WILBRAHAM, Randle (1694-1770), of Rode Hall, Cheshire
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Family and Education
b. 1694, 2nd surv. s. of Randle Wilbraham of Nantwich, Cheshire by Mary, da of Sir Richard Brooke, 2nd Bt., of Norton Priory, Cheshire. educ. B.N.C. Oxf. 10 Oct. 1711, aged 16; L. Inn 1711, called 1718. m. 24 Aug. 1722, Dorothy, da. of Andrew Kenrick, barrister, of Woore, Salop, 2s. 3 da. One da. m. Charles Gray.
Bencher, L. Inn 1743, treasurer 1754; vice-chamberlain, Chester; dep. steward, Oxford University.
Wilbraham, a Tory, was returned for Appleby on the interest of his kinsman Lord Thanet, and for Newton on that of Peter Legh, also his kinsman.
Under George III he drew closer to the court, and appears in Fox’s list of Members in favour of the peace preliminaries, December 1762. He took a prominent part in the debates of 1763-4 on general warrants. When the King’s message about Wilkes was discussed, 23 Nov. 1763, Wilbraham spoke for postponing its consideration until Wilkes could be present; and the court’s majority sank to 77 on a division of 409. ‘Wilbraham’s opinion and that of C. Yorke had great influence in this division’, wrote James Harris; and Grenville informed the King that ‘the authority of Mr. Wilbraham weighed so much with several gentlemen of the law that Mr. Forrester, Mr. Eliab Harvey, and Mr. Yorke supported the proposition for putting off the consideration’.1 The next day Wilbraham spoke for the motion that Wilkes’s arrest was not contrary to privilege of Parliament. In the decisive debate of 17-18 Feb. 1764 he also spoke on the side of the court, but declared he believed general warrants to be illegal. He was classed by Rockingham in July 1765 as an opponent, but did not vote against the repeal of the Stamp Act. He was absent from the divisions on the land tax and the nullum tempus bill, and did not stand in 1768.
‘His great industry and abilities carried him to the highest reputation and practice in his profession, which he adorned with sound knowledge, clear judgment, and steady integrity.’2 He was thoroughly independent, never held office under the Crown, and was averse from all party connexion. ‘I revere the prerogative of the Crown as the liberty of the subject,’ he said in the Commons on 4 Mar. 1765.3 ‘Whoever encroacheth as upon one hurteth the other. It is part of the common law of England and I will never consent to alter it.’
He died 3 Dec. 1770, aged 76. Chief Justice Wilmot wrote to one of his sons on 25 Feb. 1771 that Wilbraham ‘has not left a better lawyer, or an honester man, behind him’.4