Durham came from a long and aristocratic line of Englishmen. His father, William Lambton, was a Member of Parliament, whose last speech in the House was in defence of the Habeas Corpus Act. William died in 1797 when his son, John, was but five years of age. John "was a spoiled child as fatherless boys are apt to be."1 He was educated at Eton and Cambridge after which he joined "a crack cavalry regiment." Durham was well connected to persons in power. He married the eldest daughter of Lord Grey, Louisa, in 1816. Grey, of course, was the author of the Reform Bill of 1832; Durham was made a member of the Grey Cabinet.
Durham was ever ready to go at that which others were afraid to approach; he was often referred to as "Radical Jack". As examples of his "impetuous temperament," Archibald MacMechan2 gave the Greta Green marriage with an heiress, while he was yet a minor3, and, his duel in 1820 with a Mr Beaumont.
I deal with Durham and his report in my larger work, sufficient to set out here that, with two of Her Majesty's dominions in North America in a state of civil rebellion, he was sent out from England to ease matters into a better political state.4
Durham reached Canada in May of 1838 and sailed back to England in November of the same year. While in Canada, Durham held the position of "Governor-General of the British North American Colonies."5
While in Canada:
"He surrounded himself with almost regal state during his brief overlordship of Canada. In Quebec, at the Castle of St Louis, he lived like a prince. Many tales are told of his arrogant self-assertion and hauteur."6
Durham brought with him, 22 assistants. His party disembarked at Quebec in the month of May, 1838, with great musical fanfare; he brought with him, characteristically of Durham, a musical band. He announced his policy, almost immediately, it was to be one "of firmness united to conciliation."7
Durham arrived back in England on the 30th of November, 1838. By the middle of the following January, his report with finished. A little more than a year later, Durham was dead.8
1 New, Lord Durham, (Oxford University Press, 1929), p. 4. The portrait above is from the fp of this work by New.
2 MacMechan, The Winning of Popular Government, p. 6.
3 We learn from the DCB that Durham was married twice. First, in 1812, to Harriet Cholmondeley at Gretna Green. Harriet died young in 1815 of consumption leaving behind three young daughters. His second marriage, in 1816, was to Lady Louisa Elizabeth Grey; they had two sons and three daughters.
4 "[Lord Durham] had the peculiar merit of regarding freedom as the means of preserving the Imperial connexion, and not as a step towards separation, which most Whig and Conservative statesmen in that era believed to be inevitable." (Trevelyan, G. M., A Shortened History of England, (Penguin, 1960), p. 493.)
5 Saunders, "Statement Relative to the Introduction and History of Responsible Government in Nova Scotia," NSHS; Vol #17 (1913), p. 199.
6 MacMechan, The Winning of Popular Government, p. 7.
7 MacMechan, p. 9. Though Durham was "vain and ambitious," he was "gifted with powers of political insight."
8 "Despite a certain haughtiness of manner which was apt to wound his inferiors and irritate his equals in position, he was possessed of a great fund of accurate political knowledge and a happy faculty of grasping all the essential facts of a different situation, and suggesting the best remedy to apply under all the circumstances." (Bourinot, Canada under British Rule (1760-1900), p. 136.)