We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Bathurst, Henry, third Earl Bathurst (1762–1834), politician, was born on 22 May 1762, the second of six children of , lord chancellor, and his second wife, Tryphena, daughter of Thomas Scawen of Maidwell, Northamptonshire. He had one brother and four sisters. He was educated at Eton College from 1773 to 1778. In April 1779 he matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, where his close friends were his second cousin and former tutor, Canon Henry Bathurst (whom he persuaded Pitt to appoint bishop of Norwich in 1805), William Wyndham Grenville, and Richard Wellesley. Bathurst did not take his degree but on 16 June 1814 was awarded a DCL at the university's encaenia honouring the duke of Wellington, the rulers of Russia and Prussia, and other victors in the war against Napoleon. In 1781–3 he travelled in France and Germany, the only time that Bathurst—who was to have long-term responsibility for foreign and colonial affairs—ever left his own country. On 1 April 1789 he married Georgina Lennox (d. 20 Jan 1841), daughter of and sister of Charles, fourth duke of Richmond. They had five sons, one of whom died in infancy, and four daughters.

In 1783, as Lord Apsley, Bathurst became MP for the family borough of Cirencester, which he represented until he succeeded to the peerage in 1794. On the formation of William Pitt's ministry at the end of 1783 he was appointed a lord of the Admiralty, leaving that board in 1789 to become a lord of the Treasury. In 1791 he asked to resign, probably to concentrate on family matters since his father was in failing health. In 1793 he returned as a commissioner of the Board of Control (and was consequently sworn of the privy council), where he remained to the end of Pitt's government in 1801. From 1790 to his death he was a teller of the exchequer and from 1800 clerk of the crown in chancery (jointly with his brother Apsley Bathurst until the latter's death in 1816).

After the fragmentation of Pitt's overwhelming political combination in 1801 Bathurst began to take a more prominent part in politics, trying to reconcile the factions to act again under his mentor and friend on the basis of opposing France until it was reduced to its pre-war borders and leaving Catholic emancipation alone. He had accepted the necessity of Catholic relief to reconcile Ireland to the union of 1801 but soon concluded that the attitude of the king and parliament made it a dangerous and divisive issue. He also encouraged Pitt to criticize the peace of Amiens. When Pitt formed his second government in 1804 he insisted that Bathurst become master of the Royal Mint. During his interrupted tenure, the mint moved from the Tower of London to the new building designed by Robert Smirke, whom Bathurst appointed surveyor. Bathurst was not, however, able to win Grenville's support for the ministry. At the formation of the ‘ministry of all the talents’ by Grenville after Pitt's death in January 1806, Bathurst refused to continue in office. But he remained hopeful, particularly after the death of Charles James Fox in September, that his friend's government would be the foundation for reuniting Pitt's followers. In 1807 he warned Grenville against the proposed Catholic concessions that destroyed his ministry.

In the governments of the duke of Portland in 1807–9 and Spencer Perceval in 1809–12 Bathurst was in cabinet as president of the Board of Trade, as Britain countered Napoleon's Continental System with orders in council regulating shipping to the continent. Since this was unpaid, he was again master of the mint. For six weeks in October–November 1809 he was also foreign secretary until Lord Wellesley could be summoned from his diplomatic mission to Spain. Both prime ministers depended on Bathurst's moderation, conciliatory manner, and commitment to preserving the administration in dealing with more fractious and ambitious colleagues.

On the formation of Lord Liverpool's government in June 1812 Bathurst was appointed secretary of state for war and the colonies when William Wellesley-Pole refused. For the next ten years he, Liverpool, and the foreign secretary, Lord Castlereagh, were effectively an inner cabinet that decided foreign, military, and colonial policy. Bathurst did not spare himself in supporting the war in the Peninsula, though he could never supply all that the duke of Wellington wanted. They exchanged over 500 letters between 1812 and 1814 and, despite Wellington's frequently sharp tone, developed great mutual respect and confidence. This relationship was important again in the desperate Waterloo campaign of 1815 and in politics after 1818. Two of Bathurst's sons served at Waterloo and sent interesting accounts to their parents. Bathurst also had to provide resources for the war against the United States in 1812–14, but this had to take second place to the conflict in Europe until Napoleon's first abdication. As the minister responsible for Napoleon's confinement at St Helena, he was criticized by Napoleon's admirers in Britain for the restrictions placed on him, though Lady Holland thanked Bathurst for allowing her to send small gifts to her hero. In 1817 he was made KG at the express wish of the prince regent for his part in the victorious wars.

After 1815, and increasingly after 1822 when George Canning succeeded Castlereagh and consulted Bathurst less, Bathurst could devote more attention to the colonies. The most pressing concerns were the protectorate of the Ionian Islands, particularly after the Greek revolt in 1821, and from 1823 the amelioration of slavery. Bathurst pressed the colonial governors hard but the West Indies legislatures refused to adopt a programme to improve conditions and gradually emancipate the slaves. He was concerned with religious instruction to prepare for freedom and, although no evangelical himself, favoured such ministers in all colonies. In an age of military governors he upheld the authority of the crown and its agents but privately urged governors to use their powers with restraint. In 1824–5, principally in response to the anti-slavery campaign, the Colonial Office was enlarged and reorganized, and the post of second under-secretary, abolished in 1816, was restored.

