Commentary Explorer Results
Commentary for Volume 1, Chapter 11 : Return to England (Sept 1805 – March 1807)
Date of AW’s return to England:
AW reached England on 10 September 1805. This is based on the report dated Deal, 10 September in The Times of the 12th which reported the safe arrival ‘this day’ of the India fleet under Rainier’s escort. Gurwood Wellington’s Dispatches vol 1 p xvii says he landed on the 11th, which is possible, while William Page RN – quoted in Oliver Warner’s ‘Wellington meets Nelson’ p 127 – says it was 12 September, which is almost certainly wrong, for AW was in London on that day.
AW’s meeting with Nelson:
In later years Wellington gave at least two accounts of this meeting: to Croker in 1834 and to James Hall in 1836. Edgar Vincent Nelson. Love and Fame p 556-7 doubts whether Wellington’s recollections give a fair or accurate picture of Nelson, and it needs to be remembered that Wellington was speaking casually, not knowing that his conversation would be preserved in writing. There is, however, some confirmation that the meeting took place (and that it was at the Foreign Office, not at Lord Castlereagh’s as Wellesley thought) in The Times of 14 Sept 1805.
James Hall was an amateur portrait painter and brother of Basil Hall, the celebrated travel writer. He recorded his account of his visit to Walmer as soon as he returned to London, and as he had little other connection with Wellington, and was not writing for publication, he may fairly be regarded as an independent and impartial witness. Naturally there are many minor differences between his account and Croker’s – they were recording different conversations, two years apart – but the broad similarity suggests that Wellington’s recollection was fairly consistent; although, as Vincent points out, this does not mean that it was accurate.
Hall records Wellington as saying,
I never met Nelson but once; it was shortly before the battle of Trafalgar. I had just returned from India & was waiting one day in the waiting room of one of the Secretaries of State when Lord Nelson joined me there. I knew him from the prints in the shop windows, and from his being maimed, and I think he had lost an eye. He did not know me, but we got into a conversation which lasted an hour or two. The news of Sir Robt. Calder’s affair of the two ships taken off Ferrol was then recent. I said to him (& you know he was fond of that sort of compliment): “That won’t do nowadays. Your Lordship has taught the public to expect something more brilliant!” Presently he left the room, evidently to enquire who I was, and returning in a minute, he renewed our conversation on a fresh footing. His head was then full of some project for the occupation of Sardinia, and he wished me to take charge of the troops on the occasion. But I said I would rather not, I had just returned from India & so on. (W. M. Parker ‘A Visit to the Duke of Wellington’ Blackwood’s Magazine vol 256 Aug 1944 p 80-1).
Although James Hall did not publish this account, it was incorporated by his brother Basil in a review of Barrow’s Life of Richard, Earl Howe in the Edinburgh Review vol 67 no 136 July 1838 p 320-49 (passage on p 321-22). (Authorship of the review identified in the Wellesley Index of Victorian Periodicals)
AW’s first fortnight in London
It seems rather odd that AW should have immediately taken a house in London rather than stayed with his family or (as he did a little later) in a hotel. But perhaps, rather than a whole house, this was just a set of rooms, or that it was taken for him by one of his brothers before he arrived. It is not clear what servants he had with him (if any) or how long he kept the house. The bare fact, and nothing more, comes from Wilson A Soldier’s Marriage p 65. (Conduit Street runs between Bond St & Regent Street).
The breakfast and dinner service with extra muffin plates may suggest a desire to establish a home of his own; but it is equally possible that they were a gift perhaps something that he sent to friends in India.
Gerald Wellesley held several posts concurrently (some of which may have been largely honorary). He was Chaplain at Hampton Court, 1793-1848 – and it may be relevant that Lady Mornington was living at Hampton Court at this time (see Lady Mornington to Lord Wellesley, Hampton Court Palace, 9 January 1806, Wellesley Papers vol 1 p 186-7; WP 1/168/40/1 Lady Mornington to AW Hampton Court Palace 22 May 1807). Rector of Hampton, Middlesex 1798-1803; Rector of Staines, 1799-1809; Prebendary of Westminster, 1802-1809; Vicar of Chaddleworth, Berks. 1803-5. Rector of St Luke’s with Holy Trinity, Chelsea, 1805-1832 (Venn Alumni Cantabrigiensis vol 4 p 406).
AW was godfather to his son, Arthur Richard (died 1830) who was born between Feb 1805 and Feb 1806 and who he remembered in his 1807 will (Wilson A Soldier’s Marriage p 101
In January 1803 Lady Harriet Cavendish commented on the marriage:
Lady Emily Wellesley has not yet made her appearance, as Gerald is so anxious that she should be admired that he will not let her stir out because he does not think her in good looks. She is not quite so protecting to his beauty, as when Mama mentioned the beauty of the Wellesley family to her one morning, the first time she ever saw her, she stopped her by exclaiming “Oh! as for Gerald’s looks, I cannot boast much of them”. (quoted in Pearman The Cadogans p 71).
Hyacinthe, Lady Wellesley, told Lord Wellesley that the Prince of Wales had told her in August 1800 that “Gerald was one of the greatest roués he had ever met” (quoted in Butler Eldest Brother p 255), but Hyacinthe’s remarks are neither impartial nor scrupulously accurate.
Henry Wellesley’s marriage:
Lady Mornington wrote to Lord Wellesley:
The surprise, and, I must confess, vexation of dearest Henry’s sudden determination to marry and form the same odious connection that Gerald had done, affected my spirits beyond all description…
I believe Lady Charlotte is a good natured sort of person. It is impossible but that she must love Henry and feel that she is in a situation infinitely beyond what she could expect, therefore I hope that she will make it her study to render him happy, but I can see no charm of either person or manner mais il ne faut pas disputer les goûts, and he must certainly be a better judge than I can possibly pretend to be of what constitutes his own happiness. Lady Emily, her sister, who is a second Duchess of Zorn for enterprise, etc etc, was determined that this match should take place from the moment she heard of Henry’s arrival, and laid her plans accordingly. I can forgive Lady Charlotte, but for her I confess ’tis out of my power to get over the vexation and cruel disappointment she has occasioned me. (Anne, Countess of Mornington, to her son, Lord Wellesley, 3 Feb 1804, Diary of Henry Wellesley p 14-15).
It is not at all clear why Lady Mornington objected to the match so strongly and felt that the Cadogans were beneath her, but her judgement may not have been altogether at fault for both marriages ultimately broke down. On the other hand, such a mother-in-law would not help any marriage, and the Wellesleys as a family showed no aptitude for domestic contentment.
Hyacinthe’s account to Lord Wellesley provides an interesting confirmation of her hated mother-in-law’s verdict:
You will be astonished, my friend, to hear that M. Henry has just married the sister of Lady Emily Wellesley. She is the eldest daughter of Lord Cadogan and is neither rich nor beautiful. Poor Henry is so indolent, so lazy that I am sure it is only because he happened to meet this young person at M. Gerald’s house that he fell in love rather than because of her virtue or good looks. It seems to be decreed that none of the Wellesleys should make grand marriages …. I have always found Lady Emily very pleasant, very frank and nice to me, very different from your diablesse de mère and your false and affected sister… None of your family were present at the marriage. (23 August 1803 quoted in Butler Eldest Brother p 346-7).
Possible explanations for Lady Mornington’s disapproval include the fact that Lord Cadogan had divorced his second wife (the mother of Lady Emily and Lady Charlotte) for adultery in 1796, and that his heir – their half-brother – was insane. (At least, when he died in 1832 he had been insane ‘for more than 25 years’ – so he may or may not have been in 1803 or 4.) Details from The Complete Peerage vol 2 p 462.
Lord Wellesley’s children:
Lord Wellesley’s children were now growing up. The eldest, Richard Wellesley II, was eighteen years old and studying at Oxford, although Arthur saw him in London and described him as ‘one of the finest young men I ever met with.’ (AW to Lord Wellesley, 21 Dec 1805, WSD vol 4 p 533-41). His sisters Anne and Hyacinthe were entering into society burdened by their illegitimacy and their mother’s uncertain temper and equivocal position. But they were bright, well-educated girls, Anne with real beauty, and Hyacinthe with a sweet nature which she inherited from neither parent. Both could expect handsome dowries, and would not lack for suitors. (Butler Eldest Brother p 365-66).
