CANNING, George (1770-1827), of Gloucester Lodge, Brompton, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 11 Apr. 1770, 1st s. of George Canning, barrister, of the Middle Temple and Mary Anne, da. of Jordan Costello of Connaught. educ. Hyde Abbey sch. Winchester 1778; Eton 1783; Christ Church, Oxf. 1787; L. Inn 1787; continental tour 1791. m. 8 July 1800, Joan, da. and coh. of Maj.-Gen. John Scott† of Balcomie, Fife (cr. Viscountess Canning 22 Jan. 1828 with spec. rem. to her heirs male), 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. fa. 1771. d. 8 Aug. 1827.
Under-sec. of state for foreign affairs Jan. 1796-Mar. 1799; recvr.-gen. alienation office 1797-d.; commr. bd. of control Mar. 1799-Mar. 1801; jt. paymaster-gen. July 1800-Mar. 1801; PC 28 May 1800; treas. of navy May 1804-Jan. 1806; sec. of state for foreign affairs Mar. 1807-Sept. 1809, Sept. 1822-Apr. 1827; amb. extraordinary to Portugal 1814-15; pres. bd. of control June 1816-Jan. 1821; first ld. of treasury and chan. of exch. 20 Apr.-8 Aug. 1827; bencher, L. Inn 1827.
One of the most singular and remarkable of the leading statesmen of the first half of the nineteenth century, Canning, who was the only serving prime minister to sit in the Commons in this period, possessed undoubted and enviable talents, not least of which was the rich and varied oratorical eloquence which gave him an absolute ascendancy in the House. Yet, if his extraordinary powers had raised him from the most unlikely of circumstances to the most exalted of positions of political pre-eminence (first minister in all but name by 1825) and had several times rescued his straggling career from the effects of undeserved bad luck and unwarranted personal misjudgements, they also lay at the root of the deep mistrust which long inhibited his promotion and finally wrecked the formation of his administration in 1827. For although within his own small circle he inspired sincere devotion and in the public mind epitomized the popular patriot, he was irrevocably tainted in the eyes of politicians at home and abroad. His undisguised ambition, his insatiable love of intrigue, his insufferable arrogance and, perhaps above all, his outrageous wit and sometimes vulgar conduct, aroused the unshakable suspicion of his professional colleagues and the savage hatreds of his bitter adversaries on both sides of the party divide. Damned at various times as a ‘jester’ (by William Cobbett†), an ‘actor’ (by Henry Brougham*) and a ‘charlatan’ (by the duke of Wellington), even as sympathetic an observer as John Wilson Croker* could joke that Canning ‘never took tea without a stratagem’, or could remark, in a perception that captured a not always articulated sense of unease about him, that his ‘mind’s eye squinted’.1 In short, to the governing élite, who considered him too clever by half, Canning always seemed to stand slightly out of true; for Wellington, he was ‘a man of imagination, always in a delusion [who] never saw things as they were’.2 So it was a considerable testimony to his mental courage, which never failed him, and his physical resilience, which in the end did, that he overcame formidable obstacles to become, in the 1820s, an outstanding foreign secretary, which is how posterity rightly remembers him, and a surprisingly effective leader of the House of Commons, an office which he had always coveted.3 Nevertheless, on the eve of attaining the premiership in the spring of 1827, he was the ‘cock of the walk’ to whom his chickens were to come home to roost.4
Canning, who later remarked that ‘though I was accidentally born in London, I consider myself an Irishman’, was the son of a disinherited Anglo-Irish gentleman turned barrister and poet, who died on his first birthday, and an Irish beauty, who subsequently abandoned herself to the stage and two disreputable and fertile liaisons.5 Removed by his relations, his early talents for argumentative logic and poetic composition were nurtured by the Rev. Charles Richards at a school near Winchester and came to fruition at Eton in the exuberant wit of his contributions to the Microcosm.6 At Oxford, where he formed a lifelong circle of friends, his classical learning and debating skills were apparent, but what stood foremost was his temptation, as he confessed in 1788, ‘to aim at the House of Commons, as the only path to the only desirable thing in the world, the gratification of ambition’.7 Entering Parliament in 1793, he dismayed his Whig patrons by his intimate connection with Pitt, who set him on his career in diplomacy by giving him an under-secretaryship at the foreign office. In promoting the prime minister’s endeavours for peace against the more warlike intentions of his chief, Lord Grenville, Canning established a reputation for intrigue which, with his satirical abilities (notably in the Anti-Jacobin) and irrepressible frivolity, became his trademark characteristics.8 Although under the will of his paternal grandfather, Stratford Canning (1703-75) of Garvagh, county Londonderry, he derived a small income from an estate at Kilbrahan, county Kilkenny, and had received an official salary, Canning’s penury was not surmounted until his marriage in 1800, when his wife’s fortune of reputedly about £100,000 was placed at the disposal of his political advancement. Joan, whose sister had married Lord Titchfield† (the future 4th duke of Portland), brought him aristocratic relations as well as wealth, but she was also invaluable as an intelligent and spirited confidante, his letters to her containing an impressive record of his fluctuating hopes and fears. Venomous and indiscreet in his opposition to Henry Addington†, Canning returned to office under Pitt in 1804 and, having flirted inconclusively with Grenville’s government, was made foreign secretary by the 3rd duke of Portland in 1807. His achievements relative to the Danish fleet, the Peninsular campaign and the South American colonies, which were portents for the future, were obliterated by the disastrous duel with his rival, Lord Castlereagh*, in 1809. He failed to form a government with his principal ally, Lord Wellesley, in 1812, when he made what he soon saw as a dreadful blunder in declining the new premier Lord Liverpool’s offer of the foreign office, merely because Castlereagh would have been placed over him in the Commons. Some consolation could be taken that year from having won a popular seat at Liverpool, which brought him into contact with the country’s leading commercial interests, and his prominent advocacy of the Catholic cause, a crusade which was to be closely bound up with his political fortunes. But the disbandment of his ‘little senate’ in 1813, his retreat on an abortive diplomatic mission to Lisbon in 1814 and his return to the lowly cabinet rank of president of the India board in 1816, were humiliations which seemed to confirm the eclipse of his high-flying ambitions.9
Yet his friend William Wilberforce*, who was not alone in the assessment, ranked him nearly as high as Pitt and Fox as a speaker and it was Canning’s dominance in the Commons which, not for the last time, preserved his career.10 It had been acknowledged in 1815 that he was the only possible alternative to Castlereagh as leader, and he shouldered much of the burden of vindicating the administration’s repressive legislation in the following years.11 Although he was often considered too showy and erratic - his youthful declamations were overly theatrical and he was once described as the ‘zany of debate’ - he made inordinate preparations both for formal set speeches and unscripted replies, the most important of which were meticulously corrected for separate publication.12 Alternately dazzled by his brilliance and beguiled by his reasoning, commentators on his Commons performances frequently noted that he seemed to be capable of even greater effects.13 Such was the case in his parliamentary duel with one of his Whig sparring partners, Mackintosh, in December 1819. Writing to his friend Lord Morley on the 31st Canning revealed his sense of despair, confiding that he wished his son William to enter the navy since
as to politics, never shall son of mine be by me plunged into that labyrinth. For seven years passed, I have thought of nothing but how to find my way out of it - and I cannot ... Politics have now nothing to offer, which I would cross my threshold to seize and enjoy. Nothing ... I toil on, like a horse in a mill, because I see not the opening by which I can escape from my thraldom.
But turning to his standing in the Commons, he continued:
I hear from many quarters, and from some with Mackintosh as their authority, that never was there such a display of power and brilliancy ... and that he (M) is convinced from what I did on that occasion that I have never yet done the half of what I can do. I know it (forgive the vanity, for it is indulged in spleen and disgust - not in exultation).14
Despond as he might, therefore (for despond he did), he could never relinquish his ambitions; almost in spite of himself, for in a sense he genuinely wished to withdraw from Westminster politics, he was yet to achieve his greatest triumphs in Parliament.
Writing at the turn of the decade to his wife, who was then residing abroad, Canning used classical characters as thinly disguised ciphers (Mars for the prince regent, the Magdalen for Liverpool, Endymion for Castlereagh), and it was significant that he began by referring to himself as Manfred, a wretched outcast, but soon substituted Marcus (Aurelius), an exile waiting to be recalled to a post of honour.15 What he had increasingly in mind was to leave the Commons and to replace Lord Hastings as governor-general of Bengal, which would represent a dignified and lucrative retirement. In January 1820 he opened his ideas to Liverpool, who suggested alternative positions at the admiralty or the home office, if Lord Melville or Lord Sidmouth could be removed. The sticking point, as ever, was the lead in the Commons: Canning would have accepted the home department, although it was not congenial to him, provided the lead went with it, but neither he nor the prime minister could request Castlereagh to abandon it. Canning had hoped to serve until the next general election, by which time Hastings would have retired, but the sudden death of George III that month entailed a dissolution and there was no time to engineer a vacancy in India or provide for a satisfactory cabinet reshuffle. Nothing came of his speculation that Castlereagh might take a United Kingdom peerage and go to the Lords on George IV’s accession (or again, on the death of his father, the 1st marquess of Londonderry, the following year), so Canning was left with no choice but to continue in office, forlornly waiting for a reversion which appeared as distant as ever.16 In any case, irredeemably compromised by his former relationship with the princess of Wales, now Queen Caroline, he more than half expected to be forced out over the issue of settling her status and affairs. He surprised the new king by acceding to the government’s policy of excluding her name from the liturgy, although, by an addendum to the cabinet minute of 10 Feb. 1820, he clarified that his approval was contingent on their being no ‘penal process’ pending against her.17
Thinking that he would soon be taking his departure, Canning was reluctant to involve his Liverpool sponsors in the trouble and expense of a contest that would soon have to be followed by a by-election.18 With his plans halted, however, he acquiesced in the requisition he received and allowed his merchant-gentry managers, notably John Gladstone* of Seaforth, Lancashire, and John Bolton of Storrs, Westmorland, to supervise his return at the general election of 1820. With his colleague Gascoyne, he was challenged by a radical and a bogus fourth candidate, but, although he was attacked for his espousal of the Six Acts and his partial distribution of government patronage, the contest had none of the intensity of the one in 1812 and he was returned at the head of the poll.19 Having referred in his address to his ‘principles of Toryism, if you will’, an early example of the self-conscious adoption of such a party label, he conceded at his election dinner, 18 Mar., that as a Member and a minister he had a duty to explain and defend government policy to his constituents, an unprecedented sentiment for which he was praised by Thomas Kaye, editor of the Liverpool Courier. This speech also contained a forthright assault on parliamentary reform; arguing with Burke that practical improvements were preferable to abstract schemes, he summarized his views by stating that by ‘disfranchising Grampound (if that is to be so), I mean to save Old Sarum’.20 Although there were security threats which, as he informed the prime minister, ‘after Cato Street were not wholly to be disregarded’, the worst he had to face was making innumerable outdoor speeches while suffering from a severe cold.21 But writing to his brother-in-law Portland, 21 Mar. 1820, he expressed his alarm that ‘there are in fact but two parties in this country, that which is for and that which is against the present order of things - not offices, but rights, privileges and properties of all sorts’.22 His great grief at the death of his invalid son George Charles (b. 1801) on the 31st was given vent in the form of a verse epitaph, one of the last and possibly the best of his poetical effusions.23
Canning, who countered opposition attacks on the civil list, 5, 8 May 1820, complained to his wife on the 9th that the ‘ordinary worries’ of the session were augmented by his having to be in constant attendance in the Commons in place of the indisposed Castlereagh. He denied that government regularly employed spies as agents provocateurs, 9 May, when a riled Burdett took exception to being described with his Westminster colleague John Cam Hobhouse as the ‘honourable baronet and his man’ and accused Canning of being ‘drunk with insolence’; he did not hear this epithet, but was privately grateful for his Whig friend Sir Robert Wilson’s calming intervention.24 On the disfranchisement of Grampound, 19 May, he insisted that its seats should be transferred not to Leeds but to Yorkshire, as a means of keeping ‘within the range and practice of the constitution’. Plagued, as so often, by a debilitating spell of gout that month, he was appointed to the select committees on agricultural distress, 31 May, and foreign trade, 5 June. On 2 June he could report to Joan that ‘there is nothing very anxious in parliamentary politics just at present’; but, Liverpool having earlier declined his resignation, on the 7th he created difficulties for himself when speaking on Castlereagh’s motion for a secret committee on the conduct of the queen, who had just returned to England. His unexceptional defence of the ministerial course of action was marred by his declaration that he would never stand as an accuser of Caroline, whom, with self-conscious affection, he called the ‘grace and ornament of society’. The king’s furious displeasure was partly soothed by Liverpool, who described his speech as ‘honourable to himself and substantially useful to your Majesty and your government’, but Canning was thereafter widely reckoned to have become fatally discredited.25 Refusing to be drawn by Burdett’s taunts, he welcomed Wilberforce’s compromise motion, 22 June, relating to his wife the following day that ‘it was a speech for the division, rather than for display - and it did its work’. As, on the queen’s refusal to accept the proposed settlement, legal proceedings were now started, on 25 June Canning laid his position before George IV, who handsomely commanded him to remain in office, but allowed him to go abroad in order to preserve his neutrality.26 In fact, although Castlereagh’s half-brother Lord Stewart observed that ‘I can conceive no hotter hell than his seat in the House’, Canning remained active for the rest of the session: he presented mercantile petitions from Liverpool, 28 June, and commented on foreign affairs, 11 July.27 Confirmed in his stance by what he saw as the ill-advised introduction of a divorce clause into the bill of pains and penalties, at the end of June 1820 he rebuffed Liverpool’s suggestion that he transfer to the home office, not least because it would have meant being in frequent contact with the king.28
With his wife, Canning travelled in the Low Countries, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Austria that summer, returning to Paris in the autumn to await the end of the queen’s trial, as he was determined to avoid any Commons proceedings on the subject. Partly to this end, and so as to promote the administration’s best chance of surviving with some degree of strength and dignity intact, in October 1820 he urged Liverpool to bow to the inevitable fate of the bill in the Commons, if indeed it got through the Lords, and to withdraw it.29 By the time this occurred, the following month, Canning’s stock had fallen further with the king, who still resented his having made ‘almost an open avowal of a criminal intercourse with the p[rince]ss’ and believed, until Canning denied the allegation, that he had ordered his friends in the Lords to vote against it.30 Having returned to England, Canning informed Joan that his situation had been made even more perplexing by ministers’ promise to keep Caroline’s name out of the liturgy, ‘trying to fight the moral effect of the evidence against the legal effect of the verdict’, and making this a confidence issue in the Commons. Although Liverpool thought he could take his place on this one and only projected occasion and thereafter resume his duties, Canning declined, as it would have meant affirming her guilt and because, in any case, the premier was ‘quite mistaken as to the onliness: there will be a dozen field days and if I were in the House, a minister, there would be fifty’.31 He knew that he would have to resign, which he announced by letters to his colleagues, 10 Dec., the king, 11 Dec., and Bolton, on behalf of his constituents, 22 Dec. 1820.32 Determined not to show his resentment, as he had mistakenly done in the past, he confined himself to stressing how untenable would be his position on the front bench if he had to sit by silently whenever the queen’s affairs were raised, and in private he promised that he would break his planned sojourn abroad only if he had to vindicate his conduct in Parliament. Despite his pleas to his connections to stay in office, he was denigrated for abandoning what was judged to be an failing ministry. Although it was assumed that the cabinet was glad to see him go, Castlereagh expressed his disappointment at losing his assistance over foreign affairs and in the Commons, where Sir Henry Hardinge* thought his absence as a ‘prize fighter’ would be grievously felt.33
Canning left the India board, where he was widely reckoned to have performed well, and returned to Paris in January 1821, when his friend John William Ward* gave this assessment of him:
I hope he will return as soon as possible. Nothing ought to keep him long out of his natural element, the House of Commons. The position that awaits him there is so commanding, that I shall wonder if he is not in haste to occupy it. The greatest speaker in Parliament - generally owned, universally felt to be so, even by his enemies - standing well with the public, unshackled by office and by party, is indeed a formidable person. I doubt whether to such a man any place, except the highest, is not a loss of power and consideration.34
Although William Huskisson again deputized for him on constituency business, his absence abroad was criticized in Liverpool, where a requisition was got up calling on him to resign his seat; it was also noticed in the House, where his friends Charles Ellis and Lord Binning had to come to his defence, 26 Jan., 9 Feb.35 Even away, he was not out of mind, since the advanced Whig Henry Grey Bennet, reflecting on the possibility of his co-operating with opposition, noted that Ward’s intervention on the disfranchisement of Grampound, 12 Feb., ‘is pretty decisive that Canning is becoming more tempered on these topics’.36 In fact, he always maintained a rigidly Tory antipathy towards reform and it was with a view to opposing Lambton’s motion in its favour that he returned to England.37 He nervously broke his silence by making a deliberately low-key but effective speech for Catholic relief, 16 Mar., and used the discussion on Naples to urge British disengagement from the Holy Alliance, 20 Mar. Of these contributions, which were made from the backbench seat he had occupied on his former secession from government, he privately remarked that ‘I do not mix in every debate of detail; but wait for the opportunities when there is a great difficulty to be met or a considerable impression to be made’.38 He divided with ministers against repeal of the additional malt duty, 21 Mar., 3 Apr., and disqualification of civil officers of the ordnance from voting in parliamentary elections, 12 Apr. He spoke early in order to counterbalance the Speaker’s support for Henry Bankes’s motion to exclude Catholics from Parliament, 26 Mar., insisted that Catholics ought to accept the proposed securities, 28 Mar., and brought the discussion on the third reading of the relief bill to a decisive close, 2 Apr., but he rightly doubted that it would pass the Lords.39 He informed his wife that he would stay silent on the first day of the debate on parliamentary reform, 17 Apr. 1821, but he nearly intervened several times during Hobhouse’s violent personal tirade against him as the ‘man of ambition’; Henry Edward Fox*, who observed him listening to the Lords debate on the Catholic bill that evening, thought that he ‘seemed abstracted and thoughtful, either writing a challenge or a speech’. But against expectations, he delivered no reply the next night, reluctantly giving up his prepared text to enable government to carry the division while Lambton and his friends were at dinner.40
Dissatisfied with his prominence in the House when it seemed to bring him no prospect of office and disdainful of again essaying the leadership of a separate party, he wrote gloomily to his wife, 3 Apr. 1821, that, now aged over 50, he faced soon having to make an irrevocable decision about his future:
These thoughts come upon me at all times and seasons and often most unseasonably, even in the middle of the debate in the House of Commons I ask myself what is all this good for? Luckily I have yet enough of vigour and of the taste for applause in me, to forget everything, while I am actually speaking, except the subject and the glory of success. But that may not last.
