Horace Twiss.

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

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He rose to thank his lordship, after the case was disposed of, for the
patient attention bestowed upon him ; but Lord Eldon, unwilling to
hear his own praises, cut the eulogy short by exclaiming, 'Mr. Egan,
you have gained all you want, and now the sooner you take your
own head and mine out of chancery, the better.' '

Here end the records of Lord Eldon's chancellorships. The con-
cluding part of his history will show him, however, still faithfully
serving his country, opposing the weight of his years, his abilities,
and his character, against the rash delusions of the time, and, with
steadfast and calm disregard to all the odds of passion and power,
defending, to his latest strength, the institutions which his manhood
had been devoted to maintain.




Letter from Lord Eldon to Lady F. J. Bankes. Mr. Brougham's silk gown. Game
laws. Unitarian marriages. Death and character of Mr. Canning. Formation of
Lord Goderich's ministry. Duke of Wellington's acceptance of the command of
the army : letters of the duke, of Lord Goderich, of the king, and of Lord Eldon.
Letters of Lord Eldon to Lord Stowell and to Lady Elizabeth Repton. Close of the
Anecdote Book: remaining anecdotes.

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

(May, 1827.)

"I WRITE a scrap. Never mind the name 'scrap;' it serves the purpose, as well as
the more dignified term ' letter,' to convey from those who affectionately love the per-
son to whom it is addressed, what is best worthy of that person's acceptance, the ten-
derest and warmest feelings of cordial, heartfelt attachment: as such a scrap, receive
this, as I have received yours of this day.

"We have no news. The violence of the young members of the House of Com-
mons, who are attached to the late government, has done the ex-ministers, as I feared
it would, some damage. John Bull don't like to see anybody too hard pressed; and
his pity sometimes leads him to inclination, which his judgment would not have
approved if commiseration had not been excited. But, to be sure, never was such a
piebald administration as this is likely to be, if it is finally formed by the junction of
some of the Whigs."

Mr. Brougham, who, by the death of the queen, had lost the office
of attorney-general to her majesty, and with it the appertaining prece-
dence at the bar, was now invested with permanent rank, by patent,
the gift of the new ministry, whom he was eagerly supporting in the
House of Commons. He had there, during several years, been a
fierce assailant of Lord Eldon, who, in the Anecdote Book, speaks of
his attacks as follows:

" In the House of Commons, the conduct of that gentleman was
often attributed to his not having a silk gown, and his not having
that silk gown was supposed to be by him attributed to me. It was
known by many, that his majesty was so offended by parts of his
speeches upon the proceedings on the Bill of Pains and Penalties, in
the case of Queen Caroline, that he would not hear of that gentleman's
being appointed one of the king's counsel ; and I was repeatedly
told by his majesty, that he should consider it as an affront to him-
self, if I should propose to him such an appointment. My suggestion
always was, that it did not become the dignity of his majesty to mani-
fest that the conduct of Mr. B. could so affect him, and I stated the
great inconvenience and injustice which it occasioned to other gentle-
men at the bar, as promoting them in their profession was not merely
overlooking Brougham, but doing him the injury, as it would be
thought, of making promotions to his prejudice; that it was not merely
refusing him a favour, by not promoting him in the ordinary course


of professional advancement, but degrading him by advancing others.
His majesty, however, remained determined not to give him the ap-
pointment. Upon the late change of administration (1827) I received
a message from the king, to inform me that he had then consented
to give him a silk gown, by giving him a patent of precedence. That
message was delivered to me by Lord Lyndhurst, and I desired him
to express my duty to his majesty, and to state that I considered the
communication as an authority to me to mention that it was his ma-
jesty's act which had prevented this appointment from being made at
an earlier period, and which the chancellor promised me to state to
the king. The Archbishop of York also delivered to me a message
from Mr. B., stating that he knew that I had not stood in the way of
his preferment, but that it was the act of his majesty that he had not
before been promoted. Subsequently to this was pronounced his
panegyric upon me at Liverpool, and something of the same kind in
the cause at Lancaster relative to an obstruction in the River Mersey.
The same misrepresentation of my conduct prevailed as to Mr. Den-

