Thomas Babington Macaulay, baron, an English historian, born at Rothley Temple, in the village of Rothley, Leicestershire, Oct. 25,1800, died in Kensington, London, Dec. 28, 1859. His paternal ancestors were Scotch Highlanders, and ministers of the kirk, He was the son of Zachary Macaulay, a West India merchant, renowned as a philanthropist and as one of the leaders of "the Clapham sect," and was born at the residence of his aunt, from whose husband, Thomas Babington, he was named. He studied under a Mr. Preston at Shelford, and at 18 was entered at Trinity college, Cambridge. His university career was brilliant. He gained the "chancellor's medal" in 1819 for a poem on "Pompeii," the same prize in 1820 for a poem on "Evening," and the second Craven scholarship in 1821. He was a leading member of the debating society. He took his bachelor's degree in 1822, and though he did not compete for honors, owing to his distaste for mathematics, he was chosen a fellow of his college. He resided in London and Cambridge alternately during the next four years, taking his master's degree in 1825; and he was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1826. During these four years he wrote several of his ballads, "The Spanish Armada," "Mon-contour," " Ivry," and others, and also the earliest of his essays and critiques.
These writings appeared principally in Knight's " Quarterly Magazine." His first contribution to the "Edinburgh Review" appeared in 1825, the subject being slavery, and his connection with that periodical lasted for 20 years. At that time he wrote poetical political " squibs " for the "Times," which were attributed to Moore. His first official appointment was that of commissioner of bankrupts, which was obtained for him in the interval between the fall of the Liverpool ministry and the formation of the "Wellington ministry. His first public speech was made in 1826, at the annual anti-slavery meeting in London, and its brilliancy confirmed the reputation he had acquired in the debating societies of Cambridge and the metropolis. Much was expected of him by the whig party, to which he belonged; and in 1830 he was brought into parliament by one of the chiefs of that party, the marquis of Lansdowne, for the borough of Calne. His first speech in the house of commons was made April 5, 1830, in support of the bill to repeal the civil disabilities of the Jews of Great Britain; and his second, Dec. 13, on slavery in the West Indies. During the great debates that marked the course of the reform contest in the commons, Mr. Macaulay took a part second only to that of Mr. E. Stanley (afterward earl of Derby) in support of liberal principles.
Mr. Croker was appointed by the tories to encounter the rising whig, but was worsted in the conflict. He made eight speeches on reform in the old parliament; and when the elections for the first reformed parliament took place, in 1832, he was returned for the town of Leeds. He spoke several times in 1833, his principal effort being on the East India company's charter bill, July 10, which the experienced speaker (Manners Sutton) pronounced the best speech he ever heard. He was appointed secretary of the board of control in 1833; but he resigned that office, as well as his seat in parliament, in 1834, to go out to India as a member of the supreme council. He was appointed legal adviser to that body; and as the special object of his mission was to prepare a new Indian code, he was exempted from all share in the administration of affairs. He had four assistants, but the code produced was mostly his work. It contained 26 chapters, divided into nearly 500 clauses, and was published in 1838. One of his objects was to do justice to the native populations.
The right of appealing from the local courts to the supreme court at the presidency had been enjoyed only by the English; but the new code provided that both natives and Europeans should have the right of appeal, but only to the highest provincial courts. This benevolent attempt drew down upon the codifier the denunciations of the English in India, who called this item of the code "the black act." The code proved a failure, and could not be applied to affairs of real life, because, the author's friends asserted, it was too good. In 1838 Macaulay returned to England; and in 1839 he was elected to parliament from Edinburgh, and was appointed secretary at war in the Melbourne ministry, with a seat in the cabinet. His first speech on resuming parliamentary life was made June 18, and was in support of the ballot. He spoke on all the leading questions that were discussed during the last two years of the Melbourne ministry; and when that ministry fell, in August, 1841, he went into opposition. Among other speeches which he then made were two of peculiar interest to Americans, one being on the treaty of Washington, and the other on the "apprehension of offenders bill," both in 1843. On the return of the whigs to power in 1846 he was made paymaster general.
