George Canning

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Canning, George

Canning, George, 1770–1827, British statesman. Canning was converted to Toryism by the French Revolution, became a disciple of William Pitt, and was his undersecretary for foreign affairs (1796–99). To bring ridicule upon English radicals and Whigs who favored the Revolution, he contributed numerous articles to the Anti-Jacobin (1797–98). During the war against Napoleon I, he served as treasurer of the navy (1804–6) and was foreign minister (1807–9). He exerted great influence in military affairs, planning the seizure of the Danish fleet at Copenhagen (1807) and supporting British intervention in Spain and Portugal (see Peninsular War). However, he quarreled with Lord Castlereagh, and after a duel, in which Canning was wounded, both resigned from the ministry. He later served (1816–20) as president of the board of control for India, resigning in protest against the government's prosecution of Queen Caroline. Recalled to the foreign office after Castlereagh's suicide (1822), he reversed previous policy toward the Holy Alliance, refusing to cooperate in the suppression of European revolutions. He protested the decisions of the Congress of Verona (1822) and, although unable to prevent French intervention in Spain, later sent an army to Portugal to foil absolutist intervention there. His policies toward the Spanish colonies in America, whose independence he recognized, led to the promulgation of the Monroe Doctrine. He arranged the French-Russian-British agreement, which, after his death, resulted in Greek independence. After the resignation of Lord Liverpool, Canning became (Apr., 1827) prime minister, but he died four months later.


See biography by W. Hinde (1973, repr. 1989); studies by D. Marshall (1938), C. A. Petrie (2d ed. 1946), H. W. V. Temperley (1925, repr. 1966, and 1905, repr. 1968).

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Canning, George


Born Apr. 11, 1770, in London; died Aug. 8, 1827, in Chiswick. British statesman, Tory.

Canning graduated from Oxford University in 1791. He was elected to Parliament in 1793. From 1796 to 1799 he was undersecretary of state for foreign affairs in the cabinet of W. Pitt the Younger. He was foreign secretary from 1807 to 1809. A strong opponent of Napoleonic France, he conducted a policy of actively supporting Spain with financial, diplomatic, and military aid. From 1814 to 1816 he was ambassador to Portugal. He supported the repressive measures of the Liverpool government against the democratic movement in Britain; at the same time he headed the so-called Left Tories, who came out for certain concessions to the industrial bourgeoisie. In 1822 he became an influential member of Liverpool’s cabinet, in which he was foreign secretary. He succeeded in carrying through certain reforms (lowering the duties on grain and raw materials, facilitating the export of industrial goods, easing some criminal laws). In 1823 he condemned the French intervention in Spain and supported the British government’s recognition of the independence of the former Spanish colonies in Latin America. He supported the autonomy of Greece, where in 1821 an uprising had broken out against the Turkish yoke. In April 1827 he became prime minister.

Canning was an energetic and flexible director of British foreign policy. Expressing the aspirations of the English bourgeoisie for the establishment of hegemony in Europe and in world markets, he adopted a policy of opposition to the policies of the continental powers of the Holy Alliance.


Speeches, vols. 1–6. London, 1828.


Tarle, E. V. “Angliiskaia godovshchina: 1827–1902.” Soch., vol. 1. Moscow, 1957.
Petrie, C. George Canning, 2nd ed. London, 1946.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.