Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Petty, William (1737-1805)
, first Marquis of Landsdowne, better known as Lord Shelburne (1737–1805), was the elder son of the Hon. John Fitzmaurice, who assumed the name of Petty in 1751, and was subsequently created Earl of Shelburne, by his wife Mary, daughter of Colonel the Hon. William Fitzmaurice of Gallane, co. Kerry. He was born in Dublin on 20 May 1737, and spent the first four years of his life in a remote part of the south of Ireland with his grandfather, Thomas Fitzmaurice, first earl of Kerry, whose wife was the only daughter of Sir William Petty [q. v.] According to his own account of his youthful days, his early education was ‘neglected to the greatest degree.’ He was first ‘sent to an ordinary publick school,’ and was afterwards ‘shut up with a private tutor’ while his father and mother were in England. At the age of seventeen he went to Christ Church, Oxford, where he matriculated on 11 March 1755, and ‘had again the misfortune to fall under a narrow-minded tutor’ (Life, i. 14, 17; Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886, ii. 467). Receiving a commission in the 20th regiment of foot, he left the university in 1757 without taking a degree, and served in the expedition to Rochefort. In June 1758 he exchanged into the 3rd regiment of foot-guards, and subsequently served under Prince Ferdinand and Lord Granby in Germany, where he distinguished himself at the battle of Minden and at Kloster Kampen. While abroad he was returned to the House of Commons for the family borough of High Wycombe, in the place of his father, who was created a peer of Great Britain on 17 May 1760. On 4 Dec. 1760 he was rewarded for his military services with the rank of colonel in the army and the post of aide-de-camp to the king. At the general election in 1761 he was again returned for High Wycombe, and was also elected to the Irish parliament for the county of Kerry. The death of his father in May 1761 prevented him from sitting in either House of Commons, and on 3 Nov. 1761 he took his seat in the English House of Lords as Baron Wycombe (Journals of the House of Lords, xxx. 108). During this year he was employed by Bute in his negotiations for an alliance with Henry Fox [q. v.] Disgusted, however, with Bute's hesitation, Shelburne, in a maiden speech on 6 Nov., pronounced boldly in the House of Lords for the withdrawal of the troops from Germany. On 5 Feb. 1762 he again urged their withdrawal, and signed a protest against the rejection of the Duke of Bedford's amendment to the address (Rogers, Protests of the House of Lords. 1875, ii. 62–65). Preferring to maintain an independent course of action, Shelburne refused to accept office under Bute, though he undertook the task of inducing Fox to accept the leadership of the House of Commons, and was entrusted with the motion approving of the preliminaries of peace on 9 Dec. 1762. Fox, on claiming his reward for gaining the consent of the house to the peace, accused Shelburne of having secured his services by a misstatement of the terms [see Fox, Henry, first Baron Holland], a charge which has been satisfactorily refuted by Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice in his account of the so-called ‘pious fraud’ (Life, i. 153–229). Bute continued to show his undiminished confidence in Shelburne as a negotiator by employing him as his intermediary with Lord Gower, the Duke of Bedford, and others during the formation of Grenville's ministry. Shelburne was to have been secretary of state in the new administration, but, owing to Grenville's opposition, he was obliged to content himself with the inferior office of president of the board of trade and foreign plantations, with a seat in the cabinet (Grenville Papers, 1852–3, ii. 35–8, 41). He was sworn a member of the privy council on 20 April 1763, but soon found himself at variance with his colleagues. A few days after he had taken office Shelburne exposed the blunder which Halifax had made in issuing a general warrant for the arrest of the author of the famous No. 45 of the ‘North Briton.’ With Egremont he was frequently in collision on questions both of policy and of administration. So dissatisfied did Shelburne become with his position that he was with difficulty persuaded by Bute to remain in office. In August he was employed by Bute in an intrigue, the object of which was to displace Grenville and to bring back Pitt, with the Bedford connection (Chatham Correspondence, 1830–40, ii. 235 n). On the failure of the negotiations between Pitt and the king, Shelburne resigned the board of trade (2 Sept.), but at the same time assured the king that he still meant to support the government. He, however, soon afterwards attached himself to Pitt, and joined the ranks of the opposition (Grenville Papers, ii. 203, 226, 236). On 29 Nov. he took part in the debate on the proceedings against Wilkes, and spoke against the resolution that ‘privilege of parliament does not extend to the case of writing and publishing seditious libels.’ For his speech on this occasion Shelburne was dismissed from his staff appointment (8 Dec.), and on his next appearance at court no notice was taken of him by the king. Shelburne thereupon retired into the country, where he occupied himself in the improvement of his estates, and in the collection of manuscripts.
