Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 04.djvu/302

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start for each race, and introduced the custom of saddling and parading horses before the stands. The Goodwood meeting, at which, in 1825, the whole amount of public money was only 300l., was raised to its present importance chiefly by his exertions. He dealt sternly with every man whom he believed to be dishonest, and insisted on the rigid exclusion of every defaulter. One such man who owed him a bet of 4,000l. tried to tempt him to pass over his defalcations by offering him half the money. Lord George indignantly refused the offer, and declared the man excluded until he should pay all his debts in full. He was peremptory both in his words and actions. At one Newmarket Craven meeting the famous ‘Squire’ Osbaldeston claimed a bet from him. ‘Lord George,’ he said, ‘I want 400l. I won of you at Heaton Park.’ ‘You want 400l. you swindled me of at Heaton Park,’ Lord George answered. A duel followed. Lord George fired first and missed. Perfectly unmoved he called out, ‘Now, Squire, it's two to one in your favour.’ ‘Why, then, the bet's off,’ Osbaldeston answered, and fired in the air. In 1842 he sued one Connop for 150l. Both parties in this often-quoted case (Bentinck v. Connop, 5 Q.B. 693) were engaged in a race in which the stakes were made up by payments of 50l. for each horse entered. Connop entered three horses, and, when Lord George as winner claimed the stakes, refused to pay under the plea that, by an act of 16 Car. II, it was provided that no stakes should exceed 100l. The case was heard by Lord Denman, C.J., who decided that it came within the meaning of the act. As the chief man on the turf, Lord George was much harassed by threats of legal proceedings, called qui tam actions, which, by an interpretation of 9 Anne, c. 14, were held to apply to bets on horse-races. As the informer received a large reward on conviction, these actions were looked on as an easy means of gaining money. By a return made by order of parliament it was found that no fewer than thirty-four writs had been issued against Lord George Bentinck between 1 July and 31 Dec. 1843, at the instance of one attorney named Russell. In order to put an end to this disgraceful trade, parliament, after some discussion in which Lord George Bentinck took part, passed the Gaming Acts Suspension Continuation Bill. As, however, this bill had no retrospective force, an action, Russell and others v. Lord G. Bentinck, came on for trial, and was heard at Guildford before Baron Parke and a jury. By this action 12,000l. was claimed of Lord George. Of this sum 3,000l. was a bet won by him of John Day, which formed the ground of the action, the remainder being the penalty consisting of three times the amount betted. Baron Parke considered that the action could scarcely lie in the face of the recent act to stay proceedings. Lord George, however, waived that question, as he was anxious for the sake of others to have the case decided on its merits, and his success in this trial put an end to actions of a like nature. In 1844 he took an active part in detecting a daring attempt at imposition. On 22 May the Derby was won by a horse called Running Rein, which was said to be over age, and the stakes were accordingly claimed by General Peel, whose horse Orlando came in second. Lord George did good service to public morality by the skill and energy he devoted to discovering the truth in this difficult case. The trial took place on 1 July before Baron Alderson and a special jury, and, chiefly owing to the exertions of Lord George, the solicitor-general was able to prove that the horse was not Running Rein, but a four-year-old horse originally called Maccabeus (by Gladiator), and entered for certain stakes under that name. In recognition of the part Lord George had taken in this case, and of the good work he had done in raising the tone of the racing community, it was proposed on the night after the trial to present him with a testimonial, and 2,100l. was subscribed for that purpose. At his request this sum was made the nucleus of the Bentinck Benevolent and Provident Fund for trainers and jockeys. During these years Lord George was not a regular attendant of the house, though he might be counted on for a party division. He loved hunting, and sometimes came to the house straight from a run, with his scarlet coat not wholly hidden by a white overcoat, the last to appear in parliament in ‘pink.’ In his class feelings, his jealousy of court influence, his love of religious liberty, and his confidence in the people, he was, as became his birth, a whig of the Revolution era (Disraeli, p. 40). His admiration for Canning exercised considerable influence on his political career. When, in 1828, Mr. Huskisson and the other Canningites left the administration of the Duke of Wellington, Lord George ceased to support the government. He voted for the Catholic Emancipation Bill, the cause for which Canning had manfully contended. On the accession of Lord Grey's ministry he refused to accept office, and gave the government an independent support. Upholding the general principle of the Reform Bill, he nevertheless opposed some of its details. He voted against the metropolitan members' clause, and joined