Hugh Childers

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Caricature from Punch, 1882
Hugh Culling Eardley Childers (June 25, 1827 - January 29, 1896) was a British and Australian Liberal statesman of the nineteenth century.

He was born in London and educated at both Oxford and the University of Cambridge, graduating B.A. from the latter in 1850. He then decided to seek a career in Australia and in October emigrated to Victoria.

He joined the government of Victoria and served as inspector of schools and immigration agent, before becoming auditor-general in 1853. In 1852 he placed a bill before the state legislature proposing the establishment of a second university for Victoria, following the foundation of the University of Sydney in 1850. With the receipt of the Royal Assent in 1853, the University of Melbourne was founded, with Childers as its first vice-chancellor.

He retained the post until his return to Britain in March 1857 and received a M.A. from Cambridge the same year. In 1860 he entered Parliament as the Liberal member for Pontefract, and served in a minor capacity in the government of Lord Palmerston, becoming a civil lord of the admiralty in 1864 and financial secretary to the treasury in 1865.

With the election of Gladstone's government in 1868 he rose to greater prominence, serving as First Lord of the Admiralty, and inaugurating a policy of retrenchment. In 1871 he was forced to resign due to ill-health but returned the following year as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

When the Liberals regained power in 1880 Childers was appointed Secretary for War, a position he accepted reluctantly. He therefore had to bear responsibility for cuts in arms expenditure, a policy that provoked controversy when rebellions against British authority broke out in South Africa in 1880 and Egypt in 1882.

He became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1882, a post he had coveted. As such, he attempted to implement a conversion of consols in 1884. Although the scheme proved a failure, it paved the way for the subsequent conversion in 1888.

Faced with a budget shortfall in June 1885, he attempted to resolve the problem by increasing alcohol duty and income tax. His budget was rejected by Parliament, and the government - already unpopular due to events in Egypt - was forced out of office. The Earl of Rosebery commented resignedly: "So far as I know the budget is as good a question to go out upon as any other, and Tuesday as good a day."

At the subsequent election in December 1885 Childers lost his Pontefract seat, but returned as an independent Home Ruler for Edinburgh South (one of the few Liberals who adopted this policy before Gladstone's conversion in 1886). He then served as Home Secretary in the short-lived ministry of 1886. He was critical of the financial clauses of the first Home Rule Bill, and their withdrawal was largely due to his threat of resignation. Nevertheless, the Bill still failed to pass, and its rejection brought down the Liberal government.

He retired from parliament in 1892, and his last piece of work was the drafting of a report for the royal commission on Irish financial relations, of which he was chairman.


Towards the end of his ministerial career "HCE" Childers was notable for his girth, and so acquired the nickname "Here Comes Everybody".

A cousin, Robert Erskine Childers, was author of the famous spy novel The Riddle of the Sands and father of the fourth President of Ireland, Erskine Childers.


  • The Life and Correspondence of the Rt. Hon. Hugh C.E. Childers, Spencer Childers, 1901
  • The Educational Activities in Victoria of the Right Hon. H. C. E. Childers, E. Sweetman, 1940


Preceded by:
Henry Lowry Corry
First Lord of the Admiralty
Succeeded by:
George Joachim Goschen

Template:Succession box one to two

Preceded by:
Sir Frederick Stanley
Secretary of State for War
Succeeded by:
Marquess of Hartington
Preceded by:
William Ewart Gladstone
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by:
Sir Michael Hicks-Beach
Preceded by:
Sir Richard Assheton Cross
Home Secretary
Succeeded by:
Henry Matthews

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