Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stanley, Edward George Geoffrey Smith
STANLEY, EDWARD GEORGE GEOFFREY SMITH, fourteenth Earl of Derby (1799–1869), son of Edward Smith Stanley, thirteenth earl [q. v.], by Charlotte Margaret, his cousin, second daughter of the Rev. Geoffrey Hornby, was born at Knowsley Park, Lancashire, on 29 March 1799. He was sent to Eton, where he was in the fifth form in lower division in 1811 and upper division in 1814 (Eton School Lists, pp. 69, 77). Proceeding to Christ Church, Oxford, and matriculating on 17 Oct. 1817, he won the Chancellor's Latin verse prize in 1819 with a spirited poem on ‘Syracuse;’ he took no degree, but on 19 Oct. 1852 was created D.C.L. On leaving Oxford he was brought into parliament for Stockbridge in the whig interest on 6 March 1822. The borough had been in the hands of a West Indian proprietor, Joseph Foster Barham, who, being in difficulties, sold it to a whig peer, Earl Grosvenor, and, on a successor being found by the purchaser in the person of young Stanley, at once vacated the seat himself, introducing him to the electors. Stanley made no speech in the House of Commons till 30 March 1824, when he spoke with considerable success on the Manchester Gas-light Bill, having in the previous year been appointed a member of the committee on the subject. On 6 May he answered Joseph Hume in the debate on the latter's motion for an inquiry into the Irish church establishment. He opposed any design to interfere with church property, and proved himself to be by instinct a powerful debater. He did not, however, follow up this success for some time. In the autumn of 1824 he travelled in Canada and the United States, and, in May 1825, married Emma Caroline, second daughter of Edward Bootle Wilbraham (afterwards Lord Skelmersdale). During that session he was silent in the House of Commons, and hardly spoke at all in 1826. He ceased to be member for Stockbridge, and was elected for Preston on 26 June 1826, where the local franchise was a popular one, and the representation had long been divided between a nominee of the Derby family and a nominee of the corporation. Though opposed by Cobbett and others, he was returned at the head of the poll by a very large majority.
The views of Canning approximated so closely to the opinions that Stanley then held that he, with other whigs, gave his support to Canning's ministry in 1827, and accepted the under-secretaryship of the colonies. He retained it under Lord Goderich, [see Robinson, Frederick John, first Earl of Ripon], but declined to be a member of the Duke of Wellington's administration, pointing to the divergence of the old tories from the freer spirit of the Canningites, and hinting that the older toryism was a thing of the past. Still he foresaw as little as others the near triumph of the whigs. In 1828 he supported the transference to Birmingham of the East Retford seat, in opposition to the government; he voted in silence for the Catholic Emancipation Bill in 1829, and spoke guardedly in favour of parliamentary reform in 1830. At the general election on the death of George IV he was re-elected for Preston on 30 July, but, having accepted office in Lord Grey's administration as chief secretary for Ireland and having been sworn of the privy council, he was defeated in August by ‘Orator’ Hunt at the by-election for Preston in December, and was mobbed and ran some risk of his life [see Hunt, Henry, (1773–1835)]. Eventually a vacancy was made at Windsor, and Stanley was elected there on 10 Feb. 1831.
O'Connell's indignation when the new ministry refused to give him the silk gown he had had reason to expect at their hands vented itself particularly in attacks on the new chief secretary. Stanley was not slow to retaliate, and eventually allowed himself to be irritated into challenging O'Connell: the challenge was refused, but the attacks continued. O'Connell was then prosecuted in January 1831 for a breach of the Association Act; he pleaded guilty, and was bound over to come up for judgment in the following term; but before he was in fact required to come up parliament was dissolved. The Association Act expired with the dissolution, and further proceedings were impossible. It was currently believed that the ministry had arranged for this abortive result in order to secure O'Connell's support at the approaching election, and that Stanley had been active in carrying out the plan. Fortunate, however, as the issue was for the ministry at the moment, it seems that the result was purely accidental (see State Trials, new ser. ii. 629–58); at any rate, Stanley point blank denied that there had been any arrangement (Hansard, 13 Feb. 1831, p. 610), and O'Connell's antagonism towards him continued unabated.
