MOORE, Abraham (1766-1822), of 8 King's Bench Walk, Temple, London
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Family and Educationbap. 2 July 1766, 4th s. of Rev. William Moore (d. 1799), vicar of South Tawton, Devon, and w. Elizabeth. educ. Eton 1778; King’s, Camb. (adm. 1780, matric. 1785), BA 1790, MA 1794, fellow 1798; L. Inn 1790, called 1802. m. 6s. at least. d. 1822.
Commr. of lunatics, chancery 1799-1821; steward of courts, Eton 1803-21.
Recorder, Gravesend, Rochester.
Capt. London and Westminster yeoman cav. 1799-1807.
Moore, whose personal details are largely unknown, came from a Devon family of clergymen. His grandfather was probably one of the Francis Moores of South Tawton whose wills were proved in Exeter in 1739 and 1750.1 His father, who was for many years vicar of his native parish, died in 1799, leaving his estate to be divided among his several surviving children.2 These included Francis (?1756-95), rector of Inwardleigh, and William (1759-1819), who was described as ‘one of the most dissipated and extravagant men in the university’ of Cambridge, rector of Chagford, Devon.3 Abraham followed William to Eton, where he became a king’s scholar in 1778, and King’s, Cambridge, where he won the Browne Medal in 1786-7 and was later awarded a fellowship. Latin ‘verses received from A. Moore on the birth of my son in June 1793’ appear, with some other poems by Moore, in the commonplace book of the writer Sir Frederick Morton Eden.4
Moore seems to have entered the service of the 1st Earl Grosvenor in the mid-1790s. He was responsible for agricultural and mining concerns on Grosvenor’s Cheshire and Flintshire estates, and according to his account books, which were begun in July 1796, he then received a salary of £200.5 Having been called to the bar, he went on the western circuit, worked as a special pleader and held other legal offices in Kent and London. He was retained as agent and auditor by the 2nd Earl, who succeeded his father in 1802, and carried on extensive estate correspondence with his patron.6 He was also employed on election business: for example, giving advice on Grosvenor’s difficulties at Chester at the general election of 1812 and acting as counsel during the 1818 contest there.7 At the general election of 1820, when he was described by John Beckett, Member for Cockermouth, as ‘a facetious barrister’, he helped oversee his own and Edward Harbord’s return for Shaftesbury.8 Grosvenor had just purchased the electoral interest there and possibly considered Moore merely as a stopgap until his younger son Robert came of age.
Moore, who was expected to follow his patron’s Whig line in the Commons, divided with opposition on the civil list, 5, 8, 15 May 1820. Urging the committal of the Grampound disfranchisement bill, 19 May, he commented that whether it was extended into the neighbouring hundreds or had its seats transferred to Leeds ‘the principle of parliamentary reform was equally recognized’. He divided against the appointment of a secret committee on the allegations against Queen Caroline, 26 June, and on 5 July 1820 was granted leave to go the circuit. He voted steadily in the opposition campaign on behalf of the queen at the start of the following session; on 20 Feb. 1821, in his only other known speech, he called for inquiry into the conduct of the sheriff of Cheshire. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb., and was expected to be back from the circuit (for which he had again been given leave, 14 Mar.) to vote against Henry Bankes’s motion to exclude Catholics from Parliament on 26 Mar.9 He voted for the second reading of the malt duty repeal bill, 3 Apr., reduction of the admiralty grant, 4 May, and to prohibit further pensions on the four-and-a-half per cent Barbados fund, 24 May. He divided for repeal of the Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Act, 8 May, parliamentary reform, 9 May, inquiry into Peterloo, 16 May, and the forgery punishment mitigation bill, 23 May. His only other known vote was in condemnation of the conduct of the Holy Alliance towards the newly independent states, 20 June 1821.
At the beginning of August 1821 Moore fled to America having, as Grosvenor put it, ‘turned one of the greatest scoundrels in existence’ by leaving his patron in debt for the ‘frightful amount’ of about £80,000.10 Grosvenor confided to his friend Professor John Hailstone, 22 Aug.:
I hardly know what I wrote to you [two days earlier], I have had such a multiplicity of communication and conflicting considerations on this horrid business. I see in the account just prepared and actually sent in to me this very moment ... he made himself my debtor only to the amount of about £1,600 when it should have been above £100,000. I may add indeed considerably to this from former defraudings but at the time of his absconding where he did soon after the discovery he left me to pay the above to lead merchants, besides forfeiture to the amount of £20,000 more. The latter only I have some hopes of reducing. The fraud (or felony on his part) was most injurious, as much as infamous - he got the money by absolutely selling lead which I did not possess ... One of the dealing partners is strongly suspected of connivance, but only suspected as yet - his clerk and he had took a place in a coach for Devonshire.
Moore’s accounts for 1821, when his salary had risen to £500, did indeed record a figure for cash in hand of less than £2,000, so he had evidently concealed the embezzlement in the yearly balances of several tens of thousands of pounds. Grosvenor, who noted that ‘everybody is equally astonished at Moore’s delinquency’, concluded his letter to Hailstone by writing that ‘the origin of his malpractices was in unsuccessful speculation in mines and I really believe of all the money he has got he has not a great deal left!’11 Moore did not resign his parliamentary seat until early the following year, when he was replaced by Robert Grosvenor.
He died of yellow fever in New York, some time in September or October 1822. His wife, whose identity has not been established, also succumbed during the epidemic, and left ‘six sons, helpless orphans; the eldest of whom is an idiot, and the next a youth of about 17 years of age’.12 In his lifetime Moore had published law reports and at least one of his poems,13 and after his death his friends brought out his translation of the Odes of Pindar as a means of supporting the surviving children. One review judged that the work, which ‘comes into the world with singular plainness and want of pretence, an orphan child’, ‘bespeaks a man of scholarlike acquirements and tasteful mind, deeply impressed by the beauty and subtlety of his original; but there is nothing in it which shows native poetical genius’.14 No will has been found, but in London in December 1824 limited administration was granted of his estate, which was proved under £50.15 According to the journal of Tom Moore:
In speaking of Abraham Moore and his irregular life [Henry Alworth] Merewether said that it was a frequent saying of Moore’s that he was sure he should ‘die in a ditch’ - and so he actually did, somewhere in America.16
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Stephen Farrell
- 1. Devonshire Wills ed. E.A. Fry (British Recs. Soc. xxxv), 481, 483.
- 2. PROB 11/1330/670.
- 3. Al. Cant. pt. ii, vol. iv, p. 457; Gent. Mag. (1819), i. 186.
- 4. Add. 43702, ff. 2, 11-12.
- 5. M.J. Hazelton-Swales, ‘Urban Aristocrats’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1981), 445; WCA, Grosvenor estate mss 1049/6/6.
- 6. Grosvenor estate mss 10/23-27; Grosvenor mss vol. 4, box 42/6 (NRA 13470).
- 7. Grosvenor estate mss 9/9; J. Hemingway, Hist. Chester, ii. 417.
- 8. Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC17/17; Norf. RO, Gunton mss GTN/1/3, Grosvenor to Harbord, 7 Feb.; 1/7, Moore to same, 5 Mar. 1820; R.M. Bacon, Mem. of Bar. Suffield, 110-11.
- 9. Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 143.
- 10. Ibid. i. 196-7; Bucks. RO, Fremantle mss, Sir T.F. to W.H. Fremantle, 2 Sept. 1821; Grosvenor estate mss 15/2/9.
- 11. Grosvenor estate mss 6/7; 15/2/10.