Horace Twiss.

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

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" But the thing is quite clear, that John and my ladyt are quite against the Papishes,
whatever the parliamentary adherents of the Church of Rome may say to the con-

The Roman Catholic Relief Bill of this session passed the House
of Commons by a majority of 21. It was intended by many of its
promoters to be accompanied by two other measures, one for increas-
ing the independence of the Irish freeholders by raising their elective
qualification from 40s. to 10/., and the other for connecting the Roman
Catholic clergy with the state by a public provision. Bills for these

* His son, Mr. W. H. J. Scott. -j- John Bull and family.


two objects, which bills at that time were commonly called the wings
of the Relief Bill, had made some progress in the House of Com-
mons, when the Relief Bill itself went up to the House of Lords,
where the second reading of it was moved on the 17th of May!
Toward the end of a very long debate,

The lord chancellor rose. He referred to the other two contemplated measures,
and argued that, without the means of knowing what was to be done respecting them
the House ought not to sanction the present bill. In the absence of those means it
was impossible to judge what effect the present bill might have upon the interests of
the Protestant establishment. After observing upon the inadequacy of all the pro-
posals which had ever been suggested by way of securities, and applaudin-Ahe
ingenuity with which this bill had been drawn, he proceeded to the question of su-
premacy. As a privy councillor he had also taken an oath to defend and maintain
mire and inviolate the supremacy of his sovereign. He had also taken the oath of
il egiance. He knew it might be said that his mind was fettered by the trammels of
a lawyer; but he had the authority of Lord Hale to state, that the oath of allegiance
was erected to dissipate the different constructions that were put on the oath of abju-
ration, which, though not created, was restored by that enactment. Under the sense
these obligations he was prepared to give his opposition to any measure which
rogated from the supremacy of his sovereign. He could not bring his mind to un-
-stand what a jurisdiction merely spiritual meant. If, by a spiritual jurisdiction
the marriage of a Protestant with a Catholic was set aside, though the courts of civil
law of this country compelled the parties to continue in wedlock, he would ask, was
that a spiritual or a temporal jurisdiction] The discussion of the present measure-
required a much larger field than its advocates gave it. It must be considered in
connection with the other measures which their lordships had understood, from the
votes of the House of Commons, were in contemplation. It must be taken with the
isfranchisement of the freeholders, and with the provision for the Catholic clergy of
Ireland. He asked, therefore, whether the English Catholics were to be placed on an
equal footing with those of Ireland ? The authority of Mr. Burke had been alluded to
Mr. Burke, who had stated that it was essential to the constitution that we should
have a Protestant king, a Protestant government, and a Protestant Parliament. Now
he wished to know, whether, under a system so essentially Protestant, the Protestant
issenters were not also to be put on a footing with the Roman Catholics of both
countries? On what principle could their lordships refuse the stipends to the Pro-
testant dissenters after they had secured them by an act of Parliament to a Popish
hierarchy? He would go further, and say, that after such a provision had been made
for the Catholic priesthood of Ireland, it was impossible to refuse something more than
a regium dmum to the clergy of the dissenters. They had heard much of the consti-
tution of the States of America. He trusted that the experiment that had been made
in that country of a government without a religious establishment might, for the peace
of its people, succeed ; but it was not because such an experiment was on trial that he
would agree to surrender the rights and security of that church establishment in this
country, which had contributed so essentially to its glory, prosperity and happiness.
With respect to the other measure which it appeared was to accompany the accom-
lishment of the present bill, he meant the disfranchisement of the Irish 40s. free-
holders, he should pronounce no opinion upon it then. He would not say whether
it was wise or unwise; but he would s>ay, that they were called upon to decide on the
main measure. Yet, if it were true that a measure, which went to disfranchise thou-
sands of the king's subjects, was brought forward with a view to catch a vote on the
one and the other side of the House for another bill which went to obtain an extension
of civil rights for a few, it did in that light appear to him a most objectionable mea-
sure. Some noble lords had termed him a parliamentary reformer. He would sav-
in answer, that he had lived too long in the world to attach much respect to the cha-
ner of what was understood to be a reformer. He most certainly saw reformers,
revolutionists, and other persons, all united together to carry forward the present
measure; those other persons being some of the very best persons in the country.
But he was stated to be a reformer because he had ventured to declare his belief that
the great majority of the people of this country were hostile to the present measure.
la that opinion he persevered. He did believe that an infinite majority of the English
people were averse to it that they were disquieted by the apprehension of its accom-
plishmentand that if it did pass, it would give great pain and dissatisfaction. But


