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Redesdale, John Freeman-Mitford, Baron

REDESDALE, JOHN FREEMAN-MITFORD, BARON (1748- 1830), English lawyer and politician, younger son of John Mitford (d. 1761) and brother of the historian William Mitford, was born in London on the 18th of August 1748. Having become a barrister of the Inner Temple in 1777, he wrote A Treatise on the Pleadings in Suits in the Court of Chancery by English Bill, a work of great value, which has been reprinted several times in England and America. In 1788 Mitford became member of parliament for the borough of Beeralston in Devon, and in 1791 he introduced the important bill for the relief of Roman Catholics, which was passed into law. In 1793 he succeeded Sir John Scott, afterwards Lord Eldon, as solicitorgeneral for England, becoming attorney-general six years later, when he was returned to parliament as member for East Looe, in Cornwall. In February 1801 Sir John Mitford (as he was now) was chosen speaker of the House of Commons. Exactly a year later, he was appointed lord chancellor of Ireland and was created a peer of the United Kingdom as Baron Redesdale. Being an outspoken opponent of Roman Catholic emancipation, Redesdale was unpopular in Ireland. In February 1806 he was dismissed on the formation of the ministry of Fox and Lord Grenville. Although Redesdale declined to return to official life, he was an active member of the House of Lords both on its political and its judicial sides. In 1813 he secured the passing of acts for the relief of insolvent debtors, and later he was an opponent of the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts and of other popular measures of reform. Redesdale, who was a fellow of the Royal Society and a member of three commissions on the public records, died on the 16th of January 1830. In 1803 he married Frances (d. 1817), daughter of John, 2nd earl of Egmont. He took the additional name of Freeman in 1809 on succeeding to the estates of Thomas Edwards Freeman.

His only son, John Thomas Freeman Mitford (1805-1886), succeeded to the title. In 1851 he was chosen chairman of committees in the House of Lords, a position which he retained until his death, and in 1877 he was created earl of Redesdale. His chief interest was reserved for ecclesiastical questions, and he won some repute as a Protestant controversialist. He assisted to revive Convocation in 1853; was an active opponent of the disestablishment of the Irish Church; and engaged in controversy with Cardinal Manning on the subject of com- munion in both kinds. On his death, on the 2nd of May 1886, his titles became extinct. He wrote Thoughts on English Prosody and Translations from Horace, and Further Thoughts on English Prosody (Oxford, 1859), in addition to various pamphlets on ecclesiastical topics.

The earl bequeathed his estates to his kinsman, Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford (b. 1837), a great-grandson of William Mitford. He had been in the diplomatic service from 1858 to 1873, and had been secretary to the Office of Works from 1874 to 1886. From 1892 to 1895 he was member of parliament for the Stratford-on-Avon division of Warwickshire, and he was created Baron Redesdale in 1902. He was well known for his writings on Japan, Tales of Old Japan (1871), The Attache at Peking (1900), etc.

See O. J. Burke, History of the Lord Chancellors of Ireland (Dublin, 1879); J- R- O'Flanagan, Lives of the Lord Chancellors of Ireland (1870); Sir J. Barrington, Personal Sketches of His Own Times (1869); Sir S. E. Brydges, Autobiography (1834); and C. Abbot, Lord Colchester, Diary and Correspondence (London, 1861).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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