STAUNTON, Sir George Thomas, 2nd Bt. (1781-1859), of Cargin, co. Galway and Leigh Park, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. 26 May 1781, 1st surv. s. of Sir George Leonard Staunton, 1st Bt., of Cargin by Jane, da. of Benjamin Collins† of Milford House, nr. Salisbury, Wilts. educ. privately; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1797. unm. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 14 Jan. 1801.
Writer, E.I. Co. (Canton) 1798, supercargo 1804; interpreter 1808; chief of factory 1816; jt. commr. of embassy to Pekin 1816; res. 1819.
Staunton was the only surviving son of the famous Indian administrator and diplomatist. He accompanied his father to China in 1791, acting as page to the ambassador Lord Macartney, and was the only member of the embassy able to converse in Chinese. On 10 Apr. 1798 he was appointed a writer in the East India Company’s factory at Canton:
The principle itself of my appointment was unpopular. A writership to China, being the most valuable portion of East Indian patronage, had been generally reserved for the sons and relatives of the directors; and the exception which had been made in my favour, on the special ground of my knowledge of the Chinese language, could not but be felt to be a tacit reproach to those, who, with greater opportunities than I had, had omitted to render themselves equally qualified.
His father died in 1801 and Staunton returned to England on leave the next year. In 1804 he was promoted supercargo and returned to China, and in 1805 he was the means of introducing vaccination into China by translating an English treatise on the subject.
Staunton was appointed in February 1808 Chinese interpreter to the factory at a salary of £500 a year, but later relinquished that emolument. In 1812 he was again in England where his knowledge of the Company’s affairs was sought by the president of the Board of Control. On 14 Apr. 1813 he gave evidence on the subject to the select committee of the House. Returning to Canton early in 1814 he succeeded as president of the select committee and chief of the factory, and later that year, in conjunction with Lord Amherst and Sir Henry Ellis, was made a King’s commissioner of embassy in a fruitless journey to Pekin to protest to the Chinese emperor against obstructions to Company trade at Canton. The journey was significant, as being the second time that any party of Englishmen had been permitted so far into the interior. He returned to England in June 1817, having made ten voyages in all, and did not again hold any public appointment, although his advice was continually sought by the East India Company and by the government.
In 1818 Staunton was returned for the close borough of Mitchell. He recalled that it had ‘become an object of my ambition to obtain access to those interesting and honourable employments which are the consequence of a seat in Parliament’. John Cam Hobhouse†, who thought him ‘a very modest and agreeable man’ with ‘a very fine fortune’, noted in his diary: ‘he has purchased a seat in Parliament, which he says is independent, but he votes with ministers and has their circulars sent to him’.1 Staunton voted with ministers on 29 Mar., 18 May and 23 Dec. 1819. He was in the minority in favour of criminal law reform, 2 Mar. 1819. His support of Catholic relief led in 1826 to his giving up his seat after a clash with the patron over that question. He had in any case failed to secure any ‘interesting and honourable employments’ from government. He died 10 Aug. 1859.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: J. W. Anderson
Based on his Memoirs.
- 1. Add. 56540, f. 78.