Tuesday, August 10, 2010

George Canning

August 10 (1827)...The death of the Premier is announced. Late George Canning, the witty, the accomplished, the ambitious; he who had toiled thirty years, and involved himself in the most harassing discussions to attain this dizzy height; he who had held it for three months of intrigue and obloquy—and now a heap of dust, and that is all. He was an early and familiar friend of mine, through my intimacy with George Ellis. No man possessed a gayer and more playful wit in society; no one, since Pitt's time, had more commanding sarcasm in debate; in the House of Commons he was the terror of that species of orators called the Yelpers. His lash fetched away both skin and flesh, and would have penetrated the hide of a rhinoceros. In his conduct as a statesman he had a great fault: he lent himself too willingly to intrigue. Thus he got into his quarrel with Lord Castlereagh,[20] and lost credit with the country for want of openness. Thus too, he got involved with the Queen's party to such an extent that it fettered him upon that memorable quarrel, and obliged him to butter Sir Robert Wilson with dear friend, and gallant general, and so forth. The last composition with the Whigs was a sacrifice of principle on both sides. I have some reason to think they counted on getting rid of him in two or three years. To me Canning was always personally most kind. I saw, with pain, a great change in his health when I met him at Colonel Bolton's at Stors in 1825. In London I thought him looking better.

George Canning actually died on August 8th, but apparently news reached Walter Scott on the 10th - as recorded in his Journal.  Canning came from relatively humble origins to eventually lead Great Britain as Prime Minister.  Ministership came by appointment from George IV, after Lord Liverpool was disabled by a stroke.  Canning's appointment caused dissension, as seven members of Liverpool's Cabinet refused to serve under him.  Canning died a mere 119 days after becoming Premier.

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