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Why Do Historians Differ In Their Views Of These Historical Characters Essay, Research Paper

Aim: To find how reliable evidence is and to find

out which factors constitute for a good reliable piece of evidence. In this essay I will be

looking at political personalities of the early 19th century. I will

compare and contrast pieces of evidence and give and accurate conclusion based

around the evidence given to me. The first character is

George, The Prince Regent from 1811, when his father was declared insane and

not fit to run the country, until 1820, when his father died and he became

King, until 1830. George?s father had been relived of his position after they

decided he was too crazy to run the country; in fact he wasn?t mad he had a

blood disease which made him seem crazed. Already the people were losing faith

in the monarchy, this newly appointed King was the son of a lunatic, also

George?s public life was not the ?typical? Victorian lifestyle which many

people demanded of their King. George was not a popular man in his time, one

poem written by William Home (1819) states that George was ?All covered with

orders and all forlorn?, which means he looked the part, but in fact he was a

fool. Also the poem makes reference to George being frivolous with the

countries money saying that he ?leaves the State and its treasure, And, when

Britain?s in tears, sails about at his pleasure.? These lines obviously show

the animosity, which was arising at the time and the foolishness which people

believed the King to display. An illustration is depicted below; this went with

the poem. ?? This cartoon is an extremist

view of the King. The title of the book, which it is depicted in, shows this as

it is called ?A Radical View of the Prince Regent?. Radical is obviously what

it is, this piece of evidence is not totally believable. This person is not

giving a fair view; the radical aspect is a good selling point and the comical

way in which it is shown would help sell copies of the book. The person who

wrote this didn?t have hindsight either and was caught up in the whole atmosphere

at the time. This person couldn?t give a historian a non-bias view because

everyone at that time had his or her own opinion, which is illustrated in this

book. Although this evidence has lots of faults it can give a historian a

picture of what the peoples views, about the political situation, were like.

This can be valuable because it shows that people at the time didn?t respect

the King or the whole political system, but only generalised assumptions can be

made from this type of evidence, but it is a good starting piece to look at. An extract from a book

called ?History of the Thirty Years? Peace 1816-1846?, written by Harriet

Martineau (1858), gives an account of King George 111. She says that George?s

private life was ?offensive? and that he performed his public duties ?with

reluctance?. The two extracts clearly show that George was not a particularly

well liked man people, even after his death, saw him as a bad public example

and a bad ambassador to the country. It also described the perception that he

was lazy and wouldn?t do his job. She also says that he ?craved ease and indulgence.?

This woman doesn?t portray positive picture of George. The evidence against him

is very circumstantial, the source does not suggest that she had met him or

that she had historical evidence supporting her assumptions. Historical

evidence is only released fifty years after a person?s death, or only if their family

wants you to see certain documents. This means that Harriet didn?t have access

to information that could have been vital for her to see if his political ideas

and decisions were decisive or weak. All Harriet has done is comment on his

sociability and his life, which she has found to be very wrong and very un-kingly.

Harriet Martineau was also French, England had beaten France in the long

laborious war it had been engaged in, Martineau could have been a bit bitter

towards Britain because of her countries defeat. This would make a reliable

piece of evidence because Harriet had hindsight, although not all of the

information would have been available to her a lot still would have been. I

think that the source can give us a clear picture of George?s private life, especially

when compared with the other source, they both are clearly commenting on George?s

amorous nature. Harriet would also be able to give an objective view, as she is

not caught up with the events of the time. I think this source is useful as it

shows how our European counterparts viewed King George and indeed the English parliamentary

system. ?????????? The next source from ?The

First Four Georges?, written by J.H. Plumb (1956) is a biography George, the

source is an extract from the book. This source contains some facts about George?s

rein, it states that George?s ?debts amounted to £500,000?, by 1811, it also

says that ?His manias were buildings and adornment and the motive for much of

his work was ostentatious vanity?. Again the views are very subjective and none

of the sources give a totally clear picture of how George ran the country.