Olivia Sparrow was the wife of General R. B. Sparrow. In 1806 her father was created Earl of Gosford, so she became Lady Olivia Sparrow as a courtesy title Wellington Private Correspondence p 3.
See Rosselli Lord William Bentinck p 61-2 for a vivid pen portrait of her.
AW’s correspondence from India with Olivia Sparrow about Kitty:
If Arthur had wished the affair forgotten he could easily have ended it, by responding to Mrs Sparrow’s letters with kindness, solicitude and the language of friendship. Instead he wrote that the disappointment he had met with in being rejected by the Pakenhams, ‘the object of it, and all the circumstances are fresh upon my mind, as if they passed only yesterday. How much more would they bear upon me, if I was to return to the inactivity of a home life?’ That was in 1801, and he asked Olivia to remember him to Kitty ‘in the kindest manner.’ (AW to Mrs Olivia Sparrow, n.d. 1801, Wellington Private Correspondence p 3-4, quoted with some minor variations in Wilson Soldier’s Wife p 47-8). Eighteen months passed thanks to the slow and uncertain communications between India and Ireland, but in March 1803 he wrote again, declaring that if he had received Olivia’s letter of May 1802 sooner he would have come straight home. He was then on the point of beginning his advance on Poona, but ‘I shall return to Europe as soon as I am at liberty’. And
If you could have said more I wish that you had not been so exceedingly discreet in your letter. … when you see her, only do me the favour to remember me to her in the kindest manner.
I cannot trust myself to write any more about her. Neither shall I tell you all I think about yourself. I am in earnest, however, when I assure you that I consider you as my best friend. (quoted in Wilson Soldier’s Wife p 55-56).
This hardly suggested indifference, even though more was implied than was actually said. Another eighteen months passed, and, in August 1804, having received further encouragement from Mrs Sparrow, Wellesley was much more explicit.
[My] Opinion and sentiments respecting the person in question are the same as they have ever been. They were the result of a long and intimate acquaintance, in the course of which I declare I do not recollect one action that I did not approve and that was not consistent with her character and the whole tenor of her life…. If she was consulted respecting a decision which I have never ceased to regret, I have the candour to acknowledge that she acted upon that occasion with the same discretion that has characterized her in every other action of her life.
Every time that I have heard of her since I left Europe has tended to confirm the impression which had been on my mind by the former knowledge of her and I am convinced that the enthusiasm of an admirer and the partiality of a friend cannot find words to describe all her good qualities.
I certainly think that I did not deserve such a woman and that I was treated exactly as I ought to have been when I proposed myself to her. The question is whether in the opinion of those who, if I should be bold enough to bring this subject forward again will decide, the same reasons against me do not still exist? Will public [service] be allowed as a set-off against the faults imputed to a man’s private life by scandal and calumny? Will she, whose penetration nothing can escape, believe in the affection of one against whom the scandalous world has said so much? (quoted in Wilson A Soldier’s Wife p 59-60).
Wellesley’s sensitivity to scandalous gossip about his private life may have reflected comments about his life in India (such as his affair with Mrs Freese), or it may have had something to do with the reasons the Pakenhams rejected his suit in 1793.
Only a few of the private letters relating to the courtship are printed in Wellington Private Correspondence and those are selected and framed in a way to make them appear consistent with Wellington’s later account of how he was trapped into the marriage.
The true story only emerged with the publication of Wilson’s book and the enthusiastic letters from AW in India to Olivia Sparrow.
The most probable interpretation is that advanced in the text – that AW was in love with Kitty and committed himself with only moderate, reasonable encouragement from Olivia Sparrow. However there is a possible, if unlikely, alternative: the crucial letter of August 1804 was written soon after AW had seen Mrs Sparrow’s sister, Lady William Bentinck, and she had given him a lecture berating him on his affairs and immorality (he says this much in the letter). We do not know exactly what she said, but it is possible that she told AW that everyone believed that he was committed to marry Kitty and his affairs were disgracing her. Possible, but this is not what he later told Mrs Arbuthnot, and there is no direct evidence to support it – just the circumstance that AW committed himself soon after seeing her, and was curiously defensive and agitated in his letter. Against this there is his previous letter (March 1803) which, while it doesn’t go nearly as far as the August 1804 letter, still signals a definite interest in Kitty. Nor was AW ever a man to be bullied into something like this against his will; moreover, the letter was written from Bengal i.e. not in the immediate aftermath of the lecture.
On 24 Sept 1805 AW told Olivia Sparrow: ‘I am very apprehensive that after having come from India for one purpose only, I shall not accomplish it’ (Wellington Private Correspondence p 6-7, Wilson A Soldier’s Marriage p 66).
Severn Architects of Empire p 203 dismisses the idea that AW felt ‘honour bound’ to marry Kitty as ‘utter nonsense’. But his interpretation of AW’s motives differs from that advanced in the text: ‘To hear Arthur tell of it many years later, this reunion prompted the realization that he had not used good judgement. But this marriage was not about love (something conveniently forgot with the passage of time, if indeed he ever realized it); it was about redemption.’ Surprisingly Wilson also gives some credence to this view: ‘For Arthur, this was the moment when the humiliation of his rejection by the Pakenham family was purged at last.’ (A Soldier’s Marriage p 80). Yet the evidence she prints for the first time does not support this conclusion.
Wellington’s later account of his marriage:
It is worth reading the full text of Wellington’s complaint to Mrs Arbuthnot (Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 27 June 1822 vol 1 p 168-9) to see just what a cad he could be. And this was not thirty or forty years later, but only sixteen.
That aside, it is worth noting that the core of his complaint was that Kitty’s ‘mind was trivial & contracted’. When he complains that ‘she did not understand him’ it may be meant quite literally: that Kitty was not interested in, and did not understand, politics, diplomacy and the public world which made up most of Wellington’s life: ‘that discussing political or important subjects with the Duchess was like talking Hebrew to her’. There is an implied comparison with Harriet Arbuthnot here, but think also of Joan Canning or Lady Bessborough: women who were just as engrossed in the public world as their husbands (or, in Lady Bessborough’s case, much more so).
All of which adds some, retrospective, support to the story of AW saying that he married her for her mind (Calvert Irish Beauty p 66-7); and to the supposition that he expected her to be a capable, confident, self-reliant, woman.
AW, Castlereagh and the East India Company:
AW had several meetings with Castlereagh in the first busy fortnight in London, and endeavoured to convince the minister that the Treaty of Bassein and all that flowed from it had been for the best. He was not entirely successful – the shock of Monson’s defeat was fresh in the public mind – but the impression he made on Castlereagh was highly favourable, and these meetings established a mutual regard which was to be important for the future of both men. (AW to Lord Wellesley, 21 Dec 1805, WSD vol 4 p 533-41 describes these meetings). On Castlereagh’s advice he wrote to the Chairman of the Court of Directors of the East India Company: this produced some embarrassment, for the Directors were unrelenting in their hostility to Lord Wellesley; but also some benefit, for it became clear that their hostility did not extend to Sir Arthur, who learnt that ‘I stand well with that august body.’ (AW to the Chairman of the Court of Directors, 19 and 24 Sept 1805 and reply 23 Sept, all in WSD vol 4 p 532; AW to Lord Wellesley, 21 Dec 1805 ibid vol 4 p 533-41 including the quote).
