George Macartney, 1st Earl Macartney

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George Macartney should not be confused with Sir George Macartney, a later British statesman.

The Earl Macartney

George Macartney, 1st Earl Macartney by Lemuel Francis Abbott.jpg
Portrait of Lord Macartney by Lemuel Francis Abbott.
Governor of Grenada
In office
Monarch George III
Preceded by William Young
Succeeded byJean-François, comte de Durat
Governor of Madras
In office
22 June 1781 14 June 1785
Monarch George III
Preceded bySir Thomas Rumbold
Succeeded bySir Archibald Campbell
Governor of Cape Colony
In office
Monarch George III
Preceded byAbraham Josias Sluysken
Succeeded by Francis Dundas
Personal details
Born(1737-05-14)14 May 1737
Lissanoure, Loughguile, Ballymoney, County Antrim
Died31 May 1806(1806-05-31) (aged 69)
Chiswick, Middlesex, England, United Kingdom
Alma mater Trinity College, Dublin

George Macartney, 1st Earl Macartney, KB (14 May 1737 – 31 May 1806) was a British statesman, colonial administrator and diplomat. He is often remembered for his observation following Britain's success in the Seven Years War and subsequent territorial expansion at the Treaty of Paris that Britain now controlled "a vast Empire, on which the sun never sets".

Order of the Bath series of awards of an order of chivalry of the United Kingdom

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate medieval ceremony for appointing a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as "Knights of the Bath". George I "erected the Knights of the Bath into a regular Military Order". He did not revive the Order of the Bath, since it had never previously existed as an Order, in the sense of a body of knights who were governed by a set of statutes and whose numbers were replenished when vacancies occurred.

Kingdom of Great Britain constitutional monarchy in Western Europe between 1707–1801

The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called simply Great Britain, was a sovereign state in western Europe from 1 May 1707 to 31 December 1800. The state came into being following the Treaty of Union in 1706, ratified by the Acts of Union 1707, which united the kingdoms of England and Scotland to form a single kingdom encompassing the whole island of Great Britain and its outlying islands, with the exception of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The unitary state was governed by a single parliament and government that was based in Westminster. The former kingdoms had been in personal union since James VI of Scotland became King of England and King of Ireland in 1603 following the death of Elizabeth I, bringing about the "Union of the Crowns". After the accession of George I to the throne of Great Britain in 1714, the kingdom was in a personal union with the Electorate of Hanover.

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A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with one or more other states or international organizations. The main functions of diplomats are: representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state; initiation and facilitation of strategic agreements; treaties and conventions; promotion of information; trade and commerce; technology; and friendly relations. Seasoned diplomats of international repute are used in international organizations as well as multinational companies for their experience in management and negotiating skills. Diplomats are members of foreign services and diplomatic corps of various nations of the world.


Early years

He was an Irishman descended from an old Scottish family, the Macartneys of Auchenleck, Kirkcudbrightshire who had settled in 1649 at Lissanoure, in Loughguile, Ballymoney, County Antrim, Ireland, where he was born. He was the only son of George Macartney and Elizabeth Winder. After graduating from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1759, he became a student of the Temple, London. Through Stephen Fox, elder brother of Charles James Fox, he was taken up by Lord Holland.

Scotland Country in Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Sharing a border with England to the southeast, Scotland is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, by the North Sea to the northeast and by the Irish Sea to the south. In addition to the mainland, situated on the northern third of the island of Great Britain, Scotland has over 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.

Kirkcudbrightshire Historic county in Scotland

Kirkcudbrightshire, or the County of Kirkcudbright or the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, is a historic county, registration county and lieutenancy area in the informal Galloway area of south-western Scotland. For local government purposes, it forms part of the wider Dumfries and Galloway council area of which it forms a committee area under the name of the Stewartry.

Loughguile village in Ireland

Loughguile, also spelt Loughgiel or Loughgeel, is a small village and civil parish in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Situated 8 miles east of Ballymoney it is within the Causeway Coast and Glens Council area, and is at the edge of the Glens of Antrim. It had a population of 396 people in the 2011 Census.

Appointed envoy extraordinary to Russia in 1764, he succeeded in negotiating with Catherine II an alliance between Great Britain and that country. He was returned in 1768 to the Irish House of Commons as Member of Parliament for Armagh Borough, in order to discharge the duties of Chief Secretary for Ireland. On resigning this office he was knighted.

