THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA

A DICTIONARY OF ARTS, SCIENCES, LITERATURE AND GENERAL INFORMATION

ELEVENTH EDITION 1911

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ASGILL, JOHN (1659-1738), English writer, was born at Hanley Castle, in Worcestershire, in 1659. He was bred to the law, and gained considerable reputation in his profession, increased by two pamphlets—the first (1696) advocating the establishment of some currency other than the usual gold and silver, the second (1698) on a registry for titles of lands. In 1699, when a commission was appointed to settle disputed claims in Ireland, he set out for that country, attracted by the hopes of practice. Before leaving London he put in the hands of the printer a tract, entitled An Argument proving that, according to the Covenant of Eternal Life revealed in the Scripture, Man may be translated from hence into that Eternal Life without passing through Death (1700). Coleridge has highly praised the “genuine Saxon English,” the “irony” and “humour” of this extraordinary pamphlet, which interpreted the relation between God and man by the technical rules of law, and insisted that, Christ having wiped out Adam’s sin, the penalty of death must consequently be illegal for those who claim exemption. How far it was meant seriously was doubted at the time, and may be doubted now. But its fame preceded the author to Ireland, and was of material service in securing his professional success, so that he amassed money, purchased an estate, and married a daughter of the second Lord Kenmare. He was returned both to the Irish and English parliaments, but was expelled from both on account of his “blasphemous” pamphlet. He was also involved in money difficulties, and litigation about his Irish estate, and these circumstances may have had something to do with his trouble in parliament. In 1707 he was arrested for debt, and the remainder of his life was spent in the Fleet prison, or within the rules of the king’s bench. He died in 1738. Asgill also wrote in 1714-1715 some pamphlets defending the Hanoverian succession against the claims of the Pretender.
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