George Canning

British Prime Minister, statesman, and politician (1770-1827)

George Canning (11 April 17708 August 1827) was a British Tory statesman. He held various senior cabinet positions under numerous prime ministers, including two important terms as Foreign Secretary, finally becoming Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for the last 118 days of his life, from April to August 1827.

I can prove anything by statistics except the truth.


  • I for my part still conceive it to be the paramount duty of a British member of parliament to consider what is good for Great Britain...I do not envy that man's feelings, who can behold the sufferings of Switzerland, and who derives from that sight no idea of what is meant by the deliverance of Europe. I do not envy the feelings of that man, who can look without emotion at Italy – plundered, insulted, trampled upon, exhausted, covered with ridicule, and horror, and devastation – who can look at all this, and be at a loss to guess what is meant by the deliverance of Europe? As little do I envy the feelings of that man, who can view the peoples of the Netherlands driven into insurrection, and struggling for their freedom against the heavy hand of a merciless tyranny, without entertaining any suspicion of what may be the sense of the word deliverance. Does such a man contemplate Holland groaning under arbitrary oppressions and exactions? Does he turn his eyes to Spain trembling at the nod of a foreign master? And does the word deliverance still sound unintelligibly in his ear? Has he heard of the rescue and salvation of Naples, by the appearance and the triumphs of the British fleet? Does he know that the monarchy of Naples maintains its existence at the sword's point? And is his understanding, and his heart, still impenetrable to the sense and meaning of the deliverance of Europe?
    • Speech in 1798, quoted in Wendy Hinde, George Canning (London: Purnell Books Services, 1973), p. 66.
  • We are hated throughout Europe and that hate must be cured by fear.
    • Letter to George Leveson-Gower (2 October 1807), quoted in Boyd Hilton, A Mad, Bad, and Dangerous People? England. 1783-1846 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006), p. 211.
  • I called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old.
    • The King’s Message, Dec. 12, 1826.
  • I can prove anything by statistics except the truth.
    • As quoted in A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908) edited by Tryon Edwards, p. 587.

Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)Edit

Quotes reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Story! God bless you! I have none to tell, sir.
    • The Friend of Humanity and the Knife-Grinder.
  • I give thee sixpence! I will see thee damned first.
    • The Friend of Humanity and the Knife-Grinder.
  • So down thy hill, romantic Ashbourn, glides
    The Derby dilly, carrying three INSIDES.
    • The Loves of the Triangles, line 178.
  • And finds, with keen, discriminating sight,
    Black ’s not so black,—nor white so very white.
    • New Morality.
  • Give me the avowed, the erect, the manly foe,
    Bold I can meet,—perhaps may turn his blow!
    But of all plagues, good Heaven, thy wrath can send,
    Save, save, oh save me from the candid friend!
    • New Morality. Compare: "Defend me from my friends; I can defend myself from my enemies", attributed to Maréchal Villars, when taking leave of Louis XIV.
  • No, here ’s to the pilot that weathered the storm!
    • The Pilot that weathered the Storm.

Quotes about CanningEdit

  • The right hon. gentleman knows what the introduction of a great name does in debate, how important is its effect, and occasionally how electrical. He never refers to any author who is not great, and sometimes who is not loved—Canning, for example. That is a name never to be mentioned, I am sure, in the House of Commons without emotion. We all admire his genius; we all, at least most of us, deplore his untimely end; and we all sympathize with him in his fierce struggle with supreme prejudice and sublime mediocrity, with inveterate foes and with—"candid friends." The right hon. gentleman may be sure that a quotation from such an authority will always tell. Some lines, for example, upon friendship, written by Mr. Canning, and quoted by the right hon. gentleman! The theme, the poet, the speaker—what a felicitous combination! Its effect in debate must be overwhelming; and I am sure, were it addressed to me, all that would remain for me would be thus publicly to congratulate the right hon. gentleman, not only on his ready memory, but on his courageous conscience.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, speech in the House of Commons (28 February 1845), quoted in Selected Speeches of the Late Right Honourable the Earl of Beaconsfield, Volume I, ed. T. E. Kebbel (1882), pp. 72-73
  • Who e'er ye are, all hail! – whether the skill
    Of youthful CANNING guides the ranc'rous quill;
    With powers mechanic far above his age,
    Adapts the paragraph and fills the page;
    Measures the column, mends what e'er's amiss,
    Rejects THAT letter, and accepts of THIS;
  • [I]f I might be allowed to express in one sentence the principle which I think ought to guide an English Minister, I would adopt the expression of Canning, and say that with every British Minister the interests of England ought to be the shibboleth of his policy.

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