Stanhope, Edward (1840-1893) (DNB00)
|←Stanhope, Edward (1546?-1608)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 54
Stanhope, Edward (1840-1893)
STANHOPE, EDWARD (1840–1893), politician, was second son of Philip Henry, fifth earl Stanhope [q. v.], the historian, by Emily Harriet, second daughter of Sir Edward Kerrison, bart. He was born at his father's house in Grosvenor Place, London, on 24 Sept. 1840. After some tuition at a private school at Brighton, he entered Harrow, under the headmastership of Dr. Yaughan, in September 1852. At Harrow he won the Neeld medal for mathematics in 1859. Though of slight physique, he more than held his own in athletic sports and games. Stanhope was a member of the celebrated cricket eleven of 1859, when Harrow defeated Eton in one innings, and by his close and masterly defence in no small degree contributed to that result. He was a first-rate football player, fast, adroit, and indomitably plucky. He shot extremely well, and was fond of fishing. Stanhope left Harrow at midsummer 1859, and went up to Christ Church, Oxford, in the following October. Pursuing his natural bent towards mathematics, he obtained a first class in mathematical moderations in Michaelmas term 1861. Being destined for the bar, he went in for a pass in classics in Easter term 1862, and the examiners paid him the compliment of an 'honorary fourth.' In the following November he was elected to a fellowship at All Souls'. Thereupon he began his legal studies in London, and was called to the bar at the Inner Temple on 1 May 1865. He joined the home circuit, but his practice was mainly at the parliamentary bar, where his clear elocution and power of lucid statement soon secured him a good position. In 1868 he was appointed an assistant commissioner to inquire into the employment of children, young persons, and women in agriculture. In the following year he published an exhaustive report. Some of his strictures on i the conditions of cottage life in Dorset gave offence to the landed proprietors; but it would seem that he was right.
James Banks Stanhope, who, as representative of Sir Joseph Banks [q. v.], had inherited Revesby Abbey, Boston, and its estate, was first cousin to Edward Stanhope's father, and, attracted by the character and career of his young kinsman, he made him heir to his property in Lincolnshire, and brought him forward as one of the conservative candidates for Mid-Lincolnshire at the general election of 1874. Stanhope was returned unopposed, and again at the general election of 1880. After the redistribution of seats, consequent on the extension of the suffrage to the agricultural labourers, he was returned for the Horncastle division of Lincolnshire at the general election of 1885 by a majority of 865 over a liberal candidate; at the general election of 1886 he was returned unopposed, and at the general election of 1892 he beat his liberal opponent by 738.
At the opening of the session of 1875 Stanhope was chosen by Mr. Disraeli to move the address to the throne; and he did so in a speech of such sustained and stately rhetoric that Lord Randolph Churchill (then also a new member) likened it to 'a recitation from Gibbon.' He at once gained the ear of the house and the approbation of his leaders, and on 18 Nov. 1875 he entered the official hierarchy as parliamentary secretary to the board of trade. His office had at the moment a special importance. In the preceding July Mr. Plimsoll, M.P. for Derby, had, by some vehement demonstrations in the House of Commons, compelled public attention to the scandal and dangers connected with our merchant shipping. So much popular excitement was aroused that the government thought it expedient to pass the Merchant Shipping Act in 1875. It was merely temporary, and was to expire on 1 Oct. 1876. Stanhope, on his appointment to the board of trade, exerted himself to redeem the pledge made by the government to deal more thoroughly with the subject in a subsequent session, and the act of 1876, which was brought in at the beginning of that year, was drafted to a very considerable extent under Stanhope's direction and control. He made an important speech on the second reading of the bill (17 Feb. 1876), and took great interest in its further progress through the house, and in its subsequent administration by the board of trade.
On 6 April 1878 Stanhope was promoted to the more important post of under-secretary of state for India, which he held till the downfall of Lord Beaconsfield's administration at Easter 1880. At the llndia office he acquired the reputation of a strong and conscientious administrator. He was specially interested in questions of finance and complicated matters of exchange. He twice introduced the Indian budget into the House of Commons. On the first occasion, 13 Aug. 1878, he dealt with the new policy of a 'Famine Insurance Fund,' the abolition of the inland customs line, the equalisation of the salt duties, the abolition of the transit duties on sugar, and the amendment of the customs tariff. On the second occasion, 22 May 1879, he dealt chiefly with the measures taken to meet the large charges incurred in the Afghan war, and the loss by exchange; and he announced a determined effort to reduce Indian expenditure, in part by the employment of a larger number of natives in the civil service. On 9 Dec. 1878 he ably defended the policy of the Afghan war in the debate in the House of Commons on a vote of censure moved by Mr. Whitbread.
