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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

George Canning

  • [An English statesman, orator, and wit, born in London, April 11, 1770; educated at Oxford; entered Parliament, 1793; under-secretary of state, 1796; issued with others “The Anti-Jacobin;” secretary of state for foreign affairs, 1807, and again in 1822; prime minister, 1827; died in August of that year.]
  • I called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old.

  • In a speech, Dec. 12, 1826, on the relations between Great Britain and Portugal. The whole passage was, “If France occupied Spain, was it necessary, in order to avoid the consequences of that occupation, that we should blockade Cadiz? No, I looked another way: I sought materials of compensation in another hemisphere. Contemplating Spain, such as our ancestors had known her, I resolved, that, if France had Spain, it should not be Spain ‘with the Indies.’ I called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old.”
  • In a speech in the House of Commons against parliamentary reform, Canning exclaimed, “Reform the Parliament! Repeal the Union! Restore the Heptarchy!” as if the latter two were as feasible as the former. This was the origin of the expression used in 1834 by Sir Robert Peel, in reply to a speech of Daniel O’Connell in favor of repeal: “Repeal the Union! as well restore the Heptarchy!”
  • Ah! but you were tedious.

  • Canning replied to a clergyman who asked him how he liked his sermon, “It was short;” at which the clergyman said, “Yes, you know I avoid being tedious:” “Ah! but you were tedious,” rejoined Canning.
  • When a new ministry was formed containing Addington (Lord Sidmouth), who was successively chancellor of the exchequer, first lord of the treasury, and home secretary, and whose presence in every administration was considered necessary in order to please George III., Canning remarked, “He is like the small-pox: everybody must have it once.”
  • Sir Harry Halford, a distinguished physician, quoted in company the saying, “Every man is a physician or a fool at forty.” Canning slyly asked, “Sir Harry, mayn’t he be both?” The saying is attributed to Tiberius, but Plutarch (“Preservation of Health”) assigns to the emperor the assertion that “he was a ridiculous man that held forth his hand to a physician after sixty.”
  • When Lord —— spoke of a picture he had seen, representing the procession of animals into Noah’s Ark, the elephants coming last and filling up the foreground, Canning explained it by saying, “Your elephants—wise fellows—staid behind to pack up their trunks.”