Henry George Ward

Sir Henry George Ward

Henry George Ward.jpg
Henry George Ward, 1842 engraving by William Henry Mote, after James Holmes.
11th Governor of British Ceylon
In office
11 May 1855 – 30 June 1860
MonarchQueen Victoria
Preceded byCharles Justin MacCarthy
acting governor
Succeeded byHenry Frederick Lockyer
acting governor
Personal details
Born27 February 1797
Died2 August 1860(1860-08-02) (aged 63)

Sir Henry George Ward GCMG (27 February 1797 – 2 August 1860) was an English diplomat, politician, and colonial administrator.

Early life

He was the son of Robert Ward (who in 1828 changed his surname by sign manual to Plumer Ward) and his first wife Catherine Julia Maling, daughter of C. J. Maling of West Herrington, County Durham; and the cousin of William Ward and William George Ward. He was born in London on 27 February 1797. Educated at Harrow School, and sent abroad to learn languages, he became in 1816 attaché to the British legation at Stockholm, under Sir Edward Thornton. He was transferred to The Hague in 1818, and to Madrid in 1819. He was appointed joint commissioner to Mexico in October 1823, and returned to England in 1824; again went out to Mexico in 1825, as chargé d'affaires, but returned and retired from the diplomatic service in 1827.[1][2]

Politics in Parliament

In December 1832 Ward entered the House of Commons, elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for St Albans, and sitting for that seat until 1837; and then for Sheffield from 1837 to 1849.[3] His reputation was as an advanced liberal, and he regarded classical economics as authoritative, as witnessed by his opposition to the Ten Hours Bill.[4]

Ward's career in Parliament was marked by his hostility to the Church of Ireland, on which he moved a yearly resolution. The first occasion for this motion, that "That the protestant episcopal establishment in Ireland exceeds the spiritual wants of the protestant population", was 27 May 1834,[5] and it was particularly significant in British politics: it was brought at a time when the cabinet of Earl Grey was deeply divided on Irish issues.[6] The timing owed to the prompting of Lord Durham, who wished to see an administration of a more Radical complexion.[7] On the same day Lord Ripon, Edward Stanley, Sir James Graham, and the Duke of Richmond resigned office because they could not support the appointment of an Irish church commission.[8] Ward had given notice of the motion, but behind the scenes the Cabinet could not agree a common approach, and a number of them had audiences with the King. A group around Edward Ellice saw this as the occasion for Stanley and Graham to quit the administration. The outcome was only resolved late in the evening, when Stanley and Graham were already gone, and the Marquess of Lansdowne threatened to resign himself unless Viscount Althorp did as he was told by Grey, moving an adjournment of the motion in the Commons, while proposing an enquiry into the Irish church. On 2 June Ward's motion was voted down by 396 to 120.[9]

Ward was strongly opposed to Chartism, which he saw starkly in terms of class conflict;[10] but also took up the cause of the secret ballot, one Chartist demand. George Grote had introduced a motion on it in 1833, and up to 1839 there had been increasing support, with Thomas Babington Macaulay arguing on its side. Ward continued the series of motions in 1842, when Grote no longer was an MP.[11]

Ward was First Secretary of the Admiralty from 1846 to 1849.[1] He spoke in Parliament in defence of William Symonds, attacked in 1848 by the Radical MPs John MacGregor and Joseph Hume on grounds of profligate expenditure, putting the case that dockyard spending had seen retrenchment.[12]

Journalism, colonies and railways

Ward bought from Charles Buller and Henry Cole the loss-making Weekly Chronicle, and used it to campaign for his views.[1][13]

Ward supported the colonisation aims and methods of Edward Gibbon Wakefield;[13] and was a committee member of the South Australian Association set up in 1834 by Wakefield, with Buller and Grote, and also William Clay, Rowland Hill, William Molesworth, Southwood Smith, Henry Warburton and William Wolryche-Whitmore.[14] Ward chaired the 1836 select committee on Disposal of Lands in the British Colonies.[15] The other members of the committee were Francis Baring, Henry Lytton Bulwer, William Ewart Gladstone, George Grey, William Hutt, John Arthur Roebuck, and George Poulett Scrope. Eleven witnesses were called, but colonists were not well represented among them, and Wakefield was given a platform for his views. The committee's report was in effect an endorsement of the "Wakefield system" and its recent implementation in Australasia.[16]

Ward was also on the committee of the New Zealand Association set up in 1837, with a number of the same people;[17] and brought resolutions to Parliament on colonisation in June 1839.[18] The initiative then floundered in face of opposition from Lord John Russell and Robert Vernon Smith in the Commons, and from Tories, with widespread indifference. Ward and Hutt supported William Smith O'Brien on colonisation in Wakefield's style in June 1840, but the House was not convinced of the practicality of further schemes and disliked the expense.[19]

In the days of the early speculation, Ward was much involved with railway enterprises. He spoke in Parliament on the detrimental effect of the seekers of stag profit who invested, often fraudulently, in public offerings of railway shares; he put a figure of only 40% on the allocation to "genuine" investors.[20] After a period in which he had put his own finances on a sounder basis, he lost heavily in the Railway Mania of 1846. Those close to the family believed he had dissipated the large fortune that had come from his Plumer stepmother.[21]

