Spencer Perceval

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Spencer Perceval

Spencer Perceval (born November 1, 1762 in London , † May 11, 1812 there ) was a British statesman and Prime Minister . He was the only British Prime Minister to date to be assassinated .


Perceval was the seventh son of John Perceval, 2nd Earl of Egmont , and his second wife. His father was a close advisor to Frederick , the Prince of Wales, and King George III. and for a short time a member of the Cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty . He died when Spencer was ten years old.

Perceval attended Harrow and Trinity College in Cambridge , where he was very impressed by the Evangelical Anglican movement. Later in life, he became an expert on the biblical prophets and wrote scriptures on the subject. He became a lawyer in a judicial district in the Midlands , but didn't have much to do until his family came to his aid. With the support of his maternal family, he became deputy magistrate in Northampton and later a bankruptcy administrator . For this he was paid £ 119 a year. Perceval represented the Crown in the trials of Thomas Paine (1792) and John Horne Tooke (1794), and he wrote pamphlets in support of the indictment against Warren Hastings .

Perceval's brother, Lord Arden , served in the government of William Pitt the Younger . This led to Perceval being noticed too. In 1795 he was considered as a possible Chief Secretary for Ireland , but declined to pursue a career in politics. In 1796, however, he accepted the nomination for MP from Northampton . He made several speeches in which he sharply attacked Charles James Fox and revolutionary politics. This impressed Pitt, who evidently saw in him a possible successor. In 1798 he was appointed trustee of the artillery.

Perceval disapproved of Pitt's resignation in response to the failure of the Irish Catholic Emancipation Act . He was therefore appointed Solicitor General under Addington's administration in 1801 and Attorney General in 1802 (he was the only Solicitor General or Attorney General who later became Prime Minister). Perceval disagreed with Addington's policy in general, and with its foreign policy in particular. So he limited his speeches to legal topics. When Pitt returned in 1804, Perceval retained his offices. He pushed investigations against radicals, but also reformed the laws on transports to Australia .

At Pitt's funeral in January 1806, Perceval was one of the standard-bearers. When Fox was appointed to the new government, Perceval went into opposition and made many speeches against Grenville'sgovernment of all talents ”. He was particularly vehement in opposition to the emancipation of Catholics. When Grenville's government collapsed, William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland , formed a shaky coalition of leading Tories with Perceval as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons. Since Cavendish-Bentinck was old and sick and only served as a figurehead, Perceval was the leading minister. In fact, he lived at 10 Downing Street most of the time .

Under Perceval, William Wilberforce passed the law to abolish the slave trade. When Napoleon imposed the embargo on British trade with the continental blockade, Perceval drafted regulations against it. The government remained deeply divided. When the Duke of Portland suffered a stroke in August 1809, there was a big tussle between Perceval and George Canning for successor. Perceval won with the support of Viscount Castlereagh .

Failing to win Canning and his allies, Perceval's government was mainly characterized by the fact that it did not include the important statesmen of the time. He had to take over the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer after receiving six rejections. The government often struggled in the House of Commons and suffered defeat in both foreign and domestic affairs. He was adamant about his refusal to reform the electoral system.

Perceval had to slide with George III. cope with madness. He feared that the Prince Regent would dismiss his government, but the Prince turned his back on the Whigs and confirmed Perceval in office. Later attempts by the prince to lure others into government were unsuccessful. Perceval doggedly continued the Spanish War of Independence and always defended it against those who prophesied defeat.

Assassination of Spencer Perceval, on the far right John Bellingham is being held

The trade ordinances issued by Perceval in 1807 became unpopular in the winter of 1811 and the Luddite riots broke out. Perceval was forced to consent to an investigation by the House of Commons. On May 11, 1812, while on his way to the investigation, he was shot in the heart by John Bellingham . The assassin demanded compensation for his imprisonment in Russia .

Perceval was buried in St Luke's Church in Charlton, southeast London.


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