On 25 April 1764 he took his seat in the Irish House of Lords as Earl of Shelburne (Journals of the Irish House of Lords, iv. 311). He refused Rockingham's invitation to return to the board of trade, and at the opening of the session, on 17 Dec., he attacked the policy of the Stamp Act. On 10 Feb. 1766 he spoke warmly against the declaratory resolutions, maintaining that there were only ‘two questions for the consideration of Parliament—repeal, or no repeal’—and that ‘it was unwise to raise the question of right, whatever their opinions might be’ (Life, i. 376–7). In the following month he assisted Rockingham in passing the repeal of the Stamp Act.
Upon Pitt's return to power, Shelburne was appointed secretary of state for the southern department (23 July 1766). In order to put an end to the evils of a divided administration of the colonies, the board of trade was reduced to a mere board of report by an order of council of 8 Aug. 1766. By these means the entire administration of the colonies was placed under the undivided control of Shelburne, who immediately set to work to regain the good will of the American colonists. He assured their agents in England of the intention of the government to adopt a conciliatory policy, and of his own determination to remove any well-founded grievances. He also instructed the governors of the various colonies to furnish him with particulars of all matters in dispute, and to report on the actual condition of their respective governments. Finding, however, that his conciliatory measures were thwarted by his colleagues during Chatham's absence, Shelburne ceased attending the meetings of the cabinet for some time, and merely attempted, in his executive capacity of secretary of state, to neutralise as far as possible the disastrous effects of Townshend's policy. Shelburne's position was one of peculiar difficulty. Hated by the king, and denounced by his colleagues, he was naturally anxious to retire; while he also felt bound to keep his place so long as Chatham held the privy seal. By the appointment of Lord Hillsborough as a third secretary of state in January 1768, Shelburne was relieved of his charge of the American colonies. But, in spite of this change, the differences between Shelburne and his colleagues continued to increase. In April he successfully opposed the adoption of Hillsborough's injudicious instructions to Governor Bernard with reference to the circular letter of the Massachusetts assembly. In June he vainly protested against the annexation of Corsica by France. In September all the members of the cabinet were agreed upon coercive measures against the American colonists, with the exception of Shelburne, and Chatham, who was still absent through illness. Shelburne is also said to have been the only one who was against the expulsion of Wilkes from the House of Commons (Grenville Papers, iv. 371), a measure which was clamorously demanded by the king's friends. On 5 Oct. 1768 Grafton wrote to Chatham, and demanded Shelburne's dismissal. To this Chatham refused to agree, but immediately afterwards tendered his resignation to the king on the ground of his shattered health. On 19 Oct. Shelburne, who appears to have been ignorant of Chatham's retirement from office, obtained an audience of the king, and resigned the seals.
At the opening of parliament on 9 Jan. 1770, Shelburne supported Chatham's attack upon the government, and called attention to the alarming state of affairs on the continent, where England was without an ally. On 1 May he spoke in favour of the bill for the reversal of the proceedings in the House of Commons against Wilkes, and declared that Lord North deserved to be impeached (Parl. Hist. xvi. 965). Three days afterwards he supported Chatham's motion condemning the king's answer to the remonstrance of the city of London, and alluded in scathing terms to the secret influence of the king's friends (ib. xvi. 972–4). During the debate on the Duke of Richmond's American resolutions, Shelburne made a violent attack upon the ministers, and asserted that they ‘were so lost to the sentiments of shame that they gloried in their delinquency’ (ib. xvi. 1024–6). On 22 Nov. he renewed his attack upon the ministers, and declared that the country would ‘neither be united at home nor respected abroad, till the reins of government are lodged with men who have some little pretensions to common sense and common honesty’ (ib. xvi. 1113–14). On 14 Feb. 1771 he spoke ‘better than he had ever done’ while pointing out the many objections to the convention with Spain with reference to the Falkland Islands (Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of George III, 1894, iv. 182). Disheartened by the divided state of the opposition, Shelburne went abroad in May 1771, accompanied by his friend and political intimate, Isaac Barré [q. v.] While at Paris he made the acquaintance of the Abbé Morellet, to whom he owed his conversion to the doctrines of the economic school. Upon his return to England, he interested himself on behalf of the nonconformists in their attempt to procure exemption from subscribing to the Thirty-nine Articles. He also warmly opposed the passing of the Royal Marriage Bill. During the debate on the East India Company's Regulation Bill on 17 June 1773, Shelburne became involved in a long altercation with the Duke of Richmond, ‘which lasted almost the whole of that and the two following days’ (Life, ii. 274). His speech contributed largely to the success of the bill, and ‘it was universally said that Lord Shelburne showed more knowledge in the affairs of India than all the Ministers in either House’ (Chatham Correspondence, iv. 284 n.) The differences between the two sections of the whig party were still further increased by Shelburne's support of James Townshend in opposition to Wilkes, and by his refusal to sign the memorial of the whig peers against the Irish absentee tax. On 20 Jan. 1775 he supported Chatham's motion for the withdrawal of the troops from Boston, and condemned ‘the madness, injustice, and infatuation of coercing the Americans into a blind and servile submission’ (Parl. Hist. xviii. 162–3). On 1 Feb. he both spoke and voted for Chatham's plan of conciliation (ib. xviii. 206–7, 216), and on 7 Feb. made a violent attack upon Lord Mansfield, whom he accused of being the author of the American measures passed in the previous session (ib. xviii. 275–6, 281–282, 283). At the opening of the session in October 1775 he supported Rockingham's amendment to the address, and declared that ‘an uniform lurking spirit of despotism’ had pervaded every administration with regard to their American policy (ib. xviii. 722–6). He supported the petition of the American congress (ib. xviii. 920–7), and opposed the American Prohibitory Bill as being ‘to the last degree hasty, rash, unjust, and ruinous’ (ib. xviii. 1083–7, 1095, 1097–1100). In March 1776 he spoke in favour of Grafton's proposals for conciliation with America (ib. xviii. 1270–2).
