CANNING, George I (1770-1827), of South Hill, nr. Bracknell, Berks. and Gloucester Lodge, Brompton, Mdx.

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



28 June 1793 - 1796
1796 - 1802
1802 - 1806
1806 - 1807
1807 - 1812
1812 - 16 Sept. 1822
10 Feb. 1823 - 1826
1826 - 10 Apr. 1827
20 Apr. - 8 Aug. 1827

Family and Education

b. 11 Apr. 1770, 1st s. of George Canning, barrister of the Middle Temple by Mary Anne, da. of Jordan Costello of Connaught. educ. Hyde Abbey sch.; Winchester 1778; Eton 1783-7; 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 Cannig 22 Jan. 1828 with rem. to her heirs male, 3s. 1da. suc. fa. 1771.

Offices Held

Under-sec. of state for Foreign affairs Jan. 1796-Mar. 1799; receiver-gen. alienation office 1797-d.; commr. Board of Control Mar. 1799-Mar. 1801; jt. paymaster-gen. May 1800-Mar. 1801; PC 28 May 1800; treasurer of navy May 1804-Jan. 1806; sec. of state for Foreign affairs Mar. 1807-Oct. 1809, Sept. 1822-7; ambassador extraordinary to Portugal Oct. 1814-June 1815; pres. Board of Control Mar. 1816-Dec. 1820; first ld. of Tresuary and chancellor of Exchequer 12 Apr.-8 Aug. 1827; bencher, L. Inn 1827.


Inauspicious beginnings did not prevent Canning, a ‘landless orphan’, from becoming the most talented member of the House of Commons of his generation; but his candid avowal of an ambition for power that matched his abilities and was not satisfied with mastery in debate proved a faux pas. It blighted his fame, delaying, though it did not ultimately prevent, the realization of his hopes and claims to statesmanship. As a political novice he resisted Whig blandishments, to become a fanatical disciple of Pitt; his political allegiance, he afterwards admitted, lay buried in the grave with Pitt: 1 he was henceforward, alone with his ambition, his own man, with power of life and death over his ‘little senate’;2 but he was the joker in the pack, in for some games and out for others. Best pleased with a House in which ‘government, opposition and I’ were the parties,3 he ultimately presided over a ministry in which he was opposed by members of the government he had served and aided by members of the opposition who had for most of his public life abused him. No politician in this period left so complete a record of his motives, dreams and fears. Such incomparable candour might seem calculated to do as much harm to his posthumous reputation as did the vituperation of his enemies in his lifetime; but considered as the calculations of a practical politician, whose ends were for the most part ready-made legacies, Canning’s unguarded revelations to posterity have not disgraced him as a political animal.

Canning’s disadvantages began on his first birthday with the death of his father, a reluctant barrister of radical views with a taste for versifying, who was disinherited in the lifetime of his parent, Stratford Canning (d.1775) of Garvagh, Londonderry. The latter provided for his grandson’s maintenance, but Canning’s beautiful and penniless mother was driven to an ill-starred stage career, which involved her in two mésalliances and other mouths to feed. To succour this hapless woman, whom he learnt to keep at a painful distance, was Canning’s earliest ambition, and the first fruits of his political career came to her in the shape of a government pension.4 He was adopted by his uncle Stratford Canning (d.1787), a London merchant banker well seen in Whig society. Finding the ambition of his widowed aunt to make a Whig politician of him irksome, he gravitated towards another aunt whose husband, the Rev. William Leigh, became his guardian.

At Eton Canning shone as one of the contributors to the Microcosm magazine and made friends for life with John (‘Easly’) Smith I*, Charles Rose Ellis*, John Hookham Frere* and Lord Morpeth*. Top of the school, he proceeded to Christ Church, Oxford, though not as a gentleman commoner, which his hankering for respectability led him to wish. He had already decided on a legal career, with Parliament to follow: the reward of professional honours and independence would be ‘power, for which no task can be too hard, no labours too trying’.5 The natural leader of a set at Christ Church, he helped promote a debating club, frowned upon by his mentor Dean Cyril Jackson. Yet the new members of his set, Robert Banks Jenkinson*, Lord Henry Spencer*, Lord Holland, Lord Granville Leveson Gower*, Lord Boringdon, Edward Wilbraham Bootle*, William Ralph Cartwright*, Charles George Beauclerk*, Lord Archibald Hamilton*, John Henry Newbolt*, William Sturges (Bourne)*, Charles Moore* were most of them lifelong associates, the nucleus of the ‘little senate’ of the future. His hold over them was not political, for he had not as yet cast aside the Whiggish sympathies of his London kinsfolk, but the spell of intellect, conversational charm, wit and precocious maturity of outlook. He captivated them by ‘quizzing’ the adult world before it swallowed them up, not by revolt and folly but by elegant ridicule and practical jokes. If to Canning the House of Commons was ‘one of the highest entertainments that can be conceived’,6 he was aware of the fact that, unlike his friend Jenkinson, he was not a predestined senator and had to employ every resource of merit and influence to arrive there and be a consummate actor to succeed.

Canning never qualified for the bar; instead he became, after Jenkinson, the first of the younger generation enlisted by Pitt to assist his government.7 His youthful partiality to Sheridan and Fox and his initial approval of the French revolution were checked by his admiration for Edmund Burke’s stand against the ‘New Whigs’; by the encouragement of the society hostess Mrs Crewe; and by the pull of his own set, most of whom were connected by family ties or hopes with Pitt’s administration. (This was the first and by no means the last time that he found that the leadership of a group might involve being led by them.) Both Jenkinson, for whom his friendship was tinged with a rivalry which he was unable to repress, and Lord Granville Leveson Gower, for whom he felt the greatest affection, were the sons of cabinet ministers: so he was inevitably drawn into government circles, making a good impression on Pitt and Dundas. By the summer of 1792 he could assure Pitt, who sent him a feeler, that he was not committed to opposition, as the premier apprehended; although there was no question of his bringing himself into Parliament or owing his seat to any private individual, he secured an interview with Pitt on 15 Aug. to renew a request by letter of 25 July that he should owe his introduction into Parliament to him. The premier accepted his scruples about one measure—the Test Act—and promised him the next vacant close borough seat ‘dogged with no expense’, requiring only ‘a general good disposition towards government’. Canning insisted on owing his seat to Pitt alone, but agreed that he should vacate it if he disagreed in politics with the patron.8

Sheridan, cheated of his élève, gave out that Canning explained to him ‘with tears in his eyes that he was apprehensive he should obtain no credit had he continued with his old connection’. Other Whigs spoke of desertion, marking him down as an opportunist, ‘a whore by anticipation’. This view was afterwards epitomized in Lady Holland’s rancorous allegation:

the reputation that Sheridan, in his over-zeal, had anticipated for him made him an object worth getting to the others. He is, in his heart, the veriest Jacobin there is, and would, if he were not in power, manifest his principles in a most dangerous, innovating opposition. He abhors titles, and the aristocracy of hereditary nobility; the lowness of his own extraction first made him envy, then wish to destroy, those whom chance has raised above him.9

This is the supposed ambivalence which also underlies Sir Walter Scott’s incredible tale that Canning was, by his own admission, offered the leadership of the English revolutionary movement by William Godwin but, in revulsion, turned to Pitt.10 By December 1792, Canning could inform his friends in self-defence that, much as he disapproved the antics of the counter-revolutionaries, he could not help it if in France democratic principles had been sullied by antecedent national degradation to the extent of alienating him from radicalism at home as well: he had grown ‘quite a good subject’, a friend to monarchical government through an aristocracy of ‘talents’, even if the King had been led to believe him a republican. To his relatives he justified alarmism both on real grounds and as ‘a very proper and prudent trick’ by ministers.11

Before Pitt found him a seat, Canning enlisted the assistance of his friend John Sneyd, February 1793, in seeking an opening at Newcastle-under-Lyme, where he might expect the sponsorship of the Leveson Gowers. Nothing came of it: somewhat to his relief, as it would have cost £2,000, ‘and at all times’. In March he declined an offer from the Duke of Portland, prompted no doubt by Mrs Crewe and made through Thomas Wallace*, to bring him in, pointing out that Portland was the head of a party which included active supporters of the Friends of the People. As a sop to Portland, Canning wrote the commendatory verses for his installation as chancellor of Oxford University. His standpoint was ‘I will go over in no man’s train. If I join Pitt, I will go by myself.’ After losing another opening in April through the adverse decision of an election committee in the House, he was returned, at Pitt’s instigation and on a qualification provided by his uncle, for Newtown. The patron Sir Richard Worsley* agreed to vacate for him in anticipation of a favour from government, ‘without one Earthing of expense’.12

In the letter journal sent in confidence to the Leighs between November 1793 and August 1795,13 Canning disclosed his political debut and his rapid progress in Pitt’s confidence, which was in some eyes prejudiced by over-familiarity with the great man. Pitt, however, encouraged the novice: ‘Pitt and I’, he wrote, ‘are upon very comfortable terms. I go to him when I like, and ask questions and get notions and take advice, and he does not seem bored.’ His friend Frere later remarked:

He had much more in common with Pitt than any one else about him, and his love for Pitt was quite filial, and Pitt’s feeling for him was more that of a father than of a mere political leader. I am sure that from the first Pitt marked Canning out as his political heir, and had in addition the warmest personal regard for him.

On taking his seat for the first time, 21 Jan. 1794, Canning could not resist sitting on the Treasury bench to see what it felt like; he was never to get enough of it. He was impatient to be launched as a debater, brushing aside the apprehension of personal hostility from the disappointed Whigs, for he preferred to be ‘abused a little ... than have nothing at all said about me’. He replied ostensibly to Grey, but in reality to Fox, in the debate on the allied subsidies, 31 Jan. Opposition could not stop him, and, he recalled: ‘During the latter part of my speech’I know no pleasure (sensual pleasure I had almost said) equal to that which I experienced’. Speaking too rapidly, too loud and with ‘too violent and theatrical action’, he knew that he had not excelled but had nevertheless succeeded: ‘By God, this will do’, remarked Dundas. He was hailed as an ‘acquisition’ by government, perhaps more in exultation at his being lost to opposition than he would have liked.14 On 7 Feb. he voted for the abolition of the slave trade, a cause he thought too obviously just to argue about over and over again. In the next few months he discovered that there were few openings in debate for novices anxious to improve their prospects by making themselves useful to government. After a smart rebuke of Philip Francis, complimented by Pitt, 10 Apr. 1794, in an otherwise over ambitious speech, he found his hopes of saying more than a few words on the émigrés embodiment bill frustrated by senior debaters; he had to rely on impromptu interventions in committee. Another difficulty arose on 12 May, when Sheridan brought in his motion for Catholic relief. Pitt advised Canning against espousing it, as it would mark a point of difference between them; Canning conceded that, though he favoured the principle, he disliked the timing of the motion and stayed away then and a fortnight later on a similar motion on behalf of dissenters. On 17 May he had got in ‘a very pretty speech’, unprepared, in defence of the habeas corpus suspension bill. He had reservations about Pitt’s ensuing coalition with the Portland Whigs, but discounted its possible damage to his own prospects of office as long as it preserved ‘the confidence of the people’.15

Canning’s potential usefulness to government was confirmed when, at short notice, he accepted Pitt’s invitation to second the address, 30 Dec. 1794, stating ‘the grounds of the continuance of the war’. For the rest of the session, though ready to ‘speechify’, he was thwarted by the veterans, except for a riposte to Sheridan on 24 Mar. 1795. He heard a rumour that he would be placed at the Admiralty Board, but disbelieved it. On 2 June he found himself unwilling to vote for the ‘whitewashing’ of the West Indian expeditionary commanders. On 16 June he nevertheless confessed to Pitt his ambition for office, ‘not having an independent fortune’. His ideal aim was the Irish secretaryship, but Pitt told him to look first to an under-secretaryship of state or the India Board. Canning pointed out the vacant under-secretaryship at the Home Office, indicating that he wished to owe it to Pitt and not to Portland, if it was offered to him; but it was not available. Pitt eventually agreed that Aust, one of the undersecretaries at the Foreign Office, should be pensioned off in his favour. With this he was satisfied and now gave up all thought of a legal career. His official apprenticeship began in January 1796, duly deprecated as a ‘job’ in the opposition press and by Fox in the House, 13 Mar. 1797. He was disappointed in his hope that it would furnish him with better opportunities in debate, but found the ‘hard ragging’ the office ‘interesting, creditable, conspicuous and profitable’.16

In 1796, in case of a demur from the patron of Newtown, Pitt secured Canning’s return for Wendover, unconditionally and ‘without a farthing’s expense’, on the interest of his friend Robert Smith*.17 In December Canning, a subscriber of £1,500 to the loyalty loan, supplied the House with information on Malmesbury’s abortive peace mission, which two of his friends accompanied as aides. Both then and on its renewal in July following, he resented the inflexibility of Lord Grenville, his chief at the Foreign Office, and privately encouraged Malmesbury to promote Pitt’s desire for a truce in defiance of Grenville’s warlike disposition. This pivotal role was undermined by the collapse of the ‘parti anglais’ in Paris, reconciling him to the renewal of war, for which he urged Pitt to make no public apology. Dissatisfied with Grenville, he was ready to consider a move to the Board of Control under the more congenial Dundas. A rumour that he was to succeed George Rose as secretary to the Treasury proved unfounded; but in September 1797 he accepted from Pitt, for his mother’s benefit, the sinecure office of clerk of alienations, worth up to £700 a year.18 His wish to be of service to government—he had by now ‘the largest party conscience’—was still frustrated in Parliament and in office, but found an outlet congenial to his satirical bent and talent for versifying in the Anti-Jacobin. This weekly, inspired by Burke’s principles and approved by Pitt, first appeared on 20 Nov. 1797 and flourished until the following July. Canning and his friends were its moving spirits and between them exploded the forensic wit of opposition. While he mocked Jacobin philanthropy at home and abroad, he commanded Wilberforce’s respect by his defence, in debate, of slave trade abolition, 15 May 1797 and 3 Apr. 1798: he carried a resolution to prevent the cultivation of new land in the West Indies by slave labour. On 14 and 22 June 1798, too, in Pitt’s observe, he helped ministers to block inquiry into the Irish rebellion.19

Canning’s ambition to become a major speaker in the House was realized in the session of 1798-9. On 11 Dec. in the first speech he published he replied forcefully to Tierney’s motion to promote a separate peace with France, invoking against it ‘the deliverance of Europe’; it was a performance which, Lord Minto thought, made him ‘a very rising as well as aspiring person in England’. On 23 Jan. and 22 Apr. 1799 he defended the Irish union as a prerequisite for meeting Catholic claims, and on 1 Mar. he was prominent in defence of Wilberforce’s motion for the abolition of the slave trade, insisting that events had shown the futility of relying on the West Indian assemblies to take the initiative. On 5 June, after canvassing the Lords, he gave up his intended motion for an address on the subject on the understanding that the matter would be dealt with next session by Pitt, as a government question: which, however, effectively shelved it.

In March 1799 a reshuffle for his benefit transferred Canning from the Foreign Office to a seat at the Board of Control, ending ‘three years of slavery’ and giving him his first opportunity to obtain office for a friend (Frere). Lady Holland, deprecating his ‘love of intrigue and management’, commented:

He has made a little detached party out of the great party, that peculiarly belong to him. Over them he exerts an almost despotic sway, not only in their votes, but their opinions and conduct in the minutest concerns, such as who they must see and live with.

The ‘select squad’ of this ‘young Cato’ had the cohesion of a pressure group, as Canning acknowledged by looking for seats in Parliament and places for them.20 He also obtained Pitt’s promise of a pension for his mother if he should predecease her, and patronage for some of her children, thereby safeguarding his material independence. Nor did his good fortune end there; in September 1799 he was offered, and declined, a special mission to Holland. It was at this time that he evaded the consequences of a dangerous liaison with the Princess of Wales, and, overcoming all prejudice against him, won the hand of Joan Scott, a wealthy kinswoman of Henry Dundas. The marriage had Pitt’s special blessing, being apparently regarded by him as ‘the one thing needed to give Canning the position necessary to lead a party’: Pitt had allegedly named him to the King as his political heir. Be that as it may, his wife became the confidante of Canning’s every political act.

Canning shone in debate in February 1800 on the rejection of French overtures, which he had strongly urged on Pitt till monarchy was restored, and on the suspension of habeas corpus; met with ‘marked kindness’ from the King and, before his marriage, obtained the additional office of joint paymaster, with a house. Dundas, induced to facilitate this arrangement, had wished him to become vice-president of the Board of Control, but Canning disliked ‘a new place, created on purpose for me’: it would cause clamour, as well as being uncongenial to him. He had realized his ambition of becoming a privy councillor at 30. No wonder Wilberforce regarded him as a favourite of Pitt’s of whom ‘a sad envy prevailed’; Lord Glenbervie called him ‘wit-proud and Pitt-proud’; and Lady Holland remarked, ‘if ever a man was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, surely it was him’.21 Yet Canning was discontented. It seems that Pitt had offered him a conspicuous and remunerative office but that, preferring responsible office to mere show, he had declined it. What irked him most was his apprehension that he was being denied official scope for his talents. In November 1799 he had felt that his uncompromising support of government in the House entitled him to it and that his youth should be no obstacle. He then dreamed of taking over from Dundas the third secretaryship of state in peacetime, with a view to reviewing and reforming government establishments and with special responsibility for Ireland. Nothing came of this project and by September 1800 he was threatening to confine himself to his official duties because his advice had not been followed: ‘I wish to be a flapper no longer’ he wrote.

