Henry Goulburn

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Henry Goulburn

Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
26 January 1828 – 22 November 1830
MonarchGeorge IV
Prime MinisterThe Duke of Wellington
Preceded byJohn Charles Herries
Succeeded byViscount Althorp
In office
3 September 1841 – 27 June 1846
Prime MinisterSir Robert Peel, Bt
Preceded byFrancis Baring
Succeeded bySir Charles Wood, Bt
Home Secretary
In office
15 December 1834 – 18 April 1835
MonarchWilliam IV
Prime MinisterSir Robert Peel, Bt
Preceded byThe Duke of Wellington
Succeeded byLord John Russell
Personal details
Born(1784-03-19)19 March 1784
Died12 January 1856(1856-01-12) (aged 71)
Political partyTory, Peelite
Spouse(s)Hon. Jane Montagu (died 1857)
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge

Henry Goulburn PC FRS (19 March 1784 – 12 January 1856) was a British Conservative statesman and a member of the Peelite faction after 1846.

Background and education[edit]

Born in London, Goulburn was the eldest son of Munbee Goulburn, of London, by his wife Susannah, eldest daughter of William Chetwynd, 4th Viscount Chetwynd. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge.[1]

Goulburn lived in Betchworth, Dorking in Betchworth House for much of his life.

Sugar plantation owner[edit]

Goulburn's inheritance included a number of sugar estates in Jamaica, Amity Hall in the parish of Vere, now Clarendon Parish being the most important. Slave labour was still being used to work the sugar plantations when he inherited the estates.[2][3]

Goulburn never visited Jamaica himself due to his health and political work; he relied on attorneys to manage his estates on his behalf. One attorney, in particular, Thomas Samson, held the top job at the estate from 1802–1818 and earned a reputation for cruelty towards Goulburn's slaves.

By 1818, the income from his Jamaican estates halved to less than £3,000, "although he did console himself that the condition of his slaves had probably improved".[2]

In 1818, Henry Goulburn’s brother was sent to inspect the Jamaican Sugar Plantation. Thomas Samson had already been dismissed over his treatment of slaves. [1] Henry Goulburn wrote to Samson in June of 1818,

“Since my brother’s return to England, I have had a great deal of conversation with him respecting the management of my Estate in Jamaica, the state of the Negroes and other particulars connected with it which from want of personal inspection of the property I have hitherto but imperfectly understood. The result had been a conviction upon my mind that as far as regards the negroes of the Estate, the system hitherto used by you had been founded altogether upon erroneous principles which (though I believe to be too commonly followed on the generality of estates in Jamaica) are such as I can never approve because I cannot consider them consistent with the duty which I owe to the negroes which belong to me...

You have recently been possessed of a considerable property which makes the management of my Estate less if at all an object to you ... therefore your removal from Amity Hall cannot inconvenience you in a pecuniary point of view.”[4]

Political career[edit]

In 1808, Goulburn became Member of Parliament for Horsham. In 1810, he was appointed Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs, and two and a half years later, he was made Under-Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. It was in this capacity that James Meehan named Goulburn, New South Wales after him, a naming that was ratified by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. Still retaining office in the Tory government, he became a Privy Counsellor in 1821, and shortly afterwards was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland, a position which he held until April 1827. Here, although he was frequently denounced as he was considered an Orangeman, he had a successful period of office on the whole, and in 1823 he managed to pass the Composition for Tithes (Ireland) Act 1823. In January 1828, he was made Chancellor of the Exchequer under the Duke of Wellington; like his leader, he disliked Roman Catholic emancipation, which he voted against in 1828.