AW and Pitt:
AW saw Lord Camden at East Sheen in his first weeks home and told him, not entirely truthfully, that Lord Wellesley had been ‘but little annoyed by the insolence and vulgarity of the Court of Directors’, and, more accurately, that he had been hurt by the neglect of his friends, especially Pitt. This produced an immediate assurance from Camden that ‘Pitt certainly felt towards you [Arthur is writing to Lord Wellesley] as warmly as ever, and that he is determined to support you.’ The following day there was an invitation for Arthur Wellesley to accompany Pitt on his ride from Wimbledon to London. The Prime Minister’s health was poor, and they rode slowly, giving Wellesley ample time to explain ‘all the points in our late system in India to which objections had been made.’ Pitt responded by praising Lord Wellesley’s achievements ‘in the strongest and handsomest terms’, but doubted the wisdom of seeking a Parliamentary vote explicitly approving the Maratha War. (AW to Lord Wellesley, 21 Dec 1805, WSD vol 4 p 533-41).
Over the next few months Wellesley met Pitt on several further occasions, both in London and at Lord Camden’s house in Kent. He was present at the famous Guildhall dinner on 9 November when, in the wake of the news of the Austrian defeat at Ulm and Nelson’s triumph at Trafalgar, the Lord Mayor proposed Pitt’s health as the man who ‘had been the Saviour of England and would be the Saviour of the rest of Europe’. As AW told Stanhope years later, ‘Mr Pitt then got up, disclaimed the compliment as applied to himself, and added, England has saved herself by her exertions, and the rest of Europe will be saved by her example. That was all – he was scarcely up two minutes – yet nothing could be more perfect.’ (Stanhope Notes of Conversations with the Duke of Wellington 25 Oct 1838 p 117-118; on AW’s other meetings with Pitt, see AW to Lord Wellesley, 21 Dec 1805, WSD vol 4 p 533-41 and Stanhope, op cit p 117-8).
Pitt’s supposed opinion of AW:
In 1836 Lord Wellesley wrote an account of his last interview with Pitt when the Prime Minister was dying in January 1806. Amongst other things, Pitt had spoken of Arthur Wellesley ‘in the warmest terms of commendation. He said, “I never met in any military officer with whom it was so satisfactory to converse. He states every difficulty before he undertakes any service; but none after he has undertaken it.”‘ Unfortunately this seems rather too good to be true; and in any case, Pitt had no experience of employing Arthur Wellesley as a soldier, while the terms of praise reflect what any minister would hope to find in an general, rather than an accurate forecast of Arthur Wellesley’s behaviour. (Lord Wellesley to J. W. Croker, 22 Nov 1834 printed in Croker’s review of Wraxall’s Posthumous Memoirs of his own Time in the Quarterly Review vol 57 no 114 Dec 1836 p 491. See also Stanhope Life of Pitt vol 3 p 386. Gleig Life of Wellington p 42-3 gives a slightly different version of Pitt’s compliment and gives Sidmouth as the source of the story).
Arthur Wellesley left London before the end of September and spent almost three weeks (1-19 October) at Cheltenham, taking the waters. Here he waited the result of his overture to Kitty Pakenham, and studied the indictment of Lord Wellesley’s government of India prepared by the Court of Directors but rejected by Castlereagh, while taking the waters (which he believed helped his rheumatism), and enjoying some lively society. The Duchesse de Gontaut, a friend of his sister-in-law Katherine Wellesley-Pole, was staying in Cheltenham and she introduced him to her circle where ‘his frankness and straightforwardness [were] delightful. He told us about India, but he never spoke of his victories, of which all our letters were full; but he allowed us to question him, and the stories which we beguiled this man, who had gained to much distinction, into telling us, went straight to our hearts.’ (Duchesse de Gontaut Memoirs of the Duchesse de Gontaut vol 1 p 101. See also Muriel Wellesley The Man Wellington p 120-1).
The Memoirs of the Duchesse de Gontaut is unreliable in its details, giving a most inaccurate account of AW’s courtship and marriage. But the firsthand impression of a person may be more truthful than details of events not witnessed. See Wilson Soldier’s Marriage p 68 for details of his bill there; AW to RW, 21 Dec 1805, WSD vol 4 p 533-41 for Castlereagh sending him the Directors’ draft despatch while he was there. Wilson A Soldier’s Wife p 68 shows that he almost certainly did not meet Olivia Sparrow there, and p 66 says he ‘always believed that the spa did wonders for his health and that the fevers and rheumatism contracted years ago were greatly helped by the medicinal waters.’ In February 1806 he told Malcolm, ‘I am tolerably well in health, and shall be quite well if I can continue to spend a few weeks at Cheltenham in this summer’. (AW to Malcolm, 25 Feb 1806, WD III p 1-2).
AW and Buckingham & Grenville:
On the way to Cheltenham he had paid a short visit to his old patron, the Marquess of Buckingham, at Stowe. Buckingham was anxious that the Wellesley family should maintain their political connection with him and his brother Lord Grenville, who was now in close alliance with the Foxite Whigs in opposition to Pitt’s weak government. But apart from the Directors of the East India Company, the most strident critics of Lord Wellesley’s Indian policies were the radical Whigs. Buckingham promised that Wellesley would have the full support of his extended family; and, through Arthur, endeavoured to inflame Lord Wellesley’s resentment against Pitt for not giving him more praise and greater honours, specifically the Garter. Buckingham went on to urge, ‘that to join the opposition was the best political game of the day; and this notion was founded upon the difference of the age of the King and the Prince of Wales.’ (AW to Lord Wellesley, 21 Dec 1805, WSD vol 4 p 533-41). Arthur Wellesley clearly did not agree with this argument. Like his brothers William and Henry, his political sympathies lay with Pitt and his ministers, rather than with Buckingham, Grenville and the Opposition; but all three brothers understood that Lord Wellesley’s oldest and closest tie was to Lord Grenville.
In reporting this visit to Lord Wellesley he was rather disparaging of Buckingham, describing the visit to Stowe as a ‘bore’ and referring to its owner as ‘Bucky’, a nickname which would surely have enraged that proud nobleman. Yet he evidently concealed his feelings well, for Buckingham was delighted with the meeting, telling Lord Grenville, ‘Arthur Wellesley has passed two days with me, and has made me very happy by a most confidential and unreserved statement of his view and opinion of his brother’s line of political conduct. I cannot, of course, say more by letter on that subject, but I cannot avoid giving you this intimation of what he conceives will hardly be paused upon for many minutes. In short, I am made very happy.’ (Marquess of Buckingham to Lord Grenville, Stowe, 1 Oct 1805, HMC Dropmore vol 7 p 305-6).
This might suggest that Arthur Wellesley had been a little rash in apparently committing his brother, but Lord Wellesley had already pledged his political allegiance unequivocally to Grenville at the beginning of 1804. ‘With you I can never hold a public difference of political sentiment; and I repeat it, if we should differ essentially, I shall renounce all attendance upon Parliament and retire from the world.’ (Lord Wellesley to Lord Grenville, ‘Private’, 1 January 1804 HMC Dropmore vol 7 p 381-4). And while Grenville was pleased with Buckingham’s letter, he was well aware that loyalty in politics was seldom inexhaustible:
I rejoice very much at the account you give me of your conversation [with Arthur Wellesley]; but, at the same time, I cannot avoid entertaining great apprehension of the effect of unqualified and violent censure on one side, and on the other, praise, and defence, and protection. I am very glad that he has been with you; and I heartily wish that I had seen him, as I can see no reason for his brother’s [Henry Wellesley’s] example, who, as you know, never once set his foot within my doors from the moment of his arrival up to this hour. (Lord Grenville to the Marquess of Buckingham, Dropmore, 3 October 1805 Memoirs of the Court and Cabinet of George III vol 3 p 439-441. The printed version of this letter names no names and is consequently cryptic, but its meaning becomes clear when placed in the context of Buckingham’s letter (to which it is a reply) cited above).
