Young, Sir John (1807–76), 1st Baron Lisgar , chief secretary for Ireland and governor-general of New South Wales and Canada, was born 31 August 1807 in Bombay, India, eldest son of Sir William Young, 1st baronet (d. 1848) of Bailieborough Castle, Co. Cavan, director and shareholder in the East India Company, and his wife Lucy (d. 1856), daughter of Lieut-col. Charles Frederick. John was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated BA in 1829. That year he was admitted to Lincoln's Inn; he was called to the bar in 1834 but never practised. In 1831 he was elected conservative member for Co. Cavan (1831–55), his father being landlord to 114 of the 304 electors in the barony of Clonkee.
In parliament Young attached himself to Sir Robert Peel (qv), who regarded him, with Edward Lucas (qv), as the ablest of the conservative Irish MPs. Although he was not a prominent speaker, his eloquence was aroused by any threat to the established church, and in one uncharacteristically farfetched analogy he compared Daniel O'Connell (qv) to Robespierre. In general he was more liberal than other Peelites. On Peel's return to office in 1841 Young was appointed a lord of the treasury, and on 21 May 1844 secretary of the treasury and chief whip, a position well suited to his discerning judgment. In March 1846 he warned Peel of the difficulty presented by the draconian Irish coercion bill, and was proved right when the bill led to the splitting of the conservatives and the overthrow of Peel's government. Young resigned office on 7 July 1846, and subsequently did much to hold the Peelites together as a coherent party, though the lack of a party whip and of a club proved obstacles. In 1847 there were thirteen Irish Peelites; on the death of Peel in 1850 this had dropped to four, of whom three retired in the next two years with only Young surviving to the succeeding parliament.
In December 1852 Lord Aberdeen formed a coalition government in which Young was appointed chief secretary for Ireland in preference to the whig Sir Thomas Redington (qv), who was rejected by the Irish faction because of his support for the ecclesiastical titles bill. The Peelites, including Young, had voted against the bill. Although The Nation identified Young with the landlord interest, he proved conciliatory on the land question. His main duty as chief secretary was to pilot through the house the tenants’ improvements compensation bill, a weakened version of the bill proposed by Sharman Crawford (qv) which sought to extend the Ulster custom throughout the country. Young had voted repeatedly against Crawford's bill but was not unsympathetic to tenant right, stating in December 1852 that the landlords of his constituency were prepared for greater concessions. William Shee, a leading member of the independent Irish party, considered him frank, well informed, and flexible, and appreciated his efforts to bring European land law to bear on the Irish case.
In May 1853 Young opposed, together with Russell, a motion to inquire into the ecclesiastical revenues of Ireland, deeming it an unacceptable attack on the established church. Russell expressed himself in language strong enough to cause the Irish party members of government, William Keogh (qv) and John Sadleir (qv), to submit letters of resignation, though they allowed themselves to be conciliated. Six months later, when it emerged that Sadleir had procured the wrongful arrest of a political opponent during the 1852 general election, Young forced him to resign in January 1854. On 20 March 1855 Young resigned the chief secretaryship on being appointed high commissioner of the Ionian Islands. His final action in February 1855 was to limit retrospective compensation for improving tenants to twenty years, an amendment opposed by the Irish party.
As high commissioner, he opposed the desire of the majority of the inhabitants of the islands for unity with Greece, and in June 1858 sent a dispatch recommending that Corfu and Paxo be converted into English colonies with the consent of their populations. This dispatch was stolen and published in the Daily News and Young had to be recalled in January 1859. On 4 February 1859 he was nominated KCB. Appointed governor-general of New South Wales in March 1861, Young, urged by the premier, Sir Charles Cowper, immediately nominated fifteen new members to the upper house to pass a measure regulating the allotment of crown lands. His predecessor had refused to accede to this demand and Young was rebuked by the colonial secretary. Nevertheless he completed his term, returning to England in December 1867. The following year he was created GCB (13 November 1868).
In 1868 he accepted from a conservative ministry the governorship of Canada, which had been rejected by several others because the Canadian parliament had reduced the governor's salary. During his first year in Canada the rebellion led by Louis Riel broke out and Young, as appeasement, proclaimed an amnesty on 6 December 1869; the rebellion was eventually suppressed in September 1870. He was considered by the Canadian prime minister, John A. Macdonald, as the ablest of the governor generals under whom he had served. However, Young complained to the colonial secretary of Macdonald's independence, and found generally that he had less influence in Canada than in his previous colonial postings, as ministers decided measures before consulting him. Shortly before his resignation (before the end of his term) in June 1872, he inadvertently failed to prevent a bill imposing discriminatory duties in Canada against American tea and coffee. The Australian colonies then asked for similar rights and this move towards protectionism dealt a blow to the British ideal of a free-trade empire.
On retirement Young returned to Cavan, having been created Baron Lisgar of Lisgar and Baillieborough (26 October 1870). He died 6 October 1876 at Baillieborough and was survived by his wife, Adelaide Annabella, daughter of Edward Tuite Dalton, whom he married 5 April 1835. There were no children.