At the opening of the session on 31 Oct. 1776, Shelburne denounced the king's speech as ‘a piece of metaphysical refinement,’ and the defence set up for it as ‘nothing more than a string of sophisms, no less wretched in their texture than insolent in their tenor’ (ib. xviii. 1384–91). In April 1777 he protested strongly against the payment of the arrears of the civil list (ib. xix. 181–6). On 30 May he supported Chatham's motion for an address to the crown for putting a stop to the hostilities in America, and fiercely attacked Archbishop Markham for preaching doctrines subversive of the constitution (ib. xix. 344–7, 349–51). Shelburne's speech on this occasion was described by the younger Pitt ‘as one of the most interesting and forcible’ that he had ever heard or could even imagine (Chatham Correspondence, iv. 438). In the debate on Lord North's conciliatory bills on 5 March 1778, Shelburne declared that ‘he would never consent that America should be independent’ (Parl. Hist. xix. 850–6; see also Chatham Correspondence, iv. 480–4). During this month North attempted to persuade Chatham and Shelburne to join the government. But Shelburne quickly put an end to the negotiations by expressing his opinion that, if any arrangement was to be made with the opposition, ‘Lord Chatham must be dictator,’ and that a complete change in the administration was absolutely necessary. He took part in the adjourned debate on the state of the nation the day after Chatham had been taken ill in the house (8 April 1778), and once more impeached the conduct of the ministry which was ‘the ruin as well as the disgrace of this country’ (Parl. Hist. xix. 1032–52, 1056–8). His motion, on 13 May following, that the House of Lords should attend Chatham's funeral in Westminster Abbey was lost by a single vote (ib. xix. 1233–4). The leadership of Chatham's small band of adherents now devolved upon Shelburne, who still persevered in his opposition to Lord North. In the debate on the address on 26 Nov., he candidly asserted that ‘he would cheerfully co-operate with any set of men’ to drag the ministers from office (ib. xix. 1306–19), though in the following month he solemnly declared that ‘he never would serve with any man, be his abilities what they might, who would either maintain it was right or consent to acknowledge the independency of America’ (ib. xx. 40). In February 1779 Shelburne refused to entertain the overtures made through Weymouth for the purpose of inducing him, Grafton, and Camden to form a government; and, in order to cement the ranks of the opposition, he promised, at Grafton's request, not to contest the treasury with Rockingham in the event of the formation of a whig ministry. On 2 June 1779 Shelburne called attention to the distressed state of Ireland, and ‘desired the House to recollect that the American war had commenced upon less provocation than this country had given Ireland’ (ib. xx. 663–9, 675). On 1 Dec. he again called attention to the affairs of Ireland, and moved a vote of censure upon the administration for their neglect of that country, but was defeated by 82 votes to 37 (ib. xx. 1157–69, 1178). He supported the Duke of Richmond's motion for an economical reform of the civil list (ib. xx. 1263–6), and made a violent attack upon the king during the discussion of the army extraordinaries (ib. xx. 1285–91; see also Life, iii. 67). On 8 Feb. 1780 he moved for the appointment of a committee of both houses to inquire into the public expenditure, but was defeated by a majority of 46 votes (Parl. Hist. xx. 1318–32, 1362, 1364–70). On 22 March he fought a duel in Hyde Park with Lieutenant-colonel William Fullarton [q. v.], whom he had offended by some remarks in the House of Lords (ib. xxi. 218; see also pp. 293–6, 319–27). Owing to the prevalent suspicion that Fullarton was an instrument of the government, Shelburne, who was slightly wounded in the groin, became an object of popular favour. Several towns conferred their freedom on him, and the committee of the common council of London sent to inquire after his health. Shelburne was unjustly accused of having privately encouraged the excesses of the mob during the Gordon riots. After Rockingham's abortive negotiation with the king in July, the opposition again became divided, and Shelburne retired into the country. The only speech which he made during the session of 1780–1 was on 25 Jan. 1781, when he denounced the injustice of the war with Holland, and confessed that, ‘in respect to the recovery of North America, he had been a very Quixote.’ Moreover, he declared that ‘much as he valued America,’ and ‘fatal as her final separation would prove, whenever that event might take place … he would be much better pleased to see America for ever severed from Great Britain than restored to our possession by force of arms or conquest’ (ib. xxi. 1023–43). At Grafton's request, Shelburne returned to London for the following session. At the meeting of parliament, on 27 Nov. 1781, he moved an amendment to the address, and pointed out the impossibility of continuing the struggle with America (ib. xxii. 644–50). During the debate on the surrender of Cornwallis in February 1782, Shelburne once more asserted that he ‘never would consent under any possible given circumstances to acknowledge the independency of America’ (ib. xxii. 987–8).
