John James Robert Manners, 7th duke of Rutland - Encyclopedia

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JOHN JAMES ROBERT MANNERS RUTLAND, 7TH Duke Of (1818-1906), English statesman, was born at Belvoir Castle on the 13th of December 1818, being the younger son of the 5th duke of Rutland by Lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Byron's guardian, the 5th earl of Carlisle. Lord John Manners, as he then was, was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1841 he was returned for Newark in the Tory interest, along with W. E. Gladstone, and sat for that borough until 1847. Subsequently he sat for Colchester, 1850-57; for North Leicestershire, 1857-85; and for East Leicestershire from 1885 until in 1888 he took his seat in the House of Lords upon succeeding to the dukedom.

Melbourne's Whig government had been doomed for some time before it went out in June 1841. The Tories came in with a large majority under Peel, and among Manners's friends who were successful in the constituencies, besides Gladstone, were Smythe, afterwards 7th Viscount Strangford, at Canterbury; Baillie-Cochrane, afterwards 1st Lord Lamington, at Bridport; and Disraeli at Shrewsbury. Cherishing many of the ideas of the cavaliers of the 17th century, and full of political and literary ardour, Lord John was soon prominent in the social group which revolved round Lady Blessington. In 1841 he committed some of his loyalist and other fancies to a volume called England's Trust, and other Poems, which he dedicated to his friend Smythe, and in which occurred the familiar line about "laws and learning" and "our old nobility." Before the end of this year Manners had definitely associated himself with the "Young England" party, under the leadership of Disraeli. This party sought to extinguish the predominance of the middle-class bourgeoisie, and to re-create the political prestige of the aristocracy by resolutely proving its capacity to ameliorate the social, intellectual, and material condition of the peasantry and the labouring classes. At the same time its members looked for a regeneration of the Church, and the rescue of both the Church and Ireland from the trammels inherited from the Whig predominance of the 18th century. Manners made an extensive tour of inspection in the industrial parts of N. England, in the course of which he and his friend Smythe expounded their views with a brilliancy which frequently extorted compliments from the leaders of the Manchester school. In 1843 he supported Lord Grey's motion for an inquiry into the condition of England, the serious disaffection of the working classes of the north being a subject to which he was constantly drawing the attention of parliament. Among other measures that he urged were the disestablishment of the Irish Church, the modification of the Mortmain Acts, and the resumption of regular diplomatic relations with the Vatican. In the same year he issued in pamphlet form a strong Plea for National Holydays. In 1844 Lord John vigorously supported the Ten-hours Bill, which, though strongly opposed by Bright, Cobden, and other members of the Manchester school, was ultimately passed in May 1847. In October during that year he took part in, and spoke at, the brilliant soirée held at the Manchester Athenaeum under the presidency of Disraeli. A few days later he and his friends attended a festival at Bingley, in Yorkshire, to celebrate the allotment of land for gardens to working men, a step which, through the agency of his father, he had done a great deal to further. About the same time Smythe dedicated to him his Historic Fancies as to "the Sir Philip Sidney of our generation." Manners figured as Lord Henry Sidney in Disraeli's Coningsby, and not a few of his ideas are represented as those of Egremont in Sybil and Waldershare in Endymion. But the disruption of the Young England party was already impending. Lord John's support to Peel's decision to increase the Maynooth grant in 1845 led to a difference with Disraeli. Divergences of opinion with regard to Newman's secession from the English Church produced further defections in the ranks, and the rupture was completed by Smythe acquiescing in Peel's conversion to Free Trade. Lord John produced another volume of verse, known as English Ballads, chiefly patriotic and historical, in 1850. In the same year he wrote the letterpress for an atlas of coloured views by J. C. Schetky; and he published several pamphlets, one on the Church of England in the Colonies, in 1851. During the three short administrations of Lord Derby (1851, 1858, and 1866) he sat in the cabinet as first commissioner of the office of works. On the return of the Conservatives to power in 1874 he became postmaster-general in Disraeli's administration, and was made G.C.B. on his retirement in 1880. He was again postmaster-general in Lord Salisbury's administration, 1885-86, and was head of the department when sixpenny telegrams were introduced. Finally, in the Conservative government of 1886-92 he was chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. He had succeeded to the dukedom of Rutland in March 1888, upon the death of his elder brother. He died on the 4th of August 1906 at Belvoir Castle.

He was succeeded as 8th duke by his eldest son (b. 1852), who had been Conservative M.P. for the Melton division of Leicestershire from 1888 to 1895; and whose wife, as marchioness of Granby, became well known as a clever artist, a volume of her Portraits of various distinguished men and women being published in 1899.

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