Plumb probably had access to lots of official government documents, although

the only fact that he has put is about how much money George spent. The document

also comments about George?s private life and particularly comments about his

wife Caroline. It says ?she was flamboyant, dirty and highly sexed? it also

says that ?Even hardened diplomats were shocked by her language?. I believe

that this text was wrote in the context to shock rather than give hard

historical facts, it gives an account of the radical gossip of the time.

Although this book seems to be written to show how eccentric and unethical

George?s life was, it also gives us a very accurate account coming from a respected

historian who had hindsight. None of the sources that have been reviewed here

seem to be conflicting, they all come to the same conclusion George led a very extravagant

lifestyle. He lived to impress, his buildings were impressive, and were called

the regency style, which became very popular. His relationships were to say the

least controversial. I think that it is clear from the sources that George was

a patron on extravagance controversy. Another very famous political

character in the early 19th century was Robert Banks Jenkinson, 2nd

Earl of Liverpool born in 1770. He was a Tory politician, and in May 1812,

after the assassination of Spencer Percival. Liverpool remained in office until

his resignation due to ill health in February 1827. He died in 1828. The first source is a letter

written in 1819 by William Huskisson (1770-1830), Tory MP for Liverpool to his

wife. It says that the government is embarrassed about a certain situation,

Huskisson then says that the government can blame ?the genius of Old Mouldy?.

Hukisson talks about his leader in a very diminutive manner, the source tells

us that Liverpool was maybe a bad Prime Minister, even his own cabinet members

seem to be very critical of his abilities. Huskisson also says in his letter

that ?Liverpool is in one of his grand fidgetts? he is certainly not portraying

a good picture of the person who is running the whole country. I think that

Huskisson is being critical out of spite, as he is obviously away from his wife

and things are becoming increasingly difficult in parliament. The letter was probably

written to entertain his wife, the phrase ?Old Mouldy? is quite comical. I don?t

think this portrays a very fair picture of Liverpool I think it can show us

that maybe his MP?s haven?t got a lot of respect for him or they don?t think

his personality is very agreeable. The next source is from the

1821 diary of Mrs Harriet Arbuthnot, wife of a Tory politician and friend of

the Duke of Wellington, who served as Prime Minister from 1828 to 1830. Harriet

says in her diary that ?Lord Liverpool is in a great fuss and it is quite

childish, a man so repeatedly saying that he wants to resign and then sticking

like a leach to his position.? Obviously she thinks that he is a bit of a cry

baby, she thinks that he says he wants to resign and seems very relaxed about

the idea of resigning, in the next breath he is ?sticking like a leach? to his

position, as she describes it. She goes on to say ?He has a disagreeable, cold

manner and a most irritable temper? Liverpool has a very tempestuous

personality she says that he personality make it ?unpleasant to act in public

life with him?. She does have some praise for Liverpool she describes him as a ?man

conscientiously devoted to the service and the real good of his country?. This

source could be unreliable because she could just be praising Liverpool for the

simple reason that he is a Tory and so is she. It is evident that she finds the

man ?disagreeable? and therefore she doesn?t think he is a good public figure.

