Leveson-Gower, George Granville (DNB00)
|←Leveson-Gower, Francis||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 33
Leveson-Gower, George Granville
|Leveson-Gower, Granville (1721-1803)→|
LEVESON-GOWER, GEORGE GRANVILLE, first Duke of Sutherland (1758–1833), eldest son of Granville, first marquis of Stafford, by his second wife, Lady Louisa Egerton, daughter of Scroop, first duke of Bridgewater, was born in Arlington Street, London, on 9 Jan. 1758. From his childhood his health was delicate, a circumstance which encouraged a naturally studious disposition, but he made little progress while at school, first at East Hill, near Wandsworth, and afterwards, from 1768 to 1774, at Westminster. On the suggestion of Edmund Burke, he then resided for a time at Auxerre, where he acquired a good knowledge of French, with the Rev. J. C. Woodhouse (afterwards, thanks to this connection, made dean of Lichfield). Eventually, in May 1776, he was entered at Christ Church, Oxford. He became a good Latin scholar, although he gave up the study of Greek, was well acquainted with English, French, and Italian literature, and had a considerable knowledge of chemistry and botany. After leaving Oxford he travelled extensively, in Scotland and Ireland in 1780, in France, Germany, Austria, and the Low Countries in 1781, and in Italy in 1786. Shortly before he came of age he had been elected in September 1778 to represent Newcastle-under-Lyne in Staffordshire in parliament, and was re-elected in 1780, but not in 1784. He re-entered the House of Commons in 1787, sitting for the county of Stafford, and represented it till 1798, when he was called up to the House of Lords as Baron Gower of Stittenham, Yorkshire, the original barony of his family. In 1790, without any previous diplomatic experience, he went as ambassador to Paris, a post of extreme difficulty during the French revolution, and almost the most important in Europe. (For his instructions and despatches see O. Browing, The Despatches of Earl Gower, 1885.) He only quitted it upon the withdrawal of the embassy in August 1793. His wife, on her journey to England, was brought before the revolutionary tribunal at Abbeville, but after a short detention was released. Subsequently the posts of lord steward and of lord-lieutenant of Ireland were offered to him; but his eyesight being weak he declined them, and in 1799 accepted the post of joint postmaster-general, which he held until 1810. He was one of the leaders in the attack upon the Addington administration in 1804. It was at his residence, Bridgewater House, that the first meeting for organising the attack was held (see Colchester, Diary, i. 499). He gave notice of a motion for 30 April in the House of Lords 'on the defence of the country,' but the ministry resigned. In the subsequent separation between Pitt and Lord Grenville he adhered to the latter, and received the Garter in 1806. Though he moved a resolution on 13 April 1807 condemning the king's conduct on the Roman catholic question, which was defeated by 171 votes to 90, he took henceforth little active part in politics.
In 1785 he bad married Elizabeth Sutherland, countess of Sutherland in her own right, and proprietress of the greater part of Sutherlandshire, and in March 1808 he inherited from his maternal uncle, the last Duke of Bridgewater, the Bridgewater canal and estates, and on 26 Oct. of the same year became by the death of his father Marquis of Stafford, and came into possession of the Stittenham estate near York, and the huge estates at Trentham, Staffordshire, Wolverhampton, and Lilleshall in Shropshire. Thus he became, in spite of the many burdens on his estates, as Charles Greville calls him (Memoirs, 1st ser. iii. 19), 'a leviathan of wealth.' He now devoted himself to the patronage of art, probably under the influence of his wife, herself an artist in water-colours of considerable skill, and to the improvement of his estates. He enlarged Bridgewater House, added to its unrivalled collection of paintings, and was one of the first owners of pictures in London who permitted the public to have access to them. He was president of the British Institution, and presented to the National Gallery of Painting the celebrated Doria Rubens, which had cost 3,000l. when bought in Genoa. In 1827 be purchased Stafford House, which bad been begun by the Duke of York, for 7-',000/. (seeHansard, Parl. Debates, lviii. 257. Lord Colchester's Diary wrongly gives the price as 80,000l.) and gave it to his eldest son. Lord Gower, with 30,000l. to complete the building, having previously, 27 May 1823, given him on his wedding an estate worth 25,000l. per annum.
