STEWART, Robert, Visct. Castlereagh (1769-1822), of Mount Stewart, co. Down; North Cray Farm, nr. Bexley, Kent and 9 St. James's Square, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 18 June 1769,1 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Robert Stewart, MP [I], 1st mq. of Londonderry [I], of Mount Stewart and 1st w. Lady Sarah Frances Seymour Conway, da. of Francis, 1st mq. of Hertford. educ. R. Sch. Armagh 1777; by Rev. William Sturrock, Portaferry 1781; St. John’s, Camb. 1786; continental tour 1791-2. m. 9 June 1794, Lady Amelia Anne Hobart, da. and coh. of John Hobart†, 2nd earl of Buckinghamshire, s.p. styled Visct. Castlereagh 8 Aug. 1796-6 Apr. 1821; KG 9 June 1814; GCH 1816; suc. fa. as 2nd mq. of Londonderry [I] 6 Apr. 1821. d. 12 Aug. 1822.
MP [I] 1790-1800.
Kpr. of privy seal [I] 1797-1801; ld. of treasury [I] 1797-1804; chief sec. to ld. lt. [I] Mar.-Nov. 1798 (ad. int.), 1798-1801; PC [I] 20 Oct. 1797, [GB] 19 Dec. 1798; pres. bd. of control July 1802-Feb. 1806; sec. of state for war and colonies July 1805-Feb. 1806, Mar. 1807-Nov. 1809; sec. of state for foreign affairs Feb. 1812-d.; plenip. at Chatillon 1813, Paris 1814, 1815, Vienna 1814-15, Aix-la-Chapelle 1818.
Lt.-col. co. Londonderry militia 1793, col. 1798-d.; gov. co. Londonderry 1805, custos rot. 1821.
For the last ten years of his life Castlereagh, Pitt’s leading disciple, was the most influential politician in Britain. He was the principal architect of the European post-war settlement, which he sought to safeguard with a flexible, pragmatic foreign policy of circumspect involvement and co-operation with the leading continental powers, executed partly through the network of personal contacts which he had built up. The rise of new issues in Europe, on which British interests were at odds with those of the Holy Alliance, made this line increasingly difficult to hold. Domestically, he was the most powerful member of the cabinet, close at times to being de facto prime minister, as Lord Liverpool’s relationship with George IV deteriorated. Despite his glaring defects as an orator, he had become a combative and generally effective government leader in the Commons. Yet the Whig James Macdonald* wrote just after his tragic death:
His character will not be very easily defined in the page of history in which it must stand so conspicuously from the great events with which it has been connected. No man certainly ever traded so largely on so small a capital, but presence of mind, some sagacity, a good temper and good manners supplied the place of knowledge and eloquence.2
Over 20 years later Sir George Philips*, another political opponent, recalled that
[Sir James] Mackintosh* used to say of Castlereagh that he had all the inferior qualities of a leader in an extraordinary degree. Though his language was often ungrammatical, his metaphors and figures so strangely perplexed and confused as to set the House a laughing, yet I have heard him speak in such a powerful, impressive and eloquent style as would have done honour to any man. The more he was pressed ... the better he spoke, both in matter and manner. He was a handsome, fine looking man, good natured, high bred, and his courage was so undoubted that he could allow people to take liberties with him, or disregard them, as unworthy of his notice, which other men might have lost reputation by not resenting.3
William Wilberforce* wrote that when Castlereagh
was in his ordinary mood, he was very tiresome, so slow and heavy, his sentences only half formed, his matter so confined, like what is said of the French army in the Moscow retreat, when horse, foot and carriages of all sorts were huddled together, helter-skelter; yet, when he was thoroughly warmed and excited, he was often very fine, very statesmanlike ... and seemed to rise quite into another man.4
In a mature assessment, Lord John Russell* observed:
Castlereagh, who had been often pointed out as the successor of Pitt, wanted the large views of that great man ... [He] was an obscure orator, garnishing his speeches with confused metaphors ... He had no classical quotations, no happy illustration, no historical examples ... Yet his influence with his party was very great, and he was, till near the close of his life, a successful leader of the House of Commons. For this end he possessed ... very considerable advantages. He was, as a man of business, clear, diligent, and decided. His temper was admirable - bold and calm, good humoured and dispassionate. He was a thorough gentlemen; courteous, jealous of his own honour, but full of regard for the feelings of others. No one doubted his personal integrity, however much they might dislike his policy.5
His greatest asset and most attractive feature was his ‘cool and determined courage’, which, as Greville noted, ‘commanded universal respect and ... gave an appearance of resolution and confidence to all his actions, inspired his friends with admiration and excessive devotion to him, and caused him to be respected by his most violent opponents’.6 He had plenty of these, and indeed by the end of 1819, following Peterloo and the passage of the Six Acts, was probably without rival in popular and radical demonology. To the savage attacks of Robert Southey*, Tom Moore, Lord Byron, William Cobbett† and many others he remained, outwardly at least, coolly indifferent. As Edward Littleton* perceived, however, his ‘smooth, polished exterior’ and ‘phlegmatic manner’ concealed ‘an anxious temperament’, which eventually gave way under the pressure of an unforgiving and excessive workload in testing times.7
In mid-January 1820 Castlereagh, on his way to a shooting party in Norfolk for ‘a fortnight’s relaxation, which, after our short but active session, I in some measure require’, informed Prince Hardenberg:
As far as we can judge, our measures have operated very favourably on the internal state of the country. Radical stock is very low indeed at the present moment, and the loyal have resumed their superiority and confidence. The provisions of the laws which have been enacted will, no doubt, do a great deal to repress the mischief; but ... whatever our reformers may choose to say, the voice of Parliament is in itself still all-powerful in this country, when clearly pronounced.8
Three weeks into the new reign he told his half-brother Lord Stewart, ambassador to Austria, that in view of ‘the magic trance into which the country has been thrown by the late bills’, the government had decided on an early dissolution, so as ‘not to give our opponents time to agitate anew the public mind’.9 He was presumably oblivious to the discussions with Lord Liverpool initiated at this time by his cabinet colleague and rival George Canning*, in which it was rather idly speculated that he might be persuaded to go to the Lords in his father’s lifetime in order to enable Canning to take the Commons lead which he deemed essential if he was to remain in high office at home rather than go out to govern India.10 Yet Princess Lieven surmised that George IV’s replacement of Lord and Lady Hertford, Castlereagh’s relatives, as royal favourites by the Conynghams would reduce his previously powerful influence, and reported to Metternich that he was ‘sulking’ at the prospect.11 Be that as it may, it was Castlereagh, who, having initially started to clear his desk at the foreign office in the expectation of the ministry’s dismissal, took the leading role in persuading the king not to insist on having a divorce from Queen Caroline and thereby ‘hazard the scandal of a public inquiry’.12 The Cato Street conspirators were reported to have wrangled over claiming the honour of cutting his throat. He felt that he and his colleagues had managed the whole affair ‘without a fault’ and as ‘tolerably cool troops’; and he took delight in flourishing at the dinner table, 28 Feb. 1820 (to the alarm of Princess Lieven), the two loaded pistols which he carried everywhere.13 A week later he went to Ireland for his quiet election for County Down and to visit his ailing father.14
Although he had privately welcomed the Carlsbad decrees of December 1819, by which Metternich sought to tighten his control over German liberalism, he was obliged to take another line in public, maintaining and emphasizing the cardinal tenet of British non-interference in the internal affairs of other states unless European peace or national interests were seriously threatened. He set out this position in his state paper of 5 May 1820, which deprecated the Russian plan for the mutual guarantee by the Powers of their respective governments. It was approved by his colleagues and sent to the Allies; and he instructed his brother to urge these views at the subsequent Congresses of Troppau and Laibach.15 At the start of the new Parliament, which an attack of gout forced him to miss, he confided to Metternich that ‘although we have made an immense progress against radicalism, the monster still lives, and shows himself in new shapes; but we do not despair of crushing him by time and perseverance’. He correctly anticipated a ‘troublesome’ session.16 He opposed Hamilton’s motion condemning the appointment of an additional baron of exchequer in Scotland, 15 May 1820, when he deplored ‘sweeping assertions’ that ‘the only object of ministers was the patronage of office’. The Tory backbencher Henry Bankes thought he ‘made as good a stand as the nature of the case admitted of’.17 His motion for the previous question was carried by only 12 votes, and while the division was in progress he rallied ministerialist