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THE LIFE OF CAPEL LOFFT, ESQ.
Communicated by himself.
[Concluded from page 376 of the thirteenth volume.]
THE Constitutional Society was form'd 1 Apr. 1780: and had for its original members, Major Cartwright, Dr. Price, Granville Sharpe, Esq. Mr. Rogers, Dr. Brocklesby, Mr. Bridgen, (son in law to the author of Clarissa,) Mr. Bentley, the partner of Mr. Wedgewood, Dr. John Jebb, Thomas Brand Hollis, Esq. and Capel Lofft, Esq.
The society was instituted with a design of conveying to the People, by the publication and distribution of Tracts, a knowledge of their Rights; principally those of Representation.
It was soon join'd by Sir William Jones, Dr. Towers, Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Day, Mr. Horne Tooke, Col. Fitzpatrick, Lord Surrey, the Earls of Derby and Effingham, the Duke of Richmond, Mr. Sawbridge; and most who had taken any part on the side of freedom and constitutional information. Sir Barnard Turner, Sir Cecil Wray, Mr. Trecothick, Mr. William Smith, Mr. Martin, Mr. Bott, and Mr. Baynes were among its early Members.
By what causes it was weaken'd it would go beyond the scope of this Memoir to enquire.
Mr. Lofft, in the time of the Riots in the year 1780, exposď himself to some risque, in the first commencement of the tumult, by declaring against it. And when it was at its height he publish'd a Letter in the Courier, under his usual and known Signature, Drusus, the object of which was to call off the Minds of his Countrymen from violence and outrage, and the desolating fury which then insulted and shook the Metropolis.
Early in the year 1780, he publish'd "Eudosia; a Poem on the Universe," in blank verse.
In Febr. 1781, his Uncle Mr. Edward Capell died and left Mr. Lofft in the limitation of succession to his Estates in Suffolk, after the death of Mr. Robert Capell, who was then unmarried, without issue. The summer and autumn of 1781, were spent by Mr. and Mrs. Lofft chiefly at Stanton.
On the 3d of Nov. 1781, Mr. Robert Capell died of a Mortification in his Foot. He had much classic learning; and more of
mathematical knowledge: but the excellence of his heart, the affectionate simplicity of his manners, his benevolence and liberality, were the distinguishing features of his Character.
On the 1st of Dec. 1781, Mr. Lofft came, with his then Wife, to reside at the family house at Troston; in which his belov'd Mother and the elder of his two Uncles were born and which, with very short absences, he has inhabited ever since.
Here Mr. Lofft cultivated the same studies and pursuits in retirement as he had done in London. And in March 1783, by request of the Duke of Grafton, then Lord Lieutenant, he consented to act As a Justice of the Peace and his name was accordingly inserted in the commission.
In the summer of 1783, Mrs. Macaulay, then Macaulay Graham, spent some weeks, with Mr. Graham, her husband, at Troston, previously to her intended voyage to France and America, which she made in the next year.
Highly pleasing and the source of most valuable information this visit was both to Mr. and Mrs. Lofft: for this admirable Woman was as agreeable in friendly converse, as she was great in her intellectual endowments, and nobly employed them for the best interests of Society. In this year he publish'd "Observations on a dialogue on the actual State of Parliaments, and on a Tract entitled Free Parliaments.”
In the early part of the summer of this year, Mr. Lofft had been engag'd in a controversy with Mr. Arthur Young, on the subject of a proposal to build a County Ship of War, by Subscription. The Correspondence on this controversy appear'd in the Bury Post: and was afterwards publish'd as a pamphlet under the title of “ An enquiry into the Legality and Expediency of encreasing the Royal Navy by Subscriptions for building County Ships." Mr. Lofft maintain'd that, without consent of Parliament, such subscription is illegal and tending to the subversion of the Constitution. In the spring of 1783, he had spoken at Bury, in a County Meeting, for the Removal of the Advisers of the American War from his Majesty's Councils. The address was carried. He spoke at another County Meeting in support of a Petition for a Reform in the Representation: which was also carried,
In 1785, he publish'd an Essay on the Law of Libels.
In the year 1784 he interested himself for the Election of the late Mr. GRIGBY for the County of Suffolk: esteeming him a warm and steady friend of Freedom. He was elected 7th Apr. that year at the General Election.
In 1785 a question arose between Mr. Worlledge, a Farmer of Timworth, and Manning, an inhabitant of the said Parish. This question turn'd on a claim to the Right, as then generally suppos'd, of Gleaning. Mr. Lofft contributed in behalf of the Claim to bring it to a decision in the Court of Common Pleas. It was there determin'd on Demurrer for the Plaintiff Worlledge against the Claim; in Easter Term 26 G. 3. Anno 1786. There by the Demurrer the claim was not limited to a Parishioner; but generally for the claimant as being poor, indigent, and necessitous. It afterward was again brought under consideration in the Case of Steele and Haughton in the Common Pleas, where there was again a general Demurrer. This was argued Easter Term 1787, and determin'd Trinity Term 1788. There the Claim was limited to Parishioners of the description already stated, "legally settled within the Parish." The determination was against the Claim.
This question brought to Mr. Lofft considerable trouble, expence, and anxiety. He thought himself then compensated, and much more so now, in having been instrumental in bringing under solemn discussion and determination a question which he has always regarded as of great importance.
