1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Derby, Earls of
DERBY, EARLS OF. The 1st earl of Derby was probably Robert de Ferrers (d. 1139), who is said by John of Hexham to have been made an earl by King Stephen after the battle of the Standard in 1138. Robert and his descendants retained the earldom until 1266, when Robert (c. 1240–c. 1279), probably the 6th earl, having taken a prominent part in the baronial rising against Henry III., was deprived of his lands and practically of his title. These earlier earls of Derby were also known as Earls Ferrers, or de Ferrers, from their surname; as earls of Tutbury from their residence; and as earls of Nottingham because this county was a lordship under their rule. The large estates which were taken from Earl Robert in 1266 were given by Henry III. in the same year to his son, Edmund, earl of Lancaster; and Edmund’s son, Thomas, earl of Lancaster, called himself Earl Ferrers. In 1337 Edmund’s grandson, Henry (c. 1299–1361), afterwards duke of Lancaster, was created earl of Derby, and this title was taken by Edward III.’s son, John of Gaunt, who had married Henry’s daughter, Blanche. John of Gaunt’s son and successor was Henry, earl of Derby, who became king as Henry IV. in 1399.
In October 1485 Thomas, Lord Stanley, was created earl of Derby, and the title has since been retained by the Stanleys, who, however, have little or no connexion with the county of Derby. Thomas also inherited the sovereign lordship of the Isle of Man, which had been granted by the crown in 1406 to his great-grandfather, Sir John Stanley; and this sovereignty remained in possession of the earls of Derby till 1736, when it passed to the duke of Atholl.
The earl of Derby is one of the three “catskin earls,” the others being the earls of Shrewsbury and Huntingdon. The term “catskin” is possibly a corruption of quatre-skin, derived from the fact that in ancient times the robes of an earl (as depicted in some early representations) were decorated with four rows of ermine, as in the robes of a modern duke, instead of the three rows to which they were restricted in later centuries. The three “catskin” earldoms are the only earldoms now in existence which date from creations prior to the 17th century. (A. W. H.*)
Thomas Stanley, 1st earl of Derby (c. 1435–1504), was the son of Thomas Stanley, who was created Baron Stanley in 1456 and died in 1459. His grandfather, Sir John Stanley (d. 1414), had founded the fortunes of his family by marrying Isabel Lathom, the heiress of a great estate in the hundred of West Derby in Lancashire; he was lieutenant of Ireland in 1389–1391, and again in 1399–1401, and in 1405 received a grant of the lordship of Man from Henry IV. The future earl of Derby was a squire to Henry VI. in 1454, but not long afterwards married Eleanor, daughter of the Yorkist leader, Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury. At the battle of Blore Heath in August 1459 Stanley, though close at hand with a large force, did not join the royal army, whilst his brother William fought openly for York. In 1461 Stanley was made chief justice of Cheshire by Edward IV., but ten years later he sided with his brother-in-law Warwick in the Lancastrian restoration. Nevertheless, after Warwick’s fall, Edward made Stanley steward of his household. Stanley served with the king in the French expedition of 1475, and with Richard of Gloucester in Scotland in 1482. About the latter date he married, as his second wife, Margaret Beaufort, mother of the exiled Henry Tudor. Stanley was one of the executors of Edward IV., and was at first loyal to the young king Edward V. But he acquiesced in Richard’s usurpation, and retaining his office as steward avoided any entanglement through his wife’s share in Buckingham’s rebellion. He was made constable of England in succession to Buckingham, and granted possession of his wife’s estates with a charge to keep her in some secret place at home. Richard could not well afford to quarrel with so powerful a noble, but early in 1485 Stanley asked leave to retire to his estates in Lancashire. In the summer Richard, suspicious of his continued absence, required him to send his eldest son, Lord Strange, to court as a hostage. After Henry of Richmond had landed, Stanley made excuses for not joining the king; for his son’s sake he was obliged to temporize, even when his brother William had been publicly proclaimed a traitor. Both the Stanleys took the field; but whilst William was in treaty with Richmond, Thomas professedly supported Richard. On the morning of Bosworth (August 22), Richard summoned Stanley to join him, and when he received an evasive reply ordered Strange to be executed. In the battle it was William Stanley who turned the scale in Henry’s favour, but Thomas, who had taken no part in the fighting, was the first to salute the new king. Henry VII. confirmed Stanley in all his offices, and on the 27th of October created him earl of Derby. As husband of the king’s mother Derby held a great position, which was not affected by the treason of his brother William in February 1495. In the following July the earl entertained the king and queen with much state at Knowsley. Derby died on the 29th of July 1504. Strange had escaped execution in 1485, through neglect to obey Richard’s orders; but he died before his father in 1497, and his son Thomas succeeded as second earl. An old poem called The Song of the Lady Bessy, which was written by a retainer of the Stanleys, gives a romantic story of how Derby was enlisted by Elizabeth of York in the cause of his wife’s son.
