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Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V25, Page 774 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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CHARLES STANHOPE, 3rd EARL STANHOPE (1753-1816), states-man and man of science, son of the 2nd earl, was born on the 3rd of August, 1753, and educated under the opposing influences of Eton and Geneva, devoting himself whilst resident in the Swiss city to the study of mathematics, and acquiring from the associations connected with Switzerland an intense love of liberty. In politics he took the democratic side. As Lord Mahon he contested the city of Westminster without success in 1774, when only just of age; but from the general election of 178o until his accession to the peerage on the 7th of March 1786 he represented through the influence of Lord Shelburne the Buckinghamshire borough of High Wycombe, and during the sessions of 1783 and 1784 he gave his support to the administration of William Pitt, whose sister, Lady Hester Pitt, he married on the 19th of December 1774. When Pitt ceased to be inspired by the Liberal principles of his early days, his brother-in-law severed their political connexion and opposed with all the impetuosity of his fiery heart the arbitrary measures which the ministry favoured. Lord Stanhope's character was without any taint of meanness, and his conduct was marked by a lofty consistency never influenced by any petty motives; but his speeches, able as they were, had no weight on the minds of his compeers in the upper chamber, and, from a disregard of their prejudices, too often drove them into the opposite lobby. He was the chairman of the " Revolution Society, " founded in honour of the Revolution of 1688, the members of which in 1790 expressed their sympathy with the aims of the French republicans. He brought forward in 1794 the case of Muir, oneof the Edinburgh politicians who were transported to Botany Bay; and in 1795 he introduced into the Lords a motion deprecating any interference with the internal affairs of France. In all these points he was hopelessly beaten, and in the last of them he was in a " minority of one "—a sobriquet which stuck to him throughout life—whereupon he seceded from parliamentary life for five years. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society so early as November 1772, and devoted a large part of his income to experiments in science and philosophy. He invented a method of securing buildings from fire (which, however, proved impracticable), the printing press and the lens which bear his name and a monochord for tuning musical instruments, suggested improvements in canal locks, made experiments in steam navigation in 1795-1797 and contriyed two calculating machines. When he acquired an extensive property in Devon-shire, he projected a canal through that county from the Bristol to the English Channel and took the levels himself. Electricity was another of the subjects which he studied, and the volume of Principles of Electricity which he issued in 1779 contained the rudiments of his theory on the " return stroke " resulting from the contact with the earth of the electric current of lightning, which were afterwards amplified in a contribution to the Philosophical Transactions for 1787. His principal labours in literature consisted of a reply to Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution (1790) and an Essay on the rights of juries (1792), and he long meditated the compilation of a digest of the statutes. The lean and awkward figure of Lord Stanhope figured in a host of the caricatures of Sayers and Gillray, reflecting on his political opinions and his personal relations with his children. His first wife died in 178o, and he married in 1781 Louisa, daughter and sole heiress of the Hon. Henry Grenville (governor of Barbadoes in 1746 and ambassador to the Porte in 1762), a younger brother of the 1st Earl Temple and George Grenville; who survived him and died in March 1829. By his first wife he had three daughters, one of whom was Lady Hester Stanhope (q.v.). His youngest daughter, Lady Lucy Rachael Stanhope, eloped with Thomas Taylor of Sevenoaks, the family apothecary, and her father refused to be reconciled to her; but Pitt made Taylor controller-general of the customs, and his son was one of Lord Chatham's executors. His second wife was the mother of three sons. Lord Stanhope died at the family seat of Chevening, Kent, on the 15th of December 1816, being succeeded as 4th earl by his son Philip Henry (1781-1855), who inherited many of his scientific tastes, but is best known, perhaps for his association with Kaspar Hauser (q.v.).

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