Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Canning, Stratford
CANNING, STRATFORD, first Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe (1786–1880), diplomatist, was the youngest son of an elder Stratford Canning, and first cousin of George the minister [q. v.] The elder Stratford was disinherited by his father on account of what was considered an imprudent marriage. To his mother, Mehetabel, daughter of Robert Patrick, Canning owed much of his personal charm, and still more his resolute will and steadfast nature. Left a widow soon after the birth of her most famous son, Mrs. Canning brought up her children, on limited means, with rare skill and wisdom. Charles Fox, her third son, served under the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular war, and was appointed his aide-de-camp; and the duke made very honourable mention of him when he was killed at the battle of Waterloo.
Stratford Canning was born on 4 Nov. 1786, in Clement's Lane, near the Mansion House. The dingy street, sloping down to the river, was a favourite resort of merchants, who then lived over their offices. Here his father had come to seek the fortune which he had forfeited by his marriage, and here Fox, Sheridan, and other celebrities delighted to sup with the charming young merchant and his beautiful wife. Six months after the birth of Stratford, his father died at Brighton, and the city house was exchanged for a quiet retreat at Wanstead, on the skirts of Epping Forest, which remained the home of mother and children for some fifteen years. Stratford was sent to a neighbouring school at the early age of four, and two years later to Hackney, where he remembered the celebration of Lord Howe's victory over the French in 1794. In the summer of this year he went to Eton. The hardships of his life at Hackney had furnished him with unhappy recollections; and the change to Eton, though fagging was still a trial to him, proved very welcome. His high spirits and personal charm made him a favourite with masters and boys, and he devoted his time more to games and exercises than to work, until an illness sobered him, and the sympathetic tutorship of Sumner (afterwards archbishop of Canterbury) gave him a new interest in his studies. Eton boys were always welcome at Windsor and Frogmore, and Canning had his share of the royal notice. George III once asked him in what form he was, and, being told the sixth, said, ‘A much greater man than I can ever make you.’ At Windsor he saw the great people of the state—Addington and Pitt and their colleagues; and they took him to hear debates in the House of Commons. He saw Nelson, who came to Eton ‘with Lady Hamilton under his arm, and made amends for that weakness by obtaining a holiday for the school.’ At home, in the vacations, he saw much of his cousin George, and of Sheridan, who had taken a house near Wanstead after the death of his first wife. At Eton he joined Richard Wellesley, Rennell, and Gally Knight in publishing a collection of essays, ‘The Miniature,’ which went to a second edition. In due course he became captain of the school, and in 1805 was elected a scholar of King's College, Cambridge. His university career was uneventful; but, without being precisely studious, he contrived to make himself master of most of the great classical authors, and throughout his life he retained an excellent memory of Virgil and other favourite poets. He lived in Walpole's rooms, saw Porson and Simeon, and joined a debating society with Pollock and Blomfield. ‘The life was one of pleasant monotony, in which an easy amount of study was mingled with healthy exercise and social enjoyments suited to the character of the place and its youthful occupants. I had friends, or at least acquaintances, in other colleges besides my own; but I had nothing to do with horns, carriages, or boats’ (MS. Memoirs). He was soon appointed to a diplomatic post, and his degrees were eventually granted by decree of the senate in virtue of his absence ‘on the king's service.’
In 1807 George Canning became foreign secretary, and appointed his cousin to the post of précis writer at the foreign office. The work did not seriously interfere with his Cambridge terms, but it was an office of confidence. His duties kept him constantly in intimate relations with his cousin, in whose house in Downing Street he lived, and at the foot of whose table he sat when the foreign minister entertained the diplomatic circle with a state dinner. When the mission was going to Copenhagen, with a view to healing the breach with the Danes, Stratford Canning was appointed the second of the two secretaries who accompanied Mr. Merry on this delicate and futile business (October 1807). An important mission to Turkey was in contemplation when he returned. The alliance with Russia against France had brought us into collision with the Porte in support of our Russian ally, and some acts of hostility had occurred. When Napoleon forced the czar to abandon his English connection, the necessity for a formal rupture with our old ally disappeared, and there was a desire on both sides, cautiously expressed, to mend the breach. Sir Robert (then Mr.) Adair was accordingly despatched, in June 1808, to negotiate a treaty of peace, and Canning went with him as first secretary. The task was a delicate one; for the Turks, as usual, believed that something was to be gained by delay. After two months' endurance of these procrastinations, Adair sent in his ultimatum, and ordered his man-of-war to be got ready for sea. The sight of loosened sails and anchor weighed finished the matter, and the treaty of peace was signed on 5 Jan. 1809, at the very moment when the French embassy at Constantinople was apprised of the supposed failure of the negotiations.
For a year and a half from this date Canning performed the duties of first secretary at Constantinople. The business of the ambassador was to induce Turkey to prefer the influence of England to that of France, at a time when France meant nearly all Europe, and England was her only overt antagonist. Adair did indeed contrive to keep the Porte in a friendly disposition towards England, and to check in some measure the French chargé d'affaires; but there was little stirring at the embassy, and Canning had leisure to amuse himself with riding, and with the scanty society of the place. ‘The diplomatic circle,’ he writes, ‘was at zero. Owing to various causes, entirely political, the only house of that class at which we could pass the evening was the residence of the Swedish mission. The intelligent and educated traveller was a rare bird, and at best a bird of passage. What remained was to be sought out with very limited success among the resident merchants and mongrel families of Pera and Buyukdery, who supplied christian diplomacy with interpreters, and by their means exercised no small influence, not always of the purest kind, over its transactions with the Porte’ (MS. Memoirs). One notable addition to the society of Stamboul was made for a time by the arrival of Lord Byron, whom Canning had last seen when playing against him in an Eton and Harrow cricket match, and who was then busily engaged upon ‘Childe Harold.’
