Note: Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom // Lord Liverpool // Earl of Liverpool coa
Secretary of State for War and the Colonies
Lord Liverpool (as Hawkesbury had now become by the death of his father in December 1808) accepted the position of Secretary of State for War and the Colonies in Spencer Perceval's government in 1809. Liverpool's first step on taking up his new post was to elicit from the Duke of Wellington a strong enough statement of his ability to resist a French attack to persuade the cabinet to commit themselves to the maintenance of his small force in Portugal.
When Perceval was assassinated in May 1812, Lord Liverpool succeeded him as Prime Minister. The cabinet proposed Liverpool as his successor with Lord Castlereagh as leader in the Commons. But after an adverse vote in the Lower House, they subsequently gave both their resignations. The Prince Regent, however, found it impossible to form a different coalition and confirmed Liverpool as prime minister on 8 June. Liverpool's government contained some of the future great leaders of Britain, such as Lord Castlereagh, George Canning, the Duke of Wellington, Robert Peel, and William Huskisson. Liverpool is considered a skilled politician, and held together the liberal and reactionary wings of the Tory party, which his successors, Canning, Goderich and Wellington, had great difficulty with.
Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna
Liverpool's ministry was a long and eventful one. The War of 1812 with the United States and the final campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars were fought during Liverpool's premiership. It was during his ministry that the Peninsular Campaigns were fought by the Duke of Wellington. France was defeated in the Napoleonic Wars, and Liverpool was appointed to the Order of the Garter. At the peace negotiations that followed, Liverpool's main concern was to obtain a European settlement that would ensure the independence of the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, and confine France inside her pre-war frontiers without damaging her national integrity. To achieve this, he was ready to return all British colonial conquests. Within this broad framework, he gave Castlereagh a discretion at the Congress of Vienna, the next most important event of his ministry. At the congress, he gave prompt approval for Castlereagh's bold initiative in making the defensive alliance with Austria and France in January 1815. In the aftermath, many years of peace followed.
The Corn Laws and trouble at home
Agriculture remained a problem because good harvests between 1819 and 1822 had brought down prices and evoked a cry for greater protection. When the powerful agricultural lobby in Parliament demanded protection in the aftermath, Liverpool gave in to political necessity. Under governmental supervision the notorious Corn Laws of 1815 were passed prohibiting the import of foreign wheat until the domestic price reached a minimum accepted level. Liverpool, however, was in principle a free-trader, but had to accept the bill as a temporary measure to ease the transition to peacetime conditions. His chief economic problem during his time as Prime Minister was that of the nation's finances. The interest on the national debt, massively swollen by the enormous expenditure of the final war years, together with the war pensions, absorbed the greater part of normal government revenue. The refusal of the House of Commons in 1816 to continue the wartime income tax left ministers with no immediate alternative but to go on with the ruinous system of borrowing to meet necessary annual expenditure. Liverpool eventually facilitated a return to the gold standard in 1819.
Inevitably taxes rose to compensate for borrowing and to pay off the debt, which led to widespread disturbance between 1812 and 1822. Around this time, the group known as Luddites began industrial action, by smashing industrial machines developed for use in the textile industries of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire. Throughout the period 1811–16, there were a series of incidents of machine-breaking and many of those convicted faced execution.
The reports of the secret committees he obtained in 1817 pointed to the existence of an organised network of disaffected political societies, especially in the manufacturing areas. Liverpool told Peel that the disaffection in the country seemed even worse than in 1794. Because of a largely perceived threat to the government, temporary legislation was introduced. He suspended Habeas Corpus in both Great Britain (1817) and Ireland (1822). Following the Peterloo massacre in 1819, his government imposed the repressive Six Acts legislation which limited, among other things, free speech and the right to gather for peaceful demonstration. In 1820, as a result of these measures, Liverpool and other cabinet ministers were targeted for assassination. They escaped harm when the Cato Street conspiracy was foiled.
Lord Liverpool argued for the abolition of the slave trade at the Congress of Vienna, and at home he supported the repeal of the Combination Laws banning workers from combining into trade unions in 1824.
During the 19th century, and, in particular, during Liverpool's time in office, Catholic emancipation was a source of great conflict. In 1805, in his first important statement of his views on the subject, Liverpool had argued that the special relationship of the monarch with the Church of England, and the refusal of Roman Catholics to take the oath of supremacy, justified their exclusion from political power. Throughout his career, he remained opposed to the idea of Catholic emancipation, though did see marginal concessions as important to the stability of the nation.
The decision of 1812 to remove the issue from collective cabinet policy, followed in 1813 by the defeat of Grattan's Roman Catholic Relief Bill, brought a period of calm. Liverpool supported marginal concessions such as the admittance of English Roman Catholics to the higher ranks of the armed forces, the magistracy, and the parliamentary franchise; but he remained opposed to their participation in parliament itself. In the 1820s, pressure from the liberal wing of the Commons and the rise of the Catholic Association in Ireland revived the controversy.
