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BARON WILLIAM WYNDHAM GRENVILLE GRENV...

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Originally appearing in Volume V12, Page 582 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BARON WILLIAM WYNDHAM GRENVILLE GRENVILLE (1759-1834), English statesman, youngest son of George Grenville, was born on the 25th of October 1759. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, gaining the chancellor's prize for Latin verse in 1779. In February 1782 Grenville was returned to parliament as member for the borough of Bucking-ham, and in the following September he became secretary to the lord lieutenant of Ireland, who at this time was his brother, Earl Temple, afterwards marquess of Buckingham. He left office in June 1783, but in the following December he became paymaster-general of the forces under his cousin, William Pitt, and in 1786 vice-president of the committee of trade. In 1787 he was sent on an important mission to the Hague and Versailles with reference to the affairs of Holland. In January 1789 he was chosen speaker of the House of Commons, but he vacated the chair in the same year on being appointed secretary of state for the home department; about the same time he resigned his other offices, but he became president of the board of control, and in November 1790 was created a peer as Baron Grenville. In the House of Lords he was very active in directing the business of the government, and in 1791 he was transferred to the foreign office, retaining his post at the board of control until 1793. He was doubtless regarded by Pitt as the man best fitted to carry out his policy with reference to France, but in the succeeding years he and his chief were frequently at variance on important questions of foreign policy. In spite of his multifarious duties at the foreign office Grenville continued to take a lively interest in domestic matters, which he showed by introducing various bills into the House of Lords. In February 18o1 he resigned office with Pitt because George III. would not consent to the introduction of any measure of Roman Catholic relief, and in opposition he gradually separated himself from his former leader. When Pitt returned to power in 1804 Grenville refused to join the ministry unless his political ally, Fox, was also admitted thereto; this was impossible and he remained out of office until February 1806, when just after Pitt's death he became the nominal head of a coalition government. This ministry was very unfortunate in its conduct of foreign affairs, but it deserves to be remembered with honour on account of the act passed in 1807 for the abolition of the slave trade. Its influence, however, was weakened by the death of Fox, and in consequence of a minute drawn up by Grenville and some of his colleagues the king demanded from his ministers an assurance that in future they would not urge upon him any measures for the relief of Roman Catholics. They refused to give this assurance and in March 18o7 they resigned. Grenville's attitude in this matter was somewhat aggressive; his colleagues were not unanimous in supporting him, and Sheridan, one of them, said " he had known many men knock their heads against a wall, but he had never before heard of any man who collected the bricks and built the very wall with an intention to knock out his own brains against it." Lord Grenville never held office again, although he was requested to do so on several occasions. He continued, however, to take part in public life, being one of the chief supporters of Roman Catholic emancipation, and during the remaining years of his active political career, which ended in 1823, he generally voted with the Whigs, although in 1815 he separated himself from his colleague, Charles Grey, and supported the warlike policy of Lord Liverpool. In 1819, when the marquess of Lansdowne brought forward his motion for an inquiry into the causes of the distress and discontent in the manufacturing districts, Grenville delivered an alarmist speech advocating repressive measures. His concluding years were spent at Dropmore, Buckinghamshire, where he died on the 12th of January 1834. His wife, whom he married in 1792, was Anne (1772-1864), daughter of Thomas Pitt, 1st Baron Camelford, but he had no issue and his title became extinct. In 'Sag he was elected chancellor of Oxford university. Though Grenville's talents were not of the highest order his straightforwardness and industry, together with his knowledge of politics and the moderation of his opinions, secured for him considerable political influence. He may be enrolled among the band of English statesmen who have distinguished themselves in literature. He edited Lord Chatham's letters to his nephew, Thomas Pitt, afterwards Lord Camelford (London, 1804, and other editions); he wrote a small vplume, NugaeMetricae(1824), being translations into