In the course of further long letters, 13, 16 and 24 Apr., he weighed up the political and financial implications of accepting the home office, another department (probably the India board, possibly the admiralty), the governor-generalship, a retirement pension of £3,000 a year (which would be unpopular) and remaining as he was; or a combination of these, perhaps in conjunction with a peerage, which would at least relieve him from the heavy obligation to his constituency. What he described as his desperate state of affairs was caused by significant debts, amounting to over £30,000; an annual income of only £2,200, which was barely adequate to meet his necessary outgoings; the impossibility of reducing his already straitened household budget, unless Gloucester Lodge were sold; and the prospect of the additional expenditure to be incurred in bringing out his daughter Harriet when his wife returned to London, and in entertaining lavishly beyond his salary on regaining office. Another consideration, which could hardly be answered by employment at home, was his earnest desire to recoup her fortune for the future benefit of their children; in an undated letter to her he related that, of an original £75,000, £33,000 had been laid out on an unprofitable estate at Deeping in Lincolnshire, £12,000 remained in the stocks and £30,000 had been spent, including on electoral costs. Despite her strong opposition to going to India, over the course of the following year it must have become increasingly clear that taking the annual salary of at least £25,000 was the only practical alternative available to him.41
Having discussed his options with Liverpool and taken six weeks’ leave, 30 Apr. 1821, Canning returned to Paris and so missed Russell’s reform motion in early May.42 In June the prime minister, staking his own authority, demanded that he be appointed to office, but the king, whom the cabinet could not afford to alienate, was adamant in his resistance and Canning, ruefully relieved, entreated Liverpool ‘not to let any consideration for me endanger the stability of the administration’.43 Back in permanent residence at Gloucester Lodge that summer, Canning forced a hasty apology out of Burdett, who had publicly accused him of exploiting the unreformed system to his own financial gain.44 In the House he made interventions on Indian widows, 20 June, and New Lanark, 26 June. Grenville’s remark that he was ‘exactly the man whom Lord L[ondonderry] wanted at his elbow’ in the Commons and so should not be rejected was given extra weight by his kinsman Lord Buckingham’s observation that in his ‘fidgety’ mood, Canning might act as the focus for a group of disaffected young Tories.45 The death of the queen in August removed the ostensible cause of his proscription and, under pressure from his ministers, George IV grudgingly sanctioned his future return to the cabinet prior to his proceeding to India, provided he was not placed in an office requiring attendance on the king. That autumn it was confidently asserted that the ‘great card’, as Buckingham dubbed him, would soon enter government with the Grenvillites.46 India still loomed large, but there arose a series of intractable difficulties about the retirement of Hastings, whose allegation that Canning had intrigued behind his back had to be denied by his prospective successor.47 After a few weeks of agonizing indecision, including over his chances of reclaiming a cabinet seat given the king’s eagerness to send him overseas, at the end of November 1821 he refused, at least for the present, the offer of the governor-generalship. Publicly he was able to cite legal uncertainty as to whether Hastings had really resigned, but privately he made no secret of the overriding domestic considerations which were at the root of his decision.48
Ellis and Huskisson were dismayed that this apparently inexplicable refusal allowed the door to further advancement to be shut against him by the king, who made no offer to Canning during the ministerial negotiations in December 1821, and because it exposed him to half-justified misinterpretations.49 Croker, who observed that ‘his genius is a bright flame, but it is ... liable to every gust of wind and every change of weather’, believed that he had only ‘accepted India, when it was not vacant, as a kind of rope to hold on to the administration by’, and Henry Hobhouse speculated that he ‘not improbably reckons that the failure of the health of Lord Londonderry and Lord Liverpool ... may lift him into the premiership or at least into the lead of the House’.50 No sooner had the reshuffle been settled in January 1822, when the Grenvillite Charles Williams Wynn became president of the India board and Peel took over the home office, than Canning pestered Liverpool to revise the whole arrangement. He pleaded with the premier to rescue him from his isolation by inducing Peel to withdraw, but he got a predictably disobliging response and moaned to Huskisson that ‘I foresee no imaginable combination of things, through which I can ever again be engaged in a political negotiation. I only wish I had taken, or rather kept, the like resolution ten years ago’.51 He was said by Russell, in a letter to Lady Holland of about this date, to be ‘unacceptable to all parties’, but there is evidence that then and later Brougham at least, among the Whigs, contemplated an approach to him to further the Catholic cause and break the monopoly of the Tories.52 However, for all the Whig applause that Canning soon won and despite the constant rumours of his making approaches to them, nothing ever really came of this, at least not until 1827. Yet the fierce parliamentary rivalry between Canning and Brougham, whose careers in many ways took similarly irrational and unsatisfactory trajectories on the outer wings of their respective parties, had an edge to it that derived from the very proximity of their opinions on some of the political questions of the day.53 It may have been at this time or perhaps at a similar point in the past (but certainly not three years later) that Wilberforce offered to resign to Canning the leadership of the ‘Saints’ as a means of returning from the political wilderness, a report for which the sometimes suspect Greville is the only source.54
Canning, who missed the opening of the session through illness, voted against more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 21 Feb., and the abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar. 1822. He presumably divided in the government minority against suppressing one of the junior lordships of the admiralty, 1 Mar., when Mackintosh noticed that he ‘sat through the debate smiling at the misery of his late colleagues’.55 However, on the 14th he vindicated his and Williams Wynn’s handling of the board of control against the motion for inquiry proposed by Thomas Creevey, who regretted having let Canning crush him so completely.56 Bowing to the inevitable, he allowed himself to be appointed governor-general of Bengal, 27 Mar., his unanimous election by the court of directors being an almost unique accolade; and he decided to see out the session before setting sail for India. Deemed by Williams Wynn to be the only man who could ‘animate the general spirit of the House’ against parliamentary reform, he used Russell’s motion on 25 Apr. to deliver a valedictory address, in which he defensively deployed the whole battery of conservative arguments, notably that Britain had derived conspicuous benefits from its established, if anomalous, constitution and that radical alterations would not necessarily produce greater advantages.57 The poet Tom Moore recorded that he
far surpassed everything I had expected of him. It was all that can be imagined agreeable in oratory; nothing certainly profound, or generalizing, or grand, or electric, but for good taste, for beauty of language, for grace, playfulness and all that regards manner and display, it was perfect.58
Determined and confident, despite the fears of his pro-Catholic allies that it would endanger the main question, he displayed what Mackintosh termed ‘extraordinary ingenuity and resource’ in introducing his bill to permit Catholic peers to resume their seats in the Upper House, 30 Apr., when leave was granted by 249-244.59 He carried the second reading, 10 May, oversaw the bill through the committee, 13 Mar., and thanked Peel for not opposing the third reading, 17 May, but it was lost in the Lords. He ostentatiously abstained from the division on inquiry into the Ionian Islands, 14 May. Having that session brought up various commercial petitions from Liverpool, including some for opening the colonial trade in South America, he followed his constituents’ wishes in securing a clause in the corn bill to allow the exportation of bonded corn as flour, 3 June; when on the 10th Castlereagh and the agriculturists had this struck out, Canning found himself in a minority of 21 and, as John Cam Hobhouse noted, ‘looked very foolish, though he had been in a very honest set of radicals and had made a very good speech’.60 He sided with ministers against inquiry into the conduct of the lord advocate relative to the press in Scotland, 25 June, and repeal of the salt duties, 28 June, but was pointedly critical of them in comments on the marriage bill, 12 July, the John Hope privilege case, 17 July, and the superannuation bill, 26 July 1822. The imminent departure of a Commons politician of Canning’s stature continued to astonish Whigs and disquiet Tories that summer, though he himself professed to be no longer interested in the leadership of the House.61 Indeed, according to later recollections, he apparently told his old friend Lord Holland that he was glad to be able to absent himself during the period of party instability that would attend what he saw as the inevitable passage of Catholic relief and parliamentary reform: all the better to exploit for his own ends the ensuing situation when he returned with fortune and title from the East.62
As fate would have it (for to him it was fate not luck),63 Londonderry’s suicide on 12 Aug. 1822 altered every previous speculation.64 This was not at once evident, for the king, who wanted Canning to proceed to India, deferred a decision about the foreign office and Commons leadership until after his return from Scotland. Canning, who had quickly decided that only Londonderry’s ‘whole inheritance’ of both offices could induce him to change his by now firmly settled plans and commit himself to a much weakened administration, therefore continued with a programme of farewell events in Liverpool, where he studiously tried to avoid making any allusion to his possible recall.65 On 30 Aug. 1822, when he was presented with an address of thanks for his services by the associated commercial bodies of the borough, his speech at the main dinner in his honour was remarkable for the passage in which he compared the influence of a free press to the power of steam and for his apparent back peddling on Catholic relief, which was viewed as a cynical bid for compromise with ‘Protestant’ ministers. Although the following day Lord George Cavendish Bentinck* reported to Mrs. Canning, his aunt, that the chairman’s allusion to his staying had enabled her husband to clear his name by declaring that, ‘I have nothing to tell’, few were prepared to give credence to this, other than as a typical example of chicanery on the part of the ‘Indian juggler’.66 He did not come out of it well even with his sympathizers, like Sir Walter Scott, who considered his suggestive, but entirely innocent, meeting with Brougham at Storrs in mid-August as a ‘finesse’ in singularly bad taste; while his enemies were delighted to do him down, as when Lord Grey pounced on the inconsistency between his public statement that he had not altered his travelling arrangements and private knowledge that he had delayed his date of sailing to mid-October.67
In fact, in the first days of September 1822 Canning was indignant at hearing nothing beyond popular conjectures about the certainty of an advantageous promotion.68 He confided to his wife his political, parliamentary and financial anxieties in agreeing to her wishes to stay in England:
What is provoking enough to drive one mad, while I am thus making the greatest sacrifice that ever man made, I shall be accused of having intrigued for an office and a station which will harass and impoverish me and which I am no more fit for; but let us not anticipate evil. It will come time enough. As to health, India is nothing to the House of Commons, such as now, for the first time in my life and after 29 years surfeit of it, the House of Commons must be to me.69
Once again, it was his standing in the chamber which induced the cabinet, with the notable exception of Lord Eldon, the lord chancellor, who threatened to resign, to urge his appointment.70 For it was feared that, if thwarted, he might remain in Parliament and attack government with a flying squadron of up to 40 Members, with the possible addition of the Grenvillites. As Lord Lowther, a junior lord of the treasury, put it, ‘his opposition in the Commons would be fearful; no government could stand it’.71 After Liverpool had made the recommendation to a still reluctant George IV, Wellington, who declined to be foreign secretary himself, managed to overcome his aversion to the man he had sworn on his honour to exclude forever, by representing his readmission as an act of royal forgiveness. After the prime minister’s letter of 9 Sept. had missed Canning on his journey south, the ‘whole inheritance’ was offered by Liverpool in person on his arrival in London on the 11th. Having consulted his friends, he accepted the following day, but as an issue of confidence, he balked at acquiescing on terms of ‘grace and favour’, which he likened to receiving an invitation from the ladies of Almack’s with the words ‘admit the rogue’ written on the back; only with difficulty was he mollified by the premier and Wellington.72 By 16 Sept. 1822, when he formally resigned as governor-general and relinquished his seat at Liverpool, Canning was already immersed in the business of the foreign office, lamenting his sacrifice but grimly resolved to answer the call of duty.73
To general surprise, he entered office almost alone, which to Brougham indicated how desperate he had been to avoid exile in India. He stipulated principally for the advancement of Huskisson, whom he rated highly for his financial expertise, although Greville dismissed him as Canning’s stooge.74 Complications arose, mostly over whether Williams Wynn should succeed to India, but, at Canning’s bidding, Huskisson, who became president of the board of trade early the following year, agreed to defer his entry to the cabinet. Both Binning and Ward declined to join the incumbent Joseph Planta* as under-secretaries at the department, but Canning appointed Bentinck and Lord Howard de Walden, Ellis’s eldest son, to his private office and later rewarded a handful of other friends with diplomatic positions.75 In any case, as Grey foretold, it was not the size of his clique which was to determine his fortunes, but his standing with George IV, who, Lady Cowper ventured, would continue to find him deficient in manner and tact.76 According to George Agar Ellis*, on the king’s behaving badly to him at his first audience, ‘Canning was so put out he could hardly utter’, and he frequently thereafter had to swallow being treated with almost open contempt. Nevertheless, he was an apt fawner and proved himself particularly deft in courting favour by naming Lord Francis Conyngham*, the ineffectual son of the royal mistress, to the vacant under-secretaryship.77 With his ministerial colleagues, who at once suspected him of underhand manoeuvres, he also had at first to be cautious in airing his divergent policies. Thus, on the Catholic question, the Grenvillites saw his accession as a positive step in favour of the cause, but he was clearly expected to abide by the continuing compromise of cabinet neutrality on the issue.78 In the end his status within the administration was secured by the sheet anchor of his dependence on Liverpool, with whom, as he claimed, he resumed ‘a footing of old Christ Church friendship’.79 So close was their relationship, that envious colleagues soon began to grumble about Canning’s subordination of the premier, whom he bombarded with endless ideas, suggestions and schemes in a relentless stream of notes. Offence was also taken at his going ‘hastily to work’ to reshape the ministry by removing Vansittart and Bragge Bathurst from front bench positions in the Commons. His bid to reside in 10 Downing Street (which, in fact, went to Robinson as the new chancellor of the exchequer, while he took rooms at the foreign office for occasional use after late debates) was considered an act of despicable self-aggrandizement.80 As for the Whigs, his close friend James Scarlett*, who in August had envisaged a connection between him and moderates like Lord Lansdowne, considered his extended views to be more significant than his apparent love of place.81 But their former Commons leader, George Tierney*, commented sourly that Canning was just ‘an old battered politician who has been spouting all over the country for the last 20 years’, and even James Abercromby*, who was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, soon complained of his shuffling behaviour and reflected that he had ‘thrown away more chances than any other person I have ever seen of making a reputation for himself’.82 That autumn Madame Lieven, the hostile but well-informed wife of the Russian ambassador, judged that
Canning’s present position is unique. The opposition hates him; the king loathes him; the ministers distrust him; those who want him do not like him. His personal following is a mere drop in the ocean and, with that exception, there is not a soul in the United Kingdom who has the slightest respect for him. In spite of all these reasons for keeping him out, public opinion demands him and he will receive the most important post in the government.83
In sum, as Wellesley, the lord lieutenant of Ireland, was informed in December 1822, it was now admitted that Canning was ‘in a situation of great peril and that his success will be glorious or his failure signal’.84
