Leveson-Gower, Granville George (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

LEVESON-GOWER, GRANVILLE GEORGE, second Earl Granville, (1815–1891), statesman, eldest son of lord Granville Leveson-Gower, first earl Granville [q. v,], by his wife, Lady Harriet Elizabeth Cavendish, daughter of William, fifth duke of Devonshire, was bom at Great Stanhope Street, Mayfair, London, on 11 May 1816 (Gent. Mag. 1815, pt.i. p.466). He bore in youth the courtesy title of Lord Leveson. He was educated at Eton, where his name first appears in the school lists for 1829, and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. on 14 Feb. 1839. In 1835 he was for a short time attaché at the British embassy in Paris under his father, and in 1836, and again at the general election of 1837, he was returned to parliament in the whig interest for Morpeth. His first speech was made in 1836 on the quadruple alliance. He moved the address in November 1837, but only spoke once again, on the Tithes Bill, in the House of Commons. In 1840 he became under-secretary of state for foreign affairs, and resigned with the other members of the Melbourne administration in 1841. At the general election he was returned for Lichfield. By the death of his father, in 1846, he succeeded to the peerage, and being a strong freetrader made his first speech in the House of Lords on the abolition of the corn laws. He was appointed by the prime minister, Lord John Russell, master of the buckhounds in July 1816, resigned this post at the end of the year, and became an unpaid commissioner of railways; was then made vice-president of the board of trade in 1848 and also paymaster of the forces, and was admitted to the cabinet in the autumn of 1851. On 20 Dec, 1851, when Lord Palmerston left the foreign office, he was gazetted his successor. He held the office until the Russell ministry fell in 1852. Circumstances were against him. He enjoyed office without power, and was unpopular, because he seemed to have supplanted the popular Palmerston, who was supposed to have been overthrown by the influence of foreign cabinets. The date of his resignation was 21 Feb. It was almost twenty years before he returned to the foreign office.

In December of the same year, in the administration of Lord Aberdeen, he accepted the office of president of the council, and held it until, in the ministerial rearrangement of June 1854, he was rather unceremoniously ousted, and accepted the inferior position of chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster (see Walpole, Life of Lord John Russell, ii, 222; Grenville Memoirs, 3rd ser. vol. i.) From 1855 he was entrusted with the leadership of the House of Lords when the liberals were in office.

Meantime he had taken a very prominent part in the promotion of the Great Exhibition of 1851. In 1850 he was appointed vice-president of the royal commission to which the arrangements for the exhibition were entrusted, and he was one of the deputation of commissioners which visited France in August 1851, on the invitation of the municipality of Paris, to celebrate the success of the exhibition. He spoke French like a Parisian, with a slight court accent, recalling the ancien régime {La Liberté, 1 April 1891), and his personal influence did much to promote the entente cordiale between England and France, which grew steadily from that time (see Martin, Life of Prince Consort, ii. 388).

In 1856 he was despatched to St. Petersburg as envoy extraordinary, to represent the queen at the coronation of Alexander II at Moscow on 7 Sept. When Lord Derby resigned, on 11 June 1850, the queen, embarrassed by the rival ambitions of Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell, sent for Lord Granville, who, in attempting to form an administration, obtained Palmerston's conditional support (see Ashley, Life of Palmerston, ed. 1876, ii. 165), but finding Lord John impracticable abandoned the attempt on 12 June, and accepted the office of lord president of the council in Palmerston's ministry (see Martin, Life of Prince Contort, iv. 453; Walpole, Lord John Russell, ii. 306; Times, 12 June 1859). On the death of Palmerston (October 1865} his claims to succeed him as premier were discussed, but he was not sent for by the queen. Meantime he had been, in 1862, chairman of the royal commission for the exhibition of that year, and in 1865 was appointed lard warden of the Cinque ports. In December 1868 he accepted the office of secretary of state for the colonies in Mr. Gladstone's first administration. His policy was the then accepted liberal policy. He withdrew the imperial troops from several foreign stations, especially in New Zealand and in Canada, leaving to the colonists themselves the task of providing for their own security, and his circular in reply to the proposal for a colonial conference in 1869 was discouraging to the colonies. Still, when Earl Russell moved for a commission on colonial policy (20 June 1870; see Hansard, Parl. Debates, ccii. 451) — a hostile motion — he defended himself successfully, and the motion was withdrawn. He was in office at the time of the transfer of the territory of the Hudson's Bay Company to Canada, and of the Red River revolt and consequent expedition under Colonel Wolseley. As leader of the House of Lords he was very successful in carrying the Irish Church and Land Bills of the government through a hostile assembly, he was no orator, and inspired no enthusiasm; but he was an excellent man of business, practical and tactful, lucid in exposition and inperturbably good-humoured. The compromise negotiated in July 1869 by the Archbishop Tait, was on the verge of open rupture with the House of Commons on the Irish Church Bill, largely owed its to his conciliatory demeanour, and Earl Cairns's courageous good sense in accepting the responsibilily of a settlement (see Davidson, Life of Archbishop Tait, 1891, ii. 40). On the death of Lord Clarendon, on 27 June 1870, Granville was transferred to the foreign office, and straightway announced, on the authority of Edmund, afterwards lord Hammond [q.v.], the permanent under-secretary for foreign affairs, that not a cloud obscured the prospect of peace. A fortnight later France and Prussia were at war. Granville's task was most difficult.

