Cornwallis (Magill's Literary Annual 1981)
Most Americans probably recall Lord Cornwallis only as the British military commander defeated by Washington and Lafayette at Yorktown in 1781, a battle which assured the independence of the American colonies. Franklin and Mary Wickwire’s first volume of Cornwallis’ life concluded with the York-town disaster; this volume traces the subsequent twenty-four years of Cornwallis’ career.
Although he had been defeated, Cornwallis was not disgraced by his surrender. In keeping with eighteeth century military protocol, his lordship was released on parole and allowed to return to England in 1782. On his arrival, he received an enthusiastic welcome, with King George III declaring that he did not lay any blame for the Yorktown defeat “at the charge of Lord Cornwallis.”
Still, Cornwallis did feel personally humiliated by the defeat and immediately on returning home sought to obtain some new military or political post by which he might redeem his reputation. Furthermore, the relatively small income he derived from his estates and from his office as Constable of the Tower of London were, he soon found, insufficient to support himself and his family in a manner appropriate to their status as nobility.
For the next several years, however, no acceptable appointment was forthcoming. He declined both the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and Governor-General of the East India Company in India because either would have meant leaving his...
(The entire section is 2738 words.)
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