Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Brougham and Vaux
Portrait of Henry Brougham, Lord Brougham and Vaux (2550754469).jpg
Lord Chancellor
In office
22 November 1830 – 9 July 1834
MonarchWilliam IV
Prime MinisterThe Earl Grey
Preceded byThe Lord Lyndhurst
Succeeded byThe Lord Lyndhurst
Personal details
Born(1778-09-19)19 September 1778
Cowgate, Edinburgh
Died7 May 1868(1868-05-07) (aged 89)
Cannes, France
Political partyWhig
Spouse(s)Mary Anne Eden
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
Sir Henry Brougham by John Adams Acton 1867

Henry Peter Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux, PC QC FRS (/ˈbr(ə)m ... ˈvks/; 19 September 1778 – 7 May 1868) was a British statesman who became Lord Chancellor of Great Britain.

As a young lawyer in Scotland, Brougham helped to found the Edinburgh Review in 1802 and contributed many articles to it.[1] He went to London, and was called to the English bar in 1808. In 1810 he entered the House of Commons as a Whig. Brougham took up the fight against the slave trade and opposed restrictions on trade with continental Europe. In 1820, he won popular renown as chief attorney to Queen Caroline, and in the next decade he became a liberal leader in the House. He not only proposed educational reforms in Parliament but also was one of the founders of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in 1825 and of University College London in 1826. As Lord Chancellor from 1830 to 1834 he effected many legal reforms to speed procedure and established the Central Criminal Court. In later years he spent much of his time in Cannes, which he established as a popular resort.


Early life[edit]

Brougham Hall in 1832.

Brougham was born and grew up in Edinburgh, the eldest son of Henry Brougham (1742-1810), of Brougham Hall in Westmorland, and Eleanora, daughter of Reverend James Syme. The Broughams had been an influential Cumberland family for centuries. Brougham was educated at the Royal High School and the University of Edinburgh, where he chiefly studied natural science and mathematics, but also law. He published several scientific papers through the Royal Society, notably on light and colours and on prisms, and at the age of only 25 was elected a Fellow. However, Brougham chose law as his profession, and was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1800. He practised little in Scotland, and instead entered Lincoln's Inn in 1803. Five years later he was called to the Bar.

Not a wealthy man, Brougham turned to journalism as a means of supporting himself financially through these years. He was one of the founders of the Edinburgh Review and quickly became known as its foremost contributor, with articles on everything from science, politics, colonial policy, literature, poetry, surgery, mathematics and the fine arts.[1] In the early 19th century, Brougham, a follower of Newton, launched anonymous attacks in the Edinburgh Review against Thomas Young's research, which proved light was a wave phenomenon that exhibited interference and diffraction. These attacks slowed acceptance of the truth for a decade, until François Arago and Augustin-Jean Fresnel championed Young's work. Another example of Lord Brougham's scientific incompetence is his attack upon Sir William Herschel (1738–1822), a story is described by Pustiĺnik and Din.[2] Herschel, as Royal Astronomer, found a correlation between the observed number of sunspots and wheat prices.[3] This met with strong and widespread rejection, even ridicule as a "grand absurdity" from Lord Brougham. Herschel had to cancel further publications of these results. Seventy years later, the English economist W.S. Jevons indeed discovered 10–11-year intervals between high wheat prices, in agreement with the 11-year cycle of solar activity discovered at those times. Miroslav Mikulecký, J. Střeštík and V. Choluj[4] found by cross-regression analysis shared periods between climatic temperatures and wheat prices of 15 years for England, 16 years for France and 22 years for Germany. They now believe they have found a direct evidence of a causal connection between the two.

