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George Canning

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George Canning

The Right Honourable
George Canning
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
10 April 1827 – 8 August 1827
Monarch George IV
Preceded by The Earl of Liverpool
Succeeded by The Viscount Goderich
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
10 April 1827 – 8 August 1827
Preceded by Frederick John Robinson
Succeeded by John Charles Herries
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
In office
13 September 1822 – 20 April 1827
Prime Minister The Earl of Liverpool
Preceded by The Marquess of Londonderry
Succeeded by The Viscount Dudley and Ward
In office
25 March 1807 – 11 October 1809
Prime Minister The Duke of Portland
Preceded by Viscount Howick
Succeeded by The Earl Bathurst
Leader of the House of Commons
In office
13 September 1822 – 20 April 1827
Prime Minister The Earl of Liverpool
Preceded by The Marquess of Londonderry
Succeeded by William Huskisson
President of the Board of Control
In office
Prime Minister The Earl of Liverpool
Preceded by The Earl of Buckinghamshire
Succeeded by Charles Bathurst
Treasurer of the Navy
In office
10 May 1804 – 23 January 1806
Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger
Preceded by George Tierney
Succeeded by Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Personal details
Born (1770-04-11)11 April 1770
Marylebone, Middlesex, England
Died 8 August 1827(1827-08-08) (aged 57)
Chiswick, Middlesex, England
Political party Tory
Spouse(s) Joan Canning, 1st Viscountess Canning
Children 4
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford
Religion Church of England

George Canning, FRS, (11 April 1770 – 8 August 1827) was a British statesman and Tory politician who served in various senior cabinet positions under numerous Prime Ministers, before himself serving as Prime Minister for the final four months of his life.

The son of an actress and a failed businessman and lawyer, Canning was supported financially by his uncle Stratford, allowing him to attend Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford. Canning entered politics as a Tory in 1793 and rose rapidly. He was Paymaster of the Forces (1800–1801) and Treasurer of the Navy (1804–1806) under William Pitt the Younger and Foreign Secretary (1807–1809) under The Duke of Portland. In 1809, he was wounded in a duel with his foe Lord Castlereagh and was shortly thereafter passed over as a potential prime ministerial successor to The Duke of Portland in favour of Spencer Perceval. He rejected overtures to serve as Foreign Secretary again, owing to Castlereagh's presence in Perceval's Cabinet, and he remained out of high office until after Perceval was assassinated in 1812.

Canning subsequently served under new Prime Minister The Earl of Liverpool as British Ambassador to Portugal (1814–1816), President of the Board of Control (1816–1821), and Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons (1822–1827). When The Earl of Liverpool resigned in ailing health in April 1827, Canning was chosen to succeed him as Prime Minister ahead of The Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel. They both declined to serve under Canning and the Tories split between Peel and Wellington's Ultra-Tories and the Canningites. Canning thus invited several Whigs to join his cabinet. However, his administration did not last long. His health declined and he died in office in August 1827, after just 119 days in office, the shortest tenure of any British Prime Minister.


  • Early life 1
  • Entry into politics 2
  • Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 3
    • The Anti-Jacobin 3.1
  • Subsequent offices 4
  • Backbenches 5
  • Treasurer of the Navy 6
  • Foreign Secretary 7
    • Duel with Castlereagh 7.1
  • Ambassador to Lisbon 8
  • President of the Board of Control 9
  • Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House 10
  • Prime Minister 11
  • Legacy 12
    • Places named after Canning 12.1
  • Family 13
  • Canning's Government, April – August 1827 14
  • See also 15
  • Notes 16
  • References 17
  • External links 18