The resignation of Pitt in February 1801 was a major blow to Canning. Although Pitt tried to persuade him to remain in office with other subalterns, he refused: ‘I will do what I think right, do others what they will. I will do what I think right by Pitt, even against his own professed opinion, and earnest persuasion’. He made it clear that he wished Pitt had made a stand against the King and that he had no confidence in Addington. With a reputation for ‘talking in a contemptible way of those whom he does not like’ he had always ‘quizzed’ the new premier, who in his view had taken over the helm by treachery. He soon made his hostility ‘sufficiently notorious’. Addington resented Canning’s mutiny against Pitt which, while it carried with it only Canning’s immediate friends, cast doubts on the sincerity of Pitt’s support of him. This Canning himself certainly questioned, but was so depressed by his chief’s ambivalence that he disavowed his own friends’ hostility to Addington: his sincerity in turn was doubted. The King’s illness, occurring before he had actually resigned, inspired in him hopes of Pitt’s return to office; thinking that, having agreed to waive Catholic relief, Pitt was waiting only for Addington to make the first move, he wrote to him on 8 Mar., urging him to come to terms with Addington. On 12 Mar., however, Pitt replied that his mind was made up, and Canning’s interview with Pitt on the day of the latter’s resignation, 14 Mar., led only to Pitt’s assurance that Addington’s conduct had been honourable and that as a public man he approved of his friends staying in office, though he appreciated Canning’s act of private friendship in resigning (which Canning finally did next day). Feeling sacrificed, Canning made his resignation appear ‘sentimental or peevish’, but out of deference to Pitt he wrote to Addington, 18 Mar., to assure him that he could now offer him ‘unqualified support’. Through Pitt’s mediation, Addington accepted this explanation, and Canning had the satisfaction of seeing Pitt ‘made happy’.

Canning thought even Addington’s administration preferable to opposition and took his seat with Pitt in the third row behind the Treasury bench; but the new government was wary of him. Lord Glenbervie, whom he kept waiting until June for the paymaster’s house, reported sourly on 1 Apr. 1801:

I find the town is full of abuse on Canning. His hot-bed promotions, his saucy manners, and his satirical songs and indiscreet epigrams and buffoonery have already indisposed almost all Pitt’s friends. Not only Addington but Lord Hawkesbury, and I believe Dundas, Ryder, etc. had been the frequent subjects of his ridicule, and now his hasty resignation contrary to Pitt’s express desire, while Steele, Smyth and others complied with that desire, having provoked them to an extreme degree as carrying with it an affectation of attachment beyond theirs, his subsequent struggles to retract or explain away that resignation, and that hard dying (as Lady Glenbervie calls it) which he has shown, clinging to the place and its emoluments till the great seal at last forced him to quit his last hold—all this conduct has opened many mouths of friends and foes, which had been kept sealed by the knowledge of Pitt’s favour or the dread of his own wit. He now may perhaps long repent, though he will probably never subdue the indiscretion of that prurient and boyish vanity which postpones every consideration of decorum, respect for yourself as well as others, and good nature, to the momentary fame and applause of a good thing or an attempt at one.22

Canning’s submission to Addington was short-lived: chafing under his idleness, he took no part in debate and bought a country retreat. His relations with Pitt, who welcomed the reprieve from office, were strained. A reconciliation, in which Pitt induced him to consider himself a candidate for office and Canning professed willingness to return to the pay office, though he would have preferred to be secretary at war and in the cabinet (28 Aug. 1801) was undermined by his friends’ hostility to that abortive negotiation. He decided that he could not come to terms with Addington, that his ‘road must be through character to power’. Unlike Pitt, he could not tolerate the peace preliminaries announced that autumn: his last two speeches on the war during Pitt’s ministry, 18 July, 27 Nov. 1800, had been devoted to the theme of Buonaparte’s untrustworthiness, and he saw no cause to retract this view. Turning for comfort to Lord Grenville, who also opposed the peace, but unwilling to embarrass Pitt by disagreeing with him publicly, Canning avoided the debate in November with Pitt’s consent. He would not become ‘factious’ if he could help it; but ‘a temperate and mitigated opposition’ might do good. He intended therefore to give up the seat he owed to Pitt and find another, so as to sit ‘my own man’, and hoped that Pitt might see the error of his ways. In this he was encouraged by Addington’s flirtation with the Whig opposition: he made light of his own flirtation with the Grenvilles.23

Canning’s first efforts to find another seat were unsuccessful and Pitt repeatedly disappointed his hopes of weaning him from Addington. On 26 Feb. 1802 Pitt foresaw Canning’s going into opposition, but cautioned him to be ‘liberal, not savage and personal’. He replied that Addington’s ministry was ‘a conspiracy against all the talents of all sides, and sorts’. His first bid to detach Pitt was through the ingenious device of his Trinidad motion which, in accord with the principle for which he had obtained Pitt’s pledge in 1799, was designed to prevent the employment of slave labour in freshly acquired West Indian islands by inhibiting the cultivation of crown lands for sale. It set the stage for a clash between Addington and Pitt which was averted only by Addington’s making uncalled for concessions in favour of Canning’s objectives, 27 May 1800. On 7 May he had encouraged Mildmay’s vote of thanks to Pitt in the House; on 28 May Pitt’s birthday dinner, which he prompted and for which he wrote the theme song ‘The Pilot that weathered the Storm’, provided him with a display of popular sanction for his belief that the nation wished to see Pitt at the helm again, in place of ‘this wretched, pusillanimous, toadeating, beshitten administration’. Unlike some of his friends he had refused to be drawn by Windham and the Grenvilles into open condemnation of the Treaty of Amiens against Pitt’s wishes; he now anticipated that Pitt’s aloofness would enable him to condemn the peace retrospectively.

In the election of 1802 Canning came in by purchase for an Irish borough, ‘the free[e]st seat that the market could afford’. In August he made what he took to be an indirect overture to him from Addington—though he doubted its authenticity—a pretext for consulting Pitt, whose soul he wrestled for during the next two months. He was unable to persuade Pitt that he was not pledged to Addington and his peace, even if Buonaparte might be deterred from renewing hostilities only by a stronger English government. Pitt was nevertheless willing to allow others the initiative. Canning therefore took it, assuring Pitt that Lord Grenville would rally to him. He proposed to intimidate Addington by an address for his removal at the beginning of the session, unless he agreed to remodel the government. Catholic relief would be given up to pacify the King, who would be informed of what was afoot by the Duke of York, to whom Canning sent Malmesbury, 1 Nov. 1802. Next day he drafted a circular addressed to Addington, approved by his secret committee; other sympathizers were informed of his general intention. Lord Mulgrave revealed the plot to Pitt, whom Canning rallied on 17 Nov., securing his promise not to give advice to ministers; Pitt disliked the circular and vetoed it, as promoting his return to power by cabal. Canning therefore agreed to drop it and, with it, any ‘out of doors’ plan to topple administration.24

In the session of 1802-3 Canning attempted to take advantage of Pitt’s splendid isolation at Bath and of Lord Grenville’s disposition to act with Pitt, if possible, to harry the government indoors. Thus on 23 Nov. he concurred in the address but showed ‘the cloven foot’ with ‘a variation upon some points’, stressing particularly the need for preparation for renewed hostilities. He contrived to condemn the ministry both for its disrespect for its predecessors and its flirtation with the Whig opposition. Finding Pitt unable, if not unwilling, to feed him with suggestions for an attack on government’s defence precautions, he took advantage of the debate on the army estimates, 8 Dec., to assert of Pitt that ‘he cannot withdraw himself from the following of a nation’. Pitt thought these speeches imprudent, but Canning mollified him. He was in constant dread of ‘misrepresentation’ to Pitt and anxious to avoid all appearance of collusion with the Grenvillites; yet he was in consultation with them and, sitting apart, he and they kept up a sharp fire against the government. Canning’s squad occupied ‘the old hill fort behind the Treasury bench’, while ‘Sir H. Mildmay at the head of Canning’s country gentlemen, Cartwright, Sir J. Wrottesley, Sir R. Lawley, etc. commands on the heights at the back of the Master of the Rolls’. The fact was that Canning was seeking to muster a party with independent support in opposition to Addington, of which he wished Pitt to accept the lead.25 He and Grenville cornered Pitt at Dropmore at the end of the year but failed to draw him into open opposition. Canning’s objectives of a letter from Pitt to the King, a distinct communication with Fox and an open declaration by Pitt to all his friends of his intentions went too far: when Canning sent him a letter on the subject, ‘too admonitory, and too faultfinding for even Pitt’s very good humoured mind to bear’, he was kept waiting for what proved a ‘short and unpromising’ reply in February 1803. He was mortified, as Malmesbury observed:

Canning has been forced, like a thriving plant in a well-managed hot-house; he has prospered too luxuriantly—has felt no check or frost. Too early in life, he has had many, and too easy, advantages. This, added to very acute parts, makes him impatient of control. Astonished to find obstacles and difficulties in his way; angry with those who conceive less quickly and eagerly than himself, or who will not keep pace with him in his rapid plans and views; and indulging an innate principle of vanity, he underrates others, and appears arrogant and contemptuous, although really not so ... The world, who judge him from this, judge him harshly and unfairly; his success accounts for his manners. Rapid prosperity never creates popularity, and it requires a most careful and conciliating conduct to make the two compatible.

He did not give up teasing Pitt and had at least the satisfaction of seeing him stay away from the House and eschew communication with Addington, who duly resented Canning’s interference. After lying low by agreement with the Grenvilles, he resumed debating in March, when he was ‘not disinclined’ to support Calcraft’s motion on the Prince of Wales’s debts (his sympathies lay with the Princess, alleged to be ‘in his hands’); complained of the vagueness of defence preparations; and supported the augmentation of the navy, because ‘at a moment like the present I ... cannot pause to inquire who are the ministers of the crown ... We have no leisure to choose.’26

The imminence of war and the failure of Addington’s bid to enlist Pitt under his banner in April 1803, in which Canning’s name was mentioned for office by Pitt, possibly as Irish secretary, encouraged him to rally his ginger group in a bid to engineer Pitt’s return. Their plans were concerted at a series of political dinners given by several of them in turn, Canning carefully encouraging the country gentlemen to play their part. Pitt was not present and Canning urged him in a ‘too long, yet able’ letter to give them a signal: but Pitt still took his own line. For his effective attack of 4 May on St. Vincent’s bid to reform Admiralty abuses at this juncture, Canning mustered his sympathizers: no more than 40, but they ‘made up ... for the feebleness of their numbers by the strength of their lungs. An opposition of two hundred Members never made a greater noise whether when cheering their friends or laughing at their enemies.’ He attacked Addington, 6 and 13 May, and on the eve of war warned Pitt that he did not see how hostilities could be supported under such a ministry. Neither he nor Lord Grenville, whom he sent to rally Pitt, could sway him; and worse was to follow. When Canning’s squad and the Grenvillites, after supporting the war in principle on 24 May, concurred in promoting Patten’s censure motion on the government, Pitt not only demurred, but announced that he would move the previous question. Canning, wishing him at least to stay away, attributed this to Pitt’s fear of alienating the King and was mortified. He nevertheless ‘lent’ Pitt two votes on 3 June and was careful not to speak before him, ‘that I might rather appear not to follow him on this question, than he to disavow me’. He spoke of retiring from Parliament in disgust and stayed away for over a month, but the discovery that Pitt regretted his tactics, which had after all separated him from Addington, mollified him. Even so, opposition was at a low ebb and on 25 July only Burdett joined Canning in opposing the grant to the House of Orange. Nor did Pitt give in to him. In August 1803 the ‘Near Observer’s’ pamphlet accused Canning of being ‘a stickler for the house of Grenville’ and endeavoured to make bad blood between Pitt and Grenville. He was disappointed that Pitt would not let him answer it. He was also frustrated in his bid to promote a concerted opposition of Grenvillites and Foxites with Pitt; when Pitt again rallied to government, he once more threatened retirement: but he resumed his seat in December still dreaming of ‘a triple cooperation’, despite Pitt’s ‘terrible relapse’.27

By January 1804 Canning realized that Pitt, though not friendly to government, would not join the Grenvillite-Foxite concert in opposition. Pitt’s remark to Malmesbury that his ‘eager and ardent young friends’ could not be expected to share his view of ‘treating office with so little regard’ was no doubt aimed at Canning. Yet he resolved not to risk alienating Pitt as he had done the year before and meant to take no part in debate until Pitt’s line was clear. Instead he addressed to Pitt a poem beginning ‘If Britain’s weal can win thy heart awhile’. His own response to the Grenvillite-Foxite alliance was cautious: he informed Grenville on 20 Feb. that while welcoming the prospect of replacing Addington’s by a comprehensive ministry, he could not support a government that excluded Pitt or oppose one that included him. This line, which he confirmed after consultation with Grenville and with Pitt’s niece, Lady Hester Stanhope, had Pitt’s approbation, but he noted with dismay that Pitt’s intention of challenging government on defence measures could only lead, if it succeeded, to ‘the plan of a separate and sole government’, which was ‘not the best either for his fame or his comfort’. On 27 Feb. 1804 he concurred with Pitt in opposing an adjournment on the King’s illness stressing, however, that this should not be ‘construed into the slightest or most remote shadow of confidence in the present government’. On 7 Mar. he supported Wrottesley’s critical motion on the rising in Ireland and on 9 Mar. harassed Addington over the Irish duties bill. He supported Pitt’s clauses in the volunteer bill, 10 Mar., after a cordial meeting with Fox and Grey the day before. He had the satisfaction of seeing Pitt and Fox vote together on the 12th. On 14 Mar. he voted for Creevey’s motion on the war in Ceylon and next day voted, but prudently did not speak, for Pitt’s motion on naval strength. He watched Pitt like a hawk. He opposed the Irish militia bills, 10, 13 and 16 Apr. On 23 Apr. he voted silently for Fox’s defence motion, but on 25 Apr. mauled Addington severely in a speech in defence of Pitt’s views on the army of reserve. He was therefore prominent in the debates that heralded Addington’s fall.28

Wishing for a comprehensive ministry Canning acted with his friend Leveson Gower as Pitt’s intermediary with Fox and Grenville. When the King’s veto on Fox did not prevent Pitt from forming a government (as he had warned the Whigs through Canning that it would not), it was Canning who brought Pitt the news of Fox and Grenville’s reaction. He himself was disillusioned, took no part in the scramble for office and left town, though he explained to Pitt that he had no rebellious intention. The secretaryship at war was thought to be earmarked for him, but on 13 May he accepted the treasurership of the navy. It was, he thought, a ‘shabby, narrow government’ but if he had refused office, he and Pitt would be ‘separated for ever’. He did not feel justified in pressing for cabinet office and he now disliked the notion which had once appealed to him of becoming Irish secretary, in place of Nepean. After co-operation with the Grenvillites and Foxites, he was dismayed at the ease with which Pitt had parted from them and accepted the services of men who had served Addington; he saw in it the baleful influence of Lord Camden, whose hold over Pitt he had long disliked. He had sacrificed everything to his friendship for Pitt and accepted office only to keep him happy.29

This negative attitude had unfortunate repercussions: on 18 June in the course of an indiscreet defence of Pitt’s additional force bill, Canning not only vented his spleen against Addington but hinted his particular approbation of the removal of Hawkesbury, now Home secretary, from the Foreign Office. The Addingtonian retort that Canning owed his early promotion to Hawkesbury was a myth that had long irked him. Hawkesbury’s feelings being even more ruffled, a quarrel ensued in which Pitt was an unhappy mediator. It involved a threat of resignation by Hawkesbury; a counter-offer by Canning, which was used by Pitt to pacify Hawkesbury; and a whispering campaign against Canning by Hawkesbury’s friends, the gist of it publicized by Cobbett, which in turn led to threats of the publication of manifestos. The quarrel subsided in January 1805 when Pitt got Lord Morpeth to calm Canning down, but caused much bad blood, not least between Pitt and Canning, who felt that his chief had been prepared to sacrifice him.30

Canning had in any case felt sacrificed in December 1804 when Pitt was reconciled to Addington, a move that mortified him, reducing his prospects at a time when he was being mentioned as a temporary successor to the ailing Harrowby at the Foreign Office, and had hinted his willingness to Pitt to take it, without salary, title or cabinet place. To his horror, Hawkesbury was also a candidate: had he succeeded, Canning would ‘infallibly’ have been driven out of office. Believing that he ought to be ‘very high or nothing’ in the government, he felt that he was now null, as he told Lady Hester Stanhope in a bitter letter, 1 Jan. 1805. Pitt placated him and induced him to stay in office. It was thought, even by Addington, that he might be more comfortable out of the way as Irish secretary. Addington reported that Canning had offered Pitt to undertake this in July. It was now offered to him, but on reflection he declined it, not relishing service under Lord Hardwicke or the surrender of his office to accommodate an Addingtonian.31

Eschewing Pitt’s ‘miserable colleagues’, Canning was ‘in full communication’ with him in February 1805, though not on his ‘ancient footing’ and resentful of the Addingtonian accession— for him there would be ‘no making up, no shaking of hands’. On Pitt’s behalf he replied to Windham’s motion on defence, 21 Feb., and when Melville’s irregularities were exposed, spoke violently in his defence, privately admitting it was a bad cause: he was a member of the committees of investigation of 27 May and 25 June. While he rejoiced at the rift that ensued between Pitt and the Addingtonians, he thought Pitt so weak that he might as well go out. He had no wish to enter the cabinet in consequence of such weakness; but as it was inexpedient that Pitt should quit office in disgrace over Melville, the expulsion of Sidmouth was the next best thing. In attempting to patch up his rift with Pitt, Sidmouth had mentioned Canning as being ‘at the door of the cabinet’ and hinted that he would not stomach his promotion to it; he was dismayed that Pitt did nothing to reassure him on this point.

