George Canning, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (Tory 1827 to 1827)

Birth: 11 April 1770, Marylebone, London
Death: 8 August 1827, Chiswick House, Middlesex
Political party:Tory
Dates in office: 1827 to 1827

“The happiness of constant occupation is infinite.”

George Canning
George Canning

George Canning was an enthusiastic follower of Pitt the Younger, resigning from his post as Paymaster General in 1801 when Pitt resigned as Prime Minister. Popular, witty and intelligent, he gained an early political following as an excellent public speaker. He was one of the first politicians to campaign heavily in the country, making many speeches outside Parliament and was known for his opposition to parliamentary reform and his advocacy of Catholic emancipation.

In 1807 he was made Foreign Secretary under the Duke of Portland. His greatest success was outmanoeuvring Napoleon at Copenhagen by seizing the Danish navy, but he also quarrelled badly with the War Minister, Castlereagh, over the deployment of troops. When Castlereagh discovered in September 1809 that Canning had made a deal with the Duke of Portland to have him removed from office, he was furious.

Demanding redress, Castlereagh challenged Canning to a duel, which was fought on 21 September 1809. Canning had never fired a pistol and completely missed, whilst Castlereagh wounded his opponent in the thigh. Both men resigned as a result of the incident.

A few weeks later, Canning was disappointed to be passed over as the choice for Prime Minister in favour of Spencer Perceval. His anger was such that he refused a high profile post in Perceval’s government. However, after a brief stint as ambassador to Portugal, he returned to join the government as President of the Board of Control.

He later replaced his old rival as Foreign Secretary in Lord Liverpool’s government after Castlereagh’s suicide in 1822. Once again, he made a successful Foreign Secretary, especially in preventing South America from falling into French hands.

Canning replaced Lord Liverpool as Prime Minister on 10 April 1827, and set about forming a coalition with the Whigs under Lord Lansdowne.

On 8 August 1827, after spending barely 5 months in office, Canning died suddenly from pneumonia at Chiswick House. His last words were ‘Spain and Portugal’.

He has come to be regarded by some as a ‘lost leader’, with much speculation about what would have happened had he lived.

Robert Jenkinson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (Conservative 1812 to 1827)

Birth: 7 June 1770, London
Death: 4 December 1828, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey
Political party: Conservative
Dates in office: 1812 to 1827

“(I consider) the right of election as a public trust, granted not for the benefit of the individual, but for the public good.”

Robert Banks Jenkinson Earl of Liverpool became known for repressive measures introduced to restore order, but he also steered the country through the period of radicalism and unrest which followed the Napoleonic Wars.

Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool
Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool

He served as leader of the House of Lords, Foreign Secretary and War Secretary.

After the assassination of Spencer Perceval in 1812, the Earl of Liverpool was asked to form a government.

Few expected him to survive in office very long, as at first his government seemed very insecure. But the opposition provided by the Whig party was weak and disunited, and he was able to draw on the talents of individuals such as Sidmouth, the Duke of Wellington, Castlereagh and Canning.

The end of the Napoleonic Wars with France in 1815, aided by the Duke of Wellington’s victories in the field, further boosted support for Lord Liverpool. But after the war, unrest broke out at home, partly caused by an economic recession that started in 1817. Unemployment, a bad harvest and high prices produced riots and protests. Actions such as the repeal of income tax and the creation of the Corn Laws tended to make the situation worse. Lord Liverpool’s government reacted by suspending habeas corpus for 2 years.

Things became even worse in Summer 1819, when large gatherings in favour of parliamentary reform culminated in a massive public meeting in Manchester on 16 August. Soldiers attacked the crowds, killing 11 and wounding many more. The shocking event became known as the Peterloo Massacre.

Lord Liverpool’s following ‘Six Acts’ limited the right to hold radical meetings. This crackdown on liberty prompted an attempt by radicals in 1820 to murder Lord Liverpool and his Cabinet, and start a radical revolution. But the Cato Street Conspiracy (as it became known) proved unsuccessful, and the conspirators were hung or transported.

During the 1820s Lord Liverpool’s policy became increasingly liberal, and a period of economic prosperity began. He also returned Britain to the Gold Standard in 1819. The anti-trade union laws were repealed, and many trading restrictions were removed.

A stroke forced him to resign in 1827 and he died the following year.