Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Grant, Charles (1778-1866)

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GRANT, CHARLES, Lord Glenelg (1778–1866), politician, eldest son of Charles Grant (1746–1823) [q. v.] was born on 26 Oct. 1778 at Kidderpore in Bengal, and came to England with his family in 1790. He was, together with his brother Robert [see Grant, Sir Robert, 1785–1838], entered as a pensioner at Magdalene College, Cambridge, on 30 Nov. 1795; was fourth wrangler and senior chancellor's medallist in 1801; graduated B.A. in 1801, and M.A. in 1804; in 1802 gained the members' prize for Latin essay, and was elected to a fellowship at his college. In 1805 he won one of the four prizes offered to the university by Claudius Buchanan [q. v.], vice-provost of the college of Fort William in Bengal, for an English poem on 'The Restoration of Learning in the East.' Grant's poem was printed at the university press. In 1819 the university conferred on him the honorary degree of LL.D.

Grant became a member of the Speculative Society of Edinburgh in January 1802, when he read an essay on the 'Usefulness of the Study of Mythology.' He was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn on 30 Jan. 1807, but did not practise. He was an early contributor to the 'Quarterly Review,' and wrote the review of Miss Berry's edition of Madame du Defiand's 'Letters to Horace Walpole,' in vol. v.

From 1811 to 1818 he was M.P. for the Inverness and Fortrose burghs. In 1818 he succeeded his father as member for the county of Inverness, and represented that constituency until his elevation to the peerage in 1835.

Grant first distinguished himself in the House of Commons by a brilliant maiden speech in support of Lord Castlereagh's Preservation of Public Peace Bill on 13 July 1812, and again by a speech in support of the East India Company on 31 May 1813. In December of the same year he became a lord of the treasury under Lord Liverpool, and in August 1819 chief secretary for Ireland, and a member of the privy council. He held the Irish secretaryship till 1823. His policy was conciliatory; he endeavoured to suppress Orange demonstrations, and to devise a system of national education which should satisfy catholics and protestants alike. At the same time he suggested changes in the systems of police and magistracy, and anticipated many reforms subsequently effected. His speech on 7 June 1822 in opposition to the second reading of the Constables (Ireland) Bill was published as a pamphlet, and was highly praised by the 'Edinburgh Review.'

In 1823 Grant was appointed vice-president of the board of trade, and in September 1827 entered Canning's last ministry as president of the board of trade and treasurer of the navy. These offices he retained in the succeeding ministries of Goderich and Wellington, but resigned office in June 1828 with the other members of the Canningite party. He was president of the board of control under Earl Grey from December 1830 to July 1834, and in Lord Melbourne's first ministry from the latter date till its resignation in November following. As president of the board of control Grant took a leading part in the history of the East India Company at a critical period. The charter, renewed in 1813 for twenty years, was expiring. Grant proposed a compromise between the views of the ministry and those of the court of directors. On 28 Aug. 1833 his bill, introduced 28 June, became law. By its provisions the company retained its political rights, but surrendered to the crown all its property in return for an annuity and a guarantee fund. Additional clauses, on which Grant had insisted in opposition to the court of directors, provided for the establishment of bishoprics at Bombay and Madras.

Grant was appointed colonial secretary in Lord Melbourne's second ministry (April 1835). On 8 May he was raised to the peerage, with the title Baron Glenelg, the name of his estate in Scotland. His term of office saw the total abolition of West Indian slavery by the suppression of apprenticeship, which had been abused by the planters. But his policy elsewhere was sharply criticised. An invasion of the Kaffirs into Cape Colony had led to a war, which terminated in 1835. The governor, Sir Benjamin D'Urban [q. v.], had thereupon issued a proclamation extending the boundaries of the colony to the river Kei. Glenelg refused to sanction this action, and on 26 Dec. 1835 sent a despatch to this effect to Sir Benjamin D'Urban, who immediately resigned. Glenelg was vigorously defended in a pamphlet published in 1837 by 'Justus,' and entitled 'Wrongs of the Caffre Nation.'