His appointment as foreign secretary, a position rarely held by a commoner until the twentieth century, was hailed in one of the many pamphlets about (or addressed to) him in the 1820s as the triumph of ‘intellect over aristocratical bashawry’ and a portent for the adoption of more enlightened attitudes.85 Not only did he bring to the post his own enormous energies and intelligence, his dispatches being models of force and precision, but his administrative changes, for instance in making the consular service more meritocratic in character, contributed to the future achievements of the office.86 At the ambassadorial level, the 3rd marquess of Londonderry (as Stewart became) resigned in disgust from Austria, and Canning had troubled relations with Sir Charles Stuart, two of whose Brazilian treaties he had to disavow, and Lord Strangford, who, whilst meddling with Allied conferences in Russia, was sharply ordered ‘to be quiet’. However, he worked effectively with his cousin Stratford Canning*, whom he sent back to continue a distinguished career in Constantinople, Lord Granville, who despite his indolence received the prize of the embassy in Paris, and Sir Charles Bagot, who at The Hague was the recipient of Canning’s elaborate practical joke, the rhyming dispatch.87 No mean diplomat himself, as he showed in his dealings with the foreign ambassadors Lieven, Esterhazy (Austria), Polignac (France) and Rush (the United States), it was with his counterparts abroad that he had to strive hardest in order to obtain respect and approval. Unlike his predecessor, whose status and views matched the splendour and aspirations of the sovereigns and statesmen who had founded the congress system at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, his background and opinions were reckoned to be dubious, even alarming. Ironically, however, he did not so much depart from established principles as give them a new speed, emphasis and direction, for Castlereagh’s state paper of 5 May 1820, which Canning may have had a hand in drafting, had already set Britain on the path of divergence from the joint actions of Austria, Russia, Prussia and France. Although his system of foreign policy was generally characterized as ‘liberal’, he favoured monarchies (preferably ones with parliamentary governments) to republics and steered clear of armed intervention unless necessitated by treaty obligations. If he more often than not rallied to the defence of popular constitutions and newly independent colonies, this was not a reflection of ideological commitment so much as a pragmatic desire to reset the balance in the European state system, in which interventionist absolutist powers had come to have a preponderant interest.88 To take the example of Greece, where the war of independence had begun in 1821, the attempt has been made to argue that Canning’s recognition of the Greeks as belligerents against their Turkish overlords represented his promotion of a new concept in international law.89 Yet the older interpretation still holds: that he was not motivated by Philhellenic or humanitarian concerns, but conducted his Russian negotiations with regard only to the power politics of the region; indeed, he may in fact simply have floundered his way towards an acceptable policy.90
Of his arrival at the foreign office in 1822, Canning, who admitted to being daunted by the difficulties he faced, opined to Bagot that
ten years have made a world of difference and have prepared a very different sort of ‘world to bustle in’ from that which I should have found in 1812. For fame, it is ‘a squeezed orange’, but for public good, there is something to do, and I will try, but it must be cautiously, to do it. You know my politics well enough to know what I mean when I say that for ‘Europe’ I shall be desirous now and then to read ‘England’.91
Given that the king’s prerogative severely restricted his freedom of action in foreign affairs, it was not supposed that he would be able to break Britain’s alliances.92 But he was given an early opportunity to prove himself in relation to the Holy Alliance’s proposal, at its conference in Verona that autumn, to overturn the new democratic constitution in Spain. He instructed Wellington, the British delegate, ‘at once frankly and peremptorily to declare that to any such interference, come what may, His Majesty will not be a party’, which not only blocked the measure, but marked the first step in his ultimately successful campaign to destroy the congress system.93 By December 1822, when Canning busied himself in attempting to mediate between France, which menaced military invasion to restore Ferdinand VII, and the Constitutionalist government of Spain, Wellington had all but fallen out with him. The duke’s complaints were echoed by his confidante, Mrs. Arbuthnot, who had been disgusted by Canning’s appointment and now observed that he was ‘upsetting all our foreign policy, and doing things in so hasty and unreflecting a manner as will get him into innumerable scrapes’.94 As Canning informed his former constituents in January 1823, his official workload made it impossible for him to handle their concerns, although Gladstone had been confident of having him re-elected at Liverpool. It was therefore Huskisson, whose Chichester seat was briefly considered as a bolthole for him, who succeeded to his mantle there; the severed but much hailed nexus between Member and constituency was elaborately depicted on the piece of plate with which Canning was later presented.95 Instead, he was put up at the government borough of Harwich, in place of Vansittart (now Lord Bexley), and was returned unopposed on 10 Feb., when he gained great popularity for his warning to the continental powers that British neutrality over Spain should not be interpreted as reluctance to engage in war.96 This was the first of several occasions on which Canning, who understood better than most the influence of middle class public opinion as mediated through the widely circulating newspaper press, unprecedentedly used extra-parliamentary speeches as a means of giving his foreign policy objectives a wider exposition.97
Although several of their colleagues would have preferred Peel, who had dispassionately bowed to his fellow secretary of state’s seniority, most Tories were agreed that the leadership of the Commons was an office which only Canning could fill.98 Brougham deplored the lost opportunity of having a weaker opponent, despite agreeing with Creevey the previous autumn that
certainly he presents more sore places to the eye of the amateur than most men. Moreover his coin is now about cried down, at least hardly current. He is stampt as a joker, and therefore dares not joke: not to mention that hard figures of arithmetic are too hard to be got over by figures of rhetoric. All these things, and his gout and irritability, I try to console myself withal.99
He had then thought that ‘every kind of furious attack should be made from this moment to the meeting of Parliament’, when he predicted that, having come a cropper, he ‘will sooner or later be flung overboard, if he is not killed by his irritable habit, his government, and the "wear and tear" of the House, as now conducted’.100 But granting Canning the benefit of the doubt, notably over his foreign policy, on the eve of the session, Brougham advocated ‘abstinence’ from opposition assaults, a view with which Grey concurred.101 Preoccupied by departmental business, Canning was tardy in finding a mover and seconder for the debate on the address, but he suggested a useful initiative in arranging for the cabinet to come to prior decisions on issues for which notice had been given of future proceedings in the Commons.102 Having approved the debate on the first day, which he missed because of his re-election, he took his seat on 12 Feb. 1823, when he praised Thomas Wallace on his retirement as a minister and objected to Hume’s motion to stop supplies until Lord Beresford’s appointment as lieutenant-general of the ordnance had been explained.103 Thereafter he was in constant attendance, making frequent interventions of this sort as government’s chief spokesman and, of course, invariably dividing with his ministerial colleagues. As would be expected, he appears to have left matters such as whipping-in and telling to the treasury secretaries, but he showed himself ever willing to answer questions relating to foreign affairs, his replies being often deliberately less clear than his pretended straightforwardness of manner would perhaps have indicated. In a marked departure from the style of his predecessor, he left strictly departmental matters in the supposedly capable hands of his colleagues, an innovation which was soon regarded as having established a standard practice.104 As before, either he or, in his absence, Peel, each day drew up a succinct summary of the main debate for communication to the king.105 At first it was reported that Canning dreaded opposition attacks and looked miserably uncomfortable, but within a week or so he was credited with having made a good start, which went some way to fulfil predictions that he would soon master the Commons and so become the effective head of the administration.106
He spoke against government intervention to relieve distress, 14 Feb. 1823, privately admitting that giving up his own plan to assist agricultural mortgages would ‘spare me many a wearisome debate’.107 On the 19th he marred his response to Hume over the ordnance by his ‘ill-timed and unnecessary vehemence and violence’, at least according to Creevey, who, despite Canning’s solid objections to Russell’s motion for inquiry into parliamentary reform the following day, forecast an imminent split between him and the extreme Tories.108 He helped to calm a potentially divisive debate on Irish Orange societies, showing how judicious he could be when he controlled his temper, 5 Mar., and was credited with admirable generalship by Wilberforce, on stifling the Quaker anti-slavery petition, 19 Mar.109 He had already been forced to concede the future disclosure of the relevant papers in replying to Brougham’s searching question about French ambitions, 28 Feb., and was said to have sustained ‘a complete knock down blow’ from Russell’s query about Britain’s treaty obligations to Spain, 25 Mar.110 Departing from the usual practice of only producing papers on which ministers intended to base a substantive motion, on 14 Apr. Canning produced carefully selected and self-serving extracts of diplomatic correspondence; their publication via Parliament was consistent with his attempts both to mobilize popular opinion in his favour at home and to promote publicly ‘open’ as distinct from confidentially ‘secret’ negotiations with foreign powers.111 Speaking ‘extraordinarily ill for him’, as Agar Ellis recorded, he that day justified the policy of neutrality by striking a balance between the inadequacies of the Spanish constitution (and the futility of menacing what would be unfeasible British military intervention in its defence) and the unacceptability of the French invasion (which he had been assured would be brief and not extended to Portugal or Spanish America).112 In reply, Brougham, explaining that opposition would reserve its case, commented that ‘he never knew a minister cut a worse figure’ in trying to advocate a course of which he privately disapproved. Canning’s evident sympathy for the Spanish was one reason for the continuing hostility of George IV, who, from April 1823 and for two years thereafter, was put under pressure to dismiss him by the so-called Windsor ‘cottage coterie’ of the duke of York, Wellington, Madame Lieven and his other antagonists in the royal circle.113
Canning was apparently ‘feeble’ in helping to rally support for Plunket, the Irish attorney-general, against Brownlow’s censure motion, 15 Apr., but was reported to have spoken ‘very well’ against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr. 1823, when Lord Folkestone accused him of ‘truckling’ to the French.114 He urged the Whigs to support Plunket’s motion in favour of the Catholics and insisted (as he often did) that only a government which was neutral on the issue could hold out any hope of eventual success, 17 Apr., when he was baited by Burdett and Tierney for not having made relief a condition of his joining the ministry. On Brougham declaring that his behaviour then had been ‘the most incredible specimen of monstrous truckling, for the purpose of obtaining office, that the whole history of political tergiversation could furnish’, Canning, who was labouring under the effects of gout and royal displeasure, sprang to his feet in a rage, shouting, ‘I rise to say that that is false’. There followed what Agar Ellis described as ‘a strange bear garden scene’ during which, as Creevey put it, ‘we had the devil to play for near an hour’, for in spite of the rules of the Commons, Canning steadfastly refused the Speaker’s request to withdraw his allegation of lying until a satisfactory form of words, as suggested by Wilson, was at last agreed to by all sides.115 This awful scrape outraged the House, inflicted lasting damage on his reputation as leader and might even have ended his ministerial career, but he had apparently been waiting for the chance to give an ‘unequivocal denial’ to opposition’s personal allegations against him and he later confided to his cousin Stratford that his words, however unqualified, ‘had done a great deal of good’.116 Having presumably divided for Catholic relief that day, he spoke and voted in the minority against Burdett’s motion for inquiry into the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. Closing the three-day debate on Macdonald’s censure motion on Spain, 30 Apr., he vindicated a policy which sought to balance the conflicting claims of absolute monarchy and unlimited democracy, while preserving the general peace of Europe, and was ‘amazingly applauded’, not least for having carefully failed to conceal his personal condemnation of France.117 Although he was fearful of the encouragement that a huge majority in favour of British non-intervention would give the Allies, he insisted on a division, which was won by 372-20, the minority mostly comprising ministerialists who were left in the chamber because of the crush in the lobby.118 His only other major speech that session was on 15 May 1823, when he persuaded the leading anti-slavery campaigner, Fowell Buxton, to accept compromise proposals calling for colonial assemblies to institute gradual improvements in the condition of West Indian slaves as a necessary preliminary to emancipation. According to the Jamaican agent George Hibbert†, Canning’s speech ‘was most eloquent and in some respects subverted in a masterly manner the arguments advanced by Mr. Buxton’.119
In mid-July 1823 Canning wrote to Bagot that the session had been tedious, though relatively short:
But yet ten hours a day for five days in the week for seven weeks consecutively is hard work, and such has been the nature of our campaign since Whitsuntide [18 May]. It is no relief to the physical suffering that the matters whereon we were engaged were matters of comparatively little interest. I have, however, gone through it pretty well, and by dint of extreme abstinence (which I find the best rule) without any detriment to health, though worn both in mind and body.
Referring to the year’s one significant parliamentary battle, he continued boastfully that
I wish you could have seen the ultrageous faces - ultra in either extreme - at the first interview I had with them after the 30th of April. Since that time I have had pretty much my own way, and I believe you may now consider my politics as those of the government, as well as of the country.120
In a long letter to his school friend John Hookham Frere† that summer, Canning reflected wistfully on the possibility of retirement and of how, in resigning India, he had given up ‘the solid for the shining, ease, wealth and a second public life in the House of peers, for toil, inconvenience and total retreat after a few, a very few years of splendid trouble’. Reiterating his feeling of exhaustion, he also emphasized that
you can have no conception of the labour which I undergo. The two functions of foreign secretary and leader of the House of Commons are too much for any man, and ought not to be united; though I of course would rather die under them than separate them ... My business has been rather to defeat prophecies and to disappoint calculations of evil, than to seek occasions for what I do not want - additional kudoz in debate. I have been very forbearing in combat, using the scalping-knife never above once or twice, and almost disusing keener and brighter weapons, till I am in danger of being thought exceedingly dull. This, because it was prophesied I would ‘lay about’ me. As to the conduct of business, I have studiously and anxiously put Peel and Robinson as forward as possible, never taking concerns out of their hands ... and only supporting them en second ligne where necessary.121
This self-effacement was criticized by some as weakness, and Henry Hobhouse, referring particularly to his silence on the narrowly defeated motion criticizing the conduct of the lord advocate relative to the Borthwick case on 3 June 1823, summarized that ‘it was felt that he did not fill the same space in the House Lord Londonderry had done and it appeared to many that he was shy of defending his friends when in a difficulty’.122
In spite of Canning’s efforts to woo the Americans, one of whose envoys he took with him to attend a dinner in Liverpool in August 1823, his negotiations with Rush over the future of Latin America broke down amid mutual distrust the following month.123 He had better luck in October, when he inveigled Polignac into signing a memorandum prohibiting the French government from assisting Spain in any attempt to regain control of its American colonies; and the speech he made on being admitted to the freedom of Plymouth later that month contained the thinly veiled threat that Britain was ready to use its naval dominance to enforce this agreement.124 He was outflanked by President Monroe, whose message to Congress in December 1823 formulated the doctrine that the entire continent lay within the sphere of influence of the United States, but made the best use of this to thwart the appointment of another European conference, which was finally scuppered by his subsequent publication of the ‘Polignac Memorandum’. Echoing George IV, who condemned his ‘sarcastic ways’, ‘metaphysical sophistry’ and ‘false policy in foreign affairs’, that autumn ministers criticized Canning’s dominance over Liverpool, but the premier, who stated that they simply held similar views, denied that he exercised any ‘unbounded influence’.125 As for Canning, Madame Lieven commented that he ‘laughs at them openly - all except Liverpool, at whom he laughs secretly. All the ministers hate him like poison’; she also reported Wellington as exclaiming, ‘How foolish, how stupid, how blind I was to put that man into the cabinet!’126 On 4 Feb. 1824 Canning explained his foreign policy in the uneventful debate on the address in reply to the king’s speech, which he had largely written himself, though he spoilt the effect by unwisely ventilating his hopes for the Catholics.127 Brougham, the only major speaker for opposition, observed afterwards to Grey that
I think Canning and I tried which could speak worst, and that I beat him by a trifle; but their side was so infinitely flat, and even dead, that it had the appearance of his having made the worse figure of the two. Accordingly people are crying out in all quarters on this. It was really singular to see one in his situation never get even a cheer, except one or two from us.128
This set the tone for an unsatisfactory session.
