DERBY,: 14th Earl of

Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley

b. 29 Mar 1799, Knowsley Hall, Prescot, Lancashire
d. 23 Oct 1869, Knowsley Hall, Prescot, Lancashire

Ministerial offices: Junior Lord of the Treasury (1827)
Under Secretary of State for War and the Colonies (1828)
Chief Secretary for Ireland (29 Nov 1830 - 29 Mar 1833)
Secretary of State for War and the Colonies (3 Apr 1833 - 27 May 1834, 3 Sep 1841 - 23 Dec 1845)
First Lord Commissioner of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Lords (23 Feb 1852 - 17 Dec 1852, 20 Feb 1858 - 11 Jun 1859, 28 Jun 1866 - 25 Feb 1868)
Names/titles: Lord Stanley of Bickerstaffe [from 4 Nov 1844]; 14th Earl of Derby [from 30 Jun 1851]

The son of a Lancashire landowner, Edward Stanley studied at Eton and Christ Church College, Oxford, but left without taking his degree. In 1822 he entered Parliament for the first time as a Whig (MP, 1822-1830, 1831-1844). Stanley was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland at the age of 31. He brought forward the Irish Education Bill (1831) and reformed the Irish tithe system (1832). After being appointed Colonial Secretary in 1833, he introduced measures to abolish slavery. Moving from his Whig background to join Sir Robert Peel's Government he became Leader of the Conservative Party (1846-1868). In 1844 he was called to the House of Lords as Lord Stanley of Bickerstaffe.

On 22 Feb 1851 Lord Stanley was asked to form a government after the resignation of Lord John Russell, but the Peelites refused to support him and he abandoned the task. The same year Stanley succeeded to the earldom as the 14th Earl of Derby. When the Russell's administration finally fell in February 1852, Derby was appointed First Lord of the Treasury (23 Feb 1852) and prime minister. His first Cabinet, formed with loyal Conservatives, was so inexperienced that the ministry was dubbed the 'Who? Who? Cabinet'. His majority depended upon the support of the Peelites. His Chancellor of the Exchequer, Benjamin Disraeli, was anathema to the Peelites and they refused to support his Budget, thereby bringing down Derby's first administration. Derby tendered his resignation on 17 Dec 1852.

Derby led the Conservative opposition first against the Earl of Aberdeen and then against Viscount Palmerston, and, when the latter fell in 1858, the Queen asked Derby to form his second administration (20 Feb 1858). Although a minority Government, it passed the important India Bill (1858), transferring that country from the East India Company to the Crown, and the Jews Relief Act (23 Jul 1858), which enabled Jews to sit in Parliament. Next year Derby was defeated in the House of Commons on a vote of confidence and again resigned (11 Jun 1859). Derby continued to lead the Conservative Party while Disraeli continued to lead the Conservatives in the House of Commons. In 1866 Russell found his party divided over a Reform Bill and resigned. Derby was made First Lord of the Treasury and prime minister on 28 Jun 1866. He formed his third minority government again with Disraeli as Chancellor of the Exchequer, who conducted the fight for the Reform Bill. The Bill was not well received even by some members of the Cabinet such as the Earl of Carnarvon and Viscount Cranborne (later the Marquess of Salisbury), who resigned in protest. However, the amended Bill was passed and received the Royal Assent on 9 Aug 1867. It created 45 new seats in the House of Commons by taking one member from existing borough constituencies with a population of less than 10,000. Derby resigned for health reasons on 25 Feb 1868. [1, pp. 162-168]

[1] Englefield, Dermot; Seaton, Janet; White, Isobel (eds.) Facts About the British Prime Ministers: A Compilation of Biographical and Historical Information. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1995. online
Image: photograph of the 14th Earl of Derby, c. 1860.