STEWART, Hon. Robert (1769-1822), of Mount Stewart, co. Down.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



12 May 1794 - 1796
1796 - 19 July 1797
1801 - July 1805
18 Jan. 1806 - 1806
1806 - 1812
1812 - 6 Apr. 1821
28 Apr. 1821 - 12 Aug. 1822

Family and Education

b. 18 June 1769,1 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Robert Stewart, 1st Mq. of Londonderry [I], by 1st w. Lady Sarah Frances Seymour Conway, da. of Francis, 1st Mq. of Hertford; half-bro. of Hon. Charles William Stewart*. educ. R. sch. Armagh 1777; by Rev. William Sturrock, Portaferry 1781; St. John’s, Camb. 1786; continental tour 1791-2. m. 9 June 1794, Lady Amelia Anne Hobart, da. and coh. of John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, s.p. Styled Visct. Castlereagh 8 Aug. 1796-1821; KG 9 June 1814, GCH 1816; suc. fa. as 2nd Mq. of Londonderry [I] 6 Apr. 1821.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1790-1800.

Keeper of the privy seal [I] July 1797-1801; ld. of treasury [I] 1797-1804; chief sec. to ld. lt. [I] Mar.-Nov. 1798 (ad. int.), 1798-1801; PC [I] 20 Oct. 1797, [GB] 19 Dec. 1798; pres. Board of Control July 1802-Feb. 1806; sec. of state for War and Colonies July 1805-Feb. 1806, Mar. 1807-Nov. 1809; sec. of state for Foreign affairs Feb. 1812-d.; plenip. at Paris 1814, 1815, Vienna 1814-15, Aachen 1818.

Lt.-col. co. Londonderry militia 1793, col. 1798-d.; gov. co. Londonderry 1805; custos rot. 1821.


Stewart’s father, ‘a country gentleman, generally accounted to be a very clever man, in the north of Ireland’, was described as being at the head of the dissenting interest there. He sat for county Down as an independent, was staunch in opposition and both a Volunteer and a parliamentary reformer. His heir was in appearance ‘a handsome graceful Conway’. It was at the instigation of his stepmother’s father Lord Chancellor Camden, ‘the remote cause of all his future successes’, that he completed his education at Cambridge. Then scarcely of age he returned home to contest the county and won a seat against the Downshire interest at the reputed expense of £60,000. His success entailed membership of the Northern Whig Club and he was expected to act with opposition, but on Camden’s advice he paid court to Pitt, whose power in debate he had previously admired from the gallery at Westminster. First-hand observation of the national assembly at Paris in 1791 made him critical of radicalism, and of Ireland he commented, 11 Nov. 1792, ‘The government of it I do not like; but I prefer it to a revolution’. His ambiguous conduct thereafter in the Irish parliament pleased neither the government nor his friends in opposition; in March 1793, for instance, he spoke in favour of Catholic relief, but stopped short of enfranchisement, though a supporter of parliamentary reform; and while he was a convinced advocate of the war with France, he did not oppose critical inquiry into its conduct.2

In April 1794, of his own volition, Pitt offered Stewart a seat at Westminster for Tregony, where Richard Barwell* accommodated friends of government. Stewart paid only £200, the cost of his return. ‘He is Pittized with a vengeance which he candidly owns’, wrote an Irish oppositionist.3 Pitt desired his attendance at Westminster at the opening of the 1794-5 session, but its postponement frustrated Stewart and he had to be content with seconding the address at College Green ‘in his drawling diffuse manner’.4 Soon afterwards his step-uncle the 2nd Earl Camden became lord lieutenant of Ireland, and Stewart one of his spokesmen in the Dublin parliament: it was not until 29 Oct. 1795 that he made his debut at Westminster, when he ably seconded the address, commending the prospects for the successful prosecution of war with France.5

Camden had Stewart in mind as a replacement for the ailing Thomas Pelham* as resident secretary to him if no better candidate could be obtained from England, and wrote of him to Pitt, 18 Nov. 1795:

He has gained very great credit in this parliament, and has great weight and an high character in the country. I am aware that there are objections to his being an Irishman but when you converse with him you will find he has no Irish prejudices.

Camden did not wish to press the suggestion and did not inform Stewart of it; on the other side of the water, the preference, until Pelham was persuaded to remain, was for an Englishman. After championing Pitt’s reputation at College Green in January 1796, Stewart attended at Westminster in April and May. Before leaving Ireland he had consulted Camden as to whether he should choose an Irish or an English career, his own preference being for the former. Camden thought he might give up Ireland, ‘as Lord Mornington has done’, or ‘make oneself master of its real interests by way of inducing England to listen to one’s opinions as to its proper government’, in which case Stewart would need to sit in both parliaments. Camden preferred him to remain with him as long as he was in Ireland and return to England with him subsequently. Meanwhile he informed Pitt, 6 May 1796, that Stewart wished to have a seat in the next English Parliament, for which he was apparently willing to pay £2,000. In the event his uncle Lord Hertford brought him in for Orford: but he arrived at Westminster in July only in time for the prorogation and did not return there from Ireland before resigning his seat a year later.6

In August 1796, on his father’s elevation to the earldom, Stewart took as courtesy title his father’s viscountcy of Castlereagh. He was one of Camden’s close advisers, personally responsible for the arrest of United Irish leaders in Belfast in September 1796. The checking of disaffection among his father’s tenantry prevented his attendance at Westminster that winter, but he carried proposals for national defence at College Green in February 1797 and moved a loyal address in May. In June he accepted an Irish sinecure, the privy seal, worth £1,500 p.a. and vacated his English seat, retaining his Irish one unopposed. In October he became a lord of the Treasury and privy councillor. Owing to Pelham’s ill health, Camden returned to the idea of his protégé acting as his secretary. His appeal to Pitt and Portland of 16 Mar. 1798, in which he stated that although Castlereagh was reluctant and would have yielded to William Elliot*, the former objections to him must now be ruled out, was successful. On 29 Mar., by an ‘almost unavoidable necessity’, Castlereagh was appointed secretary ‘during the indisposition of the Rt. Hon. Thomas Pelham’. Although he had no share in any of the excesses committed under the proclamation of 30 Mar. enabling the military to suppress sedition, he was subsequently blamed for them. The arrest of the United Irish leaders in May, secured by him, frustrated their conspiracy to seize Dublin. Cornwallis, who superseded Camden as lord lieutenant after the insurrection in June, found Castlereagh anxious to encourage his conciliatory policy by snubbing the ultras of the Castle ‘gang’. He thought him ‘a very uncommon young man, and possesses temper, talents, and judgment suited to the highest stations, without prejudices or any views that are not directed to the general benefit of the British empire’. William Elliot, too, praised his ‘temper, moderation and discretion’.7

In the autumn of 1798 Pelham was ready to resume the secretaryship and proposed that Castlereagh should replace Sir John Parnell as chancellor of the exchequer, with an English peerage. Castlereagh demurred, but when in October Pelham finally decided to resign, succeeded him with his backing, and the blessing of Cornwallis and Pitt. The King disliked the precedent of an Irishman’s appointment, but, as Cornwallis pointed out, Castlereagh was ‘so unlike an Irishman’. Indeed, his ‘coldness of manner’ in public intercourse was the most frequent criticism made of him. As a convinced advocate, on grounds of national security, of the union of Ireland and Great Britain, provided it could be carried on a ‘close protestant basis’, he was invited to London in December 1798 to discuss the terms. His plan for Irish representation at Westminster was approved by the cabinet and he returned to Ireland an English privy councillor. Although he carried two out of three divisions on the subject at College Green in January 1799, opinion was then so evenly divided that he conceded delay and prepared for an ‘uphill game’. Lord Grenville, a critic of his appointment, relented: ‘I was better satisfied than I had expected with his manner of doing business, which I found both ready and clear; and he seems to me to have the success of this measure most thoroughly at heart’. Surveying the interests opposed to the Union in February 1799, Castlereagh came to the conclusion that a combination of compensation for the dispossessed parliamentary patrons and a bid for Catholic support would carry the measure: this involved persuading the Catholics that the Union was their only road to emancipation and, as a practical concession, the subsidizing of the Catholic clergy, besides that of the presbyterian clergy in the North. Pitt and Dundas concurred: not so other members of the cabinet and the King disapproved of the subsidy plan as early as January 1799. During that year Castlereagh’s hold over the Irish parliament grew stronger and in June he was confident of the success of his proposal ‘to buy out and secure to the crown for ever the fee simple of Irish corruption, which has so long enfeebled the powers of government and endangered the connection’. His family borough was one of 84 to be bought up for £1,260,000. In September he procured for Cornwallis the assurance of government support for the Catholic claims in principle; but it was hinted to him that there were reservations about total concession and that the King was believed to be hostile, for which reason it was thought advisable to promise nothing before the Union.8

On 5 Feb. 1800 Castlereagh introduced the Union proposals in the Irish parliament and carried them by 43 votes in the largest division ever known there. The Union process was reported to be ‘softening down the reserve’ of his character and to have ‘much diminished the unpopularity which his cold and distant manners in private society had produced’. He was on his mettle against Grattan and other inveterate opposition orators and finally carried the Union at Dublin on 7 June 1800; it was a personal triumph and he felt ‘very proud ... of being less an Irishman and more an Englishman than hitherto’. He refused to be one of the 38 claimants who achieved promotion to or in the peerage, but his father was promised the British peerage intended for his son whenever he wished. He also evidently declined Pitt’s offer of the government of Bengal at this time. Proceeding to London, on 30 Sept. 1800 he presented the cabinet with a memorandum ‘on the expediency of making further concessions to the Catholics’. On the premise that Ireland, ‘a country of sectarists’, could no longer be governed ‘upon a garrison principle’, but only ‘through the public mind’, he proposed state subsidies for the sectarian clergy, the establishment of their hierarchy and education in Ireland and the commutation of tithes; but Catholic emancipation remained the linchpin, and while the other proposals were accepted, this crucial one was postponed, 9 Oct. On his return to London in December, he found that at Lord Chancellor Loughborough’s instigation Catholic relief was vetoed. On the day the Union came into force, 1 Jan. 1801, he wrote a protest to Pitt, and, when the latter resigned, informed Cornwallis that although royal opposition had frustrated the measure, Pitt was pledged to its future reintroduction. This pledge too was to be overruled by the King’s persuasion. The King affected to believe that it was, at least in part, Castlereagh’s unwholesome influence over Pitt that had produced the crisis.9

Intending to resign with Pitt but detained in office by the King’s illness, Castlereagh surrendered his Irish sinecure of the privy seal to his successor as Irish secretary, Charles Abbot, though the new premier Addington offered it to him for life; he had offered to surrender it to Pitt a few months before for Pelham’s benefit. Sitting for his county at Westminster, he continued to transact Irish business until his successor was ready, thus establishing the Irish office. On 12 Mar. 1801 in a ‘masterly speech’ he carried the bill to continue martial law, and on 16 Mar. the suspension of habeas corpus in Ireland, without a division, answering the charges made against him after the rebellion of 1798 and becoming one of the Irish secret committee. He sat with Pitt, whom he had urged to resume the helm from Addington, in the third row behind the Treasury bench. Pitt applauded him, but Castlereagh suffered a nervous breakdown and was obliged to forget politics for the rest of the session. In the autumn he went to Ireland and helped clear up the Union engagements with Hardwicke, the new lord lieutenant.10

