Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth

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The Right Honourable
The Viscount Sidmouth
PC
Henry Addington by Beechey.jpg
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
14 March 1801 – 10 May 1804
Monarch George III
Preceded by William Pitt the Younger
(As Prime Minister of Great Britain)
Succeeded by William Pitt the Younger
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
17 March 1801 – 10 May 1804
Monarch George III
Preceded by William Pitt the Younger
Succeeded by William Pitt the Younger
Lord President of the Council
In office
8 October 1806 – 26 March 1807
Monarch George III
Prime Minister Spencer Perceval
Preceded by The Earl Fitzwilliam
Succeeded by The Earl Camden
In office
8 April – 11 June 1812
Preceded by The Earl Camden
Succeeded by The Earl of Harrowby
Home Secretary
In office
08 June 1812 – 17 January 1822
Preceded by Richard Ryder
Succeeded by Robert Peel
Personal details
Born (1757-05-30)30 May 1757
Bedford Row, Holborn, London, UK, Great Britain
Died 15 February 1844(1844-02-15) (aged 86)
White Lodge, Richmond Park, Richmond, Surrey, England, UK
Political party Tory
Spouse(s) Ursula
Alma mater Brasenose College, Oxford
Religion Church of England
Signature Cursive signature in ink

Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth, PC (30 May 1757 – 15 February 1844) was a British statesman, and Prime Minister from 1801 to 1804. He is best known for obtaining the Treaty of Amiens in 1802, an unfavourable peace with France. When that broke down he resumed the war but he was without allies and conducted a relatively weak defensive war. He is also known for his ruthless and efficient crackdown on dissent as Home Secretary 1812-1822.

Family[edit]

Henry Addington was the son of Anthony Addington, Pitt's physician, and Mary Addington, the daughter of the Rev. Haviland John Hiley, headmaster of Reading School. As a consequence of his father's position, Addington was a childhood friend of William Pitt the Younger. Addington studied at Winchester and Brasenose College, Oxford, and then studied law at Lincoln's Inn.

Political career[edit]

He was elected to the House of Commons in 1784 as Member of Parliament (MP) for Devizes, and became Speaker of the House of Commons in 1789. In March 1801, William Pitt the Younger resigned from office, ostensibly over the refusal of King George III to remove some of the existing political restrictions on Roman Catholics in Ireland (Catholic Emancipation), but poor health, failure in war, economic collapse, alarming levels of social unrest due to famine, and irreconcilable divisions within the Cabinet also played a role. Both Pitt and the King insisted that Addington take over as Prime Minister, despite his own objections, and his failed attempts to reconcile the King and Pitt.

Prime minister[edit]

Main article: Napoleonic Wars

Addington's period as Prime Minister was most notable for his reforms that doubled the efficiency of the Income tax and for the negotiation of the Treaty of Amiens, in 1802. While the terms of the Treaty were the bare minimum that the British government could accept, Napoleon Bonaparte would not have agreed to any terms more favourable to the British, and the British government had reached a state of financial collapse, owing to war expenditure, the loss of Continental markets for British goods, and two successive failed harvests that had led to widespread famine and social unrest, rendering peace a necessity. By early 1803 Britain's financial and diplomatic positions had recovered sufficiently to allow Addington to declare war on France, when it became clear that the French would not allow a settlement for the defences of Malta that would have been secure enough to fend off a French invasion that appeared imminent.

At the time and ever since Addington has been criticized for his lackluster conduct of the war and his defensive posture. However without allies, Britain's options were limited to defence. He did increase the forces, provide a tax base that could finance an enlarged war, and seize several French possessions. To gain alies, Addington cultivated better relations with Russia, Austria, and Prussia, that later culminated in the Third Coalition shortly after he left office. Addington also strengthened British defences against a French invasion through the building of Martello towers on the south coast and the raising of more than 600,000 men at arms.[1]

Loss of office[edit]

Although the king stood by him it was not enough with the war going poorly. In the House of Lords by May 1804 Addington's inept war policies united members from the three major factions - Grenvillites, Foxites, and Pittites - as well as independents. Addington's greatest failing was his inability to manage a parliamentary majority, by cultivating the loyal support of MPs beyond his own circle and the friends of the King. This combined with his mediocre speaking ability, left him vulnerable to Pitt's mastery of parliamentary management and his unparalleled oratory skills. Pitt's parliamentary assault against Addington in March 1804 led to the slimming of his parliamentary majority to the point where defeat in the House of Commons was imminent.[2]

Lord President and Lord Privy Seal[edit]

Lord Sidmouth's coat of arms

Addington remained an important political figure, however, and the next year he was created Viscount Sidmouth. He served in Pitt's final Cabinet as Lord President of the Council to 1806, and in the Ministry of All the Talents as Lord Privy Seal and again Lord President to 1807.

