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The name of Canning is derived from the original 
seat of the family at Bishop's Canninges, in Wilt- 
shire, where the line continued until the reign of 
Henry VII., when it expired in co-heiresses. One 
of the cadets of the family had, long before, in the 
reign of Edward II., settled at Bristol, and found- 
ed that branch which afterward became so famous 
in the annals of the city, and from which the illus- 
trious subject of this memoir was descended. 

William Canynge represented Bristol in several 
successive Parliaments, and was mayor no less than 
six times in the reigns of Edward III. and Richard 
II. He died in 1396, and his eldest son, John, suc- 
ceeded to his honors, both in Parliament and the 
corporation. Of three sons he left at his death, in 
1406, Thomas, the second, was knighted, and be- 
came Lord-mayor of London; and William, the 
youngest, was elected to the mayoralty of Bristol, 
which had become a sort of heir-loom in the fam- 
ily. William Canynge was a foremost man in his 
day, and stands out so prominently in the list of lo- 
cal worthies, that he was selected as the hero of the 


Rowley forgeries. He is supposed to have found- 
ed the beautiful church of St. Mary, Radcliffe, but 
his claim to that distinction is unfortunately set 
aside by the date! of its erection, 1294. It must be 
recorded, however, to his honor, that he repaired 
the edifice at his own private expense, on some occa- 
sion when it had been damaged by a thunder-storm 
7— glory quite enough for tbe epitaph of a wealthy 
burgess. It was in the muniment-room, over the 
northern porch of this church, Chatterton pretend- 
ed to have discovered his poetical relics and his list 
of painters ; but, unluckily, the industrious Vertue 
had been there before him, and, finding nothing 
half so interesting, furnished Walpole with the cue 
which enabled him to show such sagacity in de- 
nouncing the delinquent genius.* 

The monument of William Canynge is still to be 
seen in the interior of the church ; and by a paper, 
discovered a few years since in the cabinet of Mr. 
Browning, of Barton, it appears that he was a lib- 
eral contributor of ghostly emblems for its embel- 
lishment, such as sundry figures of angels with 
wings ; a holy sepulcher, well gilt ; a heaven, made 
of wood and stained clothes, and other equally cu- 
rious proofs of his munificent piety. t In the latter 

* There were six or seven old chests in the muniment-room, 
one of which was said to be Mr. Canynge' t cofre. It was secured 
by six keys ; bat in process of time the six keys were lost, and 
the corporation resolved to break open the locks, under an impres- 
sion that it contained writings of value. This was done in 1727, 
and all the documents relating to the Church were removed, while 
the rest, which were of no importance, were left exposed. It was 
out of these dusty scrolls and parchments that Chatterton persist- 
ed in asserting he had collected the Rowley poems. 

t This singular document runs as follows : 

" Item, that Maister Canynge has delivered, this 4th day of 
July, in the yeare of our Lord 1470, to Maister Nicholas Fetters, 
vicar of St. Mary Radcliffe, Moses Conterin, Philip Barthelmew, 
procurators of St. Mary Radcliffe aforesaid, a new sepulcher,. 

well gilt with gold, and a civer thereto. — Item, an image of 

rising out of the same sepulcher, with all the ordinance that 'long* 


n of his life he entered into holy orders, and 
ided the. Priory of Westbury, where he died 
in 1476. 

John, the eldest of the three brothers, was the 
father of Thomas Canning, who married the heir- 
ess of the Le M arshalls of Foxcote, in Warwick- 
shire, a family which had enjoyed that possession 
from the time of the Conquest. The eldest branch 
of the Canning family removed upon this marriage 
to Foxcote, where its lineal representatives are still 

George, a younger son of Bichard Canning, of 
Foxcote,t received a grant of the manor of G-ar- 
.vagh, in Londonderry, from James L, in 1618 ;J 
and, proceeding to Ireland, established a junior 
branch of the family on that property. This grant 
must be regarded as one of those violent appropri- 
ations of land in that country which, under the pre- 
text of defective titles, or other legal quibbles in- 
dustriously supplied by the attorney-general of the 
day, formed so conspicuous a feature in the man- 
agement of Irish affairs throughout that memorable 

eth thereto (that is to say), a lathe made of timber and the iron 
work thereto.— Item, thereto 'longeth h-v-n, made of timber and 
stained clothes. — Item, h-U, made of timber and iron work there- 
to, with devils to the number of 13. — Item, 4 knights armed, keep- 
ing the sepulcher, with their weapons in their hands (that is to 
say), two axes and two spears, with two pares. — Item, 4 parys of 
. angels' wings for 4 angels, made of timber, and well painted. — 
. Item, the fadre, the crown and visage, the well, with a cross upon 

it, well gilt with fine gould. — Item, the H G coming out 

of h-v-n into the sepulchre.— Item, 'longeth to the 4 angels, 4 chev- 
* See Genealogical Table. 

t A correspondent of the " Gentleman's Magazine" (vol. xcvnl) 
says that there is a pedigree at Foxcote, attested by sir William 
Segar in 1622, in which George Canning, of Barton-on-the-Heath 
(then, or afterward, Garvagh), is stated to be the eighth, and not 
the fourth son, as set forth in the Peerages. 
% In nearly all the notices extant of the Canning family, this 

Srant is said to have been made by Queen Elizabeth ; but it it 
ated 1618, and Queen Elizabeth died in 1603. 


mgn. # The pew proprietors of Garvagh could 
hardly hope to escape the common penalties of a 
position so odious in the eyes of the people ; and 
the Cannings, accordingly, had their share of the 
wild justice which made reprisals upon the settlers 
for the misdeeds of the government. One of them 
was killed by the populace, and another attainted 
by the Parliament of James II. But, notwithstand? 
ing these disasters, the family managed to keep pos- 
session of their property. George Canning, the 
grand-son of the first settler, married a daughter of 
Robert Stratford, Esq., of Baltinglass (aunt of the 
first Earl of Aldborough), by whom he had two 
sons, Stratford and George. The line was contin- 
ued through Stratford Canning, who had three sons, 
George, the father of the statesman ; Paul, whose 
son was created Baron Garvagh,t and Stratford, 

♦ A transparent form of judicial inquiry was occasionally insti- 
tuted into defective titles, of which many were known to exist ; 
and wherever the slightest flaw could be detected, the property 
was forfeited to the crown. To such a proceeding, however hard 
in particular instances, no legal objection could be offered ; but 
the true character of the appropriation is unveiled by the notori- 
ous fact, that, when the juries refused to find for the king, they 
were censured or imprisoned. The result was, that convictions 
were obtained in almost every case. Leland says that " there are 
not wanting proofs of the most iniquitous practices, of hardened 
cruelty, of vile perjury, and scandalous subornation employed to 
despoil the fair and unoffending proprietor of his inheritance." It 
is needless to say that such forfeitures, although apparently ac- 
complished through a process of law, were, in reality, acts of na- 
ked spoliation. 

t Paul, the seconn son, died in November, 1784. He married 
Jane, second daughter of Conway Spencer, of Tremany, county 
of Down, sister of Sir Brent Spencer, and of the Marchioness of 
Donegal. This lady died in Dublin in October, 1 825. There were 
four children by this marriage, but only one, George, lived to ma- 
turity, and he was created Baron Garvagh in 1818. He was twice 
married, first to Lady Georgiana Stewart, fourth daughter of the 
first Marquis of Londonderry; and, second, to Rosabel le Char- 
lotte Isabella, eldest daughter of the late Henry Bonham, Esq., 
and now lady dowager. By this marriage there was issue, two 
sons and a daughter. Charles Henry Spencer George Canning, 


afterward a London merchant, and father of Sir 

Stratford Canning the diplomatist. 

The descent of the Right Hon. George Canning 

from the Mayor of Bristol, through the Cannings 

of Foxcote and Garvagh, is thus clearly traced. 

The following table exhibits the pedigree of the 

family : 

the present Baron Garvagh, was horn in 1826, and succeeded to the 
title in 1840. 





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George Canning, die eldest son and heir of Gar- 

vagh, had the misfortune to incur the parental dis- 
pleasure by falling in love without his father's con- 
sent. Of this incident, which exercised a material 
influence over subsequent events, no particulars 
have transpired. Nothing is known of the lady or 
the liaison, farther than that the father disinherited 
the son, and dismissed him from his house with a 
scanty allowance of <£150 a year, accompanied by 
a stern announcement that the offender was to look 
for no more from his bounty for the rest of his life. 
It is impossible to believe that so venial an offense 
could have been visited by so vindictive a punish- 
ment, unless the family dissensions had been aggra- 
vated by other circumstances. Strong political dif- 
ferences existed between father and son. The son 
had taken the liberty of choosing for himself in pol- 
itics, as he had done in love, and the one was no 
more to be forgiven than the other. The father 
thought ho had a right to select opinions as well as 
wives for his children; and, being a gentleman of 
implacable temper and violent prejudices, he seized 
upon the first tangible excuse that offered, to drive 
forth upon the world a son who had so much sense 
and liberality as to embrace principles the very re- 
verse of his own. 

In 1757 we find George Canning in London, ban- 
ished from his native country, which he was doom- 
ed never to see again. In that year he entered the 
Middle Temple, and in due time was called to the 
English bar. But he never practiced his profes- 
sion. Politics and literature, either from choice or 
necessity, drew him off from the study of law, and 
it was natural enough that the conversation of po- 
ets and quidnuncs should possess greater attractions 
for a young barrister without connections, than the 
uncertain prospects of Westminster Hall. The 


favorable reception given to several fugitive verses 
which he contributed to the miscellanies of the day, 
confirmed his alienation, while the freedom of his 
principles procured him the intimate friendship of 
Wilkes, in whose affairs "he seems to have taken a 
zealous interest. Churchill, Lloyd, and Whitbread, 
the elder Colman, the good-natured Mr. Cambridge, 
and doubtless many other wits and poetasters of 
. Dodsley's, were among his associates and acquaint- 
ances ; and although he never obtained much dis- 
tinction as a writer, his claims to admission into the 
literary circles were cheerfully conceded on all 

The first publication by which he attracted no- 
tice was an ardent defense of civil and religious 
liberty, in a poem entitled "An Epistle from Will- 
iam Lord Russell to William Lord Cavendish," sup- 
posed to have been written by the former on the 
night before his execution.t This piece was pub- 
lished in 1763, and met with such success as to 
reach a second edition in a few months. Its recep- 
tion must be attributed solely to the boldness of its 
political doctrines, for its literary claims are very 
Blender. But the author makes some compensa- 
tion for the feeble monotony of his lines by his vig- 
orous horror of priestly intolerance and kingly tyr- 
anny* He was fortunate, also, in appearing at a 
moment when such sentiments were certain to cov- 
er a multitude of worse sins than indifferent verse. 
* It is not improbable that Mr. Canning may have contributed 
to the latter part of the collection of poems made by Dodsley, who 
published nearly all his works ; but, after a diligent inquiry on the 
subject, I can not trace any evidence of the fact. A writer in the 
" Gentleman's Magazine" (vol. xcvii.) says that the Epistle from 
Lord William Russell to Lord Cavendish is preserved in Dods- 
ley's collection. This is a mistake. No such poem is to be found 
in the six volumes. Perhaps the writer was led into this error by 
discovering that Dodsley was the publisher of the epistle. 

t Noticed with high commendation in the " Monthly Review" 
for 1763. 


The " North Briton" had only recently opened its 

fire upon Lord Bute and the "Auditor;" and in 

the state of the public mind at that period, such 

passages as the following, enunciating the popular 

doctrine that all power emanates from the peoplo, 

and is only held in trust for the people, must have 

been sure of admiring audiences : 

"What ! shall a tyrant trample on the laws, 
And stop the source whence all his power he draws ? 
His country's rights to foreign foes betray, 
Lavish her wealth, yet stipulate for pay ? 

• # * * * 

In luxury '8 lap lie screened from cares and pains, 
And only toil to forge his subjects' chains f 
And shall he hope the public voice to drown, 
The voice which gave, cfto* can resume hie crown ?" 

It would be scarcely just to say that this is a fair 
sample of the poem. There are better lines in it, 
and worse. But Mr. Canning evidently laid more 
stress on his political opinions than on the vehicle 
through which they were conveyed. Verse was 
the fashion of the day ; and with enough of taste 
and education to make a correct use of so nice an 
instrument, he selected it as the most popular me- 
dium for the expression of popular opinions. The 
success of the attempt was probably as great as he 
anticipated. Some passages were praised for their 
tenderness and pathos, such as the parting address 
to Lady Rachel Russell, beginning, 

" Oh ! my loved Rachel ! all-accomplished fair, 
Source of my joy, and soother of my care ! 
Whose heavenly virtues and unfading charms 
Have blessed, through happy years, my peaceful arms !"* 

But, notwithstanding occasional touches of this 

sort of conventional refinement, the main purpose 

and surviving interest of the piece must be finally 

* It has been supposed that in this passage Mr. Canning gave 
▼ent to his own conjugal feelings ; but, unfortunately for this in- 
genious conjecture, he was not married until five years after the 
publication of the poem. 


traced to its open and manly advocacy of opinion* 
which could not at that time be avowed without a 
certain risk of odium and persecution. 

Perhaps to that very circumstance may be at- 
tributed a fierce attack, which appeared in the 
tt Critical Review/ 1 on his next work, " A Trans- 
lation of Anti-Lucretius, by George Canning, of the 
Middle Temple," published by Dodsley in 1766. 
This volume contained an English version of the 
first three books of Cardinal Polignac's well-known 
poem, in which the doctrines of various schools of 
philosophers, but especially that of Lucretius, were 
dissected with masterly power, and in a style at once 
compact and graceful.* Upon the whole, the trans- 
lation was diffuse, and occasionally careless and in- 
elegant ; but the writer in the Review exceeded all 
reasonable bounds of animadversion, and ran into 
such outrageous abuse of the book as to draw an 
indignant rejoinder from Mr. C anning.t The " Crit- 
ical Review" was notorious for the scurrilous ma* 
lignity of its articles, which frequently descended 
to the lowest personalities ; and Smollet, who ap- 
pears to have done his best, or his worst, to deserve 
the distinction, generally got credit for all papers 
of an offensive character which appeared in its 
pages. On this occasion Mr. Canning attacked him 
unsparingly with his own weapons, and got the best 
of the argument as well as of the abuse. But Smol- 
let had no character to lose, and suffered such things 
with the impunity which attaches to people who 
can not be much farther damaged by exposure. He 

* A translation of the first book had been previously made 
(1757) by Mr. Dobson (the translator into Latin of the " Paradise 
Lost"), and reviewed by Oliver Goldsmith in the " Monthly Re- 
view," vol. xvii., p. 44. See " Prior's Life of Goldsmith," passim. 

t " An Appeal to the Public from the malicious Representations, 
impudent Falsifications, and unjust Decisions of the anonymous 
Fabricators of the * Critical Review.' By George Canning, of the 
Middle Temple. Provoco ad populism. Dodsley. 1767." 


belonged to the. class of literary undertakers, a nu- 
merousi>ody at that timet who were ready to grub 
at any sort of work for hire, and who were trying 
new speculations every day, at the manifest cost of 
decent reputation, in the desperate struggle to keep 
soul and body together. Smollet — various and 
shuffling, the harlequin of bookmakers — trafficked 
in this, description of ware as publicly as sordid, 
cheese-paring Griffiths and his wife, who boarded 
and lodged their ill-paid critics, by way of starving 
them both ways into their drudgery * They all be- 
longed to the same herd; but Mr. Canning, with 
keen and discriminating scent, singled out the bas- 
est of them all — the man who, with some real right 
to take rank as a genius, or something very near it, 
degraded himself into a mercenary jobber, who put 
Garrick into history to propitiate his influence in 
the green-room, and stuck the royal arms on the 
front of his book to lure high patronage, just as 

Sastry-cooks hang out the regal sign over their shop- 
oors.+ Mr. Canning knew how to deal with such 

* Griffiths boarded Goldsmith in part payment of his articles in 
the " Monthly Review,'* and Mrs. Griffiths cut and scored them 
to measure. But this worthy couple, although they seem to have 
carried the system to perfection, had not the honor of originating 
it. The booksellers' hack existed in all his nakedness as far back 
as the Augustan age of Curll, so admirably satirized by Swift. 
Davenant boarded his women actresses in Lincoln's Inn Fields ; 
but they were better off than the authors, for he fed them exqui- 
sitely, and honored their caprices with rosa-solis and usquebagh. 

t The dedication, addressed to Smollet himself, win show the 
spirit in which this uncompromising brochure is written. " To 
Tobias Smollett, M.D. Uniformly tenacious of the principles he 
was nursed in — famous for his stories, histories, and his continual 
continuations of complete histories, as the single personage with 
whom the unnamed putters-together of the « Critical Review' ut- 
terly disclaim all manner of connection (graceless rogues to dis- 
own their father) — the ensuing Tractate is, with singular propri- 
ety, inscribed by its author." And, as a specimen of the crushing 
eontempt with which the writer treated his hireling critics, the 
following passage is strikingly characteristic : " 1 would conclude 
with a piece of friendly and Christian admonition to these pubtie 
plunderers, who have too long subsisted by literary rapine upon 


shabby venality as it deserved, and not merely 
scourged it, but treated it with loathing and con- 

The ** Appeal" was followed in 1767 by a col- 
lected edition of his poems, including, among other 
additions, the fourth and fifth books of the " Anti- 
Lucretius." The introductory address to his early 
friend and preceptor, Shem Thomson, D.D., opens 
with a confession of the straits to which he had be- 
come reduced by his imprudence, and a resolution 
to forsake his unprofitable dalliance with the muses, 
and to devote himself to the law ; a resolution, un- 
fortunately, which was taken too late. He was at 
this period only thirty-one years of age. 

44 Formed by thy care to hopes of simplest praise, 
Taught to pursue the best ana safest ways, 
The paths of honor, riches, and renown, 
How have I fall'n beneath fell fortune's frown ! 

the spoils of many reputations. It is briefly this, to go back to the 
place from whence they came, and there to follow the lawful occu- 
pations for which they were instituted by art or designed by na- 
ture. Their offense, in my opinion, comes within the express let- 
ter of the statute of 9th Geo., cap. 22, being ' An Act for the more 
effectually punishing wicked and evil-disposed persons going 
armed in disguise, and doing injury and violence to the persons 
and properties of his majesty's subjects,' vulgarly called the Black 
Act. Away, then, ye banditti, while your necks are yet unbrok- 
en ; but be cautious wherever ye shall handle the honest imple- 
ments of industry, lest your employer should discover the vile 
practices ye have been guilty of; for he who knows you would 
not trust one of you with the cobbling of a shoe, lest he should 
be pricked by a hobnail left wilfully sticking up on the inside of 
the heel-piece." That the writers in the " Critical Review" de- 
served all this abuse seems to have been acknowledged by every 
bodv. The fugitive publications of the day teem with allusions 
to their scurrility and injustice, and Churchill charges them with 
forging deliberate falsehoods : 

" To Hamilton's the ready lies repair ; 
Ne'er was lye made which was not welcome there." 

" The Apology." 
The worst of it was, that the innocent were hunted down on bare 
suspicion as well as the guilty ; and poor Murphy, who never 
wrote a line in the obnoxious periodical in his lite, was gibbeted 
by Churchill under the belief that he was one of the gang. 


How seen my vessel founder in the deep, 

Her ablest pilot, Prudence, lull'd to sleep ! 
But hence, Despondence ! Hell-born hag. away ! 
Oft lours the morn when radiance gilds toe day : 
Hard if all hope were dead, all spirit gone, 
And every prospect closed at thirty-one. 
Then welcome, Law f Poor Poesy, farewell ! 
, Though in thy cave the loves and graces dwell, 
One Chancery cause in solid worth outweighs 
Dryden's strong sense, and Pope's harmonious lays." 

The bold avowal of his principles under circum- 
stances so discouraging, at a time when they oper- 
ated as a complete bar to advancement in his pro- 
fession, was martyrdom to a man so situated ; yet he 
exults in his creed, and boasts of the sacrifices made 
by his family in the cause of liberty. It is a pity 
that the historical illustration is not more satis- 
fact6ry, for the sanguinary attempts to transplant 
Protestantism into Ireland, in which his ancestors 
" fought, bled, and died/' may appear to some com- 
prehensions as acts of the most unwarrantable tyr- 

" When Popery high her bloody standard bore, 

And drenched Ierne's blushing plains with gore, 

While, for a time, pale Liberty in vain 

Th' o'erwhelming deluge labor'd to restrain, 

We boast of ancestors with mutual pride, «. 

Who fought, who bled, and (let me add) who died. 
Ne'er be thy charms, fair Liberty, resigned, 

Birthright bestow'd by Heaven on all mankind ! 

Every delight is tasteless but with thee ! 

No man's completely wretched who is free !" 

Throughout all the writings of this gentleman 
the same generous and manly spirit predominates ; 
and if his lines were not so frequently flat and pro- 
saic, their honest patriotism might have secured 
them durable applause. But permanent reputa- 
tions are not made out of good intentions. 

Mr. Canning's next publication was in 1768. 

Although he had taken leave of Helicon, he had 

not yet got out of the troubled waters of politics. 

The American revolution had just broken out, and 

2 B 2 


Franklin had arrived in England in a sort of semi- 
ministerial capacity. The subject engrossed uni- 
versal attention. Mr. Canning took it up with his 
usual warmth and enthusiasm in " A Letter to Lord 
Hillsborough,* on the Connection between Great 
Britain and her American Colonies,"! contending 
for the urgent necessity, as well as the right,' of the 
supreme legislature to frame money bills and other 
laws for America.} 

There is nothing very remarkable in this pam- 
phlet, except that the general manner bears a curi- 
ous resemblance to some peculiarities in the style 
of George Canning the son. . Certain artifices of 
treatment might easily be mistaken, such as the ex- 
plosion of a train of reasoning by an unexpected 
flash of pleasantry, or the suddenly breaking off 
into, a fervid apostrophe in the midst of a close arr 
gument. Thus, speaking of the supineness of Brit- 
ain, in reference to American affairs, he says, that 
if her rights are not speedily and efficiently assert- 
ed, her empty declarations " will soon sound as ri- 
diculous as the Cham of Tartary's gracious permis- 
sion to the potentates of the earth to sit down to 
their dinner ;" and again, in an excess of enthusi- 
asm, be exclaims, " Would to God that all mankind 
enjoyed freedom and happiness in the highest, most 
perfect, and permanent degree ! would to God 
there were no pain or other evil in the world ! But 

* * Lord Hillsborough had just been appointed to a new office 
for managing the business of the plantations. 

t Published by Beckett. 

X Looking back at this distance of time upon the agitation pro- 
duced by this question — a question which now appears so clear 
and simple !— it is instructive to observe how widely men of the 
same political leaning were divided upon it. Thus Junius protest- 
ed against the American claims, and, like Mr. Canning, asserted 
the right of the mother country to control popular sentiment in 
the colony—for that was what it amounted to— while Lord Chat- 
ham, who was Junius's idol, maintained exactly an opposite opin- 


how vain are such wishes ! How futile are the 
dreams of the philosopher in his study, when he 
creates worlds by his fancy, and models systems by 
his caprice ! for reasoning, abstracted from fact and 
experience, will always degenerate into fancy and 
caprice/' The reader who is thoroughly familiar 
with the orator's periods, and those impulsive and 
passionate flights with which he used to electrify 
the senate, will easily recognize a family likeness 
in these scraps ; but it is, of course, more obvious 
in the general manner than in detached passages. 
Mr. Canning, had now been eleven years in Lon- 
don/ mixing largely in society, and endeavoring to 
sustain his precarious position by various literary 
efforts. His expenses were unavoidably greater 
than .his small income justified ; nor could he di- 
minish them without risking the only prospect of 
advancement he enjoyed through his intercourse 
with the popular men of his party. His profession 
brought him nothing but disappointment ; his pub- 
lications nothing but empty, compliments ; his con- 
nection with Wilkes and the opposition destroyed 
all chance of patronage at the bar. The conse- 
quence was, that he became more and more em- 
barrassed every day, and had no resource, at last, 
but to seek assistance through the members of his 
family. The way in which this assistance was ren- 
dered shows that the domestic disunion had ac- 
quired increased bitterness during the long inter- 
val of separation, the political prejudices of the 
father having been, no doubt, grievously outraged 
by the audacious independence with which the son 
continued to maintain his opinions. A proposal 
was made to pay off his debts, but accompanied by 
a condition so galling and oppressive, that sheer ex- 
tremity alone could have compelled him to accept 
it. The condition was, that he should join his fa- 


ther in cutting off the entail of the estate, thus re- 
nouncing forever his own legal rights as heir-at- 
law. To this cruel alternative he was forced to 
submit by the immediate pressure of circumstances; 
and the sacrifice was no sooner made, than he had 
the mortification of seeing the estate settled upon 
his younger brother Paul. It is a curious sequel 
to this transaction, that the son of the very George 
Canning who was thus disinherited should have af- 
terward acquired such personal distinction as to be 
considered, politically at least, the head of the fam- 
ily ; reasserting, in his person, the ascendency of 
the elder branch. 

The relief which Mr* Canning purchased at- so 
heavy a cost of prospective advantages afforded 
him but a temporary escape from his difficulties af- 
ter all. He soon got into debt again as deeply as 
ever ; and, as if there were a fatality in his embar- 
rassments by which he was predestined to incur the 
heaviest responsibilities at the times when he was 
least qualified to discharge them, this was the mo- 
ment he thought fit to become a husband. The 
excess of the imprudence seems to have fascinated 
his imagination. In this year, 1768, without any 
resources on either side but his own poor allow- 
ance, or any prospect of increase, except the in- 
crease of expense, he married Miss Costello, an 
Irish lady of considerable personal attractions and 
good family.* Miss Costello, at that time residing 
with her maternal grand-father, Colonel Guydick- 
ens, was only eighteen years of age, extremely 
beautiful and captivating, but portionless.t We 

* The marriage is thus recorded in the " Gentleman's Maga- 
zine" for May, 1768 : •« George Canning, of the Middle Temple, 
Esq., to Miss Mary Ann Costello, of Wigmore-street." They were 
married at Marylebone church. 

t Colonel Guydickens had formerly held diplomatic appoint- 
ments at some of the courts of Europe, and his son, Gustavus 


hear nothing more of Mr. Canning's early attach- 
ment. It had either passed away, or been broken 
off, or it had faded in the light of the new and bright- 
er enchantment. An alliance formed under finch 
inauspicious circumstances, so far as fortune was 
concerned, could not fail to exasperate the resent- 
ment of his family to the utmost; it effectually 
crushed all hope of reconciliation. Mr. Canning 
never returned to Ireland, and never saw his father 

Guydickens, Esq., was gentleman usher of the privy chamber in 
the queen's household. Miss CosteMo's family, on her father's 
side, was no less respectable ; and I avail myself of this opportu- 
nity to show that the assertion, so frequently repeated in print, that 
she was a person of " low birth," has not a shadow of foundation 
in fact. The branch of the Costellos from which she was de- 
scended is of considerable antiquity, as may be seen from the fol- 
lowing genealogical particulars with which I have been obliging- 
ly furnished from an authentic quarter. The family of the Cos- 
tellos, originally called M*Costelio, were settled, long before the 
Conquest, in the Barony of Costello, parish of Aughamore, coun- 
ty of Mayo, from which possession they were styled Lords or Bar- 
ons of Costello. Of this stock there were three sons, among 
whom the barony was divided. The eldest son, who lived in Lis- 
meganson, married into the noble family of the Jordans, who were 
Barons of Gallon and Island. The second son, Edmond, settled 
at Talahan, now called EdmondstowB, was married to a sister of 
Lord Lowth's ; and the third son connected himself by marriage 
with Lord Dillon, of Clonbrock, and the Castle Kelly family. 
This last branch emigrated, and are now settled in opulence at 

Miss Costello was descended from the eldest branch. Her great- 
grand-father, Edmond, the son of Jordan Costello, was married tp 
Miss Dowell, of Brickliff Castle, near Boyle, county of Sligo,by 
whom he had issue six sons and two daughters. The greater 
part of his property was confiscated by Oliver Cromwell, m con- 
sequence of his attachment to the cause of the Stuarts ; and three 
of the younger sons, Charles, Thomas, and Gasper, being thus de- 
prived of their inheritance, and unable to find employment in the 
army or navy, on account of their profession of the Koman Cath- 
olic faith, went into business in Dublin. Charles Costello i 

ried Miss French, of Frenchlawn, county of, Roscommon, by 
whom he had a son, Jordan, who married Miss Guydickens, and 
had issue Mary Ann Costello, afterward married to Mr. Canning, 
and mother of the Right Honorable George Canning. Colonel 
Guydickens appears to have been twice married; first to Miss Han- 
cock, of Athlone (mother of Miss Guydickens), and afterward, in 
1762, to Miss Tracey. 


again. The only members of his family with whom 
he held any intercourse after his marriage were 
his two brothel's and his eldest sister. 

His union with Miss Costello awoke him to the 
necessity of more energetic exertions than he had 
hitherto made in his flirtations with literature and 
politics, but they resulted only in a succession of 
failures. The situation of this young couple, in the 
great conflict upon which they were cast, was pain- 
fully imbittered by constitutional inaptitude for the 
worldly strife. Highly gifted, sensitive, and am- 
bitious, they were dragged down into sordid cares, 
which wounded their pride, and forced them to at- 
tempt means of extrication for which few people 
could have been so ill fitted. The close retirement 
in which they found it necessary to live was cheer- 
ed by the birth of a daughter ; but the child died 
early, and their pecuniary distresses now growing 
more urgent than ever, Mr. Canning, eager to em- 
brace every hopeful opportunity that presented it- 
self, tried several experiments in business. He set 
up as a wine-merchant, and failed, as might have 
been expected. Other speculations were entered 
upon with no better success ; and in the midst of 
these overwhelming troubles, on the 1 1th of April, 
1770, George Canning was born. He must have 
been a brave prophet who should have predicted 
that the child of such afflictions would one day be 
Prime Minister of England.* 

According to some authorities, this event took 
place in Paddington; others, with greater likeli- 
hood, assign the honor to the Parish of Maryle- 
bone, where George Canning was baptized on the 
9th of the following May.t The register of St. 

* Yet this prophecy was actually made a few years later, as we 
shall see. 
t Mr. Canning was generally supposed to be an Irishman ; and, 


Clement, East Cheap, contains entries of the bap- 
tisms of several members of the Canning family ; 
but these were the children of Mr. Stratford Can- 
ning the merchant, including Sir Stratford Can- 
ning, Mr. Charles James Fox Canning (for the 
merchant was a thorough Foxite), and others. 

Upon this happy occasion Mr. Canning forgot his 
renunciation of the muses, and published anony- 
mously a little poem addressed to his wife, entitled 
" A Birthday Offering to a Young Lady from her 
Lover," full of the tenderest images and most re- 
fined gallantry* The reader of to-day must not 
be surprised at this mode of address, which, ac- 
cording to our usages, would lead him to suspect 
any thing rather. than that the person so apostro- 
phized was a married woman. But it was the cus- 
tom of that age, and was frequently carried to a 
still greater height of absurdity .t 

unlike the supercilious Congreve, he had no objection to be thought 
00. In a biographical work called " Literary Memoirs of Living 
Authors," published iu 1798, he is described as " a native of Ire- 
land ;" and Moore, in the " Life of Sheridan," and Sydney Smith, 
in the " Edinburgh Review," speak of him as an Irishman. But, 
to take his own humorous version of it, he was only an Irishman 
bora in London. When Sir Walter Scott was in Ireland, in 1625, 
enjoying the proverbial hospitality of that country, Canning writes 
to him : " I rejoice to see that my countrymen (for though I was ac- 
cidentally born in London, I consider my aelf an Irishman) have so 
well known the honor you are paying them." — •' Life," viii., p. 129. 

* The authorship was not avowed, but there appears to be no 
doubt that it was his production. It was published by Dodsley, 
and the " Monthly Review" (May, 1770) speaks of having seen 
it advertised in his name. The verses have something of the point 
and polish, and not a little of the conceit, of Waller ; as when he 
says that his mistress's beauty, defying the destroying influence 
of Time, shall outlast the heavens themselves : 
" Long e'er thy menaced ills can harm, 
Though every hour should steal a charm : 
Long e'er, by twenty stars a day, 
The spangled heaven would wear away !" 

t No extremity of matronly experience disqualified a lady from 
retaining the style of girlhood. One instance -may sufficiently il- 
lustrate the custom : " Monody to a Young Lady who died in 


The birth of his son emoted a new source of anx- 
iety, and made a fresh demand upon the energies 
of Mr. Canning.; but his spirit was broken by dis- 
appointments, and after another year of increasing 
embarrassment and frustrated efforts, he finally sunk 
under his misfortunes. The remorse he felt at hav- 
ing deprived his child of his rightful inheritance 
preyed incessantly on his spirits, and hurried him 
to his grave. He died on the 11th of April, 1771, 
die anniversary of his son's birthday, and was bur- 
ied m the churchyard of Marylebone.* 

These close details concerning the family and 
birth of Mr. Canning acquire an extraneous inter- 
est from the charge of illegitimacy which was once 
flung upon him, and industriously propagated by 
his political enemies in the old days of rotten-bor- 
ough delinquency and electioneering corruption, 
when nothing was too base or monstrous for the foul 
malignity of faction- The absurd calumny would 
now be scarcely worth notice, were it not for this 
curious coincidence, that a similar libel was cast 
upon his early and life-long friend, Mr. Huskisson, 
who was stigmatized as " an illegitimate alien," and 
who found it necessary to refute the infamous slan- 
der from the hustings at Liverpool. Such foul as- 
persions must be regarded as the wild retaliation 
of the mob, worked up to phrensy by acts of op- 
pression and injustice. When the people found a 
man rising to a position of weight and influence by 

Child-bed. By an afflicted Husband." This piece was published 

in quarto in 1766 ; and if the reader desire any farther satisfaction. 

he may have his curiosity gratified by inspecting the archives of 

the Museum. 
* His tomb bears the following inscription from the hand of his 

widow : 

" Thy virtue and my woe no words can tell ; 
Therefore a tittle while, my George) farewell ; 
For faith and love like oars, Heaven has in store 
Its lasj, best gift—to meet and part no more." 


the mere force of his talents, they committed the 
great error of reproaching him with the lowliness 
of his origin, as if it were an indelible disgrace, as 
if he had no right to ascend to station or authority, 
or as if power should be held only by those who 
were born to it — the very principle against which 
they themselves were contending all the time. Mr. 
Canning eloquently rebuked them for this perfidy 
to their own cause, a rebuke which illustrates an 
anomaly we have latterly become familiar with— 
the defense of democratical principles' against the 
assaults of the people themselves. " Are they so 
little read," he exclaimed, " in the British consti- 
tution as not to know that it is one of the peculiar 
boasts of this country, and one main security for 
its freedom, that men as humble as myself, with no 
pretensions to wealth, or title, or high family, or 
wide-spreading connections, may yet find their way 
to the cabinet of their sovereign, through the fair 
road of public service, and stand there upon afoot' 
**g °f equality with ike proudest aristocracy of the 
land ? Is it from courtiers of the people, from ad- 
mirers of republican virtue and republican energy, 
that we hear doctrines which would tend to exclude 
from the management of public affairs all who are 
not illustrious by birth, or powerful from heredita- 
ry opulence ?"* But the true solution of this pop- 
ular perplexity was the uneasy distrust that lay at 
the bottom. The people felt, with a natural sense 
of justice, that men who sprang from their own 
ranks ought to be found fighting in them. They 
resented as a wrong their union with the dominant 
party, not because it was dominant, but because it 
was antagonistic. They were so eager to show 
their impatience of the individual desertion, that 
they overlooked the larger right, which was so 
* Speech at Liverpool, 17th of October, 1813. 


perversely but conspicuously vindicated through its 

Upon the death of Mr. Canning the allowance 
of d£150 a year reverted to the G-arvagh family, 
and his widow was left destitute. In this extrem- 

* Mr. Canning was constantly called an " adventurer" in news- 
papers, and squibs, and political meetings. He was persecuted 
with the term to the end of his life. The only intelligible reproach 
which could be extracted from it was, that he was not bora a lord ; 
for he certainly sprang from the ranks of the gentry, was descend- 
ed from families of some centuries' standing, and was as well en- 
titled, on the score of birth, to the elevated position he ultimate- 
ly occupied as any gentleman in the country. But still he was 
an " adventurer," because he acquired personal distinction by mer- 
it, and not by inheritance. Nobody questions the honors accord- 
ed to lofty birth, but every body has a fling at the honors bestowed 
upon lofty minds, probably lest they might eclipse all the rest in 
the long run. Bonaparte was obliged to put up with similar treat- 
ment while he was dictating to the crowned heads of Europe ; 
and all that need be said about it is, to express one's unfeigned re- 
gret that there are not many more such " adventurers" in the 
world. Mr. Canning frequently alluded to- this imputed igno- 
miny, and in one of his speeches, after having been elected at Liv- 
erpool, he used these memorable words: "Gentlemen, there is 
yet a heavier charge than either of those which I have stated to 
you. It is, gentlemen, that I am an adventurer. To this charge, 
as I understand it, I am willing to plead guilty. A representative 
of the people, I am one of the people ; and I present myself to 
those who choose me only with the claims of character (be they 
what they may) unaccredited by patrician patronage or party rec- 
ommendation. Nor is it in this free country where, in every walk 
of life, the road of honorable success is open to every individual : 
I am sure it is not in this place that I shall be expected to apolo- 
gize for so presenting myself to'your choice. / know there is apo- 
litical creed which assigns to a certain combination of great families a 
right to dictate to the sovereign and to influence the people, and that 
this doctrine of hereditary aptitude for administration is, singular- 
ly enough, most prevalent among those who find nothing more 
laughable than the principle of legitimacy in the crown. To this 
theory 1 have never subscribed. If to depend directly upon the 
people as their representative in Parliament ; if, as a servant of the 
crown, to lean on no other support than that of public confidence ; if 
that be to be an adventurer, I plead guilty to the charge, and I 
would not exchange that situation, to whatever taunts it may ex- 
pose me, for all the advantages which might be derived from an 
ancestry of a hundred generations." — Speech after the chairing at 
Liverpool, 12th of June, 1816. The " combination of great families 1 * 
never forgave him who uttered this bold and honest declaration. 


ity she was tempted, by the recommendation of 
friends, to seek an independence on the stage, for 
which she appeared qualified by talents and per- 
sonal qualifications. 

The biographical notices which have hitherto 
appeared of her distinguished son treat this circum- 
stance with an air of prudery and reserve, as if 
there were something in it to be ashamed of. It 
is time that we were done with tips miserable af- 
fectation.* The shame, if there be any in .the mat- 
ter, is at the side that would try to evade the frank 
recognition of an art which has conferred such per- 
manent grace upon our literature, and which has 
transmitted its civilizing influence too often through 
the aristocracy itself to be set aside by the genteel 
finesse of a biographer. Indeed, there have been 
so many intermarriages between art and aristocra- 
cy, and their issues have become so diffused through 
the upper classes, that one might have thought it 
hardly safe to offer such a sinister indignity to the 
players. At all events, it is quite certain that no- 
bility has mingled its blood often enough with the 
stage to give it a legitimate right to gentle usage 
and fair report. 

Whether Mrs. Canning had any previous con- 
nections among the actors there are no means of 

* Imitated, too, by actors themselves, who, often sprung from 
honest handicraft, sometimes (out of family pride) change their 
names when they go upon the stage, as if any calling were more 
creditable than that ! This is the true tinfoil of false pretences* 
So Garrick would have been a more respectable member of soci- 
ety, '* living in Durhamyard, with three quarts of vinegar, and 
calling himself a wine-merchant," than Garrick interpreting the 
humanities of Shskspeare. Foote shows the absurd side of this 
wretched cant, when he makes Papillon in the " Lyar" say, " As 
to players — whatever might happen to me, I was determined not 
to bring a disgrace on my family, and so J resolved to turn footman.** 
This is almost as good, with its epigrammatic nose turned up, as 
the old story : «* Mother, mother, the players be coming !" '• Lord 
a mercy, child, run and take in the clothes !" 


ascertaining; but some such probability is suggest- 
ed by the discovery of the name of Costello in the 
Drury Lane company in 1740. This Mr. Costello 
wasi n a subordinate grade, filling insignificant 
parts ; and we afterward trace him to Covent Gar- 
den, where he is mentioned in the bills as playing 
the second grave-digger in " Hamlet," and where 
he died on the 9th of August, 1766. The coinci- 
dence of names gives a coloring of likelihood to 
the conjecture, but leaves it only a conjecture still. 

Through the intercession of some friends at 
court, probably Colonel Guydickens's son, Mrs. 
Canning's situation was brought under the notice 
of Queen Charlotte, who desired to know how she 
might serve her; upon which Mrs. Canning re- 
quested that her majesty would be good enough to 
become the medium of making her known to Mr. 
Garrick, with a view to her appearance on the 
stage. Her majesty graciously acceded to this re- 
quest, and the desired arrangement was effected 
through the agency of Lord Harcourt. 

Mrs. Canning made her first appearance on the 
stage at Drury Lane on -the 6th of November, 
1773, in the character of Jane Shore. Her pecul* 
iar circumstances excited so much interest, that 
Garrick, stimulated a little by the expectation of 
court patronage, resumed the part of Hastings, 
which he had long before relinquished. The play 
was repeated on the following evening, and was 
acted altogether six times, after which Mrs. Can- 
ning's name is found only rarely, and at intervals, 
in the bills of the theater. Her next appearance 
was on the 12th of April, 1774, as Perdita, in 
"Florizel and Perdita" (the "Winter's Tale" re- 
duced to a farce), for the benefit of Gentleman 
Palmer, as the favorite actor of that name was fa- 
miliarly called. On the 26th she took her benefit, 


playing Mrs. Beverly, in the " Gamester;"* and on 
the 28th she appeared for the first and only time 
in Octavia, in u All for Love." From that time 
she dropped into inferior parts,t and all the lead- 
ing characters she had hitherto performed were 
transferred to other persons. On the 7th of May 
Perdita was played by Mrs. Smith, a singer ; and 
on the 27th, when the " Gamester" was repeated, 
the character of Mrs. Beverly was acted by Miss 
Younge.J The truth was, that the attraction an T 
ticipated from her beauty had failed through her in- 
experience, and Garrick, who never stood on much 
ceremony in such matters, finding her forsaken by 
the court, made no scruple in reducing her at once 
to a lower position in the theater. But this result 
might have been anticipated from the first. A 
mere novice could not have reasonably hoped to 
contest the honors of popularity in a metropolitan 
theater with such actresses as Mrs. Abingdon and 
Mrs. Barry .§ 
- Thus discouraged in London, Mrs. Canning 

* From the playbill, which is still preserved, it appears that 
the performances were " by particular desire," and that the " Game- 
ster" was revived for the occasion, Reddish playing Beverly, and 
Palmer Stukely. The play was followed by a dance— the Mount* 
dineers— and a comic opera, " The Wedding Ring." The doors 
opened at five, and the play began at six. Mrs. Canning resided 
at that time in Great Queen-street, Lincoln's Inn Fields. 

t Such as Isabella, in the " Revenge *" Anna, in •* Dduglas." 

j Afterward Mrs. Pope, a popular and fashionable actress, who 
long held possession of the stage. She retired in 1797. 

$ Although Mrs. Canning did not succeed in London, her fail- 
ure was by no means discreditable. Bernard, who was present at 
her first appearance, says that " she put forth claims to the appro- 
bation of the critical : one thing, however," he adds, '* must be ad- 
mitted, that she was wonderfully well supported ; Garrick was the 
Hastings, and Reddish (her future husband) the Ihtmont" — " Ret- 
rospections." A critic of the day (in a Work called " Theatrical 
Portraits epigrammatically delineated"— 1774) compliments her 
highly on her performance of Jane Shore, in a couplet which is un- 
fortunately not fit, on other grounds, to be presented to the reader. 
He contrives, with considerable ingenuity in so short a compass, 
to eulogize at once her beauty, her talents, and her virtue. 
C 2 


went into the provinces. In 1775 we find her at 
Bristol,* playing Julia, in the " Rivals," with some 
eclat, under the management of Reddish, of Drury 
Lane.t Her subsequent career can not be traced 
with much certainty, in consequence of her mar- 
riage with Mr. Reddish, whose name, it seems, was 
borne by several actresses, with some of whom 
she has doubtless, in many instances, been con- 
founded.! It is unlikely that she ever returned to 
the London stage, although she has been conject- 
ural ly identified with a Mrs. Reddish who was 
severely treated at Drury Lane in 1776.§ The 
greater probability is, that she continued in the 

* Not Southampton, as misquoted in Genest's " History of the 
Stage." The fact is mentioned in a letter from Miss Lmley, in 
Moore's " Life of Sheridan." , 

t Reddish, plunged over head and ears in debts and disgraces 
of all sorts, purchased on credit a share in the Bristol Theater 
(then unconnected with Bath) from the elder Lacy. In Septem- 
ber, 1775, he apologizes to Garrickfor giving him only a small por- 
tion of a sum he owed him, excusing himself on account of the 
necessity he was under of payings off" the arrears to Lacy. 

% There were several actresses who appeared at Bristol under 
the name of Reddish. Speaking of one of them, Miss Hannah 
More says, in a letter to Garrick, " This is the second or third 
wife he has produced at Bristol ; in a short time we have had a 
whole bundle of Reddishes, and all remarkably unpungent." — 
" Garrick Correspondence." The Bristol audience resented these 
outrages, and used to hiss him violently whenever he made his ap- 
pearance. They once " pelted him," says Miss More, " for a quar- 
ter of an hour before they would let him speak." 

$ The play was " Semiramis," a tragedy, by Captain Ayscough, 
nephew of Lord Lyttleton, produced on the Htti of December, 
1776. Some opposition was made to the play, and to the actress, 
perhaps, on that account. " Mrs. Reddish was very cruelly treat- 
ed," says Oulton, in his " History of the London Theaters ;" 
" from her very first entrance on the stage to the last scene, she 
was violently hissed by the galleries. It was a regular attack, 
uniform in its sound and direction, where she filled her part Toler- 
ably, as well as where she failed." Upon which Mr. Genpst sug- 
gests that " this actress wa&perkaps Mrs. Canning, who sovutime* 
played as Mrs. Reddish." Whoever it was, this was :ne on7y time 
sne appeared ; and, in the printed copy of the piece, the character 
she performed is stated to have been played by Miss Hopkins, 
which throws a new suspicion Over the whole. 


country, making the usual tour of the provincial 
theaters with the usual fluctuating fortune ; being 
at one time engaged with Whitelock's company, a 
traveling corps in Staffordshire and the midland 
counties ; at another time making a sensation with 
Reddish in Dublin ;* afterward failing at Hull un- 
der Tate Wilkinson, and then leading the tragic 
business under Mr. Bernard, at Plymouth.! 

Mrs. Canning's marriage with Mr. Reddish, into 
which she suffered herself to be drawn against the 
advice and remonstrances of her friends, was the 
source of many bitterer trials than any she had yet 
endured.}; This Reddish was a person of intem- 
perate habits and bad character, disguised under 
the most fascinating manners. He acquired some 
notoriety for acting the villain on the stage, and 
no less for acting the profligate in real life. He 
was the son of a tradesman at Frome; made his 

* Some of the Canning family were in Dublin at the time, and, 
taking offense at her appearance, avoided the theater. On the 
night of her benefit the boxes were empty, although every other 
part of the house was crowded. 

t In 1791. " As an actress," says Bernard, " her efforts were 
more characterized by judgment than genius ; but nature had gift- 
ed her in many respects to sustain the matrons." — " Retrospec- 
tions." It must be remembered that this was written nearly twen- 
ty years after she had made her debut at Drury Lane. Bernard 
tells a curious story of her having taken lodgings in a haunted 
house, and braving the supernatural terrors alone at night with ex- 
traordinary courage. He pledges himself to the truth of the sto- 
ry, and adds that the fact was known to many other persons. It 
was exactly the sort of exploit she was very likely to nave under- 

X Mr. Genest says that " Mrs. Canning had, at one time, such 
a friendship for Mr. Reddish, that she assumed his name," from 
which it might be inferred that she adopted it merely as a nom de 
guerre. The statement, however, which I have given above, of 
her marriage with Mr, Reddish, rests on an authority which prop- 
erly closes all discussion on the subject. It is defective only in , 
the date when the circumstance took place, and this I have not 
been able to ascertain. Mrs. Canning's acquaintance with Mr. 
Reddish began in 1774, during her first season at Drury Lane ; and 
she certainly played under hia management at Bristol, in 1775, it 
her own name, as mentioned by Miss Linley. 


first appearance at Drury Lane in 1767 ; and was 
one of the principal actors there during Mrs. Can- 
ning's first season, playing Dumont to her Jane 
Shore, Beverly in " The Gamester," Antony in "All 
for Love.'** When he made his debU at Drury 
Lane, there was a Miss Hart in the theater, who en- 
joyed an income derived from a degrading source, 
and Reddish, tempted by her money, and utterly 
indifferent as to how it was acquired, wooed and 
married her in less than ten weeks. Afterward 
prevailing upon her to sell her annuity, he dissipa- 
ted the proceeds, and then abandoned her.t out 

* Although Reddish contrived somehow, but chiefly by subser- 
viency to Garrick, to monopolize a class of characters, which com- 
Selled Henderson to go to Covent Garden, and acquired such in- 
uence as to drive Macklin from the theater, he was an indifferent 
actor after all, without a spark of genius. Stevens, in a letter to 
Garrick, groups him with three or four- others, whom he describes 
as a pack of contemptible strollers. — " Garrick Correspondence," 
vol. ii., p. 35. In a contemporary work called " The Theaters ; a 
Theatrical Dissection, by Nicholas Nipclose" (1772), he is said to 
have had neither " expression, dignity, nor ease :" 
" A figure clumsy, and a vulgar face, 
Devoid of spirit as of pleasing grace ; 
Action unmeaning, often misapplied, 
Blessed with no perfect attribute but pride." 
It seems that one of the peculiarities of Reddish was a certain vul- 

f;ar insolence of deportment, whiGh gave great offense to the pub- 
ic. Another critic, in a publication entitled " Theatrical Portraits 
epigrammatically delineated" (1774), thinks rather, better of him 
as an actor, but gently dismisses him to the contempt of posteri- 
ty on account of his private life : 

" Reddish, while living, plays Pcathumus well ; 
But his posthumous character no one can tell." 
t Miss Hart, announced as a " gentlewoman," appeared for the 
first time at Drury Lane, in October, 1760, as Lady Toumly, in the 
" Provoked Husband," Sheridan playing Lord Tovmly. If Chur- 
chill may be believed, she possessed other attractions as well as 
the wretched £200 a year. He specially applauds the elegance 
of her carriage : 

" Happy in this, behold, amid the throng, 
With transient gleam of grace, Hart sweeps along." 

«• The Rosciad. 
But this description could have applied to her only very early in 


the end of his- infamous course was retributive. 
After passing through a variety of disgraceful es- 
capades,* he became diseased in his brain, ap- 
peared for the last time, in 1779, as PosthumusJ 

her career, for she afterward grew so gross and coarse, that the 

author of the " Theatrical Biography." in 1772, thinks that Chur- 
chill must have, strained his poetical license for this compliment. 
Thus, too, the author of " The Theaters/ 1 speaking of 'her alter 
her marriage : 

" Reddish without a relish we produce, 
As profitless for pleasure as for use ; 
Worse than a cipher — why ? because we find 
She moves a figure of obnoxious kind." 
Her figure was large and masculine, and produced such an aver- 
sion m Garrick, that he used to call her the •' horse-reddish." She 
was married to Reddish in 1767, appears to have left the stage 
about 1772 or 1773, and afterward died in abject distress. 

* He once appeared drunk upon the stage, for which he was 
compelled to make a public apology. On another occasion he 
was absent from the theater, and, by way of excuse, made an af- 
fidavit that he thought it was an oratorio night. He was fond of 
making affidavits, the refuge of base and vulgar minds, as if he felt 
that his word was not to be believed. He tried to clear himself 
in the same way in Macklin's business. At another time, being 
overwhelmed by debts in Dublin, he called his creditors together, 
apologized for past disappointments, and, affecting great penitence, 
prevailed upon them to take a certain number of tickets for his 
benefit in part payment, solemnly promising that the money re- 
ceived at the doors should be applied to the liquidation of the re- 
mainder. When the tickets were presented at the doors, howev- 
er, they were refused admittance, and money was demanded ; and 
when an explanation was required the next morning, it was found 
that Reddish had decamped with the cash, and was already on 
his way to England. In the midst of these shameless practices, 
the only instance in which he extracted a good joke out of his 
total want of principle, was in reply to one Robinson, a member 
of his Bristol company, who challenged him to fight a duel, in 
consequence of some flagrant breach of articles ; upon which Red- 
dish wrote to him to beg that he would put it off till after his ben- 
efit, for that he was so poor he could not afford to die Just then. 

t Ireland, in his "Life of Henderson," says that Reddish, on 
his way to the theater, had the step of an idiot, his eye wander- 
ing, and whole countenance vacant. Ireland congratulated him 
on his being able to play, and he said, " Yes, sir, and in the gar- 
den scene I shall astonish you !" ■ He could not be persuaded but 
that he was going to play Romeo, and he continued reciting it the 
whole way. At last they pushed him on the stage, expecting that 
he would begin with a speech of Romeo ; but the moment he came 


was thrown upon the Fund for support, and linger- 
ed out the remnant of his miserable life as a mani- . 
ac in the York Asylum, where he died in 1785. 

During the term of this miserable union Mrs. 
Reddish's personal exertions were rendered more 
than ever imperative by the state of her husband's 
health, and by fresh claims upon her maternal so- 
licitude. Reddish, prostrated both mentally and 
physically, was early disabled from the pursuit of 
his profession;* but his death, after many years 
of suffering, at last released her from the responsi- 
bility she had so rashly incurred. 

She still continued in the provinces, playing at 
Birmingham, Hull, and other places, but especial- 
ly at Plymouth, where she was a great favorite 
with the audience, and where her stage triumphs 
happily terminated in a conquest of a still more 
gratifying kind — her marriage with Mr. Hunn, a 
respectable sil]k-mercer of that town. Mr. Hunn 
was a constant frequenter of the theater, and a 

in sight of the audience his recollection seemed to return, and he 
went through the scene " much better,' 1 says Ireland, " than 1 had 
ever seen him." The most curious part of this strange mechan- 
ical process was, that on his return to the green-room the imago 
of Romeo came back into his mind, and so the same delusion went 
on till he was again recalled to the business of the scene. 

* There is no doubt that even in the June of 1775 Reddish 
was rapidly declining into that state of mind which, in three years 
afterward, terminated in imbecility. "With respect to the ser- 
vice he can do the theater next season," says Parsons, writing to 
Garrick, in June, 1775, from Bristol, "I am sorry to tell you I 
have great doubts ; and he himself has very dreadful apprehen- 
sions. He fell down and continued very long in a fit eight days 
ago, and has not been able to perform since his arrival here. His 
countenance undergoes the most sudden alterations. His mem- 
ory fails him, and he has all the alarming symptoms of a disorder 
hastening to insanity." — "Garrick Correspondence," ii., p. 61. 
He struggled on, however, notwithstanding these fearful warn- 
ings, and played throughout the season of 1775+76 at Drury Lane, 
under Garrick, and 1776-77, under Sheridan. He now became 
incapable, does not appear to have acted in 1777-78, and stagger 
ed on for the last time at Covent Garden, under the coalition, in 


great lover of plays, with some pretensions to the 
character of a critic, which he occasionally display- 
ed in the newspapers, to the infinite mortification 
of the actors. But they had their revenge upon 
him. Some time afterh is marriage he failed in 
business, and his wife was once more compelled 
to resume the profession, Mr. Hunn resolving at 
the same time to attempt the stage himself. He 
made his debut at Exeter. The players, however, 
set the town against him, and, notwithstanding the 
interference of Mrs. Hunn, who enjoyed much 
popularity there, his reception was so discouraging, 
that he wisely relinquished the experiment. He 
subsequently obtained a mercantile situation, in 
which he died, leaving his widow with two daugh- 
ters and a son. 

Throughout all these vicissitudes Mrs. Hunn was 
cheered by constant proofs of the devotion of her 
son (xeorge, who, passing through school and col- 
lege, and gathering valuable friendships by the way, 
was never seduced into forgetfulness of her claims 
upon his duty and affection. He made it a sacred 
rule to write to her every week, no matter what 
might be the pressure of private anxiety or public 
business.* His letters were the charm and solace 
of her life ; she cherished them with proud and 
tender solicitude, and always carried them about 
her person to show them exultingly to her friends.t 

* It has been generally stated that these letters were written 
every Sunday. This is an error. They were written so that they 
should reach his mother's hands every Sunday. 

t " I remember," says a private correspondent, now living, who 
was personally acquainted with Mrs. Hunn, u I remember that 
one evening she called me aside in the bath-room, and read to me 
two long letters of her son's, from Lisbon, extremely well written 
(as may be supposed), explaining and vindicating his diplomatic 
•conduct, and abounding in declarations of his attachment to her." 
This was in 1815 or 1816. On another occasion she showed an 
immense pile of these letters to a friend, and, after dwelling af- 
fectionately upon their contents, she added, " Yet they must be 


In his boyhood his correspondence treated upon 
every subject of interest on which his mind was en- 
gaged ; — his studies, his associates, his prospects, his 
dream of future distinction, nourished in the hope 
that its realization might enable him, at last, to 
place his mother in a position of independence. 
And when he finally reached the height of that 
dream, he continued to manifest the same earnest 
and faithful feelings. No engagements of any kind 
were ever suffered to interrupt his regular weekly 
letter. At Lisbon, during his embassy there, al- 
though the intercourse with this country was fre- 
quently suspended for several weeks together, he 
still wrote his periodical letter ; and it happened 
on such occasions that the same post came freight- 
ed with an arrear of his correspondence. In the 
midst of the toils of the Foreign Office, harassed 
by fatigue, and often preyed upon by acute illness, 
he always found, or made, opportunities for visiting 
his mother. He writes to Sir William Knighton, 
in 1826, like one released for a holyday, " I am 
just setting off for Bath, with a good conscience, 
having so cleared off the arrears accruing during 
Parliament time, that I believe I do not owe a dis- 
patch to any part of the world."* When Mrs. 
Hunn was performing at Plymouth, he would 
sometimes leave his studies at Lincoln's Inn, to 
comfort her with his presence ; and whenever he 
came it was a Saturnalia 1 Shortly before her final 
settlement at Bath, in 1807, she resided at Win- 
chester, where she had some cousins in an inferior 

all burned. I have not the heart to destroy one of them myself, 
but they must be burned when I die." This precious correspond- 
ence, however, was not destroyed, but returned to the writer, at 
his own request, after the death of his mother. 

* " Memoirs of Sir William Knighton." Mr. Canning frequents 
ly went to Bath to see his mother. ' In January, 1825, he visited 
the theater there with Lord Liverpool, who had desired the per- 
formance of Morton's " Town and Country." 


walk of life ; and when her son — at that time the 
center of popular admiration wherever he moved 
— used to visit her there, it was his delight to 
walk out in company with these humble friends, 
and with them to receive his " salutations and 
greetings in the market-place. ,, One recognizes 
a great man in such behavior. 

It had always been an object of paramount anx- 
iety with him to take his mother off the stage ; and 
the first use he made of the first opportunity that 
presented itself was to carry that object into ef- 
fect* This occurred in 1801, when, retiring from 
the office of Under Secretary of State, he was en- 
titled to a pension of <£500 a year,t which, instead 
of appropriating it to his own use, he requested to 
have settled as a provision on his mother.}: 

* There was a strange story circulated in the newspapers up- 
ward of fifty years ago, giving a romantic account of the way m 
which this result was brought about. According to this state- 
ment, Mrs. Hunn was then playing somewhere in Scotland, and 
Mr. Canning, happening accidentally to go into the theater, to his 
utter astonishment recognized his mother on the stage. The sto- 
ry ends, dramatically enough, by her immediate removal from the 
profession, and her independent settlement for life. It is unneces- 
sary to say that the whole affair is pure invention. 

t Mr. Canning did not retire until 1801 ; but I am informed, on 
unquestionable authority, that the date of the first warrant, made 
payable to his mother, was in May, 1799. 

% For this act, one of the noblest of his life, Mr. Canning suf- 
fered almost daily martyrdom at the hands of his less scrupulous 
political adversaries, from Peter Pindar down to Hunt and Cob- 
bett. The circumstances of his mother's history — her connection 
with the stage and the pension list — were perpetually recalled in 
a spirit of coarse and unmanly ridicule. But the only effect these 
lampoons produced, was to make Mr. Canning more than ever de- 
sirous of testifying his regard for her. Peter Pindar was so indis- 
criminate in his abuse, that his doggerel has long since rotted into 
oblivion. It had not enough of the salt of wit to preserve the 
corrupt mass from decomposition. He assailed every body— Dun- 
das, Pitt, Rose, Jenkinson ; spurned Canning's Latin, and affect- 
ed to despise the learning of Gilford and Mathias. He makes Pitt 
pick the nation's pocket to pension fools and knaves : 
" Gifford, that crooked babe of grace, 
And Canning, too, shall be in place, 
And get a pension for his mother." 



It has been observed by a great authority, that 
the mothers of distinguished men have generally 
been women of more than ordinary intellectual 
power ; and the remark will lose none of its force 
in reference to the mother of Mr. Canning. In- 
deed, were we not otherwise assured of the fact 
from direct sources, it would be impossible to con- 
template his profound and touching devotion to 
her, without being led to conclude that the object 
of such unchanging attachment must have been 
possessed of rare and commanding qualities. 

Mrs.. Hunn was esteemed by the circle in whose 
society the latter part of her life was passed as a 
woman of great mental energy. This strength of 
character communicated itself to her aspect, and 
even to her utterance. Her conversation wa? ani- 

All this would have passed off well enough for mere party rib- 
aldry, but that he sometimes overshot the mark with naked lies. 
Ex. gr. : 

" I must have something, Canning cries, 

And fastens on some rich mince pies ; 
As dexterous as the rest to rifle ; 

Ecod ! and he must something do 

For mother and for sisters too, 
So steals some syllabubs and trifle." 
Mr. Canning had no sisters ; and Mrs. Hunn's children, by her 
third marriage, were rather too young at that time (1801) to quar- 
ter on the public. Few men, possessed of such opportunities, 
ever made such little use of them for family aggrandizement. 
Peter, going on in the same strain, says, that "with sinecures to 
a large amount, squeezed from the vitals of the nation, this mod- 
est and generous youth could not afford to yield his poor mother. 
Mistress Hunn, alias Mistress Reddish, alias Mistress Canning, a 
pittance. No ! the kingdom must be saddled with five hundred 
pounds a year for her support." The sinecures had no more ex- 
istence than the sisters ; and the kingdom was not saddled with 
the support of Mrs. Hunn ; for, at her time of life, being then fif- 
ty-five, the transfer of the pension from a " youth" of thirty-one 
was clearly in favor of the public. It is a curious commentary on 
the Billingsgate patriotism of Dr. Walcot, that, after a life spent 
in casting obloquy upon public men for alleged venality, he is 
said to have been bought up in the end ! " He dropped his 
pen," says the author of" All the Talents," " while snatching at 
a pension." 


mated and vigorous, and marked by a distinct 
originality of manner and a choice of topics fresh 
and striking, and out of the commonplace routine* 
Like most persons who derive their social advan- 
tages from a practical intercourse with the world, 
Mrs. Hunn was more distinguished by natural tal- 
ents than mere accomplishments — by nervous 'in- 
dividuality and good sense, rather than superficial 
refinement. To persons who were but slightly ac- 
quainted with her, the energy of her manner had 
something of an air of eccentricity. She retained 
traces of the beauty of her youth to the last. 

The closing years of her life were spent in re- 
tirement at her house in Henrietta-street, Bath; 
where she died, after a lingering illness, in her 
eighty-first year, on the 27th of March, 1827. Her 
son paid his last visit to her sick-room on the 7th 
of the preceding January, the day after the Duke 
of York's funeral, where he caught the cold, which, 
acting on a frame shattered by anxiety, laid the 
foundation of his last fatal illness ; and he, who 
was so attached to her while living, in five months 
followed her to the grave. 




The childhood of George Canning was passed 
under the inauspicious guardianship of Mr, Red- 
dish, whose disorderly habits excluded the possi- 
bility of moral or intellectual training. The prof- 
ligacy of his life communicated its reckless tone to 
his household, and even the material wants of his 
family were frequently neglected to feed his ex- 
cesses elsewhere. Yet, amid these unpropitious 
circumstances, the talents of the child attracted no- 
tice ; and Moody, the actor, who had constant op- 
portunities of seeing him, became strongly interest- 
ed in his behalf. Moody was a blunt, honest man, 
of rough bearing, but of the kindliest disposition ; 
and foreseeing that the boy's ruin would be the in- 
evitable consequence of the associations by which 
he was surrounded, he resolved to bring the mat- 
ter at once under the notice of his uncle, Mr. Strat- 
ford Canning. The step was a bold one ; for there 
had been no previous intercourse between the fam- 
ilies, although the boy was then seven or eight 
years old. But it succeeded. Moody drew an in- 
dignant picture of the boy's situation ; declared 
that he was on the highroad to the " gallows" 
(that was the word) ; dwelt upon the extraordina- 
ry promise he displayed ; and warmly predicted 
that, if proper means were taken for bringing him 
forward in the world, he would one day become a 
great man. Mr, Stratford Canning was at first ex- 
tremely unwilling to interfere ; and it was not un- 
til the negotiation was taken up by other branches 


of the family, owing to honest Moody's persever- 
ance, that he ultimately consented to take charge 
of his nephew, upon condition that the intercourse 
with his mother's connections should be strictly 

Having undertaken this responsibility, Mr. Strat- 
ford Canning discharged it faithfully. He was a 
member of the banking and mercantile firm of 
French, Burroughs, and Canning, at that time 
largely concerned in the Irish loans, and a strong 
Liberal in politics. At his house George Canning 
was introduced to Burke, Fox, General Fitzpat- 
rick, and other leaders of the "Whig party. Here, 
too, he first met Sheridan, but it was reserved for 
later years and other opportunities, to ripen into 
intimacy the acquaintance which was thus begun ; 
for Mr. Stratford Canning died before his nephew 
was old enough to enter upon public life.* He 
had the satisfaction, however, of witnessing the 
dawn of his talents, and of placing him in the most 
favorable circumstances for the completion of his 
education. A small estate in Ireland had been set 
aside for that exclusive purpose, at the urgent so- 
licitations of Mr. George Canning's grand-mother 
—so small, that it yielded nothing more than was 
barely sufficient to defray unavoidable expenses.t 

* He died a short time before Mr. Canning left Eton. 

f This trifling annuity, producing about £200 a year, was drawn 
from Kilbrahan, county of Kilkenny, which forms part of the style 
of the Canning viscounty. A- writer in the " Gentleman's Mag- 
azine" tells us that there are two accounts of the way in which 
this small estate came into Mr. Canning's possession. Accord- 
ing to one version, his grand-father, when he cut off. the entail, 
forgot to include this little property in levying the fine, so that on 
his decease it devolved upon his grand-son, as heir-at-law. Ac- 
cording to the other account, the omission was intentional, the 
grand-father settling Kilbrahan in fee on his disinherited son for 
the purpose of more effectually barring him from any farther 
claims. (" Gent. Mag.," vol. xcviii.) It is scarcely necessary to 
say that these statements, which so flatly contradict each other, 
are equally irreconcilable with facts. 
D 2 


Bat this settlement, penurious as it was in amount, 
Bhowed that the family recognized the claims of 
the son, although they refused to extend the same 
consideration to his mother. < 

Mr. Canning received the rudiments of his edu- 
cation under the Reverend Mr. Richards, at Hyde 
Abbey School, in the neighborhood of Winchester ; 
and entertained throughout his life so grateful a 
sense of the advantages he derived from that excel- 
lent establishment, that when he came into power, 
toward the close of his career, he presented his 
old tutor to a prebendal stall in Winchester Ca- 

* Mr. Richards did not enjoy bis preferment long. He died in 
1833, at the age of seventy-nine, and was buried in the nave of 
the Cathedral. He appears to have been held in universal respect 
for the strictness of his moral character, and to have inspired, at 
the same time, no less terror among his refractory pupils by the 
excessive severity of his punishments. In some instances these 
cruelties of the old school were never forgotten or forgiven. One 
of his scholars, many years afterward, retained so vivid a recol- 
lection of the chastisements he had received at the hands of this 
rigid disciplinarian, that, writing home from India, he said, " I am 
among savages, it is true, but none so savage as old Richards !" 
It may be presumed that Mr. Canning's studious and regular hab- 
its preserved him from experiencing any of the evil effects of a 
system which, it is only justice to observe, prevailed at that time 
in most of the public schools. Mr. Richards's establishment en- 
joyed great popularity until he retired from its personal superin- 
tendence, when it suddenly fell off, and was soon afterward given 
up altogether. The school-house has subsequently undergone 
some strange reverses, being used at different periods as a Me- 
chanics' Institute and a Dissenting Chapel. The building stands 
apart from the rest of the premises, and is said to have been the 
first house in Winchester that was covered with slates. It is 
now lying empty and idle ; yet, malgre desertion and antiquity, it 
has somewhat of a new and jaunty air. The pilgrim who takes 
an interest in visiting such scenes must not confound it with Hyde 
Abbey, from which it derives its name, which stood on the oppo- 
site side of the street, and of which nothing now remains but a 
massive archway and broken gable. The garden and play-ground 
of the school are still to be seen just as they were sixty or seven- 
ty years ago, only a little disheveled and overgrown. Even the - 
little grating in the low door, through which the appro and cake 
venders used to extract the pocket-money of the boys, is still ex 
tant ; and the countless names of many an idle aspirant after mu- 


Even at this early period he procured some ap- 
plause for his skill in verse-making, and when he 
was removed to Eton, where that talent is the 
surest qualification for eminence, he was at once 
placed as an oppidan, between the age of twelve 
and thirteen. He was sent to Eton by the advice 
of Mr. Fox, who took a personal interest in his 

There he soon acquired distinction for the easy 
elegance of his Latin and English poetry, and the 
suavity of his prose ; discovering also in his char- 
acter the germ of those traits for which he was a£ 
terward so much admired in public life— great 
generosity of temper, quickness of apprehension* 
and firmness of purpose. By the happy constitu- 
tion of his powers, and unswerving steadiness in 
their cultivation, the boy was in this instance the 
perfect father of the man. He appears to have 
commenced his studies with a son of prescience 
of the course which lay before him, and to have 
trained his intellectual faculties carefully for that 
end. His progress, undisturbed in the outset by 
any of the retarding incidents of youth, maintained 
one uniform direction, acquiring increased strength 
as he advanced. His youth, serious without aus- 
terity, elastic and persevering, disclosed a faithful 
prophecy of his maturer life. There are no boy- 
ish delinquencies to record in his Eton days, no 
rebellion of the animal spirits ; the, calm of schol- 
arship appears to have settled down at once upon 

ral distinction, scrawled with nails and penknives, may yet be 
traced on the surrounding walls. Mr. Canning's is not to be found 
among them ; an evidence, perhaps, of the staidness of his youth, 
which looked to be remembered through inscriptions of another 
kind. We have a glimpse of his boyish sobriety in the follow- 
ing passage in Mr. Wilberforce's diary : " C. knew Canning well 
at Eton. He never played at any games with the other boys ; 
quite a man ; fond of acting ; decent and moral." — " Life of VVil- 
berforce " v. 139. 


his blood. With a brilliant wit, and a taste scru- 
pulously refined, he possessed a capacity of appli- 
cation which enabled him to give the utmost prac- 
tical effect to his talents. The assiduity he dis- 
played showed how little he relied upon the mere 
inspirations of genius. He felt the necessity, and 
knew the full value of laborious habits ; and from 
the very start applied himself with unremitting in- 
dustry to his studies. 

His reputation rose rapidly at Eton, and drew 
about him the chief spirits among his young con- 
temporaries. A society existed there for the prac- 
tice of discussion, and used to meet periodically in 
one of the halls of the college. This little assem- 
bly was conducted with a strict eye to parliament- 
ary usages ; the chair was taken by a speaker duly 
elected to the office ; the ministerial and opposition 
benches were regularly occupied ; and the subject 
for consideration was entered upon with the most 
sincere and ludicrous formality. Noble lords, and 
honorable and learned gentlemen, were here to be 
found in miniature, as they were in full maturity 
in another place ; the contest for victory was as 
eager ; and when it is added that among the ear- 
lier debaters were the late Marquis Wellesley and 
Earl Grey, it will Teadily be believed that the elo- 
quence was frequently as ardent and original. In 
this society Mr. Canning soon won distinction by 
the vigor and clearness of his speeches, anticipa- 
ting upon the themes of the hour the larger views 
of the future statesman. And here, too, in these 
happy conflicts, he formed some solid friendships 
that lasted through his life. 

The purity of sentiment, and congeniality of pur- 
suits in which these personal attachments had their 
origin, flowered out into a little literary enterprise, 
which has conferred celebrity upon the spot from 


whence it issued— the famous boy-periodical called 
the " Microcosm," projected by a few of the more 
accomplished Etonians, with Canning, then advan- 
cing toward the seventeenth year of his age, at 
their head. 

The first number of the " Microcosm" appeared 
on the 6th of November, 1786. It was a small 
weekly paper, published at Windsor, price two- 
pence ; on the plan of the " Spectators," " Ram- 
blers," &c, which at that time, and even to a still 
later date, were the favorite models with all litera- 
ry tyros. The original design of the work was to 
treat the characteristics of juvenile Eton in the 
same style of didactic humor which had been ap- 
plied to general society by Addison and his follow- 
ers; but the writers found it impossible to keep 
strictly within such circumscribed limits; and, grad- 
ually breaking bounds, extended their observation, 
touching mimetically upon men and manners at 
large, with a degree of freedom, and an occasional 
felicity of illustration, not unworthy of the experi- 
enced moralists in whose train they moved. 

The plan was not hit upon by chance. It was 
laid down with abundant seriousness of intention 
by the literary conclave, who ventured to predict, 
out of the materials around them, the future glories 
of their country. " I consider the scene before me 
as a microcosm," says the editor, Mr. Gregory 
Griffin, in the opening paper ; " a world in minia- 
ture, where all the passions which agitate the great 
original are faithfully portrayed on a smaller scale ; 
in which the endless variety of character, the dif- 
ferent lights and shades which the appetites or pe- 
culiar situations throw us into, begin to discrimi- 
nate and expand themselves. The curious observ- 
er may here remark in the bud the different casts 
and turns of genius, which will, in future, strongly 


characterize the leading features of the mind. We 
may see the embryo statesman, who hereafter may 
wield and direct at pleasure the mighty and complex 
system of European politics, now employing the 
whole extent of his abilities to circumvent his com- 
panions at their plays, or adjusting the important 
differences which may arise between the contending 
heroes of his little circle; or a general, the future 
terror of France and Spain, now the dread only of 
his equals, and the undisputed lord and president 
of the boxing-ring. The Grays and Wallers of the 
rising generation here tune their little lyres; and 
he who hereafter may sing the glories of Britain 
must first celebrate at Eton the smaller glories of 
his college."* Of this grand destiny that was to 
crown the ambition of the Etonians, it is curious to 
note how accurately the embryo statesman at least 
(to whatever twilight nooks of fame his associates 
may be assigned) realized the aspirations of his 
wise and witty boyhood. 