Members in the lobby. He defended various aspects of the civil list, 17, 18 May. The following day he did not stand in the way of the second reading of the Grampound disfranchisement bill, indicating that he saw it not as a question of parliamentary reform but one of hitting on the best practical solution for a specific problem: he preferred following the precedent of sluicing the borough with freehold voters to transferring its seats to Leeds. The duke of Wellington, master-general of the ordnance, complained to Mrs. Arbuthnot, 20 May, that ministers had come ‘badly’ out of the discussion: ‘We have too many nice and curious feelings upon every subject which Lord Castlereagh has not the power of explaining to the world’.18 He had no objection to the production of the latest Scottish electoral rolls requested by Lord Archibald Hamilton, 25 May, but he refused to be seduced into a discussion of reform. He was surprised and irritated, blaming himself for laxity, when Holme Sumner’s motion for an inquiry into agricultural distress was carried against him by 150-101, 30 May; but he reasserted his authority the following day, when he ‘came down with all his forces’ to secure the passage, by 251-108, of an instruction confining the committee’s remit to an investigation of frauds in taking the corn averages.19 On 1 June he restricted the scope of the inquiry into the Welsh judicature secured by John Frederick Campbell, and got leave, by 149-63, to continue the Aliens Act for two years. He opposed Mackintosh’s proposed additional clause to the aliens bill, which would have given the right of appeal to the privy council, complaining of ‘the foul calumny which it tended to throw upon ministers’. He explained that gradual reduction of the Irish linen duties was a necessary prelude to the total repeal which ministers contemplated, 2 June, when he replied to attacks by Hume and Grey Bennet on the sinecure exchequer tellerships. He said that inquiry, sought by Parnell, into the Irish Union duties would ‘produce a great deal of commercial jealousy’ at a time of economic uncertainty, 14 June. On 16 June he endorsed the government plan to bale out the Bank of Ireland and defended the secret service grant. He paid lip service to the principle of Brougham’s bill for the education of the poor, 28 June, but urged him not to press it that session; and later that day he said that there was no need to introduce an insurrection bill for Ireland, as Foster demanded. He agreed that in future Irish masters in chancery should not be allowed to sit in the Commons, 30 June, but argued that in fairness to Henry Ellis the proposed legislation should not have a retrospective operation. He dismissed Hume’s motion concerning the private property of the late king and got rid of Hamilton’s for the continuance and revival of the Scottish judicial commission, 4 July.20 He had no quibble with Parnell’s proposal to bring in an Irish tithes bill, provided it was understood that it did not trench on the general question of commutation, 5 July. He supported the plan to repeal the ban on the import of raw Irish spirits, 6, 12, 24 July.21 On 11 July 1820 he said that it was not for Parliament to interfere in the matter of Sir Manasseh Masseh Lopes’s* gaol sentence and objected to the production of information on negotiations between France and Argentina for the establishment of a Bourbon dynasty in South America, asserting that ‘the honour of every individual power who was a party to ... [the] Holy Alliance ... was untainted’.
At the beginning of the session he had written to Metternich:
Much will depend on the course Her Majesty shall think fit to pursue. If she is wise enough to accept the pont d’or which we have tendered her, the calamities and scandal of a public investigation will be avoided. If she is mad enough or so ill-advised as to put her foot upon English ground, I shall, from that moment, regard Pandora’s box as opened.22
As it turned out, it fell to him to bear almost single handed the burden of handling the business in the Commons, as a result of which even more popular opprobrium was heaped on him. On 6 June he laid the king’s message concerning Caroline and the ‘green bag’ documents on the table, ‘prudently’, as Bankes thought, ignoring provocative remarks from Brougham. The following day, after Brougham had formally notified the House of the queen’s intention to return and fight her corner, Castlereagh moved, in what John Croker* heard was a ‘long and vague’ speech, for the appointment of a secret committee to inquire into her conduct, concluding with a hit at Brougham and her other advisers who would ‘tempt her into crooked, and thorny, and dangerous paths’. Princess Lieven perceived his ‘obvious aversion’ to the whole business, and Bankes too saw that ‘the embarrassment and reluctance which he felt were not counterfeited’. He was ‘obliged to consent’ when opinion in the House, prompted by Wilberforce, showed itself to be strongly in favour of adjournment.23 He and Wellington represented the king in the subsequent abortive negotiations with Caroline’s lawyers, on which he reported to the House, 19 June. Privately, he reflected that
upon the whole, I do not think matters, up to the present point, could have worked more favourably ... His Majesty has had all the forbearance without conceding anything; and the mind of Parliament has been gradually brought to settle to the calamity of a public trial of the queen as an inevitable evil, from which no prudential effort could relieve them’.24
On Wilberforce’s compromise resolution, 22 June, when his admirer Mrs. Arbuthnot thought he ‘spoke remarkably well’, but Littleton felt that he ‘talked in his usual vague manner’, he ‘stoutly upheld the king’s right to regulate the liturgy’ and angrily accused opposition of trying to ‘prevent all accommodation’. Like Liverpool and lord chancellor Eldon, he did not wish the bill of pains and penalties, by which ministers decided to proceed in the Lords, to go as far as divorce.25 On 3 July he moved seven grants for members of the royal family, excluding the queen, and, when Hamilton complained on that score, said that it would be ‘time enough’ for him to do so ‘when he found ministers disbursing the public money without any legal authority’. He insisted that the coronation would cost far less than Creevey anticipated. He saw off a motion for inquiry into the Milan commission, 6 July, when, securing yet another postponement of Commons proceedings on the queen, he claimed that George IV ‘had never betrayed the slightest symptom of a vindictive spirit’. In a lighter moment, 16 July, he showed Princess Lieven ‘the changes he has made in his country house’ at North Cray Farm. She told her lover Metternich:
It has been much enlarged; but what taste in furnishing! The story of Don Quixote carpets his study, and Sancho is being tossed in a blanket just in front of his desk. He says that gives him a pleasant sensation, and he thinks its position is excellent. Join me in laughing!26
He was reckoned to have given Dr. Lushington ‘a most handsome and proper dressing’ when quashing his motion for papers concerning the queen’s plate, 17 July.27 He said that if Wetherell persisted in his call for action to be taken against the Western Luminary for a libel on the queen, 25 July, he would press for a like response to attacks on the king. A week later Princess Lieven had the uncomfortable experience of waltzing with him at a fete at North Cray: ‘heavens, what hard work to keep the minister in revolution’. When Caroline provocatively took a house next to his in St. James’s Square, he initially reacted with his usual ‘intrepid coolness’, deciding to stay put; but in the end wiser councils prevailed, and he ‘had his bed installed in the foreign office, in the room where he gives audience to ambassadors’.28 He moved the adjournment of the Commons for four weeks, 21 Aug. 1820, when he observed that Osborne’s motion for an address to the king for a prorogation was designed to ‘keep the country in constant fever and agitation, open to every daring spirit, fit for the purposes of every base conspirator and political adventurer’.
Castlereagh, whom Creevey encountered at the Lords trial of the queen in mid-August ‘smiling as usual, though I think awkwardly’, was additionally exercised by continental developments, particularly the military rising in Portugal and the Austrian moves to crush the liberal regime in Naples. Others were concerned at the prospect of his having to fight the queen’s battle in the Commons, if the bill of pains and penalties reached there, virtually unaided; and Wellington asked Mrs. Arbuthnot to consider what would happen ‘if he should be taken ill’.29 He had no difficulty in securing further adjournments of the House, pending the outcome of proceedings in the Lords, 18 Sept., 17 Oct., when he put Hume in his place over his ‘romance’ concerning an alleged ministerial conspiracy in the Franklin case.30 He displayed his customary sang-froid when Mrs. Arbuthnot tackled him on the reports of the king’s ‘dissatisfaction’ with and ‘abuse’ of his ministers:
He lamented very much the king’s indiscretion in talking of those who he still retained as his ministers in so indecorous a manner, and said that such conduct and feelings entirely destroyed any pleasure there might be in serving him. He did not, however, seem to believe that the king had any fixed plan for getting rid of us, but only thought he was uneasy about the progress of the bill and vented his ill humour in abuse of his ministers.
