Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bohun, Edmund

BOHUN, EDMUND (1645–1699), chief justice of Carolina, was the son of Baxter Bohun, and grandson of Edmund Bohun, of Westhall Hall, Suffolk. He was born 12 March 1644-5; his father died when he was fourteen; he entered Queens College, Cambridge, as a fellow commoner on 13 June 1663, and left in 1666, on account of the plague (according to Wood), without a degree. In 1669 he married Mary Brampton, and settled at Westhall. He was for a time in the commission of the peace, but made himself unpopular (as his wife told him) by over loquacity, and was probably despised as a wrong headed pedant. He was brought up as a dissenter, but became an Anglican, hating equally dissent and popery. Having lived beyond his means, he went to London in 1784, hoping to get preferment from his acquaintance, Sancroft, Arlington, or Sir Leoline Jenkins. He got nothing except 7l. from Jenkins and on the accession of James II was left out of the commission for publicly attacking a Whitehall Jesuit. He tried to make something by his pen, and composed his dictionary for a stationer (Brome) in 1688. He wrote some tracts after the Revolution maintaining the doctrine of non-resistance, but inferring that, as James had deserted the throne, submission was due to William and Mary. He thus was a unique specimen of the ‘non-resisting Williamite.’ In 1691 he returned to occupy a house at Dale Hall, for which he was unable to find a tenant. To his horror, a second edition of his dictionary was brought out the same year without his knowledge. Some passages were afterwards used to support charges of Jacobitism, in refutation of which he published three charges delivered at the Ipswich quartersessions in 1691 and 1692, with a preface protesting against the injustice. In 1692 Moore, bishop of Norwich, procured for him the place of licenser, with 200l a year, with 25l. down to buy decent clothes. He was greatly distressed at this time by the loss of a son, and after five months' office fell into a trap laid for him by Charles Blount [see Blount, Charles, 1654-1693]. Blount sent him anonymously a tract in defence of his own peculiar political theory. Bohun read it ‘with incredible satisfaction,’ licensed it 9 Jan. 1693, and on its appearance was summoned before the House of Commons 20 Jan. 1693. At the same time Blount published a second tract with ‘a true character of E. Bohun, licenser of the press,’ in which he was bitterly attacked for his supposed Jacobitism. The House of Commons, indignant at Bohun's sanction of the doctrine of a conquest by William, sent him to prison, and voted that he should be dismissed his office. He retired to the country, but some time afterwards obtained (it does not appear how) the chief justiceship of Carolina, with a salary of 60l. a year. He sailed in midsummer, 1698, and found the colony suffering from piracy, hurricanes, and fevers. He had hardly time to get into difficulties with other officials, when he died of an epidemic fever on 5 Oct. 1699. His son, Edmund, was a merchant in Carolina, and collected plants for Hans Sloane and Petiver. Some of his letters are in the Sloane MSS. He afterwards settled at Westhall.

Bohun wrote various tracts, compilations, and translations. His original works are:

  1. ‘Address to the Freemen and Freeholders of the Nation,’ 1682.
  2. ‘Reflections on a Pamphlet entitled “A quiet and modest Vindication of the Proceedings of the last two Parliaments,”’ 1683.
  3. ‘The Justice of the Peace’ (a ‘moral essay’), 1684 and 1693.
  4. ‘Defence of Sir R. Filmer against Algernon Sidney, &c.,’1684.
  5. ‘History of the Desertion,’ 1689.
  6. ‘The Doctrine of Nonresistance … no way concerned in the controversies … between the Williamites and the Jacobites,’ 1689 (the last two are printed in the State Tracts, vol. i. 1705).
  7. ‘Three charges, &c.,’ 1693.
  8. ‘Character of Queen Elizabeth,’ 1693, chiefly from R. Johnstone's ‘Historia rerum Britannicarum,’ 1655 (French translation in 1694).

He also published the ‘Origin of Atheism,’ &c., translated from ‘Dorotheas Licureus;’ edited an edition of Filmer's ‘Patriarcha,’ and Jewel's ‘Apology,’ Degory Wheare's ‘Method and Order of Reading Histories,’ Sleidan's ‘Commentaries’ and ‘the present state of Germany,’ from Puffendorff. His chief work was the ‘Geographical Dictionary, representing the present and ancient names of all the countries, provinces, &c., of the whole world, their distances, longitudes, and latitudes, with a short historical account of the same, by Edmund Bohun, Esq.,’ 1688. The second edition appeared in 1691; the third, ‘continued, corrected, and enlarged’ by Mr. Barnard, in 1693 [see Barnard, John, fl. 1685-1693]; the ‘great historical, geographical, and poetical dictionary, founded on Moreri,’ wherein are inserted the last five years’ historical and geographical collections of E. B., ‘designed at first for his own geographical dictionary, and never extant till now,’ appeared in 1694.

[Diary and Autobiography of E. Bohun, edited with memoir, &c., by S. Wilton Rix, privately printed, Beccles, 1853; Woods Athenæ (Bliss), iii. 216, under ‘Degorie Whear;’ Macaulay's History, chap. xix. iv. 350.]

L. S.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.30
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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306 ii 15 f.e. Bohun, Edmund: for 1784 read 1684