The Foreign Policy of Castlereagh, 1812-1815, Britain and the European Alliance

By Thomas Lawrence ; C. J. Bartlett | Go to book overview

6
Leader of the House of
Commons 1812-22

The Leadership of the House of Commons is the least explored aspect of Castlereagh's career; it is also one of the most criticised. It coincided with one of the greatest eras of popular distress and discontent in British history. Yet even this phase of his career has its admirers. Sir Charles Webster has described him as the best manager of the Commons since Walpole, 1 and indeed once one has cut through party prejudice, a remarkable degree of unanimity is to be found among contemporary opinion. Creevey, one of his arch-critics, thought party management his only talent. '[He] managed a corrupt House of Commons pretty well, with some address. This is the whole of his intellectual merit.' Greville, who confessed to little personal knowledge of Castlereagh, made a determined effort to sum up his career from the opinions of others. He concluded, 'I believe he was considered one of the best managers of the House of Commons who ever sat in it, and he was eminently possessed of the good taste, good humour, and agreeable manners which are more requisite to make a good leader than eloquence, however brilliant.' Lord John Russell, looking back over his vast experience of parliamentary life, remarked, 'yet I never knew two men who had more influence in the House of Commons than Lord Castlereagh and Lord Althorp'. Even Brougham, his greatest opponent in debate, was generous in his praise. He thought Castlereagh more important than the rest of the cabinet put together; he had good judgement and good manners; he was the only gentleman in the cabinet. 2

____________________
1
Webster, Castlereagh, 1815-22, p. 31.
2
Greville Memoirs, i. 127-8. Lord John Russell, Recollections and Suggestions, 1813-73 ( 1875), p. 262. Creevey, ii. 44, 49.

-162-

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The Foreign Policy of Castlereagh, 1812-1815, Britain and the European Alliance
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Castlereagh *
  • In Memory of Paul *
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations viii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • 1: The 'Mask' of Castlereagh 1
  • 2: Irish Apprenticeship 1790-1801 6
  • 3: India and the Liar Against Napoleon 1802-9 40
  • 4: The Pittites Without Pitt 1806-12 88
  • 5: Wars and Peace-Making 1812-15 106
  • 6: Leader of the House of Commons 1812-22 162
  • 7: Castlereagh and the 'New Diplomacy' 1816-22 199
  • 8: Castlereagh and the Wider World 235
  • 9: Suicide and Conclusion 259
  • Bibliographical Note 281
  • Index 287
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