When he attributed much of this spleen to the intrigues of the king’s mistress Lady Conyngham, ‘who was indignant because the ministers’ wives had not invited her to their houses’, Mrs. Arbuthnot told him that his own wife was the ‘chief offender’; but he sprang fiercely to her defence.31 At the end of October he told his brother that as ‘the fate of the bill still hangs in suspense, and ... fresh food for inquiries seem to present future resources for opposition’, ‘our danger is diminished, but not our difficulties’. He doubted whether the bill could be carried, but was hopeful of establishing the queen’s guilt beyond doubt. Although he was ‘roughly handled’ by her supporters at the theatre, 8 Nov., and continued to be on the sharp end of the king’s tongue, he was pleased with the eventual outcome of the affair, being mightily relieved at the abandonment of the bill, which he had dreaded having to handle in the Commons, and was reported in late November to have ‘declared that nothing shall remove him but an earthquake’.32 He began recruiting for an attendance for the next session in early December 1820.33 The failure of the attempt to bring in Robert Peel* after Canning’s resignation was partly attributable to Castlereagh’s unwillingness to ‘give him the leadership of the House of Commons’; and Wellington continued to fret that ‘if ... [he] should have the gout we shall be undone’. The poor health of Lord Londonderry was another source of worry. Apart from the fact that Castlereagh was, according to Princess Lieven, ‘very wretched at not being allowed to see him’, his father’s death would necessitate his vacation of his Irish seat and his being returned elsewhere, which, it was feared, would create delay and uncertainty. However, the princess understood that the disruption would be minimal, for contingency plans had been laid; and in the event Londonderry temporarily rallied.34
Meanwhile, Castlereagh had been grappling with problems of foreign affairs, notably the developments in Portugal and Naples. He pressed the Portuguese king to return to settle with the liberals, and eventually succeeded. Regarding Naples, he considered Austria entitled to intervene against the new regime, the tenor of which alarmed him; but he was keen to prevent a joint operation by the Allies, and particularly anxious to keep Russia out of it. He sent Stewart to the October conference at Troppau as an observer, while letting it be known through his usual channels that he would only remain there if the tsar stopped making declarations which were repugnant to British public opinion. He deplored the Allied protocol affirming their determination to intervene against unacceptable governments. Although it was abandoned, it was replaced with an almost equally objectionable paper which tried to involve Britain and France in the collective decisions of Troppau. In January 1821 Castlereagh issued a riposte, endorsed by his colleagues, which nettled Metternich and earned its author much credit, but did not prevent the decisive Austrian invasion of Naples.35
Castlereagh and Liverpool found the king amenable enough on an eve of session visit to Brighton to discuss the speech from the throne.36 On 23 Jan. 1821 Castlereagh, in what the ‘Mountaineer’ Grey Bennet dismissed as ‘a bad, spluttering, halting, wretched speech’, protested against Wetherell’s motion for papers on the liturgy question and secured its defeat, before, on the address, reviewing government policy.37 The following day he kept ‘very cool’ in refusing to be drawn into discussion of the issues raised by the hundreds of petitions being presented in support of the queen; but Edward Bootle Wilbraham* remained afraid that he would ‘not be equal to the fatigue of the campaign, which he has to manage singly’.38 His fighting speech against Hamilton’s motion deploring the omission of the queen’s name from the liturgy, 26 Jan., delivered at four in the morning, was considered ‘able and manly’ by his friend Sir Henry Hardinge, who reported that it was received ‘with loud and continued cheers on our side, and silent, deep attention on the other’. The young Whig George Howard*, watching from the gallery, thought it ‘bad in everything that constitutes an orator, but very dextrous for his purpose’. According to Grey Bennet, he ‘came to the bar and with great agitation of manner kept watching those who had gone forth’ into the opposition lobby, but government had a majority of 101.39 He was, as Creevey noted, thrown into a ‘rage’ by Brougham’s communication of the queen’s defiant message, 31 Jan.; but, as ever, anger made him more effective. He said that Caroline, badly advised, was ‘erecting herself into a great power in the state’ and accused opposition of seeking nothing more than office for themselves.40 The following day he urged caution in asserting the privilege of Parliament against the press and deplored the unconstitutional language put into the queen’s mouth in her answers to addresses. He had a personal triumph on 6 Feb., when, speaking against the opposition censure motion, he defended the conduct of ministers, lashed opposition for trying to ‘get themselves into power at any desperate hazard to the crown and state’, and exposed Brougham’s ‘trickery’. Yet Von Neumann later recited
a couple of phrases which created much laughter. Wishing to justify the government in having given instructions to the embassies abroad that they should arrange for the queen not to be received by foreign courts, he said that had they acted otherwise she would have returned to this country with a weapon in her hand which would have served as a pretext for being treated in the same way here. In speaking of Mr. Brougham, despatched to St. Omer to negotiate with the queen, he said that he should have kept himself open, and the queen open, to consider other propositions.
For his own part, Castlereagh considered that the crushing defeat of the motion ‘seems to leave the issue no longer doubtful, and will, I trust, in conjunction with the display of loyalty which has shown itself both in addresses and upon His Majesty’s late visit to the theatre, restore confidence and abate the popular fermentation’. However, it was thought that his public remonstrance with Lady Conyngham’s son Lord Mount Charles* for threatening to vote to reduce the queen’s allowance would only continue his and his wife’s ‘open war’ with the royal favourites.41 He had an angry exchange with Denman on the liturgy question, 8 Feb.42 Replying to Hobhouse’s jibe, 13 Feb., that in 1790 he had advocated reform of the Irish House of Commons, he admitted the fact, but said that he had ceased to do so from 1793; and he professed supreme indifference to Newport’s attack on him for his part in effecting the Union. He dealt easily enough with the last flings of opposition on the queen’s case in the following few days, although Grey Bennet condemned his speech of 15 Feb. 1821 as ‘one of his vapouring displays, very insolent and presumptuous, assuming everything and proving and reasoning nothing’.43
Questioned by Gooch, 5 Feb. 1821, as to what ministers intended to do about agricultural distress, Castlereagh said that nothing ‘specific’ was in contemplation, as distress was created by ‘causes beyond the control of the legislature’; but he expressed willingness to sanction another inquiry if required. (It was appointed on 7 Mar.) On 12 Mar. he opposed Hume’s motion for a return to the 1792 military establishment and defended the army estimates:
He would not be understood as opposing retrenchment ... but he did protest against the language of exaggeration and inflammation. He did not see that the distress of the country could be removed or alleviated by painting that distress in glaring and unwarrantable colours; and, that any such reduction could be effected in the military expenditure as would sensibly lighten the burdens of the people, was an assertion which no honest man who saw his way to the end of the proposition could be justified in making.
As proceedings dragged on until four in the morning, with the House in a ‘disorderly’ state, he ‘kept his temper all the time, spoke not, and seemed to sleep with the greatest complacency’.44 At the end of the debate on repeal of the additional malt duty, which was carried against ministers, 21 Mar., he warned that it would destroy public credit; and he spoke in the same sense when the government forced a reversal of the vote, 3 Apr. He opposed reduction of the revenue collecting service, 22 Mar., when he made fun of Mackintosh, and repeal of the tax on agricultural horses, 5 Apr. The following day, insisting that ministers had been justified in taking a stand on the malt duty, he described Creevey as the ‘protester-general against the measures of government, and libeller-general of Parliament’. (Lady Holland told her son that ‘the wags say Lord Castlereagh likes all taxes, but syntax.)45 On 21 Feb., replying at length and with ‘force’ to the opposition attack on British policy towards Naples, he defended the Austrian intervention and reiterated the sacred principle of British non-interference: ‘it was now strange to him to find ... ministers censured for not having committed this government to a war with the greatest military powers in Europe’.46 He had more to say on the subject, again justifying the Austrian action, 20 Mar. He conceded, as arranged, Hume’s request for information on the government of the Ionian Islands under Sir Thomas Maitland†, 23 Feb., but deprecated his premature criticisms. He assured the House that no British agent had been involved in the execution of Murat or the Naples affair, 23 Feb. He sought to correct some misapprehensions regarding the unpaid Austrian loan, 14 Mar. He spoke and voted in favour of Catholic relief, 28 Feb., and on the relief bill, 23 Mar., urged ‘the adoption of that wiser as well as more liberal plan, which, instead of separating a large class of the community from the rest of their fellow-subjects in political sentiment and situation, would give the Catholics an interest in the state, and the state a confidence in the Catholics’. Charles Williams Wynn, who was pleased to see that Castlereagh ‘now seems quite in earnest’ for relief, thought he ‘spoke better than I ever heard him’; and Grey Bennet privately acknowledged that his ‘conduct has been excellent during the whole of this question’.47 He discountenanced Davison’s complaints against William Best† the judge, 23 Feb. and 7 Mar. He would have preferred giving Grampound’s seats to the East Riding of Yorkshire rather than to Leeds, and was not prepared to accept a scot and lot franchise there, 2 Mar. He was initially averse to referring the Carlisle petition complaining of the interference of the military in an election to the committee of privileges, 15 Mar. 1821, but changed his mind as the debate revealed uncertainties in the case.
