William Cowper 1st Earl Cowper

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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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