Huskisson, William

Huskisson, William
   William Huskisson was a British Tory politician, president of the Board of Trade, and probably the first man in history to die in a motor vehicle accident. Raised in enlightenment circles in Britain and France, he became in 1790 secretary to the British ambassador at Paris and witnessed many of the events of the revolution. Huskisson entered Parliament as a Pittite in 1796. Appointed to posts at the War Office and the Treasury, Huskisson developed a reputation as a financial expert. After the death of Pitt, he became a follower of Canning, who brought him into Lord Liverpool’s government in 1814. Huskisson had much to do with framing the Corn Law of 1815, and was also an energetic supporter of a return to a bullion-based currency after the Napoleonic wars. Influenced by the teachings of Smith and Ricardo, Huskisson saw that Britain’s future was as a manufacturing country and worked for the rationalization and reduction of tariff barriers and the reform of the navigation laws during his tenure of the Board of Trade from 1823 to 1827. He nevertheless supported preferences for imperial goods.
   Huskisson, a so-called liberal Tory, did not get along with the Duke of Wellington, and did not last long in the latter’s 1828 government. Huskisson sat in the Commons for Liverpool, and in 1830 traveled there for the opening of the first public railway, the Liverpool and Manchester. Getting off his train, he was struck by an oncoming engine and died as a result of his injuries. Huskisson became a model for future financial reformers such as Peel and Gladstone, whose roots were also in liberal Toryism.
    Cookson, J. E. Lord Liverpool ’ s Administration: The Crucial Years, 1815–1822. London: Chatto & Windus, 1975.

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

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