Russia transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia

Russia, officially the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. At 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), Russia is by far or by a considerable margin the largest country in the world by area, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, and the ninth most populous, with about 146.77 million people as of 2019, including Crimea. About 77% of the population live in the western, European part of the country. Russia's capital, Moscow, is one of the largest cities in the world and the second largest city in Europe; other major cities include Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Extending across the entirety of Northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans eleven time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait. However, Russia recognises two more countries that border it, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are internationally recognized as parts of Georgia.

Irish House of Commons lower house of the irish parliament (until 1800)

The Irish House of Commons was the lower house of the Parliament of Ireland that existed from 1297 until 1800. The upper house was the House of Lords. The membership of the House of Commons was directly elected, but on a highly restrictive franchise, similar to the Unreformed House of Commons in contemporary England and Great Britain. In counties, forty-shilling freeholders were enfranchised whilst in most boroughs it was either only the members of self-electing corporations or a highly-restricted body of freemen that were able to vote for the borough's representatives. Most notably, Catholics were disqualified from sitting in the Irish parliament from 1691, even though they comprised the vast majority of the Irish population. From 1728 until 1793 they were also disfranchised. Most of the population of all religions had no vote. The vast majority of parliamentary boroughs were pocket boroughs, the private property of an aristocratic patron. When these boroughs were disfranchised under the Act of Union, the patron was awarded £15,000 compensation for each.

Armagh Borough was a constituency represented in the Irish House of Commons from 1613 to 1800.

In 1775 he became governor of the British West Indies and was created Baron Macartney in the Peerage of Ireland in 1776. He was elected to a seat in the British parliament (Bere Alston) from 1780 to 1781.

British West Indies British territories in the Caribbean, sometimes including former colonies

The British West Indies, sometimes abbreviated to the BWI, is a collective term for the British territories in the Caribbean: Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Montserrat, the British Virgin Islands, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. Before the decolonization period in the later 1950's and 1960's it included all British colonies in the region, together with two mainland colonies, as part of the British Empire.

The Peerage of Ireland consists of those titles of nobility created by the English monarchs in their capacity as Lord or King of Ireland, or later by monarchs of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The creation of such titles came to an end in the 19th century. The ranks of the Irish peerage are Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount and Baron. As of 2016, there were 135 titles in the Peerage of Ireland extant: two dukedoms, ten marquessates, 43 earldoms, 28 viscountcies, and 52 baronies. The Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland continues to exercise jurisdiction over the Peerage of Ireland, including those peers whose titles derive from places located in what is now the Republic of Ireland. Article 40.2 of the Irish Constitution forbids the state conferring titles of nobility and a citizen may not accept titles of nobility or honour except with the prior approval of the Government. As stated above, this issue does not arise in respect of the Peerage of Ireland, as no creations of titles in it have been made since the Constitution came into force.

Bere Alston or Beeralston was a parliamentary borough in Devon, which elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons from 1584 until 1832, when the constituency was abolished by the Great Reform Act as a rotten borough.

Governor of Grenada

Macartney was the Governor of Grenada from 1776 to 1779. During his governance, the island was attacked in July 1779 by French royal fleet of the Comte d'Estaing. After losing control of the fortifications on Hospital Hill (an essential defence position located on a prominence overlooking the island capital St. George's), Macartney chose to surrender unconditionally.

1776 Year

1776 (MDCCLXXVI) was a leap year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and a leap year starting on Friday of the Julian calendar, the 1776th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 776th year of the 2nd millennium, the 76th year of the 18th century, and the 7th year of the 1770s decade. As of the start of 1776, the Gregorian calendar was 11 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.

1779 Year

1779 (MDCCLXXIX) was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar, the 1779th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 779th year of the 2nd millennium, the 79th year of the 18th century, and the 10th and last year of the 1770s decade. As of the start of 1779, the Gregorian calendar was 11 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Governor of Madras

Macartney was the Governor of Madras (now known as Chennai) from 1781 to 1785. During his tenure as governor, renovation and strengthening of the walls of Fort St. George was commenced after the siege of Lally and completed in 1783. It was also during this time that most of the buildings and barracks in the western portion of the Fort were erected. The Palace Street, the Arsenal, the Hanover square and the Western Barracks were constructed during this time. The streets in the eastern side of the Fort were also altered.