After government had been defeated by two votes in a small House on Curwen’s motion on the criminal jurisdiction of the Isle of Man, 18 Feb. 1824, Canning apologized to Peel for his accidental absence and instructed Stephen Rumbold Lushington, the patronage secretary, to introduce a new style for the notes requiring ministerialists’ attendance.129 He came to Eldon’s defence on Williams’s motion for inquiry into chancery administration, 24 Feb., but when Abercromby’s complaint about a breach of privilege was raised against him, 1 Mar., Agar Ellis quipped that Canning ‘left the chancellor where he found him - in the mud’.130 He made another long and for the most part temperate statement on laying the draft order in council for improving the condition of enslaved Africans in Trinidad, 16 Mar., when he resisted opposition demands for more expeditious government action. Ellis, a West India planter, thought it ‘a masterpiece of dexterity and discretion’, while Edward Littleton* admired his very rapidly delivered castigation of Alexander Baring, in which ‘he gave a loose rein to his fury, which was excessive, and, with all stops pulled out, laid on him unmercifully’.131 Two days later, having primed Littleton to introduce an amendment to Russell’s motion for information relative to France’s occupation of Spain, he convulsed the House with a sustained passage of ridicule at the expense of the obese Lord Nugent*; for example, by joking that he had committed ‘an enormous breach of neutrality’ in his futile visit to Spain. Wilberforce rated his speech ‘invincibly comic’, but Fremantle, taking umbrage on behalf of his Grenvillite connections, reflected that it ‘was too vindictive and flippant to belong to the character of a great man’.132 Mackintosh, who privately conceded that opposition questions on foreign affairs served ‘only to exalt Canning’, withdrew his intended motion on South America, 25 Mar., an indication of the effectiveness of what was widely seen as Canning’s re-established oratorical predominance in the Commons.133 Indeed, on 30 Mar. 1824 Robert Wilmot Horton* related to Granville his opinion that their chief was ‘99 per cent above any other regular performer of the present day, and that he must be equal if not superior to any of his predecessors’.134 Pleased to have secured the aliens bill and to have completed the committee of supply, Canning, who had reluctantly to submit to Lushington’s advice that he give regular parliamentary dinners, was delighted to be able to adjourn the House for a long Easter recess.135
In April 1824, when Wellington was convinced that Liverpool meant to nominate Canning as his successor in the event of his retirement, he almost provoked his own dismissal by attending, against George IV’s wishes, the City of London dinner hosted by the radical and former Queenite lord mayor, Robert Waithman*. Mrs. Arbuthnot observed that ‘Canning thinks himself so popular now because the Whigs cry him up that he fancies the king cannot get rid of him and defies him’, but Canning retorted to the prime minister, who successfully intervened in his defence, that he considered his presence to be an official duty and that ‘I have as good a right as any public man of the present day not to be suspected of courting popularity by a compromise with Jacobinism’.136 Lord Althorp, who privately always thought Canning incapable of resigning office for the sake of the Catholic cause, used his motion for a select committee on the state of Ireland, 11 May, to urge him to force his colleagues to make relief a cabinet question.137 Accepting the appointment of a limited inquiry, Canning replied that he did not deem the time right for granting Catholic claims and could not, in any case, join the Whigs because of their apparent pledge in favour of parliamentary reform. Fremantle, who reckoned his speech a shabby bid to consolidate support among the leading ‘Protestants’, described him as having been ‘properly chastised’ by Tierney, who went to the crux of his dilemma by concluding that, ‘if he would pursue the course most glorious to himself, they were ready with their support for him; if he refused, they could not help it’.138 Reluctant to air matters which were more properly left to due legal processes, he used the debate on James Silk Buckingham’s† petition relative to the press in India to justify his liberalization of censorship while at the board of control, 25 May, and tried to prevent colonial slavery becoming an even more contentious issue, 11 June, when he successfully moved the previous question against Brougham’s motion for an inquiry into the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara. The presentation by Mackintosh of a London merchants’ petition in favour of recognizing the independence of the South American colonies, 15 June, enabled him to hint at such an eventuality without giving away his hand, and both in the House that day and in correspondence at the end of the year he rebuked Wilberforce for raising anti-slavery crochets which might upset delicate negotiations in this area.139 By the end of June 1824 he was relieved that the session, ‘in the course of which there has not been an angry discussion’, was over, but it was doubted whether opposition would in future give him such an easy run.140
Commenting on the likely break-up of parties in the event of Liverpool’s demise, Buckingham speculated to Wellesley in June 1824 that the ‘High Church party and Tories are loud in their expression of dislike to Mr. Canning’, who ‘puts the opposition in his front, as the rebels in Ireland used to do oxen, cows, sheep and jack asses, in order by them to open a passage for himself, leaving them to be slaughtered’; thus, although he would ‘command a strong body, by his talents and the liberality of his views’, any government he formed would be ‘a very weak one’.141 Speculation was rife that Canning’s visit to Dublin in September was to concoct arrangements with Wellesley, whom he was said to want to insert at the head of a pro-Catholic coalition. In fact, he went there for a holiday rather than a ‘speechifying tour’, and at the insistence of his colleagues, who were on the watch for any indiscretions, he maintained a studied neutrality on the religious question.142 Cutting short his travels on account of the death of the king of France, his proposed excursion to Paris to congratulate Charles X, with whom he was acquainted, was thwarted by an outraged Wellington, who was convinced that Canning would use the opportunity to create further rifts within the Holy Alliance.143 Resolutely seconded by Liverpool, he overcame fierce opposition in the cabinet and on 31 Dec. 1824 secured the formal recognition by the king of the independence of the former Spanish colonies of Buenos Aires (Argentina), Colombia and Mexico. This step, for which his Liverpool merchant associates had long been pressing and which prevented the ‘division of the world into European and American, republican and monarchical’ spheres, was, as he bragged to Frere, ‘an act which will make a change in the face of the world almost as great as that of the discovery of the continent now set free’. Aware that there had been a plot to dismiss him, in January 1825 he, like Liverpool, offered his resignation to the cabinet, whom he told that ‘he knew the whole of this tracasserie to be the work of foreign interference’. Canning, who received the freedom of Bristol that month, related to Frere that ‘had they turned me out upon this question ... it would have been only to bring me in again with all the commerce and manufactures of England at my heels’.144 Aware that his arch-enemy Metternich was behind the attempt ‘to change the politics of the government by changing me’, he later informed Granville that had he resigned, ‘I would have declared openly in the House of Commons ... that I had been driven from office by the Holy Alliance’; he instructed his wife, who was in Paris at the same time as the Austrian chancellor, to let him know that ‘while there is a House of Commons I defy him’.145
Buckingham, who in December 1824 discovered that Canning had insisted that the Irish unlawful societies bill should specifically name the Catholic Association but not the Orange Order, rightly suspected that he
had made up his mind to kick the Catholic question out of his own way, and that he would endeavour to throw it into ours, by holding us up as supporting the violent opinion of the Catholic question while he, although agreeing with us in principle, would hold himself up as the moderate man applying his principle to the test of time, etc.146
But rumours of a complete sell-out seem to be belied by Williams Wynn’s statement early the following year that Canning had spoken ‘in cabinet of the near approach of the time when it might no longer be possible to keep this question in abeyance’.147 Expecting the session to bring a ‘few unpleasant nights in Parliament’ on the Irish question, Canning had to make an immediate response about it on the address, 3 Feb. 1825, when according to Sir John Nicholl* he was ‘powerful and pleasant’ in his reply to Brougham’s challenge to him to overthrow the anti-Catholic part of the administration with support from the opposition side of the House.148 Drawing a distinction between the issues of Spanish American independence, which was popular, and Catholic relief, which was not, he asked, ‘what could a minister do with only those benches, and not England at his back?’; judging the creation of a cross-party coalition as unlikely, he commented, of the supposed divisions within government, that in any case ‘the line that is fancifully drawn between the liberals and illiberals in the cabinet, is not straight but serpentine’. Privately, he was delighted that Brougham ‘did all that could be done to help me out of the difficulty about Ireland’, in enabling him to please the Protestants by condemning the Association and at the same time, by his own ‘very dextrous and exceedingly good humoured’ tone, to keep faith with the Catholics’ supporters.
Canning accepted that he had a difficult task ahead of him on the introduction of the unlawful societies bill, and he reported to his wife that ‘they run so entirely at me, partly with compliments and partly with reproaches, that I hardly know if I shall be able to keep my counsel and hold my tongue’.149 Forced to speak towards the end of the debate, 15 Feb. 1825, he attacked the Association for harming the cause of its co-religionists, gave a lengthy defence of his own efforts and sacrifices in advocating relief and concluded by hoping that public opinion might yet swing round to its favour. Brougham, whom he had not been able to outwait, accused him of having tacitly joined in the ‘no Popery’ cry; but Tierney afterwards observed that he did not believe Canning’s ‘lame’ self-justification ‘was exposed in the manner it might have been’. The speech, which Bankes described as ‘heavy and much below his usual march of excellence and brilliancy’, was thought by the anti-Catholic Nicholl to have raised him in estimation, but Williams Wynn, who favoured relief, reckoned quite the reverse.150 He himself, who reiterated that the Whigs had ‘given me a golden opportunity ... of discriminating my Catholic politics from theirs, and to acquire the confidence of the Protestants of England’, was simply glad to get the measure pushed through. On 21 Feb. 1825 Tierney called him aside in the Commons to tell him that the Whigs would give him no further opposition, but wanted his support on Burdett’s Catholic motion. As he wrote revealingly to his wife:
Oh ho! thought I, here is one good at least. Here is an end to all our trouble about the bill. As to [the] Catholic question, a debate on that can do nobody any harm but the Catholics, and as I am not responsible for the time of bringing it on, I care not a straw for the issue. All this I thought: but I only said that the removal of the bill removed one objection, and that I would see what I could do with my Catholic friends.
Although he judged such a discussion ill-timed and mischievous, he considered that he had now gained ‘an assured and intelligible position upon a ground hitherto doubtful and slippery’ and that ‘I may perhaps hereafter, but at my own time and in my own way, be enabled to do some good to Ireland, and to bring this most intractable question to a pause, if not a final settlement’.151
Called out of a diplomatic dinner to attend an unexpectedly difficult sitting of the House, 22 Feb. 1825, he later gave this account of the outcome of wearing inappropriate clothing: ‘I go down, get blasted through and through in the cold passages, and wake the next morning with a pain in every bone and a throat full of tumours and rawnesses’. Unwilling by his absence to provide a scapegoat for a possible defeat, he was suffering from gout on returning to the chamber for Burdett’s motion, 1 Mar., when he was excused for defaulting on the previous day’s call. He spoke early and only for about 20 minutes, but, as he reported to his wife, ‘I put at least two hours’ worth of speakable matter into that space and tried quite a new genre of speaking, which had prodigious success, such as becomes an elderly gentleman with a stick’; he then went home, having secured Nicholl as a pair.152 According to Hudson Gurney*, he ‘spoke at length, very theologically and some thought rather indiscreetly’, for the second reading of the relief bill, 21 Apr., when Daniel O’Connell* acclaimed his contribution as ‘an admirable speech for us, one of the best I ever heard anywhere’.153 His exposition, in which he supported the security of paying the Catholic clergy but doubted the rectitude of the other ‘wing’ whereby the franchise would be restricted, was motivated by his fear that he would thereafter be confined by illness, and despite being the penultimate speaker he again paired for the Catholics that day. It was on his sickbed, 27 Apr., that he received a surprise visit from the royal physician and confidant Knighton, who transmitted an olive branch from the king; thereafter Canning was never to lose the security of Court favour.154 He was still so unwell that he had to be ‘positively prohibited’ from attending the division on the third reading of the Catholic bill, 10 May 1825, when he was not listed as having paired.155
The cabinet crisis which was nearly provoked by Peel’s threatened resignation on this issue took a new twist on Canning’s taking offence at Liverpool’s decisive intervention against the relief bill in the Lords, 17 May 1825.156 According to Morley, on the 19th Canning told the premier that he proposed that
the Catholic question should no longer remain upon its existing footing (viz. one on which ministers were not to communicate with the king or with each [other] in cabinet), but that henceforth he and every other member of the cabinet should be at liberty to bring it forward for discussion in cabinet and Parliament when and how he pleased, and should be at equal liberty to communicate upon it, if he should so think fit, with the king.
This was agreed unanimously, Eldon being unavoidably absent, by the cabinet, 20 May, and as such marked a significant alteration in the nature of the ‘open’ question. However, his proposal for a compromise on the issue was rejected by the ‘Protestants’ at further meetings, 24, 25 May, after which, despite being sorely tempted to resign, he decided to remain in order to try his hand again in the new Parliament.157 Although he was criticized by the pro-Catholics for backing down, his announcement about the changed terms of the cabinet understanding in the House, 26 May, was interpreted as indicative of an imminent denouement.158 Expecting to be beaten, ‘at least upon the question of amount’, he was gratified to secure the grant for the unpopular and anti-Catholic duke of Cumberland, 7 June, though for a further month he was kept occupied by this and ‘various petty or vexatious questions, which give more trouble than they are worth and which it is as unpleasant to deal with as if they were of the most vital importance to the existence of the government’.159 In July Henry Thomas Liddell*, a foreign office clerk, reported him to be ‘marvellously well and in good spirits at the conclusion of his parliamentary labours’, but Abercromby doubted that he could continue as leader if his constitution was broken, and Scott, who holidayed with him in the Lakes that summer, diagnosed him as ‘much fagged by public business’ and suffering from an inability to delegate.160 Canning, who sold Gloucester Lodge in order to reside at a more convenient address in Downing Street, at this time unsuccessfully lobbied for Lord Clanricarde, who had married his daughter in April, to be elected an Irish representative peer; but his son-in-law, who briefly served as his under-secretary, was soon granted an Irish marquessate and a United Kingdom barony.161 The treaty of Rio of 29 Aug. 1825 signalled another diplomatic triumph, in that, without alienating Portugal, it achieved the recognition of the independence of the stable monarchy of Brazil.
It was at Canning’s insistence that the intended dissolution was postponed in the autumn of 1825: according to Wellington, when the cabinet considered letters from the grandees Lonsdale and Rutland in favour of delaying the general election on financial grounds, Canning retorted, ‘I don’t care ... for their expense. I am glad of it. All I am anxious for is to obtain a favourable Parliament for the Catholics’.162 As he explained to Plunket, 25 Sept., the general peace and prosperity of the country seemed to make it a perfect time to hold an election, but his anti-Catholic colleagues had deferred to his wishes because even they wanted to avoid an eruption of ‘no Popery’ sensationalism. Yet, as the Parliament had nearly run its seven years, nothing would be gained if Catholic agitation in Ireland continued to increase and he therefore urged Irish leaders to abstain from further fuelling Protestant antipathy in the interim. As for raising the issue in Parliament, he saw no point in again challenging the Lords after the failure of three pro-Catholic measures there within five years (or in risking a less than decisive vote in the Commons) and so had determined to meet any further motion with the previous question. Yet he had a sanguine expectation of carrying emancipation, hoping that
if in the first session of a new House of Commons, the vote of the last House of Commons shall be affirmed, I do not say that the House of Lords will yield, but I say they may. It will be in that case a new question; and such an expression of opinion by a House of Commons fresh from the people would enable the House of Lords to reconsider their former votes without dishonour.163
Acting individually, on 19 Oct. 1825 Canning cautiously transmitted a copy of this letter to the king, who merely returned his ‘thanks’ for what he termed an ‘admirable’ document; at least, as Canning confided to Granville, ‘it is a great thing to have begun with His Majesty upon a subject which hitherto has been considered as interdicted ground’.164 On the resignation of Richard Heber from the representation of Oxford University in early 1826, Canning was considered by some, notably the Whigs, as a suitable replacement, but his character and religious views were dubious and Peel, who had outrivaled him in 1817, was the ‘Christ Church Member’ in situ, so his shadow campaign never really took off. Therefore, despite it always having been his ambition to attain what one clerical antagonist in Oxford called such a ‘certificate of honesty’, he soon good humouredly withdrew his pretensions.165
In January 1826 Joseph Jekyll† recorded that Canning ‘looks shockingly and twenty years older than last year. The campaign of fatigue and anxiety, too, will soon be upon him’.166 The foreign secretary informed Granville on the 24th that ‘for the early part of the session we shall have our hands full of our internal difficulties’ and that he was anxious lest the ‘general temper of disquietude and dissatisfaction’ caused by ministers’ handling of the banking crisis would adversely affect how his own departmental affairs were treated.167 He defended the proposal to bring forward the creation of joint-stock banks on the address, 2 Feb., when, on analogy with his having purposely abstained from voting on private business while a minister, he argued that government intervention in favour of particular concerns was unjustifiable. Fearing a ‘critical day’, 10 Feb., when he was informed that ‘country bankers and country gentlemen and city merchants are combined in one grand confederacy’ to throw out the bill to suppress one pound bank notes, he moved to adjourn the debate over the weekend to allow time for ministerialists to be summoned back to town. His violent speech against Baring’s amendment on the 13th was considered by Agar Ellis as ‘brilliant, but not satisfactory’ since it had ‘evidently been crammed’, but his alarm ended when the division, the result of which was attributed by Planta to his intervention, gave ministers a majority of 222 to 39.168 He had to intervene on Robinson’s amendment to prevent the too rapid withdrawal of small notes, 20 Feb., and on the 23rd, when he reassured the House that ministers were not insensible or negligent in not applying practical remedies, he made Liverpool’s policy of not issuing exchequer bills to relieve distress a matter of confidence in order to head off the premier’s intended resignation on the matter.169 Croker warned him privately that his backbenchers would mutiny, to which he responded, ‘so much the better; it will bring matters to the point sooner’, and on pressure being brought to bear in the debate, he declared
in a very bold and uncompromising tone, that if the House chose to adopt the proposed measure they must also be prepared to find ministers to execute it, for that they would not; and this he repeated very steadily and, to the ears of some of the country gentlemen, offensively.170
Only the negligence of the opposition prevented a defeat, which as Canning wryly remarked, ‘would have been a mighty foolish kind of death’.171 Unpleasantly cutting in his treatment of Williams, he eloquently supported Huskisson’s policy of introducing a free trade in silk on the 24th; John Cam Hobhouse called it a ‘flashy and successful speech’, though it was one which, in the words of the Irish secretary, Goulburn, ‘for beauty of diction and imagery was superior even to most of his’.172 Canning was afraid, despite another sizeable majority, that government would be defeated when the question of issuing exchequer bills returned to the Commons on 28 Feb. 1826, but that day the Bank directors capitulated by indicating that they would instead permit the issue of advances.173
Canning dealt patiently with Buxton’s attempt to revitalize the anti-slavery issue, 1 Mar. 1826, and rebuffed Denman’s motion condemning the Jamaican slave trials the following day. He commented privately that Wilson’s question about France’s continued occupation of Spain, 10 Mar., ‘could not have come from a quarter less likely to do mischief’, and, although he as usual dispatched Hume’s quibbles about unavoidably increased diplomatic expenses, 17, 22 Mar., he could not resist ‘quizzing’ Granville about the parliamentary notice taken of the inflated cost of the new ambassador’s residence in Paris. By the Easter recess he considered that ‘our difficulties are beginning to disperse’, and recorded that
I do not know any session in which three departments of the government have been so ably and satisfactorily represented in the House of Commons as by Huskisson, Peel and Robinson, on their three respective days of exhibition. As for mine, it gives me no trouble, nor opportunity in the House of Commons though plenty, God knows, within the walls of Downing Street.174
According to Tierney, Canning ‘made a very dextrous speech but did not seem to me to be in earnest or to like what he was doing’, in defending the ministerial salaries of the treasurer of the navy and the president of the board of trade, 10 Apr., when, as Creevey noted, Hobhouse’s supportive and ‘affectionate address was received with a very marked titter ... from the Old Tories at the expense of both Hobhouse and Canning’.175 Having carried the division on receiving the committee’s report on this subject by only 11 votes, he acceded to opposition’s demand for the two posts to be united and afterwards moaned to the prime minister about the reduced number of offices which, having few duties attached, were still ‘available for the general business of the government’ in the Commons.176 He gave short shrift to the call for alteration of the representation of Edinburgh, 13 Apr., but was apparently silent on Russell’s reform motion, 27 Apr., and did not vote on his resolutions against electoral bribery, 26 May 1826.
