Lord George Bentinck

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For his kinsman, see George Bentinck (MP).
Lord George Bentinck
Statue in Cavendish Square, London.

Lord (William) George Frederick Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck (27 February 1802 – 21 September 1848), better known as Lord George Bentinck, was an English Conservative politician and racehorse owner, noted for his role (with Benjamin Disraeli) in unseating Sir Robert Peel over the Corn Laws. He is not to be confused with his contemporary George Bentinck MP.

Early life[edit]

Bentinck was a younger son of the 4th Duke of Portland. As an officer in the 9th Lancers, he arranged a duel with his superior officer Captain Ker in Paris in 1821, but this was prevented and covered up by Bentinck's uncle George Canning.[1]

Bentinck was elected a Member of Parliament (MP) for King's Lynn in 1828, which constituency he represented, in succession to his uncle, William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, until his death. Although initially a follower of Canning, Bentinck supported the Whigs over the question of parliamentary reform. However, in 1834 he broke with the Whigs and, like Lord Stanley and Sir James Graham, among others, joined the new Conservative Party (via the short lived political centre grouping known as the 'Derby Dilly ') which formed under the leadership of Peel.

Horseracing[edit]

Before his interest in active politics in the 1840s, Bentinck was far better known for his interest in "the Turf." He was a notorious gambler, often losing substantial amounts. Bentinck owned several successful race horses and his stable, which he established at Goodwood, was renowned for its quality. During the 1845 season it was estimated that he had won over £100,000.[2]

Bentinck made strenuous efforts to eliminate fraud in the sport (although his own behaviour in fixing odds was not always scrupulous). In 1844 he proposed a set of rules to cover horse racing. By a series of legal actions he also limited the corruption involved in making and settlement of bets, deriving from outdated legislation.[3]

In order to commit himself to his political career, in 1846 Bentinck sold his entire stables and racing team for the bargain price of £10,000.[4]

Leader of the Protectionists[edit]

Bentinck first became prominent in politics in 1846 when he, with Disraeli, led the protectionist opposition to the repeal of the Corn Laws. Until he rose to speak against their repeal, he had not spoken a word in eighteen years in Parliament. Historians see Bentinck's participation as vital, for the majority of those who opposed repeal were country gentlemen, who were far more likely to follow the son of a Duke than Disraeli, an Anglicized Sephardic-Jewish literary figure, then of dubious repute. Although Bentinck and Disraeli did not prevent the repeal of the Corn Laws, they did succeed in forcing Peel's resignation some weeks later over the Irish Coercion Bill. The Conservative Party broke in half; some hundred free-trade Peelites followed Peel, while two hundred and thirty protectionists formed the new Conservative Party, with Stanley (later the Earl of Derby) as overall leader. Bentinck became leader of the party in the House of Commons.

Bentinck resigned the leadership in 1848, his support of Jewish emancipation being unpopular with the bulk of the party, and was succeeded by the Marquess of Granby. He died of a heart attack in September of that year. Although there were rumours of suicide (or even murder), his autopsy clearly showed emphysema and congestion of the lungs.[5]

Legacy[edit]

Bentinck was unmarried. He is commemorated with a statue in London's Cavendish Square Gardens.

Charles Greville (who had once been a partner of Bentick in a horse-racing syndicate) wrote of him after his death: "He brought into politics the same ardour, activity, industry and cleverness which he had displayed on the turf . . . having once espoused a cause and espoused a party, from whatever motive, he worked with all the force of his intellect and a superhuman power of application in what he perceived to be the interest of that party and that cause . . . [However] I have not the least doubt that, for his own reputation and celebrity, he died at the most opportune period; his fame had probably reached its zenith, and credit was given him for greater abilities than he possessed."

Papers[edit]

The department of Manuscripts and Special Collections, The University of Nottingham holds the correspondence and personal papers of Lord George Bentinck (Pw L), as part of the Portland (Welbeck) Collection.

The Portland Estate Papers held at Nottinghamshire Archives also contain items relating to the 5th Duke's properties.

References[edit]

Sources
Notes
  1. ^ MacIntyre (n.d.)
  2. ^ Macintyre (n.d.)
  3. ^ Macintyre (n.d.)
  4. ^ MacIintyre (n.d.)
  5. ^ MacIntyre (n.d.)

Further reading[edit]

  • Benjamin Disraeli, Lord George Bentinck. A Political Biography (London, 1852).
  • Anna Gambles, Protection and Politics: Conservative Economic Discourse, 1815-1852 (Cambridge University Press, 1971).
  • Angus Macintyre, ‘Lord George Bentinck and the Protectionists: A Lost Cause?’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 39 (1989), pp. 141–165.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck
John Walpole
Member of Parliament for King's Lynn
1828 – 1848
With: John Walpole to 1831
Lord William Pitt Lennox 1831–1835
Sir Stratford Canning 1835–1842
Viscount Jocelyn 1842–1854
Succeeded by
Edward Stanley
Viscount Jocelyn
Party political offices
Preceded by
Sir Robert Peel, Bt
Conservative Leader of the Commons
1846 – 1847
Succeeded by
Marquess of Granby