Cardwell, Edward, First Viscount Cardwell

Cardwell, Edward, First Viscount Cardwell
   British colonial secretary who did much to initiate the process of Canadian confederation but best remembered for his army reforms while at the War Office in Gladstone’s first government, 1868–1874. Cardwell entered parliament for Liverpool as a Free Trade Conservative in 1842, and was always strongly associated with Sir Robert Peel, whose memoirs he edited. He was known for his expertise on financial, mercantile and maritime questions. Losing his Liverpool seat in 1852 because of his support for the repeal of the navigation acts - in effect protection for merchant shipping - he sat as a Liberal for the City of Oxford for the rest of his political career. As colonial secretary under Lord Palmerston and John Russell from 1864 to 1866, he prodded Canadian leaders in the direction of confederation and began the process of withdrawing British troops from both Canada and, more controversially, New Zealand.
   He became secretary for war in 1868, in which office he continued the gradual draw-down of troops in colonial service. Influenced by Prussian successes in the 1870 war with France, he reorganized the War Office and introduced the concept of short service enlistments followed by service in the reserves. Most significantly, however, he abolished the system of army commission purchase, meeting significant opposition in committee and from the Lords. The latter he was able to overcome only with the assistance of a royal warrant, forbidding commission sales. The episode did much to estrange the officer class from the Liberal Party. Cardwell refused to succeed Gladstone as head of the Liberal Party on the latter’s, as it turned out, temporary resignation in 1874, and was in poor health for the final dozen years of his life.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
    Biddulph, Sir Robert. Lord Cardwell at the War Office. London: John Murray, 1904;
    Eriskson, Arvel B. “Edward T. Cardwell,” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 49/2 (1959).

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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