John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham

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The Right Honourable
The Earl of Durham
John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham by Thomas Phillips.jpg
Portrait of John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham
Lord Privy Seal
In office
22 November 1830 – March 1833
Monarch William IV
Prime Minister The Earl Grey
Preceded by The Earl of Rosslyn
Succeeded by The Earl of Ripon
Lieutenant-Governor of Lower Canada
In office
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister The Lord Melbourne
Preceded by The Earl of Gosford
Succeeded by The Lord Sydenham
Governor General of the Province
of Canada
In office
Prime Minister The Lord Melbourne
Preceded by Sir John Colborne
Succeeded by The Lord Sydenham
Personal details
Born 12 April 1792
London, England
Died 28 July 1840(1840-07-28) (aged 48)
Cowes, Isle of Wight
Nationality British
Political party Whig
  • Lady Harriet Cholmondeley (d. 1815)
  • Lady Louisa Grey (d. 1841)

John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham, GCB, PC (12 April 1792 – 28 July 1840), also known as "Radical Jack" and commonly referred to in Canadian history texts simply as Lord Durham, was a British Whig statesman, colonial administrator, Governor General and high commissioner of British North America.[1]

Background and education

Lambton was born 29 April 1792 in the house of his father William Henry Lambton at 14 Berkeley Square in London, England.[2] His mother was Lady Anne Barbara Frances, daughter of George Villiers, 4th Earl of Jersey.[3] Lambton was christened with the names of his grandfathers, John Lambton and George Villers. In the time of Lambton's birth, his father was taking active part in the formation and chairing of the Society of the Friends of the People.[2]

After attending Eton he joined the army in 1809[citation needed] as a cornet in the 10th Hussars, but resigned in 1811. Following his father's death in 1797, Durham had inherited an immense fortune, derived largely from mining on lands surrounding Lambton Castle, the ancestral family home in County Durham, which formed the basis of Lambton Collieries. Other properties in County Durham included Dinsdale Park and Low Dinsdale Manor.[citation needed]. In 1821, he earned the epithet 'Jog Along Jack', after being asked what was an adequate income for an English gentleman, and replying, "that a man might jog along comfortably enough on £40,000 a year"[4] (equivalent to approximately £3,900,000 at 2014 values)[5]

Political career

Durham was first elected to Parliament for County Durham in the general election of 1812, a seat he held until 1828, when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Durham, of the City of Durham and of Lambton Castle in the County Palatine of Durham.[6] When his father-in-law Lord Grey (see below) became prime minister in 1830, Durham was sworn of the Privy Council and appointed Lord Privy Seal.[7] In this capacity he helped draft the Reform Bill of 1832. Lord Durham resigned from cabinet in 1833.[citation needed] Later the same year he was further honoured when he was made Viscount Lambton and Earl of Durham.[8]

Between 1835 and 1837, he served as Ambassador to Russia.[9] While in Russia, he was invested as a Knight of the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky, of the Order of St. Andrew and of the Order of St. Anna. In 1837, he was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.[3]


Lord Durham first set foot on the soil of British North America in Lower Canada on 29 May 1838.[1][10] One of his tasks as Governor-General was to investigate the circumstances surrounding the Lower Canada Rebellion of Louis-Joseph Papineau and the Upper Canada Rebellion of William Lyon Mackenzie, which had both occurred earlier that year.[11] His decisions with regard to the Rebellion prisoners encountered stiff opposition at Westminster, and he lost the support of the Prime Minister, Melbourne, whereupon he published his repudiation and resignation 9 October 1838 and set sail for London on 1 November.[12]

Durham's detailed and famous Report on the Affairs of British North America (London, January 1839) recommended a modified form of responsible government and a legislative union of Upper Canada, Lower Canada and the Maritime Provinces.[11]

Lord Durham has been lauded in French Canadian history for his recommendation to introduce responsible government. However, the British government did not accept that recommendation and it took 10 more years before Parliamentary democracy was finally established in the colonies.[13] Lord Durham is less well regarded for recommending the union of Upper and Lower Canada.

As soon as 1844, Lord Durham's intended policy of assimilation faced setbacks, as Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine's party in the House managed to force de facto re-establishment of French as a language of Parliament. Once responsible government was achieved (1848), French Canadians in Canada East succeeded by voting as a bloc in ensuring that they were powerfully represented in any cabinet, especially as the politics of Canada West was highly factional. The resulting deadlock between Canada East and West led to a movement for federal rather than unitary government, which resulted in the creation of confederation, a federal state of Canada, incorporating New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, in 1867.[13]


Master Lambton: Lambton's eldest son (until his death, aged 13) Charles William, painted by Thomas Lawrence and later known as The Red Boy.

