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The public and private life of Lord Chancellor Eldon, with selections from his correspondence (Volume 2) online

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he will take no ministry that will introduce her into the Liturgy. I have no reason
to believe, nor do I believe, that the king has sent for Lord Spencer.


"I only add, that I know the ministers think they have been driven by lukewarm-
ness of friends (excusing it by complaining that communications were not made to
them of points on which they put their existence) to communicate what it may now
be represented to have been very foolish to communicate. I think withdrawing the
bill, if anything has that effect, is what will destroy the administration, to whatever
cause the friends or foes of administration, or neutrals, may attribute it.

" Yours affectionately,


The next day, the 7th, was appointed for the committee on the bill.
On that clay, a paper, in the nature of a protest, was presented by Lord
Dacre on behalf of the queen.

The chancellor said, that after the second reading of a bill containing matter of
accusation, the accused had a right, by the rules of the House, to be personally heard,
but that in strictness no protest could be received from any one not a member of the
House. He moved, however, that, under all the circumstances, this paper should be
received; and it was received accordingly, " as a representation of what her majesty
wished to state further in her defence in the present stage of the bill."

The House then went into committee. Upon the divorce clause,

The lord chancellor said he did not see how, after having pronounced the queen
guilty, their lordships could stop in this stage of the bill. To degrade her majesty
without divorcing her, would be to draw the bonds of connection between her and the
king closer. One of her majesty's rights or exemptions was, that she was considered
afemme sole,- that she could hold property in her own name; that she could sue and
be sued as a single woman. But if she was degraded from her rank, her rights, privi-
leges and exemptions, then she would become, as wives in ordinary cases, solely de-
pendent on her husband. If the House did not think that this clause should stand
part of the bill, would it not be proper to make the separation effectual which at pre-
sent depended on a civil contract, supported, as that separation had been, by the
consent and approbation of his late majesty. He would declare, in conclusion, that
no man had ever been guilty of more cruelty and injustice than he had been in acting
upon the evidence in divorce causes, if the testimony now upon the table was not
sufficient to support the clause under consideration.

The discussion on the divorce clause was resumed next day, when,

The chancellor agreed that if that clause was generally objectionable to the reli-
gious feelings of the community, it ought not to be pressed, though he himself was of
opinion that it would be better retained. But if it should be omitted, the House ought
to supply its place with some other clause, which should render the measure consist-
ent with itself: which, while it left the religious contract unaffected, should annul the
consequences of the civil contract, keeping up the separation which had in fact ex-
isted meii&a et thoro, though not releasing the parties a vinculo matrimonii.

The divorce clause was carried by a large majority: and the bill,
having gone through committee on the 8th, w r as reported on the 9th.
On the evening of that day, Lord Liverpool communicated to the
cabinet his opinion that it would not be expedient to proceed any
further with the measure. This intimation produced some discord ;
and Lord Liverpool appears to have been so much annoyed at the lord
chancellor's opposition to the proposal of relinquishment, as to have
replied upon him with some tartness. The pulse of the House, how-
ever, was to be felt before the final decision to withdraw : and accord-
ingly, on the next day, the 10th of November, the ministers in the
House of Lords supported the third reading. During this debate,
Lord Liverpool requested Lord Eldon to speak upon the inferences
to be drawn from circumstantial evidence, which he did with great
force. Among his papers has been found a little note, handed to him


in the House of Lords by Lord Liverpool, immediately after his speech.
On the back of it, in Lord Eldon's hand-writing, are the words
"Lord Liverpool," with the following memorandum:

"Liverpool asked me to speak in the H. of Lords upon circumstantial evidence on
the last day of the queen's (rial. I did so. He then handed this to me, apologizing
for angry language at the cabinet the night before, when he communicated his inten-
tion of relinquishing the business."

The words of the note itself are simply these :

"Most admirably: I am much obliged to you for it: and sorry if what I said last
night gave you pain.
" The chancellor." " L."