While he could be pleased with his performance and the strength of the ministry in the first two months of the session, he still conspicuously lacked able support on the front bench, and told his brother, 21 Mar., that his parliamentary labours were ‘difficult to endure’. Yet when he was offered assistance he rejected it, putting up unexpected opposition to the proposal to replace Nicholas Vansittart as chancellor of the exchequer with Peel. As he explained to Charles Arbuthnot*, who passed it on to his wife, he
objected to this, stating that in his position as leader of the House of Commons it was certainly not desirable that there should be a chancellor of the exchequer who, from the nature of his office, ought in time of peace to be the most powerful member of the government and who, if he were ambitious, might make a party against him in the House of Commons; that it would be very unfair upon Mr. Vansittart, and that Mr. Peel had never done anything to entitle him to so high a place.
None of this was very convincing, or fair to Peel: it is not clear whether Castlereagh genuinely feared an enhancement of the anti-Catholic party, lacked confidence in his own ability to keep Peel in his place, or was betraying early symptoms of the paranoia which eventually destroyed his reason. At this time he frankly asked Liverpool whether he intended to retire, and the premier told him that although he was anxious to do so on personal grounds, he would remain while he had the support of his colleagues and their party, but that in the event of his going, he looked to Castlereagh as his successor, perhaps with Canning at the foreign office. (The previous month Wellington had posited such an arrangement to Mrs. Arbuthnot, with the additional proviso that Liverpool should become president of the council to lead the Lords, which would help to neutralize the drawbacks of Castlereagh’s unpopularity and support for Catholic relief.)48 The death of his father in early April 1821, which ‘greatly afflicted’ him, obliged him to vacate Down and come in for his uncle Lord Hertford’s borough of Orford, where he had briefly sat 25 years earlier. Londonderry, as he now was, rallied behind Liverpool in his successful resistance to George IV’s preposterous attempt to install a creature of the Conynghams as a canon of Windsor. In early May 1821, in conversations with the premier and Wellington, he stood by his objections to Peel’s appointment to the exchequer and thereby put an end to the project.49
In the House, he opposed efforts to reduce the army estimates, 30 Apr., 2 May, and on the ordnance estimates, 18, 21 May, objected to Members making ‘bold and exaggerated assertions’ which bore no relationship to the facts and accused opposition of trying to fan ‘the dead embers’ of the Queen Caroline affair by carping about the approaching coronation. He upheld the principle of British non-interference in the internal affairs of European states, 4 May; said that the Russian army currently marching south would not pass beyond her boundaries and defended Russia and Austria against charges of tyranny, 7 May; declined to prejudice on-going negotiations over the Austrian loan, 31 May and 22 June;50 opposed inquiry into Maitland’s regime in the Ionian Islands, 7 June; saw off Hely Hutchinson’s motion condemning Allied suppression of European liberalism, 20 June, when he claimed to be ‘as sincere a friend to rational liberty as ... any other man’, and the next day, with ‘a daring speech in his confident tone’ (Grey Bennet) defeated a motion criticizing British acquiescence in the crushing of liberalism in Sicily and insisted that British policy was founded ‘as a rock’ on the principles set out in the declaration of January.51 In the agricultural distress committee, Londonderry, to the disquiet of its protectionist members, suggested the adoption of a report recommending no alteration of the corn laws and the rescinding of the 1820 committee’s proposal to include Irish corn in the returns. He had clearly lost faith, as had other leading ministers, in the ability of a highly protected domestic agriculture to supply the country’s needs; but he saddled Huskisson, a non-cabinet minister, with the opprobrious task of defending the policy of inactivity.52 However, he conceded repeal of the husbandry horses tax in deference to ‘the extreme depreciation of the agricultural interest’, 18 June, though he warned that it might have to be replaced with another.53 He failed to prevent those responsible for libelling Bennet in John Bull being committed to Newgate for breach of privilege, 11 May. Opposing inquiry into Peterloo in ‘an animated and forcible speech’ (Bankes), 16 May, he declared that ‘the danger of treason had disappeared before the thunder of Parliament’. Grey Bennet thought it was ‘one of his most audacious and insolent speeches’, which went largely unanswered.54 He was against abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 23 May, and successfully divided the House against the measure, in what Grey Bennet considered a low ‘trick’, 4 June.55 He encouraged Scarlett to persevere with his poor bill, 24 May. He recommended acquiescence in the Lords’ amendments to the Grampound disfranchisement bill and approved the activities of the Constitutional Association against ‘disloyalty and sedition’, 30 May. He saw nothing to be gained from Grant’s slaves removal bill, 1 June, but accepted as ‘a moral appeal’ Wilberforce’s address calling for action against the foreign slave trade, even though he found much of it offensive as ‘a diplomatic instrument’. Opposing a commission of inquiry into the Owenite settlement at New Lanark, 26 June, he objected to ‘Parliament being made the tribunal for investigating every abstruse principle and every scheme for remodelling the existing order of society’; Grey Bennet deemed this a ‘rational’ line.56 That month he carried, in the face of persistent opposition, the duke of Clarence’s annuity, and dealt with attacks on the decision to exclude Caroline from the coronation.57 Replying for government to Hume’s motion for economy and retrenchment, in what Grey Bennet deplored as ‘one of his most insulting and triumphing speeches’, 27 June, he claimed that much had been achieved since the war and, while refusing to ‘satisfy any excited feelings of the country, by deluding the people with a show of impractical retrenchment’, he promised that during the recess ministers would produce a ‘safe’ and ‘practical’ scheme.58 He defeated Wilson’s attack on the grant for the aliens office, 29 June. Winding up the session, 3 July, he facetiously
rejoiced to observe the good humour which now prevailed on the other side of the House, but to which the gentlemen opposite appeared, at times, to be entirely strangers ... They appeared to have receded in a considerable degree from that political and constitutional Utopia which they had originally set up.
He reported that since January, the Commons had sat for an average of over eight and a half hours on each working day.59 On the last, 10 July 1821, he refused to answer Lord Tavistock’s question as to whether the army of occupation in France was to be reduced following Buonaparte’s death. Arbuthnot, reviewing a ‘stormy’ and ‘laborious’ session, told his son that Londonderry ‘has done wonders, and his reputation stands very high indeed’; and Grey Bennet wrote that he had been the only ‘defender’ of the beleaguered ministry ‘whom the House would listen to’, though he thought that the opposition front bench had failed to test his ‘problematical character’.60
At the end of May 1821 Londonderry, ‘suspicious’ of Liverpool’s motives in inviting Peel to join the ministry without specifying an office, had been ‘excessively discontented’ on learning of the business, but, according to Arbuthnot, was ‘pacified’ by assurances that ‘nothing would induce Lord Liverpool to admit Mr. Peel into the treasury, and that he would consult Lord Castlereagh’s wishes and feelings in preference to any one else’.61 In the subsequent discussions about bringing Canning into the cabinet, he, with Wellington, Lord Bathurst and Lord Sidmouth, succeeded in curbing what they saw as the premier’s overeagerness, and putting the affair on hold until Liverpool had got over his wife’s recent death. In mid-June Londonderry, who had no firm objection to Canning’s admission, provided he was not forced on the king, told Mrs. Arbuthnot that ‘he wished he could slip his neck out of the collar and have done with the whole thing’. In July the Grenvillite leader Lord Buckingham, whose group was also in the running for office, reported that he had found Londonderry
very boutonne, very low and very cold. He referred everything to the [king’s] return from Ireland, and told me that until that took place the government was paralysed in all its parts, and nothing of any sort could be done till then. He said he did not apprehend any fatal result, as the king did not seem at all inclined to change his system as to foreign powers or domestic economy.62
At the coronation he was, in the words of Lady Lyttelton, ‘stately and conscious of it’ in his garter regalia.63 He accompanied the king to Ireland, and it fell to him on board ship at Holyhead to give him the news of Caroline’s death, which, he told Eldon, ‘cannot be regarded in any other light than as the greatest of all possible deliverances, both to His Majesty and to the country’. To the surprise of Londonderry, who told his wife that ‘never did Providence preside over any barren transaction more auspiciously than over this visit’, and the fury of opposition, his own reception in Ireland was little short of ecstatic.64 The king returned more angry than ever with Liverpool, who, in addition to pressing for Canning’s recruitment, was resisting his attempt to appoint Lord Conyngham as lord chamberlain. Londonderry, in contrast, was reported to be ‘in the highest possible favour’; and he told Mrs. Arbuthnot that the king, who ‘says he cannot and will not go on with Lord Liverpool any longer’, had pressed him to ‘agree to be the premier’, which he had refused to do. He thought that ‘the king’s dissatisfaction [was] entirely personal to Lord Liverpool’ and that it ‘might be got over’ after his return from Hanover, where he went as minister in attendance towards the end of September 1821.65
