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Commentary for Volume 2, Chapter 16: The Ins and Outs of 1827
The story of the politics of 1827 has almost invariably been told from the point of view either of Canning or the Whigs. The press at the time was heavily biased in favour of Canning and subsequent accounts did nothing to correct this – indeed for years most histories reflected the outlook and sources used in the admiring biographies of Canning by his secretary A. G. Stapleton. This perspective was unchallenged, indeed reinforced, in Harold Temperley’s Foreign Policy of Canning, while even so fine a scholar as Professor Aspinall – whose work I admire immensely – writes of ‘the intrigues of the ultra-tories to deprive Canning of his rightful heritage’ (emphasis added) which suggests a certain lack of impartiality. Aspinall’s works continue to dominate the field and it is only very recently that the possibility of other perspectives has been opened up in the work of Richard Davis, Richard Gaunt and a few others. Much of the evidence has been available for over a century but Wellington’s point of view in particular is illuminated and brought vividly to life in the Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot. I hope that the account I have given in this chapter is not unfair to Canning, but its emphasis is mostly on explaining how Wellington, his allies and friends saw events and what guided their behaviour. If I were writing a life of Canning, Huskisson or Goderich, the equivalent chapter would be much more familiar, though I hope that I would not suggest that Canning’s opponents had no right to their views, or that anyone could claim the premiership as their ‘rightful heritage’.
Intrigues of 1827:
At the time the air was thick with allegations and counter allegations of intrigues, cabals and underhand tactics which both reflected pent up animosities and added to them. Many subsequent accounts get caught up in this too: Temperley was a passionate and none-too-scrupulous partisan of Canning; Aspinall as a judge striving hard to be scrupulously fair despite an obvious predilection in favour of Canning.
The principal ‘charge’ against Canning is that he ‘intrigued’ with the Opposition while Liverpool was still in office. (Note the ambiguity: does this mean before Liverpool’s stroke, or before his actual resignation in March). Temperley denied it at great length; Aspinall declared that ‘the charge must be unhesitatingly dismissed’ (intro to The Formation of Canning’s Ministry p xxx; Temperley Foreign Policy of Canning p 521-30), only to have to eat his words when he discovered clear evidence that Canning had in fact made an overture to the Whigs in late 1826 albeit a pretty vague and inconsequential one. (Aspinall ‘Canning’s Return to Office in September 1822’ EHR vol 78 1963 p 544-5n). However it may be doubted whether this matters very much, let alone that it was sign of treachery. Liverpool had talked of retirement for years and it seems probable that by the second half of 1826, if not earlier, he had discussed with Canning his intention of resigning if the newly elected Commons again supported Catholic Emancipation by a large majority. In this case he may have recommended that the King send for Canning to form a government to adjust the question once and for all. (This at least is what Canning told Lord Wellesley on 22 May 1827: Wellesley Papers vol 2 p 160. Whether Liverpool would really have done so, and whether the King would have taken the advice if he had are, at best, uncertain; but there is no reason to doubt that this was how Canning thought events would pan out). Looking ahead to such a state of affairs, where he certainly could not count on the support of much of the Tory party, it was not unreasonable – at least from his point of view – for Canning to keep open his lines of communication with the Whigs, and he does not seem to have done more than that.
But consider how it looked from the point of view of the Tory ministers. For years Canning had been playing to the Opposition benches in Parliament and as early as 1824 there had been rumours (possibly unfounded, certainly exaggerated) of intrigues with Lord Lansdowne. (Princess Lieven to Metternich 17 June 1824, 14 May 1826 Private Letters p 317-18, 366-7; Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 23 April 1826 vol 2 p 21; and many other references). Only eleven days before his stroke Lord Liverpool told Mr Arbuthnot ‘that, as far as he knew, there was no truth whatever in the reports about Lord Lansdowne coming in & he did not believe there was any communication going on between him & Mr C[anning]’. (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 6 February 1827 vol 2 p 77). Then, only three days after Liverpool’s stroke, when everyone else is holding back, the Times comes out not merely advocating Canning as prime minister but with a plan for a coalition ministry. We know that this was Brougham’s work; but Wellington, the Arbuthnots and presumably the other Tory ministers believed that the Times was heavily influenced and paid by the Foreign Office. The Whigs meet and most of them show great eagerness to join with Canning – and it must have looked as if there had been a good deal of behind the scenes negotiations to make it all happen so quickly. But late March Canning was assuring the King that, in effect, he had the Whigs in his pocket and that only he could keep the Catholic Question quiet, and Wellington reacted by saying to the King that this explained and justified the Tory distrust of Canning. (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 30 March 1827 vol 2 p 97-98). Finally, according to Mrs Arbuthnot writing on 22 May: ‘In the House of Commons Mr Canning refused to answer when asked whether he had negotiated with the Whigs unknown to his colleagues, & had communicated that negotiation to the King. He wd. have answered fast enough if he could have said “No”.’ (ibid vol 2 p 120).
From the Tory point of view Canning had been intriguing for years, and rather than continue Liverpool’s government under someone like Lord Bathurst, preserving it essentially unchanged, he broke it apart so that he and no one else could be Prime Minister.
Canning’s counter-allegation falls into two parts: the ‘caballing’ against him by Tory magnates including Londonderry, Buckingham, Newcastle and co, and the mass resignation of the ministers. There certainly were attempts to block Canning’s ascent – it is not obvious that there was anything illegitimate about them, although they were certainly inept – and it is clear to us that Wellington and Peel strongly discouraged them. (That would not have been clear to Canning however, and it does seem to have embittered him towards Wellington, just as Wellington’s equally unfounded belief that Canning was behind the press attacks on him poisoned his mind towards Canning). As for the resignations, there seems to have been remarkably little concert among the outgoing ministers, but it is a red herring: there was no reason why they should not resign either singly or en bloc, just as Canning had taken his friends in and out of office in the past (into office in 1807, out of office in 1809, in again in 1814 – without him – and as they would do in leaving the government in 1828). Whig papers accusing Tory peers of impropriety in ‘dictating to the King’ was enough to make a cat laugh.
None of this is a particularly useful way to approach the politics of 1827: it is almost impossible not to become partisan and heap opprobrium in one party or the other if you focus on the tactics. But old controversies seldom make an appertising or nourishing meal when reheated.
Debate on the Catholic Question in March heightens tensions and leads to abuse of Wellington in the Press:
Parliament continued to sit, and on 5-7 March there was a debate on the Catholic Question. This was the first test of feeling in the new parliament, and Burdett, who put forward the motion, carefully framed it in the most moderate terms in order to catch as many wavering votes as possible. But to almost universal surprise the motion was rejected by 276 v 272 votes: the first time since 1819 that Emancipation had failed to win the backing of the Commons. The result shocked and outraged liberal opinion and produced a furious reaction in the press. The Times raised the prospect of Ireland in open revolt whenever the hated King Ferdinand of Spain or even the King of France gave the signal, and helpfully suggested that if Catholic priests discouraged their parishioners from enlisting in the army and navy Britain would soon be left defenceless. A week later it went further, claiming that the Orangemen saw no solution to Ireland’s problems but the extermination of the Catholic population. Warming to the theme the paper continued: ‘When we look at Ireland, stripped as she is now of all rational hope from the clemency or wisdom of her conquerors, we cannot help reverting to the memorable declaration ascribed to a certain chieftain of this age, that the Irish must be reconquered! Good God! of what materials must that man’s head and inward soul be formed’. (The Times 8 and 15 March 1827). The Morning Chronicle picked up the story two days later: ‘In the meantime, we trust that the Irish will behave with prudence, & in particular that the Catholic Hierarchy will exert themselves in the suppression of outrage and crime. There are many persons in this country who think with a certain Duke, that it would be no bad thing to have an opportunity for re-conquering Ireland. The numbers of the Catholics would be of small avail against the disciplined bands and military skill of England. Let the motto of every Catholic be that in one of Scott’s novels – “I bide my time”.’ Wellington was understandably furious and took legal advice about suing both papers. Although he was prepared to swear that he had never made the remark the lawyers advised against an action because he was not explicitly named and the papers might pretend that they were really referring to somebody else. Such was the oppression of the press under the Six Acts of 1819! (Morning Chronicle 17 March 1823 the reference is to The Bride of Lammermoor. Wellington to Messrs Farrers & Co, 16 & 19 March 1827 with answers written on the same letter WP 1/886/8 & 9).