On the other hand it is her dairy, she wouldn?t have the need to lie, because

she doesn?t think anyone will see it. I think that in comparison to the other

source it clearly shows that Liverpool maybe wasn?t very public spirited, but

he obviously wasn?t politically incompetent, other wise he wouldn?t have been

in office for 15 years. A novel from Benjamin

Disraeli (1844) called ?Coningsby? is the other source, which I will be looking

at. Disraeli served two terms as Tory Prime Minister in 1868 and from 1874

until 1880. Disraeli describes Liverpool and his government ?The arch-mediocrity

who presided rather that ruled over his cabinet of mediocrities?. He is saying

that the Tory government of the time was a farce and its leader was a bad ruler

who just looked on rather than getting involved. He says that Liverpool?s

methods were ?frigid? and he had ?meagre diligence? which basically meant he

was lazy and very stubborn in his ruling methods. Disraeli also comments on

Liverpool?s public ability he states that ?in the conduct of public affairs his

disposition was exactly the reverse of that which is the characteristic of

great men?. I think that Disraeli was jealous of Liverpool. Liverpool had been

in office for a much longer period than Disraeli had been, and also Disraeli

most certainly wanted to be recognised as one of the most significant Prime

Ministers of the 19th century. Liverpool, being the longest reining

Prime Minister in British history, was standing in his way. In relation to the

way which Liverpool dealt with public relations, I think possibly Liverpool was

not a particularly good public ambassador, but that doesn?t mean he was a bad

Prime Minister. I don?t believe this source is reliable, except when compared

with other sources they seem to be building the same picture, Liverpool wasn?t

good with public relations. Professor Asa Briggs (1974)

writes the final source from a book called ?The Prime Ministers?. Briggs

disagrees with the other sources saying that Liverpool ?To his public life

brought qualities which few Prime Ministers have equalled?. Remembering that

Briggs has hindsight and is not directly or indirectly linked to Liverpool?s

reign I think that this is quite reliable evidence. Briggs also states that

Liverpool ?was prompt and decisive when the time came for action? this is a

quality that hasn?t been described, Liverpool?s ability to deal with political

matters. It is also thought that ?He never dismissed a minister: he was never

ungrateful or disloyal? this tells us that Liverpool never made decisions with

out the help of his cabinet or ministers. The most important line in this

passage is ?the more the 19th century is put in to perspective the

more significant does Liverpool?s role appear?. This comment is made from

having hindsight, Liverpool made a big difference to the 19th century.

Liverpool was diligent and very decisive when the occasion called for it. I

still can not make a clear comment about Liverpool?s public ability, but he was

defiantly not an arch-mediocrity, as Disraeli described him to be. The next person I will be

looking at is Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, later the Earl of Londonderry.

Castlereagh was born in 1769. He was appointed as Foreign Secretary from 1812

to 1822 and also leader of the House of Commons until 1821 when he succeeded to

the earldom. He committed suicide in August 1822. The first source was written

by Lord Byron from ?The Dedication to Don Juan?, a poem. The poem says that

Castlereagh liked ?Dabbling his sleek young hands in Erin?s gore? Erin, meaning

Ireland, means that Castlereagh always tried to get involved in Irish affairs,

and relations with England and Ireland wasn?t that good. Lord Byron also says

about Castlereagh ?The vulgarest tool that Tyranny could want?. Byron is

comparing Castlereagh with a lone criminal. It also states that Castlereagh

only had ?just enough talent, and no more?, Byron obviously thinks that he is incompetent

and has only enough talent to get into government. Another contemporary poem

reads ?I met murder on the way. He wore the mask of Castlereagh?. I think these

show a good public view of Castlereagh, he wasn?t popular. Although these poems

were written by strong anti-government people i.e. Lord Byron, so they could

not show a liberal view of Castlereagh only, the radical?s view.????????????Another piece of evidence

written by Thomas Creevey, who was a Whig MP, in 1822 states that ?Now that

Castlereagh is dead, I defy any human being to discover a single feature of his

character that can stand a moment?s criticism. A worse public man never existed.?

