Lord William George Frederick Bentinck - Encyclopedia

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LORD WILLIAM GEORGE FREDERICK Cavendish BENTINCK, better known as Lord George Bentinck (1802-1848), British politician, was the second surviving son of the fourth duke of Portland, by Henrietta, sister of Viscountess Canning, and was born on the 27th of February 1802. He was educated at home until he obtained his commission as cornet in the 10th hussars at the age of seventeen. He practically retired from the army in 1822 and acted for some time as private secretary to his uncle George Canning. In 1828 he succeeded his uncle Lord William Bentinck as member for Lynn-Regis, and continued to represent that constituency during the remaining twenty years of his life. His failures as a speaker in parliament seem to have discouraged him from the attempt to acquire reputation as a politician, and till within three years of his death he was little known out of the sporting world. As one of the leaders on "the turf," however, he was distinguished by that integrity, judgment and indomitable determination which, when brought to bear upon weightier matters, quickly gave him a position of first-rate importance in the political world. On his first entrance into parliament he belonged to the moderate Whig party, and voted in favour of Catholic emancipation, as also for the Reform Bill, though he opposed some of its principal details. Soon after, however, he joined the ranks of the opposition, with whom he sided up to the important era of 1846. When, in that year, Sir Robert Peel openly declared in favour of free trade, the advocates of the corn-laws, then without a leader, after several ineffectual attempts at organization, discovered that Lord George Bentinck was the only man of position and family (for Disraeli's time was not yet come) around whom the several sections of the opposition could be brought to rally. His sudden elevation took the public by surprise; but he soon gave convincing evidence of powers so formidable that the Protectionist party under his leadership was at once stiffened into real importance. Towards Peel, in particular, his hostility was uncompromising. Believing, as he himself expressed it, that that statesman and his colleagues had "hounded to the death his illustrious relative" Canning, he combined with his political opposition a degree of, personal animosity that gave additional force to his invective. On entering on his new position, he at once abandoned his connexion with the turf, disposed of his magnificent stud and devoted his whole energies to the laborious duties of a parliamentary leader. Apart from the question of the corn-laws, however, his politics were decidedly independent. In opposition to the rest of his party, he supported the bill for removing the Jewish disabilities, and was favourable to the scheme for the payment of the Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland by the landowners. The result was that on December 23rd, 1847, he wrote a letter resigning the Protectionist leadership, though he still remained active in politics. But his positive abilities as a constructive statesman were not to be tested, for he died suddenly at Welbeck on the 21st of September 1848. It was to be left to Disraeli to bring the Conservative party into power, with Protection outside its programme.

See Lord George Bentinck: a Political Biography (1851), by B. Disraeli (Lord Beaconsfield).

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