For fuller narratives see J. Gairdner’s Richard III. and J. H. Ramsay’s Lancaster and York; also Seacome’s Memoirs of the House of Stanley (1741). (C. L. K.)
Edward Stanley, 3rd earl of Derby (1508–1572), was a son of Thomas Stanley, 2nd earl and grandson of the 1st earl, and succeeded to the earldom on his father’s death in May 1521. During his minority Cardinal Wolsey was his guardian, and as soon as he came of age he began to take part in public life, being often in the company of Henry VIII. He helped to quell the rising in the north of England known as the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536; but remaining true to the Roman Catholic faith he disliked and opposed the religious changes made under Edward VI. During Mary’s reign the earl was more at ease, but under Elizabeth his younger sons, Sir Thomas (d. 1576) and Sir Edward Stanley (d. 1609), were concerned in a plot to free Mary, queen of Scots, and he himself was suspected of disloyalty. However, he kept his numerous dignities until his death at Lathom House, near Ormskirk, on the 24th of October 1572.
Derby’s first wife was Katherine, daughter of Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk, by whom he had, with other issue, a son Henry, the 4th earl (c. 1531–1593), who was a member of the council of the North, and like his father was lord-lieutenant of Lancashire. Henry was one of the commissioners who tried Mary, queen of Scots, and was employed by Elizabeth on other high undertakings both at home and abroad. He died on the 25th of September 1593. His wife Margaret (d. 1596), daughter of Henry Clifford, 2nd earl of Cumberland, was descended through the Brandons from King Henry VII. Two of his sons, Ferdinando (c. 1559–1594), and William (c. 1561–1642), became in turn the 5th and 6th earls of Derby. Ferdinando, the 5th earl (d. 1594), wrote verses, and is eulogized by the poet Spenser under the name of Amyntas. (A. W. H.*)
James Stanley, 7th earl of Derby (1607–1651), sometimes styled the Great Earl of Derby, eldest son of William, 6th earl, and Elizabeth de Vere, daughter of Edward, 17th earl of Oxford, was born at Knowsley on the 31st of January 1607. During his father’s life he was known as Lord Strange. After travelling abroad he was chosen member of parliament for Liverpool in 1625, was created knight of the Bath on the occasion of Charles’s coronation in 1626, and was joined with his father the same year as lieutenant of Lancashire and Cheshire and chamberlain of Chester, and in the administration of the Isle of Man, being appointed subsequently lord-lieutenant of North Wales. On the 7th of March 1628 he was called up to the House of Lords as Baron Strange. He took no part in the political disputes between king and parliament and preferred country pursuits and the care of his estates to court or public life. Nevertheless when the Civil War broke out in 1642, Lord Strange devoted himself to the king’s cause. His plan of securing Lancashire at the beginning and raising troops there, which promised success, was however discouraged by Charles, who was said to be jealous of his power and royal lineage and who commanded his presence at Nottingham. His subsequent attempts to recover the county were unsuccessful. He was unable to get possession of Manchester, was defeated at Chowbent and Lowton Moor, and in 1643 after gaining Preston failed to take Bolton and Lancaster castles. Finally, after successfully beating off Sir William Brereton’s attack on Warrington, he was defeated at Whalley and withdrew to York, Warrington in consequence surrendering to the enemy’s forces. In June he left for the Isle of Man to attend to affairs there, and in the summer of 1644 he took part in Prince Rupert’s successful campaign in the north, when Lathom House, where Lady Derby had heroically resisted the attacks of the besiegers, was relieved, and Bolton Castle taken. He followed Rupert to Marston Moor, and after the