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Viscount Goderich

Prime Minister 1827 - 28

Frederick John Robinson was born 30th October 1782. Following his education at Harrow and St John's College, Cambridge, entry to Parliament as MP for Carlow, came in 1806. Goderich was to be prime minister for only a few months, during the confusion that followed the death of previous prime minister George Canning. Goderich was appointed because it was felt he could hold the Tory Party together. Hard liners could recall his links earlier in his career with the reactionary Lord Castlereagh. Those who supported former "Liberal" prime minister George Canning were attracted by Goderich's record during his time as president of the Board of Trade in 1818, when he showed sympathy for free trade, and an aversion to protecting rich agricultural interests. As John Derry writes: "Goderich's acceptability to the Tory Party is a reminder of the mediating role of the premier, who was expected to reconcile conflicts within a government rather than impose policies of his own upon a ministry" (The Prime Ministers Vol 1 P316). Goderich, like so many prime ministers before and after him, was expected to act as a kind of parliamentary king, acting as a figurehead for the purposes of unity. Goderich, however, had a real king to contend with. George IV continued to be influential, and he insisted on appointing the anti-Catholic Herries as home secretary. This man was to cause Goderich serious problems. The same moderate qualities that made Goderich acceptable as prime minister, meant that he had no way of dealing with people like Herries.

Goderich wrote of his worries to George IV, who instead of offering support, simply lost faith in his prime minister. This was a fatal blow. The time was approaching when the idea of party political organisation would give prime ministers power independent of the monarch. But Goderich was not really a party man. Without royal or party support, Goderich as the parliamentary monarch could not survive. He resigned in January 1828.

Following his resignation Goderich continued his career in government. As befitted his lack of instinct for party, he held posts in Earl Grey's Whig government in 1830, and Robert Peel's Conservative government, between 1841 and 1843. Goderich was an able administrator. But being a prime minister called for other qualities. This was an age when party politics was emerging, and a prime minister's job was to work within party groupings. Goderich's successor the Duke of Wellington wasn't a party man either, but Wellington's effort to hold onto the past was a last stand for the old method of government. In the end it would be the power of parties which would finally free Parliament from the monarch, and give parliamentary government as it is seen today.

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