During the reform struggle Stanley's speeches, though brilliant (Russell, Recollections, p. 92), showed that he scarcely appreciated how great a constitutional change the ministerial proposals made. At heart he was no friend to extreme reform; he vigorously supported the bill in debate, answering Peel, for example, on 4 March 1831 very effectively; but when attempts at compromise were made, after the House of Lords had rejected the bill in October, and riots had occurred in various parts of the country, he was among the most active in promoting an agreement. With Lord Grey's approval, he visited Lord Sandon [see Ryder, Dudley, second Earl of Harrowby], to discuss terms of compromise, and was regarded as the leader of the moderate reformers in the cabinet. Thus, on the one hand, he delivered a brilliant and crushing speech in reply to Croker during the second reading debate of the third bill on 17 Dec. 1831 (Hansard, 3rd ser. ix. 521), and, on the other, was pressing Lord Grey for concessions with regard to duplicate voting and to the number of the proposed metropolitan constituencies. By May 1832 these concessions had almost been obtained, when the ministry was compelled to resign by the lords' acceptance of Lyndhurst's motion to postpone consideration of the disfranchising clauses to that of the enfranchising clauses. The failure of negotiations so nearly completed was keenly resented by Stanley, and in an after-supper speech at Brooke's he used language of extreme bitterness towards the Duke of Wellington. From this time he vigorously supported the full reform scheme, and no doubt the success of the bill was materially aided by his speeches. On 19 Jan. 1832 he also introduced the ministerial Reform Bill for Ireland; but it excited little interest, though he proposed an increase in the number of Irish members. He succeeded his father as member for North Lancashire on 17 Dec. 1832, and held the seat till he was raised to the peerage.
During the debates and dissolutions on reform, Stanley had been incessantly occupied not only with the fortunes of the bill, but with the administrative duties of his office. He had to ‘adjust the state of Ireland to that first retreat from the Ascendency position which was involved in the granting of catholic emancipation.’ He instituted the Irish board of works and the Shannon navigation improvements. In 1831 he brought in the Irish Education Act, which was remarkable for the creation of the Irish board of national education and for the compromise by which, while children of all denominations were to be admitted to the schools receiving the government grant, the education given was not to be wholly secular, but was to include religious teaching of an undogmatic and neutral character. The bill was favoured by the Roman catholic priesthood, and was probably as successful as any measure on such a subject could be in Ireland. In December of the same year he was chairman of a committee on Irish tithes, and in the following spring, in spite of the most determined and violent opposition from the Irish Roman catholic members, he passed a temporary palliative act, followed in July by the first of three bills to apply a more permanent remedy by making tithe composition compulsory. The act, with the addition of Littleton's Tithe Act in the following year, continued in force till 1838. During these debates Stanley's relations with O'Connell and his followers had become gravely embittered. Matters became worse in November, after he had declared in the strongest terms in an election speech in North Lancashire that he would resist repeal to the death. His measures in 1833 were a very strong Peace Preservation Act and an Irish Church Temporalities Act, and his first battle on the former was in the cabinet. Althorp wished to resign rather than be responsible for such a proposal. Stanley insisted; and as it was apparent that the resignation of either must break up the ministry, Lord Althorp gave way. The conduct of the bill was placed in Althorp's hands, but he introduced it in a speech so half-hearted that many of the ministerialists wavered, and a defeat became dangerously probable. Stanley took the papers, shut himself up for a couple of hours, mastered the complicated facts and figures, and, returning, made a speech so convincing, so uncompromising, and so hostile to the Irish party that he silenced O'Connell, and, thanks to his sole exertions, passed the bill by huge majorities (for the description of this incident see Russell, Recollections, pp. 112, 113; Le Marchant, Life of Lord Althorp, p. 455). The Church Temporalities Bill also, though introduced by Althorp, was Stanley's bill.
