Brougham, Henry (1778-1868)

Brougham, Henry, Lord Brougham and Vaux, was born in Edinburgh, 19th September 1778, his father being of an old Westmorland family, and his mother a niece of Robertson the historian. Educated at the High School and university of Edinburgh, in 1800 he was admitted to the Scottish bar ; and in 1802 helped to found the Edinburgh Review, to whose first twenty numbers he contributed eighty articles. His Liberal views shut him out from the hope of promotion in Scotland; in 1805 he settled in London; in 1806 was secretary to a mission to Lisbon; and in 1808 was called to the English bar. Entering parliament in 1810 he carried an act making participation in the slave-trade felony. In 1812 he carried the repeal of the Orders in Council; but contesting Liverpool against Canning, was defeated, and remained without a seat till 1816, when he was returned for Winchelsea. He never acquired a very large practice at the bar, but he repeatedly distinguished himself by speeches of great vigour and ability his most famous appearance being in defence of Queen Caroline (1820). His eloquence and boldness, though they forfeited for him the favour of the crown, gained him that of the people, and in 1820-30 Brougham was the popular idol. In 1822 he used his power, though in vain, in support of a scheme of national education ; and he did much for the establishment of the London University, of the first Mechanics' Institute, and of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. In 1830 he was returned for the county of York. The aristocratic Whigs would, had they dared, have excluded Brougham from the Reform ministry, but found him indispensable ; he was persuaded to accept a peerage and the chancellorship (1830), and assisted materially in carrying the Reform Bill. But his arrogance, self-confidence, and eccentricities rendered him as unpopular with his colleagues as he was on the bench. He went out with the Whig government in 1S34, and on its reconstruction was shelved, never to hold office again. He was founder of the Social Science Association (1857) ; but it is as a law-reformer that Brougham will be best remembered. In 1810 he introduced a bill amending the law of libel, and in 1827 made proposals for dealing with law-reform on a large scale. After he left office, he secured great changes in the law of evidence. As an orator and as a debater in parliament, Brougham was inferior only to Canning, though fiery declamation and fierce invective were carried beyond bounds. His miscellaneous writings are upon an almost incredible variety of subjects, including mathematical and physical science, metaphysics, history, theology, and even romance, and, numbering 133, have but little permanent value (11 vols. 1855-61 ; 2d ed. 1873). Rogers remarked of him, 'There goes Solon, Lycurgus, Demosthenes, Archimedes, Sir Isaac Newton, Lord Chesterfield, and a great many more in one post-chaise;' and O'Connell's gibe ran, 'If Brougham knew a little of law, he would know a little of everything.' While not engaged in parliament, Brougham clnefiy resided at Cannes ; there he died, 7th May 1868, and was buried. His own Life and Times (3 vols. 1871), written in extreme old age, is very untrustworthy. See Atlay's Victorian Chancellors (vol. 1. 1906).
1. Chamber's Biographical Dictionary, Philadelphia, 1926, page 137.

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