AW, HW and Pole all favour the Pittites:
The evidence for this is scattered, but includes AW’s letter to Sir T. Strange, on ship, 25 Aug 1805 expressing his support for Melville (WSD vol 4 p 512-4). And on 25 Feb 1806 he told Malcolm: ‘you see that a revolution (commonly called a change) has taken place in the government of this country. We are not actually in opposition, but we have no power; and if I get anything for your brother, it must be by the influence of private friendship.’ And ‘I don’t think that this government can last very long. You can have no idea of the disgust created by the harshness of their measures, by the avidity with which they have sought for office, and by the indecency with which they have dismissed every man supposed to have been connected with Pitt. His friends will, I think, remain connected, and will act together as a body, and a most formidable one they will be to any government on account of their numbers.’ (WD III p 1-2) Then there is his letter to Castlereagh, seeking the latter’s approval before he would accept a seat in Parliament from Lord Grenville (reply printed in Gleig Life of Wellington and quoted later in the text). And finally there is the ready acceptance of office in the Portland government.
There is naturally less evidence for Henry Wellesley, but Lord Grenville’s complaint that HW did not pay him a single visit after his return from India is a strong indication especially when compared to Henry’s meetings with Pitt and Addington. (Grenville to Buckingham, 3 Oct 1805, Memoirs of the Court and Cabinets of George III vol 3 p 439-41; Philips East India Company p 132-6 on HW and the ministers). And again, there is his ready acceptance of office under Portland.
William Wellesley-Pole had a record of steady if quiet support for Pitt’s government and held office which he lost when the Talents came in – see Thorne History of Parliament vol 5 p 511-15.
AW and the Horse Guards
AW certainly felt slighted by the Duke of York (letter to Lord Wellesley 21 Dec 1805 WSD vol 4 p 533-41) and complained to Malcolm in Dec 1806 that, ‘As for India, I know but little respecting it. If I had been employed in North America, I might be informed and consulted on the measures to be adopted in India; but as it is, that is out of the question.’ (AW to Malcolm, 10 Dec 1806, WD III p 3-4). Although it is not clear here if his target is the Horse Guards, the Ministers, or Minto and Hewett who were about to leave for India.
And there is also Croker’s account of Wellington’s conversation in 1826 complaining about his treatment by the Horse Guards. This includes not only the point that success in India carried no weight, but also the suggestion that he was condemned ‘because I was a lord’s son, “a sprig of the nobility “, who came into the army more for ornament than for use.’ Given the large number of generals with a similar background this sounds like a reference to the scientifics, although there is no way of telling who in particular, or even if Wellington’s perception of a prejudice against him was really justified. (Croker Croker Papers vol 1 p 342-43).
According to the ODNB entry Colin Campbell returned to England with Lord Wellesley (so, in January 1806) and that AW at once (sic) appointed him his brigade-major at Hastings. It goes on to say that he served with AW in Hanover. Both can hardly be true, but whether he returned before Lord Wellesley and joined AW in time for Hanover, or only joined AW after his return from Hanover, is unclear – although the latter seems more probable. (The Royal Military Calendar adds nothing useful).
AW’s brigade at Deal:
This assumes that there was no change in his command from the time he was given it in early November and the time it sailed in early December. Fortescue History of the British Army vol 5 p 294n lists his brigade then as the 3rd, 8th, & 36th Foot. There is nothing useful that is relevant here in either Knight’s Historical Record’s of the Buffs or Everard’s history of the 29th and 36th.
The brigade AW commanded which was sent to Ireland at the end of the year is given by Cookson as 1/3rd, 1/7th and 1/8th, which suggests considerable continuity. But how then to explain his complaint on 26 October that four of his five regiments have been taken from him and ordered to Deal? (AW to Lord Wellesley, Hastings, 26 Oct 1806 in Brett-James Wellington at War p 125).
The Expedition to Hanover:
For the planning and grand strategic background see Castlereagh Correspondence vol 6 and a few letters in the Later Correspondence of George III. Secondary accounts in Ehrman, Fortescue, Hall British Strategy and Beamish History of the King’s German Legion but especially C. T. Atkinson’s ‘Gleanings from the Cathcart Manuscripts’.
There is some inconsistency in the accounts whether the force was enlarged or contracted, however it seems that Castlereagh wanted to send a very large army, but Napoleon’s advance and the approach of winter led to a scaling back (though with the possibility of subsequent enlargement in the spring if Prussia joined the allies and the war went well).
Many years later Wellington claimed that he had been consulted by Castlereagh in the planning of the expedition:
I was consulted several times on expeditions to be undertaken; one in particular, when they wanted to make a treaty with the King of Prussia to raise a body of troops to fall upon the rear of Buonaparte. They fancied it could be done in a moment, but I knew better. I knew as much of war then as I do now, and I was aware that the King of Prussia could not have his troops raised and equipped and on the Danube in less than three months, and I was right. In the meantime Napoleon won the battle of Austerlitz. (Salisbury Mss 1837 quoted in Sir Herbert Maxwell Life of Wellington and the Restoration of the Martial Power of Great Britain vol 1 p 75).
Other brigades were commanded by Sherbrooke and by Rowland Hill (whose career would henceforth be much intertwined with AW’s). Years later Hill wrote that ‘On our voyage from Cork…. We also anchored off Deal, where I first saw Sir Arthur Wellesley. He dined with me at my lodgings at Mrs Chitty’s, and was much amused with Captain Peebles.’ (quoted in Sidney Life of Lord Hill p 71 – unfortunately he gives no other details).
Captain Crawford, in his Reminiscences of a Naval Officer claims to have heard that AW opposed Cathcart’s decision to withdraw from Hanover at a Council of War. No other source supports this, and it seems implausible, very much like a later invention, but it cannot be totally ruled out. (Captain A. Crawford Reiminiscences of a Naval Officer. A Quarter-Deck View of the War against Napoleon p 93-94).
James Paull was a year younger than Arthur Wellesley, the son of a Perth tailor, and had been sent to India when he was only eighteen. He made a fortune at Lucknow and returned home in 1801 a wealthy and still young nabob. But within months he had gambled his fortune away, reportedly losing £90,000 in a single night. By 1802 he was back in India, and was well received by Lord Wellesley who helped him re-establish himself at Lucknow. (This encouragement was probably due to John Malcolm, who seems to have been Paull’s friend and patron. See AW to Malcolm, 23 February 1807, WD III p 4-6 – the ‘_____’ in the text is clearly Paull). However Lord Wellesley’s subsequent policies put an end to private trading at Lucknow, although not before Paull had made another fortune. By 1804 Paull was ready to return home again, this time with a grievance. Before he sailed he announced his intention of exposing Lord Wellesley in England, and was so abusive that Benjamin Sydenham nearly fought at duel with him. According to Hickey, Paull was never ‘held in much estimation or respect in the English community in Bengal, and Wellesley dismissed him as beneath his notice the ‘acts of so contemptible, insignificant and debased character.’ (Shawe to Scott, 3 March 1804, Correspondence of David Scott vol 2 Camden, third series, vol 76, p 436-8; Hickey Memoirs vol 4 p 284-8; Thorne History of Parliament 1790-1820 vol 4 p 733-5) But Paull’s threats were not just empty boasting. He arrived back in England in February 1805 and by May was MP for Newtown in the Isle of Wight. Before Parliament rose in June he had given warning of his attack – a warning which Lord Wellesley’s friends evidently failed to notice.
