WILMOT, John (?1749-1815), of Berkswell Hall, nr. Coventry, Warws.
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Family and Education
b. ?1749, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir John Eardley Wilmot of Berkswell Hall, l.c.j.c.p. 1766-71, by Sarah, da. of Thomas Rivett† of Derby. educ. Derby sch. 1760; Westminster; Brunswick acad.; Univ. Coll. Oxf. 10 Jan. 1766, aged 16, fellow of All Souls 1769; I. Temple 1767, called 1773. m. (1) 20 Apr. 1776, Frances, da. of Samuel Sainthill, 1s. 4da.; (2) 29 June 1793, Sarah Anne, da. of Lt.-Col. Anthony Haslam, 5 Ft., s.p.s. suc. fa. 1792; took name of Eardley before Wilmot by royal lic. 20 Jan. 1812.
Master in Chancery 1781-1804.
The son of a prominent lawyer who might have been lord chancellor if he had so desired and whose biography he wrote, Wilmot was himself a capable lawyer. In Parliament his conduct had been extremely independent until 1784, but thereafter, sitting for Coventry with the financial backing of his brother-in-law and colleague Sir Sampson Gideon, he was a reliable supporter of Pitt’s administration. By 1791 he no longer heeded dissenting pleas for the repeal of the Test Act. He and Lord Eardley (as his brother-in-law became) invariably acted jointly in dealing with problems affecting their constituents, but Wilmot was clearly the man of business.1 He was a promoter of the ‘Committee of subscribers to a fund for the relief of the suffering clergy and laity of France in the British Dominions’ in September 1792: ‘task well suited to that universal benevolence and kindness of heart which so eminently distinguished him’. He also consulted Pitt as to the best means of averting public suspicion of French émigrés in general.2 Edmund Burke, who had nothing but praise for his efforts in this direction, was startled by Wilmot’s flash of independence, 26 Jan. 1795, when he voted for Wilberforce’s amendment to Grey’s peace motion, for soon afterwards he catechised Wilmot on the necessity for resisting revolutionary France.3 Two contributions of Wilmot’s to debate are known after 1790, both in 1795: on Members’ abuse of franking letters, 13 Apr., and a refusal to support the Coventry petition against the treason and sedition bills, 25 Nov.
In 1796 his brother-in-law decided to give up Coventry for fear of an expensive contest and Wilmot was obliged to do the same. He had already written to Pitt, 14 Nov. 1792:4
On account of some recent events in my family [his father’s death] I am extremely desirous of exchanging my present office of master in Chancery for some other, which, though less lucrative may admit of a change in my habits and my residing a little more in the country ...
He asked for ‘the office of a Welsh judge, when there should be a vacancy’. No such arrangement was made, but Wilmot retired in the spring of 1804 to Bruce Castle, Tottenham and devoted his later years to writing and study. His History of the Commission of American Claims, on which he had served, was published shortly before his death, 23 June 1815 in his 67th year. His wife was in 1797 awarded a pension of £400 in token of his services as commissioner. His son and heir, John Eardley Eardley-Wilmot, obtained a baronetage on account of his father’s and grandfather’s services (1821).5