On 3 Nov. 1801, after being at first ‘puzzled’ on the subject, Castlereagh spoke in approbation of the peace preliminaries, which he regarded as of the utmost value to Ireland in particular, although he warned against a false sense of security. A Whig critic James Hare* remarked, ‘He has a wonderful flow of words, without force or eloquence, and seems only determined not to hesitate’, and added that he seemed likely to rival or supersede Canning in Pitt’s favour. Pitt ‘took great pains to mark his approbation of all that Lord Castlereagh said and when he rose to speak called out for him with particular eagerness’. The fact was that he had been canvassed by Lord Grenville, who put out feelers through William Elliot in October and ‘took great pains to persuade Lord Castlereagh to head an opposition in the House of Commons in concert with him in the House of Lords, which Lord Castlereagh at once refused’. Grenville’s overture was instigated by his belief that Castlereagh was ‘second only to Mr Pitt in the Commons. Lord Castlereagh will have to choose between a secondary situation in the present administration, and the prospect of the leading one at some remote period’. Pitt prodded him towards office under Addington and he was appointed to the committee on East India judicature and to that on the Prince of Wales’s financial claims. He further made himself useful on Irish affairs and Anglo-French relations in debate. Hs supplied Addington with a memorandum on the latter in April 1802 indicating some reservations about the peace settlement with special reference to Malta, but justified the treaty on 14 May in the House. He was offered the presidency of the Board of Control, with the difficult task of preventing Lord Wellesley from resigning the government of Bengal over his quarrel with the East India Company directors. (Pitt had urged him not to leave Parliament even if he were offered the succession to Wellesley in Bengal.) He accepted, the King’s prejudice against him having been overcome. ‘The great point’, wrote William Wickham, ‘is that he should be understood to have nothing to do in the affairs of Ireland, and that he should take no part in them in Parliament when religious questions are started’. Castlereagh’s gradual severance from his Irish roots was thus facilitated by royal obstruction: he had in any case disliked developments in Irish policy since he had lost its superintendence and, albeit reluctantly, concurred in the break with his past when the Catholic clergy, provision for whom he had stipulated as his price for joining the government, refused it unless the laity were emancipated.11

Returned unopposed for his county in July 1802, Castlereagh dedicated himself to reconciling Wellesley and the East India Company directors. In this he was encouraged by Pitt and by Dundas, who boasted that ‘my system in its essential parts will be religiously adhered to, and Mr Pitt and he will take care of it in the House of Commons’. Addington, it was said, expected Castlereagh to be ‘his right hand man in the House of Commons’, a ‘readier man’ than Hawksbury ‘in extempore and miscellaneous debate’; they were ‘pleased with one another’. In October Castlereagh became a member of the cabinet. In December, when Pelham was expected to resign the Home Office, he was named as his probable successor and in the same month Addington sent him to parley with Pitt at Bath, ostensibly to discuss Malta, but also, it was thought, to smooth the way for a possible junction. Castlereagh certainly deplored Pitt’s absence from Parliament. His own contributions to debate were often unhappy; he was roughly handled by the Whig leaders and, to quote Creevey, ‘certainly fallen much in public estimation as to his talents, and is generally thought a very shabby fellow’. Accordingly he was foremost in pressing Addington to come to terms with Pitt, in anticipation of a justifiable renewal of war, in April 1803, and was Addington’s unsuccessful emissary for the purpose. He was disappointed with Pitt’s negative attitude and after deprecating alarmism during the unsuccessful negotiation with Buonaparte which heralded war in May, publicly and despondently marked his difference from Pitt on Patten’s censure motion, 3 June.12

At this time it was thought probable that he would exchange the Board of Control for the Admiralty in a reshuffle, but no such change took place. Lord Malmesbury suggested, prophetically, that a continental diplomatic mission would suit him best. Apart from Indian business, he also upheld government defence measures in debate, while disagreeing with Addington on recruitment methods. When he opposed Hely Hutchinson’s motion for an inquiry into the conduct of the Irish administration after the Dublin rising, 11 Aug. 1803, it was hinted in debate by Lord Temple that Castlereagh was lukewarm in defence of the Hardwicke administration in Ireland. This he denied, but Lord Redesdale, who thought that Castlereagh’s Union promises had ‘involved the succeeding government so as almost to deprive it of the character of a government’, believed him one of a junto in London ‘decidedly hostile’ to the Dublin administration. Castlereagh later admitted his disapprobation and that on this account he had declined to take the Home Office in Pelham’s place. Nevertheless he defended the coercive legislation for Ireland in December 1803, as well as the army estimates, and was reckoned by Robert Ward the only respectable member of government in debate. That autumn he was denied Pitt’s advice on Indian business, owing to Pitt’s resentment at the ‘offensive’ line taken against him, and lamented that he had been unable to forestall this rift by exonerating Addington of all blame for it. Canning reported that Pitt had shed all ‘shabby tenderness’ for Addington’s administration ‘except for Castlereagh’ and even spoke of him ‘in a much less whiny way than heretofore’.13

From January to April 1804 Castlereagh was one of the pillars of Addington’s tottering administration, particularly in the debates on Irish affairs and on defence, twice marking his difference from ‘his right honourable friend’ Pitt. He no longer looked to Pitt to prop up the government and opposed negotiation with him. He also defended Wellesley’s conduct in India, though at first a critic behind the scenes, and on 3 May proposed a vote of thanks to him for his successful campaigns in India. (Despite this diplomacy, relations between the two men were subsequently poisoned.) When in May 1804 Pitt returned to power, he retained Castlereagh, who had been Addington’s emissary to him in a bid to proscribe Fox and Lord Grenville, at the Board of Control. Henry Wellesley, who had hoped for the appointment, assured Lord Wellesley: ‘No good will ever be done at the Board of Control until he is removed from it’. Opposition attacks on the war in India and on the East India Company budget were nevertheless successfully parried by him in 1804 and 1805 and he was expected to succeed Wellesley in India, but had no wish to do so. He also gave his ‘cordial support’ to Pitt’s additional force bill, 5 June 1804, and defended it against Sheridan’s motion for repeal on 6 Mar. 1805. He displeased Wilberforce by his attitude to the abolition of the slave trade, 7 June 1804: he was a friend to the measure, but desired a practical solution and thought international guarantee the only basis for one, lest the national interest suffer by unilateral declaration. There were rumours of his succeeding to the Foreign Office in October, but it was Camden’s proposal that he should succeed him as secretary for War and Colonies, made in December 1804, that pleased Pitt most. It would give him a secretary of state in the Commons who stood well with the Duke of York and Lord Chatham and was ‘a very efficient man’. Camden suggested that Castlereagh might retain India pro tem and so he did in due course. Meanwhile he encouraged and welcomed the reconciliation between Pitt and Addington.14

Castlereagh’s usefulness to Pitt in general debate was not up to expectations: his reply to Grey on the war with Spain, 11 Feb. 1805, was ‘very long, but weak and dull’. When he opposed Whitbread’s censure motion on Melville, 8 Apr., he was ‘not listened to’. But he was livelier when goaded: on 29 Apr. he took up the cudgels against Fox in defence of Pitt’s reputation and next day fulminated against Whitbread for seeking to exclude his name from the committee to consider the charges against Melville, though, as was pointed out, he had initially disapproved the setting up of the committee. He was one of those unexceptional candidates whose appointment to the Admiralty in the place of Melville would have prevented Addington’s break with Pitt: his was one of four names mentioned by the King for the office. Instead Pitt implemented Camden’s suggestion of making him secretary for War and Colonies, retaining India. Fox thought it ‘complete proof’ of Pitt’s ‘weakness and impotence’. On 10 July he resigned his seat to seek re-election and found that the grudge Lady Downshire bore him had provoked her into opposing him. He had also voted against the Catholic petition on 14 May. He was defeated and taken aback at his unpopularity. Lord Hardwicke wrote: ‘I conceive that the satisfaction which is sometimes felt in mortifying those who have raised themselves to great power, has operated upon this occasion on the northern presbyterians.’ He had the consolation of drawing closer than ever to Pitt: in September Lord Lowther was told, ‘Pitt seems to have exchanged Lord Melville for Lord Castlereagh; the latter appears to be all in all’. Even so, Pitt assured Canning that Castlereagh would not retain the India Board.15

At the end of the year William Sturges Bourne* found a seat for Castlereagh, who had been occupied in the preparation for the abortive expedition to the Elbe and an equally abortive scheme to set fire to the French flotilla at Boulogne. It was he who brought Pitt the fatal news that reports of the disaster at Austerlitz were true. He took his seat for Boroughbridge on 21 Jan. 1806, only in time to bid farewell to his political leader. During Pitt’s last days he and Hawkesbury drafted the King’s speech, which Pitt amended; Castlereagh was his spokesman at Downing Street and in the House. On 25 Jan. he announced that the King was taking steps to form a new government; and his name was among those mentioned as a ministry maker. He would certainly have preferred to stay in power if possible in a Pittite administration, and affected to believe that the King would be distressed if he had to call on the opposition. On the other hand, he was unwilling to commit himself as to how this was to be effected. His tribute to Pitt in the House on 27 Jan. contained the prophecy that it would be necessary to recur to Pitt’s system. He rallied Pitt’s friends but soon found himself winding up his official duties. On 7 Feb. he wrote to Camden regretting that the Pittites had not ranged themselves behind Lord Grenville, a step which might still prove desirable in future; meanwhile, concert was essential, or they would split up into three groups. At the time, they were ‘entirely on the defensive, and by no means entering into a contentious opposition’. Canning, who resented those Pittites who had served under Addington telling the party what it ought to do, was informed by Castlereagh and Perceval on 8 Feb. that they looked to Lord Grenville rather than to Lord Sidmouth. On 19 Feb., however, at a Pittite meeting to concert measures, it was decided not to pledge any support to administration. In the next week Castlereagh made known his hostility to the new government and his objection to Ellenborough’s seat in the cabinet, which he duly maintained in the House on 3 Mar. A month later he led the attack on Windham’s military plan in what Lord FitzHarris termed ‘an ill judged speech ... replete with indiscreet and inappropriate expressions’.16

Castlereagh went on to oppose the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act at every stage and he consistently opposed Windham’s army reforms, particularly their neglect of volunteers and limitation of enlistment, both injudicious and, he claimed, prejudicial to the royal prerogative. He defended Wellesley’s conduct in India, criticized the Indian budget, and opposed the American intercourse bill. In the debate of 12 June, his opposition was more general: he spoke of the ‘systematic absurdity’ of the government and listed their faux pas. At the end of the session there was a threat of a division among the Pittites about overtures to individuals among them from government: Castlereagh was present at Lord Lowther’s, 4 July, when they agreed not to accept them, and favoured a ‘complete change’. Yet the Grenville party had thought of him as a candidate for office, even cabinet office, though Lord Wellesley, their negotiating agent, demurred, as he did not think Castlereagh ‘of the calibre for which he gave himself’. In July an approach was made to him through the bishop of Lincoln but nothing came of it then, or on Fox’s death. He doubted whether any offer worth accepting could be made and only the Board of Control or the Mint were mentioned for him and Canning.17

Castlereagh had to look for a fresh seat at the dissolution of 1806, having consigned Down to his half-brother Charles until the prejudice against him there died down. After Camden had made an ineffectual bid to bring him in for Bath, Lady Spencer reported, ‘Lord Castlereagh is gone down to get a seat on one of Lord Mount Edgcumbe’s rotten close stools’ (i.e. Plympton). George Rose* claimed to have arranged it, and Mount Edgcumbe complained to Lord Grenville that Castlereagh was brought in without his knowledge. In any case he held the seat for two Parliaments. He spoke on the address, 19 Dec. 1806, but was ‘very indifferently heard’, there being no division. His argument was that ministers had been too complacent in their hopes for peace. In January 1807 he continued his campaign against Windham’s army reforms and in one of his ablest speeches attacked the army estimates. On 4 Feb. he supported Perceval’s motion on the order in council on neutral vessels. At this time he was reputed:

a man with a very clear head, who at once saw into the marrow of a subject ... a man of a cool and equal temper, and is not ruffled by speeches in the House of Commons or by any attacks upon him, and does not aim at more than plain speaking.