Early life

Canning was born into an

Political offices
Preceded by
Dudley Ryder
Thomas Steele
Paymaster of the Forces
with Thomas Steele
Succeeded by
Thomas Steele
The Lord Glenbervie
Preceded by
George Tierney
Treasurer of the Navy
Succeeded by
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Preceded by
Viscount Howick
Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
The Earl Bathurst
Preceded by
The Earl of Buckinghamshire
President of the Board of Control
Succeeded by
Charles Bathurst
Preceded by
The Marquess of Londonderry
Foreign Secretary
Succeeded by
The Viscount Dudley and Ward
Leader of the House of Commons
Succeeded by
William Huskisson
Preceded by
The Earl of Liverpool
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
The Viscount Goderich
Preceded by
Frederick John Robinson
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
John Charles Herries
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Sir John Barrington, Bt
Sir Richard Worsley
Member of Parliament for Newtown (Isle of Wight)
With: Sir John Barrington, Bt
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Worsley
Charles Shaw Lefevre
Preceded by
John Barker Church
Hugh Seymour-Conway
Member of Parliament for Wendover
With: John Hiley Addington
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Parliament of Great Britain
Member of Parliament for Wendover
With: John Hiley Addington
Succeeded by
Charles Long
John Smith
Preceded by
Arthur Moore
Member of Parliament for Tralee
Succeeded by
Maurice FitzGerald
Preceded by
Sir Robert Barclay, Bt
James Paull
Member of Parliament for Newtown (Isle of Wight)
With: Sir Robert Barclay, Bt
Succeeded by
Barrington Pope Blachford
Dudley Long North
Preceded by
Sir William Fowle Middleton, Bt
Sir John Nicholl
Member of Parliament for Hastings
With: Sir Abraham Hume, Bt
Succeeded by
Sir Abraham Hume, Bt
James Dawkins
Preceded by
Hylton Jolliffe
Booth Grey
Member of Parliament for Petersfield
With: Hylton Jolliffe
Succeeded by
Hylton Jolliffe
George Canning
Preceded by
Isaac Gascoyne
Banastre Tarleton
Member of Parliament for Liverpool
With: Isaac Gascoyne
Succeeded by
Isaac Gascoyne
William Huskisson
Preceded by
Nicholas Vansittart
Charles Bathurst
Member of Parliament for Harwich
With: John Charles Herries
Succeeded by
John Charles Herries
Nicholas Conyngham Tindal
Preceded by
Charles Duncombe
John Stuart
Member of Parliament for Newport (Isle of Wight)
With: William Henry John Scott
Succeeded by
William Henry John Scott
Hon. William Lamb
Preceded by
John Fitzgerald
Augustus Frederick Ellis
Member of Parliament for Seaford
With: John Fitzgerald
Succeeded by
John Fitzgerald
Augustus Frederick Ellis

External links

  • Beales, Derek. 'Canning, George (1770–1827)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008, accessed 1 May 2010.
  • Dixon, Peter. George Canning: Politician and Statesman (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976).
  • Hinde, Wendy. George Canning (London: Purnell Books Services, 1973).
  • Hunt, Giles. The Duel: Castlereagh, Canning and Deadly Cabinet Rivalry (London, I.B. Tauris, 2008).
  • Lee, Stephen M. George Canning and Liberal Toryism, 1801–1827 (Woodbridge, Boydell & Brewer, 2008).
  • Marshall, Dorothy. The Rise of George Canning (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1938).
  • Muir, Rory. Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon (London: Yale University Press, 1996).
  • Perkins, Bradford. "George Canning, Great Britain, and the United States, 1807–1809," American Historical Review (1957) 63#1 pp. 1–22 in JSTOR


