesford of Bottesford, Leicestershire, and Viscount Canterbury on 10 March 1835, and took his seat in the House of Lords for the first time on 3 April following. He was selected to fill the office of high commissioner for adjusting the claims of Canada on 18 March 1835, but shortly afterwards resigned the appointment on account of his wife's health. He only spoke nine times in the House of Lords. While travelling on the Great Western railway he was seized with an apoplectic fit, and died at the residence of his younger son in Southwick Crescent, Hyde Park, London, on 21 July 1845, aged 65. He was buried at Addington on the 28th of the same month.

Though not a man of any remarkable ability, Manners-Sutton was a dignified and impartial speaker. During his speakership he thrice exercised his right to speak in committee of the whole house — on 26 March 1821 he spoke on the Roman Catholic Disability Removal Bill, and on 6 May 1825 and on 2 July 1834 on the bill for admitting dissenters to the universities. While he was in office the houses of parliament were destroyed by fire (16 October 1834), and his frequent communications with the king on this subject gave rise to the rumour that he was endeavouring to effect the overthrow of the whig cabinet. He was elected a bencher of Lincoln's Inn on 6 June 1817, and held the post of registrar of the faculty office from 1827 to 1834.

He married first, on 8 July 1811, Lucy Maria Charlotte, eldest daughter of John Denison of Ossington, Nottinghamshire, by whom he had two sons, viz., Charles John, who, born on 17 April 1812, succeeded as second Viscount Canterbury, and died unmarried on 13 November 1869, and John Henry Thomas, third viscount Canterbury, and one daughter, Charlotte Matilda, who married, on 12 February 1833, Richard Sanderson of Belgrave Square, London, M.P. for Colchester. His first wife died on 7 December 1815, and on 6 December 1828 he married, secondly, Ellen, widow of John Home-Purves of Purves, N.B., a daughter of Edmund Power of Curragheen, co. Waterford, by whom he had one daughter, Frances Diana, who became the wife of the Hon. Delaval Loftus Astley, afterwards third Baron Astley (8 August 1848), and died on 2 June 1874. His widow survived him but a few months, and dying at Clifton, Gloucestershire, on 16 November 1845, aged 54, was buried in the crypt of Clifton Church.

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