Stafford Northcote, 1st Earl of Iddesleigh


Stafford Northcote, 1st Earl of Iddesleigh

Stafford Henry Northcote, 1st Earl of Iddesleigh GCB PC (27 October 1818 – 12 January 1887), British statesman, was born in London on 27 October 1818. His ancestors had long been settled in Devon, tracing their descent from Galfridas de Nordcote who settled there in 1103.

After Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, he became in 1843 private secretary to William Ewart Gladstone at the board of trade. He was afterwards legal secretary to the board; and after acting as one of the secretaries to the Great Exhibition of 1851, co-operated with Sir Charles Trevelyan in framing the report which revolutionized the conditions of appointment to the Civil Service. He succeeded his grandfather, Sir Stafford Henry Northcote, as 8th baronet in 1851. He entered Parliament in 1855 as Conservative Member of Parliament for Dudley, and was elected for Stamford in 1858, a seat which he exchanged in 1866 for North Devon.

Steadily supporting his party, he became President of the Board of Trade in 1866, Secretary of State for India in 1867, and Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1874. In the interval between these last two appointments he was the president of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1870, when they gave the Northwest Territories to Canada, and one of the commissioners for the settlement of the "Alabama" difficulty at the Treaty of Washington with the United States in 1871.

On Disraeli's elevation to the House of Lords as Earl of Beaconsfield in 1876 he became leader of the Conservative party in the Commons. As a finance minister he was largely dominated by the lines of policy laid down by Gladstone; but he distinguished himself by his dealings with the Debt, especially his introduction of the New Sinking fund in 1876, by which he fixed the annual charge for the Debt in such a way as to provide for a regular series of payments off the capital. His temper as leader was, however, too gentle to satisfy the more ardent spirits among his own followers, and party cabals (in which Lord Randolph Churchill, who had made a dead set at the "old gang," took a leading part) led to Sir Stafford's elevation to the Lords in 1885, when Lord Salisbury became prime minister. Taking the titles of Earl of Iddesleigh and Viscount St Cyres, he was included in the cabinet as First Lord of the Treasury. In Lord Salisbury's 1886 ministry he became Foreign Secretary, but the arrangement was not a comfortable one, and his resignation had just been decided upon when on 12 January 1887 he died very suddenly at Lord Salisbury's official residence in Downing Street.

Lord Iddesleigh was elected lord rector of the University of Edinburgh in 1883, in which capacity he addressed the students on the subject of "Desultory Reading". He was not a prolific or notable writer, but amongst his works were "Twenty Years of Financial Policy" (1862), a valuable study of Gladstonian finance, and "Lectures and Essays" (1887). His "Life" by Andrew Lang appeared in 1890. Lord Iddesleigh married in 1843 Cecilia Frances Farrer (d. 1910) (sister of Thomas, 1st Lord Farrer), by whom he had seven sons and three daughters. His second son, Henry, 1st Baron Northcote, was Governor-General of Australia 1904–1908.

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