  1. ^ a b c d e Derek Beales, 'Canning, George (1770–1827)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008, accessed 1 May 2010.
  2. ^ E. A. Smith, Lord Grey. 1764–1845 (Alan Sutton Publishing Limited, 1996), p. 242.
  3. ^ Dixon (1976), pp. 4, 7.
  4. ^ Wendy Hinde, George Canning (London: Purnell Books Services, 1973), pp. 14–15.
  5. ^ Adams, Henry, History of the United States of America during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson, ISBN 0-940450-34-8, p. 968.
  6. ^ Westminster: King St, Great George St and the Broad Sanctuary in Old and New London: Volume 4 (1878), pp. 26–35, from British History Online
  7. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 66.
  8. ^ Dorothy Marshall, The Rise of George Canning (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1938), p. 189.
  9. ^ Marshall (1938), pp. 179–180.
  10. ^ Marshall (1938), p. 187.
  11. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 59.
  12. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 67.
  13. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 79.
  14. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 92.
  15. ^ a b c d Hinde (1973), pp. 100-101.
  16. ^ Hinde (1973), pp. 103–104.
  17. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 105.
  18. ^ Hinde (1973), pp. 107–108.
  19. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 109.
  20. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 112.
  21. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 113.
  22. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 114.
  23. ^ Hinde (1973), pp. 119–120.
  24. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 123.
  25. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 125.
  26. ^ a b Hinde (1973), pp. 130-131.
  27. ^ Hinde (1973), pp. 142–143.
  28. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 169.
  29. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 171.
  30. ^ a b c Hinde (1973), pp. 172-173.
  31. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 175.
  32. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 179.
  33. ^ Boyd Hilton, A Mad, Bad, and Dangerous People? England. 1783–1846 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006), p. 211.
  34. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 180.
  35. ^ a b Hinde (1973), p. 188.
  36. ^
  37. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 255.
  38. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 269.
  39. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 277.
  40. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 304.
  41. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 306.
  42. ^ Hinde (1973), p. 314.
  43. ^ Hinde (1973), pp. 315–316.
  44. ^ Hinde (1973), pp. 319–320.
  45. ^ Dixon (1976), pp. 235–236.
  46. ^ Hinde (1973), pp. 443–444.
  47. ^
  48. ^ Rory Muir, Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon (London: Yale University Press, 1996), p. 10, p. 59, p. 77.
  49. ^ Charles C. F. Greville, A Journal of the Reigns of King George IV and King William IV, volume I (London, Longmans Green & Co, 1874), at pages 106-107
  50. ^
  51. ^


See also

  • May 1827 – Lord Carlisle, the First Commissioner of Woods and Forests, enters the Cabinet
  • July 1827 – The Duke of Portland becomes a minister without portfolio. Lord Carlisle succeeds him as Lord Privy Seal. W. S. Bourne succeeds Carlisle as First Commissioner of Woods and Forests. Lord Lansdowne succeeds Bourne as Home Secretary. Master of the Mint, enters the cabinet


Canning's Government, April – August 1827

George and Joan Canning had four children:

Canning married Joan Scott (later 1st Viscountess Canning) (1776–1837) on 8 July 1800, with John Hookham Frere and William Pitt the Younger as witnesses.


  • Malay for Forbidden Hill) in even earlier times as the seat for Malay royalty; in its days as an administrative centre for the British administration in Singapore. It was later converted to a fort during World War I but wasn't used till second world war. It is currently one of Singapore's oldest urban parks.
  • Belgravia neighbourhood of London is named Canning House. It houses a research library and is used for a range of cultural and educational events.[50]
  • Canning Circus is an area at the top of Zion Hill in Nottingham. In his memory. Canning Terrace was erected as almshouses and a gatehouse to the adjacent cemetery.
  • In South America, a
  • A square in downtown Athens, Greece, is named after Canning (Πλατεία Κάνιγγος, Plateía Kánningos, Canning Square), in appreciation of his supportive stance toward the Greek War of Independence (1821–1830).
  • The village of Canning in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia is named after Canning.
  • The Swan River south of Perth and has a number of districts named similarly (after the river, rather than Canning himself) on its banks, for example Cannington and Canning Vale. Elsewhere in Australia, there is a street in Melbourne, Australia named after him.

