DODSON, John (1780-1858), of Doctors' Commons, London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



12 July 1819 - 24 Feb. 1823

Family and Education

b. 19 Jan. 1780, 1st s. of Rev. John Dodson, DD, rect. of Yoxall, Staffs. and Hurstpierpoint, Suss. and Frances, da. of Rev. John Dawson of Stapenhill, Staffs. educ. Merchant Taylors’ 1790-7; Oriel, Oxf. 1797; M. Temple 1807, called 1834. m. 24 Dec. 1822, Frances Priscilla, da. and coh. of George Person, MD, of London and Tyers Hill, Yorks., 1s. suc. fa. 1807; kntd. 29 Oct. 1834. d. 27 Apr. 1858.

Offices Held

Adv. Doctors’ Commons 1808; commissary to dean and chapter of Westminster 1808; admiralty adv. 1829-34; king’s adv. 1834-52; bencher, M. Temple 1835, reader 1838, treas. 1841; vicar-gen. to abp. of Canterbury 1849-52; PC 5 Apr. 1852; judge of PCC 1852-7; dean of the arches 1852-d.


Dodson, a rising civil lawyer, was again elected for Rye in 1820 on the interest of the Rev. George Augustus Lamb, whose sister was married to his clergyman brother William Dodson. He was evidently returned as a family connection, not as a paying guest; and he and William and their brother Nathaniel made loans of money to Lamb, whose private finances were in disarray after the death of his father in 1819.1 A reliable supporter of the Liverpool ministry,2 he was in their majorities on the Queen Caroline affair, 6 Feb., and the revenue, 6 Mar. 1821. He divided against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., the disfranchisement of ordnance officials, 12 Apr., parliamentary reform, 9 May, for the barracks estimates, 28 May, and the duke of Clarence’s grant, 18 June, and against economy and retrenchment, 27 June 1821. In 1822 he voted against more extensive tax reductions, 11 Feb., abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar., and Newport’s amendment on Irish tithes, 19 June; and for the aliens bill, 19 July, and the grant for the publication of government proclamations in the Irish press, 22 July. He did not vote on Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, but divided against Canning’s bill to remove Catholic peers’ disabilities, 30 Apr. 1822.

Dodson made no mark in the House as a debater. He spoke for the Sussex election bill, 23 June,3 and against the Marriage Act amendment bill, 30 June 1820. He presented Sussex petitions complaining of agricultural distress, 12 Mar. 1821, 30 May 1822.4 In July 1820 he had been instructed by Lamb, on behalf of Rye corporation, to oppose the bill introduced by Curteis, Member for Sussex, to amend the laws relating to commissioners of sewers, which was seen as a threat to the free navigation of Rye harbour and the River Rother. The measure made no further progress that session, but was reintroduced in 1821, when Dodson presented Rye petitions against it, 30 Mar. On its withdrawal, 11 Apr. 1821, he began to defend his constituents against a charge that they had raised a ‘factious and seditious’ opposition to it, but was ruled out of order.5 His only reported speech on a major issue, a defence of the omission of Queen Caroline’s name from the liturgy, 26 Jan. 1821, was accounted ‘a failure’ by the Whig James Abercromby* and the radical Whig Henry Grey Bennet*.6

Dodson’s parliamentary career was brought to a premature end by Lamb, who during the 1822 recess ordered him to vacate his seat so that he might rescue himself from ‘poverty’ by making ‘the most I can of the political interest’. He blamed his predicament partly on the ‘imprudence’ of his own family, but chiefly on the ‘neglect and ingratitude of ministers’, who had failed to advance him in the church. He told Dodson:

In calling upon you to make the contemplated sacrifice, I am fully aware of its magnitude both on your part and on my own ... I consider that you are abandoning a post of distinction, advantageous to your professional pursuits and gratifying to a laudable ambition. I too am giving up the only pleasurable and satisfactory part of my political connection at Rye, and that part which promised stability to the whole ... I have yielded only to what appears to me stern necessity, when I have made up my mind to make in my own person, and to call on you to make this important mutual sacrifice.7

Dodson had to comply and Lamb, as a deliberate act of vengeance on ministers, sold the seat to Robert Knight, an advanced Whig. At the general election of 1826 Dodson contested the venal borough of Wallingford as ‘a friend to the general policy of ministers, though by no means what is called a "thick and thin man"’, declaring his hostility to Catholic relief and support for the abolition of slavery. He was beaten by the Whig sitting Members.8 Possibly seeking revenge for the Rye episode, he returned to Wallingford when Knight stood there on a vacancy in December 1826, but did not go to a poll.9

Dodson subsequently rose high in his profession and accumulated, it was said, a ‘large fortune’.10 Curiously, he was appointed king’s advocate by the Melbourne ministry. His bitterly disappointed rival Joseph Phillimore*, who abused him as the ‘toad eater’ of Lords Eldon and Stowell and Sir John Nicholl*, thought it ‘quite extraordinary’:

He is a person of no talent, no learning and a bad speaker and his opinion carries no weight. Classing counsel in five grades I really think he could only be put with the second.11

Dodson died in April 1858. His will was proved in London, under £45,000, 1 June 1858. His only child John George Dodson (1825-97), deputy Speaker of the Commons, 1865-72, was created Lord Monk Bretton in 1884.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. E. Suss. RO, Monk Bretton mss MOB 12, 19, 21, 22.
  • 2. Black Bk. (1823), 152.
  • 3. The Times, 24 June 1820.
  • 4. Ibid. 13 Mar. 1821, 31 May 1822.
  • 5. CJ, lxxv. 404, 408; lxxvi. 152-3, 219, 251; The Times, 12 Apr. 1821.
  • 6. Add. 51574, Abercromby to Holland [26 Jan. 1821]; HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 5a.
  • 7. Monk Bretton mss 24, 35.
  • 8. Jackson’s Oxford Jnl. 3, 17 June; Berks. Chron. 3, 10, 17 June, 5 Aug. 1826.
  • 9. Berks. Chron. 2, 9, 16 Dec. 1826.
  • 10. Christ Church, Oxf. Phillimore mss, Stowell to Phillimore, 19 Aug. 1830.
  • 11. Add. 51813, Phillimore to Holland, 30 Sept. 1834.