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Cowper, William, Ist Earl Cowper

Cowper, William, Ist Earl Cowper (1664–1724). Politician and lawyer. Called to the bar in 1688, Cowper proved a brilliant lawyer, an attainment which he brought to the Commons in 1695. Despite being a court Whig, he kept a cautious distance from the Junto. He was appointed lord keeper in 1705, becoming a peer in 1706, and lord chancellor in 1707. In these offices he brought about an improvement of Chancery procedure, and as a true Whig member of the Godolphin ministry instigated a mass removal of Tories from the magistracy. In 1710 he presided over the trial of Dr Sacheverell, and later that year resigned with his party. Reappointed lord chancellor by George I in 1714, he promoted the Riot and Septennial Acts. By 1718, however, he was voting increasingly with the Tories, disgusted by the power-lust of some of his colleagues, and resigned a month after receiving an earldom. He continued to lead the opposition in the Lords until his death in 1724.

Andrew Hanham

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Cowper, William Cowper, 1st Earl

William Cowper Cowper, 1st Earl, 1664?–1723, English jurist. He became lord keeper of the great seal in 1705 and in 1706 took a leading part in negotiating the union of England with Scotland. He was the first lord chancellor of Great Britain (1707–10), and presided at the trial of Henry Sacheverell, though he disapproved the action. He was forced out of office with the Whigs in 1710. Cowper wrote (1714) a tract on political parties to convince George I that the Whigs alone were loyal to the Glorious Revolution and the Act of Settlement. He was lord chancellor again (1714–18) and contributed much to the modern system of equity.

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