[Lord] George Macartney (1737-1806)


Life
[Lord Macartney; Baron Macartney, later Earl]; b. Lisanoure, Loughgiel, Co. Antrim, member of a branch of a successful Belfast merchant family that conformed to the established religion; ed. TCD; Ambassador to Russia, and Chief Sec. for Ireland [representing the Townshend administration], 1769-72;
 
created earl, 1792; his trade mission (or embassy) to Peking for George III during 179-294 is recorded in ‘Journal of the Embassy to China’, printed in John Barrow’s Memoir of Macartney (1807); with Townshend, he was the butt of the satirical collection Baratariana (1771) [var. 1772], successive missions to China included those of Amherst, 1816-17, and Elgin, 1844-46; his portrait was painted by Lemuel Francis Abbott. RR ODNB PI DIW DUB

Lord Macartney
by
Lemuel Francis Abbott

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Works
Journal to the Embassy to China, incl. in Memoir by John Barrow (1807); An Account of an Embassy to Russia (1768); A Political Account of Ireland (1773), reprinted in Barrow; Macartney in Ireland 1768-72: Tom Bartlett, ed. and intro., A Calendar of the Chief Secretaryship Papers of Sir George Macartney (PRONI 1978).

Tom Bartlett, ed. & intro., Macartney in Ireland 1768-72: A Calendar of the Chief Secretaryship Papers of Sir George Macartney (Belfast: PRONI [1978]), xlviii, 404, comprising the vast bulk of Macartney’s officialepapers relating to Ireland [and pertaining] to the period of his secretaryship, and shortly after; 17 vols. and some loose papers on deposit in Public Rec. Off., Northern Ireland [PRONI], arranged in haphazard fashion during his lifetime; supplemented by papers in other Northern Ireland, Indian, and American libraries.

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Criticism
H. H. Robbins, Our First Ambassador in China, an account of the life of George Earl of Macartney (1908); Peter Roebuck, Macartney of Lisanoure 1737-1806 (Belfast 1983); for background, see Jean Agnew, Belfast Merchant Families in the Seventeenth Century (Dublin: Four Courts Press 1996). Also, J. Redington, ed., Calendar of the Home Office Papers 1766-69 (1879) [contains some of his papers]. See also Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica: Irish Worthies (1821), Vol. II, pp.389-93.

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Commentary
Tom Bartlett, ed. & intro., Macartney in Ireland 1768-72: A Calendar of the Chief Secretaryship Papers of Sir George Macartney (Belfast: PRONI [1978]), remarks: ‘Ireland like most of the colonies had been, by and large, going her own way with little regard to the dictates of Whitehall or the changes of government in Britain. [Ftn. quotes John Ponsonby, ‘What matter’s it to us who are minsters in England? Let us stick to our own circle and manage our own little game as well as we can’. Ponsonby to Foster, 15 Aug 1765 PRONI D562/1/757. This attitude, the British ministers found increasingly irritating.] The lord lieutenant, the knig’s representatvie in ireland, cocupied a subordinate position in the Irish government and was forced to depend on the good offices of the undertakers to carry out the king’s business. Carious schemes were, at one time or another, bput forwards to re-establish the post and prestige of the lord lieutenant and to break the stranglehold of the undertakers on the Irish political life. Eventually the concensus of opinion was that the lord lieutenant should be constantly resident in Ireland. This would remove the need for lords justices and furthemore regain for the office some much needed status. ... Lord Townshend, elder brother of the more famo0us Charles Townshend, was appointed lord lieutenant after Bristol’s resignation. His main aim in coming to Ireland was to gain the Irish parliament’s approval for an augmentation to the number of troops on the Irish establishment. This was a matter dear to George III’s heart and it was probable that he drew up the plan which Townshend was to implement ... an attempt to standardise the size of regiments on both the Irish and the English establishments so are to facilitate their rotation on imperial service. (xvii-viii).

Note: with Townshend, he was the butt of the satirical collection Baratariana (1771) [var. 1772], which bore a oval frontispiece port. of the former captioned, ‘And bid him go to Hell, to Hell he goes’, and the motto, ‘In Coelum jufferis ibit’, and with a string or halter passing between two hands marked North and Bute at left and right; a satirical engraving of Townshend’s cabinet from Baratariana, prominently including Macartney, appears on the jacket of Bartlett’s Calendar.

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References
Library of Herbert Bell (Belfast)
holds Baratariana, A Select Collection of Fugitive Political Pieces (Dublin 1777)

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Notes
George McCartney [sic] reported from Belfast in 1707, ‘.. thank God we are not under any great fears here, for ... we have not among us above seven papists.’ See Loreto Todd, The Language of Irish Literature (1989).

John Ponsonby: Macartney regarded with animosity by the chief undertaker, John Ponsonby, who wrote, in correspondence, of his ‘categorical style’. It was chiefly Ponsonby’s control of Ireland through the Revenue Commission and the House of Commons, of which he was Speaker, that the viceroy Townshend was trying to undermine. (See Bartlett, 1978, op. cit. infra, p.xxiii.) Macartney was under attack in the press, notably the Freeman’s Journal, which called him ‘an officious scribe ... of ministerial principles and by family connexion linked to the BUTEAN interest who will not hestitate at the next session to propose any motion, the junto can contrive for their purpose or he devise for their favour’ (FJ, 15 Aug 1769; quoted Bartlett, xxiv). Hnnry Grattan wrote;’Macartney, if possible, is more disliked than Lord Townshend. An eternal sneer, a nauseating affection and a listless energy make him (they say) disgusting in general and give him the name of the Macaroni prime minister (in H Grattan, Memoirs of Henry Grattan, Dublin 1839, I, p.162; cited Bartlett, xxxii, ftn.)

Bardic bagatelle: Macartney paid but five guineas to one Gorman, a scribe, who presented to him his ‘poetical bagatelle’, as reported with happy surprise in a letter of Charles O’Conor to Archb. Carpenter of Dublin ([10 Jan. 1772; O’Connor, ed. Ward and Ward, Letters, pp.265-66].

Macartney letterbooks: for eleven years in the period 1666-1706, The Macartney letterbooks are employed as a documentary basis for much of the analysis in Jean Agnew, Belfast Merchant Families in the Seventeenth Century (Dublin: Four Courts Press 1996).

Portrait: An oil port. of Lord [Geo.] Macartney by Gustav Lundberg was acquired by the Ulster Museum through the Macartney sale, Belfast 1947 (see Anne Crookshank, Irish Portraits Exhibition Catalogue], Belfast: Ulster Museum 1965).

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