Places named after Canning

"He wrote very fast, but not fast enough for his mind, composing much quicker than he could commit his ideas to paper. He could not bear to dictate, because nobody could write fast enough for him; but on one occasion, when he had the gout in his hand and could not write, he stood by the fire and dictated at the same time a despatch on Greek affairs to Howard de Walden, each writing as fast as he could, while he turned from one to the other without hesitation or embarrassment."[49]

Rory Muir has described Canning as "the most brilliant and colourful minister, and certainly the greatest orator in the government at a time when oratory was still politically important. He was a man of biting wit and invective, with immense confidence in his own ability, who often inspired either great friendship or deep dislike and distrust...he was a passionate, active, committed man who poured his energy into whatever he undertook. This was his strength and also his weakness...the government's ablest minister".[48] Greville recorded of Canning on the day after his death:

Canning has come to be regarded as a "lost leader", with much speculation about what his legacy could have been had he lived. His government of Tories and Whigs continued for a few months under Lord Goderich but fell apart in early 1828. It was succeeded by a government under the Duke of Wellington, which initially included some Canningites but soon became mostly "High Tory" when many of the Canningites drifted over to the Whigs. Wellington's administration would soon go down in defeat as well. Some historians have seen the revival of the Tories from the 1830s onwards, in the form of the Conservative Party, as the overcoming of the divisions of 1827. What would have been the course of events had Canning lived is highly speculative.


However, Canning's health by this time was in steep decline: at the funeral of Frederick, Duke of York, which was held at night in an unheated chapel in January, he became so ill that it was thought he might not recover. He died on 8 August 1827, in the very same room where Charles James Fox met his own end, 21 years earlier. To this day Canning's total period in office remains the shortest of any Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, a mere 119 days. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.[47]

In 1827 Liverpool was forced to stand down as Prime Minister after suffering a severe stroke (and was to die the following year). Canning, as Liverpool's right-hand man, was then chosen by George IV to succeed him, in preference to both the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel.[46] Neither man agreed to serve under Canning, and they were followed by five other members of Liverpool's Cabinet as well as 40 junior members of the government. The Tory party was now heavily split between the "High Tories" (or "Ultras", nicknamed after the contemporary party in France) and the moderates supporting Canning, often called "Canningites". As a result, Canning found it difficult to form a government and chose to invite a number of Whigs to join his Cabinet, including Lord Lansdowne. The government agreed not to discuss the difficult question of parliamentary reform, which Canning opposed but the Whigs supported.

Prime Minister

Canning, who was more concerned with Britain’s political and economic interests in Latin America than with Latin American independence, did a great deal to enhance Britain’s prestige throughout Latin America. He was esteemed as a great liberal statesman who understood and sympathised with the cause of Latin American independence and who did more than any other foreign statesman to make it a reality. George Canning deserves credit as the first British Foreign Secretary to devote a large proportion of his time and energies to the affairs of Latin America (as well as to those of Spain and Portugal) and to foresee the important political and economic role the Latin American states would one day play in the world.

Canning pushed through, against great opposition, British recognition of Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Brazil. In a sense, therefore, he brought part of the New World into political existence. The United States had recognised these states earlier, but recognition by the leading world power was to be decisive. Recognition by Britain was greeted with enthusiasm throughout Latin America.

On 12 December 1826, in the House of Commons, Canning was given an opportunity to defend the policies he had adopted towards France, Spain and Spanish America, and declared: "I resolved that if France had Spain it should not be Spain with the Indies. I called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old."

In 1825 Mexico, Argentina and Colombia were recognised by means of the ratification of commercial treaties with Britain. In November 1825 the first minister from a Latin American state, Colombia, was officially received in London. "Spanish America is free," Canning declared, "and if we do not mismanage our affairs she is English ... the New World established and if we do not throw it away, ours." Also in 1825, Portugal recognised Brazil (thanks to Canning's efforts, and in return for a preferential commercial treaty), less than three years after Brazil's declaration of independence.