complete defeat of Charles’s cause in the north withdrew to the Isle of Man, where he held out for the king and offered an asylum to royalist fugitives. His administration of the island imitated that of Strafford in Ireland. It was strong rather than just. He maintained order, encouraged trade, remedied some abuses, and defended the people from the exactions of the church; but he crushed opposition by imprisoning his antagonists, and aroused a prolonged agitation by abolishing the tenant-right and introducing leaseholds. In July 1649 he refused scornfully terms offered to him by Ireton. By the death of his father on the 29th of September 1642 he had succeeded to the earldom, and on the 12th of January 1650 he obtained the Garter. He was chosen by Charles II. to command the troops of Lancashire and Cheshire, and on the 15th of August 1651 he landed at Wyre Water in Lancashire in support of Charles’s invasion, and met the king on the 17th. Proceeding to Warrington he failed to obtain the support of the Presbyterians through his refusal to take the Covenant, and on the 25th was totally defeated at Wigan, being severely wounded and escaping with difficulty. He joined Charles at Worcester; after the battle on the 3rd of September he accompanied him to Boscobel, and while on his way north alone was captured near Nantwich and given quarter. He was tried by court-martial at Chester on the 29th of September, and on the ground that he was a traitor and not a prisoner of war under the act of parliament passed in the preceding month, which declared those who corresponded with Charles guilty of treason, his quarter was disallowed and he was condemned to death. When his appeal for pardon to parliament was rejected, though supported by Cromwell, he endeavoured to escape; but was recaptured and executed at Bolton on the 15th of October 1651. He was buried in Ormskirk church. Lord Derby was a man of deep religious feeling and of great nobility of character, who though unsuccessful in the field served the king’s cause with single-minded purpose and without expectation of reward. His political usefulness was handicapped in the later stages of the struggle by his dislike of the Scots, whom he regarded as guilty of the king’s death and as unfit instruments of the restoration. According to Clarendon he was “a man of great honour and clear courage,” and his defects the result of too little knowledge of the world. Lord Derby left in MS. “A Discourse concerning the Government of the Isle of Man” (printed in the Stanley Papers and in F. Peck’s Desiderata Curiosa, vol. ii.) and several volumes of historical collections, observations, devotions (Stanley Papers) and a commonplace book. He married on the 26th of June 1626 Charlotte de la Tremoille (1599–1664), daughter of Claude, duc de Thouars, and grand-daughter of William the Silent, prince of Orange, by whom besides four daughters he had five sons, of whom the eldest, Charles (1628–1672), succeeded him as 8th earl.
Charles’s two sons, William, the 9th earl (c. 1655–1702), and James, the 10th earl (1664–1736), both died without sons, and consequently, when James died in February 1736, his titles and estates passed to Sir Edward Stanley (1689–1776), a descendant of the 1st earl. From him the later earls were descended, the 12th earl (d. 1834) being his grandson.
Bibliography.—Article in Dict. of Nat. Biog. with authorities and article in same work on Charlotte Stanley, countess of Derby; the Stanley Papers, with the too laudatory memoir by F. R. Haines (Chetham Soc. publications, vols. 62, 66, 67, 70); Memoires, by De Lloyd (1668), 572; State Trials, v. 293-324; Notes & Queries, viii. Ser. iii. 246; Seacombe’s House of Stanley; Clarendon’s Hist. of the Rebellion; Gardiner’s Hist. of the Civil War and Protectorate; The Land of Home Rule, by Spencer Walpole (1893); Hist. of the Isle of Man, by A. W. Moore (1900); Manx Soc. publications, vols. 3, 25, 27. (P. C. Y.)
