Horace Twiss.

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

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mentioned, but it was a declaration that all and singular acts then in force, not mere-
ly for the preservation of the doctrines, worship, discipline and government of the
church, but for the preservation of the church itself, should remain and be in full force
for ever. He admitted that no legislator could legislate inviolably for posterity; but
still posterity ought not, without ample reasons, to legislate against laws which two
contracting nations had laid down as fundamental. The king himself was included
in these constitutional obligations; and when reference was made to the thousand
petitions on their lordships' table, he knew, though he would not say, in what way
they had been obtained, stating that it was a degradation to any man, and against
all true principles of government, to have such tests, their lordships, he hoped, would
let him remind them, that his majesty was obliged to take the sacrament; and, before
he began to exercise the royal functions, was obliged to submit to that which those
petitions stated to be a degradation. Why did their lordships impose it upon the king
if they considered it improper to subject persons to it who filled inferior offices? His
opinion was, that the Church of England, combined with the state, formed together
the constitution of Great Britain, and that the Test and Corporation Acts were neces-
sary to the preservation of that constitution. His noble friends said, it was time
enough, when any danger to the constitution arose, to legislate for that danger; but
he could never agree to that doctrine: he would rather rest the safety of the constitu-
tion on those securities with which it was at present surrounded, than run any risks
on the chance of future legislation. He therefore entreated those who were the guard-
ians of the church, to pause before they allowed herlo be stripped of these safeguards,
by which she had been so long protected; lest those miseries, from which she had
so happily been rescued, should return, in which case they would have to look again
to the restoration of the constitution such as it was established in the time of Charles
II., and look, perhaps, for such restoration in vain.

In committee, on the same day, he moved amendments, upon which
there arose some altercation between him and the then Bishop of
Chester, Dr. Blomfield, respecting the consistency of each. The prin-
cipal of these amendments, which went to substitute an oath for the
proposed declaration, was negatived by a majority of 100 against 32.
On the report, 24th April, he moved another amendment for intro-
ducing into the preamble some words declaring all the acts for the
establishment and maintenance of the Protestant religion, "to be in
full force for ever." The object of this amendment was to prevent
the Roman Catholics from deriving from the bill any argument for the
repeal of their disabilities. It was considered, on the other hand,
that such a declaration would go to prejudice the question of such a
repeal; and as the general feeling was that the claims of the Roman


Catholics ought neither to be damaged nor to be promoted by the
present measure, the amendment was rejected. The majority was
71 against 40. The further consideration of the report being ad-
journed to the following day, Lord Eldon attempted other amend-
ments with a similar object. Some of these he allowed to be nega-
tived without a division; but he pressed the principal one, which
proposed to insert, in the declaration, the words " I am a Protestant."

In enforcing his argument for this insertion, he defended himself against the impu-
tation made upon him by the lord chancellor, of having exercised his talents, his
powers and his zeal in a mischievous manner upon this bill. He trusted that he had
too long engaged the attention of noble lords in that House, not to receive from them
a patient hearing, while he replied to such a charge, coming from such a place, and
such an authority. He had served the country to the best of his abililies; he had
endeavoured to be a useful servant to the country; and, if he were now engaged in
any thing calculated to be mischievous to the interests of the public, he prayed to God
that he might be forgiven; but he solemnly declared his belief that he could never be
engaged in any thing so mischievous as the forwarding of this measure. He was well
aware of the fate of the amendment which he now proposed; but such was his con-
viction of the evil consequences to be apprehended from this bill in its present form,
that, if he stood alone, he would go below the bar and give his vote against it; and
were he called that night to render his account before Heaven, he would go with the
consoling reflection that he had never advocated any thing mischievous to his country.
He cast back the imputation which had been sought to be thrown upon his conduct
by the noble lord on the woolsack, with all the scorn of a man who felt himself in-
jured. The clergy and the members of the establishment in general had been praised
Tor having abstained from petitioning against this bill. He did not know that this
was fit matter of eulogium. If restless activity on the one side was to be met by dor-
mant apathy on the other, let the consequences rest on those who neglected to exert
themselves. No man could entertain a higher respect than he did for the Bench of
Bishops; but they must pardon him for saying that the support which was given by
some of them to this measure was not in his opinion calculated to strengthen the
Established Church.

