Chap. republican form of government in that country. But for XI' that very reason, opinions diametrically opposite were 1821' entertained by the supporters of the monarchy, and all who were desirous to save the country from a repetition of the horrors of the first Revolution. They were unanimously impressed with the belief that revolutionary governments could not be established in Spain and Italy without endangering to the last degree the existing institutions in France; that the contagion of democracy would speedily spread across the Alps and the Pyrenees; and that a numerous and powerful party set upon overturning the existing order of things, already with difficulty held in subjection, would, from the example of success in the neighbouring states, speedily become irresistible.

This divergence of opinion and feeling, coupled with

Peculiar the imminent danger to France from the convulsions in aug. the adjoining kingdoms, and the comparative exemption

dite^enre.* of Great Britain from it, in consequence of remoteness of situation, and difference of national temperament, must inevitably, under any circumstances, have led to a difference in the policy of the two countries, and seriously endangered their amicable relations. But this danger was much increased in France and England at this period, in consequence of the recent events which had occurred in the Peninsula, and the character of the men who were then placed, by the prevailing feeling in the two countries, at the head of affairs. Spain and Portugal were the theatre of Wellington's triumphs; they had been liberated by the arms of England from the thraldom of Napoleon; they had witnessed the first reverses which led to the overthrow of his empire. The French beheld with envy any movement which threatened to increase an influence from which they had already suffered so much; the English, with jealousy any attempt to interrupt it. In addition to this, the two Ministers of Foreign Affairs on the opposite sides of the Channel, when matters approached a crisis, were of a character and temperament entirely in harmony -with the ideas of the pre- Chap.

vailing influential majority in their respective countries, L_

and both alike gifted with the genius capable of inflaming, I821and destitute of the calmness requisite to allay, the ferment of their respective people.

George Canning, who was the Foreign Minister that was imposed upon the King of England, on Lord London- Character derry's death, by the general voice of the nation, rather ning. an than selected by his choice, and who took the lead, on the British side, in the great debate with France which ensued regarding the affairs of the Peninsula, was one of the most remarkable men that ever rose to the head of affairs in Great Britain. Of respectable but not noble birth, he owed nothing to aristocratic descent, and was indebted for his introduction to Parliament and political life to the friendships which he formed at college, where his brilliant talents, both in the subjects of study and in conversation, early procured for him distinction. * It is seldom that

* George Canning was born in London on 11th April 1770. He was descended from an ancient family, which, in the time of Edward III., had commenced with a mayor of Bristol, and had since been one of the most respected of the county of Warwick. His father, George Canning, the third son of the family, was called to the bar, but being a man of more literary than legal tastes, he never got into practice,'and died in 1771 in very needy circumstances, leaving Mrs Canning, an Irish lady of great beauty and accomplishments, in such destitution that she was obliged for a short time to go on the stage for her subsistence. Young Canning was educated at Eton out of the proceeds of a small Irish estate bequeathed to him by his grandfather, and there his talents' and assiduity soon procured for him distinction. Ho joined there several of his schoolfellows in getting up a literary work, which attained considerable classical eminence, entitled the Microcolon. Mr Canning was its avowed editor, and principal contributor. In 1788, in his eighteenth year, ho loft Eton, already preceded by his literary reputation, and was entered at Christ Church, Oxford. The continued industry and brilliant parts which he there exhibited gained for him the highest honours, and, what proved of still more importance to him in after-life, the friendship of many eminent men, among whom was Lord Hawkcsbury, who afterwards became Earl of Liverpool. On leaving Oxford he entered Lincoln's Inn, but rather with the design of strengthening his mind by legal argument than following tho law as a profession. He there formed an acquaintance with Mr Sheridan, which soon ripened into a friendship that continued through life.

His literary and oratorical distinction was much enhanced by the brilliant appearances he made in several private societies in London, and this led to his introduction into public lifo. Mr Pitt, having heard of his talents as a speaker and writer, sent for him, and in a private interview stated to him that, if ho oratorical and literary talents such as he possessed fail in acquiring distinction at a university, though still greater powers and more profound capacity rarely do attain it. Bacon made no figure at college; Adam Smith was unknown to academic fame; Burke was never heard of at Trinity College, Dublin; Locke was expelled from Camapproved of the general policy of Government, arrangements would be made to procure him a seat in Parliament. Mr Canning declared his concurrence in the views of the minister, acting in this respect on the advice of Mr Sheridan, who dissuaded him from joining the Opposition, which had nothing to offer him. Mr Canning's previous intimacies had been chiefly with the Whigs; and, like Pitt and Fox, ho had hailed the French Revolution at its outset with unqualified hope and enthusiasm. He was returned to Parliament in 1793 for the close borough of Newport, in the Isle of Wight, entering thus, like all tho great men of the day, public life through the portals of the nomination boroughs.

His first speech was on the 31st January 1794, in favour of a loan to the King of Sardinia; and it gave such promises of future talent that he was selected to second the Address. In spring 1796 he was appointed Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and on 1st March 1799 delivered a speech against the slave-trade, which has deservedly obtained a place in his collected speeches. At this time he became the most popular contributor to the Anti-Jacobin Review, of which Mr Gifford was the editor. His pieces are chiefly of the light, sportive, or satirical kind, and contributed to check, by the force of ridicule, tho progress of French principles in the country. In 1799 he delivered two brilliant speeches in favour of the union with Ireland, which led to his afterwards becoming the warm and consistent advocate of the Catholic claims in Parliament; and in 1801 went out of office with Mr Pitt. He did not oppose Mr Addington's administration, but neither did he support it, and wisely discontinued almost entirely his attendance in Parliament during its continuance. In July 1800 ho married Miss Joan Scott, daughter and coheiress of General Scott, who had made a colossal fortune chiefly at the gaming-table. This auspicious union greatly advanced his prospects. Her fortune, which was very large, made him independent, her society happy, her connections powerful; for her eldest sister had recently before married tho Marquis of Titchfield, eldest son of, and who afterwards became, Duke of Portland.

