MANNERS SUTTON, Thomas (1756-1842), of Lincoln's Inn, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 24 Feb. 1756, 5th s. of Lord George Manners Sutton† by 1st w., and bro. of George Sutton* and John Manner Sutton*. educ. Charterhouse 1769-73; Emmanuel, Camb. 1773; L. Inn 1775, called 1780. m. (1) 4 Dec. 1803, Anne (d. 5 Aug. 1814), da. of Sir Joseph Copley, 1st Bt., of Sprotborough, Yorks., s.p.; (2) 28 Oct. 1815, Hon. Jane Butler, da. of James, 9th Baron Caher [I], 1s. Kntd. 19 May 1802; cr. Baron Manners 20 Apr. 1807.
Commr. of bankrupts 1783-95; recorder, Newark 1784-1805; c.j. N. Wales circuit July 1797-May 1802; solicitor-gen. to Prince of Wales July 1800-May 1802; KC 2 July 1800; temporal chancellor of Durham ?1801-7; solicitor-gen. May 1802-Jan. 1805; serjt.-at-law 4 Feb. 1805; baron of Exchequer 1805-7; ld. chancellor [I] May 1807-Nov. 1827; PC [GB] 22 Apr. and [I] 12 May 1807.
Vol. London and Westminster light horse 1794.
Manners Sutton was a Chancery lawyer who gradually built up a considerable practice: his parliamentary life was entirely subservient to his legal career. He was returned on the family interest and a year later obtained a Welsh judgeship. He supported Pitt, voting for the increased assessed taxes bill, 4 Jan. 1798. It was to Pitt’s recommendation of him to the Prince of Wales that he owed his appointment as the Prince’s legal adviser in July 1800.1
In this capacity he made his most significant speeches in the House. On 3 July 1800 he informed the House of the Prince’s withdrawal of opposition to the royal devise bill. On 17 Feb. 1802 he asserted the Prince’s claims to the revenues of the duchy of Cornwall collected during his minority. He declared that this was not a question between the King and the Prince, nor was it a criticism of the present or past government, and expressed ‘the highest respect and esteem’ for Pitt. A motion on the subject would come better, he thought, ‘from some gentleman who is better known to the House than I’. On 31 Mar., however, he moved for a committee on the duchy revenues and stated the grounds on which the Prince’s claim was advanced. He declared that if the proposed committee reported favourably he would move that the revenues should be applied to discharging the Prince’s debts. The motion, though defeated by 160 votes to 103, received support from both sides of the House and Manners Sutton’s advocacy earned him the approbation of Pitt and Fox, but the King found the motion ‘objectionable’ and was displeased at the ‘large’ minority.2
In a general promotion of the law officers, Manners Sutton was appointed solicitor-general by Addington, without ‘the least expectation of so great an honour’. He made a point of obtaining the Prince’s consent.3 Thus, although no longer in the Prince’s service, he retained his confidence and spoke for him, 23 Feb. 1803, on the government’s scheme for providing additional income for the Prince. He denied that there was a compromise: the ministers’ offer had been unexpected and unconditional. He made little mark in debate as solicitor-general but kept his place, being unwilling to change it for the chief justiceship of Chester. Listed ‘Pitt’ in September 1804, he welcomed the reconciliation between Pitt and Addington. In 1805 he was appointed to a vacancy in the court of the Exchequer. Two years later he received a peerage and the lord chancellorship of Ireland. He ‘entertained violent Ascendancy principles and had received his office ... in acknowledgment of them.’4
These marked protestant sympathies no doubt explained the various views expressed of Manners. O’Connell, who commented that ‘he was a bad lawyer ... but he was the most sensible-looking man talking nonsense he ever saw’, surveyed his career with contumely:
That individual, by force of his connexions, was raised to the office of solicitor-general; but so deficient was he in talent, that notwithstanding the great power of his family they could not raise him to a higher office than that which was generally considered a retreat for incapables, the office of puisne baron of the Exchequer. Bad as he was, however, he was thought good enough to be made lord chancellor of Ireland, and so he continued for 20 years. It was stated that fifty per cent of the decrees of Lord Manners had been reversed.
In fact, when he retired, out of 4,469 cases decided, only 14 had been reversed and seven modified. Sheil, another opponent, referred to the ‘spirit of ignorant self-sufficiency, and presumptuous precipitation, with which Lord Manners discharged the business of his court’, and added, ‘his irritability in court was the subject of universal complaint’. On the other hand, O’Flanagan praised him as ‘attentive, decorous, gentlemanlike, distinguished for his urbanity; not indeed, deeply read, but evincing ability to understand and judgment to decide’. He attempted to simplify Chancery procedure and to expedite business and in that, perhaps, went too far.5
He died 31 May 1842, leaving personal estate sworn under £250,000.6
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: M. H. Port
- 1. DNB; Add. 48247, f. 115.
- 2. Add. 47565, f. 202; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 2608.
- 3. Sidmouth mss, Manners Sutton to Addington, 16 Apr.; Blair Adam mss, Erskine to Adam, 1 May 1802.
- 4. Rose Diaries, ii. 121, 133; Perceval (Holland) mss 11, ff. 5, 14; Sidmouth mss, Manners Sutton to Addington, 26 Dec. 1804; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3425, 3437; O’Flanagan, Lord Chancellors of Ireland, ii. 353.
- 5. O. J. Burke, Hist. Lord Chancellors of Ireland, 201, 203; Parl. Deb. (ser. 3), xv. 55; R. L. Sheil, Sketches, i. 281-2; O’Flanagan, ii. 338, 365.
- 6. Gent. Mag. (1842), ii. 677.