He was First Lord of the Admiralty from to when he resigned on account of the government pressing for a reform of the Irish Church.
He represented Hull from to ;  for St Ives in ; for Carlisle from until ;  for East Cumberland from until ;  for Pembrokeshire District from until ;  for Dorchester from until ;  for Ripon from until July ;  and was again returned for Carlisle from until his death in Graham Land in Antarctica is named after him. He was taught at a private school at Dalston in Cumberland , kept by the Rev. He left Oxford after two years and while travelling for his pleasure abroad, he took up a position of private secretary to Lord Montgomerie , British diplomat in Sicily , during the period of the Napoleonic Wars.
When Montgomerie became ill the responsibility for the mission fell on Graham. During this time he conducted the negotiations which led to the separation of Joachim Murat from Napoleon.
When the war ended he returned to England. Back in London, Graham immersed himself in political affairs. On 10 June he announced that he would contest the mercantile borough of Hull. Known at the time as the Yorkshire Dandy on account of his fine appearance and flowery speech, he stood on the Whig doctrine of Parliamentary reform , the abolition of unnecessary positions and pensions, peace , retrenchment , the abolition of the slave trade , and religious and civil liberties. After three days of open voting and official scrutiny, Graham entered parliament as the junior member by a mere four votes.
In January , George IV succeeded thus forcing a dissolution of parliament. As a result of his past support for radical measures he failed to gain the necessary support to retain the Yorkshire seat and in consequence he stood and won the Cornish seat of St Ives , heading the poll with votes. However his parliamentary career, although undistinguished, now became brief: when charged with bribing the electorate he resigned rather than contest an expensive suit.
Graham returned to Cumberland and began a programme of improving the family estate at Netherby , with the intention that such improvements would benefit both the landowner and the tenant. He began with a one-off gesture, wiping out the arrears of his tenants debts. He eventually studied the Corn Laws and their effects upon the community, publishing his conclusions in a pamphlet of pages entitled Corn and Currency, which brought him into prominence as a man of advanced Liberal opinions.
He argued that liberal economics rather than protection would best serve the interests of the landowners. Whereas high prices increased rents to the benefit of the landowners they conferred no advantage to the labourer and were an injury to the productive and a tax on the unproductive classes of the community. His general conclusions were in favour of free trade and free banking.
In he succeeded to the baronetcy. At the general election of , Graham, who stood upon principles identical to those advocated when contesting Hull, became the senior member for the city of Carlisle. It was a remarkable contest. When Sir Philip Musgrave, 8th Baronet — , the Tory candidate, ventured into one of the poorest districts of the city, he was confronted by a group of non-electors seeking his opinions relating to the Corn Laws.
When his views failed to meet with their approval he received a storm of abuse followed by a shower of stones, and a general disturbance ensued. Members of the corporation and the constabulary were man-handled and thrown into the Milldam. In the course of the afternoon a detachment of the 55th regiment of Foot appeared to quell the disturbance.
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The mob received the troops with a volley of stones, the troops reacted with a hail of ball cartridges and when the smoke cleared two young women lay dead and numerous others lay wounded. As a result, Graham resigned his seat and entered parliament in an uncontested election on their behalf. During the proceedings Graham declared himself a "party man" under the Blue flag of freedom; declaring. The Tories are a "Court Party" aiming at the advancement of kingly power, while the Whigs, the "Country Party", fought to uphold popular rights, defend popular feelings, and forward the happiness of the people.
Sir James Graham Premium Pictures, Photos, & Images - Getty Images
At the end of July, following the dissolution of parliament, Graham and Sir John Lowther both returned for Cumberland. In he first made a name in the House of Commons by a motion for the reduction of official salaries, and he increased his reputation by an attack on the salaries received by privy councillors. This gave him a position as one of the more advanced reformers, and in November Earl Grey offered him the post of First Lord of the Admiralty. He was also sworn of the Privy Council. Graham later became a member of the committee, along with Lord Durham , Lord Duncannon and Lord John Russell charged with the task of compiling and introducing the Great Reform Act of The Reform Act was assured, and European peace secured.
All was well except in Ireland where the unfair system of raising tithes for the church and the problems relating to land tenure prevailed. The discontent of the Irish Catholic majority was strong enough to prevent the collection of tithes to support an antagonistic and as they believed heretical church.
Parliament proposed that all compositions for tithes should cease, and that an annual land tax should be paid, out of which provision should be made for the clergy and other tithe owners. As such in , the British Government introduced the Irish Church Temporalities Bill which proposed the administrative and financial restructuring of the Church. The bill sought to reduce the number of both bishoprics and archbishoprics from 22 to 12, to change the structure of the leases of Church lands and to apply the revenues saved by these changes for the use of parishes.
In January , notwithstanding criticism from significant parts of the Cumbrian electorate, Graham reassured his supporters that he still favoured peace, retrenchment and reform and in consequence he was returned unopposed at the general election. In , upon the death of William IV and the announcement of a general election, a requisition signed by over 2, county freeholders sought the election of two alternative Whig candidates.
On the day of the election, freeholders flocked from every part of the division, to offer support for the reform candidates. The cavalcade of horsemen, four a breast, man of whom had ridden many miles that morning, stretched over half a mile. Flags and banner, advertising the disapproval of Graham, flew profusely, many of them bearing skits relating to Grahams past conduct.
On the hustings , Graham found it difficult to obtain a hearing, and in consequence he submitted to his opponents cries. At the close of the poll the numbers were: for Francis Aglionby 2,; for William James 2,; for Graham 1, Thus ending Grahams' influence in his home county.
In he was elected Rector of the University of Glasgow , an award quickly followed with the Freedom of the same city.
Sir James Graham. Wood engraving by E. Evans, 1845.
In Owen's mounting debts led him to flee from his creditors and by he found it necessary to return to his borough seat; a situation which Graham felt honour bound to comply. In the general election Robert Williams — gave up his seat and influence to Graham who returned to parliament unopposed as member for the Dorchester constituency. Then go to step 5.
Sir James Graham
That autumn his name was put forward as a plausible candidate for Cumberland on the next vacancy, but he would not hear of it. He wished for some preferment in the church for his only brother, Fergus. On 17 Jan. On 29 Apr. On 1 Sept. He and his friend St. He added that he still wished for a peerage and preferment for his brother and was recovering from asthma.
He had already assured Sidmouth 10 Oct. A last bid to secure a peerage through Sidmouth had failed and to him he wrote on 27 Apr.
I feel a secret satisfaction that I acted a decided part at least and attached myself to your lordship and reflect with much pleasure that in my political life we never had the slightest difference of opinion. I have only now to add that though I am no longer to be Member for Ripon and most probably shall retire into private life, I trust to retain your friendship and good opinion which to me are much more valuable than a seat for Ripon.