George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen

The Earl of Aberdeen
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George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen

MonarchVictoria
Preceded by
Succeeded by

Political partyPeelite
Alma materSt John's College, Cambridge



George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen KG KT FRS PC (28 January 178414 December 1860) was a Scottish politician, successively a Tory, Conservative & Peelite, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1852 until 1855.

Early life

Born in Edinburgh on 28 January 1784, he was the eldest son of George Gordon, Lord Haddo. He lost his father in 1791 and his mother in 1795. He was brought up by Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville. He was educated at Harrow, and St John's College, Cambridge, where he graduated in 1804.

Period 1801–1812

Before this, however, he had become Earl of Aberdeen on his grandfather's death in 1801, and had travelled all over Europe. On his return to England, he founded the Athenian Society. In 1805, he married Catherine Elizabeth Hamilton, daughter of Lord Abercorn. In December he took his seat as a Tory Scottish representative peer in the House of Lords. In 1808, he was created a Knight of the Thistle.

Official and political career

Following the death of his wife in 1812 he joined the Foreign Service. He was appointed ambassador extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at Vienna, where he signed the Treaty of Toplitz between Britain and Austria in October 1813. He was one of the British representatives at the Congress of Chatillon in February 1814, and at the negotiations which led to the Treaty of Paris in the following May.

Returning home he was created a peer of the United Kingdom as Viscount Gordon, of Aberdeen in the County of Aberdeen (1814), and made a member of the Privy Council. In July 1815 he married Harriet, daughter of John Douglas, and widow of James, Viscount Hamilton. During the ensuing thirteen years Aberdeen took a less prominent part in public affairs.

He served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1828) and Foreign Secretary (1829-30) under Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. He resigned with Wellington over the Reform Bill of 1832. He was Secretary for the Colonies (1834-35) and then Foreign Secretary (1841-46) under Robert Peel. It was during his second stint as Foreign Secretary that he settled two disagreements with the US - the Northeast Boundary dispute by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty (1842), and the Oregon dispute by the Oregon Treaty of 1846. He also worked successfully to improve relationships with France. He again followed his leader and resigned with Peel over the issue of the Corn Laws.

After Peel's death in 1850 he became the recognized leader of the Peelites. His dislike of the Ecclesiastical Titles Assumption Bill, the rejection of which he failed to secure in 1851, prevented him from joining the government of Lord John Russell.

In December 1852, however, he became Prime Minister and headed a coalition ministry of Whigs and Peelites. Although united on free trade and on questions of domestic reform, his cabinet which contained Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell, was certain to differ on questions of foreign policy.

He entered the country into the Crimean War on the side of the Ottoman Empire following pressure from some of his cabinet. Palmerston, supported by Russell, favoured a more aggressive policy, and Aberdeen, unable to control Palmerston, acquiesced.

However the war proved his downfall. As reports returned detailing the mis-management of the conflict Russell resigned; and on 29 January 1855 a motion for the appointment of a select committee to enquire into the conduct of the war, was carried by a large majority. Treating this as a vote of confidence Aberdeen resigned.

Death, successors to title, and other personal matters

He died in London on 14 December 1860, and was buried in the family vault at Stanmore.[1]

By his first wife he had one son and three daughters, all of whom predeceased their father. By his second wife, who died in August 1833, he left four sons and one daughter. His eldest son, George John James, succeeded as 5th Earl; his second son was General Sir Alexander Hamilton-Gordon, K.C.B.; his third son was the Reverend Douglas Hamilton-Gordon; and his youngest son Arthur Hamilton Gordon, was created Baron Stanmore in 1893.

Aberdeen was a distinguished scholar. His private life is believed to be exemplary by the standards of the day. His manner was lofty and reserved, and as a speaker he was ponderous rather than eloquent. It is said that he lacked strength and his foreign policy was essentially one of peace and non-intervention.

On his death his title passed to his son George Hamilton-Gordon (1816-1864) whose eldest son George Hamilton-Gordon (1841-1870) became the 6th earl. When he was drowned at sea, he was succeeded by his brother John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon (1847-1934), a prominent Liberal politician, who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1886, Governor-General of Canada (1893-1898), and again the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland when Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman formed his ministry at the close of 1905. He was made Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair on 4 January 1916.

In 1994 novelist, columnist and politician Ferdinand Mount used George Gordon's life as the basis for a historical novel -Umbrella.

See also

Succession

Political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Bexley
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
1828
Succeeded by
Charles Arbuthnot
Preceded by
The Earl of Dudley
Foreign Secretary
1828 – 1830
Succeeded by
The Viscount Palmerston
Preceded by
Thomas Spring Rice
Secretary of State for War and the Colonies
1834 – 1835
Succeeded by
The Lord Glenelg
Preceded by
The Viscount Palmerston
Foreign Secretary
1841 – 1846
Succeeded by
The Viscount Palmerston
Preceded by
The Earl of Derby
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1852 – 1855
Succeeded by
The Viscount Palmerston
Leader of the House of Lords
1852 – 1855
Succeeded by
The Earl Granville
Diplomatic posts
Vacant
Title last held by
Sir Arthur Paget
British Ambassador to Austria
1813 – 1814
Succeeded by
The Lord Stewart
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
George Gordon
Earl of Aberdeen
1801 – 1860
Succeeded by
George Hamilton-Gordon
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New titleViscount Gordon
1814 – 1860
Succeeded by
George Hamilton-Gordon

References

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Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837, and the first Empress of India from 1 May 1876, until her death on 22 January 1901.
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George Gordon, Lord Haddo (28 January 1764–2 October 1791) was a Scottish Freemason and the eldest son of the George Gordon, 3rd Earl of Aberdeen.

On 18 June 1782, Haddo married Charlotte Baird, a sister of Sir David Baird, Bt. and they had seven children:
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Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (April 28, 1742 – May 28 1811) was a Scottish lawyer and politician. He was the last person to be impeached in the United Kingdom.
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Harrow School

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Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom that was created on 4 January 1916, along with the title Earl of Haddo, for the 7th Earl of Aberdeen.
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Sir George Gordon, 3rd Earl of Aberdeen (19 June 1722 – 13 August 1801) was the son of William Gordon, 2nd Earl of Aberdeen.

In 1759, he married Catherine Elizabeth Hanson and they had one child:

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John James Hamilton, 1st Marquess of Abercorn KG PC (July 1756 – January 27 1818) was the son of Captain Hon. John Hamilton and grandson of James Hamilton, 7th Earl of Abercorn.

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