LABOUCHERE, Henry (1798-1869), of 4 Hamilton Place, Piccadilly, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Constituency

Dates

6 Apr. 1826 - 1830
1830 - July 1859

Family and Education

b. 15 Aug. 1798, 1st s. of Peter Caesar Labouchere of 4 Hamilton Place and Hylands, nr. Chelmsford, Essex and Dorothy Elizabeth, da. of Sir Francis Baring, 1st bt†., of Stratton Park, Hants. educ. Winchester 1808-12; Christ Church, Oxf. 1816; L. Inn 1817. m. (1) 10 Apr. 1840, his cos. Frances (d. 25 May 1850), da. of Sir Thomas Baring, 2nd bt*., 3 da.; (2) 13 July 1852, Lady Mary Matilda Georgiana Howard, da. of George Howard†, 6th earl of Carlisle, s.p. suc. fa. 1839; cr. Bar. Taunton 18 Aug. 1859. d. 13 July 1869.

Offices Held

Ld. of admiralty June 1832-Dec. 1834; master of mint Apr. 1835-Sept. 1841; PC 6 May 1835; vice-pres. bd. of trade May 1835-Aug. 1839, pres. Aug. 1839-Sept. 1841, July 1847-Feb. 1852; under-sec. of state for war and colonies Feb.-Sept. 1839, sec. of state Nov. 1855-Feb. 1858; chief sec. to ld. lt. [I] July 1846-July 1847; PC [I] 4 Sept. 1846.

Commr. on naval and mil. promotion 1838-40, Great Exhibition 1851, London corporation 1853-4, schools 1864-7.

Elder bro. Trinity House 1850-d.

Biography

Labouchere’s father, a Dutchman of Huguenot descent, became a partner in the leading Amsterdam mercantile firm of Hope, established a lucrative business connection by marrying into the Baring family and eventually retired to the life of an English landowner.1 In 1824-5 Labouchere travelled through North America with the young Members John Evelyn Denison, Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley and John Stuart Wortley, acquiring ‘a strong liking for American institutions and a genuine affection for the American people’, and developing a particular interest in Canadian affairs.2 Through the patronage of his uncle Alexander Baring, Member for Taunton, he was returned unopposed for Mitchell on the Hawkins interest at a by-election in April 1826.3 He voted for reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 13 Apr., revision of the corn laws, 18 Apr., and parliamentary reform, 27 Apr. 1826. At the general election that summer he was again returned unopposed for Mitchell. His Whig allegiance was confirmed by his admission to Brooks’s Club, 25 Feb. 1827.

He voted against the duke of Clarence’s grant, 16 Feb. 1827. He divided for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., the spring guns bill, 23 Mar., and further information on the conduct of the Lisburn magistrates, 29 Mar. He voted to postpone the committee of supply pending the formation of a new ministry, 30 Mar. He divided against Canning’s coalition ministry to disfranchise Penryn, 28 May, but with them for the grant to improve water communications in Canada, 12 June 1827. Writing to his friend Lord Sandon* at the end of the year, he expressed his willingness to support Lord Goderich’s ministry ‘without much trusting or esteeming them as a whole, for the sake of Huskisson and Lord Lansdowne’.4 He divided for repeal of the Test Acts, 6 Feb., and Catholic relief, 12 May 1828. He voted to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 21 Mar., and for a lower pivot price on the corn duties sliding scale, 22 Apr. In supporting the motion for a select committee on the civil government of Canada (to which he was named), 2 May, he urged the need to allay the fears of French settlers and hoped that in holding on to what Chatham and Wolfe had gained, ‘we shall yet achieve a still more glorious victory, and more essentially English, by giving to the country we have conquered ... the advantages of our free and liberal institutions’. He spoke in favour of the grant to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in Canada and other colonies, 6 June, because he was unwilling to ‘deprive the clergy in those colonies of the means of support’, not because he wished ‘to make the religion of the Church of England the dominant religion there’. He defended the grant for military works in Canada, 7 July, recognizing the need for prudent precautions against American attack and declaring that ‘if we lose Canada, we shall most assuredly lose New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and with them the whole of our extensive fisheries’. If this happened, ‘then must the maritime greatness of England sink ... never again [to] be brought back to its former splendid eminence’. He presented a petition from inhabitants of Lower Canada against the repressive measures taken by the governor general, Lord Dalhousie, 14 July. He voted against the Wellington ministry to omit the salary of the governor of Dartmouth Castle from the garrisons grant, 20 June, condemn the misapplication of public money for building work at Buckingham House, 25 June, and reduce the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July. He divided against them on the silk duties, 14 July 1828.

