Alex. Charles (Alexander Charles) Ewald.

Representative statesmen; political studies online

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-30



LIBRARY



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA.

Received ^^h^^^*^^^ 6-

Accessions A^o.3i O'S '^9 Shelf No.



08*-



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KEPRE8ENTATIVE STATESMEN



VOL. H.




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EEPEESENTATIVE STATESMEN



POLITICAL STUDIES



By ALEX. CHARLES EWALD, F.S.A.

AUTHOR OF "THB LIFB AKD TIXBS OF PBIirCS OHABLEB BTUABT," "TBM UVJt OF BIB
BOBIBT WALPObK,*' BTO.



IN TWO VOLUMES

VOL. IL^

^^ OP THR ^

[univeesity]



LONDON
CHAPMAN AND HALL, 193, PICCADILLY

1879



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LONDOK :

PSXKTEO BY VIBTUK AKD CO., LnOTED,

CITT KOAD.



7



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CONTENTS OF VOL. IL



PAOS

LOBD ElDON, the DELIBERATrVE MliaSTER (1751 —

Jantjaky 13, 1838)- . . , . . . ^ . 1

Canning, the Brilliant Minister (1770 — ^Augxtst 8,
1827) 64

The Duke of Wellington, the Conscientious Minis-
ter (1769 — September 14, 1852) . . . .136

Sir Egbert Peel, the Minister op Expediency (1788
—July 2, 1850) .217

Palmerston, the English Minister (1784— October

18, 1865) . . 294



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REPRESENTATITE STATESMEN.



LOED ELDON,

THE DBLIBERATIVE MINISTEE.
1761— Jantjabt 13, 1838.

In his interesting biography of Lord Eldon, Horace
Twiss tells us there were few maxinis the old Tory
was more fond of upholding than that anything is
done quickly enough provided it be only done well
enough. Sat cito d sat hem was his invariable
and sometimes provoking reply to litigants and poli-
ticians who murmured at his slow and wary circum-
spection. As a nation we would do well occasionally
to imitate the caution and reflection that are contained
in the Eldon policy. At the present day, with every-
thing around us at high pressure, the hem i9 for-
gotten, and, for the matter of that, often forgiven in
the dto. We travel express. We dispatch every
message by telegram. We drive furiously, or ride at

VOL. II. B



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2 REPRESENTATIVE STATESMEN,

a terrible pace, for now stamina is sacrificed to speed.
Time is too precious to permit us to sail, we must
only steam. So much daily work and so much daily
pleasure have to be gone through, that we are always
in a hurry lest the swift hours should overtake us.
We hasten after wealth, indifferent to the unhealthy
speculation, the ruinous competition, and the low
tone of morality such ardour never fails to engender.
We hasten after the prizes of life, worried beneath
the burden of work, taking upon ourselves more than
we can possibly perform, seeking no leisure, obtaining
no repose, till we reach the goal worn, pallid, and
unmanned — the laurel wreath of victory speedily to
be changed for the fan^eral garland We hasten after
the advantages of education till we mistake cram for
knowledge, and hollowness for profundity. We
hasten after the solaces of religion, and are satisfied
when our emotional fedings mistake superstition for
self-denial, and ceremonial observances for piety. In
all that we do and think we reverse the maxim of
Lord Eldon and say, 8ai beTie ai sat dto — it is done
well enough if it be but done quickly enough. A
creed that is bringing forth firuit abundantly in con-
stitutions shattered and labour scaniped, in super-
ficiality just clever enough to conceal but not to
enlighten ignorance, in class-agitation and mob-
credulity, and in a thoroughly unsound and imwise



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LORD ELDON. 3

state of things, sapping the vitality of our social and
political organization.

The views of the great Tory leader were, on the
other hand, carried to the opposite extreme, and in
the study of comparative evil, it would be curious to
learn which of the two is the more mischievous, the
injury that ensues from over haste, or that which
attends upon over deliberation. The career of Lord
Eldon is the biography of a man never content with
half-measures or hurried duties. His intellectual
grasp was so powerful that he was never satisfied
until he had fathomed the subject that interested
him to its lowest depths. Not slow, but patient,
laborious, and intensely deliberative, he would weigh
and analyze every argument that he read, heard, or
uttered, till he felt it impossible that the deductions
he arrived at could be erroneous. The severest
master he had to satisfy was himself. Though
destitute of imagination, his was one of those quick,
acute minds which see objections where others fail
to perceive them, and comprehend a question from
so many points of view that decision necessarily be-
comes a matter of always long and painful process.
So anxious was he to do his work well, that he
considered the time engaged upon it as purely of
secondary consideration. In after life, when seated
on the Judicial Bench, his almost too careful ad-



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4 REPRESENTATIVE STATESMEN.

herence to his cherished maxim was brought up as a
complaint against him. It was said that it would
have been better for his suitors if he had been con-
tent with getting through his work quicker, even at
the risk of doing it less well. His reply may be read
with profit in these days of hasty conclusions and
immature opinions.