Canning spoke ‘highly of Castlereagh’s ability for business and the acquisition he would be to any government, that he liked him himself and was on the best footing with him, but that he was not popular’. In February 1807 he took it into his head to controvert Lord Henry Petty’s plan of finance on Petty’s own data, whereas Long, Huskisson and Rose, the Pittite pundits on finance, preferred to question the data provided. He soon got out of his depth, but after some assistance from William Huskisson, made his point and offered his finance resolutions on 26 Feb. He wished for a scheme to operate for nine rather than 20 years, both from concern for the interest of the public creditor and to avert the threat of national bankruptcy. This was interpreted as a bid for the Exchequer in future.18

When Canning negotiated with Lord Grenville for a possible merger on 5 Mar. 1807, Grenville stated that he had no objection to including Castlereagh in the deal, though he had nothing to offer him; at best, he might go to Madras or, if Tierney went there, resume the Board of Control. Canning, who found ‘poor Castlereagh ... really very tractable and good natured, and sensible ... of his not having done so well in the House of Commons’ was not willing to press his name for the Foreign Office, though he did not rule out his joining the cabinet. As Canning saw it, and as he informed him through Long, it would be better for Castlereagh to take the Exchequer, though he appeared reluctant to do so, and the lead in the House with it, since if they were both secretaries of state, it would be impossible for Canning to satisfy his friends with ‘giving him the precedency’. Castlereagh heard this ‘very quietly’ and said it was very kind of Canning to speak so openly ‘and to be willing to make the concession in the one case’. It was clear, however, that he hated the idea of taking the Exchequer and, as he got on well with the Duke of York, Canning toyed with the idea of Castlereagh’s resuming the War department while he himself took the Admiralty.19

Castlereagh’s last bid to thwart Windham’s military reforms by preserving enlistment to the line for life failed, 12 Mar. 1807. He remained an opponent, but not an active one, of the abolition of the slave trade. When the Grenville ministry fell he found no opportunity of speaking against Brand’s motion critical of their successors, but spoke ably against Lyttelton’s similar motion on 15 Apr., justifying the King’s action ‘not from political consideration, but from a paramount religious feeling’. He claimed that public opinion endorsed the dismissal, which was warranted by the ‘complete imbecility’ of ministers’ conduct throughout. In the Portland ministry he accepted the War department, Canning obtaining the Foreign Office, which had been predicted for Castlereagh. They had concurred as long ago as December 1806 in Perceval’s taking the lead in the Commons in a Portland ministry. From mid April 1807, however, Castlereagh was too ill to attend to his duties. Not until 22 July was he able to introduce his militia transfer scheme, which enabled 28,000 men to be recruited for the regulars from the militia to provide a striking force. It was well received. He prefaced it with his considered critique of Windham’s reforms, conceding only that enlistment might be either for life or for a limited period. That autumn he was so weakened by internal haemorrhages that his resignation was confidently expected; he looked ‘like a corpse’, and it was thought he might go to the Lords with a secondary cabinet office.20

He returned to the fray on 28 Jan. 1808, moving the vote of thanks for the success of the Copenhagen expedition. The destruction of the Danish fleet and the preservation of the Portuguese one gave him an auspicious start at the War Office. He was one of the hawks in the cabinet, as he admitted in debate, 18 Feb., and, being thwarted in his wish to revive the Pittite expedient of continental alliances against France, was eager for intervention in the Peninsula. He carried his military proposals for indefinite enlistment, 8 Mar. 1808, and for replenishing the local militia in June. Other matters that engaged him in debate that session were the defence of Wellesley’s administration in India, the defence of the orders in Council and opposition to the reception of the Irish Catholic petition. On this he explained, 25 May, that his own views were those of Pitt: he favoured Catholic relief, but, like Canning, thought the moment inopportune: no pledge had ever been given. The subject was not congenial to him being reported to have produced a cabinet rift, and it was noted that Castlereagh, like Canning, absented himself from the debates on the Maynooth grant and the appointment of Patrick Duigenan*. While he was able to cope with Whitbread’s criticisms of the limited scope of British intervention in the Peninsula, he suffered a severe setback in the autumn of 1808 when the convention of Cintra and the retreat of Sir John Moore divided the cabinet and provoked public opinion. He was prepared, after overcoming his initial dismay, to endorse both measures but Canning reacted hotly, and, other ministers and the King being also unhappy about the situation, it was thought unlikely that he could continue in his present office. But he refused to abandon either Sir Arthur Wellesley or the deceased Sir John Moore, went on ‘as if nothing had happened’ and thought merely of how ministers might exonerate their characters by ‘increased and accelerated exertions’ in the Peninsula. When he justified Cintra and Sir Arthur’s conduct in the debate on the address, 19 Jan. 1809, and proposed a monument to Moore’s memory on 25 Jan., he was given credit both for propriety and coolness, though he went on to resist the publication of Moore’s dispatches. On 21 and 24 Feb. he resisted the opposition motions critical of government handling of Cintra and the Peninsular campaign. Apart from taking temporary charge of the Home Office during Lord Liverpool’s absence in January 1809, he also promoted his militia enlistment bill, which he followed up with a militia completion bill in March and with a ‘remarkably good’ defence of the Duke of York against the charges made against him, 27 Jan., 14 Mar. 1809. Imputing malice to York’s detractors, he supported Perceval’s resolutions on the subject.21

On 25 Apr. 1809 Lord Archibald Hamilton charged Castlereagh with corruption because he had in 1805 promised his friend Lord Clancarty an East India writership to assist him to obtain a seat in Parliament. But it was an intention and not an act and the motion was defeated by 216 votes to 167, Castlereagh defending himself candidly against the imputation of any political motive and then withdrawing. Canning’s amendment in his favour, which saved the principle but exonerated him personally, was carried by 214 votes to 167. Canning had on 24 Mar. pressed Portland, without naming names, to reshuffle the government, being dissatisfied to the point of resignation with the conduct of the war, and had secured a secret promise from Portland that Castlereagh, with whom Canning was now reported to be ‘at daggers drawn’, should be moved from his office, though not until the end of the session. To this Canning had consented, so as not to give the appearance of deserting Castlereagh in his hour of embarrassment. Castlereagh successfully resisted Temple’s motion on the Peninsular campaign on 9 May and he and Perceval easily weathered another charge of political corruption on 11 May, when Madocks accused them of seating Members by Treasury influence in certain constituencies and, in the case of Quintin Dick, unseating one of them for political reasons. He opposed Curwen’s reform bill of that month. The two charges of corruption against him, while flimsy, were symptoms of his unpopularity and the Duke of Richmond thought that if opposition could make ‘anything like a case’, Castlereagh would be obliged to resign. He himself was ‘perfectly satisfied’ as to the outcome of the first charge and on what he called ‘my second impeachment’ reported:

Nothing could be better than the tone of the House. The country gentlemen considered it as a revolutionary and not a personal vote, and having exhausted their scruples upon my former question (on which several voted against) they were ready and determined to negative this.22

Behind Castlereagh’s back some of his cabinet colleagues had since April 1809 been discussing his future, to meet the threat of Canning’s resignation. Outright dismissal was out of the question; in May Lord Bathurst suggested the Board of Control with colonial affairs for him, but this was thought unacceptable. On 10 May Portland informed the King, who enjoined secrecy and persuaded Canning not to resign for the time being. Early in June Portland proposed to Canning a restructuring of the War department so as to take the conduct of the war out of Castlereagh’s hands and put it into Canning’s, but this was thought likely to alienate Castlereagh, and Portland’s overriding concern was to keep the services of both. Meanwhile Castlereagh had been engaged in preparing the expedition to Walcheren he had wished to promote for two years past, and on 13 June Canning protested to Portland that, whether the expedition failed or succeeded, it would be wrong to remove Castlereagh without prior warning. Indeed Canning found it difficult to believe that Castlereagh had not been already informed by Camden, who had known the secret since April; if he had not, it was high time to tell him. Portland, however, accepted the blame for the concealment and the King forbade any revelation of it to Castlereagh. Before the expedition sailed, Portland revealed the secret to its commander Lord Chatham, who told Canning it was unfair to Castlereagh: Canning pointed out that the concealment had received royal sanction. On 18 June Portland informed Canning that Lord Wellesley was to come into office; as Wellesley had been earmarked for a mission to Spain, there were at once rumours that Castlereagh was to go to Spain in his place. On 21 June, the day of prorogation, the King directed Portland to get Camden to tell Castlereagh that the War department was to be remodelled. Next day Portland disclosed the secret to Perceval, who disapproved. As a sop to Canning, his friend Leveson Gower became secretary at war with a cabinet seat on 27 June, but Canning derived the impression that he was being shamed into dropping his demand for Castlereagh’s removal. Portland assured Canning next day that Castlereagh would be informed within a fortnight by Camden, and the King again refused Canning’s resignation.

On 4 July 1809 Portland informed Canning that Camden would resign the lord presidency in favour of Castlereagh, who would be given a peerage. Canning accepted this, but Perceval demurred pending Castlereagh’s reaction (he later said he would have refused). On 11 July Canning saw Lord Liverpool, who while preferring Canning in office to Castlereagh, said that the latter could not in justice be displaced until the expedition was over. Canning agreed, provided the change was then made, but would not hear of Liverpool’s resigning his office in Castlereagh’s favour, which he proposed on hearing that Camden was reluctant to do so. In this case too Castlereagh would have had a peerage foisted on him and been compensated with the lead in the other House. Lord Bathurst was also prepared to resign in Castlereagh’s favour. On 16 July Portland informed Canning that, by the King’s command, Castlereagh was not to be informed, and in reply to Canning’s expostulation, assured him that Camden had not revealed it to Castlereagh and that he Portland was to blame. Canning foresaw that this would be used against him when it all came out and on 2 Aug. saw the King, from whom he derived another reason to blame Portland for the concealment. Soon afterwards Portland suffered an epileptic fit, at the very time when he had relieved Camden of the responsibility of enlightening Castlereagh; his illness prevented him from doing so himself. He would be happy to resign as soon as his successor was chosen; this was seen as an opportunity to avoid the whole issue of Castlereagh’s displacement, but Canning declined discussion of an overture from Perceval, 28 Aug., which stipulated that Castlereagh should retain office. On 3 Sept., news having arrived of the failure of the expedition to achieve its major goal of taking Antwerp, Canning demanded action from Portland. Portland, to whom Perceval had communicated his face-saving plan, told Canning that Castlereagh would be moved to another office, but not excluded, as some of his colleagues would not continue without him. Canning thereupon announced that he would himself resign and drop the demand for Castlereagh’s removal. On 7 Sept. he was absent from a cabinet meeting and that evening a bewildered Castlereagh learnt the gist of his colleagues’ guilty secret from Camden, whom he never fully forgave for the concealment. Having declined any alternative office, he offered his resignation next day; the news from Spain being bad as well, he was ‘a figure of woe’ as he sat to Lawrence the portrait painter. While the rump of the ministry were discussing overtures to the Whigs, he gave vent to his wounded feelings with a challenge to Canning, 19 Sept: he was prepared to remain in office only if he enjoyed the full confidence of his colleagues; it was unjust that he should be the scapegoat for failures in Flanders and Spain, and rather than submit to this he would defend his character out of office. While blame attached to Camden, Portland and the King in the concealment, Castlereagh thought that Canning was the primum mobile of the campaign against him. Canning accepted his challenge and all attempts to avert the duel having failed, it took place on 21 Sept. when Castlereagh wounded Canning at the loss of a button off his coat. While his ex-colleagues regretted that he had gone so far, they admitted that he had a right to challenge somebody to a duel and that his choice of Canning was almost inevitable. When Perceval took office on 2 Oct., Castlereagh put himself out of the question as a candidate for inclusion in the new ministry. He informed his half-brother, ‘I need not break my heart at losing so shabby a set of friends as mine have proved themselves’. Lord Melville thought Castlereagh’s treatment ‘a circumstance unparalleled in the annals of any government’.23

Recriminations followed when Castlereagh, dissatisfied with Camden’s explanations, resolved to go to the heart of the matter and establish through Perceval, whose ‘candour’ he acknowledged, the grounds given for his removal from office, even if they were not intended to be stated to him. Having done so, he sent a memorial to the King, 1 Oct. 1809, answering Canning’s specific complaints about his handling of Cintra, the defence of the Peninsular campaign and the delay in strengthening Portugal. The King in reply assured Castlereagh that he did not agree with the complaints. Canning published an apologia addressed to Camden, who in justifying himself had made use of Castlereagh’s letter of challenge to Canning. The publication did not exonerate Canning from the suspicion of intrigue and of systematically underrating Castlereagh to promote his ambitions. In December 1809, Castlereagh remaining ‘extremely hurt’, it was ‘very doubtful’ what part he would take next session.24

One thing was certain, that Castlereagh would defend his character. On 23 Jan. 1810, on the address, speaking ‘from under the gallery, two rows behind Canning’, he insisted that his conduct was capable ‘of the most rigid scrutiny’: all ‘that related personally to himself he did with a conscious sense of being right’, wrote Creevey, ‘and a degree of lively animation I never saw in him before. Base as the House is, it recognized by its cheers the claims of Castlereagh to its approbation, and they gave it.’ Castlereagh vindicated the expedition and when the division came ‘said with the gayest face possible, "Well, Creevey, how do we look?" '.  He could not have voted for an amendment to the address which reflected on himself (as well as on Canning), but when Porchester moved for an inquiry into the expedition on 26 Jan., he voted silently with the opposition majority.