He voted for the government’s Catholic emancipation bill, 6, 30 Mar. 1829. However, he opposed the clause requiring statements from Jesuits and members of other resident Catholic monastic orders, ‘a paltry and unnecessary measure of security’ which marred a bill that ‘upon the whole I admire with such fervency’, 24 Mar. He regarded it as ‘the best colonial measure that ever passed the House’, 30 Mar., as it would mollify Irish emigrant communities and ensure that ‘no other sentiments prevail amongst the entire population of our colonies than an undivided love for their country’. He pressed ministers to announce their intentions for the reform of Canada’s civil government, in the light of the previous year’s select committee report, and to avoid disappointing the colonists’ expectations, 23 Feb., 6 Apr., 14 May. On 5 June he declared that the Canadians were ready for ‘a complete ... system of freedom’, which should be ‘given them under the shade of the British monarchy and of those admirable institutions which Mr. Pitt gave to Canada’, so that Britain might ‘outbid America in purchasing the affections of the people’. He again supported the grant to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in the colonies, 6 Apr., but warned it to be more cautious in its activities to avoid provoking irritation and suspicion. He voted to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May, reduce the additional grant for the sculpture of marble arch, 25 May, and lower the hemp duty, 1 June 1829. He divided for Knatchbull’s amendment to the address on distress, 4 Feb. 1830, and acted with the revived Whig opposition on most issues during that session. He voted against Lord Blandford’s reform scheme, 18 Feb., but for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5, 15 Mar., and Russell’s reform motion, 28 May, when he was said to be ‘pleased with the change and ... strong for reform’.5 He divided for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. He demanded a thorough investigation of the pension list and warned that the country was likely to be disappointed at Parliament’s failure to ‘maintain ... strict economy in the public expenditure’, 1 Mar. However, he was against abolishing the treasurership of the navy, 12 Mar., believing this to be tantamount to a censure of the government, although he hoped to see a check on the ‘system of extravagance’. He voted to abolish the death penalty for forgery, 7 June, and opposed the Lords’ amendments to the forgeries punishment bill, criticizing ministers for not framing the measure properly, 20 July 1830.

Labouchere was active on issues relating to Canada and other colonies throughout that session. He argued that reform of Canadian civil government would allow ‘the present enormous military establishments there’ to be reduced, 19 Feb. He agreed to put off his resolutions on Canada so as not to retard progress on the estimates, 25 Mar. He was prepared to allow a first reading of the government’s Canada bill, as so few Members were present, 29 Apr., but indicated that he would oppose it at a later stage. He declared that ‘a complete alteration’ in the principle of the bill was needed, as it involved taxation to which the colonists would never submit, 14 June. He brought forward his resolutions on 25 May, justifying his initiative on the ground that few other Members had a specialist interest in Canada. He called for a reduction in the number of placemen in the legislative councils and the removal of judges from the executive councils, arguing that it was necessary to ‘strike at the root itself of all abuse, which can only be corrected ... by placing in the hands of the Canadians themselves the unlimited management of their own internal concerns’. He was a teller for the motion, which was defeated by 153-94. He announced that he now favoured phasing out the grant to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in Canada and other colonies, 14 June, believing it to be ‘decidedly injurious to the Church of England’, which was ‘fading away through the jealousy and animosity ... excited against her’. That day he argued that the government should end the ‘most unchristian’ practice of giving presents to the Canadian Indians in order to secure their service as military auxiliaries, maintaining that ‘the Indians to whom the advantages of civilization have not yet been extended, are as barbarous in their system of warfare as in their mode of living’. He urged ministers to pledge themselves to a bill on Canadian revenues in the next session, 16 July. He approved of those named as government commissioners to investigate abuses in colonial expenditure, 10 May. He supported the motion for inquiry into the state of Newfoundland, where the ‘greatest discontent’ existed, 11 May, and was a minority teller. He endorsed a petition from the Cape of Good Hope for a representative system of government, 24 May, deploring the practice of ‘sending out men of broken fortunes to occupy situations in the colonies’. In the debate on the civil establishment in the Bahamas, 11 June, he criticized the instinct to inject English ideas about the coexistence of monarchical, aristocratic and democratic elements into colonial constitutions, suggesting that ‘our offspring will be more healthy and vigorous if we allow them to depend more on their own strength’; he hastened to add that ‘in this country I am no enemy to the aristocracy’. He urged the government to abolish the establishment at Sierra Leone for extinguishing the slave trade, which ‘only grievously aggravates ... the horrors of that odious traffic’, 20 July 1830. In the absence of co-operation from other countries, he thought Britain should confine itself to ‘preventing our own subjects from engaging in that traffic’.

