Canning's tenure of office was destined to be but short. Canning and Huskisson were both in very feeble health. Huskisson was ordered abroad by his medical attendant; Canning, also, was urged to go abroad and take rest, and thus get some chance of recovering his health; but he felt that it would be impossible for him to leave his post at the time, and he resolutely determined to remain at home. His physical condition had been greatly injured not long before, by his attendance at the burial of the Duke of York. The Duke of York was the brother of the King, and stood nearest in the succession to the Throne. He had been consistently and persistently opposed to all the political principles and purposes which had guided Canning's whole Ministerial career. The nation felt but little regret at the removal of the Duke of York, whose personal defects might be excused or explained, and therefore pardoned, but whose obstinacy and perversity in public affairs were a serious obstruction to every onward and popular movement. Canning felt all the more bound to attend the funeral. The day was cold and damp in dismal January; the chapel was miserably chill and full of draughts; and the whole lengthened ceremonial sent a shock to Canning's nerves, and to his general physical system. Canning never rallied from the shock and the chill of that dreary solemnity. He struggled indeed against his approaching illness as well as he could; and even when his friend Huskisson called to see him, in order to take leave of him before going abroad, Canning-bore up bravely and cheerily, and tried to make his old comrade believe that it was but a passing infirmity which kept him a prisoner in his room. Two clays after Huskisson had left him, Canning removed to the Duke of Devonshire's villa at Chiswick; and a few days after his life came to an end there. He died on the 8th of August, 1827, in the very room where Charles James Fox had died not so many years before. The whole nation mourned his untimely death. Canning was but little more than fifty-seven years old when his great career came to a close.
The Duke of Wellington was then called upon to form an Administration. Some measures of political importance marked the course of the Duke's tenure of office, but for the present we are chiefly concerned with one event which might almost be said to belong to the career of Mr. Canning. There were differences of opinion in the Cabinet on many questions; and especially on those with which the name of Canning was particularly associated. Huskisson made a speech at Liverpool in addressing his constituents there, which led to a serious dispute between Wellington and himself. Huskisson told, or was reported to have told, his constituents at Liverpool that he never would have taken office under the Duke of Wellington if he had not obtained from the Duke an ample guarantee that the policy of Canning on financial and other questions was to be faithfully carried out. Wellington, with his usual bluntness, repudiated any such idea; threw contempt upon the suggestion that any gentleman to whom he had tendered office could think of insisting on any such guarantee, or making a guarantee of any kind a condition of accepting a place in the new Administration.
(Siborne's " History of the Waterloo Campaign. )
The Duke, however, suggested that what Mr. Hus-kisson probably did say in Liverpool was that he found in the composition of the Cabinet itself a sufficient guarantee that its measures of policy would be such as to promote the best interests of the Sovereign and the country. Huskisson hastened to explain that this was really what he did mean, and even what he did say; and the matter might not have seemed very important at the moment, but it led to important consequences. Huskisson's popularity undoubtedly suffered by this dispute; some of his best friends thought that he had not done well when he consented to take office under the Duke of Wellington, in companionship with other men who were avowed opponents of Canning's general policy. Huskisson himself began to fear that he had probably made a mistake by consenting to resume office after Canning's death. In any case, there was undoubted antagonism between the principles of Canning, which were also the principles of Huskisson, and those of the Duke of Wellington, and other members of the Cabinet. The first dispute or misunderstanding led to another dispute or misunderstanding; and Huskisson in a moment of anger sent in what the Duke of Wellington understood to be a point-blank resignation of his office. Huskisson had not, perhaps, meant so much as this; and some friends of his, and of Wellington, endeavoured to bring about their reconciliation. Hut the Duke held firmly or obstinately to his purpose. He insisted upon it that Huskisson had resigned his office, and that there was nothing more to be said in the matter.
Therefore, there was an end of Huskisson's connection with the Wellington Administration, and the impression conveyed to many minds in the country was that he had been rudely hustled out of office, simply because he was a faithful friend and supporter of Canning; while others regarded the matter in a light less favourable to Huskisson, and insisted that he had resigned in a fit of spleen; had then endeavoured to make his excuses and get back into office again, and had met with a contemptuous and insulting refusal from the Duke of Wellington. The whole incident created a great sensation throughout the country - satirists and caricaturists made much capital out of it, and even so long after the event as the publication of Bulwer Lytton's novel, "Paul Clifford," it was found that the novelist had constructed a comic song out of the whole controversy; turned it into a quarrel about the possession of a glass of liquor, which Huskisson in a hasty moment passed to one of his comrades, thinly disguised under the name of Fighting Attie, and was vainly endeavouring to get back again, Fighting Attie contemptuously advising him to "Cease your dust," and telling him "You have resigned it, and you must." On the whole, the opinion of impartial posterity always has been that Huskisson never ought to have accepted a place in the Administration of the Duke of Wellington. No one could have questioned or doubted the purity of his motive; Huskisson joined the Wellington Administration because he sincerely believed that he might be the means of influencing the Duke and others of his colleagues in favour of more liberal measures of policy in finance and in various matters, There was some reason for such a belief. Canning had carried his point with more than one reluctant Ministry. We shall soon see how the Duke of Wellington himself came to abandon a long-maintained position, and to surrender to the policy of Catholic emancipation. But Huskisson had hardly an influence strong enough to accomplish the work which might possibly have been done by a man with the strength of Canning. Much of the good work that he had done was accomplished at Canning's impulse, and under Canning's guidance. It would have been better if he had held back at the time when death, withdrawing from office his illustrious friend and leader, had given an opportunity for the formation of a Ministry under the Duke of Wellington. Huskisson, if he had lived long enough, must have found his place, and have borne a helping hand in still further promoting the policy of his great friend and leader. But however that may be, the names of Canning and Huskisson will be always associated in the history of these countries; and the fame of the one man is as stainless as that of the other.