Acland, John Dyke d. 1778, soldier and politician, was the eldest son of Sir Thomas Acland, who married Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Thomas Dyke of Tetton, in Somerset. In the parliament of 1774, which returned a large majority of representatives zealous for a continuance of the struggle with the American colonies, he took his seat for the Cornish borough of Callington, and soon became prominent among the supporters of Lord North's ministry for his warm advocacy of strong measures of war. When the prime minister, to the dismay of his more resolute friends, made a conciliatory motion, substantially allowing the colonies to tax themselves, Colonel Acland stepped forth from the ranks and announced that he could not support the government in their action (20 Feb. 1775). The ministerial resolutions were carried in committee by 274 votes to 88; but on the question that the house should agree, he again interposed and condemned them as nugatory and humiliating. In the following August he suggested to Lord North that several new corps should be raised; but George III, though highly approving his laudable sentiments as a citizen and soldier, discountenanced any such measure, but suggested that Colonel Acland should raise in the west the 200 men required for the augmentation of the 33rd foot, which he had joined as ensign, 23 March 1774, and in which, through the intervention of the king, he purchased a company (23 March 1775). At the opening of the new session (26 Oct.) he moved the address of thanks for the king's speech, and about the same time, as colonel of the first battalion of Devonshire militia, he presented to the king an address from that body, the language of which was severely criticised by Dunning, Fox, and Burke (2 Nov.). Fox adverted to this address at a later date (22 Nov.), when Acland retorted that he was no adventurer or place-hunter, but a gentleman of independent fortune, and Fox fiercely replied that this was the first time any one had taken liberties in the house with his fortune, whether real or ideal, and would have continued in his invective had not the members interposed and put an end to the altercation. In the same month of November he again pressed his plans upon the king, who told the minister that he did not see his way to promoting Colonel Acland in Ireland, but that a majority might perhaps be got for him by purchase. On the whole George III was of opinion that Acland, though a spirited young man, was of such exorbitant pretensions that he should be employed in the civil line. In December of the same year he became major of the 20th foot, and went with General Burgoyne's ill-fated expedition to America, where he acquitted himself with great bravery. His adventures are sufficiently described in the memoir of his wife, Lady Harriet Acland. On his return to England the same fierceness of disposition was conspicuous. He was engaged in a duel on Bampton Down, in Devonshire, and although he escaped without a wound, the exposure brought on a severe cold, from the effects of which he died at Pixton Park, near Dulverton, 22 Nov. 1778.
     When a young man he had made the grand tour with Mr. Thomas Townshend, afterwards Lord Sydney; and their portraits, as archers, were painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in the summer of 1769 as a record of their friendship. Before it could be finished, however, the friends quarrelled, and neither of them would pay the artist or take away the picture. At a subsequent date he was painted alone by Sir Joshua, and the picture, which is now in the possession of Sir T. Dyke Acland, was exhibited at Burlington House in 1882. The well-known painting of the Archers is the property of Lord Carnarvon, and was shown at the same place in the previous year.

     Corresp. of George III and Lord North, i. 262, 300
     Hansard for 1775
     Leslie and Taylor's Reynolds, i. 348, 357.

Contributor: W. P. C. [William Prideaux Courtney]

Published: 1885