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Charles Stanhope

CHARLES STANHOPE, 3rd EARL STANHOPE (1753-1816), statesman 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 1780 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, one of 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 imprpvements in canal locks, made experiments in steam navigation in 1795-1797 and contrived two calculating machines. When he acquired an extensive property in Devonshire, 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 1780, 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.).

STANHOPE, PHILIP HENRY, 5th EARL STANHOPE (1805-1875) English historian, better known as Lord Mahon, son of the 4th earl and his wife, the daughter of the 1st Baron Carrington, was born on the 30th of January 1805. He took his degree at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1827, and entered parliament in 1830. He was under secretary for foreign affairs for the early months of 1835, and secretary to the India Board in 1845, but though he remained in the House of Commons till 1852, he made no special mark in politics. He was chiefly interested in literature and antiquities, and in 1842 took a prominent part in passing the Copyright Act. He was a trustee of the British Museum, and in 1856 he proposed the foundation of a National Portrait Gallery; its subsequent creation was due to his executors. It was mainly due to him that in 1869 the Historical Manuscripts Commission was started. As president of the Society of Antiquaries (from 1846 onwards), it was he who called attention in England to the need of supporting the excavations at Troy. And in 1855 he founded the Stanhope essay prize at Oxford. Of his own works the most important are his Life of Bclisarius (1829); History of the War of Accession in Spain (1832), largely based on the first earl's papers; History of England from the Peace of Utrecht to the Peace of Versailles (1836-1853); Life of William Pitt (1861-1862); and History of England, comprising the reign of Queen Anne until the Peace of Utrecht (1870). A new edition of this last work was published in 1908. The two histories and the Life of Pitt are of great importance on account of Stanhope's unique access to manuscript authorities, and they remain standard works; and though here and there he has been found to give credit for too much to Lord Chatham, his industry, clear though not brilliant style, and general impartiality in criticism, have been deservedly praised. His position as an historian was already established when he succeeded to the earldom in 1855, and in 1872 he was made an honorary associate of the Institute of France. He was president of the Literary Fund from 1863 until his death. He died on the 24th of December 1875, being succeeded as 6th earl by his son Arthur Philip (1838-1905), father of the 7th earl. His second son, Edward Stanhope (1840-1893), was a well-known Conservative politician, who filled various important offices, and was finally secretary of state for war (1886-1892).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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