Edward Geoffrey Smith Stanley, 14th earl of Derby (1799–1869), the “Rupert of Debate,” born at Knowsley in Lancashire on the 29th of March 1799, grandson of the 12th earl and eldest son of Lord Stanley, subsequently (1834) 13th earl of Derby (1775–1851). He was educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he distinguished himself as a classical scholar, though he took no degree. In 1819 he obtained the Chancellor’s prize for Latin verse, the subject being “Syracuse.” He gave early promise of his future eminence as an orator, and in his youth he used to practise elocution under the instruction of Lady Derby, his grandfather’s second wife, the actress, Elizabeth Farren. In 1820 he was returned for Stockbridge in Hampshire, one of the nomination boroughs whose electoral rights were swept away by the Reform Bill of 1832, Stanley being a warm advocate of their destruction.
His maiden speech was delivered early in the session of 1824 in the debate on a private bill for lighting Manchester with gas. On the 6th of May 1824 he delivered a vehement and eloquent speech against Joseph Hume’s motion for a reduction of the Irish Church establishment, maintaining in its most conservative form the doctrine that church property is as sacred as private property. From this time his appearances became frequent; and he soon asserted his place as one of the most powerful speakers in the House. Specially noticeable almost from the first was the skill he displayed in reply. Macaulay, in an essay published in 1834, remarked that he seemed to possess intuitively the faculty which in most men is developed only by long and laborious practice. In the autumn of 1824 Stanley went on an extended tour through Canada and the United States in company with Mr Labouchere, afterwards Lord Taunton, and Mr Evelyn Denison, afterwards Lord Ossington. In May of the following year he married the second daughter of Edward Bootle-Wilbraham, created Baron Skelmersdale in 1828, by whom he had a family of two sons and one daughter who survived.
At the general election of 1826 Stanley renounced his connection with Stockbridge, and became the representative of the borough of Preston, where the Derby influence was paramount. The change of seats had this advantage, that it left him free to speak against the system of rotten boroughs, which he did with great force during the Reform Bill debates, without laying himself open to the charge of personal inconsistency as the representative of a place where, according to Gay, cobblers used to “feast three years upon one vote.” In 1827 he and several other distinguished Whigs made a coalition with Canning on the defection of the more unyielding Tories, and he commenced his official life as under-secretary for the colonies, but the coalition was broken up by Canning’s death in August. Lord Goderich succeeded to the premiership, but he never was really in power, and he resigned his place after the lapse of a few months. During the succeeding administration of the duke of Wellington (1828–1830), Stanley and those with whom he acted were in opposition. His robust and assertive Liberalism about this period seemed curious afterwards to a younger generation who knew him only as the very embodiment of Conservatism.
By the advent of Lord Grey to power in November 1830, Stanley obtained his first opportunity of showing his capacity for a responsible office. He was appointed to the chief secretaryship of Ireland, a position in which he found ample scope for both administrative and debating skill. On accepting office he had to vacate his seat for Preston and seek re-election; and he had the mortification of being defeated by the Radical “orator” Hunt. The contest was a peculiarly keen one, and turned upon the question of the ballot, which Stanley refused to support. He re-entered the House as one of the members for Windsor, Sir Hussey Vivian having resigned in his favour. In 1832 he again changed his seat, being returned for North Lancashire.
Stanley was one of the most ardent supporters of Lord Grey’s Reform Bill. Of this no other proof is needed than his frequent parliamentary utterances, which were fully in sympathy with the popular cry “The bill, the whole bill, and nothing but the bill.” Reference may be made especially to the speech he delivered on the 4th of March 1831 on the adjourned debate on the second reading of the bill, which was marked by all the higher qualities of his oratory. Apart from his connexion with the general policy of the government, Stanley had more than enough to have employed all his energies in the management of his own department. The secretary of Ireland has seldom an easy task; Stanley found it one of peculiar difficulty. The country was in a very unsettled state. The just concession that had been somewhat tardily yielded a short time before in Catholic emancipation had excited the people to make all sorts of demands, reasonable and unreasonable. Undaunted by the fierce denunciations of O’Connell, who styled him Scorpion Stanley, he discharged with determination the ungrateful task of carrying a coercion bill through the House. It was generally felt that O’Connell, powerful though he was, had fairly met his match in Stanley, who, with invective scarcely inferior to his own, evaded no challenge, ignored no argument, and left no taunt unanswered. The title “Rupert of Debate” is peculiarly applicable to him in connexion with the fearless if also often reckless method of attack he showed in his parliamentary war with O’Connell. It was first applied to him, however, thirteen years later by Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton in The New Timon:—
“One after one the lords of time advance;
Here Stanley meets—here Stanley scorns the glance!