In addition to these domestic vexations, he had on his mind the Greek revolt against Turkey and the threat of Russian intervention on behalf of the former, which would threaten European stabilty and British interests. He had already made a personal appeal to the tsar not to take unilateral action, while affirming his confidence in the value and importance of the Alliance. He was anxious to concert measure with Metternich, who shared his alarm, and arranged to meet him in Hanover for private talks. They agreed on a course of action designed to effect a diplomatic solution to the problem.66 According to Metternich, the king again proposed to Londonderry, whom he excepted from the abuse which he levelled at his ministers, that he should step into Liverpool’s shoes. Londonderry did not rule this out entirely, but insisted that Liverpool should retire voluntarily rather than be forced out. Eventually George, indicating that he was willing to compromise on the household appointment and to accept Canning provided he had no personal contact with him and that he was got rid of to India as soon as possible, charged Londonderry with the task of trying to effect a reconciliation with the premier. He returned in advance of the main party to do so, complaining to his wife that he was ‘very much out of sorts’, troubled with ‘the blue devils’ and disenchanted with ‘the sad trade’ which he plied.67 He saw Liverpool as soon as he arrived, reporting to him the king’s improved temper and disposition, and took on himself much of the credit for bringing about a restoration of something resembling harmony. He told Princess Lieven, to whom he was growing ever closer:
‘The result of my negotiation is good in fact; and it will be good as experience; for the king will learn that it is not so easy to dismiss a minister, and the prime minister will learn that it must be remembered that the king is master’. In short, he seems absolutely convinced that the government is now immovable. He gives you [Metternich] a great deal of credit for the reconciliation, because you mollified the king.68
He and Liverpool had a cordial reception from the king when they saw him at Brighton to explain their plans for the reconstruction of the ministry, which involved putting Peel in the home office, sending Lord Wellesley and Henry Goulburn* to Ireland and taking in the Grenvillites, with Canning being excluded and earmarked for India. Londonderry conducted direct negotiations with the Grenvillites: he had little time or respect for them, but thought it important to secure their adhesion in order to ‘destroy the intrigue of a third party in the House of Commons’, and sought to soften the asperities which courting them created in some quarters. He told his brother that with himself, Peel and Williams Wynn on the front bench, ‘I think we could carry on the government in the Commons with efficiency’.69 There was unrest in Ireland, but he was insistent that ministers should not panic and, by resorting to a military solution, limit their ability to deliver their promised reductions and economies. He wrote to Sidmouth, 19 Dec. 1821:
Our parliamentary campaign, perhaps our moral influence to carry the country through its difficulties, depends on having good ground to stand on in our military reductions. It can afford any temporary effort, which internal safety and tranquillity may require, if you take it on grounds of temporary policy and upon a case made out ... Were we upon the present Irish alarm ... to rescind our decision of July ... we should shake all confidence and be supposed to have been looking out for an excuse to mobilize a feeling which is already imputed to the Horse Guards, of wishing to keep up cavalry beyond the wants of the country, at least beyond its means.70
The following day Croker told a friend:
Londonderry goes on as usual, and ... like Mont Blanc continues to gather all the sunshine upon his icy head. He is better than ever; that is, colder, steadier, more pococurante, and withal more amiable and respected. It is a splendid summit of bright and polished frost which, like the travellers in Switerland, we all admire; but no one can hope, and few would wish to reach.71
Londonderry, who was pleased with Wellesley’s initial proceedings in Ireland, pressed for an attendance of Members from there for the opening of the 1822 session, when he expected opposition to ‘try our strength as early as possible upon some question which will give them the chance of shaking our landed support’.72 On the address, 5 Feb., he outlined the government’s intentions to deal with agricultural distress and to retrench, and condemned and defeated Hume’s ‘most extraordinary’ amendment ‘in a very civil speech and subdued tone’, according to Hobhouse.73 Mrs. Arbuthnot found him unruffled by the ‘unpleasant temper’ of the House and the restiveness of the Tory country gentlemen: ‘he is so calm minded that he never is alarmed by anything. He assured me, though, that nothing should induce him to remain in office if our financial system was broke in upon’.74 He introduced and defended the Irish insurrection and habeas corpus suspension bills, 7, 8 Feb. Lady Holland reported that in doing so he ‘showed a glorious jumble of ideas, or rather complete ignorance of language’, by referring to his ‘general hydrophobia for martial law’.75 On 11 Feb. he brushed aside Grey Bennet’s motion for inquiry into the disturbances at the queen’s funeral before replying to Brougham’s motion for extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, deploring the ‘cloaked and mysterious terms’ in which he had ‘hinted at the measures to which the landed interests were to look for protection’. His motion for the previous question was carried by 211-108. Goulburn told Wellesley that his speech was ‘most triumphant’, and Mrs. Arbuthnot, a spectator, thought he spoke ‘very well’; but to Creevey it was ‘an impudent, empty answer, clearly showing the monstrous embarrassments the ministers are under, as to managing their pecuniary resources and their House of Commons’.76 Hudson Gurney* thought he made a ‘bad’ defence of the dismissal of Wilson from the army, 13 Feb.77 Although Von Neumann and Mrs. Arbuthnot considered that his exposition that day of the government’s relief package, which consisted of a reduction in the malt duty and the application of surplus revenue to reduction of the national debt by converting the five per cents to four, gave general ‘satisfaction’ to the House and the Tory backbenchers; but Creevey was astounded by his ineptitude:
Such hash was never delivered by man. The folly of him - his speech as a composition in its attempt at style and ornament and figures, and in its real vulgarity, bombast and folly, was such as, coming from a man of his order, with 30 years parliamentary experience and with an audience quite at his devotion, amounted to a perfect miracle ... Brougham ... played the devil with him.
The duke of Bedford commented that Londonderry had been ‘more than usually ridiculous, but the Tory country gentlemen will nevertheless carry him through thick and thin to his journey’s end at the close of the session’. Mackintosh was told that he had ‘outdone himself in his peculiar eloquence ... when he said that the repeal of taxes would be to contradict the causes of nature’.78 He secured the appointment of a select committee on agricultural distress, 18 Feb., when he advised Hamilton to leave his proposed bill for aboltion of the inferior Scottish consistory courts to the lord advocate.79 He did not oppose Creevey’s motion for information on civil list pensions, 27 Feb., but mocked his ‘crane-necked research’ and ‘severity of manner which was at all times so alarming’. He said that reduction of the salt duties would destroy public credit by a side wind, 28 Feb., and the following day defended the ministerial relief scheme against accusations of breach of faith, but was defeated on the grant for the navy pay office. Mrs. Arbuthnot wanted him to issue an ultimatum of resignation to recalcitrant and fractious country gentlemen, but feared that he was
so good natured that I dare say he will not ... He says they only give these votes occasionally to make a figure in the columns of the opposition papers and please their constituents and they trust to our good luck that their votes will only lessen not overturn our majority.80
He quashed the rumour that government intended to reduce the army half-pay and condemned the disturbances at the queen’s funeral as an ‘atrocious’ attempt to disturb the peace and obstruct the law, 6 Mar.81 He was dismissive of agriculturists’ calls for parliamentary reform and tax reductions, 7 Mar., when his joke that Thomas Coke I’s* recent marriage ought to have put him ‘in a better temper’ was taken amiss by Macdonald, who said that Coke ‘held a place in the esteem and love of the people’ which Londonderry never would. He made detailed comments on the five per cents reduction bill, 8 and 10 Mar.,82 and endorsed the superannuation scheme outlined by Vansittart, 11 Mar. He and Liverpool had a ‘most satisfactory’ audience of the king, when they persuaded him to make a ‘voluntary’ sacrifice of ten per cent on his privy purse payments.83 Opposing abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar., he told the country gentlemen that ‘if they truckled to the spirit and the clamour which was now abroad, they would betray their own situation, and what was worse, they would betray the people themselves’. He scouted Russell’s bid to have Arbuthnot’s letter summoning Members to attend to resist opposition attacks declared a breach of privilege, 15 Mar. He opposed Creevey’s attack on the Barbados pensions fund, 25 Mar., and defended ministerial plans to increase the number of gaol deliveries, 27 Mar. 1822. The following day Princess Lieven, who believed that ‘he loves me with all his heart’, though she assured Metternich that their relationship was entirely platonic, wrote that
