Sir George Leonard Staunton

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Staunton, Sir George Leonard, Bart., an Indian administrator, was born at Cargin, County of Galway, 19th April 1737. In consequence of ill-health, he was, at sixteen, sent to Montpelier, France, where he completed his education and took out his medical degree. In 1760 he repaired to London. His literary abilities soon secured him an introduction to Johnson and other eminent men. In 1762 he removed to the West Indies. There he practised medicine, and held several official situations. Having acquired a competency, he returned to England in 1770.

He married, went back to the West Indies, and having studied law was appointed Attorney-General of Grenada. In 1779 the island was taken by the French, and with the Governor, Lord Macartney, he was sent as prisoner of war to France. After being exchanged, he went to India as private secretary to Lord Macartney, who had been appointed Governor of Madras. His talents had now full play, and he was engaged in a series of missions of great importance. "On a very critical occasion, when the civil and military authorities of Madras were at issue, he undertook the delicate and possibly hazardous office of executing an order of the Government, placing under arrest the commander-in-chief of the army, Major-General Stuart; and he thus preserved, by his vigour and promptitude, both the tranquillity of the settlement and the supremacy of the civil governor. But the transaction in which his diplomatic abilities were chiefly displayed, was the negotiation of a treaty of peace with Tippoo Sultan in 1784, by which the safety of our Indian possessions was secured at a crisis of great difficulty and peril. For this service he was immediately raised to a baronetcy, and the East India Company conferred on him a pension of £500 a year for life.

On his return to England he also received the honorary degree of Doctor-of-Laws from the University of Oxford." In 1792 he accompanied Lord Macartney as joint minister plenipotentiary on a mission to Pekin. His health was sacrificed to his exertions on this occasion, and a few months after his return to England he was prostrated by an attack of paralysis. Retaining the full vigour of his intellect, he undertook the publication of a narrative of the proceedings of the Chinese embassy, a work of great interest, which was read with avidity at the time, and is referred to as one of the first authorities on all matters connected with China. Sir George died in London, 14th January 1801, aged 63, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, where a monument by Chantrey has been erected to his memory. He was, in the early part of his career at least, a decided Liberal in politics. [His son, Sir George T. Staunton, Bart., born in England, an eminent Oriental and Chinese scholar, died in 1859.]

Sources

16. Authors, Dictionary of British and American: S. Austin Allibone. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1859-'71.

40. Biographical Division of English Cyclopaedia, with Supplement: Charles Knight, 7 vols. London, 1856-'72.

146. Gentleman's Magazine. London, 1731-1868.
Gilbert, John T., see Nos. 110, 335.

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