Once the Addingtonians were expelled, Canning turned on them in debate ‘with fire and sword’. He hoped in July 1805 that Pitt would turn to Grenville and Fox for support: ‘if the King will not have Fox, the bid will fail but Pitt will be acquitted in the eyes of the public’. The bid came to nothing and on 30 Oct. he poured out his heart to Pitt: all the rancour he had harboured against Hawkesbury and Castlereagh, to whom Pitt had shown so much partiality in the bestowal of office, was exposed: he admitted that he was unwilling to serve in the same cabinet with Hawkesbury, in an inferior position. He was prepared to serve as Irish secretary if Morpeth became lord lieutenant; otherwise, he was better off in private life than in politics. Pitt assured him that he could come into the cabinet without changing his present office, assuming that he did not want the Board of Control. Canning came away with what amounted to a secret promise that he would be in the cabinet before the new session began. On 27 Nov., nagged by doubt, he begged Pitt to expedite it. Perhaps because of Canning’s objection to the expedition to Hanover rather than one to Walcheren, Pitt hesitated and his subsequent illness and death robbed Canning of his promotion and his political mentor alike.32

Canning was second to none in his concern for Pitt’s posthumous reputation. At the meeting of Pitt’s friends, 26 Jan. 1806, he proposed an application to Parliament for £100,000, half to cover Pitt’s debts and half for pensions to his family. This was thought excessive and the pensions were in any case settled out of Parliament. When Pitt’s reputation came under fire next day, Canning could not trust himself to speak, but had nothing but contempt for Rose’s ‘trumpery account of Pitt’s death’, and on 3 Feb. spoke for the payment of Pitt’s debts. While the Grenville-Fox coalition government was in embryo, he was thought a likely candidate for office because of his good standing with them in the last few years; but it was soon clear that not only Canning but all the Pittites were to be excluded. This was painful, as he had not wished to resign and they were agreed that Lord Grenville, the new premier, was Pitt’s natural successor; to make matters worse, Sidmouth was included.

Having burnt his resignation, Canning was virtually dismissed and sought an audience of the King ‘to set myself right in his Majesty’s good opinion’. When on 8 Feb. Spencer Perceval and Castlereagh called on him to concert opposition, he was averse to a pledge. He objected to Castlereagh or (especially) Hawkesbury taking the lead, though he did not mind Perceval or Charles Yorke. He equally disdained the leadership of such ‘grandees’ as Lord Camden, to whom his visitors looked as potential leader, or the Duke of Montrose, but had no objection to Lord Lowther ‘or the Duke of Beaufort or some such’, though his eventual preference went to the Duke of Portland, whose heir was after all Canning’s brother-in-law. Together with George Rose, he made it a point of honour that those Pittites who had compromised with Addington should not dictate tactics, though he hoped that in future all Pitt’s friends would act in concert. He hinted at his personal standing with Lord Grenville, but did not aspire to office, not wishing again to be ‘the child of favour’: it would be better to go into opposition, whether they achieved concert or not. This decision he announced to Rose after Pitt’s funeral on 22 Feb. On 28 Feb. Thomas Grenville described him as ‘the most vehement source of hostility’ to his brother’s government.33

On 3 Mar. 1806 Canning began a premeditated, stubborn opposition in the House, starting with a speech against Ellenborough’s seat in the cabinet. In the same month, finding the grandees inadequate, he launched a series of political dinners among his parliamentary squad, looking to Portland as their figurehead and with hints of royal approval. Fired by William Windham’s ‘unhandsome conduct in respect to Pitt’, he went on to criticize the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act at every stage. His standing as a speaker so improved that it was often Fox who took him on in debate, and by May he was reported to have fulfilled his wish of becoming ‘the decided leader of opposition’ in the House. That month he had been largely instrumental in making government give up their proposed iron tax, on which the ironmasters had lobbied him. On 17 June he was a leading opponent of the American intercourse bill. Understanding that Fox and Grenville were at loggerheads, he believed that ‘if we had a party formed to whom the King could entrust the government we might yet have them out before the end of the session’. This notion he broadcast to the Pittites on 3 June and next day an opposition dinner of ‘names that will tell’ sealed the bargain. Canning agreed that the timing of the change should be left to the King, provided it took place before a dissolution, and he encouraged an abortive bid to settle it with the King. Like Lord Lowther he made it clear to Lord Grenville that he regarded government as a Foxite one, in which Grenville’s lead had become ineffective: opposition had the advantage of being one party, and of being ‘somewhat younger than old Fox’.

This was a prelude to a bid by Grenville to effect a ‘reunion’, through their mutual friend Lord Wellesley, 30 June 1806. It came as no surprise to Canning, whom rumour had already made chancellor of the Exchequer. But Melville’s acquittal had not abated his rancour against Melville’s persecutors ‘and the slayers of Mr Pitt’: he was already involved in a ‘conspiracy’ to secure the King’s approval for a change of government and he doubted if Grenville’s terms would be adequate. After stating his personal objection to all the present ministers except Grenville himself and Earl Spencer, he insisted that he must consult his party before proceeding. After consulting Perceval, Castlereagh and Hawkesbury, his reply was that the King’s sanction should be obtained and, if it were, justice must be done to their ‘growing strength’. Any idea of individual converts to government was ruled out at a small meeting at Lowther’s on 4 July, at which Canning, who had called for such a meeting before the negotiation began, was one of those favouring a change of government rather than a coalition. Those Whigs who had hopes of him condemned him for ‘joining with the dross of his party and being reduced to impotence when he might have shown his individual strength, commanded a party and taken office’. He certainly was not playing the careerist, for he was prepared to cede the leadership of the Pittites in the House to Perceval, and was said to have no objection to Perceval’s being future prime minister if necessary, though Lord Bathurst, for one, doubted if he would stomach it.34

Late in July 1806 the bishop of Lincoln informed Grenville, through Lord Carysfort, that Canning, Castlereagh and Rose were ‘to be had’ and that Canning would not insist on cabinet office. Lord Wellesley found on investigation, 8 Aug., that Canning, like Rose, would not consider limited propositions; he had just briefed Lord Eldon as to what to tell the King on behalf of the ‘conspirators’. In August he was again approached, as an individual, by Wellesley. He decided, in consultation with Rose, that while there was no real prospect of an arrangement while Fox lived and peace negotiations were in progress, or without the King’s assent, it was time that he drew up terms to offer Grenville. He anticipated that they would be excessive, because of the five cabinet places stipulated for. He himself could have been provided for with less difficulty: Thomas Grenville suggested that Canning and Castlereagh might have the India Board (with the cabinet) or the Mint, with a promise of office to Rose, while Lord Temple suggested that Canning should be secretary at war. When on 13 Sept. the terms were refused by Grenville, Canning regretfully suggested that in future Grenville should negotiate with Portland and drew up a statement of the transaction for Lowther and his fellow-oppositionists, omitting the details. He was, however, perfectly willing to let Grenville haggle over the proposals and vet this document and remained available (too readily so, in Eldon’s view) for consultation by Grenville: the chief obstacle, in his view, since Fox’s death was Grenville’s reluctance to displace any existing minister, notably Windham, to meet Pittite pretensions. Yet Canning thought ‘every honourable means’ should still be used to promote Grenville’s restoration to the leadership of Pitt’s friends, even if vigorous opposition was the best road to it.35

The dissolution of 1806 took Canning by surprise and he met with difficulties about his Irish seat. He had been disappointed in his hopes of coming in unopposed for Ipswich or elsewhere, but managed through Rose to get a fresh lease, ‘at great cost’, of his first seat for Newtown; failing that, Lowther would have seated him. On 19 Dec. he led the opposition to the address. There was no division and he disclaimed concert with his colleagues in opposition. Horner styled it ‘an able speech certainly, but a very injudicious one. It seemed a piece of personal ostentation; and perhaps a device to fix himself in the throne of opposition.’ But as if to underline what an acquisition he would be to ministry, Canning undertook on 5 Jan. 1807 a reply to Whitbread’s criticism of the failure of peace negotiations with France. Richard Ryder commented, ‘The real truth is, in spite of the attempts he would make to conceal it, that he considers politics as a game and has no idea of any regard to principle interfering with his object of getting into power’. Canning nevertheless denied that he wished to go over to government alone and discovered that the notion of a ‘partial junction’ with government was gaining ground among the Pittites. The chief obstacle was the King’s supposed hostility to Lord Grenville.

Canning doubtless felt that his pledge of July 1806 at Lowther’s had compromised his chances of coming to terms with Grenville, and now hesitated to put ‘out of my own hands the management of anything that may be likely to come into them’. This feeling was confirmed by a fresh overture to him from Grenville, conveyed in hints through the bishop of Lincoln and by Lord Temple to Lady Hester Stanhope, to the effect that the government needed a leader in the House. Finding that these hints concerned him personally, Canning expressed to Temple on 18 Feb. 1807 his willingness to parley with Grenville, but not to propose anything. Meanwhile he was severe on government interference in the Hampshire election, 13 Feb., but anxious to avoid any espousal by his friends of the Princess of Wales’s grievances against government, which he thought would wreck negotiations both with Grenville and with the King. (His critics insinuated that any airing of the Princess’s case would damage him, owing to their past familiarity.) He was also cautious in his criticisms of the ‘new plan of finance’, 19 Feb., and welcomed the abolition of the slave trade. He was not hopeful of the King’s approbation of ‘partial junction’ and disapproved of any pledge to government, particularly as they were proposing a measure of Catholic relief. He did not think Grenville could fairly treat with him until that measure was settled, and believed Grenville’s offer might be limited to himself and one friend.

On 5 Mar. 1807 Canning had an interview with Grenville, in which Grenville proposed opening the cabinet to him and Lord Chatham, offering him the Exchequer first. He would have preferred the Admiralty or a secretaryship of state. He put in a word for other leading members of opposition; prejudices were discovered and another meeting arranged, Canning insisting that as the offer must have the effect of a party arrangement, he was entitled to consult two Pittite friends. Before they met again he decided that he would not enter the cabinet alone, and that prejudices on either side must be compromised to provide openings for more of his friends; but the news given him by Portland on the 10th that the King opposed the Catholic relief bill intervened. Canning approved the bill on principle, but not in the face of royal displeasure, and insisted that the cabinet must thrash it out with the King. When on 11 Mar. Perceval suggested to him that they join Sidmouth in opposition to the bill, Canning was willing, despite his private views, provided it led to no further co-operation with Sidmouth, who certainly objected to his coming into office. He pointed this proviso when he saw Grenville on 14 Mar. by telling him that if a new administration [i.e. under Portland] were formed, he would join it on the understanding that Sidmouth was excluded; while if Grenville remained in, he would join him, if offered better terms, but again only if Sidmouth were excluded. He advised Grenville to yield to the King over the Catholic bill. Grenville was satisfied, except on one point: Canning refused to co-operate with present ministers if they went into opposition. When Grenville resigned, Canning, who at once recommended a dissolution, was satisfied that he had done what he could to prevent the débâcle.

Canning’s next preoccupation was the exclusion of Sidmouth from the new government: in a paper he drew up to guide Portland that was the leading point, followed by the exclusion of Hawkesbury from the Foreign Office. This he intended not for himself, but for Lord Wellesley, whose acceptance he regarded as ‘of the utmost importance for the well-doing of the government and for my personal weight and consequence in the cabinet, and for future views’. While he was debating whether he ought to take the Admiralty or the War Office, he let Castlereagh know that he would concede him the lead in the House of Commons only if Castlereagh accepted the Exchequer. He had finally made up his mind to the Admiralty, since the War Office would bring him into collision with the Duke of York, when he heard of Wellesley’s refusal of the Foreign Office, into which he now stepped, 25 Mar. ‘But I had a battle to fight, and an intrigue to defeat, and to assert myself boldly—which I did—and here I am’, he wrote on arrival.36

Malmesbury, who was to be Canning’s mentor in his early days as Foreign secretary, had just written of him in his diary:

Canning possesses the peculiar talent of justifying ably and forcibly all he does, or wishes to be done, and that so rapidly and so eloquently, that it is very difficult not to be carried away by what he says. He is unquestionably very clever, very essential to government; but he is hardly yet a statesman, and his dangerous habit of quizzing (which he cannot restrain) would be most unpopular in any department which required pliancy, tact, or conciliatory behaviour. He is honourable and honest, with a dash of the Irishman, and all his plans and ideas of governing would partake of this, and might be as dangerous in practice as he makes them appear plausible by the eloquent way in which he expresses them.

He added to these prophetic words, ‘spoiled as he has been—feared and wanted as he finds himself—no place is now high enough for him’. Canning at once saw the King, and ‘I hope did away some of the ill impression which I know he had conceived against me’. He even allowed his objections to the inclusion of Sidmouth to be overruled, provided it did not take place until ‘a few months hence’ and that Melville was not overlooked.37

Canning’s justification of the dismissal of the Grenville ministry in debate, 9 Apr. 1807, closed the chapter of his flirtation with them in a public manner distasteful to his colleagues, but was a necessary defence against the charge of inconsistency: he pointed out that his views on Catholic relief, which were Pitt’s, had not changed, and insisted that the late ministry had only themselves to blame for their collapse; nor was there anything ‘secret or unfair’ in their replacement by the Portland ministry, as a dissolution might force them to realize. Seated by the Treasury for Hastings in the ensuing election, he was the most aggressive champion of the new ministry at the opening, though he was absent from their pre-sessional meeting. Perceval, writing to the King, described his speech of 30 June as ‘one of the most brilliant speeches which he or any other man ever delivered’. The Grenvillites winced at his ‘illiberality and violence’. Lord Boringdon wrote on 18 July: ‘in the Commons, it is clear consensu omnium that Canning is beyond comparison the first man on his own side the House’. He added that Canning had eclipsed Perceval, but was not impatient for the premiership and was free of former blemishes: ‘no idle lamentation, no finding fault, no despondency, no blustering: but a quiet and calm determination to see everything as it really is, and to act for the interests of the country without fear, and certainly without dishonour’. The Whigs regarded him as the real leader of the cabinet. Hints of discord between himself and Perceval over the lead, and of a government reshuffle in which Canning would take the Admiralty, after a quarrel between them over Canning’s wish to press the King without cabinet concert for Catholic relief and expedite the ‘white washing’ of Wellesley’s Indian policy, had to be discounted.38

Canning displayed ability, energy and courage at the Foreign Office. The labour involved was ‘beyond belief’ and, combined with his Commons duties, enough to exhaust any man, let alone a man of Canning’s ‘anxious nature’: but ‘his talents and judgment ... far surpassed even the expectation of his friends’. Taking office when ‘we never stood more alone’, he asserted Britain’s maritime supremacy by putting the Danish fleet out of action in anticipation of a secret clause in the Treaty of Tilsit, whereby the Danish navy would have been at French disposal. He likewise rescued the Portuguese fleet and secured the transfer of the Portuguese royal family to Brazil. To thwart Buonaparte in the East he fostered an entente with the Czar, clinging to Pitt’s idea of a subsidized allied coalition; in the West he concentrated his hopes on the liberation of Spain, as a prelude to the salvation of Europe. This was the core of his policy: to promote it he was prepared to go to great lengths to avert friction that threatened his freedom of action, notably in Anglo-American relations, and to take a hard line on delusive mediatory peace offers. From July 1807 the defence of his strategy against its critics, Howick foremost and afterwards Whitbread, was his main burden in debate. On 3 Feb. 1808 he ‘gave a decisive turn to the debate’ on Ponsonby’s censure motion on the Danish question by a three-hour speech, ‘not one minute too long’, in reply to what he called ‘an accusation of success’. On 8 Feb. he opposed, on principle, the production of a confidential dispatch he had quoted from in the previous debate, which to the annoyance of opposition and of the King he afterwards produced and carried in his own exculpation (26 Feb.): a bid to censure him for the arbitrary disclosure of official communications was effectively disposed of by reference to precedent, 4 Mar. A last venture by opposition to censure him on the Copenhagen expedition failed decisively, 21 Mar., after ‘a very witty, very eloquent and very able speech’ from him. The opposition perceived that he had nothing to fear from his colleagues, who would not part company, unless ‘in a moment of intemperance and passion’ Canning himself broke them up.39

Canning avoided overt friction with his colleagues on topics outside his department. On the subject of the abolition of offices in reversion, though disposed to defend placemen, he favoured making it an open question or a subject for compromise. On the Irish Catholic question, he avoided uncompromising avowals in debate through absence on the Maynooth grant and silence regarding Duigenan’s appointment to the Irish privy council; on 25 May 1808 he ‘conscientiously’ opposed the Catholic petition as untimely. Opposition characterized him as reducing himself to ‘a most contemptible and miserable figure’ to keep the peace with Perceval, whose principles he despised. Lord Grey forecast: ‘The only consequence of his disagreement then will be, that when he feels he has carried his grumbling a little too far, he will submit, and occasionally when they want his assistance they will coax him by doing some job for him’.