A bill for the alteration of the game laws was the subject of some
discussion in the House of Lords on the llth of May. Lord Abing-
don having opposed it,

Lord Eldon said he wished to offer a few words respecting it, more especially he-
cause, in the days of his youth, he had been probably as great a poacher as any one
on the lands of the noble lord who had just resumed his seat, and to whom this was,
perhaps, the best moment to tender an apology. [A laugh.] He went on to express
his disapproval of the bill, which he thought would increase rather than diminish the
offence of poaching, and which did nothing toward repressing the objectionable mo-
dern practice of collecting game in large quantities within narrow limits, for the pur-
pose of battues. (With reference to the vulgar error, that a man startin? game on his
own land had a right to pursue it over the land of another, he related to the House
his favourite story about poachers at Encombe.*)

The attempt to relax the marriage law in favour of the Unitarians
was renewed in this session. On the motion of Lord Lansdowne,
in June, for going into committee upon a bill, passed by the Com-
mons for this purpose, Lord Eldon repeated his former objections
somewhat more in detail. f He added some further remarks, the
principal of which are contained in a paper, found in his handwriting
since his death. The most material passages of that paper are the

The whole ground of complaint the Unitarians have is in the fact that, in the bless-
ing which the minister pronounces at ihe close of the marriage ceremony, he blesses
the parlies in the names of "God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost."
As a clergyman of the Church of England and a Trinitarian, if he said only "God
bless you," he must under the word the single word "God" mean exactly the same
as he expresses in all these words. The Unitarians don't, I understand, object, in
baptism, to baptism "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost:" in-
deed they can't for our Saviour himself, if memory serves rightly, commands baptism
in those names but they object to receive a blessing where the word "God" is
used as above. It seems but a whimsical ground of complaint, for the ceremonial
requires no answer to be made by them to the blessing no assent to it. If the Jew
was to say to me, " God bless you," if the Unitarian was to say to me, " God bless

* Already given near the end of Chap. XXVI.
f See his speeches in 1824, Chap. XL VI.


you," if our " ancient ally," the Turk, was to say to me, "God bless you," I should
think myself a stranjre peevish creature, (if nothing was required of me,) if I thought
my conscience insulted hy the kind expression of the Jew, the Unitarian, or the Turk,
because they used the expression " God," each of them giving a different meaning
from that in which I, a Trinitarian, a Church of England man, used the same word

" God."


Where are these exceptions, as to the mode of celebrating marriage, to stop! If
the Unitarians obtain this, how can the Roman Catholics be denied a bill of the same
nature! Marriage with them is a sacrament, a sacrament in the administration of
which the Roman Catholic priest only can effectually act; yet they don't refuse, in
obedience to the law, to submit and do submit, to marry in the Protestant Church,
where the ceremony is no sacrament, though holy, and where the minister is by many
of them not considered as a duly ordained priest. If you compel the (Roman Catholic)
Trinitarian to be married in your church as well as in his own, will you allow him to
remain subject to this grievance while you relieve the Anti-trinitarian by this bill?

How many other members of the different sects in this country may apply to you 1

After arguing in his speech to the effect of the foregoing extracts,
Lord Eldon moved the rejection of the bill, but was outvoted by a
majority of 61 against 54. This was on the 26th of June: on the
29th the bill was abandoned. The session of Parliament for 1827
closed on the 2d of July, and Lord Eldon retired as usual, to his seat
at Encombe.

He had formed but too accurate an opinion, when, in his letter to
Lady F. J. Bankes, announcing Lord Liverpool's apoplectic seizure,
he spoke of Mr. Canning's health as likely to be unequal to the
labours of first minister. In the beginning of August, Mr. Canning
was attacked by an inflammatory fever, succeeding to, or proceeding
from, other ailments ; and on the 8th his government was terminated,
almost in its very outset, by his death.

