Carteret, John, first Earl Granville 1690-1763, was eldest surviving son of George, first baron Carteret, by his wife, Lady Grace Granville, youngest daughter of John, first earl of Bath. He was born on 22 April 1690, and when only five years old succeeded to the barony of Carteret on the death of his father on 22 Sept. 1695. He was educated at Westminster School, and Christ Church, Oxford, and was created Doctor of Civil Laws on 12 July 1756. He devoted himself with so much ardour to the pursuit of learning, that Swift humorously asserted that, with a singularity scarce to be justified, he carried away more Greek, Latin, and philosophy than properly became a person of his rank; indeed, much more of each than most of those who are forced to live by their learning will be at the unnecessary pains to load their heads with (Swift, Works, vii. 476). In March 1710 his younger brother Philip, who had obtained his election into college in 1707, died at Westminster School, and was buried in the north aisle of the abbey, where there is a monument to his memory, the epitaph for which was written by Dr. Freind. Carteret took his seat in the House of Lords on 25 May 1711, and soon became known as a staunch supporter of the protestant succession. He was appointed by George I one of the gentlemen of his bedchamber on 18 Oct. 1714; in July 1715 bailiff of the island of Jersey; and on 6 July 1716 lord-lieutenant and custos rotulorum of the county of Devon. This last office he held until August 1721, when he resigned it in favour of Hugh, fourteenth baron Clinton. His mother, who had succeeded as coheiress of the great Bath estates on the death of her nephew William, third earl of Bath, without issue in May 1711, was on 1 Jan. 1715 created Viscountess Carteret and Countess Granville, with remainder to her son John and his heirs male and a special remainder of the viscounty in default of his male issue to his uncle Edward Carteret and his heirs male. His first recorded speech in the House of Lords was made on 14 April 1716, when he spoke in favour of the Duke of Devonshire's Septennial Bill (Parl. Hist. vii. 298-9). In the following year, when the great schism among the whigs occurred upon the dismissal of Lord Townshend from office, Carteret joined the Sunderland section of the whig party. On 25 Jan. 1719 he was appointed ambassador extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to the queen of Sweden, but did not leave England until 1 June. He successfully accomplished the objects of his embassy, obtaining both the promise of compensation to all British subjects who had sustained losses in the Baltic, and the right of freedom of trade and navigation in that sea for all British ships in future. His offer, on behalf of the king, to mediate between Sweden and Denmark, and also between the former country and the czar, was readily accepted by the queen. A peace between Sweden, Prussia, and Hanover was concluded through the instrumentality of Carteret, and proclaimed at Stockholm on 9 March 1720. This was a prelude to a reconciliation between Sweden and Denmark. A preliminary treaty between these two countries having been signed, Carteret was appointed, in conjunction with Lord Polwarth, ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the congress of Brunswick for the purpose of finally adjusting the differences in the north of Europe. In June 1720 he left Carlberg, and set out for Denmark. Arriving at Fredericksburgh, he had his first audience with the Danish king on the 19th. After a conference of two days between Carteret and the Danish ministers, the treaty which had already been signed on the part of Sweden was concluded on 3 July by the king of Denmark. This treaty, which was ratified on 22 Oct., practically put an end to the war between Sweden, Russia, Denmark, and the king of Prussia, for the czar afterwards concluded an agreement with Denmark without the intervention of a mediator. Carteret, having accomplished the objects of his mission, returned through Hanover on his way to England, where he arrived on 5 Dec.
     On 19 Aug. 1720 he had been appointed, together with Earl Stanhope and Sir Robert Sutton, ambassador extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at the congress of Cambray. The meeting of the congress was delayed, and Carteret does not appear to have acted in this capacity. Soon after his arrival in England he took part in the debates on the state of the national credit occasioned by the failure of the South Sea scheme, and supported Lord Stanhope's contention that the estates of the criminals, whether directors or not, ought to be confiscated. During the discussions on this subject Carteret was appointed ambassador extraordinary to the court of France. He was on the point of setting out, when the death of James Craggs, jun., occurred. He was thereupon appointed secretary of state for affairs of the southern province in Walpole's administration, and, being admitted to office on 5 March 1721, was sworn a member of the privy council on the same day. It was impossible for two such men as Walpole and Carteret, neither of whom could brook any rivals, to act together in the same cabinet for any length of time. Carteret soon became jealous of Walpole's paramount authority, and endeavoured to ingratiate himself with the king. In this he quickly succeeded, as George could speak no English, and Carteret was the only minister who could speak German. Emboldened by the influence which he had acquired over George, Carteret endeavoured to form a party of his own. Having secured the assistance of the Countess of Darlington, and gained over to his side Lord Carleton, the lord privy seal, the Duke of Roxburghe, the secretary for Scotland, and Lord Cadogan, the commander-in-chief, he endeavoured to oust Walpole from office. With this object in view he strongly supported the Hanoverian policy of the king, and professed to exercise a considerable influence over Cardinal Dubois, the French minister.
