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James Archibald Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie, first Baron Wharncliffe (1776-1845)

James Archibald Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie, statesman, born on 6 October (or according to Burke, 1 November) 1776, was the second but eldest surviving son of James Archibald Stuart (1747-1818), lieutenant-colonel of the 92nd regiment of foot, by Margaret, daughter of Sir David Conyngham, bart. of Milncraig, Ayrshire. John Stuart, third earl of Bute, was his grandfather, and John, first marquis of Bute, his uncle. His father's mother (the countess of Bute) was Mary, only daughter of Edward Wortley-Montagu; she had been created a peeress on 3 April 1761 as Baroness Mountstuart. In 1794 the father succeeded on her death to her Wortley estates in Yorkshire and Cornwall, and assumed the name of Wortley on 17 January 1795. In 1803 he assumed the additional name of Mackenzie upon succeeding to the Scottish property of his uncle, James Stuart Mackenzie of Rosehaugh.

The younger James Archibald, who eventually dropped the last surname of Mackenzie, was educated at Charterhouse. He entered the army in November 1790 as an ensign in the 48th foot. In the following May he exchanged into the 7th royal fusiliers, and on 4 May 1793 obtained a company in the 72nd highlanders. He served in Canada for three years, and afterwards at the Cape. On 10 May 1796 he became lieutenant-colonel, and on 1 December colonel of the 12th foot. In 1797 he was sent to the Cape with despatches from George, lord Macartney and on 27 December purchased a company in the 1st foot guards. He quitted the army at the peace of 1801.

From 1797 till his father's death in 1818 he sat in the tory interest in the House of Commons for the family borough of Bossiney. On 21 May 1812 he moved a resolution on his own initiative for an address to the prince regent, calling on him to form an efficient administration. A few days before Perceval had been assassinated, and the object of the motion was to compel his colleagues to admit a more liberal element into the administration. The motion, seconded by Lord Milton, was carried against the ministers by a majority of four. Next day ministers resigned, and Lord Wellesley was commissioned to form a government. Negotiations with the whigs having come to nothing, Stuart-Wortley on 11 June moved a second resolution of like tenor, which was eventually negatived without a division.

Henceforth Stuart-Wortley acted with the moderate tories as an independent supporter of the Liverpool ministry. At first he deprecated the proceedings against the princess royal. On 22 June 1820 he seconded Wilberforce's motion for a parliamentary mediation between George IV and Queen Caroline, and was one of the four members commissioned to carry the resolution to the queen. When, however, she rejected the overture, Stuart-Wortley supported ministers in setting on foot an investigation. He constantly urged on ministers the necessity of economy, and in 1819 was a member of the parliamentary committee to inquire into the civil list.

In 1818 Stuart-Wortley was elected for the most important county constituency in Great Britain, that of Yorkshire. His colleague was Lord Milton (afterwards Earl Fitzwilliam). He proved a most efficient representative. He constantly opposed, in the interests of his constituents and others, the imposition of duties on the importation of foreign wool, and advocated the freeing of English wool from export duties. He opposed a parliamentary inquiry into the ‘Manchester massacre,’ thinking it more fit for a court of law, and attacked radicals like Hunt and Wooller; but at the same time he proposed a property tax to relieve the poor from the burden of taxation. In May 1820 he declared against further protection to agriculture, holding that the distress of that interest bore no proportion to that of manufactures.

In questions of foreign policy Stuart-Wortley shared the views of Canning. On 21 June 1821 he moved for copies of the circular issued by the members of the holy alliance at Laybach, stigmatising their proceedings as dangerous to the liberties both of England and Europe. The motion was negatived by 113 to 59. In April 1823 he defended the ministerial policy of neutrality between France and Spain, and moved and carried an amendment to a motion condemning it. He also acted with the liberal sections of both parties in supporting catholic emancipation, to which he had announced himself a convert as early as 1812, and on 28 May 1823 he seconded Lord Nugent's motion for leave to bring in a bill to assimilate the position of English and Irish Roman catholics. But his attitude on the question lost him his seat in 1826.

His position towards economic questions probably also unfavourably affected his relations with his constituents. In February 1823 he had supported both by speech and vote Whitmore's bill to amend the corn laws. On 7 July 1823, in opposing the Reciprocity of Duties Bill, he gave his opinion that it would be impossible to retain for any considerable time the protection given to agricultural produce.

In 1824 Stuart-Wortley, who described himself as a strict preserver, brought in a bill to amend the game laws. Its object was twofold: to abo2 August, 2014 a class and to make it depend on the ownership of the soil, and to diminish the temptations to poaching by legalising the sale of game. The bill was often reintroduced in succeeding years, and it was not until 1832 that a measure which embodied its main provisions became law.