Canning was in any case preoccupied with the prospects for a Peninsular campaign, which he vindicated, 15 July 1808, on a congenial motion of Sheridan’s. The convention of Cintra dashed his hopes and, to make matters worse, a cabinet meeting in his absence acquiesced in it. He protested his dissent to his colleagues and to the King. To Perceval he complained that it destroyed the faith of the allies in British protection by abandoning Portugal: government must censure their military commanders, ‘or the public will judge us’. He rebuked Castlereagh for endorsing the convention and rejected his justification. ‘This,’ reported Malmesbury, ‘was the beginning of all the subsequent disputes between him and his colleagues, and led to the more serious one between him and Lord Castlereagh.’ There had already been reports of Canning complaining that he was ‘a cypher’ and of his quitting the Foreign Office for the Admiralty. The ‘flippancy and impertinence’ of his treatment of the convention of Cintra in debate renewed speculation about the reorganization of the government. Thomas Grenville, whose family had become as hostile to him as the Foxites since his ‘upstart’ veto on Henry Williams Wynn’s* going to Spain, believed that Canning had ‘mortally offended’ his colleagues, especially Perceval, but doubted whether they were ‘stout enough to turn him out’ or whether Canning would resign his office ‘as long as he can keep it’. He was right: Canning decided to bid for a more effective Peninsular policy. Having, it was thought, prevented the Duke of York from being sent out as commander, and failed to secure Lord Moira’s nomination, he was content to let his colleagues make what justification they could of past failure and, still reproachful, regarded the acquittal of the commanders at Cintra as closing the chapter, 21 Feb. 1809. He therefore defended the conduct of Sir John Moore when the retreat to Corunna was censured, 24 Feb., despite his private disappointment at Moore’s conduct and at the poor figure cut by his friend Frere, whom he was obliged to give up as a diplomat in Spain. He was also prepared to be lenient to the Duke of York in the cause célèbre against him and advocated moderation, particularly in his concluding speech of 15 Mar., in a way that Perceval thought ‘impressive and useful in a very high degree’.40 He nevertheless thought it should never have been made a ministerial question.

The critical events at Cintra and Corunna convinced Canning that, unless he secured unified control over the Peninsular campaign, further setbacks would follow. Accordingly on 24 Mar. 1809 he informed Portland that unless the government was strengthened, he wished to resign. This letter sparked off a trail of dynamite. Portland soon discovered that Canning, who had named no names, would be satisfied with the King’s suggestion of the removal of Castlereagh from the War Office to some other cabinet post, with a view to substituting Lord Wellesley. Portland tried to avert the issue by resignation but failed, and (as he later put it) lest ‘ruin to the country and to Europe’, not to speak of the collapse of the government, should follow Canning’s resignation, he enlisted Lord Bathurst’s help to placate him. Canning had no sympathy for the charges of corruption made by the Whig reformers against Castlereagh in April but believed they heralded Castlereagh’s resignation (positing his own if Castlereagh stayed put after a narrow acquittal). He came ostensibly, if lukewarmly, to his colleague’s defence in debate, only to see him well supported in the divisions. Portland had let Lord Camden, Castlereagh’s next of kin in the cabinet, into the secret, and when Canning threatened resignation on 5 May, Portland further implicated the King and Lord Eldon. On 25 May, no solution appearing, Canning again threatened and contrived to see the King on 31 May to carry out his threat. The King refused and came up with a scheme for Canning to relieve Castlereagh of the War Office, while the latter annexed the colonies to the Board of Control, then vacant. To this Canning deferred. He was further placated by the introduction of Lord Granville Leveson Gower into the cabinet. The King also authorized Camden’s breaking the news to Castlereagh. Ignorant of his plight, the latter secured cabinet approval for his project for a Scheldt expedition on 21 June. Canning, who now disliked this project, could scarcely believe that Castlereagh was still in the dark, and protested at the conspiracy of silence. Aware of the injustice of displacing Castlereagh with the preparation of the expedition on his hands, he again tried to resign, 27 June; but Portland assumed responsibility for the ‘concealment’, assuring Canning that Camden would inform Castlereagh as soon as the expedition sailed. Canning duly saw the expedition off with Castlereagh, only to learn that Camden could not see his way to break the news to Castlereagh, though he offered his own place for a rearrangement. At the end of the session Perceval, let into the secret, disliked it; unlike Lord Liverpool, who was more sympathetic to Canning and offered his place to facilitate a reshuffle. Portland decided to offer Castlereagh the presidency of the Council, Camden’s office, with a peerage, replacing him, as Canning wished, by Lord Wellesley, whom Canning was sending to Spain ad interim with a private assurance of recall to the War Office. Perceval wished Castlereagh to be consulted at once. The King overruled this, but Canning disliked the alternative notion of Liverpool’s sacrificing his office. He felt obliged on 18 July to remind Portland that he had never wished for this prolonged secrecy, for which he foresaw that he would be blamed. Finding Camden increasingly reluctant, Portland was about to tell Castlereagh himself when an epileptic fit prevented him and raised the larger issue of the succession to the Treasury.

Perceval saw the possibility of avoiding Castlereagh’s disgrace by a general reshuffle and on 28 Aug. sounded out a reluctant Canning. Canning made it clear that he wished to see a prime minister in the Commons and that it lay between Perceval and himself, but that he could not serve under Perceval; nor would he hear of Perceval serving under him, though he would have been happy ‘to put an extinguisher’ on Perceval’s head ‘in the shape of a coronet’, had Perceval not demurred with the suggestion that they serve as equals under a third person, a peer. This was unacceptable to Canning, although he had thought of Lord Chatham in such a role a few months before; he claimed that Perceval would thereby retain the upper hand in the Commons. In fact he had no wish for Portland to resign, and when on 2 Sept. the Scheldt expedition was given up, he claimed the fulfilment of the promise made to him. He was disconcerted at the outcome, Portland interposing his own resignation, on Perceval’s advice, to prevent others. He thereupon withdrew his demand and informed Portland that he would resign with him: his absenting himself from cabinet on 6 Sept. led to Castlereagh’s discovery of the plot. After an explanation to Portland on 12 Sept., Canning had an ‘extraordinary’ interview with the King next day in which he offered to form a government or, if the King preferred Perceval, promised what support he could give out of office, assuring the King that he would not join opposition. He was indignant at Perceval’s willingness to canvass opposition in a bid for a strong administration. Meanwhile Castlereagh, brooding over the duplicity practised upon him, demanded satisfaction. Canning, never having fired a pistol in his life, made his will. He survived the duel on 21 Sept. at the cost of a wounded thigh. This and his uncompromising stand placed the premiership in Perceval’s hands by their colleagues’ consent. Although Canning came to see it as calculated treachery against him on Perceval’s part, the Speaker had warned him as early as 30 Apr. that ‘if he took the step he had in contemplation he must make up his mind to bringing on the crisis which must constitute a new prime minister’; and even if Canning could not accept this, his conduct had raised suspicions as to his sincerity, ‘a sine qua non in an English statesman’: it was felt that he lacked character to match his talents.41

Granted that he had fought anybody’s duel but his own, Canning’s public credit was almost irreparably damaged: he had overplayed his hand in trying to force the monarch’s. It was remarked of him in August 1809 that he had ‘no party in the country. He was perhaps the best speaker in the House of Commons—but then he speaks only on his own subjects—Canning is no financier—nor is he a man of much general information. He has never studied at all.’ Nor did the circumstances of his resignation encourage any except his most committed friends to go into the wilderness with him. Thus George Rose complained that: ‘Concessions were made to Mr Canning by the King and other ministers such as I verily believe were never made before to any subject in this country’, and refused to resign simply because Canning had failed to become premier. Described by the artist Lawrence as ‘a modest man—blushes if looked at intently’, Canning had become, even in the eyes of those who had once encouraged him, a monster of vanity and presumption, not least in claiming to represent ‘the only true Pitt party’ on this occasion. Malmesbury, deploring his ‘arrogance’ in throwing away the office that would have come to him ‘like an heirloom’ by grasping at it too soon, concluded that ‘his abilities will become a curse, not a blessing to his country’.42

His conduct towards Lord Wellesley was subjected to the same damning scrutiny. It was alleged that Canning had enlisted him only on the assurance that Wellesley did not aim to be premier; he had certainly extracted from Wellesley a promise of resignation if he himself resigned and, before doing so on 11 Oct., he had recalled Wellesley from Spain in favour of Bartle Frere. Perceval out-manoeuvred him by persuading Wellesley to succeed to the Foreign Office: an indignant Canning found it necessary to admit to Wellesley that, so far from refusing to serve under him as prime minister, he had not even considered Wellesley as a candidate for the premiership. Perceval also succeeded in enlisting the sympathies of Lord Melville against him. Even if Canning had been allowed to form a government, it is difficult to see who would have joined it. Lord Moira and Huskisson were reported to be essential to this piece of cabinet making, but it was thought that without recourse to the opposition, which he criticized Perceval for attempting, Canning must be bluffing.43

The opposition regarded him as ‘open to any arrangement’ but few of them, apart from Sheridan, John William Ward, William Lamb and perhaps Lord Holland, relished the notion of an alliance with him. Lord Grey and Lord Whitbread, in particular, objected; they thought it more likely that Canning would return to office, possibly to the Admiralty, under Wellesley’s aegis, aiming perhaps at the Foreign Office under Wellesley’s premiership. Canning had assured the King that he would not join opposition, but neither his frosty correspondence with Perceval, who tried to claim his support, nor the abuse of him that appeared in the government press made for a rapprochement. Nor did the large share of the spoils he might expect predispose the government to woo him. It was the Whig Morning Chronicle which, on 13 Oct. 1809, before joining in the abuse against Canning, published a brief apologia for his conduct towards Castlereagh, drawn up by him with no view to publication, but doubtless ‘inspired by his officious friends’. It made a ‘fuller exculpation’ necessary. This, because of a counter-statement by Lord Camden to clear himself of any imputation of deliberately concealing from Castlereagh what he had sworn not to tell him, was in the form of a printed letter to that peer. It was dated 14 Nov. 1809 and circulated a month later. The death of Portland and the delicacy of involving the King, whose good opinion he was anxious to regain, complicated matters, but Canning was authorized in both quarters to publish. It ‘did not mend his case in any degree’: if he was so anxious for Castlereagh to be let into the secret of his removal, it was pointed out, he should have told him himself. Canning was a byword: Lady Bessborough complained that the Prince of Wales, ‘whenever he mentioned him’, attempted ‘some liberty’ on her person.44

In December 1809, after a rapprochement, Lord Wellesley asked Canning what he could do for him. Canning pointed out that he would never again make a declaration which Perceval could turn into a trap for him by one of his canvassing operations: it was for government to propose to him, and that unequivocally, not by hints. He explained to one of his friends that he intended to act ‘independently of any of the existing parties, to support the government where I think them right, to uphold of course the general system upon which this or any other government must stand against the reformers, but to oppose the government without scruple or hesitation where I think them wrong; not counting the company in which I may find myself in such divisions’. On the address, 23 Jan., he let Castlereagh speak first and, finding that he eschewed personal vendetta, prudently resolved to maintain the same silence about their duel. He declared that he would vote for the address, but if there was an inquiry into the expedition he would probably support it, though he would resist any similar inquiry into the Peninsular war. His speech was received in unaccustomed silence. On 26 Jan. when a motion of inquiry was carried he explained that he was in favour, but not until government had produced their papers on the subject. He voted in the government minority, disliking investigation by the whole House of military matters in any case, wishing neither to put Castlereagh ‘on his trial’ nor to court opposition, who had snubbed him; nor to connive at the collapse of a government to which he saw no viable alternative. He commented ‘I flatter myself no Saint in the House ever supported more inconveniently’.

His ‘little senate’ gradually revived. He was indifferent to the fate of government in measures that did not concern him. On 1 Feb. he concurred in the thanks to Wellington, hoping to obviate an inquiry into the Peninsula and get out of his way questions in which he was involved with government. Next day, after a speech explaining that his quarrel was with the execution, not the policy, of the Scheldt expedition, he was confident that his ‘most unusual prudence’ was beginning to restore his prestige, though he thought Perceval would rather go out than make any proposal to him. Wellesley, his sole potential ally in the government, was inactive. Canning was disposed to display his mastery again: on 16 Feb., impromptu, he showed, on the subject of Wellington’s honours, ‘how a debate on such subjects ought to be concluded, on the ministerial side of the House’. When on 19 Feb. government were embarrassed on the subject of Lord Chatham’s memorial to the King on the Scheldt expedition, he irritated them by his impartiality, and on 23 Feb. joined the opposition majority which carried the production of the memorial, though he admitted the irregularity of the motion. His nine adherents tipped the scales against government and other Members deserted, as he put it, ‘under cover of my speech’; but politics were ‘rascally matters’, he confided to his wife before that debate, to be left to ‘chance (for it is wicked to say to Providence)’. He could not sell their Brompton house, though in need of the money, lest it be construed ‘as a signal of distress in more senses than one ... proof of wanting office for its emoluments’. On 5 Mar. he took a distinctive line on Whitbread’s resolutions critical of Chatham’s memorial: he spoke against government on the first, but proposed to amend the second, which would have instigated the impeachment of Chatham. Not only were government defeated, but Whitbread withdrew his second resolution in favour of a milder one proposed by Canning, which was carried nem. con. He thwarted a ministerial attempt to water down this amendment and successfully opposed Whitbread’s motion for the presentation of the resolutions to the King: ‘so that in four alternative cases I carried the House with me, for and against government, and for and against Whitbread’. He flattered himself (though he did not convince others) that this political arithmetic had protected Chatham from disgrace, even if he must resign; it also marked the revival of his reputation. His senate now numbered 11, excluding ‘occasional conformists’, and further offers of support came in. Canning was able to report Earl Grey as saying of him that he

had the House more at command than ever when I was minister—that my style of speaking was altogether unlike anything that I had ever used before—so quiet, so respectful to the House, so prudent and moderate—and the country gentlemen appeared to be quite charmed with it—that in short, though he did not like me, he must own that I had conducted myself with surprising dexterity.