When Lord North resigned in the following month, Shelburne declined to form an administration, and urged the king to send for Rockingham. The king ultimately agreed to accept Rockingham as the head of the new ministry, but he refused to communicate with him personally, and employed Shelburne as his intermediary in the negotiations. Though the Rockingham administration was formed on the express understanding that the king would consent to acknowledge the independence of America, Shelburne, in spite of his previous protests, accepted the post of secretary of state for the home department (27 March 1782). One of his first official acts was to cause a circular letter to be sent round to all the principal towns suggesting the immediate enrolment of volunteers for the national defence. On 17 May he carried resolutions for the repeal of the declaratory act of George I, and for other concessions to Ireland, without any serious opposition in the House of Lords (ib. xxiii. 35–8, 43).
Shelburne's proposals for parliamentary reform, for a general reform of the receipt and expenditure of the public revenue, and for the impeachment of Lord North were severally rejected by the cabinet. The differences between Shelburne and Fox, who regarded each other with mutual distrust and jealousy, culminated in the negotiations for peace [see Fox, Charles James]. But though at difference with his colleagues on questions of policy, he retained the confidence of the king, who freely consulted him on Burke's bill for the reform of the civil list (Life, iii. 154–62). On 3 July, two days after Rockingham's death, Shelburne, while supporting the second reading of Burke's bill, expressed a hope that he should be able ‘to introduce a general system of economy not only in the offices mentioned in the bill, but into every office whatever’ (Parl. Hist. xxiii. 143–4; see also Life, iii. 328–37). The popular effect of this bill was, however, considerably lessened by the previous grant of pensions to two of Shelburne's staunchest adherents. On Shelburne's appointment as first lord of the treasury, Fox, who had recommended the king to send for the Duke of Portland, resigned office with other members of the Rockingham party. Shelburne attempted to form an administration which should be subservient neither to the king nor to the whigs. William Pitt was appointed chancellor of the exchequer, while Thomas Townshend and Lord Grantham received the seals of secretaries of state. Of the eleven ministers who formed Shelburne's cabinet, seven were Chathamite whigs, two had been followers of Rockingham, Grantham had not identified himself with any political party, and Thurlow represented the king (Life, iii. 229). During the debate on the change of ministry on 10 July, Shelburne took the opportunity of stating his firm adherence to ‘all those constitutional ideas which for seventeen years he had imbibed from his master in politics, the late Earl of Chatham.’ He also declared that he had never altered his opinion with regard to the independence of America, and ‘to nothing short of necessity would he give way on that head’ (Parl. Hist. xxiii. 191–5, 196). Parliament rose on the following day, and Shelburne was now able to give his undivided attention to the peace negotiations at Paris. Thomas Grenville (1755–1846) [q. v.], Fox's envoy to Vergennes, was succeeded by Alleyne Fitzherbert (afterwards Baron St. Helens) [q. v.], and Richard Oswald [q. v.] was formally empowered to conclude a peace with the American colonies. With much skill Shelburne managed to draw away the Americans from their allies, and in like manner to detach France from Spain and the northern powers. Though, after much reluctance, he conceded the absolute independence of the American colonies, he firmly resisted the surrender of Gibraltar, in spite of the king's wish to get rid of it. A provisional treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States of America was signed at Paris on 13 Nov. 1782, and on 20 Jan. 1783 preliminary articles of peace with France and Spain were concluded, a truce being at the same time settled with the States-General. Weakened by dissensions in his cabinet, Shelburne vainly endeavoured to procure the support of North and Fox. On 17 Feb. 1783 the coalition of these statesmen against Shelburne became patent. The address approving of the peace, though carried in the lords by a majority of thirteen, was defeated in the commons by a majority of sixteen. Shelburne defended the treaties in a powerful speech, and boldly asserted his disbelief in the opinion then prevalent that the prosperity of the country depended on commercial monopoly. ‘I avow,’ he said, ‘that monopoly is always unwise; but if there is any nation under heaven who ought to be the first to reject monopoly, it is the English’ (Parl. Hist. xxiii. 407–20). On the morning of 22 Feb. Lord John Cavendish's resolution censuring the terms of peace was carried in the commons by 207 votes to 190; and on the 24th Shelburne, convinced that the king was playing a double game, resigned office. The charge against Shelburne that he had availed himself of his political information to speculate profitably in the stocks during the negotiations for peace, is entirely without foundation (Edinburgh Review, xxv. 211–12).