The genius of Mr. Canning was of the largest scope and of the
finest order. Upon some of those general principles of politics which
have become associated with his memory, the judgments of mankind
will probably be ever divided ; but even with the most determined
of his opponents, it has long ceased to be matter of question, that
boldness, originality and grandeur, were the characteristics of his
policy. That policy, too, was essentially English. It was upon
English principles that he upheld authority it was upon English
principles that he succoured liberty it was to English interests, in
the most enlarged and generous sense, that his heart and his energies
were devoted and his leading conviction was that "England, to be
safe and happy, must be great."*

It was not, however, until his latter years, that he reached the full
measure of his merited fame. He had attained no small celebrity at
college, and even at school ; and had acquired, before he was five-
and-thirty years of age, great literary distinction and a pre-eminent
reputation in the House of Commons. But that loftier praise, which
belonged to him as a leader of his country's councils, was reluctantly
and slowly conceded. Long before the public in general had recog-
nized the real extent of his powers, he had been characterized by one

* See the spirited sketch of his character and policy, prefixed to his speeches by
Mr. Therry, vol. i. p. 172.


of the more discerning and candid of bis opponents* as "the first
logician in Europe." But ordinary observers clung to ordinary pre-
judices. The combination of solid with brilliant qualities is so rare,
that people commonly suppose an abundant sparkling of wit on the
surface to indicate a depth of wit beneath. The self-love of the
vulgar will not brook to acknowledge any one man as their superior
in several distinct departments of mind : and thus it was assumed,
that the dazzling favourite of the House of Commons could not pos-
sibly possess the qualifications of a sound statesman. The full recog-
nition of his superiority was further retarded by another cause which,
it must be owned, that he had himself set in motion the ill-will of
those whom his talent for ridicule had annoyed. The laugh passes
away, but the smart remains ; and none are more thin-skinned than
the thick-witted. Those whom, in the buoyancy of his spirits, he had
satirized, and among whom were found some members even of his
own political party, sought their revenge according to their nature,
and gave him out as a mercurial, flighty rhetorician, a mere epigram-
matist, wanting in all the solid parts of business. At his entrance
into the cabinet, and for many years afterwards, the offence was still
unforgiven, and the disparagement was still reiterated. When the
ministry began to divide itself into two sections, the one somewhat
rigid in its adhesion to actual establishments, and the other a little
adventurous in experiments and concessions, the part taken by Mr.
Canning, in favour of the larger and more hazardous theories, led to
certain differences of opinion between him and Lord Eldon ; and of
these differences, widened as they had been by the cabinet conflicts
of September, 1809, the enemies of Mr. Canning took all possible
advantage, sedulously contrasting his character,! such as they them-
selves had chosen to misrepresent it, with the sterling qualities of
the chancellor. The chancellor, it is hardly requisite to say, had no
share in these petty attempts for no man's mind was more averse
from animosity or intrigue, and no man was less disposed to seek his
own credit by injuring the personal character of a colleague ; but it
is among colleagues that political differences breed most displeasure ;
and something of a militant spirit did certainly disclose itself now
and then between these two distinguished members of the govern-
ment. In Mr. Canning it broke out by way of incidental sarcasm
upon the old-fashioned tenets of the legal dignitary ; while the chan-
cellor would indulge in a little quiet satire on the stirring genius of
the parliamentary leader. But the fiercest assailants of Mr. Canning
were the low party in church and state ; who, hating him for his anti-
revolutionary principles, and galled by his perpetual and powerful
chastisements of their foremost pretenders, dogged him with unremit-
ting malice, in hopes, by damaging his fame, to discredit his autho-
rity. They were ceaselessly on the watch for the slightest slip in his
parliamentary or official course, and, of the few blots he made, every

Lord Holland, in the House of Lords.

f See a specimen of these parallels in an extract from Cobbett's " Register," at the
beginning of Chap. XLIX.


one was hit. At length, however, genius, courage and time, con-
quered all obstructions : and the English people, undeceived as to his
character, rendered to it a complete, though a tardy justice.