On 12 July 1826 Stuart-Wortley was created Baron Wharncliffe of Wortley. While in the House of Commons he had repeatedly declared against the principle of parliamentary reform. On 26 February 1824 he had moved the rejection of Abercromby's motion for the reform of the constituency of Edinburgh. In 1831, however, after carrying an amendment raising the voting qualification at Leeds, he had taken charge of the Grampound disfranchisement bill, the object of which was to transfer its representation to that town. When the House of Lords proposed instead to give additional members to the county of York, Stuart-Wortley advised the abandonment of the measure. On 28 March 1831, by moving for statistics of population and representation, Wharncliffe initiated the first general discussion of the reform question in the House of Lords. While making an able and hostile analysis of the government bill, he declared his conviction that no body of men outside parliament would back resistance to a moderate measure. Upon the rejection of the first reform bill in committee of the House of Commons, he on 22 April 1831 moved an address to the king praying him to refrain from using his prerogative of proroguing or dissolving parliament. As Brougham was replying, the king was announced, and, after a scene of great confusion, the prorogation took place. When on 3 October following the second Reform Bill came up for second reading in the upper house, Wharncliffe moved that it be read a second time that day six months. He objected that the proposed ten-pound franchise was a bogus one, that the measure was designed to delude the landed interest, and he took exception to its populational basis. He refrained, however, from any defence of nomination boroughs. After a brilliant debate the second reading was defeated by 199 to 158. Two days later he presented petitions against the measure from bankers and merchants of London, and maintained that the opinion of the capital was opposed to the bill. But he had lost confidence in the possibility of successful resistance. In an interview with ‘Radical Jones’, he was impressed by his prediction of the dangers which would follow the rejection of the Reform Bill. Within a month of the defeat of the measure Wharncliffe and Harrowby were approached by the whig government through their sons in the commons. After a meeting of the two fathers and sons at Harrowby's house in Staffordshire, a memorandum was drawn up as a basis for negotiation. Greville, who heard it read, calls it moderate and says that it embraced ample concessions. The memorandum was shown to the cabinet and approved. But many tories declined to accept Wharncliffe's compromise. The city of London refused its adhesion, and Lord Grey broke off the negotiations. Grey sent the king Wharncliffe's memorandum, and William IV expressed regret at the failure of negotiations, but thought what had passed was calculated to be useful.

On 11 December a further meeting between Wharncliffe, Harrowby, and Chandos on the one side, and Grey, Brougham, and Althorp on the other, proved equally fruitless. Nevertheless, in January 1832, Wharncliffe advised the tories to support the second reading of the new bill and afterwards modify it in committee. He impressed on Wellington the danger of coming into collision with crown, commons, and people in a useless struggle. His remonstrance failed to move the duke, and Wharncliffe determined to act independently of him. In two interviews with William IV (on 12 January and early in February), he assured the king that as he and his friends were determined to support the second reading there was no need of a creation of peers. On 27 March Wharncliffe and Harrowby made their first public declaration of their intention to support the bill, Wharncliffe being, according to Greville, ‘very short and rather embarrassed.’ On 9 April their support secured for the second reading a majority of nine.

Wharncliffe felt acutely his separation from the tory party, and on 7 May voted for Lyndhurst's amendment postponing the disfranchising clauses, by which the progress of the bill was again delayed. His position was now very difficult; he had offended both his own party and the whigs. Grey resigned on the carrying of Lyndhurst's amendment, and Wellington, when seeking to form a government, was advised by Lyndhurst not only to offer office to Wharncliffe's son, but to consider well before he decided not to include Wharncliffe himself, as ‘he is gallant, and may be very troublesome against us’. The whigs soon resumed office, and the bill was proceeded with. On 24 May Wharncliffe moved an amendment to prevent persons voting for counties in respect of property situated in boroughs, and said he was not reconciled to the bill, which went further than the occasion required. The following day he proposed that the ten-pound qualification should be based on the assessment for poor rate. He abstained from voting on the third reading, but signed the two protests drawn up by Lord Melros. Anxious to regain the favour of his party, Wharncliffe in 1833 sent Wellington a sketch of a proposed policy in the new parliament, in which the duke concurred.

