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fifth Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme (1811–1864)

by John M. Ward

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fifth Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme (1811-1864), statesman, was born on 22 May 1811 at 39 Charles Street, Berkeley Square, London, eldest son of the 4th Duke of Newcastle and his wife Georgina Elizabeth, née Mundy. Styled Earl of Lincoln, he was educated at Eton in 1824-28 and Christ Church, Oxford (B.A., 1832; D.C.L., 1863); he was president of the Oxford Union in 1831 and formed a lifelong friendship with W. E. Gladstone. In 1832 he married Lady Susan Harriet Catherine Douglas, only daughter of the 10th Duke of Hamilton, and through his father's interest represented South Nottinghamshire until 1846. In 1834-35 and 1841-45 he served in Peel's first two ministries and followed him when he split the Tories over the corn laws. Lincoln divorced his wife on 14 March 1850, suffered pecuniary embarrassment through estrangement from his father over politics and was depressed by the death of Peel. With Gladstone he mixed with the 'colonial reformers' and followed their general hostility to the policies of the third Earl Grey. Robert Lowe became a protégé of Lincoln and helped to shape his views on Australian questions. On 12 January 1851 he succeeded his father as Duke of Newcastle.

In December 1852 Newcastle became secretary of state for war and the colonies under Lord Aberdeen. On 17 February 1853 he confirmed that no more convicts would be sent to eastern Australia and in an able speech in the House of Lords on 10 May defended the decision to send convicts to Western Australia. A convict depot on the Avon River north-east of Perth was gazetted as the town of Newcastle on 1 October 1860 by the governor of Western Australia, (Sir) Arthur Kennedy, in honour of the Duke. The name reverted to the original Toodyay in 1910.

Newcastle had to interpret Grey's 1847 Order in Council which tried to settle the land demands of the squatters. Although dilatory at first, he supported Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe against the Victorian squatters who claimed leases for fixed periods of all the lands they already held as well as unconditional rights of pre-emption. In January 1853 he had confirmed Pakington's decision to allow the colonies full control of their runs and land revenue as soon as they had drawn up acceptable new constitutions with adequate civil lists, but did not stipulate that the upper houses of the new legislatures should be nominated not elected.

Newcastle recognized the importance of granting responsible government to every qualified colony before the boon was sought, because it had improved relations in Canada and reduced unnecessary burdens on the Colonial Office. On 4 August 1853 he wrote to Governor-General Sir Charles FitzRoy requiring that the new constitutions contain provisions for the introduction of responsible government. After his dispatch reached Sydney, the Legislative Council amended the constitution bill according to Newcastle's wishes. In July 1854 after the early disasters of the Crimean war, the offices of secretary of state for war and the colonies were separated. Imprudently Newcastle took the War Office, which was beyond his administrative abilities.

In 1859-64 Newcastle returned to the Colonial Office under Palmerston but introduced no fresh policies. In 1860 he allowed Tasmania to amend its Constitution to make the Upper House elective. Next year he mildly criticized his friend Governor Sir John Young in Sydney for 'swamping' his Legislative Council, thereby taking the vice-regal office into politics and aiding the 'democratic cause'. Convinced that the navy was a bastion of imperial unity, Newcastle was cool towards Victorian projects for a colonial fleet. In 1863 he followed Grey's policy of reducing the imperial garrisons by making the colonies pay for their military forces. He continued to support responsible government and in a memorable letter to Governor Sir George Bowen declared that it should continue even if it led sometimes to bad government. A poor judge of men, Newcastle made some strange appointments in Australia. His most famous mistake was the appointment of Governor Sir Charles Hotham.

A keen Anglican, Newcastle followed Gladstone's advice in making episcopal appointments and in attempting to win parliamentary sanction for constitutional action by colonial Anglicanism. But Newcastle did not uphold denominational privilege; he took action on the Canadian clergy reserves and declined to interfere with the abolition of state aid to public worship in New South Wales.

Newcastle retired through ill health on 2 April 1864 and died at his family seat, Clumber Park, on 18 October. He had been lord lieutenant of Nottinghamshire since 1857 and was appointed K.G. in 1860. Succeeded by his eldest son Henry Pelham Alexander, he was survived by three other sons and his only daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Martineau, Biographical Sketches (Lond, 1888)
  • J. Martineau, The Life of Henry Pelham, Fifth Duke of Newcastle (Lond, 1908)
  • J. M. Ward, Earl Grey and the Australian Colonies, 1846-1857 (Melb, 1958)
  • A. G. L. Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies (Lond, 1966)
  • J. M. Ward, Empire in the Antipodes (Lond, 1966)
  • B. A. Knox, ‘Colonial influence on imperial policy, 1858-1866’, Historical Studies, no 41, Nov 1963
  • J. M. Ward, ‘The Australian policy of the Duke of Newcastle, 1852-1854’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 50 (1964)
  • Newcastle papers (University of Nottingham Archives).

Citation details

John M. Ward, 'Newcastle-under-Lyme, fifth Duke of (1811–1864)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 28 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Clinton, Henry Pelham Fiennes Pelham-

22 May, 1811
London, Middlesex, England


18 October, 1864 (aged 53)
Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England

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