Having given notice, 1 May 1826, next day Canning introduced a measure for allowing the release of bonded corn in order to relieve agricultural distress, and indicated that government intended to take powers to permit the importation of foreign corn if the autumn harvest failed. These proposals, which despite his insistence that ministers would stand by their pledge to make no general alteration of the corn laws that session, threw the country gentlemen into furious consternation.177 Remarking privately that ‘as sometimes happens the storm of Parliament arrives, like other storms, after a long calm and in sight of port’, he weathered the debate, 5 May, when he gloated that ‘the combination was so broken and dissipated that they did not even venture to divide’, and again, 8 May, when successful divisions in both Houses had, he opined, ‘settled the litigated question’ and stilled speculation about the viability of the ministry.178 On 9 May he secured the second reading of the warehoused corn bill and agreed to put off the corn admission bill, but apparently following the death of an uncle he missed the subsequent proceedings.179 He saw off Brougham’s motion censuring administration’s lack of progress on slavery, 19 May, and on 26 May he blocked Inglis’s request for information on the treatment of Protestants in Catholic countries, which he believed would be highly divisive on the eve of an election.180 Mrs. Arbuthnot reported Wellington’s comment that Canning’s conduct that session ‘in staying away whenever unpleasant subjects ... were to be discussed was quite pitiable’.181 But Ellis wrote to Bagot that the difficulties overcome in the Commons ‘afforded a signal proof of the wonderful talents of our chief in the management of that assembly; and perhaps no session ever contributed more to the establishment of his reputation and of his influence among its Members’. Ellis’s promotion to the peerage (as Lord Seaford) that summer on the recommendation of Canning, who thought his own family’s circumstances did not justify accepting such an honour, was a sign of how far he had gained the confidence of the king.182 Canning, who on being offered the seats at Callington for government the previous year had replied that he made it ‘a rule never to meddle in elections’, gave up his seat at Harwich at the dissolution because of the strength of anti-Catholic feeling there. Instead, having eschewed requisitions from Edinburgh (in April 1824) and Westminster (in June 1826), he was returned unopposed by the Holmes trustees for Newport, Isle of Wight, at the general election of 1826.183 In the autumn he visited Granville in Paris, ostensibly for a vacation, but in fact in order to confer about Portugal with the French authorities, including Charles X, from whom he received the rare honour of a private dinner.184
In October 1826 Tierney apparently stated that ‘there is no opposition ... the parties now are the government and the Canningites’, but neither Wellington, who smothered the effect of York’s demand that George IV should dismiss his foreign secretary, nor Canning, who rebuffed Buckingham’s suggestion of a union with the Grenvillites, was yet willing to resort to open conflict.185 Although uncertain when it would be possible to persuade the anti-Catholics that further resistance was of no avail, he advised Plunket to ‘make our first vote as wide and attractive as possible’, and warned the king that Ireland might well create novel cross-party divisions in the new Parliament.186 Having summoned government supporters in a circular, which the ever hostile duke of Bedford described as ‘as cool a piece of impudence as I ever read’, in the House he defended the by now usual practice of not holding eve of session meetings for them, 21 Nov., when the proceedings on the address were, in his words, ‘unusually tedious and disagreeable’.187 Despite continuing illness, on 11 Dec. he presented the king’s message relative to dispatching troops to Portugal, and the following evening he vindicated this policy of acting decisively in accordance with Britain’s treaty obligations in order to counter Spanish incursions that were evidently designed to encourage Dom Miguel’s intentions of overthrowing the constitution recently created by his brother Dom Pedro, now emperor of Brazil.188 Wildly applauded, especially (solely, jibed Mrs. Arbuthnot) by the opposition, the climax of his peroration - ‘We go to plant the standard of England on the well known heights of Lisbon. Where that standard is planted, foreign dominion shall not come’ - was the moment that Sir Thomas Lawrence had in mind when he painted his (second) full length portrait of Canning, his arm raised in a typically histrionic gesture, addressing the Commons.189 Stirred by criticisms of his pusillanimous treatment of Spain in 1823 during the ensuing debate, his reply, which John Cam Hobhouse rated as ‘certainly a masterpiece’, argued that he had secured the independence of the Spanish American colonies so as to prevent French domination in Europe. Although he aroused the resentment of many by his use of the first person singular, most could not restrain their admiration at his greatest flight of rhetorical fancy, ‘I called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old’.190 Appearing almost transfigured, a beam of sunlight illuminating his high forehead, his words created an excitement that, as one witness recorded, ‘was almost terrific. The House rose; few Members kept their seats; the stately dignity of the assembly was gone; there was absolutely waving of hats and the cheers were loud and long’.191 Partly because of the diplomatic row created by the populist slant of this speech, which ranked with the one on bullion in 1811 as the greatest of his successes, it was carefully revised before being printed.192
Having caught a chill while attending the funeral on 20 Jan. 1827 of his old enemy York, who was thus posthumously responsible for his lengthy last illness, Canning joined Liverpool in Bath, but nothing came of his expectations that the ailing prime minister would take this opportunity to resign in his favour. Succumbing to lumbago, inflammation and headaches, he retreated to Brighton, where the Cannings had recently bought a house at 100 Marine Parade; it was later supposed that he used a curious octagonal study close to the sea as a soundproofed room in which to practice his speeches, but in fact his convalescence in February was the only time he stayed there.193 Holland noted that there was on both sides of the Commons ‘a great indisposition amounting almost to a clamour against Canning’, who, however, had to inform Peel that he would be unfit for parliamentary duties, even if were able to attend by the middle of the month.194 It was while clutching a letter from Canning, written on his behalf by his secretary Stapleton, that Liverpool suffered his destructive seizure, 17 Feb., and amid the ensuing general speculation about his successor, Creevey commented that ‘I think somehow it must be Canning after all, and that then he’ll die of it’.195 With his experience, genius and popularity, as well as his seniority as Commons leader, Canning obviously expected to become prime minister and the first indications were that Protestant Tories, as well as opposition, would welcome his appointment.196 But it was quickly acknowledged that only Liverpool had been able to hold together the two halves of the administration and, as Buckingham put it, while making the unlikely proposal that Wellington could deflate Canning by settling the Catholic question himself, ‘everyone is proud of his talents, but no one trusts his principles’.197 While Liverpool remained unconscious, Canning and Peel recommended to the king, 18 Feb. 1827, that it would be best to let affairs stand at present.198 Yet even while recovering from his illness, Canning began to intrigue for office, apparently using Princess Lieven, who had once found him unbearably gauche but had since allowed his quick-wittedness to win her over, as a conduit for assuring the king that his promotion would not imply his having to concede Catholic emancipation.199 He can, however, be acquitted of having responded to Whig overtures before this became necessary in April, as no credence need be placed on the stories originating with Mrs. Arbuthnot, notably about Canning’s clandestine meeting with Lansdowne the previous year, or on those of her husband, particularly that Wellington refused to support Canning because he knew that he had surreptitiously opened such negotiations.200
In a letter of 21 Feb. 1827, in which he rebuked Huskisson for risking the postponement of two crucial debates, Canning insisted that it was ‘of vital importance to launch the corn question under the shadow of Liverpool’s authority though in abeyance’, and that the ‘single solitary chance of an amicable arrangement of the government lies in a vote of the House of Commons on the Catholic question taking place while the government is in abeyance’. After a flurry of correspondence with Peel and Burdett, these unavoidably delayed motions were eventually fixed for 1 and 5 Mar.201 It was originally at the request of Liverpool, whose measure it was, that Canning rather than Huskisson introduced the government’s corn bill, 1 Mar., when, in sober and conciliatory form, he pointed out the rigidities in and inadequacies of the existing corn laws and concluded that ‘a duty, to be effectually a protection on the one hand, and not an undue burden on the other, must vary with the price of corn’.202 He was gratified afterwards to see his landlord opponents ‘moving about the House in knots of three and four, and no three of them agreeing on what point or in what direction to muster an opposition’ to the proposed sliding scale, but that night, for once after a debate, he found it impossible to sleep.203 The future prospects of Canning, who presented the Liverpool Catholics’ petition in favour of their claims on 5 Mar., were thought to depend on a clear victory in the Catholic vote; and, as Planta saliently noted, ‘a small majority either way would much embarrass the parties’.204 Closing the debate the following day, he made an impassioned plea for emancipation, in the course of which he intemperately and imprudently shamed Copley, whose speech accusing him of inconsistency over the securities he thought had been got up from the Letter to Canning (1827) by Henry Phillpotts (later bishop of Exeter), by delighting the House with some lines from a popular song (‘this brown jug which now foams with mild ale ... was once Toby Philpott’s’).205 Binning was pleased with his ‘high tone’, which went some way to counteract the allegation, continually put about by Abercromby and others, that Canning wanted ‘to be beat on the question, for the facilitating of arrangements’.206 But the failure of the motion by four votes (276-272), which was owing in part to the treasury having canvassed against it, to his fury, and to the fact that many of his political friends, conceiving it as an open question, divided against him, was considered to have almost certainly doomed his ambitions for the premiership.207
Lady Liverpool having signalled her husband’s resignation, Canning was at Windsor on 28 Mar. 1827, when Princess Lieven described him as ‘quite ready for an explosion’ at the king’s mischievous procrastination, especially in his appearing to favour Wellington.208 In a private interview, Canning first made the negotiating ploy of offering to resign so that George IV could employ the entirely Protestant ministry which would be most in accordance with his own views and for which the Ultra dukes of Newcastle and Rutland were then pressing.209 This the king dismissed, flattering Canning on his impressive and essential services, and adding that, whatever his past opinion, his sentiments were now those of ‘satisfaction, regard and warm affection’. On the Catholic question, about which he had already assured the king that ‘there are means of settling it by a compromise - if my hands are free’,210 Canning insisted that, although he would be most happy ‘if by any fair management or reasonable compromise, he could contrive to spare His Majesty’s feelings’, he must continue to be as ‘free as air’ to advance, if challenged to do so, the cause which he had always advocated. Furthermore, he stipulated for the place and power of the office of prime minister, asking
how should he be able to show his face to those to whom, in and out of Parliament, he had always asserted ... that the Catholic question was an open question ... if he should allow it to be proved in his person, that those whose sentiments were favourable to the Roman Catholics were to be excluded solely on account of those sentiments ... from the highest elevations in the state?
The following day the king asked Canning to request the cabinet to select a leader, but, on Peel’s intervention, this was rescinded and nothing was decided when ministers met on the 31st.211 At least, in answering Tierney’s amendment to delay the granting of supplies until an administration had been appointed, he could announce that negotiations were under way, 30 Mar., when, on his giving no guarantee that a government could be settled before the Easter recess, Tierney unsuccessfully divided the House against him.212 Having been rather looking forward to profiting from a similar debate, on 5 Apr. 1827 he twitted Lethbridge for withdrawing his motion for an address calling on the king to form an ideologically united ministry.213 Early that month the general speculation was that Canning would continue to serve, either with Bathurst being substituted for Liverpool under the former arrangement or with Canning becoming chief minister under the nominal headship of a ‘puppet’ first lord of the treasury, probably the ennobled Robinson. Although accused of holding out for the highest office, according to Sir Richard Hussey Vivian*, Canning would in fact have settled for nothing beyond receiving the government patronage needed for managing the Commons.214
On 10 Apr. 1827 George IV commissioned Canning to form a government, in which Catholic emancipation was still to be treated as a neutral issue. The immediate consequence, through a combination of wilful misunderstanding and splenetic indiscretion on both his and Canning’s part, was that Wellington resigned from the cabinet and the command of the army.215 His action was followed, in an uncoordinated fashion, by Peel, three other ‘Protestant’ peers (excluding Bexley, who, in the end, stayed in) and the pro-Catholic Melville (‘the basest of all’, wrote Canning, ‘for here is no reason pretended except that of prudent speculation’216), while 35 junior ministers also left office. The ostensible motivation was, of course, Canning’s championing of the Catholic cause, and Wellington did have genuine fears that he would be unable to resist his wily step-by-step progress towards its attainment, but he privately proclaimed that he was mainly guided by personal considerations, declaring that ‘it was impossible for anyone to act with him’.217 On Maundy Thursday, 12 Apr., Canning, reportedly ‘with his watch in his hand’, gave George IV half an hour finally to let him kiss hands, which he did, despite the secession by ministers; this allowed Williams Wynn to move Canning’s writ and the adjournment of the Commons over Easter on the same day.218 The king apparently called Canning ‘a pernicious drug’ and ‘a bitter pill’, later exclaiming that he was ‘a damned old woman’, but he unhesitatingly backed him against what was seen as a resurgent nobility. They hated him because, as Princess Lieven put it, ‘English aristocratic pride revolted at obeying a parvenu and a bourgeois’, and, despite the fact that she had died on 10 Mar., his mother was lampooned in popular prints.219 Referring to the events of Pitt’s entry to office in 1783-4, a period which he seemed to have much in his mind, Canning told the king, ‘Your father broke the domination of the Whigs; I hope your Majesty will not endure that of the Tories’, to which he received the reply, ‘No, I’ll be damned if I do’.220 By the adroit and audacious stroke of appointing the duke of Clarence, the heir presumptive, as lord high admiral, he did much to secure his position in the event of a new reign.221 With these assurances of royal support and his popular standing in the country, he professed himself confident of establishing an administration, but Vivian, who described him as ‘a bold and manly fellow, with all his faults, and certainly very able’, judged that he would prove himself clever indeed, if he could form one that ‘will stand long, out of the discordant spirits with whom he has to deal’.222
Canning was elected in absentia for Seaford’s eponymous pocket borough, 20 Apr. 1827, when he officially became chancellor of the exchequer and prime minister.223 His wish had been to stay at the foreign office, until Lord John Townshend† beseeched him not to repeat Fox’s mistake of trying to lead the ministry as a secretary of state; yet he evidently envisaged displacing his interim foreign minister Lord Dudley (as Ward had become) in order to resume his favourite post after the end of the session.224 Bexley (chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster), Harrowby (lord president), Huskisson and Williams Wynn retained their cabinet seats, but, among other changes, Robinson, who went to the Lords as Viscount Goderich, replaced Bathurst as colonial secretary, and became leader of the Lords; Copley, now Lord Lyndhurst, displaced Eldon; Lord Anglesey succeeded Wellington as master-general of the ordnance; and Lord Palmerston*, still as secretary at war, joined the cabinet for the first time. Portland, taking over the privy seal from Westmorland as a ‘sleeping partner’, and Binning, who obtained a United Kingdom peerage, were among the relations and friends who benefited from Canning’s accession. But the moderate Tory ranks and about 30 Canningites were not sufficient to secure a stable government, so Canning turned to the opposition, some of whom he knew would be willing to throw in their lot with him.225 The moderate Whigs Lansdowne and Devonshire agreed to waive their demand about Catholic relief, 18 Apr., but the first negotiation faltered when they stipulated for the Irish government being entirely pro-Catholic in outlook. At the instigation of Brougham and Wilson, who organized a rebellion at Brooks’s, 20 Apr., a further attempt was made, and Canning commented to Wellesley on the 24th that ‘the arrangements go on but slowly, owing to causes which you, who remember our Whig and Tory negotiations in 1812, can well conceive’. On 26 Apr. the Lansdowne Whigs made a deal which bartered their most cherished measures for the sake of a share in what they hoped would be a well disposed administration: parliamentary reform and repeal of the Test Acts were ruled out and emancipation was to remain an open question. With the moderately pro-Catholic Wellesley due to be recalled and the like-minded chief secretary William Lamb, whom the king was delighted to substitute for Goulburn, expected soon to inherit his father’s peerage, the Irish government could not be finally settled, so Lansdowne chose to postpone his acceptance of the home office, which in the interim went to Sturges Bourne. Yet Devonshire was named lord chamberlain, 27 Apr. 1827, when Canning observed of the Whigs, whom he called ‘earnests of future juncture and of present support’, that ‘the country will like the gradual infusion better than a more precipitate one’.226
As the contemporary pamphlet war demonstrated, the defining issue facing Canning’s administration was the intractable religious one.227 Certainly Grey, who confessed to having a ‘rooted distrust’ of the new prime minister, was motivated by snobbishness and pique, although his statement that he ‘regarded the son of an actress as incapacitated de facto for the premiership of England’ was reprobated by his party colleagues.228 Yet both Althorp, who had ‘but little confidence in Canning’s honesty’, and Lord Milton*, who by contrast had no doubt of Canning’s sincerity, were unable to support his government unless it was pledged to carry emancipation, and other young Whigs opposed for ideological not personal reasons.229 Indeed, it was conceived that Canning’s could not possibly be a pro-Catholic government, despite the portents of his own track record, the pro-Catholic majority in the cabinet and the slightly more favourable interpretation of the ‘open’ question, under which ministers were permitted not merely to vote as they wished when the issue was raised by others in Parliament (the old understanding), but could, individually if not collectively, initiate discussions with colleagues and the king (the nuance added in 1825).230 Buckingham, who predicted that the mine which had been sprung against Grenville in 1807 would likewise destroy Canning, lamented that
a divided government under Lord Liverpool is a very different thing from one under Mr. Canning. With Lord Liverpool’s conscientious and early established feelings on the Catholic question the smallest introduction of Catholic matter was autant de gagné. In Mr. Canning’s government, the professed friend of the Catholics, the innoculation of the smallest quantity of Protestant virus is autant de perdu. What then are the Catholics to gain by his government?231
Furthermore, even if Canning had been able to raise emancipation as a government question without the king dissolving his ministry, the passage of any relief bill through the Commons had been shown to be precarious, and as for the Lords, Croker calculated that the majority against government, which generally stood at about 90, would still have been 41 on any Catholic measure.232 It is in this respect that Canning, who could thus be deemed to have hoodwinked the Lansdowne Whigs for his own short-term gain, did not despair of a rapprochement with the moderate Tories. Given its unpopularity in the country, he knew it would be inappropriate to push emancipation at this time, and he had all along said that the best chance of success was for a neutral administration gradually to become convinced by the weight of enlightened argument in its favour. This governed his attitude towards Peel, the lynchpin of the Tory right wing, towards whom he acted with excessive deference and caution during the spring of 1827. Canning respected the principles to which he was committed and had expected his resignation over the one matter on which they disagreed, albeit with sadness, since he saw him as his natural successor. But he was desperate to have Peel back, even offering him a peerage and the leadership of the Lords, and must have counted on soon being able to win him over by demonstrating what little practical threat was in fact effectively posed by the Catholic question.233
Although Bagot could confidently assert that ‘for the Commons Canning is himself all sufficient’ as a speaker, he was hard pressed by a series of rancorous and debilitating debates about his ministry after the Easter recess.234 With his Tory and Whig supporters sitting behind him, 1 May, he listened with dismay to the statement from Peel, who unexpectedly went beyond his own reasons for retirement to vindicate those of his Ultra colleagues, with whom he had thus evidently thrown in his lot. In his commanding reply, Canning was courteous to Peel, to whom he expressed the hope that their separation ‘may be but for a time’. However, in explaining the circumstances of the apparently concerted resignations by his former colleagues, he was less measured in his criticisms and, as Lushington recalled, he ‘reprobated most indignantly’ the opposition of those who supported the Catholic claims but now deserted him.235 His speech, which included a restatement of the nature of the cabinet compromise and held out the hope that ‘the good sense of the English people ... will ultimately concede the question’, was described by the visiting nobleman von Pückler-Muskau as ‘in every point of view, the most complete, as well as the most irresistibly persuasive’, and Canning reported to the king that it had met with the approbation of the House.236 But Buckingham reckoned ‘Canning’s first show off a bad one’ and Newcastle found it ‘very lame’, and it was followed by Wellington’s damaging revelations in the Lords the following day, which led to an angry exchange of letters.237 To George Dawson’s question about whether three minor offices had been filled up, 3 May, Canning ‘answered in the loudest tone and with the look of a demoniac’ with the monosyllable, ‘Yes!’, which was pronounced, Russell recollected, ‘in such a tone of mingled scorn, anger and grief that it seemed as if the heart of him who uttered it were breaking with vexation and disappointment’. This aroused the indignation of the House and Canning, who was forced to reply to Dawson at length, ended by completely losing his temper with Knatchbull, another Ultra underling, whom he charged with having raised the banner of opposition.238 He announced the future appointment of a finance committee, 7 May, when he refused to be provoked into another extraneous debate by Maberly’s request for information, and objected to the disfranchisement of the corrupt borough of Penryn, 8 May. On the 10th he was the subject of such a devastating personal attack from Grey in the Lords, where his colleagues failed to come to the support of his reputation, that he briefly contemplated taking a peerage simply for the gratification of replying in kind.239 The following day, when he dealt harshly with Lethbridge for withdrawing his motion to withhold supplies and commented acidly that he was tempted to give the single word ‘No!’ in response to queries about his having had any prior negotiations with the Whigs, he informed George IV that he ‘abstained (though he must confess not without great difficulty) from any allusion to what had passed in the House of Lords’.240 He dismissed Hume’s attempt to criticize possible peerage creations, 14 May, and again denied improper links with opposition earlier in the year, 18 May 1827, when he put an end to hopes for assisted emigration.
