Horace Twiss.

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

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which are calculated to

' make the worse appear
The better reason ; to perplex and clash
Matures! counsels; for his thoughts are low.'

I am perfectly aware, sir, by whom that s was added. I know the hand-writing. I
know the reflection which passed through the mind of the writer, ' I must put the
word in the plural; it will then be considered as applicable to Orange as to Catholic
associations, and the adversaries of both will be conciliated.' Let not that little letter
s, however, deceive a single person. However it may be pretended to hold the balance
even between the Catholic and the Orange associations, depend upon it, it will be
only a nominal equity. It will be like one of those ' subtle equities,' so well known


in the court over which the noble and learned lord to whom I have been alluding pre-
sides. Let the proposed measures be carried, and the Catholic association will be
strongly put down with one hand, while the Orange association will receive only a
gentle tap with the other."

(LordEldon to Lady F. J. Bankes.') (Extract.)

"Saturday (Feb. 5th, 1S25.)

" Since I last wrote, I have seen the debates of the Commons on Thursday night.
When you read them, you will see that Brougham has had no mercy upon the chan-
cellor. Laughs and cheers he produced from the company repeatedly with his jokes :
which, however, he meant to playoff in bitter malignity, and yet I could not help
laughing at some of the jokes pretty heartily myself. No young lady was ever so
unforgiving for being refused a silk gown, when silk gowns adorned female forms, as
Brougham is with me, because having insulted my master, the insulted don't like to
clothe him with distinction and honour and silk. In the straightforward discharge of
my public duty, I shall defy all my opponents : their wit, their sarcasms, their calum-
nies, I regard not, whilst conscious I have a great duty to perform ; and that I have
now, in the support of the constitution in church and state. I shall do what I think
right (a maxim I have endeavoured in past life to make the rule of conduct; and
trust the consequences to God.

" Now for digression from the serious to the lighter matters, having first noticed
that Canning answered every part of Brougham's speech, except what concerned his
colleague, myself. But this is what I should have expected."

(Lord Eldon to the Rev, Matthew Surtees.) (Extract.)

(February, 1825.)

"The Commons have had four long nights' debate, about the suppression of the
Irish Roman Catholic Association, and some members have not failed to aim their
blows at me in my absence. This I expected: it does not disturb me, and I am too
sure I am right, (and that after the most anxious consideration how to be right,) to be
diverted from my firm and determined purpose to support, to the last, our establish-
ment in church and state; a support which, I am sure, cannot be consistent with
Catholic emancipation.

" My opinion is that the establishment is formed, not for the purpose of making the
church political, but for the purpose of making the state religious: that an establish-
ment, with an enlightened toleration, is as necessary to the peace of the state as to
the maintenance of religion, without which the state can have no solid peace: that
our establishment is founded on the purest system of Christianity and that which in
its nature is most tolerant: that a Protestant church and Roman Catholic church
cannot co-exist upon equal terms : that one of them must be predominant: that if the
Protestant is predominant, the Roman Catholic may have the full benefit of toleration
but that it cannot have political power, with any hope that it will allow a fair degree
of toleration to the Protestant Church. Its principles are founded in ecclesiastical
tyranny, and ecclesiastical tyranny must produce civil despotism.

" I know not, moreover, how I can alter my conduct, without declaring the Revolu-
tion of 1688 to have been rebellion and the throne to have been filled for a century by
usurpers. You will therefore see, if the business comes to the House of Lords, that
I shall proclaim my principles in the strongest and firmest manner, in the discharge
of my duty, as I understand it, to God, the king and my country. I have for many
years acted upon the determination to do what I thought right and to leave the con-
sequences with the great judge from whom no secrets are hid and to whom all hearts
are open."

