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Career in the House of Lords

Dolben's Act. Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/PU/1/1788/28G3n170

On 7 March 1786, Charles Stanhope's father died, meaning he inherited a seat in the House of Lords and the title of 3rd Earl Stanhope. In the House of Lords Stanhope became known for his eccentric nature and interests, and ultimately for his isolation from his contemporaries. Even close relationships, like that formed with William Pitt, began to dissolve during this period. His maiden speech in the Lords was an attack on Pitt's government and proposals to deal with national debt. However, the two were not at odds on all matters: when a new version of Stanhope's earlier Election Bill was brought forward, Pitt backed it in the Commons.

Interest in the abolition of the slave trade

Stanhope and Pitt also worked with Wilberforce to launch an attack on the slave trade in the late 1780s. The 1788 Slave Trade Act, also known as Dolben's Act, placed limitations on the number of  enslaved Africans that British slave ships could transport. The Act was a temporary measure which regulated conditions to a certain extent. Stanhope conducted the Bill through the Lords, despite heavy opposition from members of the Cabinet.

Stanhope remained committed to the abolition of the slave trade, and spoke  in favour of it in the House of Lords. He was one of the most fervent supporters of the Slave Trade Abolition Act of 1807, which abolished the slave trade in the British Empire.

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