The image is from Wikipedia Commons
|Member of Parliament
15 April 1867 – 21 November 1868
|Preceded by||Robert Culling Hanbury|
|Succeeded by||George Hamilton|
|Member of Parliament
27 April 1880 – 12 January 1906
|Succeeded by||Herbert Paul|
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Cambridge|
|Occupation||writer, publisher and theatre owner|
|Known for||Labouchere Amendment criminalising male homosexual activity|
Henry Du Pré Labouchère (9 November 1831 – 15 January 1912) was an English politician, writer, publisher and theatre owner in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. He is now most remembered for the Labouchère Amendment, which for the first time criminalised all male homosexual activity in the United Kingdom.
Labouchère, who came from a wealthy Huguenot banking family, was a junior member of the British diplomatic service before briefly serving in Parliament in 1865–68. He lived with the actress Henrietta Hodson from 1868, and they married in 1887. He made a name for himself as a journalist and theatre producer, first buying a stake in The Daily News and in 1876 founding the magazine Truth, which he bankrolled through an extensive series of libel suits. In 1880, he returned to Parliament as the Liberal member for Northampton, and became a key figure in the radical Home Rule wing of the party. He was a controversial figure, and opposition from Queen Victoria as well as from senior Liberals ensured that he was never given a ministerial position. He became increasingly unpopular due to his opposition to the Second Boer War, and resigned from politics in 1906, when he left Britain and retired to Italy.
Labouchère was born in London to a family of Huguenot extraction.[n 1] His grandfather, Pierre (Peter) César Labouchère, was a partner in the banking house of Thomas Hope, and married a daughter of Sir Francis Baring. His father, John Peter Labouchère (d. 1863) was also a partner in Hope's, and then in Deacon's; his uncle, also called Henry Labouchère (d. 1869), entered politics and served in Parliament from 1826 to 1859, when he was made a peer as Baron Taunton. Despite disapproving of Labouchère, his uncle helped the young man's early career and left him a sizeable inheritance when he died leaving no male heir. His mother, Mary Louisa née Du Pré (1799–1863) was from an English family. Labouchère was the eldest of their three sons and six daughters.
Labouchère was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, where, he later said, he "diligently attended the racecourse at Newmarket", losing £6,000 in gambling in two years.[n 2] He was accused of cheating in an examination, and his degree was withheld. Leaving Cambridge, he was sent to South America to look after family business interests there; however, he ended up working in a circus troupe in Mexico and lived for several months in an Ojibwe camp near Minneapolis.
Early diplomatic and political career
While he was in the US, Labouchère (without his prior knowledge) was found a place in the British diplomatic service by his family. Between 1854 and 1864, he served as a minor diplomat in Washington, Munich, Stockholm, Frankfurt, Saint Petersburg, Dresden, and Constantinople. He was, however, not known for his diplomatic demeanour, and acted impudently on occasion. He went too far when he wrote to the Foreign Secretary to refuse a posting offered to him, "I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Lordship's despatch, informing me of my promotion as Second Secretary to Her Majesty's Legation at Buenos Ayres. I beg to state that, if residing at Baden-Baden I can fulfil those duties, I shall be pleased to accept the appointment." He was politely told that there was no further use for his services.
The year after his dismissal, Labouchère was elected at the 1865 general election as a member of parliament (MP) for Windsor, as a Liberal. However, that election was overturned on petition, and in April 1867 he was elected at a by-election as an MP for Middlesex. At the 1868 election he narrowly lost his seat, winning only 90 votes fewer than his Conservative opponent's total of 6,487. Labouchère did not return to the House of Commons for 12 years.
Theatre producer, journalist and writer
In 1867, Labouchère and his partners engaged the architect C. J. Phipps and the artists Albert Moore and Telbin to remodel the large St. Martins Hall to create Queen's Theatre, Long Acre. A new company of players was formed, including Charles Wyndham, Henry Irving, J. L. Toole, Ellen Terry, and Henrietta Hodson. By 1868, Hodson and Labouchère were living together out of wedlock, as they could not marry until her first husband died in 1887. Labouchère bought out his partners and used the theatre to promote Hodson's talents; the theatre made a loss, Hodson retired, and the theatre closed in 1879. The couple finally married in 1887. They had one child together, Mary Dorothea (Dora) Labouchère (1884–1944).
During the break in his Parliamentary career, Labouchère gained renown as a journalist, editor, and publisher, sending witty dispatches from Paris during the Siege of Paris in 1870–1871, noting the eating of zoo elephants, donkeys, cats and rats when food supplies ran low. This series of articles helped restore the circulation of the Daily News, in which he had bought a stake in 1868. His unflinching style gained a large audience for first his reporting, and later his personal weekly journal, Truth (started in 1876), which was often sued for libel. With his inherited wealth, he could afford to defend such suits. Labouchère's claims to being impartial were ridiculed by his critics, including W. S. Gilbert (who had been an object of Labouchère's theatrical criticism) in Gilbert's comic opera His Excellency (see illustration at right). In 1877, Gilbert had engaged in a public feud with Labouchère's lover, Henrietta Hodson.