Home Secretary[edit]

He returned to government again as Lord President in March 1812, and, in June of the same year, became Home Secretary. As Home Secretary, Sidmouth countered revolutionary opposition, being responsible for the temporary suspension of habeas corpus in 1817 and the passage of the Six Acts in 1819. His tenure also saw the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. Sidmouth left office in 1822, succeeded as Home Secretary by Sir Robert Peel, but remained in the Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio for the next two years, fruitlessly opposing British recognition of the South American republics. He remained active in the House of Lords for the next few years, making his final speech in opposition to Catholic Emancipation in 1829 and casting his final vote against the Reform Act 1832.

Foundling Hospital[edit]

As Prime Minister, in 1802, Addington accepted an honorary position as vice-president for life on the Court of Governors of London's Foundling Hospital for abandoned babies.

Residences and land[edit]

Addington maintained homes at Up Ottery, Devon and Bulmershe Court, in what is now the Reading suburb of Woodley, but moved to the White Lodge in Richmond Park when he became Prime Minister. However he maintained links with Woodley and the Reading area, as commander of the Woodley Yeomanry Cavalry and High Steward of Reading. He also donated to the town of Reading the four acres of land that is today the Royal Berkshire Hospital, and his name is commemorated in the town's Sidmouth Street and Addington Road as well as in Sidmouth street in Devizes.

Death[edit]

Henry Addington died in London on 15 February 1844 at the age of 86, and was buried in the churchyard at St Mary the Virgin Mortlake, Greater London.[3]

Henry Addington's Government, March 1801 – May 1804[edit]

In Britannia between Death and the Doctor's (1804), James Gillray caricatured Pitt kicking Addington (at left) out of Britannia's sickroom.

Changes

Sources[edit]

  • Cookson, J. E. "Addington, Henry, first Viscount Sidmouth (1757–1844)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2009 accessed 29 Dec 2013
  • Cookson, J. E. The British armed nation, 1793–1815 (1997) online
  • Ehrman, J. The younger Pitt, 3: The consuming struggle (1996)
  • Fedorak, Charles John, Henry Addington, Prime Minister, 1801–1804: Peace, War and Parliamentary Politics (Akron, Ohio: University of Akron Press, 2002), 268p.
  • Fedorak, C. J. "In search of a necessary ally: Addington, Hawkesbury, and Russia, 1801–1804", International History Review 13 (1991), 221–45
  • Kagan, Frederick W. The End of the Old Order: Napoleon and Europe 1801–1805 (2006)
  • Ziegler, Philip Addington, A Life of Henry Addington, First Viscount Sidmouth (New York: The John Day Company, 1965), 478p.

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ C. D. Hall, "Addington at War: Unspectacular but Not Unsuccessful," Historical Research (1988) 61#146 pp 306-315
  2. ^ Michael W. McCahill, "The House of Lords and the Collapse of Henry Addington's Administration," Parliamentary History (1987) 6#1 pp 69-94
  3. ^ Henry Addington's short biography in Napoleon & Empire website, displaying a photograph of his tomb
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Henry Jones
Sir James Tylney-Long
Member of Parliament for Devizes
1784–1800
With: Sir James Tylney-Long 1784–1788
Joshua Smith 1788–1800
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Parliament of Great Britain
Member of Parliament for Devizes
1801–1805
With: Joshua Smith
Succeeded by
Thomas Estcourt
Joshua Smith
Political offices
Preceded by
William Wyndham Grenville
Speaker of the British House of Commons
1789–1801
Succeeded by
Sir John Mitford
Preceded by
William Pitt the Younger
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
17 March 1801 – 10 May 1804
Succeeded by
William Pitt the Younger
Chancellor of the Exchequer
1801–1804
Leader of the House of Commons
1801–1804
Preceded by
The Duke of Portland
Lord President of the Council
1805
Succeeded by
The Earl Camden
Preceded by
The Earl of Westmorland
Lord Privy Seal
1806
Succeeded by
The Lord Holland
Preceded by
The Earl Fitzwilliam
Lord President of the Council
1806–1807
Succeeded by
The Earl Camden
Preceded by
The Earl Camden
Lord President of the Council
1812
Succeeded by
The Earl of Harrowby
Preceded by
Richard Ryder
Home Secretary
1812–1822
Succeeded by
Robert Peel
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Sidmouth
1805–1844
Succeeded by
William Leonard Addington