In July 1810, disgusted with the position of onlooker at the Porte, and weary of the palaver and procrastination of Turkish ministers, a discussion with whom he compared to ‘cutting into dead flesh,’ Adair left Constantinople for his new post at Vienna, and Canning, in his twenty-fourth year, by virtue of a dormant commission, took over the full, though temporary, responsibility of the embassy at the Porte, as minister plenipotentiary, pending the appointment of Adair's successor. In the manuscript memoirs which have already been quoted he gives an interesting and valuable summary of the political situation. ‘In 1809,’ he writes, ‘a year of great importance had begun. The Emperor Napoleon had consolidated, by a peace of apparent duration, the military, territorial, and moral advantages which he had obtained, as the case might be, at the expense of continental Europe. Where his troops were not quartered, or his frontier not advanced, he exercised either an accepted authority or a predominant influence. He was king of Italy, master of the Low Countries, protector of the Rhenish confederacy, and mediator of the Swiss cantons. His numerous armies occupied the greater part of the countries west of the Pyrenees. Their positions were as yet but partially threatened by the Spanish insurrection and the British successes in Portugal. Austria was secretly collecting the means for a fresh trial of strength with the victorious legions of France. Russia was occupied with her military operations against Turkey. Denmark had become the creature of Napoleon, and Sweden, though allied with us by the policy of its gallant and unfortunate king, was drifting towards a change of government destined to prove subversive of the English alliance. England, though triumphant everywhere at sea, and wielding a power which was capable of making itself felt wherever the enemy or his forced allies presented a weak point upon the coast or a distant colonial possession worth attacking, had to bear up against a heavy financial pressure, and to encounter much occasional discontent at home. She was nominally at war with every European government controlled by France, and as far as ever from any approach towards peace with that country; while serious discussions with the United States of America held out to her the prospect of another war dangerous to her trade and difficult to be met without much additional expense and many a hazardous exertion.’ In 1810 the situation had grown perceptibly gloomier. ‘With the battle of Wagram, followed by the peace of Schönbrunn, fell every immediate hope of seeing the progress of Napoleon checked by the arms of Austria. Our Spanish allies had been compelled to take refuge in Cadiz. Our grand expedition to Antwerp had proved a failure. The fevers of Walcheren had given the finishing stroke to the indecisions of our commanders. The ministry at home were breaking into pieces; our national debt was larger than ever; and symptoms of popular discontent prevailed.’
Such was the state of Europe when Canning began his responsible work at Constantinople. To the complexity of the political situation was added the further difficulty that from the beginning to the close of his mission he was left without instructions from home. The government entirely forgot him; the most important despatch he received from the Marquis Wellesley, who had succeeded Canning at the foreign office, related to some classical manuscripts supposed to be concealed in the Seraglio; and the many and important negotiations which he carried to a successful issue were conducted without a solitary word of advice or support from the British government. As he writes, he had to ‘steer by the stars’ in the absence of compass; and although he naturally resented this official neglect, it is probable that he was not ill-pleased to find himself unshackled by instructions: to shirk responsibility on the plea of no orders from home was a course that could never have occurred to him. One circumstance was in his favour: England alone stood face to face with the conqueror, and had come to be regarded as ‘an ark of refuge for the honour of princes and the independence of nations.’ England, too, was the supreme trading power in the Levant, and in the absence of powerful pressure from France, the interests of the Porte were naturally bound up with those of the greatest maritime nation of the world.
Canning's work during this first mission at Constantinople consisted in three separate tasks: first, to make the influence of England felt at the Porte as a check upon the French; secondly, to defend the interests of our shipping trade in the Levant; and thirdly, to effect a reconciliation between the czar and the sultan with a view to setting Russia free to repel Napoleon's meditated invasion. In each of these tasks he was successful. Even in these youthful days his presence carried something of that sense of power which afterwards came to be associated with ‘the Great Elchi’—a title which means full ambassador, as distinguished from a minister (elchi), but which came to be applied to Canning with a special force, as the ambassador par excellence. It was soon perceived that the young minister, in spite of the want of instructions from home, was prepared when needful to take steps of the utmost daring and consequence. It was then common for a French privateer to capture a British merchant vessel and run the prize into a Turkish port. Remonstrance was useless; Canning boldly called upon Captain Hope, who commanded the Mediterranean fleet, to take the law into his own hands. Hope entered the harbour of Napoli di Romania with his corvette, and under the guns of the fortress demanded the restitution of some English prize vessels. The privateer ran his prizes ashore and burnt them; the corvette opened fire upon him, and the fortress was mute. The needful lesson had been given, and the privateering question was practically settled. The Porte indeed, incensed at this bold stroke, sent a private communication to the presumptuous minister, lamenting his imprudence in constantly harassing the Sublime Porte about mere trifles, instead of mediating a peace with Russia, a task which the sultan was ready to trust to his good offices. Canning knew perfectly that the negotiation of such a treaty would be the making of his diplomatic reputation; but even for this he would not yield a point. ‘Nothing,’ he answered, ‘is unimportant which concerns the honour of England.’ He persisted in his defence of the rights of British merchants, and his persistence only strengthened him in bringing his now acknowledged influence to bear upon the larger negotiations.
The conclusion of a peace between the belligerents on the Danube had become a matter of pressing importance. The balance of victory was decidedly on the Russian side, and it was obvious that Turkey could not expel the czar's army from her territory. At the same time Russia pursued the war but languidly, for her army on the Danube was urgently needed to meet Napoleon's threatened march to Moscow. The interest of England pointed distinctly to effecting the release of the army of the Danube, as a weapon against France; and though we were then technically at war with Russia, as with the rest of Europe, it was still possible for our minister to mediate, since Russia in her present straits had already begun to show leanings towards England. Canning saw that his duty lay in obtaining the best terms of peace he could for Turkey, and thus at once conciliating the good opinion of the Porte for England, and releasing the Russian army against England's great antagonist. Financial and political reasons, moreover, alike commended the peace to the czar: Canning increased the desire by cementing the alliance between Turkey and Persia, and thus encouraging the Persians in their flank movement on Russia. On the other hand the normal difficulty of inducing the Porte to come to any decision was in this instance increased by one or two Turkish successes on the Danube. Yet he so worked upon Turkey by emphasising the growing successes of Wellington in the Peninsula, that the Porte at length confided to him unusual powers. In spite of the fact that Canning was acting entirely on his private responsibility, the sultan threw over the French minister, and invited his English rival to open direct negotiations with D'Italinsky, the Russian plenipotentiary at Bucharest, promising to place exclusive confidence in him, and to permit no French interference. The intrigues of France and Austria furnished weapons which were amply effective in capable hands. He obtained possession of a secret paper in which these two powers proposed to join Turkey in an attack upon Russia, and this he contrived to convey to D'Italinsky, with the desired effect: Russia became more anxious than ever to arrange a peace. But Turkey remained obstinate; the Porte, always trusting to the chapter of accidents, still hoped to get out of the war without loss of territory, and some strong measure was needed to bring it to reason before France opened hostilities. The French minister and Austrian internuncio strenuously encouraged Turkey in the policy of resistance, while Canning, in spite of his confidential position, was still at variance with the Porte on minor matters of commercial rights. Moreover, his communications with Russia, the traditional enemy of Turkey, even when invited by the Porte, were in themselves liable to suspicious misconstruction. The English minister had, however, again a weapon in his hand. He held a secret paper detailing a plan for the invasion and partition of Turkey, drawn up at Vienna, with Napoleon's connivance. This unprincipled document he delivered to the Porte in his most impressive manner, and it soon appeared that the long struggle was over. In the face of the active hostility of France and Austria, in spite of the obvious advantages of delay to the Porte, he carried his point, and the treaty of Bucharest was signed on 28 May 1812, and ratified just before the arrival of Mr. (afterwards Sir Robert) Liston superseded Canning at the embassy.