Upon the formation of the coalition ministry Shelburne retired into the country. At Pitt's request, however, he returned to town in May to attack Lord John Cavendish's financial measures, when he took the opportunity of vindicating his own conduct, and ‘thanked God that he remained independent of all parties’ (Parl. Hist. xxiii. 806–18, 824, 825–6). Shortly afterwards Shelburne went abroad for some months. Owing to his great unpopularity, Shelburne was not asked by Pitt to join the administration in December 1783. The king, moreover, was deeply incensed against Shelburne on account of his resignation in the previous February and his absence from the division on Fox's East India bill. Shelburne now ceased to take a prominent part in public affairs, and did not again take office. In spite of the treatment which he had received, Shelburne gave Pitt every assurance of his support, and on 6 Dec. 1784 was created Viscount Calne and Calstone, Earl Wycombe, and Marquis of Lansdowne in the peerage of Great Britain. In July 1785 he both spoke and voted in favour of the Irish commercial propositions (Parl. Hist. xxv. 855–64), and on 1 March 1787 he supported the treaty of commerce with France in an exceedingly able speech (ib. xxvi. 554–61). During the further discussion of the French treaty he became involved in an acrimonious discussion with the Duke of Richmond (ib. xxvi. 573 et seq.), which put an end to their friendship, and nearly brought about a duel, the general wish among the whigs being that ‘one should be shot and the other hanged for it’ (Life and Letters of Sir Gilbert Elliot, first Earl of Minto, 1874, i. 135). The understanding between Lansdowne and Pitt was first disturbed by a difference of opinion with regard to Indian affairs. Lansdowne entertained a great admiration for Warren Hastings. ‘The Foxites and Pittites,’ he writes to Bentham, ‘join in covering every villain, and prosecuting the only man of merit’ (Life, iii. 476). In March 1788 he offered a determined opposition to the East India declaratory bill (Cornwallis Correspondence, 1859, i. 355, 362; Parl. Hist. xxvii. 227–33, 256–9). In December 1788 he supported the government on the regency question (ib. xxvii. 874–84, 890). In the debate on the convention with Spain on 13 Dec. 1790, Lansdowne called the attention of the house to the rejection of the pacific system which had been inaugurated by the peace of 1782 (ib. xxviii. 939–48), and in the following year he vigorously denounced the policy of maintaining the integrity of the Turkish empire against Russia (ib. xxix. 46–52, 441–8). In the beginning of 1792 the king made an overture to Lansdowne, who replied in a singularly obscure paper on men and manners, and the negotiation abruptly terminated (Life, iii. 500–4). In May Lansdowne expressed his strong disapproval of the proclamation against seditious writings (Parl. Hist. xxix. 1524–7), and in December he warmly opposed the alien bill (ib. xxx. 159, 164–6). In 1793 he unsuccessfully protested against the war with France (ib. xxx. 329–31, 422–3), and vainly opposed the Traitorous Correspondence Bill (ib. xxx. 728–30, 732–6). His motion in favour of peace with France was defeated by 103 votes to thirteen on 17 Feb. 1794 (ib. xxx. 1391–1407, 1424). In the same year he opposed the Habeas Corpus Suspension Bill (ib. xxxi. 598–601), and supported the Duke of Bedford's motion for putting an end to the French war (ib. xxxi. 683–5, 687). In 1795 he opposed the bill for continuing the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act (ib. xxxi. 1287–9), and the Seditious Meetings bill (ib. xxxii. 534–9, 551–2, 554). The estrangement between Lansdowne and Pitt led to a gradual reconciliation between Lansdowne and Fox, who informed Lord Holland in February 1796 that ‘we are indeed now upon a very good footing, and quite sufficiently so to enable us to act cordially together, if any occasion offers to make our doing so useful’ (Russell, Memorials and Correspondence of C. J. Fox, 1854, iii. 129). Lansdowne's motion in favour of reform in the public offices was defeated by a majority of ninety-two on 2 May 1796 (Parl. Hist. xxxii. 1041–1052). In March 1797 he indignantly denied the charge of Jacobinism which had frequently been imputed to him, and declared that he only ‘desired the present system should be changed for a constitutional system’ (ib. xxxiii. 193–4). On 30 May following he expressed a hope that an attempt at parliamentary reform would be made ‘while it could be done gradually, and not to delay its necessity till it would burst all bounds’ (ib. xxxiii. 