Early career[edit]

Henry Brougham in 1825

The success of the Edinburgh Review made Brougham a man of mark from his first arrival in London. He quickly became a fixture in London society and gained the friendship of Lord Grey and other leading Whig politicians. In 1806 the Foreign Secretary, Charles James Fox, appointed him secretary to a diplomatic mission to Portugal, led by James St Clair-Erskine, 2nd Earl of Rosslyn and John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent. The aim of the mission was to counteract the anticipated French invasion of Portugal. During these years he became a close supporter of the movement for the abolition of slavery, a cause to which he was to be passionately devoted for the rest of his life. Despite being a well-known and popular figure, Brougham had to wait before being offered a parliamentary seat to contest. However, in 1810 he was elected for Camelford, a rotten borough controlled by the Duke of Bedford. He quickly gained a reputation in the House of Commons, where he was one of the most frequent speakers, and was regarded by some as a potential future leader of the Whig Party. However, Brougham's career was to take a downturn in 1812, when, standing as one of two Whig candidates for Liverpool, he was heavily defeated. He was to remain out of Parliament until 1816, when he was returned for Winchelsea. He quickly resumed his position as one of the most forceful members of the House of Commons, and worked especially in advocating a programme for the education of the poor and legal reform.[1]

In 1828 he made a six-hour speech, the longest ever made in the House of Commons.[5]

Defence of Queen Caroline[edit]

In 1812 Brougham had become one of the chief advisers to Caroline of Brunswick, the estranged wife of George, Prince of Wales, the Prince Regent and future George IV. This was to prove a key development in his life. In April 1820 Caroline, then living abroad, appointed Brougham her Attorney-General. Earlier that year George IV had succeeded to the throne on the death of his long incapacitated father George III. Caroline was brought back to Britain in June for appearances only, but the king immediately began divorce proceedings against her. The Pains and Penalties Bill, aimed at dissolving the marriage and stripping Caroline of her Royal title on the grounds of adultery, was brought before the House of Lords by the Tory government. However, Brougham led a legal team (which also included Thomas Denman) that eloquently defended the Princess. The bill passed, but by the narrow margin of only nine votes. Lord Liverpool, aware of the unpopularity of the bill and afraid that it might be overturned in the House of Commons, then withdrew it. The British public had mainly been on the Princess's side, and the outcome of the trial made Brougham one of the most famous men in the country. His legal practice on the Northern Circuit rose fivefold, although he had to wait until 1827 before being made a King's Counsel.[1]

In 1826 Brougham, along with Wellington, was one of the clients and lovers named in the notorious Memoirs of Harriette Wilson. Before publication, Wilson and publisher John Joseph Stockdale wrote to all those named in the book offering them the opportunity to be excluded from the work in exchange for a cash payment. Brougham paid and secured his anonymity.[6][7]

Lord Chancellor[edit]



You honourably distinguished yourselves


by your zealous support of


Who can be more worthy of your choice as a


the enlightened friend and champion of Negro Freedom


by returning him




Brougham remained member of Parliament for Winchelsea until February 1830 when he was returned for Knaresborough. However, he represented Knaresborough only until August the same year, when he became one of four representatives for Yorkshire. His support for the immediate abolition of slavery brought him enthusiastic support in the industrial West Riding. The Reverend Benjamin Godwin of Bradford devised and funded posters that appealed to Yorkshire voters who had supported William Wilberforce to support Brougham as a committed opponent of slavery[8] However, Brougham was adopted as a Whig candidate by only a tiny majority at the nomination meeting: the Whig gentry objecting that he had no connection with agricultural interests, and no connection with the county.[9] Brougham came second in the poll, behind the other Whig candidate; although the liberals of Leeds had placarded the town with claims that one of the Tory candidates supported slavery, this was strenuously denied by him.[10]

In November the Tory government led by the Duke of Wellington fell, and the Whigs came to power under Lord Grey. It was considered impossible to leave Brougham out of the government, although - his opponents claimed - Brougham had repeatedly (and twice in the House of Commons) stated that he would not accept office in the new administration.[11] Grey initially offered him the post of Attorney General, which Brougham refused. He was then offered the Lord Chancellorship, which he accepted, and on 22 November he was raised to the peerage as Baron Brougham and Vaux, of Brougham in the County of Westmorland. He was to remain in this post for exactly four years.[1]

