Sir Francis Burdett, an English politician, born Jan. 25, 1770, died Jan. 23, 1844. After completing his education at Oxford he passed some years on the continent. His residence in Paris during the early part of the French revolution, and his study of French politics, led to his adoption of principles of more radical reform than had been prominently advanced in England at that day, and on his return home in 1793 he was strongly encouraged in his opinions by his friend John Home Tooke. He married, Aug. 5, 1793, Sophia, youngest daughter of Thomas Coutts, a London banker. In 1796 he was elected a member of parliament for Boroughbridge, largely through the influence of the duke of Newcastle. In 1797 he succeeded to the baronet's title of his grandfather, his father and elder brothers having died within a few years. In parliament he distinguished himself by advocacy of the most radical measures, and assailed the government as inimical to the people. He became especially prominent through the investigations suggested by him into the management of Cold Bath Fields and other prisons. In 1802 he again became a candidate, this time for Middlesex, and was opposed by Mr. Mainwaring, his bitterest opponent in the house.
The contest was one of the greatest excitement, and the first election, giving Sir Francis the victory, was declared irregular and void. A new election in 1804, at which Mr. Mainwaring's son took the place of his father, was decided for Burdett by a majority of five, but was also declared void; and finally a committee determined that Mainwaring was chosen by a majority of one vote. He again lost his election in 1806. In 1807 he fought a duel with Mr. James Paull, whom he had formerly supported, but with whom he had had political differences. Both duellists were severely wounded, and while recovering both were nominated for parliament by the opposing parties of Westminster; Sir Francis was elected by a large majority, and for nearly 30 years retained this seat. In 1810 he published in Cob-bett's "Political Register" a letter denying the power of the commons to imprison delinquents. The house voted this to be "libellous and scandalous," and ordered his arrest. He barricaded his house, and was only taken after a resistance of four days. His commitment to the tower excited a serious riot, in which several persons were killed by the soldiers. He was released in June, on the prorogation of parliament.
In succeeding sessions he continued his advocacy of popular measures, opposed the suspension of the habeas corpus act, supported Catholic emancipation, and protested against taxation without full representation. In 1820 he was sentenced to three months' imprisonment and a fine of £1,000 for a letter on the " Manchester Massacre." He continually supported the views of the popular party until about 1835-'6, when he deserted the cause of the Melbourne ministry on account of their bearing toward O'Con-nell, whose agitation he opposed. He was by this step compelled to resign his Westminster seat, but he was nevertheless again returned. In 1837, however, he refused to be again a candidate in that borough, and was elected for Wiltshire, and continued to represent that county till his death.