He sat aloof with four friends [noted Creevey] and these five instead of going out, decided the question in our favour. Had they gone out we should have been beat by one! Castlereagh bent his head from his elevated bench down almost to the floor to catch my eye, and I gave him a sign that all was well. He could scarce contain himself: he hid his face, but when the division was over, he was quite extravagent in the expression of his happiness.

Canning, watching Castlereagh like a hawk, commended his speech of 23 Jan. as 'a very good one' and found nothing in it to  quarrel with, declaring in his turn that he would say nothing in the House about their quarrel; he himself did not vote against ministers on 26 Jan.  lest  he appear to be putting Castlereagh on trial. Castlereagh had supported the vote of thanks to Wellington for the victory of Talavera on 1 Feb. and had promised every cooperation in the inquiry into the Scheldt expedition next day, Canning, prepared to give him the credit for the honours gained by Wellington, commented: 'Being turned out has certainly done him a world of good—both given him speech and obtained him a hearing ... pity works for Castlereagh'. He was right: John William Ward, remarking that Castlereagh had 'astonished all the world by his speech the other night', added 'I am glad he succeeded for, though an abominable minister, he is an excellent man and a perfect gentleman'. Fremantle's comment was: 'Castlereagh has gained great credit—Canning has lost himself'.

In mid February Castlereagh was kept away from the House by his sister's death and there was some speculation as to his intentions. Robert Ward, who complained that Castlereagh and Canning either voted against government or attended only upon questions that concerned themselves, believed that opposition wished to detach them, more particularly Castlereagh. When on 23 Feb. government were beaten on the question of Lord Chatham's account to the King of the expedition, he and his immediate friends (his half-brother Charles, Frederick John Robinson, Thomas Wood, George Peter Holford and William Sloane) did not vote. On 1 Mar. Castlereagh put in a word for the success of his recruiting plans. When Chatham's narrative was considered on 5 Mar. Castlereagh exonerated him from blame but, insisting that Chatham should have consulted the rest of the cabinet, voted for Whitbread's first resolution against Chatham and against the previous question preferred by government. Canning, who did the same, noted that Castlereagh with three followers was also to have voted for Whitbread's second resolution, which Canning made Whitbread give up. Wellesley Pole professed surprise that Castlereagh, who had received so many favours from Pitt, should take 'the very worst view of Lord Chatham's case that was put to the House in the course of the debate'. He reckoned without Castlereagh's recently provoked abhorrence of underhand and unilateral acts by cabinst colleagues.25

In mid March 1810 there were rumours of office for him. Canning at first thought he might be offered the Ordnance, then reported that he had declined the Admiralty. Robert Ward denied this, saying an attempt would be made to bring in Castlereagh, as well as Lord Sidmouth.  Canning was not without hope of a reconciliation with Castlereagh, whose personal following was exigious, to add to his own weight, which would thus be sufficient to sway divisions. Charles Long reported disapprovingly a notion of Castlereagh's that a junction with Lords Grenville and Grey might offer 'the best chance'. Grey was certainly partial to Castlereagh. Canning was sure that government would try to anticipate such a junction and Lord Wellesley was reported to be anxious to promote the plan of uniting Canning and Castlereagh through the agency of one of the latter's Seymour uncles. On 26 Mar. 1810 Castlereagh spoke for three hours on the Scheldt expedition, justifying its grounds, disclaiming the notion that written military opinion was necessary as a basis for such expeditions and denying that the resources might have been better deployed elsewhere. It was considered 'a  prodigiously good speech' by Canning and praised by Perceval to the King: indeed, Castlereagh easily outmatched Porchester and he and his friends pleased government by supporting them throughout against the censure.26

In April 1810 when Perceval entrusted Wellesley with a negotiation to bring in Sidmouth, Canning and Castlereagh, the first two demurred and Castlereagh was not approached, as Wellesley had no intention of angling for the other two without Canning. Although Castlereagh's windows were broken by the Burdettite mob, he and his friends were absent from the debate on the release of John Gale Jones the radical, 16 Apr. On 18 May he opposed Hamilton's motion to expunge from the Journals as a personal slight the record of his unsuccessul charge of corruption against him the year before; it was negatived without a division. He voted against parliamentary reform, 21 May. On the Catholic petition, 25 May, he defended Catholic claims on grounds of expediency, but insisted on proper safeguards and advised the Irish Catholics to moderate their demands until public opinion was ripe: he could not support a demand that was still impracticable. On 31 May he was was absent on Bankes's resolutions against sinecures, but his friends supported government. In August government renewed their overtures to Canning and Castlereagh, proposing a joint offer of the Home Office and Admiralty: out of tenderness to Castlereagh, Wellesley's proposal that Canning should have the Foreign Office was rejected. Perceval's offer of 22 Aug. found Castlereagh in Ireland; he rejected the Admiralty, earmarked for him, on 4 Sept. Government were agreed that neither should come in alone, and Wellesley would not, for Canning's sake, consent to Castlereagh and Sidmouth coming in together. Castlereagh's ground for refusal was that though willing to serve, he did not believe the public would credit a reconciliation between himself and Canning or give their confidence to a patched up government.27

Perceval prompty informed Castlereagh of the King's ensuing illness. Like Canning, Castlereagh would not commit himself as to his line. He was expected to be 'a great man in the Regency', through his kinship with Lord Yarmouth, the Prince's favourite. He was one of the committee named by Perceval to cross-examine the royal physicians, and there were rumours of a fresh offer to him and Sidmouth being vetoed by Wellesley; the upshot was that Castlereagh was expected to support government, and consulted Sidmouth. On 20 Dec. he preferred procedure by bill rather than by address on the Regency question; on 31 Dec. he defended the principle of restrictions, not with reference to the Prince's intentions but as a precedent for the future. On the proposed restrictions next day he was critical of the dual royal household and of all unnecessary limitations of the Regent's powers, so he supported the successful opposition amendment, as did Canning, who pointed out however that Castlereagh and his three friends could not have saved the day for government even had they wished to. The Duke of Richmond's comment was that Castlereagh was 'too old a politician to be defended in gratifying Lord Hertford'. On 17 Jan. he renewed his objection to concessions made to the Queen and on 21 Jan. objected to the Household clause, to which he proposed an amendment transferring the great officiers of the Household to the Prince and making them removable; it was negatived. On 25 Feb. he clashed with Whitbread and Burdett over the conduct of the cabinet and of Lord Eldon in particular during the King's illness in 1804; the question had previously been reviewed by him with Sidmouth, who was reported to be so satisfied with Castlereagh's conduct on the Regency question that he eshewed any contribution to the debates himself. In March and April he spoke on the army estimates, objecting to alteration of his own military reforms of 1809, and on the militia enlistment bill, with a disquisition on the best methods of recruiting. He was a strong advocate of interchange of militia between England and Ireland. He continued to pay tribute to military successes in the Peninsula. His major effort, whcih he published, was a criticism of the report of the bullion committee, 7 May 1811, on which he was one of the dissenting minority on the 'speculative' basis for proposing resumption of cash payments by the Bankin two years' time; he doubted whether payment could be resumed till after the war was over. On 15 July he spoke in favour of the gold coin bill, ably supporting the exemption of Ireland from it.28

Office was still in the air for Castlereagh at the beginning of the session of 1812. He was supposed to have refused India, while Princess Charlotte thought he must succeed Yorke at the Admiralty 'as her ladyship is the great crony of the Marchioness [of Hereford]'. Wellesey who had lent himself to a bid to bring in noth Canning and Castlereagh, claimed that the Prince Regent did not want Castlereagh in office, ostensibly because of his association with the ill-fated Walcheren expedition, but that people about him (he had Yarmouth in mind) worked for nothing else. According to Lord Bathurst, the Regent might be induced to admit Castlereagh in place of Wellesley at the Foreign Office, but would accept no further changes. On 23 Jan. Perceval pressed the Regent to take in Castlereagh. The Regent said he had only spoken to him once in his life but had no objection, except the possible offence to Wellesley and Canning. When Perceval persisted, the Regent allowed him to send Peel to Castlereagh, who was asked if he would come in alone, or if not, if he would do so with Sidmouth. He replied next day that he had no wish to stop a gap; besides, the Sidmouth party was inadequate and the Prince had better look to his own friends. If the Regent were 'unreasonably pressed', however, he would come in, provided he was not fettered as to Catholic relief. The Regent took this well and insisted on secrecy, while overtures to Sidmouth, Grenville and Grey were made, to no avail. Meanwhile Morpeth's motion on Ireland, 4 Feb., enabled Castlereagh to expatiate on Catholic relief: he deplored its frequent agitation, but promised his support to any practicable plan which included securities. He did not join the minority in the division. This line, according to the Whig Francis Horner showed Castlereagh, as well as Canning as 'temporizers who have no ambition for anything higher than office'. Robert Ward reported a few days later:

Lod Castlereagh is much talked of to succeed either Lord Wellesley or Mr Yorke. For the details of any office he is excellent; as a help to Mr Perceval he cannot be much after all that passed formerly about him in the House from which he is not recovered. Of his speeches, that on Tuesday we all thought the very worst ever committed by his noble Lord, whose good nature, however, in private conciliates everybody and who is as far as ever beyond [Canning], who notwithstanding his eloquence has not stirred an inch farther into public opinion than when he tripped himself up by intrigue two years ago.

Ward noted, however, that if Castlereagh succeeded Wellesley, the Canning party would treat it as a 'declaration of war', while upon Wellesley's offering his resignation a week later, he in turn was obliged to deny that it was a manoeuvre intended to bring in Canning. Castlereagh was reported to be willing to come in, provided he had the War Office, but Lord Liverpool disliked this and the Regent would not hear of it, owing to his past history there. On 19 Feb. he accepted the Foreign Office in Wellesley's place, which was to Canning 'the very worst and most galling result'. Wellington, writing to Castlereagh's half brother to regret that Castlereagh had not obtained the War Office, interpreted the appointment as a sure sign of the weakness of a government which had also swallowed Castlereagh's wish that his uncle Camden should go out of office. Describing Camden's expulsion as 'a good espièglerie on the part of Castlereagh, Lord Auckland added, 'That accommodation must have gone much against the grain'. Castlereagh took his seat on the Treasury bench on 25 Feb. He had again stipulated for freedom of speech on Catholic relief, and on Turton's motion, 27 Feb., while he followed Perceval's line in arguing that the time was not ripe and that safeguards were essential, he envisaged the realization of Catholic relief. (In a memoir on the subject to Lord Hertford on 27 June 1811, he had explained that as, in his view, the question could not be carried until the Pope had ceased to be Buonaparte's prisoner and was in a position to grant a concordat providing securities, he wished the Regent would declare it an open question to which he was a friend but not a partisan, thus enabling ministers and Members alike to make up their own minds on it and encouraging the Catholics to moderate their demands. It would cease to be a party question and the Regent might bring it 'to a safe and happy issue'.) At the same time (27 Feb. 1812), he justified his return to the fold be reference to the unwillingness of the opposition leaders to co-operate with government and to their unrealistic attitude to the Catholic question. This was considered one of Castlereagh's better speeches, though it occasioned 'some laughter and murmurs on the other side'. So that his vote might not be lost, Castlereagh did not receive the seals of office until 28 Feb., and on 2 Mar. was reported to be on terms of 'great civility' with Wellesley. In March he commenced business by moving the subsidies to Portugal and Sicily. A petition presented by him from Belfast was the pretext for his speeches justifying the gold coin amendment bill, 17, 26 Mar., 10 Apr. 1812, which ended the Irish exemption from the bill on the ground that specie had become scarce in Ireland. On 24 Apr. he spoke and voted against Grattan's motion in favour of Catholic relief, refusing to give a blind vote where no securities were guaranteed. He made it clear, however, that he was a friend to the Catholics and asked them only to define their demands. On other issues he was in step with government, defending the constitutionality of McMahon's appointment as secretary to the Regent, 14 Apr., and the orders in council, though he approved a committee on petitions against them; opposing the sinecure offices regulation bill, 4 May; and criticizing Brand's motion for parliamentary reform, 8 May 1812.29