At the general election of 1830 Labouchere offered for Taunton on his uncle’s interest and was returned comfortably at the head of the poll. He affirmed his determination to uphold ‘the noble institutions of this country’, by his ‘readiness to apply to every part of them a searching but well-considered reform’, to ‘alleviate the burthens of the people’, by enforcing ‘a system of rigid economy in the public expenditure’, and support ‘a pacific system’ of foreign policy ‘compatible with the national interests and honour’. He subsequently declared that while he would ‘join in no factious opposition’ to the ministry, he was ‘inclined to watch its conduct with great distrust’, as he doubted whether it contained ‘enough efficiency and ability adequately to do justice to the great and various interests of this empire’. He also welcomed the ‘late glorious events in France’, which had opened up ‘a new and greater order of things to our view’. Privately, however, he suspected that ‘if things get hot abroad it will not fail to produce a rally round the duke, and such language as that which Brougham and Graham have been indulging in will materially assist to produce such an effect’.6 The ministry of course reckoned Labouchere among their ‘foes’, and he duly voted against them in the crucial civil list division, 15 Nov. 1830. He had tried unsuccessfully to extract information from them about the awaited report of the commission on finance and expenditure in the colonies, 5 Nov. He presented a Taunton anti-slavery petition and urged Lord Grey’s new ministry to face up to this issue, 23 Nov. He supported the grant for the Rideau Canal in Canada, regarding it as ‘true economy to undertake these works and fortifications’, 6 Dec. 1830. He approved the ministerial resolutions on the government of Canada, 18 Feb. 1831, but wished to see the legislative council elected rather than nominated, arguing that ‘our only course of governing Canada well, is not to govern it at all’. He questioned Goulburn, the former chancellor of the exchequer, over the granting of pensions by the Wellington ministry, 9 Dec., and presented a Taunton petition for repeal of the assessed taxes, 17 Dec. 1830. He criticized the spiralling expenditure on Windsor Castle and Buckingham House, 15 Feb. 1831, asserting that ‘if one thing more than another has of late shaken the attachment of the people to monarchical institutions, it is these ill-advised buildings’. He was named to the select committee on the East India Company, 4 Feb. (and again, 28 June 1831, 27 Jan., 27 June 1832). In presenting a Taunton petition for parliamentary reform, 14 Feb., he said he was ‘much disposed to support a great extension of suffrage, because I am desirous that the lower as well as the other classes should participate in the benefits of the constitution, and believe that their exclusion from the right of suffrage is neither just nor expedient’. He expressed his opposition to a Taunton petition for the ballot, which was likely to ‘produce greater evils than it is intended to remove’, 28 Feb., but praised the willingness of Taunton’s potwallopers to sacrifice their exclusive power by supporting an extended franchise, 7, 19 Mar., 19 Apr. He divided for the second reading of the ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he and his Whig colleague Bainbridge received a ‘cordial welcome’ at Taunton and were returned unopposed. Labouchere denied that the reform bill would destroy the influence of the aristocracy, maintaining on the contrary that it would

tend to place it on a sounder basis. If the nobility wished to retain that influence, they would find that it was not to be done by secluding themselves, or trusting to their close boroughs, but by mixing with the people, and identifying themselves with the growing spirit and liberal sentiment of the age. He believed that the people of England loved the crown and the constitutional nobility of the land, and considered their own liberties to be inseparably bound up with the just prerogative and privileges of the other orders of the state.7

He divided for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July 1831, and steadily for its details, although he was in the minority to transfer Aldborough from schedule B to A, 14 Sept. He presented a petition from certain householders of St. Mary Magdalene, Taunton, for their inclusion in the borough, 8 July. He opposed granting representation at Westminster to the colonies, 16 Aug., arguing that it would be impossible for colonial Members to perform double duties and improper for them to vote on issues relating to English taxation; he denied that a reformed House of Commons would neglect colonial interests. He opposed any alteration of the time for commencing parliamentary business and praised Lord Althorp’s handling of the bill, 27 Aug. He divided for the third reading, 19 Sept. Next day he admitted that he had ‘belonged to that school which wished reform to take place gradually’, but explained that after Wellington’s refusal to act ‘the time for that course ... passed by’. Grey’s ministry had rightly displayed a ‘prudent boldness’ by introducing ‘a measure of a broad and extensive character ... which would give the hope of settling this great question’. He believed that in the future ‘we may have a battle to fight between those who look upon all rights as usurpations and those who love and reverence existing institutions’, but this could not be ‘fought on the ground we now occupy’, whereas in a reformed Parliament ‘we shall be joined by all the public virtue and ... private worth of the country’. He voted for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. 1831.