The House divided upon Lord Eldon's main proposal for inserting
the words " I am a Protestant," and rejected it by 117 against 55.

On the third reading, 28th April, Lord Eldon renewed his attempts
to modify the bill. He said,

That if the British Parliament were to legislate on this principle, that a state had
no right to inquire into the religious feelings of a man before he was admitted a mem-
ber of a governing community, there would be an end to the foundation on which the
constitution of this country rested. He considered this declaration quite insufficient;
because any man who took office might say, he was not doing any thing " by virtue of
his office" to overturn the Established Church ; what he did would be by virtue of his
conscience, and its dictates would lead him to do every thing in his power to overturn
the ecclesiastical establishment to which he was opposed.

In a further stage of the debate,

He explained that he had never desired to retain the sacramental test, if any other
equivalent security could be substituted.

He renewed, on the same evening, his former motion to introduce
the words " I am a Protestant," which was negatived by a majority
of 154 against 52.

After some further discussion, the bill passed, and is now the sta-
tute 9 Geo. 4. c. 17. Lord Eldon, maintaining his principles to the last,
availed himself of his privilege to enter against it a protest, which was
signed by the Duke of Cumberland and nine other peers, Lord Eldon
included, and stands upon the Journal of the 28th of April, 1828.

71 r i


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

(Franked April 30th, 1823.)

"I am hurt, distressed and fatigued, by what has lately been passing in the House
of Lords. I hope reflection may enable me, but I fear I cannot reasonably hope that
it ever will, to account rationally for the conduct of the bishops. It is not rationally
accounting for it to say that they were afraid that something worse would happen if
they did not agree to this measure: fear and timidity produce, in state matters, the
very consequences which they are alarmed about. In Charles I.'s time, Mr. Hyde,
afterwards Lord Clarendon, expressed his astonishment to the virtuous Falkland, that
he could give a particular vote against the church. The answer was, in the very lan-
guage of this day, indulge the enemies of the church in this vote, and they will ask
no more. Such is the very talk.the foolish talk, of this day. The historian observes,
that after this was granted, every thing more was asked that could be asked, and
though Falkland had also said that the friends of the establishment would success-
fully oppose every thing more that was asked, they durst not venture opposition to
any one further demand of the discontented.* History is written for our instruction;
but we may as well not trouble ourselves with reading the pages of history. * * * *
I have fought like a lion, but my talons have been cut off."

Lord Encombe took his Bachelor's degree on the 30th of April.
Early in 1835, a few months after his first entrance at the university,
Lord Eldon, in a letter addressed to Mrs. Farrer, on the question of
his grandson's claim to graduate as a nobleman, had written thus :

" When, upon the fourth offer of an earldom, I accepted it, it became a matter of
great nicety to find out that a grandson was entitled by courtesy to the use of the
second title, a claim which some persons, conversant in heraldry, absolutely denied,
but whose opinions were overruled by the force of about two precedents. Yet these
things are very whimsically arranged: for though such is the case with respect to
the courtesy, tables of precedence in general give no place to an earl's grandson, and
therefore giving place as they do, to an earl's son, place the son in a degree of
precedence to the grandson who is not named, though the grandson is the heir-appa-

There being some anomalies of this kind, at Oxford, still uncor-
rected when Lord Encombe took his degree, he was precluded from
the privilege now incident to his rank. "Although," says he, " I
had been desired, when an under-graduate, to wear the nobleman's
dress, I was not allowed to take my degree earlier than the usual
course. Individually, I was very well pleased to stay at Oxford the
full time, but the authorities there, admitting the statute to be faulty,
altered it as soon as I had taken my degree, though very properly not
sooner, lest they should be said to show undue favour to the grand-
son of the lord chancellor, their own high steward."

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

(May 3d, 1828.)

"The Commons last night agreed to the amendments made in the Dissenters' Bill
in the House of Lords; and the bill is to receive the royal assent, it is said, on Tues-
day. The amendments in the House of Lords that were carried were poor things
all that were good and necessary for the maintenance of the church and state were
negatived. So that the bill is, in my poor judgment, as bad, as mischievous, and as
revolutionary, as the most captious Dissenter would wish it to be.