On the assassination of Perceval there was 'not a dry eye in the House' when Castlereagh broke down while he moved the address to provide for Perceval's family, 12 May. The moment had arrived for conciliatory talks with Canning. Few thought that Castlereagh would succeed Perceval as premier, but an arrangement was discussed whereby he and Canning were included under the leadership of a third party. When his colleagues proposed the overture to Canning and Wellesley, Castlereagh conceded that some such step was needed, but 'imprudently sent a letter of resignation to the Regent'. This was unacceptable 'as it must have the appearance of turning him out to make way for Canning'. Castlereagh retracted it, on the understanding that Lord Liverpool, not Wellesley, was to be premier and that he should retain the Foreign Office and have the lead in the House of Commons. Canning objected to this last stipulation: he would have preferred the Foreign Office with the War department business in the Commons, while Castlereagh became chancellor of the Exchequer with all Treasury and general business in the Commons. There the negotiation foundered; neither would concede the lead and his colleagues opted for Castlereagh.30

On 21 May 1812 Castlereagh led the government opposition to Stuart Wortley's motion for a stronger administration, though he was not as explicit on the negotiation as some of his colleagues had hoped: his main concession to them was to deplore the airing  of the Catholic question to embarrass the government at a time when the war must be their chief preoccupation. Tierney reported next day: 'Poor Castlereagh made sad work of his first performance as leader. I do not mean so much in point of speaking as in the management of the divisions, and the mode of presenting the address.' He was referring to the fact that after Stuart Wortley's motion had been carried, Castlereagh and Yorke carried a counter-motion that the address should be presented by privy councillors, but gave it up when more opposition Members entered the chamber. Further negotiation with Canning and Wellesley follwed: the Regent saw Camden with a view to reconciling Castlereagh to Canning's return to office, but Camden assured him that Castlereagh still had insufficient confidence in Canning as a colleague and, rather than be driven into union with him, would probably resign. The Regent then saw Castlereagh's half-brother, emphasizing his preference for Castlereagh over Canning because of his 'solid and useful abilities' and 'mild and gentlemanlike manner', albeit the latter was his superior in debate. The negotiation failed, Castlereagh diplomatically absenting himself from the session of the cabinet on 27 May when they informed the Regent that they had decided to give up the attempt: they too preferred Castlereagh to Canning. When the Regent asked Moira to try to form a government, the stipulation made for Castlereagh by Canning's friends was that he should go up to the Lords with a promise of office before the next session, while Canning took the Exchequer and the lead. Castlereagh feared that the 'officiousness' of Canning's friends would prevent him from taking any practical placatory steps.31

On 8 June Castlereagh himself announced in the House the failure of Moira's efforts and the resumption of the government by Liverpool, but could give no reply to Stuart Wortley's query as to whether the government would be strengthened, and on 11 June deprecated the latter's censure on the subject. On 16 June he opposed Brougham's motion for the repeal on the orders in council, but announced their revocation a week later. Having on 10 June announced that Catholic relief was to be an open question, he concurred, as an individual, with Canning's successful motion of 22 June, in what was described as 'a whimpering and shuffling speech', alleged by the Duke of Richmond to be a bid for support in county Down, which Castlereagh now wished to restore to himself. Before the close of the session he ushered in the committee of secrecy to consider the disturbances in the midlands and the preservation of the peace bill to deal with them. Having just revived the system of continental alliances against Buonaparte, he also justified the rejection of French peace overtures.32

The last month had made it clear that Castlereagh was 'utterly incompetent to the management of the House of Commons' and had 'no consideration, or effect, or following, or poularity in the House of Commons'. This was not only the opposition view: Charles Arbuthnot maintained that, without Canning, government could get through another session, and as Canning wished 'very much' to belong to them, Castlereagh's 'sense of his own honour', which made him think that he could not cede the leadership in the Commons 'without disgrace', was the main obstacle. Much as his colleagues were averse to any sacrifice of him, Arbuthnot feared that 'Castlereagh does not seem to be aware of his own insufficiently, and indeed his conduct induces me to think that he would rather destroy the government than lend himself to an arrangement which would give us the advantage of Canning's abilities'. He added: 'In private life I have always had great regard for Lord Castlereagh; but his inefficiency as a leader in Parliament is extreme, and we have not a supporter in the House of Commons who is not crying out for Canning'; and concluded that 'at this moment therefore it is to depend on the pleasure of Lord Castlereagh whether we should have a government which is to stand or fall'.33

Lord Liverpool brought Canning and Castlereagh together at Fife House on 17 July 1812. Castlereagh was willing to give up the Foreign Office to Canning in exchange for the Exchequer, which Arbuthnot thought 'a great concession', but he showed 'a settled determination ... to retain the lead in the House of Commons which lead devolved upon him'. Canning deprecated the discussion of the leadership, which should be allowed to find its own level; he was willing to act with Castlereagh, but not under him. It appeared that Castlereagh had steadily resisted the Regent's efforts, over the preceding six weeks, to induce him to accept a peerage to facilitate the arrangement and he now as obstinately refused to cede the leadership. This Canning interpreted as a claim to superiority. In the next few days another attempt was made to establish a basis for negotiation: Canning, as sole secretary in the Commons, required Castlereagh to disclaim the lead, 'except what belongs to the chancellor of the Exchequer when not joined with the premiership'. He suggested that a third person, such as Vansittart or Bragge Bathurst, take Treasury business or, finally, that Castlereagh should have the lead except for messages from the throne, which he reserved for himself. An 'inflexible' Castlereagh refused all of Canning's proposals and was more than amendable to his friends' advice that he should take care not to be duped. He restated his claims in a letter which was read to Canning by Liverpool on 27 July. Canning dispelled the suspicion of intrigue by appearing to concur in this proposal, which gave him the Foreign Office with the lead on the conduct of the war, and Castlereagh the Exchequer and the lead in other respects, lest a nicer division of it undermine the government; but afterwards he sent for the letter to peruse, and concluding that Castlereagh was still insistent on superiority, refused the offer. It seemed to Canning's friends that Liverpool was too willing to back Castlereagh's pretensions 'to the uttermost'; Liverpool wished to arbitrate, but was unable to suggest a demarcation of duties acceptable to both men and a final appeal by him to Canning failed. 'It is calamitous for the country that Canning and Castlereagh cannot act together', wrote Arbuthnot. Canning was so far hoist with his own petard as to believe that Castlereagh's letter which induced his refusal had been circulated. Lord Amherst's comment was:

What powerful support must Castlereagh enjoy to maintain himself in the opinion of his colleagues against an union which would have secured them in the possession of their places, and have rendered their administration a strong one as well as a popular one!

Canning concluded that in office the Pittites, guided by Charles Long, must choose Castlereagh, while if both men were out of office, he himself would be their favorite. The Regent thought Canning 'too touchy', believing Castlereagh, once he had overcome his initial obstinancy, to have been happy with the prospect of 'perfect equality' between them.34

At the opening of the new session, 24 Nov. 1812, the adjournment was to have been moved by Vansittart, but Castlereagh 'rose first and persisted'. Elected for Clitheroe as a security, he had resumed his seat for Down by an arrangement with Lord Downshire which the latter's mother described as a 'faux pas' not to be repeated: but he was to retain the seat until he entered the Lords. On the address, 30 Nov., he claimed that 'in every quarter our prospects are most bright and happy'; but his performance in the next month did not impress. George Eden thought that if this went on the ministry would be 'laughed out of office'. Despite the taunt that he could do 'everything but speak in Parliament', his debating improved with experience. He carried such tricky measures as the vice-chancellor bill, the war with the United States and the rejection of Burdett's motion on the Regency in February 1813. On 2 and 9 Mar. he renewed his support for Catholic claims, dissociating himself from his colleagues and voting, as he was sure Pitt would have done, for the committee proposed by Grattan: this was thought to be 'intended to commit him irrevocably to the general measure', if not to the details. In March he parried the endeavours of the Princess of Wales, led by Whitbread, to air her grievances, accusing Whitbread of the motive of defaming the Prince Regent; he eventually withdrew the accusation, but had made his point. In the same month he began the arduous task of carrying within the session the renewal of the East India Company charter, which he managed, according to Wilberforce 'admirably—coolly and quietly', although the missionary clause was compromised in a way the 'Saints' could not welcome. He also opposed Bankes's sinecure offices bill, objecting to the expense of its pension scheme. Creevey described this last move as 'an effort to regain or to preserve his royal master's favour', being of opinion that Castlereagh was losing it. The affairs of the Princess had 'much irritated' him.35

On 11 May 1813 Castlereagh was disposed to favour Grattan's Catholic relief bill, even if it was 'not all he could wish'; although he then voted for procrastination, he was 'very reasonable and tractable' and on 13 May announced his support for the second reading, explaining that he had not been consulted on the drafting. Both he and Canning were supposed to wish for the credit of drawing up a bill that would succeed and to have 'courted' Charles Butler, who drafted it. They now concurred in its favour, after proposing alterations, Castlereagh's being designed to ensure the crown veto on the nomination of Catholic prelates. On 24 May he approved the ill-fated bill and on 29 June joined in opposition condemnation of Orange lodges. 'He now is the most strenuous advocate for the Catholic bill', groaned Wellesley Pole who, did not seem to think that the Regency protected Castlereagh from the charge of inconsistency, since he had once deprecated Catholic relief while the King reigned. It was a conspicuous fact that being 'next to Liverpool, the most effective member of the government', he was the only minister to come out unequivocally on the Catholic side. On firmer ground, he rebuffed attacks on the subsidies to the allies led by Whitbread and accused him of insisting on peace on any terms. In the recess Canning complained that Castlereagh's keenest critics of the year before now extolled his leadership loudest and regretted that he had ever lent himself to his friends' plea for 'a struggle with Lord Castlereagh'.36

In November 1813 Castlereagh introduced the bill to allow the militia to serve abroad and defended it, together with fresh subsidies to the allies, against Whitbread. He was involved in the promotion of the East India shipping bill when the time came to implement the decision to send him informally to the allied congress at Chatillon, taking in a mission to the Prince of Orange on his way. Having on 20 Dec. adjourned the House until 1 Mar. he left England on 31 Dec. accompanied by Frederick John Robinson and attended the congress in February and March 1814. Despite the allied differences exposed there, he remained unpeturbed and his diplomatic reputation was thus established, but he left a gap in the Commons that government could not supply. He next proceeded as plenipotentiary to Paris where, to quote Geroge Rose, he did 'admirably well ... better I am firmly persuaded than any other man in this country could have done'. On 6 June 1814 he was back in the House to present the peace treaty of 30 Mar: he never appeared there to better advantage. He 'bore it all with real modesty', claimed Rose, 'and certainly stands very high in public opinion', as also, he noted, in Canning's. He was awarded the Garter. When the treaty was discussed on 29 June the only demur came from Wilberforce, who was disappointed that the slave trade had not been abolished; but Castlereagh claimed that he had tried, if in vain, to effect this and swallowed Wilberforce's manifesto of prtest. On 1 July, after having so often moved the thanks of the House to him before, he hailed the returning Duke of Wellington as a hero, 'the most affecting proceeding ... ever witnessed in Parliament', according to the reporters. In resuming the leadership of the House he was able to effect a temporary solution to the problem of the Princess of Wales, being empowered to offer her an income of £50,000 of which she accepted £35,000 and prepared to leave the country. With regard to the relaxation of such wartime restrictions as the Aliens Act, he remarked that some precautions must yet be maintained: 'in politics, as in most of the transactions of common life, a middle course was the best to pursue'.37