Despite rumours that Wellesley was about to induce government to take him in, or succeed Perceval and make Canning his Foreign minister, Canning believed that ‘they would rather apply to the Devil than me for assistance’ and that Wellesley would be forced out of office in the attempt. He thought he was more likely to come to terms with Grey—he had by now washed his hands of Lord Grenville. Yet, reflecting that he was more popular than the opposition and that they might be tainted with radicalism, he eschewed tactical co-operation with them and endured their ‘gross personalities’ against him in debate. In any case, they could scarcely expect him to support their opposition to the Peninsular campaign of which he regarded himself as author.45

Canning’s conduct was thus interpreted in government circles: ‘he will always be against us whenever we have a weak question, to show how difficult, if not how impossible it is for us to do without him, and ... it would not be difficult as far as he is concerned to get him whenever an overture is made’. The failure of Wellesley to enforce Canning’s return to office in March 1810 made his attitude towards the censure of the Scheldt expedition on 29 Mar. a matter of crucial interest. He believed that if he turned it against government, they would be wrecked and ‘unusable’; if they weathered the censure, they would stick. His speech therefore endorsed the policy of the expedition; and he opposed Porchester’s resolution on this as too severe; but he would also have opposed government’s counter-resolution of exculpation, had Perceval not amended it at his prompting. Even so he could not resist, for the record, making an amendment embodying that part of his proposal that Perceval had not adopted. On the final division only one of his friends (Sturges Bourne) joined him in voting with ministers; the rest he set free. This result Canning thought the best possible: it put his consequence at a premium, disconcerted opposition and left government where they were at a moment when, even if he had had the game in his hands, he would not have relished it: ‘the keeping a party even of 12 together is more toil and trouble than could well be imagined’.46

Canning was puzzled as to how to deal with Burdett’s breach of privilege in April 1810 and inclined to shirk it, but found himself pressed to take a distinct line. He half-heartedly endorsed the proposal to commit Burdett to prison, with an oblique compliment to the rebel, which he afterwards regretted. After this unhappy compromise his interest in the subject waned, though he voted for the discharge of Gale Jones, 16 Apr. He was on safer ground in reaching a compromise alliance with Henry Bankes on sinecures, which he was content to see abolished, provided a quid pro quo was substituted (he was placed on Bankes’s committee); in voting for Romilly’s bid to diminish capital punishment, 1 May; in opposing further parliamentary reform, 21 May, after he had supported Curwen’s bill the year before, as amended by Perceval; and in opposing Catholic relief, not of course in principle, but for the time being, 25 May. He wound up his session with a premeditated ‘great, great speech’ on the Spanish question, 15 June.47

During the Easter recess of 1810 Canning had been sounded by government through Wellesley as to the prospects of his acting with them, as part of a bid for his, Castlereagh’s and Sidmouth’s annexation. He then asked for a specific proposition. On 3 May Wellesley urged Perceval to substitute Canning for himself at the Foreign Office, but Perceval made it clear that he could not treat with Canning alone; and Canning would have assented only if Wellesley remained in office and if some of his friends were provided for. The fact that Sidmouth had declined to serve with Canning was then decisive: government were less interested in the probability of Canning’s declining. Sidmouth’s second refusal to serve with Canning in July paved the way for a government overture to Castlereagh and to Canning, who was offered not the Foreign Office as Wellesley wished, but the Admiralty or the Home Office. This time Castlereagh’s refusal was regarded as decisive. Canning said his conditions were the same as in May: he particularly wanted the Exchequer for Huskisson. He was reported by his critics to be ‘most unhappy’ at this stalemate, ‘with a lust for office not disguised and most insatiable’. He had given up a visit to Portugal that autumn to ‘go to Downing Street instead’; he now lost interest in Wellesley’s lobbying the cabinet on his behalf.48

Canning refused to commit himself on the Regency question in November 1810 and resented a government circular summoning him to town. He eventually attended, hoping there would be no clash. When there was, he took sides with government: ‘otherwise they would have appeared to be strong in their own strength alone’. He was duly named to the committee to examine the royal physicians. Government and opposition could not collaborate, but he was free to act alone against both. To quote Whitbread: ‘he does as shabby fellows do, divides his favours, and obliges none’. Thus on 2 Dec. he and his friends were absent, and on 20 and 31 Dec. his speeches were a protest against government’s following the precedent of Pitt’s regency proposals of 1788, which he was sure Pitt himself would not now think appropriate. He favoured an unhampered regency and backed Lord Gower’s successful amendment trimming the Queen’s power on 1 Jan. 1811, though privately he believed that two-thirds of the nation would prefer the King, ‘blind, deaf and mad’, to the Prince. Ironically he was thought to be boosting his prospects and calculating on ‘future reigns, and future power’, at the very time when Grey decided he was ‘completely cured’ of his leaning to Canning. Besides, in a speech of 2 Jan. 1811, Canning had made it clear that his grounds for supporting an unfettered regency were not those of opposition, and that while voting with them, ‘I did not suffer the attacks of their ragamuffins [i.e. Romilly] upon Pitt to go unpunished’. It was nevertheless supposed that he was flirting with opposition, who were already cabinet-making. Unlike Grey, Lord Grenville was prepared to have Canning, and his brother Thomas at once suggested the Admiralty for him; but Grey’s veto (in favour of Whitbread) prevented any overture. Meanwhile on 17 Jan. Canning supported the opposition bid to shorten the period of the Regency restrictions and was not far short of success in an attempt to alter and reduce the Queen’s household. Nor did he rally to Perceval, though on 21 Jan. he separated from opposition by producing his own amendment in preference to theirs and was remarked on for his ‘out of office’ tone. He had ‘over-shot his mark’. The Whigs had actually flirted with his friend Huskisson and not with him. The wags maintained that he would not serve ‘under Lady Holland’. But as the Whigs lost him and the Regent in turn, the joke was on them.49

On 4 Mar. 1811 Canning provided government with an eloquent defence of the Peninsular campaign against its critics, and on 26 Apr. seconded the vote of thanks to Wellington moved by Perceval. He also welcomed the reinstatement of the Duke of York as c.-in-c., 6 June. But he objected, in an ‘extravagantly commended’ speech, published afterwards, to the government’s hostility to the report of the bullion committee, all of whose resolutions except the last (resumption of cash payments in two years) he accepted, 8 May; and he ridiculed Vansittart’s counter-resolutions on 13 May, unsuccessfully amending the first. When government adopted Lord Stanhope’s bill on paper currency, he stayed away in collusion with Huskisson rather than further embarrass Perceval, remarking ‘if I hated Perceval as much as his meanness, treachery and hypocrisy towards myself would authorize me to do, I should hardly avoid attending’.

This conduct pleased the Whigs and in the summer of 1811 there were rumours of the Regent’s turning to Wellesley, Canning and Grey. Canning, who was not in touch with Wellesley, welcomed the prospect of a non-exclusive administration, but dismissed the rumours as Brighton politics and had no thoughts of office. He saw no obstacle, except Catholic relief, to the Regent’s tolerating Perceval indefinitely. He proposed to attend the first day of the next session, ‘but only because his absence would be remarked and only for the first day’.50 This he did on 7 Jan. 1812, having the day before informed Wellesley that he wished to avoid imputations of intrigue between them; and as Wellesley still wished to press his claims, Canning advised him to procure for himself another cabinet office, ‘stipulating as before for the transfer of his seals to me’. The only snag to Canning’s secession from the House was the Irish Catholic question, on which he was prepared, if the Regent wished, to pursue a middle line of reserving support for Catholic relief until the time was ripe, as he could not support government or opposition. Opposition approached him indirectly for his support, but he was wary of their readiness to snub Whitbread in order to make him their leader in the Commons: it was ‘too reminiscent of 1809’. Government made him no offer and, when Wellesley pressed his resignation, proposed to replace him by Castlereagh, not by Canning. He thought the Regent’s preference for Castlereagh ‘peculiarly piquant’ when he had fought his battles in the Regency debates at the expense of his own Pittite following, and was about to adopt a line designed to please the Regent on Morpeth’s Irish motion. He went through with it on 3 Feb., ‘with all the brilliancy’, conceded Francis Horner, ‘which is familiar to him, and that depth and accuracy of reasoning which no man can excel—when it suits the little purposes of his tricking ambition to let his fine understanding have its freedom’. Wellesley followed his example in the Lords: this, thought Canning, while it pleased neither party, gave the Regent a pretext to call on them to govern when the restrictions expired. He allowed Wellesley to inform the Regent that the Catholic question precluded him from joining Perceval’s government, but that he would willingly lead the House in an intermediate Wellesley ministry, assuming that opposition would not oblige. They did not; nor did the Regent, who fell back on Perceval and allowed Wellesley to resign. Canning thought Wellesley had been duped and that he should have followed up a suggestion of the Regent’s that he should go to Ireland as lord lieutenant by stipulating that he must have a friend (i.e. Canning) in the cabinet. He reflected ruefully that his alliance with Wellesley had now involved him in the prospect of ‘another tempest of abuse—and out of office’, as a cabal which had tried to overthrow the government.

On 19 Feb. 1812 Grey let Canning know that he would have been included by the Whigs if they had taken office, and suggested that they should collaborate. He replied that he would go his own way: their differences on the Peninsular war, their veto on him the year before, and Whitbread were the chief obstacles. If Perceval, as was anticipated, secured Sidmouth, the House would be reduced to ‘government and opposition and I’. On his own, Canning planned a motion on the Catholic question at the end of April and made ‘a beautiful speech’ in favour of the honours granted to Wellington, 22 Feb. 1812, in which he ‘slew’ Burdett ‘very civilly’, in anticipation of

a mode of conduct in Parliament which will give me all the aid of opposition—co-operation without pledging me to them—a concert like that of Pitt and Fox against Addington—with an understanding that to whichever the government falls, the other shall be invited to accede to it—but not, any more than Pitt would do for Fox—that the government shall be refused by me to gratify their pretensions.

The Regent, who in fact thought him ‘most useful and brilliant in the House of Commons, but insincere and intriguing’, would turn to him and Wellesley first, he believed. The only drawback to his freedom of action would arise if Perceval made him an offer. As he was conspicuously absent with his friends on the question of McMahon’s sinecure, he thought Perceval unlikely to do so, but if he did, Canning could at least refuse on other grounds than a pledge to opposition. Accordingly on Turton’s censure motion on 27 Feb. 1812, he called Perceval ‘his right honourable friend’, but rebuked ministers for placing a veto on Catholic relief, for which, he now asserted, the time was ripe. He offered his support to government over the war in Spain, foreign relations and the currency, and also on the orders in council, abuses in the licence trade apart. He and 15 friends at first walked out, but then joined the minority, to show their support of a committee on Ireland. On Brougham’s motion against the orders in council, 3 Mar., in a speech found ‘dull and flat’, he insisted that their justification was retaliatory and not commercial but, for the sake of remedying abuses in the licence trade, voted for the motion: he sat down ‘without a cheer’. He saw that opposition were unpopular and would fall back on reform, ‘in which I cannot join them’; while Wellesley’s unsuccessful bid to change the government, instead of mending it (i.e. staying in and bringing in Canning), led only to Wellesley’s expulsion, which ‘at once made him a tie and a burthen’. He and Wellesley could not command numbers enough in the House to threaten government. Perceval, with the power of dissolution, was, he thought, as secure as Sir Robert Walpole. His conduct at this moment isolated him: during the division of 3 Mar. in particular he was observed to be ‘blank and comfortless standing against the wall the whole time, neither speaking nor spoken to’.51

When Grattan’s motion for a committee on the Catholic claims was debated on 24 Apr. 1812, Canning, preferring his own intended motion, merely asked the House to ‘approve the principle and enjoin the duty’ on government. He voted for the committee, justifying his change of mind since 3 Feb. by reference to government’s subsequent hard line against Catholic claims and arguing for relief, when it could be safely granted, as a matter of policy. This ‘very brilliant gratuitous speech’ was ‘much cheered’ and Grattan said that it made any reply by him to the debate unnecessary. On 4 May he gave a conspicuous support to Bankes’s sinecure bill, which was carried. On 6 May he gave notice of his motion for an address to the Regent to consider a measure of Catholic relief for introduction next session. The motion was his own property and not, as suspected, a Carlton House device. It was fixed for 28 May, but postponed owing to Perceval’s assassination. Perceval was reported as saying that he expected to resign if Canning’s motion were carried. Canning, however, joined in the lamentation on Perceval’s fate and raised a quibble only on the provision for his family.

John William Ward wrote, ‘I take for granted that Wellesley and Canning will come into power, but whether they will have ministry or opposition for their associates seems quite uncertain’. On 17 May Lord Liverpool, at the Regent’s request, approached Canning and Wellesley to enlist their support for his caretaker government. Canning, anticipating this, warned Wellesley not to commit himself till they had consulted their friends and the Regent, and not to risk a blunt refusal, which would bring them public discredit. He anticipated that his position vis-à-vis Castlereagh would be a thorny question and any preference given to Castlereagh over him ground enough for his refusal, as his friends would not tolerate it even if he could, but he had no intention of stating it as an ostensible ground for refusal. Instead, on 18 May, he gave Liverpool’s inability to satisfy him on Catholic relief as the ground; Wellesley did the same, adding his disagreement with the conduct of war in Spain. This communication was publicized and paved the way for the Regent’s invitation to Wellesley (who at once consulted Canning) to sound out the prospects for a new administration, Stuart Wortley having carried a no confidence motion against the government on 21 May. On that occasion Canning justified his refusal of office and denied that the motion, for which he voted, was on his behalf: he did not seek office and wished only to see Catholic relief carried. On 23 May, having drawn up a manifesto for themselves, he and Wellesley invited Liverpool and his colleagues to join them in an administration based on the carrying of a measure of Catholic relief and a more vigorous Peninsular campaign. This was refused the same day. After an unauthorized offer to and a milder refusal from Grey and Grenville, regretted by at least some of their flock, Lord Melville, for the cabinet, informed Canning on 27 May that as far as they were concerned the Regent’s commission to Wellesley was at an end.

Although Wellesley and Canning had professed not to be pledged to each other, both sides had found that there was no separating them. Thus on 27 May the cabinet, after a second appeal from the Regent, declined acting with Wellesley. On 1 June Canning announced in the House that the Regent had commissioned Wellesley to try his hand, this time by an official overture to the Whigs. They refused, though they had no objection to Canning’s leading the House. A last bid by Lord Moira on 6 June to make a cabinet in which Canning and Huskisson were offered places also failed.52

Canning and Wellesley were made to feel by their failure in these negotiations that they claimed too much weight for themselves: Canning, to quote Palmerston, still had ‘a long and difficult lee way to make up before he can inspire as much confidence in his character as he extorts for his talents’. He was throughout less uncompromising than Wellesley, insisting that he wished to present no personal obstacle to an efficient government, but he seemed prepared to defer to him and to his own friends’ intransigent views. Yet he thought it possible that after the failure of Moira’s bid, the Regent might turn to him. This he would not refuse, reflecting that otherwise the old government would be restored and he and Wellesley become appendages to the opposition. When, on their failure to win over the opposition leadership, Moira had secured him through Huskisson, Canning (who helped Moira to obtain Lord Liverpool’s goodwill) was evidently proposed for chancellor of the Exchequer and first lord of the Treasury, but not premier, with the lead in the Commons. (In Wellesley’s proposed cabinet, he was to have been by preference a secretary of state.) The Regent did not call on him to form a government but expected the restored government under Liverpool to accommodate him and a friend in the cabinet. To this end he personally lobbied Castlereagh’s friends, whose objections might be strongest, stating that ‘it was not in his power to arrest the feeling that prevailed relative to Mr Canning’. Castlereagh himself was prepared to come to terms, but feared the ‘over-officiousness’ of some of Canning’s friends.53

Canning made it easier for Liverpool to come to terms with him by refusing to support, though unlike some of his friends he did not divide against, Stuart Wortley’s second motion of 11 June 1812 deploring the failure of these negotiations. Further, in yielding to the clamour for the repeal of the orders in council on 16 June, he clung to the political principle on which they had been based. When his Catholic motion at length came on, 22 June, the question was an open one, the government professing neutrality. After a moderate speech, in which he emphasized the need for Catholic securities before relief could be granted, he carried the day by 235 votes to 106. It was a notable personal triumph: many Whigs apart, the only two cabinet ministers in the Commons, Castlereagh one of them, supported him, while some other placemen, notably Charles Arbuthnot, did so in the hope of accelerating a junction with him. Malmesbury wondered indignantly whether ‘they give up the Catholic question to catch him’. Lord Grenville, stung by Canning’s aloofness, did not think so: ‘he wants to secure a pledge that securities are to be required and give himself a pretext for joining ministers on the plea that the Catholics are so unreasonable as to refuse all securities’. While he was in fact willing to leave the working-out of a solution to the Catholic question to Grattan, and had no doubt by the end of June that an offer would be made to him, he feared that he would still have to swallow Castlereagh’s lead in the House, which would be ‘disgrace to me and, I verily think, ruin to the party ... I could do nothing to help them, or save myself.’

On 7 July 1812 Huskisson proposed to government from Canning the basis of a fresh negotiation between them: the lead of the House of Commons should go with the chancellorship of the Exchequer and Castlereagh might choose between that and the Foreign Office, leaving Canning the other. On 15 July Canning saw Liverpool and, two days later, Castlereagh. It transpired that Castlereagh was willing to cede the Foreign Office to Canning, but not the lead. Canning made no counter-claim to the lead but maintained that his friends had insisted, as had impartial observers (Bankes and Wilberforce), that for him to give precedence to Castlereagh would be a humiliation. On 18 July he therefore suggested that the lead should be placed in abeyance in the nominal hands of, say, Vansittart, as chancellor of the Exchequer, while Castlereagh might take the Home Office, first in rank of the secretaryships of state, thus silently removing Sidmouth. Liverpool rejected this as absurd and, although Canning offered next day to take the Home Office if the lead were put in abeyance, the negotiation fell through on 21 July. The Regent urged its renewal and Canning repeated that he was willing to take office, with Lord Wellesley, Huskisson, Lord Granville Leveson Gower and William Wellesley Pole, if Castlereagh disclaimed superiority. Castlereagh did so, on condition that he kept the general management of business in the House: Canning, however, earmarked for himself the business of the secretaries of state. Arbuthnot thought Canning was going too far, egged on by Bankes, and that he should have relied on Liverpool to obtain from Castlereagh satisfaction for him without any ‘written stipulation’. It came, however, to just that. On 27 July a compromise was reached, whereby Castlereagh took the Exchequer and general lead and Canning the Foreign Office and the control of War Office business in the House, but ceded Home Office affairs. Liverpool read a letter of Castlereagh’s defining his claims, which Canning accepted at the time; but later the same day, prompted by Huskisson, who had learnt of the letter from Arbuthnot, he called for a scrutiny of it and thereupon broke off the negotiation. Frantic efforts by Arbuthnot to renew the negotiation were brushed aside by Canning; on 29 July he roundly informed the Regent’s emissary, the Duke of Cumberland, that he believed the Regent lacked not so much the goodwill as the power to set things right. Next day he rebuffed a conciliatory overture from Liverpool covering a second, milder letter from Castlereagh: in doing so he gave Liverpool leave to canvass his friends, but this Liverpool refused to do. A final bid by the Regent, through Huskisson, to win over Canning failed in August.