The discussion of the Catholic Question sharpened feelings on the other side as well. It crystallized simmering discontent among the government’s more conservative supporters, who were already alienated by the liberal policies associated with Canning and Huskisson, but who had taken some comfort from Liverpool’s strong support for the Protestant Establishment and opposition to Emancipation. A substantial group of Tory peers with significant support form their own nominees and like-minded members of the Commons attempted to intervene to block Canning’s ascent. The most prominent figure in the group was the Duke of Newcastle, and it included the Duke of Rutland, and Lords Mansfield, Kenyon and Winchilsea, together with Sir Edward Knatchbull and Sir Thomas Lethbridge. But for all their landed acres and blue blood these ‘high’ or ‘ultra’ Tories lacked political nous and had an exaggerated idea of their influence. The only figure of considerable political experience and standing who joined them was Lord Colchester who, as Charles Abbot, had been a well regarded Speaker of the Commons from 1802 to 1817. Newcastle exercised his right as a peer to see the King on 24 March intending to offer him the assurance of the support at a party of loyal ‘King’s friends’ committed to upholding the Protestant constitution, and apparently nursing a secret hope and dread that the King might entrust him with the task of forming an administration. (Newcastle’s diary 24 March 1827 Unrepentant Tory p 11-15 for his account of the interview with the King; entry for 27 March p 10-11 for indication of Newcastle’s mixture of ambition and apprehension. See also Abbot Diary 27 March 1823 vol 3 p 472-4 for a second hand account of the interview). The King soothed him with assurances of his own unshakable opposition to Emancipation, but then allowed a story to circulate that Newcastle had aroused his resentment by presuming to dictate to royalty. The picture was further complicated by the activities of Lord Londonderry and the Duke of Buckingham who both supported Catholic Emancipation but were strongly opposed to Canning. Wellington discouraged all this activity, believing that it infringed on the King’s prerogative and was likely to be counter-productive. Not that this stopped Canning’s friends, or the press, from accusing him of being its prime instigator, or exaggerating its significance. (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 22 & 25 March 1827 vol 2 p 92-93, 95; Wellington to Buckingham 21 March 1827 WND vol 3 p 611; Gaunt ‘Newcastle, the Ultra-Tories and the Opposition to Canning’ p 574-6; Wellington to Londonderry 20 April 1827 WND vol 3 p 654-55; the changes are repeated in Temperley Foreign Policy of Canning p 523 and rebutted by Aspinall Formation of Canning’s Ministry p xxxix).
Reasons for opposing Canning:
Mrs Arbuthnot wrote in her journal on 10 March after Canning’s attack on the Master of the Rolls in the Catholic debate: ‘I had a conversation yesterday with Sir Chas Stuart, who tells me that every day people are more & more disinclined to Mr Canning, they feel that he has no power over his temper & no judgment & that all dread the consequence of his being at the head of the Govt …’. And,
I wd almost rather see the Duke die than in a Cabinet of which Mr Canning was the head. It was bad enough to be in Cabinet at all with him; but, if he was placed at the head of it, he must govern according to his own pleasure & the Duke wd be obliged to submit in silence. Mr Canning is not, I really believe, a man with bad intentions, but he has no intentions at all. His actions are decided by the impulse of the moment, his temper is bad & when he gets angry in the House of Commons, he says the most indiscreet and imprudent things possible because he has no power to controul himself. Then he has not strength of mind & principle to abstain from jobbing whenever the King or any of his friends wanted a job done, and what in my judgment wd make it disgraceful for the Duke to be in a Cabinet, of which Mr Canning was the head, is that all the mischief wd be done by driblets & by such slight degrees that the Duke wd never have a point at which he would make his stand.
Mr Canning wd make Catholic Bishops [i.e. Anglican bishops who favoured Catholic Emancipation], the Duke cd not quit office upon such grounds; Mr C[anning] wd make Catholic Peers, he wd give the Govt seats to supporters of the Catholics in the H. of Commons; in short, by all these means, which as head of the Govt he might fairly use, he wd undermine the Protestant cause; & the Duke, their great champion, could not object. It wd be the same in foreign affairs, in all the departments of the State. The Duke had been most uneasy & uncomfortable at the state of affairs & his own position in the Govt, & I am certain he wd be miserable in a Cabinet with Mr Canning at its head’. (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 10 March 1827 vol 2 p 87-89).
Of course Mr Arbuthnot’s hostility is obvious, but the interesting thing is the reasons she gives for objecting to Canning which are more to do with character and behavior than policies – let alone social background.
See also her journal for 26 March 1827 where Mr Herries is said to have told Knighton, when pressed to express an opinion, that Canning was unfit to be prime minister because of his ‘indiscretion, the violence of his temper & his want of management’ (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot vol 2 p 96). Charles Arbuthnot wrote to Peel on 10 March that Wellington ‘cannot bring himself to put trust in Canning. He thinks that in his own department there is much of trickery; he sees that the sons and relations of our most vehement opponents are taken into employ; and he cannot divest himself of the idea that, directly or indirectly, there has been an understanding with some of the leaders of Opposition. These among various other reasons indispose him to belong to a Government of which Canning was to be the head’. (Mr Arbuthnot to Peel 10 March 1827 Parker Peel vol 1 p 452-3; see Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot vol 2 p 87-89 for the background to this letter which was written without Wellington’s knowledge or consent).
Aspinall (Formation of Canning’s Ministry p xxix) acknowledges that question of character was an important objection to Canning among high Tories.
Wellington’s Objection to Canning, 1827:
‘Memorandum – Comparison between Mr Canning’s Government and that of Lord Goderich’ n.d. [by Wellington] WND vol 4 p 179-80:
These are some of the grounds of separation from Mr Canning. Those of some, the Roman Catholic question; those of others, mistrust of Mr Canning in the situation of First Minister, particularly when separated from others of his late colleagues; those of others, the false pretences on which his government was formed: that in the presence of the King it was Protestant, in the presence of his Whig and other supporters it was Roman Catholic, and that upon the whole it was not calculated to conciliate the confidence and support of the gentlemen of the country.
There were other objections to Mr Canning, principally of a personal nature: such as his temper; his spirit of intrigue; the facility with which he espoused the most extravagant doctrines of the Reformers and Radicals, although himself the great champion of Anti-Reform; and his avowed hostility to the great landed aristocracy of the country. Indeed it was this disposition in his mind which rallied to his support all the Radicals in the country, and the discontented throughout Europe and the Press; and occasioned, fostered, and augmented the mistrust and dislike of the great aristocracy of the country.
The whole memorandum, with the comparison with Goderich, is given below.
Grey’s remark that the son of an actress is incapacitated de facto for the Premiership of England:
This is famous and endlessly repeated in secondary sources yet it is very hard to track it down to an original source. Aspinall (Formation of Canning’s Ministry p xlix) cites Sir Robert Wilson’s Canning’s Administration: a Narrative of the Formation… which is rather troubling as Wilson is anything but a reliable source. But Wilson’s account was not published until 1872, and the story was in circulation long before that: Disraeli has it in Coningsby. It is possible that it is a furphy, something attributed to Grey and spread to discredit his opposition to Canning; but it is more probable that he did say it, or else it would have been contested. However there does not seem to be any evidence that it was in general circulation in 1827 or that – as Disraeli suggests – it appeared in the newspapers, but the nineteenth century newspapers database is neither complete nor foolproof. E. A. Smith, in his scholarly life of Grey, gives a slightly different version of the remark ‘the son of an actress is, ipso facto, disqualified from become Prime Minister of England’ but his notes do not give its origin.
Aspinall (The Coalition Ministries of 1827 Pt 1 Canning’s Ministry p 214) quotes a letter from Aberecromby, the Whig, which appears to confirm that Grey did say something like it at least: ‘Lord Grey as usual is violent, ill-tempered, and influenced wholly by personal feelings and not at all by public principle. The means by which he seeks to run down Canning are such as I should expect from a more prejudiced and less gentlemanlike tory than Westmorland. I am no defender of the life and character of Canning, but I should scorn to deprecate him or any other man by vilifying his parentage and reproaching him with the frailties of his mother’. (no recipient or date given).
Lord Londonderry, whose hatred for Canning was undisguised but which had little or nothing to do with social snobbery, described him as a ‘charlatan parvenu’ (Londonderry to Wellington, 12 April 1827 Formation of Canning’s Ministry p 66). Cookson Lord Liverpool’s Administration p 393 mistakenly attributes this remark to Wellington, while Stephen Lee, in pointing this out, attributes it (in his note, although not in his text) to Robert Stewart, 2nd Lord Londonderry (i.e. Castlereagh) not his half-brother and successor, Charles Stewart, 3rd Lord Londonderry (Lee George Canning and Liberal Toryism p 130n).
There is no doubt that social snobbery did add an edge to the hostility of some towards Canning – just as it affected attitudes towards Peel, and had towards Canning’s bête noir Addington – but in all these cases it added a flavour to existing hostility rather than was a prime cause of it; nor is there any evidence to suggest that it significantly influenced Wellington’s attitude.
Wellington’s mood, March 1827:
Lady Cowper noted on 19 March that ‘The Duke of W[ellington] is the only person I see about in sound health and spirits – and as gay as if there were no intrigues and no politicks in the world.’ (Lady Cowper to her brother Frederick Lamb 19 March  Letters of Lady Palmerson p 161).
Objections to Wellington as Prime Minister:
Stephen Lushington, the Secretary to the Treasury, told Knighton in March
I put the Duke of Wellington out of the question, for however great his military reputation, and shining now with greater lustre in the discharge of the distinguished office he holds as Commander-in-Chief of the Army, there is something so inconsistent with, and so hostile to, the free constitution of this country in having a military captain at the head of the Executive Government, that the jealousy of the people would be awakened. Besides, the Duke has another insuperable objection against him. However splendid his fame and talent, he is wanting in that essential requisite for a minister, the power of explaining and supporting in debate the measures of the Government. And further, considering how much the Crown’s powers of grace and favour have been diminished in latter years, it would be of great benefit that its First Minister, who is to dispense the small residue of these favours, should be in the House of Commons’. (Parker Peel vol 1 p 454-55).
(For a significantly different version of this letter see Letters of King George IV vol 3 p 207-10).
As early as 21 February Wellington and Peel had agreed that ‘they must be quite quiet, leave the King alone to do just what he pleased, & decline to give any opinions or state their own intentions until he had named the person he meant to make Minister; that it wd. not do for them to take the responsibility of advising the King for or against any person, for that he was not to be trusted & that, moreover, it was not their business’. (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 22 February 1827 vol 2 p 85). By and large they stuck to this line and rebuffed several attempts by the King to pass the responsibility for choosing the minister onto the cabinet. (Abbot Diary 15 May 1827 vol 3 p 501; Wellington to Mrs Arbuthnot 28 March 1827 Wellington and His Friends p 72; Aspinall introduction to Formation of Canning’s Ministry p xxxiv-xxxv).
