Labouchere, Henry (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


LABOUCHERE, HENRY, Baron Taunton (1798–1869), elder son of Peter Cæsar Labouchere of Hylands, Essex, and Over Stowey, Somerset, by his wife, Dorothy Elizabeth, third daughter of Sir Francis Baring, bart., was born on 15 Aug. 1798. The family of Labouchere left France at the time of the edict of Nantes, and established themselves in Holland. Peter Cæsar Labouchere, a partner in the great mercantile firm of Hope, was the first of his family who settled in England. His son Henry was educated at Winchester, and on 24 Oct. 1816 matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, where he took a first class in classics Easter term 1820, and graduated B.A. 1821, and M.A. 1828. He was admitted a member of Lincoln's Inn on 30 April 1817, but was never called to the bar. In 1824 he travelled with Stanley, Denison, and Stuart Wortley, afterwards Lords Derby, Ossington, and Wharncliffe, through Canada and the United States. At a by-election in April 1826 Labouchere was returned to the House of Commons for Michael Borough in the whig interest, and at the general election in the following June was re-elected. His first reported speech in the house was made during the debate on the civil government of the Canadas in May 1828 (Parl. Debates, new ser. xix. 316–18), when he drew attention to the abuses of the system of government, and declared that if ‘we could not keep the Canadas with the good will of the inhabitants, we could not keep them at all.’ At the general election in August 1830 he was returned at the head of the poll for the borough of Taunton, and continued to represent that constituency until his retirement from the House of Commons. In June 1832 he was appointed a lord of the admiralty in Lord Grey's administration, a post which he resigned on Sir Robert Peel's accession to office. Upon the formation of Lord Melbourne's second ministry in 1835, Labouchere became master of the mint, and on offering himself for re-election was opposed by Benjamin Disraeli, whom he defeated by 452 to 282 votes. On 6 May he was admitted to the privy council, and was further appointed vice-president of the board of trade. Labouchere filled the post of undersecretary of war and the colonies from February to August 1839, when resigning the vice-presidentship, in which he was succeeded by R. Lalor Shiel, but retaining the mastership of the mint, he was appointed president of the board of trade (29 Aug.) in succession to Poulett Thomson, and was admitted to the cabinet. On the resignation of Lord Melbourne in September 1841, Labouchere retired from office with the rest of his colleagues, and upon the formation of Lord John Russell's first administration in July 1846 became chief secretary to the lord-lieutenant of Ireland (John William Ponsonby, Earl of Bessborough [q. v.]). The authorisation of reproductive employment by the famous ‘Labouchere letter’ of 5 Oct. 1846 (O'Rourke, History of the Great Irish Famine of 1847, &c., 1875, pp. 549–51) failed as a remedy for the widespread distress (Sir Charles Trevelyan, Irish Crisis, 1880, p. 49). Some two months after Lord Bessborough's death Labouchere was succeeded as chief secretary by Sir W. M. Somerville, and was reappointed president of the board of trade (22 July 1847) in the place of Lord Clarendon, the new lord-lieutenant. While holding this office Labouchere successfully carried through the House of Commons the bill by which the navigation laws were repealed (12 & 13 Vict. c. 29), in spite of the strong opposition of the shipping interest, and was also instrumental in passing the Mercantile Marine Acts (13 & 14 Vict. c. 93, and 14 & 15 Vict. c. 96) and the Seaman's Fund Act (14 & 15 Vict. c. 102). He retired with the rest of his colleagues on Lord John Russell's overthrow in February 1852, and took no part in Lord Aberdeen's administration. Though not an original member of Lord Palmerston's first ministry, Labouchere was appointed secretary of state for the colonies (21 Nov. 1855), in the place of Sir William Molesworth, after the refusal of the post by Lord Derby and Sidney Herbert (Greville, Memoirs, 1887, 3rd ser. i. 292, 295), and continued to hold this office until Lord Palmerston's resignation in February 1858. Upon Lord Palmerston's return to power Labouchere was created Baron Taunton of Taunton in the county of Somerset, by letters patent dated 18 Aug. 1859. He took his seat in the House of Lords for the first time on 24 Jan. 1860 (Journals of House of Lords, xcii. 5); but though he took part in the debates from time to time, he held no further ministerial offices. He spoke for the last time in the House of Lords on 9 July 1869 (Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. cxcvii. 1493). He died at No. 27 Belgrave Square, London, on 13 July 1869, aged 70, and was buried at Over Stowey Church on the 20th following.

Taunton was a highly respected public man, and a hard-working administrator. Lord Campbell describes him ‘as a very pretty speaker,’ and ‘such a perfect gentleman that in the House of Commons he is heard with peculiar favour’ (Life, 1881, ii. 210). He served as one of the commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851, and presided over the commission appointed on 22 June 1853 ‘to inquire into the existing state of the corporation of the city of London’ (Parl. Papers, 1854, vol. xxvi.), as well as over the schools inquiry commission appointed on 28 Dec. 1864. (For First Report see Parl. Papers, 1867–8, vol. xxviii. pt. 1)

He married, first, on 10 April 1840, his cousin, Frances, the youngest daughter of Sir Thomas Baring, bart., by whom he had three daughters, viz., 1. Mary Dorothy, who married, on 19 Sept. 1872, Edward James Stanley of Cross Hall, Lancashire; 2. Mina Frances, who married, on 2 May 1864, Captain Arthur Edward Augustus Ellis of the grenadier guards; and 3. Emily Harriet, who married, on 18 Oct. 1881, the Hon. Henry Cornwallis Eliot, now fifth Earl of St. Germans. His first wife died on 25 May 1850, and on 13 July 1852 he married, secondly, Lady Mary Matilda Georgiana Howard, the youngest daughter of George, sixth earl of Carlisle, by whom he had no children. In default of male issue the barony of Taunton became extinct upon his death. There is a fine whole-length engraving of Labouchere, when young, with his brother John (the father of Henry Labouchere, long M.P. for Northampton), by Wass, after Sir Thomas Lawrence. Another engraving ‘from a picture in his own possession,’ taken later in life, was published by Thomas Collins. Two of his speeches which he delivered in the House of Commons were published separately, viz. his speech on the sugar duties on 10 May 1841, and his speech on moving the resolution for the abolition of the navigation laws on 15 May 1848.

[Spencer Walpole's Hist. of England, vols. iii. and iv.; Sir D. Le Marchant's Memoir of John, third Earl of Spencer, 1876, pp. 52, 229, 232, 343; Lord Beaconsfield's Correspondence with his Sister, 1886, pp. 34–6; Times, 14 and 22 July 1869; Illustrated London News, 24 July 1869; Dod's Peerage, &c., 1869, pp. 589–90; Burke's Extinct Peerage, 1883, p. 309; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1888, pt. iii. p. 808; Honours Register of the Univ. of Oxford, 1883, p. 206; Lincoln's Inn Registers; London Gazettes; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1851; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. ii. pp. 285, 301, 320, 332, 344, 356, 369, 386, 404, 420, 436, 452; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. v. 175, 211, 457, 7th ser. x. 168, 215, 393; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. F. R. B.