Dunning, John, Baron Ashburton
lord east subject
DUNNING, JoHN, BARON ASHBURTON (1731-1783), an eminent English lawyer, the second son of John Dunning of Ashburton, Devonshire, an attorney, was born at Ashburton, October 18,1731, and was educated at the free grammar-school of his native place, where he distinguished himself in classics and mathetnatics. On leaving school he was taken into his father's office, where he remained until the age of nineteen when he was sent to the Temple. Called to the bar in 11756, he came very slowly into practice. He went the Western Circuit for several years without receiving a single brief. In 1762 he was employed to draw up A Defence of the United Company of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies, and their Servants, particularly those at Bengal, against the Complaints of the Dutch East India Contpany to his Majesty on that subject ; and the masterly style which characterized the document procured him at once reputation and emolument. In 1763 he distinguished himself as counsel on the side of Wilkes, whose cause he conducted throughout. His powerful argu-ment against the validity of general warrants (18th June 1763) established his reputation, and his professional busi-ness from that period gradually increased to such an extent that in 1776 he is said to have been in the receipt of nearly X10,000 per annum. In 1766 he was chosen recorder of Bristol, a,nd in December 1767 he was appointed solicitor-general. The latter appointment he held till May 1770, when he retired, along with his friend Lord Shelburne. In 1771 he was presented with the freedom of the citv of London. From this period he was considered as a regular member of the Opposition, and distinomished himself by many able speeches in Parliament. lie was first chosen member for Caine in 1768, and continued to represent that burgh until he was promoted to the peerage. In 1780 he brought forward a motion that the " influence of the crown had increased, was increasing, and ought to be diminished,'' which he carried by a, majority of eighteen. He strongly opposed the system of sinecure offices and pensions ; but his probity was not strong enough to prevent his taking advan-tage of it for himself. In 1782, when the marquis of Rockingham became prime minister, Dunnino. was appointed chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, a rich%inecure ; and about the same time he was advanced to the peerage, by the title of Lord Ashburton. Under Lord Shelburne's adminis-tration he accepted a pension of X4000 a year. He died while on a visit to Exmouth, August 18, 1783. Though possessed of an insignificant person, an awkward manner, and a, provincial accent, Lord Ashburton was one of the most fluent and persuasive orators of his time. Sir William Jones speaks in the highest terms of his eloquence and wit, and Bentham commended the closeness of his reasoning.
Besides the answer to the Dutch memorial, Lord Ashburton is supposed to have assisted in wilting a pamphlet on the law of libel, and to have been the author of A Letter to the Proprictors of East hulia Stock, on the subject of Lord Clive's Jaghire, occasioned by his Lordship's Letter on that Subject, 1764, 8vo. He was at one time suspected of being the author of the celebrated letters of Junius.