Burgh Canning, Hubert George De, second Marquess and fifteenth Earl of Clanricarde 1832-1916, Irish landed proprietor, was born 30 November 1832, the younger son of Ulick John De Burgh, first Marquess and fourteenth Earl of Clanricarde, by his wife, Harriet, only daughter of George Canning, the statesman. Educated at Harrow, he entered the diplomatic service in 1852, and was for ten years attaché at Turin, retiring as second secretary in 1863. In 1867, as Viscount Burke, he was returned to parliament in the liberal interest as member for county Galway. But Gladstone's Irish Land Act displeased him, and he resigned in 1871. The seat was won by Colonel Nolan, a Home Ruler, after a fierce contest in which the Clanricarde interest was thrown against the popular candidate. In 1862 De Burgh had assumed by royal licence the additional surname of Canning, as heir of his maternal uncle, Earl Canning. His elder brother's death in 1867 made him heir to the marquisate, to which he succeeded in 1874.
The rest of Lord Clanricarde's life was spent in resisting the movement to limit the Irish landlord's power. His campaign was conducted at a distance, as he never visited his large property—some 56,000 acres—in East Galway, but lived continuously in the Albany, Piccadilly. Having great wealth and living penuriously (although he amassed art treasures and jewels, of which he was a connoisseur), he could not be seriously inconvenienced by the tenants' combined refusal to pay rent: and he fought them by the weapon of eviction, and by using all the devices of the law to restrict the operation of the Land Act of 1881. In 1886 the plan of campaign, according to which rents were paid to representatives of the Land League and not to the landlord, was started on his estate, and fresh disturbances followed. Of his 1,159 tenants 186 were evicted; many emergency men were installed in the vacant holdings, and there was a crop of murders. The saying attributed to him, Do they think they will intimidate me by shooting my bailiffs?, dramatically expressed the facts. After the Wyndham Land Purchase Act of 1903 he was urged to sell, but refused absolutely. Ministers of both parties recognized that Lord Clanricarde was deliberately thwarting the policy of parliament, which had first established dual ownership and then aimed at complete land purchase. The case for the Town Tenants' Act in 1907 was based largely on the fact that a solvent tenant of Lord Clanricarde's in Loughrea had been evicted expressly because his political activities were disapproved; and the compulsory powers of purchase given to the Congested Districts Board by the Act of 1909 were chiefly aimed at expropriating this landlord. But Lord Clanricarde fought the matter from court to court until a decision of the Land Court in July 1915 transferred the estate (except the demesne) to the Board at a price of £238,211.
Lord Clanricarde died in the Albany 12 April 1916. His estates were never highly rented, but he held desperately to the old order in which the landlord could wield arbitrary power over his tenants, and he was careless alike of public opinion, which universally condemned his conduct, and of the consequences, which left his estates, in the words of Mr. Birrell, haunted with the ghosts of murdered men.
Lord Clanricarde never married, and in the absence of a direct heir the marquisate became extinct. The earldom, however, passed by special remainder to his cousin, George Ulick Browne, sixth Marquess of Sligo.
The Times, 14 April 1916
Hansard, Parliamentary Debates
Contributor: S. G. [Stephen Lucius Gwynn]