He had to preserve the neutrality of Great Britain, which was formally declared on 19 July, to secure the inviolability of Belgium, to offer mediation, which Pruasia would not accept, to soothe the the French resentment at the sympathy which the English people generally extended to the Prussians, and to respond,to Count Bernstorff's protests against the alleged export of horses, arms, and coals from England to France. With regard to Belgium, Granville look an opportunity, on 10 Aug., of correcting, by an outspohen declaration in the House of Lords, the uncertainty caused by Mr. Gladstone's ambiguous delivery in the commons on 8 Aug. (Hansard, Parl. Debates, cciii. 1702, 1754), and he succeeded in obtaining the assent of Prussia and France to new treaties for the maintenance of the quintuple arrangement for the neutrality of Belgium arrived at in 1839. When the French government of national defence requestod the mediation of England, Granville's hands went tied by the fact that Prussia desired no mediation, and that already English feeling was so far in favour of Prussia that his cautious neutrality was misrepresented alike in England and in Germany. He, however, endeavoured to arrange an armistice and instructed the members of the English embassy to extend all possible assistance to refugees. Meanwhile in October 1870 Russia repudiated without explanation her obligations with regard to the Black Sea under the treaty of Paris of 1850. Granville's protests were unanswerable, but Prince Gortschakoff, knowing that England would not interfere by force, was indifferent to diplomatic arguments. Under Granville's auspices the conference of London met in January 1871, and formally denied in general, while practically affirming in particular, the right of Russia to act as she had done. When, in 1872, he came to negotiate the renewal of the commercial treaty with France he found the French goremment unconciliatory. The United States government, too, had seized the opportunity to press for a settlement of the various claims arising out of the depredations of the Alabama and the outstanding fisheries questions. Granville, for the sake of peace, submitted to very great concessions. The treaty of Washington was signed on 8 May 1871, and in the subsequent Geneva arbitration claims were admitted by the arbitrators, and eventually under their award paid by the government of Great Britain, which largely exceeded the damages fairly traceable to the Alabama cruiser. In the management of Central Asian questions his policy was equally hampered by the impossibility of effective resistance. In 1871 he arranged with Prince Gortschakoff for the maintenance of an intermediate zone in Central Asia between the then Russian frontier and Afghanistan. But when, in 1873, Russia occupied — permanently, as it proved — Khiva within the neutral rone, he had to accept Count Schouvaloff's assurances that the advance was temporary.

Granville's foreign policy was not found in the election of 1874 to have added strength to the liberal party. During six years of opposition be contented himself, as leader of his party in the House of Lords, with watchful and satirical criticism of Disraeli's foreign policy, which was often very effective. The letter in which Mr. Gladstone announced his retirement from public life in 1874 had been addressed to him, and he shared with Lord Hartington the leadership of the liberal party. On the defeat of the conservative ministry at the general election of 1880 Granville was again sent for by the queen, but Mr. Gladstone was ultimately entrusted with the task of forming an administration, in which Granville resumed charge of the foreign office. His second tenure of the post of foreign secretary presented no greater appearance of strength or success than his first. For errors in his treatment of the difficulties in the Soudan his colleagues were as responsible as himself, but, face to face with new questions, Granville adhered too closely to notions derived from the state of Europe as it was at the time of the Second Empire. His dislike of Prussia led him to resist rather purposelessly the policy of Prince Bismarck, yet did not preserve him from friction with the French republic. Ilia Suez Canal convention of 1883 provoked so much hostility among English shipowners that parliament never ratified it. When various European powers claimed unoccupied African territory, in policy led to the recognition of 'spheres of influence' in Africa by which large tracts were prematurely placed beyond the reach of English annexation. Angra Pequeñn and the Cameroons in Africa, and part of New Guinea in Polynesia, were allowed to slip out of the possession of Great Britain. On the other hand, by his handling of the Montenegrin question he helped to preserve the peace of Europe, and his despatches on the occupation of Tunis were generally approved. In disposition at all times somewhat indolent, he was during his second term at the foreign office unable to cope with the enormous increase in the bulk of its business—an increase in twenty years of from seventeen thousand to seventy thousand despatches per annum. In negotiation he was still supple, and was a master of the art of diplomatic conversation with ambassadors, but he was by nature too weak to treat successfully with the powerful statesmen who directed in his day the policy of the great European powers. Accordingly, having resigned with the rest of the liberal ministry in 1885, and having adhered to Mr. Gladstone on the home rule question in 1886, he did not return to the foreign office in Mr. Gladstone's short third administration, but held the colonial office till the foil of the ministry in the summer. From that time until his death, though he continued to lead his party in the House of Lords, failing health withdrew him more and more from public life. He died in South Audley Street, London, of gout and an abscess in the face on 31 March 1891, and was buried at in Staffordshire.

He was created a knight of the Garter in 1867, was elected chancellor of the university of London in 1856, was a fellow of the Royal Society, and received the degree of D.C.L. at Oxford in 1865.

He married, first, on 25 July 1840, Maria Louisa, only child and heiress of Emeric Joseph, duc de Dalbera, and widow of Sir Ferdinand Acton of Aldenham, Shropshire, who died childless on 14 March 1860; and secondly, on 25 Sept. 1665, Castalia Rosalind, youngest daughter of Walter Frederick Campbell of Islay, Argyllshire, by whom he had two sons, of whom the eldest, Granville George, succeeded him, and three daughters.

[Information for Lord Granville's life has at present to be collected from Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, the Foreign Office Blue Books, the file of the Times, and the Annual Register, 1860–90. But see, besides the books above cited, Memoirs of Richard Redgrave, 1891; Memoirs of Count von Beust, ii. 222.]

J. A. H.