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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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in public life. All the impressions of affectionate regard and esteem for you, derived
from long and unreserved intercourse, are much too deeply engraven on my mind to
be ever effaced or weakened.

" I am grateful to you for the uniform kindness I have experienced from you from


my first entrance into public life, proud of having possessed your confidence, and
most anxious to retain, without reference to politics, your personal good will and

"My return to public life has been no source of gratification to me. In common
with the Duke of Wellington, hitherto at least, I have had nothing to contemplate
but painful sacrifices, so far as private feelings are concerned.

"For the last ten days, except when I was compelled to disregard the commands of
my physician, I have been confined to the house. I hope, however, to be able to call
on you very soon. It shall be the first visit I pay.

" With the sincerest prayer for your health, and that every comfort and happiness
may attend you, Believe me, my dear Lord Eldon,

" With true esteem and affection,

"Most faithfully yours,


" The Right Hon. the Earl of Eldon, &c. &c. &c."

Parliament assembled on the 29th : and in the debate on the first

Lord Eldon gave his hearty support to the address. He expressed his hope that
under the arduous circumstances of the country, the government would not be im-
peded in their efforts to preserve the peace of Europe. It could hardly be said that
there had been an administration in the country for the last nine months. It could
hardly be said that there had been a Parliament in the country, which had either
considered, or done any thing, for the same period. Under these circumstances, it
was high time to look to the most pressing object of British interests the preserva-
tion of the peace of Europe.

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

"Jan. 30lh, 1828; (Wednesday.)
" My dearest Fan,

"I promised you yesterday a longer letter. I now discharge that promise.

"The day after the D. of W. received his majesty's commands to form an adminis-
tration, he sent me a note, informing me of that event, and telling me that he would
wait upon me. I sent an answer, saying that if he would name any time for my
waiting upon him on that or any other day, I should do so. However, on Friday, I
think a fortnight ago last Friday, he called upon me, and, after he had sat down some
time, he proceeded to state the difficulties he found himself involved in, from the
various conflicting claimants to office and, being sure that I could not be mistaken in.
what this %vas to lead to, I told him that, as I thought he was coming to make mention
of the chancellorship, I desired him not to consider me as a conflicting claimant for
that office that if they had any proper person to fill it, it was obvious, from what I
said upon the resignation of it, that I could have nothing to do with that office (indeed
no serious offer, after that, could be made of it.) No offer, therefore, was made to me
of it, and the duke left me without more said, except something of repetition as to his
difficulties about conflicting claims generally. From the moment of his quitting me,
to the appearance in the papers of all the appointments, I never saw his grace. I
had no communication with him, either personally, by note, letter, by message through
any other person, or in any manner whatever and, for the whole fortnight, I heard
no more of the matter than you did at Corfe, some of my old colleagues in office
(and much obliged to me too) passing my door constantly on their way to Apsley
House without calling upon me. Indeed, no one of them called upon me, except on
the last day but one before the settlement was in the papers; but after all was settled,
Melville called on me; but, upon this subject, his lips were not opened. In the mean
time rumour was abroad that I had refused all office: and this was most industriously
circulated, when it was found there was, as there really does appear to me to have
been, very great dissatisfaction among very important persons on my account as
neither included in office,nor at all, not in ihe least, consulted. Rumour again stated
that I was too obstinate a Tory to be consulted or included. Rumour again stated
that the interference of a lady had interposed her all-influential veto. However, there
was a degree of discontent and anger among persons of consequence, which, I sup-
pose, working together with its having been somehow communicated that I was much
hurt at this sort of treatment, brought the D. of W. to me again and the object of
his visit seemed to be to account for all this. He stated in substance that he had
found it impracticable to make any such administration as he was sure I would be


