John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham: Wikis


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The Right Honourable 
The Earl of Durham

Portrait of John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham

In office
22 November 1830 – March 1833
Monarch William IV
Prime Minister The Earl Grey
Preceded by The Earl of Rosslyn
Succeeded by The Earl of Ripon

In office
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by The Earl of Gosford
Succeeded by The Lord Sydenham

In office
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by Sir John Colborne
Succeeded by The Lord Sydenham

Born 12 April 1792 (1792-04-12)
London, England
Died 28 July 1840 (aged 48)
Cowes, Isle of Wight
Nationality British
Political party Whig
Spouse(s) (1) Lady Harriet Cholmondeley (d. 1815)
(2) Lady Louisa Grey
(d. 1841)

John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham GCB, PC (12 April 1792 – 28 July 1840), also known as "Radical Jack" and commonly referred to in history texts simply as Lord Durham, was a British Whig statesman, colonial administrator, Governor General and high commissioner of British North America.


Background and education

Durham was born in London, the son of William Henry Lambton, and Lady Anne Barbara Frances, daughter of George Villiers, 4th Earl of Jersey.[1] The Lambton family fortune was derived largely from mining on lands surrounding Lambton Castle, the ancestral family home in County Durham. Other properties in County Durham included Dinsdale Park and Low Dinsdale Manor.[citation needed] He was educated at Eton and served in the 10th Dragoons between 1809 and 1811.[1]

Political career

Durham was first elected to Parliament for County Durham in the general election of 1812, a seat he held until 1828, when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Durham, of the City of Durham and of Lambton Castle in the County Palatine of Durham.[2] When his father-in-law Lord Grey (see below) became prime minister in 1830, Durham was sworn of the Privy Council and appointed Lord Privy Seal.[3] In this capacity he helped draft the Reform Bill of 1832. Lord Durham resigned from cabinet in 1833.[citation needed] Later the same year he was further honoured when he was made Viscount Lambton and Earl of Durham.[4]

Between 1835 he served as Ambassador to Russia. While in Russia he was invested a Knight of the Order of Alexander Nevsky, of the Order of St. Andrew and of the Order of St. Anna. In 1837 he was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.[1]


Lord Durham was sent to the Canadas in 1837[5] to investigate the circumstances surrounding the Lower Canada Rebellion of Louis-Joseph Papineau and the Upper Canada Rebellion of William Lyon Mackenzie, which had both occurred earlier that year.[6] His detailed and famous Report on the Affairs of British North America (1839) recommended a modified form of responsible government and a legislative union of Upper Canada, Lower Canada and the Maritime Provinces.[6]

Lord Durham has been lauded in Canadian history for his recommendation to introduce responsible government. This was implemented and by 1848 Canada was a functioning democracy, as it has been ever since. He is less well considered for his idea of merging Upper and Lower Canada into one colony, since this was proposed with the express end of trying to encourage the extinction of the French language and culture through intermingling with the lesser English population.[6] Although in the end the policy of assimilation failed during the Union (1840-1867) and after, in practice, the Act of Union prevented the granting of responsible government to the French Canadian people (as a majority in Lower Canada).[citation needed]

As soon as 1842, Lord Durham's intended policy of assimilation faced setbacks, as Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine's party in the House managed to force de facto re-establishment of French as a language of Parliament. Once responsible government was achieved (1848), French Canadians in Canada East succeeded by voting as a bloc in ensuring that they were powerfully represented in any cabinet, especially as the politics of Canada West was highly factional. The resulting deadlock between Canada East and West led to a movement for federal rather than unitary government, which resulted in the creation of confederation, a federal state of Canada, incorporating New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, in 1867.[citation needed]


Lord Durham was twice married.He married as his first wife Lady Harriet, daughter of George Cholmondeley, 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley, in 1812. They had three daughters, who all predeceased him. After Lady Harriet's death in July 1815 he married secondly Lady Louisa, daughter of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, in 1816. They had two sons and three daughters. Lord Durham died at Cowes on the Isle of Wight in July 1840, aged 48, and was succeeded by his eldest and only surviving son, George. The Countess of Durham only survived her husband by a year and died in November 1841.[1]

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham
  2. ^ London Gazette: no. 18433, p. 122, 18 January 1828.
  3. ^ London Gazette: no. 18748, p. 2450, 23 November 1830.
  4. ^ London Gazette: no. 19030, p. 523, 15 March 1833.
  5. ^ It was during Durham's trip to the Canadas aboard the Hastings that he experienced one of the first recorded cases of synesthesia. The observations were made by a friend of Durham's, Dr. William Henry Farrow, who was a young doctor travelling to the Canadas on Durham's invitation. New, Chester William (1929). Lord Durham. A Biography of John George Lambton, First Earl of Durham, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 612 p.
  6. ^ a b c Will Kaufman, Heidi Slettedahl Macpherson, ed. Britain and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History, Pages 819-820. ACB-CLIO, 2005. ISBN 978-1851094318



In English

  • Ouellet, Fernand. "Lambton, John George, 1st Earl of Durham", in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, University of Toronto, Université Laval, 2000
  • Ajzenstat, Janet (1988). The Political Thought of Lord Durham, Montreal: McGill-Queen's University, 137 p. (ISBN 0773506373) (online excerpt)
  • Martin, Ged (1972). The Durham Report and British Policy, Cambridge University Press, 120 p. (ISBN 0521085306) (preview)
  • Wallace, W. Stewart. "John George Lambton, first Earl of Durham (1792-1840)", in The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. II, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 411 p., pp. 253-254. (online)
  • Shelley, Frances, and Richard Edgcumbe (1912). The Diary of Frances Lady Shelley. New York: C. Scribner's, 406 p.
  • Bradshaw, Frederick (1903). Self-Government in Canada, and How it was Achieved: The Story of Lord Durham's Report, London: P.S.King, 414 p. (online)
  • Lambton, John George, Charles Buller, Edward Gibbon Wakefield (1839). The Report and Despatches of the Earl of Durham, Her Majesty's High Commissioner and Governor-General of British North America, London: Ridgways, Piccadilly (online)
  • Mill, John Stuart. "Radical Party and Canada: Lord Durham and the Canadians", in London and Westminster Review, VI & XXVIII, 502-33, January 1838 (online)
  • Lambton, John George (1835). Speeches of the Earl of Durham on Reform of Parliament, London: James Ridgway and Sons, Piccadilly, 204 p. (online)
  • Reid, John (1835). Sketch of the Political Career of the Earl of Durham, Glasgow: John Reid & Co. 400 p. (online)

In French

  • Ouellet, Fernand. "Lambton, John George, 1er comte de Durham", in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, University of Toronto, Université Laval, 2000
  • Viau, Roger (1963). Lord Durham, Montréal: Éditions HMH limitée, 181 p.
  • Desrosiers, Léo-Paul (1937). L'Accalmie : Lord Durham au Canada, Montréal: Le Devoir, 148 p.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Henry Vane-Tempest, Bt
Viscount Barnard
Member of Parliament for County Durham
1812– 1828
With: Viscount Barnard 1812–1815
Hon. William Powlett 1815–1828
Succeeded by
Hon. William Powlett
William Russell
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Rosslyn
Lord Privy Seal
1830 – 1833
Succeeded by
The Earl of Ripon
Government offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Gosford
Lieutenant-Governor of Lower Canada
1838 – 1839
Succeeded by
The Lord Sydenham
Preceded by
Sir John Colborne
Governor General of the Province of Canada
1838 – 1839
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Earl of Durham
1833 – 1840
Succeeded by
George Lambton
Baron Durham
1828 – 1840


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