On 22 May 1827 Canning wrote that ‘the government is, I really believe, established’, and later that month his cabinet was given greater authority by the addition of Lansdowne (without portfolio), Carlisle (woods and forests) and Tierney (master of the mint). Although he claimed that in the Commons ‘our majority would be immense’, he did not expect there to be any divisions of confidence that session in either House, but only the continuation of the campaign of futile harassment kept up by a ‘wretched, disgraceful and disgusting opposition’.241 He called for Penryn to be extended into the neighbouring hundreds, 28 May, but having divided in the rump Tory minority of 69 against its outright disfranchisement, he tried to gloss over this poor showing by claiming that the result was a judicial not political decision. As on a handful of other occasions, the irreconcilable Whigs and radicals were in a minority of ten in favour of Hume’s attempt to repeal the Blasphemous and Seditious Libel Act, 31 May, and the disaffected Tories were in another of 31 against the third reading of the Penryn bill, 7 June. Although he had apparently left all treasury business to Herries, the joint-secretary, he was supposed to have acquitted himself reasonably well on presenting his interim budget, 1 June, when Bankes held that he ‘spoke feebly and with much less animation than usual’; he was misguided in quoting the optimistic but never realized economic forecast of 1792 made by Pitt, whom he called ‘the guide and polar star of my political course’.242 The same day, following a misunderstanding with Huskisson, Wellington introduced and carried (by four votes) what was effectively a wrecking amendment against the corn bill, and the failure to overturn this at the report stage, 12 June, further damaged confidence in the government.243 An exasperated Canning, who was at first tempted to abandon the measure altogether, told Stapleton that
it is a great misfortune that the Lords take so narrow a view of their present situation, that they cannot see that we are on the brink of a great struggle between property and population; that such a struggle is only to be averted by the mildest and most liberal legislation.244
Having justified the expense of maintaining British forces in Portugal, 8 June, and dealt with another anti-slavery debate, 12 June, he introduced his temporary bill to permit the release of warehoused corn for sale at a price of 60s. a quarter, 18 June, and again repeated his belief in the basic soundness of his proposals in opposing Knatchbull’s amendment, 21 June 1827.
Describing himself as excessively busy from the ‘necessity of attending the House of Commons daily at 5 o’clock and the multitude of morning consultations which the business of Parliament brings with it’, he gave his last extra-parliamentary speech at the dinner for Sir John Malcolm*, the newly appointed governor-general of Bombay, 13 June, and made his last intervention in the House, answering a question about a Scottish sinecure, 29 June 1827.245 In the only major achievement of his ministry, the treaty of London of 6 July marked the culmination of his negotiations with Russia over Greek independence, albeit that it was soon overshadowed by the battle of Navarino. Dreadfully harassed and ill, it was considered that only prudence and firmness would carry him through the summer recess to the next session.246 Although Lansdowne finally took over at the home office that month, occasioning a minor cabinet reshuffle, government was known to be hopelessly divided, with the Whigs having refused to accept the treasury whip. Not only were there problems in the Lords, but ministers faced difficulties in the Commons over their promised corn bill, the need to implement further economies and the possibility of a Catholic relief measure, to which many were convinced that Canning had irrevocably committed himself.247 With the backing of the king and the Whigs, he was reckoned secure for the present, and he may have hoped to emulate the example of Pitt, possibly with the assistance of a dissolution. But Huskisson later commented that Canning had been aware of the need for outside assistance and Scott surmised, perhaps in relation to Peel, that ‘some door of reconciliation may open itself as unexpectedly as the present confusion has arisen’.248 In any case, Canning had no time to make any plans, for with his heightened irritability and susceptibility and his ghastly appearance of bloated exhaustion, he had already been marked down as a dying man.249 Despite Lady Holland’s premonitions, he accepted Devonshire’s offer of Chiswick Villa and retreated there to recuperate on 20 July, devoting his time to composing a masterly state paper on Portugal.250 Perhaps because of a lifetime of self-indulgence and through having recently neglected medical advice, he suffered an excruciating bout of illness in the first days of August and thereafter declined rapidly with a fatal inflammation of his liver and lungs. Often incoherent, he neither left any last words nor made a last minute conversion, as the ‘Saints’ alleged, although he did articulate some political speculations and the word ‘patria’ was detected amid his last gasps.251
Canning died at 3.50 am on 8 Aug. 1827, in the same house, but not the same room, as Fox 21 years earlier, so ending the shortest premiership (110 days) in British history.252 He was ‘killed by work’, as Dudley recorded, making a comparison with one of Canning’s heroes, ‘just as certainly as Lord Nelson by a musket ball’; reflecting the dismay in his circle, Binning lamented bitterly that he was worn down by worry and anxiety and ‘has, as the physicians say, fairly been killed by his enemies’.253 Tom Macaulay* was dazed at the sight of the ‘whole work of thirty chequered years of glory and obloquy struck down in a moment’, and contemporaries, who judged him as having been much more powerful as foreign secretary, could not resist drawing the moral conclusion that he had been felled by what Creevey called his ‘possession of supreme power, his means of getting it and the personal abuse it brought down upon his head’.254 Others were rightly impressed by the political consequences: ‘there is another blow to wretched Ireland’, exclaimed O’Connell; ‘there is an end I fear for the present of this new and bold experiment of a liberal or rational government’, despaired Francis Jeffrey*.255 His death was generally mourned on the continent, but not by Metternich, who compared him to Buonaparte by referring to his ministry as his ‘hundred days’ and rejoiced at his departure, since ‘the man was a whole revolution in himself alone’. Mackintosh grieved that Canning had not had another year to raise himself to ‘a more splendid station than was ever filled by an English statesman’, but Bedford, who called him ‘that political rogue and mountebank’, commented spitefully that ‘I am glad that he is dead. He was capable of infinite evil; others regret that he did not live to see the fruits of his own mischievous policy - not so me’.256 Summing up the widespread perception of his essentially ambivalent reputation, Greville later wrote that
if Canning had had a fair field, he would have done great things, for his lofty and ambitious genius took an immense sweep, and the vigour of his intellect, his penetration and sagacity, enabled him to form mighty plans and work them with success; but it is impossible to believe that he was a high-minded man, that he spurned everything that was dishonest, uncandid and ungentlemanlike; he was not above trick and intrigue, and this was the fault of his character, which was unequal to his genius and understanding. However, notwithstanding his failings he was the greatest man we have had for a long time, and if life had been spared to him, and opposition had not been too much for him, he would have raised our character abroad and perhaps found remedies for our difficulties at home.257
His popularity was shown by the crowds attending his private funeral in Westminster Abbey, 16 Aug. 1827, when he was buried, fittingly enough, near the foot of Pitt; statues to his memory were erected there and in Palace Yard, as well as in Liverpool.258
By his last will, which was the one he had drawn up on 20 Sept. 1809 prior to his duel, Canning bequeathed all his property to his wife. His personalty was proved under £20,000, but it was claimed that his residual estate amounted to less than £4,000.259 Indeed, Huskisson informed Carlisle, 7 Sept. 1827, that his ‘private affairs are deplorably deranged’, with over half Joan’s fortune having ‘been gradually sunk in the difference between his official income and the expenditure necessarily incident to his situation’. It was for this reason that she was initially minded to decline the king’s offer of a peerage, though she soon determined to cling to it as a due mark of royal regard to her late husband, and that Huskisson, who disliked the idea of resorting to Parliament, raised the matter of a grant with his colleagues.260 Nothing had been decided by January 1828, when, deprived of what Lowther called Canning’s ‘energy and peculiar talents’, the attempt to continue the experiment of cross-party government under Goderich came, as predicted, to an ignominious end.261 The accession of Huskisson and other Canningites to office under Wellington that month began the break-up of his connection, a process that was completed nearly three years later on the formation of the Grey coalition.262 His widow, who was created Viscountess Canning of Kilbrahan on 22 Jan., was so furious at Huskisson’s apostasy that she instigated attacks on him by Clanricarde in the Lords, 11, 25 Feb.263 She also haughtily insisted that the attempt be made to secure provision from Parliament, even though Huskisson preferred to recommend that the family should instead receive the pension of £3,000 that would have been Canning’s had he retired before his death.264 In the end it was at the prompting of Lord Morpeth that ministers introduced their agreed measure, 13 May, when, after a bitter debate, a mixture of high Tories and advanced Whigs were in the minority of 54 to 161 against it. It was on this occasion that Stratford Canning made his debut in Parliament, an arena in which he was less successful than in the field of diplomacy, where he did much to advance his cousin’s legacy. By the Offices Pensions Amendment Act, which was given royal assent on 19 June 1828, the annual grant was made not to Canning’s second son William Pitt (1802-28), a gambling naval officer who drowned the following year, but to his third, Charles John (1812-62). He had just been elected Conservative Member for Warwick when he succeeded to his mother’s viscountcy in 1837, and was in the middle of fulfilling what might have been his father’s destiny, in the form of a glorious spell in India, when he was made Victoria’s first viceroy in 1858 and created Earl Canning in 1859.
Canning hardly matched the beau idéal of the character of Wentworth, for which he was supposedly the model, in Robert Ward’s De Vere (1827), but there was something noble about his appearance.265 As the journalist Samuel Carter Hall wrote:
Tall, over six feet in height, he had an upright, rather thin and singularly manly figure; the head well set above the shoulders. He dressed as became a gentleman - as far removed from slovenliness as from foppishness. The head was grandly fine, very bald; small whiskers; the features strongly marked, yet approaching delicacy of cut and firmly outlined; the forehead high and broad, giving proof of large creative power and indomitable energy and determination, yet combined with a grace and gentleness of manner that would hardly be miscalled if called womanly.266
Amiable in his private life, Canning’s penchant for elaborate jokes, his immense articulacy and quicksilver brilliance in public debate were well known, if not always admired.267 Dudley, who remembered him as ‘kind-hearted and affectionate’ to his intimate companions and resolutely indefatigable in his application to business, observed that he ‘was very sensitive, and all his experience of the world had not blunted the natural acuteness of his feelings’, but also doubted whether he ever realized how many lasting enemies his malice made him.268 According to Greville, even Wellington acknowledged that
his talents were astonishing, his compositions admirable, that he possessed the art of saying exactly what was necessary and passing over those topics on which it was not advisable to touch, his fertility and resources inexhaustible.
But he also averted to Canning’s tenacity in argument:
Any difference of opinion or dissent from his views threw him into ungovernable rage, and on such occasions he flew out with a violence which, the duke said, had often compelled him to be silent that he might not be involved in bitter personal altercation.269
Although Brougham was jaundiced in his assessment of ‘the distinguishing error of his life ... that no one can usefully serve his country, or effectually further his principles, unless he possesses the power which place bestows’, it was Holland who provided the most telling judgment on Canning’s overweening ambition:
He was not ill-tempered, but wrong-headed and had ‘la main malheureuse’, always contriving to turn the worst view of his conduct towards the public, that this arose very much from over-refinement and from aiming at high delicacy of sentiment.270
For Byron, Canning was ‘a genius - almost a universal one; an orator, a wit, a poet, a statesman’, while Croker dubbed him ‘our last, our best, our only orator’.271 Canning once admitted that he ‘never rose without the fear of not succeeding’, and Brougham at least considered that, in spite of all his skills, he did not carry his audience with him, but Peel gave him the palm as ‘the greatest master of the art of rhetoric’ and others were equally flattering in their appraisal of the, by turns, insinuating and explosive qualities of his speeches.272 What most amused and impressed was the character of his wit, of which his cousin recollected that it ‘was light and playful; a contrast, a likeness between opposites, an illustration, a word used in a new sense, a ludicrous image and other elements of fun were its usual forms’.273 Horace Twiss*, concluding his summary of the boldness, originality, grandeur and Englishness of Canning’s oratory, wrote that
it is scarcely an exaggeration to affirm that in his single person were united all the highest gifts of eloquence which nature had distributed among the most eminent of his parliamentary competitors: a lucid, close and forcible logic, effective alike for the establishment of truth and the exposure of absurdity, hypocrisy and pretension; an elevated tone of declamation, appealing not so much to passion as to what was noblest in thought and sentiment; a stream of imagery and quotation, rich, various and yet never overflowing the main subject; a light ‘artillery of wit’, so disciplined that not a shot of it flashed without telling upon the issue of the conflict; an unfailing, yet constantly diversified, harmony of period and a magical command of those lightning words and phrases which burn themselves, at once and for ever, into the hearer’s mind.274
This predominance in debate made him an adept, if unusually lively, leader of the House, and Littleton later compared the stolid Althorp unfavourably with Canning, who had ‘an air of quickness and intelligence greater than ever distinguished man’.275 If he was most admired for his furious declamations, he was equally no stranger to the quieter arts of Commons management, for as Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer* recorded
Peel, his distinguished rival, told me one day, in speaking of Mr. Canning, as to this particular, that he would often before rising in his place, make a sort of lounging tour of the House, listening to the tone of the observations which the previous debates had excited, so that at last, when he himself spoke, he seemed to a large part of the audience to be merely giving a striking form to their own thoughts.276
He was, in the words of Liverpool’s nineteenth-century biographer, ‘the last among us who has been at once a statesman and an orator’.277
Canning, whom contemporaries sometimes found it hard to categorize either as a Tory or a Whig, was one of the most energetic of the moderate Evangelicals, who in the mid-1820s drew forth a new liberal strain within the upper ranks of the Tories’ political hegemony.278 Yet the passage of Catholic emancipation in early 1829, when Brougham reprobated Peel’s ‘giving the chief part of carrying the question to Canning’, showed that his legacy was still to be fought over.279 Lady Canning, the self-appointed guardian of his posthumous reputation, issued a spirited and intelligent piece entitled An Authentic Account of Mr. Canning’s Policy with respect to the Constitutional Charter of Portugal in 1830, and later that year she chastised Stapleton, with whom she quarrelled, for delaying publication of his three volume Political Life of the Right Honourable George Canning, which Gurney described as ‘almost unreadably dull’. Its second edition, which appeared in 1831, included an additional chapter criticizing the recently ousted Wellington for having departed from Canning’s principles and policies in domestic and foreign affairs; it was also noted for its condemnation of the new premier, Grey, for his unremitting hostility, although Lady Canning went further, asserting that ‘that speech [on 10 May 1827] contributed to kill Canning’.280 Commenting on the upsurge of support for parliamentary reform, Greville contended in 1831 that
there has been but one man for many years past able to arrest this torrent, and that was Canning; and him the Tories, idiots that they were and never discovering that he was their best friend, hunted to death with their besotted and ignorant hostility.281
But, ironically, the very spirit of liberalism that Canning had nurtured and the fractured party system left in his wake perhaps contributed to the eventual success of the Grey ministry’s reform bill in 1832.282 Lady Clanricarde remarked that, had her father lived, ‘he would never have given way to reform’, and yet, as Stapleton asked, ‘in the present altered state of things, who can say that, were he now living, he would inflexibly resist a guarded and limited concession?’283 Indeed, Canning was always a pragmatist, and just as he sought to balance the conflicting principles of different forms of government in his foreign policy, so at home he pursued a middle path, advocating the rectification of the just grievances of the Catholics on the one hand and resisting the implementation of the abstract theories of the reformers on the other.
