RYDER, Dudley (1691-1756), of Tooting, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 4 Nov. 1691, 2nd s. of Richard Ryder of Hackney, Mdx., mercer, by his 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of William Marshall of Lincoln’s Inn. educ.Dissenting acad. Hackney; Edinburgh and Leyden Univ.; M. Temple 1713, called 1719; L. Inn 1725, bencher 1733. m. Nov. 1733, Anne, da. of Nathaniel Newnham of Streatham, Surr. and sis. of Thomas and Nathaniel Newnham, 1s. Kntd. 12 May 1740.
Solicitor-gen. Dec. 1733-7; attorney-gen. Jan. 1737-54; c.j. of King’s bench May 1754-d.; P.C. 1754.
Ryder owed his start in political life to Lord Chancellor King, like himself the son of a nonconformist tradesman, who is said to have introduced him to Walpole.1 Brought into Parliament by the Government for a Cornish borough at the beginning of 1733, he was appointed solicitor-general in the legal promotions following his patron’s retirement at the end of that year. In 1734 he was transferred to Tiverton, which he represented for the rest of his parliamentary career, using government patronage to found a strong family interest. Soon after the opening of the new Parliament he refused to support an attempt by Walpole to decide a hotly contested election petition in favour of the defeated government candidates, one of whom was Ryder’s brother-in-law, Thomas Newnham.2 Promoted attorney-general in 1737, he turned down an offer of the mastership of the rolls in 1738, after unsuccessfully applying for an increase in its salary of under £1,300 a year.3 Towards the end of Walpole’s Administration he composed in his diary the following appreciation of his character and capacity as a public man:
My present character in the world as to ability is, I believe, that I am a good lawyer and some parts. As to the belief that I am thoroughly honest and of great humanity and candour, I am sometimes tempted to attack the enemies of the Administration in a severe manner, but I check myself in that design. I am more fitted to act the part of candour, mildness, sincerity and good nature and reasoning. My own disposition leads me to this. It will give me more credit in the world. It will better hide my infirmity and want of ability in any respect, and I think my talents are rather better adapted to it. It will better, likewise, secure me against enemies, and fall in more with my talents, which are not formed for hustle and controversy, management and design. It is indeed as much the reverse as can well be. I should therefore keep out of all scrapes, all enmities. Nor am I much fitted for friendship, and therefore in such disputes should want zealous friends, and have none or few but such as are so for their own ends or from public considerations and from my public character.4
Ryder continued in office under Pelham, to whom he was strongly recommended by Walpole as ‘very able and very honest’.5 Some years later Horace Walpole describes him as
a man of singular goodness and integrity; of the highest reputation in his profession, of the lowest in the House, where he wearied the audience by the multiplicity of his arguments; resembling the physician who ordered a medicine to be composed of all the simples in a meadow, as there must be some of them at least that would be proper.6
In 1749 Hardwicke again offered him the rolls, observing that he thought the salary ought to be made equal to that of the chief justice of the common pleas, that is at least £4,000 a year, ‘but that the King would be averse to this on account of the great load on the civil list’. On raising the question of a peerage, Ryder was referred to Pelham,
who foresaw difficulty with the King. Objections would be made that a new office is to be brought into the peerage, which would give expectations to future masters of the rolls, and make a number of lords from the law.
Asked by Newcastle, who wanted the attorney’s post for William Murray, whether he would accept the rolls with a peerage at the existing salary, Ryder replied that he would, but withdrew next day on finding that his wife was ‘much against my acceptance of this without additional salary, and thinks my sleepy disposition will make me unfit for the office’.7
Ryder remained attorney-general till 1754, when he accepted the chief justiceship of the King’s bench, though the King refused his application for a peerage.8
It is £6,000 a year for life [George II afterwards said to Hardwicke], and I will not make a precedent that when I advance a man from the bar to that office he should think he has an immediate claim to a peerage. I had a very good opinion of Ryder, (who had served me very long and very well) and loved him; but you know that I refused to make him a peer till above two years after he was chief justice. That should come afterwards, after there has been some experience of a man in that office.9
In Ryder’s case it came too late, for he died 25 May 1756, a day after the warrant for his peerage was signed, but before he had kissed hands for it.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Romney R. Sedgwick
- 1. Campbell, Lives of the Chief Justices, ii. 235.
- 2. HMC Egmont Diary, ii. 167; Hervey, Mems. 418.
- 3. Diary, 23 Dec. 1739, Harrowby mss.
- 4. Ibid. 22 Aug. 1741.
- 5. Orford to Pelham, 25 Aug. 1743, Coxe, Pelham, i. 93.
- 6. Walpole, Mems. Geo. II, i. 123-4.
- 7. Diary, 16-27 Dec. 1749.
- 8. Ibid. 8 Apr. 1754.
- 9. Yorke, Hardwicke, ii. 302.