then it was said, it had passed the House of Commons. He did not wish to give any
cause of dissatisfaction to noble lords near him ; but he well recollected the East India
Bill, a bill which passed the House of Commons, and against which numerous peti-
tions had been presented. It was, however, then, as it was now, contended that the
people approved of the measure. However, unluckily for that assertion, there came
on a general election. The House of Commons, after that election, was differently
constituted; and the result proved, that what was alleged to be the decision of the
people of this country turned out to be a perfect delusion. He felt that, in the few
observations he had made, he had not, at that advanced hour of the morning, ex-
pressed himself as clearly as he could have wished; but he should conclude with
assuring their lordships, that after twenty-five years deep consideration of the subject,
he could not, conscientiously with his sense of duty, and the station which he held
under the crown, give his support to the present bill.

(Extracts of six Letters from Lord Eldon to Lady F. J. Bankes.)

(May ISih, 1325.)
" Victory.

For the bill .... 130
Against it .... 173

Majority 48

"I did not get home this morning till about six o'clock.

"I had no opportunity to say my say till a little before five Dear mamma

sat up till I came home."

" Thursday, (May 19th, 1825.)

"I have had a most affectionate letter from that decided Protestant, the Duchess
Dowager of Rutland, and most loving inquiries and congratulations from the other
dowager duchess, viz., of Richmond.

"Mamma had a little headache from her sitting up all night; but I think her amuse-
ment at the study window to-day, in seeing all the gay parties, going to where the
grave senators were so anxious to secure their going that they would not let us have
a second night's debate, (viz., to Epsom, to see the race called the Derby,) and in the
evening coming home, will set all right.

" I had a very sound sleep last night from half-past nine till about four this morning,
which has quite removed the chilly and feverish affection which sitting from ten on
Tuesday morning in the House till five next morning (in the last twelve hours of that
sitting the House was hotter than I ever knew it) had occasioned, and to-day I am
quite stout."

" Friday, (May 20lh, 1825.)

"We are now becoming composed after our triumph, which occasioned, on one
side, great elevation of spirits, and, on the other, a degree of depression of spirits
which converted the disappointed into the angry and violent. The friends of the
Roman Catholics were weak enough to think that we should beat them by ten only
how they could so miscalculate, it is not very easy to conceive.


"A lord told me yesterday that, short and imperfect as was the verbal scrap I gave
the House yesterday morning by daylight, before we divided, (for the determination
of the House to finish all in one night made nineteen-tweritieths of my studies labour
in vain, and made my sayings very short,) the people below the bar were prevented,
with some difficulty, from clapping hands, when I stated that I should retire to the
woolsack to pronounce the defeat of the measure to an anxious country."

"Saturday, (May 21st, 1825.)

"Mr. O'Connell pleaded as a barrister before me in the House of Lords on Thurs-
day; his demeanour was very proper, but he did not strike me as shining so much
in argument as might be expected from a man who has made so much noise in his
harangues in a seditious association.

"I dine with the Duke of York to-day, where the glorious 1688, and the glorious
48, will, I doubt not, be attended with due honours. The prints of the duke's speech
are issuing in large characters from every press in the country.

"My holidays are not days of idleness. I have to attend the chancery commission
to-day the privy council on Monday and on Tuesday a cabinet. But there is great
relief in variety of employment."


"Mondav. (May 23d, 1825.)

"We had a most sumptuous and splendid set-out at the Duke of York's on Satur-
day twenty-four rejoicing Protestants round the table and such a magnificent show
of plate as even eclipses the king's exhibition of that article, and, as it appears to me,
eclipses all of the same article which all the monarchs of Europe have presented to
the Duke of Wellington. We drank the 48, the year 1688, and the glorious and
immortal memory of William III. but without noise or riot.

