Stewart, Robert (1769-1822) (DNB00)
STEWART, ROBERT, second Marquis of Londonderry, better known as Viscount Castlereagh (1769–1822), second but eldest surviving son of Robert Stewart, first marquis of Londonderry [q. v.], and of his first wife, Lady Sarah Frances, second daughter of Francis Seymour Conway, marquis of Hertford [q. v.], was born on 18 June 1769. From his childhood he displayed great talent, industry, and resolution of character. His education was begun under Archdeacon Hurrock at a public school in Armagh, and while there he was nearly drowned by the upsetting of a boat on Strangford Lough on 5 Aug. 1788. Shortly afterwards he was placed at St. John's College, Cambridge, where William Pearce (afterwards dean of Ely) was his tutor. He distinguished himself in several college examinations, and was then removed with a view to his entering the Irish House of Commons. He passed portions of 1788 and 1789 in Paris, Geneva, Rome, and Vienna, giving particular attention to political affairs at home and abroad, and on his return to Ireland in 1790 was brought forward on behalf of the independent freeholders of co. Down to wrest one of the county seats from the influence of the Marquis of Downshire. In spite of his youth—for it was only during his canvass that he came of age—his ready speech and pleasing manner secured his election, after a forty-two days' poll; but the expense of the contest, 60,000l., nearly ruined his family, and left his father poor for the rest of his life. He then entered one of the regiments which were enrolled on the outbreak of the French war, and on 26 April 1793 became lieutenant-colonel of the Londonderry militia. On 9 June 1794 he married Lady Emily Anne, youngest daughter and coheiress of John Hobart, second earl of Buckinghamshire [q. v.]
His political views at first were not very definite, or even very consistent. On his election he had pledged himself to parliamentary reform in the sense of the extension of the Irish parliamentary franchise to Roman catholic freeholders, and the act of 1793 which removed the disability was warmly supported by him; but this limitation of his disposition to reform exclusively to the case of the Irish franchise had not been clearly expressed in the first instance, and he was often in his later and strong tory days taunted with apostasy on the strength of this pledge. At first he generally voted with the opposition, but, owing to his duty with his regiment, he was frequently absent from parliament; and although he had already formed the opinion, in advance of his contemporaries, that the parliamentary union of England and Ireland and the repeal of catholic disabilities were both necessary and just, and that the French revolution was likely to lead not to the dismemberment but to the consolidation of France, his sympathies were generally of a tory kind. Besides sitting for co. Down in the Irish parliament, he sat for Tregony (1794–6) in the English parliament, and in 1795 he seconded the address in the English House of Commons. From May 1796 to July 1797 he was member for Orford, Suffolk, and then accepted the Chiltern Hundreds on taking office in Ireland. In February 1796 Thomas Pelham, second earl of Chichester [q. v.], chief secretary, returned to England owing to his rupture with Grattan's party, though he did not resign his office till April 1799. Stewart (now Lord Castlereagh by his father's elevation to an earldom in 1796) was on 25 July 1797 appointed by Lord Camden, the lord lieutenant, to the office of keeper of the privy seal, and was entrusted with the duties of the chief secretaryship in Ireland in Pelham's absence, succeeding to the office when Pelham resigned (November 1798). War with France and the outbreak of rebellion at home called for strong and prompt measures, and it fell to him to take many of the necessary steps, the officials of Dublin Castle being unable to deal with such a crisis. He received timely information of the plans of the rebels, and ordered the arrest of the leaders before the day fixed for the outbreak. He was thus largely responsible for the administration during the conspiracy of the United Irishmen, and was frequently accused of encouraging and ordering inhuman punishments. That he was completely guiltless of this charge even Brougham admits; indeed it was his repeated and urgent demands that at length obtained the despatch from England of a proper military force. The substitution of regular troops for the disorderly Irish militia then enabled him in some degree to check the cruelties and excesses which had been perpetrated. The substitution of Lord Cornwallis for Lord Camden in the lord-lieutenancy gave vigour to the administration. The battle of Vinegar Hill broke the strength of the insurgents. Even the landing of the French troops under General Humbert, and his success at Castlebar on 27 Aug. 1798, failed to restore the cause of the rebels. Of Lord Castlereagh's services during this time Lord Cornwallis reported in warm terms of appreciation (Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 359, 439). A liberal amnesty was recommended by Cornwallis and Castlereagh even before the rebellion was at an end; but under pressure from the English government, which thought them unduly lenient, it was granted in a much less generous form.
It was the preparation of a scheme for the union of Great Britain and Ireland, to be followed by a measure of Roman catholic emancipation, which led to the resignation of Pelham, who was hostile to any further concession. Castlereagh's views made him a suitable person to forward the government's policy, and, in spite of the rule that the chief secretary should not be an Irishman, Pitt, on his own knowledge of Castlereagh's talent and recent services, as well as upon Lord Cornwallis's recommendation, made him Pelham's successor. To carry an act of union with the rebellion hardly extinguished was a hard task, but to carry it by protestant votes as the precursor of an emancipation measure was harder still. First the Dublin bar, and then the citizens of Dublin generally, denounced any project of union; the Roman catholics were at best indifferent. But Castlereagh pressed vigorously on. He visited London, and laid his views before the ministry. Having regard to the aggressive policy of the French republic, Ireland, he argued, must be secured by an incorporating union, and that without the loss of a single session. If the catholics could win over the protestant freeholders to a policy of separation, it would be beyond the power of England to maintain her hold on Ireland. The bill which he was accordingly authorised to introduce was, even in its details, drawn in accordance with his own views; but it gained less and less favour the better it was known. All classes in Dublin feared the personal loss that would follow if the centre of political affairs were removed to London; and the catholics, though they saw a prospect of immediate gain in the substitution of English influence for protestant ascendency, saw also that there could be no hope, after a union, of ultimately securing a similar ascendency for themselves. The best argument for the measure, the rottenness of the existing system of government, was one on which it best beseemed the present members of that government to be silent. The borough proprietors and the members of parliament who had sunk large sums in buying their seats were almost unanimously hostile, and estimated their certain pecuniary loss at an aggregate of 1,500,000l. Under these circumstances any course was attended by many evils; none was likely to be an unmixed good. If emancipation was to precede union, the Roman catholics could not be withheld from supporting a separate parliament in order to secure an opportunity of taking vengeance on their opponents; if it accompanied union, all hope of protestant support was gone. If an act of union passed without emancipation, a new crop of difficulties would be sown. Reluctantly Lord Castlereagh was driven to choose the third of these three courses; equally reluctantly Pitt was brought to the same way of thinking. Even so Castlereagh perceived that success was hopeless if the government were either irresolute or scrupulous. He made up his mind and had his way. He secretly asked for money from England, and remittance after remittance was sent him.