The principal writers in the " Microcosm" were 
the Messrs. J. and R. Smith, Frere, and Canning, 
Lord Henry Spencer contributed a couple of tri- 
fles ; Mr. Mellish, a whole number; Mr. Little- 
hales and Mr. Way, a letter each ; and the respect- 
able Mr. Capel Lofft volunteered a defense of Ad- 
dison, which the young essayists received with the 
deference due to his years. One can readily un- 
derstand how the knot of school-boys must have in- 
continently rejoiced over the middle-aged gentle- 
man they had caught so unexpectedly in their net. 

Mr. Canning supplied the largest individual share 
of the forty numbers ; but Mr. J. Smith appears to 
have performed the functions of editor, for the 
work dropped when that gentleman went to Cam- 

* The paper from which this extract is taken was written by 
Mr. J. Smith. 


bridge. The "Microcosm" gave up the ghost 
when Mr. J. Smith felt, to use his own phrase, 
" that he was no longer a man of this (Eton) world." 
The care and propriety with which his papers are 
composed afford a hint of the judicial qualifications 
which may have entitled him to the post of moder- 

The sobriety of the " Microcosm" as a whole, 
and the surprising air of ease which pervades it, 
helped largely, no doubt, by the celebrity of its 
principal writer, have attracted more curiosity than 
was ever before bestowed upon a production of its 
class.t And certainly none ever deserved it so 
well.$ It would be difficult to detect in any of the 

* In July, 1787, Miss Bumey went " to hear the speeches" at 
Eton. The royal family were present. " The speeches," she 
tells us, " were chiefly in Greek and Latin, but concluded with 
three or four in English ; some were pronounced extremely well, 
especially those spoken by the chief composers of the 'Micro- 
cosm,' Canning and Smith." — " Diary of Madame d'Arblay," iii, 
413. This was on the 29th of July. The work was discontinued 
on the 30th, so that the " chief composers" (Miss Bumey may be 
acquitted of the phrase) must have been tolerably well Known in 
spite of their playing at masks with their readers. But when 
was such a secret ever kept in such a community as that of 

t The " Microcosm" has passed through several editions : the 
fifth edition was published in 1825. A curious document is still 
in existence bearing Mr. Canning's signature, and dated 31st of 
July, 1787 (the day after the work was discontinued), by which, 
for the sum of fifty guineas, the copyright was assigned to Mr. 
Charles Knight, of Windsor, the father of the accomplished edi- 
tor of Shakspeare. 

$ Several imitations of the " Microcosm" have been attempted 
at different schools, the " Kensingtonian," for example ; but none 
of them survived their birth. The great success of the u Micro- 
cosm" induced the Harrow boys to get up a rival periodical, which 
was ostentatiously published with a foolish frontispiece, repre- 
senting the two publications in a balance, the " Microcosm" be- 
ing made to kick the beam. Upon seeing this print, Mr. panning 
is said to have made the following epigram : 

" What mean ye by this print so rare, 
Ye wits of Harrow jealous ? 
Behold ! your rivals soar in air, 
And ye are heavy fellows /" 


articles the " 'prentice hand" of youth. The only 
exceptions, perhaps, are the contributions of Mr. 
Frere, the intimate friend of Mr. Canning, whose 
papers betray a tone of effort and inexperience, 
with bright glimpses, however, of that playful sa- 
gacity which afterward shone so brilliantly in the 
" Anti- Jacobin." But Mr. Canning's are incom- 
parably the most compact and aged essays ever 
produced by a boy of little more than sixteen.* 
There are no Buch specimens elsewhere of English 
prose written at that age, so weighty of purpose, so 
chaste and finished in expression. The influence 
of the sententious modes which were in vogue at 
the close of the last century may be constantly felt 
tempting him into glaring imitations ;t but, putting 

* Mr. Canning's essays were specially praised by the critics of 
the day for that quality of subtle humor which he afterward em- 
ployed with such effect in the House of Commons. 

t The most direct imitations for which he is responsible are a 
letter from " Nobody/' deploring his ill treatment in the world, 
and Gregory Griffin's account of the various opinions he hears in 
society regarding himself and his works. On sitting down to 
these essays, his imagination was evidently heated by a recent 
perusal of the famous petition of " Who ana Which" (the prolific 
parent of a whole race of discontented nonentities), and the " Spec- 
tator's" account of the contradictory criticisms of his club. But 
he nevertheless vindicates his originality by some new and witty 
touches. Particularly happy is the lurking irony of that passage 
where Gregory Griffin, himself personally unknown, says that he 
has sometimes been ready to sink with shame and gratitude when 
he chanced to meet gentlemen who cleared him of all his faults 
by kindly taking them on themselves, candidly confessing that 
they were the real authors of such and such papers. " To these 
gentlemen," he adds, " I am proud of an opportunity to return my 
thanks for the honor they confer on me, and to assure them that 
all my papers are very much at their service, provided, only, that 
they will be so kind as just to send me previous notice which they 
may think fit to own ; that my bookseller may have proper direc- 
tions, if called upon, to confirm their respective claims ; and for 
the prevention of any error which might otherwise arise, should 
two persons unfortunately make the same choice." In this sort 
of sarcasm he was unequal ed. He applied it with marvelous ef- 
fect in the House of Commons. It was even more dreaded by 
bis opponents than that fierce ridicule rising into invective, which, 


aside the question of originality, these fugitive pa- 
pers exhibit striking evidences of the early severi- 
ty and daintiness of his taste. A gentlemanly con- 
tempt for the false and affected in real life and in 
literature suggests such themes for his ridicule as 
the mincing effeminacy of fops, the foolish custom 
of garnishing conversation with oaths, the vices of 
bombastic criticism, and pointless witticisms. This 
choice of a class of subjects, taken from the tradi- 
tions of English manners, and already exhausted by 
previous essayists, discloses the source at which 
the writers of the '• Microcosm" drank their first 
draughts of inspiration. They regarded the school 
of Addison (aerated, however, by the sparkling gay- 
ety of Steele — a step in advance of most followers 
of the "Spectator," who see nothing in it but its 
trim morality) as the perfection of English prose ;* 
and they imitated it with scholastic precision, not 
merely in the texture of its diction, but in that pru- 
dential pleasantry which gives it such a coloring 
of constitutional goodness. The work abounds in 
touches of well-bred humor and quaint irony of 
amiable foibles, and sedulously displays a proper 
sense of the genteeler virtues, and an amusing sym- 
pathy for all sorts of oddities, especially that super- 
annuated order of correspondents who represent 
abstract ideas and exploded eccentricities. As in 
the " Spectator," so in the " Microcosm" social 

says Scott, fetched away both skin and bone, and was the special 
terror of the «' Yelpers." 

* The Duke of Sussex, whose miscellaneous intercourse with 
books gives weight to his judgment in such matters, thought Ad- 
dison's style the best adapted to all subjects : he said that it nev- 
er tired. Sir James Macintosh seems to have held the same opin- 
ion. He told M r. Rush that the " Spectator" had lost its value as 
a book of instruction, but that it would always last as a. standard 
of style — an assertion which may be reasonably doubted. Rush 
says that he described Franklin as a better Addison, with more 
grace and playfulness. 

4 E, 


weaknesses are laid bare — social vices never; or 
only in a way to give the greater importance to the 
externals of decorum, insisting with overwhelming 
sententiousness upon the doctrine of appearances, 
while great offenses, too mighty for ridicule, are 
suffered to stalk abroad with impunity. The ethics 
of the " Spectator" are diligently slipped and trans- 
planted into this lighter soil, and blossom, as all 
such transplantations do, in diminished force and 
fainter hues. Every thing is tested by a judgment 
too cautious and exceptional to throw out much 
vigor or freshness ; the ear is lulled by the flowing 
repose of undulating periods ; and we have the sat- 
isfaction of retracing, in smooth and agreeable ca- 
dences, a whole anthology of truisms. 

The modes and customs ridiculed by the " Mic- 
rocosm" are the modes and customs of the *• Spec- 
tator," and had passed away long before. The 
"scowerers" had vanished from the purlieus of 
Covent Garden, country gentlemen no longer held 
it a special mark of good breeding to "kiss all 
round," and fine ladies had renounced snuff, al- 
though they might still, here and there, affect the 
coquetry of patching. The manners depicted in 
the "Microcosm" survived only in print. The 
" Lounging Club" was but a reflection of the " Ugly 
Clubs" and *' Everlasting Clubs" (themselves little 
more than shadows of the " No-Nose-and-Surly 
Clubs" of a previous day); and the youngsters who 
took these things from books, believing all the time 
that they were describing an actually existing state 
of society, might as well have reanimated Duke 
Humphrey and the tenpenny ordinaries. The crit- 
ics felt this, and with all their admiration of the ex- 
traordinary merit of the juvenile " Spectator," es- 
pecially in its serious papers, they could not help 
hinting that it was sometimes " out of nature ;" by 


which they really meant that it was sometimes out 
of convention. 

The notion of setting up any author as a uni- 
versal standard of style is false in principle ; since 
style, to be of any instrumental value, ought to be 
flexible and adaptive. Yet the prose of Addison, 
so delicately embellished with what Gibbon calls 
"the female graces of elegance and mildness,"* 
enjoyed this distinction for a long period, by the 
indolent acquiescence of the reading public, who 
seemed waiting fpr some convulsion to rouse them 
into more active perceptions. It is curious that 
Johnson should have given such an impulse to this 
opinion, by an emphatic dictum, which he notori- 
ously violated in his own writings.! It was as if 
he thought it discreet, for the sake of the public, 
to defer to forms of which he felt the hollowness ; 
just as a certain sort of people, who are not over- 
particular themselves, keep up a pretence of pru- 
dery about words and behavior before children, 
of the absolute futility of which, as a practical 

* " Memoirs," 4to, p. 86. 

t In Johnson's character of Addison, he applauds his style for 
being voluble and easy (which was, perhaps, wnat Boswell meant 
when he said that he wrote like a gentleman), and adds, that who- 
ever wishes to attain an English style ought to give his days and 
nights to the volumes of Addison. Burney furnishes us with an 
amusing key to what was intended by the expression " English 
style." Being once in conversation with Johnson on this subject, 
he ventured to observe that, although Johnson praised Addison, 
he had not adopted him as his model, no two styles being more 
different ; suggesting that the difference consisted, probably, in 
this : that Addison's prose was full of idioms, colloquial phrases, 
and proverbs, which, although so easy to an Englishman as to 
give nis intellect no trouble, was extremely difficult, if not impos- 
sible of translation ; while Johnson's prose, being strictly gram- 
matical, and free from any peculiarity of phraseology, would fall 
into any other language as easily as if it had been originally con 
ceived in it. Johnson assented to the accuracy of the distinction, 
leaving us to conclude that he esteemed that to be the best Eng- 
lish style which was least capable of being rendered intelligibly 
into any other language. 


means of virtue, they are all the time thoroughly 
conscious. The style of Addison Was a refinement 
upon the rugged elliptical styles of his greater pred- 
ecessors ; but it wanted their breadth, manliness, 
and sincerity, and will not bear comparison with 
the healthy vigor of De Foe, the muscular energy 
of Dryden, and the prodigal magnificence of Mil- 
ton.* Addison had the merit of reducing the art 
of prose to an attainable level, laid out with gra- 
cious fields and pleasant walks, but still a flat It 
was wonderfully accessible, and popular in propor- 
tion; for the grand and the elevated, which are 
not so easily reached, can never be so generally 
admired. But no outlay of skill upon the surface 
can prevent flats from becoming tedious; one 
longs for a break, or irregularity of some kind, to 
relieve the monotony. Where the whole land- 
scape lies mapped out on the plain, we see too far 
in advance to care much about getting to the end 
of the journey. And this is now felt with Addison. 
His writings, always attractive at first by their ease 
and propriety, disappoint us at last by their uni- 
formity. The sameness of the charm wears out its 
interest; for the most agreeable mannerism must 
ultimately produce indifference, by ceaBing to ex- 
cite expectation. 

On the other hand, this mannerism, when it be- 
comes elevated by popular admiration into an au- 
thority, sometimes gets credit for more than it is 
worth, and enables vague generalities to pass for 
new truths. Commonplaces are frequently carried 

* Even in his own day the effeminacy of Addison's style did not 
escape criticism. The political paper called the " Freeholder," 
which he wrote in defense of the government, was specially ridi- 
culed by Steele, who thought the humor too nice and gentle for 
such noisy times. Johnson tells us that Steele is reported to have 
said of the " Freeholder," that the ministry made use of a lute, 
when they ought to have called for a trumpet. 


into general circulation, as current coin of great 
value, merely because they happen to be minted 
off with the stamp of a well-established style. 
Pope is a conspicuous example of this. And it 
may be said of Addison that he is not always as 
profound as he looks. 

The morality of Addison, be it observed, also, is 
very much of the old conventional fashion — solemn ~ 
gravity of feature, with a liquorish tooth beneath. ^ ' 
The contrasts between the demure axioms and 
sinister humors of the " Spectator" are things, also, 
to " give us pause." And yet, with all this hover- 
ing on the verge of dangerous indulgences, there 
is no imagination in it — no luxuriance of fancy — 
not a breath of odors from the ideal world — nothing 
to spiritualize its suggestive pruriency. This want 
of aerial truth is felt chiefly in a long train of skele- 
ton figures that move through the essays. Delight- 
ful Will Honeycomb, and immortal Sir Roger, and 
the rest of the club (all called into life by Steele), 
are living people, as familiar to us as fireside 
faces; but the rest, who, for distinction, may be 
called episodical, including most of the corre- 
spondents, are representatives of mental character- 
istics, rather than of real life ; not men and women, 
but specimens of dried reason. # 

The " Spectator" must always be honored for 
its wit and good sense, and may long continue to 
live on the reputation of its purity, which had no 
inconsiderable merit in its own day, although it 
descends to our somewhat more decent times with 

* The difference between the real man of common life and the 
abstraction of the essayist is forcibly illustrated in the Croaker of 
Goldsmith, and the Suspirius of the " Rambler," from which the 
former is said to have taken the idea. Every body knows Croak- 
er ; but who has ever realized Suspirius to his imagination ? The 
mere difference between the dramatic and the didactic forms ia 
not enough to account for the difference in the impression made 
by two characters identical in their elements, 


abated influence. But who now recurs to Addison 
for a mastery of English, fbr an example of the 
power of the language, for the study of its capa- 
bilities, its strength, or its beauty % He is gone 
with his age. The French and American revolu- 
tions have utterly swept away the literary influences 
of that Middle Age of attenuated delicacy and Au- 
gustan polish. Bolder and more picturesque styles 
have superseded them — styles that address them- 
selves to the wants of the time, expanding with its 
conquests, and giving open utterance to its eman- 
cipated spirit Men who seek distinction in this 
age must throw their hearts and brains into the 
matter, and leave forms to adjust themselves. The 
lagging mannerist who stops to pick his steps and 
trim his phrases in the sun will speedily find him- 
self outstripped and forgotten * 

If Mr. Canning adopted Addison to some extent 
as a model of style (for emulation rather than imi- 
tation), there is apparently conclusive evidence in 
the " Microcosm'* that he did not think very high- 
ly of him as a critic^— the single feature in the esti- 
mate of his literary character which Johnson has 
ingeniously contrived to shirk, by insinuating an 
indefinite defense without venturing a decisive 
opinion. Two of Canning's essays are occupied 

* The " British Essayists" must forever be indispensable to 
an English library— a sort of traditionary Penates. Bnt their 
future function* seem to be clearly marked out, as supplying the 
best easy moral reading for the young— the happiest combination 
of amusement and instruction ; for, let grown-up people say what 
they please, they seldom turn back to these books except for an 
occasional pleasure. Hazlitt, who really admired and relished 
them, admits that he outlived his taste for them. M • The Period- 
ical Essayists, 1 " he tells us, " I read long ago. The * Spectator* 
I liked extremely, but the * Tatler* took my fancy most. I read 
the others soon after, the * Rambler,' the * Adventurer,' the « World,' 
the ' Connoisseur.' 1 was not sorry to get to the end of them, and 
have no desire to go regularly through them again."—" The Plain 
Speaker," ii., p. 77. If people would confess it, this is the case 
with a large majority of readers. 


with a mock examination of an *pic poem called 
" The Knave of Hearts," a bit of boyish doggerel 
which has found its way into every nursery in the 
kingdom.* From the structure of this critique, its 
humorous formality, and its application of ponder- 
ous canons to a ludicrously insignificant subject, it 
seems to have been intended as a parody on Addi- 
son's critique on " Chevy Chase," which Johnson 
himself abandoned to the contempt of Dennis, when 
he admitted the poem to be a piece of chill and 
lifeless imbecility. But it is equally clear that the 
young essayist meditated another stroke of ridicule, 
in this critique, as the following passage will testify: 

44 The author has not branched his poem into excres- 
cences of episode, or prolixities of digression ; it is nei- 
ther variegated with diversity of unmeaning similitudes, 

* " The Queen of Hearts] 

She made some tarts, 
All on a summer** day ; 

The Knave of Heart* 

He stole those tarts, 
And— took them—quite away ! &c." 
The criticism on this pleasant absurdity produced a curious 
commentary some years afterward (1796), from a correspondent 
of the " Monthly Magazine," who tells his readers that he had 
found the prototype of Mr. Canning's jest in a French composi- 
tion called " Le chef-d'oeuvre (Tun inconnu, poeme, &c." " Its ob- 
ject,** says the writer, " is to expose the jargon of criticism. The 
poem has an affected silliness (niaiserie) of thought and style." 
So far, the resemblance is close enough, and the opening of both 
criticisms, extolling the simplicity of the poems and the absence 
of invocations, are much alike. But there is nothing surprising 
in thia. The form of such travesties existed long before, and had 
been frequently employed by other writers. The merit consisted, 
not in applying this mode of ridicule, but in applying it effective- 
ly. And this merit may be freely accorded to the essay in the 
" Microcosm," since it is still remembered for its point, which 
outlives the occasion, while all similar specimens of that sort of 
satire are forgotten. This is the final test. Besides, it may be 
reasonably doubted whether Mr. Canning, then a school-boy at 
Eton, had ever heard of his French predecessor, who, it seems, 
published a fourth edition of his " cfief-tfaewre" in 1758, in two 
volumes : a fact, as to bulk, which goes a great way to i 
for the rapidity with which it sunk into oblivion. 


nor glaring with tfav varnish of unnatural metaphor. The 
whole is plain and uniform : so much so, indeed, that I 
should hardly be surprised if some morose readers were 
to conjecture that the poet had been thus simple rather 
from necessity than choice ; that he had been restrained 
not so much by chastity of judgment as sterility of ima- 

The poised and turgid pomp can not be mistaken. 
His pure taste, which took delight in the perspi* 
cuity of Addison, revolted from the three-piled 
grandeur of Johnson. He was never reconciled 
to writers of that class, and to the last disliked the 
• glitter of Junius. Fox also held the style of Junius 
in aversion, as might be expected from the large- 
ness of his intellect and the copiousness of his elo- 

The strong English temper of Mr. Canning's 
mind, his earnest nationality, paramount even in 
its prejudices, constantly breaks out in these es- 
says. Wherever opportunity offers (and some- 
times he went out of his way to make it) he stands 
up for the English character, and throws himself* 
on the defensive at the first approach of art or fash- 
ion to tamper with its sturdy simplicity. Eng- 
land was his party from the beginning, and contin- 
ued so to the end. 

At Eton he first discovered a political bias. 
The boy was an ardent Whig. His noble poem 
on " The Slavery of Greece, 1 ' in one of the early 
numbers of the " Microcosm," shows that he in- 
herited his father's principles, which he knew how 
to set off with a higher grace. But he gave a more 
practical proof of his opinions on the occasion of a 
contested election for Windsor, when he threw 
himself boldly into the popular tumult in opposi- 
tion to the court nominee. There was no mistake 
here. Students who are visited in their dreams 
by visions of Marathon and Thermopylae must not 


be held too strictly responsible for their classical 
enthusiasm, if it lean (as it always does !) toward 
the side of public liberty ; but here was a question 
of the day, between might and right — into which 
forms such struggles, at that time, but too plainly 
resolved themselves. And the young politician, 
with the whole collected force of his mind, was 
found battling on the side of the people ; speak- 
ing, huzzaing, swelling the shout and chorus of the 
weaker party, which, being the weaker, is gener- 
ally the first chosen of generous and heroic na- 
tures. But how could it be otherwise 1 His ed- 
ucation had been all along superintended by his 
uncle, one of the most zealous Liberals of the day. 
His Eton, and afterward his Oxford vacations, were 
passed either at his uncle's, or at Mr. Crewe's, or 
at Mr. Legh's, of Cheshire,* or among the Sheri- 
dans — all of the same color. What politics was 
he likely to hear in such circles ? or where could 
they have been so temptingly presented to his im- 
agination 1 His progress, too, was watched with 
daily interest by Fox, who calculated upon attach- 
ing him to the Whigs ; and he was already looked 
upon with such confidence as their legitimate prop- 
erty, that Sheridan absolutely announced his com- 
ing in the House of Commons.t 

The death of his uncle just before he went to 
Oxford removed at once the example and the au- 
thority under which his youthful convictions were 
formed ; and farther endangered their permanen- 
cy by separating him from his early associations, 
and casting him, at the impressionable age of sev- 

* A connection of the Rev. Mr. Legh, of Ashbourne, in Der- 
byshire, who was an uncle of Mr. Canning's. 

f This was on the occasion of Mr. Jenkinson's first speech in 
Parliament, which excited much applause on the ministerial side. 
Sheridan personally alluded to Mr. Canning, and declared that 
when he appeared he would far eclipse the talents of bis friend. 


enteen, into a university hostile, by tradition, to the 
cultivation of popular sentiments. In going to Ox- 
ford, he had passed out of the atmosphere of Whig- 
gery, and there was little left, at least no urgent 
or direct influence, to draw him back again. But 
it was not so easy to shake off his Eton impres- 
sions. The sudden antagonism to which they were 
exposed only confirmed them the more. He was 
a stronger Liberal, with more thoughtful and de- 
liberate purpose, in his scholastic retirement at 
Christ Church than amid the riot of a Windsor 
election. There was a touch of chivalry in this, 
and an evidence of that clinging affection for old 
ties, which many years afterward made him revert 
to the scenes and sports of his boyhood, the play- 
ground and the Montem, with feelings of unaltered 

In 1788 Mr. Canning entered Christ Church 
College, Oxford. His Eton companions were near* 
ly all scattered ; the only relative who took an in- 
terest in his education was gone, and he was com- 
mitted, in this critical juncture, to the sole guid- 

* He was attached to the old haunts to the last, and scarcely 
ever omitted a Montem. His own enjoyment, on such occasions, 
was to the full as real as that of the boys ; and he entered with 
such unflinching zest into the hilarious humor of the scene, that 
the statesman was soon forgotten in the Etonian. It was at the 
Montem of 1823 that he met Mr. Brougham, for the first time af- 
ter that fierce contention in the House of Commons about Mr. 
Canning's conduct on the Catholic claims, for which they were 
both nearly committed to the custody of the sergeant-at-arms. 
Their political enmity, if either of them entertained such a feel- 
ing, vanished on the instant ; and Mr. Canning stretched out his 
hand to his adversary, to the infinite delight of the spectators. 
The action was a trifle in itself, but at such a moment, and on a 
spot sacred to happier associations than those of the House of 
Commons, it touched a chord of the human heart which never 
fails in its response to generous impulses. At the Eton regatta 
of the following summer Mr. Canning was the sitter in the " ten- 
oar," the post of distinction to which the most illustrious visitor 
is promoted. We are told that he huzzaed with the loudest of 
them as the boats shot past the crowded shores. 


ance of his own discretion. But his habits were 
already formed, and he was safe. Good taste, no 
less than prudence, led him to shun the frivolous 
waste and life-consumption of the majority of his 
contemporaries. He "consorted" with none of 
these, restraining himself for higher aims. 

New friendships sprung up at Christ Church, of 
a class materially calculated to influence, if not to 
decide, the subsequent direction of his life. Among 
his more immediate associates were the Hon. Mr. 
Jenkinson, afterward Earl of Liverpool, Mr. Stur- 
ges Bourne, Lord Holland, Lord Carlisle, Lord 
Seaford, Lord Granville, and Lord Boringdon. 
Most of these gentlemen, especially Mr. Jenkin- 
son, were educated with a specific view to a par- 
ticipation in the government of the country ; and 
Mr. Canning, although he could reckon upon none 
of the advantages of patronage or hereditary posi- 
tion, was soon admitted to the freedom of their in- 
tercourse by virtue of claims more powerful and 
commanding. His wit, eloquence, and scholar- 
ship established an ascendency among them, never 
wholly free, to be sure, from the jealousies of rank, 
but always superior to its naked accidents. He 
was here, for the first time, placed upon a familiar 
footing with lords and statesmen in training ; here 
he took his first lesson in aristocracy ; and he used 
its admonitions wisely. And it is something no 
less to the purpose to add, that although political 
differences frequently separated him in after life 
from some of these intimate companions of his col- 
lege days, he retained their personal attachment to 
the close. The friendships of his boyhood never 
suffered check or interruption. He was no less 
happy in the fidelity of his friends than in the 
choice of them. 

The closest intimacy existed between Mr. Can* 


ning and Mr. Jenkinson. The latter had entered 
Christ Church in the preceding spring or summer. 
They were constantly together, and their most fre- 
quent companion was Lord Henry Spencer, third 
son of the Duke of Marlborough. This young no- 
bleman was a few months younger than Mr. Can* 
ning, had been his inseparable associate at Eton, 
and accompanied him to Oxford. Of all the writ- 
ers in the "Microcosm," he approached the near- 
est to his friend in the delicacy and polish of the 
slight compositions he contributed to its pages. 
His "Ars Mentiendi" affords a very remarkable 
specimen of hi» cultivated talents, so early devel- 
oped, and so soon cut off. The death of Lord 
Henry, in the very flower of youth, was a source 
of inexpressible sorrow to his friends, and to none 
more than to the chosen companion of his boyhood. 
Before he had reached the age of twenty he was 
called to the diplomatic service. In the following 
year the grave responsibilities of the embassy at 
the Hague devolved wholly upon him, in conse- 
quence of the absence of Lord Auckland, and he 
discharged his trust with so much ability, that he 
was soon afterward appointed envoy extraordinary 
to the court of Stockholm. Here, worn out by 
the premature activity of his mind, he died in his 
twenty-fifth year. No man ever gave fairer earn- 
est of capacity to serve his country, or left behind 
him a purer reputation. 

While these three congenial spirits remained at 
the University they maintained the strictest friend- 
ship. Mr. Canning was the center of attraction ; 
the soul of their mock debates, their trials of wit, 
and classical controversies ; and his genius render- 
ed forever memorable the nodes ccenaque of Christ 

* Mr. Canning always looked back with affectionate interest to 


The vacations were generally passed in some 
country house, where the accomplishments of the 
student were exercised upon lighter themes. It 
was the age of scrap-books and vers de societS ; 
every boudoir had its volume ready to receive the 
offerings of the visitor, who, if he had the slightest 
reputation or celebrity of any kind, was put under 
contribution by collectors, whose levy it was vain 
to resist. Mr. Canning's penalties in this way were 
innumerable; things thrown off on the impulse of 
the moment, intended only for the moment, and so 
exquisitely trivial that, even if we had the power, 
it would be scarcely fair, to submit them to the or- 
deal of publication. Most of these gay trifles are, 
no doubt, swept away in the common ruin of all 
old-fashioned memorials, trinkets, autographs, and 
the like ; and many a dusty page, full of antiquated 
gallantry and tea-table wit, has shared the fate of 
the hereditary receipt-books, and gone the way of 
all lumber. Any attempt to trace Mr. Canning's 
sportive effusions on the sundry occasions that pro- 
voked and entrapped his youth into scrap-books, 
hermitages, mazes, grottoes, showers of rain, and 
similar suggestions, incidents, and places, would 
now be quite hopeless. The loose leaves scribbled 
over with precious impromptus are scattered— per- 
haps to the winds or the flames ; and, except here 
and there in some revered nook in a far-off. country 
mansion, where things are husbanded up in the 
alphabeted niches of old secretaries, and ticketed 

this period of his life, and was a frequent visitor at Christ Church 
after he took his degrees. On a subsequent occasion he wrote 
two copies of verses for the installation of the Duke of Portland 
as Chancellor of the University, which were spoken in the thea- 
ter — Mr. Burke and Mr. Windham being among the audience — 
by Mr. Dawkins and Lord John Beresford, afterward archbishop 
of Dublin. I have sought in vain for these poems, nor is there 
any repository in which the Encomia of that installation are pre- 



like choice specimens in a museum, it would be 
idle to bunt after such relics. 

But I am fortunately enabled, through private 
channels, and by the aid of a valued friendship, un- 
wearied in discharging offices of kindness, to gratify 
the reader's curiosity with a sample or two of these 
early verses, the interest of which arises chiefly 
from the period of life they illustrate ; for their in- 
trinsic merit, stripped of personal associations, is 
not very remarkable. This is generally true of all 
juvenile poems ; yet the popular appetite for de- 
vouring the first fruits of men of genius is not the 
less keen on that account r 

Among the recollections of Crewe Hall is a lit- 
tle ^itt d* esprit, which has as good a right to be pre- 
served as most quips. Mr. Canning, then about 
eighteen or nineteen years of age, was walking in 
the grounds with Mrs. Crewe, who had just lost 
her favorite dog Quon, and wanted an epitaph for 
him. The dog was buried close at hand, near the 
dairy-house. Mr. Canning protested he could not 
make epitaphs ; but the lady was not to be denied, 
and so he revenged himself with the following : 


" Poor Quon lies buried near this dairy, 
And is not this a sad quandary."* 

On another occasion he inscribed the following 
verses in the scrap-book, on leaving Crewe Hall : 


'• ' Happy the fair, who, here retired. 
By sober contemplation fired, 

* This will recall Sheridan's well-known epigram on Lady 
Payne's monkey— the pretty and ill-used Lady Payne. 
«' Alas ! poor Ned, 
My monkey's dead, 
I had rather by half 
It had been Sir Ralph." 


Delight from Nature's works can draw.' 

(JTwas thus I spoke when first I saw 

That cottage, which, with chastest hand, 

Simplicity and taste have planned.) 

* Happy, who, grosser cares resigned, 

Content with books to feed her mind, 

Can leave life's luxuries behind ; 

Content within this humble cell, 

With peace and temperance to dwell, 

Her food, the fruits— her drink, the well. 

Twas thus of old — ' But as 1 spoke, 

Before my eyes what dainties smoke ! 

Not such as Eremites of old, 

In many a holy table enroll'd, 

Drawing from but their frugal hoard, 

With nuts and apples spread the board ; 

But such, as fit for paunch divine, 

Might tempt a modern saint to dine. 

Then thus, perceiving my surprise, 

Which stared contest through both my eyes, 

To vindicate her wiser plan, 

The fair philosopher began — 

' Young gentlemen, no doubt you think* 

(And here she paused a while to drink) 

« All that you've said is mighty fine ; 

But won't you taste a glass of wine 1 

You think these cates are somewhat curious, 

And for a hermit too luxurious ; 

But such old fograms (Lord preserve us) 

Knew no such thing as being nervous. 

Else had they found, what now I tell ye, 

How much the mind affects the belly ; 

Had found that when the mind's oppress'd, 

Confused, elated, warmed, distress 'd, 

The body keeps an equal measure 

In sympathy of pain or pleasure ; , 

And, whether moved with joy or sorrow, 

From food alone, relief can borrow. 

Sorrow's, indeed, beyond all question, 

The best specific for digestion ; 

Which, when with moderate force it rages, 

A chicken or a chop assuages. 

But, to support some weightier grief, 

Grant me, ye gods, a round of beef ! 

Thus then, since abstract speculation 

Must set the nerves in agitation, 

Absurd the plan, with books and study 

To feed the mind — yet starve the body. 

These are my tenets, and in me 

Practice and principle agree. 

See, then, beneath this roof combined 

Food for the body and the mind. 


A couplet here, and there a custard, 
While sentiment by turns, and mustard, 
Bedew with tears the glistening eye. 
Behold me now with Otway sigh, 
Now reveling in pigeon pie ; 
And now, in apt transition, taken 
From Bacon's Works — to eggs and bacon.' 

" Dear Mrs. Crewe, this wondrous knowledge 
I own I ne'er had gained at college. 
You are my tut'ress ; would you quite 
Confirm your wavering proselyte f 
I ask but this, to show your sorrow 
At my departure hence, to-morrow, 
Add to your dinner, for my sake, 
One supernumerary steak !" 

At Mrs. Legh's, in Cheshire, he left behind him 
many similar tokens of whim and pleasantry. The 
Leghs were an old county family, and divided 
with the Davenports the dominion of Cheshire, 
where it was a common saying, that "the Leghs 
were as plenty as fleas, and the Davenports as dogs' 
tails." The following amusing lines were address- 
ed to Mrs. Legh on her wedding-day, in reference 
to a present of a pair of shooting breeches she had 
made to Canning, and were probably written during 
the early part of his Oxford course : 


'* While all to this auspicious day 
Well pleased their heartfelt homage pay, 
And sweetly smile and softly say 

A hundred civil speeches j 
My muse shall strike her tuneful strings, 
• Nor scorn the gift her duty brings, 

Though humble be the theme she sings— 

A pair of shooting breeches. 

" Soon shall the tailor's subtle art 
Have made them tight, and spruce, and smart, 
And fastened well in every part 

With twenty thousand stitches ; 
Mark, then, the moral of my song, 
Oh ! may your loves but prove as strong, 
And wear as well, and last as long, * 

As these, my shooting breeches. 


" And when to ease the load of life, 
Of private care, and public strife, 
My lot shall give to me a wife, 

I ask not rank or riches ; 
For worth like thine alone I pray, 
Temper like thine, serene and gay, 
And formed like thee to give away, 

Not wear herself, the breeches." 

Poetical epistles were still in vogue-*-that quaint 
old fashion of dressing up the sentiments of love 
and friendship in fine ceremonial suits. Odes and 
elegies were going out, or gone, and the epistles 
were following them; but the taste yet lingered 
here and there, just as we sometimes see scraps 
of antiquity scattered about a modern drawing- 
room. Of these epistles, the majority were very 
grand and solemn, having pretty much the tone of 
somber Christmas pieces or historical tapestries, in 
which fat-ribbed ships, mounted in soft tranquillity 
on rows of waves, are made to represent storms, 
and huge-limbed women are thrown into the fiercest 
attitudes, to make them look as if their hearts were 
breaking. But there were also epistles which had 
a more direct bearing upon the lower world of 
reality — sportive communications, in which Lord 
William recounted an incident of indolent gallantry 
to Lady Ellen, or depicted the horrors of ennui in 
some country seat ; all intended to be particular- 
ly gay and buoyant, the sprigbtliness being pre- 
served against vulgarity by that natural dullness, 
which has always been considered, in such cases, 
a genteeler sort of attic salt. 

What a lively influence such productions must 
have exercised on Mr. Canning's quick sense of the 
ridiculous may be easily conceived, and no doubt 
the scrap-books contained many a jest of his upon 
them. The following apparently good-humored 
satire upon these moping and ludicrous epistles is 
the only MS. of Mr. Canning's of this class which 
fi F 2 


I have been fortunate enough to obtain. Lord 
Boringdon (raised to the peerage in 1815, as Earl 
of Morley) and Lord Granville were both among 
Mr. Canning's intimate college companions ; and 
the Lady Elizabeth, alluded to in the poem, was 
one of the daughters of the Duke of Marlborough, 
and sister to Mr. Canning's friend, Lord Henry 
Spencer. Her ladyship married her first cousin 
(a quiet gentlemanly person, distinguished by noth- 
ing but a great love of music), the son of Lord 
Charles Spencer, and brother of William Spencer, 
the dandy and overpraised pet poet of the Devon* 
shire House circle. 


11 Oft yon have asked me, Granville, why 
Of late I heave the frequent aigh— - 
Why, moping, melancholy, low, 
From supper, Commons, wine, I go- 
Why lours my mind, by care oppress'd ; 
By day no peace, by night no rest. 
Hear, then, my friend (and ne'er you knew 
A tale so tender, and so true), 
Hear what, though shame my tongue restrain, 
My pen with freedom shall explain. , 

Say, Granville, do you not remember, 
About the middle of November, 
When Blenheim's hospitable lord 
Received us at his cheerful board, 
How fair the Ladies Spencer smiled, 
Enchanting, witty, courteous, mild ? 
And mark'd you not how many a glance 
Across the table, shot by chance 
From fair Eliza's graceful form, 
Assailed and took my heart by storm ? 
And marked you not with earnest zeal 
I asked her, if she'd have some veal ? 
And how, when conversation's charms 
Fresh vigor gave to love's alarms, 
My heart was scorch'd, and burn'd to tinder, 
When talking to her at the winder? 

These facts premised, you cant but guess 
The cause of my uneasiness, 
For you have heard as well as I 
That she'll be married speedily— 


And then (my grief more plain to tell) 

Soft cares, sweet fears, fond hopes, farewell ! 

But still, though false the fleeting dream, 

Indulge a while the tender theme, 

And hear, had fortune yet been kind. 

How bright the prospect of the mind. 

Oh ! had I had it in my power 

To wed her— with a suited dower— 

And proudly bear the beauteous maid 

To Saltram's "venerable shade.* 

(Or if she liked not woods at Saltram, 

Why, nothing's easier than to alter 'em.) 

Then had I tasted bliss sincere, 

And happy been from year to year. 

How changed this scene ! for now, my Granville, 

Another match is on the anvil. 

And I, a widow'd dove, complain, 

And find no refuge from ray pain — 

Save that of pitying Spencer's sister, 

Who has lost a lord, and gained a Mister." 

Reputations acquired by such lively and ready 
talents are sometimes vague, and often magnified 
in proportion. But in this instance the power of 
making verses (such as they were) off-hand upon 
any subject was associated with acquisitions so 
solid, that the pleasure faculty, instead of endanger- 
ing Mr. Canning's scholastic character, only helped 
to confirm its right to the admiration it received on 
all sides. Great things were expected from him 
in the University, and he realized still greater. His 
orations, highly colored by the liberal doctrines of 
the day, were universally applauded for their ele- 
gance and symmetry ; and his Latin verses display- 
ed not merely the resources, but the cultivated 
taste of the ripe scholar. He contested the prize 
for "The aboriginal Britons" with the Rev. Dr. 
Richards, and was beaten; but had the glory of 
transcending all competitors in the " Iter ad Mec- 
cam" — the best Latin prize poem Oxford has ever 

* The seat of the Earl of Morley— a beautiful residence with- 
in a few miles of Plymouth, near the Exeter-road. 


produced * This work affords singular evidence 
of the value of a close study of Latin poetry— that 
is, of Virgil and Lucretius — with a view to the 
uses of specific and definite imagery. It ie full of 
examples of this sort. The distinction will be ob- 
vious on comparison with his other serious poem 
(in English), "Ulm and Trafalgar," which deals 
in the most loose generalities and commonplaces. 
The fluency of this poem deserves special praise ; 
and the description of the crescent standard of the 

" Vexillis fluitantibus intertexta, 
Sanctum insigne micant crescentis comua tone," 

may be cited as a wonderful instance of plastic 
Latinity in a modern. 

His studies were pursued with unremitting dili- 
gence. There never was a collegiate career more 
distinguished by brilliant achievements and inde- 
fatigable industry. The character he built up at 
the University was in itself a prediction of the suc- 
cess that awaited him in the ambitious paths to 
which he aspired. 

But great obstacles were in his way. He pos- 
sessed none of the magic facilities of wealth, or 
patronage, or influential connections. Every thing 
depended on his own genius— -and poor genius had 
a hard battle to fight in those days when it chanced 
to be on the wrong side of power. The worst 
omen of all was that he was reared in a Whig 
nursery, and believed to be a disciple of Fox. 
This was fatal under the reign of Pitt, especially 
at a moment when the ministerial imagination was 

* This poem was recited by Mr. Canning in the theater on the 
26th of June, 1789, on the occasion of Lord Crewe's anniversary 
commemoration of benefactors to the University. The theater 
was unusually full, and presented a distinguished display of fash- 
ion and beauty. 


reeking witb the horrors of the French Revolution. 
But omens, like dreams, must sometimes be read 
backward. And so it happened with this student 
of Christ Church when he quitted the University 
and went up to London to study the law at Lin- 
coln's Inn. 



London, toward the close of the last century, 
was a perilous place for a young man just come 
from the seclusion of the University, and settling 
himself down to read law in some dusky chambers 
in Lincoln's Inn, with the echoes of a living world 
of strange and suggestive excitement ringing in 
his ears. It was no longer the London to which 
the young imagination used to look forward as to 
a great moving panorama in the holydays. The 
panorama was there, but its jubilant aspect had 
given way to gloom and dismay. One predominant 
idea filled every man's mind ; groups were to be 
seen in the streets exchanging hurried words, and 
hastily dispersing ; the revels of the taverns had 
subsided into whispering coteries, arguing the signs 
of the times with " bated breath ;"* even the play- 

* The fear of spies was universal, and led to the abandonment 
of many an agreeable association which had nothing whatever 
to do with politics. An instance of this kind occurred in Liver- 
pool. A few gentlemen had been in the habit of meeting once a 
fortnight at each other's houses, and devoting the hour before sup- 
per to the reading of papers, or the discussion of literary ques- 
tions. Among the members of this little party, which consisted 
of about a dozen persons, were Mr. Roscoe, Dr. -Currie (the au- 
thor of the " Life of Burns"), Professor Smyth, the Rev. W. Shep- 
herd, and Dr. Rutter. " But even this peaceful and unoffending 
company," says Mr. Roscoe's biographer, " was not exempt from 
the violence of party feeling." Upon the appearance of Mr. Pitt's 


houses were unsafe for audiences and actors, and 
opened their doors under surveillance.* Startling 
things were happening in the world : the American 
war— the French Revolution — the vibration of the 
distant earthquake agitating the length and breadth 
of England— open defiance in Scotland — Tooke 
and Hardy in the Old Bailey — Muir and Palmer in 
the hulks — and Pitt, to carry off the discontents, 
embarking in a war of principles with France. 
The whole country was in a state of terror, and 
London was the focus of the commotion. 

The town was full of clubs, political juntas, and 
debating societies. The club was a special prod- 
uct of the age. With something of the easy gos- 
siping characteristics of Will's and Button's, and 

proclamation against seditious meetings, and the consequent odi- 
um in which all who professed liberal principles were involved, 
the Literary Society found their meetings viewed with such jeal- 
ousy and suspicion, that it was thought proper, for the time, to dis- 
continue them : nor were they afterward resumed. Mr. Roscoe, 
writing to Lord Lansdowne on the subject, says: *' Under the 
present system, every man is called on to be a spy upon his broth- 
er ;" and adds " that the object of their meeting was purely liter- 
ary, yet that he had good reason to believe that they were pointed 
out to government by the collector of the customs," — " Life of Roa- 
coe," i., 128. Such was the prevailing phrensy, that the liberal 
newspapers were overawed by threats, and compelled to disavow 
their principles ; and although there were at that time four week- 
ly papers published in the town of Liverpool, there was not one 
that would have dared to admit a contradiction of the gross cal- 
umnies which were daily circulated against the Reformers. 

* One example will suffice to show the fright of the managers. 
A worthy gentleman who glorified himself upon an innocent de- 
votion to the practice of archery, being struck with an ardent de- 
sire to exhibit the art worthily upon the stage, wrote an opera 
called " Helvetic Liberty ; or, the Lass of the Lakes," founded on 
the dramatic story of William Tell. '* I presented my opera to 
the theater," says the honest Kentish bowman, " but in that par- 
adise I found politics to be the forbidden fruit, lest the people's 
eyes should be opened, and they become as gods, knowing good 
and evil : in brief, my piece was politely returned, with an assu- 
rance that it was top much in favor of the liberties of the people to ob- 
tain the lord chamberlain's license for representation." A straw 
shows the course of the winds, and this straw was thrown up in 


something of the wit of the Mermaid, " so nimble 
and so full of subtle flame/ 1 the modern club had 
fiercer pleasures and a more practical bearing 
upon the transactions of the day. It was invented 
to meet certain social and political exigencies which 
were hourly expanding into broader development. 
Young men fresh from college ; sprigs of aristocracy 
hunting up places or "sensations;" fashionable 
roues ; and rich fools ready to be snared by the 
first springe, formed the chief material out of which 
these clubs were created. They were invaluable 
to the scouts of the great factions, whose activity 
in scouring the country for raw recruits was won- 
derfully assisted by having such capital head-quar- 
ters to billet them upon. When Pitt began his 
career, only a few years before (curiously enough, 
too, as a student at Lincoln's Inn), he saw the ad- 
vantages to be derived from the clubs, and seized 
upon them with his unfailing sagacity. If he did 
not originate the system, he was one of the first to 
discover its political and parliamentary uses, and 
under his auspices it grew to maturity. There was 
scarcely a man of figure about town who was not 
drawn into one or more of them : some for sheer 
publicity, and the ton of the thing ; others, the mush- 
rooms, to get brevet rank in general company; and 
not a few to be duped, cleaned out, and laughed 

* The choicest club in Pitt's younger days was Goosetree's, so 
called after the man who kept the noose, since known as the 
Shakspeare Gallery. It was limited to twenty-five members, and 
included among them Pitt, Pratt, G. Cavendish, Bankes, Wind- 
ham, and Wilberforce. White's, Brooke's, Boodle's, the Turk's 
Head, and Miles and Evans's were also leading clubs. Tickell, 
Sheridan's brother-in-law, put some of the celebrities, who made 
themselves conspicuous in these places, into spi kling couplets, 
which still survive among the ieux dVaprif of th day. Gibbon 
rapping his box, " good-natured Devon," Beauclerc : 

44 Oft shall Fitzpatrick's wit, and Stanhope's »ase, 
And Burgoyne's manly sense, unite to please." 


The apparent business of the clubs was to idle 
in the windows and yawn all day, sup at midnight, 
and drink and gamble late into the morning. Wil* 
berforce, in spite of his conscience and his diary, 
was caught the moment he came to town, and 
whisked into the vortex, although he fought man- 
fully against the cards and the Champagne. The 
temptations were too subtle even for him, and he 
fell on the outside, just where they wanted him. 
The prodigal genius that flung about its enchant- 
ments so adroitly, lured him on insensibly, until at 
last he grew into such sworn brotherhood with Pitt, 
that he was never able to perform his public duty, 
when it took an adverse direction to the " heaven- 
born minister," without an apology from his private 
feelings. It was quite pitiable to see how this, 
amiable struggle with an anti-political friendship 
prostrated his powers and weakened bis utility. 
He could not even move an amendment upon the 
war, against which his most. solemn convictions re- 
volted, without some sort of personal deprecation, 

Lord Stanhope was the marked man of the Upper House, as pres- 
ident of the •' Revolution Society"— the uncle of Pitt, the father 
of Lady Hester, the famous " Citizen" Stanhope, who carried his 
republicanism so far as to obliterate his arms from his plate and 
carriages ; Fitzpatrick, no less prominent in the Commons, was 
still more distinguished in private by the laxity of his life and the 
versatility of his talents ; while accomplished Burgoyne enjoyed 
a quieter reputation from the flowing " gentility" of his writings. 
But these were not the only stars in TickelFs airy verses. 
'Brookes himself came in for a snatch of the immortality, and 
appears to have deserved it as well as he could— the " liberal 

" Who, nursed in clubs, disdains a vulgar trade, 
Exults to trust, and blushes to be paid." 

There was, unluckily, too much truth in this disreputable jest. 
A scurrilous wc'i. called the " Jockey Club," says that Lord John 
Townshend (tr whom it falsely attributes these verses) lived for 
a long time at drookes's expense, and never paid him. However 
we may be d* ^inclined to credit this assertion, there is no doubt 
that large b' lances were due to Brookes at his death. 


which utterly deprived him and his appeal of all 
weight and influence. 

It would be a great mistake to suppose that the 
clubs were simply places for libertine intrigues, 
where wits and debauchees did nothing but discuss 
dice, women, and horses, and get drunk overnight. 
There was an undercurrent which commanded 
the depths of these licentious orgies, and imper- 
ceptibly swayed their courses. While the surface 
presented all the dissolute attractions of fashion- 
able dissipation, the real purpose beneath was to 
strengthen and extend the resources of party, to 
catch hesitating votes, to impound stray cattle like 
Wilberforce, to hatch cabals, and premeditate po- 
litical imbroglios, to hold extra cabinet councils, 
.and to plan the incidents and cast the parts of the 
great Parliamentary drama. 

No means were left untried, in public or private, 
to accomplish the same purposes. The club was 
a brilliant decoy, and discharged its functions with 
admirable effect. But there were remoter ends to 
be served, and other "sweet voices" to be won, 
which required spells of a different kind. 

The influence of the clubs upon private society 
was not equal to their power of mischief. Their 
disorderly habits placed them in an equivocal po- 
sition, and nothing escaped from them into the cir- 
cles but occasional flashes of their symposia, trans- 
mitted through such conductors as Hare and 
Jekyll. It was necessary to employ more direct 
tactics in the management of the led lords and sim- 
pering toadies, who, picking up in London the 
latest political fashions, returned, at the close of 
the season, to announce them authoritatively in the 
country. These were the tactics in which the 
Whigs excelled. 

The Prince of Wales was avowedly at the head 


of the opposition. He not only possessed the rep* 
utation of being the " first gentleman of the age/' 
but was resolved to maintain it, in its princely sense 
at least, by the super-royal splendor of his expend- 
iture. It was nothing to the purpose that the 
people were the munificent sufferers who paid for 
these luxuries. In 1787 Parliament had discharged 
his royal highness's debts (nearly c£200,000), on a 
full assurance from his royal highness, guarantied 
in a royal message by his majesty, that he would 
incur no more ; but a very few years elapsed be- 
fore the prince came down to the House again, and 
denied point-blank that he had ever promised to 
live within his income, giving at the same time the 
best possible proof of his determination not to do 
so, by requesting the Commons to pay off the lia- 
bilities he had incurred in the interim, amounting 
to no less than <£600,000. To do him bare justice, 
there never was a prince of the blood who enter- 
tained so large a contempt for the integrity of a 
promise of any sort, or who had so grand a way of 
overrunning the constable. The festivities of 
Carlton House were famous all over Europe. The 
taste displayed at the prince's parties was worthy 
of their Oriental magnificence ; for in the midst of 
the grossest depravities, he managed to surround 
himself with intellect and social talent of the highest 
order, and to secure for his table every foreigner 
of celebrity who visited the country. By such 
means he sustained his political position, and com- 
municated a tone to society that had an important 
influence upon those detached masses of floating 
opinion, which, although they never become re- 
solved into a compact body, exercise a species of 
irregular power over the public mind. The pres- 
tige of the prince's name was formidable in the 
fashionable world; Even his vices were set off 


with such brilliancy and grace < 
them attractive : moral repugn* 
into admiration, and his showy 
larity prospered upon his very d 
We suppose it is a providentH 
royal families, as it is sheer vulgar 
families, which makes the son a 
opinions to the father. Certain h 
ever England has been favored wt> - ^ rmce of 
Wales, she has always found him heart and hand 
with the popular party — until he was called to the 
throne, when he left his principles to the next heir, 
to play, the same game over again. By this in- 
genious political hedging, royalty makes so safe a 
book, that it can trim the odds to meet any human 
contingency.* Such were the balanced politics 
of St. James's Palace and Carlton House. The 
prince bestowed himself upon the Whigs. Every 
triumph they achieved in the senate or on the hust- 
ings was followed by an ovation in Pall-Mall ; and 
the jubilee was taken up in Devonshire House and 
Lower Grosvenor-street, and throughout the prin- 
cipal houses of the aristocracy, until it went the 
whole round. These assemblies presented irre- 
sistible charms to the younger branches of the no- 
bility, and unclaimed country gentlemen, through 
whose unconscious agency the opposition wisely 
and untiringly labored to augment and consolidate 

* It is worthy of note that the very first time the Prince of 
Wales (afterward George IV.) spoke in the House of Lords, he 
announced himself as a friend of the people, and solemnly de- 
clared that he would never abandon them ! This was in 1783. 
" I was educated in the principle," exclaimed his royal highness, 
" and I shall ever preserve it, of a reverence for the constitution- 
al liberties of the people ; and as on those liberties the happiness 
of the people depend, I am determined, as far as my interest can 

have any force, to support them I exist by the love, the 

friendship, and the benevolence of the people, and them I never 
will forsake as long as I live." Let history draw the moral. 


nr strength. Nor did they rely solely upon the 
Admitted supremacy of their intellectual resources 
— the wit of Selwyn and Sheridan — the inexhausti- 
ble pleasantry of Hare— the universality of St. 
Leger, embalmed in the prince's joke, that he was 
" open to all parties, and influenced by none," al- 
luding to his indiscriminate enjoyment of the hos- 
pitalities of both sides — the irony of Curran— the 
racy eloquence of Erskine— or the versatility of 
Fox, more wonderful than all the rest. They 
brought still more captivating sorceries into play 
• — an artillery of eyes, a thousand times more ef- 
fective and convincing than all the logic v of Parlia- 
ment or the seductions of place, if they had it to 
bestow. The Duchess of Devonshire, renowned 
for her charms and her wit, and the beautiful Mrs. 
(afterward Lady) Crewe, immortalized in the 
poetical gallantries of Fox and Sheridan, were the 
enchantresses who presided over these bewitching 
scenes. This ascendency in the literary and politi- 
cal circles is attested by many memorable incidents, 
and it was preserved by a zeal, activity, and ad- 
dress which can scarcely be appreciated in these 
days of comparative quietude. They lived in the 
storm and daily struggle of contending factions- — 
they took part in the agitation, and contributed 
largely, by the refinement and irreproachable pu- 
rity of their lives, to elevate and dignify the cause 
to which they were devoted. They served the 
Whigs, not only by gathering together their scatter- 
ed forces, and inspiring them with union and con- 
fidence, but by drawing' in new and available talent 
wherever it appeared. To the influence of the 
Duchess of Devonshire is attributed the accession 
of Lord Grey, who had just arrived at his majority, 
and was irresolute which side to take, but inclined 
to the ministry, when her grace determined his 


doubts, and won him over to Fox and his party. 
The prize was a jewel of price ! He was only 
twenty-two when he entered the Commons, and 
his first speech— the initiative step of a long and 
distinguished career of statesmanship— is still the 
greatest first speech upon record. By such signal 
instances of well-directed social power the Duchess 
of Devonshire acquired that devotion from, her 
contemporaries so happily expressed in Fox's 
charade ;* but her domestic character displayed 
traits of tenderness, which in any circumstances 
must ,have commanded their admiration.t 

Mrs. Crewe was the reigning toast of the Whigs, 
a distinction gracefully conferred upon her by the 
prince himself; and whenever the banquet reach- 
ed its culminating point of complimentary efferves- 
cence, the homage, 

"To buff and blue, 
And Mrs. Crewe," 

was never forgotten.^ She was the most beautiful 

* The occasion is well known. The duchess asked Fox to 
write a charade. He requested to be supplied with a subject, 
when she suggested herself. The impromptu charade was writ- 
ten in pencil on the back of a letter. 

" My first is myself in a very short word, 
My second's a plaything, 
And you are my third." (Idol.) 
f She was the first lady of rank in England who nursed her 
own children. When Roscoe translated the " Balia" of Luigi 
Tansillo, he requested permission to introduce her name into the 
poem in reference to that circumstance, as the poet himself had 
introduced those of the noble ladies of his own country : 

" he Oolonne, le Ursine, le Gonsaghe ;" 
and she consented without hesitation, in the desire of extending 
the practice by the force of her salutary example. 

t The origin of the toast was an entertainment in celebration 
of Fox's return for Westminster in 1784. The prince had given 
a sumptuous fete at Carlton House in the morning, which was 
followed up on the same night by an assembly at Mrs. Crewe's, 
in Lower Grosvenor-street. Every person present was dressed in 
the colors of the party, buff and blue (from whence the " Edin- 
burgh Review" subsequently adopted its livery), and after suppei 


woman of her time,* possessed ^reat conversation- 
al vivacity, and frequently made it tell with the live* 
liest effect upon the vulnerable points of Toryism. 
"So Pitt means to come in/' she exclaimed to 
Wilberforce, when Lord Temple resigned in 1783 ; 
" well, he may do what he likes during the holydays, 
but it will be a mince-pie administration, depend 
upon it." And the mince-pie administration im- 
mediately became the by- word of the clubs. 

The Duchess of Portland — doomed not very long 
afterward, unfortunately, to rat with her husband — 
took a conspicuous part in these dazzling entertain- 

his royal highness concluded a speech, sparkling with gallantry, 
by proposing, amid rapturous acclamation, 
"Buff and blue, 
And Mrs. Crewe." 
To which the lady merrily replied, 

"Buff and blue, 
And all of you.* 
The anecdote is preserved by Wraxall.— " Posthumous Memoirs," 
L, 17. The dress was a blue coat, orange collar, and buttons with 
"King and Constitution" upon them. This was the costume 
Home Tooke, Hardy, and the Reformers used to wear, for the 
wearing of which, or for what it implied, they were indicted as 
traitors only ten years afterward. 

* Madame d'Arblav visited her at Hampstead in 1792, when she 
had passed her zenith, and was still perfectly lovely. n The room 
was dark, and she had a veil to her bonnet, half down, and with 
this aid she looked still in a full blaze of beauty. I was wholly 
astonished. Her bloom, perfectly natural, is as high as that of 
Augusta Lock when in her best looks, and the form of her face is 
so exquisitely perfect, that my eye never met with it without fresh 
admiration. She is certainly, in my eyes, the most completely a 
beauty of any woman 1 ever saw. I know not, even now, any fe- 
male in her first youth who could bear the comparison. She ugli- 
fies every thing near her." — " Diary," v., 313. 

This remarkable woman was the only daughter of Fulke Gre- 
ville, Esq., for some time British minister at the court of Munich. 
She was married, in 1766, to Mr. Crewe, who was raised to the 
peerage by Fox in 1806. After a life spent in the most brilliant 
society, through which she moved to the end without a whisper 
of scandal, she died at Liverpool at an advanced age, in the win- 
ter of 1818, and was interred in the family vault at Barthomley, 
near Crewe Hall, county of Chester. 


ments ; which also derived an irresistible charm 
from the musical talents of Mrs. Sheridan ; " the 
elegance of whose beauty," says Madame d'Arblay, 
"is unequaled by any I ever saw, except Mrs. 
Crewe."* The Tories spared no outlay or artifice 
to subvert the popularity of their rivals. They 
threw open their saloons with a publicity which 
startled the habitual exclusiveness of the old aris- 
tocracy ; and, seeing that office itself had paled its 
attractions before the brighter lures of wit and 
beauty, they set up the Duchess of Gordon — a bold, 
masculine woman — and the pert Lady Salisbury, as 
opponents to the Duchess of Devonshire and Mrs. 
Crewe. But it was a conspicuous failure. The 
fashion had set in with the prince and his friends, 
who carried every thing before them; and who 
possessed an overwhelming advantage in being en- 
abled, by the popular tone of their politics, to culti- 
vate a certain freedom of intercourse, which the 
hereditary reserve of the opposite party prohibited. 
While the upper classes were thus engaged, the 
body of the people was convulsed by a fiercer 
movement, down to the very dregs of the. popula- 
tion. The ale-house and the workshops were crowd- 
ed by as anxious faces as the ball-room or the an- 
te-chamber, but with a darker and more earnest 
meaning in them. That which was but the silken 
dalliance of party to the one was a life and death 

* There was considerable hesitation at first in the introduction 
of Mrs. Sheridan into fashionable society, on account of her pre- 
vious professional associations. When the Duchess of Devon- 
shire first met her, she felt some scruples about asking her to 
Devonshire House ; but Sheridan's growing celebrity soon over- 
threw all conventional difficulties. It was no small compensation 
in kind afterward, that the talents which originally stood in the 
way of her reception became one of the leading attractions in 
those very circles from which they had threatened to exclude her. 
Mrs. Sheridan's singing was a princioal feature in the evening 
wherever she went. 


struggle to the other. A new sense of public 
wrongs had gone forth, and was no longer to be 
baffled by perfidious or ignorant legislation. The 
people were unrepresented in Parliament ; an old 
grievance, as common as air in the mouths of men, 
but now strangely, for the first time, laid open in 
its naked injustice to the meanest apprehension. 
The remedy was clear enough, but the way to it 
was full of danger. The path was beset at every 
turn by monsters and dragons of evil power, and 
he who should undertake the desperate adventure 
must be armed by the good genius of heroic pa- 
tience, or add another victim to those who had be- 
fore essayed the enterprise in vain. The fear was, 
that in some sudden access of popular fury the 
great opportunity would be lost. 

The press teemed with warnings and appeals! 
The booksellers' counters groaned under the weight 
of new views of the state of the representation, the- 
ories of reform, and philosophical treatises on the 
Constitution. Every day brought forth its bundle 
of pamphlets and broad sheets. Every man who 
had any thing to say, or nothing to say, put it into 
print. The shops of Ridgway and Debrett were 
crowded every morning by politicians on tiptoe for 
the last rumor* And in the midst of this shoal 
of minor speculators suddenly appeared a great le- 
viathan in the shape of Godwin's " Political Jus- 
tice." The sensation excited by this book was un- 
paralleled. At any other period it might have been 
read by a few sublime dreamers like himself, and 
put away on the topmost shelves of the library, 
with Hobbes, and Shaftesbury, and Brown, and 
others possessed of a like gorgeous thinking fac- 

* Debrett'8 was the principal rendezvous. Holcroft, who kept 
a diary, begins his entries generally by a regular call at Debrett'a 
to bear the gossip of the day. 


ulty ; but it came out at a moment when the whole 
nation was intent upon that one idea which tha 
book undertook to develop, and it was seized upon 
with universal avidity. The doctrines it enuncia- 
ted alternately perplexed, delighted, and terrified 
its readers.* The enthusiasm it produced might 
have resolved itself into some awkward exhibition 
of popular absurdity, were the English as explo- 
sive as the French ; but, after a temporary blaze, it 
went out into total darkness. People began to see 
that it was transcendental and impracticable, and 
that it made demands upon human perfectibility 
which in no age of the world, either of action or 
repose, could find adequate response. Yet it had 
its effect at the time, became a text-book with thou- 
sands, and divided with Paine the glory of making 
a profound impression upon those who least un- 
derstood the mysteries of abstract philosophy.! 

The formation of societies for the attainment of 
Parliamentary reform was the natural consequence 
of all this uneasiness — the rational and legal way 
of looking for redress, to which the people were 

* Fox received tbe work from his bookseller, ran through half 
a dozen pages in the middle (his custom with modem publica- 
tions), did not like it, and sent it back. 

t Holcroft wrote a notice of the " Political Justice" in the 
"Monthly Review ;" a sneaking, shuffling analysis, in which he 
begged the question between his hire and his conscience to oblige 
Griffiths, who was afraid to commit the review to extreme opin- 
ions. The " Monthly Review" was on the side of reform, but 
Griffiths was such a contemptible trader, that, whenever he found 
the commonplace character of the work endangered, as Hazlitt says, 
he shifted about, and escaped through some shabby recantation. 
But Godwin had Roman stuff in him, and bore the cowardice of 
the reviewers with as much indifference as their abuse. The 
world looked for a more majestic issue to all that grave and solid 
magnanimity. No man ever excited so much attention as God- 
win, and lived to excite so little. He not only outlived his fame, 
but suddenly fell iate oblivion. For many of the latter years of 
his life nobody knew, or ever thought to ask, whether he was 
dead or alive— he who once could not walk the streets without 
being gazed at as a' wonder ! 


accustomed. The London Corresponding Society 
set about doing that through its affiliated branches 
which the Anti-Corn-law League is now doing with 
impunity — the collection of information throughout 
the country bearing directly upon its avowed object. 
Other societies were got up under other names, 
the most conspicuous of which were the Constitu- 
tional Society, and the Society of the Friends of 
the People, all having the one distinct ultimate 
purpose of acting upon the Legislature, through the 
legitimate channels of public opinion. Every one 
of these societies declared themselves and their 

?urpose openly. But the ministry insisted that 
Parliamentary reform was only a mask for the se- 
cret design of destroying the British Constitution ; 
and Mr. Windham, of all men, went so far as to 
express his astonishment in the House of Com- 
mons, that any body could be found so credulous 
as to suppose any thing else. The poor Constitu- 
tion — how often it has been destroyed ! What a 
cat's life, with a lease of cats' lives renewable for- 
ever, this same Constitution must have. 

But this was the way reform had always been 
evaded— treated as a plausible means to some mon- 
strous end, and stifled. Mr. Pitt said, "It is not 
reform they want, but revolution ;" and under this 
wily pretence, the right of the people to be heard, 
for good or evil, was annihilated. It never occur- 
red to him to ask, "Is there any reason in this 
thing for which they are clamoring north, east, 
west, and south, and which they call Reform 1 Be- 
fore I punish them for asking for one thing and 
meaning another, let me demonstrate to the world 
that the thing they ask for has no foundation in 
justice or necessity." The meetings that were 
taking place all over the country, and the bold 
language of the speakers, favored this hypocrisy. 


4< This is what they mean," exclaimed the minister; 
" to react the sanguinary atrocities of the French 
Revolution, to murder the king, and establish a 
republic;" and so he suspended the Habeas Cor- 
pus Act. Resolved not to be betrayed into the 
snare, they lay a petition before the Legislature, 
explaining what it is they do mean ; but he will 
not hear them. Their petition is dismissed with 
contumely. When they complain and agitate out 
of doors, it is sedition ; when they come to Parlia- 
ment, according to the usages of the Constitution, 
the door is shut in their teeth. 

Pitt's conduct throughout -this crisis was insin- 
cere. It was worse— it had none of that high 
courage, in which, on other occasions, he was not 
wanting. Had he relied on the country, he might 
have spared us the war and the debt, and all the 
political immorality through which both were con- 
tracted. As it was, he displayed neither the ex- 
perience nor the heroism of a statesman. The ar- 
gument that the people made use of reform as a 
pretext, were it true, was the best possible argu- 
ment for meeting them boldly on the ground they 
had themselves chosen. But it was false ; and he 
showed that he knew it was false, by never bring- 
ing it to the test of inquiry. Had it been true, 
nothing could have been easier than to have sifted 
the pretended grievance, and shown that it was 
hollow, and there was an end ; for no popular agi- 
tation can long be sustained upon a bubble. Fire 
can not burn without fuel. The discontents of a 
people must be fed by wrongs, or no human mach- 
inations can keep them alive. 

Had there been any real danger of a revolution, 
the measures of the government would have assur- 
edly brought it to a head. But the English are 
not revolutionary, and least of all for a theoretical 


end* Could they ever be induced to leave their 
ploughs and shuttles, and get up an insurrection on 
a respectable scale, it would be for food. The old 
generals who served in the Continental wars knew 
well what a belligerent provocation an empty stom- 
ach used to be to the English soldier. 

Pitt, however, insisted that there was a conspir- 
acy hatching against the institutions of the country, 
and men were arrested in their houses without 
bail or mainprize, under the authority of the min- 
ister, who was too secure in his majorities not to 
be quite at his ease about an act of indemnity. 
The Constitution itself was violated to protect it 
against outrage ; an operation curiously described 
by the attorney-general, as " a temporary sacrifice 
of a small portion of our liberties, for the perma- 
nent preservation of the whole,"* like cutting off a 
man's nose to preserve his profile. 

The mere fact that men who asked nothing more 
than a reform in Parliament, a demand which had 
Mr. Pitt's aealous support in former days, should 
now be arraigned by Mr. Pitt himself as traitors 
designing to " compass the king's death," ought to 
have exposed the hypocrisy. But the French Rev- 
olution threw its hind shadows over men's minds, 
and they took in all impressions through that dis- 
torting medium. 

The effect produced by the Revolution in the 
first instance, oefore it was degraded by hideous 
criminalities, was that of almost universal sympa- 

* The exact words, as reported in the published trial of Thomas 
Hardy. " This act," said the learned gentleman (afterward Lord 
Eldon), " was no infringement on British liberty. It had frequent- 
ly been adopted on former emergencies. It was, and ought only 
to be considered, as a temporary sacrifice of a small portion of our 
liberties for the permanent preservation of the whole." The sac- 
rifice of a portion of our liberties was no infringement of our lib- 
erty, because it had frequently been adopted before. By the same 
rule you might revive the Star Chamber. 


thy. It was bailed with enthusiasm in England. 
Some of the societies carried their admiration so 
far as to congratulate the Convention on its suc- 
cess, and the early struggles against a tyranny which 
had brought discredit upon the monarchical prin- 
ciple all over Europe was regarded with secret 
interest even by the most steadfast Church-and- 
State Tories. The event, in fact, was hailed by 
both parties as an effort toward the establishment 
of good government, neither of them anticipating 
the horrors of its progress. 

The mass of the reading, writing, and speech-mak- 
ing public thought of nothing else, and during the 
first stages of the Revolution the valor and devo- 
tion of the Republicans furnished the grand theme 
of admiration every where, in all companies, espe* 
cially in the numerous debating societies, which at 
this period were the vents and safety-valves of opin* 
ion. The young and unoccupied intellect of the 
Inns of Court found congenial employment in these 
stormy discussions, and here some apprentice poli- 
ticians* who afterward won a wider celebrity, first 
tested their powers, and plumed their wings for 
more ambitious nights.* 

Among them was a student of pale and thought* 
fill aspect, who brought to the nightly contests un- 
usual fluency and grace of elocution. He, too, 
along with the rest, had been inspired by the hero- 
ic spectacle, had pondered upon its causes, and ex- 
ulted over its prospects. His head was full of 

* In such mixed meetings, where the young speaker is brought 
into direct collision with a variety of character and rougher na- 
tures than his own, many of our distinguished men trained their 
faculties for debate. In Addison's time a gathering of this kind 
was held at the Three Tuns, in Hungerford Market, and was con- 
stantly attended by the future secretary, Steele, and others. 
Burke made some of his earliest essays at the Robin Hood, in 
Wych-street ; and Garrow and Dallas distinguished themselves at 
Coachmakers' Hall and the Westminster Forum. 



Constitutions; for his studies lay among the ele- 
mentary writers rather than the special pleaders 
and form-mongers of the law. And after a morn- 
ing of close reading and severe reflection, he would 
wend his way in the evening to one of these debat- 
ing-rooms, and, taking up his place unobserved, 
watch the vicissitudes of the discussion, noting well 
its effect upon the miscellaneous listeners ; then, 
seizing upon a moment when the argument failed 
from lack of resources, or ran into sophistry or ex- 
aggeration, he would present himself to the meet- 
ing. A figure slight, but of elegant proportions ; 
a face poetical in repose, but fluctuating in its ex- 
pression with every fugitive emotion ; a voice low, 
clear, and rich in modulation ; and an air of perfect 
breeding, prepares his hearers for one who pos- 
sesses superior powers, and is not unconscious of 
them. He opens calmly — strips his topic of all 
extraneous matter— distributes it under separate 
heads— disposes of objections with a playful hu- 
mor — rebukes the dangerous excesses of preced- 
ing speakers — carries his auditors through a com- 
plete syllogism— establishes the proposition with 
which he set out — and sits down amid the accla- 
mations of the little senate. Night after night wit- 
nesses similar feats; at length his name gets out; 
he is talked of, and speculated upon ; and people 
begin to ask questions about the stripling who has 
so suddenly appeared among them, as if he had 
fallen from the sky. 

But he does not confine his range to the debat- 
ing societies, which he uses as schools of practice, 
and as places in which the nature of popular as- 
semblies may be profitably observed. He is fre- 
quently to be found in the soirees of the Whig no- 
tabilities, where the aristocracy of his style is more 
at home than among the crowds of the forum. 


Here bis cultivated intellect and fastidious taste 
are appreciated by qualified judges ; and tbese re- 
fined circles cry up nis accomplishments as eager- 
ly as tbe others have applauded bis patriotism. 
Popularity besets bim on both sides. Tbe societies 
look to bim as a man formed expressly for the peo- 
ple; and tbe first Lord Lansdowne (stranger still) 
predicts to Mr. Bentbam that this stripling will one 
clay be prime-minister of England ! He is plainly 
on tbe high road to greatness of some kind; but 
bow it is to end, whether he is to be a martyr or 
a minister, is yet a leap in the dark. The crisis ap- 
proaches that is to determine tbe doubt. 

While he is revolving these auguries in his mind, 
and filling his solitary chamber with phantoms of 
civic crowns and strawberry-leaves, flitting around 
his head in tantalizing confusion, a note is hurried- 
ly put in his hand, with marks of secrecy and haste. 
It is from one of whom he has but a slight person- 
al knowledge, but whose notoriety, if we may not 
venture to call it fame, is familiar to him. The pur- 
port of the note is an intimation that the writer de- 
sires a confidential interview on matters of import- 
ance, and will breakfast with him on the following 
morning. The abruptness of the self-invitation, 
the seriousness of the affair it seems to indicate, 
and the known character of the correspondent, ex- 
cite the surprise of the law student, and be awaits 
his visitor with more curiosity than he chooses to 

A small fresh-colored man, with intelligent eyes, 
an obstinate expression of face, and pressing ardor 
of manner, makes his appearance the next morning 
at breakfast. The host is collected, as a man 
should be who holds himself prepared for a revela- 
tion. The guest, unreserved and impatient of de- 
lay, hastens to unfold bis mission. Among tbe 


speculators who are thrown up to the surface in 
great political emergencies, there are generally 
some who are misled by the grandeur of their con- 
ceptions, and who, in the purity and integrity of 
their own hearts, can not see the evil or the dan- 
ger that lies before them. This was a man of that 
order. He enters into an animated description of 
the state of the country, traces the inquietude of the 
people to its source in the corruption and tyranny 
of the government, declares that they are. resolved 
to endure oppression no longer, that they are al- 
ready organized for action, that the auspicious time 
has arrived to put out their strength, and ends by 
the astounding announcement thaj they have se- 
lected him— this youth who has made such a stir 
among them — as the fittest person to be placed at 
the head of the movement. Miracle upon miracle ! 
The astonishment of the youth who receives this 
communication may well suspend his judgment : 
he requires an interval to collect himself and de- 
cide; and then, dismissing this strange visitor, shuts 
himself up to think. In that interval he takes a 
step which commits him for life. It is but a step 
from Lincoln's Inn to Downing-street. His faith 
in the people is shaken. He sees in this theory of 
regeneration nothing but folly and bloodshed. His 
reason revolts from all participation in it. And the 
next chamber to which we follow him is the clos- 
et of the minister, to whom he makes his new con- 
fession of faith, and gives in his final adherence. 