" I saw the king yesterday, who is much better, and not a little relieved in point of
anxiety by the vote on the Catholic question. So much for the present; but politics
may possibly soon present some other troublesome matter, for it is in the nature of
politics to be restless, and to furnish plague after plague."

" Wednesday, (May 2oth, 1825.)

"I forgot to tell you yesterday that we have got a new favourite toast. Lady War-
wick and Lady Braybrook (I think that is her name) would not let their husbands go
to the House to vote for the Catholics: so we Protestants drink daily, as our favourite
toast, 'The ladies who locked up their husbands.'

" My old foes, Mr. Denman and Mr. Williams, are also, on next Tuesday night, to
attack the chancery and the chancellor. Wishing to live the rest of my time in the
shade, I had rather be excused this annual attack ; for, though I care not what they
say of me as a political character, I am very nice and touchy about my judicial fame."

On Lord Holland's motion for the second reading, on the 26th
May, of a bill for altering the law of attainder and corruption of blood,

The chancellor opposed the measure, on account both of its principle and of the
imperfection of its details. With respect to its principle, he thought, when it was
considered how extensively ruinous the consequences of treason might be to the
peace and very existence of families, there was no reason to complain if some
portion of the punishment of a defeated treason were made to fall upon the families
of those by whom it had been attempted. Should this bill go into committee, he
would propose that high treason should be omitted, and the alterations confined to
petit treason and murder.

On a division, the bill was rejected by 15 against 12.

Mr. \Villiams's attack upon the administration of the Court of
Chancery was renewed in the House of Commons on the 31st of May.
The substance of it is considered in the observations on Lord Eldon's
judicial character toward the close of this work.

Severely as the chancellor was galled by these attacks, he never
allowed them to influence his judicial courtesy toward those members
of the bar by whom they were conducted or abetted. Mr. Williams,
whose practice did not usually take him into the Court of Chancery,
but who, on some new trial of an issue from his circuit, had occasion
to make his appearance in that court, could not help observing, as he
left Lincoln's Inn Hall, "Your chancellor is an abundantly agreeable

(Extracts of three Letters from Lord Eldon to Lady F. J. Banfces.)

" Monday, (May 30th, 1825 )

" We had our Pitt Club dinner at the London Tavern on Saturday, in commemora-
tion of the birth-day of the Right Hon. W. Pitt. The meeting was numerous not
many of the ministers there, more shame for them, say I. There were Peel.Bathurst,
Westmoreland and myself, only, of that body. We had, however, a good many lords
and commoners, among them Mr. Bankes, sen. The company was quite uproarious,
they were in such high spirits upon the Catholic defeat. They reconciled themselves
to this conduct by recollecting that, though in 1801 Mr. Pitt was for the Catholics, he
was so only if they would consent to securities for the Church and State Protestant,
which they would not. If they would, they would have no opposition now. Sir
Edward Knatchbull was our chairman, and I seldom have seen a person in that
situation conduct himself so admirably well. I have hardly ever heard a display of
good sense, excellent temper, appropriate language, &c., which pleased me more.


" Their reception of your humble servant, as an attendant who had never once been
absent from the anniversary, was very cordial indeed. Peel was much gratified by
their reception of him."

"Friday, (June 3d, 1825.')

" W. H. J.* seems in good spirits, but not quite well; and he is plagued by Mr.
Hume's stating in the Commons his offices as worth nine or ten thousand a year.
This, I think, fidgets him a great deal, and retards progress somewhat. You know
we are fidgety in cases and circumstances which nobody but ourselves would care
a farthing about. Now this same Scotchman cares not a farthing what he says. He
gives out to the public that the chancellor has, as chancellor, 18,000/. a year, and W.
H. J. 10.000/. The office of chancellor is a little more than 9000/.; W. H. J.'s offices
yield him towards 3000/. I should think; so that this Scotchman exceeds 13 or 14, by
making them 28 and, when the accounts are produced to him, he says, with Scotch
coolness, he shall not continue thinking upon a subject where he can't be useful,
and so he leaves us to the credulity of an abused malicious world, to fare with it as
we can.

