DICKINS, Francis (1750-1833), of Branches Park, Suff. and Wollaston, Northants.
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Family and Education
b. 1750, s. of Ambrose Dickins, barrister, of Wollaston by Mary, da. of Sir William Abdy, 4th Bt., of Felix Hall, Essex. educ. Westminster: Trinity Hall, Camb. 1767. m. 21 Apr. 1778, Diana, da. of Lord George Manners Sutton†, 3rd s. of John, 3rd Duke of Rutland, 3s. 2da.
Gent. of privy chamber 1779-d.
Capt. Northants. yeomanry 1794, maj. 1817.
After his first unsuccessful bid at Sudbury in 1784, Dickins never stood a contest. He was his wife’s kinsman the Duke of Rutland’s nominee for Cambridge, where his expenses were paid by John Mortlock†. As anticipated, he supported government.1 In 1790 he was induced, so he claimed, by the independent gentry of Northamptonshire to give up his safe borough in order to preserve the peace of the county.2 On 2 Feb. 1791 the Speaker complained that he had not yet declared his preference for the county seat.
Dickins’s preoccupations in the House were those of a country gentleman and magistrate. In his first full Parliament he made no mark, apart from presenting the Poole election committee’s report, 25 Feb. 1791, being listed hostile to the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland that April, taking leave of absence, 4 Mar. 1793, and voting against the abolition of the slave trade. He was stung into activity by Pitt’s tax proposals in 1798. On 4 Jan. he had voted for the assessed taxes. On 23 Apr. he voted against the land tax redemption bill; on 30 Apr. he expressed his support for Pulteney’s amendment to the assessed taxes bill. On 18 May he voted for Buxton’s proposal that there should be no fresh land tax without a tax on all property. On 22 Jan. 1800 he voted with the minority for a call of the House. In the sessions of 1801 and 1802 he had something to say—the reporters seldom specified what—on the poor rates, fallow potato growing, the upkeep of parsonages, turnpikes and workhouses. He was chairman of the committee on the county coroners bill which he had enthusiastically supported: it was ultimately foiled, 10 May 1803.
Apart from his vote for his brother-in-law Manners Sutton’s motion for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s income, 31 Mar. 1802, Dickins adhered to Addington’s ministry. He was said to have asked Addington for a peerage.3 He was listed Addingtonian in May 1804 and by 15 June had joined the minority against Pitt’s additional force bill. There was some doubt about him thereafter. He was in the minority for the continuation of the naval commission of inquiry, 1 Mar. 1805, and in the majorities against Melville, 8 Apr., 12 June. Lord Sidmouth, who saw him in the Easter recess, felt he was ‘anxious to support government’, but on 7 July he wrote to Sidmouth approving his resignation and deploring Pitt’s ‘weak and debilitated administration’. He added that he had thoughts of retiring himself.4 On 30 Apr. 1806 he voted for the Grenville ministry’s repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act. In this, his last Parliament, he was silent.
Dickins was elbowed out of his seat in 1806. He could not afford a contest; in 1803 he had negotiated a loan from Reginald Pole Carew*.5 Earl Spencer, whose heir was put up for the county and was joined by another contender, took it for granted that Dickins was retiring. He denied it (2 Aug.) and his friends decried his being turned out by ‘mere dint of aristocratic combination and length of purse’. Nothing came of a rumoured subscription on his behalf and he did not canvass in person; but he did not withdraw until nomination day. His friend Sir William Dolben failed to induce his opponents to retire in Dickins’s favour. Earl Spencer had discounted the suggestion that he should look out for a borough seat for him, in compensation for the loss of the county.6
Dickins apparently wished to remain in Parliament: so, at least, he hinted when he was presented with a sword in token of 13 years’ command of the Wellingborough yeomanry in December 1807. But he hinted in vain. He died 23 Dec. 1833, aged 83.7
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: Arthur Aspinall / R. G. Thorne
- 1. Add. 35392, f. 76; PRO 30/8/150, f. 88.
- 2. E. G. Forrester, Northants. Co. Elections, 88.
- 3. Spencer mss, ‘A short answer to a pamphlet entitled Reflections on the contest for the co. of Northampton’ .
- 4. Pellew, Sidmouth, ii. 357; Sidmouth mss, Dickins to Sidmouth, 7 July 1805.
- 5. Pole Carew mss CC/G3/3.
- 6. A supplementary argument against electing heirs apparent to seats in the House of Commons; Northampton Mercury, 2 Aug.; Spencer mss, Spencer to Isted, 6 Aug. 1806.
- 7. Northampton Mercury, 26 Dec. 1807; Gent. Mag. (1834), i. 229.