The British parliament passed the bill without difficulty; but, much to Castlereagh's disappointment, the Irish House of Commons passed, though only by a majority of two, on 22 Jan. 1799, George Ponsonby's resolution ‘that the house would be ready to enter into any measure short of surrendering their free, resident, and independent legislature as established in 1782.’ Still he was undeterred. His temper, a happy mixture of suavity and obstinacy, stood him in good stead; he kept his head and persevered, and Lord Cornwallis, though despondent, supported him. The Duke of Portland expressed approval of his tone and conduct. It was announced that the government meant to proceed at all costs.
Now began a traffic most skilfully conducted by Castlereagh, while Cornwallis held aloof. The votes that argument could not win and patriotism could not secure were bought. Though money compensation for extinguished seats was indeed granted irrespective of votes, and money was not directly paid for votes to any considerable extent, pensions and promotions and advancements in the peerage were freely promised. The only justification for such procedure is that, while it did not affect the principle or policy of the union, it secured it. To the difficulties of these negotiations was added the danger of a fresh rising in view of the renewed plans for a French invasion. Some modifications of the bill had also to be arranged with the English cabinet as regarded the adjustment of the public debt of the two countries, the position of the Roman catholic peers, and some other matters, and Castlereagh attended meetings of the English cabinet for this purpose. Thanks to these changes and to the other influences at work, Castlereagh approached the session of 1800 with confidence. An amendment to the address was lost by forty-two votes. There followed a violent agitation outside of parliament and a series of bitter debates within it; and Castlereagh, though his supporters in the House of Commons might vote for him, had to find all the arguments and the eloquence for himself. His speeches were highly praised, and he kept his temper in public; but he was with difficulty dissuaded from challenging Grattan (Brougham, Statesmen, ii. 113). To his dismay he saw his majorities sinking and his supporters flinching from their bargains. The belief that this was due to more open-handed corruption by his opponents was small consolation, but at length, after four months of conflict, the bill passed the Irish House of Commons on 7 June 1800 by a majority of 65, and the House of Lords by 69.
The bill being safe and the country tranquil, the difficult task began of performing the bargains and distributing the rewards. The English ministry declined to recommend to the king more than half of the peerages promised by Cornwallis and Castlereagh, but gave way when they threatened to resign on 17 and 18 June. Places of profit were also given or promised as rewards for supporting the bill. Castlereagh himself waived any claim for reward, but the king promised that his father should be advanced to the peerage of the United Kingdom whenever he or his son chose. Although Castlereagh had carefully avoided giving any pledges that an emancipation measure should follow the act of union, his opinion as to its justice and necessity was known, and he had written a tract in favour of the Roman catholic claims and planned the establishment of the Roman church in Ireland. He now visited London to press for the introduction of a bill, and the catholic party in Ireland looked for one with confidence. But the king was obdurate; he had only recently heard the views of Pitt and Castlereagh on this point, and he would not accept them. Pitt resigned, and Castlereagh followed his example, holding office, however, till 21 May 1801, when his successor, Charles Abbot (afterwards first Baron Colchester) [q. v.] arrived in Ireland. As a member of the united parliament Castlereagh had removed to London. His recent labours and anxieties brought on severe attacks of fever there, and his health was for some time impaired.
Castlereagh now sat in the imperial parliament for co. Down, and held that seat till July 1805. He was then defeated, and elected for Boroughbridge in Yorkshire in January 1806, for Plympton-Earl in Devonshire in November 1806, and for county Down again in 1812, 1818, and 1820; and on succeeding to the Irish peerage he was elected for Orford in April 1821.
Castlereagh soon came into intimate relations with Pitt again, and adopted his plans and policy, especially in foreign affairs. Though he held no official position, the Addington administration entrusted to him the conduct of its two chief Irish measures in the House of Commons in 1801—the Suppression of Rebellion Act and the Suspension of Habeas Corpus Act. He prepared and submitted to the government elaborate memoirs upon the danger of continuing the exclusion of catholics from parliament in view of a French invasion, and of levying tithes for the protestant clergy in kind. He prepared plans for the commutation of tithes, he recommended the payment of state salaries to the Roman catholic clergy, and the erection of fortifications in different parts of Ireland. His capacity for affairs was so evident that in 1802, in spite of his views on the Roman catholic question, he received, under pressure from Pitt, and accepted the offer of the presidency of the (East India) board of control, with a seat in the cabinet, and kissed hands on 17 July.
From this time he ceased to be specially concerned with Irish affairs, and became chiefly engrossed in foreign concerns. His position in the Addington cabinet was the more important, in that his intimacy with Pitt made him in some degree Pitt's mouthpiece. Within a few months he was almost the leading member of the cabinet on questions of foreign policy, though officially still only connected with India. He was strongly for the retention of Malta after the peace of Amiens, in spite of the pledges given for its evacuation, and his minute stating the grounds for renewing the war was adopted by the ministry as its collective justification of its policy. He formed also a strong friendship and admiration for Lord Wellesley, supported him against the court of directors, and obtained their reluctant sanction for his annexation in the Carnatic and Oudh. He had to mediate between the cabinet, which desired to reduce the Indian army, and the governor-general, whose policy urgently demanded its increase, to obtain fresh supplies of silver for the Indian treasury, and at the same time to check the growth of its debt; but he performed his difficult task with skill. Less resolution on his part might have crippled the empire in India, and only his unfailing courtesy and temper could have conciliated so many conflicting powers. He had charge also of the negotiations, then of considerable importance, with the court of Persia. When Pitt succeeded Addington in May 1804, he felt Castlereagh to be too valuable to India to be removed from the board of control, and accordingly, without laying down his other office, Castlereagh in July 1805 succeeded Lord Camden as secretary of state for the war and colonial department. It was on seeking re-election for co. Down that he was defeated, and compelled for several years to sit for an English seat.
