Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth

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The Viscount Sidmouth

Henry Addington by Beechey.jpg
Portrait by Sir William Beechey
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
17 March 1801 – 10 May 1804
MonarchGeorge III
Preceded byWilliam Pitt the Younger
Succeeded byWilliam Pitt the Younger
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
17 March 1801 – 10 May 1804
MonarchGeorge III
Preceded byWilliam Pitt the Younger
Succeeded byWilliam Pitt the Younger
Lord President of the Council
In office
14 January – 10 July 1805
MonarchGeorge III
Prime MinisterWilliam Pitt the Younger
Preceded byThe Duke of Portland
Succeeded byThe Earl Camden
In office
8 October 1806 – 26 March 1807
MonarchGeorge III
Prime MinisterSpencer Perceval
Preceded byThe Earl Fitzwilliam
Succeeded byThe Earl Camden
In office
8 April – 11 June 1812
Preceded byThe Earl Camden
Succeeded byThe Earl of Harrowby
Home Secretary
In office
8 June 1812 – 17 January 1822
Preceded byRichard Ryder
Succeeded byRobert Peel
Personal details
Born(1757-05-30)30 May 1757
Bedford Row, Holborn, Middlesex, England
Died15 February 1844(1844-02-15) (aged 86)
White Lodge, Richmond Park, Surrey, England
Resting placeSt Mary the Virgin, Mortlake
Political partyTory
Spouse(s)
Ursula Hammond
(m. 1781; died 1811)

Marianne Townsend (m. 1823)
ParentsDr. Anthony Addington
Mary Addington
Alma materBrasenose College, Oxford
SignatureCursive signature in ink

Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth, PC (30 May 1757 – 15 February 1844) was a British statesman who served as Prime Minister from 1801 to 1804. He is best known for obtaining the Treaty of Amiens in 1802, an unfavourable peace with Napoleonic France which marked the end of the Second Coalition during the French Revolutionary Wars. When that treaty broke down he resumed the war but he was without allies and conducted a relatively weak defensive war, ahead of what would become the War of the Third Coalition. He was forced from office in favour of William Pitt the Younger, who had preceded Addington as Prime Minister. Addington is also known for his ruthless and efficient crackdown on dissent during a ten-year spell as Home Secretary from 1812 to 1822. He is the longest continuously serving holder of that office since it was created in 1782.

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 Reading School, Winchester and Brasenose College, Oxford, and then studied law at Lincoln's Inn. In 1781 Addington married Ursula Mary Hammond, who brought an income of £1,000 a year into the marriage. The couple had eight children, of whom six survived to adulthood. Ursula Addington died in 1811 and in 1823 Addington married a widow, Marianne Townsend, daughter of William Scott, 1st Baron Stowell.

Political career[edit]

He was elected to the House of Commons in 1784 as one of the Members of Parliament 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]

Foreign policy was the centerpiece of his term in office. Some historians have been highly critical saying it was ignorant and indifferent to Britain's greatest needs. However Thomas Goldsmith argues that Addington and Hawkesbury conducted a logical, consistent, and Euro-centric balance-of-power policy, and one rooted in rules and assumptions governing their conduct, rather than a chaotic free-for-all approach.[1]

Addington's domestic reforms doubled the efficiency of the Income tax. In foreign affairs he secured 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 allies, 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.[2]

Foundling Hospital[edit]

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.

Loss of office[edit]

In Britannia between Death and the Doctor's (1804), James Gillray caricatured Pitt as a doctor kicking Addington (the previous doctor) out of Britannia's sickroom.

Although the king stood by him it was not enough because Addington did not have a strong enough hold on the two houses of Parliament. By May 1804 partisan criticism of Addington's war policies provided the pretext for a parliamentary putsch by the three major factions – Grenvillites, Foxites, and Pittites – who had decided that they should replace Addington's ministry. 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.[3]

Lord President and Lord Privy Seal[edit]

Addington remained an important political figure, because he had gained a large following of MPs who supported him loyally in the Commons. He was reconciled with Pitt in December 1804, with the help of Lord Hawkesbury as intermediary. As a result, Pitt arranged for him to join the Cabinet as Lord President of the Council in January 1805, but insisted that Addington accept a peerage as Viscount Sidmouth, to avoid the inconvenience of them sitting together in the Commons. In return for the support of the government by Addington's loyal supporters, Pitt agreed to include Addington's colleague the Earl of Buckinghamshire as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster with a promise to elevate him to the first vacancy of a more senior position in the Cabinet. However, when Melville resigned as First Lord of the Admiralty in July 1805, Pitt broke his promise by having Sir Charles Middleton appointed instead of Buckinghamshire. As a result of this betrayal, Sidmouth and Buckinghamshire resigned taking all of their supporters into opposition. Sidmouth was appointed Lord Privy Seal in 1806 in the Ministry of All the Talents that succeeded Pitt. Later that year he returned to the position of Lord President to 1807. His resignation, in opposition to a limited measure of Catholic Emancipation that the Cabinet was considering despite the opposition of King George III, precipitated the fall of the Talents Ministry.

