Berkeley, Francis Henry Fitzhardinge, M.P. 1794-1870, politician, fourth son of Frederick Augustus, fifth earl of Berkeley, by Mary Cole, of Wotton-under-Edge, prior to their marriage on 16 May 1796, was born 7 Dec. 1794, and baptised 18 March 1795. During his fifteenth year his father, the earl, died, 8 Aug. 1810. At sixteen Henry Berkeley was already a first-rate shot, and for several years afterwards was regarded as one of the best amateur boxers in the kingdom. He was a subaltern in the South Gloucester militia, doing duty with his eldest brother, William Fitzhardinge, then Colonel Berkeley. In 1814 Henry was entered as a gentleman commoner at Christ Church, Oxford. He left the university without taking a degree, and went abroad for a few years travelling. Though three of his brothers had been for five sessions in the House of Commons, he loitered through life in a wholly purposeless way, until in August 1837 he joined his three brothers in parliament, coming in second on the poll, with 3,212 votes, as member for Bristol. At the next general election, June 1841, he was again returned for Bristol. From that time forward until the day of his death he was invariably at the head of the poll by a large majority. His first speech on the ballot was made 21 June 1842, when he seconded the motion of Mr. Ward, M.P. for Sheffield. The year before, in June 1841, George Grote, who had been for nine years champion of the ballot in the House of Commons, retired from parliament. Berkeley was a less eloquent, an equally devoted, but a more vivacious champion of the cause. His first substantive motion on the ballot was brought forward on 8 Aug. 1848. This speech was afterwards published in an octavo pamphlet. He had frequently addressed the house before on a great variety of subjects, but never so effectively. He was seconded on the occasion by Colonel Perronet Thompson, and the resolution was carried on a division by a majority of 5, the ayes being 86 and the noes 81. On asking leave, 24 May 1849, to bring in a bill, his request was refused by a net majority of 51, the ayes being 85, and the noes 136. He was in a minority of 55 in the next session, 7 March 1850; but the year afterwards, 8 July 1851, he carried his motion by a majority of 37, the ayes being 87, and the noes 50. Although his championship of the ballot lasted over the next twenty years, he only once again obtained a majority, namely, on 27 May 1862, the ayes being 83, and the noes 50. His failures were endured by him with admirable cheerfulness. His speeches upon these occasions were always listened to with enjoyment for the wit and humour with which his arguments in favour of the ballot were enforced. Yet his annual motion came at last to be looked upon by the house rather as a good joke than as an earnest attempt at legislation. Berkeley was nevertheless seriously confident to the last that the eventual passing of the Ballot Act was certain, and, even towards the close of his life, that it was imminent. Early in the following year, 22 Jan. 1869, a test ballot was adopted at Manchester, Ernest Jones (who, however, died the day afterwards) being chosen through the ballot-box as a candidate for representing that city in parliament. Henry Berkeley died on 10 March 1870, aged seventy-five, having retained his seat in the house uninterruptedly for thirty-two years as member for Bristol. In March 1870 Mr. Leatham introduced a Ballot Bill, and Mr. Gladstone spoke in its favour. At the opening of the next session, 9 Feb. 1871, the ballot was recommended in the speech from the throne; and the bill was eventually passed in the following year, 13 July 1872.
Grantley Berkeley's Life and Recollections, 4 vols. 1865-6
Men of the Time, 7th edition, p. 70
Dod's Parliamentary Companion, 1869
Times, 12 March 1870.
Contributor: C. K. [Charles Kent]