Latin from English, Greek and Italian, and an Essay on the Supposed Advantages of a Sinking Fund (1828). The Dropmore MSS. contain much of Grenville's correspondence, and on this the Historical Manuscripts Commission has published a report.on that of his father or uncle, he both carried on business as a merchant and acted in various matters as an agent for Henry VIII. In 1544 he married the widow of William Read, a London merchant, but he still continued to reside principally in the Low Countries, having his headquarters at Antwerp. When in 1551 the mismanagement of Sir William Dansell, " king's merchant " in the Low Countries, had brought the English government into great financial embarrassment, Gresham was called in to give his advice, and chosen to carry out his own proposals. Their leading feature was the adoption of various methods—highly ingenious, but quite arbitrary and unfair—for raising the value of the pound sterling on the " bourse " of Antwerp, and it was so successful that in a few years nearly all King Edward's debts were discharged. The advice of Gresham was likewise sought by the government in all their money difficulties, and he was also frequently employed in various diplomatic missions. He had no stated salary, but in reward of his services received from Edward various grants of lands, the annual value of which at that time was ultimately about £400 a year. On the accession of Mary he was for a short time in disfavour, and was displaced in his post by Alderman William Dauntsey. But Dauntsey's financial operations were not very successful and Gresham was soon reinstated; and as he professed his zealous desire to serve the queen, and manifested great adroitness both in negotiating loans and in smuggling money, arms and foreign goods, not only were his services retained throughout her reign, but besides his salary of twenty shillings per diem he received grants of church lands to the yearly value of £200. Under Queen Elizabeth, besides continuing in his post as financial agent of the crown, he acted temporarily as ambassador at the court of the duchess of Parma, being knighted in 1559 previous to his departure. By the outbreak of the war in the Low Countries he was compelled to leave Antwerp on the 19th of March 1567; but, though he spent the remainder of his life in London, he continued his business as merchant and financial agent of the government in much the same way as formerly. Elizabeth also found him useful in a great variety of other ways, among which was that of acting as jailer, to Lady Mary Grey, who, as a punishment for marrying Thomas Keys the sergeant porter, remained a prisoner in his house from June 1569 to the end of 1572. In 1565 Gresham made a proposal to the court of aldermen of London to build at his own expense a bourse or exchange, on condition that they purchased for this purpose a piece of suitable ground. In this proposal he seems to have had an eye to his own interest as well as to the general good of the merchants, for by a yearly rental of £700 obtained for the shops in the upper part of the building he received a sufficient return for his trouble and expense. Gresham died suddenly, apparently of apoplexy, on the 21st of November 1579. His only son predeceased him, and his illegitimate daughter Anne he married to Sir Nathaniel Bacon, brother of the great Lord Bacon. With the exception of a number of small sums bequeathed to the support of various charities, the bulk of his property, consisting of estates in various parts of England of the annual value of more than £2300, was bequeathed to his widow and her heirs with the stipulation that after her decease his residence in Bishopsgate Street, as well as the rents arising from the Royal Exchange, should be vested in the hands of the corporation of London and the Mercers' Company, for the purpose of instituting a college in which seven professors should read lectures—one each day of the week—on astronomy, geometry, physic, law, divinity, rhetoric and music. The lectures were begun in 1597, and were delivered in the original building until 1768, when, on the ground that the trustees were losers by the gift, it was made over to the crown for a yearly rent of £Soo, and converted into an excise office. From that time a room in the Royal Exchange was used for the lectures until in 1843 the present building was erected at a cost of £7000. A notice of Gresham is contained in Fuller's Worthies and Ward's Gresham Professors; but the fullest account of him, as well as of the history of the Exchange and Gresham College is that by J. M. Burgon in his Life and Times of Sir Thomas Gresham (2 vols., 1839). See also a Brief Memoir of Sir Thomas Gresham (1833); and The Life of Sir Thomas Gresham, Founder of the Royal Exchange (1845).
End of Article: BARON WILLIAM WYNDHAM GRENVILLE GRENVILLE (1759-1834)
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