761–2). During the debate on the address at the opening of the session in November 1797, Lansdowne, in an eloquent speech, insisted on the necessity of making peace with France, and urged the ministers to adopt a policy of conciliation both at home and abroad (ib. xxxiii. 872–9). In March 1798 he supported the Duke of Bedford's motion for the dismissal of the ministers (ib. xxxiii. 1332–6, 1352). In March 1779, and again in April 1800 he declared himself in favour of union with Ireland (ib. xxxiv. 672–680, xxxv. 165–9). When the king's illness, in 1801, seemed likely to necessitate a regency, Lord Moira was instructed by the Prince of Wales to ascertain Lansdowne's views. After several conversations a cabinet was agreed upon, with Lansdowne and Fox as secretaries of state, Sheridan as chancellor of the exchequer, and Moira as first lord of the treasury (Life, iii. 559–62). These arrangements, however, were quickly frustrated by the recovery of the king and the formation of the Addington ministry. On 20 March 1801 Lansdowne made a formal declaration of his altered views on the question of neutral rights (Parl. Hist. xxxv. 1197–9). He spoke for the last time in the House of Lords on 23 May 1803, and once more urged the government to adopt a policy of conciliation with regard to France (ib. xxxvi. 1505–7). He died at Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square, London, on 7 May 1805, and was buried at High Wycombe in the family vault in the north aisle of the chancel of All Saints' Church, without any monument or inscription to his memory.
Lansdowne was appointed major-general on 26 March 1765 (dated 10 July 1762), lieutenant-general on 26 May 1772, and general on 19 Feb. 1783. He was elected and invested a knight of the Garter on 19 April 1782, and was installed by dispensation on 29 May 1801 (Nicolas, History of the Orders of British Knighthood, 1842, vol. ii. p. lxxiii).
He married, first, on 3 Feb. 1765, Lady Sophia Carteret, only daughter of John, earl Granville, in whose right he acquired large estates, including Lansdowne Hill, near Bath, from which he afterwards took his title of marquis. By her he had two sons, viz.: (1) John Henry, second marquis of Lansdowne, and (2) William Granville, who died on 28 Jan. 1778. Shelburne's first wife died on 5 Jan. 1771, aged 25, and was buried in the mausoleum in Bowood Park. A monument was erected to her memory in the south aisle of All Saints' Church, High Wycombe. He married, secondly, on 9 July 1779, Lady Louisa Fitzpatrick, second daughter of John, first earl of Upper Ossory, by whom he had an only son, Henry, third marquis of Lansdowne [q. v.], and a daughter, born on 8 Dec. 1781, who died an infant. His second wife died on 8 Aug. 1789, aged 34.
Lansdowne was one of the most unpopular statesmen of his time. He was commonly known as ‘Malagrida,’ a nickname given him for the first time in the ‘Public Advertiser’ for 16 Sept. 1767 (Woodfall, Junius, 1814, ii. 473), while caricatures represented him as Guy Fawkes in the act of blowing up his comrades. Henry Fox denounced him as ‘a perfidious and infamous liar’ (Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of George III, i. 203). George III spoke of him as ‘the jesuit of Berkeley Square’ (Correspondence of King George III with Lord North, 1867, ii. 234). Horace Walpole declared that ‘his falsehood was so constant and notorious that it was rather his profession than his instrument. … A Cataline and a Borgia were his models in age when half their wickedness would have suited his purposes better’ (Journal of the Reign of George III, 1859, ii. 566–7). Burke frequently expressed the most extravagant detestation of him. ‘If Lord Shelburne was not a Cataline or a Borgia in morals,’ he said on one occasion, ‘it must not be ascribed to anything but his understanding’ (Parl. Hist. xxiii. 183). Even as late as 1793 many of the leading whigs had ‘not only a distrust, but an unwarrantable hatred of his very name’ (Lord Holland, Memoirs of the Whig Party, 1852, i. 45). Two familiar anecdotes well illustrate the general belief in his insincerity. The one is Goldsmith's unfortunate though well-meant remark to Lansdowne, ‘Do you know that I never could conceive the reason why they call you Malagrida, for Malagrida was a very good sort of man’ (Hardy, Memoirs of the Earl of Charlemont, 1810, p. 177). The other, the story of Gainsborough flinging away his pencil after a second attempt to draw a likeness of Lansdowne, and exclaiming, ‘D——it! I never could see through varnish, and there's an end’ (Autobiography of Mrs. Piozzi, 1861, i. 338). The same reproach is urged against him in the ‘Rolliad’ (1795, pt. i. p. 245):
A Noble Duke affirms I like his plan;
I never did, my Lords!—I never can!