Reader, the violent little man was William God- 
win, the author of the " Political Justice," and the 
convert was George Canning.* 

* Scott has preserved this anecdote in his diary. ** Canning," 
he adds, " himself mentioned this to Sir W. Knighton, upon oc- 

doubtless, had never been communicated to the editor. 


There are other versions of the way in which 
Mr. Canning was brought over to Toryism and Mr. 
Pitt; but none of them -are so circumstantial, or 
have such a color of authenticity or likelihood in 
them, as this.* Mr. Moore, in his " Life of Sher- , 
idan," suggests that this alteration ,in his views may, 
probably, be accounted for by his association with 
Mr. Jenkinson j or by his unwillingness to appear 
in the world as the pupil of such a man as Sheri- 
dan, whose irregular life had in some degree placed 
him under the ban of public opinion; or by the dif- 
ficulty of rising to eminence under the hopeless 
shadow of the, Whigs. If these motives, which 
amount to nothing more or less than a calculation 
of advantages in the choice of a party, ever pre- 
sented themselves to his consideration, they could 
scarcely have decided him, unless, at the same time, 
his opinions had undergone a total change; and 
that they had undergone such a change is evident 
from the fact that he had previously declined a seat 
in Parliament, which was offered to him by the 
Duke of Portland, then at the head of the Whigs, 
and from his refusal to join the Society of the Friends 

* The change in Mr. Canning's views from the bar to the senate 
is said to have been adopted on the advice of Mr. Burke. But he 
never sat down to the law with any intention of studying it as a 
profession. Respecting the more important change which took 
place at the same time in his position, we have the following 
clumsy circumstantial fabrication in a memoir of Mr. Canning, 

Published in Paris in 1628 : " During the chancellorship of Lord 
•oughborough, upward of thirty years ago, his lordship directed 
a gentleman holding an official situation to convey personally a 
letter to a Mr. Canning, of whom all which was known was, that 
he resided in one of the Inns of Court ! The bearer commenced 
his search, and, after some time, found Mr. Canning at chambers 
in Paper-buildings, Temple. The object of the letter was to 
convey an offer of the post of undersecretary of state, and he to 
whom it was addressed was the late premier." The inventor of 
this anecdote ought to have understood his craft better than to 
make the lord-chancellor usurp the functions of the first minister 
of the crown. 



of the People, although repeatedly urged to do so. 
If lie had been determined by mere expediency, 
the weight of the argument was obviously in favor 
of that party with whom he had been all along con- 
nected, and through whose influence he might nat- i 
urally have looked for an introduction to public 
life. His strength lay there, where he was wooed 
by every temptation short of office, with the cer- 
tainty that, whenever they came into power, his 
fidelity would be remembered. But the truth was, [ 
that his genius assimilated more nearly with that of i 
the opposite party, and he only found it out when 1 
he was brought face to face with the necessity 
which decided him. 

It has been stated that he confidentially consulted 
Mr. Sheridan on this momentous passage of his life ; 
and, according to one account of the transaction, 
Mr. Sheridan had the dishonesty to advise him to 
abandon his liberal notions, and devote himself to j 

the minister as the only chance a poor man had of | 

making any market of his talents. According to 
another account, Sheridan laughed outright, and, 
betraying his friend's secret before a large party at 
supper, made a humorous appeal to Mrs. Crewe, 
at whose house it happened, to decide the import- 
ant dilemma of a young man who did not know 
upon which side he ought to bestow his luster. 
Both these stories are mere fabrications, but the 
latter comes nearer to Sheridan, and lies more like j 

truth than the former; for, into whatever social 
transgressions his high animal spirits may have 
hurried him, his political integrity was above sus- 
picion. Had poor Sheridan traded upon his extra- 
ordinary powers, he would not have been found so 
often struggling on the floor of the House of Com- 
mons against overwhelming majorities, augmented, 
occasionally, by deserters from those ranks which, 
in the worst of times, he never forsook. 


The supposed connection with the Sheridans, so 
often alluded to, and to which all such idle gossip 
may be traced, rests upon no better foundation. 
Sheridan was intimate with Mr. Stratford Canning's 
family, and was constantly in the habit of meeting 
Mr. George Canning in the circles which, at this 
period, they both frequented ; but no strictly pri- 
vate intercourse was ever kept up between them.* 

Mr. Therry assigns a somewhat different origin 
to the interview with Mr, Pitt.t He says that the 
celebrity of Mr. Canning's talents reached the min- 
ister, who communicated through a private chan- 
nel his desire to see him — a desire with which Mr. 
Canning, of course, very readily complied. That 
Mr. Pitt, upon their meeting, said that he had 

* A report appears to have obtained currency that Sheridan 
was instrumental in some way to Canning's education ; and Wil- 
berforce, who merely echoed what he had heard, alludes to it with 
ludicrous commiseration. " Poor fellow," says Wilberforce, " be 
had neither father nor mother to train him up. He was brought 
up, I believe, partly with Sheridan. I always wondered he was so 
pure /" — '• Life," tv., 370. One can forgive the pity for the sake 
of this tribute to the purity of Canning's life ; for, assuredly, it 
was no easy matter to come up to Wilberforce's notions of puri- 
ty. But the report was wholly unfounded. Sheridan contributed 
nothing to Canning's education, and had nothing to do with it be- 
yond the interest which he may have taken in the early promise 
of a youth whom he often met at his friend's house. The allu- 
sions to the name of Canning, in Moore's " Life of Sheridan," 
have probably led to some mistake as to the intercourse of the 
families. Thus, in 1784, Mrs. Sheridan, in a letter from Putney, 
speaks of Mr. Canning having been with her ; but as George Can- 
ning: was then a schoolboy at Eton, the reference is clearly to his 
uncle. In 1792, also, Sheridan is said to have been on a visit 
somewhere in the country with Mrs. Canning and her family ; but 
this must have been the widow of Mr. Stratford Canning, as 
George Canning's mother had changed her name long before. 
As to any pecuniary obligations between them, the only one that 
ever took place was shortly after Canning's return from Lisbon, 
when Sheridan, ill in bed, wrote to him to the House of Commons 
to ask the loan of £100, a request which was immediately com- 
plied with. 

t " The Speeches of the Right Honorable George Canning,'* 


heard of Mr. Canning's reputation, and that, if he 
concurred in the policy of the government, arrange- 
ments would be made to bring him into Parlia- 
ment; and that, after a full explanation on both 
sides, Mr. Canning accepted the offer.* There can 
be no doubt that Mr. Pitt sent for Mr. Canning, for 
it is extremely improbable that Mr. Canning would 
have gone to Mr. Pitt without knowing beforehand 
how he was likely to be received. But it is still 
more improbable that Mr. Pitt would have sent for 
Mr. Canning without being perfectly secure of the 
result. How such confidences are brought about, 
it is unnecessary, as it would be quite fruitless, to 
inquire. The invisible agency is always tenacious- 
ly guarded by the honor of both parties, and the 
public are interested only in the result.' Certain it 
is, that when Mr. Pitt and Mr. Canning entered 
into this arrangement, their friends supposed them 
to be strangers to each other; for, at a dinner which 
was given at Addiscombe House by Lord Liver- 
pool for the express purpose of bringing them to- 

* Lady Heater Stanhope, if her memory may be credited (which 
is doubtful), appears to nave been present at this interview, and 
to have taken an aversion to Mr. Canning, founded upon a pecu- 
liar theory of personal appearance, by which she was always 
guided in her likings and dislikings. " The first time he was in- 
troduced to Mr. Pitt," she tells us, " a great deal of prosing had 
been made beforehand of his talents, and when he was gone, Mr. 
Pitt asked me what I thought of him. I said I did not like him ; 
his forehead was bad, his eyebrows were bad ; he was ill made 
about the hips ; but his teeth were evenly set, although he rarely 
showed them. I did not like his conversation. Mr. C. heard of 
this, and some time after, when upon a more familiar footing with 
me, said, * So, Lady Hester, you don't like me V * No,' said I ; 
* they told me you were handsome, and I don't think so.' "— " Me- 
moirs of Lady Hester Stanhope," i., 31 1. A good " woman's reas- 
on" for an invincible personal antipathy. Mr. Pitt told her that 
she must like him. And she said, " If 1 must, I must." but she 
never did. Lady Hester had the Pitt blood at perpetual fever heat. 
She sometimes hated people without a reason, sometimes against 
reason, and always hated them the more when the cause waa 
slight. She hated them most when there was no cause at all. 


gether, it was discovered, greatly to the amaze- 
ment of the whole party, that they were already 
well acquainted. 

That Mr. Canning passed over, at once, from the 
one party to the other, can not be denied. Nor 
was he alone in this transition ; for many others, of 
greater weight in. the country, and who had com- 
mitted themselves deeply to the party they relin- 
quished, passed over at the same time, from undis- 
guised apprehensions at the progress of revolution- 
ary principles. But so far from having been " rav- 
ished from the opposition for his talents," as Peter 
Pindar said, he joined the Tories from deliberate 
conviction. Some writers have been at great pains 
to prove that the French Revolution, which, accord- 
ing to Mr. Burke's sophism, was not to be tried by 
any known principles, had already disturbed his 
opinions by its eccentric terrors before he became 
acquainted with Mr. Pitt. Explanations of this 
sort look very like apologies, and there never was 
less need of one than in this instance. The adop- 
tion of Tory principles, when such events were 
pressing him to a decision, was the only honest and 
conscientious conclusion at which "Mr. Canning 
could have arrived. It was thoroughly consistent 
with the character of his > mind, which was essen- 
tially prudential. His genius might have been gen- 
erally disposed to take the imaginative side of a 
question ; but his understanding, stronger than his 
genius, invariably took the English side, whichev- 
er that happened to be. His theory was liberty, 
which ae inspired like poetical air from the heights 
of Parnassus ; but his practice was the Constitution. 
The French Revolution was not a matter of classi- 
cal sympathy with him, but of plain reason. He 
began to look upon it, and upon its growing pow 
er over the credulity of his countrymen, through 


the eyes of his English judgment ; and, once he 
had fixed it there, his decision was clear and inev- 

Besides, it may be faiity doubted whether we 
have any right to raise an argument upon the opin- 
ions Mr. Canning entertained before this time, still 
less to describe any change in them as a desertion 
of his party. He was not bound by any overt act 
to any party. That he wa& claimed in the House 
of Commons by the Whigs, before he appeared 
there to answer for himself, is evidence of the im- 
portance attached to his opinions, not of any obli- 
gation on his part. He had not yet begun public 
life : his political responsibilities were yet to be in- 
curred. A line must be drawn somewhere to limit 
the right of inquiry into the fluctuations of a man's 
opinions, and it can not be placed any where with 
such obvious propriety as at that point of time when 
he first avowed them. 

We must not confound changes of this kind with 
the tergiversations which occur later in life, in the 
midst of suspicious circumstances, after pledges 
have been ratified, and connections formed, and 
acts done, which tie men up with a party, and 
which can not be renounced without treachery and 
disgrace. Let us take an illustration from one of 
Mr. Canning's immediate contemporaries. 

Among the most furious supporters of the Soci- 
ety of United Irishmen, which grew out of the dis- 
contents of 1792, was a young nobleman belonging 
to a rich and powerful family in the North, who 
had given a remarkable proof of his patriotism only 
the year before by the expenditure of no less than 
o£30,000 on, a contested election. If he were not 
actually a member of that formidable body (which 
there is much reason to believe he was), he at least 
rendered himself notorious by his open advocacy 


of its principles. Nothing was too desperate for 
the ardor of his nationality. He was the intimate 
friend of the Sheares, who were hanged in the re- 
bellion, and was himself so deeply implicated in 
the movements which preceded that catastrophe, 
that he was supposed to be quite ready at any con- 
venient opportunity to " cut the painter." All this 
time he was in the Irish Parliament ; but Mr. Pitt, 
discerning his uses, drew him over to England, and 
in 1795 he took his seat, fbr the first time, in the 
English House of Commons. And now it was that 
he performed the most wonderful evolution — the 
cleanest psychological summersault-— ever witness- 
ed in the legislative gymnasium. The firebrand 
of -the Irish opposition seconds the English address 
— the fomenter of the rebellion becomes the aveng- 
er of the law — the suspected abettor of separation 
becomes the agent of die Union. All of a sudden, 
to borrow an expressive image of his own, this po- 
litical Scapin turned his back upon himself. He 
not only abandoned the party upon whose shoulders 
he had clambered into power, and which was called 
into existence to vindicate the liberties of the coun- 
try, but he handed over the country itself, bound 
neck and crop, to -the British minister. He was 
not satisfied with breaking the vow, but he must 
complete the sacrilege by breaking the altar too. 

Lord Castlereagh and Mr. Canning were about 
the same age, and entered public life about the 
same time. The one commanded a county, with 
which he bribed the minister; and, after having 
identified himself for four years with a party whose 
excesses he encouraged, to«k office and apostatized. 
The other belonged to no party until he went into 
Parliament; he then avowed his principles, and 
maintained them, through good and evil, to the end 
of his life. 




Mr. Pitt lost no time in availing himself of the 
talents of his new adherent. A borough was placed 
at his disposal by the obliging zeal of Sir Richard 
Worsley, who retired for the purpose ; and, in the 
session of 1793, Mr. Canning took his seat in the 
House of Commons, for Newport, in the Isle of 

Never did an administration stand so much in 
need of young blood. Nearly the whole weight 
of the debates in the Lower House fell upon Mr. 
Pitt. He had nobody to help him but Dundas. 
Rose, punctual and prosy, was little better than a 
stop-gap; and good old Lord Liverpool was fast 
sinking into a Downing-street Polonius.* The 
new Whig recruits rendered very inefficient and 

* Mr. Pitt, at one tune, contemplated a new order of merit, and 
requested the opinion of the ministers upon the color -of the rib- 
bon. Lord Liverpool prepared his with considerable care, and 
came by appointment to show it. •« Yon see," said he, with much 
self-complacency, " I have endeavored to combine such colors as 
will flatter the national vanity : red for the English flag, blue /or 
liberty, and white for purity of motive." Lady Hester Stanhope, 
who was present, burst ont into a fit of laughter, and; to his infi- 
nite mortification, showed him that it was the exact pattern of the 
tri-colored flag. His lordship had quite overlooked that. " What 
am I to do with it V* said he ; " I have ordered five hundred yards." 
" Tie up your breeches with them," replied Lady Hester, " for 
you know you have always such a load of papers in your pockets, 
that I quite fear some day to see them all tumble out." " This 
was his way," adds Lady Hester ; (< he used to ram his hands into 
his pockets, first on one side and then on the other, searohing for 
some paper, just as if be was groping for an eel at the bottom of 
a pond."—" Memoirs of Lady Hester Stanhope," i., 217-18. 


•equivocal aid where aid was most wanted ; and, 
with the exception of Windham, who was recon- 
ciled to an inferior office by a seat in the cabinet, 
none of them had the slightest chance in confront- 
ing the able and indignant opposition. Even Wind- 
ham, under any circumstances, must have felt him- 
self placed at an enormous disadvantage in his new 
position— a position in which candor was difficult, 
and in which all useful progress as a public man 
was vexatiously impeded by the eternal necessity 
of explaining, qualifying, and protesting ; but pitted 
against such overwhelming odds as Fox, Sheridan, 
and Erskine, with their troop of interrogatory 
followers, who were perpetually pressing the most 
disconcerting questions, his situation was not only 
onerous and embarrassing, but frequently humilia- 
ting and hopeless. But, worse than this, and apart 
from personal perplexities, the coalition itself was 
unpopular, as all coalitions must be ; for, let the 
expediency or justification be what it may in ref- 
erence to points of agreement, it is impossible to 
persuade the people that such unions can ever be 
effected without a compromise of principle on 
points of difference. And this coalition was par- 
ticularly unfortunate in one respect, that it placed 
in a position of apparent, if not real, antagonism to 
popular principles men known to be lovers of con- 
stitutional liberty, whose authority thus came to be 
cited for the sanction of abuses which they never 
could have deliberately approved. The Whig 
members of the coalition were so engrossed in the 
contemplation of what they regarded as the para- 
mount danger, that they overlooked every other; 
and, in the desire to prevent the pre-eminent evil 
of anarchy, they threw open the door to a series of 
.minor evils scarcely less fatal to the liberties of the 
people. Scared at the prospect of a revolution, 
7 I 


they took refuge in a system of ministerial despot- 
ism. Had they contented themselves by frankly 
giving their support to the minister on the immi- 
nent matters on which they differed from their for- 
mer colleagues, reserving to themselves the right 
of exercising an independent judgment on all other 
points, they might have effected their main object 
without risk or opprobrium ; but the acceptance of 
office and honors, by binding them to the whole 
future course of a party whose general policy they 
had hitherto uniformly resisted, exposed them not 
only to open distrust, but to a loathing suspicion 
of their motives. Sheridan denounced the coali- 
tion as a piece of wholesale corruption. His hits 
against the leaders told with prodigious effect upon 
the House. " ' I will fight for nobility/ say's the 
viscount ; * but my zeal would be much greater if 
I were made an earl.' 'Rouse all the marquis 
within me/ exclaims the earl, 'and the peerage 
never turned forth a more undaunted champion.' 
' Stain my green ribbon blue/ cries out the illus- 
trious knight, * and the fountain of honor will have 
a fast and faithful servant.' " 

But Pitt cared little for the ridicule of Sheridan, 
which he always affected to treat with the most dig- 
nified contempt. He was too much impressed with 
the urgent necessity of drawing in all the assistance 
he could get, upon any terms, to be turned aside 
from his purpose by derision or invective. He 
was constantly on the look-out for fresh accessions, 
from whatever quarter they could be procured ; and 
no manager of a metropolitan theater ever watched 
the dawning talent of the provincial boards with 
more anxiety than Mr. Pitt noted the rising men 
of his day. Foremost among these were Jenldn- 
son and Canning, whom he had already secured, 
and Lord Castlereagh and Huskisson who were 


brought in soon afterward. They were all of the 
same standing/ and promised to become valuable 
auxiliaries in different ways. Jenkinson, without 
a ray of eloquence, was safe and respectable. Hus- 
kisson had a great practical capacity ; and Castle- 
reagh, although he was always blundering, and 
never could draw up an official paper which Mr. 
Pitt did not find it necessary to alter, was ready 
and expert at a Parliamentary altercation. Can- 
ning was the greatest acquisition of aU ; the variety 
of his powers and accomplishments, his knowledge, 
judgment, and facility,, gave him immediate ascend- 
ency in the bureau and the senate ; and while the 
others were gradually acquiring reputation by re- 
peated efforts, he may be said to have stepped into 
his fame at once. 

. Jenkinson and Castlereagh were no sooner fairly 
lanched into Parliament, at one or two-and-twenty, 
than they took a conspicuous part in the proceed- 
ings ; the one with a clearness and moderation 
which satisfied the confidence of his friends ; and 
the other with a spanking intemperance which fore- 
shadowed the rashness and mistakes of his career. 
But it was in the nature of Mr. Huskisson's genius 
to demand time for its mature development. Ora- 
tory was not his forte, and he hesitated long before 
he addressed the House. Even when he had ac- 
quired considerable confidence in speaking, he 
rarely ventured beyond that class of subjects over 
which his laborious researches and the analytical 
character of his mind had given him a complete 

Friendships are commonly formed by contem- 
poraries thus starting into lite under the same au- 
spices; sometimes from force' of circumstances, 

* Huskieson, Canning, and Jenkinson were born in 1770; Lord 
Castlereagh in 1769. 


and sometimes from force of sympathy. But be- 
tween Lord Oastlereagh and Mr. Canning neither 
of these influences appear to have operated. Flip- 
pancy, pretension, and zealotry could not by any 
process be brought to mix up with calm reason and 
good taste. There was nothing in common be- 
tween them. The early intimacy with Mr. Jen- 
kinson, on the other hand, was now improved and 
cemented by a union of sentiments upon public af- 
fairs, and by the absence on both sides of all pal- 
try passions and false enthusiasm. Mr. Jenkinson 
began the world like a man of the world, and dis- 
played a great deal of common sense in his inter- 
course with it ; and the friendship that existed be- 
tween him and Mr. Canning, although it suffered 
the usual fluctuations of the party thermometer, 
was never seriously damaged by political differ- 
ences. With Mr. Huskisson there was a closer 
affinity : his comprehensive views upon commercial 
policy, the solidity of his judgment, his close pow- 
ers of statement, and the masses of information he 
marshaled into his arguments, early attracted the 
regards of Mr. Canning, who, from the commence- 
ment of their intercourse, entertained for him that 
feeling of admiration which subsequent years height- 
ened into the strictest attachments* 

* Mr. Canning became acquainted with Mr. Huskisson in 1793, 
shortly after the return of the latter from Paris, where he had 
resided from the age of fourteen with his great-uncle, Dr. Gem. 
During the last two or three years of his residence there he filled 
the office of private secretary to Lord Gower (afterward marquis 
oi Stafford), who was then the English ambassador to the court 
of France. This was the foundation of his subsequent fortunes. 
At Lord Gower's table, in England, Mr. Huskisson had frequent 
opportunities of meeting Pitt and Dundas ; and one day the con- 
versation turned upon the necessity of creating an office under the 
new Alien Bill, by which its provisions might be properly carried 
out, and the claims of emigrants examined without delay. It was 
necessary that the person filling this office should be a good man 
of business, a gentleman in manners, and a perfect master of the 
French language. Lord Gower immediately suggested the em* 


To Mr. Canning's connection with the Tory par- 
ty may be ascribed that progressive modification 
of its more violent tenets, and that infusion of Lib- 
eralism into its practice which has been ever since 
gradually cancelling, one by one, its most objec- 
tionable tendencies. It is no less certain, also, that 
Mr. Huskisson exercised a moderating influence 
in other directions, and that, although his principles 
were never fully carried out, they were so far ad- 
mitted in small details as to break down the out- 
works of that antiquated system by which we were 
already insulated in the midst of advancing civili- 
zation. Wherever either of them might have tak- 
en up his stand, singly he must have effected im- 
portant ameliorations ; but thus united, and acting 
with a party which had hitherto kept itself aloof 
with a high hand from all popular approaches, they 
drew the administration nearer to the people, and 
opened a new era in the history of Toryism. 

The entrance into Parliament is an event of in- 
calculable magnitude in a man's life. It unfolds 
before him a world of experiences, o£ which he 
could form no adequate conception from theory or 

ployment to Mr. Huskisson, who accepted it, although its harass- 
ing and commonplace duties were far below his talents. But it 
was the first introduction to the ministry, who soon discovered his 
abilities, and made use of them in a higher sphere. In 1795 he 
was appointed under -secretary of state in the department of war 
and colonies ; and toward the close of 1796 he was brought into 
Parliament for the borough of Morpeth, under the patronage of 
Lord Carlisle. He made his first speech in February, 1798. 

Mr. Huskisson was present at the taking of the Bastille, and 
exhibited so hearty a zeal in the cause of the Republicans, that he 
was frequently accused of having been a member of the Jacobin 
Club. But this was not true, as the only society with which he 
connected himself was the '89 Club. In defending himself against 
this charge, he cited the example of Mr. Pitt, who, even up to 
1792, saw so little danger to other states from the changes taking 
place in France, that the speech from the throne in that year de- 
clared that there was nothing in the condition of Europe which 
was likely to involve this country in hostilities ! 


description. He finds the assembly not only dif- 
ferent from what he expected, but from any thing 
he had ever imagined to exist. The dream of leg- 
islative sobriety and responsible statesmanship dis- 
solves before the reality. He is surrounded by the 
most incongruous materials, whose natural discord- 
ance is rendered still more glaring by the strife 
of factions and the extraordinary inequality of tal- 
ents. He finds certain models set up whom he is 
expected to imitate or obey as the oracles of the 
senate ; he is to be tried by standards of excellence 
of which he had no previous warning; there are 
exactions to be satisfied, which put his generosity, 
if not his integrity itself, to the severest test ; qual- 
ifications to be established, which had never enter- 
ed into his calculations; and critics to be appeas- 
ed, whose judgment he may be well disposed to 
hold in contempt, but which it would, be ruin to 
dispute. The danger is, that, in accommodating 
himself to these exigencies, his originality may be 
paralyzed ; that, in endeavoring to suit himself to 
his audience, he may be restrained from giving full 
scope to his energies ; that, in lowering himself to 
the requisite formulae, he may cease to cultivate 
higher sources of success ; and that, with the no- 
blest ambition, and powers equal to its achieve- 
ment, he may sink at last into the common medi- 
ocrity. Mr. Canning was too conscious of all these 
obstacles, and of the anticipations his reputation 
had excited, not to choose his occasion carefully. 
Throughout his first session he resisted all the 
temptations which the anxious topics before the 
House presented to him. He was determined not 
to fail ; and before he invoked the criticism of the 
Commons — always ready to cry down new merit, 
to terrify it by savage contumely, or abash it by su- 
percilious derision — he resolved to take the meas- 
ure of all its moods and usages. 


He delivered his first speech on the 31st of Jan- 
uary, 1794, selecting for his subject Mr. Pitt's mo- 
tion for a subsidy to the King of Sardinia. The 
specific objection to this motion was, that it gave 
<£200,000 a year to the King of Sardinia, and got 
nothing in return; the general objection was to 
the war itself, which the subsidy was intended to 
support. Mr. Fox and Mr. Grey had both spoken 
before Mr. Canning rose; and from the structure 
of his reply, it was evident that he had carefully 
prepared all its main points, which were less re- 
markable for eloquence or originality than for dex- 
terity of arrangement. It was the speech of a clev- 
er tactician. The most practiced debater could 
not have conducted the argument with greater 
adroitness. He divided all the objections against 
the subsidy into two propositions : 1st. That it ought 
not to be entered into at all; 2d. That, acknowl- 
edging such a subsidy to be proper in principle, 
this particular subsidy was disadvantageous in de- 
tails. It will be seen at once that the whole ques- 
tion was enclosed in the first proposition, which, in 
point of fact, involved the second ; but, with the 
expertness of a well-trained logician, Mr. Canning 
took the first for granted, as a matter upon which 
there could be no difference of opinion, and pro- 
ceeded to discuss the merits of the second, as if it 
were the vital topic ; then, having succeeded in en- 
gaging or entangling attention on subordinate con- 
siderations, he suddenly reverted to the original 
question, and wound up with a general defense of 
the war. 

The House was taken by surprise. It expected 
something highly inflated from the new speaker : 
the opposition looked for a display of exuberant 
enthusiasm which might damage a cause that re- 
quired to be trimmed with the utmost caution ancj 


aubtlety; and the ministers may probably have had 
some slight apprehensions of a similar result. Both 
were disappointed. The speech discovered com- 
plete knowledge of the artifices of debate, and was 
of too close a texture to be easily picked to pieces. 
The topics insisted upon were old and exhausted. 
Every thing that could be said in behalf of the war 
had been already said; but these commonplaces 
were here put together with such compactness and 
rapidity of illustration, as to strike the mind with 
condensed force, if not with actual novelty. It had 
been urged, for instance, over and over again from 
the ministerial benches that the war was absolute- 
ly necessary to prevent the spread of revolutiona- 
ry principles ; but Mr. Canning placed this contin- 
gent terror in a more startling aspect by asserting 
that we had to thank the war that we had still a 
government, that the functions of the House were 
not usurped by a corresponding society, and'that, 
instead of sitting in debate as to whether or not. 
they should subsidize the King of Sardinia, they sat 
there at all. In the same way, upon a subsequent 
occasion, in the same session, he defended the Alien 
Bill, and the act for protecting French property in 
our funds, by observing that if it had not been for 
such measures, our towns would have been filled 
by French citizens, and, instead of English notes, 
Qur cities would have swarmed with French as- 
gignats. The merit consisted in bringing the argu- 
ment home to the very doors of the people, in re- 
ducing speculation to reality, and resolving a sound- 
ing generality into palpable images. This was a 
great merit ; it gave an articulate tongue and in- 
telligible shape to the vague bugbear of national 
alarm, and made it tell with distinctness on the 
nerves of his hearers. It was like the sudden 
challenge of a trumpet at the gates of the council. 


Thi§ speech, squared wonderfully, also, with the 
prejudices of the audience. It was a common thing 
to say, for example, that the French were a parcel 
of madmen, and to describe the Revolution as an 
outbreak of insanity. Nobody minded such frothy 
declamation ; but Mr. Canning knew how to give 
point to the extravagance " If," he exclaimed, 
" it had been a harmless, idiot lunacy, which had 
contented itself with playing its tricks and practi- 
cing its fooleries at home ; with dressing up strum- 
pets in oak leaves, and inventing nicknames for the 
calendar, I should have been far from desiring to 
interrupt their innocent amusements ; we might 
have looked on with hearty contempt, indeed ; but 
with a contempt not wholly unmixed with commis- 
eration." It is easy to understand how such allu- 
sions would act upon the sturdy Protestantism of 
an English House of Commons— how this artful 
method of dramatizing the superstitions of our 
neighbors would throw the unguarded audience into 
roars of applause. 

The effect, upon the whole, was considerable, 
although not exactly of the kind anticipated. But 
Mr. Canning took an early opportunity of vindica- 
ting his reputation for eloquence, which this sub- 
ject, hackneyed and narrow, scarcely afforded him. 

In his next speech-— on Major Maitland's motion 
of inquiry into the causes of the failure of Dunkirk 
and the evacuation of Toulon— delivered in April, 
he made the first experiment of his powers of sar- 
casm. This is always dangerous in a young mem- 
ber, who is sure to he reminded of the respect he 
owes his elders ; to be told to go back to his books, 
and study the laws and Constitution of the country, 
of which, of course, he is profoundly ignorant; 
with a great deal of good advice to the same pur- 
pose, highly flavored with contempt. > Mr. Canning 


did not escape this inevitable lesson. Mr. Francis 
administered it with the usual square-toed solemni- 
ty, but had scarcely got so far as to inform " the 
young gentleman who had just escaped from his 
school and his classics, and was not yet conversant 
in the laws and Constitution of his country, that he 
had imprudently delivered sentiments which tend- 
ed to degrade him in the opinion of the world," 
when he was suddenly called to order. The House 
did not s^e any thing in Mr. Canning's " sentiments" 
which should exactly degrade him, and so the 
young orator had the full benefit of the laugh. 

It seems to have been Mr. Canning's manly de- 
termination to avail himself, in this session, of eve- 
ry proper occasion which offered, for making a 
clear declaration of his principles on all the great 
questions which were then before the country. 
He left nothing in doubt as to the course which he 
felt it his duty to pursue ; and even they who dis- 
sented most strongly from his opinions were com- 
pelled to applaud the candor and integrity with 
which he avowed them. He spoke only three times 
during the session : the first time, on the subsidy 
to the King of Sardinia ; the second, on the review 
of certain circumstances in the campaign just then 
closed; and the third, on the suspension of the Ha- 
beas Corpus Act. The first and second may be 
taken as declarations in favor of the war ; and the 
third, as the announcement of his determination to 
support Mr. Pitt in any measures which he should 
consider necessary for its maintenance. 

The war question was then at its height It 
dazzled many people, and had especially in its fa- 
vor the traditional fanaticism which used to set up 
hostility between France and England as a sort of 
law of Providence, and the capacity of one Eng- 
lishman to beat six Frenchmen as an article of faith. 


It required little excuse, or none, to engage the 
people in a war with France. We were too ready 
at all times, shut up in ill humors and animosities 
as we were, to shoot our quills at the least alarm 
from that quarter. There was no great difficulty, 
therefore, in the first step— the puzzle was to jus- 
tify it when taken. 

We were already at war when Mr. Canning en- 
tered Parliament. He had nothing to do with the 
origin of the war ; his province was to maintain 
the necessity of prosecuting it, which was easier, 
and more reconcilable with reason, than any de- 
fense which could be made for having begun it. 
There were half a million of soldiers on the front- 
iers of France, a great many more training in the 
interior, and a fleet at Brest : here were the ele- 
ments of the argument ; the rest was left to fancy 
or inspiration. 

The most remarkable peculiarity of this war 
was, that nobody could tell exactly what it was for. 
Ministers and their adherents differed among them- 
selves in assigning an object to it. Like themeUe 
in the burlesque, it exhausted all the ingenuity of 
conjecture : 

" To it they goes ; 
But what they're all lighting for, nobody knows." 

Mr. Burke declared that the object of the war 

was the restoration of the ancient monarchy of 

France, and that it ought to be openly avowed. 

Mr. Pitt denied that such was the object,* declaring 

* This denial on behalf of ministers was perfectly explicit on 
the occasion of Mr. Tierney's motion for peace in 1798 (as it had 
been on several previous occasions), when Lord Hawkesbury (af- 
terward Lord Liverpool) took extraordinary pains to disclaim, on 
the part of ministers, any such design as that of restoring the 
monarchy in France. Yet it is a curious commentary on this dis- 
claimer to find Mr. Pitt, in 1801, when all chance for the Bourbons 
was at an end, betraying the desire which he had all along secret- 
ly nourished and diligently concealed. His words are remarks- 


that the restoration was only a means to an end, 

the end itself being peace.* Mr. Canning, Mr. 

Jenkinson, and others asserted that the legitimate 

aim of the war was the destruction of the Jacobin 

party, and that it could never be brought to a ter- j 

urination until that was accomplished— a view of 

the case which was adopted in the king's speech 

of 1794, with as little ambiguity as could be fair- , 

ly expected in a king's speecttt J 

ble : he said that ** he gave up hit hopes of restoring the ancient [ 

monarchy of France with the greatest reluctance ; and be should, 
to his dying day, lament that there were not, on the part of the oth- \ 

er powers of Europe, efforts corresponding with our own for the ac- 1 

eomplishment of that great work. There were periods, during 
the continuance of the war, in which he had hopes of our being 
able to put together the scattered fragments of that great and ven- 
erable edifice— to restore the exiled nobility of France ; but that 
had been found unattainable." 

* " Gifford's Lite of Pitt," iv., 310. The facts are to be found 
scattered through the numerous debates which were raised on 
this subject ; but it is well to confirm them by the evidence of a 
thorough- paced partisan like GirTord, who would certainly admit i 

nothing to the prejudice of his own side of the question which he I 

could avoid. 

The Jesuitry of Pitt comes out boldly in the audacious quibble, 
that the restoration was to be considered merely as a means to an 
end. The end was to be peace, yet he would not uegotiate with 
the existing government, who were willing enough to make terms ; 
and with this profession, on his lips, which every day falsified, he 
meant to carry on the war until the Bourbons, with whom alone 
he would negotiate, were re-established ! The proper way to de- 
scribe it would be by direct inversion— the pretence of peace be- 
ing really used as a means to the true end, the restoration of the 

f It is really curious to trace, through the interminable debates 
on the war, the anxiety of the opposition to extract from the mm- i 

istry some explanation of their objects, and the obstinate deter- | 

mination of the ministry not to give any. Night after night this 
harassing question was sure to be agitated in one shape or anoth- 
er, but all to no purpose. Mr. Canning, before he was sufficient- 
ly habituated to the ways of the House to bear such tantalizing 
scrutiny with due Parliamentary patience— a thing, indeed, which 
his temper and his candor could never, at any time, have endured 
— broke out into a burst of petulant ridicule on this point. " ' But 
what,' say the gentlemen on the other side of the House, ' is the 
distinct object for which we are engaged V Gentlemen put this 
question as if an object were a corporeal substance, as if it was 


It was admitted by everybody that no country 
has a right to interfere with the internal govern- 
ment of another. Pitt was unusually explicit on 
this point. He granted in full the right of the 
French people to set up their own government; 
but he refused to recognize it when it was set up. 
This was the Pitt policy in every thing. The ab- 
stract principle was always admitted ; but the mo- 
ment it came to be applied, there was sure to be 
some plausible pretext for rendering it impracti- 
cable. The Pitt ministers pursued this huge fraud 
upon so grand a scale, ana with such systematic 
action, that they imposed to an incredible extent 
upon the good nature of the people; who, like a 
dog that is soothed by words of endearment, at the 
same moment that some urchin is pinching its tail, 
were so puzzled, that they hardly knew whether 
they ought to be pleased or vexed. 

The peace which Mr. Pitt professed was unique. 
It was to be brought about by much die same 
sort of agency which used to be so effective in 
establishing quietness at an Irish pattern. Eng- 
land went to war with France to secure peace to 
Europe ; and when it was urged, over and over 
again, especially by Wilberforce, in his humane, 
persevering way, that the obvious mode of getting 
peace was to open negotiations and stop the war, 
Pitt would still insist that the best possible way 
to insure peace was to keep up the war as long as 
we could. 

As to negotiations, that course was repudiated 
at once. Pitt, while he allowed that the French 
people had a right to set up their own form of gov- 

- something tangible, something that conld be taken in the hand 
and laid upon your table, and turned round and round before them 
for accurate, ocular examination. In this sense I profess myself 

* -perfectly unable to satisfy them." 


eminent, insisted that the new government pos- 
sessed no authority to give stability to its treaties. 
He admitted the general proposition, that the people 
had a right to frame any government they thought 
fit ; but denied the irresistible corollary that they 
were bound by its acts. This refusal to negotiate 
with the republic was practically equivalent to a 
declaration of war against that particular exercise 
of a right which even they who made war upon it 
admitted in full Of course, ministers endeavored 
to evade any direct acknowledgment that such was 
the state of the case, and tried to escape from it by 
general declamation upon the insecurity of things 
in France, the fall of assignats, and the crippled 
condition of the population ; but no equivocation 
could conceal the fact that this was literally a war 
of principles. 

Mr. Canning alone, of all the supporters of the 
ministry, was candid enough to defend the war on 
that special ground. " Distinction had been taken," 
he observed, " by gentlemen on the other side of 
the House, between the progress of the arms of 
France and the progress of her principles. The 
progress of her arms, it was admitted, it had been, 
and would always be, our right and our policy to 
oppose ; but we need not, and we ought not, it seems, 
to go to war against her principles. He, for his 
part, could not see such fine distinctions. Admit- 
ting that the aggrandizement and aggression of 
France must naturally be the objects of our jeal- 
ousy and resistance, he could not understand that 
they became less so, in proportion as they were ac- 
companied and promoted by principles destructive 
of civil society." The concluding sentence is a 
little obscure, and partakes of the mystification 
which was commonly resorted- to in the application 
of general doctrines to particular cases. Aggraxi* 


dizement and aggression certainly could not be- 
come less the objects of jealousy and resistance, 
because they were accompanied by pernicious 
principles ; seeing that they had already become 
so without any* accompaniment. But that was not 
the question, which simply concerned the distinc- 
tion that had been drawn by the opposition be- 
tween the progress of arms and the progress of 
principles; and in admitting that he could see no 
such distinction, Mr. Canning, in effect, took his 
stand upon the very intelligible ground that one 
government is justified in going to war with another 
because it disapproves vof its principles. 

Mr. Canning did not in so many words enunciate 
this doctrine, but the argument he employed bears 
no other construction ; and the fact that he applied 
it practically to the war with France is only one in- 
stance out of a multitude which might be cited of 
the false political morality into which ministers 
were driven in their defense of that measure. 

That peace was not the object of the war is suf- 
ficiently disclosed by the strenuous opposition of 
ministers to every effort that was made for its at- 
tainment. If they had been sincere, they might 
easily have secured an honorable peace. But 
peace was the last thing they desired. They even 
went so far as to declare that the consequences of 
peace would be worse than the continuance of war. 
" In the event of a peace," exclaimed Mr. Wind- 
ham, " the intercourse between the two countries 
must be opened, when the French would pour in 
their emissaries, and all the English infected with 
French principles, whom we had now the means 
of excluding, would return to disseminate their 
abominable tenets among the people." Here was 
the secret let out ; and yet all this time ministers 
were guilty of the transparent hypocrisy of pretend* 


ing that they were seeking to re-establish the peace 
of Europe. 

In one thing alone Mr. Pitt was sincere. He 
never disguised his determination to prosecute the 
war at any cost, shuffle as he might about his mo- 
tives. To be sure, concealment on that point was 
not very easy, as he was constantly making new 
demands upon the industry of the people to sustain 
the tremendous expense of troops "and subsidies. 
What with new taxes upon every conceivable ar- 
ticle of taste, necessity, or pleasure, the wants of 
man and the gifts of heaven, the people must have 
been more obtuse than the tax-collector usually 
finds them, if they were not thoroughly convinced 
that he was in earnest ; and that, while the resour- 
ces of the country lasted, he was resolved to per- 
severe. And that was exactly what he meant. He 
went upon the exhausting process. It was like a 
profligate competition between two trading rivals, 
carried on at a daily loss, with the desperate cer- 
tainty that the one or the other, beggared and un- 
done, must abandon the field to his adversary at 
last. Mr. Pitt avowed this part of his policy frankly 
enough, and openly boasted, during one of the 
thousand and one discussions which took place on 
this subject, that Great Britain had expended on the 
prosecution of the war no more than £25,000,000 
per year, while the outlay of France amounted to 
0097,000,000 per month, or 4324,000,000 per year. 
The inference was, as his historian, with incredible 
candor, observes, that we should exhaust her in the 
long run.* And this was the war for which we 
are to this hour laboring under the weight of a na- 
tional debt, from which no prophetic trance of the 
imagination can foresee the date or the means of 
our extrication. 

• « Giffoid's Life of Pitt," iv., 202. 


But this very debt was a significant and pow- 
erful agent in bringing round the results, Mr. 
Pitt aimed at. It would be difficult to hit upon a 
more effectual method of preventing the people 
from cultivating French principles, or any other 
kind of principles. To use their own descriptive 
phrase, it kept their noses so close to the grind- 
stone, that there was no time for any thing but 
work. They were compelled to work double tides 
under the pressure of the war taxes, which were 
raised . to pay the interest of the debt, while the 
debt itself crushed the independence and silenced 
the complaints of the moneyed and property class- 
es* whom it enslaved, as a matter of pure necessity, 
to the will of the minister. The debt was not only 
the instrument by which he overawed public opin- 
ion at home, but the fulcrum by which he moved 
the whole of Europe. 

Had the war even been successful (poor satis- 
faction as that would have been to a tax-crushed 
country), the event might have furnished some for- 
tuitous vindication of all this ruinous outlay ; but 
it was more disastrous in its progress, and exhibit- 
ed more extraordinary failures in the " long run" 
(the final test to which ministers pointed on every 
fresh mortification, or whenever more money was 
wanted), than any known war in the history .of the 
world.* There was not a single point to which 

* Mr. Pitt openly declared to the House that we had failed in 
our efforts against France, and that the objects of the war were 
frustrated in the sequel. " Disappointed in our hopes of being 
able to drive France within her ancient limits," he observed, " or 
even to raise barriers against her farther incursions, it becomes 
necessary, with the change of circumstances, to change our ob- 
jects ; for I do not know a more fatal error than to look only at 
one object, and obstinately to pursue it, when the hope of accom- 
plishing it no longer remains." This was when the war was 
over, and peace concluded with France. 
8 K2 


the administration nailed their colors from which 
they were not ultimately beaten down. 

After this Pitt ministry had pledged itself in the 
most solemn manner that it would never negotiate 
with a new-fangled government of French manu- 
facture (a sly hint that they were only awaiting the 
legitimate advent of the Bourbons), Pitt himself 
endeavored to effect a sort of underhand negotia- 
tion with the Convention* and Lord Hawkesbury 
actually entered into a treaty with Bonapartej On 
this latter occasion the noble lord was severely tak- 
en to task for condescending to reduce himself, in 
his own office in Downing-street, to the level of the 
" citizen" minister, with whom he signed the pre- 
liminary articles. It seems that it was considered 
an indispensable condition of diplomatic etiquette 
that the rank of the agents should be equal, which 
was about as reasonable, said Mr. Sheridan, as if 
Lord Whitworth were to be sent to Petersburg, 
and told that he was not to treat but with some gen- 
tleman six feet high and as handsome as himself! 

The project of entering and occupying France 
was constantly declared to be on the eve of accom- 
plishment. " We have reason to hope," exclaim- 
ed Mr. Jenkinson, in 1794, " that we shall be able 
to penetrate the interior of France in the present 
campaign ;" and his biographer congratulates him 
upon the fact that, although he was incessantly 
baited in the House of Commons upon this and 
other equally sagacious prophecies, he had the sat- 
isfaction of seeing the idea realized at last, by the 
entry of the allies into Paris, twenty-one years af- 
terward.:); . A man who bet Upon the Epsom might 
as well claim the stakes because his horse happen- 

• In 1796. t In 1801. 

% " Memoirs of the Public Life and Administration of Lord Liv 
erpooi," p. 83. 


ed to win at Newmarket. The consequential con- 
nection between the entry of the allies into Paris 
in 1815, and Mr. Jenkinson's campaign in 1794, or 
the war of which it formed a forlorn fraction, is just 
about as obvious. 

The conquest of France was treated as a thing, 
not to say practicable, but certain. It was " hey, 
presto !" and you might look for France in Pitt's 
waistcoat pocket. Well might Mr. Fox cry out, 
lt Oh, calumniated Crusaders, bow rational and mod- 
erate were your objects ! Oh, tame and feeble 
Cervantes, with what a timid pencil and faint col- 
ors have you painted the portrait of a disordered 

The restoration of the Bourbons was another 
vaticination, and, like the rest, it was signally falsi- 
fied, with this aggravating difference, that a second 
revolution, completing the imperfect issues of the 
first, has shown, in its immediate results and dis- 
tant influences, that these costly Crusades, instead 
of crushing the popular principle, only submitted 
its vitality to the most triumphant test it is in the 
nature of human circumstances to afford. In the 
mean while the world has gained some wisdom, 
and will never again, we may venture to predict, 
behold such an iniquitous league hounded on by 
the criminal passions of despotism in the pursuit of 
objects so utterly hopeless and unjust. 

It was the last misfortune of this war against 
France, that, well inclined as the bulk of the pop- 
ulation might have been at other times to embark 
in such an enterprise, out of false notions of glory, 
or jealousy, or national pride, they were so averse 
to it at this period that they suffered no opportuni- 
ty to escape without testifying the abhorrence in 
which they held it. When the king was going 
* Letter to the Electors of Westminster. 


down to Parliament to open the session, the mob 
surrounded his coach, shouting " No war !" in his 
ears (some add, " No kingi"), clamoring for cheap 
provisions, and demanding with furious gestures 
the dismissal of Pitt This was a plain indication 
of the lowest stratum of public opinion. The op- 
position declared their belief that it was only a plot, 
to terrify the people into weak compliances, planned 
and executed by ministers themselves for the mah> 
tenance of their power.* But if it were a plot; 
it was so clumsy that it defeated its own purpose. 
If it supplied an excuse for fresh severities against 
the people, it also betrayed the unpopularity of the 
war, and the condition of want to which a large 
section of the population was reduced. This was 
proving too much for ministers, who were; too cun- 
ning to cast nets in the dark for catching their own 

The discontents were real. There was no fic- 
tion or masquerade in the sufferings or resentments 
of the poor. They had the' gratification, however, 
of learning from the lips of the minister that they 
never before enjoyed such astonishing prosperity ; 
that, although the national debt had been doubled 
and quadrupled, the sinking fund was flourishing ; 
and that, although taxation was grinding them to 
the earth, there was no diminution in the exports. t 
These consolatory facts were brought before the 
House of Commons with such a display of unan- 
swerable figures that even the starving mechanic* 
if he had the least candor, or was at all open to 
conviction, must have been shaken in his belief in 
the existence of hunger. 

* Speech of the Marquis of Lansdowhe, October 20, 1795. 

t The advance in the exports in the war-time was repeatedly 
put forward as a proof of the prosperity of the country — a fallacy 
which to this hour is fallen back upon, whenever it can be made 
use of to serve a purpose. 


The people never know when they are well offj 
and sometimes, in spite of the most encouraging 
increase in the quarter's revenue, they can not be 
persuaded that they are a whit wealthier than be- 
fore.* So, notwithstanding these proofs of their 
happy condition, the turbulence and the distress, 
and the demand for a reform in Parliament, grew 
deeper and louder ; and ministers who had made 
up their minds not to open the question of reform 
under any extremity, took a short cut to suppress 
the agitation, by seizing upon some of the most 
conspicuous members of the Corresponding So- 
ciety, and demanding on the same day an act of 
indemnity from Parliament. Mr. Pitt moved for a 
suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, to enable 
the king to secure and detain persons suspected of 
having designs against the government. Had Mr. 
Pitt proposed to lock up the doors, of the House 
and fling the keys into the river, he could not have 
created more amazement among the members of 
the opposition. They were required on the sud- 
den, without time for reflection, for evidence, for 
the expression of public opinion, to pass an act to 
annihilate the liberties of the subject, not by spec- 
ulative and indirect approaches, but by direct and 
forcible deprivation. The people demanded time 
—it was refused; it was even declared that no 
mass of petitions could affect, right or wrong, the 
inflexible course the ministers were resolved to 
take in this exigency. The pilot was weathering 
the storm, and he must weather it in his own way. 
A secret committee was appointed ; they made their 
report on the next day but one; and the bill was 

* The increase in the revenue is the ordinary surface-evidence 
of a thriving state of things ; although, in the majority of cases, 
it is solely referable to increased taxation and improved modes of . 


hurried with indecent expedition through the Com- 
mons, and passed into law with still more alarming 
alacrity by the Lords, amid the execrations of the 

This was the first violently drastic measure of 
Mr. Pitt's new system of treatment. The experi- 
ment was accompanied by great danger to phy- 
sician and patient ; and it was essential on this oc- 
casion, beyond all others, that the supporters of the 
minister should rally round him with unflinching 
resolution. Mr. Canning was deeply impressed by 
the difficulty of Mr. Pitt's position, and the impera- 
tive necessity of sustaining him through it ; and,, 
boldly facing the storm of invective, indignation, 
and opprobrium by which the Treasury benches 
were assailed, he delivered a defense of the meas- 
ure and the minister, which was more to be ap- 
plauded for courage and zeal than for discretion 
or judgment. 

The defense of the measure rested exclusively 
on the plea of necessity. The necessity, however, 
being rather obstinate of proof, the readiest course 
was to take it for granted, and wonder how people 
could be so blind as not to see it. M Good God !" 
exclaimed Mr. Canning, with that admirabie airof 
astonishment which became him so well, and looked 
so real, "how can gentlemen oppose a measure 
that is so obviously necessary V 9 The opposition 
had menaced them with petitions, but neither he 
nor Mr. Pitt were to be intimidated by petitions so 
long as they felt that they were conscientiously dis- 
charging their duty to the country. This was at 
least carrying the wrong with a high and fearless 
hand, and imparting a tone of pomp and authen- 
ticity to a palpable outrage on the Constitution. 

Mr. Pitt had been taunted by Mr. Grey for his 
apostasy on the question of Parliamentary reform ; 


an apostasy rendered the more glaring on this oc- 
casion by the fact that one of the persons whom he 
had just dragged to prison for agitating that ques- 
tion—John Home Tooke — had formerly been his 
own associate in the very same cause. " William 
Pitt, the reformer of 1782," exclaimed Mr. Grey, 
"was now the prosecutor, ay, the persecutor of 
reformers."* There was no possibility of turning 
aside this accusation. It was drawn from circum- 
stances too notorious to admit of evasion. Mr. 
Canning met it boldly, and declared that he en- 
tirely agreed with Mr. Pitt, that though such a re- 
form might not be improper for discussion in time 
of peace, yet it was a proposition that ought not to 
be agitated in times of tumult and storm. As to 
the change in opinion, he had no hesitation in say- 
ing that if Mr. Pitt in future should return to his 
former opinion, it woe probable that he might ogam 
agree with him. 

These declarations on the part of Mr. Canning, 
extraordinary and extravagant as they are, can 
scarcely be regarded as involving any specific prin- 
ciples. - They must be looked upon rather as dec- 
larations of adhesion to Mr. Pitt. He felt bima^lf 
bound to support the ministerial policy as a whole ; 
that was essential to what he believed to be the 
true interests of the country ; and he knew that the 
slightest misgiving, the least wavering, or exercise 

* In 1782 Mr. Pitt brought forward a motion m the House of 
Common* for a plan of Parliamentary reform, by which he pro- 
posed to buy up the boroughs, and transfer the right of election to 
the freeholders of the counties at large, or to certain districts. 
In 1794 he was called as a witness upon Home Tooke's trial, and 
compelled to eonvict himself of hie former participation in the agi- 
tation for reform, and of his recommendation to the people to 
pour in petitions in favor of it from all parts of the country— 
the very thing, distorted by indictment into treason, for which 
Home Tooke and the rest were placed in the dock at the Old 


of individual judgment, might be productive of th» 
most serious misfortunes. The practical question 
arising out of such a line of conduct, concerns, in 
effect, not the particular vote, but the obligations 
understood to be imposed by all part^ alliances. 

The character of the compact is clear. We have 
seen the ministerial majority turned round, like a 
troop of horse in the amphitheater, upon the self- 
same question, and revoking their own decision of 
the night before at the bidding of the minister.* 
This is an extreme case (such a one as it is reason- 
able to hope, for mere decency, may never happen 
again) ; but it illustrates the action, and discloses 
the real nature of a party compact. The united 
body must move together ; there must be no strag- 
gling ; no hanging back or breaking line for the 
pursuit of honest crotchets ; there must be a total 
surrender of opinion — a tacit submission to orders ; 
no man must think for himself; individual convic- 
tions must be sacrificed to unity of purpose. It is 
upon this principle the papal power has maintained 
itself so wondrously against the broken and scat- 
tered assaults of independent reason, pushing its 
conquests silently by the mere force of the wedge, 
which keeps its place because there is no equal and 
uniform pressure by which it can be dislodged. To 
this principle the Tory party owe every thing : to 
the absolute impossibility of acting upon it, con- 
sistently with the higher obligations of conscience, 
the Liberal party may attribute their weakness and 

Mr. Canning approved of the war, and voted, as 
a matter of course, for the measures which Mr. 
Pitt declared indispensable to its prosecution. The 
overwhelming magnitude and importance of the 

* This (happily unprecedented) exploit occurred in th* 
of 1845. 


object absorbed bis scruples, if be had any, about 
the means. But Mr. Canning's political life yield- 
ed some memorable proofs that he did not hold this 
doctrine of passive obedience as being binding at 
all times, and under all circumstances, and that he 
insisted upon the right of standing sometimes upon 
exceptions, and broad exceptions, too ; and by these 
exceptions, and not by the rule of Toryism, he toon 
his illustrious fame. 

The devotion, ability, and fearlessness displayed 
by Mr. Canning throughout this arduous Ression, 
marked him out at once for distinction ; and he was 
selected by Mr. Pitt, on the opening of the next 
session, in December, 1794, to second the address 
which was moved by Sir Edward Knatchbull. His 
speech upon this occasion was directed principally 
to the one question upon which all other questions 
turned ; and he traversed over again, without much 
freshness and novelty, the old reasons for not seek* 
ing or inviting negotiations for peace. But there 
was a deficiency of Parliamentary tact in the treat* 
ment of his topics. He was much too clear and 
sturdy for an address on a king's speech. There 
was no attempt at conciliation, and as to the req- 
uisite vagueness and mystification, it seemed as if 
he had not the least suspicion that it was necessa* 
ry to shirk or mystify any thing. He certainly be- 
gan with the standing phrase which from time im- 
memorial has followed all king's speeches, like a 
wailing spirit waiting to be laid, that "he hoped 
for one night gentlemen would consent to lay aside 
their differences ;" but he immediately added that 
he did not expect any thing of the kind, and took 
care, before he had done, to prevent the possibility 
Of its consummation.* 

* Mr. Therry, referring to this speech, says that " Mr. Pitt, in 
the circle of his private mend8,spoke of it, and of the acquirable 


The tone of defiance that breathed through this 
speech (although it was not more warlike, after all, 
than that of his majesty), called up a new and un- 
expected antagonist in the person of one of Mr. 
Pitt's most indiscriminate admirers. Really alarm- 
ed at the menacing character of the ministerial 
manifesto, and with the best intentions in the world, 
Mr. Wilberforce moved an amendment; taking 
occasion to review and condemn the sanguinary 
conflict in which we were engaged, and telling 
Mr. Canning that, hurried away by his eloquence 
(a complimentary way of describing an oratorical 
indiscretion), he had made assertions which it was 
impossible to maintain, and asked questions which 
it was unfortunately but too easy to answer. The 
opposition were thrown into ecstasies, Mr. Pitt, 
deeply moved at the defection of an ally whose 
odorous reputation was so desirable at such a mo- 
ment, did not hesitate to confess his mortification, 
and the discussion passed away amid a roar of 
artillery, and ended in smoke. Mr. Pitt, who apol- 
ogized to the House for the emotion he betrayed 
under these painful circumstances, had a majority 
of 173. 

Mr. Fox brought forward his motion on the state 
of the nation in the following March. It was in- 
troduced by a speech of transcendent power, which 
extorted even from Pitt a burst of admiration. The 
domestic questions it embraced, chiefly relating to 
Ireland, required to be met with great reserve, and 

address with which it was delivered, as one that afforded an indi- 
cation of even greater abilities than fame — which had been busy 
in Mr. Canning's praise— had hitherto awarded him."-—" Speech- 
es, I., 22." From an allusion which Mr. Therry makes to a par- 
ticular passage in the speech, it is quite evident that there is a 
mistake in the description, and that Mr. Pitt's eulogy was intend- 
ed to apply to a speech made by Mr. Canning upward of three 
years afterward. There was, undoubtedly, nothing in the speech 
•n the address to justify such an encomium. 


Mr. Canning, who followed Mr. Sheridan, was care- 
ful not to commit himself. In this alone consisted 
the excellence of his short and emphatic speech. 
The object of the opposition was to obtain inquiry 
-—that of the ministry to prevent it : the former 
wanted to compel or entrap the government into 
admissions or declarations upon certain topics— the 
latter to resist discussion without betraying any 
opinions whatever. Mr. Canning conducted his 
share of the debate with infinite skill. He said 
very little, but it was to the purpose, or, more cor- 
rectly, to no purpose. He assured the House that 
" he was far from contending against the right of 
the English Parliament to call the ministers to ac- 
count for their conduct with respect to Ireland ; but 
he did mean to say that he had strong doubts of the 
policy and propriety of exercising that right at a 
period when it could not be exercised without re- 
ducing us to the dilemma either of discussing what 
we had no power to decide, or of deciding what 
we had no right to enforce." Nothing could be 
clearer than the general right, and nothing, as usual, 
more doubtful than the exercise of it. 

Mr. Canning's accession to some appointment 
under the administration was now looked upon as 
the natural consequence of the position he had al- 
ready acquired ; and before the close of the session 
of 1795, he vacated his seat to accept the office of 
under-secretary of state for the foreign department, 
the seals of which were then held by Lord Gren- 
ville. In the following session he took his seat for 
Wendover, in the county of Bucks, and appeared 
for the first time in the House of Commons as a 
member of the government. 

The opposition of that day had a great horror of 
placemen, as all virtuous oppositions have until 
they get into power themselves ; and Mr. Canning, 


having already excited envy and jealousy enough 
by his talents, could hardly expect to escape a lit- 
tle odium for the official eminence to which they 
had so rapidly promoted him. He was not suffer- 
ed to enjoy his honors very long, until one night, in 
a fit of economical indignation, the appointment 
was impugned on the ground that Mr. Aust, his 
official predecessor, a person represented to he em- 
inently qualified, and as fit for business as ever, had 
been removed merely to provide for Mr, Canning. 
The accusation was the luckiest thing imaginable. 
It reduced a hundred pointless and malicious inu~ 
endos to a distinct shape, and enabled Mr. Canning 
to show at once that it was founded on a total mis- 
conception of the facts of the case. The truth was, 
that the " eminent" Mr. Aust (who gained more by 
the affair than any body else, since it will surely 
send him down to posterity immortally linked with 
Mr. Canning) had been advanced to more lucra- 
tive offices, while Mr. Camiing had been put into 
his former place, so that the public had neither been 
burdened by one shilling of additional expense, nor, 
which was probably of more consequence, depriv- 
ed of the invaluable services of Mr. Aust. " If sor- 
did views had been my object," said Mr. Canning, 
" I would rather have accepted the offices Mr. 
Aust now holds than the station which I fill." 

Incidents must not be looked for in the life of a 
young minister, whose apprenticeship in the bureau 
is too laborious to admit of much external variety. 
In the next two years, 1796 and 1797, Mr. Canning 
devoted himself assiduously to the business of his 
office, and rarely took any part in the discussion* 
in Parliament. 



About this period a phrase got into use which 
seems to have been perfectly well understood by. 
every body, but which, at this distance of time, 
does not appear to convey a very accurate idea 
of any thing. It led to unexampled confusion in 
the country. Had a raging plague gone forth, 
sweeping the land's breadth, it could not have pro- 
duced more desolating effects j some, people were 
cowed and struck dumb at its approach; others, in- 
spired with a sort of phrensy, defied it to come on, 
as if it were an incarnate fiend ; and the govern- 
ment, impressed with a proper paternal responsi- 
bility, took every possible precaution that could be 
devised for averting this alarming visitation. 

It is not to be hoped that any body in the nine- 
teenth century will be much enlightened as to the 
terrible cause of this national fright by being in- 
formed that it bore the name of French principles. 
That was its name, whatever its nature might have 
been ; and the administration, in their urgent anxi- 
ety for the public safety, thought of nothing, night, 
noon, or morning, but how they should keep it out 
of the country. There are some French articles 
—such as fans, gloves, blonde, and the like — which 
can be excluded without difficulty ; and should it 
ever be considered desirable to prevent their ad- 
mission into England, we know exactly how to do 
it, by setting them down in the tariff at a pro- 
hibitory duty. But it was not so easy to describe 
French principles in the tariff, or to get revenue 
officers to seize and confiscate them at the ports. 


Spanish mahogany is intelligible. If we were 
told that there was an extraordinary supply com- 
ing across the seas to us, we might probably antic- 
ipate a derangement in the timber market ; but 
we should have no such uneasiness if we heard of 
a shipment of French principles. Judging from 
the nature of principles in general, we should be 
disposed to imagine that the cargo must be rather 
volatile and harmless. Nevertheless, the bare sus- 
picion of such an importation threw the establish- 
ed authorities of this island into an agony of ap- 

Mahogany can be cut, and sawed, and seasoned, 
and made into chairs. Not so a principle, which, 
having no physical attributes whatever, bears a 
nearer analogy to the object of the war, which Mr. 
Canning declared could not be taken up in gentle- 
men's hands and turned round and round upon the 
table. But how this intangible and elemental 
thing — the common property of the reason and 
imagination of all nations— could be called French 
any more than Russian, or Hanoverian, it is hard 
to say. If any one were to speak of a Hottentot 
principle, he would be set down as an egregious 
blockhead ; yet we can not, for the life of us, see 
why there should not be Hottentot principles as 
well as French principles. 

Still, notwithstanding the incomprehensibility of 
the thing, true it is, that for a long and dreary sea- 
son multitudes of honest people, who had caught 
up. this cuckoo cry about French principles, used 
to qdake in their shoes at the bare thought of their 
spreading into this happy country ; as if no such 
principles had ever found their way here before ; 
or as if, being dressed up in the French fashion, 
they had become odious to our English taste. The 
difficulty of understanding is great, how it came to 


pass that we, the people of this country, ever 
could have been afraid of such a phrase ; or how 
we could have suffered it to fly about in books, 
newspapers, state documents, and common conver- 
sation, with some direfully mysterious meaning at- 
tached to it over and above that of mere revolution 
—we who had beheaded one king, and driven out 
a race of kings for betraying their trust — we, whose 
living dynasty was placed on the throne by a revo- 

This mad panic was foolish and unreasoning, 
not alone in attributing peculiar danger to the cir- 
culation of these principles, but in presupposing 
.(for otherwise there could have been no danger) 
that the people were inclined to lay violent hands 
on the monarchy, or to disturb in the slightest de- 
gree the integrity of our mixed and balanced Con- 
stitution. We have the express declarations of all 
the popular leaders to the contrary, and their re- 
corded testimony in favor of a limited monarchy, 
as the mode of government which presented, above 
all others, the most perfect safeguards for public 
liberty. In fact, so far from entertaining any de- 
sire to destroy the Constitution, the aim of the Re- 
formers was to purify and invigorate it And had 
they entertained such a design, they neither could been prevented from effecting it by the sup- 
pression of these French principles, nor furnished 
with a solitary additional reason for prosecuting it 
by their most active diffusion. 

But, giving the government full credit for the 
best intentions, was there ever such a stark staring 
absurdity as the notion that they could check the 
admission into this country, or the propagation in 
it of political doctrines of any kind ] How could 
they do it % By calling out the militia? By put- 
ting a tax upon reading and writing ? They might 


as well have talked of keeping oat the sun, or stop- 
ping the course of the winds. And all the time 
that this folly was showing itself through all sorts 
of actual precautions on the part of the executive, 
the press was disseminating the poison as fast as 
hands could distil and distribute it through every 
nook and cranny of the kingdom ; and Parliament 
was accelerating its consumption by eternally an- 
alyzing and discussing its miraculous properties, 
and serving it out gratis to the poor in infinitesimal 
doses. The danger was held to be so great that 
there was nothing else talked of; until at last the 
curiosity of fear was wrought up to such intensity, 
that there was not a man, woman, or child, from 
the Land's End to John o' Groats, who was not as 
well acquainted with the doctrines of the Revolu- 
tion as the French themselves. To say that the 
minister did not restrain the diffusion of French 
principles would be saying little. He not only did 
not restrain them, but, by betraying the impotent 
desire to do so, he stimulated their circulation to an 
extent incalculably greater than they could have 
attained under any other possible circumstances. 

It used to be said— but the saying is fast dying 
out— that, had it not been for the vigorous measures 
of Pitt, the populace would have taken up the doc- 
trines of the Revolution. The reverse of this good 
old saying happens to be true. In consequence of 
the vigorous measures of Pitt, the populace did 
take up the doctrines of the Revolution ; but, in 
consequence of their own good sense, they laid 
them down again. Instead of congratulating our- 
selves, therefore, on the vigilance of Pitt, it would 
be more consonant with justice to acknowledge 
what we owe to the virtue of the people. 

While Pitt and Granville were carrying on the 
war with remorseless energy abroad, Canning was 


employing a much more effective instrument than 
the sword in combating the progress of revolution- 
ary principles at home. That instrument was rid- 
icule ; and if the ministry had been content to leave 
French principles to its tender mercies, they would 
have witnessed their extirpation by a surer process 
than riot acts and state trials. The " Anti- Jacobin* ' 
was a much more formidable prosecutor than the 

The first number of the " Anti- Jacobin," or 
" Weekly Examiner/ ' was published on the 20th 
of November, 1797. The avowed purpose of this 
journal was to expose the vicious doctrines of the 
Revolution, and to turn into ridicule and contempt 
the advocates of them in this country. The work 
originated with Mr. Canning, who wrote the pros- 
pectus, and contributed some of its ablest articles. 
Mr. Gifford was the editor, and among the writers 
were Mr. John Hookham Frere, Mr. Jenkinson, 
Mr. George Ellis* Lord Clare, and Lord Morning- 
ton, afterward Marquis Wellesley.* It occupied 
the opposite ground to that which had formerly 
been taken up by the " Rolliad" and the " Proba- 
tionary Odes," but " with a difference." The wit 
and vigor' (and scurrility) of the " Anti- Jacobin" 
left behind, at an immeasurable distance, the gen- 
tlemanly satire of the Whigs, t 

* The author of a biography of Mr. Haskissoh says that "there 
is no entire article in the " Anti- Jacobin" to which even conjecture 
has -ever affixed the name of Mr. Huskisson."--'-" Speeches of the 
Right Honorable W. Huskisson," i f , 42. It might be inferred from 
this that Mr. Huskisson had contributed parts of articles to the 
" Anti- Jacobin ;" but we believe it may be confidently stated that, 
although intimate with the writers, he had no share whatever in 
the work, direct or indirect. 

t The " Rolliad" and the " Probationary Odes" appeared about 
the spring of 1785. Lord Rolle was the nominal hero of the for- 
mer, but the satires generally were leveled against Pitt, Dundas, 
and Xjord Liverpool The reputed author was a Mr. Joseph Rich- 
ardson, of one of the Inns of Court ; they were really* written by 


Wherever the wit of the." Anti- Jacobin" is irre- 
sistible, the reader may conclude that he has de- 
tected the hand of Canning ; but there was such a 
copartnery in these things, and such a disinclination 
to separate each person's share, even were it pos- 
sible to do so, that, with some marked exceptions, 
the authorship can not now be ascertained with 
certainty. The work closed in 1798, and, during 
its brief existence, Mr. Canning wrote largely for 
it. His connection with it was well known at the 
time, nor was he ever disposed to disavow it. He 
declared in Parliament, ten years afterward, that 
he had no other source of regret for the share he 
had in it except the imperfection of his pieces. 
But what that share was is to a great extent a mat- 
ter of conjecture, to be determined by internal ev- 

The poem of " New Morality" is on all hands 
ascribed to Mr. Canning ; and his exclusive title 
to it appears to admit of little doubt. This satire, 

Burgoyne, Fitzpatrick (to whom some of the happiest things are 
attributed), Townshend, Tickell, Pretyman, and Dr. Lawrence. 
Sheridan was suspected of having contributed, but he denied it 
in the House of Commons, when charged with the authorship by 
Lord Rolle. 

Mr. Moore, in his " Life of Sheridan," says : " The ' Rolliad* 
and the * Anti- Jacobin' may, on their respective sides of the ques- 
tion, be considered as models of that style of political satire whose 
lightness and vivacity give it the appearance of proceeding rather 
from the wantonness of wit than of ill nature, and whose very 
malice, from the fancy with which it is mixed up, like certain 
kinds of fireworks, explodes in sparkles." This playful descrip- 
tion maybe allowed to apply with sufficient accuracy to the"RoI- 
Had ;" but it is suggested, with deference, that it can hardly be 
considered applicable to the " Anti- Jacobin," which was so fall of 
base personal invective, so coarse and even indecent, that it gave 
great offense to some of the minister's strongest supporters, wil* 
berforce always spoke out against it. " 1 attacked Canning," he 
says, " about the « Anti-Jacobin,' at dinner at Pitt's.*—" Life of 
Wilberforce," ii., 334. The " Rolliad" did exjflre in sparkles; but 
the " Anti- Jacobin" belonged to a different sort of fireworks, had 
more of an incendiary spirit in it, and might be more properly com- 
pared to a firebrand. 


as the name implies, is. aimed at the false philoso- 
phy of the day, but, hitting beyond its proposed 
mark as the theme rises, it strikes at the Duke of 
Bedford, Southey, Coleridge, Godwin, and several 
other minor celebrities. The passages, which are 
clear of scornful personalities, are written with that 
unmistakable polish which at once declares the 
authorship ; and even where he flings his arrowy 
contempt upon Thelwall, Williams, and the small 
fry of democratic agitators, we fancy we can still 
trace him in the refinement of the points.* But it 
was not in weighty or savage satire that Mr.' Can- 
ning's strength lay — the tomahawk of right be- 
longed to the author of the " Baviad" and " Maevi- 
ad," who wielded it with the rude force and ruder 
courage befitting such a weapon. Canning's more 
civilized taste delighted in handling lighter instru- 
ments ; and the sphere of operations in this ram- 
pant journal was accordingly extended to accom- 
modate him. 

It must be confessed there was a large field for 
ridicule in the literary as well as the political fash- 
ions of the day. The " Sorrows of Werter" had 
done its work upon the maudlin tenderness of the 
English public; Darwin had transferred to the 
vegetable world the affected sensibility of the board- 
ing-school ; Southey was bringing out his English 
Sapphics ; and Sheridan and Holcroft were doing 
their best to naturalize upon the English stage the 
false sentiment and bad fine writing of the German 
playwrights. Here were tempting topics for the 
" Anti-Jacobin," all legitimate topics, too ; coming 

* It is in this poem of '* New Morality" the following lines oc- 
cur, which have since become so familiar to the public : 
" Give me th' avow'd, the ^rect, the manly foe, 
Bold I can meet— perhaps may turn his blow ; 
But of all plagues, good Heaven, thy wrath can«end, 
Save, save, oh ! save me from the candid friend !" 


in luckily enough to give an aspect of justice to its 
foul partisanship. 

So far as the Kterary offenders were concerned, 
the " Anti- Jacobin" had not only justice on its side, 
but the thanks of every person of good taste. We 
may be assured it had no heartier reader — if we 
could find it out — than Fox himself, who despised 
all false styles, and must have enjoyed the good 
things of these slashing critics to the top of his bent, 
stopping short only at their politics, which were i 

evil in thought and utterance. It would have been 
well if the writers had stopped there too. The 
" Anti- Jacobin' ' has grown into a vague sort of 
fame by the assent of thousands who take it upon 
report, and who are ready to transmit its reputation 
to posterity, without any better knowledge of its 
deserts. But it is right that people who receive 
and forward this judgment should know something 
of the grounds on which it originally proceeded. 

