Melbourne, William Lamb, 2d Viscount

Melbourne, William Lamb, 2d Viscount

(mĕl`bərn), 1779–1848, British statesman. He entered Parliament as a Whig in 1805, was (1827–28) chief secretary for Ireland, and entered (1828) the House of Lords on the death of his father. As home secretary (1830–34) for the 2d Earl Grey, his vigorous suppression of agrarian disturbances and trade unionism (see Tolpuddle MartyrsTolpuddle Martyrs,
name given to six English agricultural laborers who in 1834 were prosecuted for trade union activities and sentenced to transportation. In 1833 these laborers, led by George and James Loveless (or Lovelace), formed a branch of the Friendly Society of
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) ended a reputation for indolence. A believer in aristocratic government, unsympathetic with middle-class political and economic aims, Melbourne accepted the Reform Bill of 1832 as a political necessity.

As prime minister (1834, 1835–39, 1839–41) his views brought him support from Whigs and moderate Tories, and he excluded radicals from his ministries. He conceded such reforms as amendment of the poor lawpoor law,
in English history, legislation relating to public assistance for the poor. Early measures to relieve pauperism were usually designed to suppress vagrancy and begging.
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 (1834), the Municipal Corporations Act (1835), and liberalization of the Canadian government. He was also conciliatory in his policy toward Ireland. However, he resisted further parliamentary reform and repeal of the corn laws.

Melbourne viewed the prime ministership as a supervisory position; cabinet members, such as Lord PalmerstonPalmerston, Henry John Temple, 3d Viscount,
1784–1865, British statesman. His viscountcy, to which he succeeded in 1802, was in the Irish peerage and therefore did not prevent him from entering the House of
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, played a vital role in developing policy. Handsome and urbane, Melbourne was a favorite of the young Queen VictoriaVictoria
(Alexandrina Victoria) , 1819–1901, queen of Great Britain and Ireland (1837–1901) and empress of India (1876–1901). She was the daughter of Edward, duke of Kent (fourth son of George III), and Princess Mary Louise Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.
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 and taught her important lessons in statecraft. It was at her request that he returned to office (1839) after Sir Robert Peel resigned over a disagreement with the queen.

Melbourne's wife, Lady Caroline Lamb, 1785–1828, was clever and beautiful, but also eccentric, impulsive, and indiscreet. She is remembered less for the minor novels that she wrote than for her love affair with Lord ByronByron, George Gordon Noel Byron, 6th Baron
, 1788–1824, English poet and satirist. Early Life and Works

He was the son of Capt. John ("Mad Jack") Byron and his second wife, Catherine Gordon of Gight.
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. Lady Caroline and her husband separated in 1825.

Bibliography

See Lord Melbourne's papers (ed. by L. C. Sanders, 1889, repr. 1971); biography of him by Lord David Cecil (1954, repr. 1965); biography of his wife by H. Blyth (1972).

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