However there was naturally a good deal of discussion among the ministers as well as among their friends, in the hope of finding a way of keeping the existing government intact. Various names were mentioned including some very dark horses indeed such as Lord Bexley, suggested by the King; the Duke of Rutland and Lord Clancarty both mentioned by Wellington. (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 25 March 1827 vol 2 p 95 for Bexley; ibid 12 March 1827 p 89 for Rutland and Clancarty). According to Mrs Arbuthnot the early betting in the clubs was on Lord Lansdowne, the moderate Whig; while Colchester listed no fewer than seven possible candidates in his diary: Canning, Wellington, Lord Wellesley, Lord Harrowby, Lord Bathurst, Peel and Robinson. (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 20 February 1827 vol 2 p 82; Abbot Diary 21 February 1827 vol 3 p 463-4). If a compromise peer had been accepted the most substantial candidate was Lord Bathurst, although some thought might also have been given to Melville or Harrowby as moderate supporters of Emancipation who might be able to persuade both Peel and Canning to remain in office. However there was not much willingness to compromise. The Times declared on 24 March that there ‘is an objection to Lord Bathurst’s appointment; which is, that Mr Canning could hardly serve in a Cabinet so headed.’ Princess Lieven claimed to have conveyed a message from Canning to the King that ‘his resolution was taken. He had decided to become head of the Cabinet or to leave the party.’ And Canning told the King directly on 28 March that he would resign unless he was given the Premiership or at least the ‘substantive power of First Minister’. (The Times 24 March 1827; Diary of Princess Lieven p 117; Stapleton George Canning and His Times p 585-6 quoting the account Canning dictated to Stapleton, his secretary). By then, if not from the outset, he was convinced that the game was his, and that he only had to hold firm to gain the prize that he had coveted for so long. Still he did not completely close the door on other arrangements and on 3 April floated the possibility that if the King asked him to form a government he might send Robinson to the Lords and give him the office of Prime Minister. Wellington did not encourage this scheme, and it is obvious that whatever the form, the real power in such a government would have rested in Canning’s hands – indeed he later admitted that he abandoned the idea partly for a concern that it would not be obvious to everyone (including Robinson) that effective control of the Treasury as well as the Foreign Office was to remain firmly with him. (Wellington’s Memorandum on Quitting the Cabinet 13 April 1827 WND vol 3 p 636-42 (especially p 640); Wellington’s speech in Lords on 2 May 1827 WND vol 4 p 1-14 (especially p 11): Canning to Wellington 5 May 1827 WND vol 4 p 16-20 especially 19).
Wellington’s attitude to the Premiership:
There is a most interesting unsigned Memorandum dated 14 April 1827 enclosed in Canning to Lord Wellesley 1827 and printed in Wellesley Papers vol 2 p 164-9. If genuine and reliable it provides the best and most explicit statement on the subject, but without knowing who wrote it its value is doubtful (Inititally it seems possible that it was written by Wellington writing in the third person, but then the first person intrudes: ‘I saw the Duke…’. Meyrick Shawe is mentioned in the covering letter and is plausible, but how reliable would his information be?)
[Wellington] had also discouraged some proposals of that party [the ultras] to put him forward as a candidate for the situation of Prime Minister. He said his wish was to remain in the situation he then filled, which suited his taste, and for which he felt that he was qualified, whereas he did not think himself qualified for the situation of Prime Minister, for which no man was duly qualified who was not an experienced speaker in Parliament. Circumstances might, he said, be conceived under which it would be his duty to accept the situation if he were called upon by the King to do so; but he would be most reluctant under and circumstances to accept an office for which he did not profess all the requisite qualifications. (Wellesley Papers vol 2 p 165 see above).
On 9 April Wellington wrote to Mrs Arbuthnot:
the King is determined to have Mr Canning as His Minister … he will hear nothing against that scheme; and … he forgets or, remembering, misrepresents everything that passes with any of His Ministers, with a view to produce and Impression that he had nothing for it excepting to make that nomination. For Instance, He told the Chancellor that Peel & I had both declared that neither of us could form a Government, leaving out the word exclusive; and H. M. forgets that he had never asked me the question in reference to myself’. (Wellington to Mrs Arbuthnot 9 April 1827 Wellington and His Friends p 73).
This certainly suggests that if the King had asked Wellington if he could form a broad administration, the answer would not have been an unequivocal ‘No’, nor a statement that the command of the army put him out of the running.
On the other hand Mrs Arbuthnot wrote in her journal on 25 March an account of Wellington’s recent interview with the King: ‘by what the Duke told me, the King is in a happy state of doubt & ignorance as to what he must do. He told the Duke he considered him, from his military situation, out of the question, & the Duke told him immediately that, if he did not consider himself so circumstanced, he shd feel great difficulty in discussing the subject with H. M.’ (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot vol 2 p 95). That goes considerably further than simply agreeing with the King.
In June the subject came up in conversation between Mrs Arbuthnot and Esterhazy, the Austrian ambassador:
Esterhazy appears to have been crammed to a surfeit with lies by the King, who talked to him about the Duke. The Prince told me that the King appeared profondement blessé by the by the Duke’s abandonment of him! that he told him that the Duke had refused to be Minister and had always told the King that he considered himself out of the question; and that, such being the case, he could never have expected him to refuse to act under another of his (the K’s) choice and an old colleague.
I told Esterhazy that that was all very fine, the King’s story had but on disadvantage, that it was not true; that the King had never asked the Duke to be Minister & that the Duke had told the King he considered himself out of the question merely as an answer to an observation of the King’s to that effect; that when a man was told by his Sovereign that he considered him as out of the question, every feeling of amour proper & personal dignity wd induce a ready acquiescence in such a proposition …’ (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 17 June 1827 vol 2 p 127-8).
Yet this was only a few weeks after the solemn disavowals of his speech of 2 May.
Decline in the power of patronage in support of the King’s Government:
The Duke of York’s scruples in relation to the army found something of a counterpart in Liverpool’s handling of clerical patronage, although its effect was less there, since Liverpool’s conscientious support for the Protestant Establishment and opposition to Catholic emancipation would inevitably mean that his appointments and promotions favoured clergy who were inclined to give their support to the government.
Formation of the Ultras:
According to Richard Gaunt:
Though Newcastle claimed that he had ‘been principally instrumental in bringing people together to oppose the corn measures’, there is no reason to doubt his statement that he was approached to form the ‘King’s friends’, rather than initiating the project himself. Lord Mansfield, grand-nephew of the distinguished eighteenth-century Lord Chief Justice, whose co-operation Newcastle thought ‘essential’ to their success, was soon recruited to the cause. Mansfield seems to have acted as chief lobbyist on their behalf; estimating the immediate strength of what he christened the ‘King’s friends’ at some sixty peers and offering Newcastle the leadership of the movement. Subsequent interviews with Lord Colchester and the archbishop of Canterbury brought in the support of men in whom Newcastle had long placed confidence. (Gaunt ‘The Fourth Duke of Newcastle, the Ultra-Tories and the Opposition to Canning’s Administration’ p 574).
Newcastle and Wellington:
Both Wellington and Peel kept some distance from the ultras even after they had resigned, and endeavoured to discourage outright attacks on the government (see Newcastle diary 21, 27 April & 6 May Unrepentant Tory p 21-23, 26).
Newcastle for his part was initially quite hostile of Wellington thinking him inclined to hog the glory and not give due credit to his subordinates especially Combermere and the Clintons (connections of Newcastle). (Unrepentant Tory p 3, 24 Gaunt ‘The Fourth Duke of Newcastle, the Ultra-Tories and the Opposition to Canning’s Administration’ p 579).
This began to soften even before even before Liverpool’s stroke – he was impressed by Wellington’s retention of York’s staff at the Horse Guards (Diary 23 January 1827 Unrepentant Tory p 4), but only really blossomed with Wellington’s speech justifying his resignation (ibid p 24-25 quoted in main text). By 20 May he was writing, ‘of all the men that I Ever knew the D. of Wellington is the most loyal & true, there is a simplicity and straight forwardness about him which is most attractive & admirable. – It is quite surprising how much he has gained lately on people’s affection by his truly honourable & noble conduct, prejudice has detracted from his popularity but the hour of trial his shewn the real man in his true colours’ (ibid p 28).
Nonetheless the ultras never felt quite as much confidence in Wellington (or Peel) as they did in Eldon or Cumberland.
The King and the Ultras:
The King complained with ‘great anger’ of the Tory Lords to Wellington who defended them. (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 30 March 1827 vol 2 p 98).
When did Liverpool resign?:
Strangely no account appears to give an exact date for Knighton’s visit to Lady Liverpool, or make clear exactly what followed from it.
According to Thorne History of Parliament (vol 4 p 301) Liverpool remained Prime Minister until 20 April 1827; but this is cast into doubt by the entry for Canning which says he formally became Prime Minister on 12 April.
In the Letters of King George IV vol 3 p 206 there is a letter from the King to Liverpool dated 24 March 1827 acknowledging two letters, referring to some papers and Liverpool’s intention of visiting him. This surely must be misdated.
The only other evidence that has come to like is the London Gazette of 27 April carried a notice dated 24 April announcing the issuing of letters patent appointing Canning (and others) to be Commissioners of the Treasury. (Thanks to Ron McGuigan for helping to pursue this question).