satisfied with, and, therefore, he thought he should only be giving me unnecessary
trouble in coming near me, or to that effect. I observed that I supposed that he
had not found out this impracticability at the time he came to me about the chancel-
lorship; if he had, THAT visit would have been only a visit of' unnecessary trouble.'
That with respect to its being impracticable to form an administration that I should
be satisfied with, I knew no reason, founded on any former conduct of mine, which
should have led him to conclude that I should urge impracticabilities, and that, at
any rate, it would have been not too much to expect, that during a whole fortnight,
I should (not) have been left ignorant of what was going on, and that I was not to
suppose that I had any concern* that though I should have been gratified if an offer
had been made to me of the presidentship of the council, I did not know that I should
have accepted it, and that I was sure that, if the offer had been made, and accom-
panied with an intimation that my accepting it would embarrass them with respect to
any other person, I would not have accepted it. He mentioned, as a probable proof
that I would not have fallen into his views as to the administration, that he doubted
that I did not approve it as formed. I told him he was right there, and that I thought

it a (I must not put the word in a letter, to a lady, or any body) a bad

one. We conversed together till, as it seemed to me, we both became a good deal
affected ; he mentioned some things that he proposed to my acceptance as propitiatory
not of much consequence as to which I told him I would consider of it; for I can
do nothing which can authorize the public to think that I can deem any thing that
could be proposed as compensating for undeserved neglect. I think I have given
correctly the substance of what has passed the very words it is impossible to give.
I found it likely that they were not going to restore Wetherell to the attorney-general-
ship, which he resigned nobly when we resigned, and by which step he has lost the
vice-chancellorship. The D. has sent me word that, as he understood that I wished
that Wetherell should be restored to that office, he is re-appointed. I am satisfied that
with the country all this has raised me, and, as I don't want office, I care not about
not having it. Lord Bathurst has, at length, been also with me, protesting, in the most
strong terms, against any intention of disrespect, and expressive of the greatest con-
cern that any part'of their proceedings should have hurt me. I have not the least
doubt that they have heard from some, if not from many, remonstrance upon the
seeming, if not real, ill-treatment of me, and there is, at least, something like contri-
tion on that account. With respect to the part I have begun to take and to pursue
in Parliament, it does not become me to appear angry or discontented, or to thwart
the measures of government by treating the administration, as I think of it, as not a
desirable one, at the time when I think, as I avowed last night in the House of Lords,
that a person, sincerely anxious for his country, must feel it to be his bounden duty
to interpose nothing that can delay for a moment the most active measures to secure
the peace of Europe, likely to be interrupted by the occurrences with the sultan, and
which perhaps may be secured, if the present moment is employed for that purpose,
instead of being lost in a sort of war at home about places and offices."

( February 2d, 1S2S.)

"All the newspapers seem to be employed in representing to the public, that I,
in a conversation with the duke, when he waited upon me, spontaneously waived all
office and all sort of consultation about public arrangements or matters. Nothing can
be so utterly false there is not even the semblance of truth in it but, there having
been a great deal of public feeling upon this subject, the underlings of administration
have resorted to these means of quieting it. They begin in the papers devoted to
government and in its pay, and the matter is copied into other papers. I dont't think
that what has passed has done me any harm. I have been very busy in receiving
and returning the calls of many very respectable persons, and in receiving and answer-
ing the letters of others of the same class of persons. I think those who have treated
me with apparent disrespect are very sorry for it, and as much (at Itast) hurt about
it as I have been. What is the real reason for what has happened, I know not, and
it probably neither is, nor ever will be, avowed. A lady probably has had something
to do with it. At the same time there may be something in the duke's saying that
some of my opinions had something to do with this, for nobody can read the late
speeches of Lord Palmerston and Vezey Fitzgerald, without being apprehensive that
most dangerous concessions are about to be thought of to the Catholics, such as,
shortly and surely, will shake the foundations of the Protestant Church.' 1

* Sic in orig.


" Feb. 9th, 1828.

"The character of the ministry is given very much in the same words by every-
body : ' It is better than the last, but it is not what was wished and expected. It will
be supported, but not cordially.'"

