Charles Canning, 1st Earl Canning

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The Earl Canning

Charles John Canning by Richard Beard, 1840s.jpg
Canning c. 1840s by Richard Beard
Governor-General of India
In office
28 February 1856 21 March 1862
Monarch Queen Victoria
Prime Minister The Viscount Palmerston
The Earl of Derby
Preceded by The Marquess of Dalhousie
Succeeded by The Earl of Elgin
Postmaster General
In office
5 January 1853 30 January 1855
Monarch Queen Victoria
Prime Minister The Earl of Aberdeen
Preceded by The Earl of Hardwicke
Succeeded by The Duke of Argyll
First Commissioner of Woods and Forests
In office
2 March 1846 30 June 1846
Monarch Queen Victoria
Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, Bt
Preceded by The Earl of Lincoln
Succeeded by Viscount Morpeth
Personal details
Born(1812-12-14)14 December 1812
Brompton, London
Died17 June 1862(1862-06-17) (aged 49)
Grosvenor Square, London
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Hon. Charlotte Stuart
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford

Charles John Canning, 1st Earl Canning, KG , GCB , KSI , PC (14 December 1812 – 17 June 1862), also known as The Viscount Canning and Clemency Canning was an English statesman and Governor-General of India during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 [1] and the first Viceroy of India after the transfer of power from the East India Company to the Crown of Queen Victoria in 1858 after the rebellion was crushed. [2] Canning is credited for ensuring that the administration and most departments of the government functioned normally during the rebellion and took major administrative decisions even when peak of the Rebellion in 1857 including establishing of the first three modern Universities in India, the University of Calcutta, University of Madras and University of Bombay based on Wood's despatch. [3] [4] [5] Canning passed the Hindu Widows' Remarriage Act, 1856 which was drafted by his predecessor Lord Dalhousie before the rebellion. [6] [7] After the rebellion he presided over a smooth transfer and reorganisation of government from the East India company to the crown, [8] the Indian Penal Code was drafted in 1860 based on the code drafted by Macaulay and came into force in 1862. [9] Canning met the rebellion '"with firmness, confidence, magnanimity and calm" as per his biographer. [10] Canning was very firm during the rebellion but after that he focused on reconciliation and reconstruction rather than retribution and issued a clemency proclamation. [11] [12] [13]

Privy Council of the United Kingdom Formal body of advisers to the sovereign in the United Kingdom

Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council of the United Kingdom or just the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. Its membership mainly comprises senior politicians who are current or former members of either the House of Commons or the House of Lords.

Governor-General of India position

The Governor-General of India was the representative of the Monarch of the United Kingdom and after Indian independence in 1947, the representative of the Indian head of state. The office was created in 1773, with the title of Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William. The officer had direct control only over Fort William, but supervised other East India Company officials in India. Complete authority over all of British India was granted in 1833, and the official came to be known as the "Governor-General of India".

Indian Rebellion of 1857 First War for Indian independence by the people and states of India against East India Company and the British Crown

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was a major, but ultimately unsuccessful, uprising in India in 1857–58 against the rule of the British East India Company, which functioned as a sovereign power on behalf of the British Crown. The rebellion began on 10 May 1857 in the form of a mutiny of sepoys of the Company's army in the garrison town of Meerut, 40 miles northeast of Delhi. It then erupted into other mutinies and civilian rebellions chiefly in the upper Gangetic plain and central India, though incidents of revolt also occurred farther north and east. The rebellion posed a considerable threat to British power in that region, and was contained only with the rebels' defeat in Gwalior on 20 June 1858. On 1 November 1858, the British granted amnesty to all rebels not involved in murder, though they did not declare the hostilities to have formally ended until 8 July 1859. The rebellion is known by many names, including the Sepoy Mutiny, the Indian Mutiny, the Great Rebellion, the Revolt of 1857, the Indian Insurrection, and the First War of Independence.



Born at Gloucester Lodge, Brompton, near London, [14] Canning was the youngest child of George Canning and Joan, Viscountess Canning, daughter of Major-General John Scott. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. in 1833, as first class in classics and second class in mathematics.