When the " Anti-Jacobin was started, the avail- 
able talent of the Reform party, in and out of Par- 
liament, greatly preponderated over that of its op- 
ponents. An engine was wanted that should make 
up, by the destructiveness of its explosions, for the 
lack of more numerous resources. That engine 
was planned by Mr. Canning, who saw the neces- 
sity for' it clearly. But it required a rougher hand 
than his to work it— one, too, not likely to wince 
from mud or bruises. The author of the " Baviad" 
and " Maeviad" was exactly the man — hard, coarse, 
inexorable, unscrupulous. He brought with him 
into this paper a thoroughly brutal spirit ; the per- 
sonalities were not merely gross and wanton, but 
wild, ribald, slaughtering : it was the dissection of 
the shambles. Such things had their effect, of 
course, at the time, and they were written for their 
effect; but they exhibit such low depravity and 


baseness, violating so flagrantly all truth, honor, 
and decency, for mere temporary party objects, that 
we can not look upon them now without a shudder. 
Fox was assailed in this journal as if he were 
a highwayman. His peaceful retirement at St. 
Anne's Hill was invaded with vulgar jibes and un- 
intelligible bujffoonery ; Coleridge, Lamb, and oth- 
ers were attacked with extravagant personal hos- 
tility ;* and there was not an individual distin- 
guished by respectability of character in the ranks 
of the Reformers, who was not mercilessly tarred 
and feathered the moment he ventured into public. 
Such was literally the "Weekly Anti-Jacobin ;" 
but time, which has bestowed so much celebrity 
upon it, has also made an equitable distinction in 
the verdict. The scurrility which, at the moment 
of publication, stung the town to madness, has long 
since lost all power of exciting attention ; it sank 
into oblivion with its subjects, the wonder and con- 
tempt of a day. The prose papers, written in the 
ferocious vein of the Jacobins, whose criminalities 
they scourged, are gone down into darkness, and 
nothing has survived of the " An ti- Jacobin' ' but its 
ethereal spirit, in the shape of its poetical bur- 
lesques sua jeux d f esprit. That spirit was animated 
by Mr. Canning. His responsibility was always 
understood to be confined to the airy and sportive 
articles, for he can not be suspected of having in- 

* Coleridge was stated by these calumniators to have been dis- 
honored at Cambridge for preaching Deism, at a time when, he 
tells us, he was absolutely aecried as a bigot, by the proselytes of 
the " French philosophy." for his ardor in the defense of Christi- 
anity. The " Anii-Jacooin" also accused him of having aban- 
doned his native country, and deserted his wife and children. 
" Is it surprising," exclaims Coleridge, " that many good men 
remained longer than perhaps they otherwise would have done, 
adverse to a party which encouraged and openly rewarded the 
authors of such atrocious calumnies ?"— " Biographia Literaria," 
i., 17. 



termeddled with the lower necessities of the work. 
It is to his contributions, assisted by his personal 
friends, that the " Anti- Jacobin" is indebted for 
being still remembered and talked of; and some 
of them— not all — are worthy of the distinction.* 

As long as the English language lasts, " The 
Friend of Humanity, and the Needy Knife-grind- 
er" will last too. This is monumental brass of the 
true metal. The irony is exquisite, and, which 
can not be always said in such cases, just; It ridi- 
cules at once the Sapphics and the politics of 
Southey, who was just getting into notoriety for 
the extravagance of his tenets under both heads. 
No man ever out-Heroded Herod with such verse 
or such doctrines. At that time he was violently 
democratic, for the reader need not be reminded that 
Southey, like Titian, began in one style and ended 
in another. No two Titian- Venuses can afford a 
more instructive contrast than Wat Tyler and the 
Book of the Church. But let that rest ; for it is a 
compensation to know that Southey* s genius was 
as versatile as his faith. 

In the creed of the day, every rich man was an 
oppressor and every poor man a martyr. All such 
generalizations are fair game for the satirist, who 
pushes the argument to its extremity in the case 
of the Knife-grinder. He supposes that " a human 
being in the lowest state of penury and distress is 
a treasure to a reasoner of this cast," and that he 
"refrains from relieving the object of his com- 
passionate contemplation, well knowing that every 

* There was an attempt made to revive the " Anti-Jacobin" in 
1827 ; and, strange to say, the venom of the work was concen- 
trated on Mr. Canning himself! It was called, unfortunately for 
the foolish speculators, the " New Anti-Jacobin/' which suggest- 
ed comparisons not particularly favorable to its reception. Be- 
sides, there were no longer any Jacobins to fall foul of, and so the 
project perished. 


diminution from tbe general mass of human misery 
must proportionably diminish the force of his argu- 
ment." The colloquy in which this philanthropic 
principle is illustrated possesses immortal merit as 
a piece of imitative versification ; showing Mr. 
Southey's Sapphics in all their varieties, from the 
dancing rhythm, with its fine swing of melody, to 
the break-down into flat ambling prose. As this 
poem maybe considered Mr. Canning's chtf-d'ceuvre 
in this way, and is now rarely to be fallen in with, 
it is inserted here. But, in order to quicken the 
enjoyment of its skillful wit, it is preceded by a 
specimen of Southey's Sapphics duly accentuated, 
as it was introduced by the author in the " Anti- 

" Cold was the night wind : drifting fast the snows fell, 
Wide were the downs, and shelterless and naked : 
When i poor wand'rer straggled on her journey 
Weary and way sore." 


" Needy Knife-grinder ! whither are you going ? 
Rough is the road, your wheel is out of order- 
Bleak blows the blast ; your hat has got a hole in't, 

So have your breeches ! 
Weary Knife-grinder ! little think the proud ones, 
Who in their coaches roll along the turnpike- 
-road, what hard work 'tis crying all day, ' Knives and 

Scissor 8 to grind O !' 
Tell me, Knife-grinder, how came you to grind knives? 
Did some rich man tyrannically use you ? 
Was it the squire ? or parson of the parish ; 

Or the attorney ? 
Was it the squire, for killing of his game ? or 
Covetous parson, for his tithes distraining ? 
Or roguish lawyer, made you lose your little 

All in a lawsuit T 
(Have you net read the ( Rights of Man* by Tom Paine ?) 
Drops of compassion tremble on my eyelids, 
Ready to fall, as soon as you have told your 

Pitiful story." 


" Story ! God bless you ! I have none to tell, sir, 


Only last night, a-drinking at the Chequers, 
This poor old hat and breeches, as you see, were 

Torn in a scuffle. 
Constables came up for to take me into 
Custody ; they took me before the justice ; 
Justice Oldmixon put me in the parish- 

-stocks for a vagrant. 
I should be glad to drink your Honor's health in 
A pot of beer, if you will give me sixpence ; 
But for my part, I never love to meddle 

With politics, sir." 


" J give thee sixpence ! I will see thee damn'd first — 
Wretch ! whom no sense of wrongs can rouse to vengeance ; 
Sordid, unfeeling, reprobate, degraded, 
Spiritless outcast !" 

Kicks the knife-grinder, overturns his wheel, and emt m a transport 
of republican enthusiasm and universal philanthropy. 

The dactylics also came in for a fling in some 
lines which are described as " the quintescence of 
all the dactylics that ever were or ever will be 

" Sorely thy dactylics lag on uneven feet ; 
Slow is the syllable which thou wouldst urge to speed, 
Lame and overburdened, and 'screaming its wretchedness !' " 

An " Elegy on Jean Bon St. Andre," a French 
Republican, who was put to death by the Dey of 
Algiers, and an inscription for the cell of Mrs. 
Browning, the 'prenticide, a parody on Southey's 
inscription for the cell of Marten the regicide, are 
also attributed to Mr. Canning, although the ex- 
clusive right in them is said not to be vested in him. 
Indeed, all the poems in the " Anti- Jacobin" are 
supposed to be the common property of a joint- 
stock company of wits ; a circumstance to which 
the inequality so remarkable in most of diem must 
be ascribed. 

Various scattered touches seem to indicate a 
more brilliant source than the rest, and are likely, 
on that account, to be assigned to Canning as the 


most celebrated of the contributors. It is also 
known that he was the largest contributor, and for 
that reason, if there were no better, he has the best 
right to the advantage of the doubt. The prison- 
er's song in the " Rovers," and parts of the dia- 
logue of that capital satire on the German drama ; 
snatches here and there of the " Loves of the Tri- 
angles' ' (which is too labored, as a whole, to have 
sprung from Canning) ; and some of the best lines 
in the " Progress of Man/' come within this spec- 

No authentic edition of Mr. Canning's poems has 
ever been published. He did not write much verse, 
and that which he did write was either intended 
merely pour Voccasion, or was too slight for the 
purposes of a collection. His early pieces — of 
which some specimens are published in this volume 
for the first time — were dispersed in MS., and nev- 
er resumed by the author, who would probably 
have been sufficiently unwilling to see them drawn 
out from their private depositaries. Poetry seems 
to have been rather a toil than a pleasure to him, 
if we may judge from the scantiness of his produc- 
tions in this way, and the severity with which they 
are finished. It was only when some happy in- 
spiration came that he cared to throw the thpught 
into the shape of verse, and even then it was too 
brief and subtle to reward him for the trouble it 
gave. He had too large a critical faculty, and too 
small a creative power, to have been a great poet. 
But why should we look for miracles \ Who won- 
ders that Demosthenes could not write odes like 
Horace ] 

In endeavoring to trace through private channels 
any fragments of his poetry that may yet chance 
to survive, it is very tantalizing to find odds and 
ends of numerous pieces (the originals of which 


are probably lost), carried away in fleeting memo- 
ries here and there, with only enough of accuracy 
to make us impatient to get the remainder, and 
always accompanied by an assurance that what is 
forgotten was so much better than what is remem- 
bered! Mr. Canning wrote a great number of 
political pieces, now destroyed or irrecoverable. 
Lady Hester Stanhope speaks of some verses he 
wrete on Mr. Pitt, in which he compared him to a 
chained eagle, and which were so " fine," that Lord 
Temple wanted to steal them, and actually ran off 
with them into the street without his bat, but was 
pursued and captured, and so the verses were re- 
stored : this is all we hear about them. Mr. Can- 
ning seems to have been very careless of his rhymes, 
and not only to have cast most of them heedlessly 
upon the waters, but to have cast off many of them 

Notwithstanding, however, that he took so little 
pains to establish his authorship of the piece's he 
really did write, other people have been at consid- 
erable trouble to confer upon him the authorship 
of pieces which he certainly did not write. One 
of the most conspicuous instances is that of a clever 
jeu d'-eaprit which appeared shortly after the Bat- 
tle of Waterloo, entitled " An Epitaph on the Mar- 
quis of Anglesea's Leg." This was suspected to 
have been written by Mr. Canning, and not only 
went the round of the newspapers, but was actual- 
ly transferred to the pages of a biography which 
appeared after his death, where he was announced 
as the author, with this very grave rebuke for the 
Dad taste of jesting on such a subject : " Some 
minds," says the writer, " are so constituted that 
they throw an air of pleasantry over the most se- 
rious misfortune, and extract from pain itself the 
jest of the bon mot /" But this epitaph, thus au* 


thoritatively asserted to be the production of Mr. 
Canning, was written by a gentleman well known 
in the world of literature and the public journals.* 
The " Loves of the Triangles" is also given to 
him in a Paris edition of his poems, although it is 
one of the composite pieces of the "Anti- Jacobin ;" 
and other things are ascribed to him in various col- 
lections, of a no less apocryphal character. Be- 
yond these productions, veritable and spurious, 
nothing remains of Mr. Canning's poetry to which 
any farther reference need be made, except two 
or three pasquinades, which will be noticed in the 
places to which they refer. 





Hitherto we have seen in Mr. Canning's Par- 
liamentary career little more than the close and 
watchful subtlety of the partisan. The statesman 
was yet to come. His early speeches, acute and 
brilliant upon small points, and discovering consid- 
erable ingenuity in the art of presenting a question 
in its most specious and favorable aspects, are de- 
ficient in grasp and largeness of purpose. The 
argument is every where minute, compact, clear — 
never comprehensive ; it is the dialectician, not the 
reasoner, who charms you so cunningly. We miss 
in these speeches all the great attributes for which 
he was afterward famous — generalization, intel- 
lectual beauty, and sustained eloquence ; but we 

* Mr. Thomas Gaspey, author of the M Life of Lord Cobham,** 
" The Lollards," *« George Godfrey ,* and numerous works of fic- 
tion and facetiae 


have in them some minor qualities no less charac- 
teristic — delicacy and refinement of diction, almost 
amounting to prudery, sentences of most musical 
structure, the happiest wit, the keenest sarcasm. 

The first great occasion on which he put forth 
his powers was that of Mr. Tierney's motion, on 
the 11th of December, 1798, recommending nego- 
tiations for peace. The subject had been repeat- 
edly before the House during the last two years — 
two years so crowded with distracting events that 
it is wonderful how Mr. Canning kept silence. 

The activity of the opposition was unparalleled. 
No sooner was one motion overthrown by an over- 
whelming majority than another was ready to fill 
its place. They seemed to acquire fresh vigor 
from defeat, and, like Antaeus, to rebound from 
every fall with renewed elasticity. Ministers had 
scarcely an hour's repose, and, if they slept at all, 
it must have been to fight Sheridan and Tierney 
over again in their dreams. That phalanx was aw- 
ful to gaze upon, arrayed before the treasury bench- 
es in implacable hostility and invincible resolution, 
and bringing forward night after night a succession 
of accusations against die government, which no 
conviction of numerical weakness could prevail 
upon them to abandon or abate. Motions for the 
impeachment of ministers; for addresses to remove 
them ; declarations of distrust ; and open charges 
of corruption and perfidy, were of perpetual re- 
currence. Motions for negotiations with France 
were proposed and thrown out, and re-proposed 
and thrown out again, regularly every session. 
The question of Parliamentary Reform was brought 
forward with the same uniform determination, and 
met the same invariable fate. And all this time in- 
cidents were occurring in doors and out of doors 
which considerably heightened the flurry and dra- 


matic interest of public affairs. Mr, Fox and bis 
friends, wearied out by tbe hopelessness of making 
any impression on tbe government, seceded from 
tbeir attendance at the House, for which Pitt's 
friends blamed them severely, but speedily return- 
ed again, for which Pitt's friends blamed them still 
more. The French were victorious every where, 
and fresh, taxes were laid on, including the income 
tax, to a prodigious amount, to enable us to assist 
them to farther triumphs. The discontents of the 
navy broke out in a mutiny at the Nore. Ireland, 
goaded by ill usage, plunged into a sanguinary re- 
bellion ; and Mr. Pitt and Mr. Tierney, having had 
a slight difference of opinion in the House of Com- 
mons, referred the dispute to Wimbledon Com- 
mon, where they fought a duel on Sunday morn- 
ing, while Divine service was going on in the church.* 
Throughout these agitations Mr. Canning never 
spoke in Parliament, except to answer some ques- 
tion connected with his department, or to explain 
something in the absence of a minister. But it 
must not be forgotten that his official duties involv- 
ed the heaviest and most responsible functions of 
the administration ; and that, however much he was 
wanted in the House of Commons, he was wanted 

* Pitt, who had given the provocation, received Tiemey's shot 
and fired in the air. Wilberforce was so shocked at this occur- 
rence that he gave notice of a motion aboat it, which he would 
- have actually brought on if Pitt had not written him a private 
note to say that it would render his resignation inevitable. — " Wil- 
berforce's Life," ii, 282. Pitt's want of religion was a source of 
great trouble to this good, importunate man. Whenever he went 
to any of Pitt's parties, he used to come away quite in low spir- 
its. " My heart," says he, " has been moved by the society of my 
old friends at Pitt's. Alas ! alas ! how sad to see them thought- 
less of their immortal souls ; so wise, so acute ! I hope I felt in 
some degree properly on the occasion and afterward," ii., 334. 
He dines at Dunaas's on Pitt's birthday, and declares that he can 
not " assimilate." Lady Hester Stanhope says that Pitt was an 
infidel, and that the account which Gifford gives of his death-bed 
is absolutely false. 


still more in the foreign office. He bad more than 
enough to do between Pitt and, Lord Grenville, 
men of totally opposite tempers. The icy haugh- 
tiness of Lord Grenville chilled even the premier, 
who was not very remarkable for warmth himself. 
There was none of that freezing pride about Pitt 
which made the manners of Lord Grenville so op- 
pressive to his inferiors. Pitt, habitually cold, was 
at least distinguished by a plainness and simplici- 
ty which put the stranger at his ease. Lord Gran- 
ville's stately isolation, on the contrary, was inex- 
plicable for a man in his situation. Windham said 
that he knew nobody, and that nobody knew him. 
It has been observed that his fine understanding 
redeemed his hauteur; but as fine understandings 
do not enter into the details of daily official inter- 
course, and the hauteur generally does, it must be 
concluded that Mr. Canning had a task of no com- 
mon difficulty in keeping his immediate chief and 
the head of the government on tolerable terms with 
each other. 

There was no novelty in Mr. Tierney's motion. 
Similar motions had been thrown out over and over 
again. But circumstances were changed. Minis- 
ters, hunted down by the most persevering of op- 
positions, had been making secret attempts to bring 
about a negotiation for peace, although they pub- 
licly resisted every suggestion of that kind m both 
Houses of Parliament. Their argument was this : 
that peace or war lay in the province of the crown, 
and ought hot to be interfered with by Parliament ; 
and that it would be unwise to affirm any resolu- 
tion on the subject of peace until it had been first 
ascertained what prospect there was of obtaining 
just and honorable terms. With a view to discov- 
er the disposition of the Directory on this moment- 
ous question, they had taken sundry steps to sound 


that body through Lord Malmesbury and other 
agents in Switzerland, Paris, Lisle, all failing from 
the duplicity and overreaching spirit with which 
they were conducted. 

It would be a wilful injustice, with the informa- 
tion before us which the lapse of years has permit- 
ted its possessors to reveal, not to.relieve Mr. Pitt 
from the exclusive responsibilities of these double 
dealings. He was guilty, in the main, only of be- 
ing a consenting party ; but, considering that he 
was prime minister, the guilt of yielding to a sys- 
tem of deception at such a moment was hardly less 
culpable than that of having originated it. Pitt 
was forced into acquiescence by Grenville, in whose 
department these delicate diplomacies lay. The 
inflexible, overbearing Whig insisted upon a peace 
which he knew the French Directory would never 
grant. He never intended that the negotiations 
should end successfully. Pitt, on the contrary, was 
becoming every day more and more anxious for 
peace — having at last discovered the necessity for 
it— and would have effected it (Lord Malmesbury 
testifies that it could have been effected) but for the 
obstinacy of his unbending colleague. " It is the 
fault of the French," says Canning, in a private 
letter to George Ellis, hinting at Pitt's real dispo- 
sition, " if they have nojt a peace as good as to terms 
as they can reasonably desire;"* If Pitt could 
have ventured to risk an open difference with Gren- 
ville, the matter might have been settled in the usu- 
al way, by an imperative action in the cabinet ; but 
he was not in a position to make or to betray a dis- 
agreement with his dictatorial allies. He could 
not afford it. This state of things placed Lord 
Malmesbury (then conducting the negotiation at 
Lisle) in a most painful situation. " You must 
* " Diaries of Lord Malmesbury," iii, 433. 


have perceived," he observes, in a confidential 
communication to Mr. Canning, " that the instruc- 
tions and opinions I get from the minister under 
whose orders lam bound to act, accord so little with 
the sentiments and intentions I heard expressed by 
the minister with whom I wish to act, that I am 
placed in a very disagreeable dilemma." But this 
was not the worst. It was not merely that he was 
required to act in a spirit averse to his inclinations 
and convictions, but averse to the object which he 
was to pretend to promote. The passage which un- 
veils this fraud (divulging the true Becret history of 
the failure) is remarkable. After stating that he 
had no objection to persevere steadily in pursuit of 
his object till it was either attained or demonstra- 
ted to be unattainable, so long as the original pur- 
pose with which he was commissioned (for it seems 
that Lord Grenville broke his designs to him only 
by wary degrees) was to be sought with sincerity, 
he goes on : " But if another opinion has been al- 
lowed to prevail ; if the real end is to differ from 
the ostensible one ; and if I am only to remain here 
in order to break off the negotiation creditably, and 
not to terminate it successfully, I then, instead of re- 
signing my opinion, must resign my office." 

Canning was the sole depository of this piece of 
state perfidy. He stood between Pitt and Gren- 
ville, and between Malmesbury and both, and pre- 
vented the rupture, which," with less discretion, 
must have placed the government in a serious dif- 
ficulty. The country was indebted to his judg- 
ment, temper, and tact, that no worse consequences 
ensued from these dangerous confidences than the 
frustration of Ihe mission. But the management 
of the ministerial intrigues greatly increased the 
harassing nature of his duties.* The only breaks 

* Although he bore with Lord Grenville wonderfully to the end, 


of sunshine he appears to have enjoyed were in 
corresponding with his uncle Legh, or with his old 
friend George Ellis, who was attached to Lord 
Mai m es bury 's embassy (a correspondence, how- 
ever, which was so full of the subjects on which 
they were both engrossed, that it consisted of little 
else than French politics melted down into private 
disclosures) ; an occasional run down to H oil wood, 
or Dropmore, or a stray half hour of a morning 
with the Freres or the Lavingtons. His time was 
almost exclusively passed between his house in 
Spring Gardens (where Pitt used frequently to 
dine with him) and Downing-street. 

The period occupied by these negotiations was 
one of intense anxiety to the government. " No 
messenger yet from Lisle," writes Mr. Canning to 
a private friend. " It is an interval of anxiety and 
impatience, such as makes it impossible to think, 
speak, or write upon any other subject. I get up, 
go to bed, eat, drink, sleep, walk, ride, with noth- 
ing but the. messenger in my head, and I bear noth- 
ing all day long but ' Well, not come yet 1 when 
will the messenger come 1 and what will he bring! 
Peace 1' " The fact was, that although, for pru- 
dential motives, they still maintained "the fiery 
front of war" in the face of Europe, ministers (at 
least Pitt and those who originated the war) were 
secretly more desirous of peace than the opposition 

winning the admiration of every body by his self-control, he sev- 
eral times contemplated a retreat from the Foreign Office, and 
once told Lord Malmesbury that he hoped to effect a change to the 
India Board. 

* During the difficulties and delays which arose throughout 
these negotiations, Lord Grenville suspected Pitt of getting up 
opinions out of doors and in the newspapers to fortify himself in 
tn<> cabinet ; and in order to tie up his tongue, he got a resolution 
passed pledging the cabinet to secrecy respecting these matters. 
To Canning and Hammond were confided the duty of opening 
10 N 


To return to Mr. Tierney's motion. The main 
points on which he rested were these: that the 
European confederacy against France was already, 
to all intents and purposes, broken up ; that we 
could no longer pursue the war with the remotest 
hope of driving back France to her ancient limits ; 
that in six years we had increased our debt by one 
hundred and fifty millions, adding eight millions to 
our annual burdens (a sum equal to our entire ex- 
penditure when George III. ascended the throne); 
and that our domestic situation, with the Habeas 
Corpus Act suspended, Ireland in rebellion, and 
enormous establishments to support, rendered it 
imperative upon us to leave Europe to herself, and 
look to our own interests at last. As to the objec- 
tion that the crown alone had the undoubted power 
of making war or peace, he balanced it by the 
constitutional right of the Commons to grant or re- 
fuse the supplies. The speech was sensible and 
to the purpose, but languid and ineffective, and de- 
ficient in the caustic acerbity which usually dis- 
tinguished Mr. Tierney. No great wonder; the 
subject was thread-bare, and every body laiew its 
agitation to be a mere waste of lungs. 

Mr. Canning rose to reply, and delivered a 
speech which, for compass of reasoning and mas- 
terly elocution, might well have drawn an expres- 
sion of admiration from Mr. Pitt. This magnifi- 

and answering the dispatches, and none but the copies made by 
Hammond, who wrote an abominable hand, were shown to the 
subaltern ministers, hoping that they would not take the trouble 
to decipher them. See the " Malmesbury Diaries." Such was 
the mystery observed respecting Lord Mafmesbury's negotiation, 
that the whole cabinet, with the exception of Pitt and Grenville, 
were kept in the dark about his dispatches ; and he was obliged 
to prepare one for general purposes, besides his special dispatch 
to Lord Grenville. The most secret revelations, however, intend- 
ed neither for the public nor the minister, came out in the private 
letters to Canning, who was the recipient of the complaints and 
contentions on all sides. , 


cent display of eloquence fairly electrified the 
House ; the previous dullness disappeared ; mem- 
bers crowded in ; and the orator held the senate 
suspended in wonder and delight. It is not too 
much to say of this speech, that it is one of the great- 
est — in some respects, the most complete — that was 
delivered on the ministerial side in reference to 
the war. We had at that time, too, passed out of 
the mere abstract question : it was no longer spec- 
ulation ; experience had thrown unexpected lights 
upon the subject; we had tested our strength 
through triumphs and reverses ; we had tested our 
alliances also, and found some of them frail, selfish, 
and cowardly ; Austria and Prussia had at differ- 
ent times made peace with France, in violation of 
their engagements with us; Spain, Holland, and 
Sardinia were overawed by the arms of the Re- 
public; our situation was no longer the same as 
when we commenced the Crusade ; and that which 
was at first a question of policy, open to doubts 
and difficulties, had now become a point of honor 
with ministers — a calculation in which' they were 
to strike the balance between glory and shame. 

Mr. Canning's reply was the best argument for 
the prosecution of the war which could be built 
upon this altered state of things. The defection 
of allies was only an additional reason, if any were 
wanted, for the observance of good faith toward 
those who still remained true to their engagements ; 
and the wanton horrors which every where tracked 
the progress of the French arms, furnished another 
reason for pursuing hostilities, until such a peace 
could be effected as should repose upon a basis 
wide enough to include and indemnify all interests. 
A separate peace for England would be inadequate 
for this purpose. The war was European— the 
settlement must be European too. 


The ingenuity of this view of the case consisted 
in assuming a chivalric motive for not doing a very 
hazardous thing. The opposition wanted ministers 
to enter into a separate peace with France, without 
reference to the situation or prospects of other 
powers. That circumstances would have justified 
such a course, was perfectly true ; at least true to 
the extent of supplying undeniable precedents. 
But the contingencies of a separate peace were 
more dangerous than the war itself. In the first 
place, it would have been impossible to obtain 
singly as good an arrangement as if the united pow- 
ers coalesced in their demands ; and, in the second 
place, if it could be obtained, k would have been 
impossible to render it secure. In the last place, 
it was quite certain that the moment we retired 
from the field, France, relieved of her most formi- 
dable adversary, would overrun the continent, and 
ultimately compel us to the defense, at a great dis- 
advantage, of whatever rights we might have ac- 
quired by such a treaty. There were, therefore, 
many prudential reasons for keeping together as 
long as we could the elements of resistance, even 
at the risk of prolonging the war indefinitely. Mr. 
Canning was careful not to betray to the world— 
especially to the Republic — the fact that his real 
motive for continuing the war was the impossibility 
of establishing a safe and honorable peace ; he put 
it upon higher and more popular grounds— the al- 
liances by which we were still bound, and the duty 
imposed upon us, as the guardians of freedom and 
civilization, to succor and redress the countries 
which were trodden down by the hoofs of French 
despotism. This sort of appeal to the integrity and 
humanity of England never failed ; but it was en- 
forced on this occasion with such power that it 
roused the country into a fit of enthusiasm. 


Ministers had latterly spoken of the deliverance 
of Europe (referring to the superfluous atrocities 
of the French) as the purpose to which they di- 
rected their efforts ; hut Mr. Tierney rejected the 
expression with ridicule, as conveying no determi- 
nate idea whatever. Mr. Canning's exposition of 
its meaning is one of the happiest passages in the 
speech. Its effect on the public mind was extra- 
ordinary. It served as a text for every body who 
declaimed about the war, and converted many to 
that side of the question who had never before been 
brought to consider so closely the magnitude of the 
French aggressions: 

" I can not undertake to answer for other gentlemen's 
powers of comprehension. The map of Europe is be- 
fore them. I can only say that I do not admire that 
man's intellects, and I do not envy that man's feelings, 
who can look over that map without gathering some 
notion of what is meant by the deliverance of Europe. 
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 people 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 I and does the word deliverance still 
sound unintelligibly in his ears ? Has he heard of the 
rescue and salvation of Naples by the appearance and 
tfre triumphs of the British fleet ? Does he know that. 


the monarchy of Naples - maintains its existence at die 
sword's point ? And is his understanding, is his heart 
still impenetrable to the sense and meaning of the deliv- 
erance of Europe ?" 

It seemed as if people had no suspicion of the 
extent of the French conquests, or as if they could 
not realize the idea of the carnage and oppression 
by which they were accompanied, until this pic- 
ture, so crowded, yet so distinct, was thus brought 
suddenly before them. Then the whole terrible 
truth became apparent, and then, for the first time, 
they began to comprehend the shape which this 
question of war was taking under the influence of 
such events. The forced alliances, or cowering 
submissions, into which the French compelled the 
weaker states to enter were scarcely less dreadful 
to bear than the sacking of towns, the violation of 
women, and the other barbarities which descended 
upon such as had the heroism to resist; so that 
even the friendship of the Directory was as fatal as 
its emnity— another reason against being too eager 
about peace. All this was touched upon with 
striking effect by Mr. Canning in his allusion to the 
allies of France, especially the Cisalpine Republic, 
upon whom she was making experiments in the 
theory of government; and Sardinia, whom she 
had reduced to a mere mockery of a kingdom. 
The description of the position of the King of Sar- 
dinia is a masterly piece of bistory painting. 

" By what ties of gratitude is the King of Sardinia 
bound to his ally? The King of Sardinia, it is true, 
has not yet been precipitated from his throne ; but he 
sits there with the sword of a French garrison suspend- 
ed above his head. He retains, indeed, the style and 
title of king ; but there is a French general to be vice- 
roy over him.' A prisoner in his own capital, surrounded 
by the spies and agents, and hemmed in by the arms of 
the Directory ; compelled to dismiss from his councils 


and his presence all those of his servants who were 
most attached to his person and most zealous for his 
interests; compelled to preach daily to his people the 
mortifying and degrading lesson of that patience and 
humility of which he is himself a melancholy example, 
to excuse and extenuate the insults offered by his allies 
to his subjects ; to repress, even by force, the resent- 
ment of his subjects against his allies. Is this a situa- 
tion in which the King of Sardinia can be supposed to 
derive comfort from the alliance of France, and repay it 
with thankfulness ? Would he not, even if this were to 
be the extend of his suffering and degradation ; would 
he not, if he inherits the spirit of his great ancestors, if 
their blood flows in his veins; would he not seize, even 
at the risk of his crown and of his life, any opportunity 
that might be afforded him to emancipate himself from 
a connection so burdensome, to shake off the weight of a 
friendship so intolerable ?" 

The Cisalpine Republic, shuddering under the 
hands of the operator^ is equally forcible. 

"Are we to look lor attachment in the Cisalpine 
Republic, whom, in preference to the others, France 
appears to have selected as a living subject for her ex- 
periments in political anatomy ; whom she has delivered 
up, tied and bound, to a series of butchering, bungling, 
philosophical professors, to distort, and mangle, and lop, 
and stretch its limbs into all sorts of fantastical shapes, 
and to hunt through its palpitating frame the vital prin" 
dple of Republicanism *'• 

This speech established Mr. Canning's reputa- 
tion. It placed him in the highest rank of Parlia- 
mentary orators, and the few who were close enough 
to observe accurately now began to look to him as 
one who promised at no remote day to take a lead 
among our statesmen. Others, of the class which 
is always jealous of rising men, could not conceal 
their vexation at his success. A contemporary 
meets him at dinner about this time, and exclaims, 
" What envy I saw of him universally." We learn. 


also, that when he used to get up in the House, 
Grey, Tierney, and others generally went out. 
The Whigs, of course, disliked him ; but the feel- 
ing was not confined to them. The Tories were 
incensed at the favor bestowed on him by Pitt ; 
they used to say that Pitt encouraged him too 
much, and that he was too flippant and ambitious. 
The secret of all this is penetrated at a glance. 

He spoke on other subjects during the sessions 
of 1799 and 1800, principally old topics repro- 
duced in new shapes — the war question argued 
over again in new disguises. He made a speech 
in defense of bull-baiting, which threw poor Wil- 
berforce into an agony of distress; but " to do him 
justice/' says the good man, " when I showed him 
an account of the cruelties that were practiced, he 
was quite ashamed of himself !"* Canning had 
too much real regard for Wilberforce to be offend- 
ed at his well-meant but rather officious advice. 
He would have dealt with most other people under 
like circumstances as he did with Courtenay in the 
debate on the suspension of the Habeas Corpus 
Act, when he told him " to keep his humanity for 
Smith and Bains, his religion for Newgate, and his 
jokes for the hackney coachmen." 

The only great questions to which he addressed 
himself during this period were the slave- trade 
and the union with Ireland. The former may be 
deferred for later consideration ; but the latter, 
having led to the dismemberment of Pitt's admin- 
istration, requires to be treated at some tength. 

On the 22d of January, 1799, Mr.Dundas brought 
down a message from his majesty, setting forth that 
our enemies were plotting the separation of Ire- 
land from the rest of the kingdom, and recommend- 
ing to Parliament the consideration of the most ef- 
* " Life of Wilberforce," ii, 366. 


fectiral means for defeating so heinous a design, 
and for improving and perpetuating a connection 
essential to the common security of the whole Brit- 
ish empire. This message was vigorously debated 
both in England and Ireland, and ended in the Act 
of Union, which was finally passed in the following 

The first thing that must strike the mind of a for- 
eigner upon opening this passage of our history is 
the curious fact that England should never have 
thought of this act of incorporation before. It can 
not fail to appear very surprising that upward of 
six hundred years of settlement and possession, 
checkered by feuds that ought to have furnished 
significant hints, should have elapsed before the 
necessity of such a step— saying nothing about its 
wisdom — happened to strike the government of this 
country. And surprise will be worked up into 
wonder, " with hair on end," by the discovery that, 
within a century, Ireland had actually begged for 
this same legislative union as a boon, and had been 
refused !* England was always smitten with sus- 
picion and indecision in her dealings with Ireland, 
acting as one would do who was making bargains 
with a usurer : always afraid of appearing too lib- 
eral ; always afraid of bidding for the affections of 
the people, in the apprehension of raising their 

* The English Parliament had bo frequently overruled the de- 
cisions of the Irish Parliament, that, in 1707. the Irish Commons 
made a proposal, in an address to the queen, for a legislative union 
between the two countries ; and this proposal the English gov- 
ernment treated with scorn. Upward of four hundred years be- 
fore, so strong was the desire of the Irish to participate in the ad- 
vantages of the English government, that they offered to pay for 
permission to live under the English law ; but although the king was 
well disposed to favor so rational a request, his intentions were 
intercepted and frustrated by the English lords settled in Ireland. 
They thought it was their interest to keep the two races apart, 
and labored hard for that end, and, it must be admitted, succeeded 
to admiration. 


terms; always withholding what they asked for, 
thinking there must be some sinister design in it ; 
and always forcing upon them what they abhorred, 
for the same excellent reason. 

The consequence was, that as she would not hear 
of a union when the Irish wanted it, so, when she 
saw fit, for her owu safety, to seek it, the Irish re- 
fused their consent : the common fate of all legis- 
lation that waits upon necessity. An act that might 
have been performed with grace was at last effect- 
ed by fraud and violence ; and, instead of being 
carried with the good will of the people, was forced 
upon them by bribes and bayonets. 

The policy invariably applied to Ireland was the 
policy of fear. Nothing in the way of justice was 
ever done to the country, unless there happened td 
be a pressure of some kind which rendered it also 
a matter of prudence. The experiment of justice, 
for its own sake, was never yet tried upon Ireland ; 
whenever justice did chance to take that direction, 
it was for the sake of England. There was some 
fear of disturbances at home, some suspicion of a 
descent from abroad, some want to be supplied— 
money or soldiers — and then Ireland was sure to 
be smiled upon by British justice, but. never till 
then. On the other hand, when England was 
prosperous and secure, Ireland was coerced ; her 
conflicting interests set up against each other, her 
wrongs re-opened, her prejudices excited, her old 
animosities exasperated anew, and every means re- 
sorted to, through the intricate machinery of bad 
government, to break her spirit and repress her ad- 
vancement. It was not an idle figure of speech by 
whicn Grattan described these crimes of choice and 
virtues of necessity, when he said that " England's 
weakness was Ireland's strength.'** 

* Speech on moving an Address to the Crown, 1788. 


This is an old story. But it is a true story, nev- 
ertheless, and must be heard for its truth, as well 
as for its intimate bearing upon things as they are. 
Indeed, the Past can not be divorced from the 
Present and the Future of Ireland. Unhappily 
for all parties, there can be no oblivion of* bitter 
memories which are still kept alive in their visible 
effects. That which we see in Ireland to this day 
is not a new birth of human folly, but the direct 
consequence of acts which were done in Ireland in 
former days. "Let by-gones be by-gones" will 
not hold here. The connection between existing 
evils and continuous misrule is that of cause and 
effect ; and it is impossible to legislate for evils of 
this nature without a complete knowledge of their 

Yet there are people— hundreds of thousands 
on this side of the Channel — who do not believe 
one word of this old story ; who regard it as a 
mere raw-head and bloody-bones. People who 
judge of Ireland from passing manifestations and 
first impressions, who see the social ruin plainly 
enough, but throw it all upon the want of nation- 
ality, of energy, of any thing and every thing in the 
Irish themselves, rather than upon England. They 
find it no easy matter to carry their imaginations 
back into the history of the past, and to conjure out 
of its dismal depths the ghastly bigotries that once 
ruled the realms of life, and swayed the courses of 
man. They can not get out of the sunshine of the 
English homestead, fenced round by paternal in- 
stitutions, and connect with it in any way the black 
midnight of the Irish hovel, and the children of 
famine who stalk about its unsightly heaps. They 
can not comprehend the existence of a political 
hypocrisy so monstrous as that which, creating free 
institutions with one hand, was no less actively em* 


ployed in fomenting anarchy and abetting despot- 
ism with the other. They do not see this going on 
now, in the old wholesale, barefaced way: they 
do not believe, therefore, that it ever did go on. 
If you relate to them particular facts, well attested, 
of singular tyrannies — such as that of giving re- 
wards for shooting an Irishman, instead of hanging 
the perpetrator as we should now do; or of making 
the nurture of an English infant by an Irish nurse 
high treason by law,* they will treat them as they 
would ghost-stories, which you may believe if you 
are fool enough to put any faith in such absurdi- 
ties, but which they have rather too much sense to 

Nine tenths of the people of England are igno- 
rant of the demoralizing atrocities which have been 
inflicted in their name upon Ireland, and the re- 
maining tenth do not believe in them. The only 
comfort to be extracted from this is, that it is cred- 
itable to the humanity of to-day to disbelieve in the 
inhumanity of yesterday ; and that there is, conse- 
quently, some hope that it will act better to-mor- 
row. . 

The Englishman of to-day sees in Ireland the 
sister Cinderella (in her survitude) of the British 
islands, and thinks that iTis her own fault she 
should be such a thankless drudge. He sees her 
in serge and coarse stockings (or none),, while her 
more fortunate sifters are flaunting in lace and sat-, 
in, and attributes all to sloth and poverty of spirit. 
He has not witnessed the slow, harassing, uninter- 
mitting process of domestic slavery by which she 
has been reduced to this ; he only sees the miseries 
of her condition, and satisfies his sense of justice 
by blaming her who suffers them. He sees in Ire- 
land fine harbors and no ships; spacious docks, 
♦ See " Davis's Tracts."— Piowdeo. 


grand custom-houses, and no commerce ; a region 
proverbial for fertility, and a starving population. 
He thinks that these anomalies must be the fault 
of- the people themselves ; as if that, were it true, 
would not. oe the greatest anomaly of all ! 

To suppose that any race of human beings would 
voluntarily starve in the midst of plenty ; go volun- 
tarily half clad in the midst of their own wool ; 
wilfully lie down to sleep on stones and dream of 
devouring them, when they might have pillows and 
visions of roast pig if they would, is a stretch of 
fancy that considerably transcends even the poeti- 
cal faculty of the Irish themselves. 

There is no country in the world which exhibits 
in its actual condition, and in direct circumstances, 
possessing present power over that condition, such 
irresistible deductions from historical facts as Ire- 
land. Eveiy person who has taken the trouble to 
investigate the subject has been compelled by the 
force of evidence to refer the evils under which 
Ireland labors, in the past and in the present, not 
to any incomprehensible waywardness in the peo- 
ple, or mysterious malediction in the climate, but 
to a long course of blind misgovernment. The so- 
cial disorganization of sects and parties is a legacy 
of that misgovernment ; the curse of absenteeism 
is a legacy of that misgovernment ; the double 
curse of sub-letting and middlemen, a consequence 
flowing out of absenteeism and other causes, them? 
selves the effects of misgovernment j 1 want of prof- 
itable employment, a consequence of want of cap- 
ital, produced by this conspiracy of impoverishing, 
circumstances ; low wages, thinly scattered at bro- 
ken intervals over some millions of working-men, 
a consequence of scanty employment ; periodical 
famine, periodical typhus, constant, misery, con- 
stant complaint, constant outrage, hopelessness and 


indifference to life, the natural results of these 
complicated and raveled grievances ; all having 
their common source in an infatuated system of 
mkgovernment ; prolonged in defiance of experi- 
ence, in defiance of justice, in defiance of the gen- 
eral safety. Whoever would discover the real 
causes of Irish anomalies, must look for them in 
Irish history ; and it is because the influences of 
thne are thrown out of the calculation, that some 
people are eternally disappointed at not finding 
temporary and special remedies panaceatic in 
their effects. These are the class of people, ig- 
norant of her history, and of its action upon pass- 
ing events, who are always so ready to throw up 
Ireland as a confounded bore and a hopeless case, 
and who think that the best thing that could hap- 
pen to her would be just to sink her under water 
for four-and-twenty hours.* 

The historical origin of Irish evils has been ac- 
knowledged by every politician who understood 
the problem involved in them. " It is impossible," 
observes a recent writer of great intelligence, " to 
form a fair and impartial judgment on Irish affairs, 
or to arrive at sound conclusions upon present po- 
litical questions, without knowing and keeping stu- 
diously in view the whole course of Irish history."t 
Mr. Pitt bore testimony to the chronic character of 
the disease, when he stated in the debate on the 
Union that for one hundred years England had 
pursued a narrow, jealous, and selfish policy to- 
ward Ireland ; although he might have extended 
his range a little farther, like Bushe, who declared, 
that for centuries Great Britain had. kept Ireland 
down, shackled her commerce, paralyzed her ex- 

* It is a strange thing, and somewhat awful to think of, that 
poor Sir Joseph Yorke, who made use of this wild observation, 
was drowned in the Southampton Water. 

t •• Past and Present Policy of England toward Ireland," p. 14 


anions, despised her character, and ridiculed her 
pretensions to any privileges, commercial or con- 
stitutional ; " she never, conceded a point to you," 
said that brilliant orator, on the floor of the Irish 
House of Commons, when this question of the 
Union came before it, " she never conceded a point 
to you which she could avoid, or granted a favor 
which was not reluctantly distilled." 

But the Union was to atone for all past mischiefs, 
and to prevent the recurrence of new ones, by 
drawing Ireland into such close connection with 
England as to identify their interests. This was 
the avowed purpose, and, it is charitable to hope, 
the real desire of Pitt. Unfortunately, something 
more was required to crown this union with the 
desiderated felicity, than the mere ceremony of pro- 
nouncing the bans. 

There was scarcely any thing in common be- 
tween the two countries. The bulk of the Irish 
even spoke a different language.* On the one side 
was prosperity, on the other wretchedness, inherit- 
ed generation after generation, and leaving its im- 
press, mental and physical, behind. With the Eng- 
lish, the sense of security in wrongs ; with the Irish, 
the rankling feeling of wrongs suffered and unap- 
peased. There were different meanings attached 
to the same things in the two countries— different 
manners, different habits, growing out of circum- 
stances as contrasted as jocund Plenty and hag- 
gard Want., Jn England there was a public opin- 
ion, which restrained the powerful within the lim- 

* See " Ireland — Past and Present," a pamphlet published m 
Dublin in 1806. This pamphlet excited considerable attention 
at the time from its terse and glittering style, and the apparent 
impartiality with which it held the scales of party. But, like 
most specimens of medium politics, it left all the vexed questions 
exactly where it found them. The most interesting point about 
the brochure is that, although never avowed, it was the first politi- 
cal production of the Right Honorable John Wilson Croker. 


its of defined rights ; in Ireland there Was no pub- 
lic opinion ; it was extinguished under an indefinite 
ascendency. That which was in England a source 
of pride— her bold peasantry — was in Ireland a 
source of shame. In England men were protect- 
ed by the law ; in Ireland the law was either not 
executed at all, or used only as an agent of ter- 
ror. These things, and a thousand more, were to 
be reconciled by Act of Parliament. 

But this was not all. The people had been di- 
vided among and against themselves, and they 
were to be blended into one. Various conflicting 
castes were to lie down together in amity under 
the roof- tree leaves of this Act of Parliament. 
There was the English settler, who had never yet 
mixed himself up with the Irishry, and who, to all 
intents and purposes, inhabited a Paradise of the 
Pale of his own; there was the settler who, through 
intermarriage and other commerce with the natives, 
stood midway in the shadows of the two camps, 
and hardly knew to which he belonged ; then there 
was the pure Catholic, who had never mingled with 
the Sassenach, and who represented in its integri- 
ty the sentiment of national resentment; the wa-* 
vering Catholic, who was fluctuating between bis 
interests and his conscience ; and the reprobate 
Catholic, who had. already gone over to Protest- 
antism and sinecures, with a mental reservation 
which rendered him as dangerousto his new pro- 
fession as he had already been faithless to his old 
one ; and all these discords were to be reduced to 
harmony by Act of Parliament. 

It may be added, that the situation of the Catho- 
lics at this crisis was calculated to kindle novel 
jealousies, and to furnish peculiar pretenses for de- 
priving this measure of all its healing and concilia- 
tory properties. They had recently obtained cer- 


tjain ameliorations of the Penal Code, and one of 
the inducements held out to them for agreeing to 
the Union was, that it would facilitate the repeal 
of the remainder. Now this reason, so tempting 
and plausible on the one side, was the most unfor- 
tunate that could be resorted to on the other. It 
wounded the Protestants on the most tender point 
— it suggested the only conceivable ground on 
which they could seek or discover a pretext for op- 
posing the Union, which in all other respects was 
quite consonant with their English sympathies. 
There .was nothing which the Irish Protestants 
were not ready to sacrifice rather than consent to 
the relief of the Catholics. It was not merely that 
they hated popery intrinsically, but because every 
diminution of the thraldom under which it groaned 
w»uld have been a deduction from their own as- 
cendency. And whoever is learned in Irish histo- 
ry, and knows what that terrible Protestant ascend- 
ency was in the fullness of its power, will be at no 
loss to understand why they who lived by the breath 
of its nostrils should have been so reluctant to grant 
die smallest fraction of human freedom to the pa- 
pists. And this ascendency, haughty from long im- 
punity, and formidable from long possession, was 
now to be brought round to the support of a meas- 
ure which indirectly menaced its very foundations. 
How was this to be accomplished ? 

Mr. Cooke, the under-secretary for Ireland, pub- 
lished a pamphlet to prove that the Union would 
be equally beneficial to both parties.* The argu- 
ment was at least recommended by being thorough- 
ly Irish. It fairly cut the ground from under its 
own feet. To the Protestants it offered this lure, 
that the Union was the only chance they had of 

* " Arguments for and against a Union between Great Britain 
and Ireland considered." Dublin, 1798. 
11 O 2 


resisting the claims of the Catholics, through the 
overwhelming influence and known character of 
the British Parliament; while to the Catholics it 
declared that the only hope of emancipation lay in 
this same measure of Union, which would release 
them from local tyranny, and facilitate their admis- 
sion into the British Constitution * 

It was plain, however, that subterfuges of this 
kind, like Macheath's asides to his two mistresses 
to make them believe that he was in love with them 
both, could not deceive the vigilance of the coun- 
try ; and the Cabinet found it necessary to try more 
effective arguments* In short, they bought up 
both parties — the Catholics by promises of eman- 
cipation,! die Protestants by peerages and places, 

* Lord Castlereagh employed the same Jesuitical reasoning in 
his speech on the Union, in the Irish House of Commons, Feb. 5, 
1800. " This measure is one," he observed, " that, by uniting the 
Church establishments, and consolidating the legislatures of the 
empire, pats an end to religions jealousy, and removes the possi- 
bility of separation. It is one which places the great question, 
which has so long agitated the country, upon the broad principle of 
imperial policy, and divests it of all its local difficulties." This was 
the snare which entrapped the Catholics, eager to catch at any 
thing that promised to float them into the harbor of the Consti- 

t Some of the more sincere Protestants, who were perfectly 
guileless in their horror of contracting promises and engagements 
with the Catholics— -clean-hearted men, who lived up to the very 
letter of the Penal Code — were so shocked at the Machiavelian 
conduct of the government in this crisis, that they did not hesitate 
to complain of it openly. One of them, in a pamphlet entitled 
" Orange Vindicated" (Dublin, 1799), reproves the government 
for holding out false hopes to the Catholics, and hints that such 
dishonest policy may cost them the allegiance of their best friends. 
"I will conclude," says this bold, good man, "by warning the 

S»vemment against a practice which nas been too common among ~ 
e parties of this country, namely, that of treating and parleying 
with the Catholics as a political body, and making stalking-horses 
Of them and their claims, for the purpose of mutual embarrassment 
and vexation. This weak and wicked policy feeds, and has fed, 
unjustifiable pretensions. This has been a sort of game ; but km 
nug<B stria ducant m mala." This worthy pamphleteer was evi- 
dently ignorant that this " sort of game," of setting " both your 


strengthened, in all instances of official depend- 
ence, by threats of dismissal. 

The fact was, that the salvation of the British 
empire depended at this moment upon the Union, 
which was to be carried at any cost by fair means 
or fbul. Pitt was not the minister to hesitate in 
such a juncture, and he had an agent in the person 
of Lord Castlereagh who was ready to second him 
to the last extremity. The " undertakers" of Ire- 
land — the two or three families who were perched 
upon the apex of Protestant ascendency, that im~ 
perium in imperio which drove out Lord Fitz Will- 
iam, controlled the law, and overawed the govern- 
ment itself — had only one vulnerable spot, and that 
spot was struck by Pitt. The sacrifices were of 
incredible magnitude— sacrifices of gold, of honor, 
of character, of every thing that ordinarily renders 
life and station desirable to men of integrity ; but 
the enemy was at the gates, and such sacrifices 
alone could save the country. 

The moment was ill chosen, but it had the ex- 
cuse of being also inevitable. If the Union had 
been proposed in a season of peace and prosperity, 
it would have been free from suspicion, and might 
have been consolidated without disgrace. But it 
followed upon the smoking track of a rebellion, and 
was forced upon the people. It was not a measure 
of deliberate benefit, but of sudden and violent ex- 
pediency. Like all other Irish measures, which, 
however good in themselves, did not come recom- 
mended by their goodness, but by their necessity, 
the Union was an exigency, hot a concession — it 
was dictated by England's difficulty, not for Ire- 
land's advantage. But it settled forever the ques- 
tion which was then taking a palpable and mena- 

houses" by the ears, had been the state policy of England toward 
Ireland from the very beginning of their connection. 


cing shape, namely, whether Ireland was to be- 
come British or French. 

Upon this question the Irish themselves never 
wavered. They have an instinctive antipathy to 
foreign connections. But it was rapidly ceasing 
to be a matter of choice. They might at any time 
be overborne by events ; and although no country 
can be reasonably expected to prefer a neighborly 
despotism to a distant rule, there is no doubt that 
the Irish would have borne much injustice from 
England, and did bear it, rather than suffer the in- 
tervention of strange hands between them. Had 
Ireland ever fallen under the dominion of France 
— should she ever be lost to England— it would 
not have been, it will not be, her own seeking. 

The expression of opinion in Ireland against the 
Union was universal and intense. " It is the most 
barefaced, undisguised assault upon our honor, dig- 
nity, and character, as a nation, and our liberties, as 
a people, that has yet been attempted," said a Prot- 
estant writer, who, belonging to neither extreme, 
represented the moderate and rational of all par- 
ties.* One leading objection to the measure was, 
that it destroyed the independence of the country; 
another, that it violated die arrangement of 1782, 
by which that independence was guarantied. Both 
objections were true ; but the need was imperious, 
and they were overruled. 

It was said of Mr. Grattan,by whom the freedom 
of Ireland was achieved in 1782, that •* he sat by 
its cradle — he followed its hearse." The phrase 
depicts the feelings with which the Union was re- 
garded. It was looked upon as the grave of Irish 
liberty. Yet, honestly carried out, a legislative 
union would seem to be the natural issue of the 

* " First Letter to a Noble Lord on the Subject of the Union." 
Dublin, 1799. 


relations in which the two countries stood toward 
each other. It is more reconcilable with the prin- 
ciples of natural justice that England and Ireland 
should be bound up under the same laws, the same 
government, and the same system of representation, 
than that there should be separation without inde- 
pendence, or connection without the benefits of re- 

' Whether the Union has been honestly carried 
out, is a different consideration. 

In the management of the question, the worst 
feature of all was the use that was made of the re- 
cent rebellion. It was assumed as a pretext for 
hurrying forward the Union, before the people 
could give vent to the feelings it provoked. Yet 
there were not wanting persons who accused the 
government of having fomented the rebellion them- 
selves for that very purpose. But the English 
Cabinet, whatever final responsibility may attach 
to them, were hardly answerable for the hideous 
details of that insurrection. The blood-guilt be- 
longed to the Irish executive alone; it was the 
furious spirit of implacable faction usurping the 
functions of authority. Pitt was ignorant of the 
iniquitous severity with which the general instruc- 
tions of the government were carried out in Ire- 
land. He appeal's to have had no notion of the 
extent to which the system of torture was prose- 
cuted for the discovery of concealed arms; and 
when these atrocities came out in discussion, and 
Lord Clare attempted some sort of reply tovtbe 
charge, without being able to deny it, " I shall nev- 
er forget Pitt's look," says Wilberforce ; u he turn- 
ed round to me with that high indignant stare which 
sometimes marked his countenance, and walked 
out of the house."* 

*« Life of Wilberforce," ii, 327. 


That the settlement of the Catholic claims was 
intended by Pitt to follow the Union, is now mat- 
ter of history. In private he was quite open on 
the subject — in public, guarded as to details, but 
unequivocal as to the principle. He distinctly gave 
the Catholics to understand that he contemplated 
their emancipation as a consequence of the Union; 
and he assured the Protestants that the concession 
would no longer be dangerous after the Catholics 
had become incorporated with the whole popula? 
tion of the empire. He won the Catholics by 
promises of equality, and wooed the Protestants by 
promising to swamp the Catholics. 

These views were illustrated by Mr. Canning 
in two speeches — the one on the king's mes* 
sage in January, 1799, the other on the address in 
April. He showed that the Popery Code (as it 
was called) took its rise from the rejection by the 
British government of a proposal for a union 
from Ireland ; and that, the contrary course hold- 
ing good, the adoption of a union would lead to 
the relaxation of that code. 

" If it was in consequence of the rejection of a union 
hva former period that the laws against popery Were 
enacted, it is &ir to conclude that a union would render 
a similar code unnecessary ; that a union would satisfy 
the -friends of Protestant ascendency, without passing 
laws against the Catholics, and without maintaining those 
which are yet in force" ' 

It must be remembered that tbe treasury bench- 
es were nearly filled with Protestant ascendency- 
men, and it required some tact to indicate to them 
that their bigotry should be in some sort respected, 
and to convey at the same moment a little hope to 
the Catholics. The necessity of caution on this 
vital point was overrulipg; for had the minister 
spoken out, he would have roused into fury the 


prejudices of his supporters, and been compelled 
to abandon a measure upon which) as upon a thread, 
hung the existence 4 of the government. In his sec- 
ond speech Mr. Canning again urged the same 
considerations, but still clothed in the most careful 
language. He showed that the Irish Parliament, 
instead of losing something of its power by incor- 
poration, would be better qualified to adjust the 
animosities arising out of religious differences by 
being removed out of the reach and influence of 
- every varying gust of popular phrensy. 

"Instead of being committed as a party, it becomes an 
impartial judge of the conflict, when it is placed in a sit- 
uation which enables it to weigh every claim with dis- 
passionate calmness and dignity, to resist what may be 
extravagant without the appearance of severity, and con- 
cede to> the Catholics what may remain to be conceded^ 
without the appearance of intimidation, and without Juaz- 
%r& to its own authority and power.*' 

So far as ministerial hint* at any time, of under 
any circumstances, can be considered binding, such 
passages as these must be allowed to have been 
broad enough to pledge the administration to the 
Catholic question. Mr. Pitt thought so himself, 
although his ultra Tory friends thought differently 
The greatest misfortune Mr. Pitt labored under 
through his life (and his reputation after his death) 
was that of having friendB— warm, enthusiastic 
friends — who insisted upon worshiping him for 
opinions and intentions which Jbe not only never 
professed, but earnestly disclaimed. It would be 
impossible, for instance, to conceive any set of no- 
tions more unlike Mr. Pitt's than the general run 
of the sentiments of the Pitt Club. The members 
of that lively institution have made him responsible 
for principles so utterly at variance with his con* 


rations, that Mr. Pitt, as some one said, could not 
with any decency dine at his own dinner.* 

Upon this question of emancipation, Mr. ^Pitt's* 
biographer states, that " no pledge or promise what- 
ever was made by Mr. Pitt, or by his authority, 
directly of indirectly, to the Romanists of Ireland, 
that the few restrictions under which they still la- 
bored, and forming the only bars to a full partici- 
pation of political power, should be removed if 
they would give their consent to the Union/'f 
The italics are not Mr. Gilford's, but they ought to 
have been. How scornfully such men look down 
upon the wrongs of others, from their heights of 
power and impunity? These few restrictions, 
which appeared so contemptible 1 to Mr. GifFord,. 
were all sufficient,, nevertheless, to shake the tran- 
quillity of every succeeding Cabinet for thirty years, 
and to compel a confession at last — which must have 
thrown Mr. GifFord into fits, if he lived to witness 
it — that the government of the country could not 
be carried on till they were removed ! Even then it 
was not the fault of ministers that the papist was 
let loose from his bonds. They would have kept 
him in chains if they could ; but events pressed,^ 
and they were forced to choose between that old 
rank antipathy and a civil war. 

According to this authority, Mr. Pitt never en- 
couraged the Catholics to expect that their politi- 
cal disabilities would be repealed, if they would 
consent to the Union. 

Mr. Pitt unquestionably possessed, in almost su- 

* It is only fair to observe, that the Pitt Club was not always 
so perverse and intolerant* That section of the Tories who would 
have nothing to do with it at first, have since become its most 
zealous members, not by conforming to the principles in celebra- 
tion of which it was established, but by setting op a new set of . 
principles in their, place. The Pitt Crab originally held kberal 
doctrines on some leading questions, especially Catholic Emm 
cipatfcmv f ** Qrflbrd's L&e of Pitt," vi, 2S4. 


pernatural perfection, the art of appearing to say a 
great deal, without saying any thing. His won- 
derful fluency, when he had any point to seem to 
clear up, but really to confuse, had the effect of 
filling the ear without conveying one positive idea 
to the mind. Great was his skill in creating a du- 
bious impression, which might be admitted or de- 
nied at convenience. He was so wonderfully safe 
in this way, and had such a miraculous gift of no- 
meaning, that Windham once said that " he verily 
believed that Mr. Pitt could speak a king's speech 
off-hand" It must be allowed; therefore, that if 
any man could have successfully produced a uni- 
versal conviction that he meant to do a certain thing, 
which he had not the slightest intention of doing, 
without committing himself to a single act or ex- 
pression that could ever be brought in evidence 
against him, Mr. Pitt was unquestionably that man. 
But as he could hot have done so in this case with- 
out being guilty of an extraordinary and cruel 
stretch of duplicity, we have to decide which is the 
more likely — that Mr. Pitt acted in this perfidious 
spirit, or that Mr. Gifford's statement is untrue. 

There is ho doubt that Mr. Pitt held language 
calculated to suggest and nourish such expectations 
in the Catholic mind. There is no doubt that sim- 
ilar language was held by Canning, Dundas, Wind- 
ham, and other recognized members and organs of 
the government. There is no doubt that these 
ministerial manifestoes, which were neither pledges 
nor promises/ but something a thousand times more 
binding in honor and conscience, were actively 
circulated all over Ireland, and used as a decoy 
for the Catholics. If Mr. Pitt meant nothing by 
all this, but merely to carry his object — if he were 
ready to avail himself of die want of distinctness 
on this special point in his own speeches, or to re- 


pudiate, as lacking his sanction, the too much dis- 
tinctness, of others — it is clear that Mr. Pitt must 
have been a man of remarkable hardihood of a cer- 
tain kind. But we prefer the other horn of the di- 
lemma; and circumstances fortunately enable us 
to go just far enough to rescue Mr* Pitt from the 
ruinous friendship of his biographer. 

The Union was carried, and became the law of 
the land in 1801. The moment was now come for 
keeping faith with the Catholics. Mr. Pitt ap- 
plied to his majesty, urged upon him the imperious 
necessity of adjusting these claims, and intimated 
the impossibility of remaining in office unless his 
majesty empowered him to carry out the terms 
upon which he had been enabled to accomplish the 
Union. George III., however, was of opinion that 
the coronation oath was an eternal impediment to 
the royal assent j entreated Mr. Pitt not to urge 
him on that point ; and offered, as the story books 
say, to do any thing for him,^except emancipation, 
if he would stay in office. Mr. Pitt resigned.* 

Nothing can be much clearer than this. Mr. 
Pitt resigned because he could not carry Catholic 
Emancipation. Now, unless he acknowledged to 
himself (although it seems he never communicated 
his impressions to Mr. Grifford) that he had led the 
Catholics to agree to the Union, on the pledge or 
supposition that their disabilities should be remov- 
ed, why should he resign upon that question 9 

The act of resignation was the only saving grace 
in the matter, for it is not to be concealed- that Mr* 
Pitt ought to have ascertained his majesty's opin- 
ions before. Nor will posterity- believe that he 

* See a correspondence between the king, Mr. Pitt, and Lord 
Kenyon, published in 1827, by Dr. Philpotte. This correspond- 
ence was published in the hope of annihilating the Catholic claims 
forever, but it had the unlooked-for effect of materially accelera- 
ting their settlement. 


was not already acquainted with them when he 
promulgated the scheme of the Union.* If the 
great measure was a great hypocrisy, it was not 
because he did not deceive the OathoHcs by fake 
promises, but because he deluded them by promises 
which he knew at the time he could not fulfill. 
There is too much reason to believe that the latter 
is the true version»t 

* However this may be, great blame was cast on Pitt by the 
court party, and even by some of his own friends. It was said 
that he took his majesty by surprise. "Mr. Pitt," said Lord 
Malmesbury, " either from indolence, or from, perhaps, not pay- 
ing always a sufficient and due attention to the king's pleasure, 
neglected to mention ministerially to his majesty that such a meas- 
ure was in agitation till he came at once with it for his approba- 
tion." — " Diaries," iv., 1. The enemies of the measure— including 
the two chancellors of England and Ireland— took care, however, 
that the king should know Pitt's intentions, and in a way the most 
likely to displease. The consequence was, that the day after it 
was formally proposed (88th January) the king declared he would 
consider any man personally indisposed toward him who voted 
for it. Canning suspected Lord Westmoreland to have been at the 
bottom of this cabal. Hawkesbuiy, who took office under Ad- 
dington, is also open to suspicion. It is satisfactory to know, how* 
ever, that Auckland, who was one of the chief plotters, got noth- 
ing by it, and that Loughborough, who moved conspicuously in 
it, overreached himself, and lost the chancellorship-— the lucky 
circumstance which lifted Eldon to the woolsack. 

f Some light is thrown upon this suspicion from a very unex- 
pected quarter. In an article in the " Anti-Jacobin," said, we 
know not upon what authority, to be written by Mr. Canning, it js 
very clearly stated that the king had never given his ministers the 
smallest reason to believe that he would sanction measures of re- 
lief for the Catholics; but that, on the contrary, nearly three 
years before, his majesty had declared his determination never to 
consent to them, feeling that such consent would involve a viola- 
tion of his oath. Yet, notwithstanding their private knowledge 
of his majesty's fixed resolution, ministers held out positive hopes 
to the Catholics. Mr. Canning stated, in his speech on the Cath- 
olic claims in 1812, that ministers all along led the Catholics to 
believe that their emancipation was to follow the Union. He dis- 
claimed any direct " promises," but allowed that the Catholics 
were encouraged to expect a release from their disabilities. " As 
to promises," he said, " there have been none-, but as to expecta- 
tion, there certainly has been a great deal. Expectations have been 
held out j the disappointment of which involves the moral guilt of an ab- 
solute breach of faiik. n — -Speech on Lord Morpeth's Motion, 3d Feb., 


If Mr. Pitt had been firm, the court faction must 
have yielded, and emancipation might have been 
carried within a year of the Union. His resigna- 
tion threw it back indefinitely ; and honorable as 
that resignation was, its luster is much diminished 
by his consenting to take office three years after- 
ward under the same sovereign, not only without 
any stipulations on behalf of the Catholics, but with 
the knowledge that he must abandon ihem. It is 
notorious that, during the lifetime of the king, Mr. 
Pitt was resolved never to bring forward the Cath- 
olic Question ; in fact, he bound himself to sacrifice 
it to the good old intolerance of George the Third. 
All this goes a great way to reduce the merit of 
Mr. Pitt's resignation, if it does not destroy con- 
fidence in his sincerity altogether.* 

From that moment his course ran through crook- 
ed paths, and was no less unfortunate in its prog- 
ress than disastrous in its close. Every thing 
failed with him. His next administration was 
formed of materials so weak, that he was obliged 
to do all the work himself. His coalition projects 
led to fresh disappointments and distrusts, and the 
glory of Trafalgar only shed an expiring gleam on 
his last hours. When he died, the feeble remains 
of his cabinet fell to pieces without a struggle. 

* It is now known that Pitt did voluntarily offer to sacrifice the 
Catholic question to the disordered bigotry of the king. The sub* 
ject was submitted to his majesty toward the close of January ; 
about the middle of February nis majesty betrayed the first symp- 
toms of his malady ; for a fortnight or so he got worse and worse, 
but recovered again early in March, sufficiently, at least, to be 
conscious of all that had passed, and capable of talking about it 
In this state of temporary restoration, he desired Willis, his med- 
ical attendant, to write to Pitt. " Tell him," said he, " I am now 
quite well— quite recovered from my illness ; but what has he not 
to answer for who is the cause of my having been ill at all?" 
"Willis wrote as he was commanded, and Pitt sent a reply full of 
regrets and repentance, and offering to give up the Catholic question 
to please Jut majesty. In fact, he did give it up. He always spoke 
of it afterward as given up. It was plunged into the ministerial 


• Mr. Canning was too closely identified with Pitt 
not to participate in his fortunes at a juncture of 
•uch imminent importance. He followed him into 
retirement.* Mr. Huskisson also resigned. Mr. 
Pitt bad a few close friends who were supersti- 
tiously devoted to him. With the desperate at- 
tachment of Hindoo widows, they insisted upon 
being buried in his grave. The breaking up of 
his administration was a sort of political suttee. 

So far as Mr. Canning was individually concern- 
ed, the respite from the labors of his office was not 
altogether undesired on private grounds. A few 
months previously he had changed his condition by 
an alliance which, fortunately, in addition to the 
first essential of mutual attachment, united all the 
elements his utmost ambition could desire— -con- 
nection and fortune. On the 8th of July, 1800, Mr. 
Canning was married to Miss Joan Scott, daughter 
and co-heiress to General Scott, and sister to the 
Marchioness of Titchfield,. afterward Duchess of 
Portland. General Scott is said to have been a 
man of peculiar habits and eccentric character, who 
possessed considerable wealth, which he left tied 
up by some very singular and stringent conditions. 

Miss Scott's fortune was large, and placed Mr. 
Canning at once in a position of independence. 
The union was, in every point of view, a source of 
mutual happiness. The unsullied purity of Mr. 
Canning's life, and his love of domestic pleasures 
(for, after his marriage, he seldom extended his 
intercourse with general society beyond those oc- 
casions which his station rendered unavoidable), 
were, rewarded by as much virtue and devotion as 
ever graced the home of an English statesman. 

* Mr. Canning resigned his under-secretaryship, and no longer 
formed a part of the administration. But he kept the place of re- 
ceiver-general of the Alienation Office. 


In an ante-chamber in Mr. Canning's house there 
used to hang over the mantel-piece a painting of 
two female figures — the Duchess of Portland anft 
her sister. The duchess, who was many years the 
elder, is represented leaning over her sister, and 
caressing her with an expression of affectionate 
emotion. From the history attached to the picture, 
we learn that this attitude was chosen by the duch- 
ess herself, as a memorial of a somewhat romantic 
circumstance in the lives of the sisters. It seems 
that General Scott made the principal part of his 
fortune by play, to which he was passionately ad- 
dicted, and which in his time ran high in the fash- 
ionable world. He was remarkable for many per- 
sonal singularities, odd tastes, and antipathies ; and, 
among the rest, he conceived an extraordinary 
aversion to the aristocracy. He carried this feel- 
ing to such an extreme as to resolve that neither 
his family nor his money, if he could prevent them, 
should ever be found shining under a coronet ; and, 
in order to secure this object, he inserted a strict 
condition in his will, that if either of his daughters 
should marry a nobleman, her moiety of a sum of 
<£200,000, which he divided between them, should 
devolve upon her sister. The Duchess of Portland 
was the first to disobey this testamentary injunction ; 
but her sister, refusing to take advantage of the 
will, insisted upon an equal division of the legacy. 
She saw no reason why, having married a lord for 
love, the duchess should not, at least, be as rich as 
if she had married a commoner upon compulsion. 

The picture illustrates with touching simplicity 
this little episode of magnanimous love. 





Pitt resigned in March, 1801, There were va- 
rious Tumors about his successor — some named 
Grenville ; others Dundas ; Auckland, says one of 
his contemporaries, named himself. But there 
never was any real hesitation as to who should 
succeed. Pitt named Addington, then Speaker of 
the Commons; and Addington succeeded accord- 
ingly. The Addington administration was merely 
a fantoccini ministry, of which Pitt worked the 

There was another reason, besides the Catholic 
Question, why Pitt so precipitately quitted office— 
the impossibility of extricating himself with credit 
from the war. He wanted to throw upon Adding- 
ton the ignominy of patching up a disgraceful peace; 
and then, when fresh difficulties arose, to return to 
► office again, *f amid thunders of applause," as the 
only man who could save the country. His strategy 
was betrayed plainly enough in the last verse of 
Mr. Canning's famous Pitt lyric : 

" And, oh ! if again the rude whirlwind should rise ? 
The dawning 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."* 

* " The Pilot that weathered the Storm" was written for the 
first meeting of the Pitt Club, which originated under Mr. Can- 
ning's auspices, and was founded by bim immediately after Mr. 
Pitt's retirement from office. The object of the club was, of 
course, to celebrate the glories of the late minister ; and it is a 
significant and very curious fact, that not one of the members of 
the Addington administration joined it, although their successors 
were the persons of whom its, meetings were afterward chiefly 
composed, and who gave such an unexpected direction to its en. 


But power once relinquished is not so easily re- 
called. Followers and parasites have an ugly way 
of forsaking the retiring patron, and trooping round 
the in-coming minister. Even so it fell out with 
Pitt, who was excluded from the government for 
upward of three years by this obstacle of his own 
making * 

thasiasm. The song was written with great skill for the end it 
was designed to serve ; on other grounds, its merit is not above 
the average of most patriotic effusions stuffed with stock senti- 
ments and huzzas disguised in heroic meter. But it answered its 
purpose effectually, and produced a sort of national furor as long 
as the war-fever lasted. Lord Brougham objects to this song that 
it treats as a " fair Pitt's sacrifice of power to principle, when, 
by retiring from office, he earned the applause of millions. His 
lordship ascribes this to Mr. Canning's early official habits, which 
seem to have given to place an aspect of power essential to one 
who would serve his country. — " Historical Sketches of States- 
men," p. 279. But it was not necessary to go so far out of the 
way to discover why Canning treated Pitt's retirement as a " fall :" 

M Admired in thy zenith, bat loved in thy fall :" 
Or why he described him in his retirement as 

" Virtue, in humbU resentment withdrawn." 

He wanted to get up a party for him as a martyr to his own in- 
tegrity and the king's intolerance. He wanted to keep him alive 
in the generous sympathies of the people. Something must be 
allowed for political songs that an only written to serve an occa- 
sion. " The Pilotthat weathered the Storm" was not intended 
to be submitted 40 the criticism of posterity. It may be much * 
more seriously questioned whether Lord Brougham's opinion, that 
Pitt did sacrifice power to principle on this occasion, is founded 
upon a correct estimate of all the circumstances of his retreat 
from office. 

* " The baseness and ingratitude he found in mankind," says 
Lady Hester Stanhope, " were inconceivable. All the peers that 
he had made deserted him, and half those he had served returned 
his kindness by going over to the enemy." — " Memoirs of Lady 
Hester Stanhope," iii., 167. The close of all was still more ter- 
rible. Mr. Pitt died in the villa on Putney Heath ; his corpse lay 
in one of the rooms for a week. " It is a singular and melancholy 
circumstance," says Lord Brougham, " resembling the stories told 
of William the Conqueror's deserted state at his decease, that 
some one in the neighborhood, having sent a message to inquire 
after Mr. Pitt's state, he found the wicket open, then the door of 
the house, and nobody answering the bell, he walked through the 
rooms till he reached the bed on which the minister's body lay 
lifeless, the sole tenant of the mansion, of which the doors, a few 


All Pitt's friends were opposed to his resigna- 
tion. There was no apparent excuse for it. The 
Catholic Question had been already abandoned in 
the Cabinet, although set up as a pretext for his- 
tory. This waa so well understood, that Lord 
Cornwallis wrote to Lord Castlereagh immediately 
upon hearing of the. resignations, to say that, as the 
Catholic Question had been " given up," it would 
be highly criminal at such a moment to desert his 
majesty.* But Pitt was resolved, and every body 
thought he was very obstinate, because they could 
not comprehend why he went out, and he would 
not tell them. He kept his own secret. 
- On the very evening of his resignation Canning 
called upon him. They had a long conversation, 
but it ended in nothing. All that Canning could 
extract from him was, that.he had the greatest con- 
fidence in Addington, and wished his party to 
support him; that, as a private friend, he was 
pleased with Canning for having resigned, but 
more pleased with those who remained as they 
were. This was the way Pitt sustained his wor- 
shipers. He entreated them all to stay in under 
Addington, and would satisfy none of them as to 
the reason why he did not stay in himself. Some 
did stay in — such as the Duke of Portland, Lord 
Chatham-, Lord Westmoreland ; but the strangest 
circumstance of all was, that Dun das went out — 
that true Scot, to whom place was hardly less vital 
than the atmosphere. 

It was suspected that Pitt resigned merely to 

hours before, were darkened by crowds of suitors alike obse- 
quious and importunate, the vultures whose instinct haunts the 
carcasses only of living ministers. 17 — *' Historical Sketches." 
There never was a statesman out of whose hands power passed 
so suddenly and so completely. There was no decline, no transi- 
tion, no twilight to soften the descent from his meridian glory ; but 
darkness, like night in the tropics, set in upon him at once. 
* " Diaries of Lord Malmesbury," iv., 42. 


show bis strength, and that be could return to. 
power whenever he wished. For the three years 
preceding he had been compelled to make so many 
concessions in the royal closet, and the government 
had become so weakened by the frequency of this 
secret control, that he began to feel that he retained 
only a nominal power, while the real nower was 
wielded by people who influenced the lung's mind 
out of sight. His choice lay between ipaking a 
firm stand on some great public necessity, or going 
out and letting his loss be felt. But where was 
this public necessity to be found % It was idle to 
think of Catholic Emancipation, as that was one of 
the subjects on which the royal mind was unap- 
proachable* During the king's illness there were 
two topics for ever present to his distempered im- 
agination—America and the Church. "How can 
I, he used to exclaim, U I that am bom a gentle- 
man, ever lay my head on my pillow m peace and 
quiet, as long as I remember the loss of my Amer- 
ican colonies V 9 At another time he Would mutter, 
" I will remain true to the Church !" Then back 
to America; and anon he would return to the 
Church ; and so swing backward and forward be- 
tween these two points of remorse, until they be- 
came an absolute part of his moral existence. The 
minister who should have attempted to make a stand 
upon the Catholic Question, under such circum- 
stances, must have been as demented as the king 
himself; and so, having nothing else to go upon, 
Pitt threw up the seals. 