The battle of Navarino was discussed in the House of Lords on the
llth of February, when Lord Eldon made a short speech, vindicating
the conduct of the Turkish admiral.

I am an Englishman, said he, an old Englishman ; I have English habits and English
feelings; and I have no hesitation in saying, that if a Turkish or a French fleet came
close alongside an English fleet in one of our own ports, as the English, French and
Russian fleets did in the bay of Navarino, and if the commander of the English fleet
did not fight them because they came there, he would deserve to be employed no
longer. The law of England says that if one man holds his fist in the face of another,
even though he do not strike him, it is an assault; so might the advance of the com-
bined fleets be considered an assault upon the Turks.

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

(1828: probably February); House of Lords.

"I don't know whether I told you that Princess Lieven asked me, at the Duchess of
Kent's, why I was not a minister. An impertinent interrogatory ! She asked me
for a sincere answer. I told her I would give her a sincere answer. My answer
was, ' I don't know why I was not a minister ! ' "

Before the close of February, in consequence of a suggestion made
the preceding month, in a very kind letter from Lord Eldon to his
grandson, that the time was come when it would be proper for the
latter to have a residence and an establishment of his own, Lord
Encombe ceased to be an inmate of Lord Eldon's abode, and took a
house in Piccadilly, very near his grandfather.

(Lord Eldon to Mrs. H. Ridley.)

v (Franked, London, March 3d, 1828.)

" Dear Fanny,

"I am quite unable to inform you whether K., or D. of W., or P.,have received any
such communications as you inquire about. I began to think that what D. of W. said
to me (that my opinions and principles were so fixed upon certain points, that it was
somewhat impracticable to form an administration with sentiments conformable with
those opinions and principles) may be correctly true. He told me that P. would not
accept office without Huskisson; and report uniformly represents that Huskisson
would not accept office, if Lord Eldon was to be in office. This may be a clue to the
truth: for if Peel would not accept office, the D. of W., I am sure, could not form an
administration that could begin work in the Commons. But then I say we old ones
should have met Parliament out of office all of us and a very little time would have
ensured the country against that sad evil, 'a coalition ministry:' of that I have no
doubt and I am as much of an old fox in these matters as Mr. Tierney. As to office,
I would not step across the street to be placed in it on my own account. I could get
nothing by it its emoluments, as suck, are not worth my having for my pension is
larger than those of any office that I could have accepted ; and from the pension the
emoluments of office would be to be deducted. But then they might have given me
an opportunity of offering my services to the country, and relieving it from the pen-
sion, to the extent of the emoluments of office. It is not because office was not offered
me that I complain it is because those with whom I had so long acted and served
did not, candidly and unreservedly, explain themselves and their difficulties to me.
And they were not mine adversaries that did me this dishonour, but mine own familiar
friends, with whom I had, for so many years, taken sweet counsel together."

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

"March 15ih, 1823.

"The newspaper has given the public a fine paragraph, representing me as elected,
in the House of Lords, speaker, during the absence of others. I think you know I am


too proud for that. There's not a word of truth in it. I sat there, part of one morning,
to give a finish to a Scotch cause, which had formerly been heard in my time and sent
back to the Scotch courts, from which it had been now returned; and curiosity led
me to be present at another Scotch cause, in which a Scotchman says he married a
female in April, 1816, and, she having married another Scotchman in May, 1816, the
gentleman, who alleges that he was married to her in April, attending the second
marriage in compliment to the parties, attending their wedding dinner, accepting
wedding gloves, and leaving the lady in quiet possession of the new husband by
whom she has four children, and constantly associating with them, finds it conve-
nient to set up a first marriage in consequence of the lady's having become entitled to
a large fortune, with which he is desirous to take her to his own arms, leaving the
four children to the care and protection of the second husband. In this project, with
the assistance of a Scotch court, this worthy, delicate first husband, as he calls him-
self, has succeeded; and, upon the appeal to the House of Lords, I have gone to hear
it out of curiosity, and with a wish to find it possible to defeat such an iniquitous
business; but as to deputy speaker that will never be what lean submit to: my
pride, honest and reasonable I hope, is above that much.
" Postscript. Poor Reay left this world, I trust for a better, the day before yesterday."