As secretary of war he showed himself something of an amateur strategist, and plunged eagerly into the plans for setting fire to the Boulogne flotilla by means of fireships called catamarans, but they did not succeed. He was responsible for the organisation and despatch of the force sent to the Elbe in October 1805, and must bear a large share of the blame for its too tardy arrival. The battle of Austerlitz compelled its return almost as soon as it had landed. Taught, however, by experience, he now grasped the fact that the British army, if it was to lend effective assistance to the continent at all, must be employed in force, and for large and definite objects, and not in scattered and desultory expeditions. He prepared minutes showing that, without endangering home defences, sixty thousand British troops could take the offensive, and, thanks to the command of the sea, could choose their own sphere of operations. Nothing, however, could be done with these objects before Pitt died in January 1806. During Grenville's government which followed Castlereagh was active in opposition, taking foreign affairs as his department, while Perceval attacked the ministry on home questions. When Grenville's ministry fell in March 1807, Castlereagh returned to his former place of secretary at war in the Duke of Portland's ministry, and a more active co-operation with the continental powers at once began. Money and stores were promptly despatched; treaties were entered into for the assistance of Prussia; but again, before anything could be done, the battle of Friedland (14 June 1807) and the treaty of Tilsit detached Russia and left Great Britain isolated. The Copenhagen expedition followed, and the Danish fleet having been secured, Castlereagh transferred the troops which had been employed in Denmark to Gothenburg in Sweden, and prevented the Swedish fleet from falling into the hands of Napoleon. The Russian fleet was thus shut in at Cronstadt; the Baltic remained under the control of Great Britain, and the naval combination which Napoleon had prepared by the secret articles of the treaty of Tilsit was frustrated as far as the north of Europe was concerned. Castlereagh now directed the attention of the ministry to the same objects in southern Europe. The maritime strength of Spain was derived from her connection with her Eastern and American colonies, and, though broken at Trafalgar, might now, unless the attempt were forestalled, be revived by Napoleon. Castlereagh had been in communication with Sir Arthur Wellesley on this subject since November 1806. Canning and Castlereagh anticipated Napoleon's design for seizing the naval force of Portugal by bringing about the prince regent's withdrawal with it and the royal family to Brazil on 27 Nov. 1807.
The recruiting for the army proving now very insufficient to maintain the forces at the height of the establishment authorised by parliament, Castlereagh next devoted himself to a new organisation of the army, by which the regular army was to be fed by volunteering from the militia as well as by recruiting, and kept up to a level of over two hundred thousand men. This plan was adopted by the cabinet and acted on till the end of the war. At the outbreak of the Spanish war the army was thus both larger and better supplied than at any previous time. In anticipation of this Castlereagh had been preparing transports and disposing troops for prompt embarkation, and, after considering an attack on Boulogne, he prepared the expedition to Portugal. He endeavoured to obtain its command for Sir Arthur Wellesley, whose genius he had quickly divined; but he could only prevail so far with the military authorities as to have him appointed to the command of the detachment from Cork which sailed first, to be superseded in due course as the others, with commanders senior to him, should arrive in Portugal. He approved both of the convention of Cintra and the advance of Sir John Moore. Adopting Wellesley's views rather than Moore's, he determined upon a stubborn defence of Portugal, and had prepared reinforcements, when the news of the disaster at Coruña arrived, and the remains of the force returned home. He now carried the cabinet with him in his determination to persevere in the war, raised the forces at Lisbon to twenty thousand men, and sent Wellesley out again on 14 April 1809. He set himself still further to increase the regular army by dividing every regiment of the line into two battalions, the first of volunteer recruits forming the regular army for service at home and abroad, the second to be raised in the different counties by ballot, forming a militia for service at home only. This raised the total forces to 532,000; the plan was in substance carried out, and during the rest of the war worked admirably. The battalions of the regulars supplied the gaps in the Peninsula army; the regulars were fed by volunteering from the militia; the militia was kept up partly by voluntary recruiting and partly by balloting for service.
The prolonged operation of making the base in Portugal first of all impregnable in itself, and then a starting-point for advance into Spain, had now begun; and Castlereagh's statesmanship, which had seen how Napoleon's naval combination in the Baltic might be thwarted by a moderate but promptly disposable force, had thus with similar means prevented any combination in the south. Castlereagh had proved the superiority of his strategy over that of his contemporaries; he had now to show how he could cope with protracted scarcity of transport, of supplies, and of specie. Of these Portugal itself was practically bare: Great Britain had to supply almost everything. But from this time fortune was against him. To complete his scheme of engaging Napoleon's European front at all available points, he proposed to despatch an expedition against its centre and to seize the island of Walcheren. Antwerp was Napoleon's great naval establishment, and there he was building a fleet. In addition to the chance of ending the French naval schemes, a blow in the Low Countries might encourage the German states to further efforts. The plans were prepared by Castlereagh even as early as April 1807, and were brought forward again in April 1809; but the cabinet long resisted and delayed till many opportunities had been lost. But no doubt it was a grave proposal to send nearly forty thousand men to Belgium, when there were already twenty thousand in Portugal and the burden of the war was so heavy. Delay was caused also by the scandals which ousted the Duke of York from the commandership-in-chief, and when the expedition set sail at the end of July 1809, the chance of spurring Prussia and north Germany to action had been destroyed at Wagram. Napoleon had, however, been obliged to denude the Low Countries of troops, and Antwerp seemed open to Castlereagh's great force of thirty-five sail of the line, besides frigates, and nearly forty thousand troops of all arms. Knowing that the attack was unexpected, Castlereagh urged speed on Lord Chatham [see Pitt, John, second Earl], whom the king's influence had placed in command. His plan was to regard the expedition as a coup de main, and to invest Flushing and Antwerp simultaneously. If this were done, there were still good prospects of success. The board of admiralty, however, insisted that Flushing must be taken before Antwerp could be attacked, and the fourteen days that were spent in taking Flushing gave Napoleon time to mature the defence of Antwerp. Dissensions then broke out between the English military and naval commanders (Chatham and Sir Richard John Strachan [q. v.]); fever decimated the troops, and early in September the expedition ignominiously returned home without achieving any part of the brilliant successes at which Castlereagh had aimed. Still, the French themselves recognised that with proper promptitude the British must have seized Antwerp and the French fleet there, and it was on the fever, soon to break out if the expedition delayed, that Napoleon counted for its defeat.
