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The Earl Macartney
Portrait of Lord Macartney by Lemuel Francis Abbott.
|Governor of Grenada|
|Preceded by||William Young|
|Succeeded by||Jean-François, comte de Durat|
|Governor of Madras|
22 June 1781 – 14 June 1785
|Preceded by||Sir Thomas Rumbold|
|Succeeded by||Sir Archibald Campbell|
|Governor of Cape Colony|
|Preceded by||Abraham Josias Sluysken|
|Succeeded by||Francis Dundas|
|Born||14 May 1737|
Lissanoure, Loughguile, Ballymoney, County Antrim
|Died||31 May 1806 (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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Macartney declined the governor-generalship of India (then the British territories administered by the British East India Company) and returned to Britain in 1786.
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.
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).  Joseph Banks, the President of the Royal Society, was responsible for selecting and arranging engraving of the illustrations in this official record.
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. 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".
Macartney's journal from the embassy to China included observations and opinions which have become famously associated with the British diplomat:
|“||The Empire of China is an old, crazy, first-rate Man of War, which a fortunate succession of able and vigilant officers have contrived to keep afloat for these hundred and fifty years past, and to overawe their neighbours merely by her bulk and appearance. But whenever an insufficient man happens to have the command on deck, adieu to the discipline and safety of the ship. She may, perhaps, not sink outright; she may drift some time as a wreck, and will then be dashed to pieces on the shore; but she can never be rebuilt on the old bottom.||”|
|“||The breaking-up of the power of China (no very improbable event) would occasion a complete subversion of the commerce, not only of Asia, but a very sensible change in the other quarters of the world. The industry and the ingenuity of the Chinese would be checked and enfeebled, but they would not be annihilated. Her ports would no longer be barricaded; they would be attempted by all the adventures of all trading nations, who would search every channel, creek, and cranny of China for a market, and for some time be the cause of much rivalry and disorder. Nevertheless, as Great Britain, from the weight of her riches and the genius and spirits of her people, is become the first political, marine, and commercial Power on the globe, it is reasonable to think that she would prove the greatest gainer by such a revolution as I have alluded to, and rise superior over every competitor.||”|
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. 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.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: George Macartney|
The Lord Frederick Campbell
| Chief Secretary for Ireland
Sir John Blaquiere
| Governor of Grenada
Jean-François, comte de Durat
as Governor-General of Grenada
|New creation|| Governor of the Cape Colony
Francis Dundas, acting
|Parliament of Ireland|
Hon. Barry Maxwell
| Member of Parliament for Armagh Borough
With: Philip Tisdall 1768–1769
Charles O'Hara 1769–1776
|Parliament of Great Britain|
Sir John Mordaunt
| Member of Parliament for Cockermouth
With: Charles Jenkinson (1768)
George Johnstone (1768–1769)
Sir James Lowther
James Archibald Stuart
| Member of Parliament for Ayr Burghs
Sir Francis Henry Drake
Hon. George Hobart
| Member of Parliament for Bere Alston
With: Lord Algernon Percy (1780)
Viscount Feilding (1781)
The Earl of Buckinghamshire
| Ambassador from Great Britain to Russia
| Ambassador from Great Britain to Russia
The Lord Cathcart
|| Ambassador from Great Britain to China
George Elliot (1784–1863)
|Peerage of Ireland|
|New creation|| Earl Macartney
| Baron Macartney|
|Peerage of Great Britain|
|New creation|| Baron Macartney