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Castlereagh, Robert Stewart, Viscount, 2nd marquess of Londonderry

Castlereagh, Robert Stewart, Viscount, 2nd marquess of Londonderry (1769–1822). Castlereagh outgrew his background in Ulster politics and became an advocate of the union between Britain and Ireland, a capable war secretary, and finally a distinguished foreign secretary. Robert Stewart entered the Irish House of Commons at a by-election for Co. Down in 1790. He had the support of the reformist interest but while he never lost his belief in the necessity for reform in Ireland, he soon felt drawn to the policies of the younger Pitt. His kinsman Lord Camden encouraged him to look beyond merely Irish perspectives and he was elected to the Westminster Parliament in 1794. Castlereagh sympathized with reform in France but was unhappy about the decline of the French Revolution into violence. He was anxious about the impact of Jacobin ideas in Ireland through the secret society the United Irishmen, and believed Ireland's destiny to be inextricably bound up with that of Britain. He supported the war against France, became prominent in the suppression of the Irish rebellion of 1798, though always advocating clemency and reconciliation, and bore the main burden in carrying the Irish Act of Union in Dublin. Like Pitt he saw the Union as preliminary to a comprehensive programme of reform. He supported catholic emancipation, argued that the tithe should be abolished, and suggested that catholic clergy should be paid by the British crown. Castlereagh resigned with Pitt when George III thwarted the prospect for catholic emancipation. He was, however, prepared to serve in Addington's administration from 1802 and in Pitt's second ministry in 1804. On the death of Pitt he left office but became war secretary in the Portland ministry. He was an outstanding war minister. He saw the struggle against Napoleon in global terms, appreciated the need for European allies, improved recruitment to the militia and to the army, and organized an expeditionary force for continental intervention if possible. He was also eager to convey to the public the broader principles on which the war was being waged, though he lacked Canning's ability to capture the enthusiasm of the public. The Peninsular War was supported by Castlereagh from the start and he took the initative in bringing Wellesley (Wellington) forward and in restoring him to command after the death of Moore. The failure of the Walcheren expedition meant that Castlereagh left the war department as the scapegoat. He had strenuously urged an attack on French bases in the Scheldt, in order to disrupt French invasion plans and support the Austrians by a diversionary tactic. Although he had prepared the expedition with meticulous care, the campaign was bungled. The decision to withdraw was a bitter one, the more so because Canning was eager to ensure that Castlereagh carried the chief responsibility for failure. On learning that he was to be moved from the War Office, Castlereagh believed himself to be the victim of intrigue. The result was the collapse of the Portland ministry and the duel with Canning, which relegated both men to the back benches for several years.

Castlereagh's great opportunity came when he was appointed foreign secretary and leader of the House of Commons on the formation of Liverpool's ministry in 1812. He built up the final coalition against Napoleon and his personal diplomacy strengthened allied determination. Although not a brilliant orator, Castlereagh was a successful leader in the Commons, winning the trust of MPs by his patience, courtesy, and understanding. At Vienna he did much to frame the peace settlement. He was committed to regular meetings of the powers in congress not in order to perpetuate the status quo, but to enable peace to be preserved by considered adjustment to inevitable change. He did not believe in collective intervention in the domestic affairs of sovereign states. Castlereagh became alienated from Metternich and by 1820 had dissociated Britain from the Holy Alliance, which he had condemned on its inception as ‘a piece of sublime mysticism and nonsense’. Although his distrust of Russian expansion in the Near East drew Castlereagh closer to Metternich over the Greek revolt, he seriously contemplated the recognition of the independence of the Spanish American colonies. In 1822, worn out by overwork and saddened by the failure of the congress system to work as he had hoped, he suffered a nervous breakdown and committed suicide. For many years the tragedy of his death and sustained misrepresentation obscured his greatness as foreign secretary.

John W. Derry

Bibliography

Hinde, W. , Castlereagh (1981).

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"Castlereagh, Robert Stewart, Viscount, 2nd marquess of Londonderry." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Castlereagh, Robert Stewart, 2d Viscount

Robert Stewart Castlereagh, 2d Viscount (kă´səlrā), 1769–1822, British statesman, b. Ireland. Entering the Irish Parliament in 1790 and the British Parliament in 1794, he was acting chief secretary for Ireland at the time of the Irish rebellion of 1798. Having worked for the Act of Union of England and Ireland (1800), he resigned with William Pitt in 1801 when George III refused to allow Catholic Emancipation. President of the India board of control from 1802 to 1806, he also served (1805–6, 1807–9) as secretary of war. In the latter office, he planned the reorganization and expansion of the army and the effective coordination of British land and sea power. He dispatched a British expedition to Portugal, and after the early disasters in the Peninsular War he succeeded in putting Arthur Wellesley (later duke of Wellington) in command. The opposition of his colleague George Canning to Castlereagh's policies flared into a serious quarrel. Castlereagh accused Canning of political betrayal, and they fought (1809) a duel. Canning was wounded, and both resigned. As foreign secretary (1812–22), Castlereagh helped to organize the successful final coalition against Napoleon I, partly by secret treaties promising territorial changes. In the Treaty of Chaumont (1814) he obtained that "concert of Europe" later confirmed by the Quadruple Alliance. He advocated a moderate peace settlement for France, including restoration of the Bourbon monarchy and the limitation of France to her prewar boundaries. A dominant figure at the Congress of Vienna (1814–15; see Vienna, Congress of), Castlereagh worked for the establishment of the United Netherlands and the German Confederation. He favored an independent Poland but was compelled to accept a repartitioning of that country. Castlereagh placed great hope in the "congress system" agreed on at Vienna, by which the great powers would consult regularly for the maintenance of peace. However, he did not approve of outright intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries and protested, in increasingly explicit terms, the assumption of this right by the powers of the Holy Alliance. By the time of his death it is almost certain that he had decided to break with the wartime allies. In England, however, he was much criticized for his apparent cooperation with those same autocratic governments, and he was also blamed for repressive actions to curb unrest in England, though he was not directly responsible for them. He became (1821) the 2d marquess of Londonderry on his father's death. He committed suicide the next year. One of the foremost statesmen of his time, Castlereagh was cold in personality and lacked ability as an orator; he never gained an easy popularity and was hated by radicals like Shelley.

See biographies by C. J. Bartlett (1966) and J. Bew (2012); H. A. Kissinger, A World Restored (1957, repr. 1964).

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Castlereagh, Robert Stewart, 2nd Viscount

Castlereagh, Robert Stewart, 2nd Viscount (1769–1822) British politician. Castlereagh was chief secretary of Ireland (1799–1801), and helped secure the passage of the Act of Union with Britain in 1800. As British war secretary (1805–06, 1807–09), he vigorously opposed Napoleon but resigned after a duel with George Canning. Castlereagh was a brilliant foreign secretary (1812–22), backing Wellington in war and helping to secure long-term peace in Europe at the Congress of Vienna (1814–15).

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"Castlereagh, Robert Stewart, 2nd Viscount." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/castlereagh-robert-stewart-2nd-viscount