Was Canning’s foreign policy different from that of Castlereagh?

As foreign minister Castlereagh had been the architect of the coalition that had defeated Napoleon and then of the Concert of Europe to keep the peace in Europe. Canning, his successor is seen as the initiator of the tradition of British isolationism. This can be seen as the start of the debate about should Britain be part of Europe or should we be an island nation that still continues with the question of whether we should join the Euro.

Was Canning’s foreign policy different from that of Castlereagh?

Yes because... No because...

The Concert of Europe

Their attitudes to the Concert of Europe are often seen as the main change in foreign policy, while castlereagh is seen as one of the founders of the concert. Castlereagh stated “I am quite convinced that ... occasional meetings, displays and repledges are among the best securities Europe now had for a durable peace”.[Richard B. Elrod, The Concert of Europe: A fresh look at an International System, World Politics, Vol.28, No.2, (Jan., 1976), pp.159-174, p.163 http://www.jstor.org/stable/2009888
Canning on the other hand “did more than any other man in Europe to put an end to the system”.[C. Holbraad, The concert of Europe: A study in German and British international theory, 1815-191, (Longman, 1970), pp.126-7]] He avoided sending representatives to congresses, wreaking the congress of St. Petersburg by not giving instructions to the British Ambassador.[FO. 65/143, No.33, Charles Bagot to George Canning, St. Petersburg 6. July 1824.]]

Was Canning’s foreign policy different from that of Castlereagh?

Yes because... No because...

Isolationism vs. Engagement

Castlereagh had engaged with Europe With Canning there was a change to “an isolationist, suspicious Britain, eager to play its traditional role of balancer of the equilibrium, was more likely to encourage divisions on the continent than to ameliorate them.”[Henry Kissinger, A World Restored, (Gollancz, 1973), p.313]] Paul Schroeder argues “Where Castlereagh had wanted to draw France along with Britain... Canning wanted to teach France a lesson and prove that Britain was independent of Europe.”[Paul W. Schroeder, The Transformation of European Politics 1763-1848, (Oxford University Press, 1996) p.634.]]

The crises that occurred during Castlereagh’s time as PM were matters at the heart of Europe, Britain had few interests involved and could afford to mediate, how did the size of Saxony matter to Britain? The issues of Canning faced were areas of direct concern, either in the colonies or else on the periphery of Europe, areas Britain could less afford to compromise over.

Was Canning’s foreign policy different from that of Castlereagh?

Yes because... No because...

Continentalism

Canning had previously been very much involved in continental affairs during the napoleonic wars. He had started his ministerial career as undersecretary for foreign affairs and was Foreign minister from 1806-7 as well as serving as ambassador to Portugal.[Wendy Hinde, George Canning, (HarperCollins, 1973)]]

Was Canning’s foreign policy different from that of Castlereagh?

Yes because... No because...

National interest

Both were pursuing the same aims, to secure Britain, it was circumstances that changed. Canning pursued a “pragmatic - even opportunist - calculation of what would best preserve peace and promote England’s prestige and prosperity.” This had simply changed from being best achieved by creating a permanent alliance to tie down France. Now that alliance had been created Britain could stand back. Castlereagh would have moved in the same direction had he continued as Foreign Minister.

Was Canning’s foreign policy different from that of Castlereagh?

Yes because... No because...

The Greek Crisis

The main difference was a difference in attitude, Castlereagh supported the status quo while Canning was pro-Greek [Allan Cunningham, ‘The Philhellenes, Canning and Greek independence’, Middle Eastern Studies, Vol.14, No.2, pp.151-181, pp.167, 169.]]

Castlereagh instructed Wellington to avoid the issue of Greece in the congress of verona, Canning did the same with the congress at St Petersburg. Neither wished to intervene in the crisis as it would set Britain against Russia as their interests clashed, even attempts to mediate and to keep the issue off the agenda annoyed Russia. It was the Russians that slowly forced a response and a focused strategy on the issue, Canning's answer to Russian calls for intervention was to try to draw Russia into an alliance so as to control them, exactly as Castlereagh did with the Concert of Europe.[C.W. Crawley, 'Anglo-Russian Relations 1815-1840', Cambridge Historical Journal, Vol.3, No.1, (1929), pp.47-73, p.53. http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=1474-6913%281929%293%3A1%3C47%3AAR1%3E2.0.CO%3B2-N

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