Castlereagh, Viscount (Robert Stewart, 2nd Marquess of Londonderry)


1818 LS while Foreign Secretary, unable to secure a government post in Ireland for his correspondent



Type:  Letter
Description: Known as Lord Castlereagh from the courtesy title Viscount Castlereagh by which he was styled 1796-1821, British statesman and politician. In August 1796 Stewart’s father was elevated to the title Earl of Londonderry; as his son, Stewart was henceforth styled Viscount Castlereagh.

As secretary to the Viceroy in Ireland, he worked to suppress the Rebellion of 1798 and to secure passage in 1800 of the Irish Act of Union. As UK Foreign Secretary from 1812, he was central to the management of the coalition that defeated Napoleon and was British plenipotentiary at the Congress of Vienna. In the post-war government of Lord Liverpool, Castlereagh was seen to support harsh measures against agitation for reform and ended his life an isolated and unpopular figure.

After the 1797 Rebellion, as Chief Secretary for Ireland, he pushed the Act of Union through the Irish Parliament but without Catholic Emancipation that he and PM William Pitt believed should have accompanied the creation of a United Kingdom.

From 1805 Castlereagh served under Pitt and then the Duke of Portland as Secretary of State for War. In 1809 he was obliged to resign after fighting a duel with Foreign Secretary George Canning. In 1812 Castlereagh returned to government serving Lord Liverpool as Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons.

Castlereagh organized and financed the alliance that defeated Napoleon, bringing the powers together at the 1814 Treaty of Chaumont. After Napoleon’s 1815 abdication, Castlereagh worked with the European courts represented at the Congress of Vienna to frame the territorial, and broadly conservative, continental order that held until mid-century. He blocked harsh terms against France believing that a treaty based on vengeance and retaliation would upset a necessary balance of powers. France restored the Bourbons kings, and her frontiers were restored to 1791 lines, and British-occupied colonies were returned. In 1820 Castlereagh enunciated a policy of non-intervention, proposing that Britain hold herself aloof from continental affairs.

After 1815, at home, Castlereagh supported repressive measures that linked him in public opinion to the 1819 Peterloo Massacre. Widely reviled in Ireland and Great Britain, overworked, and personally distressed, Castlereagh committed suicide in 1822.

By 1822, he was showing clear signs of a form of paranoia or a nervous breakdown, severely overworked in leading the government in the House and never-ending diplomacy required to manage conflicts among other major powers. Lady Castlereagh told the King that her husband would be unable to continue with official business. At about 7:30am on 12 August 1822, he was found in a dressing room seconds after he had cut his own throat with an overlooked small knife. He died almost instantly. An inquest concluded that the act was committed while insane, which allowed his wife to see her husband buried with honor in Westminster Abbey near his mentor, William Pitt. Castlereagh Street in Sydney was named after him in 1810 as was the Sydney suburb locality of Castlereagh, and Castlereagh River in NW New South Wales, dedicated to him in 1818.

LS marked “Private”, 2pps (one sheet) London, August 18, 1818, while Foreign Secretary, replying to a man applying for a position as Agent for Transports at Donaghadee (in Northern Ireland). Castlereagh put his request before the Board of transports which told Castlereagh that there is no necessity for appointing a permanent agent for service between Port Patrick and Donaghadee, especially in peacetime. It is deemed by them sufficient to send an agent from Dublin when the occasional passage of troops may require his presence.

Condition:  Good, some wrinkling, stains at top edge and at folds verso, slight staining on verso at right edge form removal of mounting.

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