Having achieved so much Irish legislation during a comparatively short tenure of the chief secretaryship and shown himself a masterful and drastic administrator, he was on 28 March transferred to the colonial office. Greville states (Memoirs, 1st ser. ii. 366) that a positive promise of a secretaryship of state had been made him in 1832, and that it was only on his threats of resignation and the strongest pressure on Goderich that room was made for him in the latter's place. In his new office he attacked the question of the abolition of slavery, at first by resolutions (Hansard, Parl. Deb. 3rd ser. xvii. 1230), proposing a limited period of apprenticeship for the slave and compensation for the owners, and afterwards by bill, which reduced the apprenticeship and increased the compensation. His introductory speech of 14 May was published. In the conduct of this bill he showed himself less the orator of the Irish debates than a hardheaded man of business. The bill became law in August 1833, but before it came into force in 1834 Stanley had resigned. On 6 May 1834 Russell, speaking on Littleton's Tithe Bill, declared in favour of the alienation to secular purposes of a portion of the Irish church revenues. The question was one on which two parties existed in the cabinet, and no collective declaration had been hitherto made by the ministry. Stanley has been accused of having actually introduced an appropriation clause into the Church Temporalities Bill in 1833; but his speeches during its progress show that he was opposed to any secularisation of church property, and did not think or desire, that by Clause 147 any such object would be effected. At any rate he saw that Russell's declaration meant the break up of the ministry. ‘Johnny has upset the coach,’ he whispered to his neighbour Graham. Henry George Ward [q. v.], member for St. Albans, followed up Russell's announcement with his ‘Appropriation Resolution’ for the redistribution of the Irish church revenues; it was to come on on 27 May, and the ministry, hesitating between their radical and whig followers, resolved to meet it with a proposal for a commission of inquiry. Stanley instantly tendered his resignation, and had ceased to be a minister before Ward had finished introducing his motion. He never afterwards rejoined the whigs; for a time he spoke and voted as an independent member, but he inevitably drifted towards the conservative party. In him the whigs lost one of their ablest men of business, and incomparably their best debater. Earl Russell (Recollections, p. 114) speaks of 1833 as the most distinguished and memorable of Derby's whole career, and says that, had Althorp then resigned, Stanley's ‘infinite skill, readiness, and ability’ would have qualified him for the succession to the leadership of the House of Commons.
During the rest of the session of 1834 Stanley spoke sometimes for and sometimes against the government: for them on the bill to admit dissenters to the universities and on Althorp's plan for the abolition of church rates; against them in the speech on 2 July, in which he compared their conduct on the Tithe Bill to the sleight of hand of thimbleriggers at a fair. In general his speeches at this time were too full of bitterness and invective against his former colleagues. When Melbourne was dismissed, and Peel's return from Rome was anxiously awaited, his position was commanding. United with Stanley, Peel might well form and maintain an administration. Opposed by him, his premiership must be short-lived. Stanley, while willing to serve under Peel as far as personal feeling was concerned, thought it best to decline to take office. He had too frequently been Peel's antagonist while in office himself to become so soon afterwards his colleague. He promised, however, an independent support, and no doubt his decision was wise. Between Peel's conservatism and the opinions of Stanley and his friends, nominally some fifty strong, there was perhaps no great discrepancy; but until Peel had asserted himself over the older section of the tory party, Stanley could not tell, if he joined such a ministry, how soon he might not be compelled to leave it. Whether he hoped to form and keep alive a party of his own cannot now be determined. He certainly spoke in a very whiggish tone at Glasgow in December. He assembled his followers when parliament met, and O'Connell, quoting from Canning's ‘Loves of the Triangles,’ nicknamed them the ‘Derby Dilly, carrying six insides.’ The idea of an independent party was soon abandoned, for Peel's administration, short-lived as it was, soon proved that he might well now unite himself with so progressive a party. On 1 July 1835 he, Graham, and others formally took their seats with the followers of Peel, and in 1838, at the banquet to Peel in the Merchant Taylors' Hall, he figured as one of Peel's chief lieutenants.