Great Britain had a strong interest in ensuring the demise of Spanish colonialism, and to open the newly independent Latin American colonies to British trade. The Latin Americans received a certain amount of unofficial aid – arms and volunteers – from outside, but no outside official help at any stage from Britain or any other power. Britain also refused to aid Spain and opposed any outside intervention on behalf of Spain by other powers. Britain, and especially British sea power, was a decisive factor in the struggle for independence of certain Latin American countries.

During his early period in the Foreign Office (1807–09) Canning became deeply involved in the affairs of Spain, Portugal and Latin America. He was responsible for a number of decisions that greatly affected the future course of Latin American history.

In August 1822, Castlereagh, now Marquess of Londonderry, committed suicide. Instead of going to India, Canning succeeded him as both Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons.[44] In his second term of office he sought to prevent South America from coming into the French sphere of influence, and in this he was successful.[45] He also gave support to the growing campaign for the abolition of slavery. Despite personal issues with Castlereagh, he continued many of his foreign policies, such as the view that the powers of Europe (Russia, France, etc.) should not be allowed to meddle in the affairs of other states. This policy enhanced public opinion of Canning as a liberal. He also prevented the United States from opening trade with the West Indies.

Canning by Richard Evans, circa 1825

Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House

On 16 March 1821 Canning spoke in favour of William Plunket's Catholic Emancipation Bill.[41] Liverpool wished to have Canning back in the Cabinet but the King was strongly hostile to him due to his actions over the Caroline affair. The King would only allow Canning back into the Cabinet if he did not have to deal personally with him. This required the office of Governor-General of India. After deliberating on whether to accept, Canning initially declined the offer but then accepted it.[42] On 25 April he spoke in the Commons against Lord John Russell's motion for parliamentary reform and a few days later Canning moved for leave to introduce a measure of Catholic Emancipation (for lifting the exclusion of Catholics from the House of Lords). This passed the Commons but was rejected by the Lords.[43]

Canning and Caroline were close friends and may have had a brief sexual affair. This would have been regarded as unacceptable. [40] Canning resigned from office once more in 1820, in opposition to the treatment of

In 1816 he became President of the Board of Control.[39]

President of the Board of Control

In 1814 he became the British Ambassador to Portugal, returning the following year.[38] He received several further offers of office from Liverpool.

Ambassador to Lisbon

Upon Perceval's assassination in 1812, the new Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, offered Canning the position of Foreign Secretary once more. Canning refused, as he also wished to be Leader of the House of Commons and was reluctant to serve in any government with Castlereagh.[37]

Castlereagh discovered the deal in September 1809 and challenged Canning to a duel. Canning accepted the challenge and it was fought on 21 September 1809 on Spencer Perceval instead, and Canning left office once more. He did take consolation, though, in the fact that Castlereagh also stood down.

In 1809 Canning entered into a series of disputes within the government that were to become famous. He argued with the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, Lord Castlereagh, over the deployment of troops that Canning had promised would be sent to Portugal but which Castlereagh sent to the Netherlands. The government became increasingly paralysed in disputes between the two men. Portland was in deteriorating health and gave no lead, until Canning threatened resignation unless Castlereagh were removed and replaced by Lord Wellesley. Portland secretly agreed to make this change when it would be possible.

Duel with Castlereagh

In November 1807, Canning oversaw the Portuguese royal family's flight from Portugal to Brazil.

On 3 February 1808 the opposition leader Lord Palmerston as "so powerful that it gave a decisive turn to the debate". Lord Grey said his speech was "eloquent and powerful" but that he had never heard such "audacious misrepresentation" and "positive falsehood".[35] On 2 March the opposition moved a vote of censure over Copenhagen, defeated by 224 votes to 64 after Canning gave a speech, in the words of Lord Glenbervie, so "very witty, very eloquent and very able".[35]

