Henry Brougham

Henry Brougham books and biography


Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux


The Lord Brougham and Vaux
The Lord Brougham and Vaux
Lord Brougham sitting as Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
Lord Brougham sitting as Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain

Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux, PC (19 September 1778–7 May 1868) was a British writer, scientist, lawyer, Whig politician and abolitionist. As Lord Chancellor from 1830 to 1834 in Lord Grey’s famous Whig government, he was responsible for the passings of the Reform Act of 1832 and the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.


Early life and background

Brougham was born in Edinburgh, the eldest son of Henry Brougham, of Brougham Hall in Westmorland, and Eleanora, daughter of Reverend James Syme. The Broughams had been an influential Cumberland family for centuries. Brougham was educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, and at the University of Edinburgh, where he chiefly studied natural science and mathematics, but also law. He published several scientific papers through the Royal Society, notably on light and colours and on porisms. He gained such a reputation, that in 1803 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society at the age of only 25. However, Brougham chose law as his profession, and was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1800. He practiced little in Scotland, and instead entered Lincoln's Inn in 1803. Five years later he was called to the Bar. Not a wealthy man, Brougham turned to journalism as a means of supporting himself financially through these years. He was one of the founders of the Edinburgh Review and quickly became known as its foremost contributor, with articles on everything from science, politics, colonial policy, literature, poetry, surgery, mathematics and the fine arts.

Political career until 1830

The success of the Edinburgh Review made Brougham a man of mark from his first arrival in London. He quickly became a fixture in London society and gained the friendship of Lord Grey and other leading Whig politicians. In 1806 the Foreign Secretary, Charles James Fox, appointed him secretary to a diplomatic mission to Portugal, led by James St Clair-Erskine, 2nd Earl of Rosslyn and John Jervis, 1st Earl St Vincent. The aim of the mission was to counteract the anticipated French invasion of Portugal. During these years he became a close supporter of the movement for the abolition of slavery, a cause to which he was to be passionately devoted to for the rest of his life. Despite being a well-know and popular figure, Brougham had to wait before being offered a parliamentary seat to contest. However, in 1810 he was elected for Camelford, a rotten borough controlled by the Duke of Bedford. He quickly gained a reputation in the House of Commons, where he was one of the most frequent speakers, and was regarded by some as a potential future leader of the Whig Party. However, Brougham’s career was to take a downturn in 1812, when, standing as one of two Whig candidates for Liverpool, he was heavily defeated. He was to remain out of Parliament until 1816, when he was returned for Winchelsea. He quickly resumed his position as one of the most forceful members of the House of Commons, and worked especially in advocating a programme for the education of the poor and legal reform.

Defence of the Princess of Wales

In 1812 Brougham had become one of the chief advisers to Caroline, Princess of Wales, the estranged wife of George, Prince of Wales, the Prince Regent and future George IV. This was to prove a key development in his life. In April 1820 Caroline, then living abroad, appointed Brougham her Attorney-General. Earlier that year George IV had succeeded to the throne on the death of his long incapacitated father George III. Caroline was brought back to the United Kingdom in June for appearances only, but the king immediately began divorce proceedings against her. The Pains and Penalties Bill, aimed at dissolving the marriage and stripping Caroline of her Royal title on the grounds of adultery, was brought before the House of Lords by the Tory government. However, Brougham led a legal team (which also included Thomas Denman) that eloquently defended the Princess, and the bill was defeated by 123 votes to 95. The British public had mainly been on the Princess’s side, and the outcome of the trial made Brougham one of the most famous men in the country. His legal practice on the Northern Circuit rose five-fold, although he had to wait until 1827 before being made a King's Counsel.

Lord Chancellor

Brougham remained Member of Parliament for Winchelsea until February 1830 when he was returned for Knaresborough. However, he only represented Knaresborough until August the same year, when he became one of four representatives for Yorkshire. In November the Tory government led by the Duke of Wellington fell, and the Whigs came to power under Lord Grey. It was considered impossible to leave the popular Brougham out of the government, although his independent political standing was thought to be a possible impediment to the new administration. Grey initially offered him the post of Attorney General, which Brougham refused. He was then offered the Lord Chancellorship, which he accepted, and on 22 November he was raised to the peerage as Baron Brougham, of Brougham in the County of Westmorland. He was to remain in this post for exactly four years. The highlights of Brougham’s tenure was the passing of the 1832 Reform Act, of which he was a staunch supporter, and the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, the cause to which he had been devoted to for so many years. However, he increasingly came into conflict with the rest of the government, mostly caused by his tendency to interfere with every department of state. He nonetheless kept his post when the government was reconstructed in July 1834 under Lord Melbourne. The Melbourne administration was dismissed by the King in November the same year, and the Tories came to power under Sir Robert Peel. This government only lasted until April 1835, when Lord Melbourne was again summoned to form a government. However, Brougham was now so ill regarded within his own party that he was not offered to resume the post of Lord Chancellor, which instead was put into commission. An even greater blow to him was when the post was eventually conferred on Charles Pepys, 1st Baron Cottenham, in January 1836.

Later life

Brougham was never to hold office again. However, for more than thirty years after his fall he continued to take an active part in the judicial business of the House of Lords, and in its debates. He also devoted much of his time to writing. He had continued to contribute to the Edinburgh Review, and the best of his writings were published in the magazine entitled "Sketches of the Statesmen of the time of George III". Brougham also edited William Paley's Natural Theology and published a work on political philosophy and in 1838 he published an edition of his speeches in four volumes. The last of his works was his posthumous Autobiography. In 1860 Brougham was given a second peerage as Baron Brougham and Vaux, of Brougham in the County of Westmorland and of High Head Castle in the County of Cumberland, with remainder to his youngest brother William Brougham (d. 1886). The patent stated that the second peerage was in honour of the great services he had rendered, especially in promoting the abolition of slavery. Lord Brougham and Vaux married Mary Spalding (d. 1865), daughter of Thomas Eden, in 1821. They had two daughters, both of whom predeceased their parents, the last one dying in 1839. Lord Brougham and Vaux died in May 1868 in Cannes, France, aged 89, and was buried in the Cimetière du Grand Jas. The Barony of 1830 became extinct on his death, while he was succeeded in the Barony of 1860 according to the special remainder by his younger brother William Brougham.


Brougham was the designer of the four-wheeled, horse-drawn carriage that bears his name. It has a low coupe body with a box seat for the driver and one forward facing seat for two passengers. Some had seating for four passengers.

Through Lord Brougham the renowned French seaside resort of Cannes became very popular. He had accidentally found the place around 1838, when it was little more than a fishing village on a picturesque coast, and bought there a tract of land and built on it. His choice and his example made it the sanatorium of Europe. The beach front promenade at Nice became known as the Promenade des anglais (literally, "The Promenade of the English").

Cadillac introduced the first Cadillac Brougham model in 1916. That body style went out of fashion in the thirties. Twenty years would elapse before the "Brougham" name would be adopted again, in 1957, for the luxurious four-seater, four-door sedan that the company would build in limited numbers over the next four years. Since then, several other manufacturers have used the name on car and truck lines.

Holds the House of Commons record for non-stop speaking at six hours [1].


Wikisource has an original article from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica about:
Brougham and Vaux, Henry Peter Brougham, 1st Baron
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
  • This article incorporates public domain text from: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London, J.M. Dent & sons; New York, E.P. Dutton.
    1. ^

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.
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