Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wakefield, Edward (1774-1854)

WAKEFIELD, EDWARD (1774–1854), philanthropist and statistician, was the eldest son of Edward and Priscilla Wakefield [q. v.], and was born in 1774. Wakefield commenced life as a farmer near Romford in Essex, and was subsequently employed under the naval arsenal. In 1814 he established himself as a land agent at 42 Pall Mall. He soon became well known as an authority on agriculture, while his interest in education won for him the character of a practical philanthropist. He was a strong advocate of the educational theories of Joseph Lancaster [q. v.], and was on terms of intimacy with James Mill (1773–1836) [q. v.] and Francis Place (1771–1854) [q. v.] Wakefield is best known as the author of ‘Ireland, Statistical and Political,’ published in 1812, a work which, in spite of many inaccuracies, is, from the candour and tolerance it displays, a very valuable account of Ireland in the early years of the nineteenth century. The book was undertaken in 1808 at the suggestion of John Foster (afterwards Lord Oriel) [q. v.], formerly chancellor of the Irish exchequer, and Wakefield devoted four years to the task. Mackintosh in the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ while noting its defects in matters of detail, said of this work that ‘few books have stronger marks of the candour and probity of the writer;’ and McCulloch called it ‘the best and most complete work on Ireland since Arthur Young's tour.’ Wakefield was a warm admirer of Pitt, by whom he is said to have been consulted in regard to Ireland, and was also confidentially employed by Lord Melville [see Dundas, Robert Saunders]. Wakefield died at Knightsbridge on 18 May 1854. His appearance in later life is described as that of ‘a beautiful old man of lofty stature.’ Wakefield married, first, on 3 Oct. 1791, Susanna Crash (d. 1816) of Felstead, Essex, by whom he was the father of Edward Gibbon Wakefield [q. v.], of William Hayward Wakefield [q. v.], and of Arthur and Felix Wakefield [see under Wakefield, William Hayward]. Wakefield married, secondly, in 1822, Frances, daughter of David Davies, headmaster of Macclesfield grammar school.

[Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.; Edinburgh Review, xx. 346; Russell's Memoirs of Thomas Moore, iv. 129; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography; Place MSS. Brit. Mus.; Edward Gibbon Wakefield, by Dr. R. Garnett, 1898.]

C. L. F.