The brilliant chief, irregularly great,
Frank, haughty, rash,—the Rupert of debate.”
The best answer, however, which he made to the attacks of the great agitator was not the retorts of debate, effective though these were, but the beneficial legislation he was instrumental in passing. He introduced and carried the first national education act for Ireland, one result of which was the remarkable and to many almost incredible phenomenon of a board composed of Catholics, Episcopalians and Presbyterians harmoniously administering an efficient education scheme. He was also chiefly responsible for the Irish Church Temporalities Act, though the bill was not introduced into parliament until after he had quitted the Irish secretaryship for another office. By this measure two archbishoprics and eight bishoprics were abolished, and a remedy was provided for various abuses connected with the revenues of the church. As originally introduced, the bill contained a clause authorizing the appropriation of surplus revenues to non-ecclesiastical purposes. This had, however, been strongly opposed from the first by Stanley and several other members of the cabinet, and it was withdrawn by the government before the measure reached the Lords.
In 1833, just before the introduction of the Irish Church Temporalities Bill, Stanley had been promoted to be secretary for the colonies with a seat in the cabinet. In this position it fell to his lot to carry the emancipation of the slaves to a successful practical issue. The speech which he delivered on introducing the bill for freeing the slaves in the West Indies, on the 14th of May 1833, was one of the finest specimens of his eloquence.
The Irish Church question determined more than one turning-point in his political career. The most important occasion on which it did so was in 1834, when the proposal of the government to appropriate the surplus revenues of the church to educational purposes led to his secession from the cabinet, and, as it proved, his complete and final separation from the Whig party. In the former of these steps he had as his companions Sir James Graham, the earl of Ripon and the duke of Richmond. Soon after it occurred, O’Connell, amid the laughter of the House, described the secession in a couplet from Canning’s Loves of the Triangles:—
“Still down thy steep, romantic Ashbourne, glides
The Derby dilly carrying six insides.”
Stanley was not content with marking his disapproval by the simple act of withdrawing from the cabinet. He spoke against the bill to which he objected with a vehemence that showed the strength of his feeling in the matter, and against its authors with a bitterness that he himself is understood to have afterwards admitted to have been unseemly towards those who had so recently been his colleagues. The course followed by the government was “marked with all that timidity, that want of dexterity, which led to the failure of the unpractised shoplifter.” His late colleagues were compared to “thimble-riggers at a country fair,” and their plan was “petty larceny, for it had not the redeeming qualities of bold and open robbery.”
In the end of 1834, Lord Stanley, as he was now styled by courtesy, his father having succeeded to the earldom in October, was invited by Sir Robert Peel to join the short-lived Conservative ministry which he formed after the resignation of Lord Melbourne. Though he declined the offer for reasons stated in a letter published in the Peel memoirs, he acted from that date with the Conservative party, and on its next accession to power, in 1841, he accepted the office of colonial secretary, which he had held under Lord Grey. His position and his temperament alike, however, made him a thoroughly independent supporter of any party to which he attached himself. When, therefore, the injury to health arising from the late hours in the Commons led him in 1844 to seek elevation to the Upper House in the right of his father’s barony, Sir Robert Peel, in acceding to his request, had the satisfaction of at once freeing himself from the possible effects of his “candid friendship” in the House, and at the same time greatly strengthening the debating power on the Conservative side in the other. If the premier in taking this step had any presentiment of an approaching difference on a vital question, it was not long in being realized. When Sir Robert Peel accepted the policy of free trade in 1846, the breach between him and Lord Stanley was, as might have been anticipated from the antecedents of the latter, instant and irreparable. Lord Stanley at once asserted himself as the uncompromising opponent of that policy, and he became the recognized leader of the Protectionist party, having Lord George Bentinck and Disraeli for his lieutenants in the Commons. They did all that could be done in a case in which the logic of events was against them, though Protection was never to become more than their watchword.