The Walcheren expedition was known to be Castlereagh's scheme. Canning and Wellesley thought that for its sake he had starved the Peninsula expedition, and had sent to Holland troops that were urgently needed in Portugal. Its failure was conspicuously due to incompetence somewhere, and its disastrous losses lacked even the compensation of brilliant feats of arms. The public was determined to find a scapegoat, and they found one in Castlereagh. His unpopularity was increased by the fact that the British, in spite of the victory of Talavera, had been compelled to retire behind the Tagus, and by the news of extensive sickness and mortality in the Peninsula army. Hence, when he fell through dissensions in the cabinet, he fell unlamented.
The events of 1809, which led to the quarrel between Canning, the foreign secretary, and Castlereagh, are obscure. Whoever was responsible for the way in which Castlereagh's colleagues treated him, he certainly had the right to deem himself ill-used. Canning and he administered departments whose duties overlapped, and for some time there had been friction and probably rivalry between them. Castlereagh had carried the cabinet with him in supporting the convention of Cintra; and Canning, who took the opposite view, was not only overborne, but thought that insufficient regard had been had to his position as foreign secretary. As early as the end of March 1809 Canning had told the prime minister, the Duke of Portland, that rather than go on as the ministry then was going on, he would resign. Apparently he did not name, but certainly he must have indicated, Castlereagh as the difficulty before him. The duke consulted the king, who appears to have suggested that, if Canning would hold his hand, Castlereagh might be removed to another office at the end of the session. Portland, afraid of the shock his ministry must sustain by any change, procrastinated, and by a reticence, which may have been due to misunderstanding but looks very much like treachery, Castlereagh was kept in complete ignorance of what was going on. In the House of Commons he was being attacked as to his disposal of Indian patronage in Lord Clancarty's case (Lord Colchester, Diaries, ii. 178) and his intervention in Maddock's election; and Canning naturally thought he had gone too far in the former matter, and would do well to retire. Parliament was prorogued on 21 June, and the Walcheren expedition was then agreed upon. No hint reached Castlereagh that his colleagues, when agreeing to his plan, had already arranged for his removal. Canning chafed and protested against both the secrecy and delay. Perceval, the chancellor of the exchequer, was then for the first time told of what was in contemplation, and pointed out that, after adopting the military plan, the ministry could not honourably drop its author. Matters drifted on. The Walcheren expedition failed; on 2 Sept. was published Chatham's despatch abandoning the attempt on Antwerp. The Duke of Portland was in ill-health, and, as he was on the eve of resignation, there was probably some fishing in troubled waters among his possible successors. At length, almost by accident, dining with Lord Camden, Castlereagh was told that he was to go. An offer was indeed made him of the office of president of the council, but though he consented to resign, he declined any other post. Perceval then showed him the letters that had been written by Canning on the subject, and Castlereagh thus first learnt that for months, during the Talavera campaign and the Walcheren expedition, he had been allowed to go on in ignorance that his colleagues had already resolved to supersede him. Fastening the blame for the whole affair on Canning, he sent him a challenge, and a duel took place on Putney Heath on 21 Sept., in which Canning was slightly wounded in the thigh. Both rivals then quitted the ministry.
During his tenure of the war office, in spite of checks and disasters, Castlereagh, largely by his own exertions and policy, had altered England's position from one of isolation after Tilsit to one in which headway against Napoleon was being made, though slowly, still on a comprehensive scale. He had begun that combination of forces by sea and land which ultimately wore out the power of the Napoleonic empire. The design was, however, too bold to be popular either with his colleagues or with the country. It abandoned alike Fox's policy of holding aloof from continental alliances and Pitt's series of desultory operations; and, though events proved that the offensive abroad was the only successful means of defence at home, nothing but successes at the outset, instead of the failures which were actually met with, would have won for it general support.
Castlereagh remained out of office during the greater part of Perceval's premiership. He assumed no ill-natured attitude to Perceval's ministry, and spoke frequently with effect in the House of Commons. On the regency question, at the end of 1810, he supported the restrictions on the regent's powers, and, in spite of the treatment he had received, defended the ministerial resolve to continue the Peninsular war when it was attacked by the whigs. On 1 Feb. 1810 he warmly praised Lord Wellington's character and conduct of the campaign of Talavera, and again defended the whole policy of the Peninsular war on 4 March 1811. When the difficulty of procuring specie became almost insuperable, and England was drained of gold coin, he was a member of the bullion committee which was appointed to inquire into the question, and when, in spite of his efforts, the committee reported in favour of an early resumption of cash payments, he vigorously defended Vansittart's resolution in favour of continuing the suspension of cash payments till six months after the conclusion of a general peace. The debate took place in May 1811, the report of the committee was rejected, and Vansittart's resolutions adopted, though not by very large majorities, on 9 and 15 May. Whatever may be said of his policy from the point of view of political economy and finance, there can be no doubt that the critical moment of the Peninsular war was no time to select for the great disturbances that the resumption of cash payments was certain to bring about whenever it took place. In the debate on the Roman catholic claims on 4 Feb. 1812 he declared himself favourable to concession if accompanied by adequate securities, though subsequently in March he pronounced, as a minister, against any step being taken for the present.