On Mr. Gladstone's accession to office at Easter 1880, Stanhope became a leader of the opposition, allying himself with the decorous tactics of Sir Stafford Northcote rather than with the guerilla warfare waged by Lord Randolph Churchill and the 'Fourth Party.' When Lord Salisbury became prime minister, for the first time, in the summer of 1885, Stanhope was appointed (24 June) vice-president of the committee of council on education, with a seat in the cabinet. This was the first instance in which a vice-president had been admitted to the cabinet at the time of his appointment. On the 19th of the following August he was appointed president of the board of trade, but resigned the office when Lord Salisbury made way for Mr. Gladstone's home-rule government (3 Feb. 1886). In July 1886, after Mr. Gladstone's defeat at the general election, Lord Salisbury became prime minister for the second time, and he appointed Stanhope secretary of state for the colonies. He received the seals of office at Osborne on 3 Aug. 1886. At the colonial office he was thoroughly in his element. He was imbued with a zeal for the idea of imperial federation, and issued the invitations for the colonial conference, which was held with success in 1888. In the readjustment of offices consequent on Lord Randolph Churchill's sudden resignation at Christmas 1886, Stanhope was called, much against his wish, to succeed William Henry Smith [q.v.] at the war office. He received the seals of his new office in January 1887.
Under Stanhope's auspices the modern army system, inaugurated by Lord Cardwell, was completed. Specific spheres of action were allotted to all regular and auxiliary troops on the outbreak of war, and the volunteers for the first time took a definite place in the scheme of national defence. The process of decentralising the stores formerly concentrated at Woolwich and distributing them to the various points of mobilisation was set on foot. Sites were chosen for a line of earthworks for the defence of London in case of invasion, and negotiations for their purchase were begun. In order to supply modern guns for service by sea and land, Stanhope called the private trade of the country to his aid by the promise of continuity of demand, encouraged great firms like Armstrong & Whitworth to lay down the necessary plant and tender for orders, and thus created a valuable additional source of warlike supply. Early in 1887 Stanhope also reorganised the manufacturing departments, and the system under which warlike stores were passed into the service. He abolished the office of surveyor-general of ordnance; transferred the great departments of ordnance, works, and supply to the staff of the commander-in-chief, and placed the establishment of the ordnance factories under a single civilian head. In connection with these changes, the services of supply and transport were reorganised, and the army service corps established.
In 1888 Stanhope, turning from departmental reorganisation, introduced and passed the Imperial Defence Act. The loan of two and a half millions obtained under this act, together with more than a million borne on the annual estimates, was devoted to strengthening the defences of the coaling stations commanding the great sea routes, to improving armaments of military ports at home and abroad, and to constructing barracks at ports and coaling stations for the increased garrisons, the size of which was now for the first time determined by strategical principles.
In 1889, after a committee of the House of Commons had reported on the subject, Stanhope revised the conditions of promotion and retirement of officers. He promulgated a scheme for the reform of the general officers' list, which secured the reduction of the list by a gradual progress from 140 to 100, and the establishment of the principle that promotion to general's rank should only be by selection, and to fill actually vacant appointments allotted to that rank. At the same time he instituted a special rate of retired pay for those colonels whose prospects could be shown to be unfairly injured by the operation of the new rules.
During 1889 Stanhope made endeavours to improve the material conditions of the soldier's life. In 1890 he obtained from parliament a loan of over four millions, with which the camps at Aldershot, Shorncliffe, Strensall, and the Curragh were almost entirely rebuilt, while the barracks at Portsmouth, Plymouth, Dublin, Malta, and other large garrisons were improved and renewed. He also gave much attention to the difficult question of the employment of soldiers on return to civil life. He succeeded in persuading the great railway companies to meet him in conference, and obtained from them certain pledges as to the employment of reserve and discharged soldiers. Further, a committee appointed by him to consider the question of soldiers' diet resulted in considerable improvement. Stanhope carried forward the work of organising and developing our military resources under conditions of great difficulty. He had the ear of the House of Commons, but outside he obtained little recognition. His sagacious reforms were realised and appreciated only by the few, while his retrenchments made a bitter enemy of every officer whose interests were threatened by them. His adoption on 22 Dec. 1888, on the advice of technical experts, of a magazine rifle, though more than justified by experience, was long the subject of bitter opposition in press and parliament (Hansard, 3rd ser. cccxlix. 1631–83). A growing agitation against the administration of the war office under the new system of 1887 at length led to the appointment of a royal commission under Lord Hartington's presidency. The commissioners reported in 1891 that sufficient time had not elapsed to justify a verdict on the system instituted in 1887, but recommended a reconstruction of the war office on the occurrence of a vacancy in the office of commander-in-chief.
In 1891 Stanhope, to allay alarm caused by a temporary failure to meet an abnormal demand for recruits, appointed Lord Wantage's committee to inquire into the terms and conditions of service in the army. But the momentary difficulty passed away, and neither Stanhope nor his successor attempted to give effect to the far-reaching and expensive recommendations of the committee.
Lord Salisbury's second administration was overthrown by the general election of July 1892, and Stanhope surrendered the seals of the war office. His constitution, never very robust, had been completely broken by the incessant work and worry of his post. In the new parliament of 1892 he was a regular attendant and a frequent debater, and he was elected chairman of the ‘church party’ in the House of Commons. In this capacity, Stanhope, in the autumn session of 1893, threw himself with great ardour into the debates on such parts of the Parish Councils Bill as affected the powers or property of the establishment. He made his last speech on 9 Dec. 1893. On the same day he left London and went to Chevening to pay a visit to his brother, Lord Stanhope. There he was seized with a severe attack of gout, and, after a partial rally, he died suddenly from paralysis of the heart on 21 Dec. He was buried at Revesby.
Stanhope married, on 18 May 1870, Lucy Constance, youngest daughter of the Rev. Thomas Egerton, and niece of the first Lord Egerton of Tatton.[Private information.]