He supported the grant for salaries and allowances to certain Oxbridge professors for reading courses of lectures, 8 July 1831, as ‘the benefits which [they] confer upon the country ... especially upon the poorer classes, are incalculable’. He pressed ministers to name a day for the third reading of the Canadian revenue bill, 8 July. He again recommended phasing out the grant to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in the colonies, 25 July, as it tended ‘to sow the seeds of religious dissension and civil discord’; he also urged ministers to deal with the question of the clergy reserves and amend the charter of the University of Upper Canada. That day he used a debate on Canadian canals to raise the colonists’ discontent at their system of civil government, arguing that the legislative councils must be reformed and pointing to the evils of a situation where an ‘oligarchy of placeholders’ was able to appropriate executive and judicial offices for its party supporters. He presented petitions from Lower Canada for the extinction of feudal rights in land and complaining of the legislative councils, the judicial system and the clergy reserves, 14 Oct. He supported the motion to grant constitutional government to Newfoundland, which should be ‘founded upon those broad principles of British liberty’, 13 Sept. He called for generous measures to relieve the people of Barbados and St. Vincent following a hurricane, 13 Oct. He questioned ministers as to whether the bill regulating child factory labour would apply to the silk industry, 6 Aug. He voted in the minority to print the Waterford petition for disarming the Irish yeomanry, 11 Aug. He presented petitions for omnibuses to be taxed as hackney cabs rather than stagecoaches, 16 Aug., and to reduce the duty and relax the regulations on the picking up of passengers, 7 Sept., when he observed that they were ‘a great convenience to the lower classes of the metropolis’. He voted to punish only those guilty of bribery at the Dublin election and against censuring the Irish administration, 23 Aug. He divided in the minority for an amendment to the motion for the Liverpool writ, which recognized that there had been gross bribery at the last general election, 5 Sept., but he supported issuing the writ as it would inflict unfair hardship ‘on the great trading and commercial interests of that town not to be fully represented in the House’; he hoped the freemen would ‘soon be visited with the punishment they deserve’. He voted in the minority against the quarantine duties, 6 Sept 1831.

Writing in late October 1831 from Brighton, where he had gone ‘to put myself in complete repair after the labours of the session’, Labouchere told a Tory friend that he saw no sign of ‘reaction’ in the country, apart from the southern agricultural counties, and had ‘no fear of disturbance from political excitement unless distress comes to its aid’. However, he was ‘exceedingly afraid that during the winter political pains and contractions of all kinds will spread over the whole kingdom’.8 In the debate on the address, 12 Dec., he expressed regret that the ministerial reform proposal did so little for Ireland, and feared that this neglect might ‘strengthen the power of agitators and the discontented and afford a handle for still stronger language of complaint’. He ridiculed Sir Robert Peel’s argument that the Commons should be grateful to the Lords for giving them a chance to reconsider the reform bill, pointing out that the Lords might simply have amended the previous measure and so avoided provoking the public anger that had damaged respect for the upper House and the Church of England. According to one observer, Labouchere ‘spoke remarkably well’ and his retort to Peel was ‘received with two distinct rounds of applause’, while his comments about Ireland prompted other speakers to address that subject ‘with still greater warmth’.9 He divided for the second reading of the revised bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and generally for its details. However, he was in the minority for replacing Gateshead in schedule D with Merthyr Tydfil, 5 Mar. 1832, as he saw no reason to separate Gateshead from Newcastle but was conscious of the ‘important interests’ at Merthyr, ‘which have increased with a rapidity almost unparalleled’ and should be recognized as ‘a matter of justice’. He divided for the third reading, 22 Mar., and Ebrington’s motion for an address asking the king to appoint only ministers committed to carrying an unimpaired measure, 10 May. During the debate on this motion the previous day, he reportedly ‘spoke violently’,10 urging the Commons to ‘place itself in the front of the battle, for we have arrived at a period when the great battle of reform must be fought and settled’. If a stand was not taken, ‘I fear we shall see such scenes in this country as would make every man shudder’. He spoke on the ministerial crisis ‘as an Englishman and ... an independent Member’, 14 May, hoping that Grey would be reinstated and the ‘honour and character’ of the country not injured by the spectacle of the Conservatives carrying a bill. He presented a Taunton petition for the Commons to withhold supplies until the bill was passed, 24 May. He voted for the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May, and paired against increased representation for Scotland, 1 June 1832.

