John Cam Hobhouse

Birth: 1786


John Cam Hobhouse 1st Lord Baron Broughton (1786-1869), English writer and politician, was the eldest son of Sir Benjamin Hobhouse, Bart., by his wife Charlotte, daughter of Samuel Cam of Chantry House, Bradford, Wiltshire. Born at Bristol on the 27th of June 1786, he was educated at Westminster school and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated in 1808. He took the Hulsean prize in 1808 for his Essay on the Origin and Intention of Sacrifices. At Cambridge he founded the "Whig Club," and the "Amicable Society," and became very intimate with Byron, who accompanied him on a tour in Spain, Greece and Turkey in 1809.

Hobhouse was present at the battle of Dresden in August 1813, and, following the allied army into France, saw Louis XVIII. enter Paris in May 1814. He was again in Paris after the return of Napoleon from Elba, and showed his dislike of the Bourbons and his sympathy with Bonaparte by writing in 1816 a pamphlet entitled The substance of some letters written by an Englishman resident in Paris during the last reign of the emperor Napoleon. This caused some offence in England and more in France, and the French translation was seized by the government and both translator and printer were imprisoned.

A further period of travel with Byron followed, and at this time Hobhouse wrote some notes to the fourth canto of Childe Harold. This canto was afterwards dedicated to him, and a revised edition of a part of his notes entitled Historical illustrations of the fourth canto of "Childe Harold" containing dissertations on the ruins of Rome and an essay on Italian literature, was published in 1818. In February 1819 Hobhouse was the Radical candidate at a by-election for the representation of the city of Westminster, but he failed to secure election. He had already gained some popularity by writing in favour of reform, and in 1819 he issued A defence of the People in reply to Lord Erskine's "Two Defences of the Whigs," followed by A trifling mistake in Thomas, Lord Erskine's recent preface.

The House of Commons declared this latter pamphlet a breach of privilege; its author was arrested on the 14th of December 1819, and in spite of an appeal to the court of king's bench he remained in custody until the end of the following February. But this proceeding only increased his popularity, and at the general election of 1820 he was returned for Westminster. Hobhouse shared Byron's enthusiasm for the liberation of Greece; after the poet's death in 1824 he proved his will, and superintended the arrangements for his funeral.

In parliament he proved a valuable recruit to the party of reform; and having succeeded his father as 2nd baronet in 1831, was appointed secretary at war in the ministry of Earl Grey in February 1832, and was made a privy councillor. He effected some reforms and economies during his tenure of this office, but, unable to carry out all his wishes, became chief secretary for Ireland in March 1833. He had only held this post for a few weeks when, in consequence of his refusal to vote with the government against the abolition of the house and window tax, he resigned both his office and his seat in parliament.

At the subsequent election he was defeated, but joined the cabinet as first commissioner of woods and forests when Lord Melbourne took office in July 1834, and about the same time was returned at a by-election as one of the members for Nottingham. In Melbourne's government of 1835 he was president of the board of control, in which position he strongly supported the Indian policy of Lord Auckland; he returned to the same office in July 1846 as a member of Lord John Russell's cabinet; and in February 1851 he went to the House of Lords as Baron Broughton of Broughton Gyfford. He left office when Russell resigned in February 1852, and took little part in political life, being mainly occupied in literary pursuits and in correspondence. He died in London on the 3rd of June 1869.

He had married in July 1828 Lady Julia Tomlinson Hay, daughter of George, 7th marquess of Tweeddale, by whom he had three daughters, but being without heir male the barony lapsed on his death, the baronetcy passing to his nephew, Charles Parry Hobhouse. Lord Broughton was a partner in Whitbread's brewery, a fellow of the Royal Society, and one of the founders of the Royal Geographical Society.

He was responsible for the passing of the Vestry Act of 1831, and is said to have first used the phrase "his majesty's opposition." He was a good classical scholar, and although not eloquent, an able debater. In addition to the works already enumerated he wrote A journey through Albania and other provinces of Turkey in Europe and Asia to Constantinople during the years 1809 and 1810 (London, 1813), revised edition (London, 1855); and Italy: Remarks made in Several Visits from the Year 1816 to 1854 (London, 1859). A collection of his diaries, correspondence and memoranda is in the British Museum.

See T. Moore, Life of Lord Byron (London, 1837-1840); Greville Memoirs (London, 1896); Dictionary of National Biography, vol. xxvii. (London, 1891); The Times, June 4, 1869; Spencer Walpole, History of England (London, 1890). Broughton also wrote Recollections of a Long Life, printed privately in 1865, and in 1909 published with additions in 2 vols. edited by his daughter, Lady Dorchester, with a preface by the earl of Rosebery.


1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 4 pg. 655

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