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The Right Honourable
 William Huskisson 
PC


In office
3 September 1827 – 30 May 1828
Monarch George IV
Prime Minister The Viscount Goderich
The Duke of Wellington
Preceded by The Viscount Goderich
Succeeded by Sir George Murray

In office
September 1827 – 26 January 1828
Monarch George IV
Prime Minister The Viscount Goderich
Preceded by George Canning
Succeeded by Robert Peel

Born 11 March 1770 (1770-03-11)
Birtsmorton Court, Malvern, Worcestershire
Died 15 September 1830 (1830-09-16)
Eccles, Lancashire
Nationality British
Spouse(s) Emily Milbanke (d. 1856)

William Huskisson PC (11 March 1770 – 15 September 1830) was a British statesman, financier, and Member of Parliament for several constituencies, including Liverpool. He is best known today, however, as the world's first widely reported railway casualty. He was run over by George Stephenson's locomotive engine Rocket.

Contents

Background and education

Huskisson was born at Birtsmorton Court, Malvern, Worcestershire, the son of William and Elizabeth Huskisson, both members of Staffordshire families. He was one of four brothers. After their mother Elizabeth died, their father William eventually remarried and had further children by his second wife. His half-brother Thomas Huskisson was a captain of the Royal Navy, an eyewitness of Trafalgar, and was appointed as the Paymaster of the Navy. His other half-brother George Huskisson was an officer in the Royal Marines before taking up his appointment as Collector of Customs at Saint Vincent.

Early life

Huskisson was a student at The Sir John Moore Church of England School (At the time called Appleby Grammar School), a boarding school designed by Sir Christopher Wren on the Leicstershire/Derbyshire borders. In 1783, Huskisson was sent to Paris to live with his maternal great-uncle Dr. Richard Gem, who was physician to the British embassy there. He remained in Paris until 1792, and his experience as an eyewitness to the prelude and beginning of the French Revolution gave him a life-long interest in politics. Huskisson first came to public notice while still in Paris. As a supporter of the moderate party, he became a member of the "Club of 1789," which favoured making France into a constitutional monarchy. On 29 August 1790, he delivered a speech entitled "Sur les Assignats", about the issue of assignats by the French government. This speech gave him a reputation as an expert in finance. From 1790 to 1792, the Marquess of Stafford was the British ambassador to Paris. Huskisson became a protégé of the Marquess, and returned to London with him.

Political career

Once in London, Huskisson quickly gained an additional two powerful political patrons: Henry Dundas, the Home Secretary, and William Pitt the Younger, the Prime Minister. Because of Huskisson's fluency in French, Dundas appointed him in January 1793 to oversee the execution of the Aliens Act, which mostly dealt with French refugees. In the discharge of his delicate duties, he manifested such ability that in 1795 he was appointed Under-Secretary at War (the Secretary at War's deputy). In the following year he entered parliament as member for Morpeth, but for a considerable period he took scarcely any part in the debates. In 1800 he inherited a fortune from Dr Gem. On the retirement of Pitt in 1801 he resigned office, and after contesting Dover unsuccessfully he withdrew for a time into private life. Having in 1804 been chosen to represent Liskeard, he was on the restoration of the Pitt ministry appointed secretary of the treasury, holding office till the dissolution of the ministry after the death of Pitt in January 1806.

After being elected for Harwich in 1807, he accepted the same office under the Duke of Portland, but he withdrew from the ministry along with Canning in 1809. In the following year he published a pamphlet on the currency system, which confirmed his reputation as the ablest financier of his time; but his free-trade principles did not accord with those of his party. In 1812 he was returned for Chichester. When in 1814 he re-entered the public service, it was only as First Commissioner of Woods and Forests, but his influence was from this time very great in the commercial and financial legislation of the country. He took a prominent part in the corn-law debates of 1814 and 1815; and in 1819 he presented a memorandum to Lord Liverpool advocating a large reduction in the unfunded debt, and explaining a method for the resumption of cash payments, which was embodied in the act passed the same year. In 1821 he was a member of the committee appointed to inquire into the causes of the agricultural distress then prevailing, and the proposed relaxation of the corn laws embodied in the report was understood to have been chiefly due to his strenuous advocacy.