when he meets me he fastens on to me; we spend whole evenings sitting together and he never leaves me ... He knows very few people in society ... It is strange how timid he is in society, as if he were just beginning ... I find him thoroughly entertaining ... His phrases are always unexpected.84
Londonderry was instrumental in persuading Plunket not to bring on the general Catholic question that session,85 and spoke in that sense when approving Canning’s Catholic peers bill, 10 May 1822. He defended the secret service grant, 1 Apr., and angrily accused Grey Bennet of trying to seduce the public into a ‘most flagrant deviation from sound policy as well as common honesty’ by advocating a change in the currency system, 3 Apr., when he invoked Ricardo’s views to bolster his familiar argument that tax reductions would afford no significant relief to agriculture. He was too hoarse to speak against parliamentary reform, 25 Apr.86 Denis Le Marchant† was told by a member of the agricultural distress committee that its proceedings were ‘conducted with much warmth and bad temper’, and that it required all Londonderry’s ‘tact and decision’ to maintain order, though he was said to have taken little part in its deliberations.87 On the committee’s report, 29 Apr., he outlined the ministerial proposals to advance capital to parishes; to lend £1,000,000 for the purchase and warehousing of British corn, and the same sum to create employment in Ireland, both to be funded by the Bank via the reduced five per cents; to extend the Currency Act to 1833, protect country bankers over the issue of small notes and facilitate the formation of joint-stock banks; to lighten the dead weight of the army and navy half-pay by converting it into a long annuity, which would provide an operating surplus of £1,800,000 to be applied to as yet unspecified tax reductions, and to introduce a modified sliding scale to regulate corn imports when prices were between 70s. and 80s. Unfortunately, as even Mrs. Arbuthnot admitted, he was at his worst on this occasion, ‘so confused and involved in his language that the House did not in the least understand’ the scheme.88 He supported Vansittart in his explanation of the naval and military pensions plan, 1 May, expressing sarcastic surprise at opposition’s sudden tenderness for the sinking fund. That day he declined to say whether the government had or would formally recognize the new independent republics of South America.89 On 2 May ministers were defeated by 216-201 on the abolition of one of the postmasterships. In committee on the agricultural distress report, 6 May, Londonderry proposed the scheme for the advance of £1,000,000 for warehoused corn, but testily withdrew it when the agriculturists, whose spokesmen had recommended it against his personal wishes, ‘tamely’ allowed opposition to ridicule it. Mrs. Arbuthnot blamed the country gentlemen for the fiasco, but Buckingham thought there was ‘no excuse’ for Londonderry’s weakness and vacillation.90 In continued debates on the subject, 7, 8, 9, 13 May, he carried his corn law resolutions against a variety of alternative proposals. His explicit threat of the goverment’s resignation if they were defeated on the issue of diplomatic expenditure, 15 May, and Williams Wynn’s brother’s embassy to Switzerland the following day, into which he was apparently goaded by Peel after a row in cabinet, had the desired effect, though it infuriated opposition.91 He assured the House that every effort was being made in Ireland to raise subscriptions for the relief of distress, 17 May, and upbraided Hume for making unwarranted statements on the Irish civil list which were ‘calculated to produce false and painful impressions’, 21 May. He supported the Marriage Act amendment bill, 20 May, again endorsed the military pensions scheme, 24 May, and expressed strong reservations over certain crucial provisions of Scarlett’s poor bill, 31 May 1822.
At this time he was again infuriated by the meddlesome Lady Conyngham, who, unknown to him, sought to exclude Lady Londonderry from the dinner in honour of the prince and princess of Denmark. At the king’s instigation, Princess Lieven successfully intervened with Lady Conyngham and, as she flattered herself, ended the ‘quarrel of two years standing’. However, she was astonished by Londonderry’s reaction when she told him what had occurred, for he ‘suddenly flew into a positive rage’ and talked wildly of resigning if matters did not improve. He also said that he would wash his hands of the proposed journey to the autumn conference of the Allies in Vienna, on which the king was insisting on going himself, with his mistress in tow. His brother, whom he sent to the Princess to tell her that his mind was made up, said that he was ‘disgusted with everything’, that ‘this women’s quarrel’ was the last straw, that he was suspicious of Peel and believed that all his colleagues, including Wellington, were conspiring against him: ‘He told me that Lord Londonderry was broken-hearted, and that he had never seen a man in such a state’. Certainly he was under a terrible strain and showing symptoms of mental and physical exhaustion, for at this time he buttonholed the Whig Lord Tavistock*, with whom he had only a slight acquaintance, in Hyde Park, and
lost no time in unbosoming himself upon the state of public affairs. He described the torment of carrying on the government under the general circumstances of the country as beyond endurance, and said if he could once get out of it, no power on earth should induce him into it again.
On 10 June 1822 Princess Lieven, who wondered if his brother was feeding his paranoia about Wellington, noted that he ‘looks ghastly. He has aged five years in the last week; one can see that he is a broken man’. A week later, however, she found him ‘radiant’, having received assurances from the king concerning the visit to the Allied Congress.92
In the House, 3 June 1822, he opposed reception of the Greenhoe reform petition because it was couched in the language of ‘insult’. That day he said that the new corn bill was not intended to create a perfect law and that ‘if Parliament waits until the agriculturists were agreed upon a remedy, they might wait till doomsday, and to no purpose, for ... they did not always understand their own interests’.93 He defeated Canning’s proposed clause to permit the grinding of foreign corn, 10 June. He supported the aliens bill, 5 June, when he denied that ministers had promised a formal inquiry into the state of Ireland, for whose problems they were trying to find practical solutions.94 He backed the constables bill (7 June) and the tithes leasing bill (13 June) as examples of this policy. He opposed the resumption of cash payments, 12 June, and on the 14th clashed with Russell over his statement that ‘overwhelming necessity’ might justify reduction of the interest on the national debt. He said that in alleging that the influence of the crown was increasing, 24 June, Brougham ‘wished to sap the foundation of the character of Parliament’. He opposed inquiry into the conduct of the lord advocate towards the Scottish press, 25 June. Next day he had a ‘terrible battle’ with Creevey, Grey Bennet and Brougham over Sidmouth’s pension.95 As in the previous year, he swallowed Wilberforce’s remonstrance on the foreign slave trade, but pointed out that if France and America refused to co-operate, it was almost impossible to make much progress. He opposed repeal of the salt duties, 28 June. He held out the prospect of ‘a moderate compromise only’ on the matter of the Austrian loan, 1 July. He failed to persuade Spring Rice to defer his planned motion impugning chief baron O’Grady until the next session, 4 July. He welcomed Nolan’s poor law amendment bill because its object was to ‘bring back the system to what it was’ and told Stuart Wortley that he was optimistic of getting Portugal to rescind her additional duty on imported wool, 10 July.96 On 12 July he again spoke in favour of the Marriage Act amendment bill; according to Henry Fox*, he said that ‘the nullity feature was buried in the womb of futurity’.97 He caused a stir among those accustomed to his normally infallible memory, 5 July, by professing utter ignorance of the taking of a British merchant ship by the Spanish.98 He made his apologies, 15 July, when he also refused to commit the government to active intervention on behalf of the Greek insurgents, who he deemed to be as steeped in blood as the Turks. He called for tempers to be cooled in discussion of the Borthwick case, 17 July, preferring ‘indirect censure’ to anything of greater severity. He wished to proceed with the Canada bill despite the lateness of the session, 18 July, but was forced to bow to demands for its postponement, 23 July. Defending the Superannuation Act amendment bill against Canning’s criticisms, 26 July, he observed that in seeking to reduce public salaries as near as possible to the standard of 1792 ministers were merely carrying out the recommendations of the select committee. In his last reported speech in the House, 30 July 1822, he exonerated the government from any ‘supineness’ in protecting British shipping in the South Sea.
