Baring, Thomas George, first Earl of Northbrook 1826-1904, statesman, born at 16 Cumberland Street, London, on 22 Jan. 1826, was eldest son of Sir Francis Thornhill Baring, first Baron Northbrook [qv.], and great-grandson of Sir Francis Baring, first baronet [qv.]. His mother was Jane, daughter of Sir George Grey, first baronet, and sister of Sir George Grey, second baronet [qv.], the whig statesman, to whose character that of his nephew bore much resemblance.
Thomas George Baring was educated privately and went at the age of seventeen to Oxford, where he entered as a gentleman commoner at Christ Church in 1843, graduating Bachelor of Arts in 1846 with a second class in the final classical school. Nurtured in an atmosphere of whig politics and high official position, he was early drawn to public life. On leaving Oxford he served a political apprenticeship in a variety of private secretaryships—to Henry Labouchere (afterwards Lord Taunton) [qv.] at Dublin and the board of trade, to his uncle, Sir George Grey [qv.] at the home office, and to Sir Charles Wood (afterwards Viscount Halifax) [qv.] at the board of control. In 1848, the year of his marriage, his father succeeded to the family baronetcy and estates, including Stratton in Hampshire, a place destined to be his own home for forty years. In 1857 Baring entered the House of Commons as whig member for Penryn and Falmouth. The liberal party had long been in power, and Baring served the government in a succession of subordinate posts. In 1857, in Lord Palmerston's government, he became civil lord of the admiralty, and on Lord Palmerston's return to power in 1859 was under secretary in the newly constituted India office under Sir Charles Wood until 1864, with a brief interlude in 1861 as under-secretary at the war office. In 1864 he went in the same capacity to the home office under his uncle, Sir George Grey, and in April 1866 he was appointed secretary to the admiralty, going out of office with Lord Russell's administration in June of the same year. In Sept. 1866 he succeeded his father as second Lord Northbrook, and leaving the House of Commons devoted himself to the business of his estate and local affairs in Hampshire.
In 1868 Northbrook was again recalled to office as under-secretary of state for war in Gladstone's first administration, and he took a leading share, under Edward (afterwards Viscount) Cardwell, in the reform and reorganisation of the army. In this capacity it fell to his lot to pilot the regulation of the forces bill through the House of Lords and to be an interested witness of the exciting struggle which ended in the abolition of the purchase system by royal warrant.
Lord Northbrook was now marked out for high office, and in February 1872, on the assassination of Lord Mayo [qv.], he accepted the governor-generalship of India, a country with which he had some hereditary connection, his great-grandfather, Sir Francis Baring, first baronet, having been chairman of the court of directors of the East India Company, while his own service at the India office had familiarised him with Indian problems. Lord Northbrook's term of office gained for him the reputation of one of the best and most successful of modern viceroys. He found in India a situation of considerable unrest, caused principally by the energy with which necessary reforms both in legislation and in finance and administration had been carried out since the mutiny, and notably by his predecessor, Lord Mayo. It was fortunate for India that Lord Northbrook at once realised the necessity of what he called steady government, in respect of both foreign and home policy. His first acts were intended to remove the discontent which had been aroused by the increase of imperial and local taxation; and it was in the teeth of much expert opinion that he decided on the non-renewal of the income-tax, the disallowance of the Bengal municipalities bill, and the modification of certain local imposts. Finance indeed he took under his special charge, and exercised a rigid and effective control over expenditure on public works, civil and military, with the result that during his four years' administration there was a surplus of ordinary revenue over expenditure of not less than a million sterling without the imposition of new taxation, notwithstanding an expenditure of 6,306,673l. for famine, which had been charged against revenue.
The Bengal famine was the most noteworthy occurrence of Northbrook's viceroyalty, for not only was it the worst famine which had arisen in India for at least a hundred years, but it was the first in which the state was able, by vast but well-designed measures of relief, to save the lives of the population. These measures, taken under the direct supervision of the viceroy, who for eighteen months hardly left Calcutta, were (wrote Sir Evelyn Baring, afterwards Lord Cromer, then private secretary to Northbrook, his second cousin) fully successful; and The Times gave expression to the general feeling, when it stated that to Lord Northbrook belonged the high honour of commanding one of the greatest and noblest campaigns ever fought in India. As in his financial measures, so on this occasion he showed his strength of character by resisting the universal outcry for regulating prices, stopping the operations of private traders, and preventing the export of rice.
