Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Barrington, John Shute
BARRINGTON, JOHN SHUTE, first Viscount Barrington (1678–1734), lawyer, polemic, and christian apologist, was the third son of Mr. Benjamin Shute, a merchant in London, ‘descended from Robert Shute of Hockington in the county of Cambridge, one of the twelve judges in the reign of Queen Elizabeth’ (Epitaph on first Lord Barrington). His mother was daughter of the Rev. Joseph Caryl, and sister to the first wife of Sir Thomas Abney. He was born in 1678 at Theobalds in Hertfordshire, and was educated at the academy kept by Mr. Thomas Rowe, where Dr. Isaac Watts was at the time an older pupil. At the age of sixteen Mr. Shute was sent to the university of Utrecht, where he published several academical exercises: ‘Exercitatio Physica de Ventis,’ 4to, Utrecht, 1696; ‘Dissertatio Philosophica de Theocratia Morali,’ Utrecht, 1697; ‘Dissertatio Philosophica inaguralis de Theocratia Civili,’ 4to, Utrecht, 1697 (written before taking the degrees of Ph.D. and L.A.M.); and a farewell discourse, delivered on 1 June 1698, entitled ‘Oratio de Studio Philosophiæ conjungendo cum Studio Juris Romani,’ 4to, Utrecht, 1698. At the end of a four years' residence at Utrecht, Shute returned to England, and became a student at the Inner Temple, and was in due course called to the bar. In 1701 he published anonymously ‘An Essay upon the Interest of England in respect to Protestants dissenting from the Established Church,’ 4to, London, which was reprinted two years after, with the name of the author, and with corrections and additions, under the title of ‘The Interest of England, &c., with some Thoughts about Occasional Conformity.’ It was probably this publication that brought him the friendship of Locke; and Watts, in an ode addressed to Shute in June 1704, whilst Locke was suffering from his last illness, writes:
Shute is the darling of his years,
Young Shute his better likeness bears;
All but his wrinkles and his hairs
Are copied in his son.
In 1704 Shute produced the first part of a work entitled ‘The Rights of Protestant Dissenters,’ with an elaborate dedication to the queen. A corrected and enlarged edition of this first part was brought out the following year, together with the second part, ‘A Vindication of their Right to an Absolute Toleration from the Objections of Sir H. Mackworth in his Treatise intituled Peace at Home,’ 4to, London, 1705. At the instance of Lord Somers, acting on behalf of the whig ministry, Shute was sent to Scotland, in order to win presbyterian support for the scheme of the union of the two kingdoms. For the success which attended his efforts he was rewarded by being appointed in 1708 one of the commissioners of the customs, from which he was removed by the tory administration in 1711. In a letter to Archbishop King of Dublin, dated 30 Nov. 1708, just before Shute's appointment to the commissionership, Swift describes him as ‘a young man, but reckoned the shrewdest head in England, and the person in whom the presbyterians chiefly confide. … As to his principles he is truly a moderate man, frequenting the church and the meeting indifferently.’ In a letter to Mr. Hunter, 12 Jan. 1709, Swift mentions Shute as ‘a notable young presbyterian gentleman’ (Swift's Works, 8vo, Edinburgh, 1824, xv. 318, 329). Meanwhile Shute had inherited two considerable estates. To the first of these he succeeded at the death of Mr. Francis Barrington of Tofts in Essex, who had married his first cousin, and in accordance with whose will he assumed the name and arms of Barrington, a family of antiquity in Essex. The second estate bequeathed to Barrington, to which he succeeded in 1710, was that of Mr. John Wildman of Becket, Berkshire, who, being in no way related or allied to him, had adopted him, and in a will dated in 1706 had named Barrington his heir as being the worthiest person whom he knew. In 1713 Barrington published, separately, two parts of ‘A Dissuasive from Jacobitism,’ 8vo, London, the first part ‘showing in general what the nation is to expect from a popish king, and in particular from the Pretender,’ and the second part considering more particularly ‘the interest of the clergy and universities with relation to popery and the Pretender.’ This treatise, which went through four editions in the first year of its publication, recommended the author to George I, who granted him an audience the first day after his arrival in London. In the first parliament of the reign, which met on 17 March 1715, Barrington represented Berwick-upon-Tweed, and was returned by the same constituency to the parliament which assembled on 9 Oct. 1722. Barrington was created, on 11 June 1720, Baron Barrington of Newcastle in the county of Dublin, and Viscount Barrington of Ardglass in the county of Down, in the Irish peerage. On account of his connection with the Harburg lottery, one of the bubble speculations of the time, he was expelled from the House of Commons on 15 Feb. 1723, an excessive punishment supposed to be due to Sir Robert Walpole, whose administration Lord Barrington had opposed. Barrington had unwillingly assumed the sub-governorship of the Harburg Company, of which the Prince of Wales was the governor, at the express command of the king, and seems to have been the scapegoat of royalty. When he subsequently offered himself for re-election to his constituency at Berwick, he was rejected by a bare majority. His misfortune has always met with sympathisers, and his character and memory have never wanted vindication. He survived his exclusion from the House of Commons for nearly twelve years. He died at his seat of Becket, Berkshire, on 14 Dec. 1734, and was buried on 27 Dec. in the parish church of Shrivenham. His wife Anne was daughter and co-heiress of Sir William Daines, a local whig leader of Bristol, where he was sheriff, mayor, and M.P.; she died on 8 Feb. 1763, leaving a family of six sons and three daughters. Four of them, William Wildman, Daines, Samuel, and Shute [q. v.], are the subjects of separate articles. In addition to the works already mentioned, Barrington published ‘Miscellanea Sacra; or, a New Method of considering so much of the History of the Apostles as is contained in Scripture: in an Abstract of their History, an Abstract of that Abstract, and four Critical Essays,’ 2 vols. 8vo, London, 1725. It was in revising, correcting, and enlarging this work that the author passed the interval between its publication and his death; a second enlarged edition (3 vols. 8vo, London, 1770) was issued by his son, Dr. Shute Barrington, then bishop of Llandaff. This edition incorporated ‘An Essay on the several Dispensations of God to Mankind, in the Order in which they lie in the Bible; or, a short System of the Religion of Nature and Scripture,’ which had likewise been originally published 8vo, London, 1725. Barrington's chief works were subsequently collected under the title of ‘The Theological Works of the first Viscount Barrington, by the Rev. George Townsend, M.A.,’ 3 vols., 8vo, London, 1828.
[The Peerage of Ireland, 1768, ii. 87; Foster's Peerage, 1882; A New and General Biographical Dictionary, 1798, vol. ii.; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, vol. vi., part i., pp. 444–52; Biographia Britannica, 1778, vol. i.; Life of the first Lord Barrington, prefixed to Townsend's edition of the Theological Works, &c.; Mackewen's Funeral Sermon, 1735.]