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Neate, Charles (1806-1879) (DNB00)


NEATE, CHARLES (1806–1879), economist and political writer, was the fifth of the eleven children of Thomas Neate, rector and squire of Alvescot, Oxfordshire, and Catherine, his wife. He was born at Adstock, Buckinghamshire, on 18 June 1806, and, after remaining long enough in his rural home to acquire a lifelong love of field sports, he was sent to the Collège Bourbon in Paris. There Sainte-Beuve was one of his school-fellows, and he obtained a prize for French composition, open to all the schools of France. He was matriculated as a commoner of Lincoln College, Oxford, on 2 June 1824, aged 17; he was scholar 1826–8, and graduated as a first-class man in 1828. The same year he was elected fellow of Oriel College. Neate was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1832, but an unfortunate fracas with Richard Bethell, afterwards Lord Westbury, terminated his career there. It was characteristic of Neate that, when at a subsequent period member of the House of Commons, he opposed the vote of censure which was passed upon his former opponent. By supporting Lord Palmerston's motion for the adjournment of the debate, Neate voted for the ‘old scoundrel,’ as he was in the habit of styling Westbury (Times, 4 and 5 July 1865).

In 1857 he was appointed Drummond professor of political economy at Oxford, but at the end of the five years for which the professorship is held he was not again a candidate. Several pamphlets on economical subjects bear witness to his learning and activity at this period. He was also examiner in the School of Law and History at Oxford in 1853–4–5, and was appointed lecturer on the same subjects at Oriel in 1856.

In earlier life Neate acted as secretary to Sir Francis Thornhill Baring (afterwards Lord Northbrook) [q. v.] when chancellor of the exchequer (1839–41), and he was elected member of parliament for the city of Oxford in the liberal interest in 1857. He was, however, a few months later unseated for bribery. His second election was to the parliament which sat from 1863 to 1868; and on the dissolution he did not seek re-election. As a speaker in the House of Commons he was effective from his evident sincerity, but made no special attempts at eloquence. On retiring from parliament he lived wholly at Oxford, amid a large circle of friends, who esteemed him on account of his fearless honesty and outspokenness. He died senior fellow of his college on 7 Feb. 1879, and was buried at Adstock.

Neate's writings convey an inadequate idea of his powers. Oxford residents still remember the spare, somewhat gaunt figure, and the keen eyes which flashed with wit. Many good sayings by him have been preserved. Thus, when speaking of some political leaders of a then failing party, he added: ‘Wherever I look I see only brilliant political sunsets.’ He was a liberal of the old school; inclined to reform, but with certain paradoxical tendencies. His chivalrous disposition led him always to range himself on the weaker side. When he managed the estates of the college, he was always on the side of the tenants. He favoured university reform till it was taken up by the government, and then resented its being forced upon the university, in his pamphlet entitled ‘Objections to the Government Scheme for the present Subjection and future Management of the University of Oxford,’ 1854. He opposed the lavish outlays upon the new museum at Oxford, and when they had been voted, said: ‘Gentlemen, you have given science a laced shirt, and you must pay for it.’ In the same way his opposition to free trade was very characteristic. He was by temperament somewhat a ‘laudator temporis acti.’ Owing to his French education he had an exceptional mastery of that language. He wrote it with an elegance which elicited admiration from Frenchmen themselves. He was also a good Greek and Latin scholar of the old-fashioned type, and many humorous copies of verse in the latter language are familiar to old Oxonians, some of the happiest being directed against Lord Beaconsfield, whose policy and character he thoroughly disliked. He was at one time a well-known rider and steeplechaser. A good portrait of him, engraved on steel, is to be seen in one of the Oriel common-rooms.

The pamphlets written by Neate chiefly deal with political questions. The most remarkable is that entitled ‘Considerations on the Punishment of Death,’ in which the benevolence of his character was shown by his arguments for its abolition. His most important pamphlets, besides those already mentioned, are:

  1. ‘Game Laws’ (anon.), London, 1830.
  2. ‘Arguments against Reform’ (anon.), London, 1831.
  3. ‘Quarrel with Canada’ (anon.), London, 1838.
  4. ‘Summary of Debates and Proceedings in Parliament relating to the Corn Laws,’ 1842.
  5. ‘Dialogues des Morts; Guizot et Louis Blanc’ (anon.), Oxford, 1848; Paris, 1849.
  6. ‘Remarks on a late Decision of the Judges as Visitors of the Inns of Court,’ 1848.
  7. ‘Introduction au Manuel Descriptif de l'Université d'Oxford’ (anon.), Oxford, 1851.
  8. ‘Observations on College Leases, Oxford,’ 1853.
  9. ‘Remarks on the Legal and other Studies of the University,’ 1856.
  10. ‘Answer to a recent Vote of Convocation,’ 1858.
  11. ‘The proper Share of the University in the Board of Street Commissioners’ (no date, but after 1868).
  12. 'Two Lectures on the Currency,' Oxford, 1859.
  13. 'Two Lectures on the History and Conditions of Landed Property,' Oxford, 1860.
  14. 'Three Lectures on Taxation, especially that of Land,' Oxford, 1861.
  15. 'Relations of Law and Equity as affected by Statute of Uses,' 1801.
  16. 'Two Lectures on Trades Unions,' Oxford, 1862.
  17. 'Somnium Ricardi,' 1863.
  18. 'Law of Entail,' London, 1865.
  19. 'Observations on the Reorganisation of our Courts of Justice,' 1868.
  20. 'Specimens of Composition in Prose and Verse,' Oxford, 1874.
  21. 'Oratio in Collegio Orielensi' (anon.), Oxford, 1875.
  22. 'Besika Bay, a Dialogue,' Oxford, 1877.
  23. 'Universities Reform Bill,' Oxford, 1877.

[Thomas Mozley's Reminiscences, chiefly of Oriel College and the Oxford Movement; Burgon's Lives of Twelve Good Men; notes contributed by Rev. D. P. Chase, principal of St. Mary Hall, and the personal recollections of the writer.]

W. R. M.