Asgill, John

, an ingenious English writer and lawyer, who lived about the end of the seventeenth, and beginning of the eighteenth century. He was entered of | the society of Lincoln’s inn, and having been recommended to Mr. Eyre, a very great lawyer, and one of the judges of the king’s bench, in the reign of king William, this gentleman gave him assistance in his studies. Under so able a master, he quickly acquired a competent knowledge of the laws, and was soon noticed as a rising man in his profession. He had an uncommon vein of wit and humour, of which he afforded the world sufficient evidence in two pamphlets; one intituled, “Several assertions proved, in order to create another species of money than gold and silver” the second, “An essay on a registry for titles of lands.” This last is written in a very humorous style.

In the year 1698, Mr. Asgill published a treatise on the possibility of avoiding death, intitled “An argument, proving that, according to the covenant of eternal life, revealed in the scriptures, man may be translated from hence into that eternal life without passing through death, although the human nature of Christ himself could not thus be translated till he had passed through death,” printed originally in 1700, and reprinted several years since. This raised a considerable clamour, and Dr. Sacheverell mentioned it among other blasphemous writings, which induced him to think the church in danger. In 1699, an act being passed for resuming forfeited estates in Ireland, commissioners were appointed to settle claims and Mr. Asgill being at this time somewhat embarrassed in his circumstances, resolved to go over to Ireland. On his arrival there, the favour of the commissioners, and his own merit, procured him great practice, the whole nation almost being then engaged in law-suits, and among these there were few considerable, in which Mr. Asgill was not retained on one side or other, so that in a very short space of time he acquired a considerable fortune. He purchased a large estate in Ireland and the influence this purchase gave him, occasioned his being elected a member of the House of Commons in that kingdom. He was in Munster when the session began and, before he could reach Dublin, he was informed, that, upon a complaint, the House had voted the last-mentioned book of his to be a blasphemous libel, and had ordered it to be burnt however, he took his seat in the house, where he sat only four days, before he was expelled for this performance, | and being about the same time involved in a number of law-suits, his affairs soon grew much embarrassed in Ireland, so that he resolved to return to England, where, in 1705, he was chosen member for the borough of Bramber, in the county of Sussex, and sat for several years but in the interval of privilege in 1707, being taken in execution at the suit of Mr. Holland, he was committed to the Fleet. The houses meeting in November, Mr. Asgill applied and on the 16th of December was demanded out of custpdy by a serjeant at arms with the mace, and the next day took his seat in the house. Between his application and his discharge, complaint was made to the house of the treatise for which he had been expelled in Ireland, and a committee was appointed to examine it of this committee, Edward Harley, esq. was chairman, who made a report, that the book contained several blasphemous expressions, and seemed to be intended to ridicule the scriptures. Thursday, the 18th of September 1707, was appointed for him to make his defence, which he did with considerable spirit, but as he still continued to maintain the assertions he had laid down in that treatise, he was expelled. From this time, Mr. Asgill’s affairs grew more desperate, and he was obliged to retire, first to the Mint, and then became a prisoner in the King’s Bench, but removed himself thence to the Fleet, and in the rules of one or other of these prisons continued thirty years, during which time he published a multitude of mall political tracts, most of which were well received. He also drew bills and answers, and did other business in his profession till his death, which happened some time in November 1738, when he was upwards of fourscore, or, as some thought, upwards of an hundred years of age. The most considerable of his works are. 1. “De jure divino; or, an assertion, that the title of the house of Hanover to the succession of the British monarchy (on failure of issue of her present majesty), is a title hereditary, and of divine institution,1710, 8vo. 2. His “Defence on his Expulsion to which is added, an Introduction and Postscript,1712, 8vo. Of the first pamphlet there were several editions; and, not long after it was published, he sent abroad another treatise, under the title of “Mr. Asgill’s Apology for an omission in his late publication, in which are contained summaries of all the acts | made for strengthening the protestant succession.” 3. a The Pretender’s declaration abstracted from two anonymous pamphlets, the one entitled Jus sacrum the other. Memoirs of the chevalier de St. George; with memoirs of two other chevaliers in the reign of Henry VII.“1713, 8vo. 4.” The succession of the house of Hanover vindicated, against the Pretender’s second declaration, in folio, entitled, The hereditary right of the crown of England asserted, &c.“1714, 8vo. This was in answer to Mr. Bedford’s famous book. 5.” The Pretender’s declaration from Plombiers, 1714, Englished; with a postscript before it in relation to Dr. Lesley’s letter sent after it,“1715, 8vo. Besides these, hewrotean” Essay for the Press,“the” Metamorphoses of Man,“A question upon Divorce,“1717,A treatise against Woolston," and several other pieces. 1


Biog, Brit.