It is one of the peculiarities of English politics, however, that a party may come into power because it is the only available one at the time, though it may have no chance of carrying the very principle to which it owes its organized existence. Such was the case when Lord Derby, who had succeeded to the earldom on the death of his father in June 1851, was called upon to form his first administration in February 1852. He was in a minority, but the circumstances were such that no other than a minority government was possible, and he resolved to take the only available means of strengthening his position by dissolving parliament and appealing to the country at the earliest opportunity. The appeal was made in autumn, but its result did not materially alter the position of parties. Parliament met in November, and by the middle of the following month the ministry had resigned in consequence of their defeat on Disraeli’s budget. For the six following years, during Lord Aberdeen’s “ministry of all the talents” and Lord Palmerston’s premiership, Lord Derby remained at the head of the opposition, whose policy gradually became more generally Conservative and less distinctively Protectionist as the hopelessness of reversing the measures adopted in 1846 made itself apparent. In 1855 he was asked to form an administration after the resignation of Lord Aberdeen, but failing to obtain sufficient support, he declined the task. It was in somewhat more hopeful circumstances that, after the defeat of Lord Palmerston on the Conspiracy Bill in February 1858, he assumed for the second time the reins of government. Though he still could not count upon a working majority, there was a possibility of carrying on affairs without sustaining defeat, which was realized for a full session, owing chiefly to the dexterous management of Mr Disraeli in the Commons. The one rock ahead was the question of reform, on which the wishes of the country were being emphatically expressed, but it was not so pressing as to require to be immediately dealt with. During the session of 1858 the government contrived to pass two measures of very considerable importance, one a bill to remove Jewish disabilities, and the other a bill to transfer the government of India from the East India Company to the crown. Next year the question of parliamentary reform had to be faced, and, recognizing the necessity, the government introduced a bill at the opening of the session, which, in spite of, or rather in consequence of, its “fancy franchises,” was rejected by the House, and, on a dissolution, rejected also by the country. A vote of no confidence having been passed in the new parliament on the 10th of June, Lord Derby at once resigned.
After resuming the leadership of the Opposition Lord Derby devoted much of the leisure the position afforded him to the classical studies that had always been congenial to him. It was his reputation for scholarship as well as his social position that had led in 1852 to his appointment to the chancellorship of the university of Oxford, in succession to the duke of Wellington; and perhaps a desire to justify the possession of the honour on the former ground had something to do with his essays in the field of authorship. His first venture was a poetical version of the ninth ode of the third book of Horace, which appeared in Lord Ravensworth’s collection of translations of the Odes. In 1862 he printed and circulated in influential quarters a volume entitled Translations of Poems Ancient and Modern, with a very modest dedicatory letter to Lord Stanhope, and the words “Not published” on the title-page. It contained, besides versions of Latin, Italian, French and German poems, a translation of the first book of the Iliad. The reception of this volume was such as to encourage him to proceed with the task he had chosen as his magnum opus, the translation of the whole of the Iliad, which accordingly appeared in 1864.
During the seven years that elapsed between Lord Derby’s second and third administrations an industrial crisis occurred in his native county, which brought out very conspicuously his public spirit and his philanthropy. The destitution in Lancashire caused by the stoppage of the cotton-supply in consequence of the American Civil War, was so great as to threaten to overtax the benevolence of the country. That it did not do so was probably due to Lord Derby more than to any other single man. From the first he was the very life and soul of the movement for relief. His personal subscription, munificent though it was, represented the least part of his service. His noble speech at the meeting in Manchester in December 1862, where the movement was initiated, and his advice at the subsequent meetings of the committee, which he attended very regularly, were of the very highest value in stimulating and directing public sympathy. His relations with Lancashire had always been of the most cordial description, notwithstanding his early rejection by Preston; but it is not surprising that after the cotton famine period the cordiality passed into a warmer and deeper feeling, and that the name of Lord Derby was long cherished in most grateful remembrance by the factory operatives.
