Rickman, John (1771–1840)

Statistician. Only son of Thomas Rickman, vicar of Newburn, Northumberland. Educated at Guildford Grammar School (1781–1785) and Oxford (matric. Magdalen Hall, 1788, and migrated to Lincoln College, BA 1792). After graduation he joined his father, who had retired to live in Christchurch, Hampshire. Rickman worked as a private tutor and read widely in economics. He edited the Commercial, Agricultural and Manufacturer’s Magazine (until 1801). In 1796 he wrote a private paper in which he argued for the benefits to the nation of a census. George Rose, MP for Christchurch, showed this to the politician Charles Abbot and in March 1801 the latter steered the census bill into law. Rickman was responsible for the first four censuses (1801, 1811, 1821 and 1831) and paved the way for the fifth (1841). In 1801 he became Abbot’s personal secretary whilst the latter was Chief Secretary for Ireland. On Abbot’s election to the post of Speaker of the House of Commons, Rickman became the Speaker’s Secretary. In 1820 he became Clerk Assistant to the Commons with a salary of £2500 per year. He married Susannah Postlethwaite (d. 1836) in 1805. Rickman’s friendship with Southey began at Burton in 1797 and endured for the rest of their lives. Shortly after their first meeting, Southey described him as ‘rough, coarse, well informed on all subjects, believing nothing, jacobinical’. Later in life Rickman became high Tory, anti-Malthusian and anti-semitic. He regularly provided ideas and information (especially statistics) for Southey’s articles in the Quarterly Review and authored the majority of Southey’s April 1818 Quarterly essay on the Poor Laws. Southey and Rickman planned to collaborate on a sequel to the Colloquies (1829) but this was prevented by John Murray’s (1778–1843) financial problems.

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