Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley Derby, 14th earl of

Derby, Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley, 14th earl of (därˈbē) [key], 1799–1869, British statesman. Although a Whig, he entered (1827) government as George Canning's undersecretary for the colonies. As chief secretary for Ireland (1830–33) under the 2d Earl Grey, he favored firm measures to deal with Irish unrest, but he also supported Irish educational projects. Given the colonial office in 1833, he secured the abolition of slavery but resigned (1834) in a controversy over the government's Irish policy. Having become a Conservative, he served as Peel's colonial secretary (1841–45). Resigning because he opposed repeal of the corn laws, he became leader (with Lord George Bentinck and Benjamin Disraeli) of the Tory protectionists and headed two brief ministries (1852, 1858–59). Derby formed another government in 1866 with Disraeli as chancellor of the exchequer and leader in the House of Commons. Through Disraeli's initiative and skill the famous Reform Act of 1867 (see under Reform Acts) was passed. Derby never quite fulfilled the promise of his early brilliance; it was his lieutenant, Disraeli, who modernized the Conservative party in this era.

See biography by A. Hawkins (2 vol., 2007–8); studies by W. D. Jones (1956) and R. Stewart (1971).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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