Would Peel have served under Lord Melville (a supporter of Catholic Emancipation)?
In August Peel told his good friend the Bishop of Oxford (Lloyd) that if ‘the King had sent for Lord Melville, I do not say that there would have been no difficulty in my retention of office, but it would have been a much less difficulty’. (Parker Peel vol 2 p 17).
The unsigned memorandum dated 14 April possibly by Meyrick Shawe, enclosed in Canning to Lord Wellesley 24 May (Wellesley Papers vol 2 p 164-9) recounts an interview with Wellington ‘Lord Bathurst or Lord Melville would have satisfied him. He wanted rather that a person on the same opinions on the Catholic question with himself should be Prime Minister, but he would not have separated from his colleagues on that account, as is proved by his mentioning Lord Melville’.
Canning’s sine qua non:
Wellington, in his letter to Canning of 6 May, said that he did not know that Canning had made this stipulation (WND vol 4 p 24).
Whether reasonable or not may be debated, but it surely makes a nonsense of the accusations that the retiring ministers, or the Tory lords, were attempts to ‘dictate’ to the King.
According to Backhouses’ journal (quoted in Middleton Formation of Canning’s Ministry p 22) when Canning was at Windsor at the end of March the King tried hard to persuade him to accept a compromise PM, promising that Canning would have a large share of the patronage but Canning refused.
Date of Canning and Wellington’s Meeting:
Both Canning and Wellington refer to this being on 2 April 1827 but Aspinall Formation of Canning’s Ministry p 35n corrects them stating it as 3 April. Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 4 May 1827 vol 2 p 102 supports Aspinall.
Canning’s point of view:
Canning argued forcefully that it was grossly unfair that he should be excluded from the Premiership simply because of his support for Catholic Emancipation, and that such a ban made a mockery of the principle of neutrality which was always claimed to be the basis of Liverpool’s administration: see Canning to Lord Wellesley 15 May 1827 Wellesley Papers vol 2 p 156-7. This is entirely reasonable, although the account of his interview with the King which is printed by Stapleton looks a bit suspect – all the fine phrases and declarations that he must be ‘free as air’ on the Catholic Question look to have been prepared for a speech to Parliament – but perhaps that is being too cynical. (Stapleton George Canning and His Times p 582-6).
Of course the Catholic Question was not the sole objection to Canning; except for Peel and even his protestations that he was happy to support Canning on every other issue (see Peel to Eldon 9 April 1827 Parker Peel vol 1 p 460-2) are a little overdone. But Wellington had chosen to emphasize the Catholic Question as the simplest, most clear out, explanation for the opposition to Canning.
In his letter to Wellington of 5 May Canning claimed that Wellington and the other ministers knew from the outset that he had made up his mind to be PM or quit: ‘I, on the other hand, was determined (as your Grace from the beginning perfectly well knew) to quit the government, rather than submit to the degradation of exhibiting in my person the exemplification of that principle of proscription’ (WND vol 4 p 19). That is definitely not true: like all the other principals (even Peel), there were expectations that Canning would, for example, refuse to serve under Wellington; but nothing was cut and dried because they each retained a little room to manoeuvre.
Creevey reflects on Wellington’s fall, April 1827:
On 17 April Creevey wrote to Miss Ord,
The more one thinks of the whole smash, the more astonishing it is. How right poor Alava was when he told me at Brussels in the morning after we knew Wellington was Master General of the Ordnance, that he (Alava) was horrified. That Wellington ought never to have become a politician, but to remain the soldier of England, aye the soldier of Europe, in case he should ever again be wanted. Such were Alava’s precise and honest sentiments, and wise and much happier would the Beau have been had he acted upon these, instead of which, here he is, having extinguished Bonaparte and all the world in battle, at last floor’d himself by the very man he prevailed upon not to go to India but to stay and go halves with him in the Government at home. By God, it is too much …’ (Creevey Life and Times p 239-40).
Creevey was almost certainly wrong: Wellington would not have been happier living in retirement on the glory of past achievements; and the remark makes us consider what a busy, important part Wellington had played in the eight and a half years since he, Creevey had Alava were in Brussels, and have little recognition this had received outside the government.
The total number of resignations was given as 41 by Croker and others (see Aspinall Formation of Canning’s Ministry p xxxviii-xxxix). This includes Wellington, the other cabinet ministers, and possibly some office holders who were not MPs. Nonetheless its scale is shown by the fact that when Wellington’s government fell in 1830, and was replaced by a completely different administration, the total number of offices held by MPs which changed hands was 50, held by 47 MPs (Jupp British Politics on the Eve of Reform p 108). In other words, Canning was left with only a fragment of Liverpool’s administration, much the greater part refusing to give him its confidence.
Political implications if Wellington had remained Commander-in-Chief:
Wellington told Colchester on 15 May:
Canning, I know, would give half his tenure to office to have me back in his Cabinet, i.e. instead of ten years of power without me he would be content with five years of power. I have reconciled the King to him forty times whilst I have been his colleague. He would wish me now to be Commander-in-chief, but he fears the consequences of my necessary intercourse with the King three times a week; not that I have ever begun, or would begin, any conversation with the King, nor ever withheld my opinion upon any subject when asked for it. If the King (as may be) should desire me to resume the command of the army, I do not see how, as a soldier, I could refuse it. But, in that case, I must have it in writing from Mr Canning, and that shall be a humiliation on his part for the foolish, insulting, and indecent manner of his behavior to me’. (Abbot Diary 15 May 1827 vol 3 p 502).
Lady Cowper blames Mrs Arbuthnot for Wellington’s resignation as Commander-in-Chief:
‘I am so fond of him but he has not acted wisely on this occasion, and if I had been at his elbow, I should have prevented him. What a pity that he was not in love with me instead of Mrs A[rbuthnot]. The moral of this story is that no man should be in love with a foolish woman, if he is ever so clever himself, he is sure to be ruin’d by it…’ (Lady Cowper to her brother Frederick Lamb 24 April  Letters of Lady Palmerson p 164).
Anglesey had informed the King of his aspiration for the Ordnance as early as 31 December 1826 when the Duke of York was dying – a piece of tactlessness that caused the King some irritation, (Letters of George IV vol 3 p 192-3; Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 11 February 1827 vol 2 p 78). He had hopes of other offices but declined the colonelcy of the Blues as inadequate (One Leg p 166-7 – good account by him of his interview with the King on the day after York’s funeral). Mrs Arbuthnot wrote ‘I think it inexpressibly dirty of him [Anglesey] to accept it [the Ordnance]’, which was hardly fair. (Mrs Arbuthnot to Peel 19 April 1827 Parker Peel vol 1 p 483).
His biographer writes:
He therefore looked around and soon began to press for some employment suited to his high rank and undoubted abilities. There were certain situations which he felt would suit him very well. He would not object, for instance, to being viceroy of India or Ireland, Master-General of the Ordnance, or even Commander-in-Chief. Such posts were held more directly from the Sovereign than others, and, at least in theory, were somewhat removed from the sphere of party politics – a sphere in which he was far from being at ease. They had the further attraction for him that they did not require constant speech-making in the House of Lords, an exercise he neither enjoyed nor was good at. Pressed in 1830 to take a greater part in the Lords’ debates, he declared himself ‘wholly unequal to it. Nothing’, he wrote, ‘is to be done in this country without a certain share of oratory – I have not a grain of it. I have no facility of expressing myself – the thing does not come naturally to me. When I am forced to utter, it has always been in misery and in distrust of myself, and that will not do. I am too old to mend. (Anglesey One Leg p 163).
And yet he believed that he had been thought of seriously as a successor for Goderich (ibid p 177).
Sturges Bourne refused to take the Home Office even until the end of the Session saying that he could not perform its duties without discredit to the government or himself. Canning forced him to change his mind by saying that if he persisted in his refusal he must bear the responsibility for the entire failure of the government. (Aspinall ‘The Canningite Party’ Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 4th Series 1934 vol 17 p 211).
- W. Ward:
- W. Ward (soon to become Lord Dudley) was an attractive and appealling figure but almost wholly unsuited for such a senior office: indeed he seems not to have held any office, however junior, before.
In December 1827 Mrs Arbuthnot wrote that ‘Ld Dudley is as mad as Bedlam, knows nothing of business & is proverbially idle’ a remark which gains added weight from the fact that he did indeed go mad a few years later, (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 16 December 1827 vol 2 p 152). And Harriet Granville wrote after Canning’s death: ‘If lord Dudley has nerve and energy enough to tread in his steps without the hand that first guided him in them, his abilities and his knowledge of what was wished and intended make him the fittest person for the arduous task. … Granville has had a most amiable letter from lord Dudley, feeling, good sense, diffidence, firmness, but one cannot calculate upon what effect his trying situation may have on his mind’. (Harriet Lady Granville to Lady Carlisle n.d. August 1827 Letters of Harriet Countess Granville vol 1 p 422).
He is said to have had an affair with Lady Lyndhurst at this time (ODNB, Creevey Papers p 483). Creevey noted in November that Sefton ‘lays it down as a fact known to all that Lord Dudley and Lady Copley or Lyndhurst are one, and that he never thinks of the Foreign Office or anything else but her, whilst Copley himself never thinks of the Court of Chancery or anything else but his parties at Roehamptom, and his pleasure generally’ (Creevey Life and Times p 252-2).