Addington was supposed to be entirely in Pitt's 
confidence in this move, from the tone he took at 
JireU He used to say every where that he was 
only Pitt's locum tenens. This was generally be- 
lieved in the beginning, and circumstances favored 
its likelihood. But as time wore on, and Adding- 


ton, who was a vain and arrogant man at heart, 
grew giddy with authority, people began to wonder 
whether he really was minister or puppet The 
mystery became darker ancj darker. Pitt's conduct 
throughout this period of anxious suspense was un- 
intelligible. Soon after his retirement, he sold 
Hollwood, his favorite residence, laid down his 
carriage and horses ; .reduced his establishment, 
and paying off as many debts as he could, took a 
house in Park Place, where he lived on an income 
of less than <£1Q00 a year. This looked like a 
complete farewell to power; and yet all this time 
he was advising the ministers secretly at every step : 
they did nothing without his sanction ; and, to in* 
sure them still greater security, he was continually 
urging his personal friends to support them in their 

Canning was distressed and irritated at all this. 
He could not conceal his vexation that Pitt should 
sacrifice himself to bolster up an administration 
which had no sooner made its appearance in Par- 
liament than it was treated by both houses with 
open derision. There was some personal feeling, 
also, mixed up in the mortification he felt at Pitt's 
impenetrable reserve. He thought that he was en- 
titled to a closer confidence than Pitt was willing 
to extend to any body ; but, although he was 
wounded at mis, his friendship was too sincere to 
be susceptible of the small jealousies which some- 
times spring from a suspicion of imperfect trust. 
His attachment to Pitt was not merely that of the 
lover, whose imagination exaggerates the perfec- 
tions of his idol, but rather that of the devotee, who 
is disposed to believe his idol infallible* 

It was from this devotion that, heedless of Pitt's 
remonstrances, he insisted upon throwing up office ; 
at a period of life, too, when the objects ot his am- 


bition, thus placed within his reach, might natu- 
rally be expected to exercise a paramount influence 
oyer his decision. His conduct on this occasion 
contrasts strongly with that of Lord Castlereagb, 
who professed an equal homage to Pitt. Canning 
went out — Castlereagh went in. The former felt 
himself bound to share the adversity of the states- 
man, who was their common leader— the latter was 
restless till he got an appointment under the min- 
istry that displaced him. Castlereagh was consid- 
ered a stanch Pittite, and may have been one. 
Perhaps he had a peculiar manner of showing his 
attachments. Like the Irishman who went into 
the twenty-fourth foot that he might be near his 
brother who was in twenty-fifth, his lordship may 
have joined Addington for the sake of his love of 

For the first year of the new ministry, Canning 
almost wholly abstained from attending Parliament, 
and, except upon one occasion (his motion respect- 
ing the cultivation of Trinidad, 27th May, 1802), 
he does not appear to have spoken. He pursued 
this line of conduct out of deference to Pitt, to 
whom he was indebted for his seat ; but when the 
dissolution of 1802 released him from that obliga- 
tion, and he was returned on his own account for 
the borough of Tralee, he felt himself at liberty to 
oppose an administration he despised. 

Trinidad was one of the acquisitions of the war. 
It possessed two advantages : it was an important 
naval station and one of the most fertile islands of 
the West India group. Mr. Canning desired to 
confer a greater distinction than either upon it, by 
making it the scene of an initial experiment in the 
gradual process of extinguishing the slave-trade. 
The new island— -with its breeding climate and lux- 
uriant soil— was to be cultivated. How 1 By ne- 


groes imported from Africa. The object of Mr. 
Canning's motion was to make grants to the plant- 
ers on the express condition that they should not 
import slave labor. He wanted to make a begin- 
ning somewhere, and he thought this a favorable 
opportunity. His speech,, although ostensibly ad- 
dressed to a general view of the best means of cul- 
tivating and turning Trinidad to account, was a 
powerful argument, enforcing a practical proposi- 
tion against the slave-trade. The subject was one 
in which he felt a deep interest. -He had spoken 
upon it in 1799, with a fullness of spirit and beauty 
or illustration, which, even in his later years, he 
never excelled. But rich, various, and powerful 
as it was, his speech had produced no practical re- 
sult. The motion on Trinidad also fell to the 
ground. The time was not yet ripe for this great 
step in Christian civilization. But the seed was 
sowing, and Mr. Canning happily lived to gather 
in the goodly harvest. 

In 1803 a rebellion broke oiit in Ireland — a dk 
rect corollary from the Union. Mr. Canning, in a 
speech of unusual severity, declared that the Irish 
executive ought to be impeached. But it is only 
justice to this unfortunate fantoccini ministry to say 
for them, what they had not the courage to say for 
themselves, that the Irish rebellion was a dying 
bequest from their predecessors. Every body 
wondered how they could have been induced to 
take out letters of administration ! 

The worst of all was the necessity of winding up 
the war. The peace of Amiens was the great end 
for which the administration seemed to have been 
called into existence ; and, having accomplished its 
destiny, the astonishing thing is that it did not sur- 
render up its spirit to Pitt. The peace pleased 
no body. Windham described it as an armed 


trace, entered upon without necessity, negotiated 
without wisdom, and concluded without honor; 
Lord Granville denounced k as a national degra- 
dation; and the only recommendation it had in 
Fox's eyes was, that it brought the war to an end 
without restoring the Bourbons. 

The peace was negotiated by Lord Hawkesbu- 
ry, who had committed himself to such exhilara- 
ting prophecies of the occupation of Paris ; and 
who now, not content with destroying the hopes 
he had been all along holding out*o his party, add- 
ed a sort of priTate sanction to an act of official 
suicide by accepting a present from die First Con- 
sul of a superb service of China,* While the hon- 
est advocates of the war were grumbling over the. 
shells, the Foreign Secretary was swallowing. the 

There never occupied the Treasury benches an 
administration so hacked and cut to pieces as this 
Addington make-shift Every party assailed it in 
turn; and there were more party sections than 
usual, with a greater variegation of political opin- 
ions, but all united against the ministry. There, 
was the pure Fox party— the Grenvilles, with their 
mixed doctrines — the Windhamites, who drew be- 
tween them — and the young Pitt party, whose espe- 
cial function it was to bring about the restoration 
of Pitt, even in spite of Pitt himself. Canning 

* The fact is stated by Trotter, "Memoirs of Fox," p. 260. 
Trotter's book is wretched trash, but it contains two or three 
small facts that are not to be found elsewhere. He was employ- 
ed by Fox to copy and read for him, and saw a good deal of his 
private life, which he mistook his calling in attempting to chron- 
icle. It seems that he expected something would have been done 
for him, and published the memoirs out of revenge. An observa- 
tion of Sheridan's upon the proceedings of the Whigs in 1806 ap. 
plies exactly to Trotter's case. " I have heard," says Sheridan, 
" of men running their heads against a wall, but this is the first 
time I ever heard of a man builmng a wall on purpose to ran his 
head against" 


was the loader of this section, the most energetic 
of all. 

The inherent feebleness of tke ministry supplied 
their antagonists with perpetual openings for ridi- 
cule and defiance. Hawkesbury possessed the 
most respectable talents among them, but he was 
totally unequal to his position. He had so little 
influence as Foreign Secretary that the French 
negotiators heaped repeated insults upon England 
in their correspondence with him; demanding at 
one time that he should stop the attacks of the press 
on the French government,* and at another, that 
the French royal family, and other illustrious ex- 
iles who had taken refuge here, should be peremp- 
torily sent out of the country. With a man of 
known ability or established name at the Foreign 
Office, such experiments would never have been 
tried; but Hawkesbury was shy, paltering, and 
. all but unknown. Canning had the lowest opinion 
of his capacity ;* Lord Malmesbury spurned his 
44 weakness and timidity ;" and the king said, that 
he had no head for business, no method, no punct- 
nality.t Yet, incompetent as he was, and ill as 
tbev could spare him from die Commons, they were 
obliged to send him up to the Lords, where they 
were still Worse off.| 

Addington was deficient in every quality neces- 
sary to form or control a cabinet. He had no per- 
sonal wei At— no ministerial reputation— even his 
technical Parliamentary habits were against him. 
Great stiffness, without the least natural dignity, 

* Lady Heater Stanhope, in her hectoring way, says that 
Hawkesbury was a " fool/ 1 and that Canning could: not conceal 
the contempt in which he held him, carrying it so far as to take 
wine very reluctanAy with him at dinner. — u Memoirs," L, 316. 

t " Diaries of Lord Malmesbury/' iv., 1ST. 

t Lord Hawkesbury did not, on this occasion, change his title. 
He was tailed io the Upper House, by writ, as a peer's attest 


gave a false lacquer to bis manners, which were of- 
fensive to men of high breeding ; and his attempts 
to supply the want of discrimination and fore- 
thought by an assumption of artificial gravity only 
rendered him ridiculous. " My Lord Salisbury/' 
said Fox, in a public company, speaking of Al- 
dington, " would make a better minister, only that 
he is wanted for court dancing-master." Being 
asked what Addington would do after the peace, 
Fox replied, " I cannot say ; but it will be some- 
thing which will render him ridiculous to the end 
of time. If Mr. Addington wishes for supreme 
authority, let him be King of Bath, if he has inter- 
est enough at the rooms ; he will find it more pleas- 
ant, and, I am persuaded, more to his reputation."* 
To make matters still more deplorable, he was cut 
off from the means of strengthening his hands, by 
a train of greedy, expectants, pressing voraciously 
to be provided for — his brother, Bragge, Varisit- 
tart, Bond Hopkins, and a dozen others— -all offi- 
cers, and no soldiers.t " No followers," is found 
an excellent rule in certain situations, and would 
tell with good effect among higher functionaries. 
It would have saved Addington the necessity of 
putting his hangers-on into leading appointments, 
to the exclusion of men who could have brought 
experience and character to the aid of his admin- 

* " Circumstantial Details, <kc, of the Rt. Hon. C. J. Fox," 

t " Life of Lord Chancellor Eldon." Addington's place-hunt- 
ing dependents were not forgotten in the lampoons that were 
showered upon him ; especially " Brother Bragge and Brother 
Hiley." . 

" Each a gentleman at large, 
Lodged and fed at public charge, 
Paying (with a grace to charm ye) 
This the fleet, and that the army." 

" Brother Riley" was provided with the situation of secretary to 

the treasury. 


istration. He never recovered from this original 
source of weakness. <• " 

Canning nicknamed him the " Doctor/ ' in allu- 
sion to the lucky accident which made the fortunes 
of bis house. Addington's father was a country 
doctor, and happening to be sent for to attend Lord 
Chatham's coachman, in the absence of the regular 
attendant, grew into such favor, that his lordship 
appointed him his family physician* The nick- 
name took wings over the kingdom, in the shape of 
numerous witty pasquinades, some of which were 
attributed to Mr. Canning ;t and it provoked many 
a hearty roar in Parliament, where it was fre- 
quently introduced by a humorous side-wind in 
the debates. On one occasion, when the Scotch 
members had deserted the government, Sheridan 
stretched across the table, and cried out to the pre- 
mier, "Doctor ! the Thanes fly from tbee !" to the 
infinite amusement of the house. The "Doctor" 
stuck to Aldington, until he finally sank his patro- 
nymic in a title. Dropping one's family name, 
and taking out a peerage, is in some cases as se- 
cure an escape from the odium of a nickname as 
the grave itself; for nine tenths of the world lose 
sight of the commoner in his new glory, as com- 
pletely -as if he were dead. It was probably for 
this reason Addington felt such anxiety to bury 

* The anecdote is related on the authority of Lady Hester 
Stanhope.—" Memoirs," i, 217. 

t One of them is called an *' Ode to the Doctor ;" another, 
" The Grand Consultation ;" a third, " Moderate Men and Mod' 
erate Measures." The best of them is the second, which opens 
in this way : 

" If the health and strength, and the pure vital breath, 
Of old England at last must be doctored to death, 
Oh ! why must we die of one doctor alone ? 
And why must ^hat doctor be just such a one 

As Doctor Henry Addington ?" 
Those pieces have frequently been printed as Mr. Canning's ; but 
it is doubtful whether he wrote a single line of one of them. 


himself in a peerage. He bad already chosen a ti- 
tle — Lord Raleigh ; an absurdity, probably, which 
he never would have relinquished but for a jest of 
Lady Hester Stanhope's, in which he was sup- 
posed to be represented in a caricature, side by 
side with Queen Elizabeth* 

Canning was indefatigable in bis efforts to throw 
out the paltry ministry, and to bring back Pitt 
At this time he lived in Conduit4treet,t and could 
scarcely spare leisure, although the strain upon his 
constitution needed it, to take a little repose in the 
country from his constant exertions. . The only sto- 
len intervals of rest be appears to have allowed 
himself was an occasional visit to South Hill (his 
country house) with Mrs. Canning, whose health 
had been for some time delicate and precarious.^ 
He was incessantly moving about among his party 
to get up some manifestation of opinion that might 
bring about a change ; driving backward and for- 
ward from Dropmore to Walmer, and from Wal- 
mer to Dropmore; from George Rose to Tom 
Grenville, from Tom Grenville to Lord Malmes- 
bury ; inciting every body to action, and putting 
every engine he could think of in motion to turn 
out Addington. All this while Pitt was as motion- 
less, passionless, and mysterious as a stone sphynx. 

Several plans were suggested by Canning for 
Pitt's restoration. He labored nearly single-hand- 
ed, and would have been altogether alone but for 
three young friends whom he drew into counsel 
with him—Lord G. Leveson, Lord Morpeth, and 

* M Memoirs of Lady Heater Stanhope," i.,216, 

t At -the house No. 37. 

t Mr. Canning's eldest son, George Charles, was born on -the 
25th of April, 1801, and died on the 30th of March, 1820. Will- 
iam Pitt, the second son, was born on the 27th of December, 1802, 
became a captain in the navy, and died in 1828. It was on the, 
occasion of the birth of her second son that Mrs. Canning's health 

TfflB LIFE OF 0ANN1HG. 18? 

Mr, Sturges Bourne. These gentlemen were not 
of sufficient standing to possess much public influ- 
ence, but they were well adapted for the sort of 
work they undertook. They were perfectly in earn- 
est, had activity and zeal, and enough of prudence 
not to commit Pitt, which was all they cared about. 
Failure under such circumstances could recoil only 
on themselves. 

They watched every stir of the government^ not- 
ed every variation of public opinion, and took axU 
vantage of every circumstance that offered for keep- 
ing alive the flagging zeal of Pitt's friends, which 
was more than Pitt himself ever troubled his head 
about. No man whose ear could be caught in ei- 
ther House, or at the drawing-room, or at a din- 
ner-party, was suffered to go home without carry- 
ing away some gloomy hint about the pitiful con- 
duct of ministers, the impossibility of things going 
on as they were, and the absolute necessity of a 
change ; always ending in the ejaculation that there 
was only one man in the kingdom who could re- 
deem us from the deep disgrace into which we had 
fallen. Cut this tone was taken up here and there 
only by a few scattered old-school politicians, and 
even that doubtingly and slowly. There was no 
combination, no motive-power in the absence of the 
great leader. In fact, it was very difficult to get 
up a Pitt party. Personally Pitt repelled all en- 
thusiasm, and this movement was entirely a per- 
sonal affair. 

At one time it was suggested that the Duke of. 
York should open the matter to the king ; at an- 
other time it* was proposed that a remonstrance 
(which was drawn up by Canning) should be pre- 
sented to Addington, signed by a long list of influ- 
ential persons, requesting him to resign. But just 
as these friendly plots were ready for execution. 


Pitt was sure to hear of them through some med- 
dling, good-natured busy-body, and to put a stop to 
them at once. He was offended at the officious 
szeal of his friends, and especially offended with 
Canning^ who sinned in this respect beyond all the 

There was some injustice in the severity with 
which Pitt regarded these ardent efforts for his re- 
call ; but he had a right to judge for himself. Real 
anxiety for what he believed to be necessary to the 
salvation of the country may have carried Canning 
too far, particularly in his speeches. Pitt complain- 
ed of this as tending to embroil him with the min- 
istry by the assertion of doctrines and opinions in 
his name without his authority. t Canning was 
rash, headstrong, and even presumptuous in the 
course he took, and persisted in it at this period ; 
but it was in the exuberance of feelings that were 
honorable to his character. Nothing else can ex- 
plain or excuse the eagerness and freedom of his 
' correspondence with Pitt — with a man so lofty, so 
cold, so remote. He wrote to him constantly ; lit- 
erally fatigued him with long, bold, sincere letters, 
in which he fairly lectured him upon his ascetic 
resolution, and tried to argue him out of it. To 
these letters he sometimes got no reply; sometimes 
an answer that left him more in the dark than ever 
by assuring him of the impossibility of entering into 
any explanation at that moment ;•■ and sometimes a 

* Throughout all these " loving differences" their friendship 
continued firm. " My plans," said ^Pitt, "have not the concur- 
rence of my eager and ardent young friends (Canning and G. 
Leveson) ; but we are on the best of terms, and it is much more 
easy for me to forgive their impetuosity than for them to be in 
charity with me for treating office with so little regard, and keep- 
ing it at such a distance from those who are disposed to act with 

t " Diaries of Lord Malmesbury," jv., 127. Pitt's complaint* 
on these points are also alluded to by Lady Hester Stanhope. 


short, freezing, polite acknowledgment, that would 
have been to any other man a discharge in full from 
all such thankless services. Once, in a perplexity 
of temper about some unusually urgent matter 
which had just arisen, he determined to see Pitt, 
and wrote to announce that he would come down 
to Walmer ; but Pitt wrote back very, plainly to 
decline the visit. Still, Canning persevered. But 
it was all to no purpose. Pitt was stone to the 

Taking into consideration Canning's youth and 
position, and the peculiar relation in which he stood 
to the ex-minister (circumstances which, after all, 
furnish the best apologies for his conduct), it must 
be frankly allowed that he trespassed beyond his 
legitimate province in taking upon himself the re- 
sponsibility of advising Pitt, against his will, in this 
crisis, and in endeavoring,, whether Pitt liked it or 
not, to keep together the broken fragments of his 
party. He had not yet acquired sufficient person- 
al weight to justify the assumption of so prominent 
a part, and the manner 6f his interference was not 
calculated- to conciliate the jealousies his prosperi- 
ty had already created. His bearing was high and 
authoritative in quarters where, from the force of 
habit, the assertion of natural advantages over the 
advantages of birth, was resented as an indignity. 
With a person remarkably handsome, a head of 
great intellectual power as' well as beauty, an aris- 
tocratic carriage, which must have been intolerable 
to such as were envious of his success, brilliant 
abilities, and temper a little quickened, and spoiled 
by the admiration which had strewn his path with 
chaplets from his boyhood, and rendered bis whole 
life a progress of .ovations, it is easy to understand 
how many persons, and what sort of persons they 
were, whose self-love he must have offended by 


putting himself forward as the active friend of Pitt 
goring this interval of doubt and suspense. That 
the exigency of the occasion demanded such a 
man — with all his vehement contempt for the hesi- 
tating forms that wait upon convention, letting the 
tide of circumstance run past-— with all his youth- 
ful daring, and even his haughty vanity — we can 
see now clearly enough ; hut it was not so appa- 
rent then. Dukes, and earls, and honorables were 
thinking more of themselves, and of seeing to the 
pomp that marshaled the approaches to their great- 
ness, than of the one object which night and day 
consumed his spirit — an object which is historical 
with us, and which was then felt and understood by 
him alone in its overwhelming importance. 

It is true, he did not set about this darling proj- 
ect very coolly. He wondered that every body 
did not see it as be did, as quickly and as passion- 
ately. He had not been accustomed to impedi- 
ments or hinderauces, and he could, least of all, 
brook the kind of obstacles that fretted him now : 
dullness, lukewarmness, reserve, lordly insouciance 
—he was impatient of all this, and did not hesitate 
to show it. Lord Malmesbury touches the spring- 
head of these faults of character in Cannings when 
he savs that " he had been forced like a thriving 
plant in a well-managed hothouse ; had prospered 
too luxuriantly; had felt no check or frost; and 
too early in life had had many and too easy advan- 
tages," This was the secret of that confidence, 
almost amounting to arrogance, which led to so 
much misapprehension and misjudgment of his qual- 
ities ; and which prevented him from stooping to 
a popularity so easily obtained by men of more 
suppliant dispositions, and immeasurably inferior 
'powers. It was the error of the true nobility of 
his nature to look upon such popularity a* improper 

TUB LIFE OF CANNf*** , 191 

to be cultivated by a statesman. He treated with 
a rigorous dignity, very likely to be mistaken for 
contempt, the half-informed and class-prejudiced 
multitude upon which other public men diligently 
fawned. The chastity of his mind took the color 
of disdain. He had won his reputation with such 
facility— ^his good fortune had been so rapid, with- 
out a break in its ascent — and he had distanced all 
his contemporaries so suddenly and completely, 
with all their advantages against him, that some- 
thing of the flush of conquest was communicated 
to his manners. This was sufficient to inflame into 
open emnity the suppressed spleen by which he 
was surrounded. His successes were cause enough 
for malice, without this dazzling air, which looked 
so like conceit, to recall them at every turn. There 
is no difficulty in understanding how the action and 
reaction in this case, as in all others, aggravated 
the original grounds of resentment on both sides. 

But be was not to be discouraged by personal 
checks. He never relaxed in his exertions to 
bring back Pitt, although frequently baffled, vexed, 
and dispirited, and doomed to see one scheme 
after another melt into air. Addington grew 
firmer in his seat every day, acquiring increased 
assurance from the failure of the plots that were 
exploding about him on all sides. Numerous sig- 
nificant hints were thrown out to him, even by 
some members of the cabinet, Lord Camden, Pel- 
ham, and the Duke of Portland. But all in vain. 
Addington was not to be moved. He was a pro- 
digious favorite at Windsor, and stood upon that. 
The old king loved him for his anti-Catholicism ; 
.and his anti-Catholicism became more and more 
. strenuous for the king's dear love; and he knew 
that nothing short of the apparition of Bonaparte 
on the coast, or some equally horrible event, could 


frighten the king into his dismissal to make roottT 
for Pitt, or any one. else inclined that way. Of 
course, hints were thrown away upon Addington ; 
and scoffs and jeers were thrown away upon Ad- 
dington : he bore them* all with the unruffled com- 
placency of one who stood well with his lord, the 
kin?. In vain Sheridan exhausted his wit upon 
Addington, and threw the House into convulsions 
by his parody on Martial : 

" I do not like thee, Doctor Fell, 
The reason why, I can not tell ; 
But this I'm sure I know full well, 
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell." 

What did Addington care whether Sheridan liked 
him or not, so long as he knew the king loved him 1 
He rose with the impunity of possession, and the 
king's dotage.* 

But this could not last. - Cardhouses have a ca- 
pacity of standing only just so long as the air is 
perfectly motionless around them. • The moment a 
breath comes, they tumble down. Such was the 
fall of the Addington ministry. 

On the 23d of June, 1803, Colonel Patten 
brought forward a motion of want of confidence in 
the administration. Pitt, to avoid an expression 
of opinion either way, moved the previous question ; 
and, on this occasion, for the first and only time in 
his life, Canning voted against him. He declared 
that he could not conscientiously vote otherwise ; 
that the conduct of ministers was as disgraceful to 
themselves as it was mischievous to the people; 
that they had either duped England into a peace, 
which had turned out to be mere waste paper, or 
had themselves been duped by France ; and that 
they were utterly incapable of administering the 

* Lord Malmesbury says " that he latterly persuaded himself 
he had actually saved the king and the country by taking office." 


affairs of the country, which could no longer be in- 
trusted with safety to their hands. Pitt's amend- 
ment was negatived ; and he and his friends walked 
out of the House. Fox and his supporters refused 
to vote, and the original motion was lost by a large 
majority. But the debate disclosed a state of opin- 
ion from which ministers never recovered. The 
victory indoors was that of mere skeleton figures— 
the usual ministerial procession of placemen and 
boroughmongers. There was no soul beneath 
those numerical ribs. Even Pitt, from this time 
forth, began to distrust, and finally to oppose the 
administration. This was all that was wanted, at 
any moment, to bring it down crumbling to' the dust. 
So that, though long deferred, Canning had his 
triumph in full at last. 

The issue of sundry blind diplomacies on both 
sides was, that Pitt and Addington met; but 
whether the meeting was originally sought by Ad- 
dington or by Pitt, or whether it was official or 
private, can not be determined, as the only two per- 
sons who were competent to decide could not 
agree upon those points. The substance, however, 
of what passed at the interviews was.mutually ad- 
mitted. Addington wanted to get Pitt into the 
ministry ; for it seems he had stiffened latterly to- 
ward Pitt, and wrought himself into a notion that 
he could keep the control of the cabinet, with Pitt 
working under him ! Pitt, on the other hand, 
would have nothing to do with the ministry unless 
he were the head of it;* and not even on that 
condition 'unless he were directly commissioned by 
the king. They differed no less widely updn the 
elements of which the new government was to be 

* Pitt had made a resolution from the beginning of hie public 
life never to join any administration except as chief. He stood out 
for his market value at once, 


composed. Addington insisted upon the old syg* 
tem, and the old hands, Bragge, " Brother Hiley," 
and the rest of his troop. Pitt demanded a broader, 
basis, a larger constituency of opinion, a wider 
compass of parties and talents. At Pitt's own de- 
sire, for the purpose of preventing misconception, 
the articles were set down and submitted to the 
king; but his majesty received at the same time 
such an account of Pitt's exorbitant demands, that 
he was more displeased with him than ever. " He 
carries his removals/' said his majesty, " so far anct 
so high, that he will turn me out at last." And 
thus the negotiation ended. 

But the Addington sands were run. Even if the 
chief had not himself resigned, every other mem- 
ber of the cabinet must have gone out from the 
sheer impossibility of keeping the timbers of the 
wreck together. Matters having clearly come to 
this pass, Addington submitted with the best grace 
he could, but not without a little ill temper. He 
quarreled with Lord Hawkesbury before he gave 
up, and put the king out of humor by talking of 
personal bickerings, which his majesty very prop- 
erly told him he had nothing to do with. Adding- 
ton was no sooner gone than the king sent Lord 
Eldon to Pitt with a friendly message. Pitt, who 
had all this time kept aloof from the king's pres- 
ence, waiting with austerity to be summoned, drew 
up at Lord Eldon's request a paper, containing the 
heads of what he should require from the king, lay- 
ing down the plan of an administration on a scale 
so comprehensive as to embrace persons of the 
highest ability of all parties. This paper gave 
great offense to his majesty, who wrote back an 
answer to Lord Eldon, in which he spoke of Pitt 
in such terms that the letter could not be shown to 
him. The consequence was, that the negotiation 


halted for a week, and Parliament was kept in a 
Condition of suspended animation : Addington un- 
able to go on, and nobody knowing what was to 
happen next. 

By some means, however, Pitt and the king were 
brought together. This was on the 7th of May, 
1804. Pitt, unmoved by the disturbance that was 
going on in the frame of royalty, proposed his broad 
administration, including Fox. 

The king's hatred of Fox was a passion. Lord 
Eldon was accused of having taken advantage of 
the weak state of his majesty's mind to prejudice 
him against Fox, and prevent his admission into 
the cabinet. The accusation was made by Lord 
Grey and Lord Grenville. The chancellor denied 
it. Who could tell what had taken place with a 
crazy old man in the sanctuary of the royal closet) 
But there is no doubt that the chancellor had as 
profound an aversion to Fox as the king himself, 
for he admitted that he threatened to resign if Fox 
were brought in.* All the old court bigotry was 
concentrated upon this point; but had Pitt kept his 
ground, the king must have given way, as he was 
compelled to do only two years afterward. Unfor- 
tunately, he again sacrificed the* country to the su- 
perstitions of the sovereign. This was Pitt's in- 
firmity. He could not resist the tender melan- 
choly of the king — he who was like a bleak rock 
amid the roaring surge of popular discontent. 

As soon as he withdrew from the king he sent 
for Canning. Their confidence in each other had 
never suffered flaw. His impetuous young friend 
was the first person he thought of the moment he 
accepted office. Canning was dispatched to Lord 
Grenville, and Granville Leveson to Fox, to ac- 
quaint them with what had passed. Fox knew he 
• " Life of Lord Eldon," ii., 17. 


was proscribed, and although Pitt made a distinct 
overture to him, he declined office. All his friends 
refused to go in without him. Grenville, Wind- 
ham, Spencer, would have nothing to do with the 
administration unless it were based upon the com- 
prehensive principle, which the exclusion of Fox 
rendered impossible. Pitt stood alone. In vain 
he negotiated with Grenville, and he was so indig- 
nant at the rejection of his offers, that he said he 
would " teach that proud man he could do without 
him if it cost him his life." 4 * He kept his word too 
well. It did cost him his life. 

In this dilemma, he had nothing left but to patch 
up an administration irom the wretched debris of 
the Addington cabinet, and was even obliged in a 
few month" to call in Addington himself. But this 
connection did not last, although the minister tried 
to cement it with a peerage.t Addington, resigned 
in a pet, because Pitt would not all at once appoint 
Bond Hopkins and other joints of his tail to lucra- 
tive places.^ Personally, this was no great loss ; 
but Lord Buckingham resigned at the same time, 
and poor old Dundas, now Lord Melville, so long 
the indefatigable coadjutor of Pitt, was impeached 
for appropriating certain balances of the public 
money to his own use. These domestic disasters 
came heavily upon a ministry already suffering se- 
verely from external failure**. 

Canning's opinion of Pitt's position was made up 
even before his attempts at coalition failed. He 
saw that Pitt could not form a strong government; 
that the opportunity was lost for that union of par- 
ties which recent circumstances had so singularly 
conspired to favor ; and that a cabinet constructed 

\ * " Life of Lord Eldon," i., 449. 

fit was on this occasion Addington was created Viscount Sid- 
mouth. X " Diariea of Lord Matmesbury," it., 338. 


upon any other principle must inevitably fail. He 
communicated his impressions to Pitt before a sin- 
gle appointment was made out, assuring him, at the 
same time, that, for his own part, he would rather 
not take office, but that he was quite ready, if he 
could be of use, to do any thing Pitt desired ; that 
the cabinet was out of the question, as he did not 
yet consider himself qualified, and that there were 
only two offices which seemed to come to him in 
the regular course of promotion — those, of the treas- 
urer of the navy and the secretary at war. Pitt re- 
ceived this communication with his usual caution, 
went into the country, and, in a day or two, wrote 
to Canning, offering him his choice of the two offi- 
ces he had pointed out. He selected the former. 

There was probably a little reserve on both sides. 
Pitt had miscalculated his resources, and Canning 
had all along pertinaciously warned him of his dan- 
ger. Neither of them could haye been very well 
satisfied with the result, which was not the less 
mortifying to the minister because it had been fore- 
seen by the more active sagacity of his friend. 

The last effort of the Pitt cabinet, after strug- 
gling through two uncomfortable sessions, was 
the defense of Lord Melville, in which Mr. Can- 
ning, not less from his official connection with 
the subject than from old associations, bore a con- 
spicuous share. The feeling against Lord Melville 
was perfectly savage. It was not the shout of par- 
tisans that rang in his ears when the articles of im- 
peachment were carried against him, but the yell 
of blood-hounds. He was no sooner condemned 
than the House of Commons burst out with a growl, 
and one Sir Thomas Mostyn is said to have given 
a view hollo/ and to have exclaimed, " We have 
killed the Fox V 

Mr. Whitbread moved the articles of impeach* 
R 2 


ment. His speech was clear and able, but some 
passages struck Mr. Canning's acute sense of the 
ridiculous so forcibly, that he scribbled a parody on 
them while Mr. Whitbread was yet speaking. The 
following is the impromptu, now printed for the first 
time : 


Part of Mr. Whitbread's Speech, on the Trial of Lord Melville, 

pot into Terse by Mr. Canning at the time it wae delivered. 
" l*m like Archimedes for science and skill, 
I'm like a young prince going straight up a hill ; 
I'm like (with respect to the fair be it said), 
I'm like a young lady just bringing to bed. 
If you ask why the 1 1th of June f remember, 
Much better than April, or May, or November, 
On that day, my lords, with truth I assure ye, 
My sainted progenitor set up his brewery ; 
On that day, in the morn, he began brewing beer ; 
On that day, too, commenced his connubial career ; 
On that day he received and he issued his bills ; 
On that day he cleared out all the cash from his tills ; 
On that day he died, having finished his summing. 
And the angels all cried * Here's old Whitbread a-eoming!' 
So that day still I hail with a smile and a sigh, 
For his beer with an £, and his bier with an I ; 
And still on that day, in the hottest of weather, 
The whole Whitbread family dine altogether. 
So long as the beams of this house shall support 
.The roof which o'ershades this respectable court, 
When Hastings was tried for oppressing the Hindoos ; 
So long as that sun shall shine in at those windows, 
My name shall shine bright as my ancestor's shines, 
Mine recorded in journals, his blazoned on signs !" 

The issue of this trial, by which Lord Melville 
lost his office at the Admiralty, was erased from 
the list of the Privy Council, and fell into total dis- 
grace, seriously affected Pitt's spirits. His health 
was already giving way under the undue anxieties 
that devolved- upon him ; and he was so oppressed 
by the difficulties of his progress, that he reopened 
the negotiations with the Grenvilles toward the 
close of 1805. But they would not move with- 
out Fox ; and all that remained was to strengthen 


his administration from his own stock. With this 
view he made arrangements to bring Canning and 
Charles Yorke into the cabinet on the opening of the 
following session. Events on the Continent were 
beginning to favor him. The victory of Trafalgar, 
darkened only by the loss of Nelson, had been re- 
ceived throughout the country with joy, and the 
1 hopes of the people were beginning to revive. But 
in the midst of their hopes, Pitt was dying. Ex- 
traordinary mental exertions, imbittered in the end 
by the failure of all his plans, had done upon him 
the heavy work of time in the very flower of his 
manhood. The battle of Austerlitz finally crushed 
him. He died of old age, at forty-six.* 

No man was more misunderstood on some points 
than Pitt. No minister^ was ever so strangely 
praised for the worst parts of his policy, or so 
slighted for the best. No man ever got credit so 
largely for opinions he did not hold. These curi- 
osities of fame are illustrated with wonderful suc- 
cess in that famous epitaph upon him in the Guild- 
hall, written by Mr. Canning. 

Leaving the Sinking Fund and the War to the 
admiration of the Pitt Club, let us linger a mo- 
ment over a trait or two of Pitt's character, which 
are not so well known as they ought to be. This 
icy man, who was the cause of so much bloodshed 
and misery, was tenderly attached to Lady Eleanor 
Eden, and it nearly broke his heart to give her up, 
which he did from a conviction that the demands 
made upon his time by public affairs were incom- 
patible with the attentions due to such a woman. 
She is said to have been of a lofty style of beauty ; 
quite dazzling, from the grandeur of her forehead. 

# " Sir William Farquhar told me that he preserved his facul- 
ties till within twelve or fourteen hours of his death, which came 
on rapidly, and that Pitt died of old age at forty-six as much as if 
he had been ninety."—-" Diaries of Lord Malmesbury," iv., 346. 


Lord Malmeslfury telle us that there was areport that 
he was going to be married to her, his attachment 
had so far betrayed itself in society. He was gra- 
cious in all companies to women, and possessed an 
instinctive taste in matters of costume — he who was 
himself so plain and careless. Wraxall speaks of 
his " inclination" for one of the Duke of Richmond's 
daughters ; and Lady Hester Stanhope says there 
was a young lady he admired so much that he drank 
out of her shoe. Then he was fond of round games 
with young people, and used to play at speculation 
with the eagerness of a child. His private inter- 
course was full of little humanities, which nobody 
dreams of who regards him only as a statue mount- 
ed on a pedestal, with some hard state-paper rolled 
up and clutched in his hand. His manner was 
partly constitutional, and had something to do with 
the integrity of his mind, which did not deal in pro- 
fessions. All travelers in the highest regions of 
the Alps have observed that it is the property of 
the purest snow to be the coldest to the touch. 

Whatever this proud minister may have«appear- 
ed to strangers, he certainly had the power of at- 
tracting the affections of people immediately about 
him. Canning was devoted to him. It was not 
attachment — it was allegiance. During Pitt's life- 
time he followed him with reverence — after his 
death he declared himself his disciple.* " To one 
man, while he lived," said he, " I was devoted with 
all my heart, and all my soul. Since the death of 
Mr. Pitt, I acknowledge no leader; my political 
allegiance lies buried in his grave." t 

There was a closer resemblance between them 
than between Pitt and any other English states- 
man. In Canning, the points of similarity were 

* Speech at Lisbon in 1816. t Speech at Liverpool in 1812. 


more graceful and refined — in Pitt, more original 
and vigorous. They both possessed that faculty 
called genius / but Pitt's genius was more practical 
and diffusive. He was nearer to the people, and 
understood them better. Canning had less sym- 
pathy with them, treated them rather en prince, 
and dealt with popular topics more rhetorically. 
Pitt could afford to do things out of the openness 
of his intellect, which Canning was obliged to ap- 
proach dextrously. Pitt gave you the impression 
of a man who stood clearly on his purpose, and 
was too much in earnest to be conscious of any am- 
bition beyond it. Canning always had the classical 
air about him of an orator who felt he was address- 
ing posterity. 

The death of Pitt was an irretrievable calamity to 

his party, and no attempt was made to keep the 

•cabinet together. The king was once more alone 

in the royal closet. Even Lord Eldon could not 

comfort him. * 



It was the beginning of the year 1806, and the 
opening of Parliament was at hand. Time pressed ; 
an administration was to be formed on a sudden 
that should be able to conquer the difficulties that 
killed Pitt. But cabinet makers can not»make cab- 
inets without materials;. and they were not to be 
found on that side to which the king was accus- 
tomed to look for help, and to which his heart, pal- 
pitating under the weight of the coronation oath, 
now yearned more beseechingly than ever. 


In this extremity Lord Hawkesbury was sent 
for — the young gentleman whom the king himself 
used to say had no head. Great must have been 
the royal need when this headless nobleman was 
to be put at the head of the government. His 
•lordship, however, feeling that his head was not 
quite strong enough for the responsibility, very 
wisely showed his heels ; and there was no alter- 
native left but Fox and the Grenvilles. 

This might have been seized upon as a signal 
triumph over kingly prejudices, to see such a man 
as Fox borne into office on the shoulders of the 
people against the will of the monarch. But Fox 
had too fine a nature, too large, and liberal, and 
benevolent a spirit to exhibit or permit any exul- 
tation in such circumstances. His majesty had al- 
ways been haunted by a notion that Fox was a fe- 
rocious Republican, and that he would behave like* 
a sort of wild Orson if he got into the cabinet. But 
his majesty lived vto alter his opinion, and he often 
afterward declared that Fox acted toward him with 
the utmost personal deference, and never like a 
minister who had been forced upon him. , 

The new government, with Lord Grenville at 
its head, and Fox as Foreign Secretary, presented 
a powerful array, no less remarkable for ability 
than for a strong Whig aristocratical leaven fer- 
menting through the mass. This was the ministry 
that was designated All the Talent* — a title which 
Mr. Fox, in an admirable rebuke to Mr. Canning, 
gently repudiated by saying that it was impossible 
they could arrogate such a description to them- 
selves when they saw him on the opposite side of 
the House. 

There was one rueful mistake in the structure 
of the ministry — the admission of Lord Sidmouth. 
It brought, as usual, a train of evils with it, for 


Lord Sidmouth was a noun of multitude, and when 
he was appointed, it was necessary also to appoint 
his friends. On this occasion he stipulated that the 
chief-justice, Lord Ellenborough, should have a 
seat in the cabinet. Lord Ellenborough was a 
man of unquestionable merit ; but the union of the 
judicial and executive functions in one person was 
a bad precedent, and furnished the opposition with 
a legitimate topic of complaint. The arrangement 
is said to have been effected through the agency of 
Sheridan, at the express desire of the Prince of 
Wales, which gives it rather a worse complexion. 
His royal highness was beginning to turn before 
his time. It was not long since he had attempted 
to interfere, through the same channel, to prevent 
the presentation of the Catfiolic petition. The 
change in the prince's politics was at least prema- 
ture. Decomposition had begun to set in too soon 
upon his royal highness's principles. His father 
still " sat crowned and sceptered." 

Mr. Canning took his stand upon this appoint- 
ment at once, and set up the - ensign of hostility, 
which he never lowered until the administration 
was dissolved. He did not become simply a mem- 
ber of the opposition, but its influencing spirit and 
vital principle. He now presents himself for the , 
first time as a bold and able party leader, seizing 
every opportunity for improving the prospects of 
his own side, and for surprising and damaging the 
enemy. In this new character he discovered un- 
expected practical talent in the business of debate, 
and was recognized without hesitation as the head 
of the movement. There was nobody else quali- 
fied to succeed to the great vacancy, nobody else 
in whose capacity his party placed sufficient reli- 
ance, or who was known to have so entirely pos- 


teased the confidence, or inherited the opinions of 

Pitt. - 1 

That opposition was dne of the most determined | 

ever witnessed in Parliament. It spared no means 
or materials by which the administration could be 
effectually assailed. Among other weapons to 
which it resorted was the " No Popery" cry. Mr. 
Canning can scarcely have had any thing to do * < 
with this war-whoop. He was himself an advo- ' 

cate for emancipation ; and although at this period \ 

he had never voted on the subject but once, and 
that against the measure— or, more technically, 
against the expediency of its introduction in 1804 — 
he can not be suspected of having had any share in 
getting up a senseless clamor, which the entire 
tendency of his conduct proves him to have held 
in odium and contempt. 

But this cry, dishonest as it was, materially as- 
sisted the aims of the opposition, who were not 
loth to avail themselves of it to the full extent of 
all the mischief it might produce. As upon for- 
mer occasions, the aid of ridicule was drawn in, to 
strengthen out of doors the labors of the restless 
malcontents within ; and Mr. Canning's reputation 
was again put into requisition as sponsor for cer- 
tain verses that appeared at this time in the public 

The best of these is a piece called " Elijah's 

Mantle," which contains, among other scraps of 

pleasant malice, the following passage on Lord 

Henry Petty (the present Marquis of Lansdown), 

who held the office of chancellor of the exchequer 

in the new cabinet. 

" Illustrious Roscius of the State ! 
New breech'd and harness'd for debate, 

Thou wonder of thy age ! 
Petty or Betty art thou hight 1 
By Grants sent to strut thy night 

On Stephens 1 bustling stage. 


44 Pitt's 'Chequer robe 'tis thine to wear; 
Take of his mantle, too, a share, 

'Twill aid thy Ways and Means 
. And should Tat Jack and his Cabal 
Cry ' Rob us the Exchequer. Hal !' 

'Twill charm away the fiends." 

Another piece, called " Blue and Buff/ 9 is less 
in the manner of Canning, although attributed to 
him with equal confidence. Whether such squibs 
were really written by the brilliant leader of the 
opposition, was of little consequence, so long as 
they were received as his* and obtained influence 
and circulation under the sanction of his name; 
and as Mr. Canning himself never interfered to 
claim or disavow them, the members of his party 
could scarcely be expected to repudiate a decep- 
tion so serviceable to their interests. 

One of Mr. Canning's most effective speeches 
was in reply to a motion made by Windham for 
the repeal of the Additional Force Bill. In this, 
as in other motions brought forward by the admin- 
istration, especially the United Service Bill, the 
new ministers developed a military system which 
differed materially from that of Pitt, which pro- 
ceeded upon opposite and more popular princi- 
ples, proposing to mitigate the seventies of com- 
pulsory enlistment, and to introduce periodical 
terms of service, at the end of which the soldier 
would be at liberty to demand his discharge. All 
these measures were opposed ineffectually by Mr. 
Canning. He maintained~the superior efficacy of 
Mr. Pitt's iron rule, which converted a soldier into 
a shooting machine, and was convinced, should it 
ever be relaxed, that there would be no resource 
left but the conscription. His speeches on these 
questions ,are among the most successful he ever 
delivered as party speeches ; rapid in argumenta- 
tion, crowded with the happiest images, splendid in 


retort, and satirical to a height of bitterness, which 
would have been intolerable but for the wit which 
lighted up and carried off the invective. 

This bitterness, unfortunately, lay at the bottom 
of the hostility with which the administration was 
uniformly assailed from first to last. It was not 
ordinary party warfare^ It was a contest of exter- 
mination — war to the knife, and no quarter. Wind- 
ham was especially the object of vituperation, be* 
cause he had been Pitt's colleague for eight years, 
had invariably supported hi* Continental System, 
and was now to be found in the ranks of his oppo- 
nents. Mr. Canning endeavored to provoke disun- 
ion between Windham and bis new allies, by show- 
ing how widely they differed on some essential 
points. One of these was the total separation of 
the civil and the military character, which Wind- 
ham maintained was indispensable to the discipline 
of the army. The soldier, he asserted, should be 
cut off from the rest of the population, shut up in 
his own world, and never permitted to approxi- 
mate toward the immunities of the citizen. Yet 
all the principal Whigs set up the opposite doctrine, 
and espoused Mr. Windham's military measures, 
on grounds the very reverse of those on which Mr. 
Windham introduced them. 

44 He has heard it asserted/' exclaimed Mr. Canning,' 
" as the main principle and chief praise of his measure, 
that it promotes and secures this contaminating union ; 
and, to my astonishment, he has accepted in silence the 
panegyrics which his feelings must have disavowed. I 
can excuse him for having disdained to answer the at- 
tacks of his opponents, but I am surprised that he should 
not have vindicated himself from the support of his 

The key-note of the opposition was, the dispro- 
portion between the professions and the perform- 
ances of ministers. 


"A story," said Mr. Canning, "has been related by one 
of his majesty's ministers of an old Roman moralist, who 
wished to build his house in such a style of architecture 
that every person could see into it. Like this man's 
house, the transactions of the present ministry are to be ; 
but I am inclined to believe that the architecture of the 
house is not Roman, but Gothic ; and that it is only re- 
markable for its huge windows that exclude the light, 
and its narrow passages that lead to nothing.". 

The taunt was uricandid. But we must not look 
for candor from an angry opposition. The embar- 
rassments by which ministers were impeded on all 
sides were not of their own making. They found 
them ready made ; and before they could take any 
decisive step in advance, it was necessary to re- 
lieve their feet of the meshes in which their pred- 
ecessors had entangled them. 

Were it possible to have obtained a solid peace 
with France, Fox alone could have negotiated it 
with Buccess. He was personally known to Bona- 
parte,* and idolized by the French people on ac- 
count of the noble stand he had made against the 
European confederacy in the^tirae of the Revolu- 
tion. His opinions on that subject were well un- 
derstood and appreciated on the Continent, and will- 
fully misrepresented at home. Burke once said 
that the Revolution had shaken Fox's heart into 
the wrong place. Fox, more wise and generous, 
speaking of Burke's book on the Revolution, said, 
" Burke is right after all ; but Burke' is often right 
-*-only he is right too soon." This was the real 
difference between them. 

If any English minister had a chance of being 
received in a cordial spirit by the French goyern- 

* Mr. Fox took advantage of the short peace of Amiens to con- 
sult the archives at Paris for materials connected with his histo- 
ry, and, in common with the rest of the English, waited upon the 
First Consul at the Tuileries. 


ment, it was unquestionably Fox. But he Jailed in 
his object — an object very near to his heart in tak- 
ing office. Why did he fail ? Because he had all 
the Pitt disputes to clear up first ; and it was not 
easy to restore a good understanding where Pitt 
had been embroiling the negotiation beforehand; 
for, of all men in the world, Pitt was the fondest of 
troubled waters, perhaps on account of his extra* 
ordinary skill in fishing in them. 

For this failure, Mr. Canning ungenerously at- 
tempted to cast a slur on Mr. Fox's memory, and, 
in an amendment on the address in December (read, 
but not moved), he deliberately censured one of 
the noblest acts of that ministers life— the intima- 
tion Fpx conveyed to M. Talleyrand of a plot which 
had been communicated to him for the assassina- 
tion of the First Consul. Mr. Canning's conduct to- 
ward Mr. Fox, upon all occasions after the death 
of Pitt, was irreconcilable with the general tenor 
of his Parliamentary life ; it was irascible and vin- 
dictive, and not always ingenuous. Some allow- 
ance, perhaps, ought to be made for the heats of 
political controversy, although it is hard to find any 
excuse for temporizing with justice. But every 
public man discloses his human frailty in leaving 
us something to forgive ; so let these faults of Mr. 
Canning's — and serious faults they were— be con- 
signed to oblivion along with the multitudes of fu- 
gitive political errors which have their origin in 
temporary excitements, and expire with the occa- 
sion that gave them birth. 

If Fox failed in exacting a peace to satisfy Mr. 
Canning, he had the higher glory of bringing for- 
ward measures for the abolition of the slave-trade, 
for which his name will be held in veneration by 
the latest posterity. " The ardent wishes of his 
mind," said Lord Howick, speaking of him with 


deep emotion shortly after his death, " were to con- 
summate, before he died, two great works on which 
he had set his heart \ and these were the restora- 
tion of a solid and honorable peace, and the aboli- 
tion of the slave-trade." His last effort was upon 
this question, when he made that memorable dec- 
laration, that if, during the forty years he had sat in 
Parliament, he had accomplished nothing else, he 
should think he had done enough ! 

How strange it is to look back upon the odd fan- 
cies people formerly entertained on this question 
of the abolition ! They had no clear conception of 
its bearings. The agitation of it seemed to disturb 
all fixed ideas. When it was first started, it had 
much the .same sort of effect as a proposal for un- 
loosening the settlements of landed property, or an- 
nihilating the funds. People looked upon it in 
vague dismay as a movement against vested rights 
and long-established privileges. They had got con- 
fused notions into their heads about the slave-trade 
and slavery; they confounded them at first, scarce- 
ly knew there was any difference between them or 
what it was, and so fell into a state of crude, mop- 
ing superstition, very difficult to be dealt with by 
the vulgar processes of reasoning. 

Wilberforce was the Parliamentary apostle of 
abolition. He worked at it day and night, and 
prayed for it with his daily bread. Honor to him 
for that, in spite of ail his crotchety little ways and 
eccentricities ! But he was a sad bore to Pitt, al- 
ways popping in his fears and misgivings at the 
most inopportune moments ; a sort of philanthropic 
Paul Pry, perpetually forgetting his umbrella, and 
hoping he didn't intrude. Nobody ever had such 
an inobtrusive way of obtruding his advice upon 
every body. No matter what the question was, or 
who the person, or how slight the acquaintance, 


Wilberforce was sure to find some excuse for a 
bint or a warning with such excellent intentions, 
that it was impossible to give vent to the vexation 
he occasioned. He had no suspicion of the possi- 
bility of doing mischief, but went blundering on 
with the most amiable sincerity of purpose, good- 
naturedly setting all his friends right, and knocking 
his head against every body's business, with a sim- 
plicity of character upon which experience was 
wasted in vain. 

The dull integrity of Wilberforce was always for 
going forward in and out of season ; all he looked 
to was the truth and justice of the matter, and that 
he thought would carry it against all obstacles ; he 
had no idea of the low struggle of passions and in- 
terests which renders the cunning use of means 
even more essential to success than the purity of 
the end ; he never could be brought to understand 
the value of timing and economizing his efforts ; 
and, like an unpracticed rower, he expended a hun- 
dred-fold more strength upon the oar than, skilfully 
employed, was necessary to propel the boat. 

To Pitt, when he was in office, all this was quite 
fearful ; for Wilberforce had not the remotest no- 
tion of ministerial machinery, of Parliamentary 
tact, or the necessity of management, and he used 
to be struck with amazement at Pitt's sagacity and 
cleverness in that way, which seemed to him like 
an inspiration. Whenever he saw any thing wrong, 
or what he supposed to be wrong, he could n© 
more help himself from just pointing it out than 
faithful watch-dogs can help their instinct in bark- 
ing at footsteps in the night. He would, make the 
most awkward motions out of sheer benevolence 
and good-heartedness to the indescribable embar- 
rassment of government, or the total discomfiture 
of his own friends, and once was on the point of 


making a motion which would hare broken up the 
administration — a result as far from his intention as 
the destruction of the monarchy itself— and was 
only prevented by a private entreaty from Pitt. 
But what was to be done with this charitable, un- 
wise man — this gentle, impracticable being 1 To 
oppose him openly was out of the question, for 
there was really no gainsaying him on principle : 
he was propriety itself carried to a fault ; it would 
be like opposing one of the decencies of life, al- 
though every body must feel how inconvenient it 
.is to have even the decencies themselves thrust un- 
der one's eyes, and wrung in one's ears every hour 
in the day. 

But those very qualities which rendered Wilber- 
force so unsafe and so tantalizing on all other ques- 
tions made him the fittest man in the world for the 
slave-trade. It required all his perseverance, all 
his enthusiasm, all that faculty of resistance to the 
petty harassing difficulties which eternally rose up 
against him, increasing as he advanced; that happy 
constitution of mind which kept him still fresh and 
sanguine in the midst of disappointments ; that for- 
tunate blindness of zeal which enabled him not to 
see) impediments of a kind which would have seri- 
ously interfered with the amour propre of other 
men; that, enduring faith which sustained him 
through good and evil ; and that vanity— for vani- 
ty be had, supreme and towering — which carried 
him like a butterfly ~to the end. Wilberforce was 
the only man who could have worked on in Parlia- 
ment for the abolition with the requisite one-idead 
energy. He was not a man for a crisis, but a man 
for a continuance ; a great man for a committee— 
a great sitter — a great sifter of small facts-— a man 
not to be put down by fatigue so Jong as it bore 
upon his own paramount object — a man who had 


always a quantity of papers and correspondence in 
his pocket about cruelties and atrocities, which he 
whipped out and read at every opportunity — who 
never met you in the street, but he had a new fact 
to tell you about the horrors of slavery — who con- 
trived to insinuate that one subject into every com- 
pany and every topic of conversation^ — and who 
grew so completely identified with it, that, when- I 

ever he made his appearance, or wherever you fell | 

in with his name, he at once brought the question 
to your mind, and set you thinking about die poor 
blacks. All this made Wilberforce, personally, 
very troublesome ; and, in spite of the toleration 
which the amenity of his manners secured for him, 
people often tried to keep clear of him as well as 
they could without offense. But this was the' only 
way in which the abolition could ham been carried. 
It was this that diffused the feeling of indignation 
throughout the upper classes, and brought them to 
a familiar knowledge of the crimes which their hu- 
manity, thus perpetually urged, prohibited at last. 
But even this constancy of Wilberforce's could not 
have achieved its object, had it not been seconded 
by the moral influence of his character. No weight 
of personal authority alone could have effected it, 
and mere perseverance, without high character, 
would have gone for nothing. Wilberforce happi- 
ly united both. 

The noblest eloquence was long expended upon 
this subject in vain. What eould eloquence do 
against the phalanx of prejudice and selfishness by 
which it was opposed % Slavery was looked upon 
as a right— one of. the rights of property. The slave- 
trade was, of course, essential to its maintenance. 
At first all the country gentlemen rose en masse 
against any interference with it. The commercial 
body fought for it as if it were a balance of ex- 


changes in perpetuity. The lawyers defended it 
as they would an entail. The army and navy stood 
up for it as they would for the honor of the British 
flag. Lord Eldon flatly denied the doctrine that 
the principle of slavery was incompatible with our 
Constitution ; in fact, he seemed to think that the 
Constitution couldn't get' on without it ; and Gen- 
eral Gascoigne— brave General Gascoigne ! — de- 
clared that, so far from abolishing the slave-trade, 
it ought to be increased ; and that if slavery had 
never before existed in the world, it ought to be 
begun now ! All the strong old monopolies and 
superstitions were up against the abolition, headed 
by the giant West India interest, and followed by 
all the other ogre monopolies, none knowing whose 
turn might come next. And then' there were many 
strictly Christian people, who, like ants, made it a 
solemn law to themselves to follow in the track over 
which the burden of their faith was first carried, 
and who, holding the same belief that was held be- 
fore the Flood, were convinced, and not to be put 
out of their conviction by any human means, that 
the slave-trade (or slavery, for it was all one to 
them) was an old. Scriptural institution ; and these 
faithful people would as soon have thought of knock- 
ing down the parish churches, or putting the Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury on short commons, or any 
Other imaginable sacrilege, as of preventing a free 
trade in the blood, bones, and muscles of the blacks, 
or black-a-moors, as some of the funny members 
of the opposition used to call them; The friends 
of abolition had to contend against these fierce and 
motley cohorts, who were themselves the bitterest 
opponents on general questions, but united in total 
blindness upon this, like enemies who met in the! 
dark and kept close together for mutual protection. 
- In spite of thi* extensive conspiracy, Mr. Fox's 


resolution was agreed to in the Commons by a ma- 
jority of 114 to 15, then sent up to the Lords and 
carried. Lord Castlereagh voted against it. That 
was faction. Mr. Canning declared that it was im- 
possible for the ingenuity of man to devise a form 
of words for the repeal of the slave-trade in which 
he should not concur ; but he censured ministers 
for not bringing the subject more fully before Par- 
liament It was necessary to find some objection, 
and it is hardly to be regretted that the objection 
which he did find was so little to the purpose. 

Under the malignant spell of party spirit, he 
carped at every proposition that came from the op- 
posite side. He was an uncompromising champion, 
nevertheless, in this great cause. His speech in 
1799 demolished most of the dogmas upon which 
the defenders of the slave-trade relied. A glance 
at one or two passages will show how thoroughly 
he had entered into the subject. 

One of the points set up was that of the right- 
on unfortunate assumption at a time when the 
French had brought rights of all kinds into disre- 

" The right ! I have learned, indeed, by painful experi- 
ence of what has of late years passed in the world, to as- 
sociate the word right with ideas very different from those 
which, in old times, it was calculated to convey. I have 
learned to regard the mention of rights as prefatory to 
bloody, destructive, and desolating doctrines, hostile to the 
happiness and to the freedom of mankind. . Such has been 
the lesson which I have learned from the rights of man. 
But never, even in the practical application of that de- 
tested and pernicious doctrine, never, I believe, has the 
word right been so shamefully affixed to murder, to dev- 
astation, to the invasion of public independence, to the 
pollution and destruction of private happiness, to gross 
and unpalliated injustice, to the spreading of misery and 
mourning over the earth, to the massacre of innocent in- 


drviduals, and to the extermination of unoffending nations: 
never before was the word right so prostituted and mis- 
applied, as when the right to trade in man's blood was 
asserted by the enlightened government of a civilized 
country. It is not wonderful that the slavery of Africa 
should be described by a term consecrated to French 

Another argument was, that the slave-trade was 
the means of rescuing the negroes from a worse 
fate, because they were all either convicts or pris- 
oners of war at home, and if not sold for slaves, 
would be put to death. The Legislature of Jamai- 
ca, with this general assertion on their lips, had just 
passed an act to prohibit the importation of slaves 
above twenty-five years old. Mr. Canning treated 
this, act with scorn and derision. How were the 
custom-house officers to distinguish the contraband 
importation 1 How was the age to be known t 
By what parish register 1 By what testimony % 
By mark of mouth ? 

"All this has been gravely argued. But mark how 
the Assembly of Jamaica has put it down. They will 
take nothing above twenty-five years old. How is this? 
Have they found some secret by which they can pre- 
vent any African from being guilty of a crime, any Afri- 
can from being made a prisoner of war, after he was five- 
and-twenty ? Or did they mean to consign all those who 
were above that age, and were yet, in spite of this salu- 
tary regulation, which precluded them from all escape 
from their country, so headstrong as to become convicts 
and captives, to consign them unpityingly to their fate ? 
The women, too — they were not to be more than twen- 
ty-five. Their crime, the House had often been told (as 
they could not be prisoners of war), was witchcraft. What 
secret had the Assembly of Jamaica found by which the 
practice of that dark act (which I am far from meaning 
to defend) could be confined within the limits of five- 
and-twenty ? Or were they determined to rescue none 
but the young witches, and to leave the old ones to their 


fate T I am attained to appear to treat with levity a 
subject at which I can not look without horror and disgust; 
but when the most absurd and unreasonable pretenses 
are set up in defense of the most abominable practices, 
it is impossible not to feel the attempt to impose on one's 
understanding as an aggravation of the outrage to one's 

Now that the slave-trade and its ghastly horrors, 
and its train of shattered fallacies and impudent 
pretenses, have all vanished, the attempts that used 
to be made in Parliament to prop up the iniquity 
appear nearly incredible. One gentleman — be his 
name immortal ! — Sir W.Young, defended slavery 
on the ground that it had produced some of the 
greatest men among the ancients. "If," said he, 
"gentlemen would look into their 'Macrobius, 9 
they would find that half the ancient philosophers 
had been slaves." Another gentleman, in the same 
debate, objected to a fact stated by Mr. Wilber- 
force, that there were parts of Africa where civili- 
zation was making such progress, that books were 
not uncommon among the inhabitants. " Books f 
exclaimed Mr. Dent, in the utmost alarm; " books ! 
the black-a-moor have books ! and this given, too, 
as a reason why they should not be exported as 
slaves ! What produced the French Revolution ? 
Books! He hoped whatever the House did, it 
would not be induced to stop the slave-trade, in or- 
der that the inhabitants of Africa might stay at 
home to be corrupted by books !" " Now I must 
complain," said Mr. Canning, " of a little unfair- 
ness in the arguments of the honorable baronet and 
the honorable gentleman, thus contrasted with each 
other. « Export the natives of Africa/ said the 
honorable gentleman, ' lest they become literati at 
home.' * Bring them away,' said the honorable 
baronet, * that they may become philosophers in the 
West Indies.' I much doubt whether the remedy 


or the disease be the worse for the patient ; but, 
undoubtedly, it does seem a little hard that no 
means could be found to prevent the dangers of 
African literature except in the practical philoso- 
phy of the "West Indies." 

The greatest stress of all was laid upon the an- 
tiquity of slavery. This was a difficulty which 
paralyzed many persons of tender conscience. 
They felt with you that slavery was cruel, that it 
blighted human beings, crushed the godlike part 
of them, and reduced them to the condition of the 
lower animals. But it was a sacred institution ; it 
had flourished in the earliest ages ; it had a divine 
origin, and was tabooed by the consecrating band 
of time. Mr. Canning did not forget to deal with 
this hoary superstition. It is one of the happiest 
passages in the speech. 

. " Little, indeed, did I expect to hear the remote ori- 
gin and long duration of the slave-trade brought forward 
with triumph ; to hear the advocates of the slave-trade 
put in their claim for the venerableness of age and the 
sacredness of prescription. What are the principles 
upon which we allow a certain claim to our respect to 
belong to any institution which has subsisted from remote 
time F What is the reason why, when any such insti- 
tutions had, by the change of circumstances or manners, 
become useless, we still tolerated them, nay cherished 
them with something of affectionate regard, and even 
when they became burdensome, did not remove them 
without regret ? What,, but because in such institu- 
tions, for the most part, we saw the shadow of departed 
worth or usefulness, the monument and memorial of 
what had, in its origin, or during its vigor, been of serv- 
ice or of credit to mankind ? Was this the case with 
the slave-trade ? Was the slave-trade originally begun 
upon some principle of public justice or national honor, 
which the lapse of time, which the mutations of the world 
have alone impaired and done away ? Has it to plead 
former merits, services, and glories, in behalf of its pres- 


out foulness and disgrace ? Was its infancy lovely, *r 
its manhood useful, though in its age it is become thus 
loathsome and perverse? No. Its infant lips were 
stained with blood. Its whole existence has been a se- 
ries of rapacity, cruelty, and murder. It rests with the 
House to decide whether it will allow to such a life the 
honors of old age, or endeavor to extend its duration." 

If Mr. Canning did not lend the aid of his elo- 
quence to assist the triumph of Mr. Fox's abolition 
resolution, it was because he believed that the ne- 
cessity of getting rid of the new administration was 
paramount to every other consideration. But he 
could not withdraw the influence of his opinion, 
which was explicitly announced in a declaration 
that he was " decidedly in favor of the speedy ex- 
tinction of that disgraceful traffic." 

That there were some grounds for Mr. Canning's 
sleepless hostility against these ministers, must, of 
course, be conceded. No administration is perfect. 
The Grenville administration contained elements 
which were extremely difficult of combination. 
Windham was theoretical, hasty, and sometimes 
impracticable. Grenville kept in check the tend- 
ency of his colleagues toward one class of do- 
mestic improvements, and Sidmouth suppressed 
another. There were balances to be consulted and 
poised before any measure could be agreed upon ; 
and this led to delays in some instances, and to an 
imperfect utterance of the real designs of the cab- 
inet in others. Nor were these the only personal 
impediments that acted as a drag upon the progress 
of the government. Sheridan had latterly grown 
careless, and had fallen into the prince's interest, and 
given so little support to Fox, that an estrangement 
gradually grew up between them.* Differences 

* Sheridan called on Fox during his illness, when the latter 
requested Lord Grey to remain in the room, in order to prevent 
any private conversation. The interview was cold and short. 


of temper, too, became apparent between Pox, 
whose composure was never ruffled even by the 
attacks of Canning, and Grenville, whose haughty 
conduct throughout the war was not well calculated 
to promote the happy issue of the negotiations with 
France. Yet, notwithstanding all this, the spirit 
of the administration was comprehensive and en- 
lightened ; and the proceedings of the opposition 
were factious, harassing, and vindictive. 

Mr. Pitt would never have carried on an op- 
position with so little candor and so much bitter- 
nose. He had a higher sense of what was due to 
Mr. Fox and to himself. Mr. Canning, in this 
single instance, sacrificed every thing to his attach- 
ment to Mr. Pitt's memory. He went beyond Mr. 
Pitt in his defense of Mr. Pitt's principles. It 
could not have been more ably done— it might have 
been done more fairly. Justice had greater claims 
upon him than Pitt. # 

The effect of this incessant warfare upon the en- 
feebled frame of Fox, already sinking under a se- 
vere illness, was fatal in the end. He strugglod as 
long as he could ; attended the House night after 
night to answer Canning; but his opponent was 
too young and elastic for him ; and at last he was 
missed from his accustomed seat. These debates 
had broken him down. He wished to breathe the 
air of St. Anne's Hill, but the journey, short as it 
is, wa9 impossible in his state ; and the Duke of 
Devonshire proposed that he should break it by 
resting on the way at the duke's villa at Chiswick. 
He was removed to Chiswick, where he lingered 
a- few days, and died. What solemn thoughts must 
have pressed themselves upon Mr. Canning's mind, 

* Mr. Canning's numerous speeches during this period must be 
traced through the regular Parliamentary records. They are not 
preserved in any other collection. 


could he have looked onward and foreseen an event 
which was to happen within a few years in the 
same chamber, produced, in a great degree, by very 
similar causes ! But it is wisely ordained that the 
practical admonitions of life shall be gathered from 
the experiences of the past, and not from the terrors 
of the future. 

The death of Mr. Fox, following so soon upon 
the death of Pitt, broke up the close masses known 
as the two great parties in this country. They 
were no longer to be distinguished by the same 
marks — they were no longer bound together by the 
same obligations. Hitherto people were not to 
say Tories or Whigs, but Pittites or Foxites. It 
was not that they believed in this or that set of 
principles, but that, they believed in Pitt, or Fox. 
It was the ruling mind that led them. Now they 
were to be guided by other means, and the means 
were yet to be devised. 

Lord Howick succeeded Fox at the Foreign 
Office, and discharged his trust with great ability. 
To his hands was committed the introduction of a 
bill in the Commons for securing to all his majesty's 
subjects in common the privilege of serving in the 
army or navy. By the Irish Act of 1793, Catholics 
were already qualified to serve in Ireland ; but the 
provisions of that act applied only to Ireland. This 
incongruity consequently arose, that should an Irish 
regiment be called into England (to which con- 
tingency all Irish regiments were liable under the 
Union), the Catholics would be compelled to leave 
the service, the English law not permitting Catho- 
lics to carry arms in defense of the country ! The 
new bill proposed to extend the Irish Act to Eng- 
land. It also proposed to allow Catholics and Dis- 
senters to attain the highest ranks in both services. 
Upon the latter provision his majesty quarreled 
with his ministers. 


Lord Grenville declared in his place in the 
House, that the bill had been, in the first instance/ 
submitted to his majesty, and approved of by him* 
Lord Sidmouth declared that his majesty did not 
understand it, and that he was under the impres- 
sion that it did nothing more than extend the Irish 
law to England. Mr. Perceval, who was beginning 
just about this time to make himself very conspic- 
uous on all subjects relating to religious tests, as- 
serted that the question at issue really was, whether 
the Legislature should give up Protestant ascend- 
ency or not ! 

His majesty's distress on the slightest allusion to 
a Catholic concession must be referred to the state 
of his nerves. He was kind-hearted and benevo- 
lent on other subjects. But the mention of a Cath- 
olic produced upon him much the same sort of ef- 
fect which Gulliver tells us is produced upon Eng- 
lish ladies by the sight of a toad. This one settled 
abhorrence was forever agitating his mind. Some- 
thing of the same sort seems to have danced in the 
blood of a few of his ancestors ; and in this respect 
he particularly resembled his grand-father, who is 
said to have had a horror of vampires. 

Ministers withdrew the bill. They could not 
force the royal conscience, but they were resolved 
to vindicate their own. Lord Grenville and Lord 
Howick expressed their desire to reserve, in the 
minutes of the cabinet, a right to declare their 
opinions on this measure, and to renew it at any 
time they thought proper. The king was terrified, 
and demanded a written pledge that they would 
never agitate the subject again. The demand was 
refused. After this it was impossible the king, who 
would not be advised, and his advisers, who would 
not be coerced, could keep together. Mr. Perce- 
val sprang the rattle of Church in Danger ! and, 


to use Mr. Windham's phrase, the old intolerant 
party, after having abdicated their claims for two 
successive Parliaments, " stole into power under 
the despicable cry of * No Popery !' " 

On the 24th of March, 1807, the retiring min- 
isters delivered up the seals of office, and had the 
satisfaction of closing their labors by obtaining the 
king's assent, in their last interview with him, to 
the bill for abolishing the slave-trade. 

This able administration was driven out by 
clamor, and through the insidious power exerted 
over the poor old king by men as bigoted as him- 
self, but more capable and cunning. Lord Eldon 
and Lord Hawkesbury enjoy the historical honor 
of being considered as his majesty's chief instiga- 
tors on this occasion. Mr. Canning stands clear 
of it : indeed, so far from having participated in the 
underhand means that were employed to procure 
the dismissal of ministers, he no sooner learned that 
such a result was likely to take place than he com- 
municated it, with what delicacy he might, to that 
section of the government with whom he happened 
to be on terms of private friendship, urging them 
to the necessity of adopting some course to avert 
his majesty's displeasure. His enmity, however it 
is to be lamented on other grounds, was at least 
open, loud, and public. Nor did it die with its ob- 
ject, if the following lines, which may be described 
as the epitaph of the Grenville administration, 
written by its bitterest opponent, were justly as- 
cribed to him. 


When the broad-bottpm'd junta, with reason at strife, 

Resign'd, with a sigh, its political life ; 

When converted to Rome, and of honesty tired, 

They £ave hack to the devil the soul he inspired ; 

The demon of faction that over them hung, 

In «ccents of horror their epitaph sung ; 


While Pride and Venality join'd in the stave, 

And canting Democracy wept at the grave. 
" Here lies in the tomb that we hollow'd for Pitt, ' 

Consistence of Grenville, of Temple the wit ; 

Of Sidmouth the firmness, the temper of Grey, 

And Treasurer Sheridan's promise to pay. 
" Here Petty's finance, from the evils to come, 

"With Fitzpatrick's sobriety creeps to the tomb ; 

And Chancellor Ego,** now left in the lurch, 

Neither dines with the Jordan t nor whines for the Church. 
" Then huzza for the party that here is at rest, 

By the fools of a faction regretted and bless'd ; 

Though they sleep with the devil, yet theirs is the hope, 

On the downfall of Britain to rise with the pope/' 

Other stinging satires on the same subject were 
also attributed to him, but without much apparent 

In the strife of parties, as in love, all things are 
considered fair. But if the verses above cited were 
really written by Canning, they are not creditable 
to him. It is bad enough to make war upon the 
dead; but it is worse to employ weapons which 
would have been despised in the lifetime ef the 
adversary. . In these rabid lines the " No Popery" 
cry is revived, and shouted with frantic exultation 
over the grave of the Whig Cabinet. We can fancy 
it alj to belong to Mr. Canning — except the use 
which is made of that most unworthy expedient. 

The great crime of the Grenville ministry was, 
that it took office at a wrong moment. It was im- 
possible, under the influence of the then existing 
circumstances, to complete any of their objects, or 
even to open them with any reasonable chance of 

* Lord Erskine. t Mrs. Jordan. 

% The well-known satire called" All the Talents," published 
during the existence of the ministry, was attributed to various 
people. The secret of the authorship was well kept, while this 
poem was passing rapidly through several editions. Stockdale 
himself, who published it, is said not to have known from whence 
the MS. came. The author was Eaton Stannard Barrett, who 
wrote the " Heroine," " Woman," and other works. 


making an impression. The transition from Pitt 
to a government of peace and liberal amelioration 
was too sudden. Fox and his party assumed the 
government too soon for their own glory and the 
permanent good of the country. Their failure may 
be ascribed to the single fact that they allowed 
themselves to be placed in a false position. 




There was some difficulty in getting up a new 
administration. The " Church in Danger" and the 
" No Popery" cry had already determined which 
way it was to march ; but recruits were wanted. 
The parts were settled, but it was necessary to find 
actors to fill them. 

Fifteen years before, th£ difficulty would have 
been insuperable; but ever since the Duke of 
Portland's coalition with Pitt the intermixture of 
parties afforded a convenient escape from the em- 
barrassment of choice. The sacrifice of opinion 
on some points for the sake of strength upon others 
began now to be considered legitimate in the for- 
mation of an efficient government. This easy virtue 
of public men was very lucky for the king ; for if 
his majesty had been thrown upon the Church and 
State party exclusively, he could not have con- 
structed a cabinet that would have lasted a week. 