On the rejection of Earl Russell’s Reform Bill in 1866, Lord Derby was for the third time entrusted with the formation of a cabinet. Like those he had previously formed it was destined to be short-lived, but it lived long enough to settle on a permanent basis the question that had proved fatal to its predecessor. The “education” of the party that had so long opposed all reform to the point of granting household suffrage was the work of another; but Lord Derby fully concurred in, if he was not the first to suggest, the statesmanlike policy by which the question was disposed of in such a way as to take it once for all out of the region of controversy and agitation. The passing of the Reform Bill was the main business of the session 1867. The chief debates were, of course, in the Commons, and Lord Derby’s failing powers prevented him from taking any large share in those which took place in the Lords. His description of the measure as a “leap in the dark” was eagerly caught up, because it exactly represented the common opinion at the time,—the most experienced statesmen, while they admitted the granting of household suffrage to be a political necessity, being utterly unable to foresee what its effect might be on the constitution and government of the country.
Finding himself unable, from declining health, to encounter the fatigues of another session, Lord Derby resigned office early in 1868. The step he had taken was announced in both Houses on the evening of the 25th of February, and warm tributes of admiration and esteem were paid by the leaders of the two great parties. He yielded the entire leadership of the party as well as the premiership to Disraeli. His subsequent appearances in public were few and unimportant. It was noted as a consistent close to his political life that his last speech in the House of Lords should have been a denunciation of Gladstone’s Irish Church Bill marked by much of his early fire and vehemence. A few months later, on the 23rd of October 1869, he died at Knowsley.
Sir Archibald Alison, writing of him when he was in the zenith of his powers, styles him “by the admission of all parties the most perfect orator of his day.” Even higher was the opinion of Lord Aberdeen, who is reported by The Times to have said that no one of the giants he had listened to in his youth, Pitt, Fox, Burke or Sheridan, “as a speaker, is to be compared with our own Lord Derby, when Lord Derby is at his best.” (W. B. S.)
Edward Henry Stanley, 15th earl of Derby (1826–1893), eldest son of the 14th earl, was educated at Rugby and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took a high degree and became a member of the society known as the Apostles. In March 1848 he unsuccessfully contested the borough of Lancaster, and then made a long tour in the West Indies, Canada and the United States. During his absence he was elected member for King’s Lynn, which he represented till October 1869, when he succeeded to the peerage. He took his place, as a matter of course, among the Conservatives, and delivered his maiden speech in May 1850 on the sugar duties. Just before, he had made a very brief tour in Jamaica and South America. In 1852 he went to India, and while travelling in that country he was appointed under-secretary for foreign affairs in his father’s first administration. From the outset of his career he was known to be a most Liberal Conservative, and in 1855 Lord Palmerston offered him the post of colonial secretary. He was much tempted by the proposal, and hurried down to Knowsley to consult his father, who called out when he entered the room, “Hallo, Stanley! what brings you here?—Has Dizzy cut his throat, or are you going to be married?” When the object of his sudden appearance had been explained, the Conservative chief received the courteous suggestion of the prime minister with anything but favour, and the offer was declined. In his father’s second administration Lord Stanley held, at first, the office of secretary for the colonies, but became president of the Board of Control on the resignation of Lord Ellenborough. He had the charge of the India Bill of 1858 in the House of Commons, became the first secretary of state for India, and left behind him in the India Office an excellent reputation as a man of business. After the revolution in Greece and the disappearance of King Otho, the people most earnestly desired to have Queen Victoria’s second son, Prince Alfred, for their king. He declined the honour, and they then took up the idea that the next best thing they could do would be to elect some great and wealthy English noble, not concealing the hope that although they might have to offer him a Civil List he would decline to receive it. Lord Stanley was the prime favourite as an occupant of this bed of thorns, and it has been said that he was actually offered the crown. That, however, is not true; the offer was never formally made. After the fall of the Russell government in 1866 he became foreign secretary in his father’s third administration. He compared his conduct in that great post to that of a man floating down a river and fending off from his vessel, as well as he could, the various obstacles it encountered. He thought that that should be the normal attitude of an English foreign minister, and probably under