On 2 September, after Jackson's negotiations proved unsuccessful, the British fleet began bombarding [31] On 30 September he wrote Lord Boringdon that he hoped Copenhagen would "stun Russia into her sense again".[32] Canning wrote to Gower on 2 October 1807: "We are hated throughout Europe and that hate must be cured by fear".[33] After the news of Russia's declaration of war against Britain reached London on 2 December, Canning wrote to Lord Boringdon two days later: "The Peace of Tilsit you see is come out. We did not want any more case for Copenhagen; but if we had, this gives it us".[34]

On 30 July a military force 25,000 strong set sail for Denmark, with Francis Jackson travelling the day after. Canning instructed Jackson that his over-riding aim was to secure the possession of the Danish navy by offering the Danes a treaty of alliance and mutual defence and whereby they would be given back their fleet at the end of the war. On 31 July Canning wrote to his wife: "The anxious interval between this day and the hearing the result of his [Jackson's] expedition will be long and painful indeed. Long, I mean, in feeling. In fact it will be about a fortnight or three weeks...I think we have made success almost certain. But the measure is a bold one and if it fails – why we must be impeached I suppose – and dearest dear will have a box at the trial".[30] The day after he wrote that he had received a letter the previous night which provided an "account of the French being actually about to do that act of hostility, the possibility of which formed the groundwork of my Baltic plan. My fear was that the French might not be the aggressors – and then ours would have appeared a strong measure, fully justifiable I think and absolutely necessary, but without apparent necessity or justification. Now the aggression will justify us fully...I am therefore quite easy as to the morality and political wisdom of our plan".[30] Napoleon had on 31 July instructed his Foreign Minister, Granville Leveson-Gower: "The suspense is, as you may well imagine, agitating and painful in the extreme; but I have an undiminished confidence as to the result, either by force or by treaty. The latter however is so infinitely preferable to the former that the doubt whether it has been successful is of itself almost as anxious as if the whole depended on it alone".[30]

After the defeat of Prussia by the French, the neutrality of Denmark looked increasingly fragile. Canning was worried that Denmark might, under French pressure, become hostile to Britain.[28] On the night of 21/22 July 1807 Canning received intelligence directly from Tilsit (where Napoleon and Tsar Alexander I of Russia were negotiating a treaty) which appeared "to rest on good authority" that Napoleon had proposed to the Tsar a great naval combination against Britain, of which Denmark and Portugal would be members.[29]

Canning was appointed Foreign Secretary in the new government of the Duke of Portland in 1807. Given key responsibilities for the country's diplomacy in the Napoleonic Wars, he was responsible for planning the attack on Copenhagen in September 1807, much of which he undertook at his country estate, South Hill Park at Easthampstead in Berkshire.

George Canning

Foreign Secretary

Canning returned to office in 1804 with Pitt, becoming [26] Canning left office with the death of Pitt; he was not offered a place in Lord Grenville's administration.[27]

Treasurer of the Navy

Canning approved of the declaration of war against France on 18 May 1803. Canning was angered by Pitt's desire not to proactively work to turn out the ministry but support the ministry when it adopted sound policies.[23] However, in 1804, to Canning's delight, Pitt began to work against the Addington government. After Pitt delivered a stinging attack on the government's defence measures on 25 April, Canning launched his own attack on Addington, which made Addington furious. On 30 April Lord Eldon, the Lord Chancellor, asked Pitt to submit a new administration to the King.[24]