In 1823 he was appointed president of the board of trade and treasurer of the navy, and shortly afterwards he received a seat in the cabinet. In the same year he was returned for Liverpool as successor to Canning, and as the only man who could reconcile the Tory merchants to a free trade policy. Among the more important legislative changes with which he was principally connected were a reform of the Navigation Acts, admitting other nations to a full equality and reciprocity of shipping duties; the repeal of the labor laws; the introduction of a new sinking fund; the reduction of the duties on manufactures and on the importation of foreign goods, and the repeal of the quarantine duties. In accordance with his suggestion Canning in 1827 introduced a measure on the corn laws proposing the adoption of a sliding scale to regulate the amount of duty. A misapprehension between Huskisson and the Duke of Wellington led to the duke proposing an amendment, the success of which caused the abandonment of the measure by the government.

After the death of Canning in the same year Huskisson accepted the secretaryship of the colonies under Lord Goderich, an office which he continued to hold in the new cabinet formed by the Duke of Wellington in the following year. After succeeding with great difficulty in inducing the cabinet to agree to a compromise on the corn laws, Huskisson finally resigned office in May 1828 on account of a difference with his colleagues in regard to the disfranchisement of East Retford. He was followed out of the government by other Tories who are usually described as Canningites including Lord Palmerston, Charles Grant, Lord Dudley, and Lord Melbourne.

Death

The second statue commemorating "William Huskisson - Statesman", depicting a Roman in a toga. The artist is John Gibson, a descendant of William's half-brother, Thomas Huskisson. The statue is in Pimlico Gardens, London. There is a similar monument in Chichester Cathedral.

Huskisson is the first person in history whose death from a railway accident has been widely noted. (Earlier deaths due to being struck by a steam locomotive occurred in 1821[1] and 1827,[2] and fatal boiler explosions in 1815 and 1828.) While attending the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, Huskisson rode down the line in the same train as the Duke of Wellington. At Parkside, close to Newton-le-Willows in Lancashire, the train stopped to observe a cavalcade on the adjacent line. Several members of the Duke's party stepped onto the trackside to observe more closely. Huskisson went forward to greet the Duke. As Huskisson was exiting his car, the locomotive Rocket approached on the parallel track. As the train drew close he held on to the open carriage door. Unfortunately the door was wider than the gap between the two trains. The Rocket struck the door, forcing Huskisson off balance and under its wheels.[3] His leg was horrifically mangled. The wounded Huskisson was taken by a train (driven by George Stephenson himself) to Eccles, where he died a few hours later.

Family and commemorations

On 6 April 1799, Huskisson married Emily Milbanke, the youngest daughter of Admiral Mark Milbanke, the commander-in-chief at Portsmouth. Emily Huskisson survived her husband and remained a widow until her death in April 1856. They had no children. In 1800 Huskisson bought Eartham House in West Sussex from his friend William Hayley, and is commemorated in the parish church by a long carved eulogy from Emily on the south wall.

The monument where his remains are buried is the centrepiece of St James Cemetery, Liverpool.[4] A marble statue of him was housed in a mausoleum there until 1968, when it was transferred to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.[5]

Emily also commissioned a second marble statue for the Custom House in Liverpool. This statue now stands in Pimlico Gardens in London. A bronze casting of it was unveiled at the Custom House in 1847, and after several moves is now in Duke Street in the city centre.[5]

See also

The Huskisson monument, on the right side behind the fence

References

  1. ^ "5 December 1821, when a carpenter, David Brook, was walking home from Leeds along the Middleton Railway in a blinding sleet storm. He failed to see or hear an approaching train ... and was fatally injured."—Richard Balkwill; John Marshall (1993). The Guinness Book of Railway Facts and Feats (6th ed.). Guinness. ISBN 0-85112-707-X.  
  2. ^ According to parish council records, a woman in Eaglescliffe, Teesside, thought to be a blind beggar, was "killed by the steam machine on the railway" in 1827—"Corrections and clarifications". The Guardian. 2008-06-21. http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2008/jun/21/7. Retrieved 2009-02-05.  
  3. ^ Garfield, Simon (2002). "Part Three — Before The Sun Revolved". The Last Journey of William Huskisson. London: Faber and Faber. pp. 156–157. ISBN 0-571-21608-0.  
  4. ^ William Huskisson at HistoryHome.co.uk
  5. ^ a b Huskisson statue at National Museums website

Bibliography

  • Brady, Alexander, William Huskisson and liberal reform; an essay on the changes in economic policy in the twenties of the nineteenth century, Oxford, OUP, 1928. (2nd ed. London, Cass, 1967).
  • Fay, C. R., Huskisson and His Age. London : Longmans Green, 1951.
  • The Last Journey of William Huskisson: The Day the Railway Came of Age; Simon Garfield (UK 2002); ISBN 0-571-21048-1

