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Charles Cornwallis Cornwallis, 1st Marquess

Cornwallis, Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess (côrnwälˈĭs) [key], 1738–1805, English general and statesman. He was commissioned an ensign in the British army in 1756 and saw service in Europe in the Seven Years War. As a member of Parliament (which he entered in 1760), he opposed the tax measures that helped bring on the American Revolution. When the war came, however, he placed himself at the king's service and was sent (1776) to America. He served under Gen. William Howe at the battle of Long Island, in the New Jersey campaigns, and at the battle of Brandywine, acquitting himself with credit in all the engagements. In 1778, Cornwallis became second in command to Sir Henry Clinton, British commander in America. Two years later Cornwallis began the fateful Carolina campaign, which led directly to the Yorktown campaign and the major British defeat that in 1781 ended the fighting. Cornwallis was not held responsible for the disaster and in 1786 became governor-general of India. There he reformed the civil service and the judiciary and distinguished himself in the campaigns against Tippoo Sahib of Mysore. He was created a marquess in 1792 and returned to England in 1794. In 1798, Cornwallis was sent to Ireland as viceroy and commander in chief, and he was stern in repressing the rebellion there in the same year. He worked to achieve the Act of Union (1800), which initiated the unhappy experiment of uniting the Irish and British parliaments, but he resigned (1801) with William Pitt when George III refused to accept Catholic Emancipation. Cornwallis was then commissioned British minister plenipotentiary and helped to draw up the Treaty of Amiens (1802), which temporarily halted the war with Napoleonic France. In 1805 he was again appointed governor-general of India, but he died two months after his arrival there.

See his correspondence (ed. by C. Ross, 3 vol., 1859); A. Aspinall, Cornwallis in Bengal (1931); F. and M. Wickwire, Cornwallis: The American Adventure (1970).

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

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