In Canning’s view, administration ‘had put their government upon the point of making Lord Castlereagh their leading minister in the House of Commons’. The Prince’s conclusion was that Canning took ‘as much courting as a woman, and a great deal more than most’; that he had ‘two great faults—being too fond of writing and too touchy’; and that he was easily swayed by Lord Granville Leveson Gower, whose Whig connexions were notorious. Canning claimed that, having had ‘a great escape’, he now wished ‘to be let alone’. The only surprising by-product of the negotiation was his personal reconciliation with Sidmouth, at the latter’s instigation and Wellesley’s. Wellesley wished Canning to draw together again with him in a defensive and offensive alliance in Parliament, at a time when opposition might expect Canning to ricochet to them. But Canning was chary of ‘hoisting up a regular party standard’ and avoided a ‘treaty of Cowes’ when they met on the Isle of Wight in September. Members of administration who thought it ‘calamitous for the country’ that Canning and Castlereagh could not act together believed Canning had been foolish to base his refusal on a point of honour, when his superiority in the House was such that he had no need to make terms. But they were wrong if they thought Canning preferred them to opposition: he only objected to a treaty of alliance with opposition, whom he was otherwise prepared to see in power.54

At the ensuing dissolution, aware that some of his friends must now suffer ‘martyrdom’, Canning was in a quandary about his election and claimed to have ‘no violent desire’ to sit again. He had resolved in 1810 not to be at any expense for a seat and had in that year received an overture from Liverpool, where he had first impressed the shipping community by his opposition to the American intercourse bill in 1806. He subsequently hoped for an opening for Oxford University on the Christ Church interest, but none occurred and his pro-Catholic views damaged his prospects. In October 1812, with the insurance of seats for Petersfield and (as it afterwards transpired) Sligo, he stood at Liverpool. Without expense he obtained a personal triumph at the head of the poll, he and his colleague defeating two Whigs, Brougham and Creevey. Brougham tried, but failed, to make capital of Canning’s reluctant concession of the orders in council, which Canning regretted, since it had not averted war with the USA, as boldly as he denounced reform and defended Catholic relief. To make up for his friends’ loss of seats, he was unexpectedly offered the disposal of others and pointed out that if government had hoped to dish him by the dissolution, which he believed they did not disavow, they had bungled. Wellesley had made a great push for seats, so that between them they had 30 or more adherents. Wellesley soon concluded, however, that Canning’s balding head was ‘turned by his success at Liverpool’; he was certainly out of humour with Wellesley in November, when he found it put about that he had ‘taken some new oath of allegiance’ to him (a reference to the so called ‘treaty of Cowes’). He deprecated any alliance with opposition, who were courting Wellesley rather than him, and insisted on ‘the stand on the isthmus between the two parties’ where he, at least, had kept his balance ‘for near three years’.

Our object [he wrote] is to force the present ministry to a capitulation—not to put the whole garrison to the sword—not that I care much how many wounds and contusions they all, and each of them receive in the course of the siege ... I only wish that a few of them may be left alive to man the lower part of the works, if the fort should ever be put in our hands.55

Canning’s opening of the debate on the Regent’s speech, 30 Nov. 1812, illustrated this formidable threat of ‘mitigated hostility’ and reminded the House of his oratorical mastery: as John William Ward, his recent convert, pointed out, ministers might dissolve Canning’s squad, but they could not dissolve his speeches. He was, by Wellesley’s admission, the only statesman of the day who possessed eloquence. Lord Holland, more disposed to be critical, conceded his dominance,

especially since his speech on the bullion question in which he assumed a new character of oratory and succeeded in it. He has certainly improved too in those parts in which he shone before, wit and brilliance, but he has not lost the faults he had, though he has acquired some merits which he had not.

Charles Long, who was sure that Canning would ‘eventually’ become prime minister, observed: ‘His speeches are studied but when he delivers them he plays with his subject, and involves matter which has arisen in the course of the debate’. A newcomer to the House, Sir Robert Heron, noted that Canning was emboldened by the House’s approbation:

Brilliant wit, the most cutting personal satire, often mixed with buffoonery, but always delivered in elegant language, and with action particularly suited to it, these are his excellencies.

The defects were the ‘immense quantity of hoarded quotations’, and the want of argument. Wilberforce noted that his speeches called forth admiration but not, like Pitt’s, sympathy as well. Brougham later endorsed this view of Canning’s oratory:

it came from the mouth, not from the heart; and it tickled or even filled the ear rather than penetrated the bosom of the listener ... An actor stood before us, a first rate one no doubt, but still an actor; and we never forgot that it was a representation we were witnessing, not a real scene.

Canning forbore to amend the address but he deplored the conduct of the war against Buonaparte, the outbreak of war with the USA and, at home, the failure to provide for Catholic relief. Opposition thought it a ‘shifting shuffling speech’, compared with Wellesley’s in the Lords, but Lord Grenville noted that it was ‘thought by those who heard it more hostile than it reads’. Likewise, on the gold coin bill, 8 Dec., Canning declared that he would merely abstain from voting against it, but he did so vote three days later. He received no overture from government, though he complacently informed the Speaker, 30 Jan. 1813, that he had declined an overture from opposition to replace Ponsonby as their leader in the Commons. This offer hardly met his needs: Tierney sarcastically averred that he had persuaded himself and his friends ‘that he was the polar star to steer by, and that to be connected with him was the sure road to promotion’.56

In February and March 1813 Canning joined opposition in their hostility to the vice-chancellor bill, for which he unsuccessfully moved a seven-year limit; but he supported government over Burdett’s regency motion and the war with the USA and deprecated the Whig espousal of the Princess of Wales’s grievances. On 2 Mar. he was a prominent supporter of Grattan’s successful motion for Catholic relief. When Grattan introduced the relief bill on 30 Apr., Canning offered some additional security clauses of his own, designed to assure the crown a veto on the appointment of Catholic bishops and to overcome thereby the reservations of Wilberforce and other tentative supporters of the bill. He hooted out Hippisley’s obstructive motion for a select committee, 11 May, in a three-hour speech and on 13 May, on the second reading, welcomed Castlereagh’s collaboration in the measure. Grattan incorporated Canning’s clauses on 17 May, but a week later the bill foundered. Canning defended it to the last: its defeat surprised him. The other major question of the session for him was the renewal of the East India Company trade monopoly in China, which a lobby of his constituents wished to obstruct in their bid for a share in oriental trade. He disliked being led by the nose by his constituents, particularly when they petitioned for peace and reform [17 May 1813]; he had assured Lord Liverpool after his election that his patronage applications would have no reference to his political ambitions. But he could not ignore this pressure group and, as a member of the select committee, stated their case, trying unsuccessfully to limit the Company’s China monopoly to ten years, 14 June, 1 July 1813. He voted for Christian missions to India on 22 June. Opposition had his support on the sinking fund, 2 Apr., and hopes of it against the treaty with Sweden, 18 June, but he eluded them by moving an unsuccessful amendment of his own in preference to Ponsonby’s. He wound up the session by concurring in the vote of thanks to Wellington, a pleasure he never denied himself.57

The summer recess of 1813 began with ‘a singular political event’: Canning formally disbanded his party. The startled Whigs assumed it was a prelude to office for him. In this they were mistaken: government could not find room for him. On a hint that Lord Melville was willing to give up the Admiralty to him in exchange for the Board of Control, Canning had, against his better judgment, allowed Wellesley Pole (who had an eye to office) to parley with Liverpool. The premier learnt that Canning would make no difficulties about serving with Castlereagh nor would he have the year before, had his friends not forced him to it; also that he wished to place no obstacle in the way of his friends joining government, any more than he had the year before. Wellesley Pole was permitted to carry the same message from his brother Lord Wellesley, whose disillusionment had dictated this development. Liverpool did not then act on this communication: Canning learnt that Melville was not giving up the Admiralty because Lord Buckinghamshire would not give up the Board of Control without a quid pro quo.

All the same, the episode entailed the break-up of the Canning-Wellesley coalition and, as Canning did not wish to stand in the way of his friends’ freedom of action, the break-up of his own party: let them succeed where he had failed but, as a corollary, let them not stand in his way, where they had failed him in the past; if they clung to him as friends, well and good, but he eschewed political responsibility for them. His complaint was that in the course of that year his former free association with Wellesley had changed ‘into a compact of a closer sort, full of inconvenience, and liable to much misconstruction. This is the origin of what has been called the dissolution and dismissal of my party.’ John William Ward thought that Canning ‘considered himself with a very few followers of character, as constituting a more influential party, and standing in a more commanding, and freer position than if he had been the leader of fifty—each of whom would probably have felt they had a claim on him’. Yet Canning rebelled, as the months passed and no offers reached him, even against his ‘followers of character’. It was in deference to them that he had rejected in July 1812 an opportunity that he now saw would never recur. He reproached himself for

the station in Europe and in history, which I have thrown away ... having refused the management of the mightiest scheme of politics which this country ever engaged in, or the world ever witnessed, from a miserable point of etiquette, one absolutely unintelligible ... at a distance of more than six miles from Palace Yard.

He even came to believe his friends had been willing ‘to force me into a connection with the revolutionary party’, thus destroying his chance to vindicate ‘twenty years of consistent ... anti-revolutionary politics, by conducting the war of the French revolution to its close’. This was what had made him

comparatively callous, and indifferent to every testimony but that of my own conscience ... Success—and success in the vulgarest sense of the word— possession of power and profit—is the only criterion of merit by which the world judges in the long run.

Sequi Fortunam, he concluded, was as truly the guideline of ‘enlightened public opinion’ as of ‘the mob of Rome, of Paris or of London’. These embittered reflections of a man who thought he had been goaded into ‘political suicide’ seemed to verify Charles Williams Wynn’s prediction that his emancipation was ‘only a preparatory step to the appearance of an advertisement "Wants a place, a single man without encumbrances".'58

Canning's 'encumbrances' were not so easily shaken off. Planning not to come up for Parliament at the end of 1813, he looked forward to the 'unfettered' role of a 'spectator' until crucial questions came on, and disclaimed any influence on the attendance of individuals, but the remnant of his 'little senate' stuck to him. He did not attend on the address and it was only thanks to a wedding engagement in London that he spoke in support of the treaties of alliance, 17 Nov. He was reported as believing that the Regent was eager for his services in office: the Whigs thought he was 'bidding for office by declamation', endorsing the 'warlike and Bourbon notions' favoured by the Court. But it was the illness of his son George that preoccupied him. Although he delivered a 'victory' speech at Liverpool on 10 Jan. 1814, and contributed to the Quarterly Review, he did not speak again in the House until 22 Apr. in defence of the Speaker, whose 'anti-Catholic' prorogation speech was under attack. It was 'a very trimming speech, which ended in his voting with ministers'. Consulting the Speaker beforehand, he had expressed a renewed interest in succeeding to Abbot's seat for Oxford University. He was fairly active in debate for the rest of the session, supporting government on foreign affairs, particularly on the peace treaty, which was not marred in his view by the failure to secure an international agreement to abolish the slave trade, much as he favoured one. He also intervened on the Corn Laws, having been on the select committee. He was in the minority on Bankes's motion for a committee of review, 20 May, and on 6 June, presenting a Liverpool petition against them, advised against hurry. He himself favoured Huskisson's graduated scale, but acquiesced on government proposals. He also welcomed the settlement of the Princess of Wales's grievances, 4 July, being according to her frustrated Whig advisers chielfy responsible for her acceptance of the golden handshake offered her and her subsequent decision to live abroad.59

At the end of the session of 1814, Canning at last obtained his reward. On 10 July his friend Charles Ellis saw Lord Liverpool and all the details of an arrangement were agreed before Canning did so. He welcomed it with 'the genuine warmth of old Christ Church feelings'. He himself was to have 'a great splendid, anomalous situation ... a sort of outwork of England', the Lisbon embassy, to supervise the anticipated return of the Regent of Portugal from Brazil. Madrid would have been a more obvious choice, but Henry Wellesley wished to retain it. Nothing came of a plan of Canning's to send Lord Wellesley to St. Petersburg. He drew up a memorandum of his friends' claims which Liverpool accepted in eight out of twelve cases, involving peerages for Lord Granville Leveson Gower and Boringdon and offices for the rest in due course. After a hint from Ellis, Liverpool had explained that, much as he wished to avoid the impression of banishing Canning, he could not give him the chancellorship of the duchy of Lancaster (with furlough for the sake of Canning's ailing son, who needed a warmer climate for two years): Lisbon was the answer and it was no impediment to a fresh arrangement, bringing Canning into the cabinet in the next year or at the earliest opportunity. The Whigs professed to be scandalized: Brougham said it was Canning's price for selling the Princess, while Tierney claimed that the £14,000 salary awarded him £10,000 in excess of the former peacetime salary at Lisbon. Canning had no scruples about it and swallowed the supposed humiliation of waiting for his credentials in Castlereagh's anteroom. When disparaging remarks were made in the House next session his friends, demoralized as they were by their master's 'banishment from the House of Commons' and by ignorance of the facts, stuttered in his defence. He was content  to go abroad in November 1814, not only for his son's sake but also from political disappointment. He introduced Huskisson at Liverpool as his deputy, intending, it was confidently believed, to transfer to him this seat, which his friends there urged him he could not safely vacate, when he obtained an opening for Oxford University.60

Once settled at Lisbon Canning, dating his 'abdication' from 1812, had no Napoleonic plan 'to land at Falmouth by surprise'. There were rumours of his replacing Castlereagh at Paris early in 1815, but he remained at his post. There was no sign of the Regent of Portugal, but Buonaparte's return justified Canning in staying put; unlike Buonaparte, he could not return to power after abdicating the grand empire: there was no future for him unless he was 'summoned' home. On 10 Apr. 1815 he offered his resignation to Castlereagh, who supported him in the civil list debate and deferred in until 27 June, when it was decided to reduce the mission. Canning prepared to stay on privately, as he would have liked to publicly, until March 1816, seriously considering giving up his seat in Parliament. He was content to see his friends gradually connect themselves with government as Liverpool found them openings, but the personal fiasco of 1812 had 'destroyed all the elasticity of ambition' in him. He did not swallow his friend Ward's belief that he had not gone to Lisbon he might have been prime minister in two years. There was talk of his obtaining the Admiralty, but he explained to Huskisson, 25 Jan. 1816, that he hoped no such opening would be made for him. He clearly preferred to look to the Board of Control, in place of the ailing Buckinghamshire, than to the Admiralty, which Melville was not keen to vacate. In March 1816, on Buckinghamshire's death, he reclutantly accepted the Board of Control with a seat in the cabinet; it was the first inevitable opening that Liverpool could offer, with the concurrence of Sidmouth: Canning had no choice but to accept it or resign. The office certainly guaranteed more business, to a man who relished it, than the Admiralty in time of peace.61

Canning's return in May 1816 was 'a matter of the greatest consequence to the government', after their recent setbacks in debate. He looked forward to his role: he even hinted to Huskisson that if Liverpool had no objection to annexing the colonial secretaryship to the Board of Control, he would accept it and save the government the salary. He easily survived a volley of abuse during a contest for his re-election at Liverpool and returned to his old seat below the gangway on the ministerial side, 'rather thinner and a little more bald', but 'in the highest force and spirits'. When he took his seat, there was no debate as threatened by opposition, 'so small was their confidence in their case against him, and so great their dread of his superior genius and eloquence', wrote Ward, who voted him 'the greatest speaker in either House'. During the last few days of the session he opposed Wilberforce's motion on the regulation of slavery in the West Indies, preferring the local assemblies to remedy the matter, and struck another blow for Catholic relief against Hippisley. He also made a start on Indian business, displacing his old friend Thomas Wallace, who resigned in a huff, not before Canning had sucked his brains, as Wallace complained to Lord Clancarty, whose reply was: 'It is of his very essence to push himself everywhere, from that restlessness of disposition with which he is afflicted, and with the vague object of turning every chance to his own advantage'.62

Canning spent the last quarter of 1816 in France with his family, consorting with the ultras in Paris and provoking the Liberals. In January 1817 he returned to Westminster and played much the same game. Taking the lead in Castlereagh's absence, he denounced parliamentary reform in his 'fourishing' speech on the address, which made him 'the hero of the day'. He went on, as a member of the secret committee, to champion the seditious meetings bill, and opposed Ridley's motion treating the lords of Admiralty as sinecurists, 25 Feb.: he insisted that the surviving power of the crown had never been so governed by 'moral influence'. He began a long parliamentary duel with Henry Brougham, who marked him as Whitbread had formerly done. In February Brougham thought that he was getting the upper hand, with Canning's speeches falling flat, as others agreed. The highlight of the session, however, was his triumphant defence of his Lisbon embassy against Lambton's motion, 6 May; he overthrew it by 270 votes to 96 and Brougham was 'hardly listened to'. Ward was in raptures:

It was certainly the greatest effect, without any exception, that I ever saw produced by a speech in Parliament. It is confessed to have been so even by his enemies. ... The whole load of obloquy seems shaken off at once; and his prodigious abilities are now left free to carry to his natural elevation. He is quite a new man. His influence in Parliament is at least double what it was on Monday last.

