Catalogue description Stratford Canning Papers

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Details of FO 352
Reference: FO 352
Title: Stratford Canning Papers

This series contains original correspondence, draft letters and miscellaneous diplomatic papers of Stratford Canning, afterwards Lord Stratford de Redcliffe.

Date: 1778-1873

Before the present catalogue was compiled (in 1965) the documents to which it refers were tied together in large bundles. Upon examination it was apparent that some attempt had once been made to sort them but for some reason the project had been abandoned in its early stages.

As far as possible the papers have been left with their original bundle numbers but where this has been impracticable or where papers have been found to be obviously out of place they have been placed in their correct boxes. The boxes mainly affected by the redistribution are those containing papers dated 1854 and 1857 and in each of them a note has been placed indicating where particular groups of papers are to be found.

With the exception of some despatches from Lord Aberdeen, 1828-1829, draft despatches from Stratford Canning to the Foreign Secretaries for the years 1842-1857, and the papers described under the heading Miscellanea, which will be found at the end, the catalogue is arranged chronologically. Papers to and from the interpreters and papers to and from the Sublime Porte are in many cases complementary, and the searcher is advised to consult both where they are extant.

Related material:

For records relating to Stratford Canning's posting to Switzerland see FO 74

Separated material:

Very few papers survive for the 1829-1841.

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Stratford Canning, 1st Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, 1786-1880

Physical description: 66 bundle(s)
Unpublished finding aids:

An alphabetical list of some of the persons mentioned giving rank, style, office, etc., and a glossary of Turkish and Arabic words used in the papers are available at the Public Record Office, Kew.

Administrative / biographical background:

In 1808 Stratford Canning was appointed secretary to Robert Adair, minister plenipotentiary to Turkey, entrusted with the mission of negotiating a peace treaty between that country and England. In 1809 the Treaty of the Dardanelles was signed and the British Embassy re-established at Pera, Constantinople. In May of that year Stratford Canning was appointed first secretary to the Embassy and in the following month received a dormant commission as minister plenipotentiary. In 1810, in his 24th year, upon the delayed departure of Adair from Turkey, Stratford Canning found himself in the responsible position of minister plenipotentiary to the Sublime Porte, which post he held until his recall to England in 1812.

During this time his main objects were to maintain the English position at Constantinople, to guard the English naval and mercantile interests in Turkish waters against the French and to bring about peace between Turkey and Russia.

To achieve the latter object he acted as intermediary between the Sultan and the Czar (with whom England was technically at war) and sent his messages via Count Ludolph, representative of the Court of Naples, which was unrecognised by the Sultan although officially acknowledged in St. Petersburg. In the face of great difficulties and despite unceasing attempts by the French chargé-d' affaires in Constantinople to frustrate his efforts, and unassisted by the British government, Stratford Canning achieved the signing of the Treaty of Bucharest on 28 May 1812. Two months later he was relieved by Robert Liston and returned to England.

In 1814 he was appointed envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Switzerland and arrived in that country in July. Together with Count Capo d'Istrias, Baron Schraut and Count Chambrier, Russian, Austrian and Prussian envoys respectively, his main task was to substitute for Napoleon's Act of Mediation, by which the Swiss cantons were bound to France, a new Federal Act, which would create a new and guaranteed state to act as a check upon French aggression in Germany and North Italy.

This work was rendered particularly difficult by reason of the differences between the governments of the twenty two cantons. When the Act was finally agreed the envoys proceeded to Vienna to submit it to the congress then sitting to adjust the affairs of Europe. The final declaration of 20 March 1815 was approved by the congress. In July 1819, following the death of his wife in child-birth, Stratford Canning requested leave to resign his mission.

After a year in England he was, on 14 August 1820 appointed minister to the United States where, in addition to maintaining the peace between the two countries, he was to try to establish the British Government's right to search American ships for British seamen and to further the negotiations for the suppression of the Slave Trade.

He returned to England at the latter end of 1823 to arrange a treaty in London. After several conferences during January and February of the following year with Messrs. Huskisson and Rush, English and American representatives, regarding impressment, West Indian trade, boundaries, fisheries and river navigation, a convention was signed on March 13th but this was rejected by the United States Senate.

Later in 1824, Stratford Canning was sent on a mission to St. Petersburg to consider plans for mediation between the Sublime Porte and the Greek provinces and to settle the territorial claims of Great Britain and Russia on the North West coast of America. From St. Petersburg he proceeded via England to Turkey where he remained until the breaking off of diplomatic relations with that country after the battle of Navarino on 20 October 1827. He then spent a short period on the island of Corfu before returning to England in February 1828. He took part in further negotiations at Poros in 1829 and then resigned his embassy, returning to England in the summer of that year.

During the following twelve years he held no permanent diplomatic post, although he was sent on various missions, and applied himself to politics. He was elected member of the House of Commons for the rotten-borough of Old Sarum in 1828, whilst still an ambassador. In 1830 he stood unsuccessfully for Leominster but was later in the year elected as member for Stockbridge. In 1835 he was returned as the member for King's Lynn, which seat he retained until his return to diplomatic office in 1841.

Canning was invited in 1830 to draw up the statement of British claims in the American boundary question submitted to the arbitration of the King of the Netherlands: the British case as presented by him was accepted. In 1831 he was sent on a special mission to Constantinople where he was successful in obtaining an extended frontier for Greece; returning to England in September 1832.

At the close of 1832 he was sent on another special mission, this time to Portugal, and made an abortive attempt to compose the difference between Don Pedro and Don Miguel. On his return to England in 1833 he was appointed ambassador to the Court of St. Petersburg, but the Czar refused to receive the man whom he considered to be his arch enemy.

In November 1841, Canning once again left England for Constantinople where, except for a short period in Switzerland in 1847, he remained for the next 16 years. During this time he was closely associated with the improvements in the internal administration of the Ottoman Empire. His persistent efforts obtained many reforms, among them being the abolition of the law of execution for apostasy, the securing of equal rights and privileges for the Christian subjects of the Sultan and the abolition of torture throughout his domains.

Canning's diplomatic career ended shortly after the Crimean War. All attempts on his part to avert this war failed but he did in fact, by inducing the Sultan to issue firmans confirming all the privileges and immunities of his Christian subjects, secure the satisfaction of the Russian demands, thus removing from the Czar every moral reason for making war.

He returned to England in 1858 and resigned his Embassy for the last time but paid a complimentary visit of farewell to Sultan Abd-el-Mejid later that year.

It was Cannning who obtained the firman which authorised him to send the explorer Layard, at his personal expense, to Nineveh to make the famous excavations there and it was he who was responsible for the explorations at Bodroum in 1846. Newton's subsequent work at the mausoleum was throughout facilitated by Canning who obtained the firman, advanced money and in every way aided the archaeologist, even during the distractions of the Crimean War.

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