     The struggle for supremacy between Carteret on the one hand, and Walpole supported by Townshend on the other, was a prolonged one. Though Carteret was appointed one of the lords justices of the kingdom in the absence of the king on 26 May 1723, both he and Townshend, the other secretary of state, followed George to Hanover, and there a great part of these intrigues and counter-intrigues took place. The La Vrillière incident brought matters to a head. Sir Luke Schaub, a partisan of Carteret's, was recalled from his post of English minister at Paris; and Carteret, being succeeded as secretary of state by the Duke of Newcastle, was on 3 April 1724 nominated lord-lieutenant of Ireland. That country was then in a very excited and discontented state. In 1723 a patent had been granted to Wood for the exclusive right of coining halfpence and farthings to the value of 108,000l. This patent had been obtained through the influence of the Duchess of Kendal, and without any consultation with the Irish privy council. Carteret, by caballing with the Brodricks (Alan Brodrick [qv.] was lord-chancellor of Ireland), and furnishing, it is said, the private history of the mode in which the patent had been obtained, had greatly encouraged the prevailing discontent. He had done this with the object of harassing Walpole, who now enjoyed the refined revenge of sending him to quell the disturbance which he had helped to raise. In 1724 Swift published the famous Drapier's Letters, which aroused the Irish to a pitch of frenzy. The new lord-lieutenant did not go over to Dublin until October. The fourth letter, addressed to the whole people of Ireland, was published in this month, and one of Carteret's first acts was to publish a proclamation offering a reward of 300l. for the discovery of the writer. Swift, who had made the acquaintance of Carteret some years before, had, on hearing of his appointment to the lord-lieutenancy, promptly written to him while still in London about the patent. When Harding, the printer of the letters, was imprisoned, Swift went to the levee, and demanded of Carteret an explanation of this severity against a poor industrious tradesman who had published two or three papers designed for the good of his country. Carteret, who could have had little doubt of Swift being the real author of the letters, though he was probably not desirous that it should be discovered, replied by an apt quotation from Virgil:Res dura, et regni novitas, me talia cogunt Moliri.
     After an unsuccessful attempt had been made to allay the popular ferment by means of a compromise, Carteret procured the revocation of the patent, and the excitement speedily subsided. In accordance with the usual custom of lord-lieutenants in those days, Carteret only remained in Ireland during the sitting of the Irish parliament, and in January 1727 we find him speaking in the House of Lords on the East Indian trade, and giving expression to views which in these days would be considered economically unsound.
     On 1 June 1725, and again on 31 May 1727, he was appointed one of the lords justices of the kingdom during the king's absence from England. George I died suddenly while on his way to Hanover at his brother's palace at Osnaburgh on 11 June 1727. Carteret was one of the old privy councillors who met at Leicester House on the 14th for the purpose of proclaiming George II, and on the same day was sworn of the new privy council. Having been reappointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland on 29 July, he returned to Dublin in November, when he opened the new parliament. While in Ireland he lived on intimate terms with Swift, from whom he frequently received advice with regard to Irish affairs. The advice was not always taken, for it is related that when Carteret had parried, with his usual dexterity, some complaint or request of Swift, he exclaimed, What in God's name do you do here? Get back to your own country, and send us our boobies again (Swift, Works, i. 372-3). Though Carteret declined to admit Swift to any office which would give him a right to interfere in the affairs of the country, he occasionally presented unimportant pieces of preferment to Swift's friends. On the appointment of Dr. Delany to some places of small profit, an outcry was raised by the more violent whigs, who declared that extravagant favour had been shown to a tory divine. This gave rise to Swift's pamphlet entitled A Vindication of His Excellency, John Lord Carteret, from the charge of favouring none but Tories, High-churchmen, and Jacobites, which was published in 1730. Taken as a whole, Carteret's administration of Irish affairs during the six years he was lord-lieutenant was generally popular—indeed, Swift confessed in a letter to Gay, dated 19 Nov. 1730, that Carteret had a genteeler manner of binding the chains of the kingdom than most of his predecessors (ib. xvii. 350). That Carteret appreciated Swift's commendation is clear from a letter written by him to Swift and dated March 1737, in the postscript of which he says: When people ask me how I governed Ireland, I say that I pleased Dr. Swift (ib. xix. 135). At the same time, as the seals were taken away from his old enemy, Lord Townshend, Carteret was dismissed from his post. He left Ireland in April 1730, and though offered the post of lord steward, left vacant by the appointment of the Duke of Dorset as lord-lieutenant, he refused to take further office under Walpole.