This was the most important act of Stratford Canning's life. Apart from the reputation thus acquired by the young diplomatist, the gain to Europe was immense. The negotiations which ended in the treaty of Bucharest laid the foundations of that predominating influence which England has ever since exerted at the Porte, and established the extraordinary personal prestige which enabled Canning to maintain that influence at Constantinople through times of severe strain and confusion. More than this, it released Tschitschakoff's army of the Danube at the precise moment when it was needed to aggravate the discomfiture of the French in their retreat from Moscow, an opportune achievement, which the Duke of Wellington characterised as ‘the most important service to this country and the world that ever fell to the lot of any individual to perform.’ Canning had gone to Constantinople when Turkey was in open rupture with us, and almost in the arms of Napoleon. He left it under the supreme influence of England, with our maritime rights secured, Russia set free to join the great alliance against the French emperor; and all this without a word of advice from the home government, and without using his trump card, the exchange of the secret article of the treaty of the Dardanelles, which would have cost England 300,000l., and which had been left to his discretion.
In July 1812 he left the Bosphorus, with a firm resolve never to return. Apart from the special drawbacks of life and society at Stamboul, he disliked residence abroad, and had only accepted the secretaryship, and subsequently the embassy, under the idea that it would be a very temporary and brief engagement. His inclinations pointed to a career at home, where the quick intellectual life of London, and the usual goals of ambition, literary and political, attracted him. When he arrived in England, however, George Canning was not in power; Castlereagh occupied the foreign office, and there seemed little likelihood of immediate promotion. He was, indeed, in recognition of special services, granted a pension of 1,200l. as minister plenipotentiary en disponibilité. But he was lonely in London; most of his school and college friends were scattered; and he took no pleasure in ordinary town amusements. He read a good deal, in a desultory fashion; wrote poetry, and contributed some articles to the ‘Quarterly Review,’ which he had a share in founding. Perhaps his greatest pleasures were his regular walks with George Canning to Hyde Park Corner, where the ex-minister's carriage awaited him, economically, outside the turnpike, to drive him home to Brompton. To the long and intimate conversations which enlivened these daily walks the younger man always attributed much of his political knowledge and insight.
In 1813 the offer was made to him of accompanying Lord Aberdeen on his special mission to Vienna; but as his acceptance would have involved a step backwards in diplomatic rank, from plenipotentiary to secretary, he thought it wise to decline, though he thereby lost the opportunity of accompanying the allied armies in their march against Napoleon. He went to Paris, however, after the emperor's abdication, saw the king make his entry, and was presented to Louis XVIII. On that occasion he ‘saw, and never saw again, the handsome youth who was destined to hold the reins of empire in Russia, to keep all Europe in alarm for thirty years, and to close a proud career under the pressure of a disastrous war.’ He met, for the first and last time, his lifelong enemy, the Czar Nicholas.
At this time Lord Castlereagh, who had formed a very high opinion of Stratford Canning's abilities, offered him (May 1814) the post of envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary in Switzerland, and as this carried with it a diplomatic step, and involved a great deal of important work—Castlereagh had indeed selected him because he was known to like work—he accepted. His business was to substitute, for the act of mediation by which Napoleon had bound the Swiss cantons to France, a new federal act, which should create a neutral and guaranteed state, to act as a check upon French aggression in Germany and North Italy. The work was rendered exceedingly difficult and delicate by the wide differences between the governments of the several cantons, and all Canning's tact and decision were needed to reconcile the conflicting systems. After much negotiation, and a long diplomatic duel with Count Capo d'Istria, the Russian plenipotentiary, an act was agreed upon, and the envoys proceeded to Vienna to submit it to the congress then sitting to adjust the affairs of Europe. Canning lived to be the last survivor of the famous congress; for though he was not one of the plenipotentiaries (having only a seat on the committee appointed to inquire into the Swiss question), he was more than once invited to join the sittings of the general council. As far as Switzerland was concerned the congress did its work quickly; Canning held the protocols, and pushed the act of federation to its conclusion; but the general business of the congress made little progress before the return of Napoleon from Elba.
When the congress dispersed upon the return of Napoleon, Canning went back to Switzerland with the act of federation approved by the congress (Declaration, 20 March 1815), whereby the ‘precious gift of neutrality’ was accorded to the cantons on condition of political impotence, and his first duty was to induce the cantons to accept the slight modifications introduced at Vienna, and to furnish a contingent to the allied armies now concerting measures against Napoleon. Both these objects he effected before Waterloo removed any remaining grounds of hesitation. During the ‘hundred days’ an opportunity occurred for a rear attack by the Swiss contingent on the French corps d'armée which had marched through Geneva to meet the Austrians; Canning at once grasped the position, and urged an immediate attack; but the Swiss general had no instructions which permitted so daring a movement, and the chance was lost. The envoy's principal work was now accomplished, but there were still numerous details to be settled in the constitutions of the twenty-two cantons. He was even induced by the entreaties of the Swiss to draw up a plan for organising a federal army; and the force of 100,000 men which the protestant cantons mustered in 1847 against the Sunderbund was the result of the military system founded by the civilian thirty years before. During the earlier part of the six years occupied by the Swiss mission, Zürich was his headquarters, and the life seems to have been somewhat dreary; the men were too grave and serious, and the ‘wives and daughters were more remarkable for their domestic virtues than for the charms and accomplishments of polite society.’ The grandeur of Alpine scenery, of which he retained an enthusiastic memory at the age of ninety, made amends for the dulness of man, and the lack of society was to some extent remedied when he moved the embassy to Bern in 1815, and still more when, after a visit to England in 1816, he brought back as wife the daughter of Henry Raikes. His married happiness, however, was shortlived; he took a villa about two miles from Lausanne in the spring of 1817, but in the following year Mrs. Canning died in childbirth, and the blow induced her husband to apply to government for his recall. His work in Switzerland was done; it had been quiet and unobtrusive, but not less important and difficult.