Stanley was now, by his grandfather's death on 21 Oct. 1834, Lord Stanley. Till 1841 he remained in vigorous opposition, criticising especially the government's Irish and ecclesiastical proposals, its Jamaica Bill, and its policy with regard to Canada; and his continual attacks on the whig tithe settlement at length compelled the government seriously to modify the disendowment portion of their proposals. He joined Peel's administration in 1841 as colonial secretary, and in 1843 supported the Canadian Corn Bill. His language with regard to it showed that he was for free trade, or practically for free trade with the colonies generally, but did not propose to apply the same rule to foreign powers. He demonstrated his great value to the government in the House of Commons by the part which he took in defending its Irish policy; but it was in urgent need of debating assistance in the House of Lords, and he was accordingly in October 1844 called up by the title of Lord Stanley of Bickerstaffe. He explained that he was tired of the life of the House of Commons, and was afraid that his health was breaking down; but the change was probably due to the fact that he did not get on well with Peel. At any rate dissensions between them became visible. Stanley combated the arguments in favour of immediate free trade, which Peel drew from the condition of Ireland, and though he eventually agreed to the suspension of the corn laws, still, on Peel's declaration in favour of their complete and immediate repeal, he resigned. Even if Peel's course had seemed sound to him as a stroke of policy, which it did not, it involved in his eyes an intolerable sacrifice of personal consistency and principle. When Peel resigned in December 1845 and Russell failed to form a ministry, Stanley was applied to and declined, after such a break-up of his party, to attempt the task of carrying on the government as a protectionist. As he put it himself, if he took office he would have no colleagues. To protection as an economic system he was by no means indissolubly wedded, but, as he declared in a speech, which is perhaps his best, (see Greville, 2nd ser. ii. 395) on 25 May 1846 in the House of Lords, protection was, in his opinion, necessary for the maintenance of the landed interest and the colonial system, the two pillars on which he conceived the British empire to rest. Naturally, therefore, it was round Stanley that there gathered that body of conservatives which revolted from Peel after the fall of his administration. Lord George Bentinck was Stanley's intimate friend, and Disraeli now entered into close relations with him; but Stanley accepted the leadership of the Protectionist party with reluctance, and for a while seems to have thought now of forming a new party by a union with the Palmerstonian whigs, and now of shaking himself free of all party ties and in a great measure withdrawing from public life. He spoke frequently and brilliantly in the House of Lords, particularly on the conduct of the Spanish government in summarily directing Sir Henry Bulwer, the British ambassador, to quit Madrid in 1848; on his amendment to the address in 1849; on the Navigation Bill, on Lord Roden's removal from the commission of the peace, for his conduct in regard to the Dolly's Brae affair (18 Feb. 1850); and on the question of Don Pacifico, when he obtained a majority of 37 against the ministry on 17 June 1850.