No argument, however, \vas of power to countervail the popular
cry in the queen's favour. The majority, which had been 28 for
the second reading of the bill, was now, on the question for its third
reading, reduced to 9. Such an indication of feeling, in the House
of Lords, was conclusive against the chance of success in the House
of Commons: and therefore, instead of making the motion which is
usual after a third reading, " That the bill do pass,"

Lord Liverpool stated, that although the government would have thought it their
duty, had the third reading been carried by a majority equal to that which had sanc-
tioned the second, to persevere in the bill, they did not conceive, when the opinions of
the peers were so nearly balanced as this last division had shown them to be, and
when the public feeling was also taken into the account, that it would be expedient to
press the measure any further. He moved, therefore, that the consideration of it should
be deferred to that day six months. (In other words, for ever.)

This abandonment was unsatisfactory to the chancellor and many
other members and friends of the administration ; but it had now
become obviously inevitable, and the House acceded to it without a
division and without any expressed dissent except that of the Duke
of Montrose.

The House of Commons had adjourned to the 23d of November,
on which day the prorogation was pronounced by the lord chancellor.

(LordEldon to the Hon. Mrs. E. BankesJ (Extract.)

(Probably Nov. 1820.)

"I thought it wholly inconsistent with the dignity of the House of Lords to close
the most solemn inquiry ever entertained in that House, by doing nothing. The bill
should either have been rejected or passed. But to have upon our journals four dif-
ferent resolutions, all founded upon our avowed conviction of her guilt, and then
neither to withdraw those resolutions, nor to act upon them, appears to me perfectly
absurd, and, both to the country and to her, unjust. To her surely it is so. We con-
demn her four times; she desires at our bar that we will allow her to be heard in her
defence before the Commons ; we will neither do that, nor withdraw our condemna-
tions; for, though the bill is withdrawn, the votes of condemnation remain upon our
Journals. This is surely not pretty treatment for a lady. Report says that in a peti-
tion, which Lord Dacre would have presented if the bill had not been withdrawn, she
signs herself thus :

'Caroline, queen in spite of you.'

This thing, which has so long kept the country in a state of agitation, will probably
die away like all other nine days' wonders except that, when Parliament meets,
ministers will be abused heartily, and some witnesses on both sides will be prosecuted
for perjury."

Beside the ministers, there was another functionary whom the
king's opponents assailed with much bitterness for his part in the


proceedings against the queen. This was the vice-chancellor of
England and chancellor of the duchy of Cornwall, Sir John Leach.
The following is a copy of his own statement, furnished to Lord
Liverpool, and by Lord Liverpool communicated to Lord Eldon.

(" With Lord Liverpool's compliments to the lord chancellor.)

"Dec. Gth, 1820.

"In the autumn of 1817, a large mass of papers, containing information, from pri-
vate and public sources, with respect to the queen, were, by command of his majesty,
then prince regent, laid before me, to report thereon, in my capacity of chancellor of
the duchy of Cornwall, and as such, the first law officer of the prince regent in his
individual character.

" Until the delivery of those papers, I was an utter stranger to the whole subject.
A considerable part of those papers were delivered to me from the office of the secre-
tary of state for foreign affairs.

"My report upon these papers was to this effect: 'That although the papers con-
tained matter of grave and serious charge against the queen, yet, considering the
great importance of the subject and the nature of the case, it appeared to me to be
expedient that proper researches should be made in the countries where the queen
had resided, and through which she had travelled, for such further information as
might exclude all doubt with respect to the character of her conduct.'

"This report was submitted to the cabinet, but the mission to Italy, usually de-
scribed as the Milan commission, which followed upon this report, was not a cabinet

"The gentlemen employed upon this mission were selected by me, in communica-
tion with the lord chancellor and Lord Liverpool, who approved of my selection.
Lord Liverpool engaged that the expense of the mission should be provided for by the
government; and the mission was, by letters from the office of the secretary of state
for foreign affairs, placed in communication with the public authorities in the coun-
tries which they had occasion to visit.