the circumstances of the years 1866–1868 it was the right one. He arranged the collective guarantee of the neutrality of Luxemburg in 1867, negotiated a convention about the “Alabama,” which, however, was not ratified, and most wisely refused to take any part in the Cretan troubles. In 1874 he again became foreign secretary in Disraeli’s government. He acquiesced in the purchase of the Suez Canal shares, a measure then considered dangerous by many people, but ultimately most successful; he accepted the Andrassy Note, but declined to accede to the Berlin Memorandum. His part in the later phases of the Russo-Turkish struggle has never been fully explained, for with equal wisdom and generosity he declined to gratify public curiosity at the cost of some of his colleagues. A later generation will know better than his contemporaries what were the precise developments of policy which obliged him to resign. He kept himself ready to explain in the House of Lords the course he had taken if those whom he had left challenged him to do so, but from that course they consistently refrained. Already in October 1879 it was clear enough that he had thrown in his lot with the Liberal party, but it was not till March 1880 that he publicly announced this change of allegiance. He did not at first take office in the second Gladstone government, but became secretary for the colonies in December 1882, holding this position till the fall of that government in the summer of 1885. In 1886 the old Liberal party was run on the rocks and went to pieces. Lord Derby became a Liberal Unionist, and took an active part in the general management of that party, leading it in the House of Lords till 1891, when Lord Hartington became duke of Devonshire. In 1892 he presided over the Labour Commission, but his health never recovered an attack of influenza which he had in 1891, and he died at Knowsley on the 21st of April 1893.
During a great part of Lord Derby’s life he was deflected from his natural course by the accident of his position as the son of the leading Conservative statesman of the day. From first to last he was at heart a moderate Liberal. After making allowance, however, for this deflecting agency, it must be admitted that in the highest quality of the statesman, “aptness to be right,” he was surpassed by none of his contemporaries, or—if by anybody—by Sir George Cornewall Lewis alone. He would have been more at home in a state of things which did not demand from its leading statesman great popular power; he had none of those “isms” and “prisms of fancy” which stood in such good stead some of his rivals. He had another defect besides the want of popular power. He was so anxious to arrive at right conclusions that he sometimes turned and turned and turned a subject over till the time for action had passed. One of his best lieutenants said of him in a moment of impatience: “Lord Derby is like the God of Hegel: ‘Er setzt sich, er verneint sich, er verneint seine Negation.’” His knowledge, acquired both from books and by the ear, was immense, and he took every opportunity of increasing it. He retained his old university habit of taking long walks with a congenial companion, even in London, and although he cared but little for what is commonly known as society—the society of crowded rooms and fragments of sentences—he very much liked conversation. During the many years in which he was a member of “The Club” he was one of its most assiduous frequenters, and his loss was acknowledged by a formal resolution. His talk was generally grave, but every now and then was lit up by dry humour. The late Lord Arthur Russell once said to him, after he had been buying some property in southern England: “So you still believe in land, Lord Derby.” “Hang it,” he replied, “a fellow must believe in something!” He did an immense deal of work outside politics. He was lord rector of the University of Glasgow from 1868 to 1871, and later held the same office in that of Edinburgh. From 1875 to 1893 he was president of the Royal Literary Fund, and attended most closely to his duties then. He succeeded Lord Granville as chancellor of the University of London in 1891, and remained in that position till his death. He lived much in Lancashire, managed his enormous estates with great skill, and did a great amount of work as a local magnate. He married in 1870 Maria Catharine, daughter of the 5th earl de la Warr, and widow of the 2nd marquess of Salisbury.
The earl left no children and he was succeeded as 16th earl by his brother Frederick Arthur Stanley (1841–1908), who had been made a peer as Baron Stanley of Preston in 1886. He was secretary of state for war and for the colonies and president of the board of trade; and was governor-general of Canada from 1888 to 1893. He died on the 14th of June 1908, when his eldest son, Edward George Villiers Stanley, became earl of Derby. As Lord Stanley the latter had been member of parliament for the West Houghton division of Lancashire from 1892 to 1906; he was financial secretary to the War Office from 1900 to 1903, and postmaster-general from 1903 to 1905.
The best account of the 15th Lord Derby is that which was prefixed by W. E. H. Lecky, who knew him very intimately, to the edition of his speeches outside parliament, published in 1894. (M. G. D.)