1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lansdowne, William Petty Fitzmaurice, 1st Marquess of

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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 16
Lansdowne, William Petty Fitzmaurice, 1st Marquess of
21964731911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 16 — Lansdowne, William Petty Fitzmaurice, 1st Marquess of

LANSDOWNE, WILLIAM PETTY FITZMAURICE, 1st Marquess of (1737–1805), British statesman, better known under his earlier title of earl of Shelburne, was born at Dublin on the 20th of May 1737. He was a descendant of the lords of Kerry (dating from 1181), and his grandfather Thomas Fitzmaurice, who was created earl of Kerry (1723), married the daughter of Sir William Petty (q.v.). On the death without issue of Sir William Petty’s sons, the first earls of Shelburne, the estates passed to his nephew John Fitzmaurice (advanced in 1753 to the earldom of Shelburne), who in 1751 took the additional name of Petty. His son William spent his childhood “in the remotest parts of the south of Ireland,” and, according to his own account, when he entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1755, he had both “everything to learn and everything to unlearn.” From a tutor whom he describes as “narrow-minded” he received advantageous guidance in his studies, but he attributes his improvement in manners and in knowledge of the world chiefly to the fact that, as was his “fate through life,” he fell in “with clever but unpopular connexions.” Shortly after leaving the university he served in Wolfe’s regiment during the Seven Years’ War, and so distinguished himself at Minden and Kloster-Kampen that he was raised to the rank of colonel and appointed aide-de-camp to the king (1760). Being thus brought into near communication with Lord Bute, he was in 1761 employed by that nobleman to negotiate for the support of Henry Fox, Lord Holland. He was returned to the House of Commons as member for Wycombe, but in 1761 he succeeded his father as earl of Shelburne in the Irish peerage, and Baron Wycombe in the peerage of Great Britain (created 1760). Though he declined to take office under Bute he undertook negotiations to induce C. J. Fox to gain the consent of the Commons to the peace of 1763. Fox affirmed that he had been duped, and, although Shelburne always asserted that he had acted in thorough good faith, Bute spoke of the affair as a “pious fraud.” Shelburne joined the Grenville ministry in 1763 as president of the Board of Trade, but, failing in his efforts to replace Pitt in the cabinet, he in a few months resigned office. Having moreover on account of his support of Pitt on the question of Wilkes’s expulsion from the House of Commons incurred the displeasure of the king, he retired for a time to his estate. After Pitt’s return to power in 1766 he became secretary of state, but during Pitt’s illness his conciliatory policy towards America was completely thwarted by his colleagues and the king, and in 1768 he was dismissed from office. In 1782 he consented to take office under the marquess of Rockingham on condition that the king would recognize the United States. On the death of Lord Rockingham in the same year he became premier; but the secession of Fox and his supporters led to the famous coalition of Fox with North, which caused his resignation in the following February, his fall being perhaps hastened by his plans for the reform of the public service. He had also in contemplation a bill to promote free commercial intercourse between England and the United States. When Pitt acceded to office in 1784, Shelburne, instead of receiving a place in the cabinet, was created marquess of Lansdowne. Though giving a general support to the policy of Pitt, he from this time ceased to take an active part in public affairs. He died on the 7th of May 1805. During his lifetime he was blamed for insincerity and duplicity, and he incurred the deepest unpopularity, but the accusations came chiefly from those who were dissatisfied with his preference of principles to party, and if he had had a more unscrupulous regard to his personal ambition, his career as a statesman would have had more outward success. He was cynical in his estimates of character, but no statesman of his time possessed more enlightened political views, while his friendship with those of his contemporaries eminent in science and literature must be allowed considerable weight in qualifying our estimate of the moral defects with which he has been credited. He was twice married, first to Lady Sophia (1745–1771), daughter of John Carteret, Earl Granville, through whom he obtained the Lansdowne estates near Bath, and secondly to Lady Louisa (1755–1789), daughter of John Fitzpatrick, 1st earl of Upper Ossory. John Henry Petty Fitzmaurice (1765–1809), his son by the first marriage, succeeded as 2nd marquess, after having sat in the House of Commons for twenty years as member for Chipping Wycombe.

