Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Perry, Sampson

1164561Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 45 — Perry, Sampson1896John Goldworth Alger

PERRY, SAMPSON (1747–1823), publicist, was born at Aston, Birmingham, in 1747, and was brought up to the medical profession. While acting as surgeon, with the rank of captain, to the Middlesex militia, he published in 1785 ‘A Disquisition on the Stone and Gravel,’ and in 1786 a ‘Treatise on Lues Gonorrhœa.’ In 1789 he started or revived the ‘Argus,’ a violent opposition daily paper. In 1791 he was twice sentenced to six months' imprisonment for libels respectively on John Walter of the ‘Times,’ and on Lady Fitzgibbon, wife of the Irish lord chancellor. He edited his paper from prison during 1791. He was also fined 100l. for accusing Pitt's agent of keeping back Spanish news for stockjobbing purposes, and was convicted of a libel on the House of Commons, which, he alleged, did not really represent the country. To avoid imprisonment for this last offence he fled, in January 1793, to Paris, where on a previous visit he had made, through Thomas Paine, the acquaintance of Condorcet, Pétion, Brissot, Dumouriez, and Santerre. A reward of 100l. was offered by the British government for his apprehension. He joined the British revolutionary club, gave evidence at Marat's trial respecting the attempted suicide of a young Englishman named Johnson, was arrested with the other English residents in August 1793, and spent fourteen months in Paris prisons. Hérault de Séchelles summoned him, on the trial of the Dantonists, to testify to the innocence of his negotiations with the English whigs, but the trial was cut short without witnesses for the defence being heard. On his release at the close of 1794 Perry returned to London, surrendered on his outlawry, and was imprisoned in Newgate till the change of ministry in 1801. While in Newgate he published ‘Oppression: Appeal of Captain Perry to the People of England’ (1795), ‘Argus Miscellany’ (1796), ‘Historical Sketch of the French Revolution’ (1796), and ‘Origin of Government’ (1797). On his liberation he edited the ‘Statesman,’ and after 1809 had cross suits for libel with Lewis Goldsmith [q. v.], being awarded only a farthing damages. At the close of his life he was in pecuniary straits, and was an insolvent debtor, but was on the point of being discharged in 1823 when he died of heart disease. Twice married, he left a widow and family.

[Gent. Mag. 1823, pt. ii. p. 280; New Annual Register, 1791 p. 16, 1792 p. 38; Morning Chronicle, 25 July 1823; Ann. Biogr. 1824 contains fabulous account of his escape from guillotine; Andrews's British Journalism; Alger's Englishmen in French Revolution; Athenæum, 25 Aug. and 1 Sept. 1894.]

J. G. A.