When Russell resigned in 1851, Stanley was sent for by the queen on 22 Feb. and gave a qualified refusal to form a ministry, first recommending that Lord John Russell should again make an attempt. Russell failed, and Stanley was sent for again on the 25th; he now endeavoured to obtain the adhesion of the Peelites, but without success. He then applied to his own supporters, but eventually, according to Lord Malmesbury (Memoirs, i. 278), he was baulked by the hostility of Henley and Herries, and resigned his commission again to the queen on the 27th. He explained his position in the House of Lords on 28 Feb., not without expressing some bitterness at his followers' want of courage. As yet, however, his party had hardly a sufficiently definite policy to have justified their taking office. Stanley himself was still in favour of moderate protection, though prepared to abandon any return to it, if the next verdict of the constituencies should prove to be unmistakably against it. In June his father died, and he succeeded to the earldom. On 21 Feb. 1852 Russell again resigned, and Lord Derby formed a ministry; but it was untried, and some of the members of it were not even personally known to their chief. He made his first declaration of policy on 27 Feb., carried on the government till the beginning of July, and then dissolved. In spite of the speech when he declared in the House of Lords that the mission of a conservative government was ‘to stem the tide of democracy,’ Lord Derby was not now himself disposed to reaction, but he was compelled to come before the country as advocating protection, without the power or perhaps the wish to restore it, and in the result was outnumbered, though not very heavily, by a combination of all the parties opposed to him. The general election of July resulted in the return of 299 conservatives, 315 liberals, and 40 Peelites. Negotiations began for the admission of Palmerston and some of the Peelites to the ministry, but they came to nothing. Instead of accepting the position frankly, Derby continued in office; the inevitable defeat came on the budget on the night of 16 Dec., and next day he resigned, Lord Aberdeen forming a ministry. Whether he gained anything by not resigning upon the conclusion of the general election may well be doubted, but he was bitterly accused of having betrayed the protectionists in not attempting the impossible on their behalf during this brief prolongation of office. In opposition he continued to follow in the House of Lords the same course as in 1850 and 1851. He opposed the policy of the government with regard to the Canada clergy reserves, and in 1853 came into acute collision with Bishop Wilberforce upon this subject (see Lord Albemarle, Fifty Years of my Life; Life of Bishop Wilberforce, ed. 1888, p. 142).
When, in January 1854, parliament reassembled on the eve of the Crimean war, Derby criticised Lord Aberdeen's policy in regard to the eastern question. As it was his government which had recognised Louis Napoleon as emperor in December 1852, he might well claim, as he did, that in the government's place he would have shown such unquestionable cordiality towards France as would have persuaded the Emperor Nicholas of the unanimity of Great Britain and France while there was yet time for him to draw back. Disraeli used to declare that he knew of his own knowledge there would have been no Crimean war if Derby had been in office. Later on, however, when war appeared to be inevitable, Lord Derby gave the ministry an assurance of his general support.
When Aberdeen's government was defeated on Roebuck's motion for an inquiry into the conduct of the war, on 29 Jan. 1855, and resigned, Derby was sent for and endeavoured to form a ministry; but he told the queen that the assistance both of Palmerston and of the Peelites would be indispensable to him; and when, for reasons still obscure, he failed to secure them, he resigned the attempt. Russell was equally unsuccessful, and accordingly Palmerston became prime minister. Had Derby formed an administration exclusively among his own supporters, he would, as he explained to the House of Lords on 7 Feb. 1855, have found himself overthrown by the coalition against him of the divided sections of radicals, whigs, Palmerstonians, and Peelites. He forgot, however, or so conservatives have since maintained, that in that case he had still the resource of a dissolution, with the high probability of wide electoral support as the minister who was seeking to repair the blunders of the Aberdeen government. He attributed undue importance to the Peelites, and he thought the rout of the protectionists more complete than it really was; perhaps, too, he was personally not very anxious to assume again the burden of office. But though he was content with opposition his party was not, and it was greatly disheartened and disorganised for some years. Lord Derby resumed his old attitude towards the government in the House of Lords. He supported Lord Ellenborough's resolutions condemnatory of the conduct of the war; he attacked the terms of the peace of Paris in the debate on the address in 1856; he opposed the life peerage of Lord Wensleydale; he criticised severely Lord Palmerston's management of the lorcha Arrow question, and the government's conduct of the war of the mutiny in 1857; but during a great part of the year he appeared little in parliament. His health was impaired, his party was insubordinate, and on the whole he kept to his sports and his private life as much as he could.