The highlights of Brougham's tenure were the passing of the 1832 Reform Act, of which he was a staunch supporter, and the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, the cause to which he had been devoted to for so many years. However, he was increasingly considered a dangerous and unreliable colleague due to his perceived arrogance (Although Brougham's departure from the Commons had been officially regretted on both sides of the House, not all members had agreed, one noting "That noble and learned Lord used to tell the country Gentlemen and other Members of that House, that they could hardly count ten upon their fingers, and that he looked upon them as little better than dolts and blockheads.") [11] and selfishness, as well as his tendency to interfere with every department of state. This put him into conflict with the rest of the government.[1]

The Lord Brougham and Vaux, Lord Chancellor

In 1834, as Lord Chancellor, he was asked "Do you consider that a compulsory education would be justified, either on principles of public utility or expediency?" Brougham replied:

I am decidedly of opinion that it is justifiable on neither; but, above all, I should regard anything of the kind as utterly destructive of the end it has in view. Suppose the people of England were taught to bear it, and to be forced to educate their children by means of penalties, education would be made absolutely hateful in their eyes, and would speedily cease to be endured. They who have argued in favour of such a scheme from the example of a military government like that of Prussia have betrayed, in my opinion, great ignorance of the nature of Englishmen. (Report of the Parliamentary Committee on the State of Education. 1834)

He nonetheless kept his post when the government was reconstructed in July 1834 under Lord Melbourne. The Melbourne administration was dismissed by the king in November the same year, and the Tories came to power under Sir Robert Peel. This government lasted only until April 1835, when Lord Melbourne was again summoned to form a government. However, Brougham was now so ill-regarded within his own party that he was not offered to resume the post of Lord Chancellor, which instead was put into commission. Melbourne told him frankly that his conduct had been one of the principal causes of the fall of the government, and when Brougham protested, said brutally "God damn you but you won't get the Great Seal". An even greater blow to him was when the post was eventually conferred on Charles Pepys, 1st Baron Cottenham, in January 1836.[1]

Later life[edit]

Bust of Henry Brougham in the Playfair Library of Edinburgh University's Old College
The title page of British Constitution (1st ed., 1844), written by Brougham

Brougham was never to hold office again. However, for more than thirty years after his fall he continued to take an active part in the judicial business of the House of Lords, and in its debates, having now turned fiercely against his former political associates, but continuing his efforts on behalf of reform of various kinds. He also devoted much of his time to writing. He had continued to contribute to the Edinburgh Review, the best of his writings being subsequently published as Historical Sketches of Statesmen Who Flourished in the Time of George III.

In 1834 he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

In 1837 Brougham presented a bill for public education, arguing that "it cannot be doubted that some legislative effort must at length be made to remove from this country the opprobrium of having done less for the education of the people than any of the more civilized nations on earth".[12]

In 1838, after news came up of British colonies where emancipation of the slaves was obstructed or where the ex-slaves were being badly treated and discriminated against, Lord Brougham stated in the House of Lords:

"The slave … is as fit for his freedom as any English peasant, aye, or any Lord whom I now address. I demand his rights; I demand his liberty without stint… . I demand that your brother be no longer trampled upon as your slave!" [13]

Brougham was elected Rector of Marischal College for 1838.[14] He also edited, in collaboration with Sir Charles Bell, William Paley's Natural Theology and published a work on political philosophy and in 1838 he published an edition of his speeches in four volumes. The last of his works was his posthumous Autobiography. In 1857 he was one of the founders of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science and was its president at a number of congresses.

In 1860 Brougham was given by Queen Victoria a second peerage as Baron Brougham and Vaux, of Brougham in the County of Westmorland and of Highhead Castle in the County of Cumberland, with remainder to his youngest brother William Brougham (died 1886). The patent stated that the second peerage was in honour of the great services he had rendered, especially in promoting the abolition of slavery.


Brougham married Mary Spalding (d. 1865), daughter of Thomas Eden and widow of John Spalding, MP, in 1821. They had two daughters, both of whom predeceased their parents, the latter one dying in 1839. Lord Brougham and Vaux died in May 1868 in Cannes, France, aged 89, and was buried in the Cimetière du Grand Jas.[1] The cemetery is up to the present dominated by Brougham's statue, and he is honoured for his major role in building the city of Cannes. His hatchment is in Ninekirks, which was then the parish church of Brougham.

