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Frederick Cavendish

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Lord Frederick C. Cavendish (1836-1882)


1882 Obituary [1]

Lord FREDERICK C. CAVENDISH was the second son of the seventh. Duke of Devonshire, and was born in 1836. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he distinguished himself in mathematics, being senior optime in 1858. The deceased nobleman entered Parliament as member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, and continued to sit for that constituency until his decease. He was private secretary to Lord Granville (Lord President of the Council) from 1859 to 1864, and private secretary to Mr. Gladstone in 1872-73. He was appointed a Junior Lord of the Treasury in 1873, and in 1880, on the accession to power of the present Liberal Government, he became Secretary to the Treasury. That position he continued to hold until May 1882, when, on the resignation of the Right Hon. W. E. Forster, he became Chief Secretary for Ireland.

Lord Frederick was possessed of much greater business capabilities than his generally retiring and unassuming demeanour appeared to indicate. Like his distinguished father, he had for many years taken an active interest in industrial and scientific progress, and especially of the iron and allied trades. More than this, he was actively associated with the development of one of the most important iron-producing districts in the United Kingdom. He was for a number of years, and up to the time of his decease, one of the directors of the Barrow Hematite Iron and Steel Works, - the largest establishment of its kind on the west coast; and in that capacity he acquired an intimate knowledge of the position and prospects of the iron manufacture. He was also a director of the Furness Railway, of which, as well as of the Barrow Steel Company, the Duke of Devonshire has for many years been chairman; and generally, it may be said, that he was associated with his noble father, Sir James Ramsden, Mr. J. T. Smith, and others, in the remarkable development of the town and district of Barrow-in-Furness.

Elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1869, the deceased nobleman became a member of Council in 1874, and a Vice-President in 1882, only a few weeks before his death. He never took part in any of the discussions, but was a tolerably frequent attender at the meetings of the Institute, and generally evinced an active interest in its proceedings. As a member of Council he attended to his duties with much assiduity, and was frequently intrusted by his colleagues with special missions on behalf of the Institute.

Only a fortnight before his death, he was waited upon by the President and Secretary of the Institute, with a view to his arranging for the receipt of the Bessemer medal by the American Ambassador, on behalf of the family of the late Mr. Holley; and two days before he left on his ill-starred journey to Dublin, he carried out this commission and communicated to the Council of the Institute the results of his interview with Mr. Lowell on the subject.

When the British Iron Trade Association was formed in 1876, Lord Frederick Cavendish at once became a member, and in 1879, in succession to Mr. D. Dale of Darlington, he was elected its President. On this occasion he delivered an address, which, although brief in substance, is still a sufficient evidence of the thoughtful consideration he was accustomed to bestow on the affairs of our great industry. He showed the remarkable statistical development of the trade within recent years, urged the value of free trade despite growing protectionist tendencies abroad, and concluded by a prediction which up to the present time has been fully verified. "Whatever happened," he said, "our exports of iron could not diminish. In this country it was absolutely necessary that, in order to feed our population, we had to import 140 millions worth of food a year. Of this, then, we might be quite certain, that foreign nations, however anxious they might be to export, would not be ready to give us that supply of food for nothing. And that meant that we must pay for it in some way or. other. We must pay for it mainly by our manufactures. And of all manufactures which had a safe and strong position in this country, he would venture to say the iron trade was the strongest and the safest, for it had immense natural advantages. We had an ample supply of capital, we had skilled labour, and we had wonderful enterprise in employers. We had also an unexampled position for shipping, and a mercantile marine which placed us in the most advantageous position for exportation. With these advantages he thought it was absolutely certain that the iron trade must be the last to fall in this country." During his presidency of the Iron Trade Association, Lord Frederick interested himself very actively in matters relating to foreign tariffs, &c., as to which, from his position as a member of Parliament and his exceptional influence in high quarters, his efforts were calculated to be of great value to the trade, and it was with much regret that his colleagues were compelled to accept his resignation on his appointment to the Secretaryship of the Treasury.

Directly after his appointment to the Chief Secretaryship for Ireland, Lord Frederick proceeded to Dublin with Earl Spencer, the newly-appointed Lord Lieutenant, and on the very evening of his arrival in that city, the 6th of May, he was assassinated in the Phoenix Park, together with Mr. Burke, the Under Secretary, under circumstances that have sent a thrill of horror and indignation throughout the civilised world.

To the character and capacity of the deceased nobleman, testimony has been borne in such exalted quarters that it would be little short of impertinent to add anything to it here. "There are," said Earl Granville, in moving the adjournment of the House of Lords on the occasion of his Lordship's decease, "noble Lords on both sides of the House who are well aware of how distinguished a type he was of the permanent civil servant of this country, especially when placed in a position of great difficulty. I have known intimately, and for many years, Lord Frederick Cavendish, and I have never known a purer or a finer nature. He was absolutely without personal vanity, without any love of display, but with his great ability, his knowledge, and his industry, he only required a difficult position in order to show the metal of which he was made. He was reluctant to leave the office that he filled so well, hut, like a soldier, he obeyed without one moment's hesitation the call of duty, to take a position of enormous difficulty. He suffered a miserable death, but one glorious in itself, as he died in the service of his country."

Not less emphatic was the tribute paid by Mr. Gladstone to the memory of the departed nobleman. "One of the very noblest hearts," he said, "has ceased to beat, and has ceased at the very moment when just devoted to the service of Ireland, full of love for that country, full of hope for the future, full of capacity to render her service." The remains of Lord Frederick Cavendish were removed to Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, for interment, and the Council of the Institute, having regard to the altogether exceptional character of the occasion, adjourned the general meeting over the day of the funeral, and adopted a special vote of condolence with the Duke of Devonshire and the other members of the family of the deceased.


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