As an orator, he stood beyond rivalry, and almost beyond compa-
rison. He combined, as has been happily said,

"The free movement, spirit, and reality of British parliamentary debate, with the
elaborate perfection of the forum and the agora, and the accessary accomplishments
and graces of modern literature." *

It is scarcely an exaggeration to affirm, that in his single person
were united all the highest gifts of eloquence which nature had dis-
tributed among the most eminent of his parliamentary competitors.
A lucid, close and forcible logic, effective alike for the establishment
of truth and the exposure of absurdity, hypocrisy and pretension,
an elevated tone of declamation, appealing not so much to passion,
as to what was noblest in thought and sentiment, a stream of imag-
ery and quotation, rich, various, and yet never overflowing the main
subject, a light " artillery of wit," so disciplined, that not a shot of
it flashed without telling upon the issue of the conflict, an unfailing,
yet constantly diversified harmony of period, and a magical command
of those lightning words and phrases, which burn themselves, at
once and for ever, into the hearer's mind, these, and all these in
their perfection, w T ere among the powers of that eloquence w T hich
death had thus suddenly hushed.

Deprived of Mr. Canning, the ministry did not long survive. Until
the beginning of the new year, however, it went on under the follow-
ing arrangement. The office of first lord of the treasury was under-
taken by Lord Goderich, and that of chancellor of the exchequer by
Mr. Herries. Mr. Huskisson, who was now intended to lead the
House of Commons, succeeded Lord Goderich at the colonial office,
and was himself replaced at the board of trade by Mr. Charles Grant,
afterwards Lord Glenelg. Mr. Sturges Bourne, removing to the Office
of Woods and Forests, made way for the Marquis of Lansdowne, as
secretary for the home department; and Mr. Tierney accepted the
situation of master of the mint. Lord Harrowby retired ; the Duke
of Portland became president of the council in his room ; and the
privy seal, which had been held by his grace, was transferred to the
Earl of Carlisle. The Duke of Wellington resumed the command of
the army, which he had resigned in the preceding April, but did not
take a seat in the cabinet.

On this last of the ministerial arrangements, Lord Eldon's opinion
is expressed in the following extract from a letter to Lord Encombe.

(Lord Eldon to Lord Encombe.') (Extract.)

( Wuliout date, but received August 2(ith. 1827.)

" You have seen that the Duke of Wellington, now poor Canning is dead, has taken
the command of the army. He holds that this connects him no more with ministers
than if he took the command of the Horse Guards, as I hear. This is not inconsistent,
though it will seem to the public to be so, when it may be said, ' If it does not connect
him with ministers, why did he not keep it under Minister Canning 1 ! ' I happen to
know that there is a very satisfactory difference between those two cases. I wish

* Mr. Therry's Memoir, p. 175.


that I was as sure that it does not connect him with ministers. I am sure he thinks
it does not; for an honester man does not live. But I say no more."

The duke, having accepted this office, explained his motives to a
few of his political connections, through the medium of a letter to
Lord Westmoreland, of which a copy was found among Lord Eldon's
papers, having been sent to him at the duke's request by the military
secretary, Lord Fitzroy Somerset, with copies of the letters to the
duke from the king and Lord Goderich, and of the duke's answers.

( The Duke of Wellington to the Earl of Westmoreland.)

"Kingston Hall, August 17th, 1827.
" My dear Lord Westmoreland,

" I think it possible you may not come here to-day. I therefore send you the enclosed
copies of letters which I received this day, by the hands of Lord Anglesey, from the
king and Lord Goderich, and of my answers.* I had little or no conversation with
Lord Anglesey. It appeared to me, from what he said, that the kin? wished that Mr.
Henries should be Chancellor of the Exchequer; but that Mr. Merries was but little

(Lord Goderich to the Duke of Wellington.')

" Downing Street, August 15ih, 1827.
" My dear Duke of Wellington,

" I am commanded by the king to transmit to you, by the hands of Lord Anglesey,
the accompanying letter from his majesty. From the bottom of my heart I hope you
will accept the king's offer; and I am sure you will do me the justice to believe that
my anxiety that you should do so does not arise from any thing which may be personal
to myself, but from my entire conviction that your return to the command of the army
is of the last importance to the best interests of our common country, which can in no
circumstances forget what she owes to your long and distinguished services.

"To say more would only be to repeat the same sentiments in other words; and I
will only add that I remain,

" My dear Duke of Wellington,

" Ever most sincerely yours, GODEKICH."

(King George IV. to the Duke of Wellington.)

"Royal Lodge, August 15th. 1827.
" My dear friend,

" I write for the purpose of again offering to you the command of my army; and I
sincerely hope that the time is arrived when the country will no longer be deprived
of the benefit of your high talents. Always with great truth,

" Your sincere friend, G. R."

