Dodson, John George (DNB01)

DODSON, JOHN GEORGE, first Baron Monk-Bretton (1825–1897), politician, born at 12 Hertford Street, Mayfair, London, on 18 Oct. 1825, was the only son of the Right Honourable Sir John Dodson [q. v.] He was educated at Eton from 1838 and gained there in 1841 and 1842 the prince consort's prizes for modern languages. He matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford, on 9 June 1843, and graduated B.A. in 1847, when he obtained a first class in classics, and M.A. in 1851. In 1853 he was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn.

On leaving Oxford in 1847 Dodson spent two years in travel in the East, going as far as Baghdad, and on his return journey visiting Albania and Montenegro. He stayed for three months in 1848-9 in Cyprus, and his account of that island, which was then little known, was reproduced in successive editions of Murray's 'Handbook' down to 1872. His eastern tour was soon followed by travel in other parts of the world. In 1853 he visited the United States, and during the Crimean war of 1854-5 visited the Crimea. He possessed great facility as a linguist, which he retained through life. An ardent mountaineer, he was a member of the Alpine Club. His narrative of an ascent of 'the passages of the Glacier du Tour and of the Col de Miage in September 1859' is printed in 'Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers' (2nd series), i. 189-207.

Dodson unsuccessfully contested in the liberal interest the division of East Sussex in July 1852 and March 1857, but in April 1857 he was returned at the head of the poll and was a representative of the constituency until February 1874. At the general election of 1874 he was returned to parliament for the city of Chester, and was again returned in April 1880, being shortly afterwards re-elected on receiving an office under the crown. But subsequently the earlier election was declared void on petition; and, although the second election remained unimpugned, he could neither sit nor vote. He consequently found a new seat at Scarborough, and represented that constituency from July 1880 until 1884, when he became a peer.

For three years (1858-61) Dodson was prominent in urging in the House of Commons the repeal of the hop duties, which Gladstone removed in 1861. In 1863 he carried through the House of Commons the act enabling university electors to vote by means of voting papers. He introduced in 1864 a bill for the abolition of tests at the universities (Speaker Denison, Notes, 1900, pp. 167-8). From February 1865 to April 1872 Dodson was chairman of committees and deputy-speaker of the House of Commons, and on 10 May 1872 he was created a privy councillor. He was an authority on parliamentary procedure, and his speech 'on private bill legislation' on 18 Feb. 1868 was printed. He was financial secretary to the treasury from August 1873 to February 1874, and for three years (1874-6) he was chairman of the committee of public accounts.

In April 1880, on the formation of Gladstone's second ministry, Dodson was made president of the local government board with a seat in the cabinet. During his first year of cabinet office he carried the government's Employers' Liability Act through the House of Commons. On 20 Dec. 1882 he was transferred to the post of chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. That office he retained till October 1884. when he retired from the government and was created Baron Monk-Bret ton of Conyboro and Hurst pier-point on 4 Nov. 1884 (upon this curious combination in a title see G. E. C[OKATNB], Peerage, v. 330). He filled political office with credit, and was reckoned a sound man of business, but his abilities 'did not appear on the surface, and many people were puzzled at the success he attained' (Algernon West, Recollections, i. 55).

In 1886 Lord Monk-Bretton declined to accept Gladstone's home-rule policy, and thenceforth took no prominent part in politics. During the parliamentary recess he had always lived a retired life in his country home at Conyboro, Sussex, and took much part in county business. He was the first chairman of the East Sussex County Council (1889-92).

Lord Monk-Bretton died at 6 Seamore Place, London, on 25 May 1897, and was buried in the churchyard of Barcombe, Sussex, on 29 May, his estate of Conyboro being in that parish. There is a memorial tablet to him in the church of Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, where several of his forefathers were buried. He married there, on 3 Jan. 1856, Florence, second daughter of William John Campion of Danny, Sussex, and had issue one son and three daughters. His widow still survives. A portrait by Sir Francis Grant was presented to her by his East Sussex constituents in 1874 on his retirement from the representation. Another was painted by Frank Topham, R.I., in 1896; a replica, paid for by subscription, hangs in the council chamber of the East Sussex County Council.

He wrote in the 'Edinburgh Review,' and contributed to the collections of the Sussex Archaeological Society (xv. 138-47) an article on some old acts of parliament relating to Sussex roads. He was chairman of that society's annual meetings for 1870 (Rye and Camber Castle), 1872 (Parham), and 1875 (Lewes).

[Burke's Peerage; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Men of the Time, 1895 edit.; Sussex Daily News, 26 May 1897, p. 5, 31 May, p. 5; private information.]

W. P. C.