The Barony of 1830 became extinct on his death, while he was succeeded in the Barony of 1860 according to the special remainder by his younger brother William Brougham.


A brougham, of the style built to Lord Brougham's specification

He was the designer of the brougham, a four-wheeled, horse-drawn style of carriage that bears his name.

Brougham's patronage made the renowned French seaside resort of Cannes very popular. He accidentally found the place in 1835, when it was little more than a fishing village on a picturesque coast, and bought there a tract of land and built on it. His choice and his example made it the sanitorium of Europe. Owing to Brougham's influence the beachfront promenade at Nice became known as the Promenade des Anglais (literally, "The Promenade of the English").[15]

A statue of him, inscribed "Lord Brougham", stands at the Cannes waterfront, across from the Palais des festivals et des congrès.

Brougham holds the House of Commons record for non-stop speaking at six hours.[16]

He was present at the trial of the world's first steam powered ship on 14 October 1788 at Dalswinton Loch near Auldgirth, Dumfries and Galloway. William Symington of Wanlockhead built the two-cylindered engine for Patrick Miller of Dalswinton.[17]


Brougham wrote a prodigious number of treatises on science, philosophy, and history. Besides the writings mentioned in this article, he was the author of Dialogues on Instinct; with Analytical View of the Researches on Fossil Osteology, Lives of Statesmen, Philosophers, and Men of Science of the Time of George III, Natural Theology, etc. His last work was an autobiography written in his 84th year and published in 1871. However, his writings were not of lasting value; he is now especially notable for his services to political and especially legal reform, and to the diffusion of useful literature, which are his lasting monuments.[18]

  • Henry Brougham Brougham and Vaux (1838). Speeches of Henry Lord Brougham, Upon Questions Relating to Public Rights, Duties, and Interests: With Historical Introductions, and a Critical Dissertation Upon the Eloquence of the Ancients, Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 4 vol. (online: vol. 1, 2, 3, 4)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h EB (1911).
  2. ^ Solar Phys., 2004, vol. 223, pp. 335–56.
  3. ^ W. Herschel, Phil.Trans., 1801, vol. 91, p. 265.)
  4. ^ The Conference "Man in his Terrestrial and Cosmic Environment", Úpice, Czech Republic, 2010, Acad. Sci. Czech Rep., Prague.
  5. ^ https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20672974
  6. ^ Stockdale, E. (1990). "The unnecessary crisis: The background to the Parliamentary Papers Act 1840". Public Law: 30–49. p. 36.
  7. ^ Bourne (1975).
  8. ^ a b Historical Perspectives on the Transatlantic Slave Trade in Bradford, Yorkshire Abolitionist Activity 1787–1865, James Gregory, Plymouth University, History & Art History, Academia.edu, retrieved 30 July 2014
  9. ^ "Meeting of the Freeholders in the Whig Interest in York". Yorkshire Gazette. 24 July 1830. p. 3.
  10. ^ "General Election: Yorkshire Election". Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 7 August 1830. p. 3.
  11. ^ a b "NEW WRITS.—CONDUCT OF LORD BROUGHAM". Hansard House of Commons Debates. 1: cc636–49. 23 November 1830. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  12. ^ A. Green, Education and State Formation: The Rise of Education Systems in England, France and the USA, Macmillan, 1990
  13. ^ Quoted in the "Lawyers on the Edge" website
  14. ^ Officers of the Marischal College & University of Aberdeen, 1593-1860.
  15. ^ "Cadillac Terms and Definitions A - C". Cadillacdatabase.net. 1996. Retrieved 2012-05-01.
  16. ^ "Hansard, 8 May 1989, Column 581". HMSO. Retrieved 14 October 2008.
  17. ^ Innes, Brian (1988). The Story of Scotland.. V. 3, Part 33. P. 905
  18. ^ Cousin 1910, pp. 48–49.


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