A bill, founded on the king's speech, had passed the House of
Commons in February,* declaring to be unlawful all political asso-
ciations which, whether their members should have been previously
elected by the people or not, should, by adjournment or otherwise,
continue their sittings, or the sittings or authority of any committee
or officer, for more than fourteen days, or levy contributions from his
majesty's subjects or from any descriptions of them, and all societies

5 Geo. 4. c. 4.


composed of different branches, or corresponding with other societies,
or excluding members on the ground of religious faith, or requiring
oaths or declarations otherwise than as required by law. When the
bill reached the House of Lords, a motion was made by Lord Car-
narvon, on the 3d of March, to comply with a petition of certain
Irish Roman Catholics, who prayed to be heard against the measure.
This motion having been opposed by Lord Liverpool, and supported
by Lord Grey,

The chancellor, after disclaiming all share in the composition of the bill, which,
however, he declared to have his complete concurrence, insisted on the necessity of
prohibiting these associations, which, though not antecedently delegated by any portion
of the people, like those against which the Irish Convention Act. 33 Geo. 3. c. 29, had
been directed, produced the same mischief as those delegated societies, by acting for
a portion of the people with their subsequent assent. If it could be shown that a
Kornan Catholic body had assumed a representative, character that they had pro-
ceeded to tax the people of Ireland that they exercised a control over the administra-
tion of justice, a control not to be tolerated in any country if any such body assumed
so great an influence over six millions of people let the House only reflect what the
consequences must be, and especially in such a country as Ireland. If it was done
by the Catholics, the same might be done by the Protestants; and in that case, what
sort of justice could any individual hope to obtain 1 Wiih respect to the prayer of the
petition, this act proceeded to legislate upon a general principle; and the general rule,
in such cases, was, that no man could be heard upon petition, unless in cases where
his own particular interests were affected. If he was asked whether there were not
exceptions to this rule, he would say that he believed there were many; but it was
always at the discretion of Parliament whether they would preserve the rule or act
on the exception. Cases might be adduced, in which bills, on the demand of extra-
ordinary exigency, had passed in the course of one day, which would subject the par-
ties to the greatest possible punishment; and if, in such cases, a hearing of counsel
were interposed, the measure might come too late to remedy the evil it was directed
against. Acting upon the general rule, he would say it was necessary to pass this
bill without hearing the petitioners.

(Lord Eldon to Lady F. J. Bankes.) (Extract.)

' Saturday, (Feb. 2Gth, 1825.)

" We had a long speech from Lord Sufileld, introducing a bill to prevent people in
future from setting spring-guns anywhere. There was no opposition to it as yet;
but I understand the Norfolk game-breeders are or will be against it. For my own
part, I can't understand why these engines of death should be allowed. 1 don't think
a poacher should be put to death to preserve a hare or a partridge."

When this bill was about to be committed, on the 7th of March,
the chancellor supported it.

He said he wished to see property protected, but he should be sorry to be thought an
advocate for spring-guns. There had been no occasion for these engines in former
times ; but now every plantation was turned into a poultry yard, and a sportsman was
thought nothing of unless he could kill his thousand birds a day; and thus arose the
demand for these new sorts of protection. Now that so many plantations had been
made, and so well stocked with pheasants, how could their lordships expect that peo-
ple who had a taste for game, and he never knew an Englishman who had not,
would not go and look for it where it was to be found 4 Poaching was the conse-
quence of game being preserved and protected. He, for one, never could defend the
practice of setting engines to endanger the life of a fellow-creature, for the sake of a
partridge or a pheasant.

This bill appears to have passed the House of Lords, but to have
been defeated in the Commons on the 29th of June, by a majority of

A petition from the clergy of Taunton, against the Roman Catho-
lic claims, produced some discussion on the 29th of March ; in the


course of which, the chancellor vindicated the right of the clergy to
petition the House of Lords respecting any measures which might be
before it, and affirmed that they had done their duty in giving their
opinions upon this particular measure.

(Lord Eldonto Lady F. J. Bankes.} (Extract.)

"April 7th, 182o ; Thursday.

"I have the happiness of having finished my accounts with mamma this morning,
as we generally try my ability in arithmetic in an Easter week. My good father
spared no expense in teaching me addition, multiplication, &c., but expense without
diligence does not prevent Jack's being a dull boy or dunce, and so I remain to this
day rather puzzle-pated as to figures; however, mamma compliments me rather, I
think, upon my performance this morning. I did not blunder quite so much as usual."