     Upon his return from Ireland he joined the opposition, and, becoming a close ally of Pulteney, took a very prominent part in the struggle against Walpole. During this period he seized every opportunity in the House of Lords of harassing the administration. His speeches, however, were not always consistent with those which he had delivered when in office. In a conversation with Lord Hervey about Carteret, Sir Robert Walpole is reported to have said that ‘I had some difficulty to get him out, but he shall find much more to get in again’ (Lord Hervey, Memoirs, 1884, ii. 128). Walpole kept his word, and the struggle was long and doubtful. Towards the end of the opposition, Carteret was suspected by some of being desirous to make his peace with the court. However that may be, on 13 Feb. 1741 he moved his famous resolution in the House of Lords that an address should be presented to the king requesting him to remove Walpole from his ‘presence and counsels for ever’ (Parl. Hist. xi. 1047-85). His speech on this occasion was the longest, as well as the ablest, which he appears to have made, and was characterised by contemporary authorities as one of the most splendid orations which had been heard in the House of Lords. The debate lasted two days, and Carteret was beaten by 108 to 59. A similar motion by Sandys in the House of Commons was, owing to dissensions among the heterogeneous opposition, defeated by a still larger majority. In April parliament was dissolved, and Walpole met the new House of Commons with a diminished majority. The opposition soon showed its strength, and on 29 Jan. 1742 the ministers were left in a minority of one in a division on the Chippenham election petition. Upon the resignation of Walpole, the Wilmington administration was formed, and Carteret was appointed secretary of state for the affairs of the northern province on 12 Feb. 1742.
Once again we find him changing his parliamentary language, and supporting measures which he had formerly opposed; and so far as the domestic policy of the government was concerned, matters went on much the same as under Walpole. The foreign policy, however, gained considerably in energy under Carteret's direction. He at once sent the assurance of his full support to Maria Theresa and in September 1742 went himself to the States-General in order to concert measures with them for the protection of the United Provinces. Though appointed one of the lords justices of the kingdom in the absence of the king, he attended George during the whole of the campaign of 1743, and was present at the battle of Dettingen. By furthering the king's Hanoverian policy, and otherwise flattering his prejudices, Carteret had now obtained complete influence over him. This period of Carteret's ascendency was known by the name of ‘The Drunken Administration,’ and the expression, as Macaulay remarks in his ‘Essay on Walpole's Letters,’ was not altogether figurative. The war, however, became very unpopular, as it was alleged that the interests of England were subordinated to those of Hanover. The ministers were incensed at Carteret's arrogance and his neglect in consulting them on foreign affairs¾in short, he speedily became the most unpopular man in the country. In December 1743 Pitt, in the debate on the address, described him ‘as an execrable, a sole minister, who had renounced the British nation, and seemed to have drunk of the potion described in poetic fictions which made men forget their country’ (Parl. Hist. xiii. 135 note).