The Staffordshire and Shropshire estates had been burdened under a system of leases for lives, to meet the election expenses incurred by the late marquis, a system which, by destroying the enterprise of the tenant and crippling the landlord, had reduced the tenantry to considerable penury and backwardness. Largo outlay and constant care were necessary to restore the buildings, rearrange the holdings, lay out roads, and construct drains. This work absorbed almost the whole of the free rents during twenty years, and it was not; until 1812 that he was able to turn his attention to hiss wife's vast territory in Sutherlandshire. (See, however, evidence of his interest in these estates as early as 1806, in the letter of the Marchioness of Stafford in that year to C. Kirkpatrick Sharps.) Till 1811 no mail coach had run beyond Aberdeen, but in that year parliament granted half the expense of making roads in the northern counties of Scotland, upon condition of landed proprietors finding the remainder. The Marquis of Stafford at once and largely took advantage of this provision. In all the county of Sutherland there was not a road in 1812, and but one bridge. Twenty years afterwards he had completed 450 miles of good roads, 134 bridges, several of great size, and one, an iron bridge, of 150 feet span, uniting Sutherlandshire and Ross-shire at Bonar. In 1818 he obtained the extension of the mail from Inverness to Thurso, and contributed large sums towards the cost. By the purchase of West Sutherlandshire, in ad- dition to his wife's hereditary estates, he obtained control of all but a very small portion of the county. He found the population more numerous than the soil, in its then state of cultivation, could support—indolent, ignorant and often lawless. In the teeth of much attack from without and much unpopularity among his tenants, the marquis carried out a reform of the whole system of administering the estate, clearing thousands of peasants from the interior, and causing them to remove to the sea-coast, thus eventually destroying the remaining vestiges of the clan system. He reduced both rents and burdens, improved the condition of the people, and brought many thousands of acres under cultivation for the first time. He especially aimed at getting rid of the tacksmen, and making all the peasants his own immediate tenants. (For the case against the Sutherlandshire clearances see J. L. Sismondi, Etudes sur l'economie politique, ed. 1837, i. 203; Hugh Miller, Sutherland as it was and is; Donald Mcleod, History of the destitution of Sutherlandshire, 1841; Corbett, Tour in Scottland, 1833; Mrs. Beecher Stowe, Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands. For the contrary view, see Leonce de Lavergne, Esai sur l'économie rurale de l'Angleterre; Quarterly Review, lxix. 419). The stories, however, of ruthless evictions and banishment of peasants appear to have no good foundation. Patrick Sellar, a writer to the signet and underfactor on the estate, who was one of the agents most assailed in the matter, stood his trial at Inverness assizes for culpable homicide caused by harsh clearances, and was acquitted, and subsequently recovered heavy damages for slander against the sheriff-substitute for Sutherlandshire, the chief author of the charges. So far were the clearances, from being merely selfish improvements, that from 1811 to 1833 the county yielded him no rent, and resulted in a loss of 60,000l. in all. (See speech by J. Loch, Sutherland's agent, in the House of Commons, Hansard, 3rd ser. lxxxi 412.) In these efforts he spent the best years of his life.
In politics he was a liberal, and supported catholic emancipation and the Reform Bill. Fur the development of his estates and properties he made large investments in the Liverpool and Manchester railway, of the Capital of which he was an origin proprietor to the extent of one-fifth, and in the Liverpool and Birmingham canal, of which he was the principal proprietor. In 1822 he was seized with paralysis, from which he recovered, but with impaired activity and strength. On 14 Jan. 1888 be was raised to a dukedom, and on the suggestion of Princess Augusta selected the title of Duke of Sutherland. He paid his last visit to Sutherland a few months afterwards, and reached Dunrobin Castle on 5 July, but was seized with an illness of which he died on 19 July 1833. He was buried in the old cathedral of Dornoch, the burial-place of the ancestors of the duchess-countess. Two sons and two daughters survived him: George Granville, who succeeded him in the dukedom, Lord Francis Leveson-Gower, on whom were entailed the Bridgewater estates. Lady Charlotte, afterwards Duchess of Norfolk, and Lady Elizabeth, afterwards Marchioness of Westminster. In figure he was tall and slight. There are two colossal statues of him by Chantrey, one at Dunrobin and the other at Trentham. His portrait was painted by Romney, Phillips, and Opie.
The second duke, George Granville Leveson-Gower (178-1861), whose wife, Harriet Elisabeth, Georgiana. is separately noticed, was succeeded in his titles by his eldest son, George Granville Sutherland Leveson-Gower, third Duke of Sutherland (1828-1892). The latter was M.P. for Sutherlandshire in the liberal interest, from 1852 till 1861, but took little part in politics. After his accession to the title he devoted great sums of money to the improvement of his highland estates, contributing in all 226,300l. towards the construction of the Highland railway, and even larger sums for the reclamation of waste lands. He was a keen sportsman and traveller, and was fond of riding on locomotive engines and of watching the fire brigade at work. He went to the coronation of the Czar Alexander II in 1856 as a member of the special mission, was present in 1869 at the opening of the Suez canal, which he had always supported, and accompanied the Prince of Wales to India in 1876. When, in 1876, Garibaldi visited England, he stayed with the duke at Stafford House, and on his return the duke took him as far as Caprera in his yacht. He was appointed K.G. on 30 April 1864. He died at Dunrobin Castle on 22 Sept. 1892, and was buried at Trentham in Staffordshire. He married in 1849 Anne, daughter of John Hay Mackenzie of Cromartie and Newhall, who was mistress of the robes to the queen from 1870 till 1874, and was created Countess of Cromartie in her own right, with remainder to her second surviving son Francis, the present Earl of Cromartie, in 1861; she died in 1888. The duke married secondly, in 1889, Mary Caroline, widow of Arthur Kindersley Blair and daughter of Richard Michell, D.D. [q.v.] By his first wife he had three sons and two daughters. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Cromartie, now fourth duke of Sutherland.[The chief authority for the first duke is James Loch's Memoir of the first Duke of Sutherland, privately printed; see also Loch's Account of the improvements on the Sutherland Estate, 1B15; Reminiscences and Stafford House Letters, by Lord Ronald Gower, who searched for letters and memorials of his grandfather, the first duke without success; Letters of Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe; Alumni Westmonasterienses, p. 315; Bush's Recollections; Blackwood's New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845, xv. 45. For the third duke see Times, 24 Sep. 1892.]