In 1827, when Canning formed his ministry after Liverpool's stroke, he asked Bathurst, the most moderate of those associated with Wellington, to remain but to move from the Colonial to the Home office. Bathurst, however, resigned with his friends. He ended his long political career as lord president of the council in Wellington's government from 1828 to 1830. Like the duke he opposed the first Reform Bill in 1831–2, believing that it would destroy rather than improve the constitution. He died at his London home, 16 Arlington Street, after a short illness on 27 July 1834 and was buried in the abbey church at Cirencester. Charles Greville, a family friend and Bathurst's (ungrateful) secretary from 1812 to 1821, summed him up fairly, if rather harshly, as:
a very amiable man with a good understanding, though his talents were far from brilliant, a High Churchman and a High Tory, but a cool Politician, a bad speaker, a good writer, greatly averse to changes, but acquiescing in many. He was nervous and reserved, with a good deal of humour, and habitually a jester. (Greville Memoirs, 3.65)


Neville Thompson

Sources  

Report on the manuscripts of Earl Bathurst, preserved at Cirencester Park, HMC, 76 (1923) · Supplementary despatches (correspondence) and memoranda of Field Marshal Arthur, duke of Wellington, ed. A. R. Wellesley, second duke of Wellington, 15 vols. (1858–72) · Despatches, correspondence, and memoranda of Field Marshal Arthur, duke of Wellington, ed. A. R. Wellesley, second duke of Wellington, 8 vols. (1867–80) · N. D. McLachlan, ‘Bathurst at the colonial office, 1812–27: a reconnaissance’, Historical Studies [University of Melbourne], 13 (1967–9), 477–502 · N. Thompson, Earl Bathurst and the British empire (1999) · GEC, Peerage · HoP, Commons · The Greville memoirs, 1814–1860, ed. L. Strachey and R. Fulford, 8 vols. (1938) · The Times (29 July 1834)

Archives  

BL, corresp. and papers, loan 57 · Glos. RO, Cirencester MSS · NL Scot., dispatches and papers received · Surrey HC, secret service accounts |  BL, corresp. with Lord Aberdeen, Add. MSS 43074–43260 · BL, corresp. with Sir William A'Court, Add. MSS 41511–41523 · BL, corresp. with Lord Grenville, Add. MS 58944 · BL, corresp. with Lord Liverpool, Add. MSS 38247–38575 · BL, corresp. with Sir Hudson Lowe, Add. MSS 20111–20233, passim · BL, corresp. with Sir H. Lowe, Add. MS 49508, passim · BL, corresp. with Sir Robert Peel, Add. MSS 40226–40398 · BL, corresp. with comte de Puisaye, Add. MS 7981 · BL, corresp. with George Rose, Add. MS 42773 · BL, corresp. with Lord Wellesley, Add. MSS 37288–37314, passim · BL OIOC, corresp. with Mary Skelton, MS Eur. E 334 · CKS, corresp. with Lord Camden · Cumbria AS, Carlisle, letters to Lord Lonsdale · Derbys. RO, corresp. with Sir R. J. Wilmot-Horton · LPL, corresp. with Bishop Howley · Mitchell L., NSW, letters to Sir Robert Wilmot Horton · Mount Stuart Trust Archive, Mount Stuart, Rothesay, letters to Lord Hastings · NA Scot., corresp. with Lord Dalhousie · NA Scot., letters to Sir Alexander Hope · NL Scot., corresp. with Sir Alexander Cochrane and Thomas Cochrane · NL Scot., corresp. with Sir Francis Graham · NL Scot., corresp. with Lord Melville · NL Scot., dispatches and letters to Lord Stuart De Rothesay · PRONI, corresp. with Lord Castlereagh · Sandon Hall, Staffordshire, Harrowby Manuscript Trust, corresp. with Lord Harrowby · TNA: PRO, letters to William Pitt, PRO 30/8 · U. Nott. L., letters to Lord William Bentinck · U. Nott. L., letters to fourth duke of Newcastle · U. Southampton L., letters to duke of Wellington [copies]


Likenesses  

N. Dance, portrait, 1776 (with his brother), Cirencester, Gloucestershire · T. Watson, mezzotint, pubd 1776 (with his brother; after N. Dance), BM · T. Phillips, portrait, 1809, Cirencester, Gloucestershire · T. Lawrence, oils, c.1818, Wellington Museum, London · T. Lawrence, oils, c.1820–1823, Royal Collection · T. Lawrence, portrait, 1820–23, Windsor Castle · W. Salter, oils, 1834, NPG · F. Chantrey, marble bust, Cirencester, Gloucestershire · G. Hayter, group portrait, oils (The trial of Queen Caroline, 1820), NPG · G. Jones, group portrait, oils (Catholic Emancipation Act, 1829), Palace of Westminster, London; on loan · H. Meyer, stipple (after T. Phillips), BM, NPG; repro. in The British gallery of contemporary portraits (1810)