Canning has been linked facetiously with Darwin’s theory of evolution and more solemnly with Neville Chamberlain’s† diplomacy in the late 1930s, but his real legacy ultimately lies on each side of the Victorian two-party system.284 It was no coincidence that Canning, once the acquaintance of Fox and the intimate of Pitt, had an impact on the careers of both William Gladstone†, who recorded that ‘every influence connected with that name governed the politics of my childhood and my youth’, and the admiring Benjamin Disraeli†, who was just such another talented but distrusted outsider. It was after the Conservative split of 1846, when Disraeli joined Bentinck in berating Peel for abandoning Canning to his fate, that more emphasis came to be placed on Canning’s contribution of a distinctively liberal streak to traditional Tory politics, albeit at the expense of his being placed rather in the shadow of his more stable and dependable predecessor, Castlereagh.285 On the other side of the party divide, it was the transformed Whig party which owed much to Canning, for, as Bulwer wrote in 1868, his premiership saw the commencement of ‘that new period in our history, which finally led to the forming of a large Liberal party, capable of conducting the affairs of the country’, and ‘the more minutely, in short, that we examine the events of the last 36 years, the more we shall perceive how much their quiet development has been owing to Mr. Canning’.286 So, one of the Tory ‘greats’, he was also the progenitor of Palmerstonian liberalism, and in nothing more so than in his bravura espousal of a patriotic foreign policy. Yet his greatest contribution, predating Peel’s Tamworth manifesto, was his exploitation of his constituents as a means of appealing to (indeed, on occasion cynically manipulating the outlook of) a wider national audience, his ‘quite unparalleled’ speeches at Liverpool being, in Huskisson’s opinion, ‘addresses infinitely beyond that which ever belonged to any man (even our greatest public orators) whom I ever knew’. That such a constitutional innovation was imposed by the only man of lowly social origin to reach the pinnacle of government in the unreformed Parliament was perhaps no coincidence.287 It was, indeed, this fusion of his own private intent with his controversial practice of politics which lay behind his ultimate, if pyrrhic, victory. As Margaret Walsh wrote to her son Sir John Benn Walsh*, 25 Apr. 1827, of the new prime minister’s rise to power:
I certainly hope that Canning may succeed, for though at one time ambition sullied his conduct, he has recently stemmed the torrent of evil from the Holy Alliance and recalled the English government to noble and better principles. At the present moment his ambition and patriotism are identified, for he owes his present rise to the voice of the public, and the voice of the public to his liberal principles.288
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Stephen Farrell
Unless otherwise stated, the Canning pprs. (W. Yorks. AS, Leeds, Harewood mss WYL250/8) have been used throughout. Some of these were published by Canning’s private sec. A. G. Stapleton in his Political Life of Canning (2nd edn. 1831) and Canning and his Times (1859), while his son E. J. Stapleton edited Some Official Corresp. of Canning (1887). R. Therry’s edition of Canning’s Speeches (3rd edn. 1836) has been followed. For his personal connections, see A. Aspinall, ‘Canningite Party’, TRHS (ser. 4), xvii (1934), 177-226, and ‘Last of the Canningites’, EHR, l (1935), 639-69. Of the many biographies, Wendy Hinde’s (1973) is usually reliable; the most recent study is S.M. Lee, Canning and the Tories, 1801-1827 (2008).
- 1. Melville, Cobbett, i. 27; Brougham, Hist. Sketches, i. 285; Sir A. Alison, Lives of Lord Castlereagh and Lord Stewart, iii. 250; Croker Pprs. i. 268; ii. 352.
- 2. C. Oman, Gascoyne Heiress, 278.
- 3. H. Temperley, Foreign Policy of Canning, 1822-1827 (1925) has been relied on in this article, which emphasizes Canning’s Commons leadership.
- 4. Bagot, Canning and Friends, ii. 363.
- 5. D.J. O’Donoghue, Scott’s Tour in Ireland, 62.
- 6. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, ‘Canning: His Character and Motives’, 19th Cent. vii (1880), 28.
- 7. J.F. Newton, Early Days of Canning (1828), 24.
- 8. G. Canning et al. Poetry of Anti-Jacobin (1854); J. Timbs, Anecdote Lives of Later Wits and Humourists (1874), i. 1-63.
- 9. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 378-404.
- 10. Wilberforce Corresp. ii. 427.
- 11. Letters of Princess Charlotte ed. A. Aspinall, 187.
- 12. Heron, Notes, 13; Temperley, 32-33; Brougham Speeches, ii. 542-3; Stapleton, Canning and his Times, 17-21, 26-27, 346-9; Speeches, vol. i. ‘Mem.’ 144-6, 175-8; Earl Stanhope, Conversations with Wellington, 43.
- 13. Russell, Recollections, 55-56; Buxton Mems. 90.
- 14. Add. 48221, f. 52.
- 15. J.E. Cookson, ‘Canning’s Pantheon’, History, lxii (1977), 43-45.
- 16. Canning to wife, 26, 28 Jan., 6, 15, 20 Feb. 1820.
- 17. Ibid. 6, 9, 13, 15, 18 Feb. 1820; C.D. Yonge, Life and Administration of Lord Liverpool, iii. 33-34.
- 18. Canning to wife, 15, 20 Feb. 1820.
- 19. Liverpool Mercury, 25 Feb., 10, 14, 17 Mar. 1820.
- 20. Speeches of Canning Delivered on Public Occasions in Liverpool (1825), pp. xiv-xvii, 237-329, 403-5; H. Jephson, The Platform, i. 557; S.M. Lee, ‘Canning and Representation of Liverpool’, Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs. and Cheshire, cxlix (2000), 96.
- 21. Add. 38568, f. 78; BL Loan 72/25, f. 18.
- 22. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland mss PwH 423.
- 23. Poetical Works of Canning (1828), 85-86; [A. Hayward], ‘Canning’s Literary Remains’, Edinburgh Rev. cviii (1858), 132-5.
- 24. Add. 30115, f. 17.
- 25. Add. 38565, f. 150; Greville Mems. i. 96-97.
- 26. Stapleton, Canning and his Times, 290-2.
- 27. PRO NI, Castlereagh mss D3030/P/174; The Times, 29 June 1820.
- 28. Stapleton, Canning and his Times, 293-5.
- 29. Ibid. 296-314; W. Yorks. AS, Leeds, Stapleton mss 2/7.
- 30. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 875; Canning to Liverpool, 13 Nov. 1820.
- 31. Canning to wife, 21, 24, 28 Nov., 1, 7 Dec. 1820.
- 32. Stapleton, Canning and his Times, 315-18; The Times, 6 Jan., 1 Feb. 1821.
- 33. Canning to wife, 10, 15, 20 Dec. 1820; NAS GD249/2/6/31, 32 (NRA 10114); Private Letters of Princess Lieven ed. P. Quennell, 98; Stapleton, Canning and his Times, 319; Cent. Kent. Stud. Camden mss U840 C530/6.
- 34. TNA, 30/29/6/7/47.
- 35. Liverpool Mercury, 19, 26 Jan. 1821; Geo. IV Letters, ii. 895; NAS GD249/2/6/34.
- 36. HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 18.
- 37. Add. 38742, ff. 185, 187.
- 38. Canning to wife, 20, 23 Mar., to mother, 24 Mar.; Dorset RO, Bond mss D/BOH C16, Jekyll to Bond, 20 Mar. 1821.
- 39. Canning to wife, 23, 27 Mar., 3 Apr. 1821.
- 40. Ibid. 17, 20 Apr. 1821; Broughton, Recollections, ii. 145-50; Fox Jnl. 68.
- 41. Canning to wife, n.d. [late 1821]; Hinde, 312-13.
- 42. Canning to wife, 24 Apr. 1821.
- 43. Add. 38193, f. 231.
- 44. The Times, 5 Apr., 13, 14 June 1821; M.W. Patterson, Burdett and his Times, ii. 524-8.
- 45. Hobhouse Diary, 67; Bucks. RO, Fremantle mss D/FR/46/11/52; 51/5/15.
- 46. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 958-9; Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 199-200, 227-8; Fremantle mss 46/12/26.
- 47. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 930; Add. 38411, f. 54.
- 48. Canning to wife [n.d.], 14-16, 23, 24, 27, 29 Nov.; Castle Howard mss, Canning to Morpeth, 12 Dec. 1821; Geo. IV Letters, ii. 967-8; Stapleton, Canning and his Times, 324-7.
- 49. Add. 38743, ff. 26, 56, 86.
- 50. Croker Pprs. i. 218-19; Hobhouse Diary, 79.
- 51. BL Loan 72/25, f. 80; Add. 38568, f. 112; 38743, f. 128.
- 52. Add. 51679; H.W.C. Davis, ‘Brougham, Lord Grey and Canning’, EHR, xxxviii (1923), 532-50.
- 53. Broughton, iii. 252; Le Marchant, Althorp, 217-18.
- 54. Greville Mems. ii. 126.
- 55. Add. 52445, f. 60.
- 56. HLRO, HC Lib. mss 89, Moulton Barrett diary; Creevey Pprs. ii. 35.
- 57. Add. 37298, f. 342.
- 58. Moore Jnl. ii. 557, 559.
- 59. Add. 51598, Canning to Holland, 29 Mar. 1822; 52445, f. 82; Buckingham, i. 314-15.
- 60. The Times, 5, 29 Mar., 14, 20, 22, 23 May, 1 June 1822; Broughton, ii. 188.
- 61. Add. 51679, Russell to Lady Holland [July 1822]; Stapleton mss 7/2; Ward, Landaff Letters, 312, 333; Buckingham, i. 339; Russell, 38.
- 62. Le Marchant, 210; Broughton, v. 179.
- 63. Portland mss PwH 438.
- 64. Aspinall, ‘Canning’s Return to Office in September 1822’, EHR, lxxviii (1963), 531-45.
- 65. Add. 38743, ff. 197, 201; 48221, f. 99; TNA 30/29/8/6/287; Canning to wife, 24, 28 Aug. 1822.
- 66. Liverpool Speeches, 333-8, 349-78; Brougham, Life and Times, ii. 446-7, 451; A. Aspinall, Politics and the Press, 225; Add. 40351, f. 117.
- 67. Letters of Sir Walter Scott ed. H.J.C. Grierson, vii. 233; Brougham, Life and Times, ii. 440-2; Grey mss, Grey to Holland, 9 Sept. 1822.
- 68. Add. 38743, f. 207; Creevey’s Life and Times, 161; Ward, 356.
- 69. Canning to wife, 3, 6, 8 Sept. 1822.
- 70. NLW, Coedymaen mss 185; Unrepentant Tory ed. R.A. Gaunt, 34, 45.
- 71. Add. 40319, f. 57; Geo. IV Letters, ii. 1043.
- 72. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 1042; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 186-90; Yonge, iii. 199-201.
- 73. Huskisson Pprs. 145-6; Temperley, 30; Add. 48221, f. 104; Hants RO, Malmesbury mss 9M73/G2487/3; Mehitabel Canning: A Redoubtable Woman ed. G. Hunt, 318.
- 74. Brougham, Life and Times, ii. 457-8; Arbuthnot Corresp. 29; Greville Mems. ii. 174.
- 75. Add. 38743, ff. 227, 236; 38744, ff. 2, 17, 19; Aspinall, ‘Canningite Party’, 204-10.
- 76. Bessborough mss F138, Grey to Duncannon, 28 Oct. 1822; Lady Palmerston Letters, 110.
- 77. Northants. RO, Agar Ellis diary, 25 Sept. 1822; Private Letters of Princess Lieven, 218-19, 241-2; C. Hibbert, ‘Geo. IV and Canning’, Hist. Today, xxiii (1973), 607-17.
- 78. Camden mss C528/1; Fremantle mss 46/12/69; 51/5/16; Wellington Despatches, i. 261-2, 274-8.
- 79. Portland mss PwH 443; N. Gash, ‘Tortoise and Hare: Liverpool and Canning’, Hist. Today, xxxii (1982), 12-19.
- 80. Buckingham, i. 385; Greville Mems. i. 134, 136; ii. 174; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 194-5; ii. 65; Hobhouse Diary, 101-2.
- 81. Lansdowne mss, Scarlett to Lansdowne, 22 Aug.; Fitzwilliam mss, Scarlett to Milton, 12 Oct. 1822.
- 82. Add. 51584, Tierney to Holland, 21 Oct.; 51574, Abercromby to same, 27, Dec. 1822.
- 83. Private Letters of Princess Lieven, 206.
- 84. Wellesley Mems. ii. 383.
- 85. L. Goldsmith, Observations on Appointment of Canning (1822), 9-12, 77, 108-16.
- 86. Temperley, 258-96; R.A. Jones, ‘Early 19th-Cent. Patronage List: Canning and Consular Service’, BIHR, lvi (1983), 232-8.
- 87. Sir H. Poland, ‘Canning’s Rhyming "Despatch" to Sir Charles Bagot’, TRHS, n.s. xx (1906), 49-60.
- 88. Stapleton, Pol. Life of Canning, i. 134-5, 473-5; iii. 289-90; Temperley, 42-48, 447-75.
- 89. S. Schwartzberg, ‘Lion and Phoenix: British Policy toward the "Greek Question"’, Middle Eastern Stud. xxiv (1988), 139-77, 287-311.
- 90. A. Cunningham, ‘Philhellenes, Canning and Greek Independence’, Middle Eastern Stud. xiv (1978), 151-81; V. N. Vinogradov, ‘Canning, Russia and Emancipation of Greece’, Balkan Stud. xxii (1981), 3-33; L. Cowles, ‘Failure to Restrain Russia: Canning, Nesselrode and Greek Question’, Internat. Hist. Rev. xii (1990), 688-720.
- 91. Dorset RO, Bankes mss D/BKL, Canning to Bankes, 28 Sept. 1822; Bagot, ii. 138.
- 92. Cockburn Letters, 68.
- 93. Temperley, 65, 74. For the contrary argument that Canning wished to reform and work within the congress system, see N. Yamada, ‘George Canning and Concert of Europe’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 2004), 2-3, 35-43, 307-15.
- 94. Add. 38291, f. 241; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 191-2, 198, 203, 208.
- 95. Gladstone to Canning, 18 Sept., 8 Oct. 1822, 21, 28 Jan. 1823; Liverpool Speeches, 406-7, 409-16; St. Deiniol’s Lib. Glynne-Gladstone mss 1200-3; Add. 39948, f. 72.
- 96. Colchester Gazette, 15 Feb. 1823.
- 97. Temperley, 78, 80, 305-7, 314-16, 512-13.
- 98. Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 152-3; Parker, Peel, i. 327-32; Buckingham, i. 365-6, 371.
- 99. Creevey’s Life and Times, 162-3, 166; Creevey Pprs. ii. 49-50.
- 100. Bessborough mss F53, Brougham to Duncannon [13 Sept. 1822]; Brougham, Life and Times, ii. 443, 456.
- 101. Lansdowne mss, Brougham to Lansdowne [18 Dec. 1822]; Grey mss, Grey to Holland, 22 Jan. 1823.
- 102. Arbuthnot Corresp. 38, 40; BL Loan 72/25, f. 95.
- 103. Add. 38568, f. 118.
- 104. Colchester Diary, iii. 273; Melbourne’s Pprs. 98-99.
- 105. Add. 40311, ff. 19, 100; Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1169, 1230-1, 1233, 1271, 1299, 1322-4, 1327-8, 1337, 1341, 1348, 1357.
- 106. Lady Palmerston Letters, 117; Creevey Pprs. ii. 65; Buckingham, i. 374, 385-6, 426; Bagot, ii. 175; Private Letters of Princess Lieven, 230.