" John writes from Oxford that he has the honour to be a Bachelor; and Lady Lon-
donderry has obtained him a place at Almack's, which I anxiously hope may, neither
oo soon nor improvidently, convert him out o/the character of bachelor; but I must
read him a quiet cautionary lecture upon the arts of the world."

Lord Clarendon: History, (8vo. Oxford, 1707,) Vol. I. 235429.; II. 356. Life,
(8vo. Oxford, 1759,) Vol. I. 101.


"April 19th, 1828.

"Amidst all our political difficulties and miseries, the generality of folks here direct
their attention to nothing but meditations and controversies about the face and figure,
and voice of the new lady who is come over here to excite raptures and encores at
the Opera-house, viz., Madame Sontag. Hardly any other subject is touched upon
in conversation, and all the attention due to church and stale is withdrawn from
both, and bestowed on this same Madame Sontag. Her face is somewhat too square
for a beauty, and this sad circumstance distresses the body of fashionables ex-
tremely !"

(May 15th, 1828.)

"This is Ascension day. Sixty-two years ago, I left Newcastle school on this day
and set out for Oxford. That was, as the Scotch say, 'Auld lang syne.' I am better in
health now than I was then, notwithstanding all the toils and troubles I have gone
through praised be God !"

(May 17th or 19th, 1828.)

"The Duchess of Gordon writes to me thus: ' I cannot say how much enchanted
I was with Encombe; the view from the West Point, to the extremity of which Mr.
Calcraft conducted me in his tandem, is almost magnificent.'

"John, the dancer, is grown an amateur entirely of the employment, which it was
but a little while ago that he spoke of with contempt, if not with disgust. He is a
constant attendant at Almack's, and figures away in the dance always. He retains
his entire want of the fashionable affectation of an inordinate love of music. The
Sontags and the Pastas have no charms for him."

(May, 1828.)

"The Wellesley children's case is going on in the House, where the first counsel
upon the appeal has employed four days at about the rate of six hours a day, to prove
the decision wrong. I take no part in the matter, the appeal being from myself, and
I think it more decorous to leave it entirely to others, who may do what they think
best. I can't alter my opinion. The lawyers, who attend this rehearing as judges,
are Lords Manners, Redesdale and Lyndhurst.

"I have letters from all parts, day by day, of thanks for the stand I made against
the Dissenters' Bill, and of lamentation about the event, and of severe remarks, more
so than one would wish, against the bench. It was curious to hear some of the
bishops professing that they supported the bill because the petitions spoke the sense
of the people. Now the petitions of the Dissenters certainly were very numerous. I
believe I may say thousands. The petitions on the other side were not twenty the
friend.s of the establishment were all asleep : but what was it that the petitions, which
are to be considered as speaking the sense of the people, proceeded upon ? Nothing
less than that there should be no establishment of religion at all, but that all sects
should take their chance; and those of the bench, who supported the bill, could not
possibly have readlhe petitions, which they said contained the sense of the people, and
could only have seen the outsides of them.

"The Duchess of Kent, who is remarkably civil, has sent me an invitation to dine
at Kensington Palace on the 28th, which I can't accept, because it is Pitt's birthday."

On the 28th, Lord Eldon accordingly attended the anniversary
meeting, for the sake of which he had declined the royal invitation,
and was accompanied thither, for the first time, by Lord Encombe.
After dinner, he stated the reasons for which he considered it his
duty to attend those commemorations of Mr. Pitt as long as life and
strength were continued to him.

"In the first place," he said, "personal gratitude to the great man, whose memory
and principles the Club was intended to commemorate, had influenced his mind. In
the next place, judging not as a mere individual, but as a member of that great soci-
ety in which they were all enrolled, he felt it to be his duty to endeavour to main-
tain the principles, from the operation of which the country had derived such essential
benefits. But a still more important reason had determined him in forming the reso-
lution he had adopted. He regarded meetings of that sort meetings which paid an
honourable homage to patriotic exertions and superior virtue as calculated to work
a great public good. They were not only a just tribute to pre-eminent services, but
they roused the emulation of young men (who, perhaps, but for them would have re-


mained in ignorance upon the subject), when they witnessed such noble and generous
scenes as some had witnessed that day perhaps lor the first time. He would ask, was
it possible for any one, possessed of generous feelings, to be present on such an occa-
sion, to see the fervent manner in which the remembrance of the services, and the
genius, anil the lofty virtues of the illustrious deceased were held, and not be better
from witnessing such a scene? If called upon to discharge a public duty, would he
not proceed to it with increased vigour, and a determination to emulate, in as far as
possible, the conduct of that great man, whose name would descend from generation
to generation, he most sincerely hoped, as long as England should exist?"