Chennai Megacity in Tamil Nadu, India

Chennai is the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal, it is the biggest cultural, economic and educational centre of south India. According to the 2011 Indian census, it is the sixth most populous city and fourth-most populous urban agglomeration in India. The city together with the adjoining regions constitute the Chennai Metropolitan Area, which is the 36th-largest urban area by population in the world. Chennai is among the most visited Indian cities by foreign tourists. It was ranked the 43rd most visited city in the world for the year 2015. The Quality of Living Survey rated Chennai as the safest city in India. Chennai attracts 45 percent of health tourists visiting India, and 30 to 40 percent of domestic health tourists. As such, it is termed "India's health capital". As a growing metropolitan city in a developing country, Chennai confronts substantial pollution and other logistical and socio-economic problems.

Thomas Arthur, comte de Lally Governor of french India

Thomas Arthur, comte de Lally, baron de Tollendal was a French general of Irish Jacobite ancestry. Lally commanded French forces, including two battalions of his own red-coated Regiment of Lally of the Irish Brigade, in India during the Seven Years' War. After a failed attempt to capture Madras he lost the Battle of Wandiwash to British forces under Eyre Coote and then was forced to surrender the remaining French post at Pondicherry. After a time spent as a prisoner of war in Britain, Lally voluntarily returned to France to face charges where he was beheaded for his alleged failures in India. Ultimately the jealousies and disloyalties of other officers, together with insufficient resources and limited naval support prevented Lally from securing India for France. In 1778, he was publicly exonerated by Louis XVI of his alleged crime.

It was also during this time that idea of a police force for Madras was thought of. Popham, the brainchild of the street which would bear his name (Popham's Broadway) submitted a plan for the establishment of a regular police force for Madras and for the building of direct and cross drains in every street. He also advocated measures for the naming and lighting of streets, for the regular registration of births and deaths and for the licensing of liquor, arrack and toddy shops. A Board of Police assisted by a Kotwal was subsequently formed. The Kotwal was to be the officer of the markets under the Superintendent of Police. [1]

He negotiated the Treaty of Mangalore which brought an end to the Second Anglo-Mysore War in 1784. [2]

Macartney declined the governor-generalship of India (then the British territories administered by the British East India Company) and returned to Britain in 1786.

Embassy to China

Lord Macartney saluting the James GillrayQianlong Emperor, 1793. LordMacartneyEmbassyToChina1793.jpg
Lord Macartney saluting the James GillrayQianlong Emperor, 1793.
Engraving of Lord Macartney George-Leonard-Staunton-et-al-An-authentic-account-of-an-embassy-from-the-king-of-Great Britain-to-the-emperor-of-China MG 0727.tif
Engraving of Lord Macartney

After being created Earl Macartney in the Irish peerage (1792), he was appointed the first envoy of Britain to China, after the failure of a number of previous embassies, including Cathcart's. He led the Macartney Embassy to Beijing in 1792 with a large British delegation on board a 64-gun man-of-war, HMS Lion under the command of Captain Sir Erasmus Gower. The embassy was ultimately not successful in its primary aim to open trade with China, although numerous secondary purposes were attained, including first-hand assessment of the strength of the Chinese empire. The failure to obtain trade concessions was not due to Macartney's refusal to kowtow in the presence of the Qianlong Emperor, as is commonly believed. It is probably described most neutrally as a result of competing world views which were uncomprehending and incompatible. After the conclusion of the embassy, Qianlong sent a letter to King George III, explaining in greater depth the reasons for his refusal to grant the requests of the embassy. [3]

The reception of the diplomatique and his suite, at the Court of Pekin by James Gillray The reception of the diplomatique and his suite, at the Court of Pekin by James Gillray.jpg
The reception of the diplomatique and his suite, at the Court of Pekin by James Gillray

The Macartney Embassy is historically significant because it marked a missed opportunity by the Chinese to move toward some kind of accommodation with the West. This failure would continue to plague the Qing Dynasty as it encountered increasing foreign pressures and internal unrest during the 19th century.