For some time pressure had been brought to bear on him to accept elevation to the House of Lords, but he resolutely refused, and with good reason. The ministerial changes which followed Wellesley's resignation restored him to office on 28 Feb. 1812. He became foreign secretary, and held that post till he died. To these duties were added, on Perceval's assassination in May 1812, those of leader of the House of Commons, in spite of Canning's claims and objections. Only a man of indomitable industry could have borne such a strain so long continued; undoubtedly it led to his death. On 16 June Brougham moved the repeal of the orders in council, and, in the face of the widespread distress in the country and the loss of the north American trade, Castlereagh found it hard to support their continuance. He defended them historically, and declared that their consequence had been beneficial and in accordance with the design of the ministry responsible for them; but the American Non-intercourse Act had not been foreseen, and had done England immense harm. The orders would therefore be for the present cancelled. This was done on 23 June, but not in time to procure the repeal of that act in the United States, or to prevent the outbreak of war with America. His resolution and tenacity soon made themselves felt in the cabinet, over which his strong will completely asserted itself. The ministry resolved to prosecute the war with vigour, and by the autumn the forces in the Peninsula were increased by twenty thousand men. Napoleon's offers of terms of peace in April were promptly refused, since they did not provide for the restoration of Ferdinand VII to the throne of Spain. Preparations were made for renewed activity in Sicily and Italy, and Castlereagh set himself to strengthen and assist the Russian emperor, and to overcome his incredulity and distrust of English promises and suggestions. Thanks to his timely revelation to Turkey of the secret articles of the treaty of Tilsit, a peace was signed between Russia and Turkey, 28 May 1812, the Porte preferring an accommodation with Russia to witnessing the complete triumph of Napoleon and his liberation for the prosecution of his designs against the east. A treaty between Russia and Great Britain was concluded on 18 July. Sweden, too, had to be detached from its alliance with Napoleon, though the price demanded—the separation of Norway from Napoleon's ally, Denmark, and its union with Sweden—was felt to be high. Accordingly treaties were concluded in April between Sweden and Russia, with the knowledge and assistance of Lord Castlereagh, though he declined to make Great Britain a formal party to them, and on 12 July peace was concluded between Great Britain and Sweden, and the harbours of Sweden were again thrown open to English ships. Thus by the end of 1812 Castlereagh had placed the struggle with Napoleon, as far as England's share in it went, on a new and extended basis.
Castlereagh's main object was now to maintain in full vigour the coalition of the northern powers. Singly he knew none could make head against France, and during the previous ten years they had severally so often made their own terms, or pursued their own individual objects, that to keep them in line and united was a heavy diplomatic task. Both personally and through his brother Sir Charles William Stewart (afterwards third Marquis of Londonderry) [q. v.] and Lord Cathcart he laboured at this work unceasingly. At his instance the British government raised its subsidies to foreign powers for 1813 to 10,000,000l., though the year's expenditure reached 117,000,000l., and its own troops under arms numbered 153,000 men (Parl. Debates, xxvii. 86). A force was despatched under Sir Thomas Graham (afterwards Lord Lynedoch) [q. v.] to the Scheldt. The terms of peace proposed at Frankfort, though Castlereagh had been at first disposed to acquiesce in them in November 1813, were later on vigorously opposed by him through Lord Aberdeen, the British ambassador to the Austrian court at Frankfort, and at length, on 31 Dec., he left England himself for the allied headquarters as British minister plenipotentiary.
He spent some time in Holland, on a mission to the Prince of Orange, and did not reach Basle till 18 Jan. 1814. So great was his personal influence, so important was the course England might take at this juncture, and so unlimited were his powers understood to be, that till his arrival the representatives of the allies would take no steps in negotiation. Nor was it easy to conciliate the jealousies and harmonise the conflicting interests of the different powers. Against the Emperor Alexander and his party, who wished to press on to Paris and make no peace till it had fallen, were ranged the Austrian adherents led by Metternich, who had no mind to complete the destruction of France, especially at the cost of so much exalting Russia. Castlereagh found the alliance almost on the point of breaking up. On 3 Feb. 1814 the congress assembled at Châtillon, but in form Lord Castlereagh was not a member of it. England was formally represented by Lords Cathcart and Aberdeen and by Sir Charles Stewart. The line taken by Lord Castlereagh was that peace ought to be concluded with Napoleon without ulterior dynastic motives, and that a Bourbon restoration must be brought about, if at all, by the force of circumstances, and not by the arms of the allies. His view prevailed with Russia and Prussia, and the negotiations proceeded without the abdication of Napoleon being demanded as a preliminary; and he subsequently carried the powers with him in his plan for the creation of a kingdom of the Low Countries, under the Prince of Orange, the Cape of Good Hope being ceded to Great Britain by way of compensation, and Venice to Austria. France was to be reduced to her dimensions as they existed in 1790, and the sovereigns of Spain and Portugal were to be restored to their thrones. The envoys of the allies were instructed to negotiate on these lines, and Lord Castlereagh at once established his influence by severing himself from all intrigue, and endeavouring to convince Napoleon's plenipotentiary, Caulaincourt, and the representatives of the powers that England was sincerely anxious for peace, and was willing to make great sacrifices to obtain it. These proposals were put forward on the 7th. Caulaincourt succeeded in gaining time for Napoleon to act, and the battle of Champaubert was won on 10 Feb., a victory through which Napoleon expected to force the allies shortly back across the Rhine. His successes on this and the following days did in fact add greatly to the dissensions already existing among the allies. To prevent open disunion, Castlereagh was obliged to take a firm tone with them. He pressed upon the Austrians a vigorous continuance of the war. He resisted the Russian demands for more money, and temporised with their proposals for a change of dynasty in France; he constrained Bernadotte to a more loyal support of the joint operations. He brought the allies to sign a new treaty of alliance on 1 March, the treaty of Chaumont, and did not shrink from pledging Great Britain to maintain one hundred and fifty thousand men in the field, and to contribute to the resources of the other powers 5,000,000l. sterling per annum. The secret terms of this treaty, as to the territorial rearrangement of Europe beyond the dominions of the allies, subsequently became the basis of the treaty of Vienna, but from this point the negotiations of Châtillon became less and less promising of any conclusion. Each side rejected the other's proposals, and the congress eventually broke up on 18 March. Though the prospects of peace were thus for the time being overcast, and Lord Castlereagh's mission had failed of success, there can be little doubt that but for his presence with the allied sovereigns in Germany in February and March 1814, and his mingled firmness, resource, persuasiveness, and personal influence, the alliance would have broken up, and combined action against Napoleon would have ceased.