" The object of the mission being to ascertain with certainty what the conduct of
the queen had been, and whether it were capable of clear and satisfactory proof, it
was of the utmost importance that the gentlemen employed should be of a description
to guard the king and the government against the danger of being misled on those

" I explained to Mr. Cooke the high importance of the mission in this respect, and
it was from that view of the subject he was induced to undertake it.

" I state, without the hazard of question, that there is no member of the profession
more eminently qualified than Mr. Cooke for the real object of the mission, nor more
incapable of being the instrument of an unworthy purpose.

"The mission assembled at Milan in the month of September, 1818, and they trans-
mitted to me, from time to time, copies of the evidence as they collected it; and these
copies, as they were received, were regularly communicated to Lord Liverpool.

"The report of the mission was made on the 10th July, 1819, and was immediately
submitted to the cabinet.

"It has been confidently asserted that I went myself to Milan in prosecution of the
inquiry into the queen's conduct. This assertion is utterly false. I am in the habit
of excursions to the continent; and in the summer of 1818, in company with two
private friends, I made a rapid tour through the north and a part of the south of Italy,
returning by the Tyrol, and being upon the whole absent from Dover three days
less than eight weeks.

" I visited Milan, as I visited Florence. I was not at Milan eight and forty hours,
and neither there nor elsewhere on the continent, did I communicate with a single
person upon the subject of the queen.

"The mission was appointed before I quitted England, but did not assemble at
Milan until about a month after I left it."

One public benefit Lord Eldon extracted from these unfortunate ,
proceedings. The nature of it will be best understood from his own
words, as they are found in his Anecdote Book :

"In Westminster Hall we have always considered a strict adhe-
rence to the rules of evidence as a great security, and a necessary


security, for the property, character, and lives of parties affected by
proceedings in suits, indictments, &c., not because they are rules of
evidence, but because sound reason, it was conceived, required that
such rules should be established and strictly adhered to. In parlia-
mentary proceedings, on the other hand, impeachments and bills of
pains and penalties, testimony has frequently been offered, and often
received, which, according to those rules, would not have been ad-
mitted in the courts below, and this seems to have been done under
the notion that the public interest required that great state offenders
should not escape punishment because their offences could not be
proved according to strict rules of evidence ; and the l salus populij
upon such occasions, has been acted upon, or supposed to be acted
upon, as the 'supremo, lex.' To say the least, is it not questionable
whether such proceedings are just, and whether this maxim, l salus
populi suprema lexj has not often been acted upon in perfect abuse of
the subject's right to have his conduct examined by those rules of law
which are his guides as to what he may do, and what he is not at
liberty to do ? In the proceedings upon the bill of pains and penalties
against Queen Caroline, proceedings, perhaps, more just than prudent,
I presided ; and determined, before they began, that no provocation
should disturb my temper, being aware that this was intended to be
severely tried and, what is of more importance, I resolved, if possi-
ble, not to permit any evidence to be received which would have
been rejected in Westminster Hall. My first purpose, I believe,
was fully, though with great difficulty, accomplished. With respect
to the latter, by putting questions upon evidence, as occasion required,
to the judges, and having reasons fully assigned by them for their
opinions, I established a precedent with respect to evidence in such
a proceeding, which, perhaps, may be said to have rendered it an use-
ful proceeding."

This last clause would have been more accurate, both as to the
truth of the matter and probably as to Lord Eldon's real meaning, if
it had been worded, "so far an useful proceeding;" for surely, ex-
cept as to this one technical and comparatively unimportant result,
the whole investigation deserves to be accounted, as the people of
England have generally accounted it, among the most unfortunate
passages of our domestic history. It was a procedure not only pro-
ductive of great discredit to the two personages most immediately
concerned, but prejudicial to the interests of monarchy itself, inju-
rious to private decorum, which was startled by the grossness of the
facts disclosed in the evidence, and degrading to public justice,
whose general principles were borne down by the unpopularity of this
particular inquisition.