Lord Durham was twice married. He fell in love with Harriet, the illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Cholmondeley, but then aged under 21 and refused the required permission by his guardians to marry her, they married at Gretna Green on 1 January 1812, then in an Anglican ceremony at her father's estate of Malpas, Cheshire, on 28 January that year. They had three daughters, who all predeceased him:

  • Lady Frances Charlotte (16 October 1812 – 18 December 1835), married the Hon. John Ponsonby (later 5th Earl of Bessborough), but died a few months later of consumption.
  • The Hon. Georgiana Sarah Elizabeth (2 March 1814 – 3 January 1833)
  • The Hon. Harriet Caroline (30 May 1815 – 12 June 1832)

After Harriet's death in July 1815, he married secondly Lady Louisa Grey, daughter of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, on 9 December 1816 at Lord Grey's estate, Howick, Northumberland. They had two sons and three daughters:

Lord Durham died at Cowes on the Isle of Wight in July 1840, aged 48, and was buried at St Mary and St Cuthbert, Chester-le-Street. He was succeeded by his eldest and only surviving son, George. The Countess of Durham only survived her husband by a year and died aged 44 on 26 November 1841 at Genoa from a serious cold.[14][3]


Names given in honour of the Earl include Lambton County, Ontario, Lambton, Toronto (including Lambton Mills, Lambton Mills Cemetery and Lambton House), Lambton Avenue in Toronto, Lord Durham Public School (Ajax, Ontario, closed), Lambton, Québec, Lambton Quay, Lambton Ward and Lambton Harbour in Wellington in New Zealand, and Durham Heights and Cape Lambton (both in the southern tip of Banks Island in the Northwest Territories). The Penshaw Monument in County Durham, on a hill west of Sunderland, was built in his honour.

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Canadian Encyclopedia". Historica Foundation, Toronto. 2011< Retrieved 31 January 2011><templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Reid 1906, p. 38.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham
  4. "The Straights Times". 14 May 1959< Retrieved 12 June 2013><templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Bank of England Inflation Calculator
  6. The London Gazette: no. 18433. p. 122. 18 January 1828.
  7. The London Gazette: no. 18748. p. 2450. 23 November 1830.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 19030. p. 523. 15 March 1833.
  9. S. T. Bindoff, E. F. Malcolm Smith and C. K. Webster, British Diplomatic Representatives 1789–1852 (Camden 3rd Series, 50, 1934).
  10. It was during Durham's trip to the Canadas aboard the Hastings that he experienced one of the first recorded cases of synesthesia. The observations were made by a friend of Durham's, Dr. William Henry Farrow, who was a young doctor travelling to the Canadas on Durham's invitation. New, Chester William (1929). Lord Durham. A Biography of John George Lambton, First Earl of Durham, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 612 p.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Will Kaufman, Heidi Slettedahl Macpherson, ed. Britain and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History, Pages 819–820. ACB-CLIO, 2005. ISBN 978-1-85109-431-8
  12. Lambton, John George, 1st Earl of Durham, in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, University of Toronto, Université Laval, 2000
  13. 13.0 13.1 R. Douglas Francis, Richard Jones, Donald B. Smith (1996). Origins: Canadian History To Confederation, Toronto: Harcourt Brace Canada.
  14. The Gentlemen's Magazine, Volume 171, page 209>

Works cited


In English

  • Lady Durham's journal<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Ouellet, Fernand (2000). Lambton, John George, 1st Earl of Durham. Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. University of Toronto, Université Laval.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Ajzenstat, Janet (1988). The Political Thought of Lord Durham. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University. p. 137. ISBN 0773506373.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Martin, Ged (1972). The Durham Report and British Policy. Cambridge University Press. pp. 120 pages. ISBN 0521085306.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Wallace, W. Stewart (1948). "John George Lambton, first Earl of Durham (1792–1840)". The Encyclopedia of Canada. Toronto: University Associates of Canada. Vol. II: 411.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Shelley, Frances; Edgcumbe, Richard (1912). The Diary of Frances Lady Shelley. New York: C. Scribner's. p. 406.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Bradshaw, Frederick (1903). Self-Government in Canada, and How it was Achieved: The Story of Lord Durham's Report. London: P.S.King. pp. 414 p.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lambton, John George; Buller, Charles; Wakefield, Edward Gibbon (1839). The Report and Despatches of the Earl of Durham, Her Majesty's High Commissioner and Governor-General of British North America. London: Ridgways, Piccadilly.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Mill, John Stuart (January 1838). "Radical Party and Canada: Lord Durham and the Canadians". London and Westminster Review. vols. VI & XXVIII.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lambton, John George (1835). Speeches of the Earl of Durham on Reform of Parliament. Piccadilly: James Ridgway and Sons. pp. 204 p.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Reid, John (1835). Sketch of the Political Career of the Earl of Durham. Glasgow: John Reid & Co. pp. 400 p.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

In French

  • Viau, Roger (1963). Lord Durham (in french). Montréal: Éditions HMH limitée. pp. 181 p. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Desrosiers, Léo-Paul (1937). L'Accalmie : Lord Durham au Canada (in french). Montréal: Le Devoir. pp. 148 p. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Ajzenstat, Janet (1988). La pensée politique de lord Durham (in french). Montréal: Université McGill-Queen. pp. 137 p. ISBN 0773506373. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Martin, Ged (1972). Le rapport Durham et de la politique britannique (in french). Cambridge University Press. pp. 120 p. ISBN 0521085306. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Henry Vane-Tempest, Bt
Viscount Barnard
Member of Parliament for County Durham
With: Viscount Barnard 1812–1815
Hon. William Powlett 1815–1828
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Hon. William Powlett
William Russell
Political offices
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The Earl of Rosslyn
Lord Privy Seal
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Government offices
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The Lord Sydenham
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Sir John Colborne
Governor General of the Province of Canada
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Earl of Durham
Succeeded by
George Lambton
Baron Durham