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Edward Cardwell in United Kingdom

Viscount Edward Cardwell (1813-1886), English statesman, was the son of a merchant of Liverpool, where he was born on the 24th of July 1813. After a brilliant career at Oxford, where he gained a double first-class, he entered parliament as member for Clitheroe in 1842, and in 1845 was made secretary to the treasury. He supported Sir Robert Peel’s free-trade policy, and went out of office with him. In 1847 he was elected for Liverpool, but lost his seat in 1852 for having supported the repeal of the navigation laws. He soon found another constituency at Oxford, and upon the formation of Lord Aberdeen’s coalition ministry became president of the Board of Trade, although debarred by the jealousy of his Whig colleagues from a seat in the cabinet.

In 1854 he carried, almost without opposition, a most important and complicated act consolidating all existing shipping laws, but in 1855 resigned, with his Peelite colleagues, upon the appointment of Mr Roebuck’s Sevastopol inquiry committee, declining the offer of the chancellorship of the Exchequer pressed upon him by Lord Palmerston. In 1858 he moved the famous resolution condemnatory of Lord Ellenborough’s despatch to Lord Canning on the affairs of Oude, which for a time seemed certain to overthrow the Derby government, but which ultimately dissolved into nothing. He obtained a seat in Lord Palmerston’s cabinet of 1859, and after filling the uncongenial posts of secretary for Ireland and chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster (1861), became secretary for the colonies in 1864. Here he reformed the system of colonial defence, refusing to keep troops in the colonies during time of peace unless their expense was defrayed by the colonists; he also laid the foundation of federation in Canada and, rightly or wrongly, censured Sir George Grey’s conduct in New Zealand.

Resigning with his friends in 1866, he again took office in 1868 as secretary for war. In this post he performed the most memorable actions of his life by the abolition of purchase and the institution of the short service system and the reserve in the army, measures which excited more opposition than any of the numerous reforms effected by the Gladstone government of that period, but which were entirely justified by their successful working afterwards. On the resignation of the Gladstone ministry in 1874 he was raised to the peerage as Viscount Cardwell of Ellerbeck, but took no further prominent part in politics. His mental faculties, indeed, were considerably impaired during the last few years of his life, and he died at Torquay on the 15th of February 1886. He was not a showy, hardly even a prominent politician, but effected far more than many more conspicuous men. The great administrator and the bold innovator were united in him in an exceptional degree, and he allowed neither character to preponderate unduly.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)


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  • Article Name: Edward Cardwell
  • Author: International
  • Description: Viscount Edward Cardwell (1813-1886), English statesman, was the son of a merchant of Liverpool, where he was born on the [...]

This entry was last updated: October 23, 2016

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