Stapleton, Augustus Granville (DNB00)


STAPLETON, AUGUSTUS GRANVILLE (1800–1880), biographer of George Canning and political pamphleteer, was born in 1800. He was entered on 18 Sept. 1814 in the register of Rugby school as ‘son of John Stapleton, esq., and ward of the Rev. T. Yeoman, Barnstaple, Devon, aged 13’ (Register, i. 120). It has, however, been said that he was ‘a natural son of Lord Morley’ (Jekyll, Letters, p. 226), i.e. of the first Earl Morley, the intimate friend of Canning. He was entered at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, on 22 Feb. 1817, but did not take up his residence there, and on 14 Oct. 1818 he was admitted pensioner at St. John's College. He graduated B.A. in 1823.

On leaving the university Stapleton became the private secretary of Canning, and was admitted into his closest confidence. He walked side by side with his chief at the funeral of the Duke of York in St. George's Chapel at Windsor, when Canning caught his fatal cold, and was with him at Chiswick shortly before his death. By the special desire of George IV, and as a tribute to Canning's memory, he was appointed a commissioner of customs on 31 Aug. 1827. This appointment he vacated in a few years, and in 1837, at the request of his political leaders, he contested Birmingham in the conservative interest, and, though possessed of much oratorical power, was badly beaten.

In 1830 Stapleton caused to be printed two volumes of his ‘Political Life of George Canning, 1822–1827.’ But at the instance of the Duke of Wellington, intimations induced him to defer their publication (Jekyll, Letters, p. 226). When tracts appeared with reflections on Canning, Stapleton issued the work in 1831 (3 vols.). A second edition, which came out in the same year, included additional matter. In 1859 he published ‘George Canning and his Time,’ which was deficient in system, but, like the previous work, contained much information. In continuance of the subject, Stapleton subsequently contributed to ‘Macmillan's Magazine’ (xxvi. 25–32) an article on ‘A Month at Seaford in 1825 with Canning and Hookham Frere,’ and three more of his papers appeared in the same periodical (vol. xxxi.), including one entitled ‘Political Reminiscences.’ Stapleton died at Warbrook, Eversley, near Winchfield, Hampshire, on 26 Feb. 1880. He married, in 1825, Catherine, second daughter of John Bulteel of Flete, Devonshire. She died at Kensington on 18 June 1856, having had issue three sons and two daughters. His youngest son, Edward J. Stapleton, of the home office (d. 27 Jan. 1896, aged 56), edited in 1887 two volumes of ‘Official Correspondence of George Canning,’ the second of which contained numerous letters to and from his father in 1826 and 1827.

From 1836 Stapleton was a constant contributor to the newspapers and a prolific pamphleteer. The chief of these were: 1. ‘Observations on the Report of the Bullion Committee in 1810,’ 1837. 2. ‘The Real Monster Evil of Ireland,’ 1843. 3. ‘Sequel to the real Monster Evil of Ireland,’ 1843; the evil was over-population, and he advocated a large expenditure, say 16,000,000l., in that country on works of public improvement. 4. ‘The Claims of the Irish Priest. The Duty of the British People,’ 1847; against the endowment of ‘popery.’ 5. ‘Suggestions for a Conservative and Popular Reform in the Commons,’ 1850; a plea for a direct representation of the professional classes and of the arts and sciences. A petition to this effect drawn up by Stapleton and George Harris, LL.D., F.S.A., was presented by Lord Harrowby to the House of Lords on 27 May 1852, and produced a long speech from Lord Derby (Hansard, cxxi. 1181–92; cf. Harris, Autobiogr. pp. 184–91). 6. ‘The Irish Education Question: a Letter to the Earl of Eglinton,’ 1853. 7. ‘Oath of Supremacy and the “Oaths Bill,”’ 1854; in favour of the maintenance of the oath of supremacy. 8. ‘Hostilities at Canton,’ 1857; against the proceedings of Sir John Bowring and Admiral Sir Michael Seymour over the Arrow lorcha; a concentrated statement of the case against Lord Palmerston's government, which led, in the author's opinion, to the defeat of the ministry. 9. ‘A Letter to the Bradford Foreign Affairs Committee,’ also on the China question. 10. ‘Affair at Greytown,’ 1857, arguing that England should have demanded satisfaction from the American government for the outrages at Grey Town, Nicaragua. 11. ‘Intervention and Non-intervention; or the Foreign Policy of Great Britain, 1790–1865’ (1866), a volume summing up his arguments in former pamphlets on foreign affairs, and the substance of his letters in the ‘Morning Herald’ (1850–5), signed ‘Lex Publica.’ 12. ‘Origin of Fenianism,’ 1868, 13. ‘The French Case truly stated,’ 1871, an argument that France was not the aggressor in the Franco-Prussian war; a translation was published at Brussels.

[Men of the Time, 10th ed.; Burke's Landed Gentry, 6th ed. p. 1513; Academy, 6 March 1880; Standard, 30 Jan. 1896; Morning Post, 12 April 1880; Gent. Mag. 1856, ii. 127; information from Mr. R. F. Scott of St. John's College, Cambridge.]

W. P. C.