Brompton, London suburb of London, England

Brompton is a historic area of London, formerly in the county of Middlesex. It now lies within the boundaries of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and notionally fans out west and southward from the City of Westminster boundary in Knightsbridge. It encompasses Brompton Square, along Kensington Gore, down Queen's Gate, and along Brompton Road, into South Kensington, then from Walton Street, into the Fulham Road up to its boundary with the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, then back along the Cromwell Road/Queen's Gate through Gloucester Road along the area adjacent to Old Brompton Road. To its north lies the district of Kensington, to its south the district of Chelsea and to the west are the districts of Earl's Court and West Brompton. Its fragmented existence is commemorated chiefly through the names of streets, buildings and a cemetery.

George Canning British statesman and politician

George Canning was a British Tory statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from April to August 1827. He occupied various senior cabinet positions under numerous prime ministers, before eventually serving himself as Prime Minister for the final four months of his life.

Joan Canning, 1st Viscountess Canning was the wife of British prime minister George Canning.

Political career

In 1836 he entered Parliament, being returned as member for the town of Warwick in the Conservative interest. He did not, however, sit long in the House of Commons; for, on the death of his mother in 1837, he succeeded to the peerage and entered the House of Lords. His first official appointment was that of Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in the administration formed by Sir Robert Peel in 1841, his chief being the Earl of Aberdeen. This post he held till January 1846; and from January to July of that year, when the Peel administration was broken up, Lord Canning filled the post of First Commissioner of Woods and Forests.

Warwick was a parliamentary borough consisting of the town of Warwick, within the larger Warwickshire constituency of England. It returned two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons of England from 1295 to 1707, to the House of Commons of Great Britain from 1707 to 1800, and then to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom until 1885.

Conservative Party (UK) Political party in the United Kingdom

The Conservative Party, officially the Conservative and Unionist Party, sometimes informally called the Tories, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom. The governing party since 2010, it is the largest in the House of Commons, with 312 Members of Parliament, and also has 249 members of the House of Lords, 4 members of the European Parliament, 31 Members of the Scottish Parliament, 11 members of the Welsh Assembly, eight members of the London Assembly and 8,916 local councillors.

House of Lords upper house in the Parliament of the United Kingdom

The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is granted by appointment or else by heredity or official function. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster. Officially, the full name of the house is the Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

Charles Canning Lord Viscount Canning.jpg
Charles Canning

He served on the Royal Commission on the British Museum (1847–49). [15] He declined to accept office under the Earl of Derby; but on the formation of the coalition ministry under the Earl of Aberdeen in January 1853, he received the appointment of Postmaster General. In this office, he showed not only a large capacity for hard work but also general administrative ability and much zeal for the improvement of the service. He retained his post under Lord Palmerston's ministry until July 1855, when, in consequence of the departure of Lord Dalhousie and a vacancy in the governor-generalship of India, he was selected by Lord Palmerston to succeed to that great position. This appointment appears to have been made rather on the ground of his father's great services than from any proof as yet given of special personal fitness on the part of Lord Canning. The new governor sailed from England in December 1855 and entered upon the duties of his office in India at the close of February 1856.

The Royal Commission on the British Museum (RCBM) was set up to review the activities of the British Museum particularly in relation to its Library.

Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby British Prime Minister

Edward George Geoffrey Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, was a British statesman, three-time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and, to date, the longest-serving leader of the Conservative Party. He was known before 1834 as Edward Stanley, and from 1834 to 1851 as Lord Stanley. He is one of only four British prime ministers to have three or more separate periods in office. However, his ministries each lasted less than two years and totalled three years and 280 days.

Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston British politician

Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, was a British statesman who served twice as Prime Minister in the mid-19th century. Palmerston dominated British foreign policy during the period 1830 to 1865, when Britain was at the height of her imperial power. He held office almost continuously from 1807 until his death in 1865. He began his parliamentary career as a Tory, defected to the Whigs in 1830, and became the first Prime Minister of the newly formed Liberal Party in 1859.