In November Canning spoke out openly in support of Pitt in the Commons. One observer thought that Canning made incomparably the best speech and that his defence of Pitt's administration "one of the best things, either argumentatively as to matter, or critically and to manner and style" that he could ever remember.[20] On 8 December Sheridan spoke out in defence of Addington and denied that Pitt was the only man who could save the country. Canning replied by criticising the Addington government's foreign policy and claimed that the House should recognise the greatness of the country and Pitt, who ought to be its leader. He argued against those, such as Wilberforce, who held that Britain could safely maintain a policy of isolation: "Let us consider the state of the world as it is, not as we fancy it ought to be. Let us not seek to hide from our own eyes...the real, imminent and awful danger which threatens us." Also, he objected to the notion that Britain could choose between greatness and happiness: "The choice is not in our power. We refuge in littleness. We must maintain ourselves what we are, or cease to have a political existence worth preserving." Furthermore, he openly declared for Pitt and said: "Away with the cant of “measures, not men”, the idle supposition that it is the harness and not the horses that draw the chariot along." Kingdoms rise and fall due to what degree they are upheld "not by well-meaning endeavours...but by commanding, over-awing talents...retreat and withdraw as much as he will, he must not hope to efface the memory of his past services from the gratitude of his country; he cannot withdraw himself from the following of a nation; he must endure the attachment of a people whom he has saved."[21] In private Canning was fearful that if Pitt did not return to power, Fox would: "Sooner or later he must act or the country is gone."[22]

And oh! if again the rude whirlwind should rise,
The dawnings of peace should fresh darkness deform,
The regrets of the good and the fears of the wise
Shall turn to the Pilot that weathered the Storm.[19]

At a dinner to celebrate Pitt's birthday in 1802, Canning wrote the song ‘The Pilot that Weathered the Storm’, performed by a tenor from Drury Lane, Charles Dignum:

Canning opposed the preliminaries of the Peace of Amiens signed on 1 October. He did not vote against it due to his personal devotion to Pitt.[16] He wrote on 22 November: "I would risk my life to be assured of being able to act always with P in a manner satisfactory to my own feelings and sense of what is right, rather than have to seek that object in separation from him."[17] On 27 May 1802 in the Commons Canning requested that all grants of land in Trinidad (captured by Britain from Spain) should be rejected until Parliament had decided what to do with the island. The threat that it could be populated by slaves like other West Indian islands was real. Canning instead wanted it to have a military post and that it should be settled with ex-soldiers, free blacks and creoles, with the native American population protected and helped. He also asserted that the island should be used to test the theory that better methods of cultivation in land would lessen the need for slaves. Addington acceded to Canning's demands and the Reverend William Leigh believed Canning had saved 750,000 lives.[18]

Canning disliked being out of office, and wrote on to [15] Pitt wished for Canning to enter Addington's government, a move which Canning looked on as a horrible dilemma but in the end he turned the offer down.[15]


Canning was appointed Paymaster of the Forces (and therefore to the Privy Council as well) in 1800.[13] In February 1801 Pitt resigned as Prime Minister due to the King's opposition to Catholic Emancipation. Canning, despite Pitt's advice to stay in office, loyally followed him into opposition. The day after Canning wrote Lady Malmesbury: "I resign because Pitt resigns. And that is all".[14]

In 1799 Canning became a Commissioner of the Board of Control for India. Canning wrote on 16 April: "Here I am immersed in papers, of which I do not yet comprehend three words in succession; but I shall get at their meaning by degrees and at my leisure. No such hard work here as at my former office. No attendance but when I like it, when there are interesting letters received from India (as is now the case) or to be sent out there".[12]

Subsequent offices

Who e'er ye are, all hail! – whether the skill
Of youthful CANNING guides the ranc'rous quill;
With powers mechanic far above his age,
Adapts the paragraph and fills the page;
Measures the column, mends what e'er's amiss,
Rejects THAT letter, and accepts of THIS;[11]

Canning was involved in the founding of the Anti-Jacobin, a newspaper which was published on every Monday from 20 November 1797 to 9 July 1798. Its purpose was to support the government and condemn revolutionary doctrines through news and poetry, much of it written by Canning.[1] Canning's poetry satirised and ridiculed Jacobin poetry.[9] Before the appearance of the Anti-Jacobin all the eloquence (except for Burke's) and all the wit and ridicule had been on the side of Fox and Sheridan. Canning and his friends changed this.[10] A young Whig, William Lamb (the future Lord Melbourne, Prime Minister) wrote an 'Epistle to the Editors of the Anti-Jacobin', which attacked Canning:

The Anti-Jacobin

He resigned his position at the Foreign Office on 1 April 1799.

