Dodson, Michael

, an English barrister, was the son of the Rev. John Dodson, M. A. a dissenting minister of Marlborough, in Wiltshire, and of Elizabeth, one of the daughters of Mr. Foster, an attorney-at-law of the same place. He was born at Marlborough on the 20th or 21st Sept. 1732, and educated partly under the care of his father, and partly at the grammar-school of that town; and under the direction of his maternal uncle, sir Michael Foster, he was brought up to the profession of the law. After being admitted of the Middle Temple, London, August 31, 1754, he practised many years with considerable | reputation, as a special pleader. His natural modesty and cliffiJence discouraged him from attending the courts, and therefore he did not proceed to be called to the bar till July 4, 1783. This measure contributed, as was intended, more to the diminution than to the increase of professional business. He was appointed one of the commissioners of bankrupts in 1770, during the chancellorship of lord Camden, and was continued in that situation till the time of his death. On December 31, 1778, Mr. Dodson married miss Elizabeth Hawkes, his cousin-german, and eldest daughter of Mr. Hawkes, of Marlborough. He enjoyed a life of uninterrupted good health, and indeed little alteration was observeable in his strength or general habits till nearly the last year of his life. It was not till the month of October 1799, that he began more sensibly to feel the effect of disease; and, after a confinement to his room of about a fortnight, he died of a dropsy in his chest, at his house in Boswell-court, Carey-street, London, on the 13th of November of that year; and was buried in Bunhillfields the 21st of the same month. Mr. Dodson’s legal knowledge and discrimination were deservedly estimated by those to whom he was known, and who had occasion to confer with him upon questions of law. He was deliberate in forming his opinion, and diffident in delivering it, but always clear in the principles and reasons on which it was founded. His general acquaintance with the laws, and veneration for the constitution of his country, evinced his extensive acquaintance with the principles of jurisprudence, and his regard for the permanence of the liberties of Britain. In 1762, Mr. Justice Foster published his book, entitled, “A Report of some proceedings on the commission for the trial of the Rebels in the year 1746, in the county of Surrey; and of other crown cases; to which are added, Discourses upon a few branches of the Crown Law.” This work will be to him, said Mr. Dodson, “monumeutum aere perennius.” The impression being large, and a pirated edition being made in Ireland, a new edition, was not soon wanted in England; but in 1776 Mr. Dodson published a second edition with some improvements, and with remarks in his preface on some objections made by Mr. Barrington in his “Observations on the more ancient Statutes.” In 1792 he published a third edition, with an appendix, containing three new cases, which the author had intended to insert in the first edition, and had | caused to be transcribed for that purpose. In 1795 Mr. Dobson drew up a life of his truly learned and venerable uncle sir Michael Faster, which was to have formed a part of the sixth volume of the new edition of the Biographia Britannica. It has since been printed separately in 1811, 8vo. But the public are in possession of more ample documents of Mr. Dodson’s deep research and critical judgment in biblical literature, than in legal disquisitions. He had very attentively and dispassionately examined th evidences of revelation, and was firmly convinced of the truth of its pretensions. He was zealous for the true and rational interpretation of its scriptures, because he was strongly persuaded of the great influence such interpretation would have on its reception in the world, and on the consequent happiness of mankind. But having a turn for biblical criticism, and having embraced the principles of the Unitarians, he published many papers in a work entitled “Commentaries and Essays,” written by the members of a small “Society for promoting the knowledge of the Scriptures.” Mr. Dodson was a very early member of this society, not only communicating some papers of his own, but conducting through the press some of the contributions of others. In 1790 he laid before the public, as the result of many years’ study, “New translation of Isaiah, with notes supplementary to those of Dr. Lowth, late bishop of London, and containing remarks on many parts of his Translation and Notes, by a Layman.” In this he has taken more freedoms than can be justified by the principles of sound criticism; which drew forth an able answer from the pen of Dr. Sturges, in “Short remarks on a new Translation of Isaiah,” 8vo. To this Mr. Dodson replied, with urbanity and candour, in “A Letter to the Rev. Dr. Sturges, &c.” 8vo, 179 1. 1


Biographical Memoir privately circulated by Dr. Disney.—Preface to the frvo edition of the Life of sir Michael Foster.