When Lord Palmerston resigned in 1858, the queen again sent for Lord Derby on 21 Feb., who, after another ineffectual application to the Peelites, formed, with Mr. Disraeli, a purely conservative administration. ‘No one,’ says Count Vitzthum von Eckstädt (Residence at St. Petersburg, p. 276), ‘entertained fewer illusions than Lord Derby himself as to the possibility of forming a lasting government with the forces at his disposal,’ though Lord John Russell's support was secretly assured to him; but he saw that he could now do his party a service by accustoming its leading members to official business, and the nation to seeing once more an actual conservative ministry. He promised some kind of franchise measure, but he found himself in the first instance confronted with the disputes with France arising out of the Orsini plot; with Naples regarding the seizure of the Cagliari; with the United States in connection with the right of search in the course of the suppression of the slave trade; and with the difficulties connected with the Indian mutiny and the government of India. These questions were fairly satisfactorily concluded. Lord Derby's eldest son, Lord Stanley, succeeded to the India office when Lord Ellenborough resigned. The India Bill was passed. The disabilities of Jews in regard to the parliamentary oath were removed [see Rothschild, Lionel Nathan de], the various international disputes adjusted, and the colony of British Columbia founded. In 1859 Lord Derby introduced a Reform Bill, since the question of reform had already been mooted by Lord John Russell, and he did not wish the conservative party to appear as stubborn opponents of all reform. Accordingly he introduced a bill to equalise the town and county franchise, but on the clause disfranchising the forty-shilling freeholders his ministry was in March placed by Russell in a minority of thirty-nine, and accordingly he dissolved parliament (April). Though he gained seats, he was still in a minority when the new parliament met. He was much attacked for his supposed support of Austria against France on the eve of the war of 1859; though the complaint of Count Beust, the Austrian ambassador, was (Memoirs, i. 178) that he had been too loth to commit himself, had even tried to go beyond the popular anti-Austrian feeling, and at the Guildhall banquet on 25 April had spoken of the ‘criminal step which had been taken by Austria.’ A vote of want of confidence was carried on the motion of the Marquis of Hartington (the present Duke of Devonshire) in June, and Lord Derby gladly resigned, Palmerston once more becoming prime minister. The queen thereupon made him an extra knight of the Garter. He was also a G.C.M.G.
He had now to consider how best to deal with the existing political situation. The attempt to reunite the party which had followed Peel had been tried and had failed. A union with Lord Palmerston had been suggested and had failed also. His own followers were numerous, but insufficient in themselves to support a stable ministry. He therefore endeavoured to come to an understanding with Palmerston by which, in return for support against the radicals, the whig government was to promise the conservatives to govern on substantially conservative lines. In the main this understanding was successful; Lord Derby, as he put it, ‘kept the cripples on their legs.’ Accordingly, except for criticism on Lord John Russell's foreign policy, he had little to say to the ministerial policy for several years. This state of peace was grateful to him. His health was failing and he was more and more incapacitated by gout. Knowing that, although he might upset the liberal government, he was not strong enough to take and keep their place, he was content to exercise occasional authority through the House of Lords, and to leave to Disraeli the task of maturing combinations for the next election. One of these, the understanding with the Roman catholics, he himself imperilled by one of his characteristically rash pleasantries in a speech on the Roman Catholic Oaths Bill on 26 June 1865. On the other hand, in 1864, when leading liberals and many conservatives were strongly for intervention in the German-Danish war, it was due to Lord Derby's influence, and to a great speech, lasting three hours, which he delivered in the House of Lords on 4 Feb., that the government took no active step.