- 107. Portland mss PwH 454.
- 108. Creevey Pprs. ii. 63; Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 21 Feb. 1823.
- 109. Merthyr Mawr mss F/51/4; Life of Wilberforce, v. 171.
- 110. The Times, 1 Mar.; Add. 51663, Bedford to Holland, 27 Mar. 1823.
- 111. J.E.S. Green, ‘Castlereagh’s Instructions for Conferences at Vienna’, TRHS (ser. 3), vii (1913), 103-28; C.K. Webster and H.W.V. Temperley, ‘British Policy in Publication of Diplomatic Documents under Castlereagh and Canning’, CHJ, i (1924-5), 158-69; Temperley, 86-87, 307-11.
- 112. Agar Ellis diary.
- 113. Private Letters of Princess Lieven, 242-3, 254, 256; Unpublished Diary and Pol. Sketches of Princess Lieven ed. H. Temperley, 61-74; H. Temperley, ‘Canning, Wellington and Geo. IV’, EHR, xxxviii (1923), 206-25; Temperley, Foreign Policy, 240-56.
- 114. Agar Ellis diary.
- 115. Ibid.; Creevey Pprs. ii. 68.
- 116. Lady Holland to Son, 20; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 227-8; Bagot, ii. 167-9; Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 12 May 1823; Stratford de Redcliffe, 39.
- 117. Broughton, iii. 21; Herts. Archives, Panshanger mss D/ELb, W. to F. Lamb, 6 May 1823.
- 118. Add. 40687, f. 1; Le Marchant, 211.
- 119. A.E. Furness, ‘Hibbert and Defence of Slavery in WI’, Jamaican Hist. Rev. v (1965), 65.
- 120. Bagot, ii. 178-80.
- 121. G. Festing, Frere and Friends, 256-63.
- 122. Private Letters of Princess Lieven, 269; Buckingham, i. 469-70, 475, 481; Hobhouse Diary, 102-3.
- 123. Liverpool Speeches, 379-87.
- 124. Speeches, vi. 420-5.
- 125. Arbuthnot Corresp. 45, 46.
- 126. Private Letters of Princess Lieven, 286, 312.
- 127. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 284-5; Buckingham, ii. 42.
- 128. Brougham, Life and Times, ii. 465-6.
- 129. Add. 62939, f. 17.
- 130. Agar Ellis diary.
- 131. TNA 30/29/6/3/92; 9/5/22, f. 63.
- 132. Hatherton diary [n.d.] 1824; Life of Wilberforce, v. 217; Buckingham, ii. 55.
- 133. Add. 51653, Mackintosh to Holland, 20 Mar.; Martin to Canning, 22, 29 Mar. 1824.
- 134. TNA 30/29/9/6/18.
- 135. Canning to wife, 3, 4, 6 Apr. 1824.
- 136. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 304-10; Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1162-3.
- 137. Le Marchant, 210.
- 138. Buckingham, ii. 75-76.
- 139. W.D. Griffin, ‘Canning and Wilberforce: Unpublished Letter’, BIHR, xlvi (1973), 218-20.
- 140. Bagot, ii. 264; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 325.
- 141. Add. 37302, f. 302.
- 142. Colchester Diary, iii. 348; Private Letters of Princess Lieven, 328-9; Fremantle mss 46/11/106; TNA 30/29/9/3/12; Add. 40330, ff. 105, 127; The Times, 20, 29 Sept. 1824.
- 143. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 342-53.
- 144. Canning to wife, 19 Dec. 1824, 28 Jan.; The Times, 15 Jan. 1825; Eng. Hist. Docs. xi. ed. A. Aspinall and E.A. Smith, 27, 40; Festing, 266-8.
- 145. Eng. Hist. Docs. xi. 60; Canning to wife, 11 Mar. 1825.
- 146. Fremantle mss 46/11/115.
- 147. Colchester Diary, iii. 360; Buckingham, ii. 201-2.
- 148. Festing, 269; Merthyr Mawr mss, Nicholl diary F/2/8.
- 149. Canning to wife, 3, 8, 10, 11 Feb. 1825.
- 150. Ibid. 15, 18 Feb.; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 17 Feb. 1825; Bankes mss, Bankes jnl. 153; Nicholl diary; Buckingham, ii. 214.
- 151. Canning to wife, 22, 25 Feb. 1825; TNA 30/29/8/7/319, 320.
- 152. Canning to wife, 26, 28 Feb., 1, 4 Mar. 1825; Nicholl diary.
- 153. Gurney diary; O’Connell Corresp. iii. 1207.
- 154. Stapleton, Canning and his Times, 436-45.
- 155. Buckingham, ii. 247.
- 156. G.I.T. Machin, ‘Catholic Emancipation Crisis of 1825’, EHR, lxxviii (1963), 458-82.
- 157. TNA 30/29/9/2, f. 86; S.M. Lee, ‘Canning and the Tories’ (Manchester Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1999), 217-22.
- 158. Buckingham, ii. 260; Hobhouse Diary, 116; Bagot, ii. 281-2.
- 159. TNA 30/29/8/8/359, 363.
- 160. Stapleton mss 42, Liddell to Stapleton, 6 July; Castle Howard mss, Abercromby to Carlisle, 24 June, 5 July 1825; Scott Letters, ix. 211-12, 217.
- 161. Add. 38193, ff. 225, 229; 40305, f. 74.
- 162. Oman, 135.
- 163. D. Plunket, Life, Letters and Speeches of Plunket, ii. 213-17; S. Lane-Poole, Life of Stratford Canning, i. 386.
- 164. Stapleton, Canning and his Times, 253-8.
- 165. Add. 40342, ff. 207, 297, 303, 305, 307, 320.
- 166. Corresp. of Joseph Jekyll ed. A. Bourke, 158.
- 167. TNA 30/29/8/8/420.
- 168. Ibid. 427, 428; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC8/79; TNA, Stratford Canning mss FO352/13A/1, Planta to S. Canning, 14 Feb. 1826.
- 169. Stapleton, Canning and his Times, 234-8.
- 170. Croker Pprs. i. 314-16.
- 171. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Ossington mss Acc. 636, Denison diary; TNA 30/29/8/8/433.
- 172. Agar Ellis diary; Broughton, iii. 127; Surr. Hist. Cent. Goulburn mss Acc 304/67A, Goulburn to wife, 25 Feb. 1826.
- 173. TNA 30/29/8/8/432; Wellington Despatches, iii. 144.
- 174. TNA 30/29/8/8/438, 439.
- 175. Add. 51584, Tierney to Holland, 10 Apr. 1826; Creevey Pprs. ii. 99.
- 176. Add. 38193, f. 239.
- 177. Creevey Pprs. ii. 100.
- 178. Canning Official Corresp. ii. 49, 52-53.
- 179. Add. 51668, Bedford to Lady Holland [12 May 1826].
- 180. Add. 40311, ff. 175, 178, 182.
- 181. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 29.
- 182. Bagot, ii. 350-2.
- 183. Canning Official Corresp. i. 375; ii. 205-7; Lee, ‘Canning and the Tories’, 226; Canning to wife, 12 Apr. 1824; Hants Telegraph, 19 June 1826.
- 184. The Times, 14 Sept., 3, 18, 20, 31 Oct. 1826.
- 185. Add. 40389, f. 123; Wellington Despatches, iii. 463-4; Canning to Warrender, 13 Nov. 1826.
- 186. Plunket, ii. 238-9; Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1256, 1270.
- 187. Add. 51669, Bedford to Lady Holland, 21 Sept. ; Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1271.
- 188. Add. 30115, ff. 33, 35.
- 189. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 64; Moore Jnl. iii. 1248-9.
- 190. Broughton, iii. 159-60; Greville Mems. i. 161.
- 191. Inspector, ii (1827), 205; S. C. Hall, Retrospect of Long Life, i. 156.
- 192. Speeches, vol. i. pp. xv-xviii, ‘Mem.’ 86, 140-1; Temperley, Foreign Policy, 154-6, 379-89, 579-85.
- 193. W.P. Byrne, Gossip of the Century, i. 59-61.
- 194. Lansdowne mss, Holland to Lansdowne, 31 Jan. 1827; Add. 40311, f. 239.
- 195. Oman, 210; Creevey Pprs. ii. 106.
- 196. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 99; Stapleton mss 4/1.
- 197. Lady Bessborough and Family Circle ed. earl of Bessborough, 287; Wellington mss WP1/883/12.
- 198. Canning’s Ministry, 2.
- 199. Unpublished Diary of Princess Lieven, 107, 116-17.
- 200. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 21; Greville Mems. i. 182-3; ii. 171-3; Aspinall, ‘Canning’s Return to Office’, 544-5.
- 201. Canning’s Ministry, 12, 21-29.
- 202. BL Loan 72/26, f. 133.
- 203. Stapleton, Pol. Life of Canning, iii. 305-6; Knighton Mems. i. 371-2.
- 204. The Times, 6 Mar. 1827; Canning’s Ministry, 30, 31.
- 205. Martin, Lyndhurst, 214-17; Greville Mems. i. 169.
- 206. Bagot, ii. 376; Canning’s Ministry, 37, 46, 49; NLS acc. 10655, Abercromby’s pol. mem. bk. 1819-46.
- 207. Stapleton mss 4/1; Canning Official Corresp. ii. 272-4.
- 208. Unpublished Diary of Princess Lieven, 120-3.
- 209. See Unrepentant Tory, 8, 11-15, 21-23; R.A. Gaunt, ‘Newcastle, Ultra-Tories and Opposition to Canning’s Administration’, History, lxxxviii (2003), 568-86.
- 210. Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1292.
- 211. Stapleton, Canning and his Times, 582-7.
- 212. Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1299.
- 213. Broughton, iii. 181.
- 214. PRO NI, Anglesey mss, Vivian to Anglesey, 13 Apr. 1827.
- 215. Wellington Despatches, iii. 628-9; Canning’s Ministry, 192, 231.
- 216. Canning’s Ministry, 98.
- 217. Ibid. 108; Wellington Despatches, iii. 611-12; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 88; Creevey Pprs. ii. 121.
- 218. Colchester Diary, iii. 501; Wellington and Friends, 153.
- 219. Agar Ellis diary, 14 Apr. 1827; Diary of James Gallatin ed. Lord Bryce, 269; Add. 38749, f. 186; Canning’s Ministry, 101, 153; Unpublished Diary of Princess Lieven, 123; M.D. George, Cat. of Pol. and Personal Satires, x. 15398.
- 220. Greville Mems. iii. 88; Croker Pprs. i. 368; Gallatin Diary, 270.
- 221. Coedymaen mss 190.
- 222. Anglesey mss, Vivian to Anglesey, 23 Mar., 12, 13 Apr. 1827.
- 223. Brighton Herald, 21 Apr. 1827.
- 224. Canning’s Ministry, 42, 227; Denison diary, 21 Apr. 1827.
- 225. Aspinall, ‘Canningite Party’, 211-12, 224-5.
- 226. Canning’s Ministry, 173, 175, 186, 214, 219, 232, 255, 304; Wellesley Pprs. ii. 153; A. Aspinall, ‘Coalition Ministries of 1827, i. Canning’s Ministry’, EHR, xlii (1927), 201-26.
- 227. E.g. The Grand Vizier Unmasked, which was answered by The Protestant Tory Refuted, and A Short View of Recent Changes, which provoked A Refutation of the Principal Arguments.
- 228. G.M. Trevelyan, Lord Grey, 375; Sir R. Wilson, Canning’s Administration: Narrative of Formation (1872), 17; Canning’s Ministry, 155.
- 229. Add. 76369, Althorp to Brougham, 18 Apr.; Fitzwilliam mss, Milton to Scarlett, 22 Apr. 1827; E.A. Wasson, ‘Coalitions of 1827 and Crisis of Whig Leadership’, HJ, xx (1977), 587-606.
- 230. For a summary of his historiographical debate with G.I.T. Machin, see R.W. Davis, ‘Wellington and "Open Question": Issue of Catholic Emancipation’, Albion, xxix (1997), and ‘A Last Blast?’, PH, xx (201), 359-62. Lee, ‘Canning and the Tories’, 220-2, concludes that Davis is right, though for the wrong reason, in interpreting the compromise as being more favourable to the Catholics than was the case under Liverpool and Wellington.
- 231. Fremantle mss 46/12/108.
- 232. Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 191; Stapleton mss 5/10.
- 233. Canning’s Ministry, 187-8, 223; Stapleton, Canning and his Times, 590-5; Parker, i. 464-8, 484-6; Hobhouse Diary, 128.
- 234. Bagot, ii. 385; Stapleton, Pol. Life of Canning, iii. 388.
- 235. Denison diary; Parker, i. 490-1; C.R. Middleton, ‘Formation of Canning’s Ministry’, Canadian Jnl. of Hist. x (1975), 31-34.
- 236. Tour by a German Prince (1832), iv. 20; Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1322.
- 237. Fremantle mss 51/5/34; Unrepentant Tory, 24; Wellington Despatches, iv. 16-26, 35-37.
- 238. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 115-16; Russell, 53-54; Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1323.
- 239. Stapleton, Pol. Life of Canning, iii. 403.
- 240. Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1328.
- 241. Add. 37297, f. 272.
- 242. Canning’s Ministry, 309, 327; Stapleton, Pol. Life of Canning, iii. 430; Bankes jnl.
- 243. Greville Mems. i. 176-7; Creevey Pprs. ii. 121.
- 244. Canning’s Ministry, 391, 394, 397; Canning Official Corresp. ii. 321.
- 245. Canning Official Corresp. ii. 325; Speeches, vi. 318, 425-7.
- 246. Add. 52447, ff. 92-93; Greville Mems. i. 179; Parker, i. 491-2.
- 247. Canning’s Ministry, 335, 340, 343, 367; Add. 51663, Bedford to Holland, 5 May .
- 248. Aberdeen Univ. Lib. Arbuthnot mss 3029/1/2/9; Huskisson Pprs. 237; Scott Letters, x. 204.
- 249. Broughton, iii. 213; Bagot, ii. 407-8; Wilson, pp. vi-vii.
- 250. Lady Holland to Son, 66; Stapleton, Pol. Life of Canning, iii. 450-1.
- 251. Croker Pprs. i. 380-1; Bagot, ii. 418; Add. 38750, ff. 9, 36; Tour by a German Prince, iv. 119; Canning’s Ministry, 372; Denison diary, 3, 9 Aug. 1827.
- 252. F.R. Gale, ‘Popular Errors regarding Canning’, N & Q, clxxiii (1937), 332.
- 253. TNA 30/29/14/4/8; Sir W. Fraser, Mems. of Earls of Haddington, i. 318; Mem. of Rev. Matthias Bruen, 306-7.
- 254. Macaulay Letters, i. 224; Shelley Diary, 162; Creevey Pprs. ii. 122.
- 255. O’Connell Corresp. iii. 1407; Cockburn, Jeffrey, ii. 224; HMC Bathurst, 641.
- 256. Temperley, Foreign Policy, 413, 446, 607; Add. 52447, f. 113; Russell Letters, i. 74-75.
- 257. Greville Mems. i. 361-2.
- 258. The Times, 17 Aug. 1827, 4 May 1832, 28 July 1834; Bagot, ii. 422; J.A. Picton, Liverpool Mun. Archives and Recs. 300-1.
- 259. PROB 11/1729/473; IR26/1120/739; The Times, 22, 24, 25 Aug. 1827.
- 260. Castle Howard mss; Add. 38751, f. 88; 38753, ff. 53, 97; Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1394, 1476; Canning’s Ministry, pp. lv-lvii.
- 261. Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1454; A. Aspinall, ‘Coalition Ministries of 1827, ii. Goderich Ministry’, EHR, xlii (1927), 557-8.
- 262. Aspinall, ‘Canningite Party’, 212-15, 219, and ‘Last of the Canningites’, 639, 668-9.
- 263. Greville Mems. i. 203-6.
- 264. Add. 38755, f. 96; 38762, f. 113;
- 265. Plumer Ward Mems. ii. 156-61.
- 266. Hall, i. 155-6.
- 267. Private Letters of Princess Lieven, 364, 366, 370, 372; Lady Palmerston Letters, 173; M.G. Brock, ‘George Canning’, Hist. Today, i (1951), 33-40.
- 268. Ward, Letters to ‘Ivy’, 325-8.
- 269. Greville Mems. i. 183-4.
- 270. Brougham, Hist. Sketches, i. 278-9, 288; Moore Jnl. ii. 462.
- 271. Gent. Mag. (1827), ii. 178.
- 272. Lane-Poole, ii. 3; Brougham, Hist. Sketches, i. 285; Hatherton diary, 6 Oct. 1838; C. Redding, 50 Years’ Recollections, i. 177-80.
- 273. Stratford de Redcliffe, 37.
- 274. Twiss, Eldon, iii. 5-9.
- 275. Three Diaries, 205.
- 276. Sir H.L. Bulwer, Hist. Characters, ii. 428.
- 277. Yonge, iii. 412.
- 278. Unpublished Diary of Princess Lieven, 129; Biog. Keepsake [c.1830], i. 17; B. Hilton, Age of Atonement, 218-23, 228-9.
- 279. Add. 51562, Brougham to Holland [8 Apr. 1829].
- 280. Gurney diary, 12 Mar. 1831; Greville Mems. i. 354-5, 357-60, 366, 371-2; ii. 99-101; Stapleton, Pol. L