Charles Abbot, 1st Baron Colchester : biography
Charles Abbot, 1st Baron Colchester PC, FRS (14 October 1757 – 8 May 1829) was a British barrister and statesman. He served as Speaker of the House of Commons between 1802 and 1817.
Background and education
Born in Abingdon, Abbot was the son of Dr John Abbot, rector of All Saints, Colchester, and, by his mother's second marriage, half-brother of Jeremy Bentham. From Westminster School he passed to Christ Church, Oxford, at which he gained the chancellor's medal for Latin verse as well as the Vinerian Scholarship. On 14 February 1793, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society.
In 1796, he had married, in London, Elizabeth Gibbes (1760–1847), the elder daughter of Sir Philip Gibbes, baronet, of Springhead, Barbados, by whom he had two sons. He was succeeded by his elder son Charles, Postmaster General in 1858, and subsequently by his grandson Reginald Abbot, 3rd Baron Colchester, on whose death in 1919 the title became extinct.
Legal and political career
In 1795, after having practised twelve years as a barrister, and published a treatise proposing the incorporation of the judicial system of Wales with that of England, he was appointed to the office previously held by his brother of clerk of the rules in the king's bench; and in June of the same year he was elected Member of Parliament for Helston, through the influence of the Duke of Leeds.
In 1796 Abbot commenced his career as a reformer in Parliament by obtaining the appointment of two committees the one to report on the arrangements which then existed as to temporary laws or laws about to expire, the other to devise methods for the better publication of new statutes. To the latter committee, and a second committee which he proposed some years later, it is owing that copies of new statutes were thenceforth sent to all magistrates and municipal bodies.
Abbot's efforts effected the establishment of the Royal Record Commission, the reform of the system which had allowed the public money to lie for some time at long interest in the hands of the public accountants, by charging them with payment of interest, and, most important of all, the act for taking the first census, that of 1801. On the formation of the Addington ministry in March 1801 Abbot became Chief Secretary and Privy Seal for Ireland; and in the February of the following year he was chosen Speaker of the House of Commons, a position that he held with universal satisfaction until 1817, when an attack of erysipelas compelled him to retire. In response to an address of the Commons, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Colchester, of Colchester in the County of Essex, with a pension of £4000, of which £3000 was to be continued to his heir. His speeches against the Roman Catholic claims were published in 1828.
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