Colonial administrator

In May 1849 Ward was appointed Lord High Commissioner to the Ionian Islands, a post he held to 1855. The islands were then under the protection of the British Crown. He arrived at Corfu on 2 June 1849, found the local assembly unworkable and prorogued it. On 1 August 1849 he proclaimed an amnesty to those who had taken part in the rebellion in Cephalonia against his predecessor, Lord Seaton. By the end of August there was a fresh insurgency; he went to Cephalonia, and suppressed it by October. His actions were criticised in the House of Commons. The rest of his time was more peaceful, but Ward used his prerogative powers freely to banish newspaper editors of papers and members of the assembly. He left on 13 April 1855.[1]

Ward on 11 May 1855 became governor of Ceylon. His first speech, that year, dealt with railways; he developed also economic policy on communications and telegraphy, and immigrant labour. He also consolidated the public administration. On the outbreak of the Indian rebellion of 1857 he despatched all the European troops in the colony to Bengal.[1]


He succeeded Sir Charles Trevelyan as Governor of Madras in June 1860 but served in that capacity only for a few weeks until his death from cholera on 2 August, aged 63.[13] He is buried in St. Mary's Church, Madras.

Ward was made a G.C.M.G. in 1849. A statue was erected to him at Kandy.[1]


Puente del Rey, engraving from Mexico in 1827 (1828) by Henry George Ward, after Emily Elizabeth Ward.

Ward published two books about Mexico, illustrated by his wife.[1] In Mexico in 1827 (1828) he tried to present a balanced view of the prospects for the country, formally independent from Spain in 1821.[22] He gave an analysis of Mexico's mines,[23] and was rather negative about the competence of William Bullock who had a mining concession from the Mexican government.[24] He was also critical of attempts to finance pearl diving.[25]

In The First Step to a Poor Law for Ireland (1837), Ward argued that large-scale emigration, sponsored by the state, was a precondition for the introduction of the workhouse system in Ireland.[26]

A volume of his Speeches and Minutes in Ceylon appeared at Colombo in 1864.[1]


Ward married, in 1824, Emily Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Swinburne, 6th Baronet, of Capheaton Hall.[1] Their eldest son, Dudley Ward, became a judge in New Zealand, and the second son, Swinburne Ward was a diplomat and amateur naturalist.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Ward, Henry George" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  2. ^ Seymour, A. A. D. "Ward, Henry George". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28685.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1977]. British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. pp. 261, 273. ISBN 0-900178-26-4.
  4. ^ F. David Roberts, The Social Conscience of the Early Victorians (2002), p. 104; Google Books.
  5. ^ Online Library of Liberty, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV – Newspaper Writings January 1835 – June 1847 Part III [1835] in note 2.
  6. ^ Smith, E. A. "Grey, Charles". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/11526.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. ^ S. Maccoby, English Radicalism 1832–1852 (2001), p. 117; Google Books.
  8. ^ "Robinson, Frederick John" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  9. ^ Angus Hawkins, The Forgotten Prime Minister: The 14th Earl of Derby vol. 1 (2007), pp. 140–2.
  10. ^ Bernard Semmel, The Rise of Free Trade Imperialism: Classical Political Economy the Empire of Free Trade and Imperialism 1750–1850 (2004), p. 171; Google Books.
  11. ^ William Dougal Christie, The Ballot, and Corruption and Expenditure at Elections, essays (1872), pp. 4–5; archive.org.
  12. ^ Greg Kennedy, Maritime Strength and the British Economy, 1840–1850 (PDF), at pp. 56–7; published in The Northern Mariner, 7 (2) (1997).
  13. ^ a b c Spencer, H. J. "Buller, Charles". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/3913.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  14. ^ Bernard Semmel, The Rise of Free Trade Imperialism: Classical Political Economy the Empire of Free Trade and Imperialism 1750–1850 (2004), p. 118; Google Books.
  15. ^ Philip Temple, A Sort of Conscience: the Wakefields (2002), p. 175; Google Books.
  16. ^ Richard Charles Mills, The Colonization of Australia (1915), pp. 216–7; archive.org.
  17. ^ James Hight and H. D. Bamford, The Constitutional History and Law of New Zealand (1914) p. 68;archive.org.
  18. ^ Richard Garnett, Edward Gibbon Wakefield; the colonization of South Australia and New Zealand (1898), p. 221; archive.org.
  19. ^ Wilbur S. Shepperson, British Emigration to North America: projects and opinions in the early Victorian period (1957), p. 204; archive.org.
  20. ^ George Robb, White-Collar Crime in Modern England: Financial Fraud and Business Morality, 1845–1929 (2002), p. 40; Google Books.
  21. ^ Harriet Grote, The Personal Life of George Grote (1873), p. 44 note; archive.org.
  22. ^ Desmond Gregory, Brute New World: the rediscovery of Latin America in the early nineteenth century (1992), p. 135; Google Books.
  23. ^ Gregory, p. 148; Google Books.
  24. ^ Gregory, p. 152; Google Books.
  25. ^ Gregory, p. 153; Google Books.
  26. ^ R. D. Collison Black, Economic Thought and the Irish Question 1817–1970 (1960), p. 223; Google Books.

External links


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Ward, Henry George". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Richard Godson
Sir Francis Vincent
Member of Parliament for St Albans
With: Sir Francis Vincent to 1835
Edward Grimston from 1835
Succeeded by
George Muskett
Edward Grimston
Preceded by
John Parker
James Silk Buckingham
Member of Parliament for Sheffield
With: John Parker
Succeeded by
John Parker
John Arthur Roebuck
Government offices
Preceded by
Charles Justin MacCarthy
acting governor
Governor of Ceylon
Succeeded by
Henry Frederick Lockyer
acting governor

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