Canning had not been long in England when he was appointed to the embassy at Washington with a seat in the privy council. On 18 Sept. 1819, Richard Rush, the United States minister in London, had an interview with Lord Castlereagh, and was informed by the latter that Canning had been selected as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to the United States, in accordance with ‘an anxious desire to keep up the system of conciliation which had been acted upon with so much advantage to both countries by Mr. [afterwards Sir Charles] Bagot,’ and with the belief that Canning ‘possessed every qualification for treading in the same path.’ Lord Castlereagh referred eulogistically to his services at the Porte, at Vienna, and in Switzerland (RUSH, Court of London from 1819 to 1825, 1873 ed., p. 157). The American mission, for which Canning set out on 14 Aug. 1820, was one of peculiar delicacy. The war of 1812–15 was but recently over. The convention of 1818 had partly settled some of the more serious differences between England and the States, but many remained in a dangerous position, and the temper of the States was such that the greatest tact and discretion were needed to bring about a pacific solution of the questions in dispute. ‘Sir,’ said Secretary Adams to Canning at Washington, ‘it took us of late several years to go to war with you for the redress of our grievances; renew these subjects of complaint, and it will not take as many weeks to produce the same effect.’ The most pressing questions at the time were those of the right to search American ships for British seamen, and the suppression of the slave trade by a sort of general police on the seas, to which England found a great obstacle in the susceptibilities of the Americans. Canning succeeded in inducing a somewhat more conciliatory spirit among the American ministers, in spite of considerable friction with Adams, whose temper was uneven. The climate of Washington, and his dislike of American manners and politics, however, made his transatlantic residence far from pleasant. In impaired health, he returned in the autumn of 1823 to arrange a treaty in London, embodying the settlement of the various outstanding differences. An account of the conferences held in January and February 1824, of which Canning drew all the British instructions and the protocols, and in which he and Huskisson and Rush were the plenipotentiaries, has been preserved by the last, and shows that, in spite of the unsparing demands of the Americans, against which the English representatives ‘vehemently’ protested, their demeanour was generally conciliatory and conducive to a mutual understanding. Impressment and the West Indian trade were the chief points under discussion; but minor matters of boundary, fisheries, river navigation, and above all the still pending question of the slave trade, occupied the plenipotentiaries. A compromise was at length arrived at by the conference, but the convention, signed 13 March 1824, which elicited George Canning's hearty admiration, was rejected by the American Senate, and all that had been achieved was a general rapprochement between the two governments, which in later years led to a settlement of the matters under discussion.
In 1824 it was decided that Canning was again to be sent to Turkey. He heard the news with dismay, for his former memories were not agreeable, and he had a very lively repugnance to again encountering the weary prolixities of Turkish diplomacy. Where duty summoned him, however, there would he go at any personal sacrifice. Meanwhile he had a brief reprieve in a preliminary mission in November to St. Petersburg. The business which drew him there was of the utmost importance. Russia was believed to favour the cause of the Greeks in the war of independence, and to be disposed to join in a scheme of mediation with England and France. England, while anxious not to let Russia move alone in the matter, and after entering into negotiations for such mediation, became suddenly convinced that the time was not ripe for interference, and absolutely refused to join in any acts of coercion. George Canning had set his heart on the liberation of Greece without the use of force, and his cousin was therefore sent to St. Petersburg to confer on the Greek question and smooth away the ill-feeling which George Canning's policy of no coercion and his abrupt withdrawal from the negotiations had aroused in the minds of the czar and his ministers, and also to compose a boundary dispute between England and Russia in north-west America. The last he duly accomplished, and his judicious mode of dealing with the sore subject of Greece in conversations with Count Nesselrode (March 1825) prepared the way for the protocol which the Duke of Wellington and Count Nesselrode signed (4 April 1826) on the occasion of the former's complimentary visit to the new Emperor Nicholas on his accession a year later. Canning left the Russian ministers in a more tranquil frame of mind, and also took the opportunity, in passing through Vienna, to deliver a royal letter to the Emperor of Austria, and to confer with Metternich on the views of the British government towards the liberal movements then springing up in Europe.
In October 1825 Canning started on his second mission to Constantinople. In the summer he had married a second time. His young wife was a daughter of James Alexander, M.P., of Somerhill, near Tonbridge. In taking her with him he was under the impression that his absence abroad would not be of long duration; for in an interview with his cousin George, the latter informed him that Lord Liverpool had consented to his proximate appointment as vice-president of the board of control—a promise which George Canning's death, in 1827, made of no effect. His objects at Constantinople were chiefly the pacification of Greece and the reconciliation of Turkey and Russia. In the first matter he had to carry out his cousin's instructions, which were dictated by enthusiastic sympathy for the Greeks, and included virtually the separation of Greece from the Ottoman empire. The time was ill chosen for such mediation, and it may be doubted whether the ambassador, with all his pity for the Greeks, would have himself selected this moment for intervention. When the insurrection was in its first strength, it might have been less difficult to induce the Porte to accord favourable terms to the Greeks. But the arms of Turkey were now triumphant, and the Greeks desperate. Canning had an interview with Mavrocordato at Hydra on his way to Constantinople, and thoroughly gauged the deplorable straits to which the Greeks were reduced. Landing at Ipsera he had found the town an empty shell, without an inhabitant; while the bones of mothers self-destroyed, with their dead children beside them, bore witness to the cruelties of the Turks and the heroism that inspired such desperate deeds to escape them. Two survivors, worn to skeletons, testified more eloquently than words to the terrible pass in which the Greeks now found themselves, and the ambassador exclaimed: ‘How I longed to be the instrument of repairing such calamities by carrying my mission of peace and deliverance to a successful issue!’ The circumstances which moved the mediator to pity only nerved the Porte to more strenuous resistance. Sultan Mahmud had been laboriously building up the Turkish empire; he had suppressed Aly Bey and the great feudal landowners, and soon after Canning's arrival accomplished the final overthrow of the most menacing element in the state by the massacre of the Janissaries. He was organising a new army, and it was not to be expected that a sultan in the midst of a military revival would consent to any dismemberment of his dominions. Moreover, there were hostile counsels at the Porte. Baron Otterfels, the Austrian internuncio, then held the ear of the sultan, acting under instructions from Metternich, which were of course repudiated when they were exposed. Baron Militz, the Prussian minister, was also intriguing against peace, and even went so far as to send home accounts of interviews and conversations which never took place—‘a scheme of treachery almost unparalleled even in diplomatic history.’ In the end the long duel terminated in the discomfiture of both these ministers; but the struggle was a severe one, and any one less gifted than Canning would have early given over the desperate conflict. Fortunately, he knew how to make himself respected. The dominating influence so powerfully described by Kinglake nearly thirty years later was already asserting itself in these days, and his personal ascendency over the Porte was already felt.
