DODD, John (1717-82), of Swallowfield, Berks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



17 Feb. - 27 Apr. 1741
19 Nov. 1755 - 9 Feb. 1782

Family and Education

b. 24 Sept. 1717, s. of Randolph Dodd by Margaret, da. of William Glaseour. educ. Eton 1728-32; King’s, Camb. 1735. m. 4 Sept. 1739, Jane (d. 13 Oct. 1741), da. of Henry Le Coq St. Leger of Shinfield, Berks., 3s. 1 da.; (2) 31 July 1753, Juliana, da. of Philip Jennings of Duddlestone Hall, Salop, sis. of Philip Jennings Clerke and sis.-in-law of J. E. Colleton and James Hayes, 1s. 3da. suc. 1722 under the will of Isabella Dodd, wid. of his gt.-uncle Samuel,1 to the fortune amassed by him in legal practice.

Offices Held


William Cole, the antiquary, speaks of Dodd in Athenae Cantabrigienses as ‘a man universally beloved; lively, generous, and sensible’. He ‘was no scholar’, writes John Nichols,2 ‘but he was a favourite of many ingenious, and clever men, as well as of others, who were exemplary in worth, and were of high rank. Lord Fane described him as a fine horse ill broke-in. He was generous, open-hearted, and convivial, friendly, and hospitable to a fault.’

After having been returned for Reading on petition in February 1741, Dodd did not stand at the general election nor in 1747. At the general election of 1754 Dodd was encouraged by Administration once more to contest Reading, against a Bedford Whig and a Tory. After Henry Pelham’s death, in a review of election engagements, the following appears on 18 Mar. 1754: ‘Mr. Dodd. Has received £1,000. Was promised £500 more and that it should not be lost for £300 or £400 more.’3 He received this further £900 on 21 Mar. and 11 and 12 Apr.4 When the result was declared, with Strode, the Tory, top of the poll, and Dodd one vote behind Lord Fane (295 v. 296), he ‘fainted away at the hustings’.5 He petitioned against Fane’s return. ‘His canvass’, wrote Ralph Shirley, ‘this time cost (Lord Craven hears) £3,000, and what his appeal will come to ... who can say?’6 Another £100 was paid to him from secret service money in January 1755. Fane proposed an arrangement against Strode’s expected death, but nothing seems to have been settled before it occurred on 29 Apr. 1755, and with Fane’s friends uncommitted, although the Tories did not in the end put up any candidate, Dodd stood another costly canvass. On 29 Oct. Lord Barrington gave Newcastle ‘previous notice’ that Dodd intended to ask him ‘for some cash for his approaching expenses at Reading, having probably none of his own’—he talked of £1,000 ‘to be deposited where he can draw for it on account’.7 On 14 Nov. he received £500 from secret service funds. ‘The election was over this morning at about 12 o’clock in my favour’, wrote Dodd to Newcastle, 19 Nov. ‘... Sir Crisp Gascoyne made an opposition last night, his poll was 17.’8

On 24 May 1758 Dodd received his first annual payment of a secret service pension of £500, which was continued to him till Newcastle left the Treasury in May 1762. Early in 1761 Dodd was reported not to intend to seek re-election unless it could be done ‘without another great and ruinous expense’.9 Still, after various manœuvres on the part of Fane, there was another contest in which Dodd headed the poll.

In 1761 Newcastle sent Dodd his parliamentary whip through his nephew and Dodd's close friend, Lord Lincoln; and in Bute's list of December 1761 Dodd is marked ‘Old Whig, Newcastle’, to whom he in fact remained faithful: he did not draw his pension during Bute's and Grenville's administration, and voted with the Opposition over the peace preliminaries and general warrants. He was also a member of Wildman's Club, and was counted by Newcastle, on 3 Mar. 1764, among his ‘sure friends ... to be sent to upon any occasion’.10 After the Rockinghams had taken office, Dodd was classed by Rockingham in July 1765 as ‘pro’, and in November 1766 as ‘Whig’. But Newcastle, possibly because of Lincoln's defection, in the list of his ‘own particular friends in the House of Commons, as they stand now’, 9 Jan. 1767, placed a query against Dodd's name; and after Dodd had voted with the Government on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, rightly classed him as ‘Administration’. Henceforth, whenever there is a list of those voting with the Government, Dodd's name appears in it, and never with the Opposition. His pension was continued to him till his death, and at some date before 1779 was raised to £750 p.a. He naturally had the support of Government in his elections, each of them contested and each expensive. In 1780 Robinson, while expecting the candidature of ‘a third man to create expenses’, hoped that ‘Mr Dodd is safe against all attack; and £1,600 was paid from secret service money ‘on account of Reading’.11

The English Chronicle in 1780, in its ‘Parliamentary Characters’, wrote about the ‘taciturn servility’ of Dodd's acquiescene to the measures of Administration, and dilated on his ‘inebriety ... attended with ... circumstances of degradation’. During nearly 30 years in the House he is not known to have spoken in political debate, and in the most fully reported Parliament, 1768-74, only two interventions of his are recorded: on 21 Feb. 1771 he introduced a scheme for a canal between Reading and Basingstoke; and on 2 Mar. 1772, at the desire of Reading corporation, moved for a writ in place of Henry Vansittart, supposed to be lost in the Aurora.12

He died 9 Feb. 1782. On 14 Feb. G. A. Selwyn wrote about him to Lord Carlisle: ‘He ... had had more wine of all sorts in his head, and less of any other furniture, than any man I knew, and [was] one of the most wrong-headed fellows that ever existed.’13 And Horace walpole, on the same day, to William Cole: ‘My old friend and your acquaintance, Mr Dodd, died last Sunday—not of cold water. He and I were born on the very same day, but took to different elements. I doubt he had hurt his fortune as well as his health.’ He left indeed his family in difficult financial circumstances (Swallowfield was sold in 1783), and his eldest son, Captain Dodd, on leaving the Guards was given a secret service pension of £150.14


Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. About him see DNB.
  • 2. Lit. Illustrations, i. 502.
  • 3. Add. 32995, f. 98; see also Add. 32734, f. 237.
  • 4. Namier, Structure, 427, 429.
  • 5. J. Man, Hist. Reading, 241.
  • 6. HMC 5th Rep. 364.
  • 7. Add. 32860, f. 232.
  • 8. Add. 32816, f. 31.
  • 9. Fane to Bedford, 2 Feb. 1761, Bedford mss 43, f. 88.
  • 10. Add. 32956, f. 190.
  • 11. Laprade, 57.
  • 12. Egerton 225, pp. 149, 153; 234, pp. 187, 204-5.
  • 13. HMC Carlisle, 577.
  • 14. Fortescue, v. 468; and 'List of private pensions and secret service money, August 1782', Chatham mss, PRO.