He presented a petition for abolition of the soap duty, which would ‘contribute much to the benefit of the lower orders’, 9 Dec. 1831, and urged ministers to consider ‘making an extensive reduction of those taxes which press most severely on the springs of industry ... substituting in their place others which will fall principally on the richer classes of society’, 28 Feb. 1832. He stated that the silk manufacturers felt their case for exemption from Sadler’s factory bill had not been fully heard, 15 Dec. 1831, and successfully proposed that Bainbridge be added to the committee on it to represent Somerset interests, 16 Mar. 1832. He sided with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July. In the debate on the Swan River colony in Australia, 17 Feb., he regretted that it had been founded on ‘incorrect principles’ and deprecated the ‘system of composing the population of English colonies of the scourings of our gaols ... making them receptacles for vice and crime’. He welcomed the proposed relief grant to Barbados, St. Vincent and Grenada, 29 Feb., as these colonies had ‘a claim upon the public bounty of the mother country’. He pressed Fowell Buxton to state how much compensation should be given to slave owners after emancipation, 15 Mar., and presented a Taunton anti-slavery petition, 24 May. He remarked on the frequent appointment of unsuitable persons to judicial offices in the colonies, 13 Apr., questioned ministers about reduction in the ‘excessive’ salary of the governor of Madras, 25 May, and welcomed their plans to dispense with the grant for ecclesiastical establishments in the North American colonies, 23 July. He doubted whether the country would accept the general register bill, but acknowledged its potential benefits, 22 Feb. He opposed the motion to place all English county Members on the resulting select committee, 6 Mar., as he deemed it important to have a proper inquiry. He presented petitions from the conservators of the River Tone and Taunton’s inhabitants against the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal bill, 27 Feb., when his motion to reject the second reading was defeated by 97-65; he was a minority teller. He expressed indignation at ‘the shameless and faithless conduct of Russia’ towards the Poles, which was ‘shocking to humanity’, 18 Apr., and warned that ‘until redress is obtained ... there can be no security for the preservation of the peace of Europe’. He voted to make coroners’ inquests public, 20 June 1832.

Labouchere’s appointment as a lord of the admiralty in June 1832 marked the beginning of a long ministerial career. He was re-elected unopposed at Taunton, where he hailed the Reform Act as ‘a measure of justice ... freedom ... good order ... conciliation and ... peace’.11 He was again returned unopposed at the general election of 1832 and sat until 1859, when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Taunton. He was said to be ‘such a perfect gentleman’ that the Commons heard him ‘with peculiar favour’, and he was ‘generally and highly respected’ as a ‘zealous and able servant of the public’, although he never reached ‘the first rank of politics’.12 In 1839 he inherited from his father £200,000 invested in securities, together with properties in Piccadilly and Essex and joint interests with Baring (now Lord Ashburton) in Maine, Pennsylvania and Louisiana; the total value of the estate was reputedly around £500,000.13 He had purchased an estate at Overstowey near Bridgwater, Somerset, in 1833, and made further acquisitions to consolidate his property, forming the so-called Quantock Lodge estate.14 He died in July 1869 and his barony became extinct. He left his estates in Somerset and Essex to his elder daughters Mary and Mina respectively. His American estates were dealt with by a separate will, and it was presumably these which passed to his nephew Henry Labouchere (1831-1912), the maverick Radical Member for Windsor, 1865-6, Middlesex, 1867-8 and Northampton, 1880-1906.15

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Terry Jenkins

Notes

  • 1. A.L. Thorold, Life of Henry Labouchere, 1-4, 11-12.
  • 2. Ibid. 13; The Times, 14 July 1869.
  • 3. Cornw. RO, Carlyon mss 3226/3, Hawkins to Carlyon, 30 Mar. 1826.
  • 4. Harrowby mss, Labouchere to Sandon, 20 Dec. 1827.
  • 5. Ibid. Lady Bute to Lord D. Stuart, 22 May 1830.
  • 6. Taunton Courier, 19 May, 16 June, 11, 18 Aug. 1830; Add. 61937, f. 116.
  • 7. Taunton Courier, 27 Apr., 4 May 1831.
  • 8. Cent. Kent. Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/C381/1, Labouchere to Mahon, 27 Oct. 1831.
  • 9. NLS mss 24762, f. 49.
  • 10. Lonsdale mss, Beckett to Lowther, 9 May 1832.
  • 11. Taunton Courier, 13 June 1832.
  • 12. Add. 52011, f. 214; Life of Campbell, ii. 210; The Times, 14 July 1869.
  • 13. PROB 11/1908/167; IR26/1521/149; Smith