THE RIGHT HON. HENRY, LORD BROUGHAM AND VAUX, LORD HIGH CHANCELLOR OF GREAT BRITAIN, WAS ADMITTED A FREE HONORARY BURGESS IN RESPECT OF HIS MERITORIOUS AND DISTINGUISHED PUBLIC SERVICES.
HENRY BROUGHAM was the eldest son of HENRY BROUGHAM, Esquire of Brougham, and of ELEONORA SYME, niece of PRINCIPAL ROBERTSON, the historian, and was born in Edinburgh on 19th September, 1778. He was educated at the High School and University of Edinburgh, and early showed a predilection for studies in natural philosophy, making several important contributions to science on the nature of light and on the remoter phenomena of optics. In 1800 he was admitted as Advocate at the Scottish Bar, and was one of the earliest and most valued contributors to the Edinburgh Review. He removed to England in 1808 to practise in the Court of King's Bench, and soon became a prominent member of the English Bar. He entered Parliament as member for Camelford in 1809, and was ere long recognised as one of the most powerful debaters in the House of Commons, and the principal opponent of GEORGE CANNING.
He was defeated by the latter in the contest for the representation of Liverpool in 1812; but in 1816 he was returned for the burgh of Winchilsea, and continued to represent that place till 1830. For a short time he held a seat as member for Knaresborough, and in the first Parliament of WILLIAM IV. he was chosen as representative for the County of York, and retained that position until he was elevated to the Lord Chancellorship in the Ministry of EARL GREY in 1830. His fame as a pleader had been established by his Conducting of the defence of QUEEN CAROLINE in 1820, but some dissatisfaction was occasioned by his appointment as Lord Chancellor without having held any of the minor legal offices by which that eminent post was usually reached.
He had been a consistent advocate of Reform during all the preceding portion of his career, and he rendered important service to the reformers when the Bill of 1832 was carried to the House of Lords. Still more valuable were his persistent and successful efforts to spread education amongst the poorer classes, and to nullify the theological and political tests by which the Universities were then hampered. To this point the late SIR DAVID BREWSTER referred when he wrote thus of LORD BROUGHAM:
"As the only British Minister who devoted his powers and used his influence in the promotion of national and general education in the instruction of the working classes in the establishment of unfettered Universities in the diffusion of useful knowledge by popular publications in the improvement of the patent laws and in obtaining for the higher classes of literary and scientific men the honours and emoluments so long and so unjustly withheld from them, his Dame will shine in the future history of learning with a brighter lustre than that of the Richelieus and Colberts of former days."
The Whig Ministry, of which LORD BROUGHAM formed a part, retired from office in 1834, and it was at this time that he was presented at a public meeting with the freedom of Dundee. For a few months SIR ROBERT PEEL was in power; and when the Whigs returned in the following year under the leadership of VISCOUNT MELBOURNE, LORD BROUGHAM was excluded from the Cabinet. From this period he remained an independent politician, criticising both parties with equal severity, and censured somewhat unjustly as being faithful to neither.
He did not again take office, but retired to an estate which he had purchased near Cannes, in Provence, and passed the remainder of his life in literary and scientific recreations. He died there on 7th May, 1868, when in his ninetieth year. By his wife, MARY, daughter of THOMAS EDEN, Esquire, he had two daughters, who both predeceased him; and as he had obtained a new patent of nobility in 1860 giving the reversion of his title to his youngest brother, THOMAS, he was succeeded by him at his death, and the latter became LORD BROUGHAM and VAUX.