In the summer of 1814 Castlereagh set out for the Continent, 'first ... to Ghent to settle America; then to Brussels to settle Holland; thence to Switzerland, and thence to Vienna'. He had 'nearly ... the most difficult [task] a minister has ever had to perform' in preventing the allies from falling out. He was to have come home for the parliamentary session, but found that he had to play off France and Austria against Russia and Prussia, for which 'his personal appearance at Vienna was indispensably necessary'. So he remained there until peace terms were agreed, arriving home on 3 Mar. to resume his role as 'the prop of the adminitration'. In his absence the Whigs had 'made mincemeat of Van[sittart] and co.'. Rumours that he was now to become chancellor of the Exchequer and succeed Liverpool as premier were 'more current than ever', but proved groundless. On 6 Mar. he appeared in the House but evaded Whitbread's request for a report of his mission, the articles of peace being not yet ratified. In the next few days he justified the magistrates' employment of the military to restrain the anti-corn bill rioters in the vicinity of the House, deploring the intimidation of Members and accusing Burdett of aiming at the subversion of the constitution. His own windows were broken by the mob, but he was an 'unruffled' spectator. On 16 Mar. he announced that government would not tolerate the restoration of Buonaparte, of whose escape he had informed them six days earlier. On 20 Mar. he vindicated, in a four-hour speech, his proceedings at the congress of Vienna. Reported to be 'red hot' for resumption of war with Buonaparte, on 7 Apr. he justified the Regent's message for the augmentation of the armed forces with a view to the security not of Britain alone but of Europe. Against Whitbread he insisted that he had not meant immediate war. On 11 Apr. he carried the treaty of Ghent, ending hostilities with the USA, by 128 votes to 37. Three days later he admitted that an overture had been made to him by Buonaparte, but refused to comment on it except that it had been referred to the allies; he resisted the arguments put forward by Whitbread a week later for coming to terms with Buonaparte, though he agreed to lay the substance of the treaty of Vienna (signed on 25 Mar.) before the House on 23 Apr. In doing so, he assured Whitbread that he would be happy to take the sense of the House as to peace or war. He subsequently thwarted opposition motions critical of the details of the peace settlement, carried the embodying of the militia to deal with the emergency and justified the renewal of alliances and subsidies to defeat Buonaparte, whose rejected overtures he disclosed. This was endorced on 25 May by 311 votes to 92.38

Apart from foreign affairs, Castlereagh was also occupied that session in defending the property tax continuation; resisting Tierney's motion for a civil list committee, 8 May; supporting, as an individual Parnell's motion for Catholic relief, though he did so on principle only and objected to Parnell's proposals, 30 May; justifying the Prince Regent's personal expenditure, 31 May; deprecating the timing of Wilberforce's slave registry bill, though he had circulated a treatise in favour of abolition at Vienna and supported it on principle, 5, 13 June; moving the thanks to the military for the victory of Waterloo; and, trickiest of all, carrying the Duke of Cumberland's marriage allowance. He complained to the Regent in May that government was ill supported on civil list questions and would have to pay more than lip-service to professions of economy. In June he was pursued by the mob after Burdett's Palace Yard meeting, an indication of the increasing tendency to make him the scapegoat for the unpopularity of government, encouraged by the hostile language used towards him by Whitbread and other Whigs in Parliament, who readily spoke of bringing Castlereagh to 'trial'. On the other hand, his stand on Catholic relief was a factor tending to conciliate the more conservative Whigs, the Irish leaders Grattan and Plunkett particularly, to his foreign policy. A government back-bencher thought, at the opening of the session of 1816, that he was 'a very able and fully qualified man for his situation as ministerial leader in the House of Commons. Being full of information he is always prepared to answer any questions or any charges brought against him and the measures of administration.'39

In the summer of 1815 Castlereagh returned to Paris where he was 'the pre-eminent star' in the negotiations for a new peace treaty and the removal of the quadruple alliance, achieved on 20 Nov. 1815. On 1 Feb. 1816 he was back to defend the Regent's speech in doing which he deplored the frequent attacks made in the House on the conduct of foreign governments and, in a 'quiet and subdued' tone, admitted the problems that peace would create at home. In the next few days he defended his part in the recent negotiations, designed to secure European equilibrium, and justified the high peacetime establishment. His chief opponent in foreign affairs was now Brougham, whose motion in favour of the Spanish Liberals he deprecated as typical of the kind of meddling in the affairs of other countries that was increasingly resented on the Continent, 15 Feb. On 19 Feb. in a four-hour speech he justified the peace treaty, which was approved next day by 240 votes to 77. It was the basis of his hope that Britain would adhere to a European 'concert' maintained by open diplomacy. During his ensuing short illness, it was remarked how weak government spokesmen were in his absence. He returned to find the House 'in time of peace a much more unruly body than in war' and quite 'intractable' on the issues of the army estimates and the renewal of the property tax. The former were carried on 13 Mar. after a record debate of ten nights, but the latter was unexpectedly lost on 18 Mar. His opponents noted with delight 'how completely the currycomb of the House of Commons had taken off all the gilding and lacquering that Castlereagh had brought from the Congress'. He was afterwards engaged in resisting opposition proposals for 'ill judged retrenchment' on official salaries. On 3 May he brought in the civil list regulation bill designed, by distinguishing between royal and state expenditure, to prevent undue odium from falling on the crown when there were arrears due not to royal extravagence but to increase in State expenses. He carried it after having 'drilled about fifty of the country gentlemen at his office'. He was reported to be more eager than ever to meet Catholic claims; opposing Sir John Newport's motion on the state of Ireland, 26 Apr., he stated that it could not be made a government question, but he spoke 'with more than usual eagerness' for a Catholic committee on 21 May and prompted the provision of securities for emancipation. After the nadir of March 1816, Castlereagh now found it easier to carry the navy estimates and Princess Charlotte's marriage allowance, but he disappointed Wilberforce by finding new grounds for procrastination on the international abolition of the slave trade, and exasperated Newport by the 'unintelligible' language in which he opposed the resumption of cash payments by the Bank, 1 May. This was a common complaint: Sir James Mackintosh referred to Castlereagh's speaking 'in his usual Transylvanian dialect', and Byron to 'the strange displays of the odd string of words, all in a row which none divine, and everyone obeys'. It was nevertheless thought that if he were removed to the Lords, the government would be very much the worse for it in the Commons.40

At the start of the 1817 session Castlereagh deprecated the uncritical acceptance the uncritical acceptance of petitions for parliamentary reform. On 4 Feb. he secured the appointment of a secret committee to investigate 'certain dangerous combinations' against the State, but despite what even Brougham thought a 'judicious and good humoured' speech, failed to secure Whig co-operation for the selevt committee he named on public income and expenditure, 7 Feb. Yet he 'surprised all parties with the amount of his retrenchments'. The report of the secret committee was the basis for the seditious meetings bill introduced by Castlereagh on 24 Feb.; two days later he defended the suspension of habeas corpus. At the same time he repelled attacks on Admiralty salaries, deploring threats held over the heads of office-holders, and he negatived Brougham's motion on the trade depression as a political stratagem, 13 Mar. Brougham reported Castlereagh's reaction to his attack:

He at first yawned as he generally does when galled—then changed postures—then left his seat and came into the centre of the bench—then spoke much to Canning and Van[sittart], and at last was so d-d fidgety that I expected to see him get up. It ended by his not saying one word in his word in his defence, but appealing to posterity.

At the end of February and again in March, Castlereagh had 'a sharp fit of gout'. He was reported to have become 'of a full habit' [i.e. corpulent] and 'a very grouty appearance' by Wellesley Pole, who added 'I do not wonder at it, for his office out of Parliament and his drudgery in the House of Commons are enough to destroy the health of Hercules'. Though apprehensive that he would not be able to resume the lead and subject  henceforward to further spasms, he was back in his place at the end of April. On 5 May he accepted the recommendations for abolishing sinecures made by the finance committee, since they did not burden the country with a pension list, and next day defended Canning's embassy to Lisbon when it came under attack. On 9 May he summed up his considered views in favourof Catholic relief with seurities. He carried the revival of the secret committee on sedition, 5 June, and defended the temporary renewal of habeas corpus suspension, 23 June. On 11 July he met with greatest challenge of his debating career when Brougham, in his motion on the state of the nation, raked up the old charges against him of cruelty in Ireland, which he answered once and for all and, so Brougham thought, 'in by far the greatest fury ever I saw any man':

With respect to Ireland, I know I know I never shall be forgiven. I have with many other incurred the inexpiable guilt of preserving that main branch of the British empire from that separation which the traitors of Ireland in conjunction with a foreign power had meditated ... my conduct has been the constant theme of invective. But I think those who are aquainted with me will do me the justice to believe that I never had a cruel or unkind heart.

It was considered his best speech of the session, together with Canning's in his defence. Creevey wryly remarked to the Duke of Wellington

that Castlereagh would have expired politically in the year 1809—that all the world by common consent had had enough of him, and were tired out—had it not been for the piece of perfidy by Canning to him at that time, and that this, and this alone, had raised him from the dead, and given him his present position.

Canning had now, to all appearances, 'decided to pin himself to Castlereagh's tail, thinking that at present the best speculation'. This was the view of Marquess of Buckingham, who regarded Castlereagh as being, with the Regent's favour, beyond the control of Lord Liverpool. He thought that  there was a rift between them due to the premier's jealousy and dislike of Castlereagh's prestige (but he had the arrière-penseé of a junction with Liverpool to which he regarded Castlereagh, who saw no need to strengthen the government, as the chief obstacle). Eagerly Buckingham grasped at rumours that Castlereagh was 'not near so popular at Carlton House as he was'; but they were groundless. The Regent was especially devoted to Castlereagh, one of principal instigators of his daughter's marriage, and, while the Princess coud not consent to have Lady Castlereagh as her lady-in-waiting, her husband, Prince Leopold, was thought to be entirely influenced by him. The possible consequences of this were in any case cancelled by the Princess's death.41

The session of 1818 opened with the repeal of the suspension of habeas corpus, which Castlereagh justified, 27, 29 Jan. In moving for another secret committee on the internal state of the country, 5 Feb., he stated that no legislation would be based on their report on their report, but that government would bring in an indemnity bill. This bill he duly defended as justifiable from precedent and in no way a cover for violation of the rights of the subject, 17 Feb. Brougham tried unsuccessfully to frustrate Castlereagh's membership of the secret committee. He was also on the finance committee which he revived on 3 Feb. and on the Poor Laws committee proposed on 4 Feb., though he indicated that this could not be a government question. He was able at last to satisfy the 'Saints' when he produced the treaty with Spain on the slave trade, 28 Jan., though the expense of £40,000 to execute it was questioned; similar treaties with Portugal and the Netherlands followed.42 He continued to obstruct efforts for parliamentary reform. On 12 Mar. Althorp carried, against Castlereagh's oppostion, his motion for a committee on the repeal of the leather tax; and in April there was more trouble when Castlereagh tried to carry the marriage allowances for the royal dukes. On 15 Apr. the grant for the Duke of Clarence was reduced from £10,000 to £6,000 by an opposition majority of nine. He was obliged to carry the rest at £6,000, protesting that this reduced the royal family to vying for their services at the cheapest tender. On 16 Apr. even £6,000 for the Duke of Cumberland was rejected by seven votes, and when the same sum for the Duke of Kent was agreed by 205 votes to 51 on 15 May, Castlereagh protested at the invidiousness of voting according to the personal merits of the recipient. In May and June he shepherded through the revised aliens bill, saving the substance of it from amendment by the Lords. He opposed Brougham's motion for inquiry into the education of poor, 3 June.

