Foreign Policy: Canning 1822-1827

  • What were Canning's achievements as Foreign Secretary?
  • Was Canning a liberal?
  • Did Canning change the conduct of Foreign Policy compared to Castlereagh?
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What were Canning's achievements as Foreign Secret


  • He destroyed the Holy Alliance.
  • He was a brilliant public speaker.
  • He was very popular.
  • He was successful in the new world and in Portugal.
  • In the Greek Revolt he was a key player, instead of Metternich.
  • He won recognition of South American states & assured their independence.
  • He supported Constitutionalists in Portugal, preventing Spanish intervention.
  • He helped Greek independence from Turkey.


  • He failed to prevent a French invasion of Spain in 1823.
  • After his death, British Foreign Policy lacked direction; he had been involve in some risky strategies, which went to pieces after he died.
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Was Canning a Liberal?


  • He supported independent states and Nationalist movements (Spain, Portugal, South America). 
  • He supported the Greeks against the Turks.
  • He was domestically liberal.
  • He supported Catholic Emancipation.
  • He sounded Liberal.


  • He suited Great British policy - The Navy was easy to use & he helped trade.
  • He had no choice: his initial aim was to avoid was with Russia.
  • He supported actions at Peterloo and the repressive Pols.
  • He opposed Parliamentary reform.
  • He was good at self-publicity and was rhetoric: he used the press well.
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Area & Aim: Spain - Canning wanted to keep France out of Spain.

Problem: There was revolution in Spain, France wanted to get involved. Canning worried that they may also want to interfere with Spain's former colonies.

Action: April 1823, the Spanish Liberals were defeated by the French and the former King Ferdinand VII was restored.
In 1823, Canning negotiated the Polignac Memorandum with the French ambassador in London, forcing the French not to intervene over British attempts to reach trading agreements with the colonies.

Success? Diplomatic failure for Britain. Public outrage at French troops being in Spain. Canning's anti-French speeches made him popular at home but he was determined to stop them getting involved in Spain's colonies. 

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Area & Aim: Portugal.

Problem: 1820, revolution had forced King John to accept a liberal constitution. In 1823, his son Miguel tried to overthrow this. Canning sympathised with Miguel but was worried about French interference.

Action: In 1823, a British Naval squadron was sent to Portugal with 5,000 troops to protect Portuguese liberals. In 1826 Canning also sent troops when Queen Donna Maria was given the throne and Miguel tried to regain it.

Success? It was successful and very popular among the British Public.

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Former Spanish colonies.

Area & Aim: Former Spanish colonies wanted to preserve the independence of Spain's former colonies.

Problem: Autumn 1823, Ferdinand VII of Spain proposed another congress to consider action. Spain, France and others wanted to recapture Spain's former colonies.

Action: Canning rejected a further congress and warned the French ambassador Polignac that Britain would use the fleet. The USA supported Britain and recognised the independence of the colonies. In December 1823, President Monroe warned that if European Powers meddled with America, they forcefully opposed. In 1824, Canning recognised independence of Colombia, Mexico and Argentina and signed trade agreements with independent republics.

Success? Faced with the threat of Britain and America, Metternich and the others abandoned all hope of recovering the colonies. This was a huge success. Canning showed that Britain could take successful independent action. This doomed the Congress system.

'I have called the New world into the existence to redress the balance of the old'.

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The Greek war of independence - finally agreed in

Area & Aim: To prevent war between Turkey and Russia. Died in August 1827.

Problem: Greece declared independence from Turkey 1822, Russia chance to defend Greeks as fellow Christians. Turkey asked Egypt aid in suppressing Greeks. Egyptians committed atrocities, put Canning under pressure to support Greeks.1825, Tsar Nicholas I openly stated wanted to intervene.

Action: The Protocool of St. Petersburg agreed 1826, Britain and Russia offered mediation to Turks only if Greece kept some self government. July 1827, Canning negotiated Treaty of London, confirmed terms of Protocool but also implied use of force if necessary. Rejected and led to battle of Navarino in October 1827. British and French fleets in Mediterranean ordered Turkish and Egyptian fleets to return to Egypt. Egypt refused so an allied fleet entered Navarino bay and destroyed Turkish/Egyptian fleet within 4 hours.

Success? Failure that they had to resort to force. Canning's death confused British policy and it was reversed. Wellington apologised to the Turks and made Britain distance itself from the Eastern question. He saw that Turkey was an important presence against Russian influence. Russia declared war on Turkey in 1828 and in Treaty of Adrianople in 1829 gained territory. 

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What were Canning's aims for specific countries?

Britain: To prevent a Russo-Turkish war, To preserve British interests, To make sure Russians did not gain anything else.
Success? Greeks were guaranteed their independence, Turkey defeated: failed aims, but  great success of Eastern question.

Russia: To gain land and access through the black sea into the Mediterranean,To quickly establish Tsar Nicolas I into the eyes of Europe, To weaken the Turkish Empire.
Success? Russia declared war on Turkey, gained territory around Danube Delta. 

Turkey: To strengthen empire, To prevent Russian/Egyptian invasions/revolts.
Success? War was declared by Russians, suffered a Military defeat (Navarino).

Egypt: To prevent a Greek revolt in Turkey.

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