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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

A quarrel began between him and Lord Castlereagh


Meanwhile,

the education of George Canning the son had been provided for by his uncle, a wealthy merchant and banker, Stratford Canning, whose son was afterwards famous as Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, the "great Elchi" of Kinglake. This uncle seemed anxious to make reparation for the manner in which his dead brother had been {33} treated by the family in general. The young Canning was sent to Eton and to Oxford, and began to study for the bar, but he displayed such distinct talents for literature and for politics that there seemed little likelihood of his devoting himself to the business of law. He soon became known at Oxford as a charming poet, a keen and brilliant satirist, and a public speaker endowed with a voice of marvellous intonation and an exquisite choice of words. He made the acquaintance of Sheridan and of Burke; by Burke he was introduced to Pitt, and by Sheridan to Fox, and it is believed to have been on the suggestion of Pitt that he resolved to devote himself to a Parliamentary career. He married a woman who had a large fortune, and he obtained a seat in the House of Commons. In that House he remained silent for a whole session after his election, and devoted himself to a close study of the rules, the usages, and the manners of the representative chamber. In those far-off days it was considered becoming on the part of a young member of the House to observe a modest silence for a great part of his first session, and to make himself familiar with the assembly before he
ventured on any public display of his eloquence. The time had not yet come when it was considered humanly possible for a member of Parliament to make his first speech on the very day of his first introduction to the House of Commons.

Canning's first speech was a distinct success. He was thought by some critics to have imitated too closely the magnificent rhetorical style of Burke, but the exquisite voice and the noble elocution of Canning were all his own and certainly could not have been improved by any imitation of the voice and manner of Burke. Many of Canning's friends took it for granted that the young member would ally himself with the Whig Opposition, but Canning at once presented himself as the devoted follower of Pitt. Canning was afterwards the foremost among the creators of the _Anti-Jacobin_, a famous satirical periodical set up to throw ridicule on the principles and sentiments of the French Revolution, and of all those who encouraged its levelling theories or who aped its exalted professions of {34} humanity and of universal brotherhood. Canning made his way rapidly in public life, and became an Under-Secretary of State three years after his election to the House of Commons. His next appointment was that of Treasurer to the Navy, and in 1807 he became Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. A quarrel began between him and Lord Castlereagh, one of his colleagues, arising out of the unfortunate Walcheren expedition, and the quarrel resulted in a duel, after the fashion of the day, in which Canning received a wound.

[Sidenote: 1822--Canning and the governorship of India]

The policy of Castlereagh made as strong a contrast with the policy of Canning as even the contrast which was brought under the notice of every listener by the Parliamentary speeches of the two men. Canning was master of a polished eloquence which, at the time, had no rival in either House of Parliament. Castlereagh was one of the most singular and striking illustrations of the fact that a man may sometimes become a power in the House of Commons without the slightest gift of eloquence. Canning was a master of phrase, tone, and gesture. Castlereagh's language was commonplace, uncouth, and sometimes even ridiculous, and it happened only too often that in his anxiety to get his words out he became positively inarticulate. His policy represented the ideas of the Holy Alliance in their narrowest and most reactionary meaning; while Canning, although entirely opposed to the principles of mere revolution, had an utter contempt for the notion that a conclave of European sovereigns could lay down limits and laws for the growth and the government of all the European nationalities. The policy of Castlereagh has long since ceased to have any believers even among the advisers of autocratic sovereigns, while the policy of Canning is the recognized creed of statesmanship all over the civilized world.


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