In the summer of 1818 Castlereagh left for the congress of Aachen. News of the pacification of Europe agreed there was his first contribution to the new Parliament in February 1819. On 2 Feb. he obstructed, as he had done on the previous 1 May, Tierney's motion for resumption of cash payments by the Bank, coming to Vansittart's rescue and treating it as a bid for support from the new Members. He succeeded in excluding Brougham from the secret committee on the Bank's affairs of which he was a member, 8 Feb. His main bugbear was the Windsor establishment bill, necessitated by the death of the Queen. On 4 Feb. he proposed a saving of £83,000, and when on 22 Feb. in select committee he halved the Regent's income, he carried it by 281 votes to 186;  but there were quibbles next day over the £10,000 earmarked for the Duke of York, Castlereagh speaking in his 'very worst and most perplexed style'. He struggled through this, only to come to grief over the reduction of royal equerries. Preferring prison reform to criminal law reform, he was satisfied with a select committee on the former, 1 Mar., and next day opposed Mackintosh's motion for the latter. He aimed to disconcert opposition, too, by the introduction of the Bank cash payments bill, 5 Apr.  On 18 May he met Tierney's censure motion with a manifesto  in defence of government policies, admitting readily that 'the situation of ministers was never fuller of difficulty and responsibility'. Edward John Littleton thought their two speeches 'the two best party speeches I ever heard' and noted that Castlereagh 'in an unusual fluency and eloquence' insisted that it was an attempt to turn out the government and made it a party question: he described the opposition as 'a Mahratta confederacy' out for 'a grand field day'. They were duly frustrated and when he again challenged Tierney on finance resolutions of 7 June he was received with 'continued cheers'. For the remainder of the session he was preoccupied, as an opponent of the 'liberation' of the Spanish American colonies, with the vindication of the foreign enlistment bill, and of the charitable foundation bill designed to meet Brougham's exposure of abuses in charity schooling.43

On 23 Nov. 1819 Castlereagh carried the address by 381 votes to 150, after a debate on the Peterloo tragedy in which he defended the conduct of the Manchester magistrates. On 29 Nov. he introduced the seditious meetings prevention bill designed to avert such catastrophes in future. Next day, opposing Althorp's motion for an inquiry into the state of the country and the events at Peterloo, he got into a 'most extraordinary rant' as Tierney put it, in emphasizing that 'this tedious double enquiry' would play into the hands of the radicals. On 2 Dec. he carried the second reading of the seditious meetings prevention bill by 351 votes to 128, but it was so severely handled in committee that 'bullied by the country gentlemen', he conceded a shorter duration for the bill, 6, 8 Dec. The bill was carried on 10 Dec. by 313 votes to 95. He had meanwhile introduced the training prevention and seizure of arms bills to meet the situation and blocked Bennet's 'sweeping' motion for an inquiry into conditions in manufacturing districts. On 14 Dec., in response to Lord John Russell's motion to disfranchise Grampound and redistribute the seats as a token of parliamentary reform (which Lord Liverpool did not dislike), he surprised opposition by his moderation: while he objected to any general application of the principle, he conceded that 'every district case must be canvassed on its own intristic merits' and, in the case of Grampond, a reform seemed to be warranted. During the remainder of that short session, he defended the other coercive measures proposed by government. 'I feel no wrath against the people', he had assured Tierney on 3 Dec., I am only doing my duty.' It was Castlereagh who wound up the reign of George III in the House of Commons. Of that Parliament he remarked that he could not 'wish for a better'.44

Castlereagh soldiered on in the first Parliament of the new reign, but public difficulties were relentless. He was still expected to succeed Lord Liverpool as premier when, on the eve of a fresh continental misssion, he died after cutting his throat with a penknife, 12 Aug 1822. He had bourne for years the abuse of political opponents, but the persecution mania that preceded his suicide was a symptom of the destruction of a constitution undermined by the strain of public life. Creevey conceded that 'By experience, good manners and great courage, he managed a corrupt House of Commons pretty well, with some address'. Brougham remarked: 'Put all their other men together in one scale, and poor Castlereagh in the other—single, he plainly weighed them down ... he was a gentleman, and the only one amongst them.' He added that Canning, who replaced him, succeeded to 'all of Castlereagh, except his good judgment, good manners and bad English'. Indeed Brougham's mature estimate ran:

His capacity was greatly underrated, from the poverty of his discourse; and his ideas passed for much less than they were worth, from the habitual obscurity of his expressions ... To judge of his intellect by his eloquence, we should certainly have formed a very unfair estimate of its perspicuity ... In council he certainly had far more resources. He possessed a considerable fund of plan sense, not to be misled by any refinement of speculation or clouded by any fanciful notions. He went straight to the point. He was brave politically as well as personally.

Greville the diarist thought him, as a minister,

a great loss to his party, and still greater to his friends and dependants to whom he was the best of patrons ... I believe he was considered one of the best managers of the House of Commons who ever sat in it, and he was eminently possessed of the good taste, good humour, and agreeable manners which are more requiste to make a good leader than eloquence, however brilliant.

An outstanding pupil of Pitt, Castlereagh never courted popularity and was perhaps happiest in the world of diplomacy where he shone as an arbiter, farthest removed from public scutiny; but in a career that encompassed the Irish union, the formation of Indian empire, the defeat of Buonaparte and the forging of the 'concert of Europe', he never doubted that 'the strictest scrutiny' would rescue him from the perdition to which his critics appeared to consign him.45

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


The latest biography is by Wendy Hindle (1981). For his early career see also H. M. Hyde, Rise of Castlereagh (1933) and Ione Leigh, Castlereagh (1951); for his career at the India Office, J. A. R. Marriott, Castlereagh: a pol. biog. (1936), ch. 7; for his diplomatic career, Sir C. K. Webster, Foreign Policy of Castlereagh 1812-1815, 1815-1822; H. A. Kissinger, A World Restored, 1957. A synthesis was attempted by C. J. Bartlett, Castlereagh (1966). Much of his official corresp. appeared in his half-bro.'s Mems. and Corresp. Visct. Castlereagh (12 vols. 1848-53) and some of his private corresp. in Lady Londonderry's Robert Stewart, Visct. Castlereagh (1904).

