Durham, John George Lambton
lord measures government health
DURHAM, JOHN GEORGE LAMBTON, FIRST EARL OF (1792-1840), born at Lambton Castle, Durham, on the 12th April 1792, was the eldest son of William Henry Lambton, 1M.P. for the city of Durham. It is note-worthy that the family- to which he belonged had held the Larnbton estate in uninterrupted male succession from the 12th century. Educated at Eton, he held for a short time a, commission in a regiment of hussars. In 1813, soon after attaining his majority, he was returned to Parliament as representative of his native county. He was an advanced Liberal from the beginning to the end of his career, and distinguished himself by his uncom-promising opposition to the reactionary- measures of the Tory- Government. His political position was strengthened by his marriage in 1816 to the eldest daughter of Earl Grey. In 1819 he championed the rights of the people by his denunciation, in the House of Commons and at numerous public meetings, of the coercive measures proposed by the Government against the Chartists. In April 1821 he proposed in the House a scheme of parliamentary reform which was in some points, notably in regard to the redis-tribution of seats, more thoroughgoing than that which was carried eleven years later. The delicate state of his health compelled him in 1826 to proceed to Naples, where he resided for about a, year. He was a prominent supporter of the Canning administration of 1827, and of that of Lord Goderich by- which it was succeeded. When the latter fell to pieces owing to its inherent weakness in January 1828, Lambton's servicps were acknowledged by his eleva-tion to the peerage as Baron Durham. On the accession of Lord Grey to power in 1830 Lord Durham obtained the office of lord privy seal. He was one of a Cabinet com-mittee of four who were intrusted with the preparation of the Reform Bill, the others being Sir James G3aham, Lord John Russell, arid Lord Duncannon. It was understood at the time that his influence was exerted to make the measure as liberal a,s possible, and in particular that lie wished to introduce the ballot as one of its provisions. In the debates on the bill in the Lords he did not take the leading part that might naturally have been expected fram the only peer who had been on the Ca,binet committee for its preparation. This was owing partly to his own indifferent health and partly to grief at the death of his eldest son, the Master Lambton of one of Lawrence's most admired portraits. Continued ill-health led him to resign office in -March 1833, when he was raised to the dignity of Viscount Lambton and earl of Durham. In the sunimer of the same year, however, he was able to undertake a special ernba,ssy to the court of St Petersburg, the chief object of which was to secure lenient treatment for the insurgent Poles. In this he was unsuccessful. -When the party that had carried reform began to be divided, Lord Durham was generally regarded as a likely- leader of the more advanced section, and a strongly- radical speech which he delivered at the celebrated Grey banquet at Edinburgh in 1831 helped to strengthen his claims to the position. It took the form of a. reply to a previous speech of Lord Brougham, whose enmity Lord Durham thus provoked. In 1837 lie accepted the post of ambassador at St Petersburg, which he occupied for about a year. Meanwhile a very serious insurrection had broken out in Canada, and early in 1838 the Govern-ment found it necessary to suspend the colonial constitution and send out a new governor with special powers. Lord Durham was selected to undertake the difficult task, for which his extensive experience and his well-known advanced liberalism were supposed specially to qualify him. Some-what hasty and irascible in his temperament, he unfor-tunately adopted measures which were beyond the powers conferred upon him by the special Act of Parliament under which he had been appointed. These measures were dis-approved of by- a vote of the House of Lords on the motion of Lord Brougham, who iinported the bitterness of his earlier quarrel with Lord Durham into the debate, and the Government were compelled to disallow the ordinances in which they were embodied. Lord Durham was so deeply incensed at this that he took- the extraordinary step of returning home without waiting for his recall, and the Government ma,rked its disapproval of bis conduct by directing that lie should not receive the customary salute on landing in England. He defended his plan of administra.- tion in an able and elaborate report addressed to the queen, and his policy was practically justified by- being adopted by his successor. He had returned to England in shattered. health, and lie died at Cowes, in the Isle of Wight, on the 28th July 1840.