By the date of Sir Francis Burdett's Catholic Relief Bill in 1825, emancipation looked a likely success. Indeed, the success of the bill in the Commons in April, followed by Robert Peel's tender of resignation, finally persuaded Liverpool that he should retire. When Canning made a formal proposal that the cabinet should back the bill, Liverpool was convinced that his administration had come to its end. George Canning then succeeded him as Prime Minister. Catholic emancipation however was not fully implemented until the major changes of the Catholic Relief Act of 1829 under the leadership of the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel, and with the work of the Catholic Association established in 1823.
Liverpool's first wife, Louisa, died at 54. He soon married again, on 24 September 1822, to Lady Mary Chester, a long-time friend of Louisa. Their marriage only lasted seven years however, until Liverpool's death. Liverpool finally retired on 9 April 1827, after, at Fife House (his riverside residence in Whitehall since 1810), suffering a severe cerebral haemorrhage on 17 February, and asked the King to seek a successor. There was another minor stroke in July, after which he lingered on at Coombe until a third attack on 4 December 1828 when he died. He had no children and was succeeded in the Earldom of Liverpool by his younger half-brother Charles Cecil Cope Jenkinson, 3rd Earl of Liverpool. He was buried in Hawkesbury parish church, Gloucestershire, beside his father and his first wife. His personal estate was registered at under £120,000.
Liverpool was the first British Prime Minister to regularly wear long trousers instead of knee breeches. He also became the first Prime Minister to adopt a short haircut instead of long hair tied in a queue. He entered office at the age of 42 years, and 1 day, making him younger than all of his successors. He was also the longest-serving Prime Minister of the 19th century. Liverpool Street and Liverpool Road in London are named after Lord Liverpool, as is the Canadian town of Hawkesbury, Ontario, and the Hawkesbury River, New South Wales, Australia. The Liverpool River in the Northern Territory of Australia was also named after Lord Liverpool.
Lord Liverpool's ministry (1812–1827)
- Lord Liverpool – First Lord of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Lords
- Lord Eldon – Lord Chancellor
- Lord Harrowby – Lord President of the Council
- Lord Westmorland – Lord Privy Seal
- Lord Sidmouth – Secretary of State for the Home Department
- Lord Castlereagh (Lord Londonderry after 1821) – Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Leader of the House of Commons
- Lord Bathurst – Secretary of State for War and the Colonies
- Lord Melville – First Lord of the Admiralty
- Nicholas Vansittart – Chancellor of the Exchequer
- Lord Mulgrave – Master-General of the Ordnance
- Lord Buckinghamshire – President of the Board of Control
- Charles Bathurst – Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
- Lord Camden – minister without portfolio
- Late 1812 – Lord Camden leaves the Cabinet
- September 1814 – William Wellesley-Pole (Lord Maryborough from 1821), the Master of the Mint, enters the Cabinet
- February 1816 – George Canning succeeds Lord Buckinghamshire at the Board of Control
- January 1818 – Frederick John Robinson, the President of the Board of Trade, enters the Cabinet
- January 1819 – The Duke of Wellington succeeds Lord Mulgrave as Master-General of the Ordnance. Lord Mulgrave becomes minister without portfolio
- 1820 – Lord Mulgrave leaves the cabinet
- January 1821 – Charles Bathurst succeeds Canning as President of the Board of Control, remaining also at the Duchy of Lancaster
- January 1822 – Robert Peel succeeds Lord Sidmouth as Home Secretary
- February 1822 – Charles Williams-Wynn succeeds Charles Bathurst at the Board of Control. Bathurst remains at the Duchy of Lancaster and in the Cabinet
- September 1822 – Following the suicide of Lord Londonderry, George Canning becomes Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons
- January 1823 – Vansittart, elevated to the peerage as Lord Bexley, succeeds Charles Bathurst as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. F.J. Robinson succeeds Vansittart as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He is succeeded at the Board of Trade by William Huskisson
- 1823 – Lord Maryborough, the Master of the Mint, leaves the Cabinet. His successor in the office is not a Cabinet member
Styles of address
- 1770–1786: Mr Robert Banks Jenkinson
- 1786–1790: The Honourable Robert Banks Jenkinson
- 1790–1794: The Honourable Robert Banks Jenkinson MP
- 1794–1796: The Honourable Robert Banks Jenkinson FRS MP
- 1796–1799: Lord Hawkesbury FRS MP
- 1799–1801: The Rt Honourable Lord Hawkesbury FRS MP
- 1801–1808: The Rt Honourable The Lord Hawkesbury PC FRS
- 1808–1814: The Rt Honourable The Earl of Liverpool PC FRS
- 1814–1828: The Rt Honourable The Earl of Liverpool KG PC FRS