Londonderry and Metternich had succeeded in averting Russian intervention in support of the Greeks, and persuaded the tsar to submit the Eastern question to the Vienna conference. However, the Russian scheme for an Allied invasion of Spain to rescue King Ferdinand from the liberals posed another threat to peace, and Metternich was anxious that Londonderry, who was also exercised by the problem of the Spanish South American republics, should attend the Vienna meeting, if not that scheduled for later in Verona to discuss Italian affairs. Given all his difficulties with the king, who eventually opted to visit Scotland, and Lady Conyngham, it was not until late July 1822 that Londonderry could be sure of going to Vienna. He planned to leave England with his wife in mid-August and to arrive three weeks later for preliminary talks with Metternich.99 On 31 July, after the close of the session, Princess Lieven found him in ‘good spirits’ and ‘delighted’ at the prospect of seeing Metternich; but the following day Joseph Planta*, under-secretary at the foreign office, noted that after the most ‘wearying, troublesome and disagreeable session’ he could remember, his chief, who delegated little of his official business, was ‘more tired in mind than I have seen him’.100 At the cabinet meeting to approve his plans for the conference, 7 Aug., he was, as Wellington recalled, ‘very low, out of spirits and unwell’.101 The following day, at Cray, he told one of his staff that he was ‘quite worn out’ in the mind and dreading the conference, ‘a fresh load of responsibilty [which ] is more than I can bear’.102 He had already told Mrs. Arbuthnot that he was being blackmailed for an alleged homosexual offence; and when he took his leave of the king on 9 Aug. he was raving in the same strain, accusing himself of that and all manner of other crimes. The king urged him to seek medical advice and subsequently alerted Liverpool, who did not take him seriously. Later that day Londonderry produced a similar performance for Wellington, who was about to set out for the Netherlands. The duke told him that he was not in his right mind and advised him to see his doctor, Charles Bankhead, whom he personally alerted, along with the Arbuthnots. (There is no concrete evidence that Londonderry had committed a homosexual act, but it seems that a few years earlier he had been enticed into a brothel by a man disguised as a woman, and that he was being blackmailed on that score. The case of the bishop of Clogher, which was currently the talk of the town, probably impinged on his disturbed mind.)103 Bankhead had him cupped, sent him to Cray for the weekend and followed him there. He remained in a fretful state, ranting wildly about conspiracies and threats to his life, but no special watch was kept on him, though his pistols and razors were removed. At about 7.30 on the morning of 12 Aug. 1822 he sent for Bankhead, who found him in a dressing room seconds after he had severed his carotid artery with chilling surgical precision, using a small knife which had been overlooked. He died almost instantly, but not before he had exclaimed, ‘My dear Bankhead, let me fall upon you; it is all over’.104 The inquest held at Cray the following day decided that he had destroyed himself while in ‘a state of mental delusion’. While overwork and mental stress clearly played a part in his loss of reason, it seems likely that he was the victim of a psychotic depressive illness.105 News of his death, which was at first ascribed to natural causes, created a sensation, though Greville, on his return to London on 13 Aug., met
several people who had all assumed an air of melancholy, a visage de circumstance, which provoked me inexpressibly, because it was certain that they did not care; indeed, if they felt at all, it was probably rather satisfaction at an event happening than sorrow at the death of the person.
The king, his cabinet colleagues, especially Wellington, Mrs. Arbuthnot, Princess Lieven and others close to him were devastated; but, naturally, working politicians of all persuasions were not slow in beginning to calculate the immense consequences of his death for domestic and foreign affairs.106 His half-brother blamed his suicide on ‘that royal conduct which wounded him in the tenderest and most acute quarter’, more specifically ‘the intrigues that were carried on by the women surrounding the king’, which ‘gave additional friction to all his other torments’.107 George Agar Ellis* reflected on this ‘proof of the nothingness of human grandeurs: here is a man who has raised himself to the highest point of them, and then finds that they have not charms enough to induce him merely to live to enjoy them’. He considered it ‘a still greater proof ... of the sad effects which disappointment and chagrin may have on a mind in which religion is not uppermost, for I have no doubt that the sad and apparently irretrievable state of affairs in England was the real cause of ... [his] unfortunate state of mind’.108 At the insistence of Lady Londonderry, he was buried on 20 Aug. in Westminster Abbey, next to Pitt. While the crowds which lined the funeral route were generally respectful and decorous, there was cheering when the coffin was taken out of the hearse at the Abbey door.109 By his will, dated 14 Aug. 1818, the settled estates in County Down passed to his half-brother, who succeeded him as 3rd marquess of Londonderry. He left other Ulster property, his London house and North Cray to his wife. His personalty within the province of Canterbury was sworn under £35,000.110
any human being to discover a single feature of his character that can stand a moment’s criticism. By experience, good manners and great courage, he managed a corrupt House of Commons pretty well, with some address. This is the whole of his intellectual merit. He had a limited understanding and no knowledge, and his whole life was spent in an avowed, cold-blooded contempt of every honest public principle. A worse, or if he had had talent and ambition for it, a more dangerous public man never existed.111
Sir Robert Wilson, another political opponent, believed that there had never been ‘a greater enemy to civil liberty or a baser slave’.112 Brougham was slightly more generous, acknowledging his abiding courage, and reflecting that ‘his capacity was greatly underrated from the poverty of his discourse’ and that he was ‘far above the bulk of his colleagues in abilities’, though his natural gifts were ‘of the most commonplace’ kind.113 Mrs. Arbuthnot, who grieved long and bitterly for him (there circulated a ‘ridiculous story’ that he had ‘killed himself for love’ of her) wrote:
In discussing matters of business I used to remark that he was slow at finding words and had an involved way of explaining a subject, but it was always plain that the idea was right and clear in his mind, and nothing could exceed his strong good sense ... He had a natural slowness of constitution of which he was himself quite aware ... Nothing ... could exceed his tact and judgement in dwelling on the strong points of his own arguments or the weak ones of his antagonists; and his management was so good, and he was himself so gentlemanlike and so high minded, that he was one of the most popular leaders the government ever had.114
Croker observed that ‘absence of all vanity and perfect simplicity of mind always characterized him’.115 Many years after his death Lord Aberdeen, one of his successors as foreign secetary, told Bishop Wilberforce that Londonderry was ‘a very bold man - not very scrupulous - I do not mean a positively dishonest man in anything, but, having great purposes, would not stick at the means of carrying them out’.116 Hobhouse of the home office, who thought his loss ‘irreparable’, praised his abilities as a manager of the Commons, notwithstanding his ‘disposition to compromise’ and his deficiencies as a speaker:
Amid these defects, he rose by dint of a noble person, an heroic mind, an undaunted soul, strong power of argument, personal courage, and the manners and demeanour of a most polished gentlemen, which never deserted him in the hottest and bitterest debate. It has been often remarked that he always spoke best when most severely attacked. He has been likened to a top, which spins best when it is most whipped.117
Lord John Russell summed him up as ‘a man of business, endowed with common sense and discretion, but bound by traditional Toryism’.118 Agar Ellis, who ‘had known him for some years’, paid tribute to his ‘many redeeming virtues and good qualities’:
He was a man of a strong and cool head and a resolute judgement, considerable abilities and much application. His speaking in Parliament was for the most part confused and bad ... [but] he sometimes spoke well ... In temper he was unmatched as a leader of the ... Commons ... In private life he was most amiable ... His conversation was occasionally agreeable, rarely though - it was generally too drawling in manner, and with an air too little interested in what was going on. A steady friend, and a forgiving enemy. I doubt whether he cared much for the constitution; he had been too long in the mire of politics for that.119
Unfailing courage and, until it betrayed him at the end, a clear head raised Londonderry above many men of greater natural gifts. He was a political giant, at the centre of momentous events; and his reputation has been rescued by the perspective of posterity and by cool appraisal from the infamy visited on him by his contemporary critics.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: David R. Fisher
See the biographies by Ione Leigh (1951), C.J. Bartlett (1966) and Wendy Hinde (1981), and the survey by J.W. Derry (1976). For Castlereagh as foreign secretary and diplomat in the post-war period see Sir Charles Webster, The Foreign Policy of Castlereagh, 1815-1822 (1947).
- 1. He was baptized a Presbyterian at Strand Street, Dublin, 5 July 1769.
- 2. Lansdowne mss, Macdonald to Lansdowne, 18 Aug. .
- 3. Warws. RO, MI 247, Philips mems. i. 377.
- 4. Life of Wilberforce, v. 259.
- 5. Russell, Recollections, 26-27.
- 6. Greville Mems. i. 127.
- 7. Hatherton diary, 13 Dec. ; M.D. George, Cat. of Pol. and Personal Satires, x. 13504, 13515-20, 13531, 13534.
- 8. Castlereagh Letters, xii. 174
- 9. PRO NI, Londonderry mss D3030/Q2/2, Castlereagh to Stewart, 19 Feb. 1820.
- 10. Harewood mss HAR/GC/26, Canning to wife, 28 Jan., 20 Feb. 1820.
- 11. Lieven Letters, 7.
- 12. Castlereagh Letters, xii. 210-14; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 2-3; Hobhouse Diary, 9; Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 72; Croker Pprs. i. 161; Londonderry mss Q2/2, Castlereagh to Stewart, 19 Feb. 1820.
- 13. Lieven Letters, 16, 17; Von Neumann Diary, i. 18-19; Hatherton diary, 8 Mar. .