When he was sent for by the queen on the resignation of Russell's administration in June 1866, Derby exchanged a position of power without office for one in which he was much less able to support the causes with which his career had identified him. He again endeavoured to obtain the support of others than his own regular followers, notably of Robert Lowe (afterwards Lord Sherbrooke) [q. v.], but failed, and took office as before as the head of a purely conservative ministry. But in his impaired state of health most of the impulse of legislation lay with Disraeli. Derby spoke on the Parliamentary Oaths Bill, and though he described the ministerial reform bill in his speech on the third reading as a ‘leap in the dark,’ 6 Aug. 1867, and would have preferred, if he could, to let the question alone, he felt that something must be done, and nothing better was open than household suffrage. To this view he had been steadily coming for some time, and the bill was probably quite as much his own measure as Disraeli's. Whatever else may be said of it, two things are true—that it changed the current of English history quite as much as the Reform Bill of 1832, and that its consequences were probably as little desired as foreseen by one half of those who voted for it.
Almost his last appearance in parliament was in the debate on the address at the beginning of the autumn session of 1867. In January 1868 he was again attacked by gout; in February his life was in danger, and on 24 Feb. he retired, and Disraeli became prime minister. He at the same time gave up the formal leadership of his party in the House of Lords, though he continued to take part in debate. He spoke repeatedly and with great force against the disestablishment of the Irish church, both before and after the general election. His last speech was on 17 June 1869. At the end of the session he returned to Knowsley, was again attacked by gout, and, after a lingering and hopeless illness, died on 23 Oct., and was buried in the Knowsley village church. He left three children: Edward Henry, fifteenth earl of Derby [q. v.]; Frederick, afterwards baron Stanley of Preston and sixteenth earl of Derby (1841–1908); and Emma Charlotte, who married the Hon. W. Talbot.
There are several portraits of Derby at Knowsley: one, by Harlowe, representing him as a boy of eighteen, of which a replica is at Eton and an engraving was published in Baines's ‘History of Lancashire,’ vol. iv. A full-length by W. Derby was painted about 1841, and another by Sir F. Grant, P.R.A., engraved and published in 1860. There is a statue of him in Miller Square, Preston; and another, in Parliament Square, Westminster, was unveiled by Disraeli in July 1874, when he summed up Derby's achievements in the sentence, ‘He abolished slavery, he educated Ireland, he reformed parliament.’
Derby's reputation as a statesman suffers from the fact that he changed front so often. A whig, a Canningite, a strenuous whig leader, a strenuous conservative leader, the head of the protectionists, the opponent of democracy, and the author of the change which upset his own policy of 1832 and committed power to democracy in 1867, all these parts he filled in turn. He was not a statesman of profoundly settled convictions or of widely constructive views. He was a man rather of intense vitality than of great intellect, a brilliant combatant rather than a cautious or philosophic statesman. The work with which he was most identified, the re-creation of the conservative party after its disintegration on the fall of Peel, was Disraeli's rather than his own; and the charge of a timid reluctance to assume the responsibilities and toil of office is one that may fairly be made against him.
Derby's personality was full of charm. He was handsome in person, with striking aquiline features; in manner he was somewhat familiar and off-hand, but beneath this facility lay an aloofness from all but social equals and intimates which stood considerably in his way as a party leader. This disadvantage operated less in his earlier years. ‘Although he gave offence now and then,’ says Stratford Canning in 1835 (Poole, Life of Stratford Canning, ii. 37), ‘by a sort of schoolboy recklessness of expression, sometimes even of conduct, his cheerful temper bore him out and made him more popular than others who were always considerate but less frank.’ Twenty years later, however, there is no doubt that his party had reason to complain of the way in which their leader stood apart from their rank and file. He had a beautiful tenor voice, though he knew and cared nothing about music; his delivery was stately and animated, and he was always a luminous and impressive speaker. He was one of those orators who feel most nervous when about to be most successful. ‘My throat and lips,’ he told Macaulay, ‘when I am going to speak are as dry as those of a man who is going to be hanged.’ ‘Nothing can be more composed and cool,’ adds Macaulay, ‘than Stanley's manner; his fault is on that side. Stanley speaks like a man who never knew what fear or even modesty was’ (Trevelyan, Life of Macaulay, i. 242). Bulwer-Lytton, in the ‘New Timon’ (1845), described him as ‘frank, haughty, rash, the Rupert of debate.’