But all his personal ascendency could not at this moment avail against the forces that were then working in Turkey. The first hostile element was Sultan Mahmud himself. Writing in later years, Canning describes this famous sultan as ‘in temper and policy a caliph and a despot;’ and, notwithstanding the admiration which his resolution and energy in army and other reforms excited, Canning's opinion of Mahmud was disparaging. Russia was the next obstacle. While originally anxious to interfere by force in favour of the Greeks, the czar had no idea of preferring their cause to his own interests; and for the present he allowed England to attempt the thankless office of non-coercive mediator, alone, and steadily kept the Greek question in the background until his own claims in Europe and Asia had been settled to his satisfaction. The Austrian internuncio also stuck at nothing to damage the prospects of a peaceful arrangement of the Greek difficulty. Canning found himself isolated, and even viewed with distrust by the Porte as the only advocate of the rebellious Greeks. In vain he pressed upon the Porte the advantages of an amicable arrangement, and hinted that the Greeks (who had accorded him full powers) were prepared to accept such moderate concessions as were included in the separation of the Morea under local authority, with Turkish garrisons in strong positions (MS. Memoirs). In vain he tried ‘persuasion, admonition, and a glimpse of perilous consequences.’ All argument was thrown away on Mahmud and his ministers, and Canning had to stand aside and become a mere onlooker, while Russia played her own game. ‘When I look back,’ he wrote, ‘after an interval of forty years, to the whole of the circumstances, it appears to me quite clear that the success I so ardently desired was a simple impossibility.’ It was no doubt the position of isolation to which his efforts in favour of Greece had consigned him that prevented the English ambassador from helping the Turks to obtain better terms from Russia than those included in the humiliating treaty of Akerman, October 1826, which the rawness of his new army alone induced the sultan to sign. The dispute between Russia and Turkey having been temporarily adjusted by this instrument, the part of solitary mediator in behalf of Greece, which Canning had thus far performed, was exchanged for the joint action of the three powers, England, France, and Russia, under the treaty of London of July 1827, which was the formal expression of the protocol signed by Wellington at St. Petersburg in the preceding year. The effects of this forcible interposition of the three maritime powers, which was emphasised by the appearance of their joint fleets in the Mediterranean, were disastrous to Turkey in many ways. The light terms which Canning had been able to offer the Turks on behalf of the Greeks were now enlarged to the extent of a settlement which involved the creation of an independent kingdom, with far wider boundaries than had been hitherto contemplated. The hot-headed action at Navarino, which was fought without the knowledge of the ambassador, who agreed emphatically with the Duke of Wellington in describing it as an ‘untoward event,’ was followed by a burst of indignation from the Porte, which broke off all negotiations, and compelled the withdrawal of the embassies of the three mediating powers. The imprudent manifesto then promulgated by Sultan Mahmud gave Russia the pretext she desired for a forcible insistance upon the terms of the treaty of 1827, and thus the Russo-Turkish war of 1828–9 ensued, and by its disastrous termination in the peace of Adrianople deprived Turkey of the good results which were beginning to flow from the reforming policy of Mahmud.
The English ambassador's action during these eventful times was one of compulsory inactivity. He had at first to stand aside and busy himself with the affairs of the embassy, and decide the legal causes which were moved in the ambassador's supreme court, by the light of common sense, a task he accomplished to such purpose that he never had a complaint against his judgments. Meantime, he availed himself of any opening that arose to assert the influence of England and check the machinations of the Austrian and Prussian ministers. Much as he deplored the barbarity displayed in the massacre of the Janissaries, from which he contrived to save his own guard, he could not but allow the necessity of strong measures of repression; and deeply as he regretted the attitude of the Porte towards the Greeks, it was impossible to deny that there was little to induce the sultan to agree to terms of dismemberment. The conferences of the three ambassadors under the stipulations of the treaty of London of 1827 were beginning in no very hopeful mood, when a shabby scrap of paper was placed in Canning's hands, just as he was on the point of attending the conference at the French ambassador's. At the close of the interview he laid this document before the ministers. It contained news of heavy firing heard at Navarino, and the effect of the communication was instantaneous. General Guilleminot turned pale, and then quietly remarked, ‘Trois têtes dans un bonnet, n'est-ce pas?’ and the conference broke up. The sultan had heard the news, too, and his indignation was unbounded. The embassies were surrounded by troops, and Canning spent the night in burning his private papers. No violence was offered to the Europeans; but the negotiations came to a dead-lock. Once again Canning took upon himself to initiate a course of action without instructions. He persuaded his French and Russian colleagues to join him in withdrawing the embassies from Constantinople on their own responsibility, and the three ambassadors, with their private and official families, sailed direct to Corfu.
In February 1828 Canning left Corfu for London in some perturbation as to his probable reception. His apprehensions were unfounded; he was exonerated from all blame in the matter of Navarino, and his action in withdrawing the embassy was approved. The government, however, could not make up its mind to any course of action. Canning urged upon Lord Dudley the importance of not permitting Russia to act alone in coercing the Porte, and insisted on the necessity for an immediate pacification of Greece; and when the foreign secretary declined to move, Canning even took the unusual step of carrying the matter higher, to the prime minister himself; but the duke was equally obdurate. When Aberdeen succeeded Dudley at the foreign office, a change came over the British policy: a French army was despatched, at England's request, to drive out Ibrahim Pasha and his Egyptian troops from the Morea, and the three ambassadors were ordered to resume their conferences for the pacification of Greece. They met at Corfu in the autumn, and proceeded together to Poros, where they drew up articles of settlement, framed by Canning, which were forwarded to their respective governments in December 1828. These articles included the establishment of a Greek tributary monarchy, with a northern frontier terminating in the gulfs of Volo and Arta. It was reserved for the treaty of Adrianople, forced upon Mahmud by the triumphant Diebitsch in August 1829, to enforce these and still more trenchant conditions. In the meanwhile, it was only the influence of Canning that restrained Capo d'Istria from employing the French contingent in an attack upon Attica, still held by the Turks, which would have resulted in serious European complications.
The negotiations at Poros mark the termination of the first period of Canning's diplomatic career. For twelve years he was now destined to hold no permanent diplomatic post. A disagreement with Lord Aberdeen on the Greek question—owing, nominally, to Canning's suggestion that Candia should form part of the new kingdom (Correspondence with Prince Leopold, Parl. Papers, 1830, xix.), but really to Aberdeen's mistrust of the ambassador's ‘political inclinations’—had been accentuated by a sharp correspondence, and he conditionally resigned his embassy, in the event of the Poros settlement not being carried into effect, in January 1829. The condition named did not precisely occur, but his resignation was accepted, and Sir R. Gordon succeeded him as ambassador at the Porte.
