WEBSTER, Sir Godfrey, 4th Bt. (1748-1800), of Battle Abbey, Suss.
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Family and Education
b. 1748, 1st s. of Sir Godfrey Webster, 3rd Bt., by Elizabeth, da. of Gilbert Cooper of Lockington, Derbys.; nephew of Sir Whistler Webster, 2nd Bt. m. 27 June 1786, Elizabeth (div. 4 July 1797), da. and h. of Richard Vassall of Jamaica, 2 surv. s. 1da. suc. fa. 6 May 1780; assumed add. name of Vassall 1795-7.
Webster was a prominent figure in the reform movement in Sussex. On 18 Jan. 1783, at a meeting at Lewes, he introduced a petition for parliamentary reform, with what Wyvill called ‘a very pertinent and judicious exordium’. But on 24 May 1785, at a meeting at the Thatched House Tavern, he opposed Pitt’s parliamentary reform proposals as inadequate.1 By then he had become connected with Charles James Fox and the Whig Opposition. At the general election of 1784 he canvassed Bedford on Lord Upper Ossory’s interest, and unsuccessfully contested Hastings against the Treasury candidates.2 In 1785 he stood at Seaford on the interest of Lord Pelham, who was trying to wrest control of the borough from the Treasury. The Pelham candidates, Webster and Henry Flood, were defeated, but the election was declared void; in March 1786 they were again defeated, but this time seated on petition.
Webster made no mark in the House, and apparently never spoke during his first Parliament. He adhered to the Opposition, voting with them on the impeachment of Sir Elijah Impey and the Regency. His harsh and overbearing character found few apologists. A notorious rake and spendthrift, one of the most reckless gamblers of his day, he had a violent and ill-controlled temper and seemed at times on the verge of insanity. The story of his unhappy marriage is well known from the journal of his wife, afterwards Lady Holland.3 After twice attempting to commit suicide by taking laudanum, he shot himself on 3 June 1800.