In spring 1803, Mr Canning took a leading part in the series of resolutions condemnatory of the conduct of ministers, which led to the overthrow of Mr Addington's administration, and on the return of Mr Pitt to power was appointed Treasurer of the Navy, an office which he held till the death of that great man, in December 1805. On the accession of the Whigs to office he was of course displaced, and became an active member of that small but indefatigable band of opposition which resisted Mr Fox's administration. Such was the celebrity which he thus acquired, that when the Tories returned to power, in April 1807, he was appointed Secretary of State for the Foreign Department, and for the first time became a Cabinet Minister.

In this elevated position he not only took the lead in conducting the foreign affairs of the country, but was the main pillar of administration in resisting tho attacks with which it was assailed, particularly on the Orders in Council and tho Copenhagen expedition. The breaking out of the Spanish war in May



bridge. On the other hand, there has been scarcely a great orator or a distinguished minister in England for a century and a half whose reputation did not precede him from the university into Parliament. The reason is, that there is a natural connection between eminence in scholarship and oratorical power, but not between that faculty and depth

1808, and the active part which Great Britain immediately took in that contest, gave him several opportunities for the display of his eloquence in the generous support of Liberal principles and the independence of nations, of which through life he had been tho fervent supporter. To the vigour of his counsels in the cabinet, and the influence of his eloquence in the senate, is, in a great degree, to be ascribed the energetic part which England took in that contest, and its ultimately glorious termination. He conducted the able negotiation with the Emperors Alexander and Napoleon, when, after the interview at Erfurth in 1808, they jointly proposed peace to Great Britain; and the complicated diplomatic correspondence with the -American government relative to the affair of the Chesapeake, and the many points of controversy concerning maritime rights which had arisen with the people of that country. In all these negotiations his despatches and state papers were a model of clear, temperate, and accurate reasoning. Subsequent to this he became involved in a quarrel with Lord Castlereagh, arising out of the failure of the Waleheren expedition in

1809, and Mr Canning's attempts to get him removed from the Ministry, which terminated in a duel, and led to the retirement of both from office at the very time when the dangers of the country most imperatively called for their joint services. He did not, however, on resigning, go into opposition, but continued an independent member of Parliament; and it was after this that he made his celebrated speech in support of the Bullion Report—a speech which displays at once the case with which he could direct his great powers to any new subject, however intricate, and the decided bias which inclined him to Liberal doctrines.

At the dissolution of Parliament, in the close of 1812, Mr Canning stood for Liverpool, on which occasion he mado the most brilliant and interesting speeches of his whole career; for they had less of the fencing common in Parliament, and more of real eloquence in them than his speeches in the House of Commons. In 1814 ho was sent into a species of honourable banishment as ambassador at tho court of Lisbon, from whence he returned in 1816; and in the beginning of 1817 he was appointed President of the Board of Control on the death of the Earl of Buckinghamshire. In the spring of 1820 he sustained a severe loss by the death of his eldest son George, who expired on the 31st March. Overwhelmed with this calamity, and desirous to be absent during the discussions on the Queen, he took but little part in public affairs during 1821 and 1822, during which years he resided chiefly in France and Italy; but the capacity ho evinced as President of the Board of Control, coupled with a secret desire on the part of the Prince-Regent to get him removed from the Cabinet, pointed him out as the fit person to be appointed Governorgeneral of India, which situation he had agreed to accept, and even attended the farewell dinner of the East India directors on his appointment, when the unexpected death of Lord Londonderry, and the general voice of the public, on the 20th August, in a manner forced him upon the Government as Foreign Secretary.—Memoir of Mr Canning, i. 29. Life and Speeches, vol. i .

Chap. of thought; both rest upon the same mental faculties, and

.— cannot exist without them. Quickness of perception,

1821, retentiveness of memory, a brilliant imagination, fluent diction, self-confidence, presence of mind, are as essential to the debater in Parliaruent as to the scholar in the university. Both are essentially at variance with the solitary meditation, the deep reflection, the distrust of self, the slow deductions, the laborious investigation, the generalising turn of mind, which are requisite to the discovery of truth, and are invariably found united in those destined ultimately to be the leaders of opinion. The first set of qualities fit their possessors to be the leaders of senates, the last to be the rulers of thought. ^ When Mr Canning first entered Parliament, the native

His pecn- bent of his mind, and the aspirations which naturally eloquent arise in the breast of one conscious of great intellectual power and destitute of external advantages, inclined him to the Liberal side. But as its leaders were at that period in opposition, and Mr Canning did not possess an independent fortune, they generously advised him to join the ranks of Mr Pitt, then in the midst of his struggle with the French Revolution. He did so, and soon became a favourite 4Uve of that great man. It was hard to say whether his poetry in the Anti-Jacobin, or his speeches in Parliament, contributed most to aid his cause. Gradually he rose to very high eminence in debate—an eminence which went on continually increasing till he obtained the entire mastery of the House of Commons, and commanded its attention to a degree which neither Mr Burke, Mr Pitt, nor Mr Fox had done. The reason was, that his talents were more completely suited to the peculiar temper and average capacity of that assembly: they neither fell short of it, nor went beyond it. Less philosophical than Burke, less instructive than Pitt, less impassioned than Fox, he was more attractive than any of them, and possessed in a higher degree the faculty, by the exhibition of his varied powers, of permanently

« ForrigeFortsett »