On his return to England the services of the ex-ambassador were acknowledged by the grand cross of the Bath. Canning now addressed himself to home ambitions. He was elected a member of the House of Commons in 1828, while still an ambassador. His first seat was Old Sarum, ‘the rottenest borough on the list;’ he stood in 1830 unsuccessfully for Leominster, as ‘third man;’ then tried Southampton, but retired before the poll; and was at length elected for Stockbridge, where the canvass was a mere form, and a cheque for 1,000l. to the attorney settled the business. Finally, after a sharp contest, he was returned in 1835 for King's Lynn, with Lord George Bentinck for his colleague, and retained the seat in two subsequent elections, until his return to diplomatic functions removed him from parliament in 1841. His parliamentary career was not remarkable. His opinions, indeed, were respected, and his counsel sought, especially on Eastern questions; but he was no party man, though he acted with Peel and Stanley, and was a staunch advocate of ‘constitutional principles.’ As a speaker, moreover, he had to contend with a nervousness which generally kept him silent. No man possessed more completely the power of impressive speech when a message had to be delivered to a sovereign or a statesman; none knew better how to combine grace of diction with accuracy, lucidity, and completeness of expression; but he had not the peculiar qualities necessary for House of Commons' success.
Canning was invited (1830) by the government to draw up the statement of our claims in the American boundary question to be submitted to the arbitration of the king of the Netherlands; his statement was approved, and the claims awarded. In the following year it was arranged that he should proceed to Constantinople on a special mission to obtain an extended frontier for Greece, the boundary having been drawn (in deference to Aberdeen's views, and against the representations of the Poros commission) on narrower lines than were practically efficient. Sir Robert Gordon, the ambassador at the Porte, naturally opposed the interference of a special envoy, and it shows Palmerston's appreciation of Canning's unique influence with the Turks, that in spite of all opposition, and his own decided repugnance to a return to the Levant, he was sent out in November 1831. The manner in which he conducted this one-sided negotiation was beyond praise. By playing upon the fears of the Porte with reference to the growing power of Mohammed Aly, and establishing secret communications with the sultan himself, he obtained the consent of the Porte to the new frontier having its termini on the gulfs of Volo and Arta, and brought his French and Russian colleagues to accept his settlement.
It is right to state that, while Palmerston heartily approved Canning's conduct of this mission, he did not at any time consult him, after his return in September 1832, upon the various arrangements then pending. He foresaw the failure of the Greek constitution with Otho and the triple regency, but had no voice in the matter. Nor was his advice solicited in the troublesome question of the relations between the Porte and Mohammed Aly. He had cautiously encouraged Mahmud, in the last interview he ever had with him, to hope that England might support him against his overweening vassal; but Palmerston and Lord Grey did not see their way to sending the small naval force which Canning urged them to despatch to the Levant as a menace to the Egyptian viceroy, and the neglect of his counsel resulted in the complications of ten years later, when we had to perform with difficulty what might once have been easily accomplished.
At the close of 1832 he was sent on a special mission to Portugal, to attempt to arrange the dissensions between the brothers Don Pedro and Don Miguel. The failure of the attempt was a foregone conclusion, and the ambassador came home little pleased at being sent on a fool's errand. On his return in 1833 he found himself gazetted as ambassador to the court of St. Petersburg, but the czar resolutely refused to receive him. He was not popular at the Russian capital, on political grounds, and Nicholas entertained a personal as well as a political dislike to his greatest opponent. Nesselrode dreaded his astuteness, and anxiously wrote to Princess Lieven to have the appointment of so ‘impracticable’ a man cancelled. Palmerston, however, was firm; he had appointed Canning (according to Greville, whose view, however, seems to be scarcely borne out by the facts) with a special view to showing the Lievens and their court that he was not to be dictated to, and he declined to send another envoy to St. Petersburg. For some time England was represented only by a chargé d'affaires at the Russian capital (Greville Memoirs, ii. 352, 357). Meanwhile Lord Grey's promise to give Canning the next vacant embassy was annulled by his resignation; and Peel's offer of the governorship of Canada in March 1835 (through Aberdeen, the colonial secretary) was not accepted. Parliamentary duties, and long residences abroad for the health of his invalid son, filled up the following years. In 1841 Peel again offered him the government of Canada, but he refused it on the ground of a disinclination to leave England; the treasurership of the household was suggested, and sanctioned by the queen, but he felt that the office was hardly suited to his temperament; and finally the embassy of Constantinople was again pressed upon him, and ‘with no small reluctance’ accepted. He started in November 1841, and arrived at the Golden Horn in January 1842. Henceforward, with brief intervals of leave, Canning held sway at the Porte for sixteen years. It was a peculiarly favourable period for the exercise of his wise control. From the time of the adjustment of the struggle with Mohammed Aly in 1841 to the outbreak of the Crimean war in 1853, Turkey enjoyed an interval of absolute peace, and these twelve years were productive of improvements in the internal administration of the empire, insomuch that Lord Palmerston in 1853 declared that during the preceding twenty years Turkey had made more progress than any other state of Europe. Canning's name is intimately associated with the reforms that characterised the reign of the young Sultan Abd-el-Mejid. Mahmud had inaugurated many changes, and his son had not long ascended the throne when he promulgated the famous hatti-sherif of Gülhanè, in which the persons and properties of all his subjects were guaranteed without distinction of religion or nationality. Various other reforms were promised: but it may well be doubted whether, with all the good intentions of the young sultan, many of the reforms he ordained would ever have borne fruit without the supervision of the British ambassador. In proof of this, the long and irritating negotiation which Canning conducted in 1844 with the effect of putting an end to executions for apostasy may be cited. Such barbarities were constitutional by the Ottoman law; but they were wholly opposed to the spirit of the sultan's reforming policy. Nevertheless, without the ambassador's urgent pressure, sustained long after France had given up the matter as hopeless, this peculiarly odious form of tyranny would never have been abolished in Turkey. It was his fixed belief that Turkey must be upheld in her position among European states; but he held that this could only be justified by an improved system of government. One of the chief aims he set before himself was to obtain equal rights and privileges for the christian subjects of the Porte. In the principles of Mohammedan law he was met by a stone wall of obstruction. By persistent efforts he won the abolition of the law of execution for apostasy and the formal renunciation of religious persecution by the sultan, and asserted successfully the right of christian subjects to worship after their own fashion under the protection of the government authorities. Another important point, which he carried against the whole spirit of Turkish administration, was the abolition, by special firman, of torture throughout the empire. Such concessions were not obtained without extraordinary pressure. It took years of incessant argument to induce the Porte to permit (1855) the trifling privilege of erecting a protestant church at Jerusalem; and what Canning wrote of the difficulty of bringing the Turks to reason about the claims of the Lebanon Emir Beshir applies to all similar negotiations: ‘In this case, as in any one where justice is to be done at any cost to the treasury, the Turkish government is in the habit of raising every imaginable difficulty, and it is generally found to be impossible to obtain, I will not say a satisfactory arrangement, but even a tolerable compromise, without the employment of very decided language’ (S. Canning to Aberdeen, 22 Feb. 1845, Parl. Papers, lii.) Long experience, however, and his own success at the Porte, proved the truth of this theory. In foreign affairs, Syria, which had fallen into anarchy after the expulsion of the Egyptians, was restored to tranquillity, and Persia, on the eve of hostilities, was, at Canning's instance, reconciled with the Porte by the mediation of England and Russia, and an international commission met to decide the boundary disputes. Among Canning's titles to the gratitude of Englishmen must be mentioned his steady support of the cause of discovery and exploration in the Turkish dominions. He obtained, after repeated exertions, the firman which authorised him to send Layard, at his personal expense, to Nineveh to make the famous excavations, the fruits of which were presented to the British Museum by the ambassador to whose influence and subsidies they were due, and to whom they were given by the sultan. He opened the way to the explorations at Budrum in 1846, and presented the frieze to the British Museum; and Newton's subsequent work at the mausoleum was throughout facilitated by the friendly support of Canning, who obtained the firman, advanced money, and in every way aided the explorer, in the midst of the distractions of the Crimean war (Newton, Hist. Disc. i. 80 ff.) Chesney's Euphrates expedition also owed its protection to the British ambassador (Life of Gen. F. R. Chesney, 253, 258). Many anecdotes have been preserved which show the unbounded influence which the imperious elchi exerted over Sultan Abd-el-Mejid. On one occasion, when Turkey was in sore straits for money, he observed the foundations being laid of a new summer residence on the shore of the Bosphorus; forthwith he ordered the boatmen to row him straight to the sultan's palace, where a few minutes' conversation ended in the stopping of the works. When Mohammed Aly Pasha, the minister for the navy, and brother-in-law of the sultan, had wantonly murdered a Greek concubine, Canning refused to receive the ruffian, and when the sultan sent to remonstrate with him on such conduct to his majesty's brother-in-law, he replied, ‘Tell the sultan that an English ambassador can never admit to his presence a cruel assassin.’ In the end the minister had to be dismissed from office. Canning had no mercy for cruelty and treachery; and his reputation for fierceness of temper was largely due to his unmeasured indignation against whatever was mean or dishonourable.