When the congress of Châtillon terminated, Castlereagh went to the headquarters of the emperor of Austria at Dijon, and remained there till after Napoleon's abdication at Fontainebleau. He was principally occupied during this time in negotiating the future arrangements of Italy, where matters were complicated, as far as Great Britain's course was concerned, by the unauthorised act of Lord William Bentinck in April in proclaiming the re-establishment of the Genoese constitution, contrary to Castlereagh's instruction from Dijon. He arrived in Paris on 10 April, and on the following day signed the preliminaries of peace of 30 March, but with a reservation that Great Britain answered for its own obligations only, and not for those of other powers. Castlereagh was in fact wholly opposed to the title of emperor and the position in Elba assigned to Napoleon, foreseeing that he must there be a source of danger to Europe. The final adjustment of European questions was reserved to the congress shortly to be held at Vienna. Wellington became British ambassador in Paris, and Castlereagh returned home and received the order of the Garter (installed 28 June 1814). The congress of Vienna assembled in September 1814, and, with his brother, Sir Charles Stewart (now Lord Stewart), ambassador at Vienna, Lord Castlereagh represented Great Britain. His policy was now to secure the permanence of peace by the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy, by limiting France to its prerevolutionary frontiers, by discouraging the revolutionary elements in Europe, and by checking the growing power of Russia. With the latter object he desired therefore to restore the German confederation and the kingdom of Poland, and so to maintain the balance of power; and in order to consolidate the power of Germany, he was for increasing the resources of the two chief German states, Prussia and Austria, by giving the former Saxony, which had deserved hard treatment by its support of Napoleon, and the latter north Italy, where it was supposed no native state could be permanently established strong enough to resist the neighbouring power of France. For these ends he was prepared to risk the charges of spoliation and disregard of the rights of nationalities. Norway, too, was to be annexed to Sweden, and so with an independent Poland two strong powers would be formed to keep a check over Russia. No doubt this plan wholly disregarded the feelings of the minor peoples of Europe, but it had for its principal object the old ideal of European statesmen, the maintenance of the balance of power as the best security against such a dangerous ascendency of one nation as had been recently seen in the Napoleonic empire.
Castlereagh had not the good fortune to see this policy fully carried out. The czar desired indeed a restored Poland, but it was to be one of which he should himself be hereditary king. Castlereagh found few supporters of a free Poland, nor did this article of his scheme excite any enthusiasm at home. He secured the admission of France to the congress, but, to his disappointment, Talleyrand gave him little support, and the united Germany he desired seemed as little likely to be created as an independent Poland. Prussia, in return for aid on the Saxon question, sided with the czar, and Austria was alike opposed to any increase of Prussian power and any surrender of the Polish territory. The English people at the moment were chiefly interested in the abolition of the slave trade, and were neither clearly set on territorial gains for Great Britain, nor eager for any particular arrangement of Europe. Castlereagh thus found his hands tied by feeling on this subject at home which demanded the instant abolition of the slave trade as the condition of the retrocession of the Dutch and French colonies, while to this abolition Talleyrand, whose aid was required elsewhere, offered a steady opposition. The Polish question almost provoked a renewal of the war. The czar occupied Poland with his troops even while the congress was sitting, and handed over Saxony to the king of Prussia. As Great Britain was more concerned in general peace than in particular partitions, Castlereagh was now instructed by the British cabinet to endeavour to bring about a compromise, by which some part of Saxony at least might be retained to its royal family. Having failed after various interviews to shake the resolution of the czar, he set to work to detach Prussia from its Russian alliance by bringing his influence to bear on the Prussian ministers, and through them on the Prussian king. His arguments were supported by Talleyrand and Metternich, but for a considerable time the czar was immovable, and the king of Prussia could not be detached from him. Wellington, as early as the end of September, had formed the opinion that war was inevitable, and now Bavaria and France increased their forces, the Austrian troops were concentrated, and, at Castlereagh's instance, a treaty, offensive and defensive, was agreed to between Great Britain, France, and Austria on 3 Jan. 1815.
This bold act turned the scale, and at this juncture an important point was gained by the conclusion at Ghent of a treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States, thanks to the conciliatory policy laid down by Lord Castlereagh for the British commissioners. The liberation thus effected of a British army and the discovery by the czar of the treaty of 3 Jan. led at length to a compromise. The Polish question was settled by conceding to Prussia a defensible frontier against Russia, limiting the Russian claims on Austrian Poland, and leaving to the czar Warsaw and its province. Castlereagh so far prevailed for the Poles as to procure for them the grant of a constitution on paper; but as no one else was much concerned for them, he could do no more, and was practically defeated on this point. A settlement of the Saxon and other questions soon followed. Luxembourg was annexed to the Netherlands, as the most feasible, if not the best, mode of preventing a future expansion of France into the Low Countries; and the same paramount necessity of securing Italy against French ambition led Castlereagh, in spite of the British pledges given by Lord William Bentinck to the Genoese, to favour the annexation of the reluctant Genoese to Piedmont. With regard to the abolition of the slave trade, Castlereagh found himself hampered as he had been in regard to the independence of Poland. Outside of England no one greatly desired it, and the colonial interests of France and Spain were ranged in opposition to it. He was himself a believer in the plan of gradually abolishing the trade by the imposition of high import duties, and was accused of having flinched from pressing the total abolition at Vienna as vigorously as he might have done. Probably there was little justice in the charge; at any rate, after much patient negotiation, he was obliged to be content with undertakings for its abolition by France and Spain within a fixed term of years. He quitted Vienna on 15 Feb. 1815, having been urgently pressed from home to return for the meeting of parliament, where the government felt his assistance to be indispensable. On his way he visited Paris, and, thanks to his personal influence with Louis XVIII, successfully negotiated the questions in dispute as to the duchy of Parma. He landed at Dover on 3 March amid demonstrations of welcome, applauded as the negotiator of a European peace. At that moment Napoleon was advancing towards Paris.