  • 1. He was baptized a Presbyterian at Strand Street, Dublin, 5 July 1769.
  • 2. Hamwood Pprs. of Ladies of Llangollen, 105; J. Barrington, Personal Sketches, i. 321-2; E. Suff. RO, Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 29 Dec. 1801; Twiss, Eldon, i. 432; Staffs. RO, Hatherton diary, 12 Apr. 1818; Leigh, 30; Camden mss C3/19; HMC Charlemont, ii. 173; HMC Fortescue, ii. 28, 33, 35, 36, 38, 40; Hyde, 92, 99-102, 113.
  • 3. PRO 30/8/326, ff. 232, 326; 327, f. 11; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 1701. Hyde, 244; Camden mss 0198/3; Cornwallis Corresp. ii. 363; Add. 37878, f. 24.
  • 4. Castlereagh Corresp. i. 325, 375-7, 412, 419, 424, 428; iii. 58, 333; iv. 8; Add. 33106, ff. 92, 94, 108; 51684, Wycombe to Holland, 2 Apr. 1798; Camden mss C98/3; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 1868n; PRO 30/8/327, ff. 19, 27, 195; Cornwallis Corresp. ii. 441; Leveson Gower, i. 239; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, ii. 411, 425-6; Stanhope, Pitt, iii. app. xviii.
  • 5. Hyde, 120-1; Charlemont mss, Haliday to Charlemont, 24 May 1794; HMC Charlemont, ii. 248; PRO 30/8/330, ff. 244, 246; Drennan Letters ed. Chart, 541; Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1320.
  • 6. Add. 33101, ff. 329, 368, 370, 376; 33105, f. 59; Camden mss C123/7; O156B/1-5; Hyde, 144-5; PRO 30/8/197, ff. 98, 247-8; 326, ff. 48, 50, 76.
  • 7. PRO 30/8/326, ff. 232, 326; 327, f. 11; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 1701. Hyde, 244; Camden mss C98/3; Cornwallis Corresp. ii. 363; Add. 37878, f. 24.
  • 8. Castlereagh Corresp. i. 325, 375-7, 412, 419, 424, 428; iii. 58, 333; iv. 8; Add. 33106, ff. 92, 94, 108; 51684, Wycombe to Holland, 2 Apr. 1798; Camden mss C98/3; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 1868n; PRO 30/8/327, ff. 19, 27, 195; Cornwallis Corresp. ii. 441; Leveson Gower, i. 239; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, ii. 411, 425-6; Stanhope, Pitt, iii. app. xviii.
  • 9. Add. 33106, f. 297; Castlereagh Corresp. iii. 345-50; iv. 8, 34, 39, 392-400; HO 100/94, Castlereagh to King, 2 Aug. [1800]; PRO, Dacres Adams mss 3/49; Farington, vii. 19; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 147, 157; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2331, 2357; Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 29 Dec. 1801; Stanhope, iii. 303-6.
  • 10. Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2405; Castlereagh Corresp. iii. 387; iv. 95; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 205; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 43; Rose Diaries, i. 316, 335; Add. 35701, f. 197; Colchester, i. 255, 257, 258, 260, 263, 365; Farington, i. 305.
  • 11. Leveson Gower, i. 310; Chatsworth mss, Duchess of Devonshire jnl. 5 Nov. 1801; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 276; Camden mss C98/10; 109, 134/4; Colchester, i. 382; Wilberforce Pprs. 131; Senator (ser.2), v. 1506; Castlereagh Corresp. v. 29-38, 42-47; Add. 35708, f. 33; 35713, ff. 67, 72, 161; Egerton 3260, f. 224; Parl. Deb. xxvi. 154.
  • 12. Add. 35713, f. 26; 38737, f. 17; Sidmouth mss, Castlereagh to Addington, 27 July, Addington to J. H. Addington, 21 Oct; SRO GD224/581, Dundas to Buccleuch, 13 Aug.; W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Dundas, 5 Sept. 1802; Dacres Adams mss 4/48, 93; Marriott, 82-93; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 333-4; HMC Bathurst, 30; Prince of Wales Corresp. iv. 1690; Buckingham, iii. 219, 245; HMC Fortescue, vi. 149, 170; Rose Diaries, i. 493, 497, 514-15; Farington, ii. 231; Dublin SPO 524/153/12; Creevey mss, Creevey to Currie, 11 Mar.; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife [18 Apr.], 4 June 1803; Castlereagh Corresp. v. 62-72; Colchester, i. 416; Grey mss, Grey to his wife, 25 May 1803.
  • 13. Add. 35702, f. 195; Colchester, i. 424; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 2 June [1803], 1 Jan. 1804; SRO GD51/1/68/2; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 278; Sidmouth mss, Castlereagh to Addington, 16 Aug., Redesdale to same, 28 Oct., 29 Nov.; Egerton 3260, f. 224; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lowther, 10 Dec. 1803; Stanhope, iv. 90, 95. Add. 35706, f. 17; 37415, ff. 209, 228; Iris Butler, The Eldest Brother, 328, 338;
  • 14. HMC Bathurst, 34; Life of Wilberforce (1838), iii. 178; Colchester, i. 530, 537; Camden mss C30/10; W. Suff. RO, Hervey mss, Castlereagh to Bristol, Sunday [Dec. 1804].
  • 15. Colchester, i. 540, 547, 552; Leveson Gower, ii. 16, 54, 65; Stanhope, iv. app. xxii; Pellew, Sidmouth, ii. 356; HMC Fortescue, vi. 258; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 3129; PRO 30/8/175, f. 157; Dacres Adams mss 6/108; Add. 34456, f. 259; 35706, f. 272; 35718, f. 146; 35757, f. 299; 47566, f. 216; Rose Diaries, ii. 198; Lonsdale mss, Essex to Lowther, 12 Sept.; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 30 Oct. 1805.
  • 16. Castlereagh Corresp. v. 106-8; vi. 1; PRO 30/8/114, f. 161; Dacres Adams mss 11/22; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lowther, 20 Feb. 1806; Leveson Gower, ii. 160, 166; Rose Diaries, ii. 226; Add. 35706; f. 318; 45041, f. 135; Camden mss C98/11; SRO GD51/1/195/8; Rose Diaries, ii. 246-7, 250, 258, 262, 312; HMC Lonsdale, 164, 174, 180; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 20 Feb., 4 Mar.; Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to Bragge Bathurst, 20 Feb.; Malmesbury mss, FitzHarris to Malmesbury, 4 Apr. 1806.
  • 17. Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 2, 10 June, 1, 5 July; Add. 42773, f. 115; 45034, f. 3; Harrowby mss, Ryder to Harrowby mss, 30 June, 5 July; Fortescue mss, T. to Ld. Grenville, 5 Aug., encl. Carysfort to T. Grenville, 27 July 1806; Camden mss C98/12; HMC Fortescue, ix. 440, 441.
  • 18. NLW, Coedymaen mss 20, Buckingham to Williams Wynn, 31 Aug.; Spencer mss, Lady to Ld. Spencer [recd. 3 Nov.]; Lonsdale mss, Rose to Lowther, 6 Nov.; Fortescue mss, Mount Edgcumbe to Grenville, 6 Nov. 1806; Colchester, ii. 84; Farington, iv. 46, 166; Harrowby mss, Ryder to Harrowby, 7, 25 Jan.; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 23 Feb. 1807; Colchester, ii. 92; Buckingham, iv. 146.
  • 19. Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 27 Feb., 6, 8, 9, 20, 22 Mar. 1807; Colchester, ii. 107.
  • 20. Jnl. of Lady Holland, ii. 205; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 3435, 3444, 3491, 3505; HMC Bathurst, 53; Leveson Gower, ii. 242; Colchester, ii. 98, 107, 127; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 25 Oct., 5, 12, 28 Nov.; Fortescue mss, Bulkeley to Grenville, 22 Nov. 1807; Dorset RO, Bond mss D367, Jekyll to Bond, 25 Jan. 1808; Glenbervie Diaries, ii. 13.
  • 21. Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3609, 3620, 3697; v. 3824; Coedymaen mss 20, Buckingham to Williams Wynn, 24 Dec.; Add. 51549, Lady Holland to Grey, Sat. [8 May 1807]; Colchester, ii. 148, 150, 162; Buckingham, iv. 277, 283, 305, 308, 311; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 7 Dec., Grenville to same, 12 Dec. 1808; HMC Fortescue, ix. 245, 250; Perceval (Holland) mss 7, f. 6; Castlereagh Corresp. vi. 462; Prince of Wales Corresp. vi. 2545.
  • 22. Parl. Deb. xiii. app. clxxiv; Colchester, ii. 169; HMC Fortescue, ix. 290; Life of Wilberforce, iii. 406-7; Geo. III Corresp. v. 3867, 3876; NLI, Richmond mss 61/331; Londonderry mss, Castlereagh to Stewart, 27 Apr., 12 May 1809.
  • 23. Geo. III Corresp. v. pp. xvii, 3906, 3930, 3939; HMC Bathurst, 67, 93-94, 96, 98, 101, 112-19; Colchester, ii. 180, 198, 200-4, 213, 220-3, 228; PRO 30/29/8/4, f. 487; Rose Diaries, ii. 422, 424; Farington, v. 224-5; Ward, Letters to 'Ivy', 77; Grey mss, Gordon to Bathurst, [8 Sept. 1809]; PRO 30/8/366, f. 16; Perceval (Holland) mss 2, ff. 1, 4, 10, 26, 29, 4, ff. 2, 3, 6, 7; Twiss, Eldon, ii. 88, 99; Add. 49188, f. 53; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 5, 12, 15 July, 20 Sept.; Camden mss, memo [1809]; Harrowby mss, memo. [1809]; Londonderry mss, Castlereagh to Cooke, 16 Sept., Cooke to Stewart, 21 Sept.; Castlereagh to Londonderry, 21 Sept., 3 Oct., to Stewart, 16 Oct., part pub in Lady Londonderry, Visct. Castlereagh, 38-42; Carlisle mss, Ellis's memo of the duel [21 Sept.]; SRO GD51/1/195/85; Haddington mss, Ellis to Binning, 2 Oct. 1809; Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. i. 206.
  • 24. Geo. III Corresp. v. 3980, 3986; Perceval (Holland) mss 2, ff. 33, 34, 35, 36; 4, f. 32; Canning and his Friends, i. 324; Malmesbury mss, Malmesbury to FitzHarris, 5 Dec. 1809.
  • 25. Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, i. 122, 124; Geo. III Corresp. v. 4074, 4082, 4093; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 24, 27 Jan., 2, 17, 23 Feb., 6 Mar. 1810; Bath Archives ed. Lady Jackson, i. 86, 94; Ward, 91; Buckingham, iv. 420; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lonsdale, 3, 8 Feb. 1810; Richmond mss 73/1710, 1715.
  • 26. Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 10, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28 Mar.; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lonsdale, 15, 27 Mar., Long to same, 21 Mar., 3 Apr. [1810]; Leveson Gower, ii. 355; Malmesbury mss, FitzHarris to Malmesbury , 10 Mar. 1810; Prince of Wales Corresp. vii. 2704; Buckingham iv. 429; Colchester, ii. 241; Geo. III Corresp. v. 4120; Richmond mss 62/522, 73/1698.
  • 27. Richmond mss 66/886; Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to Bragge Bathurst, 27 Apr. 1810; Geo. III Corresp. v. 4126, 4138, 4177, 4184; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 28 Aug.; Camden mss C90/2/4; Twiss, ii. 126; Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 12 21 Sept. [1810]; Colchester, ii. 287; Buckingham, iv. 452, 454; HMC Fortescue, x. 55.
  • 28. Perceval (Holland) mss, bound vol. f. 14; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 13 Nov.; Grey mss, Grey to his wife, 24 Nov. 1810; Richmond mss 63/578, 66/896; Colchester, ii. 296; Prince of Wales Corresp. vii. 2779; Buckingham, iv. 478; Rose Diaries, ii. 464; Bathurst mss, Richmond to Bathurst, 10 Jan. 1811; Canning and his Friends, i. 368; Pellew, iii. 37; Add. 38738, f. 89.
  • 29. Buckingham, Regency, i. 174, 218, 251, 268, 279; Letters of Princess Charlotte, 25; HMC Fortescue, x. 193, 204, 230; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 14 Jan., 2, 9, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22 Feb., 5 Mar.; Richmond mss 60/228, 67/998; Blair Adam mss, Adam's memo 23 Jan.; Londonderry mss. Castlereagh to Stewart, 29 Jan., Wellington to same, 14 Mar. 1812; Colchester, ii. 366, 371; Horner mss 5, f. 162; Egerton 3260, ff. 213-26; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lonsdale, 8, 13, Feb. 1812; Perceval (Holland) mss 10, ff. 1, 2; Alnwick mss 67, f. 79; Phipps, i. 433, 435; HMC Bathurst, 166; Bath Archives, i. 334.
  • 30. Colchester, ii 379; Twiss, ii. 210-11; Grey mss, Grenville to Grey, 17 May 1812; Richmond mss 67/968, 70/1315; Alnwick mss 67, ff. 182-3; Add. 38247, f. 264; Regency, i. 293, 300; HMC Fortescue, x. 249-50, 256, 258, 261.
  • 31. Add. 38247, f. 311; 38738, f. 254; 51585, Tierney to Lady Holland, 22 May [1812]; Jackson Diaries, i. 377, 379; Romilly, Mems. iii. 39; Geo. IV Letters, i. 84, 87; Camden mss O256/5; Londonderry mss, Stewart's memo [12 June] 1812, pub. in Geo. IV Letters, i. 132n; Richmond mss 70/1304.
  • 32. Colchester, ii. 387; Richmond mss 72/1583; HMC Bathurst, 180, 182; Malmesbury mss, FitzHarris to Malmesbury, 23 June 1812.
  • 33. Add. 34458, f. 363; Fremantle mss, W. H. to Adm. Fremantle, 23 June 1812; Richmond mss 73/1898-1900.
  • 34. Colchester, ii. 396-400; Regency, i. 389-400; Richmond mss 72/1300, 74/1896, 1897; Add. 38738, ff. 273-4, 279, 283, 291, 295, 315-16; 48220, f. 83; 48224, f. 85; Geo. IV. Letters, i. 132; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lonsdale, 27 July, 1 Oct.; Sheffield City Lib. Wharncliffe mss, Binning to Stuart Wortley, Fri. [17 July], 26, 28 July [1812]; Leveson Gower, ii. 439, 443.
  • 35. Colchester, ii. 411; Fortescue mss, Lady Downshire to Grenville, 1 Nov.; Add. 34458, f. 434; 51826, Stair to Holland, 17 Nov. [1812]; Lady Londonderry, 72; Heron, Notes (1815), 11, 19; Brougham mss 10348; HMC Fortescue, x. 338; Colchester, ii. 432-3, 442; Life of Wilberforce, iv. 124, 135.
  • 36. Fortescue mss, Holland to Grenville, Fri. [1812 or 1813]; Horner mss 5, f. 295; Heron, 17-18; Richmond mss 66/842; Ward, 213; Wharncliffe mss, Canning to Stuart Wortley, 25 Aug. 1812.
  • 37. Leveson Gower, ii. 496; Letters to Lady Burghersh, 144, 185, 205; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 5 Feb.; Bond mss D367, Jekyll to Bond, 14 Apr. 1814; NLS mss 3796, ff. 79, 103-4; Colchester, ii. 500.
  • 38. Colchester, ii. 513, 531; NLS mss 3796, ff. 103-4; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 26 Sept. 1, 12 Nov. 1814, 21 Jan.; Morning Chron. 3 Feb. 1815; Ward, Letters to Bishop of Llandaff, 80; Gronow, Reminiscences (1900), i. 211; Geo. IV Letters, ii. 537; Creevey Pprs. i. 214.
  • 39. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 550; Horner mss 6, f. 143; Colchester, ii. 545, 547; Farington, viii. 57.
  • 40. Gronow, i. 299; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 14 Jan., 2 Feb. 1816; Colchester, ii. 569, 576; Add. 40290, f. 109; Geo. IV Letters, ii. 638, 644, 648; Londonderry mss, Castlereagh to Stewart, 19 Mar., 4 June [1816]; Mackintosh Mems. ii. 338, 342; Letters to Bishop of Llandaff, 145; Byron, Don Juan, canto ix. 49-50; Fremantle mss, Buckingham to Fremantle [7 May 1816].
  • 41. Lansdowne mss, Brougham to Lansdowne, 8 Feb. 1817; Horner mss 7, f. 299; Creevey Pprs. i. 262, 266, 287; Bagot mss, Wellesley Pole to Bagot , 4 May, 3 July 1817; Canning and his Friends, ii. 88; HMC Fortescue, x. 426, 428; Colchester, ii. 605, 608; Brougham mss 352; Pope of Holland House ed. Lady Seymour, 186, 190; Fremantle mss, Buckingham to Fremantle, 4, 21 Apr., 25 June, 30 July 1817; Letters of Princess Charlotte, 241.
  • 42. Pope of Holland House, 200.
  • 43. Prince of Wales Corresp. viii. 3406; Grey mss, Lambton to Grey, 3 Feb., Rosslyn to Grey, 10 Feb. 1819; Regency, ii. 321; Hatherton diary, 18 May 1819.
  • 44. Regency, ii. 382; HMC Fortescue, x. 452; Heron, 110; Pope of Holland House, 212; Colchester, iii. 313.
  • 45. Twiss, iii. 191; H. M. Hyde, Strange Death of Lord Castlereagh; Rise of Castlereagh, 1-5; Hatherton diary, 13 Feb. 1831; Creevey Pprs. ii. 42, 44, 49; Brougham, Hist. Sketches, ii. 121; Greville Mems. ed. Strachey and Fulford, i. 127-8; DNB; Rush, Ct. of London 1819-25, p. 120; Hornby, Remains of A. Knox. iv. 539.