BECKETT, John (1775-1847), of Somerby Park, Lincs.
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Family and Education
b. 17 May 1775, 1st s. of Sir John Beckett, 1st Bt., of Leeds, Yorks. and Somerby Park by Mary, da. of Rt. Rev. Christopher Wilson, bp. of Bristol. educ. Leeds g.s.; Trinity Coll., Camb. 1791; I. Temple, 1795; M. Temple, 1799, called 1803. m. 20 Jan. 1817, Anne, da. of William Lowther*, 1st Earl of Lonsdale, s.p. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 18 Sept. 1826.
Under-sec. of state for Home affairs Feb. 1806-June 1817; PC 11 July 1817; judge adv.-gen. June 1817-May 1827, Feb. 1828-Dec. 1830, Dec. 1834-Apr. 1835; ld. of Treasury Nov.-Dec. 1834; bencher, I. Temple 1840.
Lt. Temple vols. 1798; ensign, Law Assoc. vols. 1803.
Beckett, appointed under-secretary at the Home Office under Earl Spencer in 1806, probably on Earl Fitzwilliam’s recommendation, was retained by Lord Hawkesbury on the change of ministry in 1807. His former chief explained that ‘from not holding a political office, he does not feel himself called upon to go out with us’ but, believing that Beckett would take over the Irish correspondence, recommended him to the Duke of Bedford, who had to wait to be relieved of the lord lieutenancy of Ireland, as ‘a man most entirely to be depended upon, and whose sentiments ... are just such as they should be upon every subject on which I have had any opportunity of conversing with him’. Beckett, in turn, was effusive in his gratitude to Spencer.1
In September 1812 Beckett was offered the Irish under-secretaryship by Peel:
Nothing could give me more real pleasure than if you could be induced to come here. Remember that I want you, as far as I am concerned, to act with, not under me. The duke knows nothing of this application, and I only wish to be prepared in case he should consult me. My motive for writing is the anxiety I feel to act with one for whom I have such a real regard, and of whom I have so high an opinion.
Beckett declined the offer and hinted that the Home secretary might propose a friend. To this Peel replied:
Should I feel a decided preference in favour of any other individual on public grounds, I should have no difficulty, of course, in stating this to Lord Sidmouth. Whoever is appointed, I must have confidence in him. There is but one alternative, and I should adopt it without a moment’s hesitation.2
When Beckett’s father received a baronetcy in 1813, he was informed that it was a reward for his services as a magistrate of Leeds, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and for ‘the services of your eldest son in an important official situation’.3 Beckett’s name became associated with the Irish office again in December 1816, when it was rumoured that he and Lord Talbot were ‘to go to Ireland’.4 He was at this time a suitor for the hand of Viscount Lowther’s sister. Lowther informed his father, 16 Oct. 1816:
Becket in himself is unobjectionable. I hope his father’s concerns are in a better predicament than other country bankers. I suppose he can have nothing of his own, and his father’s property is any day subject to the bankrupt laws. This considerably diminishes confidence in them. If he had previously considered this, and made arrangements—I shall be sorry he did not wait a little longer, as the advancement which he expects to the situation of judge advocate will be attributed more to his own merit.
The marriage proceeded, and when Beckett became judge advocate soon afterwards, it was duly credited to Lonsdale.5 At the general election of 1818 he was returned for Cockermouth on the interest of his father-in-law.
Beckett, whose name had been mentioned at Leeds as a possible ministerial candidate for Yorkshire, was a ‘zealous and consistent conservative’.6 He usually spoke on matters relating to military discipline. In his maiden speech, 15 Mar. 1819, on the mutiny bill, in reply to those who wanted to abolish flogging in the army, he pointed out that the victories won on the Continent were due to the excellent discipline of British troops ‘and a part of that discipline was the system of corporal punishment’. On 29 Mar. he supported administration over the complaint against Wyndham Quin*. He voted against Tierney’s censure motion, May, and for the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June. In October of that year he sent alarmist reports to Lord Sidmouth from Leeds of the demoralization of the gentry of the West Riding, who felt themselves to be ill supported by government in their efforts to contain radicalism.7 He remained in the House in December 1819 to support legislation to this end.
Beckett, a partner in the family bank of Beckett & Co. of Leeds, died 31 May 1847.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: Lawrence Taylor
- 1. Spencer mss, Spencer to Bedford, 26 Mar., Beckett to Spencer, 1 Apr. 1807.
- 2. Parker, Peel, i. 36.
- 3. Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to Beckett, 18 Sept. 1813.
- 4. HMC Fortescue, x. 417.
- 5. Lonsdale mss; Canning and His Friends, ii. 52.
- 6. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F48/66, 77; Gent. Mag. (1847), ii. 426.
- 7. Sidmouth mss, Beckett to Sidmouth, 11, 13 Oct. 1819.