Wednesday, December 15, 2004

William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne

This article is about the British Prime Minister and Irish peer. For the English scientist, see William Petty. William Petty Fitzmaurice, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne, 2nd Earl of Shelburne before 1784, (20 May 1737-7th May 1805), British statesman, was born at Dublin.
William Petty was a descendant of the lords of Kerry (dating from 1181), and his grandfather Thomas Fitzmaurice, who was created earl of Kerry (1723), married the daughter of Sir William Petty. On the death without issue of Sir William Petty’s sons, the first earls of Shelburne, the estates passed to his nephew John Fitzmaurice (advanced in 1753 to the earldom of Shelburne), who in 1751 took the additional name of Petty.
John's son William spent his childhood "in the remotest parts of the south of Ireland," and, according to his own account, when he entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1755, he had "both everything to learn and everything to unlearn." From a tutor whom he describes as "narrow-minded" he received advantageous guidance in his studies, but he attributes his improvement in manners and in knowledge of the world chiefly to the fact that, as was his "fate through life," he fell in "with clever but unpopular connexions."
Shortly after leaving the university he served in Wolfe’s regiment during the Seven Years War, and so distinguished himself at Minden and Kioster-Kampen that he was raised to the rank of colonel and appointed aide-de-camp to the King (1760). Being thus brought into near communication with Lord Bute, he was in 1761 employed by that nobleman to negotiate for the support of Lord Holland. He was returned to the House of Commons as member for Wycombe, but in 1761 he succeeded his father as Earl of Shelburne in the Irish peerage, and Baron Wycombe in the peerage of Great Britain (created 1760). Though he declined to take office under Bute he undertook negotiations to induce Charles James Fox to gain the consent of the Commons to the peace of 1763. Fox affirmed that he had been duped, and, although Shelburne always asserted that he had acted in thorough good faith, Bute spoke of the affair as a "pious fraud."
Shelburne joined the Grenville ministry in 1763 as President of the Board of Trade, but, failing in his efforts to include Pitt in the cabinet, he in a few months resigned office. Having moreover on account of his support of Pitt on the question of Wilkes’s expulsion from the House of Commons incurred the displeasure of the King, he retired for a time to his estate. After Pitt’s return to power in 1766 he became Secretary of State for the Southern Department, but during Pitt’s illness his conciliatory policy towards America was completely thwarted by his colleagues and the King, and in 1768 he was dismissed from office.
In 1782 he consented to take office under the Marquess of Rockingham on condition that the King would recognize the United States. On the death of Lord Rockingham in the same year he became premier; but the secession of Fox and his supporters led to the famous coalition of Fox with North, which caused his resignation in the following April, his fall being perhaps hastened by his plans for the reform of the public service. He had also in contemplation a bill to promote free commercial intercourse between England and the United States. When Pitt acceded to office in 1784, Shelburne, instead of receiving a place in the cabinet, was created Marquess of Lansdowne. Though giving a general support to the policy of Pitt, he from this time ceased to take an active part in public affairs.
He was twice married, first to Lady Sophia (1745—1771), daughter of John Carteret, Earl Granville, through whom he obtained the Lansdowne estates near Bath, and secondly to Lady Louisa (1755—1789), daughter of John Fitzpatrick, 1st Earl of Upper Ossory. John Henry Petty Fitzmaurice (1765—1809), his son by the first marriage, succeeded as 2nd Marquess, after having sat in the House of Commons for twenty years as member for Chipping Wycombe.
He died on the 7th of May 1805. During his lifetime he was blamed for insincerity and duplicity, and he incurred the deepest unpopularity, but the accusations came chiefly from those who were dissatisfied with his preference of principles to party, and if he had had a more unscrupulous regard to his personal ambition, his career as a statesman would have had more outward success. He was cynical in his estimates of character, but no statesman of his time possessed more enlightened political views, while his friendship with those of his contemporaries eminent in science and literature must be allowed considerable weight in qualifying our estimate of the moral defects with which he has been credited.

Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (the Home Secretary) is the chief United Kingdom government minister responsible for law and order in the United Kingdom; his or her remit includes policing, the criminal justice system, the prison service, internal security, and matters of citizenship and immigration. The Home Office has also previously dealt with social issues, including social exclusion, equality and race relations. Responsibility for social exclusion is now held by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. However, the Home Office continues to have responsibility for race equality, charities, the voluntary sector, and community policy.
Unlike many other governments, the British government has separate departments for the issues dealt with by the Home Office and for legal, judicial and civil rights issues; these have been dealt with by the Lord Chancellor's Department. Although there have been calls for the merger of this department with the Home Office, in June 2003 the government announced that it intended instead to abolish the office of Lord Chancellor and replace his department with a Department for Constitutional Affairs headed by a Secretary of State.
Because the Home Office was initially the primary government department with responsibility for domestic affairs, all subsequent domestic departments have effectively been created by taking responsibilities from the Home Office, leaving in addition to law and order a variety of miscellaneous tasks that have no yet been allocated to a government minister. Consequently the Home Secretary can find themselves dealing with as matters as diverse as wild birds in Scotland, which towns in England and Wales are entitled to call themselves cities or taking part in formal ceremonies such as the annointment of bishops in the Church of England. However it is the law and order function of the department that predominates overwhelmingly.