Castlereagh, on hearing this new danger, at once apprehended its gravity, and urged on Wellington the promptest action. The treaty of Chaumont of the previous year was put in force, and Castlereagh authorised Lord Clancarty at Vienna to sign a further treaty binding Great Britain to pay 5,000,000l. as a subsidy and over 2,000,000l. in lieu of the contingent which the treaty of Chaumont required her to bring into the field. By his speeches in the House of Commons he awoke public feeling to the necessity of a renewal of the war, though he brought odium on himself, and even a street attack by a mob in June. He laboured to provide men and money for a campaign, and to bring the allied sovereigns into the field. On 8 April, to Napoleon's great indignation, he refused his offers, made through Caulaincourt, for a separate accommodation with England. After Waterloo he returned to Paris, and by his resolute remonstrances moderated Blücher's violent plans for taking vengeance on Paris. On the question of restoring to their former possessors the works of art plundered by the French armies abroad, he succeeded in restraining the allies from making reprisals on native French collections. The treaty of Vienna, substantially embodying the terms settled before his return to England, was finally signed on 9 June 1816. He was much attacked because in return for the efforts and sacrifices made and the part played by Great Britain so little was secured for her by the peace. Probably he was right in thinking that England was more interested in European peace and security than in particular acquisitions. Still, one term to which he consented has found few defenders: he restored Java to the Dutch, it was said because he could not find it on the map, and therefore did not know what to say about it; in reality he relinquished it in pursuance of his general policy of maintaining the influence of Great Britain in the task of settling the future of Europe by the most complete demonstration possible of her own disinterestedness. The selection of St. Helena as the place of Napoleon's internment was due to him; and he settled the terms of his confinement, if not very magnanimously, still with keen regard to his safekeeping. With regard to the terms to be enforced on France, Castlereagh was in negotiation for some months longer, and did not conclude the agreement with Prince Nesselrode till 20 Nov. 1815. He had considerable difficulty, not only with the German powers, but with his colleagues at home, in preventing France from being treated with a severity which would have made against, and not for, the prospects of future peace; but, supported by Nesselrode and Wellington, he at length succeeded, and France was simply reduced to her position of 1790.
The year 1815 was the zenith of Castlereagh's career; from that time forward his popularity declined, and before long vanished. The social and financial questions that were forced to the front as soon as the war was over were difficult to deal with in any case, but he least of all men could handle them in a manner likely to conciliate public opinion generally. Though not the originator of the home policy of the government, still, as leader of the House of Commons (the home secretary, Lord Sidmouth, being in the House of Lords), he was always its mouthpiece, and was identified with all its acts of domestic as well as of foreign policy. He was fortunate neither in the policy he advocated nor in the arguments he employed. He defended the maintenance of a high income tax on 18 March 1816, and was defeated; but the continuance of the restriction of cash payments by the Bank of England was carried. He introduced the bill for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act on 24 Feb. 1817, nor was his reputation restored by his support in 1818 of the ministerial palliative for distress—the bill granting 1,000,000l. for the building of new churches. The extent of his unpopularity may be seen by the fact that on 11 July 1817 Brougham sought to fasten on him the responsibility for the excesses which occurred in Ireland during the suppression of the rebellion of 1798. In 1819 he opposed in the cabinet, but without success, the prompt return to cash payments, but he was none the less generally held responsible for the commercial crises which followed the resumption. He supported Vansittart's sinking-fund proposals in June 1819, and on 29 Nov. introduced in the House of Commons the severe measures known as the Six Acts. His head, accordingly, and Sidmouth's were the two which the Cato Street conspirators proposed to carry through the streets on pikes, for the satisfaction of popular indignation against the ministry [see Thistlewood, Arthur]. His negotiations with the queen to induce her to quit the country after her return in June 1820 were unsuccessful, and he was supposed to have instigated the subsequent divorce proceedings. This filled up the measure of his unpopularity. He could hardly appear in the streets at this time without being hooted.
Meantime foreign affairs had closely occupied his attention. His policy had been laid down at the end of 1815 by the circular he had issued to the embassies; it was now Britain's part, he said, to exercise a conciliating influence among the powers, and not to take sides or to interfere in the internal politics of continental states. He assisted to bring to a peaceful settlement Bavaria's claims on Baden and the disputes as to the composition of the Mayence garrison. He carried a bill in 1816 for the more effectual detention of Napoleon. He pressed upon Spain and the Netherlands treaties for the abolition of the slave trade, in return for pecuniary compensation to be paid by Great Britain; and treaties which, however, did not effect much, were signed with Spain in 1817 and with Belgium in 1818. He persuaded Spain and Portugal to submit to the mediation of the powers their dispute with regard to the frontier near Elvas, and at the congress at Aix-la-Chapelle he, with Wellington and Canning, represented Great Britain, and concurred in Wellington's opinion that France might now be evacuated by the allied forces. He brought about the conclusion of treaties between the allied powers and France for a pacific arrangement of their respective interests, and between the allied powers alone for measures of defence in case any new revolution should break out in France. Both treaties were signed in November 1818. His influence with continental statesmen was at its height, and with the czar he now corresponded direct on affairs of state. His enemies accuse him of personal vanity, and allege that, to stand well with sovereigns and to play an important part at congresses, he made himself the pliant servant of foreign despotism. He was certainly no friend to mere democracy or to nationality, but equally little was he a friend to despotism. He supported the monarchs of Europe in the interest of the peace of Europe.
In the following year peace was again disturbed by the revolution in Spain, followed by similar movements in Portugal, Naples, and Piedmont in 1820 and 1821. Castlereagh's policy was here in favour of non-intervention. He thought Great Britain's concern was only with the general peace, and that he thought more likely to suffer by the armed intervention of other powers than by the success of a domestic revolution. Still, his dissent from the Holy Alliance was not expressed with decision. He issued in April 1820 a circular to the allied courts, deprecating the Russian plan of mutual guarantee by the powers of their respective governments, and instructed his brother, Lord Stewart, to urge these views both at the congress of Troppau (20 Oct. 1820) and at Laybach, whither the congress was transferred in December. He thus remained neutral but unprotesting on the conclusion of the treaty of 2 Feb. 1821, by which Austria, Prussia, and Russia undertook to restore the authority of the king of Naples in his dominions; he regarded the matter as too remote to concern Great Britain. It was, however, apparent from this time that the close union which he had laboured so successfully to maintain among the powers in 1815 had passed away with the dangers that called it forth. His speech on 21 Feb. 1822 in the House of Commons, in which he defended and explained this divergence, was the last he made on foreign affairs, though there is a later and detailed exposition of his policy in his instructions to the Duke of Wellington as the British representative at the congress of Vienna, dated 6 July 1822 (Gleig, Life of Wellington, ii. 129), and it may fairly be said that, though Castlereagh began the new foreign policy of England which Canning developed, his reputation is bound up with the concert of Europe as it stood between 1813 and 1820.