** I confess," said he, " that no man ever had more
occasion than I had to use the expression, which was
Lord Bacon's father's ordinary word, * You must give
me time.* I always thought it better to allow myself
to doubt before I decided, than to expose myself to the
misery, after I had decided, of doubting whether I
had decided rightly and justly. It is true that too
much delay before decision is a great evil; but in
many instances delay leads eventually to prevent
delay ; that is, the delay which enables just decision
to be made accelerates the enjoyment of the fruits of
the suit ; and I have some reason to hope that, in a
great many cases, fimal decision would have been
infinitely longer postponed, if doubt as to the sound-
ness of original judgment had led to rehearings and
appeals, than it was postponed, when infinite care, by
much and anxious and long consideration, was taken
to form an impregnable original decree." More
than one unhappy litigant will refrain firom demur-
ring at this doctrine. If all the judgments given



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LORD ELDON. 5

by our Courts of First Instance had been the result
of the same patient thought and earnest inves-
tigation as those delivered by the deliberative Lord
Eldon, our Courts of Appeal would have been relieved
from much of their labours.

The instincts of his genius naturally led him to
read for the Bar. He cared little for literature or the
fine arts ; he was ignorant of science ; he had no
taste for those subjects which appeal to the imagina-
tion. All the hopes and aspirations of Lord Eldon
were engrossed and bounded by the study of the
law. Coke upon Littleton, law journals, reports of
causes, judicial proceedings, and the rest, were his
one and only favourite branch of literature. To
stand up in court and plead an uphill case when a
young man, or in after-life to listen to counsel from
the serene heights of the Bench, were the two
greatest pleasures of his existence. Unlike many of
his brethren, he was indifferent to sport, seldom
went to the opera or the theatre, and regarded
society as a bore. Thus, in his earlier days, when
unknown to feme, and struggling for the patronage
of solicitors, he was kept free from many of the
temptations that ordinarily beset the legal student.
Whilst his friends were dining out, of dancing at
balls, or wandering from one country house to
^uiother in quest of sport and amusement, young



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6 REPRESENTATIVE STATESMEN.

Scott was poring over the pages of those luminaries
— household names in the Temple and Lincoln's
Inn — ^which were to make him in after-life the for-
midable advocate and the weighty judge. That curious
ottoman in the House of Lords has been pressed by
more than one man whose rise to the dizzy pinnacle
of power has been due to none of the advantages of
birth and -fortune, but by few whose success has been
more self-made or more worthily deserved than that
of " plam John Scott."

It is often the fashion with biography either to
greatly exalt the lineage of its hero in order to show
that there is nothing incompatible between good
blood and great talents, or else to be unduly depre-
ciatory, the better to display the power and persis-
tency of genius as well as the liberality of the
institutions of the country. Thus Lord Eldon, not
being of very lofty birth, has been called the son of
a coalheaver ; as a matter of fact, he was no more
the son of a coalheaver than the son of a brewer is
the son of a publican. William Scott, the father
of the future adviser of George III., was a respect-
able, well-to-do coalmerchant and shipowner, who,
though claiming no illustrious descent, yet came of a
good old st6ck, and was a highly esteemed citizen of
Newcastle. There, in his northern home, two sons
were bom him, both, thanks to an accomplished



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LORD ELDON. ^

mother's care, to turn out distinguished men, and to
swell the ranks of the aristocracy. The elder of the
lads was William, afterwards Lord Stowell, the famous
jurist, whilst the younger, who was bom in 1751,
was John, destined to be Lord High Chancellor of
England.

At an early age both the brothers were sent to
the Newcastle Grammar School, the head master
of which was the Bey. Mr. Moises, a sound scholar
and an excellent man, for whom both of his distin-
guished pupils in after-life ever retained the highest
esteem. "I shall hold his memory," writes Lord
Eld<Hi, ** in the utmost veneration whilst I continue
to exist." It is pleasing to find that gratitude is
not so rare a virtue as the cynics would make us
imagine, for when Lord Eldon came into possession
of the Great Seal he at once offered his old master
high preferment in the Church — ^an offer which was,
however, modestly declined.