Labouchère was a vehement opponent of feminism; he campaigned in Truth against the suffrage movement, ridiculing and belittling women who sought the right to vote. He was also a virulent anti-semite, opposed to Jewish participation in British life, using Truth to campaign against "Hebrew barons" and their supposedly excessive influence, "Jewish exclusivity" and "Jewish cowardice". One of the victims of his attacks was Edward Levy-Lawson, proprietor of The Daily Telegraph. In 1879 there was a much-reported court case following a fracas on the doorstep of the Beefsteak Club between Labouchère and Levy-Lawson. The committee of the club expelled Labouchère, who successfully sought a court ruling that they had no right to do so.
Return to Parliament
Labouchère returned to Parliament in the 1880 election, when he and Charles Bradlaugh, both Liberals, won the two seats for Northampton. (Bradlaugh's then-controversial atheism led Labouchère, a closet agnostic, to refer sardonically to himself as "the Christian member for Northampton".)
In 1884, Labouchère unsuccessfully proposed legislation to extend the existing laws against cruelty to animals. In 1885, Labouchère, whose libertarian stances did not preclude a fierce homophobia, drafted the Labouchère Amendment as a last-minute addition to a Parliamentary Bill that had nothing to do with homosexuality.[n 3] His amendment outlawed "gross indecency"; sodomy was already a crime, but Labouchère's Amendment now criminalised any sexual activity between men.[n 4] Ten years later the Labouchère Amendment allowed for the prosecution of Oscar Wilde, who was given the maximum sentence of two years' imprisonment with hard labour. Labouchère expressed regret that Wilde's sentence was so short, and would have preferred the seven-year term he had originally proposed in the Amendment.
During the 1880s, the Liberal Party faced a split between a Radical wing (led by Joseph Chamberlain) and a Whig wing (led by the Marquess of Hartington), with its party leader, William Ewart Gladstone straddling the middle. Labouchère was a firm and vocal Radical, who tried to create a governing coalition between the Radicals and the Irish Nationalists that would exclude or marginalise the Whigs. This plan was wrecked in 1886, when, after Gladstone came out for Home Rule, a large contingent of both Radicals and Whigs chose to leave the Liberal Party to form the Liberal Unionist Party allied with the Conservatives.
Between 1886 and 1892, a Conservative government was in power, and Labouchère worked tirelessly to remove them from office. When the government was turned out in 1892, and Gladstone was called to form an administration, Labouchère expected to be rewarded with a cabinet post. Queen Victoria refused to allow Gladstone to offer either Labouchère or Charles Dilke an office, however, as she had a strong personal dislike of them – "she would never allow such horrid men to enter the Govt". Her dislike stemmed from his editorship of Truth, which she felt had insulted the Royal Family. According to the historian Vernon Bogdanor, this was the last time a British monarch vetoed a prime minister's appointment of a cabinet minister.[n 5] However, Gladstone may have been happy to drop Labouchère given his lack of political support. Likewise, the new foreign secretary, Lord Rosebery, a personal enemy of Labouchère, declined to offer him the ambassadorship to Washington for which Labouchère had asked.
Through the 1890s, Labouchère was a critic of both Liberal and Conservative Imperial policies; he demanded an enquiry into Rhodesian policy in 1893–94, and in 1895 sat on the commission enquiring into the Jameson Raid. However, his position became gradually alienated from his party and from public opinion, as he strongly opposed the South African War and argued for peace. His reputation was also tarnished by a series of financial scandals: in 1897, he was accused in the press of share-rigging, using Truth to disparage companies, advising shareholders to dispose of their shares and, when the share prices fell as a result, buying them himself at a low price. He failed to reply to the accusations, and his reputation suffered. A later pamphlet by Henry Hess of The Critic, in 1905, revealed further financial misdealings.
When the Liberal party took power in December 1905, Labouchère was not offered any political office by Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the new prime minister. He was disappointed in this – he had been a strong supporter of Campbell-Bannerman – and retired from Parliament the following month, choosing not to stand at the 1906 general election. His only political reward from the new government was a privy councillorship.
- Beckett, Francis (2000). Clement Attlee. Politico's Publishing Limited. p. 199. ISBN 1-902301-70-6.
- Bogdanor, Vernon (1997). The Monarchy and the Constitution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-829334-8.
- Jenkins, Roy (1998). The Chancellors. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-73057-7.
- Sherson, Erroll (1925). London's Lost Theatres of the Nineteenth Century. London: Bodley Head. OCLC 51413815.
- Thorold, Algar (1913). The Life of Henry Labouchere. New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons. OCLC 400277.
- Russell, George W. E. (1916). Portraits of the Seventies. London: Fisher Unwin. OCLC 221085405.
- "Henry Du Pre Labouchere". The Twickenham Museum.
- This page is based on the Wikipedia article Henry Labouchère; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA.