Online Encyclopedia

SAMUEL WHITBREAD (1758-1815)

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Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 598 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SAMUEL WHITBREAD (1758-1815), English politician, came of a Bedfordshire Nonconformist family; his father had made a considerable fortune as owner of the well-known brewery associated with his name. Educated at Eton and St John's College, Cambridge (after originally going to Christ Church, Oxford), he began by entering the brewing business; but after his marriage with the daughter of the 1st Earl Grey in 1789 he took to politics, and in 1790 was elected for Bedfordshire as a Whig, attaching himself to Fox. He became known as a social and financial reformer and a constant assailant in parliament of all sorts of abuses. It was on his motion in 1805 that Lord Melville was impeached for financial maladministration of the navy, and he conducted the case for the prosecution. His Poor Law bill in 1807, an elaborate Radical scheme, came to nothing. Whitbread continued to be a constant speaker in parliament, and the principal representative of Liberal criticism, a monument of opposition tactics. He opposed the regency, championed the princess of Wales, and led the peace party; and the caricaturists were busy with his personality. In 1809 he became chairman of the committee for rebuilding Drury Lane theatre, and for some time he was immersed in controversies connected with it, which eventually seem to have unstrung his mind, for he committed suicide on the 6th of July 1815. The Whitbread influence in Liberal politics continued to be very strong in Bedfordshire in later generations, his son William Henry (from 1818 to 1837) and grandson Samuel (from 1852 to 1895) representing Bedford for many years.
End of Article: SAMUEL WHITBREAD (1758-1815)
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