In the autumn of 1846 he returned to England on leave, and resigned the embassy, which had always been distasteful to him. Palmerston refused to accept the resignation, and after a couple of years (during which he was sent to Switzerland to mediate in the civil war of 1847, but arrived after the submission of the Sunderbund, and only in time to save Neufchatel from the violence of the victorious democrats), he resumed his position at the Porte, in March 1848, holding communications with the several powers on his way at their respective capitals. Within two months of his return to the embassy he obtained the restoration of Reshid Pasha and the reform ministry to office, in the place of the reactionaries who had profited by the elchi's departure to regain their ascendency at the Porte; and during the next two years he secured a firman admitting christian evidence in criminal trials, brought up the Mediterranean fleet in concert with France in support of Turkish independence against Russia and Austria, sustained the Porte in its generous protection of Kossuth and the other Hungarian refugees, in the teeth of the threats of the two emperors, and carried various valuable reforms in commercial and other matters. In 1852 he again visited England, but had hardly arrived when the critical state of affairs at the Porte brought him back to his post, with the title of Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, which was suggested by his family's ancient connection with St. Mary Redcliffe at Bristol. Prince Mentchikoff had taken advantage of his absence to press, with threats, upon the Porte the old claim of a Russian protectorate over the christian subjects of the Ottoman empire; and, in the want of the firm will and ‘formidable mind’ of the ambassador to help them, the Turks were on the verge of yielding. And ‘now, at a time when Europe had fastened its eyes upon the czar, and was watching to see how the ambassador of All the Russias would impose his master's will upon Turkey, the Emperor Nicholas was obliged to hear that his eternal foe, travelling by the ominous route of Paris and Vienna, was slowly returning to his embassy at the Porte.’
Stratford de Redcliffe's conduct of the negotiations which terminated in the Crimean war has been made classical history by Mr. Kinglake, who has told how he fought the unequal duel with Prince Mentchikoff, whose clumsy threats were no fit weapon wherewith to parry the shrewd thrusts of his practised antagonist; how he preserved his imperturbable gravity when awarding to the Russian the lofty privileges of a Greek doorkeeper for a church at Jerusalem, or the patriarch's inalienable right to superintend the repair of a dilapidated roof, and the other inanities of the Holy Places dispute; and how he marshalled the ambassadors of the four powers against Russia, when it came to defending the Porte against the forcible imposition of a Russian religious protectorate. ‘Lord Stratford had brought to a settlement the question of the Holy Places, had baffled all the efforts of the Emperor Nicholas to work an inroad upon the sovereign rights of the sultan, and had enforced upon the Turks a firmness so indomitable and a moderation so unwearied, that from the hour of his arrival at Constantinople they resisted every claim which was fraught with real danger—but always resisted with courtesy—and yielded to every demand, however unjust in principle, if it seemed that they might yield with honour and safety.’ Stratford had indeed so guided the policy of Turkey that it had secured the sympathy of Europe. The home government approved every step, and England and France applauded his victory over Mentchikoff; the admiral of the Mediterranean squadron was ordered to obey the behests of the ambassador, and the united fleets of France and England moved up near the Dardanelles. ‘The power to choose between peace and war went from out the courts of Paris and London and passed to Constantinople. Lord Stratford was worthy of this trust, for being firm and supplied with full knowledge, and having power by his own mere ascendency to enforce moderation upon the Turks, and to forbid panic, and even to keep down tumult, he was able to be very chary in the display of force, and to be more frugal than the government at home in using or engaging the power of the English queen. … Entrusted with the chief prerogative of kings, and living all his time at Therapia, close over the gates of the Bosphorus, he seemed to stand guard against the North, and to answer for the safety of his charge’ (Kinglake, i. 182, 190, Cabinet ed.).