The strain of so many years of continued responsibility and toil was now telling on the health of Lord Londonderry, as he had become by his father's death on 11 April 1821. At the foreign office he was most assiduous, writing nearly all despatches with his own hand. The labour of leading the House of Commons was in itself heavy, and after Lord Sidmouth's retirement from office in 1821 he also undertook the duty of superintending the home office, as he had done for Lord Liverpool early in 1809. Throughout June and July of 1822 his mind was visibly overwrought, and he suffered also acutely from gout. His usually neat handwriting was hardly legible; he forgot appointments. It was remarked in the House of Commons that he denied all knowledge of a document which was actually lying before him. On 9 Aug. he had an audience of the king, at which the king was so struck with his manner that he recommended him to consult a physician. Later in the same day the Duke of Wellington thought his case so serious that he wrote privately to Dr. Charles Bankhead [see under Bankhead, John], Lord Londonderry's physician, warning him to take precautions (Gleig, Life of Wellington, iii. 118). Dr. Bankhead was summoned to St. James's Square, and advised Lord Londonderry to go down to his country seat, North Cray Place, Kent, and there, having caused his razors to be removed, he remained in attendance. Lord Londonderry's mind continued affected, and on 12 Aug. he cut his throat with a penknife in his dressing-room, and died almost immediately. His death profoundly affected the public. After the inquest, at which a verdict of unsound mind was returned, his body was buried in Westminster Abbey on 20 Aug. between the graves of Pitt and Fox. There were some scandalous demonstrations when the hearse reached the abbey doors, but in the main the expression of public grief was unanimous. He had no children, and was succeeded in the title by his half-brother, Charles William, lord Stewart. His widow died on 12 Feb. 1829, and eight days later was buried beside her husband in Westminster Abbey.
Few men have taken part in so many important events as did Lord Castlereagh in the quarter of a century that covers his public career; few men have been the victims of such constant and intense unpopularity. Yet the services which he rendered to his country and to Europe were signal. He bore a large part, and often the principal part, in crushing the Irish rebellion of 1798, in effecting the parliamentary union of Great Britain and Ireland, in initiating and in continuing the war in the Peninsula, in combining the great powers of Europe against Napoleon, and in resettling the affairs of Europe at Vienna. In manner he was cold; ‘as for my friend Lord Castlereagh,’ writes Lord Cornwallis, ‘he is so cold that nothing can warm him’ (Correspondence, iii. 506). This made him many social enemies, especially in Dublin in 1800, and to the end of his life it was a characteristic trait. ‘Just and passionless’ was Caulaincourt's description of him. He came in turn into collision with almost every party; he had his own way almost always, and was rewarded by being equally feared and hated. He was in collision with the Irish patriots on the union, with the Irish protestants on emancipation, with the whigs on the continuance of the war, with the radicals on popular rights and repressions, with the French legitimists when he was prepared to negotiate with Napoleon in 1814 without first pressing for his abdication, with the Holy Alliance at the time of the congress of Troppau. Even the English tory party looked somewhat askance on a statesman who was not an Englishman himself and was a self-made man. In domestic affairs it must be owned that Castlereagh's repressive system was outworn, and that many of the measures which he supported if he did not originate them, whatever might be said of them in the crisis of the war, were unjustifiable in time of peace. But there must be set to his credit his general comprehension of the strategic principles on which alone Napoleon could be combated, the knowledge of character and of war shown in his selection of Wellington for the Peninsular command, and his steady support of him in Portugal, and the moderation and wise disinterestedness, when, as almost the arbiter of Europe in 1815, he brought about a fairly durable settlement, and at least averted further war. He was no orator, though the stress of circumstances during the debates of 1798 and 1800 made him a fair speaker and a ready debater. His speeches were long, and he had a tendency to be tedious and confused, to mix metaphors, and to fall into indiscreet phrases, such as his well-known ‘ignorant impatience of taxation’ uttered in 1816; yet he ‘never spoke ill,’ was sensible and well informed, and could not be daunted or put down. In person he was tall and handsome, and was much admired; his manners were exquisitely and unfailingly courteous; his dress, like his personal bearing, was plain and simple. He spoke French slowly but correctly, and in dealing with kings and ministers possessed an invaluable combination of courtier-like suavity and invincible resolution. Constantly it happened that his strong will and unflinching courage dominated the cabinet (Lord Aberdeen to Bishop Wilberforce, Life of S. Wilberforce, ed. 1888, p. 236), and as he was indifferent alike to unpopularity or the reverse, his influence on the English history of the first twenty years of the century was greater even than it would seem to be on the surface. He was always calm and unruffled, punctual in his work, accumulating no arrears. He was neither guilty of nepotism in his appointments nor of corruption, though the expenses of his position exceeded his official salary and appointments, and trenched on a private income never very large. He was religious and charitable, a patron of letters, and one of the founders of the Dublin Gaelic Society; but his knowledge outside his public work was, owing to his exceedingly busy life, very scanty.
His portrait was painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence, and is engraved in the edition of his correspondence published in 1848, and there is also a half-length in the National Portrait Gallery.
[The principal authority for Lord Londonderry's life is his Correspondence, collected by his brother Charles, and published in twelve volumes in 1848–53, with a memoir. Sir Archibald Alison also had access to the family papers in preparing his unduly laudatory Lives of Lord Castlereagh and Sir Charles Stewart, 1861. For other information see Cornwallis's Correspondence; Burghersh's Memoir of the War of 1814; Wilson's Diary; Stanhope's Life of Pitt; Twiss's Life of Eldon; Lord Colchester's Diaries; Yonge's Life of Lord Liverpool; Seeley's Life and Times of Stein; Life of William Wilberforce. For instances of savage attack on him see Byron's Poetical Works, ed. 1855, epigram ii. 406, Dedication to Don Juan v. 275, 276, Preface to cantos 6, 7, and 8, vi. 78. For depreciatory criticism, Brougham's notice of him in Statesmen of George III, and Greville's character of him in Memoirs, 1st ser. i. 53; Scott gives an instance of his humanity in contrast to Blücher's cruelty, which he witnessed in 1815, Lockhart's Scott, iii. 371; and there is a curious anecdote of his courtesy in the Autobiography of Wolfe Tone, ii. 5.]