Henry Petty Fitzmaurice, 3rd marquess of Lansdowne (1780–1863), son of the 1st marquess by his second marriage, was born on the 2nd of July 1780 and educated at Edinburgh University and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He entered the House of Commons in 1802 as member for the family borough of Calne and quickly showed his mettle as a politician. In February 1806, as Lord Henry Petty, he became chancellor of the exchequer in the ministry of “All the Talents,” being at this time member for the university of Cambridge; but he lost both his seat and his office in 1807. In 1809 he became marquess of Lansdowne; and in the House of Lords and in society he continued to play an active part as one of the Whig leaders. His chief interest was perhaps in the question of Roman Catholic emancipation, a cause which he consistently championed, but he sympathized also with the advocates of the abolition of the slave-trade and with the cause of popular education. Lansdowne, who had succeeded his cousin, Francis Thomas Fitzmaurice, as 4th earl of Kerry in 1818, took office with Canning in May 1827 and was secretary for home affairs from July of that year until January 1828; he was lord president of the council under Earl Grey and then under Lord Melbourne from November 1830 to August 1841, with the exception of the few months in 1835 when Sir Robert Peel was prime minister. He held the same office during the whole of Lord John Russell’s ministry (1846–1852), and, having declined to become prime minister, sat in the cabinets of Lord Aberdeen and of Lord Palmerston, but without office. In 1857 he refused the offer of a dukedom, and he died on the 31st of January 1863. Lansdowne’s social influence and political moderation made him one of the most powerful Whig statesmen of the time; he was frequently consulted by Queen Victoria on matters of moment, and his long official experience made his counsel invaluable to his party. He married Louisa (1785–1851), daughter of the 2nd earl of Ilchester, and was succeeded by his son Henry, the 4th marquess (1816–1866). The latter, who was member of parliament for Calne for twenty years and chairman of the Great Western railway, married for his second wife Emily (1819–1895), daughter of the comte de Flahaut de la Billarderie, a lady who became Baroness Nairne in her own right in 1867. By her he had two sons, the 5th marquess and Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice (Baron Fitzmaurice of Leigh).

Henry Charles Keith Petty Fitzmaurice, 5th marquess of Lansdowne (b. 1845), was educated at Balliol, Oxford, where he became one of Jowett’s favourite pupils. In 1869 he married the daughter of the 1st duke of Abercorn. As a member of the Liberal party he was a lord of the treasury (1869–1872), under-secretary of war (1872–1874), and under-secretary of India (1880); in 1883 he was appointed governor-general of Canada, and from 1888 to 1893 he was viceroy of India. He joined the Liberal Unionist party when Mr Gladstone proposed home rule for Ireland, and on returning to England became one of its most influential leaders. He was secretary of state for war from 1895 to 1900, and foreign secretary from 1900 to 1906, becoming leader of the Unionist party in the House of Lords on Lord Salisbury’s death.

His brother Edmond George Fitzmaurice, Baron Fitzmaurice (b. 1846), was educated at Trinity, Cambridge, where he took a first class in classics. Unlike Lord Lansdowne, he remained a Liberal in politics and followed Mr Gladstone in his home rule policy. As Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice he entered the House of Commons in 1868, and was under-secretary for foreign affairs from 1882 to 1885. He then had no seat in parliament till 1898, when he was elected for the Cricklade division of Wilts, and retiring in 1905, he was created Baron Fitzmaurice of Leigh in 1906, and made under-secretary for foreign affairs in Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman’s ministry. In 1908 he became chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster and a member of the Liberal cabinet, but resigned his post in 1909. He devoted much time to literary work, and was the author of excellent biographies of the 1st marquess, of Sir William Petty (1895), and of Lord Granville (1905), under whom he had served at the foreign office.

For the 1st marquess, see Lord Fitzmaurice, Life of William, Earl of Shelburne (3 vols., London, 1875–1876).