The Private Correspondence of Lord Macartney, Governor of Madras (1781-85)

The Private Correspondence of Lord Macartney, Governor of Madras (1781-85)

The Private Correspondence of Lord Macartney, Governor of Madras (1781-85)

The Private Correspondence of Lord Macartney, Governor of Madras (1781-85)

Excerpt

George Macartney was born on 14 May 1737, at Lissanoure in County Antrim. He received his education at Trinity College, Dublin, taking his M.A. degree in 1759, after which he entered the Middle Temple, where he made the acquaintance of Edmund Burke and his associates. While travelling on the continent he had the good fortune to be of some service to Stephen Fox, the eldest son of the first Lord Holland, which led to his being introduced to Lord Sandwich and to his appointment, on 22 August 1764, as envoy extraordinary to the empress of Russia, for the purpose of negotiating a commercial treaty. Before setting out on this mission he received the order of Knighthood. After much difficulty and after long discussions with the authorities in England, a commercial treaty was eventually ratified. Apparently the handsome Macartney made no small impression on Catherine, from whom he received a magnificent snuff-box studded with diamonds to the value of about £600. For services rendered to the unfortunate Stanislaus of Poland he was awarded the ensign of the order of the White Eagle.

In February 1768 he married Lady Jane Stuart, second daughter of the Earl of Bute. Although elected in the same year as one of the representatives of the borough of Cockermouth, he preferred to enter the Irish parliament as member for the borough of Armagh. He became Chief Secretary for Ireland during the Viceroyalty of Lord Townshend, whose administration, because of its corruption, did much to lower the tone of political life in Ireland. In 1774 he became a member of the British parliament, in which he represented the boroughs of Ayr, Irvine, Rothesay, Cambletown and Inverary. At the age of thirty-eight, in the year 1775, he was appointed Governor and Captain-General of Grenada, the Grenadines, and Tobago in the West Indies. The following year saw him raised to the peerage of Ireland as Lord Macartney and Baron of Lissanoure. During his governorship Grenada was attacked, in July 1779, by a superior French force under the Count d'Estaing, and, after a resolute defence, Macartney was compelled to surrender unconditionally. After his release and return to England, he became, in September 1780, member of parliament for the borough of Beeralston in Devonshire.

From 1781 to 1785 he was Governor of Madras. After resigning this office and declining the offer of the governor-generalship, he remained in the political wilderness until May 1792, when he was appointed ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China. The embassy cost £80,000 and failed in its principal aim, a commercial establishment on the east coast of China. Macartney returned to England in September 1794, and was gratified to discover that he had been made Earl Macartney during his absence.

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