12 SEPTEMBER 1925, Page 24


The Foreign Policy of Canning. By Harold Temperley. (Bell. 25s. net.) ADMIRERS of Canning will be grateful to Mr. Temperley for

this excellent study. It is based on the unpublished papers in the official archives of London, Paris, and Vienna, and should make Canning's claim to be considered one of our greatest Foreign Secretaries finally secure. This claim, as Mr. Temperley rightly perceives, is in no way invalidated by the discovery that the principles of his policy were not new, and that he preserved the continuity of British foreign policy. But while Canning's principles were not new, his methods were. He was -the first statesman properly to appreciate the importance and influence of publicity and of public opinion in foreign affairs. It was this fact which enabled him to achieve his greatest diplomatic triumphs, and, in particular, the recognition of the Spanish-American Republics, when he ",called the New World

into ,existence to redress the balance of the Old." Public

opinion enabled Canning to take a middle course between the extremes of reaction and revolution, and Metternich spoke kruly when he said that Canning's period of office marked an era, not only in the history of England, but in the history of Europe.

Canning's real greatness has been obscured to some extent by the very brilliance of his gifts. Everyone remembers his famous rhyming despatch to the British Ambassador at The Hague :-

" In matters of commerce the fault of the Dutch Is offering too little and asking too much. The French are with equal advantage content, So we clap on Dutch bottoms just 20 ppr cent."

To those who remembered the Anti-Jacobin this was an instance of Canning's incorrigible levity. The modern Foreign Office, with a better sense of proportion, preserves this unique despatch among its most valued records.

The wit of Canning was a legend in his own day, but some of his sayings lose much of their force in cold print, though we

need not doubt their effectiveness in the grave atmosphere of the Commons. His jests against Lord Folkestone, " with the contortions but without the inspiration of the Sibyl," and against Lord Nugent, " that most enormous breach of neutrality," sent Wilberforce home " crying with laughter." We get a truer impression of the real Canning from an incident, related by Marcellus, which occurred during the Spanish crisis. Marcellus found Canning at Gloucester Lodge walking on the grass reading Virgil. " A truce," said Canning, " to politics to-day I am weary of them ; let us read some Virgil Can anything be more touching than these verses ?—

' Hi motes animarum, atque haec certamina tanta Pulveris exigui jactu compressa quiescent.'

. . . . It must all end then in this little dust How often have I not been tempted to fly from society, and from power, to the literature which was the food of my boyhood, the only refuge which is impenetrable to the delusions of fate. Literature is a consolation, a hope, a place of rest for me. . . . . Yet," he added, " still that desire of fame, which cannot at my age be called ambition, drives me back to public affairs."