Molesworth, Sir William
MOLESWORTH, SIR WILLIAM (1810-1855), the eighth baronet,was born in London, 23d May 1810, and succeeded to the extensive family estates in Devon and Cornwall in 1823. On the passing of the Reform Act of 1832 he was returned to parliament, though only twenty-two years old, for the eastern division of the county of Cornwall, to support the ministry of Lord Grey. For some time he took little part in the debates of the House of Commons; but in April 1835 he founded, in conjunction with Mr. Roebuck, the London Review, as an organ of the politicians known to the world as "Philosophic Radicals." After the publication of two volumes he purchased the Westminster Review, and for some time the united magazines were edited by him and J. S. Mill. From 1837 to 1841 Sir William Molesworth sat for the borough of Leeds, and during those years acquired considerable influence in the House of Commons by his speeches and by his tact in presiding over the select committee on Transportation. From 1841 to 1845 he remained in private life, occupying his leisure time in editing the works in Latin and English of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, a recreation which cost him no less than £6000. In the latter year he was returned for the borough of Southwark, and retained that seat until his death. On his return to parliament he devoted special attention to the condition of the colonies, and delivered many speeches in favour of a reduction in colonial expenditure and on their better administration. His arguments on these questions changed the opinions of the members of the House of Commons ; and the criticisms of the daily press, aided by the printing of his speeches, led to the gradual acceptance of his views by the electors at large. It was not, however, until many years afterwards that he was allowed full opportunity for working out the difficult problems connected with the government of Great Britain. Office was conferred upon him in December 1852 by Lord Aberdeen, but it was the minor post of directing the public improvements and crown lands of his own country, and the chief work by which his name was brought into prominence at this time was the construction of the new Westminster Bridge. At last, in July 1855, he was called to preside over the Colonial Office, but unfortunately its duties were no sooner entrusted to his care than he was cut off by death (22d October 1855), to the universal regret of his countrymen, for he had lived down the animosities of his youth, and had attracted to himself the sympathies of all thoughtful men. The influence which his views had acquired, and still retain, may be judged from the fact that in 1878 the delegates of the Transvaal Government put forward, as the chief argument for the withdrawal of the English from the Transvaal, the substance of his speech on the abandonment of the Orange River Territory in 1854.
A full pedigree of the Molesworth family is printed in Sir John Maclean's Trigg Minor, vol. i.; the titles of his speeches and works may be found in the B-ibl. Cornubiengis, vols. i. and iii. The name of Sir William Molesworth is frequently mentioned. in the biographies of Mill, Cobden, Carlyle, Grote, and Panizzi.