The majority of the nation, in whose eyes the former grievances of
the queen were, naturally enough, a sufficient answer to all the pre-
sent charges against her, threw a good deal of odium, not very well
merited, upon the immediate prosecutors, the ministers of the crown.
Mr. Canning having been on terms of intimacy with her majesty,
and feeling himself consequently precluded from taking any part at


all against her, stood aloof from the whole proceeding, and when he
found that the prosecution of the charge was unavoidable, resigned
his office as President of the India Board, where he was succeeded by
Mr. Charles Bragge Bathurst. The other ministers had hardly so
much as a choice of evils. They could scarce have been justified
in evading, by a relinquishment of their offices, the duty of taking
' issue upon this matter ; for the queen had herself insisted upon bring-
ing it to such a point as made the whole question no longer a personal
one between her and the king, but a public and constitutional one
between her and the country. This distinction should always be
borne in mind when the conduct of the ministry in this affair is
reviewed. Her majesty, when Princess of Wales, had received from
her consort a treatment which would justly have estopped him, in his
mere character of husband, from the right to complain of any subse-
quent levity of her's ; and prudence, undoubtedly, required him to
make every concession of ceremonial which might induce her to re-
main quietly abroad, and so to save herself and him from the discredit
of publicity. Indeed, until the death of George III., the ministers
had actually restrained the prince within the bounds of this discreet
policy. But when, on the demise of the crown, the queen, declining
the negotiation attempted with her at St. Omer's, came pertinaciously
to England and advanced her claim to those royalties which, if the
widely circulated rumours of many years had any the smallest foun-
dation, she could not have been suffered to assume in this country
without a plain sacrifice of public decorum and constitutional princi-
ple, then, the ministers, in the execution of their official trust, had
no alternative but to communicate with Parliament. Even in this
advanced stage, all mischief might yet have been stayed, if she would
have adhered to that basis which, with a view to the compromise
then recommended by the House of Commons, had been mutually
arranged by the negotiators on her part and the king's, that " the
queen must not be understood to admit, or the king to retract, any
thing." But the misfortune was, that her majesty, relying on the po-
pular excitement in her favour, and flattering herself with the frail
hope of the multitude's constancy, refused to accept any terms not
including a royal reception for her at a foreign court, and the restora-
tion of her name to the Liturgy, or some equivalent, that is to say,
something which would have substantially admitted that the charges
of her accusers had been groundless, and consequently, that all they
had done against her had been unjustifiable. This course of her's,
being virtually a demand of the very retractation precluded by the
preliminary arrangement, left no choice to the government but to
institute the inquiry so pertinaciously challenged by herself. How-
ever true it may have been, as between her and her consort, that he
was the original aggressor, no less was it true, as between her and
the country, that she had now become the moving party, the de-
mandant of honours and privileges at the hands of the state, to which
her title seemed palpably unsound, yet for which she would accept no
compensation, and from which she defied her accusers to debar her.


The trial, therefore, when at length resolved on, was a step taken,
not, as was alleged, for the final destruction of a long-persecuted
victim, but for the defence of the country against claims which, while
the charges remained unanswered, could not decently be granted ;
and the ministers, who, at an earlier period, had rightly declined to
take any steps against her for the mere personal satisfaction of the
king, no less rightly refused to connive at the triumph which she was
seeking, by violence and agitation, to achieve, at the expense, not
merely of the king, her consort, but of the crown, the constitution and
the state. Heavy blame, undoubtedly, there was, upon the side op-
posed to her ; but it lay not with the administration, who reluctantly
and unavoidably instituted the trial, but with him whose original
maltreatment of her had induced, and did assuredly go far to extenu-
ate, whatever indiscretions and errors she afterwards committed.




Episcopal promotion. Letter from Duke of Wellington. Lord Eldon's cabinet
dinner: letters of Lord Eldon to Sir William Scott. Birth of a daughter of the
Duke of Clarence. Welsh bribe. Decline of queen's popularity: letters from the
king to Lord Eldon and from Lord Eldon to Mrs. E. Bankes. Liturgy. Catholic
question : Lord Eldon's speech and letters to Sir William Scott. Gramponnd dis-
franchisement. Motion of Mr. M. A. Taylor on arrears in chancery. Preparations
for coronation: letters from Lord Eldon to Mrs. E. Bankes: earldom conferred on
Lord Eldon: terms of patent: letter from him to the king and the king's answer.
Description of the great seal. Ceremonial of chancellor taking seat in House of
Lords on promotion to earldom. Sir William Scott created Lord Stowell. Coro-
nation: circumstances relating to it. Letters from George IV. to Lord Eldon and
from Lord Eldon to Lord Stowell.

