Radical Jack: John George Lambton, First Earl of Durham

Proud, wayward, immensely rich, with romantic good looks and an explosive temper, John Lambton was one of those natural rebels who turn their rebellious energies to constructive purposes. Both at home and abroad, writes George Woodcock, he became a powerful exponent of the early nineteenth-century liberal spirit.

Byron’s shadow hangs so heavily over the young liberal aristocrats of his generation that often, while examining their careers, we are inclined to speculate on how slight a difference in the direction of their lives might have led them into some similarly disastrous combination of misanthropic idealism and social disaster.

Nevertheless, a surprisingly large number managed to escape the Byronic doom, and not a few of them were destined to make their mark by a distinguished career of official service. Consider, for example, the record of that passionate and life-long rebel John George Lambton, afterwards better known as the first Earl of Durham, whose political leanings earned him the nickname “Radical Jack,” and whose enduring idealism, although it helped to exclude him from a place in the dignified succession of Victorian Prime Ministers, enabled him to become one of the great architects of Parliamentary reform in Britain and of responsible government in the Commonwealth.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email digital@historytoday.com if you have any problems.