4th earl of Aberdeen, George Hamilton-Gordon

(1784—1860) prime minister and scholar

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As prime minister during the Crimean War Aberdeen paid a high price for underestimating public anxiety about the conduct of the war. Yet he had a long career of public service behind him. Educated at Harrow and Cambridge he first made his mark as a diplomat. In 1828 he became foreign secretary in Wellington's administration and in 1841 was again foreign secretary under Peel. He achieved some improvement in Anglo‐French relations, and settled the long‐standing border dispute between Canada and the USA. He ended the war with China by the treaty of Nanking in 1842, which leased Hong Kong to Britain. Aberdeen loyally supported Peel, resigning with him after the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.

When Russell's government fell in 1852 Aberdeen headed a ministry which held out every prospect of stability. But Aberdeen was unlucky in that he was drawn into war with Russia. British suspicions of Russia were well founded, but although the political nation was convinced of the wisdom of containing Russian designs, public opinion was soon appalled by the incompetence exposed by the war and demanded scapegoats. He had little choice but to resign when Roebuck's motion calling for an inquiry into the condition of the army was carried in the Commons by 305 votes to 148 on 29 January 1855.

Subjects: British History.

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