Shame on the slanderous breath which dares instill,
That I, who now condemn, advis'd the ill.
Plain words, thank Heaven, are always understood;
I could approve, I said, but not I wou'd.
Judged by the standard of the time, nothing that Lansdowne did sufficiently accounts for his extreme unpopularity amongst his contemporaries. Much of it was doubtless due to his outspoken contempt for political parties, and his preference for measures to men; much also to his affected and obsequious manners, his extremely suspicious temper, and his cynical judgment of the motives of others. Though possessed of great abilities, Lansdowne was wanting in tact, and without any skill in the management of men. ‘His art,’ said Lord Loughborough, ‘had a strong twang of a boarding-school education. It resembles more a cunning woman's than an able man's address’ (Journal and Correspondence of Lord Auckland, 1861–2, i. 19). As a speaker he had few superiors in the House of Lords. Lord Camden is said to have ‘admired his debating powers above those of any other peer in his time, Lord Chatham alone excepted’ (George Hardinge quoted in Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors, 1846, v. 362); while Bentham, on the other hand, says that ‘his manner was very imposing, very dignified, and he talked his vague generalities in the House of Lords in a very emphatic way, as if something grand were at the bottom, when, in fact, there was nothing at all’ (The Works of Jeremy Bentham, 1843, x. 116). Lord Holland, in his discriminating character of Lansdowne, says that ‘in his publick speeches he wanted method and perspicuity, and was deficient in justness of reason, in judgment, and in taste; but he had some imagination, some wit, great animation, and both in sarcasm and invective not unfrequently rose to eloquence’ (Memoirs of the Whig Party, i. 41). Deficient as he was in many of the requisite qualifications of a leader, Lansdowne was really more of a political philosopher than a statesman. In many of his views he was far in advance of his own times. He warmly supported the cause of parliamentary and economical reform. He was in favour of Roman catholic emancipation and complete religious equality. He was one of the earliest and most zealous advocates of free trade. He hailed the French revolution with enthusiasm, and persistently advocated a close alliance between England and France. He protested against the policy of maintaining the integrity of the Turkish empire, and was in favour of the neutral flag in time of war. Bentham always said that ‘he was the only minister he ever heard of who did not fear the people’ (ib. p. 41 n.). Disraeli, who calls Lansdowne ‘one of the suppressed characters of English history,’ says that he was ‘the first great minister who comprehended the rising importance of the middle class’ (Sybil, 1845, i. 34, 37).
Lansdowne was a munificent patron of literature and the fine arts. His house was the centre of the most cultivated and liberal society of the day. Bentham, Dumont, Franklin, Garrick, Johnson, Sir William Jones, Price, Priestley, Mirabeau, Morellet, and Romilly were numbered among his many friends.
In spite of his political cares, Lansdowne always carefully supervised the administration of his large estates. He told Johnson on one occasion that ‘a man of rank who looks into his own affairs may have all that he ought to have, all that can be of any use, or appear with any advantage, for five thousand pounds a year’ (Boswell, Life of Johnson, 1887, iii. 265). He employed Capability Brown in laying out the grounds at Bowood, and added a wing to the house, the chief portion of which had been erected by his father. Lansdowne House, on the south side of Berkeley Square, was built by the Brothers Adam between 1765 and 1767 for the Earl of Bute, who sold it before completion to Lansdowne for 22,000l. As both these ministers were popularly supposed to have largely benefited from the conclusion of a great war, the house was said to have been ‘constructed by one peace, and paid for by another’ (Wraxall, Historical Memoirs, 1815, ii. 308). Lansdowne sold Wycombe Abbey to Robert, first baron Carrington, in August 1798. The sale of Lansdowne's huge library of printed books by Messrs. Leigh & Sotheby lasted thirty-one days, and realised over 6,700l. His collections of (1) maps, charts, and prints, (2) political and historical tracts and pamphlets, and (3) coins and medals, were sold by the same auctioneers in April and May 1806. His valuable collection of manuscripts, which included the original state papers of Lord Burghley, the correspondence of Sir Julius Cæsar, and the collections of Bishop White Kennett and Le Neve, were purchased for the British Museum in 1807, a parliamentary grant of 4,925l. being voted for that purpose (Cat. Lansd. MSS. 1819). The collection of pictures which he had formed at Bowood was sold in 1809 (Britton, Autobiography, 1850, pt. i. p. 356). Of the art collections made by Lansdowne, the gallery of ancient statuary at Lansdowne House, purchased from Gavin Hamilton, alone remains, though that was also offered for sale in 1810 (see Cat. of Lansdowne Marbles, &c., 1810).
