Robert Liston: Second British Minister to the United States

Liston and his wife enjoyed their years in America and, writes Esmond Wright, considered themselves “well employed in the work of conciliation.”

When Robert Liston, at the age of fifty-four, and then ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary at Constantinople, was invited to become the second British Minister to the United States in 1796, he was not eager to accept the post.

In a letter to Henry Cunningham he wrote:

“I have received an offer to go to America as successor to George Hammond; but entre nous I would much rather go anywhere else. A severe climate, hard work and the being surrounded with ill-disposed Yankee doctrinaires will, at my time of life, probably finish me off in a year or two.

However, Lord Grenville very flatteringly says that I am the only man suitable; the French are making infinite trouble in that quarter and must be thwarted; so I suppose I must go. Mrs. L. is not altogether inconsolable, because she thinks we may eventually make our visit to the West Indies—for so long her dream.”

This is a significant letter. It indicates how low in the scales of popularity the American Embassy then ranked.

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