The only other incident which aroused much excitement or controversy was the deposition in 1875 of the Gaekwar of Baroda following upon the rare procedure of a commission of investigation, partly British and partly native, in connection with his alleged attempt to poison the resident, Colonel (afterwards Sir Robert) Phayre [qv.] and the subsequent restoration of the native administration of the state in pursuance of the non-annexation policy always cordially adhered to by Lord Northbrook.
The close of Lord Northbrook's term was marked by a certain amount of friction between the government of India and Lord Salisbury [qv.], who had taken the place of the duke of Argyll as secretary of state for India upon the fall of Gladstone's administration in 1874. Lord Salisbury, contrary to Northbrook's views and wishes, was inclined to exercise a more vigilant control from home than his predecessor. The increasing use of the telegraph was in fact beginning to revolutionise the relations between the two governments. On the question of Afghanistan, Lord Salisbury, influenced by the Russophobist views of Sir Bartle Frere [qv.] and Sir Henry Rawlinson [qv.], put forward a proposal in his despatch of 22 Jan. 1875 for placing British agents at Herat and possibly at Kandahar, for the purpose of supplying the British government with information. Lord Northbrook, who deprecated the alarmist views put forward from home, and was firmly opposed to anything like external aggression, more especially in the direction of Afghanistan, remained as usual open-minded as to this suggestion until he had satisfied himself by careful inquiries from the best qualified sources; he finally came to the conclusion that the proposed action would be impolitic except with the full consent of the Ameer, which he had reason to believe would not be given. No further steps were taken in this direction, until Lord Lytton [qv.] succeeded Lord Northbrook as viceroy. Meanwhile another question, that connected with the tariff and the cotton duties, led to a more serious collision of opinion, in which Lord Northbrook, though a convinced freetrader in principle, stood out as a champion of Indian interests against the pressure from Lord Salisbury and the home government in favour of a remission of the duties against Lancashire goods. By this time Lord Northbrook had decided on private grounds to resign his office, and he only remained in India until the conclusion of the visit of King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, in the winter of 1875-6, a fitting climax to his viceroyalty. He left India on 15 April 1876.
The distinguishing mark of Lord Northbrook's rule was, apart from his administrative capacity, his determination to guide himself by the wishes of the population at large so far as he could ascertain them. His genuine feeling for the natives, to whom his strict impartiality and the sympathy which underlay his reserve strongly appealed, procured him the title of The just Northbrook.
An earldom was conferred on him in recognition of his work in India on 10 June 1876. On his return home, Lord Northbrook's first care, having inherited a large fortune, a house in Hamilton Place, and a great collection of pictures from his uncle, Thomas Baring (1799-1873), M.P. for Huntingdon, was to reorganise his private life both in London and at Stratton. While his own party remained in opposition, he was again able to attend to the duties and occupation of a country gentleman. Much as he deprecated party conflict on Indian questions, the development of the Afghan imbroglio under his successor, Lord Lytton, forced him by degrees to take a prominent part in the controversy; and even if it be admitted that the Lawrence policy of complete non-interference had practically broken down before Lord Northbrook left India, the disastrous results of the counter-policy as actually pursued completely vindicated Northbrook's foresight and courage in the line he took on this question.
On the accession to office of Gladstone in 1880, Lord Northbrook was appointed first lord of the admiralty. At the same time he became the principal adviser of the cabinet on Indian questions, and later on, when Sir Evelyn Baring, his cousin, was consul-general at Cairo, on Egyptian policy also. He was one of the four ministers—Lord Granville, Lord Kimberley, and Sir Charles Dilke were the other three—who were directly responsible for the despatch of General Gordon [qv.] to the Soudan, a step which he afterwards admitted to have been a terrible mistake. In Sept. 1884 he went to Cairo as a special commissioner to advise the government on the present situation in Egypt, and especially on the present exigencies of Egyptian finance, and in the reports brought home by him in the following November he definitely ranged himself on the side of single British control, with all which that conclusion implied. His colleagues, however, did not accept his plan of reorganisation, and though he remained a member of the government for the short remainder of its term, his relations with Gladstone became from that time markedly less cordial. He had returned from Egypt to find himself the object of serious attack on account of the agitation started in the Pall Mall Gazette by Mr. Stead's articles on The Truth about the Navy, which resulted in the decision of the government, in Lord Northbrook's absence, to introduce a programme of expenditure on ship-building. As a matter of fact the board, headed by Lord Northbrook and advised by Sir Cooper Key [qv.], had, as Admiral Colomb, the biographer of the latter, wrote, taken more decided steps in reorganising the navy than perhaps any board which preceded it, and technical opinion has long since vindicated Lord Northbrook from any suspicion of neglect or supineness. The fall of Gladstone's administration in June 1885 marked the close of Lord Northbrook's official career, although he refused high office in the cabinet on two subsequent occasions. In February 1886 Gladstone offered him the choice of the lord-lieutenancy of Ireland or the lord-presidentship of the council, but his Egyptian experience had decided him never again to serve under Gladstone, and though he retained an open mind on the Irish question longer than many of his old colleagues, he was already moving towards the liberal unionist position of strong hostility to the home rule solution, which he adopted on the production of Gladstone's bill in 1886. In December 1886, upon Lord Randolph Churchill's resignation, he declined a suggestion that he should join Lord Salisbury's cabinet with George Joachim (afterwards Viscount) Goschen [qv.], preferring with the rest of his old colleagues to support the government from without. When the time arrived, in 1895, for a unionist coalition, it was too late for him to re-enter the political arena and take office with the leader with whom throughout his political career he was much in sympathy, the Duke of Devonshire [qv.]. He retained, moreover, strong liberal sympathies, which he showed at the close of his life by withdrawing his support from the unionist party in 1903 at the commencement of the agitation in favour of tariff reform.
