Malmesbury, James Harris
lord diplomacy court
MALMESBURY, JAMES HARRIS, EARL or (1746-1820), the best-known English diplomatist of the latter half of the 18th century, was born at Salisbury on April 21, 1746. Ile was the son of JAMES HARRIS (q.v.), the author of Hermes, and, what was important for his son's future success, M.P. for Christchurch, a lord of thee treasury under George Grenville (1763-65), and comptroller to the queen (1771-80). Educated at Winchester, Oxford, and Leyden, the younger Harris was intended for diplomacy. In 1768 he became secretary to the British embassy at Madrid, and in 1770 he was left as cha7;q6 d'affaires at that court on the departure of Sir James Gray until the arrival of George Pitt, afterwards Lord Rivers. This interval gave him his opportunity ; he discovered the intention of Spain to attack the Falkland Islands, and was instrumental in thwarting it by putting on a bold countenance. As a reward he was appointed minister ad interim at Madrid, and in January 1772 minister plenipotentiary to the court of Prussia. His success was marked, and in 1776 he was transferred to the court of Russia. At St Petersburg he made his reputation, for he managed to get on with Catherine in spite of her predilections for France, and steered adroitly through the accumulated difficulties of the first Armed Neutrality. In 1782 Sir James Harris (he was now a Knight of the Bath) returned home from ill-health, and was appointed by his friend Fox minister at the Hague, an appointment confirmed after some delay by Pitt, which he took up in July 1781. He did very great service in furthering Pitt's policy of maintaining England's influence on the Continent by the arms of her allies, and held the threads of the diplomacy which ended in the king of Prussia's overthrowing° the republican party in Holland, which was inclined to France, and re-establishing the prince of Orange. He was in recognition of his services created Lord Malmesbury of Malmesbury in the county of Wilts, and permitted by the king of Prussia to bear the Prussian eagle on his arms, and by the prince of Orange to use his motto "je maintiendrai." In 1789 he returned to England, and took an anxious interest in politics, which ended in his seceding from the Whig party with the duke of Portland in 1793, in which year he was sent, but in vain, to try to keep Prussia true to the first coalition against France. In 1794 he was sent to Brunswick to solicit the hand of the unfortunate Princess Caroline for the prince of Wales, to marry her as proxy, and conduct her to her husband in England. In 1796 and 1797 he was at Paris and Lille vainly negotiating with the French Directory. After 1797 he became partially deaf, and quitted diplomacy altogether ; but for his long and eminent services he was in 1800 created earl of Malmesbury, and Viscount Fitzharris, of Heron Court in the county of Hants. He now became a sort of political Nestor, consulted on foreign policy by successive foreign ministers, trusted by men of the most different ideas in political crises, and above all was the confidant, and for a short time after Pitt's death almost the political director, of Canning. Younger men were also wont to go to him for advice, and Lord Palmerston particularly, who was his ward, was tenderly attached to him, and owed many of his ideas on foreign policy directly to his teaching. His later years were free from politics, and till his death in 1820 he lived very quietly and almost forgotten. As a statesman, Malmesbury had an influence among his contemporaries which is scarcely to be understood from his writings, but which must have owed much to personal charm of manner and persuasiveness of tongue; as a diplomatist, he seems to have deserved his reputation, and shares wills Macartney, Auckland, and Whitworth the credit of raising diplomacy from a profession in which only great nobles won the prizes to a career opening the path of honour to ability. Malmesbury did not publish anything himself, except au account of the Dutch revolution, and an edition of his father's works, but his grandson the third earl published four volumes of his diaries and correspondence from 1768-1807, and afterwards two volumes of letters to and from his family and friends.