IN the preceding summer, a learned prelate, who held the deanery of
St. Paul's with his bishoprick, was translated to the higher see of
Winchester, on which event he vacated his deanery. Soon after this
promotion, says Lord Eldon, in his Anecdote Book, " his majesty told
me, Lord Liverpool applied to him to bestow the deanery upon Dr.
Van Mildert, stating, that the deanery house had been much neglected;
that it was greatly out of repair, by reason of non-residence in it ; that,
the late dean not residing in it, there had been little attendance of the
dean at St. Paul's, and the cathedral, therefore, also had been very ill
regulated, as to service, &c.; and that Dr. Van Mildert had agreed
to put the house into repair and good order, to reside in it several
months in the year, and during that residence to attend St. Paul's
constantly. The king told me that he answered Lord Liverpool's
letter, by stating, that he readily agreed to Dr. Van Mildert's succeed-
ing to the deanery upon these terms, and that he supposed that the
neglect of the deanery and the cathedral had induced Lord Liverpool
to recommend the late dean to the opulent see of Winchester."

The king's jest is well enough; but the fact seems to have been,
that Lord Liverpool, who always exercised a most conscientious dis-
cretion in his Episcopal promotions, did not discover the disorders of
the deanery and cathedral, till, by the departure of the dignitary who
had permitted them, the tongues of his subordinates were set at liberty.

The following letter to Lord Eldon adds one more to the countless
instances of the Duke of Wellington's solicitude for the interests of
the public and for the claims of those by whom the public has been
efficiently served :


(The Duke of Wellington to Lord Eldon.') (Extract.)

" Stratfield Saye, Nov. 13th, 1820.

" Mr. Briscall is a gentleman of education and character, who served for twelve
years as chaplain at the head-quarters of my army and was in truth at the head of
that important department; and when I gave up the command, he was put upon
chaplain's half-pay and would have starved if I had not obtained for him from the
rector the curacy of this parish. Out of his stipend he supports his mother and

" I will not detain your lordship by enumerating his services ; but I must say this
for him, that, by his admirable conduct and good sense, I was enabled more than once
to get the better of Methodism which had appeared among the soldiers and once
among the officers ; and yet I could not, at the close of his service, from the beginning
of the year 1808 to the commencement of 1819, prevent this gentleman from being
put on half-pay as an army chaplain ; and I have not been able to obtain any thing better
for him than the curacy of the parish of Stratneld Saye, although he is the only person
whom I have ventured to recommend in his line.

"I shall be very much obliged to your lordship if you will take Mr. Briscall's claims
into your consideration. Make any inquiries you please about him. He was educated
I believe, at Brazen-nose College, Oxford; but I really think that there is no instance
of a person who has served so long in such a situation, and so recommended, who
has not, in some manner, been provided for.

"Ever, my dear lord,

" Yours most faithfully,


It will easily be conceived that this appeal was not made to the
chancellor in vain. He had no suitable preferment at that moment
in his. disposal ; but he caused an arrangement to be made, in the
nature of an exchange, by means of which Mr. Briscall was placed in
the living of South Kelsey in Lincolnshire.

Lady Eldon was not fond of general society, and saw little company
at home ; but when the chancellor had to receive his colleagues, she
took a pride and pleasure in entertaining them suitably. Her lord
gives her great credit for this.

(Extracts of Letters from Lord Eldon to the Hon. Mrs. E. Bankes.)

"Nov. 23d, 1820.

"We are all well, safe and quiet, only in a fuss, the morning after our cabinet
dinner, which was by far the handsomest that any minister has given in my time.
Mamma really did this most magnificently."

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