(Lord Eldon to Lady F. J, Bankes.)

" Saturday, (April 23d, 1825.)

* * # * *

" Pugilists, you will read in the papers, when they have got a great advantage over
their adversaries, say they have put them into chancery. I could have put Canning
as to some of his points, into chancery, if I had had a set-to with him. But brother
ministers in the House of Commons don't seem to like hitting hard against each other,
and yet nothing but determination will do in a contest of this kind."

The Anti-Catholic party obtained, in this session, a great addition
of what is commonly called moral force, from the celebrated declara-
tion made by the Duke of York in the House of Lords, on Monday,
the 25th of April, when he presented the petition of the dean and
canons of Windsor, against further concessions to the Catholics.
Such a declaration, coming from the presumptive heir of the crown,
produced a powerful effect in the country, and thousands of copies of
it, in gold letters, were framed and hung up in the houses of zealous
Protestants. Lord Eldon thus records it in his Anecdote Book :

" The following is the speech of the Duke of York on the Roman
Catholic question, copied from a paper in which I wrote it down im-
mediately after my return from the House of Lords, in 1825.

" ' My Lords,

"'I present to your lordships a petition, praying that further concessions may not
be made to the Roman Catholics. I am so little in the habit of addressing this House,
that I shall probably take no part in the debate upon the bill, if it reaches this House.
Upon this occasion, therefore, allow me to declare my sentiments upon this most
important matter. The respectability of the petitioners, the dean and chapter of
Windsor, will secure their petition due respect. My lords, twenty-five years have
now passed since measures of this nature were first contemplated, but, professedly
with ample securities for the Protestant Established Church securities admitted,
avowed, to be necessary. What the effect of the proposal of such measures was at
that day, your lordships know. The apprehension that the sovereign might be called
upon to differ with his Parliament in the discharge of his duty to adhere to his coro-
nation oath, the compact he had made at the altar of God led to affliction' (here he
could not proceed) ' and to the temporary dismissal of the best, the honestest. and
the wisest minister the crown ever had. That minister always held out that there
must be sufficient securities for the Protestant Establishment for the maintenance of
those principles which placed the sovereign upon the throne and that, with such
securities, what ought to be satisfactory to the Roman Catholics might be granted.
What is the case now, my lords? You are to grant all that can be asked, and with-
out any satisfactory securities. I am, my lords, afriend to complete toleration; but poli-
tical power and toleration are perfectly different. I have opposed the concessions of
political power from the first moment in which it was proposed to make them. I have
so acted throughout, under a conviction, whenever I have been called upon to act, that I
was bound so to act. I shall continue to oppose such concessions to the utmost of my
VOL. II. 10


power. The Church of England, my lords, is in connection with the crown. The
Roman Catholics will not allow the crown or the Parliament to interfere with their
church. Are they, nevertheless, to legislate for the Protestant Church of England!

"' My lords, allow me to call your attention to what must be the state of the king
upon the throne, who has taken this coronation oath' (here he read the oath.) 'The
dread of being called upon of having it even proposed to him to act contrary to
his understanding of that oath, led, or materially contributed to his late majesty's suf-
ferings, in the last ten years of a life' (here he could not proceed, and was in tears:
after a pause, he said) ' My lords, if you have taken oaths, and differ about the mean-
ing of them, those who think proposed measures contrary to their sense of their oaths
are overborne by a majority they do their duty they act according to their oaths
the measure is carried without their violating their compact with God. But recollect
that it is not so with the individual who is the sovereign. He has a right if he is
convinced that it is his duty to refuse his assent when the measure is proposed to
him. His refusal is a constitutional bar to the measure his consent, if given con-
trary to his understanding of his oath, is that for which he must ever be responsible.
My lords, I understand my duty in this place too well to be stating what any other
person may or may not feel with respect to these proposed measures, what any other
person may or may not propose to do, or to forbear doing. I speak for myself only ;
for myself only I declare my opinions and determinations. But I apprehend that I
may be in this place allowed to call your attention to observations upon what MAT be
the stale of a sovereign to whom measures may be proposed ; who is not to consider
what oath might have been administered to him, and taken by him, but who has taken
an oath; according to which, and to what may be his conviction as to the obligation
that oath has created, he must conceive himself bound to act in consenting or with-
holding consent.