"Lord Stowell called on mamma 'on Wednesday, very kindly to express his hope
that Williams and Co. had not on Tuesday disturbed my peace of mind, and sat with
her awhile. They certainly did not; but now comes out another Scotchman at the
bar, of the name of Millar, who has abused the chancellor black and blue; and this
gentleman, who has made no progress yet in his profession, conceives himself at
liberty to calumniate the highest judge to the utmost of his power also. But, thank
God, I am well in health, and in mind I grow more easy and callous."

" Saturday, (June 4th, 1825.)
" My dearest Fan,

"I enter my 74thf year to-day, and, with God's blessing, in a state of good health
and much strength. If I wish myself, as I know Fan will wish me, many happy
new years, it is for the sake of my dearly beloved family that I entertain that wish.
No man can look back upon so long a period of the life of a being that has so much
of frailty in his nature as man has, without feeling that he has much to pray that a
kind Heaven may forgive. Intentionally I have not erred, I trust, in conduct through
life hitherto in what remains of it, may Heaven protect and guide me !

" The Commons behaved well to the judges on Thursday night, increasing their
salaries and their retiring pensions. To the Duke of Cumberland, I hear, they mani-
fested a cruelly unrelenting hatred, in their debates, and in a vote in which he had a
small, very small majority. The king had many, as I hear, members of the House
of Commons at Windsor, who come to town too late after dinner. This maybe very
attentive to the duke's royal brother, but it has wofully bad effects ; because, first, it
loses the duke the support of votes; and because, secondly, it makes people believe
that the king don't wish that the thing should take effect, which he desired by his
message to the two Houses of Parliament should be done. And thus one brother loses
what he ought to have in point of revenue and the other gains what he ought not to
acquire, the reputation of indifference, if not of insincerity. This I lament much,
because my own perfect conviction is, that a kinder-hearted man than the king in
general is, or a more sincere person about any object than he has been about this,
cannot be, and therefore I grieve that arrangement and management should be so
very incautious, and that the consequences of it should defeat what one so much
wants, and the other, I really believe, so much wishes. But so the world goes on !

"The Unitarian Bill came on in the House of Lords last night. Both archbishops,
the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Bishop of Exeter, the
Bishop of Norwich, voted for it. Shameful, surely! However, we threw out the
bill, 56 to 50. It would have been about 100 to 50, if we had divided upon the third
reading instead of the second; but our good orthodox friends were absent most
at Ascot so that how a horse runs is much more important than how the church

The chancellor's speech in opposition to the Unitarian Marriages'
Bill, which he mentions in the foregoing letter, proceeded on the
same grounds as his speech against a similar bill in the preceding
session 4

Mr. W. H. J. Scott, Lord Eldon's son.

t 75th. t See Chap. XLVI.


The chancery commission was continuing its investigations : but
it did not proceed fast enough to satisfy the opposition ; and on the
7th of June, a motion was made in the House of Commons by Sir F.
Burdett, that the evidence, as far as it had then been taken, should
be laid before the House. This motion was very successfully resisted
by Sir R. Peel. In truth, the great extent and variety of the matters
into which the commission had been appointed to inquire made it
impossible that any satisfactory report should, by that time, have been
completed; and the House, being of this opinion, refused the motion
by a majority of 154 against 73.

The Judges Salaries' Bill, 6 Geo. 4. c. 84, was the subject of some
discussion in the House of Lords, both on its second reading, 22d
June, when Lord Eldon spoke in support of its principle, and on its
third reading, 27th June, when he vindicated himself" against some
invidious allusions made by Lord Grosvenor to the emoluments of the
chancellor. On the latter occasion he said,