The Duke of Portland was selected as the nom- 
inal head — a highly respectable nobleman in bad 
health, who never made his appearance in Parlia- 
ment, and sustained himself by opiates and lauda- 
num through the fatigues of forming a government 


which he was unable to. control. The duke was 
an indolent man, and possessed, in an eminent de* 
gree, the talent of dead silence. He was afflicted 
with the stone, and this physical agony, added to 
the mental anxiety of office, ultimately broke him 
down. He used to drop asleep in his chair over 
his state papers from exhaustion and infirmity. 
And this was so yisible from the first, that Lord 
Chatham (out of pretended respect to the memory 
of Pitt) was actually associated with him, by the 
king's desire, in the formation of the ministry. He 
suffered this without remonstrance, and tacitly al- 
lowed Lords Eldon and HawkeBbury to go between 
him and the king at a moment when the whole re- 
sponsibility of the government was about to be de- 
volved upon him. It was not surprising that his 
colleagues soon began to disavow his authority and 
set up for themselves in their own departments ; so 
that, although Burlington House continued to be 
resorted to by the adherents of the administration, 
it was to all intents and purposes nothing more than 
the ministerial rendezvous. 

The real head of the government was Mr. Per- 
ceval, a gentleman expressly engaged to do the 
hard work. The only recommendation he pos- 
sessed was his profound intolerance, the depths of 
which even his majesty's plummet could not sound, 
Mr. Perceval was a practicing barrister, and it was 
not to be expected that he would give up business 
without a consideration. His majesty accordingly 
offered him the Chancellorship of the Duchy of 
Lancaster for life, if he would take the Chancellor- 
ship of the Exchequer for as. long as he could 
manage to keep it. The Commons of England 
thought this too high a price to pay for the services 
of " a second-rate lawyer," and voted an address 
to his majesty praying that neither the said office, 
15 U 


nor any other not usually held for life, should be 
granted for any other term than during pleasure. 
His majesty wisely submitted to this unequivocal 
expression of opinion, and the new ministry opened 
with a defeat.* This was a more inauspicious be- 
ginning than the elevation of Lord Ellenborough 
to the cabinet, which, although indefensible in prin- 
ciple, was at least sanctioned without a division by 
the Upper House, and carried in the Lower by an 
overwhelming majority. 

The cabinet was finally made up before the close 
of March, 1807. Lord Eldon succeeded Lord 
Erskine on the woolsack; Mr. Canning was ap- 
pointed Foreign Secretary, Lord Hawkesbury 
Home Secretary, and Lord Oastlereagh Secretary 
at War. In other places were to be found Lords 
Camden, Mulgrave, and Chatham, and Mr. George 
Rose. The Duke of Richmond — the most agreea- 
ble of boon companions !— with Sir Arthur Welles- 
ley (now Duke of Wellington) as secretary, under- 
took the government of Ireland, at a crisis which 
demanded the greatest sagacity, discretion, and for- 
titude. The hazardous honor had been previously 
declined by the Dukes of Rutland and Beaufort, 
and Lord Powis. 

Mr. Canning is said to have coqueted for office 
with the Grenville party just on the eve of their 
dismissal, and then, finding the case hopeless, to 
have surrendered himself to the Tories.t This as- 

* There is a strange mistake upon this subject in Lord Malmes- 
bury's Diaries. It is there stated in a note [vol. iv., p. 376] that 
the motion was made by Mr. Martin, and lost by a majority of 93. 
The motion was made by Mr. Bankes, and carried by a majority 
of 113. This was on the 25th of March, and on the 8th of April 
his majesty forwarded an answer to the House to the effect that 
he had granted the office " only during his royal pleasure." 

t " This political Killigrew, just before the breaking up of the 
last administration, was in actual treaty with them for a place ; 
and if they bad survived four-and-twenty hours longer, he would 
have been now declaiming against the cry of 'No Popery !' instead 
of inflaming it."— " Peter Plymtey's Letters," 


sertion, impudently put forth at the timd, is not only 
false, but me very reverse of the fact. Instead of 
eoqueting with the Granville ministry, he firmly 
resisted the temptations they held out to him. In 
the November of 1806, there was a general elec- 
tion ; and Lord Grenville, desirous of strengthen- 
ing his government by the addition of some of 'Pitt'* 
followers, made splendid offers to Canning, with 
carte blanche for any three or four friends he would 
name. The negotiation was intrusted to Lord 
Wellesley, who conducted it with skill and deli- 
cacy ; but Canning peremptorily refused to join the 
administration upon any terms.* 

It was a more serious charge against him, that 
he joined thifr Perceval-Portland Ministry, from 
which the Catholic .Question must have been ex- 
cluded by a pledge, either actually given or clear- 
ly understood. 

To this charge there is no answer to be made 
but that Mr. Canning strictly followed the exam- 
ple of Mr. Pitt. He knew that during the king's 
lifetime that question could not be. carried, and he 
bowed to the necessity. He could not reconcile 
it with his sense of duty to decline office because 
his majesty's determination was fixed on that sub- 
ject ; or, having taken office, to make a useless re- 
sistance to his majesty's convictions. This is all 
the defense or palliation that need be offered for 
his connection with this Ultra-Protestant Ascend- 
ency Administration. Like Pitt, he resigned, be- 
cause he could not effect the emancipation of the 
Catholics ; like Pitt, he took office again, knowing 
that such a measure could not even be proposed. 

It must be remembered, also, that Mr. Canning, 
like Pitt, considered emancipation as a question of 
expediency > and not of right ; never to be insisted 
* " Diaries of Lord Malmesbury," iv., 354. 


upon against the free will of the people, the mon- 
arch, and the Parliament, and to be promoted only 
as the development of opinion and opportunity be- 
came favorable to its success. This view of the 
question may have been wrong; but Mr. Can* 
ning's conduct must be tried by his own opinions, 
and not by the opinions of others. 

If the precedent of antagonist elements in for- 
mer cabinets could be admitted as an- excuse, he 
had an ample apology. Even the ministry which 
had been just displaced exhibited the most dis- 
cordant materials. Sheridan, the knight-errand of 
annual Parliaments ; Grenville, the inflexible ene- 
my of all reform ; Fox, the consistent advocate of 
peace; Windham, who had abandoned his own 
party to support the war ; Grey, the ardent friend 
of religious freedom ; Sidmouth, the representative 
of the king's zealotry, and heretofore the object 
of the unlimited ridicule and contempt of all those 
with whom he was now associated. If Mr. Can- 
ning had waited until a ministry perfectly agree- 
ing on all points could have been formed, he might 
have waited till doomsday. 

The new ministry had to contend against sever- 
al adverse circumstances. 

They had to meet a Parliament convoked by 
their opponents only in the preceding December. 

They labored under the imputation of having 
got into office by a discreditable intrigue, and they 
had to face its consequences in the fury of their 
adversaries. The imputation was true. The Duke 
of Portland had no sooner heard of the Catholic 
Bill, than he protested against it in a private letter 
to his majesty, offering his services, at the same 
time, in the formation of a new administration, 
should such an alternative become necessary. A 
clearer case of factious intrigue never was made 


out, although the proofs of its existence did not 
transpire until many years after the chief actors in 
it had gone to their graves. 

They were also accused of allowing themselves 
to be fettered with pledges which rendered them 
the slaves, not the advisers, of the crown. The 
fact was self-evident. The new ministers avowed- 
ly went into office on the pledge which had been 
constitutionally rejected by their predecessors. 
>. These disadvantages were enhanced by their 
want of personal weight. None of them possess- 
ed enough of the public confidence to qualify them 
for the high and responsible offices to which they 
were called. They all wanted refutation ; and 
some of them — Hawkesbury and Castlereagh in 
particular — also wanted ability. Canning was 
dreaded for his sarcasm, his ready powers of de- 
bate, his unflinching courage, and the extraordina- 
ry tact he possessed in justifying his conduct ; but 
even Canning, although hated, feared, and envied 
quite enough to make him of importance to any 
administration, was not yet considered to have at- 
tained the full rank of a statesman. " He is un- 
questionably/ 9 observes Lord Malmesbury, " very 
clever, and very essential to government ; but he 
is hardly yet a statesman, and his dangerous habit 
of quizzing (which he can not restrain) would be 
most unpopular in any department which required 
pliancy, tact, and conciliatory behavior. He is hon- 
orable and honest, with a dash of the Irishman ; 
and all his plans and ideas of governing would par- 
take of this, and might be as dangerous in prac- 
tice as he makes them appear plausible by the el- 
oquent way in which he expresses them."* This 
was written immediately before the government 
was organized. During the progress of its forma- 
* " Diaries," iv„ 367. . 



don, the Duke of Portland offered Canning his 
choice of the Foreign Office or the Admiralty. 
Canning went immediately to consult his friend, 
Lord Malmesbury ; and it is a curious commenta- 
ry on his lordship's opinion, as to his fitness for a 
department requiring pliancy, tact, and conciliato- 
ry behavior, that he instantly recommended him to 
take the Foreign Office, where these qualities are 
indispensable. Canning had never before had an 
opportunity of acting upon his own responsibility ; 
and Lord Malmesbury, judging of him in moments 
of excitement and suspense, feared rather than an- 
ticipated that his spirits would carry him away. 
But Canning was scarcely established in the For- 
eign Office, when his able diplomatic friend had 
occasion to bear testimony to his judgment, cool- 
ness, and promptitude under new and singularly 
trying circumstances. 

When Parliament met in April, ministers were 
simultaneously attacked in both houses ; and sep- 
arate motions were made, to the effect that it was 
unconstitutional in the confidential servants of the 
crown to fetter themselves by pledges to the sov- 
ereign. Mr. Canning, in reply, turned the argu- 
ment against the late ministers, who had insisted 
upon the right of proposing a measure which they 
knew the king would never allow to pass into law. 

" What was required in the stipulations claimed by 
the late ministers ? That they should be allowed to rec- 
ommend one policy, while they pursued another. The 
terms upon which they wished to hold their offices were, 
that they should be allowed to propose measures, that 
they might afterward abandon them. The yearly mov- 
ing of this question would have the effect of making an 
unfair division of the popularity and odium. The odium 
would be great, and all fall upon the crown : the benefit 
would be small, and that the Catholics might have ; but 
the whole of the popularity the ministers were to have." 


Having thus made it appear that hia colleagues, 
instead of coming in upon a pledge, had rescued 
his majesty from a plot, he concluded by threaten- 
ing an appeal to the country, a threat which fright- 
ened the cabinet a great deal more than the oppo- 
sition. Even Lord Malmesbury was alarmed. 
" Canning," says he, " was too imperious last night 
about the threat of dissolution." But events proved 
that Canning was right. Parliament was dissolved 
before the end of the month. The extremity was 
forced upon them. And what was the result? 
Scarcely a single member of the opposition was re- 
turned for the place he had previously filled. In 
the division which had tested the strength of min- 
isters in the preceding Parliament, they mustered 
with difficulty a surplus of 32. In the new Par- 
liament they commanded an easy majority of 195. 

The state of Europe, when Mr. Canning under- 
took the office of Foreign Secretary, was more pre- 
carious than it had been at any previous period. 
The power of Napoleon was supreme, and that su- 
premacy was crowned by the peace of Tilsit, nom* 
inally entered into between Prance, Russia, and 
Prussia^ but really between Napoleon and Alex- 
ander. The poor Queen of Prussia was invited to 
attend, but it was only that she might be the more 
effectually cheated. Napoleon asked her to din- 
ner, then suddenly pretended to be so fascinated 
by her naive and charming coquetry that he desired 
Talleyrand to get the/reaty signed after dinner 
without her knowledge, lest her bewitching beauty 
might tempt him to give up too much ! 

By that treaty, signed on the 8th of July, 1807, 
Europe was divided between the two potentates. 
The whole of the south was surrendered to Napo- 
leon, already master of Italy and arbiter of Germar 
ny, and pushing his advanced posts as far as the 


Vistula ; and the crowns of Naples, Holland, and 
Westphalia were conferred on his three brothers. 

While the emperors were thus partitioning Chris- 
tendom on a raft on the Niemen, Mr. Canning was 
forming a plan for the protection of England against 
the imperial conspiracy. The first intimation the 
world had of his design was the sudden appear- 
ance, in the month of August, of an English fleet 
in the Sound, the bombardment of Copenhagen, 
and the capture of the whole navy of Denmark. 

Intelligence of this event had scarcely arrived 
when it was followed by the gallant victors convey- 
ing the Danish fleet into the harbor of Portsmouth. 
This extraordinary and apparently unprovoked ag- 
gression upon a neutral power who had at that mo- 
ment, peacefully floating in our waters, merchant- 
men with then* rich cargoes, to the value of upward 
of c£2,000 9 000 sterling, naturally enough provoked 
much astonishment and indignation. , 

Upon the opening of the session the speech from 
the throne announced, that no sooner had the peace 
of Tilsit confirmed the control of France over the 
powers of the Continent, than his majesty was ap- 
prized of the intentions of the enemy to combine those 
powers in one general confederacy against England, 
and that, for that purpose, it was intended to force 
the neutral states, into hostility against his majesty, 
so as to bring to bear upon England the whole na- 
val force of Europe, and specifically the fleets of 
'Portugal and Denmark. It became, therefore, the 
indispensable duty of his majesty to place those 
fleets out of the reach of such a confederacy. 

Such was the ministerial explanation. The fleet 
of Portugal would have been seized, also, but for 
the promptitude of Napoleon, who intercepted the 
intentions of ministers by detaining the Portuguese 
shipping in the ports of France. The issue of the 


affairs of Portugal is well known. The unfortunate 
prince regent, unable to resist the tyranny of Napo- 
leon, transported himself and the members of his 
family to Brazil. 

The opposition denounced the conduct of gov- 
ernment in unmeasured language, and called upon 
ministers to show the grounds upon which they had 
committed so flagrant a violation of the law of na- 
tions. Ministers contented themselves with stating 
that the measure had not been adopted without no- 
tice to the Prince Royal of Denmark, who was 
duly warned that if he did not avow himself an ally, 
or guaranty his neutrality by placing his fleet in 
the hands of the English government, to be deliv- 
ered up at the close of the war, England must pro- 
tect herself by seizing upon his navy. 

To all this it was objected that ministers had no 
justification for adopting such a course. Mr.Pon- 
sonby declared " that no writer on the law of na- 
tions, or on any other law, had ever maintained that 
one power could be justified in taking from anoth- 
er power what belonged to it, unless a third pow- 
er meant and was able to take the same thing: the 
justification, therefore, rested on the necessity." 
But this was exactly Mr. Canning's case. He 
maintained that it was an act of necessity, and that 
if England had not seized upon the Danish navy, 
France would have seized upon it (which she was 
notoriously able to do), and would have used it 
against England. 

But where, demanded the opposition, was the 
proof that such an intention existed % Ministers 
stated, in reply, that they had received private in- 
formation that there were secret articles in the treaty 
of Tilsit sanctioning Bonaparte's plan for combin- 
ing the navies of Europe to crush the maritime 
power of Great Britain; This astounding state- 


ment was met on all sides by explicit and circum- 
stantial contradictions. France denied it — Russia 
denied it*— the opposition discredited it, and, cov- 
ering the government with opprobrium, succeeded 
in carrying along with them a strong and angry 
feeling out of doors. " Ministers," exclaimed Lord 
Granville, " have asserted that there are secret ar- 
ticles in the treaty of Tilsit affecting the interests 
of this country, and the French government have 
asserted that there are none. Here, then, is a chal- 
lenge, and it is incumbent upon ministers to prove 
their assertion." But ministers could not prove 
their assertion without violating their honor. 

In this exigency Mr. Canning relied upon the 
general necessity of the case. He bore the taunts 
of his opponents, now grown insolent in their at- 
tacks on his public character, with calmness and 
dignity, and to every renewed demand for the pro- 
duction of his information he replied by repeating 
his determination never to reveal it " Though the 
conduct of his majesty's ministers," he said, " might 
be held up in a few speeches in that House to the 
execration of the country, they would run that risk, 
and incur that penalty, rather than suffer the secret 
to be torn from their bosoms.* ' At length Mr. Adam 
made a specific motion, the purport of which was, 
that the Foreign Secretary had violated his trust to 
the crown in reference to the communications of 
government with their accredited ministers abroad. 
Mr. Canning answered him and withdrew, stating 
that, as a high criminal charge was preferred against 
him, he should retire and throw himself upon the 

• When our ambassador at St. Petersburgh, acting under the in- 
structions of Mr. Canning (which, says Lord Malmesbury, were 
" incomparable"), demanded of the Russian minister to be shown 
the secret articles, the minister, after being much pressed, de- 
clared that none of them were injurious to the interests of Eng- 


of the House. The judgment of the 
louse vindicated him by a sweeping majority of 
168 to 67. 

There were many persons who firmly believed 
that there were no secret articles ; that the govern- 
ment had never received any secret information; 
that ministers had committed the outrage in a par- 
oxysm of fear. Time passed away, and the oblo- 
quy still hung suspended over their heads. 

Seventeen years afterward, in 1824, a book was 
published in Paris — a sort of confession of the life 
of a man who had been much mixed up in the po- 
litical intrigues of his day — and this book, to the 
astonishment of every person who had taken any 
interest in the matter, and who yet survived to learn 
its solution, contained the following revelation. It 
is the famous Fouche who speaks : 

" About this tame it was that we learned the success of 
the attack upon Copenhagen by the English, which was 
the first derangement of the secret stipulations of Tilsit* 
by virtue of which the panish fleet was to be placed at 
the disposal of France / Sky e the death of fcaul I., I 
never saw Napoleon give himself up to such violent trans- 
ports of passion. That which astounded him most in 
that vigorous stroke (vigoureux coup de main) was the 
promptitude with which the English ministry took their 
resolution. He began to suspect some new treachery in 
the cabinet, and gave me orders to ascertain if it had noth- 
ing to do with the ill-will created by a late removal, that 
of Talleyrand from the office of Foreign Secretary."* 

The suspicion was unjust to Talleyrand, and a . 
comparison of dates ought to have satisfied the em- 
peror that the resentment of his minister could 
have had nothing to do with the attack upon Co- 
penhagen. Talleyrand was removed on the 8th of 
August, t at which time the English fleet must have 
been under weigh for Zealand. 

* " Memoirs of FoncheV' 

t " Life of Prince Talleyrand," iv., 121. 


This passage confirmed the statement of minis- 
ters by the evidence of a most unexpected witness^ 
but it still left the source of their information in im- 
penetrable darkness. The mystery, however, has 
been subsequently cleared up, so that we are now 
enabled, putting these discoveries together, to show, 
not only the correctness of the intelligence, but the 
pressure of the necessity upon which the govern- 
ment acted. 

Government, it appears, was in possession of Na- 
poleon's designs nearly two months before the trear 
ty was signed. The most singular incident in the 
transaction is, that the first intimation on the sub- 
ject was communicated to the Duke of Portland by 
the Prince of Wales, in an audience at Carlton 
House in the month of May. Ministers learned 
through this channel that a plan was formed by Na- 
poleon for surprising the Danish fleet, with the as- 
sistance of which he intended to invade the north- 
east coast of England, and that he also meant to 
avail himself of the Portuguese fleet for the same 
purpose. The proposal had, in fact, been made to 
Denmark to include her in theMOontinental system 
of blockading England, and she accepted it either 
from cowardice or ill-will, although she afterward 
denied that she had ever assented. The same pro- 
posal was made to the Regent of Portugal, who re- 
jected it, and at once communicated the notable 
project to the Prince of Wales.* 

Such was the nature of the disclosures which 
were made to the British government, and such 
the channel through which they were received. 
The confidence reposed by the regent in the honor 
of an English minister was safe. Mr. Canning left 
his vindication to time, which has already rendered 
full justice to the secrecy, foresight, and sagacity 
* " Diaries of Lord Malmesbury," iv., 391. 


he displayed on an occasion when the existence of 
England depended upon the celerity and success 
with which the project was executed. 

The seizure of the Danish navy was an act of 
imperative necessity ; one of those master-strokes 
of policy which, instead of being justified, which 
hints a doubt, ought to be commemorated in col- 
umns and statues. The Danes were in this posi- 
tion, that they could not remain neutral* They re- 
fused to become our allies, and must have become 
our enemies. We deprived them of the means of 
hostility in mere self-defense. The question was, 
not whether it was justifiable to take their ships, 
but whether we or Napoleon should take them — a 
question of a few hours, which Napoleon would 
have solved had we delayed. It was not a moment 
for an English minister to turn doctor-in-law. His 
business was to save the country first, and find ar- 
guments for it afterward. 

The affairs of Spain next occupied attention. 
The French had crossed the Pyrenees, expelled the 
authorities, and taken possession of all the strong- 
holds. The king and the royal family had been 
first cajoled, then kidnapped ; the coffers of the 
state had been plundered ; the towns given up to 
rapine and the brutal lusts of the soldiery.; the gov- 
ernment was usurped ; and the whole country was 
in a state of insurrection. In this deplorable ex- 
tremity, the provincial juntas sent over delegates to 
England for the purpose of soliciting aid. The en- 
terprise was one of great danger, certain to be ac- 
companied by great losses, and, worse than all, ex- 
ceedingly doubtful in its results. But Mr. Canning 
felt that the necessity of resisting the encroach- 
ments of Napoleon was paramount over all other 
considerations ; that it was the peculiar duty of 
England to protect the aggrieved ; and that our in* 


teres**, as well as our honor, justified the sacrifices 
we were now called upon to make. He not only, 
therefore, encouraged the spirit of resistance in 
Spain by every assurance of sympathy and sup- 
port, but proceeded to collect a force for the pur- 
pose of acting against the French wherever its serv- 
ices might be most available. At the head of this 
force he placed Sir Arthur Wellesley, whose great 
military talents he was the first minister to recog- 
nize, employ, and reward.* These proceedings, 
and the noble stand he made on behalf of the de- 
throned sovereigns and outraged nations of Europe, 
led him into a protracted course of diplomatic ne- 
gotiation with France and Russia, arising out of 
3ie joint application of the two emperors to Eng- 
land to put an end to the horrors of the war. 
Throughout the whole of the correspondence, he 

• " It wis Mr. Canning," says Mr. Stapleton, " who discerned 
the great military talents .of Sir Arthur Wellesley, and insisted 
upon their employment in the peninsula." — " Political Life of the 
Right Honorable George Canning from 1822 to 1827," i. f 291. It 
is unnecessary to fortify, by additional evidence, a fact obvious 
enough from Mr. Canning's position in the government ; but it is 
desirable to correct a strange misstatement in the ** Military Life 
of the Duke of Wellington," written by Major Jackson and Cap- 
tain Scott, in which it is asserted that the command of the army 
on this occasion was given to Sir Arthur Wellesley •• at the in- 
stance of Lord Castlereagb." The gallant authors took up this no- 
tion apparently from a mistake they had fallen into about his lord- 
ship, as the next sentence implies. Sir Arthur's " extraordinary 
military talents/' they inform us, had not been sufficiently appre- 
ciated by the nation, or by the most exalted, personages in the 
realm, but fortunately were not " overlooked bv the talented no- 
bleman above named, who, at the time of whicn we write (1808), 
held the office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affaire ;" and then they 
run on into a panegyric upon his " immovable firmness," which 
has nothing to do with this part of the subject. — (" Military Life 
of the Duke of Wellington," i, 296.) It is clear that these gen- 
tlemen assigned to Lord Castlereagh the merit of having first rec- 
ognized Sir Arthur's talents under the supposition that his lord* 
ship was then Secretary for Foreign Affairs. The passage would 
be set right at once by transferring the inference to the minister 
who did fill that office. 


persisted in refusing to negotiate a peace unless the 
rights of Spain were fully admitted ; and he dis- 
played such ability, high principle, and firmness in 
the conduct of these transactions, as to wring from 
the most reluctant of his adversaries repeated tes- 
timonies of admiration. 

Our active interference on behalf of ^Spain fortu- 
nately united the suffrage of all parties in Parlia- 
ment ; and if the bitterness occasioned by the ag- 
gression on Denmark had been allowed to pass 
away, a closer union of public men for the com* 
mon defense of the country might have been effect- 
ed at this juncture. Mr. Canning showed his de- 
sire to cultivate this amicable disposition during 
the discussions which arose on the state of Spain ; 
but the opposition, rankling under the severity of 
his wit, refused his advances. The widest politi- 
cal differences may be compromised— heresies may 
be reconciled; but scathmg personalities, which 
wound men's self-love and vanity, are never to be 
forgiven ! They looked upon him as a man who 
spared nobody — which was true*j and they were 
determined, opportunely and inopportunely, never 
to spare him. 

This was a harassing session with him. He was 
not wholly with the ultra-Tory party, which was 
now in the ascendant in the government ; there 
were many minor points on which he differed from, 
them. Oh* the other hand, there were some ques- 
tions on which he agreed with the opposition. His 
spirit was clearly on that side of the House, and he 
would have been there himself, could he have con- 
trolled its excesses and governed Whig tendencies 
with a Tory judgment. As it was, although the 
station he occupied afforded him the means of car* 
ryiiig out his views to a certain extent, it also forced 
him into an occasional struggle between his pri- 


vate convictions and tbe necessity for defending 
the general policy of the government. Dr. Dui- 
genan was appointed a privy -councillor — a new in- 
sult to the Irish Catholics ; and Mr. Canning, who 
had nothing to do with the appointment, was oblig* 
ed to endure his share of the obloquy and disgrace. 
The Catholic petition was introduced by Mr. Grat- 
tan, and it was necessary that Mr. Canning should 
deprecate discussion, at the risk of being misun- 
derstood and misrepresented. He was. called 
upon, also, to vindicate the Duke of York in the 
matter of his low amours, and to draw the Parlia- 
mentary distinction between the virtues of the com- 
mander-in-chief and the miserable depravities of 
Mrs. Clarke's paramour. It became his duty, also, 
to oppose Mr. Whitbread's motion for the exclu- 
sion from Parliament of all placemen and pension- 
ers ; Mr. Canning contending, as a minister of the 
crown, that it was necessary for the good of the 
country that public men who were pensioned off 
out of office, but who looked to office again, should 
continue to enjoy the advantage of assisting in the 
labor of legislation. Through the mire of topics 
such as these he was condemned to drag his elo- 
quence, which did double duty in the arduous po- 
sition in which he was placed, of answering not 
only for his own acts and opinions, but for the big- 
otry and blunders of his colleagues. 

Unfortunately, the greatest blunderer of them 
all, Lord Castlereagh, was thrown, by his situation 
as Secretary at War, into such close relations with 
the Foreign department as to make his errors and 
his incapacity a source of constant irritation to Mr. 
Canning. The feelings of the latter toward a min- 
ister whom he considered to be inadequate to the 
grave responsibilities of his office were not much 
improved by two charges of corruption which were 


brought forward against bis lordship in the House 
of Commons. One of them was for being party 
to the sale of a seat in Parliament, and then re- 
quiring the gentleman who had purchased it either 
to vote for the government on the inquiry respect- 
ing the Duke of York, or to resign.* The other 
was for attempting to traffic for a borough. 

Mr. Canning opposed the former motion, because 
it was avowed to be a first step toward Parliament- 
ary reform. But in voting on the latter question 
he took care to protect himself against being sus- 
pected of sheltering Lord Castlereagh's misconduct 
under his approbation ; observing that, " while he 
would vote for the order of the day, he would by 
no means be understood to pronounce the case as 
not of very serious importance." This expression 
of opinion had more weight with the House than 
the vote which accompanied it, and the order of 
the day was negatived. Mr. Canning hastened to 
repair this unlucky mesatrenture by moving that, 
under all circumstances, the House saw no neces- 
sity for a criminating resolution, which was carried. 
This was on the 25th of April, 1809 ; and it be- 
trayed that uneasiness in his own position, and that 
entire want of confidence in the discretion of his 
colleague, which shortly afterward led to more 
serious results. 

If the glory — lingering as it was — of Copenha- 

* The members of the Grenville administration joined the gov- 
ernment in resisting this motion against Lord Castlereagh. It 
seems that such things were done by all administrations, and they 
were consequently bound to protect each other. Sir Samuel 
Romilly observes that, considered merely with reference to their 
own interest, it was impolitic. " Nothing that can be proved 
against them," says that upright man, " will do them, more injury 
in public opinion than this screening of political offenses through 
fear of recrimination. It will do more toward disposing the na- 
tion in favor of Parliamentary reform than all the speeches that 
have been, or ever will be made, in any popular assemblies."— >. 
" Memoirs of Sir Samuel Romilly," ii., 287. 
16 X 


gen belonged to Mr. Canning, the ignominy of Wal- 
cheren attaches almost exclusively to Lord Castle- 
reagh. That unfortunate expedition, indeed, in- 
volved the whole administration in disgrace, but 
chiefly the minister who presided over its execution. 

Several months had been occupied in secret prep- 
arations, and at length, toward the close of July, 
1809, one of the. most formidable armaments that 
ever left the shores of England — consisting of an 
army of 40,000 men and a fleet of seventy-nine 
ships of the line, thirty-six frigates, .and numerous 
small craft, amounting altogether to between 400 
and 500 pendants — set sail for the Low Countries. 

The objects were the reduction of Flushing, the 
capture of the French ships of war in the Scheldt, 
and the destruction of their arsenals and dock-yards. 
Lord Chatham (who was wholly unknown as a 
soldier, and had no reputation as a civilian) com- 
manded the army, and Sir Richard Strachan the 
fleet Flushing surrendered, and the troops took 
possession of the Island of Walcheren. From this 
moment a paralysis appears to have descended 
upon the counsels of ministers, and to have stricken 
both commanders. Nothing more was done. No 
attempt was made to proceed up the river. Ant- 
werp, the emporium, was abandoned to the enemy ; 
Flushing, a plague-town in a swamp, was held fast. 
Autumn set in, and brought with it the usual epi- 
demic. Still the commanders stirred not, although 
the pestilence had already commenced its havoc, 
and the men were dropping by scores and by hund- 
reds into the grave. The possession of Flushing 
for any conceivable purpose, offensive or defensive, 
was so utterly useless, that it was impossible to 
comprehend why it was not evacuated. Some 
threw the blame upon the military commander- 
others, upon the admiral; the public, more just 


than the partisans of either, condemned both in the 
well-known epigram, 

" Lord Chatham, witn his sword undrawn, 
Stood waiting lor Sir Richard Strachan ; 
Sir Richard, longing to be at 'em, 
Stood waiting for the Earl of Chatham." 

In December the troops returned home— or all 
that was left alive of them, escaping an inglorious 
death, only to linger on in hopeless decrepitude. 
Between the 1st of January and the 1st of June, 
1810, including relapses, there were admitted into 
the hospitals, from the corps which had served in 
Walcberen, 35,000 patients ! 

There are some considerations connected with 
this expedition which are indispensable to the for- 
mation of a correct estimate of the sagacity of the 
minister who was charged with its management. 

The same expedition had been suggested during 
the war to three different administrations, and re- 
jected as impracticable by each. The opinions of 
several experienced military men were taken upon 
its policy and practicability, and they were all 
against it. Yet Lord Castlereagh, cognizant of 
these facts, issued orders for the embarkation of an 
enormous army, which he placed under the com- 
mand of a nobleman who was entirely ignorant of 
the service ; and, as if his lordship were resolved 
that nothing should be omitted to render the failure 
conspicuous and complete, the expedition was dis- 
patched just as the sickly season was setting in, 
and recalled just as it ended. 

It was notorious that Walcheren was one of the 
most unhealthy spots in the world, yet not one 
medical authority was consulted on the subject, 
and no unusual precautions were adopted. One 
hospital ship was provided; the surgeon-general 
implored Lord Castlereagh to furnish two more, 


and was refused. Walcheren was taken on the 
15th of August. On the 29th, Lord Chatham wrote 
home that the progress of the army was at an end. 
Th« men were taking the infection at the rate of 
200 a day : it appeared farther, that if Walcheren 
was to be retained, it would become necessary to 
build defenses, and to feed the inhabitants, 37,000 
in number. His lordship, finding that the govern- 
ment would do nothing, returned home on the 14th 
of September, and left the army to its fate. His 
successors wrote again- and again to entreat for a 
decision, but it was not until the middle of No- 
vember that the first order for evacuation was is- 
sued, and it was not until the 28th of December it 
was carried into effect. The results of this mem- 
orable expedition may be thus summed up : loss in 
lives, eight or nine thousand men ; in money, be- 
tween two and three millions sterling ; gain, a poor 
Flemish town, which we were only too glad to give 
back again to its famished population.* 

It was impossible that Mr. Canning could regard 
with indifference the danger of committing the 
country to a project which Mr. Pitt had long be- 
fore rejected, unless it was carried out with fore- 
sight and energy at least equal to the risk. It was 
one of those hazardous undertakings the success 
or failure of which depend mainly on the skill; de- 
cision, and vigilance with which they are conducted. 
Influenced by such impressions, Mr. Canning was 
placed in a painful situation : as Foreign Secretary, 
administering the external affairs of the kingdom, 
he was brought into constant intercourse with Lord 
Castlereagh. His plans, in fact, were at the mercy 

* All the documents and evidence concerning the expedition 
were laid before Parliament and published. See, also, " Observa- 
tions, &c, on the Subject of the late Expedition to the Scheldt," 


of the executive genius of the war department; a 
state of things to which Mr. Canning, in justice to 
himself, felt it impossible to submit. He accord- 
ingly signified to the Duke of Portland the abso- 
lute necessity of making a change in the war de- 
partment, tendering his own resignation as the al- 
ternative. No circumstance can more distinctly 
mark Mr. Canning's objection to the expedition, 
and his sense of Lord Castlereagh' s unfitness to 
conduct it, than the fact that this announcement 
was made early in April, three months before it 

The duko required a little delay. It was de- 
sirable to wait, at all events, until die charge against 
Lord Castlereagh for trafficking for a seat in Par- 
liament should be disposed of; to which Mr. Can- 
ning consented. The matter was then broken to 
Lord Camden, Lord Castlereagh's uncle, through 
whose influence his lordship had been hitherto pro- 
moted to and sustained in his various offices. Lord 
Camden admitted that such a change was necessary. 
In May, the whole subject was laid before the king, 
and his majesty agreed to the necessity of a new 
distribution of the business of the war department, 
by which the political correspondence would be 
transferred to the Foreign Office. But this arrange- 
ment, which would still have left in Lord Castle- 
reagh's hands the superintendence of the expedi- 
tion, was not effected. New arrangements were 
proposed from time to time; fresh delays were 
created ; the members of the cabinet being fully 
aware of Mr. Canning's feelings- on the subject, and 
Lord Castlereagh being all this time allowed to 
suppose that he carried into his official duties the 
entire confidence of his colleagues. Finding that 
no communication had been made to Lord Castle- 
reagh, and objecting alike to the concealment and 


the delay, Mr. Canning obtained an interview with 
his majesty in June, and tendered his resignation. 
But the moment was inconvenient, and he was as- 
sured that the communication would be made to 
^ Lord Castlereagh as soon as the expedition had 
sailed. Farther delays took place, and at length 
Mr. Canning was prevailed upon against his judg- 
ment, but in deference to the scruples and anxieties 
of others to let the matter lie over until after the 

"^ result of the expedition should be known, it being 
then distinctly understood that the Marquis Welles- 
ley was to be appointed to the war department. 

\» The moment the intelligence of the surrender of 
Flushing reached England, Mr. Canning reminded 
the Duke of Portland that the time was now come 
for putting the new arrangement into execution ; 
and he then discovered that no intimation whatever 
had been conveyed to Lord Castlereagh of the in- 
tended change, and that the consequence of per- 
sisting in it would be to break up the administra- 
tion. Under these unexpected circumstances, Mr. 
Canning reverted at once to his original alternative, 
and, declining to attend the cabinet, informed his 
grace that he, held office only till his successor was 
appointed. The facts were now communicated to 
Lord Castlereagh for the first time, although his 
uncle and other personal Mends had been in pos- 
session of them for months. His lordship imme- 
diately sent in his resignation. 

That Lord Castlereagh was ill-treated all through- 
out, is quite certain ; but not by Mr. Canning. That 
his lordship had good reason to complain of the 
secrecy and insincerity that were practiced toward 
him, can not be denied ; but Mr. Canning, instead 
of being a consenting party to the deceit, protested 
against it over and over again, and in vain pressed 
his resignation as the only alternative left. The 


excuse was the critical state of public affairs, and 
the danger of a disruption in the ministry.* 

All the members of the cabinet, or all who were 
consulted, agreed in their opinion of Lord Castle* 
reagh's incapacity ; yet they suffered him to origi- 
natef and conduct this important expedition, and 
then, when it failed, they announced to him that he 
had been all along distrusted by his colleagues. 
This was not a pleasant discovery to make at a 
moment when his ostentatious plans had just ter- 
minated in disgrace and humiliation. Irritated at 
the treatment he had received, his chivalrous logic 
resolved it into a personal quarrel, and, in a long 
letter abounding in " misapprehensions," he sent 
a message to Mr. Canning. 

Lord Castlereagh's method of dealing with the 
subject was euriously characteristic. He admitted 
Mr. Canning's right to demand his removal, and 
objected only to the mode in which it was proposed 
to be carried out His words are these : 

" I have no right, as a public man, to resent your de- 
manding upon public grounds my removal from the par- 
ticular office I have held, or even from the administration, 

* The poor Duke of Portland seems to have been frightened all 
throughout by the two imperious gentlemen he had to deal with, 
and the fear of losing Canning. When Canning originally an- 
nounced his determination to resign unless the conduct of the war 
was taken out of the hands of Lord Castlereagh, the duke wrote 
privately to Lord Eldon, saying, " If it can not be prevented, I see 
nothing but ruin to the country and to Europe, and so I told him 
plainly and distinctly."—" Life of Lord Eldon," ii, 80. The king 
expressed the same opinion. The source of all the evil that follow- 
ed was timidity, and indecision, and delay on the part of the duke, 
in which he was encouraged by the chancellor, to whom procras- 
tination was the breath of life. He should either have accepted 
Mr. Canning's resignation at once, or at once have complied with 
his demand. Lord Eldon, who disliked Canning, threw the whole 
blame upon the vanity of the Foreign Secretary. 

t We have Lord Castlejeagh's own authority for the assertion 
that he " originated" the Walcheren Expedition. In his letter to 
Mr. Canning, he observes, " You allowed me to originate and pro- 
ceed in the execution of a new enterprise," &c. 


as a condition of your continuing a member of the gov- 
ernment ; but I nave a distinct right' to expect that a 
proposition, justifiable in itself, shall not be executed in 
an unjustifiable manner, and at the expense of my hon- 
or and reputation." 

It is clear that it was the mode of executing the 

? reposition, and not the proposition itself, which 
iord Castlereagh professed to consider objection- 
able. He admitted that the original proposition was 
that which he had no right to resent, but contended 
that the mode of executing it afforded just ground 
of offense i and he visited this offense, not on the 
persons who committed it, but on the author of the 
proposition, which he had disclaimed the right of 
resenting. It is a pity, if duels must be resorted to 
for the vindication of personal honor, that personal 
honor should not be a little more exact in fixing 
the responsibility. So far as Lord Castlereagh's 
honor was concerned, it stood in the same predica- 
ment after the duel as before, seeing that he ob- 
tained no satisfaction whatever, except from the 
only person concerned in the transaction, who, on 
his own showing, stood clear of the imputed offense. 
Mr. Canning had nothing to do with the execu- 
tion of the proposition, which Lord Castlereagh ad- 
mitted he had a right to make. The mode of put- 
ting that proposition into effect rested with others, 
who alone were responsible for it. Mr. Canning 
might have declined Lord Castlereagh's hostile 
invitation on this very obvious ground; but he 
thought that the terms of Lord Castlereagh's let- 
ter precluded explanation, and he surrendered his 
judgment to a very foolish custom, which proved 
nothing either way.* 

* Contemporary opinion ran strongly against Lord Castlereagh. 
Wilberforce blames nim for having sent the challenge, not on the 
impulse of the first angry feelings, but after chewing the cud of 
his resentment for twelve days. — " Life," iii., 431. In another 


The parties met on the 21st of September, near 
the telegraph on Putney Heath, Lord Castlereagh 
attended by Lord Yarmouth (afterward Marquis 
of Hertford)* and Mr. Canning by Charles Ellis 
(afterward Lord Seaford). Having taken their 
ground (in sight of the windows of the house where 
Pitt died !), they fired by signal, and missed. The 
seconds endeavored to effect an accommodation, 
but failed, and they then declared that, after a sec* 
ond shot, they would retire from the field. The 
principals again fired, and Lord Castlereagh's ball 
entered Mr. Canning's thigh on the outer side of 
the bone. According to some accounts of the meet- 
ing, they were placed to fire again, when the sec- 
onds, seeing the blood streaming from Mr. Canning's 
wound, interfered, and so the affair ended.* Mr. 
Canning afterward published an account of the 
whole transaction, which was rendered necessary 
by certain statements published by Lord Camden. 
Lord Castlereagh's secretary also issued a " detail," 
as he described it, " of the original cause of the 
animosity," which was answered by a " statement" 
from Mr. Canning. 

Mr. Canning's wound was fortunately slight, and 
after a short confinement at his house, Gloucester 

place, be ascribes the challenge to his lordship's " Irish education 
and habits," p. 427. These censures are inconsistent. The Irish 
habit is more hasty and hot-blooded. If Lord Castlereagh did de- 
liberate for twelve days, it must have been because his quick na- 
ture had undergone a sea-change. Sir Samuel Romilly blamed 
both parties. He says that Lord Castlereagh's " honor" was in 
no way impeached by what had happened, and that Mr. Canning 
deserves censure for accepting a challenge upon such grounds. — 
" Memoirs," ii, 300. The leading Tory publication took the same 
view of the false conclusion drawn by Lord, Castlereagh from his 
own premises. 
* wilberforce tells us that two pistols, thrown away by the 

combatants, were found upon the ground, and that Lord 

picked up one of them ana carried it off, his gardener securing 
the other. 


Lodge, in Brompton, he was sufficiently recovered 
to attend the Levee on the 11th of October, and 
resign the seals of the Foreign Office into the hands 
of his majesty. Mr. Huskisson resigned with him, 
nobly sacrificing his ambition to his friendship.* 
The infirm Duke of Portland, shattered and 
wrecked by these disasters, went into retirement 
and died. The administration was at an end. 


Ranelagh was in its meridian glory about the 
middle of the eighteenth century. The crowds of 
people it drew westward, steaming along the roads 
on horseback and afoot, suggested to some enter- 
prising spectator the manifest want of a place of 
half- way entertainment that might tempt the tired 
pleasure-hunter to rest a while on his way home, 
or, perhaps, entice him from the prosecution of his 
remoter expedition on his way out. The spot was 
well chosen for the execution of this sinister design. 
It lay between Brompton and Kensington, just far 
enough from town to make it a pleasant resting- 
point for the pedestrian, and near enough to Ran- 
elagh to make it a formidable rival. Sometimes 
of a summer's evening there might be heard the 
voices of brass instruments, coming singing in the 
wind over the heads of the gay groups that were 
flaunting on the high road, or through the fields on 

* «« Speeches of the Rt. Hon. W: Huskisson," p. 51. There 
never was a more disinterested proof of attachment, for Mr. Hus- 
kisson's office (under-secretary to the treasury) was in no way in- 
volved in the quarrel, and Mr. Perceval in vain entreated him to 
remain. Mr. Sturges Bourne gave a similar testimony of hi* 
friendship by resigning at the same time. 


their excursion to Ranelagh ; and sometimes, de- 
coyed by the sound, they would follow it, thinking 
they had mistaken the path, and never discover 
their mistake until they found themselves in the 
bosky recesses of Florida Gardens. 

Florida Gardens, laid out in the manner of Ran- 
elagh and Vauxhall, arid the Mulberry Garden of 
old, flourished about sixty years ago: after that 
time,"the place fell into waste and neglect, although 
the site was agreeable and even picturesque in its 
arrangements. It was bought by the Duchess of 
Gloucester, who built a handsome residence upon 
it, which, being in the Italian style, was at first 
called Villa Maria; but subsequently, in conse- 
quence of the duchess making die house her con- 
stant resort in the summer months, became gen- 
erally known by the name of Gloucester Lodge. 
Her royal highness died here in 1807, and Mr. Can- 
ning purchased her interest in the estate from her 
daughter, the Princess Sophia. 

It was in this charming retreat — profoundly still, 

•* With overarching elms, 
And violet banks where sweet dreams brood" — 

that Mr. Canning, during the long interval which 

now elapsed before he returned to office, passed 

the greater part of his leisure . We avail ourselves 

of this interval of repose to group together, with a 

disregard for chronological unity, which we hope 

the reader will not be disinclined to tolerate, a few 

waifs and strays of personal and domestic interest, 

otherwise inadmissible to an audience without risk 

of intrusion. There are parentheses of idle fancy 

and memory-gossip in every man's life— wet days 

when he turns over old letters at the fireside— or 

indolent sunny days, when he can do nothing but 

bask in the golden mists and run the round of his 

youth over again in his imagination. Such lazy 


hours may be fairly represented by a few indulgent 
pages of disjointed memorabilia. 

The grounds of Gloucester Lodge were shut in 
by trees. All was seclusion the moment the gates 
closed. *' The drawing-room/' says Mr. Rush, 
"opened on a portico from which you walked out 
upon one of those smoothly-shaven lawns which 
Johnson, speaking of Pope's poetry, likens to vel- 
vet." Here Mr. Canning received the most dis- 
tinguished persons of his time, Gloucester Lodge 
acquiring, under the influence of his accomplished 
taste, the highest celebrity for its intellectual re- 
unions. His own feelings always led him to prefer 
home parties, and, as has already been noticed, he 
rarely went abroad, except among close friends or 
on occasions of ceremony. His private life was 
not merely blameless, but quite admirable ; he was 
idolized by his family ; and yet, says a noble con- 
temporary, such was the ignorance or malevolence 
of the paragraph writers, that he was described as 
a " diner-out."* 

The wit which sparkled at these entertainments 
was of the highest order : but there was something 
even better than wit — a spirit of enjoyment, gay, 
genial, and playful. Mr. Rush gives us an amusing 
account of a scene which took place at a dinner at 
Gloucester Lodge, immediately after the breaking 
up of Parliament. Several members of the dip- 
lomatic corps were present. Canning, Huskisson, 
and Robinson were like birds let out of a cage. 
There was a great deal of sprightly small talk, and 
after sitting a long time at table, Canning proposed 
that they should play at "Twenty Questions." 
They had never heard of this game, which con- 
sisted in putting twenty questions to find out the 
object of your thoughts, something to be selected 
* " Historical Sketches," &c. By Lord Brougham. 


within certain prescribed limits. It was arranged 
that Mr. Canning, assisted by the chancellor of the 
exchequer, was to ask the questions, and Mr. Rush, 
assisted by Lord Grenville, was to give the answers 
— the representatives of, probably, nearly all the 
monarchs of Europe, and the principal ministers 
of England, watching the result in absolute sus- 
pense. The secret was hunted through a variety 
of dextrous shifts and evasions, until Canning had 
at last exhausted his twenty questions. " He sat 
silent for a minute or two," says Mr. Rush ; " then, 
rolling his rich eye about, and with his countenance 
a little anxious, and, in an accent by no means over- 
confident, he exclaimed, ' I think it must be the 
wand of the lord-high-steward ! ' " And it was even 
so. A burst of approbation followed his success, 
and the diplomatic people pleasantly observed that 
they must not let him ask them too many questions 
at the Foreign Office, lest he might find out every 
secret they had ! 

But Mr. Canning was not always in such glorious 
moods after dinner. His animal spirits sometimes 
sank under the weight of his public responsibilities. 
Rush was dining with him one day, when he held 
the seals of the Foreign Office, and the conversa- 
tion happening to turn upon Swift, he desired Mr. 
Planta to take down "Gulliver's Travels" and 
read the account of the storm on the passage to 
Brobdignag, so remarkable for its nautical accuracy. 
It describes the sailors when " the sea broke strange 
and dangerous, hauling off the laniard of the whip- 
staff, ana helping the man at the helm." Canning 
sat silent for a few moments, and then, in a revery, 
repeated several times, " And helped the man at 
the helm — and helped the man at the helm !" 

On another occasion, Mr. Rush takes us after 
dinner into the drawing-room, where " some of the 


company found pastime in turning over the leaves 
of caricatures bound in large volumes. They went 
back to the French Revolutionary period. Kings, 
princes, cabinet ministers,, members of Parliament, 
every body figured in them. It was a kind of his- 
tory of England, in caricature, for five-and-twenty 
years. Need I add, that our accomplished host 
was on many a page 1 He stood by. Now and 
then he threw in a word, giving new point to the 
scenes."* Mr. Rush does not appear to have been 
aware that these volumes of caricatures contained 
the works of the famous Gilray, an artist of coarse 
mind, but of rapid invention, great humor, ^tnd 
original genius. Gilray helped very materially to 
sustain Mr. Canning's popularity, if he did not act- 
ually extend and improve it. Mr. Canning fre- 
quently gave him valuable suggestions, which he 
worked out with unfailing tact and whimsicality, 
making it a point of honor, as well as of gratitude 
and admiration, to give Mr. Canning in return, on 
all occasions, an advantageous position in his de- 
signs. The importance of having the great cari- 
caturist of the day on his side is nearly as great to 
a public man, especially to one assailed by envy and 
detraction, as that ascribed by Swift to the ballads 
of a nation. Gilray always turned the laugh against 
Mr. Canning's opponents, and never forgot to dis- 
play his friend and patron in an attitude that car- 
ried off the applause of the spectators. In one of 
his sketches he represents Mr. Canning aloft in the 
chariot of Anti-J Jacobinism, radiant with glory, 
driving the sans culotte mob before him ; nor did 
Mr. Canning, on the other hand, omit any opportu- 
nity of drawing Mr. Gilray into favorable notice. 
In the satire upon Addington, called " The Grand 
Consultation," Gilray's caricature of " Dramatic 
* " Residence at the Court of London, First Series," p. 233-4. 


Royalty ; or, the Patriotic Courage of Sherry An- 
drew, is particularly alluded to in the following 
verse : 

" And instead of the jack-pudding bluster of Sherry, 
And his * dagger oilath,' and his speeches so merry ! 
Let us bring to the field — every foe to appall— 
Aldini's galvanic deceptions, and all 

The sleight of hand tricks of Conjuror Val." 

Canning's passion for literature entered into all 
his pursuits. It colored his whole life. Every mo- 
ment of leisure was given up to books. He and 
Pitt were passionately fond of the classics, and we 
find them together of an evening, after a dinner at 
Pitt's, poring over some old Grecian in a corner of 
the drawing-room, while the rest of the company 
are dispersed in conversation.* Fox had a similar 
love of classical literature, but his wider sympathies 
embraced a class of works in which Pitt never ap- 
pears to have exhibited any interest. Fox was a 
devourer of novels, and into this region Mr. Can- 
ning entered with gusto. In English writings, his 
judgment was .pure and strict ; and no man was a 
more perfect master of all the varieties of compo- 
sition. He was the first English minister who ban- 
ished the French language from our diplomatic cor- 
respondence, and vindicated before Europe the co- 
Eiousness and dignity of our native tongue.t He 
ad a high zest for the early vigorous models in all 
styles, and held in less estimation the more ornate 
and refined. "Writing to Scott about the "Lady of 
the Lake," he says that, on a repeated perusal, he 
is more and more delighted with it ; but that he 
wishes he could induce him to try the effect of " a 
more full and sweeping style" — to present himself 
** in a Drydenic habit. "{, His admiration of Dry- 
den, whom he pronounced to be " the perfection of 

* " Life of Wilberforce," ii., 34. t " Quarterly Review/' 1827. 
% " Life of Scott," iii., 265-6. 


harmony ,"* and his preference of that poet of gi- 
gantic mould over the melodists of the French 
school, may be suggested as an evidence of the 
soundness and strength of his judgment. 

Yet it is remarkable* that with this broad sense 
of great faculties in others, he was himself fastidi- 
ous to excess about the slightest turns of expres- 
sion. He would correct his speeches, and amend 
their verbal graces, till he nearly polished out^he 
original spirit. He was not singular in this. Burke, 
whom he is said to have closely studied, did the 
same. Sheridan always prepared his speeches; 
the highly-wrought passages in the speech on Hast- 
ings impeachment were written beforehand and 
committed to memory; and the" differences were so 
marked, that the audience could readily distinguish 
between the extemporaneous passages and those 
that were premeditated. Mr. Canning's alterations 
were frequently so minute and extensive, that the 
printers found it easier to recompose the matter 
afresh in type than to correct it. This difficulty of 
choice in diction sometimes springs from rembar- 
ras des richesses, but oftener from poverty of re- 
sources, and generally indicates a- class of intellect 
which is more occupied with Costume than ideas. 
But here are three instances which set all popular 
notions on this question of verbal fastidiousness by 
the ears ; for certainly Burke, Canning, and Sher- 
idan were men of capacious talents, and two of 
them, at least, present extraordinary examples of im- 
agination arid practical judgment, running together 
neck and neck in the race of life to the very goal. 

Mr. Canning's opinions on the subject of public 
speaking afford a useful commentary upon his prac- 
tice. He used to % say that speaking in the House 
of Commons must take conversation for its basis ; 
* " Life of Scott,' iu., 321. 


tnat a studious treatment of topics was out of place. 
The House of Commons is a working body, jeal- 
ous and suspicious of embellishments in debate, 
which, if used at all, ought to be spontaneous and 
unpremeditated. Method is indispensable. Top- 
ics ought to be clearly distributed and arranged ; 
but this arrangement should be felt in the effect, 
and not betrayed in the manner. But above all 
things, first and last, he maintained that reasoning 
was the one essential element. Oratory in the 
House of Lords was totally different; it was ad-, 
dressed to a different atmosphere — a different class 
of intellects — more elevated, more conventional. 
It was necessary to be more ambitious and elabo- 
rate, although some of the chief speakers had been 
formed in the Commons. He thought the average 
speaking in the Peers better than that in the Low- 
er House, one reason for which was, perhaps, that 
the House was less miscellaneous, and better 
stocked with thoroughly-educated men. 

His own speeches can never be cited in illustra- 
tion of the system he recommended for the popular 
branch of the Legislature. Yet, although his elo- 
quence was elevated far above the average imagi- 
nation and acquirements of his audience, it never 
perplexed their understandings. The argument 
was always clear ; he kept that to the level of their 
practical intelligence, and all the rest only went to 
raise their enthusiasm or to provoke their passions. 
Wilberforce, who was at least unprejudiced, says 
that Canning " never drew you to him in spite of 
yourself," as Pitt and Fox used to do, yet that he 
was a more finished orator than either. As far as 
this goes, it is quite just. Canning had less earn- 
estness than Pitt or Fox ; there was less abandon 
in his speeches, less real emotion ; but he was a 
greater master of his art, and commanded remoter 
17 Y 2 


and more various resources. His wit transcended 
all comparison with any orator of bis time. His 
humor was irresistible. Wilberforee went borne 
crying with laughter after his account of Lord 
Nugent*s journey to lend the succor of his person 
(Lord Nugent being, as every body knows, not a 
very light weight) to constitutional Spain. The 
light horseman's uniform— the heavy Falmouth 
coach — threw the House into convulsions, just as 
if it had been an assembly of pantomimic imps 
lighted up with laughing gas. The passage will 
stand by itself, without introduction, as a capital 
specimen of the best-hnmored political raillery. 
There is not a particle of ill-nature in it; and it 
had no other effect on Lord Nugent (whose own 
nature was incapable of a small resentment) than 
that of increasing his high opinion of Mr. Canning's 
great powers. Lord Nugent was long afterward 
one of Mr. Canning's warmest supporters. 

44 It was about the middle of last July that the heavy 
Falmouth coach — (loud and long-continued laughter) — 
that the heavy Falmouth, coach— (laughter) — was ob- 
served traveling to its destination through the roads of 
Cornwall with more than its usual gravity. (Very loud 
laughter.) There were, according to the best advices, 
two inside passengers — (laughter)— one a lady of no con- 
siderable dimensions — (laughter) — and a gentleman, who, 
as it had been since ascertained, was conveying the suc- 
cor of his person to Spain. (Cheers and laughter.) I 
am informed, and, having no reason to doubt my inform 
ant, I firmly believe it, that in the van belonging to the 
coach— (gentlemen must know the nature and uses of 
that auxiliary to the regular stage-coaches) — was a box, 
more bulky than ordinary, and of most portentous con- 
tents — it was observed, that after their arrival, this box 
and the passenger before mentioned became inseparable. 
The box was known to have contained the uniform of a 
Spanish general of cavalry— (much laughter)— and it was 
Said of the helmet, which was teyond the usual size, that 


it exceeded all other helmets* spoken of in history, not 
excepting the celebrated helmet in the * Castle of Otran- 
to.' - (Cheers and laughter.) The idea of going to the 
relief of a fortress blockaded by sea, and besieged by 
land, with the uniform of a light cavalry officer, was 
new, to say the least of it. About this time the force 
offered by the hon. gentleman, which had never existed 
but on paper, was in all probability expected— I will not 
stay to determine whether it was to have consisted of 
10,000 or 5000 men. No doubt, upon the arrival of the 
general and his uniform, the Cortes must have rubbed 
their hands with satisfaction, and concluded that now the 
promised force was come, they would have little more 
to fear. (Laughter.) It did come, as much of it as. 
ever would be seen by the Cortes or the king ; but it 
came in that sense and no other, which was described 
by a witty nobleman, George, duke of Buckingham, whom 
the noble lord opposite (Lord Nugent) reckoned among 
his lineal ancestors. In the play of the Rehearsed, there 
was a scene occupied with the designs of two usurpers, 
to whom one of their party, entering, says, 

1 Sirs, 
The army at the door, bat in disguise, 
Entreats a word of both your majesties.' 

(Very loud and continued laughter.) Such must have 
been the effect of the arrival of the noble lord. How he 
was received, or what effect he operated on the coun- 
sels and affairs of the Cortes by his arrival, I do not know. 
Things were at that juncture moving too rapidly to their 
final issue. How far the noble lord conduced to the ter- 
mination by plumping his weight into the sinking scale 
of (he Cortes, is too nice a question for me just now to 
settle.'* (Loud cheers and laughter.) 

M Canning's drollery of voice and manner," says 
Wilberfbrce, " were inimitable. There is a light- 
ing up of his features, and a comic play about the 
mouth, when the full force of the approaching wit- 
ticism strikes his own mind, which prepares you 
for the burst which is to folio w." # This quality 
of humor was not within the range of Pitt or Fox, 
* " Life of Wiiberforce," v., 217. 


In descriptive power, and in the higher uses of 
imagination, Canning certainly excelled all his 
contemporaries, except Burke ; and it is doubtful 
whether he was not more judicious even than 
Burke in his choice of the occasion. The follow- 
ing well-known passage from his speech at Plym- 
outh, in 1823, may be cited as perfect in its kind; 

44 Our present repose is no more a proof of inability to 
act than the state of inertness and inactivity in which I 
have seen those mighty masses that float in the waters 
above your town is a proof they are devoid of strength, 
and incapable of being fitted out for action. You well 
know, gentlemen, how soon one of those stupendous mass- 
es, now reposing in their shadows, in perfect stillness- 
how soon, upon any call of patriotism or necessity, it 
would assume the likeness of an animated being, instinct 
with life and motion — how soon it would ruffle, as it were, 
its swelling plumage — how quickly it would put forth all 
its beauty and its bravery, collect its scattered elements 
of strength, and awaken its dormant thunder ; such is 
one of those magnificent machines when springing from 
inaction into a display of its might ; such is England her- 
self, while, apparently passive and motionless, she silent- 
ly concentrates the power to be put forth on an adequate 

The facility with which Canning could bring his 
fancy to bear upon the driest subjects, without suf- 
fering them to lose a jot of their importance, is 
marvelously illustrated in his speech on the Re- 
port of the Bullion Committee. ." Of his powers 
of argumentation," observes Lord Brougham, " his 
capacity for the pursuits of abstract science, his 
genius for adorning the least attractive subjects, 
there remains an imperishable record in his cele- 
brated speeches on the currency, of all his efforts 
the most brilliant and the most happy."* Mackin- 
tosh said to him, that he incorporated in his mind 

* " Historical Sketches." Art. Canning, p. 278. 


all the Eloquence and wisdom of ancient literature. 
He thought Canning and Plunkett the. finest ora- 
tors of their time ; and that Canning, especially, 
excelled in language. 

Had he cultivated the bar, his great talents for 
speaking to evidence, and for dissecting the cir- 
cumstantial bearings of a case — developed so suc- 
cessfully in his speech on Colonel Wardle's motion 
respecting the Duke of York — must have carried 
him to the highest eminence. But he .never liked 
the profession, although he struggled hard in his 
youth to devote himself to it, and to overcome his 
early passion for the House of Commons. In a 
private letter written to a college friend,* while 
he was at Oxford (Sept. 1st, 1788), he fully con- 
fesses this besetting desire, and his resolution to 
wrestle with its influence. The glimpse of char- 
acter we get in the following passage from this let- 
ter is striking : 

41 1 am already, God knows, too much inclined, both by 
my own sanguine wishes and the connection withw hom 
1 am most intimate, and whom, I, above all others, re- 
vere, to aim at the House of Commons as the only path 
to the only desirable thing in this world — the gratification 
6f ambition ; while at the same time every tie of com- 
mon sense, of fortune, and of duty, draws me to the study 
of a profession. The former propensity, I hope, reflec- 
tion, necessity, and the friendly advice and very marked 
attention of the deanf will enable me to overcome ; and 
to the law I look as the profession which, in this coun- 
try, holds out every enticement that can nerve the ex- 
ertions, and give vigor to the power of a young man. 
The way, indeed, is long, toilsome, and rugged ; but it 
leads to honors solid and lasting ; to independence, with- 

* Mr. John Frank Newton. 

t The gentleman here alluded to was Dr. Cyril Jackson, dean 
Of Christ Church, who entertained the highesjt opinion of Mr. 
Canning's talents, and looked forward confidently to the high des- 
tiny which awaited him. 


out which do blessings of fortune, however profuse, no 
distinctions of station, however splendid, can afford a lib- 
eral mind true satisfaction ; to power, for which no task 
can be too hard, no labors too trying." 

The serious aims of eighteen, expressed in so di- 
dactic and formal a style, are characteristic. With 
what concentrated power and perseverance the 
writer followed up his purpose, we. have seen; and 
had it not been for the unfortunate difference with 
Lord Castlereagh, and for that irascible and haugh' 
ty temper which kept Mr. Canning so long aloof 
from the government, while Lord Castlereagh's 
more ductile disposition speedily accommodated it- 
self to every change, he would have attained the 
summit of his ambition much earlier, and with less 
cost of suffering and resentment 

At this time Mr. Canning, strange to say, was ig- 
norant of French. He had frequently resolved to 
set about it, but never could find the right moment 
to begin. In this letter to his friend he expresses 
his determination to carry into effect a plan no had 
formerly laid down for accomplishing his purpose. 
Mr. Newton (to whom the letter was addressed) 
had invited his -correspondent to accompany him on 
hie return to the West Indies, where Mr. Newton's 
family lived. The object of the invitation was to 
give Mr. Canning, who had taken a great interest 
in the slave question while he was at Oxford, the 
opportunity of personally investigating the condi- 
tion of the negro. 

44 The return you mention to me with you is a pleas- 
ing fairy scheme, but which, then at least, will not be 
put in execution. My plans for next summer are fixed, 
and I think will be improving and agreeable. You may 
know that I am shamefully ignorant of French, and 
though I have fifty times formed the intention of learn- 
ing it, I never yet have brought my intention to the ma- 
turity of practical application. By this time twelve- 


month I intend to procure a smattering sufficient to can 
a coach or swear at a waiter, and then to put into exe- 
cution a plan formed long ago, in happier days, of going 
abroad with my three fellow-scribes the Microcosmopol- 
itans. Our idea is not that of scampering through France 
and ranting in Paris, but a sober sort of thing — to go and 
settle for two months in some provincial town, remark- 
able for the salubrity of its climate, the respectability of 
its inhabitants, and the purity of its language ; there to 
improve our constitutions by the first ; to extend our ac- 
quaintance with men and manners by the second, and to 
qualify ourselves for a farther extension of it by perfect- 
ing ourselves in the third." 

This sensible design, so very much in the spirit 
of the " Microcosm" itself, Mr. Canning is said to 
have fulfilled.* . Be that as it may, he was a perfect 
master of French long before he made his way into 
the Foreign Office under Lord Grenyille. 

* " New Monthly Magazine," 1828. A writer in this publica- 
tion says that Mr. Canning carried the project into effect, and 
mentions Mr. R. Smith, Mr. Frere, and Mr. George Ellis as the 
three Microeosmopolitans who accompanied him. There mast 
be some mistake in this statement. Mr. George Ellis was not a 
Microcosmopolitan. He was educated at Westminster School 
arid Trinity College, Cambridge ; and although a close intimacy 
afterward existed between him and Mr. Canning, there is no evi- 
dence to show that they ever met until after both had left college. 
Mr. Ellis was one of. the wits of the " Rolliad," and afterward, on 
the other side, of the " Anti-Jacobin." There is an anecdote re- 
lated of him and Pitt, that, at their first interview, Canning made 
some amusing allusions to the " Rolliad," which embarrassed El- 
lis, as they were probably intended 7 to do, when Pitt very good- 
humoredly turned round and said, 

" Immo age et a prima die hospes origine nobis. 
Mr. Ellis, however, is remembered by more permanent contribu- 
tions to our literature— his " Specimens" of the early English Po- • 
ets, and of the early Prose Romances. Of his labors m these 
works it has been judiciously remarked, that " others dug deeper 
for materials ; but he alone gave vivacity to antiquities, and dif- 
fused those graces of literature and society, which were peculiar- 
ly his own, over the rudest remains of barbarism." Mr. Ellis was 
known to have been engaged for some time on a life of Windham, 
but ill health appears to have interrupted its completion. The 
latter part of his life was imbittered by severe maladies, and his 
sick-chamber was often cheered by the presence of his friend 
Canning. He died in 1815. at the age of seventy. 


The letter runs on in the same gossiping confi- 
dential vein, giving us a glimpse of some of his 
contemporaries, and of that college weariness 
which grows out of the departure of familiar faces. 

" This scheme I have always looked forward to with 
delight, and do so now more than ever t on account of the 
dull avenue of. four Oxford terms, through which I have 
to approach its execution. To say the. truth, Oxford is 
so completely uncongenial with my wishes and habits of 
mind and body, that I dread, even at this distance, my 
return to it. There are literally not five faces mere 
which I have any very ardent desire ever to behold 
again. Wallace is gone, Western, is gone, Newton is 
gone, and why am not I gone ? I expect, however, at 
my return, a small cargo of Etonians, who will in some 
measure comfort me for the utter emptiness and unami- 
ableness of the generality of the good folks whom Christ 
Church can boost. I have also taken it into my head 
that I shall receive * * * into favor again. The truth 
about him is, that he is not without good points ; his 
heart has some worth, his abilities very considerable em- 
inence. . . . His character is far above that most nause- 
ous of all things — insipidity, and negative good or evil. 
As a competitor, he was troublesome and worth crush- 
ing ; but that once done, and I can assure you it cost me 
some pains to accomplish it, ( his good now blazes ; all 
his bad is in the grave,' as Zanga says. W. S. has 
again left Oxford, and I fancy forever. He is, I hear; 
gone abroad, but whither I know not. Pity that abili- 
ties so great should be rendered useless to himself and 
to society by such an eccentricity of temper and unac- 
countableness of behavior as characterizes him."* 

The letter from which these extracts have been 
taken presents another feature of interest — an ac- 

* The W. S. was, no doubt, William Spencer, the Devonshire 
House poet, who was a member of Christ Church. Mr. Wallace 
wa» afterward raised to the peerage, with the title of Baron Wal- 
lace. He was a son of a former attorney-general. Western (the 
only son of Mr. Western, of Cokethorpe Hall, Oxfordshire) dis- 
tinguished himself at Eton, and was one of Canning's most inti- 
mate associates. He died early. 


couiit of the fate of a little debating club which was 
formed at Christ' Church, and to which allusion has 
been already made.* Mr. Newton, who was one 
of the members, tells us that it was established in 
1787, and consisted of Jenkinson, Canning, Lord 
Henry Spencer, Drummond (afterward Sir Will- 
iam, and some time British embassador at Con- 
stantinople), Charles Goddard,t and himsel£ It 
was, in fact, a " Speaking Society," and came to 
be called a club by courtesy. 

u This club," says Mr. Newton, " in which were heard 
the first speeches ever composed or delivered by Lord 
Liverpool and Mr. Canning, met every Thursday even- 
ing at the rooms of the members, who were at its first 
establishment limited to the number of six. Before our 
separation at night, or frequently at one or two o'clock in 
the morning, we voted and recorded the question which 
we were to debate on the ensuing Thursday ."$ 

Mr. Newton is probably correct in assigning to 
Christ Church the honor of Lord Liverpool's first 
speeches ; but Canning had appeared as an orator 
at a still earlier period in the Debating Society at 
Eton. This Oxford Club was a close secret. Ite 
members adopted a uniform— a brown coat of a 
singular shade, with velvet cuifs and collar, and but- 
tons bearing the initials of Demosthenes, Cicero, 
Pitt, and Fox ! The members, used to dine some- 
times in their club costume in the hall, to pique 
the curiosity of their fellow-students. The mystery 
was well kept for a time ; but it seems from the 
following narrative that it was betrayed at last. 

The whole passage possesses a peculiar value. 

* Ante, p. 60. 

t Goddard became private secretary to Lord Grenville, at whose 
house, in St. James's Square, his college friends used to -visit him. 
He was afterward Archdeacon of Lincoln. 

X " Early Days of the Right Honorable George Canning. By 
John Frank Newton, Esq." 1828. 



It shows clearly and unequivocally Mr. Canning's 
college politics; establishes his connection with 
the party in opposition to that with which Jenkin- 
son was associated; and goes even so far as to 
make a distinct " profession" of principles. Can- 
ning and Jenkinson were, in feet, looked upon at 
Christ Church as the representatives of Tory and 
Whig opinions, and were w pitted" against each 
other accordingly, with all the amicable rivalry and 
emulation natural to such youthful struggles. The 
Parliamentary tact with which Canning acted in 
tbis matter of the club must strike the reader ae 
the foreshadowing of his spirit, looking out into its 
future career. Had the interests of Europe been 
at stake, he could not have conducted himself with 
more diplomatic caution. 

44 You will be a good deal surprised at the answer 
which your questions relative to the club will receive. 
That club, Newton, is no more. 4 And what dread event ? 
what sacrilegious hand? 1 you will exclaim. Newton, 
mine. My reasons I never gave to any of the members, 
but I will open them to you. What my reasons for first 
becoming a part of the institution were, I protest I can 
not at present call to mind. Perhaps 1 was inflamed by 
the novelty of the plan, perhaps influenced by your ex- 
ample ; perhaps I was not quite without an idea of try- 
ing my strength with Jenkinson. Connected with men 
of avowed enmity in the political world, professing oppo- 
site principles, and looking forward to some distant pe- 
riod when we might be ranged against each other on a 
larger field, we were, perhaps, neither of us without the 
vanity of wishing to obtain an earjy ascendency over the 

* ♦ * * ' * 

44 So long as the purport and usage of the club were a 
secret, I was very well contented to be of it ; but when 
it became notoriously known, when the dean to me (and 
to me only) in private recommended some reasons against 
its propriety to my serious consideration — (for hid he 


presumed to interpose authoritatively, that single cir- 
. cumstance, 4 albeit considerations infinite did make against 
it,' would have been sufficient to determine me upon its 
continuance)— when ha represented it to me in a very 
strong light* as being almost an absolute avowal of Par- 
liamentary views — to a professional man an avowal the 
most dangerous — this representation made me resolve to 
abandon an undertaking which- 1 saw evidently would 
neither promise eventual advantage nor maintain a tem- 
porary respectability. Thus resolved, at my return af- 
ter the Easter vacation, without any previous confiden- 
tial communication of my reasons or my intentions, I 
sent my resignation by Lord Henry on the first night of 
their meeting. William Spencer was now eome, and 
was that night to take his seat. The message which 
Lord Hemy brought occasioned, as it were, a combus- 
tion, which ended in the moving of some very violent 
resolutions. Among others, I was summoned to the bar ; 
of course, refused to obey the summons. A deputation 
was then sent to interrogate me respecting the causes 
of my resignation, which of course I refused to reveal ; 
and they were at last satisfied by my declaring that the 
reason of my resignation did not affect them collectively 
or individually. I of course was anxious that every body 
should know that I was no longer a member of the club ; 
and therefore, whenever it was a subject of conversa- 
tion, disavowed my connection with it. Lord Henry I 
with much difficulty prevented from resigning at the 
same time that I did. He, however, attended but two 
more debates, and then formally ' accepted the Chiltern 
Hundreds,' to use a Parliamentary phrase. They now 
all unanimously gave out that there had been a complete 
dissolution, and that the thing was no longer in exist- 
ence ; altered their limes and modes of meeting ; abol- 
ished the uniform, and suspended their assemblies for a 
time. This, it seems, was intended to punish me, by 
carrying the face of a common, and not a particular se- 
cession. It was not long, however, before the truth came 
out, and their mighty debates are again renewed, not 
undiscovered ; but with less pomp, regularity, numbers, 
and vociferation. This, then, is a full and true account 


of the decline and fall, and of the revival also, of .the so- 
ciety. I do not think yon can blame my conduct when 
you recollect that the imputation of Parliamentary pros- . 
pects, already too much fixed upon me, is what, of all 
others, a person in my situation ought to avoid." 

Mr. Canning's humor was incessantly exploding 
in bon-mots ana repartees. He could talk epigrams. 
He was so prolific a producer of " good things," 
that if he had not been pre-eminently distinguished 
as an orator and statesman, he might have descend- 
ed to us with a' more dazzling social reputation 
than Buckingham or Waller. The lines on Mr. 
Whitbread's speech, thrown off like flashes of light, 
show how rapidly and successfully he could cast 
his jest into any shape he pleased. Here are two 
more trifles redeemed from manuscript, and pre- 
served in this place, not for their merit, but their 
flavor ; as certain common herbs are dropped into 
the daintiest potage, merely to impart to it a soupqon 
of their aroma. 

The subject of this epigram was a Mr. Douglas, 
son of the Bishop of Salisbury, a man six feet two 
inches in height, and of enormous bulk. This im- 
mense gentleman was one of the greatest gour- 
mands of his day, and used to move onward, not 
walk, like a mountain. The little boys at Oxford 
always gathered about him when he went into the 
streets, to gaze upward at his towering bulk ; when 
he would cry out, characteristically enough, "-Get 
out of my way, you little scamps, or I mil roll upon 


41 That the stones of our chapel are both black and white 
Is most undeniably true, 
But as Douglas walks over them morning and night, 
It's a wonder they're not black and blue." 

44 There's a difference between 
A bishop and a dean, 


And I'll tell you the reason why : 

A dean can not dish up 
A dinner like a bishop, 

Or breed such a fat son as I." 

