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Henry Goulburn (1784-1856)

This article was written by George Fisher Russell Barker and was published in 1890

Henry Goulburb, a statesman, was the eldest son of Munbee Goulburn of Portland Place, London, by his wife, Susannah, eldest daughter of William Chetwynd, fourth viscount Chetwynd. He was born in London on 19 March 1784, and was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1805, and M.A. in 1808. At the general election in May 1807 he unsuccessfully contested the borough of Horsham in the tory interest, but was seated upon petition in February 1808, and on 27 February 1810 was appointed under-secretary for the home department in Spencer Perceval's administration.

His first reported speech in the House of Commons was delivered on 16 March 1812. In the following August he succeeded Peel as under-secretary for war and the colonies, and at the general election in October 1812 was returned for the borough of St. Germans. In July 1814 he was appointed one of the commissioners for negotiating peace with America, and at the general election in June 1818 was elected one of the members for West Looe, a borough which he continued to represent until the dissolution in June 1826.

Resigning his post at the colonial office, he was sworn a member of the privy council on 10 December 1821, and appointed chief secretary to the Marquis Wellesley, lord-lieutenant of Ireland. As Goulburn had taken a prominent part in resisting Plunket's Roman Catholic Disability Removal Bill, which had been carried through the House of Commons in the previous session, his appointment was unpopular with the Irish Roman catholics, by whom he was denounced as an Orangeman.

In March 1823 he introduced the Irish Tithe Composition Bill, which after one important modification became law, and proved a considerable success in relieving the poorer classes of the country. In February 1825 he brought in a bill for the suppression of unlawful societies in Ireland. It was rapidly passed through both houses of parliament, but failed to have any real effect during the three years it was in force. At the general election in the summer of 1826 Goulburn unsuccessfully contested Cambridge University, but was returned for the city of Armagh, for which constituency he continued to sit until the dissolution in April 1831.

On Canning becoming prime minister in April 1827, Goulburn resigned the post of chief secretary. On 26 January 1828 he was appointed chancellor of the exchequer in the Duke of Wellington's administration. The cabinet being divided on the question, Goulburn continued his opposition to the relief of the Roman catholics, and with Peel voted against Burdett's motion in May 1828. Goulburn brought in his first budget on 11 July 1828. The financial arrangements of 1828 and 1829, however, were of an ordinary character. In his third budget, which he introduced on 15 March 1830, he was able to abolish the existing taxes on leather, cider, and beer. By authorising the excise to grant licenses to any persons to sell beer upon a small yearly payment he also destroyed the monopoly of the great brewers, and established free trade in beer. In the same year he reduced the interest of the new £4 per cents. to 3¾ per cent. a year, and by this means effected an annual saving of more than £750,000 a year.

Upon the defeat of the ministry in November 1830 Goulburn resigned office. At the general election in May 1831 he was returned at the head of the poll for Cambridge University, which he thenceforth continued to represent until his death. On the formation of Peel's first cabinet in December 1834 Goulburn was appointed home secretary, a post which he retained until the overthrow of the admin