" ' My own opinions, my lords, are well known. They have been carefully formed.
I cannot change them. I shall continue to act conformably to them, to whatever
obloquy I may be exposed, in whatever circumstances and in whatever situation I
may be placed. So HELP ME GOD !'"

After other matters, the Anecdote Book thus continues this sub-

" When the Duke of York made his speech in the House of Lords,
many persons pronounced it to be a speech which it had been con-
certed between the duke and others should be made by him, and
which some declared had been composed by others, and by him only
repeated ; and I know that it was rumoured that the speech had been
composed by me. After first stating that I had not the least know-
ledge that the Duke of York meant to utter a word upon the subject,
when he came into the House of Lords on the evening when he made
that speech, I think it unnecessary to record the fact that I had in no
manner or degree been consulted upon the subject by his royal high-
ness, and that neither to my knowledge nor belief was it known to any
person whatever that he had proposed to address the House as he
did address it, or to address it at all upon the subject to which that
speech related. I had it further from the king, that on the Sunday
preceding the day when the speech was delivered, his majesty began
to talk to the duke at Carlton House upon the Catholic question, and
that the duke requested his majesty to defer talking to him upon that
subject at all, till some time should have passed after that day when
they were together; and in a subsequent conversation, which I had
with the duke after he had made the speech, in which I intimated
to him that, upon a step so important, it was a bold measure to act
without consulting third persons, he told me he had looked- to all
the consequences, that he was determined that the act should be
entirely his own, and that neither the king his brother, nor any other


person whatever, should be responsible for the consequences, and that
he had therefore abstained from communicating with any person on
the subject."

In another place, the Anecdote Book speaks thus :

" King George III. frequently said to me, that if it was meant that
a king upon the throne should assent to measures of the above nature,
the Parliament should pass an act to alter the coronation oath for
future kings. But if his majesty's interpretation of his coronation
oath was correct, could he have given his royal assent to an act so
altering the coronation oath?"

In a letter written on the following day to Lady F. J. Bankes, the
chancellor relates the presentation of the petition by the Duke of
York, adding,

" In speaking of what his father endured upon this question he was deeply affected,
and deeply affected all who heard him. He concluded by laying his hand upon his
heart, and declaring that he ever had, and ever should, in any situation in which he
might be placed, oppose these claims of the Roman Catholics: so help him God!"
(Extracts of eight Letters from Lord Eldon to Lady F. J. Bankes.)

" Wednesday, (April 27th, 1825.)

"I enclose you, as well as I can recollect it, the Duke of York's speech. Try if
you can read it and send it back to me by return of post, if return of post will admit
of bringing it back. This will create a vast sensation, and now, and in time coming,
will be a memorable speech, creating warm attachment with some, inextinguishable
animosity with others. The sensation it has made here is amazing. Petitions are
coming in daily. If the same attention had been paid by the people to this concern
between Popery and Protestantism in any early stage of the business, all had been
well. As matters have been managed, religious animosity, and, what religious feeling
ought never to produce, bitter animosity, will have been created, and I fear long con-
tinue, however the business may, at present, be arranged."

"Thursday, (April 28lh, 1825.)
****** *

"Never was any thing like the sensation the Duke of York's speech has made.

"Some praise it as the best thing any of the Brunswick family ever did.

" Others are as violent the other way, and say matters must now be pushed without
delay, that the Catholic objects may be carried before it is possible he should come
to the throne.

"But, against this, it has had such an operation upon all ranks of men except party
men, that it will create insuperable difficulties to passing the intended measure in
another year. I hear that ' the Duke of York, and no Popery,' is to be seen in various
parts. The Bishop of London declared that he believed (speaking when presenting
a petition yesterday) that he was satisfied nine people in ten in the city were de-
terminedly adverse to the claims of the Roman Catholics."

