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This article was written by George Fisher Russell Barker and was published in 1890
Henry Goulburb, a statesman, was the eldest son of Munbee Goulburn of Portland Place, London, by his wife, Susannah, eldest daughter of William Chetwynd, fourth viscount Chetwynd. He was born in London on 19 March 1784, and was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1805, and M.A. in 1808. At the general election in May 1807 he unsuccessfully contested the borough of Horsham in the tory interest, but was seated upon petition in February 1808, and on 27 February 1810 was appointed under-secretary for the home department in Spencer Perceval's administration.
His first reported speech in the House of Commons was delivered on 16 March 1812. In the following August he succeeded Peel as under-secretary for war and the colonies, and at the general election in October 1812 was returned for the borough of St. Germans. In July 1814 he was appointed one of the commissioners for negotiating peace with America, and at the general election in June 1818 was elected one of the members for West Looe, a borough which he continued to represent until the dissolution in June 1826.
Resigning his post at the colonial office, he was sworn a member of the privy council on 10 December 1821, and appointed chief secretary to the Marquis Wellesley, lord-lieutenant of Ireland. As Goulburn had taken a prominent part in resisting Plunket's Roman Catholic Disability Removal Bill, which had been carried through the House of Commons in the previous session, his appointment was unpopular with the Irish Roman catholics, by whom he was denounced as an Orangeman.
In March 1823 he introduced the Irish Tithe Composition Bill, which after one important modification became law, and proved a considerable success in relieving the poorer classes of the country. In February 1825 he brought in a bill for the suppression of unlawful societies in Ireland. It was rapidly passed through both houses of parliament, but failed to have any real effect during the three years it was in force. At the general election in the summer of 1826 Goulburn unsuccessfully contested Cambridge University, but was returned for the city of Armagh, for which constituency he continued to sit until the dissolution in April 1831.
On Canning becoming prime minister in April 1827, Goulburn resigned the post of chief secretary. On 26 January 1828 he was appointed chancellor of the exchequer in the Duke of Wellington's administration. The cabinet being divided on the question, Goulburn continued his opposition to the relief of the Roman catholics, and with Peel voted against Burdett's motion in May 1828. Goulburn brought in his first budget on 11 July 1828. The financial arrangements of 1828 and 1829, however, were of an ordinary character. In his third budget, which he introduced on 15 March 1830, he was able to abolish the existing taxes on leather, cider, and beer. By authorising the excise to grant licenses to any persons to sell beer upon a small yearly payment he also destroyed the monopoly of the great brewers, and established free trade in beer. In the same year he reduced the interest of the new £4 per cents. to 3¾ per cent. a year, and by this means effected an annual saving of more than £750,000 a year.
Upon the defeat of the ministry in November 1830 Goulburn resigned office. At the general election in May 1831 he was returned at the head of the poll for Cambridge University, which he thenceforth continued to represent until his death. On the formation of Peel's first cabinet in December 1834 Goulburn was appointed home secretary, a post which he retained until the overthrow of the administration in April 1835.
On 27 May 1839, upon Abercromby's resignation, Goulburn was nominated for the speakership by the conservative party, but the ministerialist candidate, Charles Shaw Lefevre (Lord Eversley), was elected by 317 to 299. Goulburn was appointed chancellor of the exchequer in Peel's second cabinet on 3 September 1841. In March 1842 Peel, having rearranged the tariff, personally brought in the budget. Goulburn's budget of 1843 was not in any way a remarkable one. In the following year he converted the 3¾ per cent. stock into a new stock bearing 3¼ per cent. interest until October 1854, and 3 per cent. interest afterwards for twenty years certain. By this operation, dealing with some £250,000,000 of stock, Goulburn effected an immediate saving of £625,000 and an ultimate saving of £1,250,000. Though Goulburn had a large surplus this year, he contented himself with strengthening the exchequer balances, repealing the duties on vinegar and wool, and making some slight changes in the rates of taxation.
Peel himself brought in the budget of 1845. Though Goulburn appears to have had at first very grave doubts as to the expediency of repealing the corn laws he remained in the cabinet, and afforded Peel considerable assistance in his struggle with the protectionist party. Goulburn brought forward the budget for the last time on 29 March 1846. The finance of the year had already been practically settled, but his speech contained ‘a clear and able summary of the results which, in the judgment of the ministry, had been produced by their financial policy since their taking office nearly five years before’. Upon the defeat of the ministry in June following Goulburn resigned office. At the general election in 1847 he only retained his seat for Cambridge University by the narrow majority of forty-two. Though for some years afterwards he frequently spoke in the House of Commons, he never again took office. He died on 12 January 1856 at Betchworth House, near Dorking, Surrey, in the seventy-second year of his age, and was buried in the family vault at Betchworth.
Goulburn was a successful chancellor of the exchequer, and both as a man and as a politician was much respected by all parties. Croker, in a letter to Lord Brougham dated 4 February 1846, says: ‘The person in the worst position after the duke is Goulburn, who seems reduced not merely to eat his own words, but to eat them in silence, and become a cypher in his own proper department. He is a most excellent and honourable man, with high principles, both moral and political, and can only have been, like the duke, forced into his present circumstances by the dread of worse. They are really, I believe, sacrificing themselves for the sake of the country’.
Goulburn was an intimate friend of Peel, as well as a staunch supporter of his policy. When, on Peel's death, a public funeral was proposed by Lord John Russell, Goulburn, as one of the executors, and also as one who had ‘had the inestimable advantage of being connected with the late Sir Robert Peel in the most intimate bonds of friendship for above forty years,’ declined the honour on behalf of the family.
Goulburn was an ecclesiastical commissioner, and on 11 June 1834 was created D.C.L. by the university of Oxford. Goulburn married on 20 December 1811 the Hon. Jane Montagu, third daughter of Matthew, fourth lord Rokeby, by whom he had four children. His widow survived him a little more than a year, and died at Betchworth House on 1 February. 1857. Their eldest son, Henry, who was born on 5 April 1813, after passing through an exceptionally brilliant career at Cambridge (he was senior classic and second wrangler in 1835), was called to the bar at the Middle Temple on 20 November 1840, and died on 8 June 1843, aged 30.
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