- 14. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 8; Geo. IV Letters, ii. 795.
- 15. Oxford DNB; Hinde, 257-8; Webster, ii. 192; Derry, 204-8.
- 16. Castlereagh Letters, xii. 258-9; Althorp Letters, 106.
- 17. Dorset RO D/BKL, Bankes jnl. 117.
- 18. Wellington mss.
- 19. Althorp Letters, 109; Lieven Letters, 37; Brougham mss, Brougham to Grey [1 June 1820]; Add. 52444, f. 122.
- 20. The Times, 5 July 1820.
- 21. Ibid. 25 July 1820.
- 22. Castlereagh Letters, xii. 259.
- 23. Croker Pprs. i. 174; Lieven Letters, 40; Greville Mems. i. 95; Bankes jnl. 118 (6, 7 June 1820).
- 24. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 23; Hobhouse Diary, 25; J.E. Cookson, Lord Liverpool’s Administration, 242.
- 25. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 24; Hatherton diary, 22 June 1820; Hobhouse Diary, 29-30.
- 26. Lieven Letters, 53.
- 27. Buckingham, i. 51-52.
- 28. Lieven Letters, 57, 59, 62; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 31-32; Hobhouse Diary, 36.
- 29. Creevey Pprs. i. 306; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 37; Colchester Diary, iii. 163.
- 30. Von Neumann Diary, i. 41.
- 31. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 42-43.
- 32. Londonderry mss Q2, Castlereagh to Stewart, 29 Oct. ; Arbuthnot Corresp. 15; Hobhouse Diary, 36-38, 44; Countess Granville Letters, i. 189; Creevey Pprs. i. 338; Buckingham, i. 78, 82; Life of Campbell, i. 389; Cookson, 263, 267.
- 33. Londonderry mss, Castlereagh’s circular note, 5 Dec. 1820; Cookson, 282; Arbuthnot Corresp. 18.
- 34. Hobhouse Diary, 46; Lieven Letters, 101, 105; Cent. Kent. Stud. Camden mss U840 C530/6; Wellington mss, Wellington to Mrs. Arbuthnot, 21 Dec. 1820; Lonsdale mss, Beckett to Lowther, 17 Jan. 1821.
- 35. Hinde, 261-4; Derry, 204-10; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 65; Castlereagh Letters, xii. 364.
- 36. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 63-64.
- 37. HLRO, Hist. Coll 379, Grey Bennet diary, 2.
- 38. Buckingham, i. 113; Colchester Diary, iii. 201.
- 39. Camden mss C530/7; Castle Howard mss, Howard to Lady Morpeth, 28 [Jan. 1821]; Grey Bennet diary, 7.
- 40. Creevey’s Life and Times, 137; Add. 43212, f. 180.
- 41. N. Gash, Secretary Peel, 287; Lieven Letters, 113-14; Von Neumann Diary, i. 50; Castlereagh Letters, xii. 364.
- 42. The Times, 9 Feb. 1821.
- 43. Grey Bennet diary, 21-22, 26.
- 44. Ibid. 35.
- 45. Lady Holland to Son, 5.
- 46. Von Neumann Diary, i. 52.
- 47. Buckingham, i. 142-3, 146; Grey Bennet diary, 46.
- 48. Hinde, 266-7; Londonderry mss Q2/2; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 76, 82-83; Cookson, 309-11; Gash, 290-1.
- 49. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 914; Hobhouse Diary, 52-53; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 89, 90, 92.
- 50. The Times, 1 June 1821.
- 51. Grey Bennet diary, 103.
- 52. B. Hilton, Corn, Cash, Commerce, 105-6, 108-10.
- 53. Grey Bennet diary, 85, 101.
- 54. Bankes jnl. 128; Grey Bennet diary, 82-83.
- 55. Grey Bennet diary, 96.
- 56. Ibid. 105.
- 57. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 933, 934, 966.
- 58. Grey Bennet diary, 106-7, 111.
- 59. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 938.
- 60. Arbuthnot Corresp. 20; Grey Bennet diary, 118, 121.
- 61. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 97.
- 62. Hobhouse Diary, 61, 62, 64, 66; Buckingham, i. 164-5, 169; Arbuthnot Corresp. 19; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 102; Croker Pprs. i. 198-9; Add. 38370, ff. 25, 57; Bucks. RO, Fremantle mss D/FR/46/11/52; 51/5/15.
- 63. Lady Lyttelton Corresp. 237.
- 64. Twiss, Eldon, ii. 432; Arbuthnot Corresp. 22; Croker Pprs. i. 201-2; Lady Londonderry, Castlereagh, 61-62; Creevey Pprs. ii. 30; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 115-16.
- 65. Buckingham, i. 195-6, 202, 209-10; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 116, 117, 121.
- 66. Hinde, 269-71; Derry, 211-15.
- 67. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 957-9; Add. 38566, f. 71; Arbuthnot Corresp. 25; Hinde, 271-2; Webster, 369.
- 68. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 966; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 124-5; Hobhouse Diary, 77; Buckingham, i. 227; Lieven Letters, 142-3.
- 69. Add. 51600, Lady Cowper to Lady Holland [28 Nov.]; Geo. IV Letters, ii. 973; Arbuthnot Corresp. 26; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 133; BL, Fortescue mss, Buckingham to Grenville, 2 Dec., Wynn to same [5 Dec.]; Londonderry mss Q2, Londonderry to Stewart [9 Dec.]; Aberdeen Univ. Lib. Arbuthnot mss, Londonderry to Wellington [9 Dec.]; Harrowby mss, Bathurst to Harrowby, 12 Dec. 1821.
- 70. Cookson, 342-3.
- 71. Croker Pprs. i. 219.
- 72. Arbuthnot Corresp. 26.
- 73. Add. 56544, f. 60.
- 74. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 140.
- 75. Lady Holland to Son, 9.
- 76. Add. 37298, f. 158; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 142; Creevey Pprs. ii. 33.
- 77. Gurney diary, 13 Feb. .
- 78. Von Neumann Diary, i. 91; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 144; Creevey Pprs. ii. 34; Russell Letters, ii. 6; Add. 52445, f. 49.
- 79. The Times, 19 Feb. 1822.
- 80. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 146-7.
- 81. The Times, 7 Mar. 1822.
- 82. Ibid. 9, 12 Mar. 1822.
- 83. Arbuthnot Corresp. 26; Wellington and Friends, 20.
- 84. Lieven Letters, 157, 166.
- 85. Buckingham, i. 307, 309-10.
- 86. Ibid. i. 318.
- 87. Le Marchant, Althorp, 203-4; Hilton, 156.
- 88. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 156, 160.
- 89. The Times, 2 May 1822.
- 90. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 161; Fremantle mss 46/12/22.
- 91. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 163; Add. 75937, Lady to Lord Spencer, 13 May 1822.
- 92. Lieven Letters, 157, 159, 167, 170, 171-5, 177-81; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 163-4; Creevey Pprs. ii. 38; Broughton, Recollections, ii. 187; Leigh, 347-53.
- 93. The Times, 4 June 1822.
- 94. Ibid. 6 June 1822.
- 95. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 171.
- 96. The Times, 11 July 1822.
- 97. Fox Jnl. 136.
- 98. The Times, 6 July 1822; H. Montgomery Hyde, The Strange Death of Lord Castlereagh, 171-2.
- 99. Hinde, 274-7; Webster, 469-82, 537-49; Leigh, 354; Buckingham, i. 355.
- 100. Lieven Letters, 187; Bagot mss (History of Parliament Aspinall transcripts), Planta to Bagot, 1 Aug. 1822.
- 101. Wellington mss WP1/720/9; Wellington Despatches, i. 255.
- 102. Sir A. Alison, Lives of Lord Castlereagh and Lord Stewart, iii. 180-1.
- 103. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 177-9; Wellington Despatches, i. 251-4, 255-8; Lieven Letters, 189-90, 194; J. Richardson, Recollections, i. 285-8; Hobhouse Diary, 92-93; Montgomery Hyde, 149-90.
- 104. Wellington Despatches, i. 255-8; Croker Pprs. i. 224-5; Glos. RO, Bledisloe mss D 421/X 17; Montgomery Hyde, 36-70.
- 105. The Times, 14, 15 Aug. 1822; Hinde, 280-1; Montgomery Hyde, 1-25.
- 106. Greville Mems. i. 126; Croker Pprs. i. 224; Life of Wilberforce, v. 134-5; Lady Palmerston Letters, 107-8; Fox Jnl. 141; Add. 36459, ff. 297, 299; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 238; Lieven Letters, 189, 192; Hobhouse Diary, 126;