Obviously Creevey didn?t have very high opinions of Castlereagh, the other

source is also equally as critical of him. I think it would be wrong to assume

that Castlereagh was a horrible character, as Creevey is a member of the

opposition party and the other source was written by radicals. The two sources

do give us a perspective of what the opinions of his colleges and maybe an

overview of what people thought of him. It certainly doesn?t give us a non-bias

opinion, Creevey most definitely didn?t know him socially, although Creevey,

being an MP would have known Castlereagh?s public manner and how he handled

government issues. The next source is from Mrs

Harriet Arbuthnot?s dairy, dating from 1822. She praises him very highly she

says that ?He managed foreign affairs of the country with a judgement and

ability that will and down his name with honour?. This paints a very different

picture to that of the other two sources she is clearly very sure of what she

is saying, she was the wife of an MP at the time and would have probably met

him. She was also a supporter of the Tory party which meant that she could have

been biased in her views, although it is a dairy and she would have no reason

to lie so this is quite a reliable source. She also seems angry with

Castlereagh?s opponents as she talks about him being very diligent with foreign

affairs and that he will be able to hand down his name ?with honour to

posterity when those of his revilers will be buried in oblivion?. I think that

this confirms that he was quite an intelligent politician and he handled the

affairs of the country well and with out fault. She does not mention his public

abilities, this may suggest that he was not very good at keeping a public

image, which matched his obvious political abilities. The final source from ?Castlereagh?,

by J.W. Derry (1976) suggests that it wasn?t his political or public abilities

that were failing, it was because he was the person left to deal with the unpleasant

areas of Liverpool?s government, which made him a hated figure in politics and

in public. Derry say ?Castlereagh became so hated because it fell to him to

defend the unpopular measures of Liverpool?s government?. On his political

views Derry comments ?his attitudes were liberal on many of the issues of the

day ? disenfranchisement of corrupt boroughs, Catholic emancipation?. I believe

this gives us the knowledge that Castlereagh was an invaluable figure in

Liverpool?s government. He dealt with areas which people felt were unfair or

wrong and he handled them with a liberal out look. He had a very good political

standing he was an intelligent, excellently minded young man with a very good

knowledge of public politics, basically Castlereagh was the governments? ?fall

boy?. He took all the problems and helped sort them. Derry also comments that ?Had

he lived, he would have been a good choice to succeed Liverpool as Prime

Minister?. I think that because of hindsight Derry would have a very good

knowledge of the era and the things that went on, Castlereagh evidently played

an important role. I think that Derry?s statement about Catlereagh making a

good Prime Minister was a bit strong. If Castlereagh was hated as much as is

said then he wouldn?t have made a good public Prime Minister, riots may have

plagued his government. I think that although historians have hindsight they do

not possess the ethos of the time so this may cloud their view on certain

areas. The next famous political figure

that I will be discussing is Henry Addington, Viscount Sidmouth. Sidmouth was

born in 1757 he was the son of a successful London doctor. He served as Speaker

of the House of Commons and then Prime Minister from 1801 to 1804. From 1812 to

1821 he served as Home Secretary. He died in 1844. The first source is from ?Passages

in the Life of a Radical?, an autobiography by Samuel Bamford (1839). Bamford

was a Lancashire weaver and political radical who was aressted in 1817 on

suspicion of revolutionary activity. He was brought to London and questioned by

Sidmouth about his activities before being released. In Bamford?s description

of the event he says that Sidmouth?s ?forehead was broad and prominent and from

their cavernous orbits looked mild and intelligent eyes. Considering we are

talking about a radical, this is a very endearing complement to Sidmouth, and

indeed the whole government. It is very odd that this radical, accused of

revolutionary activities, is being so nice. He is saying that Sidmouth is

intelligent and very mild he also adds ?His manner was affable and much more

encouraging to freedom of speech than I had expected?. Sidmouth obviously

shocked this character; Bamford must have thought all government officials to

be very arrogant, pretentious and pompous characters he was surprised at

Sidmouth?s fairness and understanding. I believe this piece of evidence is

important, it clearly shows that Sidmouth had good social skills, good enough

to make a revolutionary like him. It also shows that he wasn?t against freedom

of speech, which could essentially mean that he was helping to reform parliament. The next source from ?Addington?,

by Philip Ziegler (1965) depicts a totally different story of Sidmouth. ?Addington

was almost as convinced a reactionary as he has been depicted? obviously this

does not show a good picture of Sidmouth, Ziegler is almost saying that

Sidmouth was delusional. It goes on to say that Sidmouth?s talents were ?in no

way extraordinary?. Sidmouth, I think was a better at publicity than actually

doing what he said, his words meant nothing. Ziegler also says ?As a minister

he was responsible, conscientious and far from ineffectual?, Sidmouth could act

well as a Minister advising and giving speeches, but not as a cabinet minister.

