1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aberdare, Henry Austin Bruce, 1st Baron
|←Abercromby, Sir Ralph||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 1
Aberdare, Henry Austin Bruce, 1st Baron
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Aberdare, Henry Austin Bruce, 1st Baron (1815-1895), English statesman, was born at Duffryn, Aberdare, Glamorganshire, on the 16th of April 1815, the son of John Bruce, a Glamorganshire landowner. John Bruce's original family name was Knight, but on coming of age in 1805 he assumed the name of Bruce, his mother, through whom he inherited the Duffryn estate, having been the daughter of William Bruce, high sheriff of Glamorganshire. Henry Austin Bruce was educated at Swansea grammar school, and in 1837 was called to the bar. Shortly after he had begun to practise, the discovery of coal beneath the Duffryn and other Aberdare Valley estates brought the family great wealth. From 1847 to 1852 he was stipendiary magistrate for Merthyr Tydvil and Aberdare, resigning the position in the latter year, when he entered parliament as Liberal member for Merthyr Tydvil. In 1862 he became under-secretary for the home department, and in 1869, after losing his seat at Merthyr Tydvil, but being re-elected for Renfrewshire, he was made home secretary by W. E. Gladstone. His tenure of this office was conspicuous for a reform of the licensing laws, and he was responsible for the Licensing Act of 1872, which constituted the magistrates the licensing authority, increased the penalties for misconduct in public-houses and shortened the number of hours for the sale of drink. In 1873 he relinquished the home secretaryship, at Gladstone's request, to become lord president of the council, and was almost simultaneously raised to the peerage as Baron Aberdare. The defeat of the Liberal government in the following year terminated Lord Aberdare's official political life, and he subsequently devoted himself to social, educational and economic questions. In 1876 he was elected F.R.S.; from 1878 to 1892 he was president of the Royal Historical Society; and in 1881 he became president of the Royal Geographical Society. In 1882 he began a connexion with West Africa which lasted the rest of his life, by accepting the chairmanship of the National African Company, formed by Sir George Taubman Goldie, which in 1886 received a charter under the title of the Royal Niger Company and in 1899 was taken over by the British government, its territories being constituted the protectorate of Nigeria. West African affairs, however, by no means exhausted Lord Aberdare's energies, and it was principally through his efforts that a charter was in 1894 obtained for the university of Wales at Cardiff. Lord Aberdare, who in 1885 was made a G.C.B., presided over several Royal Commissions at different times. He died in London on the 25th of February 1895. His second wife was the daughter of Sir William Napier, the historian of the Peninsular war, whose Life he edited.