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SPENCER COMPTON CAVENDISH

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Originally appearing in Volume V08, Page 132 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SPENCER COMPTON CAVENDISH, 8th duke (1833-1908), born on the 23rd of July 1833, was the son of the 7th duke (then earl of Burlington) and his wife Lady Blanche Howard (sister of the earl of Carlisle). In 1854 Lord Cavendish, as he then was, took his degree at Trinity College, Cambridge; in 1856 he was attached to the special mission to Russia for the new tsar's accession; and in 1857 he was returned to parliament as Liberal member for North Lancashire. At the opening of the new parliament of 1859 the marquis of Hartington (as he had now become) moved the amendment to the address which overthrew the government of Lord Derby. In 1863 he became first a lord of the admiralty, and then under-secretary for war, and on the formation of the Russell-Gladstone administration at the death of Lord Palmerston he entered it as war secretary. He retired with his colleagues in July 1866; but upon Mr Gladstone's return to power in 1868 he became postmaster-general, an office which he exchanged in 1871 for that of secretary for Ireland. When Mr Gladstone, after his defeat and resignation in 1894, temporarily withdrew from the leadership of the Liberal party in January 1875, Lord Hartington was chosen Liberal leader in the House of Commons, Lord Granville being leader in the Lords. Mr W. E. Forster, who had taken a much more prominent part in public life, was the only other possible nominee, but he declined to stand. Lord Hartington's rank no doubt told in his favour, and Mr Forster's education bill had offended the Nonconformist members, who would probably have withheld their support. Lord Hartington's prudent management in difficult circumstances laid his followers under great obligations, since not only was the opposite party in the ascendant, but his own former chief was indulging in the freedom of independence. After the complete defeat of the Conservatives in the general election of 188o, a large pro-portion of the party would have rejoiced if Lord Hartington could have taken the Premiership instead of Mr Gladstone, and the queen, ,in strict conformity with constitutional usage (though Gladstone himself thought Lord Granville should have had the preference), sent for him as leader of the Opposition. Mr Gladstone, however, was clearly master of the situation: no cabinet could be formed without him, nor could he reasonably be expected to accept a subordinate post. Lord Hartington, there-fore, gracefully abdicated the leadership, and became secretary of state for India, from which office, in December 1882, he passed to the war office. His administration was memorable for the expeditions of General Gordon and Lord Wolseley to Khartum, and a considerable number of the Conservative party long held him chiefly responsible for the "betrayal of Gordon." His lethargic manner, apart from his position as war minister, helped to associate him in their minds with a disaster which emphasized the fact that the'government acted " too late "; but Gladstone and Lord Granville were no less responsible than he. In June 1885 he resigned along with his colleagues, and in December was elected for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire, created by the new reform bill. Immediately afterwards the great political opportunity of Lord Hartington's life came to him in Mr Gladstone's conversion to home rule for Ireland. Lord Hartington's refusal to follow his leader in this course inevitably made him the chief of the new Liberal Unionist party, composed of a large and influential section of the old Liberals. In this capacity he moved the first resolution at the famous public meeting at the opera house, and also, in the House of Commons, moved the rejection of Mr Gladstone's Bill on the second reading. During the memorable electoral contest which followed, no election excited more interest than Lord Hartington's for the Rossendale division, where he was returned by a majority of nearly 1500 votes. In the new parliament he held a position much resembling that which Sir Robert Peel had occupied after his fall from power, the leader of a small, compact party, the standing and ability of whose members were out of all proportion to their numbers, generally esteemed and trusted beyond any other man in the country, yet in his own opinion forbidden to think of office. Lord Salisbury's offers to serve under him as prime minister (both after the general election, and again when Lord Randolph Churchill resigned) were declined, and Lord Hartington continued to discharge the delicate duties of the leader of a middle party with no less judgment than he had shown when leading the Liberals during the interregnum of 1875-1880. It was not until 1895, when the differences between Conservatives and Liberal Unionists had become almost obliterated by changed circumstances, and the habit of acting together, that the duke of Devonshire, as he had become by the death of his father in 189r, consented to enter Lord Salisbury's third