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Cardwell, Edward

Cardwell, Edward (1813–86). Son of a Liverpool merchant, educated at Winchester and Balliol College, Oxford, Cardwell became a Conservative MP in 1841. Close to the leader Peel, he followed the Peelite free traders after the party split of 1846. Elected for Liverpool in 1847, he was defeated in 1852 for supporting repeal of the Navigation Acts. In ministerial posts under Aberdeen and Palmerston, including colonial secretary, he stood out as an administrative reformer and economizer. Gladstone's secretary at war from 1868, he ended flogging in the army and undertook major reforms, prompted partly by a sense of Britain's military weakness. Infantry regiments were given territorial designations and linked to reserves, short service was introduced, and the commander-in-chief's office was brought under clearer ministerial authority. The abolition of purchase of commissions was controversial; when the 1871 Army Regulation Bill was blocked by the Lords, the change was implemented by royal warrant. Cardwell became a viscount on the Liberal defeat in 1874. Strains of prolonged office may have contributed to later insanity. Historians have become sceptical about the military significance of his army reforms.

Bruce Coleman

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