The policies of the Thirteen Factories remained. The embassy returned to Britain in 1794 without obtaining any concession from China. However, the mission could be construed as a success because it brought back detailed observations. Sir George Staunton was charged with producing the official account of the expedition after their return. This multi-volume work was taken chiefly from the papers of Lord Macartney and from the papers of Sir Erasmus Gower, who was Commander of the expedition. Gower also left a more personal record through his private letters to Admiral John Elliot (Royal Navy officer) and Captain Sir Henry Martin, 1st Baronet (Comptroller of the Navy). [4] Joseph Banks, the President of the Royal Society, was responsible for selecting and arranging engraving of the illustrations in this official record. [5]

Lord Macartney George Earl Macartney.jpg
Lord Macartney

Macartney was expected to lead an embassy to Japan after he completed his mission to China, but his hopes of being able to proceed to Japan were ended by the confirmation when he returned to Canton of news of the outbreak of war with France and consequently of the vulnerability of his ships to attack by French cruisers operating from Batavia. [6] On 23 December, Macartney recorded in his journal: "I have given up my projected visit to Japan, which (though now less alluring in prospect) has always been with me a favourite adventure as a possible opening of a new mine for the exercise of our industry and the purchase of our manufactures". [7]

Selected quotes

Macartney's journal from the embassy to China included observations and opinions which have become famously associated with the British diplomat: [8]

Later life

On his return from a confidential mission to Italy in 1795, he was raised to the British peerage as Baron Macartney, and in the end of 1796 was appointed governor of the newly acquired territory of the Cape Colony, where he remained until ill health compelled him to resign in November 1798. In early 1797 he was requested to assist with the proposed plan to send an attacking force from the Cape under Major-General J. H. Craig to the South West coast of Spanish America by way of the British colony in New South Wales. [11] He died at Chiswick, Middlesex, on 31 May 1806, the title becoming extinct. After the death of his widow (Lady Jane Stuart, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Bute; they were married in 1768), his property passed to his niece, whose son took the name.

See also


Allegorical engraving of George Macartney after his capture at the battle of Grenada (1779). Le songe du lord Macartney gouverneur de l ile de la Grenade prise par d Estaing 1779.jpg
Allegorical engraving of George Macartney after his capture at the battle of Grenada (1779).
Lord Macartney's uniform as ambassador to China (1793). Lord George Macartney.jpg
Lord Macartney's uniform as ambassador to China (1793).
  1. Reforms of George MaCartney from 'Corporation of Chennai' website
  2. Turnbull p.180
  3. Ch'ien Lung, (Qianlong) Letter to George III
  4. Bates, Ian M. (2017). Champion of the Quarterdeck: Admiral Sir Erasmus Gower (1742-1814). Sage Old Books. p. 171-206. ISBN   9780958702126.
  5. Banks, Joseph. State Library of New South Wales, Papers of Sir Joseph Banks; Section 12: Lord Macartney’s embassy to China; Series 62: Papers concerning publication of the account of Lord Macartney's Embassy to China, ca 1797.
  6. Robert J. King, "'The long wish'd for object' — Opening the trade to Japan, 1785-1795", The Northern Mariner / le marin du nord, vol.XX, no.1, January 2010, pp.1-35, pp.30-33.
  7. Cranmer-Byng, "Russian and British Interests in the Far East, 1791-1793", Canadian Slavonic Papers, vol.X, 1968, pp.357-75, p.206.
  8. Zhang, Xiantao. (2007). The Origins of the Modern Chinese Press: the Influence of the Protestant Missionary Press in late Qing China, p. 33 , p. 33, at Google Books [ dead link ], excerpt, "In 1793, Lord Macartney, after failing in his diplomatic mission to make China extend trade with Britain, famously remarked that the empire of China was 'an old, crazy, first-rate Man of War', which had intimidated its neighbours 'merely by her bulk and appearance' ...."
  9. Perdue, Peter. (2005). China Marches West: the Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia, p. 505 , p. 505, at Google Books; Robbins, Helen Henrietta Macartney (1908). Our First Ambassador to China: An Account of the Life of George, Earl of Macartney with Extracts from His Letters, and the Narrative of His Experiences in China, as Told by Himself, 1737–1806, from Hitherto Unpublished Correspondence and Documents, p. 386. , p. 386, at Google Books
  10. Robbins, p. 386. , p. 386, at Google Books
  11. Dundas to Macartney, 21 January 1797, “Correspondence of George Macartney, 1st Earl Macartney, whilst Governor of the Cape of Good Hope”, Bodleian Library, GB 0162 MSS.Afr.t.2-4*. See also Robert J. King, "An Australian Perspective on the English Invasions of the Rio de la Plata in 1806 and 1807", International Journal of Naval History, vol. 8 no.1, April 2009,

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