ministry as president of the council. The duke thus wasthe nominal representative of education in the cabinet at a time when educational questions were rapidly becoming of great importance; and his own technical knowledge of this difficult and intricate question being admittedly superficial, a good deal of criticism from time to time resulted. He had however by this time an established position in public life, and a reputation for weight of character, which procured for him universal respect and confidence, and exempted him from bitter attack, even from his most determined political opponents. Wealth and rank combined with character to place him in a measure above party; and his succession to his father as chancellor of the university of Cambridge in 1892 indicated his eminence in the life of the country. In the same year he had married the widow of the 7th duke of Manchester. Ile continued to hold the office of lord president of the council till the 3rd of October 1903, when he resigned on account of differences with Mr Balfour (q.v.) over the latter's attitude towards free trade. As Mr Chamberlain had retired from the cabinet, and the duke had not thought it necessary to join Lord George Hamilton and Mr Ritchie in resigning a fortnight earlier, the defection was unanticipated and was sharply criticized by Mr Balfour, who, in the rearrangement of his ministry, had only just appointed the duke's nephew and heir, Mr Victor Cavendish, to be secretary to the treasury. But the duke had come to the conclusion that while he himself was substantially a free-trader,' Mr Balfour did not mean the same thing by the term. He necessarily became the leader of the Free Trade Unionists who were neither Balfourites nor Chamberlainites, and his weight was thrown into the scale against any association of Unionism with the constructive policy of tariff reform, which he identified with sheer Protection. A struggle at once began within the Liberal Unionist organization between those who followed the duke and those who followed Mr Chamberlain (q.v.) ; but the latter were in the majority and a reorganization in the Liberal Unionist Association took place, the Unionist free-traders seceding and becoming a separate body. The duke then became president of the new organizations, the Unionist Free Food League and the Unionist Free Trade Club. In the subsequent developments the duke played a dignified but somewhat silent part, and the Unionist rout in 1906 was not unaffected by his open hostility to any taint of compromise with the tariff reform movement. But in the autumn of 1907 his health gave way, and grave symptoms of cardiac weakness necessitated his abstaining from public effort and spending the winter abroad. He died, rather suddenly, at Cannes on the 24th of March 1908. The head of an old and powerful family, a wealthy territorial magnate, and an Englishman with thoroughly national tastes for sport, his weighty and disinterested character made him a statesman of the first rank in his time, in spite of the absence of showy or brilliant qualities. He had no self-seeking ambitions, and on three occasions preferred not to become prime minister. Though his speeches were direct and forcible, he was not an orator, nor " clever "; and he lacked all subtlety of intellect; but he was conspicuous for solidity of mind and straightforwardness of action, and for conscientious application as an administrator, whether in his public or private life. The fact that he once yawned in the middle of a speech of his own was commonly quoted as characteristic; but he combined a great fund of common sense and knowledge of the average opinion with a patriotic sense of duty towards the state. Throughout his career he remained an old-fashioned Liberal, or rather Whig, of a type which in his later years was becoming gradually more and more rare. There was no issue of his marriage, and he was succeeded as 9th duke by his nephew VICTOR CHRISTIAN CAVENDISH (b. 1868), who had been Liberal Unionist member for West Derbyshire since 1891, and was treasurer of the household (1900 to 1903) and ' His own words to Mr Balfour at the time were: " I believe that our present system of free imports is on the whole the most advantageous to the country, though I do not contend that the principles on which it rests possess any such authority or sanctity as to forbid any departure from it, for sufficient reasons." financial• secretary to the treasury (19(33 to 1905); in 1892 he married a daughter of the marquess of Lansdowne, by whom he had two sons. (H. CH.)
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Additional information and Comments

Seeing photo's and caricatures of Spencer Compton Cavendish I was shocked and amazed by his likeness to my husband. Michael John Hoyle. His great grandmother lived in Barrow in Furness in the 1860's to 1880's and his grandmother was named Emma Jane Kirby. I ask the question, did Spencer C Cavendish have any femmale offspring? It has come to light recently in the family that there was a rumour of a connection to the Duke of Devonshire. Can anyone help with this? Sincerely A. Hoyle (Mrs)
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