In the year following his accession to office, the deep-seated discontent of the people broke out in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Fears were entertained, and even the friends of the Governor-General to some extent shared them, that he was not equal to the crisis. But the fears proved groundless. He had a clear eye for the gravity of the situation, a calm judgment, and a prompt, swift hand to do what was really necessary. He carried the Indian empire safely through the stress of the storm, and, what was perhaps a harder task still, he dealt wisely with the enormous difficulties arising at the close of such a war. The name of Clemency Canning, which was applied to him during the heated animosities of the moment, has since become a title of honour. He was derisively called "Clemency" on account of a Resolution dated 31 July 1857, which distinguished between sepoys from regiments which had mutinied and killed their officers and European civilians, and those Indian soldiers who had disbanded and dispersed to their villages, without being involved in violence. While subsequently regarded as a humane and sensible measure, the Resolution made Canning unpopular at a time when British popular opinion favoured collective and indiscriminate reprisals. [16] [12]

The Earl Canning. Charles-canning-1-earl-cann.jpg
The Earl Canning.
Shield of arms of Charles Canning, 1st Earl Canning, as displayed on his Order of the Garter stall plate in St. George's Chapel, viz. Canning in the 1st and 4th quarters, quartering Scott in the 2nd and 3rd. Shield of arms of Charles Canning, 1st Earl Canning, KG, GCB, KSI, PC.png
Shield of arms of Charles Canning, 1st Earl Canning, as displayed on his Order of the Garter stall plate in St. George's Chapel, viz. Canning in the 1st and 4th quarters, quartering Scott in the 2nd and 3rd.
The arrival of Lord Canning at Lahore The arrival of Lord Canning at Lahore.jpg
The arrival of Lord Canning at Lahore

While rebellion was raging in Oudh he issued a proclamation declaring the lands of the province forfeited, and this step gave rise to much angry controversy. A secret despatch, couched in arrogant and offensive terms, was addressed to Canning by Lord Ellenborough, then a member of the Derby administration, which would have justified the Governor-General in immediately resigning. But from a strong sense of duty, he continued at his post, and ere long the general condemnation of the despatch was so strong that the writer felt it necessary to retire from office. Lord Canning replied to the despatch, calmly and in a statesman-like manner explaining and vindicating his censured policy, and in 1858 he was rewarded by being made the first Viceroy of India.

Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough British Tory politician, Governor-General of India

Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough, was a British Tory politician. He was four times President of the Board of Control and also served as Governor-General of India between 1842 and 1844.

Charles Canning by H Hering Charles John Canning (H. Hering NPG x25261).jpg
Charles Canning by H Hering
Charlotte Canning by H Hering Charlotte Canning (H Hering NPG x45082).jpg
Charlotte Canning by H Hering

In April 1859 he received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament for his great services during the rebellion. He was also made an extra civil grand cross of the Order of the Bath, and in May of the same year he was raised to the dignity of an Earl, as Earl Canning. By the strain of anxiety and hard work his health and strength were seriously impaired, while the death of his wife was also a great shock to him; in the hope that rest in his native land might restore him, he left India, reaching England in April 1862. But it was too late. He died in London on 17 June. About a month before his death he was created a Knight of the Garter. As he died without issue the titles became extinct.

Prior to the rebellion, Canning and his wife, Charlotte, had desired to produce a photographic survey of Indian people, primarily for their own edification. This project was transformed into an official government study as a consequence of the rebellion, after which it was seen as useful documentation in the effort to learn more about native communities and thereby better understand them. It was eventually published as an eight-volume work, The People of India , between 1868 and 1875. [17]

See also

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Further reading

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Edward Bolton King
Sir Charles Greville
Member of Parliament for Warwick
With: Edward Bolton King
Succeeded by
Edward Bolton King
William Collins
Political offices
Preceded by
Viscount Leveson
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
George Smythe
Preceded by
Earl of Lincoln
First Commissioner of Woods and Forests
Succeeded by
Viscount Morpeth
Preceded by
The Earl of Hardwicke
Postmaster General
Succeeded by
The Duke of Argyll
Government offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Dalhousie
Governor-General of India
Succeeded by
The Earl of Elgin
New creation Viceroy of India
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Joan Canning
Viscount Canning
New creation Earl Canning