Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wentworth, Thomas (1568?-1628)

WENTWORTH, THOMAS (1568?–1628), lawyer, born in 1567 or 1568, was the third son of Peter Wentworth [q. v.] of Lillingstone Lovell in Oxfordshire (now in Buckinghamshire), by his second wife, Elizabeth, sister of Sir Francis Walsingham. He matriculated from University College, Oxford, on 30 Oct. 1584, entered Lincoln's Inn on 23 Oct. 1585, and was called to the bar in 1594. In September 1607 he was elected recorder of Oxford city, and in 1612 was appointed Lent reader at Lincoln's Inn. On 1 March 1603–4 he was returned to parliament for Oxford city, and retained his seat until his death.

Like his father, Thomas was an ardent parliamentarian, and in February 1606–7 he resisted the project of union between England and Scotland. In December 1610 James desired to punish him by imprisonment for his violent speeches, but was dissuaded by his council (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1603–1610, p. 649). In May 1614, on the occasion of a debate on impositions in the House of Commons, Wentworth roundly declared that ‘the just reward of the Spaniards' imposition was the loss of the Low Countries; and for France, that their late most exalting kings died like calves upon the butcher's knife’ (Court and Times of James I, 1848, p. 312; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1611–18, p. 235, Addenda 1580–1625 p. 541). For these rash words he was imprisoned on the dissolution of parliament in June. John Chamberlain [q. v.], in a letter to Sir Dudley Carleton (Viscount Dorchester) [q. v.], states that Wentworth was thought simple rather than malicious, and that he was detained chiefly to satisfy the French ambassador (Court and Times of James I, pp. 322, 324, 326). In January 1621 Wentworth opposed the claim of the upper house to examine members of the lower house on oath in regard to the patent for gold and silver thread, and in December he strongly censured the project of the Spanish marriage. On this occasion James, incensed at the interference of the commons, wrote to the speaker commanding them not to meddle with mysteries of state. In the debate on this letter on 18 Dec. Wentworth boldly declared ‘that he never yet read of anything that was not fit for the consideration of a parliament.’ In March 1624, in a debate on supplies, he strongly advocated war with Spain in opposition to Sir George Chaworth, who wished to preserve the Spanish treaties (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1623–1625, p. 197).

While Wentworth was throwing himself so strongly into the parliamentary opposition, he was involved by his office of recorder of Oxford city in serious differences with the university, arising chiefly from the desire of the citizens to establish an efficient night police in the city (Wood, Hist. and Antiq. of the Univ. of Oxford, ed. Gutch, ii. 299–304). His attitude in parliament probably increased his unpopularity with the strong loyalists of the university, and in 1611 he was discommonsed by order of the vice-chancellor ‘as a malicious and implacable fomentor of troubles’ (ib. ii. 308). He was only restored on his urgent entreaty on 30 April 1614 (ib. ii. 309–10). Returning to his former attitude of opposition, he incurred such peril that he was persuaded about 1620, by the solicitations of his friends, to retire to Henley. Soon afterwards, about 1623, John Whistler was appointed his deputy in the recordership. He was nominated treasurer of Lincoln's Inn in 1621, and died at Henley in March or April 1628. He married Dorothy, daughter and coheiress of Thomas Keble of Newbottle in Northamptonshire. By her he had seven sons and two daughters. His daughter Margaret was married, on 22 April 1628, to Anthony Saunders, rector of Pangbourne in Berkshire.

To Wentworth has been assigned the authorship of a legal treatise entitled ‘The Office and Duty of Executors,’ which first appeared in 1641, though Wood erroneously states that there was an earlier edition in 1612. The first two editions were anonymous, but the third, which also appeared in 1641, bore the name of Thomas Wentworth. The work was, however, generally ascribed to the judge, Sir John Doddridge [q. v.], and several indications in the book itself seem to support his claim. The latest English edition of the treatise was published in 1829 under the editorship of Henry Jeremy, London, 4to (Sheppard, Touchstone of Common Assurances, 1648; Jenkins, Works, 1648, p. 184; Bridgman, Legal Bibliogr. p. 355).

[Rutton's Three Branches of the Family of Wentworth, 1891, pp. 265–73; J. Wentworth's Wentworth Genealogy, 1878, i. 30; Misc. Gen. et Herald. new ser. vol. iv.; Gardiner's Hist. of England, i. 165, ii. 65, 246, 249; Wood's Athenæ Oxon., ed. Bliss, ii. 414, 429, 625; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Reliquiæ Wottonianæ, 1672, pp. 432 et seq.; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.]

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