For his support of the Maynooth grant he incurred the animosity of his constituents, and failed of a reelection at Edinburgh in 1847. In 1840 a collection of his contributions to the "Edinburgh Review " was published at Boston, under the title of "Miscellanies," in 2 vols. 12mo, but omitting several of his best essays. This publication first made him generally known to the reading world. As the fruit of his residence in India, he wrote his articles on " Clive " and "Warren Hastings "for the "Edinburgh Review" in 1840 and 1841. His "Lays of Ancient Rome" were published in 1842, and, in addition to their merit as poetry, the introduction, explanations, and notes show a profound apprehension of the spirit of early Roman history. After the loss of his seat in parliament, he devoted himself to a work on English history, on which he had been some time employed. The first and second volumes of this work appeared at the close of 1848, bearing the title of " The History of England from the Accession of James the Second."
These volumes, besides introductory matter, contained the history of England from the accession of James II. to the settlement of the crown on William and Mary (1685-'9), a period of only four years; and as the author announced his purpose to bring the history down to a time which was within the memory of persons still living, a very extensive work was anticipated. The "History of England " was received with as much favor and enthusiasm as ever was bestowed upon the most popular of novels. The brilliancy of its style, the range of its authorities, and its liberal tone make it a favorite wherever a reading public exists. Some of the statements made by the historian led to controversy, as in the case of his charges against William Penn. (See Penn.) In 1849 he was chosen lord rector of the university of Glasgow, and made his installation speech March 21. The next day, on returning thanks for the tender of the freedom of the city of Glasgow, he spoke again, and took a formal farewell of political life, on which occasion he explained the principles which had governed his course as a statesman. " The path of duty," he said, " appeared to be between two dangerous extremes - extremes which I shall call equally dangerous, seeing that each of them inevitably conducts society to the other.
I cannot accuse myself of having ever deviated far toward either." In 1852 he was elected to parliament by the people of Edinburgh without a movement on his part. He neither attended a meeting, nor issued an address, nor expended a farthing. The electors thus acted in order to repair voluntarily the wrong they had done him in 1847. He resumed his place in the house of commons, but the failure of his health did not admit of his participating in debate. His last speech was that which he made at Edinburgh in 1852, on the occasion of his reelection, and that was postponed for several months on account of his illness. At the close of 1855 the third and fourth volumes of his " History of England" were published. They carried the work down to the peace of Ryswick in the autumn of 1697, thus covering a period of less than nine years; and this was not complete, as the details of Scotch affairs for some time were postponed to the fifth volume. The welcome accorded to these volumes was as warm as that which had been bestowed on their predecessors, both in England and in America. His attacks on William Penn were continued in them, and those on Marlborough were much increased in force.
His remarks on the Scotch highlands gave much offence in the country of his ancestors, and he was accused of dealing too favorably with the conduct of William III. in his narrative of the massacre of Glencoe. In 1857 he was chosen a foreign associate member of the French academy of moral and political sciences; and in the same year he was created a peer of England, with the title of Baron Macau-lay of Rothley. He is supposed to have been somewhat puzzled for a territorial designation, as his life had been passed in towns, and he did not belong to the landed aristocracy; and he took that of Rothley because he was born there, though with that place he had neither feudal nor territorial connection. His promotion was universally approved. It was supposed that the government wished to avail itself of his knowledge of Indian affairs, the full discussion of which was expected to take place, in consequence of the sepoy mutiny of 1857; but he never took any part in the debates of the peers. Continuing to pursue his historical labors, so far as the state of his health would permit, he died suddenly at his residence, Holly Lodge, Campden Hill, Kensington. The cause of his death was an affection of the heart, and its immediate occasion a fit of coughing.
He was buried in Westminster abbey. - The edition of his "History" published in 1858 contained his last touches and corrections. A fifth volume, comprising all that he left ready for the press and extending to the end of the year 1701, was published by his sister, Lady Trevelyan, in 1861. It also contained a fragment giving an account of the death of King William. This, though it had not been revised, and was with great difficulty deciphered from the manuscript, is one of the most finished and beautiful passages of the whole work. His " Complete Works " have been edited by Lady Trevelyan (8 vols. 8vo, London, 1866; new ed., 1871). See also " Letters of Hannah More to Z. Macaulay, containing Notices of Lord Ma-caulav's Youth" (1860); his "Memoirs," by Dean Milman (1862); and his "Public Life," by F. Arnold (1862). A complete biography by Lady Trevelyan, and an edition of Macau-lay's letters, are in preparation (1874).