(Not dated : probably April or May, 1825.)

"I dined with the lad)', usually styled Emily Dowager Lady Londonderry, with a
large party much larger than I deemed comfortable about eighteen fashionables,
including myself as one.

* * *****

"The Duke of York was at Lady L.'s dinner he can talk of nothing but the Pa-
pishes, to whom he is a most decided foe. My seat was between Lady L. and the
Marchioness of Hertford. There was a great demand upon me for small talk, but I
don't think I flirted with my usual success."

" Thursday, (April or May, 1825.)

" If the D. of Y.'s speech was imprudent, it has, nevertheless, on account of its firm-
ness and boldness, placed him on a pinnacle of popularity. The K. thinks he might
have left out the words ' in whatever situation he might be,' because he, the K., does
not intend soon to quit one, in which he, the D. of Y., may be. But he says it with
perfect good humour. The D. of Y. is at Newmarket. It is to be regretted that, in


his highly important and lofty situation, he spends so many days with blacklegs, and
so many nights at cards, among which we know there are knaves, as well as what are
better company for him, kings and queens."

" Monday, (May, 1825.)

"I hope the account of the following business has not reached you till this brings
it, which, at the same time, tel Is you that mamma and I are as well as even you could
wish us to be, and that's saying a great deal. I copy the article from a Sunday paper,
as it saves me the trouble of composing a true account:

"'Narrow escape of the lord chancellor. His lordship had just left the Court of
Chancery yesterday afternoon, and, accompanied by Lady Eldon, was proceeding
home, when, just as he passed Green's Family Hotel, in Lincoln's Inn Fields, the
hind axletree broke in two, one of the wheels flew off to some distance, and the car-
riage came to the ground with a tremendous crash. His lordship and lady were
promptly extricated by some gentlemen who were passing, and apparently without
any injury but the fright. Having recovered from their alarm in about ten minutes,
they walked arm in arm, leaving the carriage behind them on the ground.'

"So far the newspaper. Mamma was much more of a heroine than her spouse
was of a hero. She was all courage, and capital management. No gentlemen helped
us; none were there. Before we got out of Lincoln's Inn Fields, we espied the vice-
chancellor's coach standing at the door of a house wherein he was. I borrowed the
coach for mamma, who got home all safe and sound, and she really amazed me with
her fortitude. Neither coachman nor the servant behind were hurt. I dined after-
wards with W. H. J.* Lord Falmouth, Mr. Mansfield, M. P., Mr. Windham, M. P.,
William Scott, Sir John Hawkins, William Surtees and Frank Cross, were, with W.
H. J. and myself, the company. I need not tell you that W. H. J. gave what he calls

a good set-out.


"I hear they have again got Lord Rolle's demise into yesterday's paper. This is
what somebody, who thinks himself a wit, deems to be an innocent and pleasant
hoax. But that same somebody ought to be horse-whipped."

" Thursday, (May 12th, 1825.)

"In Whitsun week, having only Monday and Tuesday in that week as holidays, I
am ordered to attend causes in both days at the privy council, and, therefore, could
not delight myself with my darling papers at home. So I must do as well as I can.
in the debate without previous researches, and must make a sort of ready money
business of it. The king, I fear, continues in much misery from the gout. There is
no man in Europe now so much praised and abused, as party feelings operate upon
different persons, as the Duke of York. But he is bold as a lion, and firm as a rock."

"Friday, (May 13th, 1835.)

"I forgot to mention to you in my last, that the Commons stared me very impu-
dently in the face, when they delivered to me the Catholic Bill at the bar of the House.
This bill, however, I think those gentlemen will never see again."

"Saturday, (May 14th, 1825.)

"We had last night, in the House of Lords, nothing but squabbling and wrangling
about the credit due to petitions. They continue to come in great numbers, and, as
the custom always is, those who like them say they speak the public opinion, those
who are sore and dislike them say they are contrivances of some individuals, or some
few individuals, who contrive to prevail upon their neighbours to sign them, and that
they are worth nothing.

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