Paull’s attack on Lord Wellesley:
Lord Wellesley was outraged and alarmed by the assault Paull launched. He had known that he would face the hostility of the Directors of the East India Company on his return, but was confident that he had the political strength and connections to defeat them. Paull’s attack seems to have been unexpected, however, and it had ominous echoes of Philip Francis’s campaign against Hastings twenty years before. Indeed Francis was still alive, in Parliament, active, and was said to the assisting Paull, as were Windham and the friends and supporters of the Prince of Wales. (Lord Wellesley to Grenville, 25 January 1806, HMC Dropmore vol 7 p 336-7). But Windham was destined for office in Grenville’s government, so were some of the Prince’s party, and so, of course were the Foxite Whigs who had seconded Francis’s attacks on Hastings. The more radical Whigs were impatient with their alliance with Grenville and had no love for Lord Wellesley, while only a year before Fox had written privately of the Governor-General’s ‘abominable conduct’. (Fox to Windham, 25 December 1804, Windham Papers vol 2 p 246). Paull’s campaign meant that the question could not be tactfully swept aside, and to begin a government with the cabinet bitterly divided over the conduct of one of its members would be political suicide. Wellesley was not offered a seat in cabinet or any other office, but Grenville promised that he would use the full weight of this position as Prime Minister, and his family’s political influence to defend his old friend. (Brashares ‘The Political Career of the Marquess Wellesley in England and Ireland’ p 136-7, 140). The Prince of Wales hastened to assure Lord Buckingham that he had received no warning of Paull’s attack, that he did not support it, and that he would use his influence to attempt to restrain Philip Francis, and through him, Paull. (Buckingham to Grenville, 25 January 1806, and Grenville to Lord Wellesley, 25 January 1806 both in HMC Dropmore vol 7 p 337-9, 339-40). Grenville could not insist that Windham or Fox support Wellesley, but the sensitivity of the issue was made clear which muted them – although Fox’s position as leader of the government in the Commons meant that he would eventually have to show his hand.
Lord Wellesley and the Formation of the Ministry of all the Talents:
It is by no means certain that Paull’s attack cost Wellesley a seat in Lord Grenville’s cabinet. The first time the possibility is mentioned was evidently after Paull had given notice, and then Wellesley explicitly says that he wants to be in cabinet, but that the Board of Control is the last office he would choose (Wellesley to Lord Grenville, 25 [26 ?] Jan 1806 HMC Dropmore vol 7 p 341). Competition for places in such a broadly based coalition was intense, and the Grenville-Buckingham connection was already top-heavy, but Wellesley was seen as an important figure.
Prior to Paull announcing his attack, Wellesley had told Grenville that he expected some discussion of his government of India and had no objection to an inquiry in which he could vigorously defend himself, (Wellesley to Lord Grenville, 23 Jan 1806 HMC Dropmore vol 7 p 332 and Wellesley Papers vol 1 p 198). But Paull’s attack clearly came as a surprise. The strength of his reaction may have been partly hauteur (that a creature like Paull should dare ….), partly from fear and outrage that the attack was backed by Francis, Windham and the Prince of Wales. He may also have recognized even then that Paull’s attack was likely to be more difficult to defeat – because more likely to appeal to the Whigs – than a frontal attack from the Directors of the East India Company. But that is speculation.
Grand Dinner in Lord Wellesley’s honour, 20 March 1806
According to The Times, ‘The style of the Entertainment was, in every respect, worthy of the occasion: the choicest wines and all the delicacies of the season were provided, and the Guests who partook were, for the most part, of the highest rank and distinction.’ They included one duke, three marquesses, thirteen earls, thirteen other lords, and sundry other gentlemen, soldiers and veterans of India. More importantly many leading political figures were present including the Marquess of Buckingham and his son Lord Temple (although not Lord Grenville), Sidmouth, Buckinghamshire, Charles Abbot (the Speaker of the Commons), and most of the leading Pittites: Castlereagh, Hawkesbury, Canning, Camden, Bathurst, Westmorland, Chatham, Rose and Lowther. Naturally Lord Wellesley’s brothers William, Arthur and Henry were prominent, but it was General Harris ‘the Victor of Seringapatam’ who took the chair and who proposed each of the ten ‘loyal and patriotic toasts’, culminating in the health of Marquess Wellesley, which was drunk ‘with sincere fervour’ and which was met with an acknowledgement from his Lordship ‘expressed in the most animated and grateful terms’. (The Times 21 March 1806; Colchester Diary of Charles Abbot vol 2 p 46-7 adds some names and other details not in the newspaper account, but all quotes from The Times).
There is also a lively account of the dinner in the memoirs of George Elers (Memoirs p 202-205). He says that it cost 2,250 guineas for 200 guests and was very well arranged. He subscribed 15 guineas.
Grenville’s defence of Lord Wellesley:
Grenville made clear the strength of his commitment to Lord Wellesley as early as 25 January 1806 when he told his brother Tom (his link to the Whigs): ‘all I can say to him [Wellesley] or to anyone is that if I am compelled to choose between old friendships and new ones I am I trust not likely to hesitate in my choice.’ (unpublished, quoted in Brashares ‘The Political Career of the Marquess Wellesley in England and Ireland’ p 137).
And he sustained this strong line: in June 1806 he risked causing serious offence to Windham by threatening to veto the appointment of Dr Laurence as Judge Advocate because he had attacked Wellesley in Parliament. When Windham remonstrated, Grenville referred to,
my feelings, at seeing my oldest and most intimate friend exposed to the most unjust persecution, after a series of such services as no other man now living has been happy enough to render to his country; and at finding this persecution countenanced and encouraged by the persons with whom I am joined in political connection, and in whose favour I am at that very moment desired to exert myself. (Grenville to Windham, 5 June 1806, HMC Dropmore vol 8 p 179-80).
Lack of interest in Indian questions in Parliament:
AW told Lord Wellesley on 21 Dec 1805 (WSD vol 4 p 533-41):
The real truth is that the public mind cannot be brought to attend to an Indian subject. It appears to me that people in general were much prejudiced against the whole system of Mahratta politics, because it was necessary to attack Holkar, because Monson was defeated, and because Lord Lake failed before Bhurtpoor; and you cannot bring their attention to the subject sufficiently to enable them to understand you, and to prove to them that these events which all must lament had nothing to do with the system of Mahratta politics which occasioned the treaty of Bassein.
See also AW to Malcolm, 31 July 1806, WD III p 2-3.
Soldiers in Parliament:
The figures given are only those for the regular army: many more (almost half of all MPs) had experience as an officer in the militia, or volunteers, although this was sometimes more nominal than real.
Despite the surviving, though weakening, tradition of anti-militarism there was not much opposition to this military presence in Parliament, partly because it was so obvious that most of the officer-MPs were not primarily soldiers but gentlemen. Nonetheless Cobbett did oppose them in principle as they might be ordered abroad on campaign and so neglect their duties to their constituents, and because of their supposed subservience to the government of the day. (Spater William Cobbett vol 1 p 186).
Where were AW and Kitty married?
Joan Wilson (A Soldier’s Marriage p 79) states ‘the Longford drawing-room in Rutland Square [Dublin]’; and Longford p 122 agrees. However the Complete Peerage (vol 12 p 456) and Severn Architects of Empire (p 206) both say St George’s Dublin. I couldn’t find a reference to the marriage in the newspapers. There is a mention of it in The Gentleman’s Magazine for 1806, but it does not give a place and states that it occurred on 20 April, which is certainly wrong. Wilson (p 80) states that the marriage was registered at St George’s, and this seems the most likely explanation of the confusion.
Kitty and AW’s appearance and marriage:
“She has grown d—- ugly, by Jove!” Lady Shelley records Gerald Wellesley has having told this story to her husband, but she does not do so until 1859, when everyone else involved had been dead for years. It is possible, but the similarity to the well known story of the Prince of Wales’s reaction to his bride adds to the doubts.
Kitty herself told Olivia Sparrow in 1805, ‘I am very much changed and you know it, within these last three years’ (Wilson Soldier’s Wife p 69-70) although this may not refer to her appearance. Mrs Calvert wrote on 5 May 1806 ‘He must have found her sadly altered, for she was a very pretty little girl, with a round face, and fine complexion. She is now very thin and withered (I believe pining in his absence helped to make her more so). I think she looks in a consumption, which idea, a short cough increases…’ (Calvert Irish Beauty p 66-67). There may be a touch of malice in this, but Kitty’s aunt Louisa wrote: ‘She has suffered a good deal of anxiety since [AW’s return from India], as he was ordered abroad, was out in the hurricanes, then in Germany and since his return very ill. She bears traces of all this, for she coughs sadly and looks but ill, which we all lament as Sir A. Wellesley is expected in a very few days.’ (quoted in Wilson Soldier’s Wife p 77). Yet Maria Edgeworth had written loyally in Sept 1805, ‘I never saw her look more animated or more pretty.’ (Hare Life and Letters vol 1 p 145).