Hobhouse said in July that Canning ‘has persuaded Ld Dudley to stay against his will (for no one doubts he is averse from the constraint of an official life) lest his departure sh[oul]d open a door for Whiggish importunity’ (Hobhouse Diary 25 July p 140; Aspinall ‘The Goderich Ministry’ p 534 confirms that he offered to resign and had to be dissuaded). But in 1828 when the Canningites resigned Palmerston wrote ‘The only one who hesitated was Dudley; and he would willingly have given £6,000 a year out of his own pocket, instead of receiving that sum from the public, for the pleasure of continuing to be Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs’ (quoted in Letters to Ivy p 325): perhaps he enjoyed working with Wellington?
There is a highly critical and very well informed assessment of his performance as Foreign Secretary, emphasizing his lack of confidence, in Middleton Administration of British Foreign Policy p 113-114 which leaves no room to doubt that he should never have been appointed.
Appointment of the Duke of Clarence:
The cynicism of the appointment was more marked because Clarence was well known to be unsympathetic to Canning. As recently as 3 April he had told a large gathering, including Lord Colchester, ‘that he was against Free Trade, “it would leave no sailors in the British navy”, and “he wished that Huskisson was hanged;” also “that he would not take Canning for his Minister if there was any other man in England to be found for that office’ (Abbot Diary 3 April 1827 vol 2 p 476).
Arbuthnot reported to Bathurst in July that, ‘Knighton spoke with great displeasure of the Duke of Clarence’s appointment. He called it that sad and foolish act’ (Arbuthnot to Bathurst 15 July 1827 HMC Bathurst p 637-41).
It is remarkable that a liberal-whig government, theoretically committed to the primacy of parliament and the curtailment of royal power, should place both army and navy in the hands of the King and his heir to the throne with no proper accountability to Parliament. Hobhouse commented ‘It is not a light thing to place an almost irresponsible person at the head of a Dept with so immense an expenditure as the navy’ (Hobhouse Diary 21 April 1827 p 131).
For an example of the applause which Canning’s followers gave it see Charles R. Middleton ‘The Formation of Canning’s Ministry and the Evolution of the British Cabinet’ p 27 quoting Backhouse: ‘an invaluable measure in all its bearings; and one both in conception and execution [which] does credit to Mr Canning’s Generalship’.
The Opposition in the crisis:
Within a few days of Liverpool’s stroke a meeting of Whigs agreed that they would support Canning in the formation of a new, more liberal, government and a message to this effect was conveyed to him through Edward Littleton. Over the following weeks there were several rounds of indirect negotiations, which could not be kept secret and which naturally fuelled the suspicion with which Canning was viewed by the other ministers. At one point the Whigs prepared a list of senior offices they wished to hold – Lansdowne was to be Home Secretary and Leader of the Lords, and they were to receive many other offices relating to Ireland – but when Canning rejected this, the Whig leaders retreated under pressure from their supporters and, in effect, offered their support in return for whatever crumbs Canning chose to give them. Curiously some leading radicals were among the strongest advocates of the rapprochement: Sir Francis Burdett, Sir Robert Wilson and Brougham himself were more associated with the wilder fringes of the party than the moderate centre of British politics. On the other hand Joseph Hume and John Cam Hobhouse held aloof while Cobbett attacked the proposed coalition with his accustomed vehemence. (Mitchell Whigs in Opposition p 184-201; Aspinall ‘The Coalition Ministries of 1827 Part 1: Canning’s Ministry’ p 201-211). In the end Canning took office with assurances of goodwill from the Whigs but no formal agreement, and talks continued throughout April, resulting in a trickle of Whigs taking office individually rather than as a party. Among the first and symbolically most important was that of the Duke of Devonshire as Lord Chamberlain; while William Lamb, the future Lord Melbourne, became Chief Secretary for Ireland. Later appointments included Tierney as Master of the Mint, Carlisle at Woods and Forests and, in July, Lansdowne as Home Secretary with Spring Rice as his undersecretary but without the lead in the Lords, which was retained by Robinson, now Viscount Goderich. This left the Whigs still very under-represented in the ministry compared to their strength in the Commons, and Brougham’s loud and repeated protestations that he would not claim any office in deference to the King’s personal objection to him made obvious to everyone that his noble self-sacrifice had a limited shelf life. (For a nice example of the tensions created by the junction within the Whig Party see the exchange between Sefton and Creevey in Creevey Papers p 459-61).
Tory Complaints of Press Bias:
Mr Arbuthnot wrote to Peel on 17 April 1827: ‘It has occurred to me that Street, who used to conduct the ‘Courier’, might be most useful if we look to the Press, and this must be done, unless we are to abandon the whole game. What I am anxious about is that the Duke should be justified and set right with the world. There is a great disposition to find fault with his abandonment of the army’ (Parker Peel vol 1 p 482). Mrs Arbuthnot followed this up on the 19th: ‘We are both of us in a fury about the Press, and at the shameless abuse of the Duke. It is really too bad, and I do hope some steps will be taken to get us at least one paper’ (ibid p 483).
Wellington protests that he is ineligible to be PM:
It is interesting that Mrs Arbuthnot was nothing dangerous or surprising in this passage of the speech, commenting that:
He spoke with a feeling that was quite touching of the pleasure it had been to him to find himself, by his command of the army, again united with his old colleagues, & that he must have been worse than mad to have wished to change from that high station, for which he felt himself fit and qualified, for one as Prime Minister, for which he was perfectly unfit & chiefly because he was aware he cd not address their Lordships in a manner & with the ability which a leader in that House ought to do. The press generally felt, while he was making this declaration, that he was proving himself perfectly fit; & I never heard in the House of Lords such loud & general cheering as his address called forth. (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 5 May 1827 vol 2 p 115).
Canning attempted to capitalize on the point in his letter of 5 May:
Your Grace emphatically says that your being at the head of the government was “wholly out of the question”.
I learn this opinion of your Grace’s with sincere pleasure. The union of the whole power of the State, civil and military, in the same hands (for your Grace, as Prime Minister, could never have effectually diversted yourself of your influence over the army) would certainly, in my opinion, have constituted a station too great for any subject, however eminent, or however meritorious, and one incompatible with the practice of a free constitution. Nothing would have induced me to serve under such a form of government, but I am rejoiced to find that your Grace’s opinion was always against such an arrangement. But I confess I am surprised that such being your Grace’s fixed opinion, it should nevertheless have been proposed to me, as it was, more than once, and up to 9th of April inclusive, to concur in placing your Grace at the head of the government. (Canning to Wellington 5 May 1827 WND vol 4 p 16-20).
To which Wellington replied:
In respect to myself, I did say in the House of Lords that I had always considered myself out of the question, as his Majesty also had, when speaking to me of the arrangements to be made for filling the office vacated by the affliction visited upon us all in the person of Lord Liverpool.
Considering myself out of the question, on account of the painful professional sacrifices I should have had to make in relinquishing the office of Commander-in-Chief, and still more on account of the want of personal qualification necessary, in my opinion, to enable any man to perform the duties of the head of the government to the advantage of his Majesty and to his own honour, it is not necessary that I should discuss whether a high military reputation is or is not a disqualification for office’. (Wellington to Canning 6 May WND vol 4 p 20-26).
Wellington clearly had the better of the exchange, and effectively softened his statement that he was ineligible to be prime minister by pointing to the sacrifices it would entail; but it is worth noting that he here conceded that he could not combine the Horse Guards and the Treasury, something which he would contest in the following January. (Colchester says Canning showed his letter to all his friends and indicated that he intended to publish it before he received Wellington’s answer, then quickly dropped it, Abbot Diary 15 May 1827 vol 3 p 500).
Peel’s defence of Wellington:
The relevant passage in Hansard evidently loses something but is still worth reading,
As to dictation, also, I declare that the charge is not only untrue, but directly the reverse of the truth. There was no attempt to dictate to his majesty by any one of the late ministers. I can assert it with respect to myself, with respect to the Lord Chancellor, and with respect to that illustrious individual whose name is stamped for ever on the records of immortality – that man who is not more remarkable for the brillancy of his military exploits than for the simplicity and singleness of his nature – that man whose candour and openness are habitual; and who is distinguished not only for the respect he bears for the kingly office, but, above all, for the devotion and attachment which he feels for the person of the sovereign. When I see it charged, after the services he had rendered his country, that for the base purpose of office he has acted in a way so unworthy, the accusation seems so shameful in its injustice, and so revolting in its ingratitude hat I can scarcely trust myself to speak of it. (Parliamentary Debates n.s. vol 17 1 May 1827 col 410).
Wellington out of office:
Lady Cowper, who was an enthusiastic supporter of Canning’s government, but also an old friend of Wellington’s, told her brother Frederick in May 1827 that the ‘Duke [of] W[ellington] says he likes being out of office, very well to say, but one is not bound to believe; indeed I am quite sure he will return the first oment he can do it with credit, and the present arrangement [of the Command-in-Chief] is full of difficulty but merely kept to for the purpose of letting him in time return to his post. I wish he had never gone, for do what he will, the return will always have a foolish and awkward appearance.’ (Lady Cowper to Frederick Lamb 11 May  Letters of Lady Palmerson p 167-8).
A further complication was that Colchester – a former Speaker of the Commons – advised Wellington against any amendment, arguing that they were money bills and so exempt from amendment in the Lords. (Colchester to Wellington 31 May 1827 Abbot Diary vol 3 p 513-14). Wellington evidently disregarded this advice, which would surely have curtailed the power of the Lords very narrowly, and though it was raised in the press (and presumably in debate) the Lords, by their action, showed that if the Commons had any such pretension, the Lords were not willing to accept it. The point may have added to the feeling in the debate.