Derby was a rapid and shrewd man of business and a great Lancashire magnate. In 1862 he succeeded the Earl of Ellesmere as chairman of the central relief committee at Manchester during the cotton famine, and it was to the impetus which he gave to the movement both before and after this change, especially by his great speeches at Bridgewater House and at the county meeting on 2 Dec. 1862 (separately published), and to his conduct of its business, that the success of the relief movement was due (see A. Arnold, History of the Cotton Famine).
All his life he was keenly interested in scholarship and passionately devoted to sport. His latinity was easy and excellent, and as chancellor of the university of Oxford, in which office he succeeded the Duke of Wellington in 1852, he made Latin speeches, especially in 1853 at his installation, and in 1863, when the Prince and Princess of Wales visited Oxford, which were the envy of many professional scholars (for the latter speech see Ann. Reg. cv. 98). The Derby (classical) scholarship, tenable for a year, and of the annual value of about 150l., was founded in 1870 to commemorate his connection with Oxford University. His blank-verse translation of the ‘Iliad,’ which had occupied him for some years, appeared first privately in 1862, then was formally published in 1864, and had reached a sixth edition by 1867, to which were added other translations of miscellaneous poetry, classical, French, and German, chiefly written before he was thirty. His ‘Iliad’ is spirited and polished, and, though often rather a paraphrase than a translation, is always more truly poetic than most of the best translations. He had a strong literary faculty, and his English prose—for example, in his report on the cotton famine in 1862—was nervous and admirable. He also wrote some ‘Conversations on the Parables for the Use of Children,’ 1837; other editions 1849 and 1866. To shooting and racing he was equally devoted. He constantly said, perhaps with some affectation, that he had been too busy with pheasants to attend to politics, and his ready indulgence in sporting slang, even on the gravest occasions, occasioned some misgiving to his respectable middle-class supporters. Greville, who knew him well on the turf, but neither liked nor trusted him, dwells on his boisterous and undignified manners and on the sharpness of his practices (e.g. Memoirs, 1st ser. ii. 374, iii. 35; 2nd ser. iii. 403, 463). He never won the Derby, Oaks, or St. Leger, though he had begun training when, as quite a young man, he managed his grandfather's racing stud, and made many efforts with many racehorses. He owned Toxopholite, which was favourite for the Derby in 1858; Ithuriel, which was got at and lamed; Dervish, and Canezou. He trained with John Scott (1794–1871) [q. v.], and would often leave the House of Lords to catch the night mail train and see his horses' gallops next morning. Still he was not unsuccessful on the turf. In the twenty-two years of his racing career, down to 1863, when he sold his stud and quitted the turf, he won in stakes alone 94,000l., and the letter which he wrote to the Jockey Club in 1857, giving notice of a resolution that a sharper named Adkins should be warned off Newmarket Heath, has always been considered a compendium of the principles that should guide the conduct of race meetings.
[Two lives of Lord Derby have appeared, by T. E. Kebbel and G. Saintsbury. Derby is also elaborately criticised in Kebbel's History of Toryism. See, too, Greville Memoirs; Malmesbury's Memoirs of an ex-Minister; Disraeli's Lord George Bentinck; Walpole's Life of Lord John Russell; Dalling and Ashley's Life of Palmerston; Martin's Life of the Prince Consort; Memoirs of J. C. Herries; McCullagh Torrens's Lord Melbourne; Roebuck's History of the Whig Ministry; Scharf's Catalogue of Pictures at Knowsley; Trevelyan's Life of Lord Macaulay; Walpole's History of England; Count Vitzthum von Eckstädt's A Residence at the Courts of St. Petersburg and London; Fitzpatrick's Correspondence of O'Connell; Hansard's Parliamentary Debates.]