The Russian ultimatum, demanding the suzerainty over the thirteen million christian subjects of the sultan, was rejected by the Turks under the guidance of Stratford, and Prince Mentchikoff retired in a rage from Constantinople. In all that had happened the czar saw the hand of his arch-enemy Canning, the man who had opposed him steadfastly ever since his accession. The discomfiture of Mentchikoff wrought the czar to a pitch of infuriated anger. In a fit of madness he ordered his armies to cross the Pruth and occupy the Principalities on 2 July 1853. The result was the Crimean war. To have led England into so futile an adventure would indeed be an unworthy termination to a long career of wise statesmanship. The Crimean war, however, was not to be averted by diplomacy. Russia was resolved upon war long before it actually broke out. Above all Nicholas was bent upon crushing the hateful ambassador who had so long successfully bearded the Emperor of All the Russias. What Stratford did was to make the war impossible to a moral state. He induced the Turks to concede the Holy Places dispute, and while firmly refusing to allow a Russian protectorate over the Greek church, he caused the sultan to issue firmans confirming all the privileges and immunities of his christian subjects, and sent a note to Count Nesselrode engaging that these privileges should never be revoked. The Russian demands had in fact been granted, so far as their ostensible object was concerned, but without giving the czar the preponderating influence in Turkey which was the real aim of his proposals. Stratford had taken away from the czar every excuse for making war. More than this, he had united the four great powers in a combination to reprobate the unwarrantable schemes of Russia. Had matters been left in his hands, there would have either been no war at all, or it would have been a war of Russia against the four powers supporting Turkey. Stratford was not responsible for the fatal alliance with Louis Napoleon, which produced the virtual separation of England and France from the European concert, and threw the burden of upholding Turkey upon the two western powers instead of upon all Europe. That was Palmerston's doing, and Palmerston admitted afterwards that he had ‘been made a catspaw of at Vienna, as Stratford wrote we should.’ If supporting a weak state against the unwarrantable demands of a stronger power caused the war, Stratford was so far responsible, but in no other sense did he contribute to the Crimean war. He indeed privately approved the Turk's rejection of the Vienna note, but that note granted precisely what had been all along refused, the Russian protectorate of the Greek church in Turkey; and it was only the obtuseness or insincerity of the statesmen who drew it up that was to blame for its rejection.
During the progress of the war, Stratford's labours were unremitting. Not unfrequently he would write all night, especially during the diplomatic activity which he displayed towards the conclusion of the war, with a view to Austrian mediation. He would be found in the morning with a mass of papers before him, still in his evening dress. He worked his secretaries and attachés hard, but they knew that he was working still harder, and his enthusiasm inspired a like zeal in his subordinates, which he was quick to note, though he seldom expressed his thanks in words. He twice visited the Crimea in 1855, on the second occasion for the purpose of investing Lord Raglan with the Order of the Bath. During the later stages of the war Stratford was greatly oppressed with the loss and destruction of life it involved, and painfully conscious of England's inability to keep on furnishing a continual supply of fresh troops, and he directed his influence towards a coalition with other powers. When the war was over he returned to London in 1858 and resigned his embassy for the last time, but paid a complimentary visit of farewell—his seventh journey to Constantinople—to Sultan Abd-el-Mejid, for whom he entertained a real regard and esteem. This closed his public career. His ambition for ministerial work at home was never gratified.
The remaining twenty years of his life were spent in the society of his wife and three daughters (who all survived him), chiefly in London and at his country house at Frant, near Tonbridge Wells, where he revived his delight in the classical authors, and especially his favourite Virgil, or immersed himself in the despatches of his special hero, the Duke of Wellington, whose portrait, with those of Nelson and George Canning, hung upon the walls. Oxford made him an hon. D.C.L., Cambridge an LL.D.; and in 1869 he received the Garter from Mr. Gladstone's government. Whenever some branch of the Eastern question agitated parliament Stratford was in his place in the House of Lords, where he would deliver one of his thoughtful, statesmanlike speeches, to which ministers of both parties listened with deference. He also contributed between 1874 and 1880 several valuable papers on Eastern politics to the ‘Times’ and the ‘Nineteenth Century,’ and the more important of these were collected with some unpublished essays in a volume entitled ‘The Eastern Question’ (1881), to which Dean Stanley contributed a memorial preface. His style was measured and sonorous, without ever degenerating into bombast or wordiness, and his thought was accurate and logical. The later course of events in Turkey had grievously disappointed him, and he was disgusted with the reckless extravagance and misrule of Abd-el-Aziz, insomuch that it was supposed that Stratford had recanted his Turkish policy. This, however, is a mistake. While admiring their better qualities, he had never defended the government of the Turks; that, he perceived, was doomed, and he constantly recommended reforms, not as a cure for a bad system, but as a palliative, to ‘retard the evil hour,’ which he foresaw clearly enough. His interest in Turkey had always been stimulated, not by any liking for the Turks, but by the necessity of restraining Russian ambition, and by his earnest sympathy with the christian populations, for whom he had always consistently exerted his influence. He still believed that such steady and effective pressure, ‘not to be trifled with,’ as he had been able to employ would have kept the Turks in their reforming policy, and he ascribed much of the ruin that had fallen on Turkey to the want of a united and consistent influence on the part of England and Europe. As it was, he saw that the Porte, in its demoralised state, could not be supported; he welcomed the establishment of a belt of practically independent christian states from the mouth of the Danube to the Adriatic, and admitted that ‘the very idea of reinstating any amount of Turkish misgovernment in places once cleared of it is simply revolting.’ To the man who had guided the reforms of Abd-el-Mejid, and produced the liberal hatti-humayun of 1856, the retrogression of Turkey was a grievous disappointment. He admitted the facts and adjusted himself to the new situation; but his policy remained what it had been during his long sway at Constantinople, the termination of which was the signal for the dismemberment of the empire he had so long held together.
A favourite employment of his old age was poetical composition, to which he had always been partial. His poem on Bonaparte, which pleased Byron, was published as early as 1813; and when his diplomatic occupation was over, he published ‘Shadows of the Past,’ 1866, ‘The Exile of Calauria,’ and ‘Alfred the Great in Athelnay, an historical play,’ of about 3,000 lines of blank verse, in 1876. Devout in the highest sense, he endeavoured to counteract the freethinking tendencies of the age by his treatise ‘Why am I a Christian?’ (1873), which went to five editions, and with the same object he wrote (1876) of ‘The Greatest of Miracles,’ or the human nature of Christ. To the last he retained his ancient vigour and alertness of intellect. He drew up a paper on the Greek claims in the summer of 1880, and a few days before his death (which occurred 14 Aug. 1880) Sir Robert Morier, the son of his old friend David, found him as clear in mind and memory, as incisive in speech, and as keenly interested in poetry and politics as if he were nineteen instead of ninety-three. He looked back over eighty years with the same clear statesman's eye that had made him the trusted colleague of Canning and Peel, of the great Duke, of Palmerston and Newcastle, and the deadliest enemy of tyrants, whether Bonaparte, Nicholas, or Louis Napoleon. The great ambassador died with the memories of nearly a century of high transactions of state still vivid in his unclouded mind. His body lies in the little churchyard at Frant; his statue stands beside his two kinsmen in Westminster Abbey.
[The principal authority for this life of Lord Stratford is his Memoirs, at present in manuscript, which have been placed at the writer's disposal by his daughters. These valuable papers cover the greater part of his career up to his mission to Spain in 1832, with a few, sometimes detailed, notes on the later periods. For the American negotiations, Rush's Court of London from 1819 to 1825 has been consulted; and for the Crimean period Mr. Kinglake has, of course, been the leading authority. The parliamentary papers have been examined throughout, and a few characteristic incidents have been drawn from Skene's With Lord Stratford in the Crimean War.]