Pitt called this speech "one of the best ever heard on any occasion".[8]

I for my part still conceive it to be the paramount duty of a British member of parliament to consider what is good for Great Britain...I do not envy that man's feelings, who can behold the sufferings of Switzerland, and who derives from that sight no idea of what is meant by the deliverance of Europe. I do not envy the feelings of that man, who can look without emotion at Italy – plundered, insulted, trampled upon, exhausted, covered with ridicule, and horror, and devastation – who can look at all this, and be at a loss to guess what is meant by the deliverance of Europe? As little do I envy the feelings of that man, who can view the peoples of the Netherlands driven into insurrection, and struggling for their freedom against the heavy hand of a merciless tyranny, without entertaining any suspicion of what may be the sense of the word deliverance. Does such a man contemplate Holland groaning under arbitrary oppressions and exactions? Does he turn his eyes to Spain trembling at the nod of a foreign master? And does the word deliverance still sound unintelligibly in his ear? Has he heard of the rescue and salvation of Naples, by the appearance and the triumphs of the British fleet? Does he know that the monarchy of Naples maintains its existence at the sword's point? And is his understanding, and his heart, still impenetrable to the sense and meaning of the deliverance of Europe?[7]

On 2 November 1795, Canning received his first ministerial post: George Tierney MP for peace negotiations with France:

Statue in Parliament Square, London. Executed by Sir Richard Westmacott, and erected in 1832[6]

Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

He was a dominant personality and often risked losing political allies for personal reasons. He once reduced Lord Liverpool to tears with a long satirical poem mocking Liverpool's attachment to his time as a colonel in the militia. He then forced Liverpool to apologise for being upset.

As a result of his charisma and promise, Canning early on drew to himself a circle of supporters who would become known as the Canningites. Conversely though, Canning had a reputation as a divisive man who alienated many.

Canning rose quickly in British politics as an effective orator and writer. His speeches in Parliament as well as his essays gave the followers of Pitt a rhetorical power they had previously lacked. Canning's skills saw him gain leverage within the Pittite faction that allowed him influence over its policies along with repeated promotions in the Cabinet. Over time, Canning became a prominent public speaker as well, and was one of the first politicians to campaign heavily in the country.

So when Canning decided to enter politics he sought and received the patronage of the leader of the "Tory" group, William Pitt the Younger. In 1793, thanks to the help of Pitt, Canning became a member of parliament for Newtown on the Isle of Wight, a rotten borough. In 1796, he changed seats to a different rotten borough, Wendover in Buckinghamshire. He was elected to represent several constituencies during his parliamentary career.

Stratford Canning was a Whig and would introduce his nephew in the 1780s to prominent French Revolution. "The political reaction which then followed swept the young man to the opposite extreme; and his vehemence for monarchy and the Tories gave point to a Whig sarcasm,—that men had often turned their coats, but this was the first time a boy had turned his jacket."[5]

Entry into politics

Canning struck up friendships with the future Lord Liverpool as well as with Granville Leveson-Gower and John Hookham Frere. In 1789 he won a prize for his Latin poem The Pilgrimage to Mecca which he recited in Oxford Theatre. Canning began practising law after receiving his BA from Oxford in the summer of 1791, but he wished to enter politics.[1]

Because Canning showed unusual intelligence and promise at an early age, family friends persuaded his uncle, London Hyde Abbey School, Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford.[3] Canning came out top of the school at Eton and left at the age of seventeen.[4] His time at Eton has been described as "a triumph almost without parallel. He proved a brilliant classicist, came top of the school, and excelled at public orations".[1]

[2], disqualified from becoming Prime Minister".ipso facto remarked that "the son of an actress is, Lord Grey Indeed, when in 1827 it looked as if Canning would become Prime Minister, [1]

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