Portrait of William Lamb (1779-1848), 2nd Viscount Melbourne (1828), Chief Secretary for Ireland (1827-1828), Home Secretary (1830-1834), Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1834; 1835-1841), Leaders of the British Whig Party (1834-1842), Leader of the House of Lords (1835-1841)
William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne (15 March 1779 – 24 November 1848), in some sources called Henry William Lamb, was a British Whig statesman who served as Home Secretary (1830–1834) and Prime Minister (1834 and 1835–1841). He is best known for being prime minister in Queen Victoria's early years and coaching her in the ways of politics, acting almost as her private secretary. Historians have concluded that Melbourne does not rank highly as a Prime Minister, for there were no great foreign wars or domestic issues to handle, he lacked major achievements, he enunciated no grand principles, and he was involved in several political scandals in the early years of Victoria's reign. Melbourne was Prime Minister on two occasions. The first occasion ended when he was dismissed by King William IV in 1834, the last British prime minister to be dismissed by a monarch. Six months later he was re-appointed and served for six years. Lamb's hallmark was finding the middle ground. Though a Whig, he accepted (29 April 1827) the post of Chief Secretary for Ireland in the moderate Tory governments of George Canning and Lord Goderich. Upon the death of his father in 1828 and his becoming the 2nd Viscount Melbourne, of Kilmore in the County of Cavan, he moved to the House of Lords. He had spent 25 years in the Commons, largely as a backbencher, and was not politically well known. In November 1830, the Whigs came to power under Lord Grey. Melbourne was Home Secretary. During the disturbances of 1830–32 he "acted both vigorously and sensitively, and it was for this function that his reforming brethren thanked him heartily". In the aftermath of the Swing Riots of 1830–31, he countered the Tory magistrates' alarmism by refusing to resort to military force; instead, he advocated magistrates' usual powers be fully enforced, along with special constables and financial rewards for the arrest of rioters and rabble-rousers. He appointed a special commission to try approximately 1,000 of those arrested, and ensured that justice was strictly adhered to: one-third were acquitted and most of the one-fifth sentenced to death were instead transported. There remains controversy regarding the hanging of Dic Penderyn, a protester in the Merthyr Rising who was then, and is now, widely judged to have been innocent. He appears to have been executed solely on the word of Melbourne, who sought a victim in order to 'set an example'. The disturbances over reform in 1831–32 were countered with the enforcement of the usual laws; again, Melbourne refused to pass emergency legislation against sedition.
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