Henry Bruce, 1st Baron Aberdare

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Henry Austin Bruce, 1st Baron Aberdare GCB, PC, FRS (16 April 1815 – 25 February 1895) was a British statesman who served in government during the late 19th century, most notably as Home Secretary and as Lord President of the Council.[1]


Background and education

Henry Bruce was born at Duffryn, Aberdare, Glamorganshire, the son of John Bruce, a Glamorganshire landowner, by his wife Sarah, daughter of Reverend Hugh Williams Austin. John Bruce's original family name was Knight, but on coming of age in 1805 he assumed the name of Bruce: his mother, through whom he inherited the Duffryn estate, was the daughter of William Bruce, high sheriff of Glamorganshire. Henry was educated at Swansea Grammar School, and in 1837 was called to the bar. Shortly after he had begun to practice, the discovery of coal beneath the Duffryn and other Aberdare Valley estates brought the family great wealth.

Political career

From 1847 to 1854 Bruce was stipendiary magistrate for Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare, resigning the position in the latter year, when he entered parliament as Liberal member for Merthyr Tydfil. During this time, he became involved in the management of the Dowlais Iron Company. In 1862 he became Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, and in 1868, after losing his seat at Merthyr Tydfil, but being re-elected for Renfrewshire, he was made Home Secretary by William Ewart Gladstone. His tenure of this office was conspicuous for a reform of the licensing laws, and he was responsible for the Licensing Act 1872, which made the magistrates the licensing authority, increased the penalties for misconduct in public-houses and shortened the number of hours for the sale of drink. In 1873 Bruce relinquished the home secretaryship, at Gladstone's request, to become Lord President of the Council, and was raised to the peerage as Baron Aberdare, of Duffryn in the County of Glamorgan, on 23 August that year.

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