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Devonshire, Spencer Compton Cavendish, 8th duke of, marquis of Hartington

Devonshire, Spencer Compton Cavendish, 8th duke of, marquis of Hartington (1833–1908). Heir to the Cavendish family's dukedom and a Palmerstonian Whig, Hartington was an MP at 24 and a cabinet minister at 34. Elected Liberal leader in the Commons after Gladstone's retirement in 1875, he was undermined by the latter's political come-back and, when offered the premiership after the Liberal victory of 1880, recommended Gladstone instead. Firm for the Union (the Cavendishes were great Irish landowners and Hartington's brother, Lord Frederick Cavendish, had been assassinated by Irish nationalists in 1882), he broke with Gladstone over Home Rule in 1886 and, as the leader of the Liberal Unionists with some 78 MPs, maintained Salisbury's Conservatives in power until 1892, twice declining the premiership himself. In 1895 Devonshire, as he had become, joined Salisbury in a unionist coalition and served as lord president. In 1904 he resigned from Balfour's government in protest at Joseph Chamberlain's campaign for imperial preference and argued for continued free trade. Combining a high aristocratic life-style (including devotion to the turf) with moderate Liberal views, Hartington represented the balance point of late Victorian politics. His support for Salisbury's governments helped to restabilize national politics. What a lengthy Hartington leadership would have meant for the Liberal party and politics generally rests with surmise.

Bruce Coleman

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Devonshire, Spencer Compton Cavendish, 8th duke of

Spencer Compton Cavendish Devonshire, 8th duke of (kăv´əndĬsh, dĕv´ənshĬr), 1833–1908, British statesman. He became marquess of Hartington in 1858. He frequently held office in Liberal cabinets and by 1880 was a recognized leader of the conservative (Whig) faction of the Liberal party with regard to social legislation. He led the Liberal Unionists who broke (1886) with Gladstone over Home Rule for Ireland. Devonshire (he became duke in 1891) later (1904) left the Liberal Unionists because the majority of that group, led by Joseph Chamberlain, had come to favor the abandonment of free trade.

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