Lord Grey’s attack on Canning, 10 May 1827:
In the course of a heated debate on the new administration Grey, who was feeling hurt and dismayed by the coalescence of the Whigs with the government, made a long, devastating personal attack on Canning in the Lords. (Parliamentary Debates n.s. vol 17 col 720-733. There is a good summary of it and discussion in E. A. Smith’s Lord Grey p 243-5). This caused a sensation but did not stop the drift of whigs into Canning’s orbit; however it revived Grey’s reputation and when the mood changed after Canning’s death it was easier for the Whigs to fall back because they could reunite with him.
Grey subsequently (19 June) defended Wellington from ‘caluminous aspersions’ and, on behalf of the Lords as a whole, resented Canning’s attack on their House (Parliamentary Debates n.s. vol 17 col 1391-8).
This led to much more friendly relations between Grey and the Tories – Bathurst stayed with him in the autumn which led to rumours of a political alliance. That was nonsense, but there was more civility and mutual respect than previously. Wellington had always had a high opinion of Grey’s talent, while disagreeing with his opinions (for example Creevey Papers p 286).
According to Creevey, writing on 18 June after calling on Lord and Lady Grey, ‘You never saw two poor creatures more sore than they are at all the abuse he meets with from the Whigs … Lady Grey said to me, “Now, Mr Creevey, having been here a week, is your opinion of Lord Grey’s conduct as favourable as when you came?” Only think of their being driven to this, and only from his having acted an honest part. Whilst the rest of his party have been mean knaves’ (Creevey Life and Times p 240-1).
The Pitt Club Dinner:
There is a more detailed account, reprinted from a London paper (presumably) in the Hull Packet of 5 June 1827, which has Wellington breaking down with emotion as he returned thanks in his speech.
Newcastle was not a member of the club, never having considered himself a Pittite, but attended the grand dinner in London on Pitt’s birthday (28 May) on receiving a pressing invitation ‘in order to assist in rallying people under the standard of the Constitution’. He recorded that there were between 300 and 400 people present, with a further hundred refused tickets for want of room. ‘No meeting could have gone off better – loyalty, constitutional zeal & honest warmth were most unequivocally manifested throughout the Evening’. He adds: ‘the plaudits of the Duke of Wellington [,] Lord Eldon & Mr Peel were enthusiastick, if there was a difference I should think that Lord Eldon was the first favourite’ (Newcastle Unrepentant Tory 28 May 1827 p 30). Tories across the country were naturally unhappy with the coverage of politics in the press and The Courier, which had represented their views for years, paid dearly for its decision to support Canning’s administration rather than the ministerial seccessionists. Reading rooms all over the country cancelled their subscription in protest and The Courier never properly recovered. (Aspinall Politics and the Press p 218).
Canning’s death: what if …?
Supposing Canning had died or been incapacitated in February and Liverpool in August, what then? Of course we can’t know but it is not hard to see how the administration might have continued. Here is one possible list:
First Lord of the Treasury Bathurst
MGO and C in C Wellington
Home Sec & Leader govt in Commons Peel
Lord Chancellor Eldon to make way for Lyndhurst in another year or two
Foreign Secretary Aberdeen
Sec for War & Colonies Huskisson
Lord President of Council Fred Robinson as Viscount Goderich (Harrowby wanted to retire)
President of the Board of Control Palmerston
Chancellor of the Exchequer Goulburn (Bathurst liked working with him)
Melville, Westmorland and Bexley unchanged, or drop Bexley for Lord Wellesley (which would increase the number of Catholics in Cabinet).
Sec at War (outside the Cabinet) Hardinge
Chief Sec for Ireland William Lamb
William Lamb may not have been acceptable, especially to Peel, unless there was a ‘Protestant’ Lord Lieutenant.
Would Palmerston have been satisfied with India & Cabinet?
Would Aberdeen have been thought of for the F.O? Presumably as Wellington thought of him in 1828.
Who would have taken Board of Trade? Charles Grant took it under Goderich, Vesey Fitzgerald succeeded him. Neither very inspiring.
Other lists can easily be compiled, but the essential point is that it might well have been possible to construct a broadly based administration on much the same basis as Liverpool’s if Canning had left the scene before Liverpool.
The King does not send for Wellington:
On 31 August Huskisson told Granville, ‘I distinctly gave him [the King] to understand that I could not sit in a cabinet with those who had harried Canning to his doom; and that if my own feelings would admit of it, I should be of no use, as I should be abandoned by every one of Canning’s personal and political friends. The wound is too recent and too green’ (quoted in Aspinall ‘The Coalition Ministries of 1827 Part 2 The Goderich Ministry’ English Historical Review vol 42 no 168 October 1927 p 540-1).
Aspinall (ibid p 533) repeats a rumour that Wellington went to stay with Lord Maryborough at Windsor in expectation of a summons. This is nonsense: there are letters from him written from Stratfield Saye on 9 & 10 August (Wellington and His Friends p 74 & 75) and another to Lady Shelley dated 12th also from Stratfield Saye (Diary of Lady Shelley vol 2 p 162). On 14th Lord Maryborough wrote to Wellington from London replying to a letter he received the previous morning and commenting that at dinner the previous day at Fern Hill [Windsor] the only reference to Wellington was someone asking where he was (WND vol 4 p 94).
Wellington views were expressed in his letter of 9 August to Mrs Arbuthnot: ‘I think Mr Canning’s Death has been premature. The Mischief he has done and was likely to do had not yet been apparent to the World. The King has not yet felt all the inconveniences to himself of the Step he took in April. He hates Peel and me…’ (Wellington and His Friends p 74-75).
And Palmerston confirms the King’s attitude: ‘The King has certainly no wish to go back to the Tories whom he still has in dudgeon. He resents the D. of Wellington’s hardness as he calls it, and there was some angry explanation between him & Peel when the latter went out which the King has not yet forgiven – besides he hates being troubled & he knows that a change in such a direction would bring a great deal of trouble upon him’ (Palmerston to Laurence Sulivan, 27 August 1827, Palmerston-Sulivan Letters p 198). Lady Cowper agrees: ‘The K[ing] is as bitter as ever against the Tories, and has not at all forgiven the D[uke] of W[ellingto]n.’ (Lady Cowper to her brother Frederick Lamb 28 August  Letters of Lady Palmerson p 174).
Mrs Arbuthnot’s description of the government:
On the 8th August when she knew Canning was dying, Mrs Arbuthnot wrote:
It is impossible to guess what the King will do, whether he will attempt to go on with the present heterogeneous mass or have recourse to his old Ministers. I do not think he will come to us if he possibly can help it, but it appears to me that the others are so weak that a Govt formed by them would be quite laughable. Ld Lansdowne is merely a sensible man & shewed himself quite incapable in the H. of Lords as a Minister; Mr Tierney, the only clever one amongst them, is above 70, with bad health; Ld Harrowby is an old woman, ditto Ld Bexley, ditto Mr Wynne; Lord Goderich has no character at all; Ld Anglesey is a blustering, wrong-headed soldier; Lord Palmerston, tho’ sensible & clever, is always quarreling with every body, & the Duke of Portland (who is mentioned as the future Prime Minister) is entierement nul’. (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot, 8 August 1827 vol 2 p 135).
Wellington’s objections to governments of Canning & Goderich:
‘Memorandum – Comparison between Mr Canning’s Government and that of Lord Goderich’ n.d. [by Wellington] WND vol 4 p 179-80:
These are some of the grounds of separation from Mr Canning. Those of some, the Roman Catholic question; those of others, mistrust of Mr Canning in the situation of First Minister, particularly when separated from others of his late colleagues; those of others, the false pretences on which his government was formed: that in the presence of the King it was Protestant, in the presence of his Whig and other supporters it was Roman Catholic, and that upon the whole it was not calculated to conciliate the confidence and support of the gentlemen of the country.
There were other objections to Mr Canning, principally of a personal nature: such as his temper; his spirit of intrigue; the facility with which he espoused the most extravagant doctrines if the Reformers and Radicals, although himself the great champion of Anti-Reform; and his avowed hostility to the great landed aristocracy of the country. Indeed it was this disposition in his mind which rallied to his support all the Radicals in the country, and the discontented throughout Europe and the Press; and occasioned, fostered, and augmented the mistrust and dislike of the great aristocracy of the country.
It will be curious to examine how far Lord Goderich stands in the same predicament. He does so in respect to the Roman Catholic question. Indeed I believe that Lord Goderich has been more in earnest upon this question than Mr Canning was.
But there can be no mistrust Lord Goderich’s intentions: there may be of his talents and fitness for his situation.
His government is founded upon false pretences equally with that of Mr Canning. There is in the Cabinet avowedly a majority of members of the Roman Catholic opinion; and they tell the King that the Roman Catholic question shall not be carried. How must they avoid it? by an agreement among themselves that it shall not be proposed. Will they proclaim this agreement to Parliament and the public? If they keep it concealed, as they must, they will be acting under a false pretence.
There will not be against Lord Goderich the same personal objections as against Mr Canning. It is true that he will be supported, for a time at least, by the Radicals here, and applauded by the discontented all over the world; but this will be as the friendly successor, and because he lends himself to keep out of office those who resigned rather than serve with Mr Canning, and those whose position and strength in Parliament kept him in check’.
There is a good account of the battles over Herries appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Aspinall ‘Coalition Ministries’ p 537-9.
Palmerston – who was put forward as an alterative – actually supported Herries, praised his ability (and even his integrity) and thought that his views would be so outweighed on points of difference that it was foolish of the Whigs to make such a fuss. (Letters to the Sulivans p 192-200 especially 195-7 – integrity on p 195 and 194).
