The Tortoise and the Hare: Liverpool and Canning

This is the text of the Sir John Neale lecture delivered at University College, London on December 7th, 1981.

The conventional candidate for comparison with Canning is Castlereagh – on the not unreasonable grounds that they were both Foreign Secretaries of considerable distinction but differing styles, one immediately succeeding the other. Diplomacy apart, however, there is much to be said for considering Canning's career alongside that of Lord Liverpool*. The two men had more in common than is generally appreciated. Both were born in 1770, within a few months of each other. Both lost a parent at an early age: Liverpool his mother after only a month; Canning his father when he was a year old. Both went to public school (Canning to Eton, Liverpool to Charterhouse) and to the same university and college. Both became professional politicians, both were Pittites, both successful. Canning spent over half his adult life in office; Liverpool nearly nine-tenths. Both political careers were cut short in 1827: Canning's by death, Liverpool's by a severe cerebral haemorrhage from which he never fully recovered.

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