The diplomatic career of Sir Charles Bagot. The early years: London, Paris, Washington, St. Petersburg (1807-1824)
Sir Charles Bagot (1781-1843) was one of Europe's principal diplomats. After serving at the British Foreign Office as George Canning's undersecretary (1807-9), Bagot held successive postings abroad. He served briefly in France (1814-15); established his professional credentials as minister to America (1816-19); and represented Britain as ambassador to Russia (1820-24) and the Netherlands (1824-32). Bagot spent his last years as governor general of Canada (1841-43). His public career has never been fully examined. This study focuses on Bagot's early years in the diplomatic service: after considering his work at the Foreign Office and mission to Paris, I concentrate on Bagot's successes and failures at Washington and St. Petersburg. The London government placed great importance on Bagot's mission to the United States. Britain and America had made their peace at Ghent in 1814. Lord Castlereagh expected Bagot to restore amicable relations with Washington. He also instructed the minister to secure America's full compliance with the commercial convention of 1815. Bagot succeeded admirably on both counts. He likewise negotiated the Rush-Bagot Agreement which disarmed the Great Lakes. The minister tried to conclude an arrangement which would have readmitted the Americans to Britain's North Atlantic fisheries; however, Washington held out for better terms. Bagot returned home in 1819; in 1820 he was created a Knight of the Bath. Sir Charles was the obvious choice for the St. Petersburg embassy. Tsar Alexander I was prepared to arbitrate the dispute over American slaves carried away by British forces following the 1812 war. Bagot knew the contentions of both governments; he presented Britain's case and maneuvered to narrow the scope of Alexander's ruling, thereby reducing Britain's obligation to the Americans. The ambassador also labored to resolve Anglo-Russian differences over maritime and territorial rights in the North Pacific and American Northwest. He made substantial progress in this regard before returning to England. In the execution of his duties abroad, Bagot showed himself an effective conciliator, tireless negotiator, and conscientious representative of British interests. The man's personal qualities and abilities--not his class or connections--propelled him to prominence as a diplomatist.
James Stephen Krysiek,
"The diplomatic career of Sir Charles Bagot. The early years: London, Paris, Washington, St. Petersburg (1807-1824)"
(January 1, 1988).
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