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Edward Cardwell, 1st Viscount Cardwell PC, PC , FRS (24 July 1813 – 15 February 1886) was a prominent Britishmarker politician in the Peelite and Liberal parties during the middle of the 19th century. He is best remembered for his tenure as Secretary of State for War between 1868 and 1874 and the introduction of the Cardwell Reforms.

Background and education

Cardwell was the son of John Cardwell, Liverpoolmarker, a merchant, and Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Birley. He was educated at Winchestermarker and Balliol College, Oxfordmarker, from where he took a degree in 1835. His early career was as a lawyer–he was called to the bar, Inner Templemarker, in 1838.

Political career

Cardwell soon took an interest in politics, and became the MP for Clitheroemarker in Lancashiremarker in 1842. In Parliamentmarker, Cardwell became a follower and confidante of Sir Robert Peel, the Prime Minister, and held his first office under him as Financial Secretary to the Treasury between 1845 and 1846. When Peel split the Conservative Party in 1846 over the issue of repealing the Corn Laws, Cardwell followed Peel, and became a member of the Peelite faction. When the Peelites came to power in 1852, Lord Aberdeen made Cardwell the President of the Board of Trade, a position he held until 1855. In 1854 he passed the Cardwell Railway Act which stopped the cut-throat competition between Railway Companies which was acting to their and the railusers' disadvantage.

During these years, Cardwell moved from seat to seat in Parliament. In 1847, he was elected as MP for Liverpoolmarker. In 1852, he lost elections for Liverpool and for Ayrshiremarker, but won a seat at Oxfordmarker. In 1858, he was defeated for the Oxford seat, but a second election for the seat was held shortly after, which he won (beating William Makepeace Thackeray). The Peelite faction disintegrated in the late 1850s, and Cardwell officially became a Liberal in 1859, joining Palmerston's cabinet as Chief Secretary for Ireland. Unhappy in that position, he moved two years later to another cabinet post, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. A second move within the cabinet came in 1864, when Cardwell became the Secretary of State for the Colonies, a position he kept until the Liberals were turned out of office in 1866.

When the Liberals returned to power under Gladstone in the 1868 election, Cardwell reached the peak of his career, as Gladstone's Secretary of State for War. During his six years in the post, in what became known as "Cardwell reforms", Cardwell reorganized the British army, introduced professional standards for officers (including advancement by merit rather than purchase), and formed a home reserve force. After Gladstone's defeat in the 1874 election, Cardwell was raised to the peerage as Viscount Cardwell, of Ellerbeck in the County of Lancaster. His ennoblement ended his active political career.

Personal life

Lord Cardwell married Annie, daughter of Charles Stuart Parker, in 1838. They had no children. He died in Torquaymarker, Devonmarker, in February 1886, aged 72, when his title became extinct. Lady Cardwell only survived him by a year and died in February 1887. The town of Cardwellmarker in Queenslandmarker, Australia, was named after Lord Cardwell.


  • Lee, Sidney, ed. Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 3, "Cardwell, Edward". London : Smith Elder, 1909.
  • Jones, Wilbur Devereux and Arvel B. Erickson. The Peelites 1846-1857. Columbus, OH : Ohio State University, 1972.

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