As for AW, the wonderfully inaccurate ‘handsome, very brown, quite bald and a hooked nose’ description is avowedly secondhand: Maria Edgeworth was told this by Dr Beaufort who saw AW at Dublin Castle (Hare Life and Letters vol 1 p 150). Then there is Barrington’s account of how he failed to recognize AW in the street until prompted by Castlereagh because he was ‘so sallow and wan, and with every mark of what is called a worn-out man, that I was concerned at his appearance.’ (Barrington Personal Sketches and Recollections p 171). But neither of these are remotely reliable sources, and it is difficult to reconcile ‘very brown’ with ‘sallow and wan’.
Reaction to the marriage:
Maria Edgeworth described it as ‘one of those tales of real life in which the romance is far superior to the generality of fictions’ (13 April 1806, Hare Life and Letters vol 1 p 149-50); see also Mrs Calvert in Irish Beauty p 66-67 who relishes the story.
Other Wellesley marriages at this time:
There were two further weddings in the Wellesley family in the summer of 1806: Lord Wellesley’s daughter Anne, beautiful but ‘proud, disdainful and stupid’ married Sir William Abdy, an extremely wealthy but otherwise unappealing baronet on 3 July; and on the 22nd William’s eldest daughter Mary married the Hon. Charles Bagot, an intelligent, handsome and lively young man, a great friend of George Canning, who would eventually have a distinguished career as a diplomat. (On Anne Wellesley: Butler Eldest Brother p 382-3; Aspinall ‘Old House of Commons and its Members’ Pt 5 p 34 (incl. the quote); Thorne History of Parliament 1790-1820 vol 3 p 9-10 (on Abdy); and Hugh Farmer A Regency Elopement passim – an entertaining and lively account of the scandal which ended the marriage. On Mary and Charles Bagot: Thorne History of Parliament 1790-1820 vol 3 p 102-3.)
AW in Parliament:
See Parliamentary Debates for AW’s speeches. His first, on 18 April, was merely a brief intervention asking Paull to state his intentions, but it was his first – and also shows that he was in London and in Parliament only eight days after his wedding. The version of the speech of 22 April given in Wellington Speeches is very close to that in Parliamentary Debates – just tidied up a little. The Times 19 April 1806, reports AW’s intervention – naming him as Mr Arthur Wellesley’ (so much for the victor of Assaye!); but by 23 April it recognizes him as ‘Sir Arthur Wellesley’. The speeches are given as in Parliamentary Debates.
AW and the attacks on Lord Wellesley:
Lord Holland was highly critical of Wellington in his Further Memoirs yet he writes of AW’s role in the defence of Lord Wellesley that ‘He showed great discretion, temper, and judgement in defence of his brother against impeachment in 1806…’ (p 230).
It does not seem that AW was criticized in Parliament for anything he had done in India: Paull’s focus was on Oudh and the Carnatic, areas well away from AW’s activity.
The Court of Directors (or rather Charles Grant) did criticize him directly in the famous draft despatch. Here is Embree’s summary:
Arthur Wellesley’s financial arrangements with Amrit Rao, the Peshwa’s brother, was an example of the oppressive practices that Grant believed followed from the interference in the native states. In an attempt to gain the support of Amrit Rao in 1803, Arthur Wellesley had promised him a pension of Rs 700,000 a year during his own and his son’s lifetime. The settlement, Grant alleged, was arranged without the consent of the Peshwa, from whose revenues the money would ultimately come and without inquiry into the actual resources that Amrit Rao could bring to the assistance of the Company. It was later discovered that Amrit Rao had neither territory nor an army. (Embree Charles Grant and British Rule in India p 227-8).
Charles Grant was not a fool, nor was he ignorant of India, so it is difficult to acquit him of being deliberately dishonest in writing this. Whether or not one accepts AW’s later claim (AW to R. S. Dundas, 27 March 1808, WP 1/195/82) that Amrit Rao passed letters from Sindia on to Holkar which decided Holkar against joining the war against the British, there is no doubt of his importance in the crisis of 1803. He was the only figure behind whom all the Maratha factions might have rallied; he was credible as an alternative Peshwa; and he was generally regarded as the ablest of all the Maratha leaders. Securing his practical neutrality and nominal support was extremely important to the success of the campaign (see Sardesai New History of the Marathas vol 3 p 390-92), and AW can hardly have been anything but disgusted at this line of criticism with its implication of culpable ignorance and carelessness, if not outright corruption (cf AW to RW, 21 Dec 1805, WSD vol 4 p 533-41, esp 535-6 for his disgust; yet within six months he was willing to return to India and serve under the Directors again).
The Directors of the East India Company mounted their own attacks on Lord Wellesley culminating in the draft dispatch, and in the censure which was passed by the General Council of Propietors, despite vigorous efforts to block it. But Paull’s attacks represented a more serious danger, and brought AW into the heart of the political world.
Debate of 4 July 1806:
There is an odd uncertainty about the date of this debate: in the contents pages of Parliamentary Debates it appears as 4 July, but in the text as 6 July. HMC Dropmore vol 8 p 222-3 prints a letter from Temple to Wellesley dated 5 July referring to the debate, but Brashares says it was the 6th. It is only The Times, which prints a lengthy report of the debate in its issue of 5 July, which settles the matter beyond doubt.
Arthur Wellesley took a more prominent part in the debate than William, though not quite so clearly disowning Temple.
Creevey and the attacks on Lord Wellesley:
AW first became acquainted with Creevey at this time – see Creevey’s recollection quoted in Life and Times p 37:
I had seen a good deal of the Duke of Wellington in 1806, and in a very amicable way. He was just returned from India and brought into the House of Commons to defend his brother, Lord Wellesley’s India government. I was Secretary to the Board of Controul at the time, so that all Indian papers moved for on either side came through me …. Afterwards in 1807-8 and 9 I took a very decided part in Parliament against Lord Wellesley which produced such angry words between Sir Arthur and myself that I was quite prepared for there being no further intercourse between us.
It is an interesting and rather unexpected aspect of AW’s character that he bore surprisingly few grudges for political differences, and in later years was on good terms with Grey, Creevey and even Brougham.
The Visit to Ireland in the summer of 1806:
Longford p 132 states that AW and William Wellesley-Pole made a tour of Ireland from Dublin to Cork in July and August 1806 ‘visiting martello towers, barracks and rivers’ and citing ‘a small brown leather pocket-book with alternate white and mauve leaves, which is now in the National Library of Ireland’ as proof (but giving no precise reference). Wilson A Soldier’s Wife p 87 adds that ‘Kitty remained with her family at Pakenham Hall’.
However this appears to be a mistake. AW made speeches in Parliament on 10, 14 and 18 July – see Wellington Speeches; and on 31 July he was commanding troops at Hastings and writing to Malcolm (WD III p 2-3). Lord Wellesley visited AW at Hastings at the beginning of August (HMC Dropmore vol 8 p 256-7).
Parliament did not rise until 23 July 1806.
In theory AW could have made a rapid trip to Ireland between 19 and 30 July – his visit to Dublin in April showed that this was possible – but it would have been extremely odd for him to have done so, when the brigade he was commanding was at Hastings.
A similar trip in 1807 when AW was Chief Secretary for Ireland would be more plausible, but AW’s letters prove that it did not occur in July and August of that year, for he was in London throughout July (see letters in WSD vol 5) while at the end of the month he embarked to take part in the Copenhagen Expedition.
And 1808 is almost as difficult: by the end of July 1808 he was anchored off Mondego Bay and about to land on the shores of Portugal. He did travel from Dublin to Cork in July, but this was no leisurely tour: he left Dublin on the morning of the 5th and arrived in Cork the following day, and as he was combining the business of Chief Secretary with the preparations for the expedition to Portugal is is highly unlikely that he had any leisure for sightseeing.
In 1809 he was, of course, in Spain and Portugal.
