Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Gordon-Lennox, Charles Henry
GORDON-LENNOX, CHARLES HENRY, sixth Duke of Richmond and first Duke of Gordon (1818–1903), lord president of the council, born on 27 Feb. 1818 at Richmond house, Whitehall (replaced by Richmond terrace after 1819; Wheatley and Cunningham's London, iii. 162), was the eldest son of Charles Gordon-Lennox, fifth duke of Richmond [q. v.]. Known until his succession to the dukedom as the Earl of March, he was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, graduating B.A. in 1839. He entered as a cornet the royal regiment of horse guards, retiring as captain in 1844, but never saw active service. March was an aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington (1842-52), as was his father before him, and to Lord Hill, the duke's successor as commander-in-chief (1852-4). Meanwhile he was returned for West Sussex in the conservative interest at the general election of 1841, and held the seat until the death of his father on 21 Oct. 1860. He spoke with some frequency, and became a recognised authority on agricultural questions. In March 1859 he was appointed president of the poor law board in Lord Derby's second ministry, and was sworn of the privy council; but his tenure of office was brief, as the ministry fell in June. After the return of the conservatives to office in July 1866 Richmond was made knight of the garter on 15 Jan. 1867. He followed his leaders on parliamentary reform, and at the reconstruction of the government after the resignations of Lords Cranborne and Carnarvon and General Jonathan Peel [q. v.], he became president of the board of trade on 6 March 1867. In 1869, when the liberals had returned to office, he was 'sorely against opposing the second reading (of the Insh church bill), but went with his party' (Gathorne Hardy's First Earl of Cranbrook, i. 272). Next year he accepted the leadership of the conservative party in the House of Lords, which had been in abeyance since the retirement of Derby from public life in 1868 [see Stanley, Edward George Geoffrey Smith]. The relations between Richmond and Disraeli were at first not altogether cordial. In parliament, though he never attempted high oratory, Richmond proved a vigorous upholder of conservative principles. In 1872, while permitting the ballot bill to pass its second reading without a division, he carried an amendment making secret voting optional by eighty-three votes to sixty-seven. On a subsequent amendment he retorted on Granville with so much warmth that the clerk had to read the standing order against 'sharp and taxing speeches' (Fitzmaurice's Oranville, ii. 108, 110; Hansard, ccxi., col. 1841). The commons having rejected his amendment, he pressed it to a division, and was defeated by 157 votes to 138.
On the formation of Disraeli's government in February 1874, Richmond became lord president of the council, though he would have preferred the secretaryship for war. He accepted his disappointment 'like a true man, professing himself ready to act for the best of the party' (Gathorne-Hardy, i. 335). On 18 May he introduced in a conciliatory speech the Scotch church patronage bill, substituting appointment by election for lay patronage in the Church of Scotland, and the measure became law. He also carried the Endowed Schools Act amendment bill, which had been hotly debated in the commons. Richmond's agricultural holdings bill of the following session, introduced on 12 March 1875, established presumption in favour of the tenant with compensation for various classes of improvements; it passed the lords without a division. During the debates he expressed himself strongly against any interference with liberty of contract between landlord and tenant (Hansard, ccxxii. col. 963). In 1876 he took charge of the elementary schools bill, a measure supplementary to the Act of 1870, and designed to enforce attendance; but his burials bill of 1877 was withdrawn after an amendment allowing nonconformist services in churchyards had been carried against him in the lords by 127 votes to 111. On 13 Jan. 1876 Richmond had been created Duke of Gordon and Earl of Kinrara in the peerage of the United Kingdom; the title of Duke of Gordon in the peerage of Scotland had expired in 1836 with his great-uncle, George, fifth Duke of Gordon [q. v.]. In August 1876, on Disraeli's promotion to the peerage, Richmond ceased to be leader in the lords. His efforts for the agricultural interest continued; in 1878, on the outbreak of cattle disease, he carried the contagious diseases (animals) bill, which dealt stringently with infection in the homesteads and made slaughter of imported beasts compulsory, except when the privy council was satisfied that the laws of the exporting country afforded reasonable security against disease. The measure did not go as far as Richmond wished, but he administered it drastically, reorganising the veterinary department of the privy council, which was afterwards replaced by the board of agriculture. The farming industry being grievously depressed, a royal commission on agriculture was appointed (4 Aug. 1879), and Richmond accepted the chairmanship. Admirably suited for the position, he conducted a wide inquiry lasting until July 1882, when his colleagues presented him with a token of esteem in silver. A preliminary report, dated 14 July 1881, dealt with Irish land tenure and cautiously admitted defects in the Ulster custom and 'Griffith's valuation.' The final report, signed unanimously, though with supplementary memoranda expressing dissidence on various points, recommended reforms connected with local administration, tithe rent-charge, the law of distress, and compulsory compensation for unexhausted improvements (Preliminary Report, Parl. Papers, 1881 [c. 2778], XV. 1; Final Report, Parl. Papers, 1882 [c. 3309], xiv. 1). Its chief outcomes were the Agricultural Holdings Act, passed by the liberal government in 1883, and the creation of the board of agriculture.