(" Friday, March 2&h, 1828.)

"I went to the levee yesterday form requiring that ceremony at the first levee after
quitting office. The multitude there was very great the king, I thought, did not look
well he could not, or did not, stand up to receive his company, but each person passed
him sitting in a great chair; and, as it appeared to me, the ceremony between him
and 99 out of 100 of the company was no more than their merely bowing their heads
to him as they passed, and he in return bowing his head to them. It came to my turn
to pass. I thought he appeared a little of what I should call, for want of a better word,
'flustered;' he could not, I think, see that I was approaching him till I was close to
him. When I made my bow, he held out his hand to me, and shook hands with me,
and said, ' My lord, fresh air seems to have done you a great deal of good.' I then,
moved on, and that was all that passed with me at that moment or afterwards. In.
due time, Encombe, who was to be introduced, and who was most gaily and hand-
somely dressed, but had been by the multitude well squeezed, to the detriment and
injury of his laced ruffles, and whom the pressure of the company had made not a
little hot, arrived towards the king, and the Marquis of Winchester having announced
him, he kissed hands, and was moving off", when the king, recollecting him, as he was
withdrawing with his face towards his majesty, as the usage is, nodded to him with
apparent earnestness, and as well as I could hear, asked very kindly how he was, and
obviously meant to show him attention and kindness. And so ends my account of
the ceremonials of the day, upon which I forbear comment."

(April, 1828.)

"I suppose the Dissenters' Bill will pass the Commons to-day,* and be brought up
to the House of Lords, where, I presume, we shall not debate it till after the holidays.
We, who oppose, shall be in but a wretched minority, though the individuals who
compose it will, as to several, I think, be of the most respectable class of peers: but
the administration have to iheir shame, be it said got the archbishops and most of
the bishops to support this revolutionary bill. I voted as long ago as in the years, I
think, 1787, 1789 and 1790, against a similar measure; Lord North and Pitt opposing
it as destructive of the church establishment Dr. Priestley, a dissenting minister,
then asserting that he had laid a train of gunpowder under the church which would
blow it up; and Dr. Price, another dissenting minister, blessing God that he could
depart in peace, as the revolution in France would lead here to the destruction of all
union between church and state. The young men and lads in the House of Commons
are too young to remember these things. From 1790 to 1827, many and various have
been the attempts to relieve the Catholics, but through those thirty-seven years nobody
has thought, and evinced that thought, of proposing such a bill as this in Parliament,
as necessary or fit as between the church and the Dissenters. Canning, last year,
positively declared that he would oppose it altogether."

(April, 1828.)

" Bessy having acted the part of secretary yesterday, and a lady, filling that cha-
racter, seldom failing to fill the letter she writes with all that can occur to her as good

* The bill for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts.


matter for correspondence and communication, the incidents of the world since yes-
terday can leave me nothing to add as to news or occurrences that can be unknown
to you.


" The Dissenters' Bill is to be debated in the House of Lords on the 17th, we, who
oppose, shall fight respectably and honourably; but victory cannot be ours. All the
Whig lords will be against us: as government began in the Commons by opposition
and then ran away like a parcel of cowards, I suppose government also will be against
us; but what is most calamitous of all is, that the archbishops and several bishops
are also against us. What they can mean, they best know, for nobody else can tell
and sooner or later, perhaps in this very year almost certainly in the next, the
concessions to the Dissenters must be followed by the like concessions to the Roman
Catholics. That seems unavoidable, though, at present, the policy is to conceal this
additional purpose. But I musi weary you on this subject."

"Saturday, April 12ih, 1828.