Palmerston also says that when Canning was alive he was so burdened with all his other work that ‘Herries was substantially though not nominally Chancellor of the Exchequer’ (ibid p 194).
Against this, he did have very strong contexts with the Tory Opposition (see Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot).
As for the allegations that he had improper connections with Rothschilds, such charges were commonplace especially when it came to politicians of humble origins, and similar claims were made about Huskisson. Nonetheless it does seem that Herries was very close to Rothschild, and that in all probability he did benefit financially. On the other hand he standards of the time were somewhat flexible in this regard: it is pretty clear that Metternich and other Continental Statesmen had large personal stakes in the French loans that were affected by the negotiations at Aix la Chapelle; while George IV’s financial expedients, and those of Sir William Knighton as well, were not exactly impeachable. Standards of personal probity had been rising ever since the middle of the Eighteenth Century but had yet to reach their Victorian zenith, which in turn lasted for the best part of a century before declining sharply in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
Even Huskisson admitted that, ‘Holland has too many wild notions, both of foreign and domestic policy, to make it safe to commit to him the leading direction: and the sober part of the public have a great dread of seeing him in a situation of real power’. (Huskisson to Granville 8 January 1828 quoted in Aspinall ‘Ministers of 1827 Goderich Ministry’ p 556).
Anglesey conveys the offer of command of the Army to Wellington:
According to Palmerston’s autobiography, quoted in Evelyn’s Life vol 1 p 120, Anglesey ‘travelled without stopping, arrived, at some country house in the west, where the Duke was staying, about three in the morning, found the Duke in full uniform, just come home from some fancy ball, obtained his immediate acceptance, and arrived with it at Windsor while we were sitting in Council …
‘Lord Anglesey said to us, “Well, gentlemen, I have done what you sent me to do. I have brought you the Duke of Wellington’s acceptance as Commander-in-Chief; and by God, mark my words, as sure as you are alive, he will trip up all your heels before six months are over your heads’.
Wellington’s Return to the Horse Guards:
The difficulty of Wellington’s position as Commander in Chief and a leader of the Opposition would have become much more evident if Goderich’s government had survived to the meeting of parliament. It is hard to be sure, but it seems likely that he would have had to take a rather less prominent position in debates; but it is unclear how he would have handled questions which had come to him officially as Commander in Chief. (For example: if the ministers had persisted in reducing the army would he have been able to oppose this without first resigning? He was not a member of cabinet or a responsible minister, but he did serve the crown and might show a conflict between responsible and irresponsible advisors of the King).
Politically his position would have been much stronger if he had followed Mrs Arbuthnot’s advice and told Goderich that he would accept only on the understanding that this would not inhibit his ability to oppose the government. Even this would not have been enough to protect him from attack in the press. The risk may have been worth taking with a weak prime minister like Goderich, but it would have been very dangerous with Canning. Mrs Arbuthnot’s comment on 7 September, after their reconciliation, is worth quoting:
I am quite sure that he is de bonne foi & I have no doubt he will so manage as to act honourably & fairly; but (tho’ I did not say it again as I felt it was offensive & of no use) I am still of opinion it wd have been more fair by the Govt. he is to serve, as well as by his own friends, if he had stated more explicitly to Lord Goderich that he wd not accept it but upon condition of entire independence in politics. He wd then have left to them the choice of taking him on those terms or not, whereas how they may (& certainly will if they became strong & dare) insist on his not opposing, & it is not quite fair, I think to act in a manner that can only be tolerated by an impotent govt without having given fair notice’. (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 7 September 1827 vol 2 p 140).
Similar comments were made by Melville and Peel: ‘His position however must be awkward and uncomfortable, at least during the session of Parliament, & I do not understand how he will be able to steer such a course as will not give the Government a handle against him, though I have no doubt that Ld Goderich intends to act fairly & honestly towards him’. (Melville to Charles Arbuthnot, Private, 19 August 1827 Correspondence of Charles Arbuthnot p 92-93). And:
my own opinion remains unchanged, that he ‘could not without loss of character have refused the offer which was made to him – but at the same time I much doubt whether he will be able, having accepted the command, to stir a step in opposition to the King’s Government. I do not mean that he will be bound to support it on every question indiscriminately – on questions for instance totally unconnected with his office. But can he, being the highest military authority in the country and holding the highest military office, speak and vote against the measures of the Administration on a question of foreign policy involving military considerations? I doubt it …’ (Peel to Charles Arbuthnot 17 September 1827 Correspondences of Charles Arbuthnot p 94-95).
Arbuthnot told Peel that Wellington ‘said to me that the course which he should pursue would be seen on the first day of the Session, meaning thereby that he should go and sit with his old colleagues. And he also told me that he should oppose the Government whenever he disapproved of its measures, and he particularly referred to the Greek and Portuguese questions’ (Arbuthnot to Peel 2 September 1827 Parker’s Peel vol 2 p 19-20).
When did Wellington resume command of the army?
Like many such apparently simple questions this is more complicated than it sounds. Goderich and the King both wrote to Wellington asking him to accept the command on 15 August 1827 and Wellington wrote accepting on the 17th (WND vol 4 p 95-97). His appointment was announced in the press on 20 August (The Times 20 August 1827). He was at Windsor and kissed hands on 20th or 21st August. His appointment is dated 22 August and was published in the London Gazette on 24 August. The date of 27 August given in Wellington: the Path to Victory p 595 appears to be erroneous.
The Times and Wellington’s Command of the Army:
The approval of The Times did not last for long. On 19 October it printed a letter signed ‘Verax’ which accused him of favouritism in promotions, specifically that of Lord Mountcharles – son of Lord Conynham who had just been promoted Major and placed on half pay. The letter praised Palmerston’s fair, honourable and impartial discharge of his duties and, for good measure accused Wellington of ‘insubordination and ingratitude’ in resigning the command in April. Wellington took legal advice and was told that the article probably was libellous, but that on the whole prosecution appeared unwise. (J. Gurney to Wellington 26 October 1827 WP 1/899/13).
Wellington, the Government, and the Army:
Even before Wellington resumed the command of the army, indeed while Canning was still alive, Palmerston asked the Duke to comment on proposals for a large reduction in the army. Wellington replied on 4 August with a long memorandum which methodically went through the existing distribution of the army across the globe and concluded that most colonial garrisons had already been cut to a bare minimum or below, that the number of troops in Ireland could not be reduced without risking disturbances, and that those in Britain were already insufficient and overworked. Humanity and efficiency required that troops serving overseas be relived at regular intervals, and this meant that several battalions would be in transit or preparing to sail every year. (Wellington was hardly extravagant in his demand here: he was willing to see regiments serve for up to ten years at a stretch in India, but in the past they had sometimes been left there for more than twenty years). He concluded that there was no room for any significant reduction and pointed out that previous reductions made since 1817 had proved costly mistakes, having to be reversed at considerable expense. While the memorandum was entirely professional and apolitical in tone as well as content it gave the ministers fair warning of the opposition they were likely to face if they persisted in any large reduction. Further discussions proved surprisingly cordial and productive with Wellington assuring Goderich that he would do anything he could to help the government save money and approving a plan to keep some regiments a little under-strength rather than reduce their establishments. With the regular army thus largely protected, the full weight of the government’s economizing fell on the Yeomanry. Funding was abolished to any corps which had not been employed in the past ten years, which reduced the establishment by more than half: from 24,288 officers and men to only 10,705. The cuts fell most heavily in southern counties with the result that the civil authorities would lack the support they needed when the ‘Captain Swing’ disturbances broke out in 1830. (Palmerston to Wellington 1 August 1827; Wellington to Goderich 25 August enclosing a copy of Wellington to Palmerston 4 August 1827 WND vol 4 p 104; 106-118; Goderich to Huskisson 10 October 1827 Huskisson Papers p 247; Beckett Amateur Military Tradition p 132-133).
Wellington nearly quarrelled with the ministers over the appointment of a new Commander-in-Chief in India to follow Lord Combermere. He had no objection to their final nomination, Lord Dalhousie, but felt the need to defend the role of the Commander-in-Chief in the nomination process: a view which was more than justified by the ministers initially offering the command to Sir Herbert Taylor who displayed his customary modesty, discretion and good sense in declining a position for which he had neither the requisite seniority nor experience. (Wellington to Huskisson 8 October, Huskisson to the King 10 October, Huskisson to Goderich 10 October, Palmerston to Huskisson 10 October 1827 Huskisson Papers p 247-253; Taylor to Wellington 12 and 19 August 1827 WND vol 2 p 82-83, 100-101).
Wellington also intervened to block an attempt by Lord Anglesey and the King to appoint Richard Hussey Vivian, to the command of the forces in Ireland. Vivian was a dashing hussar who had served in the final year of the war in the Peninsula and in the Waterloo Campaign; he was also a Whig MP, ‘a dear friend & toady of Lord Anglesey’s’, and had been both an ADC and equerry to the King when Prince Regent. But the Irish command was one of the most important and delicate positions in the service, and Vivian was only a major-general with no experience or obvious ability to equip him for the situation. Nor does there appear to have been a vacancy, for George Murray had only been appointed in 1825, although it is possible that the idea of sending Vivian to Ireland was part of a scheme for a more extensive reshuffle of military commands. (Although thwarted in 1827 Vivian was given the command in 1831 although by then he had been promoted to lieutenant-general. Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 24 October 1827 vol 2 p 146. Mrs Arbuthnot’s opinion of Vivian was probably influenced by her brother Lieutenant General Sir Henry Fane who was, she reported, ‘furious’ at the proposed appointment).