?As Home Secretary he was violently controversial? as his public imagery was

very important, he tried violently to keep his image as a reactor and

facilitator, but instead he became terribly controversial. Ziegler said that ?On

almost every contraversial issue of the day he was found securely entrenched on

the wrong side? this supports my claim that he was trying to be what he was

obviously not, a reformer. I think that the most important sentence is ?Addington

emerges as a good man, doing his best to administer an ill-judged policy with

charity, humanity and above all absolute fairness?. Sidmouth wasn?t the best

man for the job in fact he was very limited in his abilities, I think that one ability

which he didn?t find hard was talking and interacting with the public, which is

clearly shown in the first source. Addington brought courteous and sincere qualities

to a political system which was under fire. The next important character

that I will be looking at is George Canning, born in 1770. The grandson of an

Irish landowner, he was brought up in the household of William Pitt, the Prime

Minister from 1783-1801 and 1804-1806. Canning?s mother, left a penniless

widow, committed the social indiscretion of becoming an actress to make some

money. Canning?s feud with Castlereagh prevented him him holding a senior

position from 1812-22, but after Castlereagh?s death, Canning became Foreign

Secretary. He then succeeded Liverpool as Prime Minister in February 1827 only

to die a few months later in August. The first source is from ?The

Political House that Jack Built? by William Home (1819). It is a poem which

reads This is THE

DOCTOR of circular fame A Driviller, a

Bigot, A Knave without shame And that?s

DERRY DOWN TRIANGLE, by name From the land

of misrule, and half-hanging and flame: And that is


colleague of their infamous power. The Doctor is referring

to Sidmouth, the Derry Down Triangle is Castlereagh and The Spouter Of Froth By

The Hour is Canning. This poem is poking fun at all of them; Canning and

Castlereagh had a big feud between them which the public saw as childish, it

also stopped both of them from becoming senior members in parliament. Sidmouth

is referred to as a bigot; this is because of his controversial style of

politics. Canning is said to be ?The Spouter Of Froth By The Hour?, this means

that he says things purely to get the support of the government, he basically

lies to get his own way. The picture shows Canning standing in a very proud way

he looks very confident and in control, but the other two are carrying a whip

and a gun, it is poking fun at the childish squabbles which the three have. The next

source is from ?The political register?, 12th October 1822, a

radical newspaper edited by William Cobbett, a journalist and opponent of

Liverpool?s government. Cobbett supports the view that Canning has a bit of a

one track mind and therefore uses his powers to influence others to voting his

way. Cobbett says Canning ?had but one principle object in view: namely, to

prevent any change in the system by which this country has been governed for

many years past?. Cobbett is not being unfair, I think that Canning could have

been and was a very talented politician, but he had only the one passion, and

that was non-reforming of the political system in England. The final

source is from the ?Annual Register?, published in 1827. It says about Canning ?Europe

lost in him the ablest statesman and the House of Commons the finest orator of

his day?. It is clear that Canning was a very good politician, but his cause

for attention was wrong, he was a devout member of the old system and spent

most if not all of his political career upholding the system. In conclusion

I think the reasons for historians differed views are down to certain factors

such as hindsight. This is a particularly useful tool to a historian as they

can look with non-biased opinions at certain factors which haven?t been

explored, also they have access to documents which were not available at the

time. Another important factor is actually having the ability to look from the

perspective of people who have actually been in that era or that time, they

have knowledge of how life was like and what they thought of certain people

without the ability of hindsight. Most importantly is the historians? own

political view, all sources can be interpreted differently which is why so many

opinions are given. ????? ??????????????

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