On the other hand, it was Robert Peel rather than Canning who shone, on the other side of the question, on Catholic relief, 9 May. It was Peel too who soon afterwards snatched the vacant seat for Oxford University that Canning had coveted. Canning's pro-Catholic views, which he had lately advertised at the Pitt Club, put him out of the question, or at least would have ensured his defeat. The appointment of Goulburn as Irish secretary, rather than his friend Binning, was another blow to him. Yet he ended the session well, with speeches of 23 June in favour of the suspension of habeas corpus, and of 9 July against Brougham on the 'state of the nation', when he ridiculed all reform panaceas and ventured to defend Castlereagh against unfounded calumnies on his conduct in Ireland before the Union. 'The history of the session', he reflected 'is also pretty nearly my own for I have almost lived in the House of Commons.' Nor, when it was over, could he escape to Paris, as he had hoped.63

An equally large share of the defence of the government measures fell to Canning in the session of 1818. His best effort was on the indemnity bill, 9 Mar., and his most dubious, characteristically, on the same subject two days later; though his opposition to Brougham's motion for inquiry into popular education, based on procedure and not on principle, ran it close. He continued to oppose radicalism and reform, his main platform in June at Liverpool, where he headed the poll throughout. His personal popularity outweighed the unpopularity of ministers in general. He believed the radical threat 'greater than in 1793', perhaps the more readily because he had lately chosen to regard an anonymous pamphleteer who had calumniated him for his speech on the indemnity bill as an assain. There had been a rumour of his going out to govern India before the election, but it was soon discounted. Board of Control business, if onerous in the office, was scarcely a burden in the House. Early in 1819 it was thought that he might replace Sidmouth at the Home Office, having so often come to the rescue of that department in debate; but foreign affairs were his bidding interest. In the autumn of 1818 he was isolated in the cabinet in his opposition to Castlereagh's 'very questionable policy' of agreeing to regular meetings with 'depsotic allies', involving 'schemes of subjection, cabal and intrigue'. This was significant, both as his first attempt since 1809 to curb Castlereagh and as the subsequent springboard of his own foreign policy.64

In the early session of 1819 Canning distinguished himself by his tactful management of debates on the resumption of cash payments by the Bank, which he had always favoured. This had been expected to lead a clash between him and Vansittart, but he moderated the government by reaffirming his principle in a 'very clever speech', 3 Feb., regretting that the time was not yet ripe to end the stoppage. The bullionists acknowledged his fair dealing in select committee and he gradually won over the cabinet on an early resumption. In his attack on Tierney's censure motion of 18 May he turned on opposition and pointed out that, with their internal divisions, they could not offer an alternative to a government which, except for Catholic relief (on which he did not speak that session), could offer 'a decided course'. In this speech he as yet opposed the espousal of the cause of the South American colonies against Spain, and on 10 June went on to defend the foreign enlistment bill against Sir James Mackintosh, whose motion for a committee on criminal laws in March he had also sought to obstruct. On 14 June he secured the House's rebuke of The Times for a libellous report of a speech of Joseph Hume six days before, in which he was referred to as 'habitually turning into ridicule the suffering of his fellow creatures': it was true that, despite his own acute sensitivity, he could not resist being flippant at others' expense. Even those who laughed with him, remarked Brougham, 'felt what it was that they laughed at, and it might be their own turn tomorrow'.65

Canning rushed back from Italy for the opening of the next session and arrived ailing. The Manchester meeting was the burden of debate on the address, 24 Nov. 1819, and he had, when first elected for Liverpool, assured the unrepresented Mancunians that he would be their spokesman in Parliament. 'Though feeble from indisposition', he made an 'unanswered and unanswerable' speech against radicalism, beginning with the illegality of the meeting at Manchester and ending with a warning about the two lessons of the French revolution: 'that proper changes ought not to be delayed too long', but that 'precipitate changes' were 'subsersive of the peace and order and happiness of nations'. He went on to oppose inquiry into unrest in manufacturing districts, 9 Dec., and defended the ministerial measures against radicalism on 14, 22 and 23 Dec. in his best style. Yet he was disposed to find 'no more personal pleasure in it, that Sampson in his feats of strength among the Philistines'. Lord Liverpool had promised to consult him on any government reshuffle, but he saw no way out of the labyrinth he had entered in 1812 when, he now obsessively believed, he had thrown away

a station such as no man (the founder of his own fortune) had ever acquired in this country—since the days of favouritism and prerogative were gone by; and I consigned to utter insignificance those years of life during which, generally speaking, a man arrives at whatever he is at any time to be.66

Nor was he out of the wood yet. At a time when he was presing Liverpool to give him the lead in the Commons, to go with the Home secretaryship, the case of Queen Caroline in 1820 induced Canning, who had had 'a finger in the pie', to leave office again under royal displeasure. He was about to go to India as governor-general in 1822 when Castlereagh's suicide brought him back the Foreign Office and gave him leadership of the House: just as on the eve of his political debut 30 years before he had had thoughts of accompanying Lord Macartney to China. 'For "Europe" I shall be desirous now and then to read "England"' was to be the maxim of his foreign policy: what Sydney Smith called 'belligerent Quixotism'. Disillusioned with political friendship and 'party', in the last few months of his life he headed an uneasy coalition government in which his 'artifice' in cultivating men who were of use to him was undermined by the fact that he was 'much the most difficult person to get on with when ... not at his very best'. Even critics who thought Canning suffered from the belief that no man could serve his country out of office admitted that it was inspired not by material motives but be a master spirit's need of occupation 'at all hours, and in boundless measure'. He 'died of overwork just as much as any poor horse that drops down dead in the road', 8 Aug. 1827. If, as Brougham alleged, Canning was 'born for the salvation of the Tory party', the Tories had refused to hail him as their Messiah.67

