CANNING: Politician and Statesman by Peter Dixon

CANNING: Politician and Statesman

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Son of a hardluck English gentleman and an Irish actress, George Canning had to rely on patrons, and when as a young Whig lawyer he decided that the Tories offered easier preferment, he was awarded a Parliamentary seat by Prime Minister Pitt himself. Canning's debut coincided with Britain's mobilization against the French Revolution, and the flexible Canning became a foremost anti-Jacobin orator, while at the same time opposing the slave trade and favoring religious tolerance. In 1822 he was chosen foreign minister and ""finally achieved his ambition of combining a useful office with the lead in the Commons""--his Whitehall predecessor, Lord Castlereagh, having slit his throat out of fear of homosexual blackmail. Canning maintained contempt for North Americans; coveted the resources of the newly independent South Americans; worked for constitutional governments on the European continent. Nonetheless Dixon suggests that Canning's main contribution was not in foreign policy but at home: he kept the hard-line Tories from total predominance, and yet was useful in ""rushing to the defense of the established order"" at times like the 1819 Peterloo Massacre. Dixon neither glories in the exceptional dissoluteness and repressiveness of this period of English history nor condemns them; indeed this bland book raises fewer questions than Wendy Hinde's George Canning (1973), taking the man on his own merits.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Mason/Charter