ASHLEY COOPER, Anthony John (1808-1867).
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Family and Education
b. 21 Dec. 1808, 4th s. of Cropley Ashley†, 6th earl of Shaftesbury (d. 1851), and Lady Anne Spencer, da. of George, 4th duke of Marlborough; bro. of Anthony Ashley Cooper, Lord Ashley*, Hon. Anthony Henry Ashley Cooper* and Hon. Anthony William Ashley Cooper*. educ. Eton 1820; Christ Church, Oxf. 1826; I. Temple, called 1836. m. 17 Mar. 1840, Julia, da. of Henry John Conyers of Copt Hall, Essex, s.p. d. 1 Jan. 1867.
QC 9 Jan. 1866.
Of John Ashley, as he was usually known, who witnessed the death of his brother Francis in a fist fight at Eton in 1825, it was recorded by his eldest brother Lord Ashley, 28 Apr. 1826, that he ‘gives us no disquietude’.1 Having taken his degree in 1829, he presumably soon afterwards entered the Inner Temple, though he was not called to the bar until 1836. At the general election of 1831 he was returned for Gatton by the 5th Baron Monson and, like his brothers and their father, was an opponent of the Grey ministry, albeit a silent one. He voted against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and at least once to adjourn proceedings on it, 12 July. He divided for using the 1831 census to determine the boroughs in schedules A and B, 18 July, and to postpone consideration of the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July. He cast a wayward vote for the division of counties, 11 Aug. He voted to censure the Irish government over the Dublin election, 23 Aug., and for a select committee to inquire into how far the Sugar Refinery Act could be renewed with due regard to the West India interest, 12 Sept. He divided against the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept. He canvassed for Lord Ashley during the Dorset by-election in October, and led the horse which his brother rode in triumph into Dorchester on the final day, 17 Oct.; he was alleged to have helped incite the violence that disrupted that day’s proceedings.2 He voted against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He set off with Lord Mahon* to obey the call of the House in May, and, if he made it, no doubt divided on the 10th against Lord Ebrington’s motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the bill unimpaired.3 He voted against the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and his only other known votes were against the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July. As Gatton was disfranchised by the Reform Act, he left the House at the dissolution in 1832.
From the late 1830s Ashley worked as a conveyancer and equity draftsman at 3 New Square, Lincoln’s Inn, moving to 32 Lincoln’s Inn Fields in the 1850s. In early 1840 he married the Copt Hall heiress, Julia, only daughter of the soldier and huntsman Henry John Conyers (d. 1853), grandson of John Conyers, Tory Member for Reading and Essex, who was the defeated Tory candidate at the Essex by-election in March 1830. According to Lady Holland, who described John as ‘that ugly, but sensible young man’, the Ashleys were ‘as lucky in marriage as the Coburgs’.4 He made a surprise late intervention at Salisbury at the general election of 1841, when it was said of him by a friend that he would
exert his utmost energies in aid of those Conservative principles which invariably characterize his family. His habits of business, derived from his experience as a conveyancing barrister in extensive practice, minutely acquainted moreover with the usages of Parliament, qualify him for attending to the affairs of his constituents, while his highly gentlemanlike and urbane deportment will afford him the most ready access and perfect facility for communicating their desires.
In his addresses and on the hustings he emphasized that, like Lord Ashley, he would defend the existing institutions of the state, support the agricultural interest and protect the poor. Despite the stronger than usual Conservative vote, he was pushed into third place behind the sitting Members; although he expressed his ‘perfect confidence’ of future success, he apparently never again sought a seat in Parliament.5 He died of bronchiti