Lord Strangford

J. Street, “Lord Stangford and Río de la Plata, 1808-1815” Hispanic American Historical Review 33:4 (Nov., 1953) 477-510

Viscount Strangford, unlike “the impressionable Smith or the irresponsible Cochrane” (510) was not a romantic advocate of Spanish-American independence. Street outlines Stangford’s seven-year ministry to the Brazilian court, which made him the closest British official to the colonies as they began the period of self-government that led to secession from the Spanish Empire.

Street argues against the view (held, he implies, by contemporary Argentine historians including E. Ruiz-Guiñazú) that Strangford was a “magnanimous supporter of the Argentine Revolution of May, 1810” (477). The story he tells of Stangford’s nearly constant involvement in Buenos Aires’ politics and diplomacy, however, at least suggests that the Spanish colony’s issues were far more pressing (and interesting to Stangford?) than anything going on in Brazil at the time.

Street refers extensively to letters and memos from the Foreign Office Archives, between Stangford and a succession of ministers including Canning, Marquise Wellesley, and Castlereagh (the particular timing of changes in the ministries might shed light on shifts in Britain’s level of interest, if not her position on the Spanish Colonies. Might be worth more reading – esp. Castlereagh’s possibly divergent view – p. 497). There are also a couple of references to memoirs and books that may be useful. And a hint: The United States, too, had aroused Stangford’s suspicion by sheltering in Baltimore a French propaganda organization aimed at Latin America” (495).

This is an antidote to the idea that Britain ever had anything beside her own interests in mind, which should be obvious. Street also suggests that Britain’s European interests and policies were always paramount. Even “two-thousand leagues” away, Stangford’s actions are always predicated on his knowledge or surmise of what’s happening in Europe, and what that means for Britain. Maybe this sense of Latin America as a stage for the power-struggles of the old world is something I can do something with…