After the break-up of the liberal party in 1886, Lord Northbrook, living much at Stratton, found himself increasingly involved in the business of local administration. As a member of the committee of quarter sessions he took a leading part in the arrangements for the transfer of authority to the new Hampshire county council under the Local Government Act of 1888; he became chairman of the finance committee of the county council, and in 1894, on Lord Basing's death, he yielded, though with reluctance, to the unanimous wish of his colleagues that he should accept the chairmanship of the council which he held until his death. In 1889 he had been elected to the ancient office of high steward of Winchester, and in the following year he succeeded Lord Carnarvon as lord-lieutenant of Hampshire. In these various capacities, his courteous dignity, his force of character, his known impartiality, his complete mastery of detail, and his financial ability enabled him to render conspicuous service. Lord Northbrook died after a short illness at Stratton on 15 Nov. 1904, and was buried at Micheldever church.
Lord Northbrook belonged to the best type of whig statesmanship. Trained from boyhood to political life he had, like other men of position and fortune in his generation, a high ideal of citizenship and public spirit, and both as a statesman and country gentleman left an example of energy and capacity expended in the service of his fellow-men. He had a remarkable aptitude for official business and especially for finance. His judgment was sound, and though naturally quick and vivacious in temperament he was eminently fairminded and impartial, and took the utmost pains to inform himself by exhaustive study and inquiry on the merits of any political or administrative question with which he had to deal. He had little power of speaking and was shy and reserved in manner, but he had great self-reliance, wide sympathies, and much natural dignity. Travelling, sketching, fishing, and in earlier life hunting, were his favourite recreations; he was a lover of books and reading and of art and pictures, of which he was a highly competent judge.
Lord Northbrook married in September 1848 Elizabeth Harriet, daughter of Henry Charles Sturt of Crichel, who died on 3 June 1867. There were three children of the marriage, two sons, of whom the elder succeeded as second Earl of Northbrook in 1904, and the second, Arthur, was drowned when serving as a midshipman on board H.M.S. Captain in 1870, and one daughter, Lady Jane Emma, who from her thirteenth year was her father's constant companion. She accompanied him to India, where at a very early age she acted as hostess for the viceroy with tact and success, and her marriage in 1890 to Col. the Hon. Henry George Lewis, third son of John Crichton, third earl of Erne, caused little interruption to their lifelong intercourse.
The principal portraits are a water-colour drawing of Lord Northbrook as a young man, by George Richmond, R.A., at Netley Castle, Hampshire, a drawing by H. T. Wells, R.A., for Grillion's Club, a portrait in peer's robes by W. W. Ouless, R.A., at Government House, Calcutta (a copy at Stratton), and a portrait painted in 1903 by A. S. Cope, R.A., in the County Hall at Winchester (copy at Stratton). There is also at Calcutta a bronze statue of Lord Northbrook in the robes of a G.C.S.I., by Sir Edgar Boehm. Cartoon portraits are in Vanity Fair 1876 and 1882.
Memoir by the present writer with the aid of Lord Northbrook's family, and based on private papers and official documents, 1908
see also Sir Henry Cotton, Indian and Home Memories, 1911.
Contributor: B. M. [Bernard Mallet]