" We, as we think ourselves, sincere friends of the Church of England, mean to
fight, as well as we can, on Thursday next, against this most shameful bill in favour
of the Dissenters, which has been sent up to us from the Commons a bill, which
Peel's declaration in the House as to the probability of its passing in the Lords, has
made it impossible to resist with effect. As the bill is constructed, it operates not
merely for Protestant Dissenters, but, unless the language of it can be materially
altered in the Lords' House, it appears to me to be equally favourable to Roman Ca-
tholics, Deists, Infidels, Turks, Atheists. How the bishops can have overlooked its
extensive and deplorable effects, is to me the most strange thing possible. If the Lords
won't, at least, alter it, which I don't believe they will, I don't see how, if the Com-
mons act consistently with themselves, Sir F. Burdett can fail in his motion on the
29th, in favour of the Roman Catholics. The state of minds and feelings in the Tory
part and aristocratical part, of the friends of Liverpool's administration, is, at present,
excessively feverish, and they support ministers, because they know not where to
look for others. It's obvious that the ministers, who were Canning's followers, to use
a vulgar phrase, rule the roast, or at least have too much influence."

The acquiescence of a portion of the episcopal bench, in the repeal
of the Test and Corporation Acts, was so annoying to Lord Eldon,
that he manifested some asperity on that subject when the bill was
passing through the House of Lords. The first discussion there took
place on the 17th of April, when Lord Holland, who had the conduct
of the bill, moved the second reading of it. Neither in that, nor in
any subsequent stage, was there any division upon the principle of the
bill, the opponents of that principle composing too small a minority
to allow with prudence a precise exhibition of their numbers; but
the debates were long and earnest, and many attempts were made,
and divisions taken, in the committee and on the report, (though with
little success,) to modify the measure by amendments. On the second

Lord Eldon condemned the measure as a sacrifice of the substantial securities of the
Church of England to the principle of supposed expediency, declared in the preamble.
The principle of expediency was a low ground of legislation. That church, he con-
tended, was not an establishment erected for mere purposes of convenience, but was
essentially and inseparably connected with part of the state. The sacramental test,
for which it was now proposed to substitute a mere declaration, was well calculated
to maintain that connection; and it was in vain to talk of substituting for that test,
any other provision, if the provision to be so substituted was of inferior efficacy. The
constitution required that the Church of England should be supported; and the best
way of affording that support to her was to admit only her own members to offices of
trust and emolument. Their lordships should take care that they did not put those
asunder whom the constitution had joined together. The petitions in favour of this bill
were generally expressive of hostility, not only to the imposition of tests, but to the
Established Church itself. In the reign of George II., a series of indemnity acts had


been passed, and it was now represented as an inconsistency to have gone on passing
indemnity acts year after year, instead of at once abolishing the law which they were
intended to suspend; but he considered those annual indemnities as so many recogni-
tions of the principle of the Test and Corporation Acts, as so many declarations of
Parliament that they were acts which ought not to be repealed. He could not consent,
then, thus to give up the church and the constitution together. He could not do this : it
must be the work of others: be they within or without the church, it mattered not to
him. His prayer to God was, that the individuals who promoted this measure might
have afterwards the satisfaction of thinking, that as they had intended no mischief to
the church, no mischief had ensued. But at the same time that he gave them credit
for sincerity, he claimed a similar allowance for himself when he solemnly said, as
he then did from his heart and soul, " Not content" to the present bill.

Another debate took place, April 21, on the order of the day for
going into committee. On this occasion,

Lord Eldon, in arguing that the existing securities were part of the British consti-
tution, relied upon the establishment of analogous tests in Scotland, where it was a
condition of office that the Confession of Faith should be subscribed. The Act of
Union had provided that the Church of England should be inviolably preserved; and
that was not merely a simple declaration, nor confined to the laws therein specifically

Online LibraryHorace TwissThe public and private life of Lord Chancellor Eldon, with selections from his correspondence (Volume 2) → online text (page 29 of 65)