Cannon, Robert (DNB00)

CANNON, ROBERT (1663–1722), dean of Lincoln, born in London in 1663, was educated at Eton and at King's College, Cambridge, where he proceeded B.A. in 1685, M.A. 1689, B.D. 1702, and D.D. 1707. He held for a time a fellowship at King's College; was taxor of the university in 1697, afterwards became chaplain of Chelsea College, and was appointed rector of Bluntisham, Huntingdonshire, and archdeacon of Norfolk (11 March 1707–8). He married in 1707 Elizabeth, daughter of John Moore, bishop of Ely, and afterwards of Norwich, and was presented through his father-in-law's influence to a prebend in Ely Cathedral (7 March 1708–9). Subsequently he held the rectory of Newton, near Wisbech, and became prebendary of Westminster (8 July 1715); rector of Christ Church, Middlesex; sub-almoner to George I (1716); prebendary of Lincoln (21 Nov. 1721); and dean of Lincoln (9 Dec. 1721). He died, apparently in Westminster, 28 March 1722, and was buried in the south aisle of the abbey three days later. His wife and several children survived him, and, in spite of Cannon's many preferments, they were left so poorly off that George I granted them a pension of 120l. a year. Cannon's will, dated 21 April 1720, was proved 25 May 1722.

Cannon took a prominent part in the ecclesiastical controversies of his day. He was an opponent both of the high and low church parties. In 1712 he moved in convocation a vote of censure on Dr. Thomas Brett [q. v.] for having published a sermon on the ‘Remission of Sins,’ in which very strong views about priestly absolution were advanced. The motion was negatived, but a warfare of pamphlets followed. Cannon issued an ‘Account of Two Motions made in the Lower House of Convocation concerning the Power of Remitting Sins,’ Lond. 1712, and Brett replied in two tracts. In May 1717 Cannon was a member of the committee appointed by the lower house of convocation to report on Bishop Hoadly's ‘Preservation’ and ‘Sermon,’ and signed the report which condemned the bishop's views. The Bangorian controversy ensued, and Cannon contributed to it ‘A Vindication of the Proceedings of the Lower House of Convocation with regard to the King's Supremacy: and some Thoughts on Religion … and a Postscript to the Ld. Bishop of Bangor,’ Lond. 1717. In 1718 Cannon reissued this tract with an elaborate preface, attacking Hoadly's replies to his critics, and Cannon himself was answered by an anonymous writer in the same year. Cannon was also the author of some published sermons.

About 1755 Cannon's widow presented a curious petition to the prime minister, the Duke of Newcastle, and the document—still extant among the treasury papers—illustrates the later history of Cannon's family. The eldest son entered the army and was killed at Fontenoy (1745). A younger son, Thomas, was, about 1750, the author of a published tract ‘containing the most detestable principles of impurity, not fit even to be remembered in the title.’ For the composition of this work, no copy of which is now known, Thomas Cannon was committed to prison and allowed out on bail before his trial, but instead of waiting for his trial he fled to France. After remaining there three years he returned to his mother's house at Windsor, published a recantation of his errors, was searched for by the police, and fled abroad again. At the end of two more years Mrs. Cannon petitioned the government to stay further proceedings against her son on the ground that he had repented of his sins, had since published many religious works, and was living a religious life, and that she, as one of her son's sureties, was totally unable to pay the forfeited bail (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. viii. 65–6, where the petition is printed at length).

[Chester's Westminster Abbey Registers (Harl. Soc.), p. 306; Harwood's Alumni Eton. p. 266; Bentham's Hist. of Ely, p. 243; Le Neve's Fasti Angl. Eccl. ed. Hardy; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Lathbury's Hist. of Convocation, chaps. xiii. xiv.]

S. L. L.