After giving evidence of his brilliant talents, the
elder brother wait up to Oxford, where at the early age
of sixteen he gained a scholarship at Corpus Christi.
The career of William was thus settled. He would
take his d^ee, become a fellow, enter the Bar, and,
in fact, be the gentleman of the family. John was
to follow in the steps of his father, and ultimately
succeed to the business. Before, however, appren-



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8 REPRESENTATIVE STATESMEN,

ticing the boy, the worthy coahnerchant wrote to the
elder son, whose opinion he, like many uneducated
fethers who have a brilliant child, thought a good
deal of, informing him of his intention, and asking
his counsel. William, better acquainted with his
brother's abilities than was his sire, at once replied,
" Send Jack up to me ; I can do better for him here."
Accordingly John Scott set out on the Newcastle
stage-coach for Oxford, giving up all thoughts of
Wallsend and the family barges for a university
career and all that follows in its wake— not always to
result in such substantial advantages as those he had
left behind him. How accidental are the circum-
stances which often decide the whole future of a life
and lead men on to greatness 1 Had Handel followed
the study of civil law, should we enjoy his wondrous
oratorios ? Had Smeaton agreed to be articled to an
attorney, would he have been handed down to pos-
terity as one of the greatest of engineers ? Had the
mill in which Bembrandt was reared been lighted
from the side instead of from the top, would he have
become known as the master of that peculiar light
and shade which has made his name immortal ? Had
Mendelssohn missed becoming acquainted with that
vagrant Poknder, would the " Jewish Socrates " ever
have been heard of ? Had Rousseau ever taken his
seat at his father's cobbler's stall, would literature have



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LORD ELDON. 9

been enriched by the "Confessions" and "Emile"?
Had Petrarch been admitted to the Italian bar, would
the sonnets to Laura ever hare been written ? Had
Boecacio not been taken to see the tomb of Virgil
should we have ever read the "Decameron"? Had
Hume been engaged in commerce, as his father
desired, would he have become famous as an his-
torian ? Had Turner followed the trade of cutting
hair and shaving chins would critics worship him as
the Shakespeare of English landscape painters ? And
what would have been the career of Lord Eldon had
he taken to coal instead of to Coke — ^upon Littleton ?
It • was whilst journeying to Oxford that young
Scott saw the motto which was afterwards to be so
characteristic of his actions. On the panels of the
coach was the modest inscription, ''Sat cito d sat
bene/' and the words went straight to his heart, and
raised many a reflection. Years afterwards he thus
spoke of this apparently trivial circumstance : — " In
all that I have had to do in life, professional and
judicial, I always remembered the admonition on the
panels of the vehicle which carried me from school
— Sat dto 81 sat bene. It was the impression of this
which made me that deliberative judge — as some
have said, too deliberative — ^and reflection upon all
that is past will not authorise me to deny that
whilst I have been thimking sat cito si sat bene, J



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10 REPRESENTATIVE STATESMEN.

may not have sufficiently recollected whether sat h&m
si mt dto has had its due influence."

On the 15th of May, 1766, he matriculated as
a member of the* University of Oxford, and entered
University College. Here he read hard, committed
villainous puns, took very kindly to the common-
room port, and at the end of three years went up for
his degree. In these days of competitive examina-
tions, school boards and mechanics' institutes, the
ordeal Scott had to pass does not strike us as very
terrible. He thus describes it : — ** I was examined
in Hebrew and history. * What is the Hebrew of the
place of a skull?' I replied 'Golgotha.' 'Who
founded University College ? ' I stated (though by
the way ihe point is sometimes doubted) that * King
Alfred founded it.' * Very well, sir,' said the exa-
miner, ' you are competent for your degree.' " Now-
adays examiners, whether at the university or else-
where, are scarcely so accommodating.

An event now took place which was again to alter
the course of his life. He had intended to enter the
Church, and then bide his time till a good college
living, which his fellowship would command, fell
vacant. There was little in his ideas or tastes to
induce him to take holy orders, but it was necessary
for him to follow some profession, and he found
nothing very disagreeable in the prospect of a parish,



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fill; :7^ ESI T

provided its endowments were handsome,
however, to be lost to the Church, as he had been lost
to commerce. At Newcastle there lived a charming
brown-eyed beauty, one Bessy Surtees, the daughter
of a well-to-do banker in that town. Young Scott
was deeply smitten ; the object of his attentions was
not unkind ; but Mr. Surtees phre, though in trade
himself, felt that he must draw the line somewhere,
and accordingly drew it at coal. No alliance could
be permitted between the son of the mail who drew
his wealth from the deposits in the earth, and the
daughter of the man who drew his wealth from the
deposits of his clients ! Such a union was not to be
heard o£

Oblivious of these delicate social considerations,
John Scott took the matter in hand himself, and
one romantic dark night fled with his lady-love
across the border, and was married by a Scotch
clergyman, to the disappointment of the blacksmith
of Gretna Green. Unlike the generality of such
unions, the marriage was a very happy one. Mrs.
Scott was a most devoted wife, affectionate, frugal,
and bound up in the interests of her husband
and her children. " Poor Bessie ! *' mused the old
chancellor to a fellow-townsman when his helpmeet
had been taken away from him, " if ever there was
an angel on earth, she was one. The only reparation



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12 REPRESENTATIVE STATESMEN.

which one man can make to another for running
away with his daughter is to be exemplary in his
conduct towards her." The power of love certainly
impels its victims to commit strange acts. No one
who knew the cautious, deliberative Lord Eldon
would have imagined that he had been guilty of so
volatile a proceeding as an elopement.