After the death of Lord Beaconsfield (19 April 1881), Richmond in a speech of 'excellent taste and judgment' proposed Salisbury for the leadership of the opposition in the lords, though privately 'giving indications that he would fain have kept it' (Gathorne-Hardy, ii. 163). The health of the duchess decided him not to advance his claims. He continued to take an active part in debate, while acting occasionally as a drag on the impetuosity of his new leader. He spoke incisively on the agricultural holdings bill of 1883, which went too far for his taste, and on the fall of Khartoum. Of his amendments, one making general the condition that in estimating compensation no account should be taken of the improved value which was due to the inherent qualities in the soil was accepted, after some demur, by the government. He declined, however, to do anything which, by risking the success of the bill, would be 'repugnant to the feelings of the whole of the tenant farmers of the country' (Hansard, cclxxxiii. col. 1828). During the crisis of 1884, produced by the refusal of the peers to pass a franchise bill unaccompanied by a redistribution of seats, Richmond's influence was on the side of peace. Summoned by Queen Victoria, who held him in high regard, he visited Balmoral on 13 Sept., and though Gladstone characterised what passed in the direction of compromise as 'waste of breath,' the ensuing correspondence with Sir Henry Ponsonby [q. v.] 'set up a salutary ferment' (Morley's Gladstone, iii. 130, 131). The duke opened communications with Lord Granville, making clear that the opposition was acting in good faith (Gathorne-Hardy, ii. 203). Northcote declared that the duke's action led 'to little more than a conference between the duke. Lord Salisbury, and Lord Cairns, and to a substantial agreement as to the course to be taken over the House of Lords' (A. Lang's Stafford Northcote, First Earl of Iddesleigh, ii. 205); it is clear that his mediation was of value. Richmond's part was nearly played. In the short-lived conservative ministry of 1885-6 he acted as secretary for Scotland, but when the second Salisbury government was formed in 1886 he 'went down to Scotland deliberately, and so put himself out of the way' (Gathorne-Hardy, ii. 254). Gradually ceasing to take part in public life, he died at Gordon castle after a short illness on 27 Sept. 1903, and was buried in the family vault in Chichester Cathedral.
Richmond, who was a conscientious and large-hearted man, by no means confined his public duties to politics. He was chancellor of the University of Aberdeen in 1861, receiving an hon. LL.D. in 1895 ; was appointed lord-lieutenant of the county of Banff in 1879, and ecclesiastical commissioner in 1885. In Sussex he succeeded hLs father as chairman of the county bench and was chairman of the West Sussex county council. He joined the Royal Agricultural Society in 1838, six months after its establishment, was member of the council from 1852 to 1857, and from 1866 to his death, was elected trustee in 1869, and was president both in 1868, when the show was held at Leicester, and in 1883, when it was held at York. At the general meeting of that year King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, addressed him as 'the farmers' friend,' a title acknowledged by the duke to be the proudest be could bear. In 1894, when the show was held at Cambridge, he received the degree of hon. LL.D., having become hon. D.C.L. of Oxford in 1870. The duke was elected vice-president of the Smithfield Club in 1860, and was president in 1866 and 1875. He inherited and improved the famous flock of Southdown sheep at Goodwood and the herd of shorthorns at Gordon castle. He was a generous landlord ; many of the crofters and small farmers on Speyside held on a merely nominal rent, and he built a concrete stone harbour for Port Gordon in 1878 at the cost of 15,000l.
Richmond was elected member of the Jockey Club in 1839, but took no active part in racing. Though the importance of the Goodwood meeting declined, owing to the rise of richer organisations elsewhere, he maintained its hospitality. The Tsar Alexander II and the Tsarina were his guests in 1873 ; the Crown Prince and Princess of Germany (afterwards the Emperor and Empress Frederick), King Edward VII, and Queen Alexandra visited him on many occasions. At his Scottish hunting seat, Glenfiddich Lodge, he shot grouse and stalked, and was a skilled sahnon-fisher in the Gordon castle waters (The Times, 29 Sept. 1903, where a charge of undue exercise of proprietorial rights is refuted by Henry Ffennell). He revived the old hunt at Charlton, but eventually sold the hounds.
The duke married on 28 Nov. 1843 Frances Harriett, daughter of Algernon Frederick Greville, Bath king-at-arms and private secretary to the Duke of Wellington ; she died on 8 March 1887. Of his four sons, the eldest, Charles Henry (6. 27 Dec. 1845), is the seventh and present duke. Of his two daughters, Caroline was his constant companion in later life ; Florence died in 1895.
The duke's portrait, painted in 1886 by Sir George Reid, was presented to him by his Scotch tenantry, and is now at Gordon castle. Another portrait by Sir Francis Grant, P.R.A., presented by the Sussex tenantry, is at Goodwood. A cartoon portrait appeared in 'Vanity Fair' in 1870.
[Article by Sir Ernest Clarke in Journal Royal Agricultural Soc., vol. lxiv. 1903 ; The Times, 28 Sept. 1903 ; Paul, Modern England, 1905, iii. and iv.]