In the finance domain, Goulburn's chief achievements were to reduce the interest rate on the part of the national debt and allow anyone to sell beer upon payment of a small annual fee, a complete change of policy about the drink traffic. Leaving office with Wellington in November 1830, Goulburn was Home Secretary under Sir Robert Peel for four months in 1835. When this statesman returned to office in September 1841, he became Chancellor of the Exchequer for the second time. Although Peel himself did some of the chancellor's work, Goulburn was responsible for a further reduction in the rate of interest on the national debt, and he aided his chief in the struggle, which ended in the repeal of the Corn Laws. With his colleagues, he left office in June 1846. After representing Horsham in the House of Commons for over four years, Goulburn was successively member for St Germans, for West Looe, and for the city of Armagh. In May 1831, he was elected for Cambridge University, and he retained this seat until his death.

According to the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership at the University College London, Goulburn was awarded a payment as a slave trader in the aftermath of the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 with the Slave Compensation Act 1837. The British Government took out a £15 million loan (worth £1.43 billion in 2020)[5] with interest from Nathan Mayer Rothschild and Moses Montefiore which was subsequently paid off by the British taxpayers (ending in 2015). Goulburn was associated with two different claims, he owned 277 slaves in Jamaica and received a £5,601 payment at the time (worth £535 thousand in 2020).[5][6]

Goulburn was a member of the Canterbury Association from 27 March 1848.[7]


Frederick Goulburn (1788–1837), the first Colonial Secretary of New South Wales, was his younger brother. Henry Goulburn married the Hon. Jane, third daughter of Matthew Montagu, 4th Baron Rokeby, in 1811. They had four children. He died on 12 January 1856, aged 71. His wife died the following year.


  1. ^ "Goulburn, Henry (GLBN801H)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ a b "Rt. Hon. Henry Goulburn". Legacies of British Slave-ownership. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  3. ^ Morgan, Kenneth (2012). "Labour Relations during and after Apprenticeship: Amity Hall, Jamaica, 1834–1840". Slavery & Abolition. 33 (3): 457–478. doi:10.1080/0144039X.2011.606629. ISSN 0144-039X. S2CID 144937768.
  4. ^ "Slaves' Living Conditions and the childrearing problem at Amity Hall" (PDF).
  5. ^ a b UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  6. ^ "Rt. Hon. Henry Goulburn". University College London. Retrieved on 20 March 2019.
  7. ^ Blain, Rev. Michael (2007). The Canterbury Association (1848–1852): A Study of Its Members' Connections (PDF). Christchurch: Project Canterbury. pp. 36–37. Retrieved 20 March 2013.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Love Jones-Parry
Sir Samuel Romilly
Member of Parliament for Horsham
With: Joseph Marryat
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Piggott
Robert Hurst
Preceded by
Matthew Montagu
Charles Philip Yorke
Member of Parliament for St Germans
With: William Henry Pringle
Succeeded by
Seymour Bathurst
Charles Arbuthnot
Preceded by
Henry Fitzgerald-de Ros
Sir Charles Hulse
Member of Parliament for West Looe
With: Sir Charles Hulse
Succeeded by
John Buller
Charles Buller
Preceded by
William Stuart
Member of Parliament for Armagh
Succeeded by
Viscount Ingestre
Preceded by
The Viscount Palmerston
William Cavendish
Member of Parliament for Cambridge University
with William Yates Peel 1831–1832
Charles Manners-Sutton 1832–1835
Hon. Charles Law 1835–1850
Loftus Wigram 1850–1856
Succeeded by
Loftus Wigram
Spencer Horatio Walpole
Political offices
Preceded by
Charles Jenkinson
Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
Succeeded by
John Hiley Addington
Preceded by
Robert Peel
Under-Secretary of State for War and the Colonies
With: Henry Edward Bunbury 1812–1816
Succeeded by
R. W. Horton
Preceded by
Charles Grant
Chief Secretary for Ireland
Succeeded by
William Lamb
Preceded by
John Charles Herries
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Viscount Althorp
Preceded by
Viscount Duncannon
Home Secretary
Succeeded by
Lord John Russell
Preceded by
Francis Baring
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Wood, Bt