In March 1787, he was one of those who attended the funeral of Dr. John Jebb. And was directed by the Committee to return their thanks to JOHN ADAMS, Esq. then Embassador from the UNITED STATES of AMERICA, for his Attendance.
In 1788 and 1789 he took some part, and afterward, in the exertions made for obtaining an Abolition of Negro Slavery. And he is an honorary Member of the Society in Philadelphia, instituted for that purpose, having been nominated by his friend Caleb Lownes: from whom in correspondence he receiv'd many valuable communications; extracts from which have been inserted in the Annals of Agriculture, illustrative of the state of Politics, Manufactures, and Agriculture in America.
In the winter of 1789, efforts had been made for the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts. Mr. Lofft then attended Meetings held in London for that purpose and early in the following year publish'd a Tract in support of the justice and policy of the application.
In the end of 1788 he wrote, and the beginning of 1789 he publish'd, "three Letters to the People of England on the Question of the Regency:" the appointment to which he conceiv'd to rest in the two Houses of Parliament, in case of the temporary inability of the
King to exercise the functions of Royalty, or to appoint a Regent. In the same year 1789 he publish'd "Observations on the First Part of Dr. Knowles's Testimonies," addressed to a Friend. This Friend was the late Rev. Robert Garnham, a man eminently qualifed in Learning, critical Abilities, intellectual Endowments, and Virtue.
In December 1790, although at that time in a very anxious and agitated state of spirits, he publish'd "Remarks on Mr. Burke's Letter on the Revolution of France." This in the year 1791 he enlarg'd and accompanied with "Observations on Mr. Burke's Appeal."
In 1791 he publish'd "Remarks on the effect of a Dissolution of Parliament on Parliamentary Impeachment for High Crimes and Misdemeanours.
In 1792 he edited "The First and Second Books of the Paradise Lost:" with Notes chiefly illustrative of the Rhythm; and a punctuation (as he believes, and others have thought whose Judgment is most respectable) on an improv'd plan. This was printed at Bury. In the same year, 1791, he publish'd in 2 vols. large 8vo. the "Law of Evidence by Ch. Bar. Gilbert, with considerable Ad. ditions."
In the Autumn of 1793 the Murther of Sarah Nichols took place and in January following that of Anne Avey. He attended as a Magistrate the Inquest of the Coroner on both these Cases, and with his Brother Magistrates anxiously investigated the Evidence. In the early part of that Year he had endeavour'd, with other Friends to Peace and Liberty, to obtain a County Meeting, in order to deprecate the evil of hurrying the Nation into a War with France.
Since 1792 he has publish'd nothing, except additional Notes on the ten last Books of the Odyssey*, in the late splendid Edition : and various Articles on different Subjects in Prose and Verse, in the Papers or Periodical Publications, and particularly " THE MONTHLY MIRROR." Indeed the Times have been almost every way. unfavourable to Publication.
For several Years Mr. Lofft has kept at Troston a Journal of the Weather and of the meteorologic Instruments, and of the flowering of Plants.
In 1797, though then dangerously ill of a bilious Attack, he attended and spoke successfully at Stow Market, at a Meeting to consider of a Petition for the Repeal of the Acts commonly call'd the
* He since recollects" The Lamentation of a Dog on Occasion of the Dog-Tax.
Treason and Sedition Acts. And in 1798, he join'd in an effort to obtain a County Meeting for " a change of Councils and Measures." But the Sheriff thought fit to disregard a Requisition, such in Numbers and Respectability as very rarely has been tender'd.
In the Spring of 1798,jhe attended the County Meeting at StowMarket for Internal Defence, and concurr'd in that Measure, though he wish'd it to have been more extensive, and more on the Plan formerly recommended by Lord Shelburne; now Marquis of Landsdowne.
In Novr. 1798, Mr. Geo. Bloomfield put into his hands his Brother Mr. Robt. Bloomfield's M. S. of "The Farmer's Boy :" which, by the recommendation of Mr. Hill, of Henrietta Street, was publish'd in March 1800.
He was laboriously engag'd in his Duty as a Justice of the Peace from day to day, usually many hours in each day. Thus he continued, and meant to have persever'd. But in the Year 1800 he exerted himself with the Under Sheriff to obtain delay of Execution in the Case of an unhappy Young Woman under Sentence of Death. Her Case was of a very extraordinary Nature: and from the circumstances of it, and her behaviour after Conviction, it appear'd to him and to others that there was ground to request and hope a Pardon, if Time could be gain'd. The Execution was delay'd. A Petition was most numerously and respectably sign'd. The Duke of Grafton gave his concurrence to it. The Event however was that the Prisoner at last suffer'd with exemplary composure and magnanimity. And Mr. Lofft was almost immediately, without being in any Manner call'd to account for his conduct, remov'd from his Office.
This removal was officially made known to him at the Summer Assizes of 1800.
He has since acted as a Commercial Commissioner on the Income Tax.
He had always greatly disapprov'd that Tax, but when it was pass'd he would not decline a duty which the appointment of the Grand-Jury of the County had plac'd upon him; and the performance of which he thought of more than ordinary concern to individuals and to the Public.
And on his removal as a Justice he resum'd his Practice as a Barrister and has since attended the Assizes as such: and has gone the Session Circuit with more success and with a more agreeable