Macaulay Thomas Babington Macaulay Baron
Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay PC (25 October 1800 – 28 December 1859) was a British poet, historian and Whig politician. He wrote extensively as an essayist and reviewer, and on British history. He also held political office as Secretary at War between 1839 and 1841 and Paymaster-General between 1846 and 1848. The son and eldest child of Zachary Macaulay, a Scottish Highlander who became a colonial governor and abolitionist, Thomas Macaulay was born in Leicestershire, England. He was noted as a child prodigy. As a toddler, gazing out the window from his cot at the chimneys of a local factory, he is reputed to have put the question to his mother: "Does the smoke from those chimneys come from the fires of hell?" He was educated at a private school in Hertfordshire and at Trinity College, Cambridge. Whilst at Cambridge he wrote much poetry and won several prizes, including the Chancellor's Gold Medal in June 1821. In 1825 he published a prominent essay on Milton in the Edinburgh Review. In 1826 he was called to the bar but showed more interest in a political than a legal career. It was once rumoured that Macaulay had fallen for Maria Kinnaird, the wealthy ward of "Conversation" Sharp, but in fact he never married and had no children. In 1830 the Marquess of Lansdowne invited Macaulay to become Member of Parliament for the pocket borough of Calne. His maiden speech was in favor of abolishing the civil disabilities of the Jews. However, Macaulay made his name with a series of speeches in favour of parliamentary reform.  After the Great Reform Act of 1832 was passed, he became MP for Leeds. In the Reform, Calne's representation was reduced from two to one; Leeds had never been represented before, but now had two members. Though proud to have helped pass the Reform Bill, Macaulay never ceased to be grateful to his former patron, Lansdowne, who remained a great friend and political ally. Macaulay was Secretary to the Board of Control under Lord Grey from 1832 until 1833. After the passing of the Government of India Act 1833, he was appointed as the first Law Member of the Governor-General's Council. He went to India in 1834. Serving on the Supreme Council of India between 1834 and 1838 he was instrumental in creating the foundations of bilingual colonial India, by convincing the Governor-General to adopt English as the medium of instruction in higher education, from the sixth year of schooling onwards, rather than Sanskrit or Arabic then used in the institutions supported by the East India Company. His final years in India were devoted to the creation of a Penal Code, as the leading member of the Law Commission. In the aftermath of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Macaulay's criminal law proposal was enacted. The Indian Penal Code (1860) was followed by the Criminal Procedure Code, 1872 and the Civil Procedure Code, 1909. The Indian Penal Code was later reproduced in most other British colonies – and to date many of these laws are still in effect in places as far apart as Singapore, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. The term Macaulay's Children is used to refer to people born of Indian ancestry who adopt Western culture as a lifestyle, or display attitudes influenced by colonisers. It is used as a pejorative term, and the connotation is one of disloyalty to one's country and one's heritage. This frame of mind or attitude is also referred to as Macaulayism The passage to which the term refers is from his Minute on Indian Education, delivered in 1835. It reads, Returning to Britain in 1838, he became MP for Edinburgh. He was made Secretary at War in 1839 by Lord Melbourne and was sworn of the Privy Council the same year. In 1841 Macaulay addressed the issue of copyright law. Macaulay's position, slightly modified, became the basis of copyright law in the English-speaking world for many decades. Macaulay argued that copyright is a monopoly and as such has generally negative effects on society. After the fall of Melbourne's government in 1841 Macaulay devoted more time to literary work, but returned to office as Paymaster-General in 1846 in Lord John Russell's administration. In the election of 1847 he lost his seat in Edinburgh. He attributed the loss to the anger of religious zealots over his speech in favour of expanding the annual grant to Maynooth College in Ireland, which trained young men for the Catholic priesthood; some observers also attributed his loss to his neglect of local issues. In 1849 he was elected Rector of the University of Glasgow, a position with no administrative duties, often awarded by the students to men of political or literary fame; he also received the freedom of the city. In 1852, the voters of Edinburgh offered to re-elect him to Parliament. He accepted on the express condition that he need not campaign and would not pledge himself to a position on any political issue. Remarkably, he was elected on