" He had ground to complain of the misrepresentations and calumnies which had
gone forth respecting the emoluments of his office, after the real amount of its profits
had been already given in accounts before the House of Commons. Perhaps it
was thought that this mode of calumnious misrepresentation was the way to get
him out of office ; they were mistaken who thought so; he would not yield to such
aspersions, nor shrink from asserting what he owed to himself. Had he been treated
with common justice, he should not now, perhaps, have remained lord chancellor ;
but he would not be driven from his office by calumnious attack. The reason why,
in the present bill, there was no clause regulating offices in the Court of Chancery
was, that a commission was now sitting on the state of that court. The feelings and
fate of an individual were in themselves of small importance to the public ; and he
who now addressed their lordships might be sacrificed to the insults which he was
daily receiving; but he begged noble lords to reflect that he might not be the only
sacrifice. If the object was, as it appeared to be, to pull down the reputation, and to
throw discredit on the motives and conduct of men in high official situations, if
every man who occupied an eminent station in the church or state was to become
the object of slander, then their lordships might rest convinced that their privileges
as peers could not long be respected."

The bill was then read a third time.

Parliament having been prorogued on the 6th of July, in a royal
speech delivered by the lord chancellor, he indulged in the gaiety of
giving a political dinner not confined to the cabinet. The following
is the account of it, written by him to Lord Encombe :

" Sunday evening, (July 24th, 1825.)
" My dear John,

" Many thanks again for your affectionate letter.

" We had our company yesterday. The Duke of York, as our good fortune would
have it, came in good time a little before eight. He set out for Brighton when he
left us, and seemed to have enjoyed his repast very much. The Duke of Wellington,
I am sorry to say, seemed much more unwell than any grateful Englishman, whose
heart is in the right place, can be contented to see him. He was, however, in rea-
sonably good spirits. My old friend, Lord Chatham, poor Pitt's brother, has come for
a season from his government of Gibraltar, and dined with me. Years have bent
him much ; and time has made him, who was once a very fine looking man in face
and person, no longer as to the latter, upright and straight as an arrow, and in coun-
tenance it has left him certainly fine remains of what he was, but only remains. I
always thought him as able a man, in point of intellect, as his brother, the minister:
but, being the first-born of their illustrious father, and the inheritor of his honours,
&c., as it too often happens with persons in similar circumstances, his understanding
and talents had not been as assiduously cultivated as those of William Pitt. West-


moreland, Clarendon, Shaftesbury, Peel, Croker, and the solicitor-general, made the
party. The Duke of Rutland, Marquis of Hertford, Lauderdale, &c. &c., we lost by
alteration of the day. I showed off your table and books,* as much as Christie,
Robins, or the most eloquent of our auctioneers could have done; and your taste, as
to these articles, was much admired.

" As I write merely to give you an account of the above matters, for this time, I add
only, God bless you.

"Mamma joins in all affectionate regards to Mrs. Farrer and to you, dear John,
with Your ever affectionate


(Lord Eldon to Rev. Henry John Ridley.')

" October loth, 1325.
" Dear Henry John,

"Your letter, with the painful intelligence it contains,t reached us here last night.

" When I look back to the years that are past, and find myself in a world which so
many of the dear companions of my youth have left, and, finally, when it has pleased
God to take to himself my last departed friend, I am not sufficiently master of my
feelings to address you and the afflicted at Hertingfordbury as I ought. At my ad-
vanced age, the time cannot be far distant when my mansion must also be an house of
mourning. God's will be done ! and may my latter end be like that of him who is no
more, an end demonstrating, in the true spirit and feeling of a Christian, entire sub-
mission to lhat will!

" Experience has taught me and convinced me, Henry John, that on melancholy
occasions of the nature of that which has now taken place, there is little consolation
to be found but in submission to the will of God. The little that can be supplied by
the sympathy and love of friends, it is their duty, and cannot but be their inclination,
to supply would it were more ample than it can be ! To the extent in which it can
be supplied from us, pour it into the cup of your dear mother and sister, and receive it

" With the love of your aunt and myself to you all, I remain, very affectionately
yours, ELDON."

There appears, in the Commons' Journals, 30th of June, 1825, an

" That there be laid before this House a list of all causes that have been heard by
the lord chancellor during the last eighteen years, wherein judgment has not yet been
given, specifying the time when heard; comprising all petitions in cases of bank-

Online LibraryHorace TwissThe public and private life of Lord Chancellor Eldon, with selections from his correspondence (Volume 2) → online text (page 22 of 65)