In February 1834 Greville describes him as ‘very dismal about the prospects of the country.’ On 13 December of the same year Wharncliffe was invited by Peel to join his first ministry, notwithstanding the lukewarmness of his recent opposition to the Irish tithe bill. He accepted the office of lord privy seal after receiving an assurance that the policy of the new ministry would be liberal in character. In January 1835 he acted as one of the committee to arrange the church reform bill. In April he retired with his colleagues, and remained in opposition during the next six years. During these years Wharncliffe found time to edit the letters and works of his ancestress, Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu. His edition appeared in 5 volumess in 1837, and superseded Dallaway's. It was reissued in 1861 and 1893.

When Peel returned to office in the autumn of 1841, Wharncliffe became lord president of the council. In the conduct of his office he was, says Greville, fair, liberal, and firm. ‘He really, too, does the business himself.’ On the other hand, he was not so successful as leader in the upper house. He was too liberal in education matters for the high-church party, and had not weight enough in the cabinet to enforce the execution of his views. He took part against Peel in the cabinet discussions which preceded his change of policy on the subject of the corn laws, but the latter is said to have been sanguine as to his ultimate conversion. On 19 December 1845 he died unexpectedly, of suppressed gout and apoplexy, at Wharncliffe House, Curzon Street.

Greville, who knew him well, says no man ever died with fewer enemies. He had not first-rate abilities, but from his strong sense, liberal opinions, and straightforward conduct was much looked up to by the country gentlemen. He gave signal proof of his personal courage during the reform riots in Yorkshire. His party never forgave him his conduct during the reform struggle, and he was very unjustly charged with insincerity and double-dealing; but Peel clearly appreciated the sterling worth of his character. He undoubtedly did good service in obviating the necessity for a creation of peers. Greville thinks he appeared to most advantage when he prevented the tory peers from overruling the law lords in allowing O'Connell's release on a writ of error. He had made a special study of criminal jurisprudence, and as a chairman of quarter sessions is said to have been unequalled.

Wharncliffe married, in 1799, Lady Caroline Mary Elizabeth Creighton, daughter by his second wife of John, first earl of Erne. She died on 23 April 1853. The issue of the marriage was three sons and one daughter, Caroline, who married the Hon. John Chetwynd Talbot.

The eldest son, John Stuart-Wortley, second Baron Wharncliffe (1801-1855), was born on 20 April 1801. He graduated B.A. from Christ Church, Oxford, in 1822, with a first-class in mathematics and a second in classics. He represented Bossiney from 1823 to 1832, and the West Riding of Yorkshire from 1841 till his succession to the peerage. He acted with the Huskisson party till appointed secretary to the board of control on 16 February 1830 in the last tory ministry before the Reform Bill. He shared his father's views on the reform question. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Forfarshire in 1835, and twice failed to obtain election for the West Riding of Yorkshire, but in 1841 won a great triumph for his party in that constituency. He was an enlightened agriculturist and a cultivated man. Besides publishing pamphlets on the abolition of the Irish viceroyalty, on the institution of tribunals of commerce, and a letter to Philip Pusey on drainage in the ‘Journal of the Agricultural Society,’ he was author of ‘A Brief Inquiry into the True Award of an Equitable Adjustment between the Nation and its Creditors,’ 1833, and translator and editor of Guizot's ‘Memoirs of George Monk,’ 1838, 8vo. He died at Wortley Hall, near Sheffield, on 22 October 1855. By his wife, Georgiana, third daughter of Dudley Ryder, first Earl of Harrowby, he had three sons and two daughters. The eldest son, Edward Montagu Granville Stuart-Wortley, born on 15 December 1827, was on 15 January 1876 created Earl of Wharncliffe and Viscount Carlton.

The first Lord Wharncliffe's youngest son, James Archibald Stuart-Wortley 1805-1881, was born in London on 3 July 1805. He graduated B.A. from Christ Church, Oxford, in 1826, and was soon after elected fellow of Merton. He was called to the bar from the Inner Temple in 1831, and took silk ten years later. In 1844 he became counsel to the bank of England, and in the following year was appointed solicitor-general to the queen-dowager and attorney-general to the Duchy of Lancaster. In 1846 he was sworn of the privy council, and was judge-advocate-general during the last months of Peel's second administration. In 1850 he became recorder of London, and was solicitor-general under Lord Palmerston in 1856-7. From 1835 to 1837 he represented Halifax, and from 1842 to 1859 sat for Buteshire. He died at Belton House, Grantham, on 22 August 1881. Stuart-Wortley married, in 1846, the Hon. Jane Lawley, only daughter of Paul Beilby, first lord Wenlock. His second son, Mr. Charles Beilby Stuart-Wortley, Q.C., M.P. (b. 1851), was under-secretary for the home department from 1885 to 1892.

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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