     On the death of Lord Wilmington in July 1743, Henry Pelham had become the prime minister, and after a protracted struggle in the cabinet, Carteret, who had succeeded to the title of Earl Granville on the death of his mother on 18 Oct. 1744, being unable to withstand the combined opposition against him, resigned the seals, which were accepted by the king with great reluctance on 24 Nov. 1744. Carteret, however, accepted his defeat with his usual cheerfulness, and, according to Horace Walpole, retired ‘from St. James's laughing.’ Early in 1746, being still in favour with the king, he made another attempt to regain power. Under his advice the king refused to admit Pitt to office. This advice was far from distasteful to the king, as Pitt had vigorously opposed the Hanoverian policy on the continent. The ministers, being bound by their promises to give office to Pitt, thereupon resigned, and the two seals of the secretaries of state were on 10 Feb. 1746 delivered to Granville that he and Lord Bath might form an administration as they pleased. After a vain endeavour to form a ministry, he resigned the seals on the 14th, only four days after his appointment. His high spirits did not forsake him even on this occasion, and he continued to laugh and drink as before, owning that the attempt was mad, but that he was quite ready to do it again. One of the many squibs which were published at this time, entitled ‘A History of the Long Administration,’ concludes with the following ironical remarks: ‘And thus endeth the second and last part of this astonishing administration, which lasted forty-eight hours, three-quarters, seven minutes, and eleven seconds; which may truly be called the most honest of all administrations; the minister, to the astonishment of all wise men, never transacted one rash thing; and, what is more marvellous, left as much money in the tr4y as he found in it.’ From this time he severed his political connection with Lord Bath, who, he declared, had forced upon him the short-lived administration, and by which he considered that he paid all his debts to him.
     He still continued in the king's favour, and having been elected on 22 June 1749 a knight of the Garter, was installed at Windsor on 12 July 1750. On 17 June in the following year he was appointed president of the council. When congratulated on his conciliation with his former opponents, he replied: ‘I am the king's president; I know nothing of the Pelhams; I have nothing to do with them.’ Notwithstanding the various changes in the administration which occurred from time to time, by keeping himself aloof from the broils in which the other ministers engaged he continued to hold the post until his death. In 1756 the Duke of Newcastle, as a desperate effort to avert resignation, offered Granville the first place in a ministry of which he himself should be a subordinate member. Granville had, however, by this time lost his ambition, and refused the offer. The last recorded speech which he made in the House of Lords was in the debate on the second reading of the Habeas Corpus Bill on 9 May 1758 (Parl. Hist. xv. 900). During the last four years of his life his health gradually failed, though he still continued to preside over the meetings of the council. In October 1761, when Pitt proposed in council an immediate declaration of war with Spain, and threatened to resign if his advice was not taken, Granville is said to have replied: ‘I find the gentleman is determined to leave us, nor can I say I am sorry for it, since he would otherwise have certainly compelled us to leave him; but if he be resolved to assume the right of advising his majesty, and directing the operations of the war, to what purpose are we called to this council? When he talks of being responsible to the people, he talks the language of the House of Commons, and forgets that at this board he is only responsible to the king. However, tho' he may possibly have convinced himself of his infallibility, still it remains that we should be equally convinced before we can resign our understandings to his direction, or join with him in the measure he proposes’ (Ann. Reg. 1761, p. 44). To the last he maintained his keen interest in foreign affairs. Robert Wood, in his ‘Essay on the original Genius of Homer’ (1769, pp. i, ii), relates that, ‘being directed to call upon his lordship a few days before he died with the preliminary articles of the Treaty of Paris, I found him so languid, that I proposed postponing my business for another time; but he insisted that I should stay, observing that it could not prolong his life to neglect his duty, and repeated the following passage out of Sarpedon's speech, with particular emphasis on the third line, by which he alluded to the conspicuous part he had acted in public life (Ü ³å³±­, §.¹.©.,) Il. xii. 322-8). His lordship then recovered spirits enough to hear the treaty read, and to declare the warm approbation of a dying statesman (I use his own words) on the most glorious war, and most honourable peace, this nation ever saw.’ Lord Granville died at Bath on 2 Jan. 1763, in the seventy-third year of his age, and was buried in Westminster Abbey on the 11th of the same month in General Monck's vault, in Henry VII's chapel. He married twice. His first wife, Frances, the only daughter of Sir Robert Worsley, bart., of Appuldercombe, Isle of Wight, to whom he was married at Longleat on 17 Oct. 1710, died at Hanover on 20 June 1743. On 14 April 1744 he married Lady Sophia Fermor, the second daughter of Thomas, first earl of Pontefract. His second wife, who is described by Lady M. W. Montagu as having ‘few equals in beauty or graces’ (The Letters and Works of Lady M. W. Montagu, 1837, ii. 376), died of fever on 7 Oct. 1745 in her twenty-fifth year, a few weeks after the birth of her daughter Sophia, who afterwards became the wife of William, second earl of Shelburne. By his first marriage Granville had three sons and five daughters. He was succeeded by his only surviving son Robert, who died without issue in 1776, when the titles became extinct. The barony of Carteret was re-created in 1784 in the person of one of Lord Granville's grandsons, Henry Frederick, the younger son of his daughter Louisa and Thomas, second viscount Weymouth, who had succeeded to the Carteret estates on the death of his uncle Robert. This barony again became extinct upon the death of John Thynne, third lord Carteret, in 1849. The correspondence and papers of the first earl Granville were presented to the British Museum by the late Lord John Thynne in 1858 (Addit. MSS. 22511-45). Though his career was, on the whole, unsuccessful, he possessed the very highest reputation for ability among his contemporaries, and it is from their representations alone that we are able to judge of his character, as we have no authentic record of his speeches, and, with the exception of some despatches, he left no writings behind him. According to Lord Chesterfield, ‘Lord Granville had great parts, and a most uncommon share of learning for a man of quality. He was one of the best speakers in the House of Lords, both in the declamatory and the argumentative way. He had a wonderful quickness and precision in seizing the stress of a question, which no art, no sophistry, could disguise to him. In business he was bold, enterprising, and overbearing. He had been bred up in high monarchical, that is, tyrannical principles of government, which his ardent and imperious temper made him think were the only rational and practicable ones. He would have been a great first minister of France¾little inferior, perhaps, to Richelieu; in this government, which is yet free, he would have been a dangerous one, little less so, perhaps, than Lord Stafford. He was neither ill-natured nor vindictive, and had a great contempt for money; his ideas were all above it. In social life he was an agreeable, good-humoured, and instructive companion, a great but entertaining talker. He degraded himself by the vice of drinking, which, together with a great stock of Greek and Latin, he brought away with him from Oxford, and retained and practised ever afterwards. By his own industry he had made himself master of all the modern languages, and had acquired a great knowledge of the law. His political knowledge of the interest of princes and of commerce was extensive, and his notions were just and great. His character may be summed up in nice precision, quick decision, and unbounded presumption’ (The Letters of the Earl of Chesterfield, 1845, ii. 456). The description which the same writer drew of him in the first number of ‘Old England’ is not, however, so flattering, but it should be borne in mind that this was written in the heat of political strife (ib. v. 233). Of the five great men who, in Horace Walpole's opinion, lived in his time, ‘Lord Granville was most a genius of the five; he conceived, knew, expressed what he pleased’ (Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of George II, 1846, iii. 85). Chatham himself, in the House of Lords, some seven years after Granville's death, said that ‘in the upper departments of government he had not his equal, and I feel a pride in declaring that to his patronage, to his friendship, and instruction, I owe whatever I am’ (Parl. Hist. xvi. 1098). Swift, in his verse as well as in his letters and conversation, and Smollett in ‘Roderick Random,’ have also testified to his talents. Though possessed of a singularly versatile intellect, he was quite unfitted for the position of a parliamentary leader. Fond of power as he was, he viewed with contempt the ordinary means by which men were conciliated: and, destitute of fixed political principles, he treated politics more as a game than as a serious business. His contempt of public opinion, and his unceasing advocacy of the Hanoverian policy, prevented him from ever becoming a popular minister. Though a great patron of literature, he has left no literary work of his own behind him, and nothing is known of the history of his own time which he is supposed to have commenced (Lord Hervey, Memoirs, iii. 158). Careless of money, he was often hard pressed in his lifetime, and at his death his affairs were left in a very embarrassed condition. A portrait of Granville by Thomas Hudson was exhibited in the National Portrait Loan Collection of 1867 (Catalogue, No. 259).

     In addition to the books referred to in the article, see A. Ballantyne's Lord Carteret, a political biography, 1887; Biog. Brit. 1784, iii. 270-80;
     Collins's Peerage, 1768, iv. 400-10;
     The Marchmont Papers (ed. Sir G. Rose), 1831, vols. i. and ii.;
     Walpole's Letters, 1857;
     Lord Mahon's History of England, 1854, vols. ii. iii. and iv.;
     Lecky's History of England, vols. i. and ii.;
     Ewald's Sir Robert Walpole;
     Macaulay's Essays on Walpole's Letters to Sir H. Mann and William Pitt, Earl of Chatham;
     Chester's Westminster Abbey Registers;
     The Georgian Era, 1832, i. 289-93;
     London Gazettes.

Contributor: G. F. R. B. [George Fisher Russell Barker]

Published:     1886