Ms Eimear Walsh of the Manuscripts Department of the National Library of Ireland has identified the notebook as Ms 4707, and informs that the tour it describes began on Sunday 20 July and concluded on 11 August, but no year is specified. The 20 July was a Sunday in 1800, 1806 and 1817, but in none of these years could AW have made the tour: in 1800 he was in India; in 1806, in England, at least on 31 July, and in 1817 he was in France (see his correspondence in WSD vol 12). It therefore appears that the provisional attribution of the notebook to AW is incorrect.
The only recorded reaction to it appears to be a letter from Lord Morpeth to Tom Grenville, 21 August 1806:
I see Sir Arthur Wellesley has published his speech. I am much behind him, but I have sent it to Witham to put in order. As the accounts are before the House, there cannot, I conceive be any objection to publishing a statement that certainly is of a melancholy cast, but the remedy to that will be, that few persons will read it. (Memoirs of the Court and Cabinets of George III vol 4 p 60-1).
AW’s brigade at Hastings:
It seems likely, but it is not certain, that AW remained in command of the same brigade he had led in Hanover throughout 1806. If so, he must have rather neglected it, with Parliament, marriage and London society filling his days. Lord Wellesley visited AW at Hastings at the beginning of August (HMC Dropmore vol 8 p 256-7). Gurwood’s chronology (WD I p xvii) says that in Feb 1806 ‘On return of the expedition from Hanover, appointed to command a brigade of infantry in the Sussex district’; but Gurwood also says that AW was elected to Parliament on 12 April, which is simply wrong.
AW’s role in the 1806 election:
Brashares ‘Political Career of the Marquess Wellesley…’ p 169: ‘Arthur greatly exerted himself as Richard’s agent in the 1806 campaign. He [Richard] made it quite plain that his motive was not merely defensive: if Wellesley could acquire a parliamentary following it would aid him in his quest for office and would enable him “to push forward Henry and Gerald [and Arthur]; and Richard (Wellesley’s eldest son) when he will be sufficiently old.’ AW to RW 22 Oct 1806 Add Ms 37,415 f 21.
AW paid £1,500 towards the cost of being elected one of the two MPs for Mitchell. Lord Wellesley probably made this up to £4,000; Lushington [and Montgomery] paid £5,000 – see Add Ms 37,415 f 38 and Thorne History of Parliament vol 5 p 504 but cf vol 4 p 622 (entry on Montgomery) and vol 2 p 73-74 (the constituency).
Why did none of the Wellesley candidates win seats in the general election? Brashares says it was chiefly due to lack of money – but they spent plenty getting in afterwards. A more likely explanation is a combination of inexperience and their ambiguous relationship with the government.
Lord Wellesley’s attempt to establish a parliamentary following:
Colonel H. C. Montgomery, who had commanded the Governor-General’s bodyguard in Calcutta, was returned alongside Arthur Wellesley as the two members for Mitchell in January 1807. Colonels John Bannerman and Michael Symes were also elected in that month, although Henry Wellesley failed to find a seat until April. And Stephen Lushington, General Harris’s secretary and son-in-law, who was initially reluctant to enter Parliament, was not elected for Grampound when an arrangement with Sir Christopher Hawkins collapsed. Lushington did not enter Parliament until the following election in 1807, when he was returned for Rye, but went on to prove himself a competent and effective member and a highly respected Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. His loyalties gradually shifted from Wellesley to Perceval, but he remained a significant minor figure in British politics and ended as Governor of Madras from 1827 to 1832. (See the relevant entries in the Thorne History of Parliament 1790-1820).
Proposed Expeditions to Latin America in 1806
In the wake of the news of the capture of Buenos Ayres the ministers were caught up in the excitement of the moment and a variety of schemes were floated. Windham proposed that his protégé, Robert Craufurd, be given command of 3,000 men and sent round Cape Horn to conquer Chile, and, if possible, Peru as well; while Grenville wanted to send Arthur Wellesley to take command at Buenos Ayres. Windham expressed doubts at this: there were unlikely to be more than 5,000 men left at Buenos Ayres after Craufurd’s expedition had sailed, ‘Beresford has done incomparably well, and Sir A. Wellesley will not be popular…. I am myself very little a judge of his qualifications.’ (Windham to Grenville, 22 September 1806, HMC Dropmore vol 8 p 35). Grenville agreed to reconsider, but left Windham in no doubt of his partiality for Wellesley:
We will talk again about Wellesley. I did not write to him, and I certainly would not press anything improper for him; but I have so very high opinion of his talents and military knowledge, and particularly of his powers of exciting spirit and confidence in his troops, which I have heard so very strongly stated by indifferent persons, that I am very desirous of his being employed there if the scale of our operations be large enough for him. (Grenville to Windham, 23 September 1806, HMC Dropmore vol 8 p 353).
Before the plans could be settled, and the innumerable arrangements needed for any overseas expedition completed, the government was forced to reconsider by the outbreak of war between France and Prussia. Grenville recognized that the opportunity ‘must not be lost to us’, (Grenville to Windham, 23 September 1806, HMC Dropmore vol 8 p 353) but in fact there was little that Britain could do, for Napoleon crushed the Prussian army at the twin battles of Jena and Auerstädt on 14 October, only a fortnight after the campaign began. Berlin fell soon afterwards, and the remnants of the Prussian army were driven deep into East Prussia where they were joined by their Russian allies. The war continued but was watched with dismay by the ministers in London, who were inclined to despair of allies who had an insatiable appetite for subsidies yet were quite unable to face the French in the field. South America lost none of its allure by the comparison.
Even before the Prussians were defeated, Grenville presented Arthur Wellesley with the outline of a plan for an attack on Mexico and asked for his comments. (Unfortunately neither the letter nor the plan survives, and they have to be reconstructed from letters written about them, see, AW to Lord Wellesley, 2 October 1806, Add Ms 37,415 f 17-18 and Grenville to Buckingham, 3 October 1806 Memoirs of the Court and Cabinets of George III vol 4 p 79-80. Other details emerge from AW’s response cited below). The proposal was inherently absurd. Several thousand men would be detached from the British force at Buenos Ayres. They would sail across the Atlantic and collect one thousand men from the garrison of the Cape of Good Hope, before continuing to India where they would be joined by 4,000 sepoys. The expedition would then capture Manila in the Philippines, before sailing across the Pacific and attacking Mexico from the west at the same time as a force from the West Indies attacked it from the west. Wellesley responded to this nonsense with remarkable tact and good sense in a series of cool, clear memoranda, which used the same ingredients to produce a plan which stood a fair chance of success. He began by pointing out that the tropical seasons and prevailing winds made the attack on Manila incompatible with that on Mexico. In any case, he argued, Manila would fall automatically if Mexico was captured. Next he pointed to the obvious impossibility of co-ordinating the attacks on the two sides of Mexico, and in the process nicely explained the essence of the strategy of the central position which Napoleon had often employed in his successful campaigns:
This attack upon the two sides of the country at the same moment is intended to distract the Viceroy and to oblige him to divide his force. But considering the nature of the operations which we shall have to carry on, and the natural difficulties which will oppose our early advance, the enemy may without much danger leave one of the divisions to itself and turn all his efforts against that division what [sic] either from its numbers or its composition or any other cause he may think the weakest. ([AW] Memoranda 2 November 1806, HMC Dropmore vol 9 p 481-4; an almost identical draft is printed in WSD vol 6 p 35-8).
Given this, he preferred to concentrate the British force in the attack from the east, and to regard the sepoys as a reinforcement to help garrison Mexico after it had been conquered. He also reduced the number of sepoys from four to three thousand, commenting that it was unlikely that more would volunteer or would be needed, and he gave detailed advice on how they should be sent, stopping for a few days at Prince of Wales Island for water, and disembarking for a few weeks at Botany Bay. (The thought of 3,000 Indian soldiers spending a month in the infant colony of New South Wales in the midst of Governor Bligh’s conflict with the Rum Corps, has some interest to an Australian historian). Wellesley also set out a clear schedule of when orders for each stage of the operation needed to be given. (AW to Grenville, 21 November 1806, and ‘Memorandum for Collecting Troops’, 20 November 1806, HMC Dropmore vol 9 p 485-7: the Memorandum is also printed in WSD vol 6 p 45-7).
