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George Canning

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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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