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, opposing, along with the Duke of Wellington, other members of Cabinet, and King George IV 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.

Residences and land[edit]

Addington maintained homes at Upottery, 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.[4]

Styles of address[edit]

  • 1757–1784: Mr Henry Addington
  • 1784–1789: Mr Henry Addington MP
  • 1789–1805: The Right Honourable Henry Addington MP
  • 1805–1844: The Right Honourable The Viscount Sidmouth PC

Arms[edit]

Cabinet of Henry Addington[edit]

Portfolio Minister Took office Left office Party
 Henry Addington*17 March 1801 (1801-03-17)10 May 1804 (1804-05-10)Tory
Lord Chancellor The Lord Eldon14 April 1801 (1801-04-14)7 February 1806 (1806-02-07)Tory
Lord President of the Council The Earl of Chatham21 September 1796 (1796-09-21)30 July 1801 (1801-07-30)Independent
 The Duke of Portland30 July 1801 (1801-07-30)14 January 1805 (1805-01-14)Tory
Lord Privy Seal The Earl of WestmorlandFebruary 1798 (1798-02)February 1806 (1806-02)Tory
Secretary of State for the Home Department The Duke of Portland11 July 1794 (1794-07-11)30 July 1801 (1801-07-30)Tory
 The Lord Pelham of Stanmer30 July 1801 (1801-07-30)17 August 1803 (1803-08-17)Tory
 Charles Philip Yorke17 August 1803 (1803-08-17)12 May 1804 (1804-05-12)Tory
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs The Lord Hawkesbury20 February 1801 (1801-02-20)14 May 1804 (1804-05-14)Tory
Secretary of State for War and the Colonies The Lord Hobart17 March 1801 (1801-03-17)12 May 1804 (1804-05-12)Tory
First Lord of the Admiralty The Earl of St Vincent1801 (1801)1804 (1804)Whig
Master-General of the Ordnance The Earl of ChathamJune 1801 (1801-06)February 1806 (1806-02)Independent
President of the Board of Trade The Earl of Liverpool23 August 1786 (1786-08-23)7 June 1804 (1804-06-07)Independent
President of the Board of Control The Earl of DartmouthMay 1801 (1801-05)July 1802 (1802-07)Tory
 Viscount CastlereaghJuly 1802 (1802-07)1806 (1806)Tory

References[edit]

  1. ^ Goldsmith, Thomas (2016). "British Diplomatic Attitudes towards Europe, 1801–4: Ignorant and Indifferent?". International History Review. 38 (4): 657–674. doi:10.1080/07075332.2015.1096807.
  2. ^ Hall, C. D. (October 1988). "Addington at War: Unspectacular but not Unsuccessful". Historical Research. 61 (146): 306–315. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2281.1988.tb01069.x.
  3. ^ McCahill, Michael W. (May 1987). "The House of Lords and the Collapse of Henry Addington's Administration". Parliamentary History. 6 (1): 69–94. doi:10.1111/j.1750-0206.1987.tb00412.x.
  4. ^ "First Viscount Sidmouth". Napoleon & Empire. 9 April 2016.
  5. ^ "Sidmouth, Viscount (UK, 1805)". Cracroft's Peerage. Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 16 December 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Addington, Henry". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/150. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • 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]

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
Served alongside: Joshua Smith
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Thomas Estcourt
Joshua Smith
Political offices
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William Wyndham Grenville
Speaker of the British House of Commons
1789–1801
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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
First Lord of the Treasury
1801–1804
Chancellor of the Exchequer
1801–1804
Leader of the House of Commons
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Preceded by
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Lord President of the Council
1805
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Preceded by
The Earl of Westmorland
Lord Privy Seal
1806
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Lord President of the Council
1806–1807
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The Earl Camden
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The Earl Camden
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1812
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Records
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Oldest living Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1811–1844
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Honorary titles
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Senior Privy Counsellor
1839–1844
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The Earl of Harrowby
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Sidmouth
1805–1844
Succeeded by
William Leonard Addington