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Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley (1799–1869)

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Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley (1799-1869), by Daniel J. Pound

Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley (1799-1869), by Daniel J. Pound

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an9453251

Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley (1799-1869), politician, was born on 29 March 1799 at Knowsley Park, Lancashire, England, the son of Edward Smith Stanley, thirteenth earl, and his cousin Charlotte Margaret, daughter of Rev. Geoffrey Hornby. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford (hon. D.C.L., 1852), and was M.P. for Stockbridge 1822-26, Preston 1826-30, Windsor 1831-32 and North Lancashire 1832-44. He was under-secretary for war and the colonies under Canning and Goderich in 1827-28 and secretary for Ireland under Earl Grey 1830-33. In 1831 he brought in the Act which created a Board of National Education in Ireland and provided that children of all denominations were to be admitted to schools receiving a government grant and that the instruction was to include religious teaching of an undogmatic kind. He transferred to the Colonial Office in March 1833 until June 1834, carrying through the bill for the abolition of slavery drafted by James Stephen. He resigned in 1834, being opposed to the Irish disendowment proposals, and joined Peel and the Conservative opposition in 1835. He was called to the House of Lords as Lord Stanley of Bickerstaffe in 1844. As secretary of state for war and the colonies from September 1841 until his resignation in December 1845 on the question of the repeal of the corn laws, he elaborated and organized the 'probation' system of convict administration in Van Diemen's Land. Autocratic and conservative, he frequently disregarded James Stephen's recommendations or acted without consultation, and was vehemently opposed to any increase in colonial expenditure. Although reluctantly accepting the protectionist leadership in 1846 he declined to form a ministry, but became prime minister in February-December 1852, 1858-59 and 1866-68. He succeeded to the earldom in 1851. He was chancellor of Oxford University in 1852 and the Derby scholarship was founded to commemorate him in 1870. He published miscellaneous works including a version of the Iliad (1864; privately printed, 1862). He married in May 1825 Emma Caroline, second daughter of Edward Bootle Wilbraham (later Lord Skelmersdale), by whom he had two sons and a daughter, and he died at Knowsley Park on 23 October 1869. The town of Derby, established in 1883 to service the growing cattle industry in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, was named in honour of the elder son, the 15th earl (1826-1893), who was secretary of state for the colonies at the time. Knowsley Streets East and West in the town were named after the earl’s British estate.

In his Autobiography (London, 1885) Henry Taylor (1800-1886), who was a clerk in the Colonial Office, described Stanley as 'a very able … man; he had force, energy and vivacity; and he was an effective speaker, always clear and strong, sometimes commonplace, but not seldom brilliant. He had the gifts of a party politician … playing the game of politics with more of party than of public spirit'.

Citation details

'Stanley, Edward George Geoffrey Smith (1799–1869)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 29 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley (1799-1869), by Daniel J. Pound

Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley (1799-1869), by Daniel J. Pound

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an9453251

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • fourteenth Earl of Derby

29 March, 1799
Knowsley, Lancashire, England


23 October, 1869 (aged 70)
Knowsley, Lancashire, England

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