Married, deprived of his fellowship, and dependent
upon his own exertions, the young man cast about
seeking what occupation he should embrace. In a
happy hour he decided upon the Bar, and had
himself entered at the Middle Temple. Years after-
wards, when a peer of the realm, and the proprietor
of a splendid estate, he pointed out to a friend
walking with him up Chancery Lane the home of
his early struggles. "There," said he, standing in
front of a mean house in Cursitor Street, " there was
my first perch ; many a time have I run down from
here to Fleet Market to buy sixpenn'orth of sprats
for our supper." Lodgings in a tenth-rate district,
a meal oflf the pauper's favourite fish, and then to
blossom forth as Lord High Chancellor of England !
What barrister need despair ? Still it was only by
the strictest adherence to his maxim that he worked
his way up to fame : Scd dto d sat bene. Though
conscious of great abilities, he gave himself none of
the airs of a geniua. He did not criticize with



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LORD ELDON. 13

lofty superiority at mess the decisions of the judges.
He did not deem a diligent student of the law
beneath him, relying, like certain of his brethren,
only on his powers of penetration and "gift of the
gab" to win honours in his profession. He knew
that a sound lawyer was essentially made and not
bom. Until he had mastered the subtleties of juris-
prudence he declared that he would shun all other
kinds of literature and be a Spartan in his indif-
ference to pleasure. With time he could attain to
a profound knowledge of the law, and tlitn let him
enter the lists and go forth to fight and be rewarded
with the victor's crown.

Shutting himself up in his rooms at Cursitor Street,
he busied himself with work in stem earnest. He read
Coke upon Littleton till he knew it as a priest knows
his breviary. A kindly conveyancer gave him the
run of his chambers, and there he spent a good half-
year examining drafts of cases and compiling an
immense collection of precedents. He went through
a systematic course of reports, till he knew the
names of most of the cases that had been recorded.
Beading, observing, copying, leaming by heart, com-
menting, by these means he was creating the founda-
tion on which he reared the illustrious name of
Eldon. "Before he had ever pleaded a cause," writes
liord Campbell, " he was fit to preside on the Bench ;



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1+ REPRESENTATIVE STATESMEN.

and there he would have given more satisfaction
than most other members of the profession who
could boast of their * lucubrationes viginti annorum/
It must be remembered always that he had by
nature an admirable head for law, and that he seemed
almost by an intuitive glance to penetrate into its
most obscure mysteries."

The career of a distinguished lawyer always pre-
sents very much the same features — early struggles,
more or less long according to the favours of oppor-
tunity and the brilliancy of talent, then an extensive
practice, a seat in the House of Commons, the posts
of Solicitor-General and Attorney-General, a Lord-
Ohief-Justiceship, or the blue ribbon of the Bar, the
<^ofl&ce of Lord High Chancellor. Through these
stages passed the fortunate John Scott. He joined
the northern circuit, displayed his solid abilities and
sound knowledge of the law in one great case,
became inundated with briefs, was elected for
Weobley, made a fool of himself in his maiden speech,
as so many before him had done, and then won the
ear of the House, not by his oratory or rhetoric, but
by the soundness of his judgment and the acuteness
of his penetration. He became Solicitor-General isx
1788, Attorney-General five years later, was raised to
the Bench as Lord Chief Justice of the Common
Pleas in 1799, and ennobled as Baron Eldon of



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LORD ELDON. X5

Eldon in the county of Durham. Between the years
1801 and 1806, and 1807 and 1827, he held the
Great Seal, and on the coronation of George IV. was
created Viscount Encombe and Earl of Eldon. Then,
early in the first month of 1838, he bade farewell to
his titles and passed to his rest.

When we read his life in the charming pages of
Twiss, what a series of triumphs is his career, how
equal he is to every occasion, how easily he avails
himself of every opportunity ! Can romance weave
a tissue of greater improbabilities — a rough northern
lad, of no distinguished parentage, with no powerful
friends, simply by the sheer force of intellect and unre-
mitting perseverance raises himself to the highest post
but one that a subject can attain to, and becomes the
bosom friend of two sovereigns, and the chief con-
fidential adviser of a great political party — ^a party
representing the flower of the aristocracy and the
pink of the English gentry? Nor is the career of
Lord Eldon a solitary instance in the romance of the
woolsack. Other men, whose birth has been quite
as obscure, have succeeded in fighting their way to
the front of the Bar, to the front of the House of


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