External links

Parliament of Great Britain
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Sir James Erskine, Bt
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Member of Parliament for Morpeth
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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
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Parliament of Great Britain
Member of Parliament for Morpeth
1801–1802
with Viscount Morpeth
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Hon. John Eliot
Hon. William Eliot
Member of Parliament for Liskeard
1804–1807
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William Eliot
Viscount Hamilton
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James Adams
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1807–1812
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James du Pre
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Isaac Gascoyne
George Canning
Member of Parliament for Liverpool
1823–1830
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William Ewart
Political offices
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1804–1806
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1807–1809
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First Commissioner of Woods and Forests
1814–1823
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President of the Board of Trade
1823–1827
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Charles Grant
Treasurer of the Navy
1823–1827
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

WILLIAM HUSKISSON (1770-1830), English statesman and financier, was descended from an old Staffordshire family of moderate fortune, and was born at Birch Moreton, Worcestershire, on the 11th of March 1770. Having been placed in his fourteenth year under the charge of his maternal great-uncle Dr Gem, physician to the English embassy at Paris, in 1783 he passed his early years amidst a political fermentation which led him to take a deep interest in politics. Though he approved of the French Revolution, his sympathies were with the more moderate party, and he became a member of the "club of 1789," instituted to support the new form of constitutional monarchy in opposition to the anarchical attempts of the Jacobins. He early displayed his mastery of the principles of finance by a Discours delivered in August 1790 before this society, in regard to the issue of assignats by the government. The Discours gained him considerable reputation, but as it failed in its purpose he withdrew from the society. In January 1793 he was appointed by Dundas to an office created to direct the execution of the Aliens Act; and in the discharge of his delicate duties he manifested such ability that in 1795 he was appointed under-secretary at war. In the following year he entered parliament as member for Morpeth, but for a considerable period he took scarcely any part in the debates. In 1800 he inherited a fortune from Dr Gem. On the retirement of Pitt in 180r he resigned office, and after contesting Dover unsuccessfully he withdrew for a time into private life. Having in 1804 been chosen to represent Liskeard, he was on the restoration of the Pitt ministry appointed secretary of the treasury, holding office till the dissolution of the ministry after the death of Pitt in January 1806. After being elected for Harwich in 1807, he accepted the same office under the duke of Portland, but he withdrew from the ministry along with Canning in 1809. In the following year he published a pamphlet on the currency system, which confirmed his reputation as the ablest financier of his time; but his free-trade principles did not accord with those of his party. In 1812 he was returned for Chichester. When in 1814 he re-entered the public service, it was only as chief commissioner of woods and forests, but his influence was from this time very great in the commercial and financial legislation of the country. He took a prominent part in the corn-law debates of 1814 and 1815; and in 1819 he presented a memorandum to Lord Liverpool advocating a large reduction in the unfunded debt, and explaining a method for the resumption of cash payments, which was embodied in the act passed the same year. In 1821 he was a member of the committee appointed to inquire into the causes of the agricultural distress then prevailing, and the proposed relaxation of the corn laws embodied in the report was understood to have been chiefly due to his strenuous advocacy. In 1823 he was appointed president of the board of trade and treasurer of the navy, and shortly afterwards he received a seat in the cabinet. In the same year he was returned for Liverpool as successor to Canning, and as the only man who could reconcile the Tory merchants to a free trade policy. Among the more important legislative changes with which he was principally connected were a reform of the Navigation Acts, admitting other nations to a full equality and reciprocity of shipping duties; the repeal of the labour laws; the introduction of a new sinking fund; the reduction of the duties on manufactures and on the importation of foreign goods, and the repeal of the quarantine duties. In accordance with his suggestion Canning in 1827 introduced a measure on the corn laws proposing the adoption of a sliding scale to regulate the amount of duty. A misapprehension between Huskisson and the duke of Wellington led to the duke proposing an amendment, the success of which caused the abandonment of the measure by the government. After the death of Canning in the same year Huskisson accepted the secretaryship of the colonies under Lord Goderich, an office which he continued to hold in the new cabinet formed by the duke of Wellington in the following year. After succeeding with great difficulty in inducing the cabinet to agree to a compromise on the corn laws, Huskisson finally resigned office in May 1829 on account of a difference with his colleagues in regard to the disfranchisement of East Retford. On the 15th of September of the following year he was accidentally killed by a locomotive engine while present at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester railway.

See the Life of Huskisson, by J. Wright (London, 1831).


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