1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Macartney, George Macartney, Earl

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MACARTNEY, GEORGE MACARTNEY, Earl (1737–1806), was descended from an old Scottish family, the Macartneys of Auchinleck, who had settled in 1649 at Lissanoure, Antrim, Ireland, where he was born on the 14th of May 1737. After graduating at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1759, he became a student of the Temple, London. Through Stephen Fox, elder brother of C. J. Fox, he was taken up by Lord Holland. Appointed envoy extraordinary to Russia in 1764, he succeeded in negotiating an alliance between England and that country. After occupying a seat in the English parliament, he was in 1769 returned for Antrim in the Irish parliament, in order to discharge the duties of chief secretary for Ireland. On resigning this office he was knighted. In 1775 he became governor of the Caribbee Islands (being created an Irish baron in 1776), and in 1780 governor of Madras, but he declined the governor-generalship of India, and returned to England in 1786. After being created Earl Macartney in the Irish peerage (1792), he was appointed the first envoy of Britain to China. On his return from a confidential mission to Italy (1795) he was raised to the English peerage as a baron in 1796, and in the end of the same year was appointed governor of the newly acquired territory of the Cape of Good Hope, where he remained till ill health compelled him to resign in November 1798. He died at Chiswick, Middlesex, on the 31st of May 1806, the title becoming extinct, and his property, after the death of his widow (daughter of the 3rd earl of Bute), going to his niece, whose son took the name.

An account of Macartney’s embassy to China, by Sir George Staunton, was published in 1797, and has been frequently reprinted. The Life and Writings of Lord Macartney, by Sir John Barrow, appeared in 1807. See Mrs Helen Macartney Robbins’s biography, The First English Ambassador to China (1908), based on previously unpublished materials in possession of the family.