(The Duke of Wellington to King George IV.)

"Kingston Hall, August 17th, 1827.

"I have received your majesty's most gracious commands conveying to me the
offer of the command of your majesty's army, which I accept; and your majesty may
rely upon it, that in performing the duties of the high station which your majesty has
most graciously called upon me to fill, it will be my earnest wish and endeavour to
give your majesty the same satisfaction which it has been the happiness and pride of
my life to give you heretofore, which is submitted to your majesty bv your majesty's
most devoted subject, WELT.INGTOX."

(The Duke of Wellington to Lord Goderich.)

"Kingston Hall, August 17ih, 1827.
" My dear Lord Goderich,

"I have received your letter from Lord Anglesey. I have never thought that poli-
tical differences of opinion ought to prevent me from commanding his majesty's army
at the Horse Guards, equally as an army in the field ; and I have written to his majesty
in answer to his most gracious letter, thar*I accept his most gracious offer of the com-
mand of his army, and that his majesty may rely upon it that, in the performance of
the duties of the high station which his majesty has most graciously called upon me
to fill, it will be my earnest wish and endeavour to give his majesty the same satisfac-
tion which it has been the happiness and pride of my life to give him heretofore.

"Ever yours,


inclined to take that office ; and that, in that case, it would be filled by Lord Palmer-

" You are as well aware as I am of what has passed heretofore between his majesty,
Mr. Canning, and myself, respecting the command of the army. I don't think I could
have refused to take the command when thus frankly and fairly offered to me, the
reasons alleged for resigning it no longer existing, without taking new ground for
my refusal, differing from that before taken as the reason for resigning, and incon-
sistent with my former professions in public, as well as in private, and in writing. I
have stated to Lord Goderich distinctly, that I take the command of the army, as of an
army in the field, notwithstanding political differences of opinion. I am aware of the
delicacy of the position in which I shall be placed, but I think I can overcome that
difficulty more easily than I could the abandonment of my professional position, or
any inconsistency upon the reasons of my resignation. Believe me,

" Ever yours most sincerely,


Lord Eldon having written to the duke on the subject of these
communications, received the following answer from his illustrious
friend :

(The Duke of Wellington to Lord Eldon.)

" Straifield Saye, Sept. 1st, 1827.
" My dear Lord Eldon,

" I am very much obliged to you for your letter; and as I had not heard from you
on the subject of that one which I had desired Lord Fitzroy Somerset to show you, I
intended to write to you. I certainly thought and wished that there should be no
mistake, in regard to the principle on which I accepted the office of commander-in-
chief, and to the relation in which its acceptance would place me to the politics of
the government. In regard to the acceptance of the office itself, I had declared myself
in public as well as in private, and in writing to his majesty and to his late minister;
and I had likewise declared in Parliament the relation in which I should stand to the
politics of the government. With these declarations before them, the king and his
minister called upon me to give my service, on the ground of the public interests
requiring it; and in accepting, I have again declared my principle. I may have
placed myself too high, and, like others, fall from the difficult position which I have
assumed. But this is quite clear, viz., that I have assumed that position; and there
I will remain as long as I can do any good in it.

"lam not astonished that the friends of the administration should consider this
arrangement as a great gain. In one sense it is so. If, on the one hand, the admi-
nistration have no claim upon my services out of my profession, I, on the other, can
be of no counsel or party against them , and they are certain that one great branch of
the service will be conducted according to their wishes."

"Ever, my dear Lord Eldon,

" Yours most sincerely,


(Lord Eldon to Lord Encombe.) (Extract.)

" Sunday night, (Sept. 9th, 1827.)

"A great many thanks to you for your last kind letter. With respect to the political
part of it, as it relates to the Duke of Wellington, though I am perfectly satisfied that
in the present circumstances of the country, he could not refuse to accept the command
of the army and, though he is not in the cabinet, and disapproves, I believe, thoroughly

Online LibraryHorace TwissThe public and private life of Lord Chancellor Eldon, with selections from his correspondence (Volume 2) → online text (page 27 of 65)