Mr. Canning's political occupations absorbed too 
much time to permit him to indulge his literary am- 
bition in any extensive undertaking ; but he always 
manifested a zealous interest in the advancement 
of letters. The " Quarterly Review" received its 
first impulse from his hand. The plan was sub- 
mitted, to him, and having received his approval, 
was carried out under his sanction, assisted by the 
Ellises, Malthus, Mathias, Gilford, and Heber. Mr. 
Canning himself was one of its most distinguished 

He was one of the forty members of the Literary 
Club founded by Reynolds and Johnson ; but he 
did not content himself with the holyday processions 
and festivals of literature. The Royal Institution 
of Liverpool was largely assisted by his active ex- 
ertions; and he was a liberal patron of the Liter- 
ary Fund, which reckons among its white days an 
anniversary at which Canning and Chateaubriand 
met. It was on this occasion that the latter, at that 
time the representative of his sovereign in this 
country, publicly stated, with a frankness no less 
honorable to himself than to the admirable institu- 
tion he addressed, that when he had formerly been 
an exile in England, without friends or resources, 
he was indebted to the prompt, sympathy of the 
Literary Fund for the most efficient assistance, 
without which timely aid, he said, he should never 
have lived to enjoy the honors which afterward 
awaited him at home. There was a strong senti- 
ment of personal regard between Chateaubriand 
and Mr. Canning, generated by mutual tastes and 
accomplishments. During a part of the time when 


Canning was Foreign Secretary, Chateaubriand 
held a similar office in France ; and the correspond- 
ence of the two secretaries was conducted through- 
out this period with extraordinary care. % Canning 
used to set up till two or three o'clock in the morn- 
ing over his dispatches, to give them a more elab- 
orate finish than usual, from his high sense of the 
literary character of his correspondent. To this 
feeling of emulation we owe some of the noblest 
state documents in our national archives. 

He never suffered an opportunity to escape of 
promoting the welfare of literary men or their con- 
nections. Soon after Sir Walter Scott had become 
involved in pecuniary troubles, Mr. Canning, under- 
standing that he was to meet him at dinner, at Mr. 
Croker's, wrote privately to Sir William Knighton, 
for the purpose of interesting his majesty before- 
hand on behalf of Sir Walter's son. " I shall be 
glad," he said, " to have the protection of the king's 
commands in doing an act of kindness by Malachi 
Malagrowther.' ' On another occasion, James Mill, 
the historian of India, a conspicuous Radical, a man 
of distinguished intellectual power, the friend of 
Bentham, and the most prominent writer in the 
«* Westminster Review" (items not very recom- 
mendatory to the government of the day), was one 
of the candidates for the examinership in the oivil 
service of the East India Company, a situation of 
o€2500 per annum. The Tories besought Canning 
to use all his influence against him. Canning re- 
fused. He could not see why Mill's Radicalism 
should prevent him from being the best of all pos- 
sible examiners. These are slight facts, but they 
disclose fine traits of character, as fragments of ore 
on the surface indicate the rich veins that lie below. 

The concern he felt in the interests of persona 
who possessed any claims to be considered as oon- 


nected with literature exposed him occasionally to 
some misrepresentations. He was charged by his 
political enemies with exercising a closer influence 
over particular newspapers than was consistent 
with his position. Lady Hester Stanhope tells us 
that Pitt used to complain of him for repeating his 
conversations to people who published diem in the 
" Oracle." But Lady Hester's anecdotes must be 
taken with due allowance for her constitutional vol- 
ubility, and her tumultuous memory, which always 
seemed at full flood, carrying down every thing that 
fell into it with velocity and confusion. It is a curi- 
ous set-off to this story that Lord Granville made 
die same complaint of Pitt, and actually took meas- 
ures in the cabinet to put a stop to his talking. 
•Mr. Canning at that time was young, and may have 
committed himself (although it is very unlikely) to 
some indiscreet confidences ; but he had high ex- 
amples before him. If he admitted some of the 
journalists to his acquaintance, with any view to 
create or preserve a salutary influence in the press, 
he acted upon a policy which had been practiced 
by some of. his most distinguished predecessors— 
especially Sir Robert Walpole— to a much greater 

There is one feature in Mr. Canning's life which 
ought not to be forgotten in these desultory recol- 
lections — his habitual observance of religious du- 
ties. In this matter his character contrasts strong- 
ly with that of Mr. Pitt, who was indifferent even 
to the forms of religion. Mr. C anning was perfect- 
ly sincere and unostentatious in his Christianity ; 
maintaining its ordinances in his- household with- 
out a tincture of austerity or display, Wilberforce 
confesses that he was surprised at Mr. Canning's 
devotional sensibility. It happened, in 1817, t^hat 
he went with Canning, Huskisson, Lord Binning, 


and others, to bear Dr. Chalmers preach at the 
Scotch Church, London Wall; and he observed 
Canning so deeply affected at times as to shed tears. 
Wilberforce, who had a habit of thinking (like too 
many very pious people) that religious emotion 
and divine grace are special monopolies, was as- 
tonished, and could Jhardly believe his eyes. " I 
should have thought/' he exclaimed, 4< that Can- 
ning had been too much hardened in debate to 
show such signs of feeling !"• 

Mr. Canning's temper was irritable and anx- 
ious, but wholly free from pettiness or malice. He 
held no ill-will, he concealed no rancor. The real 
fault was less in what he felt than in the heat and 
arrogance of his manner -and expressions. He 
was the most open, but the most unsparing adver- 
sary. He treated his opponents with haughtiness, 
amounting sometimes almost to scorn. They could 
have found some escape for their spleen from ev- 
ery species of offense except this. Carried on too 
fast by his genius, too proudly by his prosperity, 
and by the homage that fluttered round his steps 
wherever he moved, it was not much to wonder 
at that he should have insensibly acquired a tone 
of confidence and superiority which occasionally 
betrayed him into disdainful excesses in debate. 
It was thus when Mr. Brougham accused him of 
gross tergiversation, that he started to his feet, and 
in a voice of thunder, with fire flashing from his 
eyes, exclaimed, "It is false!" But the provoca- 
tion was heavy, and unexpected, and unwarrant- 
ed, and no milder answer could have met the full 
measure of the Wrong. 

Another instance was his encounter with Mr. 
Hobhouse. But here there was a supposititious 
ground of injury, which drew that fierce rejoinder 
* " Life of Wilberforce," iv., 325. 

thb Lip*: of oAmrira, 273 

from Mr. Canning, in which he heaped scorn upon 
scorn on "the honorable baronet and his man," 
and said that " in six months the demagogue, ad- 
mitted to this assembly, finds his level and shrinks 
to his proper dimensions." The cause of this ex- 
plosion was a violent pamphlet grossly falsifying a 
speech of Mr. Canning's, and denouncing the ut- 
terer of it with the most furious invectives.* When 
Mr. Canning read this philippic, he wrote a letter 
to the anonymous author, through* the medium of 
the publisher, telling him " that he was a liar and 
a slanderer, and wanted courage only to be an as- 
sassin;" that no man knew of his writing to him, 
and that he would wait for an answer till the fol- 
lowing night. Of course nd answer was ever re- 
turned. This pamphlet was generally ascribed to 
Mr. Hobhouse, and acting upon that impression, 
Mr. Canning did not omit to deal summarily with 
the supposed offender. Mr. Hobhouse took his re- 
venge in his own way, by drawing a sketch of Mr. 
Canning, in which it would not be very easy to 
discover the likeness. 

"A smart, six-form boy, the little hero of a little 
world, matures his precocious parts at college, and sends 
before him his fame to the metropolis : a minister, or 
some borough-holder of the day, thinks him worth sav- 
ing from his democratic associates, and from the unprof- 
itable principles which the thoughtless enthusiasm of 
youth may have inclined him hitherto to adopt. The 
hopeless youth yields at once, and placed in the true line 

* The speech was in reference to the case of a person named 
William Ogden, who had been imprisoned during the suspension 

of the Habeas Corpus Act. Great pains were taken to make it ap- 
pear that this Ogden had endured the most monstrous cruelty 
from his jailers, that he was seventy-four years of age, had sev- 
enteen children, and was laboring under a painful malady which 
the injuries he had suffered had greatly aggravated. There was 
not a syllable of truth in the whole statement, and Mr. Canning 
was accused of trifling with human suffering because be exposed 
the impudent attempt to impose this audacious fabrication on the 
credulity of Parliament. 


of promotion, he takes his place with the more veteran 
prostitutes of Parliament. There he minds his periods ; 
there he balances his antitheses ; there he adjusts his 
alliterations ; and, filling up the interstices of his pie- 
bald patch -work rhetoric with froth and foam, this mas- 
ter of pompous nothings becomes first favorite of the 
great council of the nation." . 

Mr. Hobhouse, very innocently, and intending 
something very different, betrayed the real secret 
of all the spleen and jealousy Mr. Canning had to 
resist through life. It was because he was the 
" first favorite of the great council of the nation" 
that men of false pretensions and selfish natures 
shed their spite upon his path. They could not 
endure his brightness — they could not bear to hear 
Aristides called the Just. All this is very intelli- 
gible. Leading minds at all times have paid this 
penalty for being in advance, and must be content 
to take their risk of being shot at from behind. 

From the moment he obtained a clear opportu- 
nity for carrying out his principles (unfortunately 
for England, too near the close of his career), he 
rose to a height of popularity never reached be- 
fore by any member of his party. Fancy the rage 
of the "mighty hunters" to see themselves dis- 
tanced by his swifter blood. The Many, every 
where, placed implicit confidence in his character 
and the universality of his influence. If England 
entered into a war in defense of Portugal, he prom* 
ised her that she would find arrayed under her ban- 
ners "all the discontented and restless spirit of 
the age — all those who, whether justly or unjustly*, 
were dissatisfied with the state of their own coun- 
tries." These classes all over the earth were his 
" clients." His eloquence was identified with their 
cause; his name was the watchword of deliverance: 

" Where Andes, giants of the western star, 
With meteor standard to the winds unfurlM, 
Looks from his throne of clouds o'er half the world." 


The gallantry of his bearing, his personal grace 
and manliness, and the classical beauty and refine- 
ment with which he was ideally associated in the 
general imagination, secured for him the suffrages 
of an influential section at home — a section rare- 
ly interested in political affairs, but intimately con- 
cerned in shaping and coloring public opinion. 
The women of England were with him with their 
whole hearts, as they are with every generous 
champion of human freedom. It was a part of his 
influence, this charm be exercised over the gentle 
and trustful^ and not the least important. He was 
sometimes taunted with it — half in jest and half in 
earnest. Every body who was capable of being 
jealous of his fame was most jealous of it for tak- 
ing that direction, as if it had conquered so much 
neutral ground ! This was the strangest of all the 
littlenesses to which he was exposed. Even Haz- 
litt (a very bigoted hater of bigotry in others) found 
something supercilious and egotistical to suggest 
about it, and talks of Canning and the love-locks 
of th& Constitution ! 




Upon the retirement of the Duke of Portland, 
Mr. Perceval undertook to replenish the cabinet. 
He first applied to Lords Grey and Grenville, who 
indignantly rejected his proposal as involving a der- 
eliction of public principle. He protested he could 
not see it ; Lord Liverpool could not see it. They 
could see nothing but office straight before them, 
with the door shut upon the papists. 

He was more successful with the Marquis of 
Wellesley, who had just returned from Spain, and 
who accepted the Foreign Office, to the astonish- 
ment of every body. Mr. Perceval himself absorb- 
ed the premiership, in addition to the Exchequer. 

It was under the auspices of this administration 
that Mr. (now Sir Robert) Peel commenced his 
Parliamentary career. He was selected by Mr. 
Perceval to second the address, which was moved 
by Lord Barnard, and, before the close of the year, 
was appointed under-secretary in the Colonial 
Department. Mr. Canning took very little part in 
the proceedings of the first session. The principal 
matter which interested him was the grant of an 
annuity to the Duke of Wellington, which he en- 
ergetically supported, and was mainly instrument- 
al in obtaining. 

Parliament met in the following November 
(1810), under novel circumstances. The king was 
insane. There was no speech for the houses — no 
commission to meet them — no authority to pro- 


rogue them. It was impossible to proceed to busi- 
ness in the usual way* Without the customary 
sanction and formalities, this gathering of peers 
and knights of the shire was, technically, not the 
Parliament, but a convention of the estates. But 
Parliament is too expert in the invention of techni- 
cal difficulties not to know how to escape from 
them. Nothing is impossible to Parliament. Noth- 
ing can be impossible to Parliament, after the vote 
on the Septennial Bill in 1716, by which it re- 
elected itself for four years, without thinking it 
necessary to trouble its constituents. 

Parliament resolved itself into a committee on 
the ^tate of the nation ; and Mr* Perceval moved 
several resolutions, the object of which was to settle 
the means of acting in this emergency. These 
resolutions determined the question so vehemently 
disputed in 1788 and 1789>j;hat Parliament alone 
had the disposal of the regency ; and that the heir- 
apparent had no more authority, without the sanc- 
tion of Parliament, than any private gentleman in 
the kingdom. Having decided upon the right of 
Parliament to nominate the regency, it was next 
proposed to confer %he powers of the crown on the 
Prince of Wales> with restrictions. 

This question presented one of considerable em- 
barrassment to Mr. Canning. Consistency de- 
manded that he should follow the course which had 
been formerly taken by Mr. Pitt, who contended 
for the right of Parliament to appoint the regent, 
and also for the policy of binding him within strict 
limitations. But Mr. Canning, agreeing in the right, 
was resolved to resist the restrictions. The diffi- 
culty was to steer between these rocks— *a task 
which he performed with the most wary dexterity. 

"The right of the two houses," he observed, "was 
proclaimed and maintained by Mr. Pitt. This is the 
A A 


point on which, his authority is truly valuable. * * * The 
principles upon, which this right was affirmed and exer- 
cised, if true at ail, are true universally, for all times and 
on all occasions. If they were the principles of the Con- 
stitution in 1788, they are equally so in 1811. The 
lapse of twenty-two years has not impaired— the lapse 
of centuries can not impair them. But the mode in 
which the right so asserted should be exercised, the 
precise provisions to be framed for the temporary sub- 
stitution of the executive power — these were necessa- 
rily then, as they must be now, matters not of eternal 
and invariable principle, but of prudence and expedien- 
cy. In regard to these, therefore, the authority of the 
opinions of any individual, however great and wise, and 
venerable, can be taken only with reference to the cir- 
cumstances of the time in which he had to act, and are 
not to be applied without change or modification to other 
times and circumstances." 

While the shade of Pitt was appeased by this 
ample recognition of the abstract principle, the 
living prince was apostrophized by the management 
of its application. The policy of this proceeding 
may readily be discerned, although it was also in- 
spired by a higher motive. His royal highness had 
not attempted to conceal his chagrin at the pro- 
posed abridgment of the regal functions ; and the 
next most likely event would be a new ministry. 
An exclusive cabinet was no longer probable. The 
Whigs were the natural successors to power, but 
they could not succeed alone. These distant signs 
on the horizon may have influenced Mr. Canning's 
views ; but it is only fair to add that every con- 
sideration which could be urged for the public wel- 
fare lay on that side also. 

If ever the hands of the sovereign, instead of 
being fettered, required additional strength, it was 
at this moment, when the whole force of Europe, 
concentrated in one mighty arm, was raised aloft 


m the air, threatening to descend upon us. Mr. 
Perceval had not a single reasonable pretext for 
the restrictions, but that when his majesty should 
have recovered from the paralysis with which it 
had pleased God to afflict his understanding, it 
would be a great comfort to him to find all things 
in his realm exactly as he had left them ; as if they 
too had been stricken— more particularly his min- 
istry. This was the second time within half a 
century that the theory of monarchy was practi- 
cally insulted by a high Tory minister. 

But Mr. Perceval had good grounds for what he 
did. He knew that the prince held him in no great 
affection, and therefore he endeavored to make 
it appear that his majesty's illness was only trans- 
itory, and that, under the expectation of his early 
restoration, it would be indecorous to make any 
violent changes. This was very sly. It nearly 
failed, nevertheless ; for the Regency Bill was no 
sooner passed than the prince confided to some of 
his personal friends his determination to get rid of 
Mr. Perceval and his satellites. A private com- 
munication was made to Mr. Huskisson, through 
the individual supposed to have been charged with 
the formation of the new ministry. Mr. Huskisson 
replied that he could not entertain any proposal 
of that kind which did not include those with 
whom he was personally and politically connected ; 
but that he should have no difficulty in considering 
such a proposal with the person through whom 
alone, in that case, it could be made.* That per- 
son was Mr. Canning. It happened, however, that 
Mr. Canning had expressed too much, interest in 
the case of the unfortunate Princess of Wales to be 
personally acceptable to the regent; and so the 
negotiation fell to the ground. 

* See Biography of Mr. Huskisson, introductory to bis Speeches. 


Throughout 1810 and 1811, Mr. Canning seldom 
appeared in Parliament. When he did, he gen- 
erally supported the poHcy of ministers. On one 
important question, however, he was entirely op- 
posed to them. 

It was upon this occasion that he delivered his 
great speech on the report of the Bullion Commit- 
tee; a speech which, for beauty of illustration, 
mastery of principles and details, and sound reason- 
ing, has never been surpassed at any period in any 
language. This wonderful effort of intellect would 
have been in itself enough for his fame. It renders 
not only easy and simple, but attractive and fasci- 
nating in the highest degree, a subject invariably 
found to be obscure, difficult, and repulsive in all 
other hands. Such is the plastic and creative power 
of genius that the topic grows alluring under his 
treatment, charming us like some wondrous alle- 
gory, and we follow it to the close with so eager 
an interest in the argument that we come away 
fairly marveling how it had been with us all our 
lives, that we should not have regarded this ques- 
tion of currency and exchanges, and fictitious val- 
ues, and bank restriction, as one of the most capti- 
vating that could be presented to the human im- 
agination !* 

The subject was new to Mr. Canning, and lay 
out of his province. Uut it was here that Pitt es- 

* It would be impossible within the narrow compass of this bi* 
ography to afford the reader even a glimpse of the varieties of Mr. 
Canning's eloquence. It may be as well to say at once that such 
an intention has not been contemplated in this little volume. Bat 
it is a great pleasure to the author to refer, for full satisfaction on 
that point, to Mr. Therry's very careful edition of Mr. Canning's 
speeches, the greater portion of which had the advantage of Mr. 
Canning's personal revision. Old friends, separated by long years 
and wide oceans, must not converse through books, or something 
might be added here concerning Mr. Therry's high qualifications 
for a task which he has executed so ably. 


tablished his fame; and to that circumstance we 
are probably indebted for this luminous display of 
financial knowledge. When Mr. Canning brought 
his mind to bear upon an unfamiliar question, he al- 
ways exhausted it, and in his first speech developed 
its fundamental principles so fully as to leave noth- 
ing upon the abstract theory to be added or mis- 
represented by any subsequent speaker. His first 
speech on Catholic Emancipation was of this de- 
scription, embracing the whole elements of the 
subject. His speech on the currency was another 
and still more remarkable instance. It contains 
every thing that ever can be said on the bullion 
side, embellished with an eloquence which, for the 
first and only time in the records of Parliament, 
rendered the dreary argument intelligible or enter- 

Mr. Vansittart (afterward Lord Bexley) moved 
some counter-resolutions, which for impudent ab- 
surdity can scarcely be paralleled in the history 
of the world. One of these proposed to affirm, 
that it was the " opinion" of Parliament that a bank- 
note was at that time " held in public estimation" 
to be of equal value with the current coin, and that 
it was " generally accepted as such in all pecuniary 
transactions." At this Very time the bank itself 
would not give twenty shillings for a one-pound 
note ; and such was the greediness with which the 
metallic currency was absorbed, that it had been 
found necessary to pass a law to prevent people 
from giving. more than twenty-one shillings for a 
guinea ; notwithstanding which, guineas were rap- 
idly disappearing, while crown pieces were le- 
gally raised in value to five shillings and sixpence, 
in order to prevent them from disappearing also ! 

Another attempt was made by the prince regent, 
when the restrictions were about to expire in 1812, 


to draw round him some of the friends of bis youth ; 
and the Duke of York, at his royal highness's re- 
quest, opened a negotiation with Lords Grey and 
Granville, but they again declined ; the differences 
between them and ministers were too great to ad- 
mit of a junction. Perceval was safe for a little 
while longer, greatly to the joy of* Lord Eldon, to 
whom he had written privately on the subject, and 
who declared that he could not consent to join an 
administration with which the Whig lords were to 
be associated. 

It was expected after the debate oh the restric- 
tions, which were highly offensive to every member 
of the royal family, that the opposition must have 
immediately succeeded to office. This result was 
prevented by divisions among themselves. The 
two leading Whigs were requested by the prince 
to draw up an answer to the address; but their 
antagonist views neutralized each other, and the 
result was so weak and unsatisfactory as to give 
the prince great displeasure. Sheridan, who hap- 
pened to be present, and who had piques of his own 
to avenge against the Greys and Grenvilles, sup- 
plied a new answer. This affront was not to be 
pardoned, and the noble lords transmitted a digni- 
fied remonstrance to the prince, complaining bit- 
terly' of Sheridan's " interference" in a matter 
which had been originally confided solely to their 
judgment. The prince was alarmed, and sought 
a reconciliation through the agency of Lord Hol- 
land, who then resided in Pall Mall. A private 
meeting was brought about at his lordship's house, 
whither the prince went in the dusk of the evening 
on foot, muffled up in a cloak. It was stated at the 
time, among the gossip of the day, that at that very 
moment Mr. Peel was sauntering through Pall 
Mall, when he saw this disguised figure issue from 


the gate of 'Carlton House, and fancying that he de- 
tected the incognito, followed him to Holland 
House. The next day the town was full of rumors, 
the least of which was, that Lord Holland was 
carrying on a sinister design for supplanting Lord 
Grey in the prince's favor. 

The issue of. the meeting was the offer of the 
government to the offended lords. But Mx. Per- 
ceval contrived that the king's physician should be 
of opinion, at this critical juncture, that his majesty 
was likely to recover in a few weeks ; and that, if 
he found his ministers changed, he would he cer- 
tain to relapse. Of course, under such a responsi- 
bility, their lordships again declined office, and 
Perceval was still secure. The prince was en- 
raged. He said he would never see the ministers 
be was forced to keep. "I will come and dine 
with you on such a day," he used to say to his 
friends, " and you on such another day ; but as to 
those fellows, I will never enter their houses. 
Votes! They shall have no votes from me, by 

While these ministerial negotiations were going 
forward, Mr. Canning kept aloof from all inter- 
ference. But the moment the regency was settled, 
he felt himself at liberty to vindicate his opinions 
on the Catholic Question. The great obstacle was 
removed, and he seized the opportunity of Lord 
Morpeth's motion, on the 3d of February, 1812, to 
deliver a speech, which may be described as a 
complete exposition of the principles upon which 
he espoused the cause of the Catholics. It was 
the Pitt view of emancipation, urged with greater 
precision than Pitt would have considered neces- 
sary, or perhaps desirable. 

The session had not proceeded very far — had 
scarcely passed«through a debate upon a motion for 


an address to the regent, beseeching him to form 
an efficient administration — when both the cabinet 
and the Parliament were thrown into temporary 
confusion by the assassination of Mr. Perceval, who 
was slain by the hand of a madman in the lobby of 
the House of Commons. 

Sir Samuel Komilly, the most honest of public 
men, had formerly been intimate with Mr. Per- 
ceval, but had latterly avoided his society. "I 
could not endure the idea," he observes, " of living 
privately in intimacy with a man whose public con- 
duct I in the highest degree disapproved, and 
whom, as a minister, I was constantly opposing. I 
can not, indeed, reconcile to my way of thinking 
that distinction between private and public virtues 
which it is so much the fashion to adopt. It may 
be called liberality, or gentlemanly feeling, or by 
any other such vague and indefinite term ; but it is 
not suited to any, one who is really in earnest and 
sincere in his politics."* The avowal is coutbu- 
geous. The cant that assigns to vicious ministers, 
and tyrants, and bigots in high places, all the vir- 
tues of private life, is false and wicked. Yet it has 
grown into such an established fashion that the 
worst political character is only a convertible de- 
scription of the most amiable domestic man in the 
world. Was there ever a bad public man who was 
not a miracle of every private virtue under the sun 1 
Was there ever a Russian autocrat who was not 
the most perfect father of a family 1 

Mr. Perceval's death shocked every body. The 
House voted <£4000 a year to his widow,. " with 
the evident intention," says a modern writer, " of 
her applying this munificent provision to the sup-, 
port of her children." But it seems the House, 
was baffled in its object, for. the same writer goes 
* " Memoirs of Sir S. Romilly,"»iti., 38. 


on to say that, " to tie surprise of the country, the 
lady, thus amply dowered, solaced herself, without 
loss of time, in a second marriage, and gave a les- 
son to the House for their future dealings with the 
wearers of weeds."* 

The death of Mr. Perceval threw open the gov- 
ernment once more. Satisfied from past experi- 
ence of the great difficulty of forming a strong co- 
alition, the regent expressed a desire to obtain the 
secret opinions of each member of the cabinet upon 
two points : whether, should he select one of them 
as a head, the rest would be disposed to act under 
him? and whether, supposing that neither Grey 
nor Grenville, nor Wellesley nor Canning, should . 
be brought in, they could themselves carry on the 
business of the country ? The answers were, upon 
the whole, doubtful and wavering, but favorable to 
the policy of making an offer of negotiation, let it 
turn out how it might.t Lord Liverpool was ac- 
cordingly desired to treat with Canning and Lord 
Wellesley. While this was going on, Lord Eldon 
was in a state of the most ludicrous nervous anxi- 
ety, insisting -upon making it appear that unless 
they came in upon a strict understanding that Lord 
Liverpool should be the head of the administration, 
and Lord Castlereagh the leader in the Commons, 
they should not be let in. He was sure they would 
take it — they hacf been so long out of oifice. He 
was mistaken. They refused to join any govern- 
ment constructed on the principle of resistance to 
the Catholic claims. 

t Under these circumstances the regent consid- 
ered it advisable to leave things as they were ; but 
the House of Commons insisted upon a change, and 
agreed to an address, praying for a strong and ef- 

* « Life and Times of George IV.," by the Rev. G, Croly, p. 385. 
.. t «' Life of Lord Eldon." 


ficient government. Thus urged, his royal high- 
ness had recourse to Lord Wefiesley, who, through 
Mr. Canning, tried Lord Liverpool and the exist- 
ing ministers, and, failing there, made a last appeal 
to the Whigs, where he failed also. In this ex- 
tremity, Lord Moira was directed to consult with 
Lords Grey and Grenville, and had nearly effected 
his purpose, when the negotiations went off upon a 
difference respecting the appointments in the house- 
hold. Sir Samuel Romilly supposes that it was 
never intended they should come in, and that Lord 
Eldon was the obstacle.* The regent was, conse- 
quently, obliged to put up with the old set and the 
Sidmouths ; the office of Frime Minister devolving 
upon Lord Liverpool, who held it for fifteen years. 

These negotiations were not carried on without 
some personal perplexities. When the Whigs 
made a difficulty about the household, the mem- 
bers of the household offered to resign, for the pur- 
pose of removing the obstacle ; and Sheridan was 
requested to communicate their intention to the two 
Whig lords. But he never did. He went farther: 
he offered to bet five hundred guineas that no such 
step was in contemplation !t The treachery was 
discovered when it was too late. 

Lord Moira, having failed with Lords Grey and 
Grenville (little aware of how near he had been to 
success), attempted to get up a ministry on a scheme 
of his own, to the exclusion of the great leaders on 
both sides. He was to be Prime Minister himself, 
and Mr. Canning had already accepted office as 
Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and a meeting was 
appointed at Carlton House to kiss hands. Mr. 
Canning arrived first, and was shown into an ante- 
room, while Lord Moira was closeted with the re- 

* « Memoirs of Sir S. Romilly/' iii., 42. 
t See Moore's " Life of Sheridan." 


Emt, He had not waited very long when Lord 
iverpool suddenly appeared, coming from the re- 
gent's apartment, to which Mr. Canning was mo- 
mentarily expecting to be called. The equivoque 
was perfect. Mr. Canning had been led to believe 
that he was about to join an administration from 
which Lord Liverpool was to be excluded upon 
principle ; and Lord Liverpool believed that he 
was invited to join an administration of which Mr. 
Canning was wholly ignorant ! It is scarcely nec- 
essary to add, that this project was brought to a 
sudden close by the discovery in the anteroom. 

The new government found themselves immers- 
ed in embarrassments. The manufacturing dis- 
tricts were in a state of unprecedented turbulence 
and distress ; and these responsibilities pressed so 
severely upon ministers, that after the close of their 
first session they made splendid overtures to Mr. 
Canning. They offered him the Foreign Secreta- 
riship (then held by Lord Castlereagh), and ap- 
pointments for his political friends, all of which he 
declined. This refusal did not proceed upon any 
objections arising out of the Catholic Question; 
because he afterward (May, 1819) stated that in 
the formation of that ministry every member en- 
tered into office with the express stipulation that he 
should be free to maintain his opinions on the sub- 
ject of the Catholic claims. The real obstacle 
was Lord Castlereagh. It was proposed that Lord 
Castlereagh should retain the lead in the House of 
Commons, to which Mr. Canning would not con- 
sent. This was a point of honor with him, and 
something more. Mr. Stapleton says that Mr. 
Canning himself did not consider the lead in the 
Commons an impediment, but that his friends did, 
and that the question was referred to three expe- 
rienced members of the House, who decided for the 


rejection oft* the offer.* But this statement hardly 
agrees with Mr. Canning's own explanation of the 
circumstance, in his speech at Liverpool in the fol- 
lowing October, in which he says that the seals of 
the office of Secretary of State had been tendered 
to him ttoice during the previous six months, but 
that he had declined them. "I declined office, 
gentlemen," he adds, " because it was tendered to 
me on terms not consistent, us I thought, and as 
my immediate friends agreed in thinking, with my 
personal honor; because, if accepted on such terms, 
it would not have enabled me to serve the public 
with efficiency." There is, indeed, very little room 
to doubt that Mr. Canning was strongly convinced 
that he ought not to go into the House of Com- 
mons as Secretary of State without also holding 
the position of ministerial leader. The regent him- 
self tried to persuade him out of this conviction by 
arguing that the leadership must, in effect, be vest- 
ed in him, although nominally in Lord Castlereagh. 
The fallacy, however, was too apparent ; and Mr. 
Canning, in a private letter to Wilberforce, disclos- 
es the full force of his personal objections, by show- 
ing that he could not have accepted office without 
maintaining Lord Castlereagh in his station : 

" And yet," he says, " I will venture to affirm that 
no effort on my part to reject for myself, and to preserve 
to Lord C. the station of command, would have prevent- 
ed him from saying in three weeks that I was studious- 
ly laboring to deprive him of it. Pray, therefore, be 
not led astray (nor let others, where you can help it) 
by the notion that I have been squabbling about a trifle." 

And he concludes by observing, 

" If I could have placed this power fairly in medio, I 

would have conquered, or endeavored to conquer, all 

my other feelings of reluctance ; but to place it, and to 

engage to maintain it in his hands in whose it now is, 

*"" Political Life," i, 68. 


and then to place myself voder it, would have been not 
only a sacrifice of pride, but an extinction of utility."* 

The refusal clearly proceeded upon personal 
grounds. He felt that his. '* efficiency" would have 
been destroyed in such a position, besides all the 
other risks to die public service which might be 
run by being placed in so equivocal a relationship 
with Lord Castlereagh. No man certainly was so 
ready to sacrifice office upon the suggestions of hon- 
or or the public good. In a subsequent speech at 
Liverpool, he stated that of more than twenty 
years he had been in Parliament, upward of one 
half were passed out of office. " I have oftener," 
he said, " had occasion to justify my resignation or 
refusal than my acceptance of official situation." 

Unfortunately, his refusal on this occasion was 
not the wisest course he could have adopted either 
in reference to the country or himself; and we find 
him many years afterward alluding to it in terms 
of ill-suppressed regret, and declaring that two 
years of office in the then circumstances of Europe 
would have been worth ten years of life. Yet he 
sacrificed that great ambition, and left Lord Cas- 
tlereagh to glean the harvest of which he had sown 
the seed. But repentance followed quickly upon 
the rejection of office ; and, notwithstanding his 
personal objections to taking office with Lord Cas- 
tlereagh as leader of the Commons, a very short 
interval had elapsecL-when he accepted the Lisbon 
embassy under Lord Castlereagh, as Secretary of 
State for Foreign Affairs. 

This transaction certainly admits of explanation $ 
but no explanation can diminish its inconsistency. 

Mr. Stapleton says that Mr. Canning was going 
to Lisbon on account of the illness- of his son, and 
that the cabinet* happening to want an embassador 
* «< Tfiaaf Wilbeiferce," hr. f 40. 
19 Bb 


to Portugal at the time, thought it a good opportu- 
nity to avail themselves of his services— ^-one of 
those transparent excuses which never can be em- 
ployed without suspicion. It is quite true that Mr. 
Canning was going to Lisbon on account of the ill* 
ness of his son, and it is very probable that he 
would have gone there without any reference to the 
embassadorship; but all that has nothing to do with 
the question of accepting an appointment in 1814, 
under a ministry with whom he refused to co-op- 
erate in 1812. 

It is stated by Mr. Stapleton that Mr. Canning 
was induced to accept the embassy to Lisbon " be- 
cause the government made it the condition of en- 
rolling in its ranks those of his pergonal friends who 
had attached themselves to his political fortunes."* 
The author of a biography of Mr. Huskisson, sub- 
sequently published, denies this statement, at least 
so far as Mr. Huskisson is concerned, and says that 
long before the Lisbon appointment, Mr. Canning 
had released his adherents from all political alle- 
giance, and, as Whitbread sarcastically said, desired 
them " to shift for themselves." t 

Lord Brougham condemns Mr. Canning severe- 
ly, and says that it was the love of power which 
led him to the imprudent step of serving under a 
successful rival on a foreign mission of an unim- 
portant castj This lust of dominion is not quite 
so base as the lust of money ; but Lord Brougham 
might as well have accused him of the one as the 
other. If the passion for office was so predomi- 
nant, how did it happen that Mr. Canning had so 
often and so recently refused much higher and 
more influential stations 1 

Controversies respecting motives are never very 

* * Polit. Life," i, 70. t " Speeches of Mr. Huskisson," L, 65. 
X " Historical Sketches," art Canning. 287. 


satisfactory. People alway? differ about them, and 
shape them according to their own prejudices; 
but in this instance, any graver or meaner asper- 
sion than that of misjudgment would be unwar- 
rantable. All that can be said is, that Mr. Canning 
committed a mistake in accepting this appointment. 
It placed him under the necessity of vindicating 
his conduct, which, right or wrong, is always inju- 
rious to a public man. The world is sure to dis- 
trust the prudence of the politician, or the soldier, 
who allows himself to be placed at a disadvantage. 

The facts, as they were brought before Parlia- 
ment, had certainly a very suspicious aspect. Ap- 
pearances were altogether against Mr. Canning. 

The embassy was stated to have been appointed 
for the purpose of meeting the Prince Regent of 
Portugal on his return to Europe : the prince nev- 
er returned. Mr. Sydenham, our minister at Lis- 
bon, only just appointed, was strictly limited in 
July to an allowance of «£5200 per annum, on the 
score of economy : he was shortly afterward su- 
perseded, and Mr. Canning nominated to his place 
at an annual expenditure of d£l4,200. . These facts 
were insisted upon by Mr. Lamb ton (afterward 
Lord Durham) in a speech of excellent temper, 
but clear and uncompromising, on the 6th of May, 
1817, after Mr. C anning's return. Sir Francis Bur- 
dett was the only person who spoke in support of 
Mr. Lamb ton's resolutions. Mr. Canning's reply 
was victorious. 

He proved, by the correspondence of ministers 
with our embassador at Rio de Janeiro, that the 
prince regent had frequently expressed hi& desire 
to revisit Europe, and that the appointment was 
not determined upon until the arrangements for 
that event were finally settled. The failure of the 
regent's visit was a matter for which neither he nor 


the government could be held responsible. He 
showed that he was going to Lisbon with his fam- 
ily when the embassy was proposed to him, and 
that his own preparations had advanced so far, that, 
when he arrived there, he found a private house 
provided for his use, which he could not occupy in 
his official character. 

The question of joost was even more triumphant- 
ly disposed of. Mr. Canning went to Lisbon in 
quality of embassador, and not in that of simple 
minister, which he could hardly have accepted af- 
ter having presided over the whole diplomacy of 
the country ; besides which, the appointment of an 
embassador was an old promise to the regent. 
There were two classes of embassadors— two sal- 
aries attached to the rank : Mn Canning selected 
the lower. Had he even availed himself of the 
scale which had been recently fixed by a commit- 
tee of the House of Commons, he would have been 
entitled to 4614,236 per annum, exactly <£36 more 
than he actually drew. With respect to Mr. Syd- 
enham's expenses, he showed that Mr. Sydenham's 
salary had been unfairly contrasted with die whole 
expense of his own mission, including extraordina- 
ries. Upon an investigation of the items, it ap- 
peared that Mr. Sydenham (who had not been su- 
perseded by Mr. Canning, but who, after a residence 
of only three weeks in Lisbon, was obliged to re- 
turn in consequence of ill health) received six 
months' salary (besides outfit, &c), and an addition- 
al sum of «£2000 for loss on- the relinquishment of 
office ; and that Mr. Casamajor, who had been for 
a short interval charge d'affaires, and who could 
not contrive to live quietly in lodgings without any 
of the " pride, pomp, or circumstance" of a diplo- 
matic establishment under d£100 a week, received 
o£2500 more; so that the six months preceding Mr. 


Canning's appointment (a service, in reality, of only 
three Weeks) cost d67100 ; or, with outfit, &c, add- 
ed, d69700 ! The two years preceding presented 
a still more extraordinary contrast ; for, in those 
two years, dating the mission of Sir Charles Stuart, 
the expenses were for the first, «£32,007 ; for the 
second, ^31,206. 

The defense was complete at all points— even 
on the most doubtful of ally his union with the ad- 
ministration. He asserted his right to think and 
act for himself, and repudiated the doctrine by 
which any party attempted' to arrogate an exclu- 
sive control* This passage contains one of those 
remarkable assertions of the right of private judg- 
ment which nobody in the ranks of the old Tory 
party, except Mr. Canning, ever dared to utter. 

*• To this exclusive doctrine I have never subscribed. 
To these pretensions I have never listened with submis- 
sion. I have never deemed it reasonable that any con- 
federacy of great names should monopolize to themselves 
the whole patronage and authority of the state ; should 
constitute themselves, as it were, into a corporation, a 
bank for circulating the favors of the .House and the suf- 
frages of the people, and distributing them only to their 
own adherents. I can not consent that the administra- 
tion of the government of this free and enlightened coun- 
try shall be considered as rightfully belonging to any 
peculiar circle of public men, however powerful, or of 
families however preponderant; and, though I can not 
stand lower in the estimation of the honorable baronet 
than I do in my own, as to my own pretensions, I will 
(to use the language of a statesman,* so eminent that I 
can not presume to quote his words without an apology), 
I will, as long as I have the faculty to think and act for 
myself, 'look those proud combinations in the face.' 1 " 

By this principle Mr. Canning regulated his con- 
duct. He owed no political allegiance to any par- 

* Mr. Burke. 
13 n 2 


ty ; he denied the divine right of aristocratic com- 
binations. He joined the administration because 
he. agreed with the administration ; and, in the ex- 
ercise of the same unfettered discretion, he would 
have left them if he differed from them ; he did 
leave them when the point of difference arose. 
The freedom, candor, and novelty of this course of 
action offended both Whigs and Tories, especially 
the latter, whose anger was inappeasable that he 
should thus come between the wind and their no- 
bility. But out of these elements of discord there, 
was gradually rising up a Middle Party, which Mr. 
Canning called into life, with " No Reform" in- 
scribed on one side of its banner, and " Free Trade 
and Catholic Emancipation" on the other. The 
importance of the functions- assigned to this party, 
in the tremulous state of transition through which 
the country was now passing, can not be exagger- 
ated. This party formed the only creditable re- 
treat from obsolete doctrines which could neither 
be maintained with success nor abandoned with- 
out humiliation. It flung a bridge across the chasm 
that divided the old times from the new, over which 
the Legislature, pressed onward by the people, was 
glad enough at last to make its escape. 

Mr. Canning's defense was considered conclu- 
sive by the House, and Mr. Lambton's motion was 
thrown out by a majority of 174. He was so well " 
satisfied with the result himself that he went up to 
Mr. Lambton, after the debate, and thanked him 
warmly for the open and manly spirit in which he 
had brought the question to issue. 

The term of his residence in Lisbon occupied 
altogether seventeen months, during six of which 
he held no official position, for he sent in his resig- 
nation the moment he learned that the regent had 
relinquished his intention of visiting Europe. Dur- 


ing that interval great events had occurred on the 
Continent Bonaparte had broken bounds at Elba, 
revived the martial spirit once more in France, dis- 
persed the Bourbons, and, after some wondrous ef- 
forts, had finally sunk at Waterloo. Mr. Canning 
took no part in these excitements, but kept his pri- 
vate station undisturbed by political influences, dis- 
pensing social hospitality to his countrymen, and 
receiving distinguished marks of their admiration 
and respect. Among other proofs of their feelings 
toward him, the British residents at Lisbon enter- 
tained him at a public dinner, when he delivered 
that speech in which he described himself as a dis- 
ciple of Mr. Pitt. On his return to England he 
touched at Bordeaux, and was there detained to 
receive a similar testimony from the merchants of 
that city, who invited him to a public entertainment 
on a scale of unusual magnificence. 

Shortly after, his return, a vacancy occurred in 
the office of President of the Board of Control, oc- 
casioned by the death of the Earl of Buckingham- 
shire; and Mr. Canning accepted the office on the 
especial invitation of the prince regent. 

The times were full of danger, and the govern- 
ment was placed at home and abroad in a situation 
that demanded the exercise of the highest qualities 
of statesmanship. The war was now over, and 
there was leisure to estimate the policy of such a 
fearful expenditure by its results,. The grand aim 
of the war was the deliverance of Europe. Had 
that end been accomplished 1 A comparison of 
the map of Europe in 1815 with the map of Eu- 
rope before the war offered the best answer. If 
it were true of Napoleon that he shifted and pulled 
down the ancient barriers of independent king- 
doms like hurdles, to accommodate the greater or 
less droves he thought fit to hunt into or out of 


diem, it was no less true that bis conquerors Bwept 
away the old landmarks with as little compunction, 
but with a deliberate affectation of justice to which 
Napoleon never pretended any title. Their crimes 
against the rights of nations were as palpable as 
his, with the greater crime of hypocrisy superadded 
to all the rest The settlement of 1815 was, in 
fact, a new dismemberment. Norway had been 
already struck down by a perfidious treaty, which 
Mr. Canning declared, in die face of Europe, had 
" filled him with shame, regret, and indignations" 
Venice and Genoa were annihilated ; Prussia was 
suffered to inflict upon Saxony territorial wrongs as 
flagrant as those which she had herself suffered 
from the hands of Prance ; Holland was never re- 
stored to her ancient republican liberties, but was 
paralyzed by monarchical trammels repugnant 
alike to her spirit and her traditions, and still far- 
tiler oppressed and weakened by the addition of a 
discordant and insurrectionary population. Spain 
alone was replaced in her original integrity. She 
was restored with the most scrupulous honor. She 
even got back the Inquisition. 

At home the prospect was no less gloomy. The 
people were dissatisfied with the fruits of victory. 
The taxes were rising upon them like the inevita- 
ble tide upon some doomed wretch who, in igno- 
rance or defiance, has ventured too far out upon the 
strand. The instantaneous transition to peace in- 
creased the calamity. It suddenly withdrew the 
stimulus by which the population had hitherto been 
sustained, and reduced them at once to a state of 
destitution. Trade had to explore new channels 
—industry to make to itself new resources ; but 
these things were impossible. Stagnation and dis- 
tress were rapidly spreading over the face of the 
country; discontent had set in among the indue- 


trial classes ; large and tumultuous meetings were 
held in the principal towns, and even in the outly- 
ing agricultural districts j and the issue of all this 
uneasiness was a loud and universal cry fbr Parlia- 
mentary reform. 

It might have been hoped that the example of 
Mr. Pitt's conduct in a similar crisis would have 
operated as a waming-to the government ; but it had 
the opposite effect. Instead of avoiding the course 
which he had taken with such fatal results, they 
imitated it to the letter. Instead of seeking to re- 
move, or even expressing a desire to investigate 
the grievances of -the people, ministers opened a 
new reign of terror at once. 
x There was no difficulty in getting up a case of 
insurrection. Conspiracies, incendiarism, repub- 
lican speeches, and foolish bravadoes in the face of 
the magistracy/ are easily hunted up in times of ex- 
citement. The system of coercion fairly begun, 
there was no lack of the frenzied exhibitions it was 
so admirably calculated to produce. On the one 
side, a fresh violence was found daily necessary to 
guard against the consequences of the last ; and on 
the other, more desperate outbreaks followed close- 
ly upon every new aggression. And so it went on 
for three years. 

The physical sufferings of the people aggravated 
the wildness with which they eaught at the loose 
theories of property and representation which are 
set afloat with Buch facility in times of commotion. 
They convened public meetings, and spouted social- 
economy fallacies of that class which have always 
found favor, in seasons of famine and hardship, with 
the starving multitude. Lord C astlereagh declared 
that they contained within themselves a principle 
of counteraction. It would have been happy for 
all parties if he had trusted to its influence ; but he 


thought that the argument most likely to reach the 
understanding of an illogical multitude was a troop 
of dragoons. This argument was tested with de- 
plorable success on the field of Peterloo. 

There were plots in abundance, real and ficti- 
tious, from the Cato-street conspiracy, by which a 
butcher and two shoemakers engaged to cut off the 
ministers' heads and put them in a bag, to a formi- 
dable plan for storming the -Bank, destroying the 
barracks, blowing up the bridges, and setting fire 
to every thing, including the Thames itself. The 
means by which this latter design was to be ac- 
complished were traced to a bundle of pikes and 
some powder in an old stocking. 

To avert such tremendous calamities, the most 
stringent laws were passed. The right of discus- 
sion was abridged ; public meetings were allowed 
to be held only by special grace of the magistracy ; 
correspondence and co-operation, and free action 
in an infinite variety of small things essential to the 
comfort and self-respect of individuals, were strictly 
prohibited ; and, finally, the work of pacification 
was crowned by the suspension of the Habeas Cor- 
pus Act. All this time spies were moving darkly 
through the country, instigating the crimes which 
were thus visited with the heaviest punishments. 

The judgment of the people upon these proceed- 
ings was pronounced by one jury after another, in 
verdicts which might be regarded as accusations 
against the government. When the executive. re- 
sorts to extraordinary powers, and then seeks to 
vindicate them by appealing to the tribunals of the 
country, it in effect puts itself upon its trial before 
the people. In all such cases it is to the decision 
of the juries, the guardians of order and justice, that 
we must look for the condemnation or acquittal of 
the government. 


.Mr. Canning was eager in the defense of minis- 
ters. He vindicated every one of their acts ; and 
never displayed greater felicity of expression, wit 
more dazzling, or argument more cogent and ef- 
fective, than in his speeches on the btate of the 
Nation, on the Seditious Meetings Bill, the Indem- 
nity Bill, the Foreign Enlistment Bill, and the 
Prince Regent's Speech. It is impossible to look 
back upon his conduct during those years of strife 
and misery without a feeling of profound, regret. 
It was deplorable enough, after all that had trans- 
pired of personal contempt and distrust toward the 
Castle reaghs and. Sid mouths in former days, to find 
him associated with them in the cabinet ; but worse, 
still worse, to find him making himself extrava- 
gantly prominent in the justification of their, mis- 
deeds. Perhaps his excessive zeal on behalf of 
his colleagues may be ascribed to the nervous un- 
easiness of the relation in which he stood to them. 
Keenly alive to the unpopularity of his position, 
rendered conspicuous above all the rest by the 
splendor of his, arms, it seems as if this very con- 
sciousness only made him the more anxious to as- 
sume a confidence jn the proceedings of the gov- 
ernment which his judgment ^nust have secretly 
disowned. To this mental warfare must be attrib- 
uted the unusual bitterness he manifested toward 
his opponents throughout the time he held the office 
of President of Council. He never showed so much 
excitement or impatience before. The slightest 
contradiction called him up, and all questions, from 
the spirit in which they were treated, became more 
or less personal before they were finally disposed 
of. He was ill at ease with himself, and dissatis- 
fied with the distorting circumstances by which he 
was surrounded. 

He despised most of the men with whom he 

900 nm life of canning. 

acted, and most of the men with whdm he acted 
distrusted him. He who had been the darling of 
the age of Pitt was now confided in' by no great 
political party ; he was too liberal for one, too ar- 
rogant for another, and could not yet see his way 
to the advent of that Central Party, wiser than 
either, which was, even at this inauspicious moment, 
germinating under his influence. Every thing eon- 
spired to thwart his ambition — to ruffle his temper 
— to force him into situations where he was con- 
demned to defend measures he disapproved. He 
allowed himself to be martyred on points of honor. 

The death of George III., toward the close of 
January, 1820, reduced ministers to the necessity 
of a general election, which they would gladly have 
avoided. His majesty had wonderfully spun out 
a long life, and died at last at a very awkward mo- 
ment ; but he could not keep alive for the sake of 
his ministers. It was marvelous how he kept alive 
so long, soliloquizing and playing the harpsichord 
at Windsor. He had not had a lucid interval for 
nine years. For a great part of the time he was 
totally blind and almost totally deaf, and had such 
an objection to be shaved, that his beard had grown 
to a patriarchal length. There was much unaf- 
fected emotion exhibited by all classes when he 
died. People had got used to him ; a generation 
or two had grown up in his time, and had come 
into the world lisping their allegiance to him ; and 
every body felt that a great many years must elapse 
before they could reconcile themselves to a new 
version of the nation anthem. There never could 
be another " great George, our kkig !" 

In the following March Mr. Canning sustained 
a severe domestic affliction by the death of his eld- 
est son, George Charles Canning, in the nineteenth 
year of his age. The epitaph he wrote on this 


melancholy occasion, inspired by the most tender 
sorrow tempered with religious resignation, is en- 
titled to a place among the noblest productions of 
that class in our language. 

The national excitement consequent upon the 
general election had scarcely subsided, when an 
unexpected circumstance threatened to disturb the 
joyous opening of the new reign* George IV. had 
scarcely time to adjust the affair of his coronation 
robes with his tailor, when news arrived that his 
wife was coming back to England to assert her 
right to be crowned by his side. Had an ava- 
lanche from the summit of the Schreckhorn been 
announced in the drawing-room at St. James's, it 
could not have produced greater consternation* 



On the 8th of April, 1795, the Prince of Wales 
was married to the Princess Caroline of Brunswick. 
In a few days the happy couple, for whom the joy- 
bells had rung out so lustily on that morning, were 
perfectly miserable— -in a few months they separa- 
ted.* The prince put away his wife. She had 
committed no crime but one which it was impos- 
sible for a gentleman of the prince's high temper* 
ament to pardon — she had outlived his liking. 

Never was a poor bride so stunned as this luck- 
less princess by her first experiences in England. 
Every thing about her was strange and discourag- 
ing. Her education and habits, her tastes and feel- 
ings, and the usages she had been reared among, 
all Beemed to go wrong in England. She had nev- 
er seen any thing half so grand, half so cold, as St. 
James's. The stateliness of the place struck like 
C c 


frost into ber blood. Her own family bad been so 
grievously cut up and despoiled, and {retained sucb 
scanty traces of pomp and ceremony, that their 
rank was advertised chiefly by the politic friendship 
of surrounding states. But even this did not avail 
when Napoleon came upon the scene. That sa- 
gacious remodeler of kingdoms and constitutions 
laid sucb stress upon the tiny principality of Bruns- 
wick, that he said he would rather cede Belgium 
than suffer the duke to re-enter bis territory. 
That worthy race of Wolfenbuttle, with milky 
hearts and warlike mustaches, had a close escape 
of "being superannuated among the old Teutonic 

The princess bad been brought up in this little 
court, which could hardly be called a court The 
whole circle was composed of occasional birds of 
passage, principally military — for resident nobility 
there were none. Travelers were cheerfully re- 
ceived. The sight of visitors enlivened the quiet 
palace, and threw all its inmates into motion, just as 
the appearance of a troop of strolling players calls 
up out of their sleepy recesses the tranquil popu- 
lation of an English village. This sort of life had 
something in it of the ease and abandon of an out- 
post. Formal distinctions were out of the question. 
There was a slight show of state etiquette at first : 
a matter of mere observance, which restrained 
one's animal spirits for a quarter of an hour; and 
then every body was frank and equal; and licensed 
for gayety and frolic. They used to play at prov- 
erbs, and lively forfeits of all sorts ; and sup at lit- 
tle round tables, in merry groups, like people in a 
fashionable cafe. It was a Palace of Revels, a 
Court of High Romps. 

In this open life the manners of the princess 
were formed. To the pure all things are pure; 


and that which was mere out-spoken joyottsness in 
this little 'German retreat would have been impru- 
dence, or worse, elsewhere. Had she lived all her 
Hfq in the same round of hearty diversions, she 
might have gone on to the end with honor, and — 
which is a part of the source of honor to a wom- 
an—with happiness. But she was suddenly car- 
ried away to another country, where a different 
standard of morals and different social institutions 
prevailed, to marry a man she had never seen, 
whose reputation for excesses of all kinds- — the 
basest among the rest — -was enough to terrify and 
revolt her. It was said, too, that her heart had al- 
ready admitted feelings which she was required by 
this sacrificial act to silence forever. The story 
was doubted by some who thought her incapable 
of an attachment, judging by the after-course of a 
life perverted at the very spring by those upon 
whom the sacred duty devolved of directing it 
wisely and kindly. But we can not speculate upon 
what she might have been under natural influen- 
ces, from what she became under the blight of that 
selfish' and most disastrous marriage. Even as it 
was, she discovered sympathies which struggled 
out as they might, darkly and miserably for herself. 
But who shall accuse her under such circumstan- 
ces? What woman could have remained true to 
any thing human or to herself who was at the mer- 
cy of the Prince of Wales 1 

Think of the images of sin, of seduction, of low 
depravity, of the grossest violations of good faith 
and common decency, which glared upon her from 
all sides in this scrupulous royal family, upon 
which she had been ingrafted, and which resented 
with such virtuous indignation the slightest breach 
of decorum. She had scarcely touched our shores 
when the timid feelings of the bride were outraged 


and insulted by finding Lady Jersey already in- 
stalled, and retained, too, in spite of the express 
interdict of the sovereign.* When she was taken 
to the palace, the prince came to her after some de- 
lay, and having received her, turned away and 
called for a glass of brandy* Water was suggest- 
ed, but the prince negatived it with an oath, and 
left the room.t That was a* trivial specimen of 
brutality. Worse might have been expected from 
a prince who, talking of his approaching marriage 
with a lady he had never seen, called it " buying 
a pig in a poke," and who declared tp the lord* 
chancellor that " he, the prince, was not the sort 
of person who would let his hair grow under his 
wig to please his wife." Worse might have been 
expected from such a quarter, and worse came. 
On the night of the wedding, this exigeant prince, 
who Looked for so much refinement and courtly 
etiquette in his wife, reeled drunk into the bridal 
chamber, and fell under the grate.$ 

Of the minor trespasses on her feeling*, the in- 
sults to which she was obliged to submit, the tales 
that were, industriously buzzed in her ears, nothing 

* " The princess, the moment she saw the prince and Lady Jer- 
sey together, saw her fate, bat she married, him. ' Oh ! mine 
God/ she used to exclaim in her own earnest way, ' I could be 
the slave of a man I lore, but to one whom I loved not, and who 
did not Jpve me — impossible — tfeat autre chose/ " — " Diary of the 
Times of George IV.," i., 23. 

f '* Diaries of the Earl of Malmesburv, H iii., 218. 

t This almost incredible fact is stated on the authority of Lady 
Charlotte Bury. " Judge," said the princess, " what it was to 
have a drunken husband on one's wedding-day,' and one who 
passed the greater part of his bridal night under the grate where 
he fell, and where I left him. If any body say to me at dis mo* 
ment, * Will you pass your life over again, or be killed,' I would 
choose death."— " Diary of the Times of George IV.," i., 37. And 
this was in. 1910, long before her great troubles came ! The state- 
ment is borne out to a certain extent by Lord Malmesbury, who 
says that on the evening of the wedding-day the prince appeared 
" unhappy, and, as a proof of it, had manifestly had recourse to 
vine or spirita."— " Diaries," iii. 230. 


need be said. Let Perdita pass ; and Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert, too, with her recognized respectability, not 
the less galling to the princess on that account ; and 
Lady Hertford, who supplanted Mrs. Fitzherbert ;* 
and all the rest. But look around on the scions of 
this royal stock for the revelations which, year af- 
ter year, accumulated their baneful influences 
around the unhappy stranger : the life of Mrs. Jor- 
dan, dragged through the gossip of the green-room, 
forestalled at the playhouse treasury, careering 
through the splendid misery of Bushy Park, to ex- 
piate all in poverty and exile ; the hideous expo- 
sures of Mary Ann Clarke ; and the darker infa- 
mies of other palatial misdeeds, which must never 
find expression except in the backward shuddev of 
history. Were these things likely to elevate, re- 
fine, and strengthen the resolves of a discarded 
woman — a woman utterly alone among strangers, 
tempted, spied upon, persecuted, and condemned 
to suffer the extremity of injustice after her inno- 
cence was clearly established by the most search- 
ing investigation to whicji any woman, be her rank 
or circumstances what they might, has ever been 
exposed in a country where legal tribunal* or pub- 
lic opinion are supposed to exist ? 

The residence of the princess at Blackheath was 
a sort of court banishment. Montagu House (so 
called after the Duke of Montagu) was a curious 
rambling-place, described by one who lived in it 
in the princess's time as an incongruous piece of 
patchwork, which dazzled when it was lighted up at 

* The decision of the House of Lords, by which Lord and Lady 
Hertford were appointed guardians to Miss Seymour, " led to that 
intimacy between the prince and Lady Hertford which ended by 
Mrs.Fitzherbert's dismissal It had a still more important effect, 
for it produced that hostility toward the Catholics which the 
prince manifested after he became regent." — See '• Memoirs of 
Sir Samuel Romilly," it, 152. 

20 C c 2 

806 ran un or camming. 

night, but was, in realky, all glitter, and glare, and 
trick. There was a round tower in the grounds, 
which used to he a great source of amusement to the 
princess ; k was guarded by a nightly watchman, 
and the lady in attendance slept in it, and one of 
the foolish jokes got up to while away time was the 
invention of little dramatic incidents, to give an air 
of romance to this round tower. And such were 
the thoughtless trifles which were afterward inter- 
preted so cruelly to her disadvantage. From the 
very beginning of her life, this poor, wayward, 
heedless princess was the victim of erroneous sus- 
picions. Nobody seems to have understood her 

When* she was brought over to England, she ap- 
pears to have made an indifferent impression upon, 
the new society to which she was introduced. Yet 
Lord Malmesbury, who -was intrusted with this 
delicate piece of diplomacy, assures us that she 
bad a pretty face, fine eyes, good hands, tolerable 
teeth ; that her expression was not very soft, nor 
her figure very graceful ; that she had a good bust, 
and des epatdes impertinmtes. The portrait is at 
least womanly, and, with her real good-nature 
beaming in it, agreeable. But she wanted tact, the 
quality most necessary in her new circumstances. 
She was not brought up in a knowledge of artifi- 
cial dignity, and she could not adapt herself to it. 
Her education had been sadly neglected in mat- 
ters of costume and externals, which are so highly 
prized in England, and overwrought in every thing 
else, to the detriment of her faith and her under- 
standing. It was an education of folly and weak- 
ness, of menace, privation, injunction, with the ex- 
amples of those who inculcated it flying in the face 
of its precepts. Her father made no disguise about 
his amours. The duchess told Lord Malmesbury 


that he was in love with the Duchess of G., Lady 
O., and Lady D. B., and solaced himself with the 
private society of an Italian girl all the time. Her 
mother was a gossip, weak, credulous, capricious, 
but without any absolute vice. It was not very 
wonderful that, thus descended and nurtured, the 
princess should have had. an excellent heart and no 
judgment. The lack of judgment made her heart 
more capacious than it was quite fitting it should 
be : she wanted all the people of England to love 
her (that was the first piece of folly she uttered), 
and she could not comprehend how such a thing 
was impossible in this country, and altogether in- 
consistent with the elevation and remoteness of her 

If such were her dispositions in the midst of her 
own circles, where she was known and admired, 
and free to indulge in her impulses, what could be 
expected from her at Blackheath, where she was 
placed in the most dangerous relation toward so- 
ciety that the most subtle malice could devise ? 

Her mode df life surprised and perplexed every 
body. She was regarded, not unkindly (for people 
liked her robust good-nature), as a strange person 
with strange foreign habits. She was free, coarse, 
vulgar, boisterous; had a gross constitution, used 
to eat onions and drink ale, which she called oil) 
and sit on the floor, and play forfeits and romps ; 
and talk broad, humorous, scandal to her ladies for 
the sake of the fun, not the malice, which never in- 
terested her. She hardly knew how to get through 
her time ; used to walk out in the snow in pink 
boots, and run through the garden at night in a reef 
cloak, a handkerchief tied under her chin, and her 
slippers down at the heels ; picked up an acquaint- 
ance with Lady Douglas at her own door, and was 
glad of any one that came to dinner. Her feelings 


were warm, eager, liberal ; but she had no man- 
ners, no delicacy. She used to plan imaginary in- 
trigues for her ladies to fill up the evening, in imi- 
tation of the gallant age of De G-rammont, just as 
children play at soldiers or house-building with 
cards and toys. She would ask gentlemen (there 
was nobody else she could ask) to dinner and sup- 
per. Canning lived in the neighborhood, and was 
constantly invited ; and one of her strange amuse- 
ments on such occasions was blindman's buff (a fa- 
vorite pastime of Napoleon and Charles II.), in 
which she frequently joined with Sir William Scott, 
Canning, and others ; and whenever this solitary 
woman showed any one of these visitors the small- 
est marks of her good-will, she was immediately 
suspected, or pretended to be suspected. 

Unconscious of the watch that was set upon her, 
she probably grew more and more careless and 
fantastical, from being permitted to believe that 
she had her own way. Suddenly, without a word 
of notice, half her household was swept away to be 
interrogated. Throughout this terrible crisis, the 
princess acted with a dignity worthy of the noblest 
character. She sent for the Duke of Kent, and 
made him bear witness that she would not see one 
of her servants, lest it might be supposed that she 
desired to tamper with them.* 

The investigation was conducted with the ut- 
most severity, and ended in her acquittal.t The 

• The lords who were appointed to enter upon the " delicate" 
investigation issued an order to bring before them six of the prin- 
cess's most confidential servants from her house at Blackheath. 
" The order was executed," says Sir Samuel Romilly, " without 
any previous intimation to the princess or to any of her servants." 
— M Memoirs," ii. f 150. The princess said they were welcome to 
examine all her servants if they thought proper. ' 

f " The result," says Sir Samuel Romilly, "left a perfect con- 
viction on my mind, and I believe on the minds of the four lords, 
that the boy in question is the son of Sopbia Austin." 


king, anxious to atone for the wrong, expressed 
his intention to Teceive her at court ; but the prince 
interposed, and would not suffer it.* She was again 
sent forth to be persecuted. That dangerous tend- 
ency of her nature, which yearned for sympathy 
of some sort, and which might have slumbered or 
taken a safer direction, under wiser treatment, was 
thus encouraged, tempted, provoked into vice. Up 
to this time she was indiscreet, which a, better wom- 
an might have been in such circumstances ; but 
she was innocent. After this she was lost. Whose 
was the guilt 1 

Mr. Canning was one of her earliest and most 
steadfast friends. Governed by his advice, she 
had hitherto observed the most judicious conduct 
in reference to Parliament and the royal family. 
When the Prince of Wales's income became the 
subject of debate in 1803, Mr. Canning offered to 
take any step about an increase in her appoint- 
ments which she might direct ; but she begged of 
him hot to interfere, not to mention her name in 
or out of Parliament ; adding, that she relied en- 
tirely on the king's goodness, and that she wished 
to be left undisturbed by publicity in her retire- 
ment. This was the course he had all throughout 
advised her to adopt ; and had she continued to 
follow his injunctions, her just rights would have 
been fully recognized at last. There were none of 
her adherents for whom she entertained so strong 
a regard as Mr. Canning, notwithstanding that she 
deviated so widely, in the end, from the line he had 
marked out for her. Lord Eldon, whom she liked 

* The king's answer, as written by the cabinet, after stating 
that his majesty was satisfied about her innocence, added, that 
" his majesty sees with ' concern and disapprobation,' &c, certain 
parts of her conduct. The king struck out with his own hand the 
word 'disapprobation,' and substituted ' serious concern/ "—"Me- 
moirs," ii., 186. 


at first, sad Perceval, who, from party motives, at- 
tached himself zealously to her cause, both fell into 
disgrace with her, because she thought that they, 
had supplanted Mr. Canning with the sing. 

Perceval was her principal adviser when the four 
lords drew up their report. He wrote her reply, 
which was retouched by Plumer;* and then col- 
lecting the evidence and all the other documents, 
which constituted that digest of royal scandal known 
by the emphatic title of " The Book/' he got it 
printed. Canning strongly condemned this step, 
and instantly returned the copy which had been 
sent to him, saying, that if they printed they pub- 
lished, and that, let the disgraceful disclosure come 
from what quarter it might, he was determined it 
should not be supposed to come from him. Per- 
ceval's real intention was to publish it, for the pur- 
pose of bringing odium on the opposite party ; 
but in this, as in all things else, he acted with too 
hot a resolution. " The Book" was scarcely print- 
ed, when a change of administration took place, and 
it became imperatively necessary to suppress the 
publication. But some copies had got out surrep- 
titiously, and the difficulty was to recover them. 
Perceval going out in a hurry (he seems to have 
been always flushed and excited), left a copy on 
his table; it was stolen, and it cost him c£ 10,000 
to get it back again.t The editor of a Sunday 
paper, who had by some means obtained another 
copy, issued a mysterious notice of his intention to 
publish it, and was stopped by an injunction ; J but 
afterward assured his friends that he had compro- 
mised the matter for d61000. Another copy got 
into the hands of another person connected with 

* " Memoirs of Sir Samuel Romilly," ii., 171. 

f Lady Heater Stanhope states that " she knows this to a cer- 
tainty."—" Memoirs of Lady Hester Stanhope," i, 906. 

% " Memoirs of Sir Samuel Romilly," ii., 171. 


the press, who compromised for the sum of £5000 * 
Such was the anxiety manifested in the endeavor 
to retrace a fake step, which any man of common 
sense ought to have known the hopelessness of at- 

It was in 1812 that these matters first came be- 
fore Parliament; so long as his majesty was in pos- 
session of his senses, it was felt that Parliament 
had no right to interfere in his family dissensions ; 
but the regency altered the case. The queen was 
about to hold a drawing-room, and Mr. Whitbread 
demanded of the minister, whether the Princess 
of Wales — so long proscribed from the circles over 
which she ought to have presided — was to make 
her appearance on that occasion. " Mr. Perceval,** 
he said, " ought to know, for he had been her de- 
voted adherent, had written her vindication and 
published it* which publication had been extensive- 
ly read, although it was bought up at an enormous 
expense by the right honorable gentleman's secre- 
tary." But the times had changed with Mr. Per- 
cevaL He was the regent's " devoted adherent** 
now, and the princess had nothing to expect from 
his fidelity, because she had no means of rewarding 
it. Her star was setting; she was urged to leave 
the country. Once out of England, a surrender in 
itself to a certain extent of her legitimate rights, 
the annihilation of all farther hope of' restitution 
followed as a matter of course, ohe went abroad 
in 1814, contrary to the urgent advice of Mr* Whit- 
bread and Mr. Brougham. She returned on the 
death of George HL, to set up her claim to be 
crowned with her husband, contrary to the advice 
of Mr. Canning. 

Her proceedings on the Continent were like acts 

* These two cases of compromise are stated on the authority 
*f the individuals themselves, both of whom are now dead. 


of a mad woman— of one made desperate by the 
total blight of her affections, the entire misdirection 
of her life, by the sense of friendliness and isola- 
tion, the mockery of state through which she moved, 
and by that terrible contempt of opinion which 
grows upon systematic injustice. Her folly, com- 
bined with the sensuality of her Hfe, exposed her 
anew to persecution; and she was still watched 
and dogged as of old, and eyes glared upon her 
where she least suspected treachery, in her most 
secret and careless moments. Out of the intelli- 
gence thus basely procured arose the famous Mi- 
lan Commission. It was not a government meas- 
ure—it was worse. It originated in this way. A 
mass of papers concerning the conduct of the queen 
(for she was called queen every where except in 
the Litany) had been put into the hands of £>ir 
John Leach, in his capacity of Chancellor of the 
Duchy of Lancaster, -and as such, first law adviser 
to the prince. He was to examine and report upon 
these documents ; and he did so, to the effect, that 
competent persons ought to be sent abroad to col- 
lect and arrange evidence of the facts, before any 
ulterior steps should be taken. This was agreed 
to ; he selected the persons himself, and they were 
sent out, not by the sanction of the cabinet, but 
with the concurrence and privacy of Lords Eldon 
and Liverpool. Sir John Leach got into odium 
by this transaction, and it was even said that he 
went over to Italy himself to forward the project. 
This he denied ; but he admitted that he did hap- 
pen to go just at that time to Italy, and, by a very 
odd coincidence, to Milan among other places; but 
he protested that he never communicated with any 
body all the time on the subject of the commission 
which was sitting there, and which he himself had 
appointed. Be that as it may, it was this Milan 


Commission by which the evidence was collected 
that was brought against the queen on her trial. 
The result was a severe blow to the Tory govern- 
ment— an insignificant majority, which compelled 
them, as a matter, of decency, to abandon the bill. 
The only member of the cabinet who stood out to 
the last against Lord Liverpool's proposal to relin- 
quish the prosecution was Lord Eldon ; but he al- 
ways, stood out to the last, and was rather proud of 
standing out alone. 

Mr. Canning's conduct throughout this affair was 
misunderstood and studiously misrepresented . He 
had been on terms of intimacy with the princess 
from the beginning, and could not, without doing 
violence to his feelings, as a gentleman who had 
been once admitted to the honor of her confidence, 
take any part in the proceedings against her. % He 
never did take any part in those proceedings. In 
1814, when he was unconnected with the govern- 
ment, he had had frequent intercourse with her, 
and he then approved of a separate arrangement, 
and advised that she should live abroad with her 
family at Brunswick, or in any society she might 
prefer, " of which," he declared, ",she must be the 
grace, life, and honor." He defended that advice 
in 1820. It was founded on the fact of " alienation 
and hopeless irreconcilement," and because he saw 
that " faction had marked her for its own." He 
had foreseen, he said, that with her income and 
with her fascinating manners, she would become 
the rallying-point of political intrigue. 

Had the princess followed Mr. Canning's advice 
in her mode of life, her residence abroad would 
have rescued her from all those dangers by which 
she was encompassed on her return, and which he, 
who knew her character well, had predicted so ac- 
curately. He could not anticipate the errors into 


which she fell, and if he could, he might still have 
tendered the same advice, from a conviction that 
the farther the scene of such errors was removed 
from England, the better for her own sake and the 
repose of the country. 

On her return, with this dark cloud of accusation 
impending over her, Mr. Canning was a member 
of the government. Ministers had a clear duty to 
perform. But before they pressed on the prose- 
cution, an offer was made to her of <£50,000 a year 
if she would live abroad under an adopted name. 
She spurned at this proposal, although it afterward 
appeared that it had originally emanated from her 
own party, and was responded to by the govern- 
ment from a desire to avoid the demoralizing ex- 
posure. There bein£ no alternative left, her maj- 
esty was brought to trial While these proceedings 
were going forward, Mr. Canning declared in the 
House of Commons that he would have nothing to 
do with the prosecution. His disclaimer was re- 
markable. " So help me God !" he exclaimed, u I 
will never place myself in the situation of an ac- 
cuser toward this individual" He added, that if 
any sacrifices on his part could have prevented the 
painful discussion, he would have readily made 
them, and would have withdrawn at once, but that 
it might occasion suspicion that some injustice was 
intended by his colleagues. 

He remained in office «s long as there lingered 
the least hope of an amicable adjustment. When 
that failed he resigned. But the king commanded 
him to remain in office, and graciously absolved 
him from all participation in the prosecution. He 
availed himself of this permission, and left England. 
He had no share in the Bill of Pains and Penalties : 
he was, out of the country during the whole term 
of its progress. On his return, he found the matter, 


although brought to an end by the withdrawal of 
the bill, yet so mixed up with the general business of 
the session that it was impossible to avoid the discus- 
sion of the subject; unless be were to absent himself 
altogether, which he could not continue to do con- 
sistently with his ministerial responsibility. There 
was no escape but resignation ; and his majesty, on 
this occasion, reluctantly yielded to his wishes. 

It is not enough merely to exonerate Mr. Can- 
ning from censure in these transactions. He de- 
serves credit for the courage and delicacy with 
which he acted. He had ample justification, had 
he been disposed to avail himself of it, for assisting 
at the trial of the queen. The shame she had 
brought upon herself by her proceedings abroad, 
which could not be considered otherwise than as an 
unpardonable infidelity to her true friends and ad- 
vocates, and her return against his wishes, released 
him from all personal obligations. She stood no 
longer in the same relation to her former adherents. 
Her case was altered. The old contract was viti- 
ated by the introduction of new circumstances. A 
solemn accusation, strongly fortified by criminating 
appearances, was drawn up against her; and he 
might have justly pleaded his strict duty as a min- 
ister of the crown, which demanded the abnegation 
of private feelings in the discharge of a public re- 
sponsibility ; but he resolved from the first to take 
no part against hen He never even discussed the 
subject of the prosecution with his colleagues. He 
never attended a cabinet meeting on the subject. 
He tried to protect her against her bad advisers ; 
he used the influence he possessed to promote an 
honorable arrangement, to prevent a publicity in- 
jurious to both parties, and prejudicial to the mor- 
als of the count* y : failing in that, he went out of 
office. The sacrifice was a large one to him at that 


moment, but it was due to the unfortunate princess 
who, in better times, had bestowed distinguished 
marks of favor upon him. To the other ministers 
must be assigned the full glory of the state revenge, 
which, robbed of its victim in the House of Lords, 
descended to an idle conflict with her hearse. 