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Speech on being chaired at Liverpool, 17 Oct. in Speeches ... during late election in Liverpool, 1812.
  • 2. To his wife, 23 Feb. 1810.
  • 3. To his wife, 21 Feb. 1812.
  • 4. To Lady Jane Dundas, 27 Sept. 1799.
  • 5. J. F. Newton, Early Days of Canning (1828), 24.
  • 6. Canning’s letter jnl. to the Leighs, 21 Jan. 1794.
  • 7. Brougham, Hist. Sketches (1839), i. 277.
  • 8. Marshall, 33; cf. Kent AO, Stanhope mss, 729/1, Canning to Pitt, 25 July 1792.
  • 9. Lansdowne mss, Wycombe to Lansdowne, 5, 26 July; Add. 51731, Holland to Caroline Fox, 31 Aug. [1793]; 51799, Fitzpatrick to Holland, 22 Jan. 1794; Jnl. of Lady Holland, i. 217.
  • 10. DNB; Canning and his Friends, i. 138.
  • 11. PRO 30/29/9/8/1, f. 14; Canning and his Friends, i. 30; Add. 48219, f. 11; Canning to Rev. Leigh, 12 Dec. 1792.
  • 12. Canning to Rev. Leigh, 27 Apr. 1793; PRO 30/8/120, f. 122; 168, f. 107; G. Festing, J. H. Frere and his Friends, 28; Western mss, Canning to his aunt Hetty Canning, 5 July 1793, cited by Marshall, 46.
  • 13. Harewood mss (extracts publ. by Aspinall in New Eng. Review, xii. (Jan.-June 1946), 452-9, 528-36).
  • 14. Ibid. Jan.-May 1794 cited by Marshall, 47-49, 52-59, 63, 66, 67, 71, 90; Canning and his Friends, i. 46; Festing, 28; Leveson Gower, i. 76, 78-79, 87; Add. 48219, f. 26.
  • 15. Ms jnl.; Marshall, 62-71; Add. 48219, f. 34; 51706, Pelham to Lady Webster, 10 Apr. 1794.
  • 16. To Mrs. Leigh, 4 [i.e. 3] Jan., 28 Oct, 24 Dec., to Rev. Leigh, 27 Jan., 7, 23 Feb., 22 May, 24 Oct., 10, 11 Dec. 1795, 21 Jan., 22 Feb. 1796; ms jnl. 7 Mar., 2, 16 June, cited by Marshall, 101; Morning Chron. 22 Dec. 1795.
  • 17. To Mrs Leigh, 10 May, to Rev. Leigh, 17, 24 May 1796.
  • 18. Marshall, 162-75; Malmesbury Diaries, iii. 438, 591; to Rev. Leigh, 27 Sept.; PRO 30/8/120, ff. 126, 137, 145; Morning Chron. 22 May, 5 Oct.; Carlisle mss, Holland to Morpeth [c. July 1797].
  • 19. Marshall, 175-88; to Rev. Leigh, 7 Apr. 1798; Farington, i. 222, 226; Life of Wilberforce (1838), ii. 277.
  • 20. NLS mss 11052, f. 121; Jnl. of Lady Holland, i. 216-18, 257, 265; Auckland Jnl. iv. 72; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, ii. 421; Broadlands mss, Ld. to Lady Palmerston, 12 Dec. 1798; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 1893, 1950; Wellesley Pprs. i. 90; to Rev. Leigh, 9 Feb., 6, 20 Mar., 25, 31 May 1799; Canning and his Friends, i. 146.
  • 21. To Lady Jane Dundas, 27 Sept. 1799, to Rev. Leigh, 5, 14 Feb., 8, 12, 19 Apr., 10, 15 May 1800; Leveson Gower, i. 250, 257; PRO 30/8/120, ff. 157, 169; Festing, 31; Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. i. 395; Life of Wilberforce, ii. 358, 359; The Times, 5 Feb. 1800; NLS mss 11130, f. 129; Jnl. of Lady Holland, ii. 98.
  • 22. A. G. Stapleton, Canning and his Times, 59; Harewood mss, Canning to Pitt, 10 Sept. 1800, to Newbolt, 7 Feb., to Rev. Leigh, 7, 9, 16 Feb., 6, 13, 20 Mar. 1801; PRO 30/29/8/2, f. 149; Add. 48222, ff. 125, 127; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 4, 8, 26, 34, 46; Leveson Gower, i. 228, 296-7, 298, 301; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 177, 191, 193, 205, 209, 231; Rose Diaries, i. 295, 296, 322; Chatsworth mss, Duchess of Devonshire jnl. 8-14 Feb.; Stanhope mss 729/1, Canning to Pitt, 8 Mar. 1801; Colchester, i. 224; Farington, i. 302; Pellew, Sidmouth, i. 319, 321, 323; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2357; Holland, Mems. Whig Party, i. 175; Canning and his Friends, i. 128.
  • 23. Festing, 45, 47-51, 53, 57, 61, 65; Stanhope, Pitt, iii. 315; PRO, Dacres Adams mss 4/31-32; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 50; Colchester, i. 274; PRO 30/8/120, f. 183; 30/29/8/2, ff. 158, 161, 169; J. H. Rose, Pitt and Napoleon, 326; Stapleton, 67; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2199; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 272; HMC Fortescue, vii. 54; Add. 38833, ff. 43, 53a, 61; 48222, f. 130; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 17 Dec. 1801; Leveson Gower, i. 314, 320-1.
  • 24. P. Lipscomb, ‘Party Pols. 1801-2, G. Canning and Trinidad Question’, Hist. Jnl. xii (1969), 442; PRO 30/8/120, f. 177; 30/29/8/2, ff. 190-218; Add. 38833, f. 81; Festing, 67, 68, 72, 75, 78, 79, 85, 87, 90; Leveson Gower, i. 337-9; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 11, 19 Feb. 1802; Windham Pprs. ii. 184, 187, 188-92; to Rev. Leigh, 21 May, 1 June 1802; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 75, 81, 94, 99, 105, 107, 111-13, 123; Rose Diaries, i. 453, 489, 490, 492, 498.
  • 25. Add. 35702, f. 46; 38236, f. 231; 41856, f. 86; 51585, Tierney to Lady Holland, 26 Dec. 1802; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 125, 129, 136, 142, 144, 148; Rose Diaries, i. 456-66, 498; Leveson Gower, i. 370; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lowther, 28 Dec.; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 4 Dec. 1802.
  • 26. Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 163, 167, 170, 175, 228; Buckingham, iii. 248; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 293.
  • 27. Colchester, i. 430; Add. 38833, f. 151; 51570, Hamilton to Holland, 10 Apr.; 51736, Caroline Fox to same, 11 Mar., 19 Apr.; Canning to his wife, 26 Apr., 20, 21, 26, 30, 31 May, 2, 4, 7, 8 June 1803; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 243, 246, 285; Wickham mss 5/21, Wickham to Hardwicke, 5 May; Dacres Adams mss 4/97, 98; The Times, 1, 5 July, 14 Dec. 1803; Pellew, ii. 90; Festing, 98-101; Rose Diaries, i. 55, 63; Leveson Gower, i. 437, 439; PRO 30/29/8/3, ff. 264, 270, 272, 278, 282, 284, 288; Marshall, 254-9; Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, i. 20.
  • 28. Carlisle mss, Canning to Morpeth, 19 Jan., 10 Feb. 1804; PRO 30/29/8/3, ff. 294, 306; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 291; Festing, 103; Leveson Gower, i. 445-51, 455; Canning to his wife, 28, 29 Feb., 10 Mar.; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lowther, 8 Mar.; Malmesbury mss, FitzHarris to Malmesbury, 26 Apr. 1804; Add. 47565, ff. 242, 244; 47566, f. 182.
  • 29. Rose Diaries, ii. 124, 132, 135; PRO 30/8/120, f. 197; Colchester, i. 505, 514, 515; Minto, iii. 334; Ward, Letters to ‘Ivy’, 23; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 321, 324; Dacres Adams mss 5/34; Canning to his wife, 13, 15 May 1804.
  • 30. PRO 30/8/120, f. 189; Minto, iii. 348; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 409; Colchester, i. 529; HMC Fortescue, vii. 243; Leveson Gower, i. 508; ii. 8, 11, 18, 61; Add. 38358, f. 111; Sidmouth mss, H. to J. H. Addington, 11 Oct. 1804; Canning and his Friends, i. 218; Carlisle mss, Canning to Morpeth, 11, 14, 17, 21 Jan. 1805; Dacres Adams mss 6/17.
  • 31. Glenbervie Diaries, i. 414; Sidmouth mss, H. to J. H. Addington, 3 Dec. 1804; HMC Fortescue, vii. 237, 241, 249; Buckingham, iii. 392, 408; Stanhope, iv. 244-8; Leveson Gower, i. 505; Colchester, i. 534, 540; Pellew, i. 343; PRO 30/8/120, f. 217; 30/29/6/2, f. 118, 8/3, ff. 335, 339; Add. 31229, f. 84; 34456, f. 174.
  • 32. Leveson Gower, ii. 28-32, 43, 51, 53, 54, 58, 64, 65, 69, 86; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lowther, 9 Apr.; Canning to Mrs Leigh, 9, 11, 27 Apr.; to his wife, 10, 14, 15 June 1805; PRO 30/8/120, f. 249; 30/29/6/5, f. 917; HMC Fortescue, vii. 278; Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to J. H. Addington, 24 Apr. 1805; Creevey’s Life and Times, 19; Add. 35645, f. 151; 47565, f. 263; Marshall, 288-95; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 343; Dacres Adams mss 11/18; Stanhope, iv. 352; Holland Rose, Pitt and the Great War, 547; Heber Letters, 212.
  • 33. J. R. McQuiston, ‘Rose and Canning in Opposition’, Hist. Jnl. xiv (1971), 503; Rose Diaries, ii. 239, 250, 251, 257, 311; Holland, i. 208; Canning to his wife, 25, 26, 28, 31 Jan., 20, 21 Feb. 1806; Leveson Gower, ii. 162, 166, 167, 169, 174, 180, 181; Portland mss PwH414, 415; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3174n; HMC Lonsdale, 164, 166; HMC Fortescue, viii. 43.
  • 34. HMC Lonsdale, 181-2; Portland mss PwH417; Farington, iii. 224; Canning to his wife, 4, 7, 10, 11, 18, 20, 27 Mar., 7, 10, 12, 30, 31 May, 2, 4, 5, 10, 14, 16, 20, 21, 24, 26 June, 1, 2, 5 July; Harrowby mss, Ryder to Harrowby, 30 June 1806; HMC Fortescue, viii. 210, 212; Leveson Gower, ii. 183, 191, 195, 220; Add. 42773, f. 115; HMC Bathurst, 53; Camden mss C226/11.
  • 35. HMC Fortescue, viii. 252, 283, 292, 331; Fremantle mss, Temple to Fremantle, n.d. [c. Oct.]; Canning to his wife, 23, 24 July; Stanhope mss 729/1, Canning to bp. of Lincoln, 17 Aug. 1806; Add. 37295, f. 85; 38833, ff. 210, 212; 42773, ff. 119-80; 48219, ff. 165, 171, 176; HMC Lonsdale, 200, 202, 206, 209-11, 212-13, 222-4; PRO 30/29/8/3, f. 374; Stapleton, 96-106; Wellesley Pprs. i. 210-29; Twiss, Eldon, ii. 11.
  • 36. Canning to his wife, 21 July 1806, 4, 7, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 23, 27, 28 Feb., 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 17, 18, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25 Mar. 1807; HMC Lonsdale, 219-20; Add. 38833, ff. 216, 228; 42773, f. 189; 48219, f. 185; Carlisle mss, Canning to Morpeth, 26 Nov. 1806; Horner Mems. i. 386; Holland, ii. 196; Buckingham, iv. 125; HMC Fortescue, iv. 57, 67; Pellew, ii. 461; Lonsdale mss, Rose to Lowther, 6 Nov. 1806, Ward to same, 24 Feb.; Harrowby mss, Ryder to Harrowby, 3, 7, 9 Jan., 14 Feb. 1807; Horner mss 8, f. 53.
  • 37. Malmesbury Letters, ii. 196; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 367, 377, 381; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3501n; Twiss, ii. 30; Buckingham, iv. 161; Ward, 62.
  • 38. Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3485, 3487; HMC Fortescue, ix. 134, 145, 149; Life of Wilberforce, iii. 342; Buckingham, iv. 180; Farington, iv. 166; PRO 30/29/9/1, ff. 195, 198; Colchester, ii. 123; Leveson Gower, ii. 243, 316; Prince of Wales Corresp. vi. 2441; Canning and his Friends, i. 244-6; Horner mss 3, f. 169; Hants RO, Tierney mss 33c; Add. 52178, Brougham to Allen, 21 Nov.; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 25, [29] Oct., 28 Nov., 14, 21 Dec.; NLW, Coedymaen mss 20, Buckingham to Williams Wynn, 24 Dec.; NLW mss 10804, Williams Wynn to Temple, 19 Dec. 1807.
  • 39. C. Collyer, ‘Canning and the Napoleonic Wars’, Hist. Today, Apr. 1961, p. 227; Ld. Melbourne’s Pprs. 48; Minto in India, 46; Paget Brothers, 64; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3537, 3560, 3562, 3579, 3594, 3610, 3628; Canning and his Friends, i. 290; Lytton Bulwer, Palmerston, i. 80-81; Jackson Diaries, ii. 237; HMC Fortescue, ix. 182-92; Colchester, ii. 138-9; Glenbervie Diaries, ii. 17-18; Grey mss, Grey to his wife, 12, 19, 27 Feb. 1808.
  • 40. Geo. III Corresp. v. 3613n, 3657, 3730, 3824, 3832; Add. 51549, Lady Holland to Grey, [8] [27 May]; Grey mss, Tierney to same, 16, 24, 26 May, Grey to Whitbread, 22 May, Whitbread to Grey, 26 May, 1808; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 411; NLI, Richmond mss, Canning to Richmond, 27 May 1808; Perceval (Holland) mss 7, ff. 2-4, 7; Castlereagh Corresp. vi. 438-41, 461-2; Horner mss 3, f. 291; Buckingham, iv. 234, 255, 277; Leveson Gower, ii. 321, 323, 339; HMC Fortescue, ix. 229, 241, 247, 253; Fortescue mss, Fremantle to Grenville, 22 Feb.; Coedymaen mss 20, Buckingham to Williams Wynn, 15 Jan. 1809.
  • 41. Perceval (Holland) mss 2, ff. 1, 3, 4, 32a; 4, ff. 1-28; HMC Bathurst, 84, 90, 93, 97, 98, 112-19; Colchester, ii. 179, 185, 201, 206, 213, 220, 228-9; Twiss, ii. 79, 81, 88; HMC Fortescue, ix. 290, 293, 308, 311; Canning and his Friends, i. 303, 308, 309, 335, 344; PRO 30/29/8/4, ff. 487, 491; Canning to his wife, 5, 12, 15 July, 2, 30 Aug., 1 Sept., 31 Oct., 2 Dec. 1809; Buckingham, iv. 339, 372-3; Malmesbury Letters, ii. 187; Wellesley Pprs. i. 268-75; Phipps, i. 280; Geo. III Corresp. v. 3925, 3960; Carlisle mss, C. Ellis’s memo 21 Sept.; Malmesbury mss, Malmesbury to FitzHarris, [15], 21 Sept., 12 Dec. 1809; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lonsdale, 22 Dec. 1810.
  • 42. Haddington mss, Ellis to Binning, 2, 27 Oct. [1809]; Dacres Adams mss 11/34; Rose Diaries, ii. 354, 371, 372, 378, 382; Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 22 Oct., Ward to same, 2 Nov. 1809; Malmesbury Letters, ii. 181; Farington, v. 208; Twiss, ii. 90-91; Phipps, i. 248.
  • 43. Wellesley Pprs. i. 248, 261, 268, 276, 279; Geo. III Corresp. v. 4028; Rose Diaries, ii. 383-8, 395, 399, 403, 407; SRO GD51/1/195/87.
  • 44. HMC Fortescue, ix. 321, 330, 334, 387, 389, 415, 433, 438, 439; Buckingham, iv. 383, 397, 409; Add. 38737, f. 371; 38738, f. 1; 41854, f. 39; 48227, f. 111; Creevey Pprs. i. 99, 100, 108; Windham Diary, 497; Leveson Gower, ii. 342-3, 349; Grey mss, Grey to Holland (copy), 5 Oct.; Horner mss 4, f. 147; Brougham mss, Brougham to Grey [26 Oct. 1809]; Brougham, Life and Times, i. 465; Ward, 82, 83, 87; Phipps, i. 267; Haddington mss, Canning to Binning, 19 Dec. 1809; Rose Diaries, ii. 410, 419, 423, 430; Therry, 60.
  • 45. Canning and his Friends, i. 342, 344; Canning to his wife, 24, 25, 26, 27 Jan., 1, 2, 3, 17, 20, 21, 23, 27 Feb., 1, 6, 9, 12, 13, 15 Mar. 1810; Ward, 90; Creevey Pprs. i. 123; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lonsdale, 3, 8 Feb. 1810.
  • 46. Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 6 Mar., Ward to same, 15, 19, 27, 31 Mar.; Canning to his wife, 17, 19, 20, 24, 28, 30, 31 Mar., 1 Apr. 1810.
  • 47. Canning to his wife, 5, 7, 10, 11, 13, 17, 19 Apr. 1810; Add. 41858, f. 94; Geo. III Corresp. v. 4184, 4208; Colchester, ii. 271, 276, 277; Farington, vi. 35.
  • 48. Pellew, iii. 26-27; Buckingham, iv. 431, 434, 438, 452, 478-9; Wellesley Pprs. ii. 9-41; HMC Fortescue, x. 52, 55; Geo. III Corresp. v. 4142; Add. 37295, f. 413; Canning to his wife, 28 Aug., 1 Nov. 1810; Canning and his Friends, i. 353-7.
  • 49. Glenbervie Diaries, ii. 101, 121, 126; Rose Diaries, ii. 451, 464, 469, 475; Canning to his wife, 10, 12, 13, 16, 24 Nov. and n.d.; PRO 30/29/8/5, f. 531; Add. 48220, ff. 18, 19; Grey mss, Whitbread to Grey, 23 Dec., Grey to Whitbread, 30 Dec. 1810, Grey to his wife, 16 Jan.; Malmesbury mss, Malmesbury to FitzHarris, 2 Jan.; Sidmouth mss, J. H. Addington to his son Haviland, 1 Jan. 1811; Life of Wilberforce, iii. 491; Phipps, i. 301-2, 308-9, 310, 336-7, 341, 347; Bath Archives ed. Lady Jackson, 201; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lonsdale, 2, 22 Dec. 1810, 1, 18 Jan. [1811]; HMC Fortescue, x. 104; Canning and his Friends, i. 364; Horner mss 5, ff. 11-13; Holland, Further Mems. Whig Party, 82; Ward, 125; Richmond mss 65/738; Lansdowne mss, Vernon to Lansdowne, 9 Nov. [1811].
  • 50. HMC Fortescue, x. 125, 161, 165; Prince of Wales Letters, vii. 2909; Lansdowne mss, Lady Holland to Lansdowne [2 May]; Haddington mss, Canning to Binning, 5 July, 1 Nov., 21 Dec. 1811; Add. 38738, ff. 87-91, 107, 154; 48222, f. 214; PRO 30/29/8/5, ff. 570, 572; Buckingham, Regency, i. 103-4; HMC Bathurst, 158; Grey mss, Grenville to Grey, 18 Aug. 1811; Canning and his Friends, i. 376-81.
  • 51. Canning to his wife, 7, 8, 9, 14, 21, 28 Jan., 2, 4, 6, 9, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 Feb. 1812; Horner mss 5, f. 162; HMC Fortescue, x. 222; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lonsdale, 6 Mar. 1812; Phipps, i. 436, 440, 446-8, 451, 469.
  • 52. Wellesley Pprs. ii. 82-89, 100, 102, 104; Malmesbury mss, FitzHarris to Malmesbury, 25 Apr. 1812; HMC Fortescue, x. 243, 244, 250, 261, 264, 281; Horner mss 5, ff. 176, 183; Regency, i. 279; Richmond mss 67/967, 70/1305, 1307, 1309, 1318.
  • 53. Life of Wilberforce, iv. 31; Malmesbury mss, Palmerston to Malmesbury, 18 May 1812; Bath Archives, i. 377; Whitbread mss W1/2548; Add. 37297, f. 130; 38738, f. 258; P. H. Fitzgerald, Life of Geo. IV, ii. 102; Geo. IV Letters, i. 104, 106, 111; Camden mss, O 256/5; Londonderry mss, Sir C. Stewart’s memo [12 June 1812]; Richmond mss 70/1304.
  • 54. HMC Fortescue, x. 288; Richmond mss 72/1588, 1590; 74/1896-99; Malmesbury mss, Malmesbury to FitzHarris, 16 June; Grey mss, Grenville to Grey, 16 June; Haddington mss, Aberdeen to Binning, 19 June, Canning to same, 28 June; Sheffield City Lib. Wharncliffe mss, Binning to J. A. Stuart Wortley, Thurs. [16], Fri. [17], Tues. [27], 28 July 1812; Colchester, ii. 396-401, 410; Life of Wilberforce, iv. 37-40; L. Melville, Huskisson Pprs. 78-79; Arbuthnot Corresp. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, lxv), 7-8; Letters of Countess Granville, 34-36; Malmesbury Letters, ii. 311-13; Leveson Gower, ii. 437-44; Geo. IV Letters, i. 132; Regency, i. 398, 401, 414; Add. 38738, ff. 275, 279, 283, 285, 291, 312, 323; 48220, f. 85; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lonsdale, 27 July, 27 Sept., 1 Oct. 1812
  • 55. PRO 30/29/8/5, f. 640; Canning to his wife, 2 Apr. 1810; Colchester, ii. 328, 374, 384; Wellesley Pprs. ii. 121, 125-8; Bankes mss, Canning to Bankes, 19 Oct. 1812; Brougham, ii. 70; Farington, vii. 126; Geo. IV Letters, i. 178, 198; Regency, i. 409-10, 417; Canning and his Friends, i. 395; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 6 Nov.; Fortescue mss, Grenville to Grey, 10 Nov. 1812; HMC Fortescue, x. 299, 307, 311; Heron, Notes (1851), 5.
  • 56. Ward, 169, 185; Add. 34458, ff. 427, 430, 437; Heron, 13; Farington, vii. 82, 93; NLS mss 11149,f. 67; Life of Wilberforce, iii. 491; Brougham, i. 285; Colchester, ii. 417; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, Wed. night [1813].
  • 57. Romilly, Mems. iii. 87; Geo. IV Letters, i. 241; Add. 37297, f. 203; 38568, f. 32; 40196, f. 149; PRO 30/29/8/5, f. 653; Colchester, ii. 437, 439, 443, 447; Farington, vii. 173; Ward, 203, 205.
  • 58. Add. 38739, f. 101; 48220, ff. 122, 125, 192; 48224, f. 95; Wellesley Pprs. ii. 132; Grey mss, Rosslyn to Grey, 22, 28 July, 2 Aug. 1813; Creevey Pprs. i. 151; Regency, ii. 36, 38; Moore, Bryon Letters (1875), 314; Horner Mems. ii. 148; Ward, 213, 215; Wharncliffe mss, Canning to Stuart Wortley, 5, 25 Aug. 1813; PRO 30/29/8/5, f. 655; Staffs. RO, Hatherton diary, intro memo; Colchester, ii. 453; Leveson Gower, ii. 470-1, 484-5; Fortescue mss, Williams Wynn to Grenville, 2 Aug. 1813; Haddington mss, Canning to Binning, 1 Mar. 1814.
  • 59. PRO 30/29/8/5, f. 660; Add. 51549, Lady Holland to Grey, Mon [25 Oct. 1813]; Leveson Gower, ii. 493; Horner mss 5, f. 404; Brougham mss, Brougham to Thornley, 30 Nov. 1813; Haddington mss, Canning to Binning, 1 Mar. 1814; Colchester, ii. 478, 496, 497, 498; Regency, ii. 64; Letters of Princess Charlotte, 139; Sheridan Letters ed. Price, iii. 247.
  • 60. Add. 38193, f. 41; 38739, f. 332; 38740, ff. 119, 128; 51658, Whishaw to Lady Holland, 12 Oct.; Canning to his wife, 14 July 1814; Brougham, ii. 257; Ward, 248-9; Ward, Letters to Bishop of Llandaff, 47; Grey mss, Goodwin to Grey, 16 Sept., Tierney to same, 1 Nov. 1814; Letters to Princess Charlotte, 134; PRO 30/29/8/5, f. 23; Greville Mems. ed. Fulford and Strachley, i. 15, 27.
  • 61. Add. 38740, ff. 109, 190, 248, 278; 38741, f. 54; 48220, ff. 209, 211, 213; 48224, f. 111; Castlereagh Corresp. x. 331-3, 383; Haddington mss, Canning to Binning, 1 Apr., 12 May 1815; Hatherton diary, intro. memo; Northumb. RO, Wallace (Belsay) mss S76/17/5; Geo. IV Letters, ii. 633, 635; Newbolt to Canning, 18 Mar. 1817.
  • 62. Stratford Canning to Canning, 29 Mar., Binning to same, 19 Apr. 1816; Add. 38741, ff. 61, 70; 48221, f. 12; Canning to his Friends, ii. 28; Letters to Bishop Llandaff, 136, 145; Wallace mss S76/18/18.
  • 63. Horner mss 7, f. 192; Lansdowne mss, Horner to Lansdowne, 3 Jan., Brougham to same, 8 Feb.; Carlisle mss, Howard to Carlisle, 30 Jan. [1817]; Letters to Bishop Llandaff, 159, 166; Pope of Holland House ed. Lady Seymour, 182, 186; Heron, 80, 83; Colchester, iii. 607; Canning and his Friends, ii. 45-47, 52-54, 55; Romilly, iii. 291; Fremantle mss, Buckingham to Fremantle, 30 July 1817; Add. 48221, f. 34.
  • 64. Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 12 Mar. 1818; Stapleton, 346; PRO 30/29/9/2, f. 28; Add. 48225, f. 23; Regency, ii. 303; Castlereagh Corresp. xii. 55-56.
  • 65. Colchester, iii. 104; Add. 39949, f. 58; 48221, f. 43; 48223, f. 119; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 18 Feb.; Hatherton diary, 18 May, 12-15 June 1819; Brougham, i. 284.
  • 66. Add. 38280, f. 19; 38741, f. 314; 48221, f. 52; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 25 Nov.; Phipps, ii. 35; Canning to his wife, 26, 30 Nov. 1819.
  • 67. Farington, vii. 173; Geo. IV Letters, ii. 875; Horner Mems. ii. 317; Canning and his Friends, ii. 138; Sydney Smith Letters ed. N. C. Smith, i. 485; Letters of Countess Granville, 151; Hatherton diary, 27 Oct. 1818, 21 Aug. 1827; Brougham, i. 285-9; Croker Pprs. ed. Jennings ii. 353.