Skip to main content
Menu

Lord John Russell
, 1844

by Samuel Bellin (engraver) after Thomas Heathfield Carrick

mezzotint (sheet: 43.8 cm x 33.3 cm, image: 33.0 cm x 26.0 cm)

John Russell, 1st Earl Russell KG GCMG PC (1792–1878) was secretary of state for War and the Colonies from 1839 to 1841 and served twice as prime minister of Great Britain, in 1846–1852 and 1865–1866. Born and raised a liberal, championing religious freedom, totally free trade and the limitation of corporal punishment, he was to be the last Whig prime minister. In 1831 he made his name with the presentation of a reform bill to the House of Commons that resulted in the Representation of the People Act 1832, substantially increasing the number (of men) eligible to vote. In 1837-1838 he sat on the parliamentary select committee on transportation. At the beginning of 1840, in charge of the colonies, he approved the appointment of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commission, to exercise wider functions throughout the empire as a whole, particularly in Australia. However, Russell is best-remembered in Australia as the man who, in May 1840, ordered the cessation of transportation to New South Wales. The last convict ship to arrive in the colony under the old system came in late 1840 (although there were various attempts to prolong or resume transportation until 1850). Otherwise, Russell’s great legacies were the Factory Act of 1847, setting a limit to factory working hours; and the Public Health Act of 1848, improving sanitation. His close friend, Charles Dickens, dedicated 'A Tale of Two Cities' to him in 1859.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2014
Accession number: 2014.2