Montagu, William (1768-1843) (DNB00)


MONTAGU, WILLIAM, fifth Duke of Manchester (1768–1843), governor of Jamaica, second son of George, fourth duke [q. v.], was born 21 Oct. 1768, and succeeded to the title in September 1788. His elder brother, George, had died 24 Feb. 1772. After having been educated at Harrow, he was gazetted ensign in the 35th foot on 27 Oct. 1787, and lieutenant in the 76th on 25 Dec. of the same year. He also held a commission in the 50th foot from January 1788 to May 1790, and exchanged into the 73rd regiment on 29 Feb. 1792. He attained the rank of colonel in the army on 14 March 1794, having been gazetted colonel of the Hunts Militia on 8 March of the preceding year. His youth and early manhood seem to have been passed in travel and field sports. He specially excelled as a rower, and is said to have pulled a wherry from London to Gravesend without a rest. In May 1791 he travelled continuously for a fortnight on his way from Rome to Potsdam in order to witness a great review of Prussian troops, but fatigue prevented him from attending the manœuvres.

Manchester was elected, on 4 Jan. 1792, high steward of Godmanchester, and on 1 March 1793 was appointed lord-lieutenant and custos rotulorum for the county of Huntingdon. On 6 Jan. 1808 he was made governor of Jamaica. He sailed in the Guerrier on 23 Jan., and arrived in Kingston on 26 March. The nineteen years of his government of the colony were times of great distress and anxiety. Two months after his arrival, on 30 May 1808, a mutiny of the 2nd West India regiment, a negro corps, led to a quarrel between Carmichael, the commander-in-chief, and the colonial assembly. Manchester applied to the home authorities, and prorogued the assembly when it ordered Carmichael into custody. Five months later the general, under orders from the crown, apologised to the assembly, and Manchester's discretion was generally commended.

In 1811 Manchester paid a visit to England, returning to Jamaica in 1813. During the following year attempts were made to effect further reforms in the law courts and post-office by fixing the amount of all fees ; and a law was passed allowing free people of colour to give evidence, but precluding them from holding offices. In 1815 Manchester sought to alleviate the distress caused by the destruction of Port Royal by fire on 13 July, and by the hurricanes and floods which destroyed the sugar and coffee plantations of the island on 18 and 19 Oct. He showed great administrative ability during the panic which prevailed in the colony owing to the insurrection of slaves in Barbados, and by his personal influence pacified the Jamaica slaves. The colony gratefully voted him an addition to his personal establishment. In 1816 he risked his popularity with the planters by vigorously supporting a bill for the registry of slaves, in accordance with the recommendation of the imperial government.

In 1820 Manchester was thrown from his carriage and fractured his skull. The assembly voted five hundred guineas to the surgeons who attended him. After recruiting his health in Europe, he returned in 1822, and the last years of his administration were marked by the introduction of measures preparatory to the emancipation of the slaves. Much resistance was offered by the planters. The Jamaica government was called upon by the colonial office to abolish Sunday markets, to forbid the carrying of whips, and to exempt women from flogging. All these reforms were carried out with great difficulty. In 1824 the negroes rose in the west of the island, and a plot was discovered for the massacre of the whites in the north and east. In 1825 the assembly rejected a bill allowing slaves to give evidence ; but in the following year Manchester succeeded in securing a temporary measure to be in operation for five years. In this form, however, the law was vetoed by the home government, but before the imperial decision was known a conviction for murder was obtained by the evidence of slaves given under the temporary law. In the midst of the consequent confusion Manchester finally left Port Royal on 2 July 1827 (Royal Gazette of Jamaica, 7 July 1827).

Soon after his return to England, on 27 Sept. 1827, Manchester was appointed postmaster-general in the Duke of Wellington's ministry, and held office till the accession of the whigs to power at the end of 1830. He voted against the Reform Bill in the House of Lords on 7 Oct. 1831, and was in the minority when the second reading was carried on 13 April 1832 (Hansard, 3rd ser. viii. 339, xii. 456). He also voted for Lord Lyndhurst's motion to postpone the disfranchisement clauses (ib. xii. 723). In the autumn of 1841 he resigned his lord-lieutenancy owing to his failing health, which had never fully recovered from the accident

of 1820, and he died at Rome on 18 March 1843.

Manchester married, on 7 Oct. 1793, Lady Susan Gordon, third daughter of Alexander, fourth duke of Gordon, and had by her two sons and five daughters. The marriage was unhappy; and before he went to Jamaica, Manchester separated from his wife, who died on 26 Aug. 1828. When young he is said to have been ' one of the finest and handsomest men of his time.' A portrait of him when a child, as Cupid, with his mother as Diana, was painted by Reynolds and engraved by Watson (Evans, Cat. Engraved Portraits), and another by Saunders is in the possession of the Duke of Manchester.

[Lodge's Genealogy of the Peerage; Burke's and Foster's Peerage and Doyle's Baronage (the two latter give wrong date of birth); Playfair's Brit. Fam. Antiq. i. 137 (where Christian name is given wrongly); Fox's Hist, of Grodman Chester, pp. 162-3; Bridges's Annals of Jamaica, chaps, xvii. xviii.; T. Southey's Chron. Hist, of West Indies, iii. 407, 468; Handbook of Jamaica, 1892, pp. 43, 44; Raikes's Journal, new edition, ii. 349; Public Characters, 1823, ii. 272; Haydn's Book of Dignities; Ann. Reg. Appendix to Chron., p. 242 (from Times, 13 March 1843.]

G. Le G. N.