those terms. However, he seldom attended the House, due to ill health; indeed his weakness after suffering a heart attack caused him to postpone for several months making his speech of thanks to the Edinburgh voters. He resigned his seat in January, 1856. In 1857 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Macaulay, of Rothley in the County of Leicester, but seldom attended the House of Lords. During his first period out of office he composed Lays of Ancient Rome, a series of very popular ballads about heroic episodes in Roman history. The most famous of them, Horatius, concerns the heroism of Horatius Cocles. It contains the oft-quoted lines: During the 1840s he began work on his most famous work, "The History of England from the Accession of James the Second", publishing the first two volumes in 1848. At first, he had planned to bring his history down to the reign of George III. After publication of his first two volumes, his hope was to complete his work with the death of Queen Anne in 1714. The third and fourth volumes, bringing the history to the Peace of Ryswick, were published in 1855. However, at his death in 1859, he was working on the fifth volume. This, bringing the History down to the death of William III, was prepared for publication by his sister, Lady Trevelyan, after his death. Macaulay's political writings are famous for their ringing prose and for its confident, sometimes dogmatic, emphasis on a progressive model of British history, according to which the country threw off superstition, autocracy and confusion to create a balanced constitution and a forward-looking culture combined with freedom of belief and expression. This model of human progress has been called the Whig interpretation of history. This philosophy appears most clearly in the essays Macaulay wrote for the Edinburgh Review. But it is also reflected in the History; the most stirring passages in the work are those that describe the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688. Macaulay's approach has been criticised by later historians for its one-sidedness and its complacency. Karl Marx referred to him as a 'systematic falsifier of history'. His tendency to see history as a drama led him to treat figures whose views he opposed as if they were villains, while characters he approved of were presented as heroes. Macaulay goes to considerable length, for example, to absolve his main hero William III of any responsibility for the Glencoe massacre. On the other hand, this outlook, together with his obvious love of his subject matter and of English civilization, helps to place the reader within the age being described in a personal way that no cold neutrality could, and Macaulay's History is generally recognized as one of the masterpieces of historical writing and a magisterial literary triumph only comparable as such to Gibbon and Michelet. Macaulay sat on the committee to decide on subjects from British history to be painted in the new Palace of Westminster. The need to collect reliable portraits of noted figures in British history for this project led to the foundation of the National Portrait Gallery, which was formally established on 2 December 1856. Macaulay was amongst its founder trustees and is honoured as one of only three busts above the main entrance. During later years his health made work increasingly difficult for him. He died in December 1859, aged 59, leaving his major work, The History of England from the Accession of James the Second incomplete. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. As he had no children, his peerage became extinct on his death. Macaulay's nephew, Sir George Trevelyan, Bt, wrote a best-selling "Life and Letters" of his famous uncle, which is still the best complete life of Macaulay. His great-nephew was the Cambridge historian G. M. Trevelyan.
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Something of a mixture, Macaulay's effort at a version of folk poetry based on early Roman history is hardly wonderful poetry but is delightful and from some point incriminating. These efforts fall exactly in the mainstream of rather idealized efforts to resume an authentic "folk" voice. At the same time, Macaulay approaches this work with a relatively sophisticated knowledge of Roman history and Medieval literature. But why Rome and not, for example, Macaulay's England? Beyond the heavy emphasis on Classical literature in Macaulay's Britain, there is also the British conception of itself as a new Rome. Some parts of these poems betray concerns also about social and class stratification of Victorian Britain.
I should wish, Sir, to say what I have to say in the temperate tone which has with so much propriety been preserved by the right honourable Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department (Sir James Graham.); but, if I should use any warm expression, I trust that the House will attribute it to the strength of my convictions and to my solicitude for the public interests.