Sir Charles Pratt (Charles Pratt)

Sir Charles Pratt

English Jurist and Politician. He was a champion of civil liberties and the rights of the jury in English courts. He was also the founder of the London Borough of Camden. He was educated at Eton and King’s College, Cambridge. He began practicing law in the Middle Temple in 1728, and became a fellow of King’s College in 1748. After a slow start to his career, he achieved prominence when he defended William Owen, a bookseller, against a government prosecution for seditious libel in 1752. During the trial he argued that it was the right of the jury to decide whether a libel was intentional, and as a result Owen was acquitted. In 1755 he was made King’s Council, and often advised Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder on legal matters. He was appointed Attorney-General in 1757 and produced the “Pratt-Yorke Opinion” with Solicitor General Charles Yorke. This document distinguished British colonies taken by conquest from those gained privately by companies such as the British East India Company. The document also declared that only the assets of conquered colonies belonged to the British Crown. Also in 1759, he was elected as Member of Parliament for Downton, Wiltshire, and bought the Camden Place estate in Kent. While Attorney-General he brought prosecutions against the Irish spy Florence Hensey, and Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl Ferrers, who had murdered a servant. In 1762, he resigned from the Commons, and became Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. In the same year, he was knighted and appointed to the Privy Council. In 1763 he successfully defended John Williams against a charge of seditious libel, arguing immunity on the grounds of parliamentary privilege. The case earned him a reputation as an upholder of civil liberties. In 1762 he defended John Entick by demonstrating that raids on private homes in search of evidence were unlawful. He was made Baron Camden of Camden Place, Kent, in 1756, and became a member of the House of Lords. He voted against parliament’s right to tax overseas colonies without offering representation. He was made Lord Chancellor in 1766, but opposed the government’s policy on the American colonies after Pitt’s resignation. This led to him being dismissed from his post by King George III. He continued to sit in the House of Lords, and in 1774 spoke against the concept of perpetual copyright, fearing that it would prevent advances in learning. Following the Boston Tea Party he spoke against government policy on taxation, which he believed would lead to war. In the same speech he also predicted that America would one day be an independent nation. When William Pitt the Younger became Prime Minister in 1783 he was reinstated as Lord President. He was made Earl Camden and Viscount Bayham in 1786. When King George III became ill in 1788, he played an important role in the appointment of the Prince of Wales as regent. In 1788 he began developing his land in North London, the area is known today as Camden Town. The Town of Camden, Maine, also bears his name. (bio by: js)

Born

  • January, 01, 1970

Died

  • April, 04, 1794

Cemetery

  • St Peter and St Paul Churchyard
  • Kent
  • England

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