The ‘Letters of Junius’ have been sometimes attributed to Lansdowne, while Britton supposed that Lansdowne and Dunning assisted Barré in writing them (The Authorship of the Letters of Junius Elucidated, 1848). The authorship is, however, said to have been denied by Lansdowne a week before his death, when he told Sir Richard Phillips that he knew Junius ‘and all about the writing and production of those letters’ (Life, vol. i. pp. viii, ix, ii. 199 n.)
Lansdowne left in manuscript portions of an autobiography, an incomplete memoranda of the events of 1762, and several other fragmentary papers, most of which have been printed in his ‘Life.’ An interesting letter on sepulchral decorations, addressed by Lansdowne to the committee appointed for erecting a monument to John Howard's memory, is printed in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for 1791 (pt. i. pp. 395–396).
The portrait of Lansdowne, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, in the National Portrait Gallery, is a study for the larger picture which belongs to the Marquis of Lansdowne. Another portrait of Lansdowne by Reynolds is the property of the Earl of Morley; this has been engraved by S. W. Reynolds. Another portrait by the same painter, of Lansdowne in company with Dunning and Barré, belongs to Lord Northbrook; this has been engraved by William Ward. There is also an engraving of Lansdowne by Bartolozzi after Gainsborough. A whole-length caricature of Lansdowne was published by Sayer in 1782.[Besides Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice's Life of William, Earl of Shelburne, 1875–6, and the other works quoted in the text, the following books have also been consulted: Walpole's Letters, 1857–9; the Political Memoranda of Francis, fifth Duke of Leeds (Camden Soc. Publ.), 1884; Trevelyan's Early Hist. of Charles James Fox, 1881; Lord John Russell's Life and Times of Charles James Fox, 1859–66; Lord Stanhope's Life of Pitt, 1861–2; Lord Albemarle's Memoirs of the Marquis of Rockingham, 1852; Duke of Buckingham's Memoirs of the Courts and Cabinets of George III, 1853, vol. i.; Diaries and Correspondence of James Harris, first Earl of Malmesbury, 1844, vols. i. and ii.; Diaries and Correspondence of the Right Hon. George Rose, 1860, i. 23–33; John Nicholls's Recollections and Reflections, &c., 1822, i. 1–61, 209–10, 389; Sir G. C. Lewis's Essays on the Administrations of Great Britain, 1864, pp. 1–84; Jesse's Memoirs of the Life and Reign of George III, 1867; Lecky's Hist. of England, 1st edit., vols. iii. and iv.; Lord Mahon's Hist. of England, 1858, vols. v. vi. vii.; Bancroft's Hist. of the United States of America, 1876, vols. iii. iv. v. vi.; Winsor's Hist. of America, 1888, vol. vii.; Edinburgh Review, cxlv. 170–204; Quarterly Review, cxxxviii. 378–420; Lodge's Portraits, 1850, viii. 171–77; Edwards's Memoirs of Libraries, 1859, i. 468–9, 524–5; Beauties of England and Wales, 1801–18, i. 364, 365, vol. xv. pt. i. pp. 541–51; Wheatley's London Past and Present, 1891, i. 163, ii. 366; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biogr. 1878, pp. 201–3; Doyle's Official Baronage, 1886, ii. 318–9; G. E. C.'s Complete Peerage, v. 17; Foster's Peerage, 1883, pp. 411–12; Gent. Mag. 1765 p. 97, 1771 p. 47, 1778 p. 94, 1779 p. 375, 1781 p. 593, 1789 pt. ii. p. 768, 1805 pt. i. pp. 491–2; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1890; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. ii. pp. 109, 123, 665; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. vi. 467, 489, vii. 35, 55. Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice's report on the Shelburne papers belonging to the Marquis of Lansdowne will be found in Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. pp. 125–47, 5th Rep. pp. 215–260, 6th Rep. pp. 235–43.]