Mr. Canning's retirement from the Board of 
Control, in December, 1820, was no sooner made 

Sublic than the Court of Directors of the East In- 
ia Company took an opportunity of expressing to 
him their deep regret at the circumstance, and the 
sincere respect by which his conduct, during the 
five years he had occupied that arduous situation, 
had impressed them. But still higher marks of 
their approbation awaited him. In the following 
March, the Court of Proprietors of East India 
Stock, at a special meeting convened expressly 
for the purpose, passed a formal resolution con- 
firming the strong testimony of regard already voted 
by the Court of Directors, seconded and supported 
by public men wholly opposed in politics to Mr. 
Canning, including Mr. Ferry of the "Morning 
Chronicle," and Mr. Hume ; and scarcely another 
year had elapsed, when the Court of Directors, 
eager to recall him to the public service, and still 
more to that service in which they were so deeply 
interested, offered him the office of G-overnor-gen- 
eral of India. Mr. Canning accepted the appoint- 
ment, and, soon after the commencement of the 
session of 1822* was announced as the successor to 
Lord Hastings. 

In a pecuniary point of view, this appointment 
was very acceptable to him. His private fortune 
had been unavoidably straitened, and the noble in- 
come of the Oriental viceroyship promised to repair 
it in a short time. But this temptation would not 
have withdrawn him from the political arena where 


he had won all his past triumphs, had there existed 
the least likelihood that office would he thrown 
open to him at home. There was no chance, how- 
ever, of such an event. . The ministry had recently 
suffered some reverses, and Lord Sidmouth had 
resigned the Home Secretariship. At that mo- 
ment the public looked anxiously to see Mr. Can- 
ning replaced in power, but Mr. Peel was appoint- 
ed to the vacancy. Lord Liverpool, in fact, could 
not avail himself of Mr. Canning's services. The 
king would not suffer it. The old story ! Had 
Mr. Canning helped his majesty to immolate the 
queen — had he not checked the current of royal 
vengeance by holding aloof from the prosecution- 
he might have been at the head of every thing. 

There being no disguise about the antipathy of 
the " highest personage in the realm" toward Mr. 
Canning, the appointment to India was sanctioned 
with alacrity. The Ultra-Tories rubbed their hands, 
and chuckled at the prospect of getting rid of him. 
The lowest grade of Reformers had much the same 
feeling, because of his Toryism; but it was re- 
strained by admiration of his talents, which the To- 
ries envied, and respect for his liberal opinions, 
whifch the Tories abhorred. . But the body of the 
English people regarded his approaching departure 
with unaffected sorrow. They felt that they were 
about to lose the greatest of their living states- 

Impressed with sentiments of pain and regret at 
his separation from friends who had long bestowed 
the most signal confidence upon him, Mr. Canning 
repaired to Liverpool to take leave of his constitu- 
ents. His connection with that place had been a 
succession of the most gratifying triumphs, each 
fresh election increasing the number of his support- 
ers, and converting enemies into active partisans. 


He had been four times elected for Liverpool. At 
the first election he had four antagonists, the most 
formidable of whom was Mr. Brougham ; on the 
third election there were three candidates, but, as 
the straggle advanced, fresh names were added to 
the poll, and new bars were opened, until at last 
there were no less than twenty-one candidates in 
the field ; a curious piece of electioneering maneuv- 
ering, which was described by Mr. Canning, in one 
of his speeches, with exquisite humor. Some of 
Mr. Canning's noblest orations were delivered at 
dinners and meetings among his constituents, his 
eloquence rendering the scene of its achievements 
as renowned at Bristol, represented, instructed, and 
elevated by Burke. 

Mr. Canning's visits to Liverpool were galas to 
the people. He was received with the most lavish 
honors ; entertainments were planned for the pur- 
pose of rendering homage to his genius, and the 
" Canning Club" was instituted to commemorate 
his connection with the borough. He generally 
took up his residence at Seaforth House, the resi- 
dence of his friend Mr. Gladstone (the father of 
the Right Honorable W. Gladstone), situated on a 
flat stretching north of the town, and overlooking 
the sea. The room which he occupied looked out 
upon the ocean, and here he would sit for hours 
gazing on the open expanse, while young Glad- 
stone, who has subsequently obtained such distinc- 
tion in the councils of his sovereign, used to be 
playing on the strand below. The house is no lon- 
ger in the possession of Mr. Gladstone, who let it 
to Mr. Paulet, a Swiss merchant. Latterly, Mr. 
Canning was the guest of Colonel Bolton. 

He had been about a year and a. half elected for 
the fourth time, when, having accepted the appoint- 
ment of governor-general, he went to Liverpool 


for the purpose of taking leave of his constituents. 
On his way down, intelligence overtook him on the 
road that Lord Casdereagh (now Marquis o£ Lon- 
donderry, but one prefers the more familiar name) 
had terminated his Hfe at North Cray, in Kent, with 
his own hand. Connected with this piece of news 
was a rumor, which gained fresh ground every 
where,, that Mr. Canning was universally looked 
upon as his successor. But Mr. Canning was slow 
to yield to the flattering suggestions of popular 
opinion, and pursued his journey to Liverpool 
without pausing even to examine the unexpected 
contingency which had arisen. 

On die 23d of August he dined with the Canning 
Club. On the morning of the 30th he received an 
address from his constituents, unanimously approv- 
ed and sanctioned by all the mercantile associa- 
tions ; and on the evening of that day a grand fes- 
tival, to which 500 gentlemen sat down, was given 
to him in the great room of the Lyceum. On that 
occasion he delivered a speech of extraordinary 
power, in which he reviewed the two great ques- 
tions of Emancipation and Reform, developing the 
part he had taken upon each, and ended by declar- 
ing that he was entirely ignorant of the arrange- 
ments likely to grow out of the recent vacancy, 
and that, in the event of being consulted on the 
matter, his determination should be guided, not by 
a calculation of interests, but by a balance and com- 
parison of duties. 

It was not until the 8th of September that Lord 
Liverpool requested to see Mr. Canning. An in- 
terview took place on the 11th, when the Foreign 
Office was offered to him by the premier, and ac* 
cepted after a struggle. The delay which occur- 
red before this arrangement was carried out may 
be attributed mainly to Lord Bldon, whose ancient 


animosity had received no mitigation from time or 
events. There were other members of the cabinet 
who were no less desirous to promote Mr. Can- 
ning's departure for India; but Lord Liverpool 
was firm: he felt that he could not conduct the 
business of the country without Mr. Canning's aid, 
and he stated the necessity to the king. His maj- 
esty surrendered his own scruples. His necessi- 
ties could not do less. In fact, if they had not ad- 
mitted Mr. Canning, the ministry must have been 
broken up— the most urgent argument of all- 
Mr. Canning accepted the Foreign Secretariship 
from an overruling sense of duty. Nothing else 
could have tempted him to give up a magnificent 
income, and all out unlimited power, for a position 
from which little glory could be extracted, and in 
which he was to be associated with colleagues 
many of whom were opposed to him on principle, 
and some from personal feeling. There was only 
one point on which the members of the cabinet cor- 
dially agreed — Reform. On every thing else they 
differed ; and it is curious that for all this difference, 
on Catholic Emancipation, on Commerce, on Ed- 
ucation, they were unanimous on Pitt — so different 
was Pitt from himself. It was all Pitt : one por- 
tion was the Pitt of Thatched House celebrity — an- 
other the Pitt of the Revolution ; one was the Pitt 
ready to resign for Ireland — another the Pitt ready 
to suspend the Habeas Corpus. The most remark- 
able Pittite of them all was Lord Eldon, who used 
to boast that he had never been absent from a sin- 
gle dinner of the Pitt Club, and who celebrated the 
defeat of the Catholic Bill in 1825 at one of its 
most uproarious festivals. 

But the great stumbling-block in die way of Mr. 
Canning's foreign policy was the Duke of Welling- 
ton. That able soldier was an intrepid admirer of 


Lord Castlereagh. He found him in office when 
he came home from the wars. Lord Castlereagh 
was the minister to greet him on his return, to more 
votes of thanks to the army, to eulogize the con- 
queror of Napoleon, to acknowledge official toasts 
at city dinners, and to utter all the fine ceremonial 
things that made the duke's head more giddy than 
cannon-balls. His grace admired his lordship pro- 
digiously, had an implicit veneration for the Holy 
Alliance, and thought, of course, that Mr. Canning's 
" system" was an interference of a very impertinent 
kind with the established impunities of the world. 

The duke was one of the last persons that saw 
Lord Castlereagh alive. He detected the approach 
of insanity, and Lord Castlereagh himself seemed 
to be conscious of it. The sensibilities of the pub- 
lic were revolted at the manner of his death ; but 
few'thinking people were much surprised ; and the 
multitude exulted. Lord Eldon tells us that when 
the corpse was taken out of the hearse at the door 
of Westminster Abbey, the people cheered for joy 
that he was no more.* 

That which was really distressing and painful in 
Lord Castlereagh's history was, not its ghastly issue, 
but the dreadful efforts which it must have cost him 
to sustain a position of responsibility for which his 
faculties were totally inadequate. That long strain, 
and the hopeless play upon the surface to keep up 
appearances, wore him out in the long run. His 
mind was never very clear or vigorous. He be- 
lieved in ghosts. He told Sir Walter Scott once 
that he had actually seen a ghost. Like most other 
men who have earned the unpleasant distinction 
of being very much disliked in public, Lord Castle- 
reagh was said to have been agreeable and amiable 
in private. It is a poor compensation— 00 let it guw 
* " Life of Lord Eldon,* ii., 4G5. 


His manners were simple and conciliatory, with an 
occasional snatch of pleasantry which rendered him 
a favorite in the Foreign Office. Between him and 
Mr. Canning there were certain points of resem- 
blance, limited chiefly to that fluency and ease 
of gentlemanly breeding which was common to 
both. In all other things they were conspicuously 
dissimilar. Castlereagh had purposes below his 
agreeable manners — Canning bad none. Castle- 
reagh always preferred talking over mooted ques- 
tions with foreign ministers to the more formal 
course of interchanging notes : it saved him trouble : 
it enabled him to glean and surmise confidential 
opinions which would never be intrusted to paper : 
and it enabled him also to escape responsibility. 
Canning preferred writing ; it was more clear, hon- 
orable, and satisfactory ; besides, it fell in with his 
Hterary taBtes, of which Castlereagh had none. 
Literature was out of his lordship's way — a sort 
of disturbing influence ; his nature was worldly. 
Wilberforce says that he was cold-blooded, and 
compares him to a fish ; and repeats the simile so 
often, that one is in some sort compelled to think it 
must have been apt and exact. 




Mr. Canning's acceptance of the seals of the 
Foreign Office led to some changes in the adminis- 
tration. Among the rest, Mr. Huskisson was ap- 
pointed President of the Board of Trade and 
Treasurer of the Navy. He demurred at first, 
without a seat in the cabinet ; but the practical in- 
convenience of extending its numbers rendered his 


admission at th at moment impossible.* A vacancy, 
however, was made for him at the end of a few 
months. Mr. Vansittart was removed at the same 
time from the department of Finance, which he had 
held by some miraculous means for eleven years, 
and drafted into the House of Lords with the title 
of Baron Bexley. He was succeeded in his office 
by Mr. Robinson, the present Earl of Ripon. The 
accession of these gentlemen brought fresh strength 
to the government ; and Mr. Huskisson gave a new 
direction to the commercial policy of the country. 
Mr. Canning's personal influence was farther im- 
proved by the appointment of Lord Francis Co- 
nyngham in the Foreign Office, which won the 
king's heart at once.t 

When Mr. Canning entered upon the duties of 
his office, he found himself surrounded by obstacles 
of a kind which he had no right to anticipate, aris- 
ing chiefly from the implied engagements in which 
his predecessor had involved Great Britain with 
foreign powers. Whatever may have been the art- 
ful obscurity under which Mr. Pitt may have stud- 
ied to veil the object of the war with France, there 
is no doubt that die whole of Europe accepted Mr. 
Canning's definition of it ; that administration after 
administration adopted it; and that, from the dawn 
of the Directory to the last hour of the Empire, it 
was understood that the object we had in view was 
" the deliverance of Europe." Yet at the close 
of the war, when the time came to fulfill that object, 
Lord Castlereagh 4 at the Congress of Vienna, sac- 
rificed every one of the smaller and weaker states 
which had hitherto been protected by England, 
leaving the world to conclude that we had only 
made a pretense of defending the independence of 
nations, in order the better in the end to secure 
* " Speeches of Huskisson." f "Life of Lord Eidon," ... 

324 the: life or canning. 

impunity to despots. Genoa was made over to Sar- 
dinia ; Venice to Austria ; half of Saxony to Prus- 
sia; and Poland was again partitioned. This was 
the way Lord Castlereagh vindicated the principle 
of " deliverance" at the Congress of Vienna. To 
prosecute a war for the avowed purpose of prevent- 
ing France from interfering with the separate rights 
of other countries, and then, having succeeded in 
the war, to annihilate those rights ourselves, was 
folly as well as "perfidy. All the advantages which 
were gained in 1808 by Mr. Canning's recognition 
of Spain, and all the glories of the Peninsula, also 
resulting from his policy, were thrown away at 
Vienna. We began the crusade in the name of the 
liberties of Europe, and ended it with the Holy Al- 

In most cases it is nothing but cowardice which 
makes men act despotically, when they have pow- 
er to act generously. But Lord Castlereagh must 
be acquitted of that. It was not through coward- 
ice he committed himself to the Holy Alliance. 
He was duped — blinded by vanity and exaltation. 
At one time he actually praised the principles of 
that alliance as being essentially Christian and lib- 
eral. There is no doubt he thought so. He was 
cheated into a belief that the potentates who assem- 
bled at that Congress were sincerely actuated by 
anxiety for the happiness and freedom of their sub- 
jects. ■ His position in Vienna dazzled and misled 
him ; and when he found out that the compact he 
had been recommending so strenuously to the ad- 
miration of Parliament was a conspiracy of crowned 
heads against human rights, the horrors of his sit- 
uation may be easily conceived. 

The first business which presented itself to Mr. 
Canning was to devise a system by which the Holy 
Alliance could be gradually dissolved, and Eng- 


land rescued from the consequences of her unde- 
fined relations with its members. The adjourned 
Congress was on the point of assembling at Ve- 
rona, and as it was necessary to send a represent- 
ative in place of Lord Castlereagh, who seems to 
have been terrified at the prospect that lay before 
him, the Duke of Wellington was selected, and dis- 
patched without loss of time. Mr. Canning would 
have preferred leaving England unrepresented at 
that meeting, in order to disconnect her still more 
emphatically from all responsibility arising out of 
ite proceedings ; but as that could not be done 
without risking worse consequences, he was care- 
ful in his instructions to the duke to mark, by the 
firmness and explicitness of his views, the course 
which it was his determination to adopt. 

Even if Lord Castlereagh had been animated by 
the most earnest desire to release England from 
the network of the Holy Alliance, he could not 
have accomplished it so effectually as Mr. Canning. 
His intercourse at conferences with monarchs and 
their ministers had, to a certain extent, hampered 
him. He never could have felt himself so perfect- 
ly unshackled as if he had discharged the functions 
of his office through the ordinary channels of com- 
munication. His range of action was abridged by 
personal considerations. The diplomatic conver- 
sation which he cultivated so much, in preference 
to diplomatic correspondence, left behind a variety 
of indefinite impressions, which had the practical 
effect of curtailing his independence. * Mr. Can- 
ning-, on the other hand, was free and unfettered. 
He had nothing to qualify or recall. There could 
be no implied obligations, no tacit inferences to em- 
barrass his decision upon any question which might 
come before him. "Whatever course he might think 
fit to take, was at least clear and unobstructed. 
E e 


The natural consequence of this free position sub- 
sequently developed itself in the liberation of Eng- 
land from the attractive influences of the allied 
powers. Mr. Canning was not two years in office 
when England moved once more in her own orbit. 
But his progress was beset with conflicting diffi- 
culties. A notion had got abroad that England 
was favorable to the principles of the Holy Alliance. 
This notion was encouraged by Lord Castlereagh's 
indiscretions, and sedulously propagated, for their 
own purposes, by the diplomatists of the Conti- 
nent. The war we had been waging against the 
revolutionary spirit gave a strong coloring of 
probability to this suspicion. Having set ourselves 
so vigorously against revolution, in France, it was 
not inconsistent, at first sight, to suppose that we 
should unite with the powers of the Continent in 
resisting future revolutions. There was a power- 
ful party, too, which held to this doctrine, and 
looked to the Holy Alliance as a bulwark against 
popular encroachments. There was another party 
— the Masses, the Millions — who clamored to be let 
loose from the Alliance, and who would be satisfied 
with no proof of our redemption from its trammels 
short of open and armed resistance.. Mr. Canning 
had to counteract these opposite feelings and preju- 
dices, and to move onward to his object without 
suffering his policy to be embarrassed by either of 
the extremes. The very first blow he struck in the 
Congress of- Verona announced to the world the 
attitude which England was about to take, and her 
total denial of the rights of the Alliance to inter- 
fere with the internal affairs of any independent na- 

* " The Alliance," says Mr. Stapleton, " had arrived at such a 
pitch of confidence, that the ministers of the four courts called m 
a body on Mr. Canning to remonstrate with him against the ap- 


It appeared that France bad collected a large 
army in the south, and not having legitimate occu- 
pation for it, proposed to employ it in the invasion 
of Spain. This monstrous project was submitted 
to Congress, and ardently approved of by Russia. 
It was now that England spoke out for the first 
time in this cabal of despots. Having learned from 
the Duke of Wellington that such a proposition 
was likely to be made, and that the allies would 
probably agree to it, Mr. Canning immediately in- 
structed his grace that " if a declaration of any 
such determination should be made at Verona, come 
what might, he should refuse the king's consent to 
become a party to it, even though the dissolution of 
the Alliance should be the consequence of the refusal" 
The proposition was made in due form, and, after 
some interchanges of notes and discussions agreed 
to by the allies, the British plenipotentiary, as he 
was instructed, refused all participation in these 
proceedings, and withdrew from the Congress. 
This was the first step that was taken to show the 
Alliance that England would not become a party 
to any act of unjust aggression or unjustifiable in- 

A long correspondence ensued between Mr. 
Canning and M. de Chateaubriand. Mr. Canning's 
dispatches on this subject are models of diplomacy. 
M. de Chateaubriand was secretly for war, but af- 
fected the most moderate and reasonable disposi- 
tions. The French king's speech, on opening 
the Chambers, revealed the real intentions of the 
government, which Mr. Canning had penetrated 
from the beginning. The speech was, in fact,- a 

pointment of Sir William & Court as the king's minister to Madrid, 
on account of the countenance that his presence would give to 
the Constitutional government."—" Political Life of the Rt. Hon. 
6. Canning/' i., 146. 


declaration of war against Spain, qualified by the 
slightest imaginable hypothesis. But, happily for 
all interests, there was no possibility of disguising 
die purpose of this war, which was plainly and 
avowedly to force upon the people of Spain such 
a constitution as the king (a Bourbon), in the exer- 
cise of his absolute authority, should think fit to 
give them. This principle, it will be- seen, makes 
constitutional rights flow from the king, inverting 
that fundamental doctrine of English freedom which 
recognizes in the people alone the source of all po- 
litical power. Against this principle Mr. Canning 
entered a dignified protest If the speech, he said, 
were to be construed, that " the free institutions" of 
the Spanish people could only be legitimately held 
from the spontaneous gift of the sovereign, first re- 
stored to absolute power, and then divesting him- 
self of such portion of that power as he « might think 
proper to part with, it was a principle to which the 
Spanish nation could not be expected to submit, 
nor could any British statesman uphold or defend 
it. It was, indeed, a principle which struck at the 
root of the British Constitution" Thus nobly did 
Mr. Canning vindicate those doctrines of constitu- 
tional liberty which he lived to see established un- 
der his own auspices in the remote colonies of that 
wretched kingdom on whose behalf he was thus 
pleading invam. But although he could not avert 
from Spain the calamity of a French invasion, he 
made it clear to all the world that England object- 
ed to that proceeding, and that she was no longer 
even to be suspected of favoring the designs of the 
Holy Alliance. 

The French army made the passage of the Bi- 
dassoa. From that moment Mr. Canning inter- 
fered no farther. He at Once disclosed the system 
which he had already matured and resolved upon. 


Having first protested against the principle of the 
invasion, he determined to maintain the neutrality 
of England in the war that followed. By this 
course he achieved the end he had in view, of sev- 
ering England from the Holy Alliance without em- 
broiling her "in any consequent responsibilities. 

This neutrality — ominous and motionless — had 
a strange effect upon a people who had been so ac- 
customed, at the slightest provocation, to fly to arms. 
But it must be remembered that Europe of 1823 
was in a different condition from Europe during 
the war. The Balance of Power was no longer an 
intelligible thing to be fought for. It was shadowy 
and speculative, and represented nothing but dead 
forms, which no art of gunpowder could make live. 
France had lost her conquests : her central fire was 
turned into ashes. The little states that used to 
make the small weights in the huge Balance were 
all soldered into the large ones ; other states had 
been dismembered ; some had been blotted out ; 
others enlarged ; none held their original length 
and breadth ; the map was a new map ; and al- 
though France did march an army across the Pyr- 
enees, and although there was a chance of her 
marching into Portugal also, and disturbing still 
farther the palpitations of the Balance, it was not 
a question nor a time for war. The war policy 
was over — the necessity was over — there was no 
contingent benefit to be derived from a war equiv- 
alent to the certain mischief. England had strained 
her strength, as Canning described it, to the utmost, 
" and her means were at that precise stage of re- 
covery which made it most desirable that the prog- 
ress of recovery should not be interrupted." In 
addition to all this, it might be urged that the be- 
ginning a new war, with all its fearful liabilities, is 
E e 2 


quite a different matter from fighting out one that 
has already begun. 

There were not wanting persons who, with the 
best intentions, had not sagacity enough to discern 
the wisdom of Mr. Canning's gradual renunciation 
of the Holy Alliance. They could not detect on 
the horizon the first blush of this dawn. of liberal 
principles. They insisted that the sun should rush 
to his meridian height at once. Neutrality was de- 
nounced as timidity, and a distinct motion was 
brought forward in the Commons condemning the 
government for want of boldness in its negotiations. 
The speeches were disorderly and clamorous. Mr. 
Canning spoke on the third night, and completely 
turned the tide. He declared his immediate ob- 
ject at Verona was to prevent a war with Spain 
growing out of " an assumed jurisdiction of the 
Congress, and the keeping within bounds that are- 
opagitical spirit which was beyond the sphere of 
the original conception and understood principles 
of the Alliance.' ' This startling declaration fairly 
lifted the House off its legs. The enthusiasm it 
produced can not be very distinctly conveyed in any 
common form of words. Every body voted for the 
government, except a few members who were 
obliged to remain in the body of the House, be* 
cause the lobby was ioo crowded to hold them 1 

The result of the invasion abundantly justified 
the neutrality. " By a strange course of events," 
said Mr. Canning, " the whole situation and busi- 
ness of, the French in Spain has become changed. 
They went into the country to defend the fanatical 
party against the Constitutionalists, and now they 
are actually interfering for the Constitutional party 
with the fanatics." During the progress of these 
events, several motions were made against the pol- 
icy of government; but before the debate closed, 


each motion was regularly converted into & pane- 
gyric. Even Hobhouse congratulated the country 
s on the foreign policy of ministers, and said that if 
the same language had been held at Troppau and 
Laybach which he believed to have been held at 
Verona, England would then be in a different sit- 
uation. He might have gone still farther, and said 
that if Mr. Canning had been in office a few months 
earlier, England would never have had a represent- 
ative at the Congress of Vienna. Canning always 
protested against the system of holding Congresset 
tor the government of the world. 

Mr. Canning's " system" of foreign policy, as de- 
scribed in his own language, resolved itself into this 
principle of action, that " England should hold the 
balance, not only between contending nations, but 
between conflicting principles; that, in order to 
prevent things from going to extremities, she should 
keep a distinct middle ground, staying the plague 
both ways." But as, when he came into office in 
1822, the Anti-Liberal influence preponderated, it 
was necessary, for the purpose of preserving the 
equilibrium, to favor the Liberal scale.* It was 
not his design to give a triumph to either, but to 
adjust the balance between both. 

The development of this principle, as it applied 
to nations, was illustrated in the strict but watchful 
neutrality observed between France and Spain; 
and, as it applied to principles, in the recognition 
of the independence of the Spanish- American col- 
onies. The latter act may be regarded as the most 
important for which Mr. Canning was officially re- 
sponsible, as that which exerted the widest and 
most distinct influence over the policy ,of other 
countries, and which most clearly and emphatically 
revealed the tendency of hk own. It showed that 
« * Political Life," i, 474 


England would recognize institutions raised up by 
the people, as well as those which were created by 
kings. It gave the death-blow to the Holy Alliance. 
Mr. Canning's conduct in this crisis discovered a 
magnanimity of spirit worthy of the statesman who 
enjoys the glory of having called the South. Ameri- 
can republics into existence ; an honor which un- 
questionably belongs to him. The measure had 
been strenuously opposed by Lord Castlereagh, 
and retarded, even as it was, for a quarter of a year 
by Lord Eldon, who retarded every thing ; and h^d 
it not been for the energy displayed by Mr. Can- 
ning, and the effect produced by the unexpected 
declaration of his opinions, Mexico, Columbia, and 
Buenos Ayres might have struggled through a 
season of rickety independence, but must have 
fallen back again into a worse servitude than be- 
fore. At the first outbreak of the colonies, num- 
bers of young persons volunteered from this country 
to fight on their behalf; but Mr. Canning brought 
in a bill to prohibit their interference, which he 
declared would be a direct violation of our treaties 
with Spain. He consoled them, however, for the 
disappointment by assuring them that the colonies, 
if left to themselves, must inevitably become free 
in the natural course of things. He next opened 
a confidential communication with Mr. Rush, the 
American minister, to ascertain whether he was 
authorized to enter into any convention with Eng- 
land respecting the colonies; but Rush had no 
powers. He then at once addressed himself to the 
French minister, and took so bold and decisive a 
tone, that France, who was suspected of intending 
to indemnify herself for the war by territorial ac- 
quisition in South America, abandoned her design, 
and left Mr. Canning free to take his own course. 
He immediately appointed consuls, and the repub- 


lies from that moment were secure. But he had 
incredible difficulties to contend against in these 
negotiations— calumny, deceit, and harassing re- 
sistance in a thousand petty shapes. Before he 
carried the recognition of the independence of 
Spanish America to its final triumph, he was twice 
on the point of resigning. his office. 

A question was discussed during Mr. Rush's res* 
idence in this country, which, as it is not yet ad- 
justed, carries with it a surviving interest greater 
than its historical importance is likely to sustain* 
This question concerned the right of territory in 
that dismal and inhospitable district of country, 
lying between the Rocky Mountains and, the Pa- 
cific Ocean, called the Oregon. Both England. and 
America claimed a right of settlement and sov- 
ereignty in Oregon, and successive negotiations 
seemed to have no other result than that of demon- 
strating the hopelessness of arriving at a point of 
common agreement. The great error on our part 
was committed in 1818, when the British plenipo- 
tentiaries (Mr. Robinson and Mr. Goulburn), for 
the sake of a temporary evasion of the difficulties, 
agreed to throw the country open to both claimants 
for ten years — leaving the question of boundary for 
future settlement. But what could be settled at 
the end of ten years could have been more easily 
settled then, before the question had become em- 
barrassed by new liens established in the interval 
by emigrants on both sides. It is impossible to 
comprehend the policy of postponing the settlement 
until the difficulties shall have become increased by 
the acquisition of local possessions, of which one or 
the other, or both, to some extent, must be deprived 
in the long run ; adding a practical grievance to be 
adjusted in addition to the general right* Thus 
perplexed, the question of the Oregon descended 
to Mr. Canning. 


Mr. Rush, who had instructions to reopen this 
discussion, waited upon Mr. Canning, and found 
him ill in bed with the gout. But they neverthe- 
less proceeded to the investigation of the claim. 
The map of America was spread out upon the bed, 
and Mr/ Rush traced the boundary demanded by 
America, which ran along the 51° of latitude. Mr. 
Canning expressed his surprise at the extent of the 
American claim ; and when the negotiations were 
again renewed, the American minister reduced his 
demand to the 49°, to which Mr. Canning refused 
to accede. Farther attempts were made to bring 
about a pacific settlement of this disputed bound- 
ary ; and Mr. Canning, from an anxious desire to 
avoid hostilities, proposed a middle course, which 
was rejected by America. Mr. Canning never 
omitted an opportunity in public or private of tes- 
tifying his amicable disposition toward the United 
States. The weight of his influence tended ma- 
terially to restrain the temper of the English people, 
which was such, throughout these and other simi- 
larly hopeless negotiations, that Lord Castlereagh 
told Mr. Rush that war could be produced by hold- 
ing up a finger. 

Having failed in obtaining our acquiescence in 
her demand up to the 49° of north latitude, America 
has lately set up a claim to the whole country. She 
claims upon two grounds: one by right of dis- 
covery, the other by right of treaty with Spain. 
Her claim by right of discovery dates in 1792 ; her 
claim by right of treaty dates in 1819, when Spain 
made over all her own possessions in that unmapped 
country to the United States. Without descending 
into details, it is clear that these two rights can not 
coexist. America can not claim through Spain in 
1819 that which, she says, she acquired by right 
of discovery in 1792. Spain could not confer upon 


America that which America herself already pos- 
sessed. There is another reason why Spain could 
not bestow Oregon upon America, namely, that it 
did not belong to her. " Such a union of titles," 
says Mr. Rush, "imparting validity [perhaps he 
means m-vaKdity] to each other, does not often ex- 
ist :" an observation which might be safely carried 
a little farther, by saying that such a union never 
existed before. 

The same principles which Mr. Canning had al- 
ready applied to the case of Spain were brought to 
bear upon all parts of the world, in which either 
our interests or our sympathies were engaged, and 
they were uniformly crowned by equally gratifying 
results : loosening every where the gripe of despot- 
ism, enlarging the rights of the people, and estab- 
lishing liberal institutions within the limits which 
he considered to be essential to their permanence. 
In this way he obtained the amelioration of the 
Turkish rule in Greece, without hurting the just 
dignity of the Porte, who protested very properly 
against foreign interference in her domestic affairs. 

So long as it was. possible to conduct this en- 
lightened policy noiselessly, and without any spe- 
cific exposition of the system upon which it was 
based, Mr. Canning was content to abide by the re- 
sults of his exertions, every day becoming more 
and more visible in the growing prosperity of Eng- 
land, and the rapidly-declining influence of the 
Holy . Alliance. But an occasion at last arose, 
which drew him. into a more decided manifestation 
of his views. In violation of an existing treaty, 
and urged onwerd by apostolical fury, Spain had 
made a perfidious attempt to overthrow the new 
Constitution of Portugal. She dreaded the close 
neighborhood of free, institutions ; and, sustained 
by the sinister influence of France, she resolved to 


make a powerful effort to annihilate them. Intelli- 
gence of the imminent peril of our ancient ally reach- 
ed ministers on the night of the 8th of December, 
1826 ; on the 11th (Sunday intervening) a message 
from the king was communicated to Parliament ; 
and on the 12th a discussion ensued, which, as long 
as a trace of English eloquence shall remain among 
the records of the world, will never be forgotten. 

Mr. Canning was now at the height of his power, 
wielding an influence more extended and complete 
than any foreign minister in this country had ever 
enjoyed before. The subject to which he address- 
ed himself in this instance was one that invoked 
the grandest attributes of his genius, and derived 
a peculiar felicity from being developed by a Brit- 
ish minister ; and, above all, by that minister who 
had liberated the New World and crushed the tyr- 
annies of the Old. It was not surprising, then, that, 
bringing to it all the vigor and enthusiasm of his in- 
tellect, and that vital beauty of style which was the 
pervading charm of his great orations, he should 
have transcended on this occasion all his past efforts, 
and delivered a speech which not merely carried 
away the admiration of his hearers, but literally in- 
flamed them into frenzy. The fabulous spells of 
Orpheus, who made the ' woods dance reels and 
sarabands, never achieved so wonderful a piece of 
sorcery as this speech of Mr. Canning's achieved 
over the passions, the judgment, the prejudices, and 
the stolid unbelief of the House of Commons. 

After giving a luminous detail of the long-exist- 
ing connection between Portugal and England, and 
the obligations by which we were bound to assist 
our old ally, Mr. Canning proceeded to state the 
case. It would be impossible to describe the effect 
produced by the following little sentence : 

" The precise information, on which alone we could 


act* arrived only on Friday last. On Saturday the de- 
cision of the government, was taken— on Sunday we 
obtained the' sanction of his majesty — on Monday we 
came down to Parliament— and at this very hour, while I 
have now the honor of addressing this House— British 


The House fairly vibrated with emotion at this 
unexpected statement. It was the concentration 
in a single instant of the national enthusiasm of a 
whole age. At every sentence he was interrupted 
with huzzas ! Then, when he spoke of the Portu- 
guese Constitution : 

" With respect to the character of that Constitution, I 
do. not think it right, at present, to oner any opinion ; 
privately I have my own opinion. But, as an English 
minister, all I have to say is, may God prosper the at- 
tempt made by Portugal to obtain Constitutional liberty, 
and may that nation be as fit to receive and cherish it 
as, on other occasions, she is capable of discharging her 
duties among the nations of Europe.". 

Luckily, there is always an obstructionist in the 
House of Commons — a Mr. Hume — to start up with 
an objection by way of rider to the very climax of 
unanimity : this useful functionary discharged his 
office on this memorable occasion with the happiest 
effect, for he succeeded in calling up Mr. Canning 
a second time, when he delivered a speech of loftier 
eloquence, and even more sustained energy, than 
that with which he introduced the address. With 
reference to the French occupation of Spain, he 
admitted that it was to be lamented, but he denied 
that it was worth a war, and asserted that its effects 
had been infinitely exaggerated. As to Spain her- 
self, she was no longer what she had been : 

" Is the Spain of the present day the Spain of which 
the statesmen of the times of William and Anne were 
so much afraid ? Is it indeed the nation whose puis- 
sance was expected to shake England from her sphere? 

22 F F * 


No, sir, it was quite another Spain — it was the Spain, 
within the limits of whose empire the son never set — it 
was Spain with the Indies that excited the jealousies 
and alarmed the imaginations of our ancestors." 

Admitted that the entrance of the French into 
Spain disturbed the balance of power, ought we 
to have gone to war to restore it 1 Was there no 
other way to adjust this balance of power, which 
fluctuated eternally with the growth and decay of 

" Was there no other mode of resistance than by a 
direct attack upon France, or by a war to be undertak- 
en on the soil of Spain ? What, if the possession of 
Spain might be rendered harmless in other hands — 
harmless as regarded us— and valueless to the possess- 
on ? Might not compensation for disparagement be ob- 
tained, and the policy of our ancestors vindicated, by 
means better adapted to the present time ? If France 
occupied Spain, was it necessary, in order to avoid the 
consequences of that occupation, that we should block- 
ade Cadiz ? No. I looked another way — I sought ma- 
terials of compensation in another hemisphere. Con- 
templating Spain such as our ancestors had known her, 
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 

This speech, as has been said of the eloquence Of 
Chatham, " was an era in the Senate/' The effect 
was tremendous. "It was an epoch in a man's 
life," says a member of the Commons, " to have 
heard him. I' shall never forget the deep, moral 
earnestness of his tone, and the blaze of glory that 
seemed to light up his features when he spoke of 
the Portuguese Charter." The same writer fur- 
nishes the following details : 

" He was equally grand when, in his reply, he said, 
4 1 do not believe that there is that Spain of which oar 
ancestors were so justly jealous, that Spain upon whose 


territories it was proudly boasted the sun never set !' 
But when, in the style and manner of Chatham, he said, 
* I looked to Spain in the Indies ; I called a new world 
into existence to redress the balance of the old, 1 the ef- 
fect was actually terrific. It was as if every man in the 
House had been electrified. Tierney, who before that 
was shifting in his seat, and taking off his hat and put- 
ting it on again, and taking large and frequent pinches of 
snuff, and turning from side to side, till he, I suppose, 
wore his breeches through, seemed petrified, and sat 
fixed, and staring with his mouth open for half a minute ! 
Mr. Canning seemed actually to have increased in stature, 
his attitude was so majestic. I remarked his flourishes 
were made with his left arm; the effect was new and 
beautiful ; his chest heaved and expanded, his nostril di- 
lated, a noble pride slightly curled his lip ; and age and 
sickness were dissolved and forgotten in the ardor of 
youthful genius ; all the while a serenity sat on his brow 
that pointed to deeds of glory. It reminded me, and 
came up to what I have heard, of the effects of Atheni- 
an eloquence."* 

Mr. Canning had now reached the pinnacle of 
his fame. His ambition had accomplished nearly 
its highest aims — his genius had overwhelmed all 
opposition. How little did England anticipate, at 
this proud moment, that she was so soon to lose 
her accomplished and patriotic statesman ! 




Mr. Canning's commercial policy was identi- 
cal with that of Mr. Huskisson. His general prin- 
ciple was this, that commerce flourished best when 
wholly unfettered by restrictions ; but, as modern 
nations had grown up under various systems, and 

* "Diary of an M.P." 


were never secure from fluctuation, he maintained 
that it was necessary to observe a discriminating 
judgment in the application of this principle. The 
wise course was always to keep it in sight, and to 
work toward it, as the final aim of legislation. He 
held the doctrine of protection, in the abstract, to 
be unsound as well as unjust. Bounties, monopo- 
lies, and all special exemptions in favor of particu- 
lar classes or particular interests, were consequent- 
ly the objects against which his commercial system 
was cautiously but continuously directed. 

The Reciprocity Act, brought in by Mr. Robin- 
son in 1823, was an indication of that system. By 
this act the king in council was authorized to place 
the shins of foreign states, importing articles into 
Great Britain or her colonies, oh the same footing 
of duties as British ships, provided such foreign 
states extended a like equality to British ships trad- 
ing with their ports. It will be seen at a glance 
that the principle of extinguishing restrictions was 
thus fully declared, while its practical application 
was carefully regulated by a scale of sale equiva- 

The powers granted by this act were sufficient- 
ly expansive to meet every contingency. If the 
king in council had the power of relinquishing the 
duties on foreign ships and cargoes, where the 
principle of reciprocity was mutually conceded, he 
had also a retaliatory power of imposing increased 
duties where that principle was evaded or resisted. 
Mr. Canning was not slow to avail himself of this 
power, as an indirect means of compelling other 
countries to admit a more reasonable spirit into 
their tariffs. A curious instance occurred with ref- 
erence to Holland, in 1826. M. Falck, the Dutch 
minister, having made a one-sided proposition for 
the admission of English ships, by which a consid- 


erable advantage would have accrued to Holland, 
a long and tedious negotiation ensued. It was 
dragged on, month after month, without arriving 
one step nearer to a consummation, the Dutch still 
holding out for their own interests. At last Mr. 
Canning'* patience was exhausted. Sir Charles 
Bagot, our embassador at the Hague, was one day 
attending at court, when a dispatch in cipher was 
hastily put into his hand. It was very short, and ev- 
idently very urgent; but, unfortunately, Sir Charles, 
not expecting such a communication, had not the 
key of the cipher with him. An interval of intense 
anxiety followed,until he obtained the key; when, 
to his infinite astonishment, he deciphered the fol- 
lowing dispatch from the Secretary of State for 
Foreign Affairs : 

'* In matters of commerce, the fault of the Dutch 
Is giving too little and asking too much ; 
With equal advantage the French are content, 
So we'll clap on Dutch bottoms a twenty per cent. 
Twenty per cent., 
Twenty percent., 
Nona frapperons Falck with twenty per cent. 

George Canning." 

The minister kept his word. While this singu- 
lar dispatch was on its way to the Hague, an or- 
der in council was issued to put into effect the in- 
tention it announced. 

The three great domestic questions in Mr. Can- 
ning's time, and which every year acquired increas- 
ed urgency and importance, were Parliamentary 
Reform, Catholic Emancipation, and the Test Act. 
They have all been disposed of since, and very lit- 
tle interest attaches to them now except that of*the 
vague wonder with which we look back upon such 
strange monuments of an unwise antiquity ; and 
twenty years ago was a barbarous age touching 
such questions in England. 
F f 2 


In 1827, Mr. Canning made use of the following 
declaration : 

44 There are two questions to which I wish to reply. 
I have been asked what I intend to do with the question 
of. Parliamentary Reform when it is brought forward. 
What do I intend to do with it ? Why, oppose it, as I 
have invariably done during the whole of my Parliament- 
ary career. What do I intend to do with the Test 
Act? Oppose it." 

These were the incomprehensible points of Mr. 
Canning's political creed. It seems that he took 
them up from the beginning as articles of faith, 
and could never consent to submit them to the test 
of reason. 

He held that reform meant revolution. So did 
Mr. Pitt— when it suited his purposed; but it is re- 
markable that neither of them perceived that their 
own measure of Catholic Emancipation had been 
resisted all along by their own party upon precise- 
ly the same ground. Mr. Canning was constantly 
told that emancipation meant nothing more nor less 
than the destruction of Church and State, and he 
over and over again showed the fallacy of the as- 
sertion ; yet he could not detect the same fallacy 
when it was applied to the question of Parliament- 
ary Reform. 

It is surprising, too, that the barefaced corruption 
of the old system did not strike him as something 
inconsistent with the spirit and obligations of the 
Constitution. In 1792, the borough of Gatton 
was publicly advertised for sale, not for a single 
Parliament, but the fee simple itself, with the 

Sower of nominating two representatives forever, 
escribed by the auctioneer as " an elegant contin- 
gency." In 1801, Fox described Old Sarum as 
consisting of an old encampment and two or three 
cottages ; another borough sustained its privileges* 


upon the stump of a tree, which was duly repre- 
sented in the English Parliament by two very re* 
spectable members. The franchise was equally 
rotten. These facts were notorious ; but Mr. Can- 
ning resisted all attempts to remedy the monstrous 
evils they disclosed, because he believed that every 
advance toward the independence of the Com- 
mons would be, in effect, an advance toward a pre- 
ponderating democracy, under the influence of 
which the crown and the peerage would be ulti- 
mately overwhelmed. " The reformers mean de- 
mocracy," he exclaimed, in his celebrated speech 
at Liverpool on this subject, in 1818 ; " they mean 
democracy, and nothing else ; and give them but a 
House of Commons constructed cm their own prin- 
ciples, the peerage and the throne may exist for a 
day, but may be swept from she face of the earth 
by the first angry vote of such a House of Com- 
mons/ 9 His whole theory is inclosed in these few 
words ; making no account whatever of that prin- 
ciple of elasticity by which our Constitution is al- 
ways enabled to adapt itself to the requisitions of 
social progress. 

At an early period of his career, Mr. Canning 
agreed with Pitt in treating reform, not as a ques- 
tion shut out forever from consideration by an im- 
mutable necessity, but as a question which might 
be entertained under certain circumstances. It 
was then argued that, however justifiable it might 
be to demand a reform in Parliament in times of 
tranquillity, the case was altered in times of dis- 
turbance. This method of treating reform, although 
apparently more friendly, was in reality more hos- 
tile than the other, which at least had the merit of 
throwing the whole question open to discussion. 
By this more, ingenious device, the Constitutional 
right was set aside on the very threshold. If the 


demand for reform might be set up at one time, and 
not at another, what became of the Constitutional 
right of petition with which the people are supposed 
to be invested at all times ? Is it a privilege which 
depends on the complexion of the sky 1 Is it to be 
exercised only in fine weather 1 Must a man never 
utter his opinions when it rains or thunders 1 Is 
this essential element of-popular liberty dependent 
on the weather-glass? Mr. Canning appears to 
have been ashamed of the hypocrisy of this way of 
dealing with reform, and to have adopted, latterly, 
the bolder course of opposing it in limine. To that 
mode of argument, which placed the question fairly 
on its merits, we are largely indebted for the rapid 
strides it afterward made ; and thus, even on this 
last fortress of ancient Toryism, we find his happy 
genius promoting the conquests of the people over 
the prejudices of party. 

Over the final accomplishment of Catholic Eman- 
cipation — so long contested, and so pertinaciously 
resisted— he exercised a direct and important in- 
fluence. The question itself presents one of the 
most extraordinary chapters in our history. Its 
progress may be tracked, by its disturbing power, 
through the successive administrations of thirty-five 
years. It divided all the cabinets, in spite of the 
strenuous efforts that were made to keep it out, 
and finally broke them up. The members of the 
government were divided upon it before the coa- 
lition between Pitt and the Duke of Portland ; the 
coalition increased the dissensions. Lord Fitz- 
william was sent to Ireland to reflect, in the gov- 
ernment of that country, the checks and balances 
of the English Cabinet. Then came the Union, 
with its implied promise of Emancipation, which 
the minister could not keep. The king was flick- 
ering in various stages of insanity; one day ill, 


another well, in his general capacity, such as it was ; 
but never well enough to see the justice or policy 
of Emancipation. In this dilemma, and upon this 
question, Pitt was forced to resign. The next ad- 
ministration was formed in the forlorn hope of being 
able to stand between die insanity of the king and 
the common sense of the country. It failed, as a 
matter of course — this terrible nightmare hovering 
over its head, and paralyzing its energies. In 1 804, 
Pitt returned. He tried to evade the difficulty by 
a subterfuge, and finally escaped from it by death. 
The Grey and Grenville administration was anni- 
hilated by the same Catholic Question in eighteen 
months ; and Perceval was shut up from 1807 to 
1812 between the king's insanity and the Catholic 
Claims. His government resisted them all through- 
out ; but we have Sir Robert Peel's authority for 
the assertion, that it did not resist diem upon per- 
manent grounds or upon principle. Even at that 
time, Emancipation had so far vanquished its op- 
ponents, that they could no longer construct a cab- 
inet upon the avowed principle of hostility to it ; 
and then came Lord Liverpool's administration, 
when it was made an open question. Even in this 
shape, it was a terrible obstruction to the govern- 
ment, the system of neutral opinions and open vot- 
ing having been found, from experience, to be 
most unfortunate and unfavorable to the adminis- 
tration of the affairs of the country. But in what- 
ever shape it came, open or closed, this Catholic 
Question hung, like the Old Man of the Sea, upon 
the neck of the Tory party, through all its phases, 
for nearly half a century, and broke it at last.* 

* Yet even when Emancipation was on the eve of being carried, 
such was the steadfastness of the old faith, that the extreme Tory 
party had not the least suspicion that sucn a thing was possible. 
Wilberforce tells us that he called on Southey in May, 1828, and 
found him anticipating civil war. He said that the Roman Oath- 


From disclosures which have been subsequently 
made, it is now known that the sturdiest antago- 
nists of the Catholic Claims had been giving way 
from time to time within the cabinet itself. Lord 
Liverpool had become convinced that the period 
was approaching when the Catholic Claims could 
no longer be resisted ; and it is said that, although 
he felt it would have been inconsistent in him to 
give them his support as premier, he had resolved 
at least to mitigate the opposition to them in the 
Lords ; that it was his intention to retire from office, 
leaving Canning as his successor, and, when- the 
claims should have been disposed of, to accept some 
less laborious appointment under the administration 
of his friend.* His illness arrested all these plans. 

Sir Robert Peel made a similar confession in 
1829. He said that when he found himself in a 
minority of twenty-one on the Catholic Question in 
1825, he felt his position as Home Minister unten- 
able. He thought it was no longer advisable that 
he should remain charged with the administration 
of Irish affairs when he was thus defeated on an 
Irish question ; that he went to Lord Liverpool, 
told him that the time was come token something re- 
specting the Catholics, in his opinion, ought to be 
done, and begged to be relieved from his office. 
But Lord Liverpool threatened in that case to re- 
tire also ; so Sir Robert consented to remain, and 

olic priests would undoubtedly excite their flocks to insurrection. 
Wilberforce concurred, but thought the House would concede, as 
they had done in 1782. To which Southey replied, that the admin- 
istration of 1782 was weak ; but now—the Duke of Wellington?' 
said he, stretching out his arm stiffly, and pulling up his sleeve— 
" ha !— the duke is a great man !"~ " "Life of Wilberforce," v., 300. 
It is very remarkable that the opposite opinion was held by some 
of the Liberal party. Sidney Smith predicted that the No Popery 
leaders would desert their followers when it suited their purposes. 
— » Works of the Rev. S. Smith," ii., 418. 
* » Speeches of Mr. Huskisson," i, 128, 


" try another experiment on the feelings of the 
country." In 182<? there was a new House of 
Commons, which increased the majority in favor 
of the Catholics in the following year to twenty- 
three. The " experiment/' therefore, was making 
fearful advances toward a crisis one way or the 
other. In 1828 the fruit ripened into the affirma- 
tion of a resolution favorable to the principle of ad- 
justment, and Sir Robert's sense of expediency 
was wound up to its height. He saw clearly that 
the question. had got ahead of the bigotry and in- 
tolerance, and even of the influence, in doors and 
out of doors, of the party with which he had been 
connected all his life, and whose exclusive doc- 
trines he had pledged himself over and over again 
to maintain to the death. He saw that whoever 
was minister, Emancipation must be carried by 
somebody in spite of king, Lords, and Commons ; 
and, therefore, in the critical moment when office 
lay in one scale, and the civil and religious freedom 
of some seven millions of the king's liege subjects 
lay in the other, he resolved to carry it himself. 
He immediately went to the duke, and intimated 
to his grace that he was not only prepared and 
anxious to retire from office, but that, seeing the 
current of public opinion setting in favor of the 
Catholic Claims, he should no longer feel justified 
in opposing them, in whatever situation he might 
find liimself. " To this," he continued, " I after- 
ward added, that to this great object I was ready 
to make a sacrifice of consistency and friendship" 
This was too significant to be misunderstood. The 
secretary was secure either way : in office, to float 
with the aforesaid current of public opinion, which 
he found setting in with such extraordinary force 
and rapidity ; or, out of office, to embarrass and 
destroy, by the help of his new ally* public opinion, 


any administration that might attempt the govern- 
ment on the principle of resistance to the Catholic 

There is a very excellent maxim of die good old 
Tory school, which insists upon the prudence of 
taking the hall at the hop ; but never in the expe- 
rience of an English cabinet was there such a hop 
of the ball 'as this, and never was a hop taken with 
such timely dexterity. 

But the most curious part of the secretary's case 
was his sudden discovery of the overwhelming im- 
portance of an object which, m the face of the most 
convincing proofs to the contrary, adduced by him- 
self in another part of this same speech, for a wide- 
ly different purpose, he had all along resisted as ut- 
terly incompatible with the safety of existing in- 
stitutions. Catholic Emancipation had, it seems, 
become a great object in 1828— so great that he 
was ready to keep office even at the total sacrifice 
of his consistency and his friends, in order to be 
enabled to carry it. Yet upon his own showing — 
(and his statement of the ministerial and Parlia- 
mentary history of the question is so full and ex- 
plicit that it hardly needs any addition)— this very 
question nad been disorganizing every cabinet for 
the previous five-and-thirty years, distracting their 
counsels, rendering effective co-operation for the 
public good nearly impossible, and frequently for- 
cing them either to capitulate for place by a com- 
promise of differences under a veil of neutrality so 
thin that the whole world could see hypocrisy, self- 
ishness, and insincerity, behind it, or to abandon 
office from inability to keep out the tide that was 
flooding them in their seats ; and yet, with all these 
accumulating evidences of the irresistible nature of 
these claims before him, and of the pernicious con- 
sequences of continuing to resist them, Sir Robert 


Peel never saw the imperative necessity of con- 
ceding them until he conceded them himself in 
1829. He could not even see it (notwithstanding 
the revolution his mind had undergone in 1825) 
when Mr. Canning came into power in 1827, on 
which occasion we find him vindicating his refusal 
to take office under Mr. Canning on this sole ground 
-—that it was impossible for him to acquiesce in any 
proposition for granting farther concessions to the 
Catholics. His words were these : 

" The grounds on which I retired from office are sim- 
ply these : I have taken, from the first moment of my 
public life, an active and decided part on a great and vital 
question — that of the extension of political privileges to 
the Roman Catholics. * * My opposition is founded on 
principle. I think that the continuance of those bars, 
which prevent the acquisition of political power by the 
Catholics, is necessary for the maintenance of the Con- 
stitution and the interests of the Established Church." 

This was in 1827. What became of the "main- 
tenance of the Constitution" and the " interests of 
the Established Church" in 1829 ? 

From this rapid outline of the progress of the 
Catholic Question, it will be seen that, notwithstand- 
ing all the impediments thrown up against it by 
kings, chancellors, and cabinets, it continued grad- 
ually to make way from the expiration of the re- 
gency restrictions, when Mr. Canning, released from 
all personal obligations to the king, first devoted 
himself to its advocacy, down to the very last hoar 
when he bequeathed to his successors the glory of 
carrying it. The sacrifices he made for the sake of 
this question were great. Office was the least of 
them. He sacrificed for it all prospect of repre- 
senting in Parliament that university in which he 
had been educated, the crowning object of all the 
dreams of his youthful ambition. Every thing was 


against him on this question : his own party, the 
king, the Duke of York, the premier,^ the chancel- 
lor, the House of Lords, and for many years the 
House of Commons, and even popular prejudices 
in England. He persevered against them all. He 
brought his influence and his eloquence to bear 
upon all these masses of resistance. He kept aloof 
from all personal intercourse with Catholic dele- 
gates, that he might stand clear of suspicion, and 
that the purity and independence of his motives 
should be above impeachment. He bore down 
these antagonist forces one by one, weakened their 
powers of hostility, and effectually succeeded in 
winning over the most influential and indispensable 
opinions. What actual steps he took in the cabi- 
net can not be known, but they may be readily sur- 
mised. It was quite evident that, under his influ- 
ence, the tone of the cabinet became slowly liber- 
alized ; and that he had secured the right to pro- 
pound the Catholic Question for discussion among 
his colleagues, and to communicate with his majes- 
ty upon it, whenever he saw fit. To his judicious 
and unwearied labors in this cause must be mainly 
attributed, its early settlement He prepared the 
way for it ; he overcame the greatest obstacle of 
all, the reluctance of George IV. If he had not 
done wonders with the servile bigotry of that mon- 
arch, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert 
Peel would have been powerless in his hands in 

It is singular that, earnestly engaged as he was 
in this struggle for the rights of conscience on be- 
half of the Catholics, Mr. Canning should have en- 
tertained so strong an opinion on the subject of the 
Test Act He would have relinquished any con- 
viction rather than that. It was the one invincible 
resolution of his life never to yield up the Test 


Act.* Upon this question his determination was 
as fixed as it must always remain inexplicable. 



L. In 1824 Mr. Canning visited Dublin, and was 

received with enthusiasm by all classes of the peo- 
ple. Some of the newspapers speculated upon the 
object of his visit, which 4:hey supposed to be con- 
nected with political affairs ; but the marriage of 
his only daughter, in the following year, to the 
Marquis of Clanricarde, set curiosity at rest. 

In 1826 he paid a visit to Paris. The king treat- 
ed him with unusual marks of distinction ; court 
etiquet was especially relaxed in his favor, and he 

^ had the honor of dining at the royal table, which 

at that time was considered an extraordinary 
stretch of condescension to confer on an untitled 

He had now held the office of Foreign Secreta- 
ry nearly five years, and during that time had been 

9 the principal laborer. Lord Liverpool's utility 

* "Is there no satisfactory reason," demands the late Lord 
Ros8more, " why a mind like that of Mr. Canning should depart 
I from his own general principles in the case of the -Dissenters 

^ alone ? May he not have reasoned thus ? If I concede the wish- 

" es of the Dissenters separately, may I not weaken the common 

cause, the Dissenters not having much sympathy with the claims 
of the Catholics ? But if I carry Emancipation, I secure the re- 
peal of the Test and Corporation Acts ; for, if the former suc- 
ceeds, the latter follows." — " Letter on Catholic Emancipation," 
i., 1828. 

How Mr. Canning might have ultimately acted on this question, 
it would be a bold assumption to predicate ; but it is quite certain 
that his opinions were as strong against the repeal of the Test Act 
as against Parliamentary Reform. Of that fact there is no doubt 


suorned to consist principally in the torpid weight 
of his character. Mr. Canning, as leader* of die 
House of Commons, discharged, in effect, the most 
responsible duties of the government. These con- 
stant exertions made visible inroads on his health, 
and his situation was otherwise rendered irksome 
by the known political hostility of the Duke of 
York, on account of his opinions on the Catholic 
Question. The duke had gone so far as to address 
his majesty on the necessity of securing uniformity 
of sentiment in the cabinet against the Catholic 
Claims : an interference with the royal discretion 
which, coming from the heir presumptive, might 
have led to serious inconvenience so far as Mr. 
Canning was concerned, had not the illness and 
death of his royal highness, which followed soon 
afterward, removed the necessity of any discussion 
on the subject. The duke died in January, 1827. 
Mr. Canmng, whose state of health was already 
precarious, caught a cold at the funeral of his royal 
highness, which laid the foundation of his mortal 

Early in the following month, while Mr. Can- 
ning was at Brighton, endeavoring to shake off his 
malady, he received the painful intelligence that 
Lord Liverpool had been seized with apoplexy, 
followed by total insensibility. Mr. Peel happened 
to be in Brighton at the time, and it was agreed, 
upon an interview with his majesty, that no step 
should be taken in the matter until some time 
should have been allowed to elapse. This was 
from a sense of delicacy to his lordship, for no reas- 
onable expectations were entertained of his recov- 
ery. All that could be hoped for was that he 
might be restored to sufficient consciousness of his 
condition to send in his resignation. 

In the mean while, the Corn Bill and Catholic 


Emancipation were coming on in both houses of 
Parliament; the absence of Lord Liverpool de- 
prived the one of an influential supporter, and re- 
lieved the other from an adverse vote ; but it was 
of little consequence, for neither of these measures 
had the slightest chance of success. Mr. Canning 
struggled on against illness until the close of March, 
still performing his arduous duties in the Commons, 
and endeavoring to avert the inconveniences arising 
from the state of the administration, the most dan- 
gerous of which was the opportunity it gave for 
speculation and cabal on the part of those who 
were -inimical to liberal principles. At length all 
personal delieacy concerning Lord Liverpool was 
at an end. There was no hope of his lordship's 
restoration : Parliament and the country were get- 
ting restless, and it was absolutely necessary that 
something should be done. 

In Lord Liverpool, now lost to the public service 
forever, Mr. Canning had to mourn the deprivation 
of a steadfast and honorable personal friend : the 
Mr. Jenkinson of Christ Church, whom he remem- 
bered so well in his brown coat and the buttons 
with the initials of the great orators; the Lord 
Hawkesbury of the young days of Parliamentary 
strife and experimental diplomacy, who used to 
make such gallant prophecies about the war in 
France, and whose empty seriousness used to give 
such offense to George III. ; and, finally, that Lord 
Liverpool who, by mere respectability of charac- 
ter, kept together for fifteen years a cabinet com- 
posed of the most incongruous materials that had 
probably ever been assembled. The secret of Lord 
Liverpool's success, in retaining so long a lease of 
power, lay in the fact that he did not possess a 
single quality calculated to provoke the jealousy 
or excite the insubordination of his colleagues. 


His control was purely nominal. Slow, upright, 
practical — he never interfered with others., and was 
suffered to go on in his track without check or in- 
terruption. Nobody feared him, nobody disliked 
him, nobody doubted his probity. His good qual- 
ities were all of a negative kind — the safest for a 
minister who seeks strength in combination. And 
this was Lord Liverpool's pre-eminent merit. He 
had not a particle of genius ; but he possessed pre- 
cisely the cast of understanding by which he was 
enabled to surround himself with able men, and, in 
spite of specific differences, to preserve a sort of 
loose harmony among them amply sufficient for all 
the purposes of an effective government. 

On the 27th of March, Mr. Canning had a long 
interview with the king on the subject of a new ad- 
ministration. His majesty desired to have Mr. 
Canning's opinion upon the practicability of placing 
a peer holding Lord Liverpool's views on the Cath- 
olic Question at the head of the government. JVir. 
Canning replied that, in such a case, he should feel 
it his duty to retire from a situation in which he 
could no longer render any efficient service ;, and 
that, in fact, he could not accept of any other posi- 
tion than that which should confer on him the pow- 
ers of the First Minister of the crown.* This as- 
sertion of his personal claims appears to have thrown 
the negotiations once more into embarrassment; 
and another delay intervened before any farther 
step was taken. Mr. Canning looked upon the 
office of Prime Minister of England as his " inherit- 
ance." He was the last survivor of the great race 
of statesmen who had been contemporaneous with 
Pitt and Fox. As second minister, also, in the late 
administration, he had a right, upon being thus con- 
sulted, to vindicate in his own person the principle 
of direct succession. 

* " Political Life/' iii., 315. 


1 Public opinion was strongly in favor of his ap- 

J pointment. It was manifest that the intelligent of 

all parties looked to him as the only man fit to di- 

* rect the councils of the government. The Tory 
aristocracy began. to be alarmed — that aristocracy 

J whose pride of place he had so often had occasion 

* tQ rebuke. There was not a moment to be lost in 
8 laying before his majesty an imperious remon- 
strance and protest. These noble persons had an 

3 undoubted right, in their capacity of privy council- 

B lors, to offer their advice to the king ; but in this 

>f instance it assumed a shape of menace and dicta- 

w tion. A certain noble duke— whose name is not 

withheld from prudential motives, but simply be- 

ig cause it might renew discussions which could now 

1' be productive of no useful result— rwaited upon his 

*• majesty on the 31st of March, four days after Mr. 

ig Canning's . interview, and explicitly informed his 

h- majesty that he and eight other peers (great bor- 

Ir. ough-mongers), whom he was then and there au- 

;el thorized to represent, would at once withdraw their 

he support from the government if his majesty placed 

nd Mr. Canning at its head. The threat was at best 

si- ill considered, and showed that passion had over- 

#- come the proverbial craft of Toryism on this oc- 

fl- casion. His majesty's sense of the conditional al- 

m legiance of the duke and his pocket peers was 

t; shown in the course which he adopted immediately 

ier after his grace retired from the royal closet — his 

he grace congratulating himself, no doubt, all the way 

it- home, on the impression his energetic conduct had 

t ce produced on the mind of the king. On the 12th of 

ith April, Mr. C. Wynn rose in the House of Commons 

tte and made the following announcement : " I move 

»n- for a new writ for the borough of Newport (Isle 

»}e of Wight), the Right Honorable George Canning 

having accepted the office of First Commissioner 


of the Treasury." The announcement was re- 
ceived with deafening cheers, which, again and 
again renewed, testified unequivocally the feelings 
with which Mr. Canning's appointment was re- 
garded by the popular branch of the Legislature. 
Whatever opinion the House of Lords might enter- 
tain on the subject, it was evident that he had the 
king and the Commons with him, at all events. 

It was only now, however, that Mr. Canning's 
practical difficulties commenced. Hitherto the mal- 
ice of his own party — for he had nothing to dread 
from his opponents — had exhausted itself in petty 
obstructions and supercilious calumnies, by which 
they tried to whisper away his character and his 
influence, and failed conspicuously. But they still 
had it in their power to throw obstacles in the way 
of the formation of the new cabinet. To this point, 
therefore, they assiduously addressed themselves, 
with a community of sentiment which looked very 
like premeditation, although we are compelled, for 
honor's sake, to take their word that there was no 
concert in their proceedings. 

Mr. Canning's first aim was to secure the services 
of all the members of Lord Liverpool's govern- 
ment, and he immediately invited them to join the 
administration which he had been commanded to 
construct. His reception among them — among the 
very persons with whom he had been for some 
years past intimately associated in office — was sig- 
nificant. Their unanimity was wonderful ! Lord 
Eldon was very old, and had long wished to resign, 
and thought this a favorable moment to carry out 
his purpose. Lord Westmoreland could not say 
what he would do until he knew what every body 
else would do, and then he would do nothing. Mr. 
Peel could not join any administration with a person 
at the head of it who was known to be favorable to 


Catholic Emancipation. The Duke of Wellington 
had the same scruples. Lord Bathurst fluttered a 
little, and then resigned. And Lord Melville, for 
whom Mr. Canning had done so much in the old 
times, went with the rest of the pack. There re- 
mained firm only four members of Lord Liverpool's 
government ; and, in addition to this wholesale de- 
sertion, there were four members of the king's 
household, and nine members of the government, 
who also seceded. In short, the whole of the Anti- 
Catholic party refused point-blank to serve under 
Mr. Canning-— a circumstance which might have 
been borne with a calmer endurance, had k not 
been accompanied by demonstrations of personal 
ill-will, which chafed the proud spirit it could not 

It was supposed (or hoped) that this almost total 
defection of the old cabinet would paralyze Mr. 
Canning, and compel him to abandon the task he 
had undertaken. This was a mistake. All the 
great vacancies were rapidly filled up. Having 
failed with the Anti-Catholic party in the attempt 
to form a ministry on the principles of Lord Liver- 
poors government, he had recourse at once to the 
Whigs and to his personal friends. On the 27th 
of April every office in the, government was filled 
up. The Duke of Clarence, heir presumptive to 
the throne, took the head of the Admiralty on the 
very day following Lord Melville's resignation. 
Lord Anglesey succeeded to the Duke of Welling- 
ton's seat at the Ordnance ; Lord Lyndhurst was 
made Chancellor; Lord Dudley and Mr. Sturges 
Bourne were appointed to the Foreign and Home 
Departments; Mr. Robinson was called to the 
Upper House; and Mr. Canning, retaining the 
valuable services of Mr. Huskisson in his former 
office, united in his own person the offices of Chan- 


cellor of the Exchequer and First Lord of the 
Treasury, for the purpose of giving full effect to 
the budget, which it was his intention to bring in 
himself. The last great political appointment sanc- 
tioned by Mr. Canning, or under his immediate 
auspices, was that of Lord William Bentinck to 
the government of India* He might have be- 
stowed this important office in a more influential 
quarter, had he been disposed to buy up the vote 
of a powerful opponent; for there were persons 
capable of making proposals for so lucrative a place, 
stating, at the same time, that upon the answer de- 
pended their determination as to whether they 
should support or oppose the government. Such 
proposals, k is needless to say, received a direct 
and summary negative. 

Of all the seceders, Mr. Canning considered Mr. 
Peel the only one who was justified by his position, 
or governed by sincere motives. Mr. Peel's man- 
ner was very cordial to him on this occasion, and 
Mr. Canning, who had never before given him cred- 
it for heartiness of feeling, easily suffered his amour 
propre to be flattered into the persuasion that Mr. 
Peel's retirement was dictated by the most upright 
principles. Perhaps it was. But as Mr. Canning 
was not aware that, only two years before, Mr. 
Peel had privately announced to Lord Liverpool 
his conversion to the necessity of Emancipation ; 
and as he could not be aware that, only two years 
afterward, Mr. Peel actually carried Emancipation 
himself—- it maybe affirmed, that Mr. Canning was 
not sufficiently enlightened upon facts to decide 
finally on the purity of Mr. Peel's conduct toward 
him. Posterity will put all these strange particu- 
lars together, and xiraw its own deductions. 

The Duke of Wellington retired from the cabi- 
* " Political Life," iij., 345. 


net, and in order to mark his retirement more ener- 
getically, threw up the command of the army also, 
because he could not conscientiously join an ad- 
ministration presided over by a minister who dif- 
fered from the king on the subject of Emancipation. 
Yet immediately after Mr. Canning's death he re- 
sumed the command of the army under Lord 
Goderich, who had differed from the king all his 
life on the subject of Emancipation. The letters 
to the king, to Lord Eldon, and Lord Goderich, in 
which his grace endeavored to explain away this 
proceeding, only make the matter worse, and re- 
duce it at once to a personal question. It was sup- 
posed that the duke looked to the office of Prime 
Minister himself j and during these negotiations, 
the proposition to place his grace at the head of 
the government was more than once made to Mr. 
Canning. But his grace declared that he had no 
such desire ; and it is not for any body, let circum- 
stances suggest what they may, to contravene what 
the duke says was passing in his own mind. But 
how is the duke's conduct on broad principles in 
1829 to be reconciled with his inflexible resistance 
in 1827 1 What became of the king's conscience, 
or the duke's, then 1* 

The explanations which ensued in both houses 
of Parliament partook of this same character, and 
were full of false professions and sinister inconsist- 
encies. Mr. Peel got great credit for the frank- 
ness of his speech, in which he denied that he had 
acted in concert with the rest of the retiring min- 

* The duke's correspondence with Mf. Canning was very plausi- 
ble. He tried to make it appear that Mr. Canning's temper had 
placed matters in a wrong light ; but that he was himself too calm 
edby t* 

and elevated to be moved by the passions of the lower world. " I 
am not in the habit/' he says, "of deciding upon such matters 
hastily or in anger ; and the proof of this is, that I never had a 
quarrel with a man in my life." A few months afterward he 
(ought a duel with Lord Wincheliea. 


isters ; but people still thought, nevertheless, that 
it was a remarkable coincidence that four out of 
five resignations should have been sent in within 
three hours. A few hundred years hence, when 
these debates come to be read by an antiquarian 
posterity, the same thought will probably strike the 
mind of the curious explorer of our records. 

The tone of the opposition throughout the irreg- 
ular and intemperate discussions which took place 
at different times on the ministerial changes plain- 
ly betrayed the animus which lay at the bottom. 
Mr. Canning was literally baited in both houses. 
The attacks which were made upon him are un- 
paralleled in our Parliamentary history for person- 
ality; their coarseness, malignity, and venom are 
all of a personal character. It was not against a 
system of policy they were directed, nor against 
special opinions or doctrines, but against Mr. 
Canning himself. His eminence, his popularity, 
his talents, made him the prey of envy and detrac- 
tion ; and this was the ground of hostility upon 
which he was hunted to the death, when official 
difficulties were thickening round him, and his 
health was giving way under mental anxiety and 
physical sufferings. They chose their moment 
well, and used it remorselessly. 

To all the assaults in the Commons, Mr. Can- 
ning made instant response. In the Lords, his 
new Whig allies rendered full and ample justice 
to his character. There was only one speech left 
unanswered— that of Lord Grey. His lordship, in 
the latter part of his career, exhibited some symp- 
toms of a disposition to recede slightly from the 
popular doctrines of his youth, and his conduct on 
this occasion may be referred to as a prominent 
illustration of the fact While the other leaders 
of the Whig party went over to Mr. Canning, and 


assisted him in the formation of the only efficient 
government, mainly based on liberal principles, 
which had been called into existence for upward 
of twenty years, Lord Grey held aloof. Nor was 
he satisfied with separating himself from his friends; 
he opened at once a violent attack upon Mr. Can- 
ning. . It is possible that Lord Grey was moved to 
this by a private sense of resentment on behalf of 
his " order," which could not brook the ascendency 
of the commoner. But whatever may have been 
the purpose that animated him, it is certain that his 
speech, elaborate and luminous, bore all the char- 
acteristics of intense personal animosity. His lord- 
ship addressed himself particularly to Mr. Can- 
ning's foreign policy, charged him with having 
compromised the honor of the country, and assert- 
ed that he had claimed exclusive credit for acts 
which did not belong to him, and in which he only 
shared the glory with others. The whole speech 
was disingenuous, angry, and full of mistakes. 
Mr. Canning might have answered it triumphantly. 
But he never did. It seems that he thought of re- 
plying to it in the House of Commons ; a proceed- 
ing which is generally avoided, exeept in extreme 
cases. But he was not in a state of health to jus- 
tify such an exertion ; and he was induced to post- 
pone his vindication until the time should arrive, 
which he thought was not very distant, when he 
could reply to Lord Grey in person.* That time 
never came ! 

* Mr. Stapleton has supplied an able and satisfactory answer 
to Lord Grey's criticisms on Mr. Canning's foreign policy. He 
traces each objection succinctly, plucks out the fallacy that lies 
concea}ed in it, and shows in every instance some strange errors 
in the mere facts of his lordship's statement. Upon the main 
principle at issue — the peace maintained by Mr. Canning, or the 
maritime war recommended by Lord Grey — the country has long 
since decided against his lordship. See " Political Life," iii,, 

H H 


About the middle of May, Lord Lansdowne, 
Lord Carlisle, and Mr. Tierney were introduced 
into the cabinet. Thus, notwithstanding the unpre- 
cedented opposition, public and private, by which 
he had been systematically impeded, Mr. Canning 
was now at the head of the strongest government 
that had existed in England since the days of Pitt. 

Early in June he brought forward the Budget, 
and subsequently some resolutions founded on the 
Corn Bill. The last time he ever spoke in Parlia- 
ment was on the 29th of June, when he briefly an- 
swered an unimportant question. On the 2d of 
July Parliament was prorogued. 

The exertions he had latterly "been compelled to 
make, operating upon a peculiarly sensitive consti- 
tution, speedily began to display their terrible ef- 
fects. The excitement of the session was over, 
and there was leisure now for the fatal struggle 
between disease and the powers of life. On the 
10th Mr. Canning dined with the chancellor at 
Wimbledon, and, incautiously sitting under a tree 
in the open air, while he was yet warm with ex- 
ercise, caught a cold which ended in rheumatism. 
Mr. Huskisson, whose health was also suffering, 
and who had been recommended to try the air. of 
the Continent, called on Mr. Canning to take leave, 
and found him in bed, looking very ill. Struck by 
the change in his looks, he observed that he, Mr. 
Canning, was the person who most stood in need 
of change and relaxation. Mr. Canning smiled, 
and replied cheerfully, " Oh ! it is only the reflec- 
tion of the yellow linings of the curtains !" He 
never saw him again— that faithful life-long friend. 

On the 20th Mr. Canning removed to the Duke 
of Devonshire's villa, which his grace had lent to 
him for change of air : the same villa and the same 
room to which Fox, under circumstances painfully 


similar, and at the same age, had also removed — 
to die. 

His disease, still increasing, fluctuated from day 
to day, and he was occasionally able to attend to 
public business. On the 25th he dined with the 
Marquis of Clanricarde, but complained of debili- 
ty, and returned early to Chiswick. On the 30th 
he paid his last visit to the king at Windsor: his 
majesty saw that he was very ill, and desired Sir 
William Knighton to call upon him. It was too 
late. ]V{r. Canning receive.d some friends at din- 
ner on the following day, retired early, and never 
rose again. He suffered excruciating pain, which 
rent his frame so violently as to deprive him at in- 
tervals of all mental consciousness. On the Sun- 
day before his death he requested his daughter to 
read prayers : his own unvarying custom, whenev- 
er he was prevented from attending church. At 
length his strength fell, his agonies diminished in 
proportion, and on the 8th of August, a little be- 
fore four o'clock in the morning, he expired in the 
fifty-seventh year of his age. 

His funeral took place at Westminster Abbey, 
where he was buried at the foot of Mr. Pitt's tomb, 
on the 16th of August. It was attended by the 
members of the royal family, the cabinet minis- 
ters, the foreign embassadors, and a number of 
political and personal friends. 

The morning after his funeral the king conferred 
a peerage on his widow. Other no less gratifying 
marks of public estimation were showered upon 
his memory, abroad and at home — statues, medals, 
and monuments. But the most grateful of all was 
the profound and universal sorrow of the people. 
All jealousies and animosities were extinguished 
in the common grief; and Faction herself wept 
upon his grave. 





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