Glenelg's Canadian administration exposed him to severe and on the whole deserved condemnation. Signs of disturbance were apparent in Canada on his assuming office. Without adopting a very definite line of policy, he at first aimed vaguely at reorganising the Canadian government in conformity with Canadian sentiment. He gained at once the dislike of the king, who, while resisting all concessions, called Glenelg 'vacillating and procrastinating' (Spencer Walpole, Life of Lord John Russell, i. 268). When the king saw Sir Charles Grey [q. v.] on his appointment (June 1835) as a commissioner to investigate Canadian grievances, he openly denounced Glenelg, and Melbourne in the name of the cabinet protested against his violent language (Melbourne Papers, p. 334). In June 1836, when the crisis in Canada was growing more acute, William IV forbade for a time the issue of Glenelg's despatch sanctioning the alienation of crown lands and the introduction of the elective principle in Lower Canada (ib. p. 349). The outbreak of the rebellion in 1837 increased Glenelg's unpopularity with all parties. The lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, Sir Francis Bond Head [q. v.], readily quelled the disturbance, but Glenelg was still unable to determine to what policy to adhere, and Head resigned on 15 Jan. 1838 (see Lord Glenelg's Despatches to Sir F. B. Head, London, 1839). The next day Lord Durham was appointed governor-general of Canada with extraordinary powers. On 7 March Sir William Molesworth, the radical leader, who sympathised with Canadian claims to self-government, moved in the House of Commons that Glenelg did 'not enjoy the confidence of the house or of the country,' and attacked his policy not only in Canada, but in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, to both of which he had refused autonomous institutions. Molesworth's motion was withdrawn in favour of an amendment proposed by Lord Sandon from the conservative benches attributing the Canadian crisis to 'the ambiguous, dilatory, and irresolute course' of the ministry. The amendment was lost, but the debate greatly injured Glenelg. On 28 May Durham arrived at Quebec, and on 28 June he issued his famous ordinance sentencing the rebels who had surrendered to perpetual banishment to the Bermudas. Glenelg at first approved the proclamation, but Lord Brougham carried in the House of Lords a motion strongly condemning it (5 Aug.) Lord Melbourne thereupon announced its partial withdrawal, and Glenelg admitted that it was in part illegal. Lord Durham resigned when this news reached him (22 Oct.), and joined the ranks of Glenelg's enemies. Glenelg's colleagues, Lord John Russell and Lord Howick, insisted in October that his incompetency at the colonial office made his dismissal necessary (Melbourne Papers, 380; Walpole, Russell, i. 308). The premier, Melbourne, hesitated to act. He wished to make other provision for Glenelg, and suggested a pension of 2,000l. a year or the auditorship of the exchequer, then held by Sir John Newport. Russell and his friends in the cabinet threatened to resign if Glenelg was not removed. But it was not until 8 Feb. 1839 that Glenelg yielded and retired. When announcing his resignation in the House of Lords 'he said very little,' writes Greville, 'but that little conveyed a sense of ill-usage and a mortified spirit.' He subsequently received the non-political post of commissioner of the land tax, and accepted a retiring pension of 2,000l. per annum. He appeared occasionally in the House of Lords, for the last time in 1856, when he took part in the debate on life peerages. The remainder of his life he devoted to books, society, and travel. Feeble health forced him to live abroad, and his last days were spent in the companionship of Brougham at Cannes, where he died on 23 April 1866. He was unmarried, and his title became extinct at his death. There is a portrait of him in Inverness Castle.

[Information from the Hon. and Rev. Latimer Neville; obituary notices in Inverness Courier, 3 May 1866, Morning Post and Times, 28 April 1866; Nouvelle Biographie Universelle; Annual Review; Thornton's Hist. of India; Trevelyan's Life and Letters of Macaulay; Melbourne Papers, ed. Lloyd C. Sanders (1889); Spencer Walpole's Life of Lord John Russell, vol. i.; Greville Memoirs, 1st ser.]

E. J. R.