DOTTIN, Abel Rous (?1768-1852), of Bugle Hall, Southampton
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Family and Educationb. ?1768, 1st s. of Abel Dottin of Granada Hall, Barbados and English and Newnham Murren, Oxon. and Elizabeth (m. 21 July 1767), da. and coh. of Samuel Rous of Barbados. educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 24 May 1786, ‘aged 17’. m. 26 Mar. 1798, Dorothy, da. of Robert Burnett Jones of Ades, Suss., former att.-gen. of Barbados, s.p. suc. fa. 1782. d. 17 June 1852.1
Cornet 2 Life Gds. 1791, lt. 1793, capt. 1794, half-pay 1799, ret. 1826; capt. S. Hants yeoman cav. 1823.
Dottin, whose great-grandfather John Walter (d. 1736) had sat for Surrey, 1719-27, achieved a measure of personal notoriety while still a captain in the Life Guards.2 In July 1795 he was cited as co-respondent by William Townshend Mullins in his divorce suit against his wife Frances Elizabeth, neé Sage, whose adultery was reported to have been ‘most clearly proved, at Richmond and several other places in and near London, by a variety of witnesses’.3 Three years later he married the daughter of a former official in the government of Barbados, whence came both sides of his own family. Dottin, who was later lampooned by a radical publication as ‘distinguished for his elegance in dancing a minuet’, had been able to choose between two portions of his father’ estate, and evidently selected the Scotland plantation in Barbados and a house in fashionable Bath in preference to the Oxfordshire property and Granada Hall, which passed to his younger brother Samuel.4 By 1820 he was resident in Southampton, where he offered as a ministerialist at that year’s general election, having sat for a pocket borough in the previous Parliament. After a venal seven-day contest, in which he spent liberally, he was defeated by the narrowest of margins.5 Thereafter he set about ingratiating himself with all sections of the electorate through well-publicized acts of charity and public service. He became a burgess of the town that August, a steward of Southampton races at their revival in 1822, and a captain of the local yeomanry the following year.6 In November 1824 he and his wife were eulogized as ‘a blessing to their neighbours’ for their regular donations of coal and blankets, and the following month he attended the founders’ meeting of the Southampton branch of the Hampshire Benefit Society.7 Evidently not a man to leave anything to chance, he joined the Royal Gloucester Masonic Lodge, the Hampshire County Club and the Hampshire Pitt Club, of which he served as president in 1824. The stamp of approval from the county establishment was not long in forthcoming, for he was made a deputy lieutenant of Hampshire in 1823 and a magistrate the following year.8 By September 1825, when there was talk of a dissolution, the local press was sure that one of the next Members would be Dottin, ‘in whose praise all classes of individuals speak in the highest admiration’.9
At the 1826 general election he offered again as a supporter of the Liverpool ministry and opponent of Catholic claims. Rumours of an opposition came to nothing and he was returned unopposed.10 A silent Member in this period, he voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828. He was in the minority against the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May 1827. He was present at the mayor’s dinner in Southampton that September, and distributed coal to the poor at the turn of the year.11 He divided against repeal of the Test Acts, 25 Feb., and investigation of delays in chancery, 24 Apr. 1828. Two days later he attended a meeting of the Hampshire London Club.12 In June 1828 he was accidentally wounded in the leg by a youth shooting small game in a Southampton suburb, but he evidently suffered no lasting injury. He and his wife made their usual charitable gestures in the new year.13 He presented a constituency petition against the Wellington ministry’s concession of Catholic emancipation, 4 Mar., and, confounding the predictions of Planta, the patronage secretary, divided against it, 6, 18, 30 Mar. 1829. He again acted as a steward of Southampton races that summer and he attended the inaugural meeting of a local savings bank in December 1829.14 At the Southampton by-election the following month the successful candidate, a Tory, allegedly came forward with his backing and he was present to receive the accolades of the crowd at his new colleague’s chairing.15 He was in majorities against the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., parliamentary reform, 18 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. On 15 Mar. he presented a petition for reducing the number of capital offences under the penal code. He voted against Jewish emancipation, 17 May, and the provision of the beer bill permitting on-consumption, 21 June. He attended a meeting of Members with West Indian interests, 2 June 1830, but does not appear to have been particularly active in the lobby and at least until 1831 never belonged to the standing committee of West India planters.16
At the 1830 general election he offered again. Rumours that an opposition would be mounted against him on the slavery issue and on account of his failure to present a petition against the friendly societies bill came to nothing. (A supportive newspaper contended that a mishap had occurred in the petition’s transmission and that he had privately lobbied ministers against the measure.) He was again returned unopposed.17 He attended a gathering of the Southampton and New Forest Archers in August and a meeting of the nascent London and Southampton Railway Company was convened at his residence in early October.18 He was listed by the Wellington ministry among their ‘friends’ and he duly voted with them in the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He was granted three weeks’ leave on account of ill health, 18 Feb. 1831. He divided against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and in favour of Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. In an address in the local press that month, he protested that the measure ‘would have the effect of disfranchising nearly one half of the voters of Southampton’, but professed his readiness to support ‘any system of reform consistent with the preservation of the monarchy and the constitution’.19 His supporters insisted that he would come forward again at the anticipated general election, but in the event he declined on health grounds, 25 Apr. 1831, citing his efforts to cultivate ‘every means of intercourse and communication with my constituents’ and to support the ‘industrious class of society and the charitable institutions of the town’. He moved away from Southampton shortly thereafter and put Bugle Hall on the market, but failed to find a buyer.20
At the 1835 general election Dottin was persuaded to offer again for Southampton and was reportedly returned free of expense after a contest.21 He was classed as a Conservative and re-elected in 1837, when he denigrated most of the Liberal legislation passed since 1832 but denied that he was opposed to every species of reform.22 His retirement at the 1841 dissolution was anticipated on account of his age. Thereafter, having finally disposed of Bugle Hall, he spent his remaining days at Argyle Street, ‘in that privacy ... suitable for the closing days of an extended life’.23 He died there in June 1852, ‘aged 84’, and was interred in the family vault at Nuffield, Oxfordshire.24 By his will, dated 5 June 1840, all his personal estate passed to his wife, the sole executrix. No mention was made of his West Indian property, which may well have been sold, as were his shares in the London and Greenwich Railway that had originally been earmarked to provide an income for his wife.25 She survived him by less than 18 months and distributed what remained of the estate among her own family.26