ATKYNS WRIGHT, John (c.1760-1822), of Crawsley Park., Oxon
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Family and Education
b. c.1760, 2nd s. of Edward Atkyns, Hamburg merchant,1 of London, and Ketteringham Hall, Norf. by Dorothy, da. of John Wright of Oxford. educ. ?Eton 1773-6; ‘sojourner’, Exeter, Oxf. 1777-80; I. Temple 1778, called 1785. m. Mary Rigail, ?da. of Jacob Rigail, Russia merchant, s.p. suc. to Oxford estate of his uncle John Wright and took additional name of Wright 28 Mar. 1797.
Sheriff, Oxon. 1798-9; recorder, Henley 1819-d.
Maj. commdt. Henley and Binfield vols. 1803-6.
Vice-pres. board of agriculture 1816.
‘He sprang from Norfolk, but changed his name to Wright, for an estate.’2 This, estimated at £4,000 p.a., and the interest of the corporation (‘I have been asked by several respectable freemen to stand’) induced him to offer himself to the electors of Oxford on 12 Oct. 1801: ‘I live among you; I came to Oxford at almost the earliest period of my life ... My family [i.e. the Wrights] have been so long connected with the city as aldermen, recorder, Member of Parliament’ [this a century before].3 Lampooned as Atkyns Wrong, he headed the poll.
Wright supported Addington’s administration silently. The supposition that he voted for Pitt’s question for the orders of the day on 3 June 1803 would appear to have been queried.4 On 14 Mar. 1804 he was excused attendance of the Middlesex election committee because of illness. On Pitt’s return to power, he was listed ‘doubtful’ and voted and spoke against his additional force bill, 8 June 1804. By September he was a ‘doubtful’ supporter of Pitt. Wright, who repeated most of his speeches during the course of the few debates in which he uttered, alleged that Parliament ought to have more confidence in itself than to prosecute the editor of the Oracle in April and May 1805—a ‘bare reprimand’ was enough: the second time he had made this point (26 Apr.) the reporters had complained of his speaking ‘so low that we could not follow him’. He was for Whitbread’s censure motion on Melville, 8 Apr. 1805, and also for the criminal prosecution, 12 June. He was listed ‘doubtful Sidmouth’ in July. Wright voted against the Grenville ministry on Ellenborough’s seat in the cabinet, 3 Mar. 1806, and also on the Hampshire election petition, 13 Feb. 1807. He was critical of the property duty bill, 28 May 1806. On 24 Mar. 1807 he obtained two weeks’ leave, after being chairman of the Penryn election committee. On 21 and 22 Apr. he moved the prosecution of (Sir) Christopher Hawkins* and his clients for bribery at Penryn.
Wright did not seek re-election in 1807 when faced with his third contest, but in 1812 ‘the citizens of Oxford, as it were with one spirit, solicited Mr Wright again to offer himself to represent them in Parliament’.5 He headed the poll and appeared as a supporter on the Treasury list. He presented his constituents’ petition against Catholic relief, 1 Dec. 1812, and voted steadily against it. He was a keen advocate of retrenchment. On 29 Mar. 1813 he was in the majority for the regulation of sinecures. He voted with the civil list bill minority on 14 Apr. 1815, though he was in the majority against inquiry into the Regent’s expenditure, 31 May. He opposed the new Post Office, 1, 15 June 1815, and voted against the Duke of Cumberland’s establishment on 3 July. He favoured a general and not a piecemeal revision of the Poor Laws, 2 June 1815. On 1 Mar. 1816 he presented an Oxford petition against the renewal of the property tax and he voted against it on 18 Mar., as well as against the army estimates (three times) and the Admiralty establishment, 20 Mar. 1816 and 17 and 25 Feb. 1817. He was against the Bank restriction bill, 3 May 1816, and on 7 May voted for inquiry into public offices, with retrenchment in view. He was in the minority on the composition of the finance committee, 7 Feb. 1817. On 15 Apr. 1818 he was in the majority against the Duke of Clarence’s marriage grant. But he supported the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June 1817, and its consequences, 10 Feb., 5 Mar. 1818.
Atkyns Wright again headed the poll in 1818. He voted against the Windsor establishment, 22 Feb. 1819, and for reduction of the Admiralty board, 18 Mar. He was again chairman of a Penryn election committee which disclosed corruption. He tried nevertheless to move a new writ, 27 Feb., but was thwarted. He repeatedly opposed the disfranchisement of the borough because a few electors had been guilty of receiving bribes. He was dissatisfied with the paupers’ settlement bill, 25 Mar., 10 May. He voted against the censure on ministers, 18 May, and for the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June. Although he was critical of the newspaper stamp duties bill, in so far as it might discourage the dissemination of useful knowledge, he remained in town as late as 23 Dec. 1819 to support the emergency measures against sedition.
Wright, who had become chairman of his county quarter sessions in January 1819, retired from the House in 1820. He died 5 Mar. 1822, having ‘discharged his duties in the most manly, upright and independent manner, and to the universal satisfaction of his constituents’.6
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. He died 23 Feb. 1765, leaving an infant family. His father Edward, also a Hamburg merchant and son of Sir Edward, baron of Exchequer, died in 1751, worth £80,000.
- 2. Biog. List of the House of Commons (1813), 67.
- 3. A Coll. of Handbills, Addresses and Songs ... relative to the Election (Oxford 1802), 9; PRO 30/9/1, pt. 1/1, Agar to Abbot, 19 Oct. 1801.
- 4. Add. 35714, f. 109; Wickham mss 9/5.
- 5. Gent. Mag. (1822), i. 282.
- 6. Ibid.