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This series of letters and telegram comprises the private correspondence exchanged between the 9th Earl of Elgin and the governors of the Dominions of Canada and Newfoundland, together with certain associated documents, which Elgin retained on his departure from office , as Secretary of State for the Colonies. The correspondence addressed issues considered too personal or too sensitive for the official channel of despatches between the governors and the Colonial Office, where despatches were routinely read and digested by subordinate officials. The correspondence with Earl Grey, Governor General of Canada, reflects long-standing familial connections and familiarity; the correspondence with Sir William MacGregor, Governor of Newfoundland, illustrates a somewhat different style of working relationship. That both Elgin and Grey understood the nature of the private channel explains their restraint in labelling their communications as Private or Confidential. MacGregor extravagantly applied two or three labels - Confidential, Immediate, Personal, Private, and Secret - particularly to telegrams. The segregation of this correspondence by geo-political division and heirarchical levels parallels the filing principles observed at the Colonial Office (see Colonial Office 42 and 194). Elgin diverged from that pattern in his placing retained copies of outgoing letters and telegrams in chronological sequence with the incoming letters. The limited quantity of correspondence exchanged with other officials undoubtedly led to its retention as one sequence.
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Victor Alexander Bruce, 9th Earl of Elgin and 13th Earl of Kincardine was born 16 May 1849 at Montreal, the eldest son and heir of James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin and 12th Earl of Kincardine and his second wife, Lady Mary Louisa Lambton. Styled the Lord Bruce during his father's lifetime, he likewise was educated at Oxford University. Both were men of modest stature (about 5 feet 7 inches). He inherited a sense of public responsibility from both parents. Victor Alexander married Lady Constance Mary Carnegie (1853-1909), second daughter of the Earl of Southesk, on 9 November 1876. She bore him 11 children. In 1913 he married Gertrude Sherbrooke (1880-1971), who bore him a posthumous son. A man of retiring disposition, Lord Elgin initially devoted himself to the Broomhall estates, to county and Scottish affairs. His first major political appointment came in the short-lived Gladstone cabinet of 1886. Thanks largely to his management of the Liberal Party in Scotland, he was offered the post of Viceroy of India in 1893. With some reluctance, he took up the post in January 1894 and remained through 1898. Subsequently, he demonstrated considerable skill as chairman of three commissions of inquiry. Invited to join the Cabinet again in December 1905, he took office as Secretary of State for the Colonies. Having the bumptious Winston Churchill as Under-Secretary worked greatly to Elgin's disadvantage. When H H Asquith succeeded Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman as Prime Minister in April 1908, Lord Elgin was abruptly excluded from the Cabinet (but retained his seat in the House of Lords). He devoted his remaining years to local politics until his death on 18 January 1917.
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