Proposed reduction in the Army:
Bathurst wrote to Arbuthnot in September: ‘if they persist in their intention of reducing the army to the extent talked of, it may become a serious question with the Duke whether he ought not to do something more decisive than protesting against it. Even Lord Grey told me that a great reduction at the present moment would be impolitic, & you may be quite sure that it goes much against the King’s wishes’ (Bathurst to Arbuthnot, Private, 16 September 1827 Correspondences of Charles Arbuthnot p 93-94).
Limited contact between Wellington and the Ministers:
Wellington’s contact with the government was limited almost exclusively to official business and it did not result in any real rapprochement. On 1 September he told Eldon,
In my opinion they, equally with the late administration [i.e. Canning’s], are falsehood personified. To the world they are all liberality; they are supported by the Liberals throughout the world, and by the Radicals in England, upon that principle; to the Throne, the Church, and the friends of the Monarchy, they are for supporting the old principles of policy on which the monarchy is founded. There must be among the members of this administration some secret bargain upon certain questions, which, like all secret bargains, will not bear public discussion. Then they are too weak to undertake any measure for the public interest; and the individuals in public business and unable to execute the duty of their several offices. (Wellington to Eldon 1 September 1827 WND vol 4 p 121-22 see also Wellington to Sir G. Murray 4 September 1827 ibid p 122-4 and Memorandum – Comparison between Mr Canning’s Government and that of Lord Goderich 1827 ibid p 179-80, and Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 20 September 1827 vol 2 p 143).
State of Politics in the autumn of 1827:
Billy Holmes, the Tory whip, gave his considered assessment in early September:
My own opinion is that the Government will blow up on some point of Government or principle long before Parliament meets. The Portuguese, Greek, & army reduction measures afford a fine prospect of difference of opinion, & if the Tories will only take up a position on the neutral territory, & form a corps of observation without (in the first instance) going into decided opposition, they will soon overthrow these people. A regular Tory Opposition cannot be formed, because there is no leader. Peel, tho’ able & high-minded, is too selfish, too proud, & haughty in his manner to have a personal following, & he is disliked by the King. He lost himself very much in the last session by his constantly talking about himself & his criminal laws, & you may rely upon it, that whenever this Government drops, the Duke of Wellington will be sent for & not Peel’. (Holmes to Mrs Arbuthnot 6 September 1827 Correspondence of Charles Arbuthnot p 93).
The Treaty of London and the St Petersburg Protocol:
When the Treaty was criticized, both at the time it was signed and after Navarino, its advocates suggested that it simply built on the St Petersburg Protocol. Crawley Question of Greek Independence p 76-77 has a good discussion of the Treaty and its implications: the main body of the Treaty was very similar to the Protocol: the difference was in the additional article which envisaged the use of naval force to separate the belligerents, but – in theory – not to use force.
Wellington was clearly concerned to distance himself from the Treaty: there is a detailed comparison of Treaty and Protocol in WND vol 4 p 57-62, and an undated Memorandum by Wellington setting out how little he knew of the negotiations over the Treaty ibid p 142-44. Bathurst commented, after studying the Protocol, that nothing in it ‘gives it a compulsory character. Whether Mr Canning has succeeded in his dispatches to give it that appearance is more than I can say, but I am sure the stipulations are free of it’. (Bathurst to Wellington 27 October 1827 WND vol 4 p 140). This letter and probably the two other documents, pre-date Navarino.
Mrs Arbuthnot’s view of the Treaty was at least as hostile as Bathurst’s
In their foreign affairs our wise ministers seem likely to have built a wall to run their heads against. They have made a Triple Alliance with France & Russia to force the Turks to accept our interference between them & the Greeks, which the Turks have uniformly declared they will not allow. We have presented an ultimatum & if it is not complied with in 15 days we are, I suppose, to go to war. The Reis Effendi received the ultimatum with great contempt & did not even read it. We pressed the internuncio to urge an acceptance of the ultimatum; he declined to interfere (indeed the Porte is supposed to be guided by Metternich) &, when the Prussian Minister spoke to that effect, the Reis Effendi replied that it was a bill of exchange that could not be honoured. Certainly, if Mr Canning’s policy in this business is right, we have all been wrong for centuries. It has always been our policy to protect the Porte against the encroachment of Russia, and most especially the prevent the Russians having a fleet in the Mediterranean, and with the same views we have been the allies of the Austrian Court, whose interest it is, even more than ours, to oppose the aggrandizement of Russia at the expense of the Porte. Mr Canning has formed an alliance with France & Russia (our natural enemies because maritime powers) to force a measure on the Turks, which we are pretty sure will be resisted, & the rejection of which will least to a war by which the French & Russians have every thing to gain & we absolutely nothing … all this to procure the independence as it is called of a horde of savages who, when they have no one else to rob, will plunder one another. We are interfering both between a sovereign, with whom we are at peace, and his rebellious subjects &, to crown the whole, we are endeavouring to excite the Pasha of Egypt to declare himself independent of the Porte! This is the one single measure of Mr Canning’s Govt. I doubt we shall smart for it. (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot September 1827 vol 2 p 143-144).
Huskisson was scarcely, if at all, more sympathetic to the Greeks, telling Granville on 9 October ‘the Greek leaders have lost the good opinion of all classes in England, and richly do they deserve to lose it. Never was such a picture of low villainy and sordid baseness, united to the most furious passion as those miscreants exhibit in colours that must be genuine – their own intercepted letters which Adam had recently sent me’. (Huskisson Papers p 246).
The Russian naval squadron:
The squadron sailed on 22 June, reached Portsmouth on 8 August where it refitted, taking a fortnight. (Crawley Question of Greek Independence p 76n). According to Dakin the commander of the Russian squadron Count Heyden was a Dutchman who had served in the Royal Navy (Struggle for Greek Independence p 227). Dakin says the Russians arrived in the middle of October (ibid p 227). Crawley says that of the three admirals Rigny, the Frenchman, was the most cautious and Heyden eager for action; while it is also clear that Codrington needed little urging forward (Crawley Question of Greek Independence p 90).
Bathurst commented to Wellington, ‘When Lord Melville appointed Sir Edward Codrington to the command in the Mediterranean (by the suggestion of Sir George Cockburn), I told him that I was afraid he might be hasty, though a gallant and excellent officer. Unless, therefore, his instructions on this occasion were very precise, it could not but be expected that one with such a character, and anxious as well as able to distinguish himself, should lend himself too readily to an exploit which it was the object of Russia should be achieved’. (Bathurst to Wellington 16 November 1827 WND vol 4 p 159-60).
Reactions to Navarino:
Wellington told Eldon: ‘I quite agree with you respecting this melancholy affair of Navarino; as usual the blame is laid upon us, and principally upon me. But I think we are as far from having any concern in this transaction as the moon is from being like a cream cheese!’ (Wellington to Eldon 1 December 1827 WND vol 4 p 164).
‘Dudley was puzzled and alarmed. … Even the rejoicing of the liberal press was cautious … Reports from Russia described the Russian army as prepared to enter the Principalities at a moment’s notice. Just as in the autumn of 1825, the Tsar travelled southward and war was expected. All the English ministers were agreed on the necessity either of advancing or else of retreating, but they could not agree on a policy …’ (They did get the Russians to commit to no conquests if it came to war). ‘Esterhazy thus described the Cabinet divisions: Huskisson, Lansdowne and Tierney in the front rank for pushing on, then Dudley, Goderich and the Chancellor, with the rest reluctant or rebellious’. (Crawley Question of Greek Independence p 95-96).
Neumann is good on the hostility of the Ministerial press to Austria, blaming it for everything going wrong, and adds ‘The Ministers are at loggerheads. The Whig party wishes to push things to extremities with the Porte, while the more moderate party opposes this; unfortunately the latter is composed only of the Marquess of Anglesey, Lord Bexley and Mr Herries’ (Diary of Philip von Neumann vol 1 p 180 7, 8, 9 & 14 December 1827 (quote from 9 December)).
Creevey summarized De Ros: ‘Nothing can equal the consternation of the Ministers, that they heave Cabinet Councils every other hour, that the Ambassadors are at one another’s doors all day long, that Esterhazy runs about Town like a wild cat, and that Dudley’s frame is so diminished from the united impression made upon it by the Turk, and the tender passion, and with the fear of Earl Grey always before his eyes, that his face is scarcely visible to the naked eye’ (Creevey Life and Times p 255-6).
The Turkish Reaction:
Crawley Question of Greek Independence p 92-93 is brief but useful on the Turkish reaction – very controlled, intimidated by angry. Wellington and Mrs Arbuthnot both commented with approval on this moderation: Wellington to Eldon 1 December 1827 WND vol 4 p 164; Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 2 December 1827 vol 2 p 148.
The Fall of Goderich’s Government:
On 26 December Huskisson told Goderich: ‘I must frankly own to you, that I have seen so much within the last ten days which bears the appearance of drawing different ways, and of looking to some separate interest, that I no longer feel safe, and am quite sick of my situation. I should be most thankful to anyone that would get me out of it, without the discredit of appearing to run away …’ (Huskisson Papers p 269-70). And again, ‘You really ought to know that it is the opinion of every one of our colleagues, with whom I have felt myself at liberty to communicate, that the thing cannot go on; and that this opinion, I am assured, is echoed by those of all parties, including more especially men in minor, but very influential offices of the Government’ (same to same n.d. but by implication 26 or 27 December 1827 ibid p 270-1).
© Rory Muir