Additional memoranda written a few weeks later added more detail. Wellesley proposed that the main attack should be made in December of the following year so as to minimize the risks of storms on the coast and ill-health to the troops once they landed. (He was very conscious of the danger of sickness and had already ruled out a subsidiary attack on Panama for this reason). The army, based initially at Jamaica, would consist of 6,000 European infantry, 3,000 Negro infantry drawn from the existing British West India Regiments, 2,000 artillerymen manning four batteries of field artillery, four heavy siege guns and half-a-dozen mortars, and two strong regiments of European cavalry (1,400 cavalry). He hoped to raise some 800 irregulars from Honduras to act as rangers and pioneers, although his suggestion that the prospect of plunder would produce many volunteers horrified the idealistic Lord Holland, who feared that this would cast doubt on the purity of British motives and so risk losing the support of the local population. (Memoranda by AW, 20 November 1806, HMC Dropmore vol 9 p 485-7, 487-90, 491-2 (also printed in WSD vol 6 p 40-44, 45-47, 48-9 with slight variations); Lord Holland to Grenville, ‘Private’, 7 December 1806, HMC Dropmore vol 8 p 460-1). Altogether Wellesley planned to have an army of some 15-16,000 men, which, given the discontent throughout Spanish America, might well have been enough to ensure success. He drew up detailed lists of the arms and equipment which would be needed, and naturally paid close attention to questions of transport and supplies calculating the required number of horses and mules and not forgetting to specify that ‘They ought to be trained mules’. He consulted sea captains and read traveller’s accounts and explorer’s journals to identify the most suitable points for a landing and recorded his conclusions with admirable clarity. (Memorandum by AW, 20 November 1806, HMC Dropmore vol 9 (also in WSD vol 6 p 54-55); see also a memorandum ‘On the Attack on Mexico from the Eastern Side’ by William Jacob in Castlereagh Correspondence vol 7 p 293-302).
Most of the memoranda he composed were strictly practical and avoided any consideration of the purpose and nature of the expedition, but he was not blind to the political problems which would follow hard on the heels of success. He noted that all the proponents of the expedition advocated the establishment of an independent Mexico, possibly under one of the Bourbon Princes, rather than its annexation as a British colony, and added:
None, however, have pointed out in what manner the government recommended to be established in that country should be kept in existence, carried on, and supported after the revolution should have been effected, particularly against the attempts which might be made upon it by the United States.
The protection of this independent government to be established would doubtless fall upon Great Britain; but it does not appear in what manner, consistent with the existence of Mexican independence, Great Britain is to be compensated for the expense and inconvenience which its support and protection would entail upon her.
And he feared that local co-operation might prove short-lived:
the Spanish policy has been to govern the Americans by the influence of the priests; that the priests are very numerous, their influence powerful, and they have long been in the habit of vilifying the British nation; and it may be expected that they will exert their influence against His Majesty’s forces, notwithstanding the protection which we may afford them, and the measures we may take to conciliate them and the people of the country. If this expectation be well-founded, the difficulty of the conquest will be much increased…. (AW ‘Memorandum’, November 1806, WSD vol 6 p 50-54: this memorandum is not printed in HMC Dropmore ).
Although this last doubt smacks a little of an Irish-protestant, Dublin Castle mentality, it was not necessarily unfounded – and casts doubt on the wisdom of supplementing the occupying army with 3,000 Hindu and Muslim sepoys. This aside, Wellesley’s memoranda showed a remarkable combination of breadth of vision and grasp of detail.
It seems curious that AW’s name was not one of those considered for the task of recapturing Buenos Ayres, but Windham says that he proposed John Stuart, Grenville suggested Prevost and Leveson Gower mentioned Whitelocke (Windham Diary p 467). (Stuart was slightly senior to AW; Prevost significantly junior). Palmerston recorded a rumour on 8 Dec 1807: Whitelocke not sent by the present government but by the Talents: ‘He was Windham’s own choice. The Duke of York it is said wished Sir A. Wellesley to go.’ (Letters of Palmerston to the Sulivans p 96) However this does not count for much: it was written after the event and Palmerston not in a position to know.
The Mexican plan was still alive when the government fell: Windham says on 11 February (Diary p 468) that he wrote to Lord Minto ‘on subject of preparation of troops for Wellesley, and the general question of sepoys.’ (The letter isn’t printed in the Windham Papers nor in Lord Minto in India).
AW keen on Mexico, but willing to serve anywhere:
Arthur Wellesley made plain that he was keen to command the expedition to Mexico, but that he was willing, indeed eager, to serve in any other operation in the meantime, even if he could not command it. (AW to Lord Wellesley, 26 October 1806, BL Add Ms 37,415 f 22 (printed in Brett-James Wellington at War p 125). In November 1806 his brother, Lord Wellesley, proposed him for a different role. When Cornwallis died Lake had temporarily resumed the position of Commander-in-Chief of the British armies in India, but the government was eager to replace him, and appointed General Simcoe in his place. However Simcoe died before he could sail and Lord Wellesley told Grenville that Arthur, ‘is certainly better qualified for the command in India than any person who could be selected…. Arthur however still hopes and believes that no obstacle will occur to the other plan.’ (Lord Wellesley to Grenville, ‘Private’, 25 November 1806, HMC Dropmore vol 9 p 442-3). Wellesley probably lacked the seniority to be considered seriously for the position, and the government appointed Lieutenant-General Sir George Hewett instead. Although he should have been pleased not to be diverted from Mexico, Wellesley was naturally a little disappointed, complaining to Malcolm that he was not consulted at all on Indian questions, and describing Hewett as ‘sensible and good natured’ but lacking the youth and energy needed ‘to remain long or to be very active in the field’. (AW to Malcolm, 10 December 1806, WD III p 3-4).
AW’s brigade sent to Ireland in Dec 1806:
With the election out of the way the government turned its attention to Ireland, where an upsurge in agrarian disturbances and reports of French agents were causing alarm. Grenville was sceptical of the extent of French influence and preferred conciliation to repression, but he acknowledged that the problem was serious and took steps to reinforce the army in Ireland. On 10 December two brigades of infantry, commanded by Sir Arthur Wellesley (1st battalions of 3rd, 7th and 8th Regiments) and Major-General Rowland Hill (1/9th, 14th and 91st Regiments) were ordered to Ireland. Some urgency was evidently felt for one brigade was moved rapidly by canal to Liverpool and both were safely in Ireland by 8 January. (Cookson British Armed Nation p 61-2n; AW to Lord Wellesley, 12 December 1806, BL Add Ms 37,415 f 34; Grenville to Buckingham, 14 December 1806, Memoirs of the Court and Cabinets of George III vol 4 p 104-5; Lord Spencer to the King, 9 December 1806 and reply 10 December, Later Correspondence of George III vol 4 p 494-5.)
AW’s reaction to the mutiny at Vellore:
Arthur Wellesley was shocked by the news:
Alas! my dear Malcolm, what has come over the army of Fort St George? What are we to believe? Is it possible that the Princes [Tipu’s sons] at Vellore can have corrupted the detachment at Hyderabad, at a distance of five hundred miles …. I am all anxiety upon this subject, and yet I have not received a line from a soul. Nobody believes the accounts which are received from India …. Surely those followers who went through the difficulties and dangers of the Marhatta campaigns cannot have broken their allegiance! I can never believe it, till I shall see it proved in the clearest manner. (AW to Malcolm, 23 February 1807, WD III p 4-6).
If it was decided to recall Cradock in mid 1806 why had nothing been done? Was Tom Grenville over-ruled? Did Lord Buckinghamshire’s influence prevail? (Buckinghamshire to Tom Grenville, 5 July 1806 Memoirs of the Court and Camp of George III vol 4 p 46-7). AW clearly believed that Cradock’s recall had been decided and that the only question was who should replace him.
© Rory Muir