In the course of this month, some differences had arisen among the
ministers about the disposal of the franchise forfeited by the borough
of East Retford. This led to the retirement of Mr. Huskisson, Lord
Palmerston, Lord Dudley, Mr. Grant and Mr. W. Lamb, afterwards
Lord Melbourne, who were respectively succeeded by Sir George
Murray, Sir Henry Hardinge, Lord Aberdeen, Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald,
and Lord Francis Egerton.

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

(May 29ih or 30th, 1828.)

"The minister will have great difficulties to struggle with. The Whigs, the Can-
ningiles and the Huskissonites, will join and be very strong. With the exception of
Lord Lonsdale, the great Tory parliamentary lords are not propitiated by the new
arrangements, and many of them will eiiher be neuter or adverse."

A resolution in favour of the Roman Catholic claims was proposed
to the House of Lords by the Marquis of Lansdowne, on the 9th of
June. The debate was adjourned to the 10th: and Lord Plunkett
having then spoken in support of the motion,

Lord Eldon rose. He said that when, some years since, it was proposed in that
House to enter upon the general consideration of the question, in consequence of a
petition from the Roman Catholics, on a motion not very much unlike what was now
proposed, the House thought proper to negative the proposition, on this ground ex.-
pressly that it would have the effect, perhaps, of unnecessarily alarming the Protest-
ant part of the community, and perhaps also of raising the expectations, without its
being in the power of Parliament to gratify the wishes, of the Roman Catholics. He
objected to enter into the consideration of any proposition so general in its terms as
the present. He was reluctant to fatigue their lordships with going over the historical
detail of the acts that had been passed for the exclusion of the Roman Catholics. He
had been represented somewhere or oiher as if he was an almanack-maker, because
he followed this course. But no less a man than Lord Bacon, when he was addressing
his sovereign, with respect to a Spanish, or some other war, had concluded his obser-
vations by saying, that he was afraid he should be taken for an almanack-maker. As
it was necessary, for the due information of the House, that he should re->tate those
facts, he would hazard the risk of being again taken for an almanack-maker, when
he had Lord Bacon to share the honour with him. He should now proceed to observe
upon the manner in which the disabilities had been imposed, and the circumstances
which gave rise to them. In the reign of Henry VIII., a great many acts were passed
to deprive the See of Rome of any jurisdiction in these realms. In the reign of his
daughter, Queen Mary, a great many acts had also been passed on the same subject,
but with a different purpose, for their object was to give the Pope of Rome a temporal
jurisdiction in many important matters in this country. On the accession of Queen
Elizabeth, a different spirit prevailed ; and by one act of the earliest part of her reign,
twenty-one of the statutes last alluded to were repealed, the object of which repeal
was staled expressly to be, to relieve her majesty's subjects from the cruel bondage
in which they had been placed by the acts passed in the reign of Philip and Mary.
Their lordships might, when they went home, have the curiosity to look into these
acts, and they would find, that, in many instances, the See of Rome was allowed by
them to exercise a direct authority in spiritual matters, and in matters of a mixed
spiritual and temporal nature, or, as it was then called, in ordine ad spiriluale. More
degrading and humiliating legislative measures had never been recorded in the annals
of any kingdom. It was afterwards enacted, that no member should be admitted to


take his seat in the House of Commons until he had taken the oaths, not only of
allegiance, but of supremacy also. Lawyers, such as myself, whether they were
considered, as a right rev. prelate had called them " book-read blockheads," or as
blockheads without book-reading, were apt to take their information from such books
as they were compelled to read. In one of those books, a work of Lord Hale's, there
was something on this point which was singularly illustrated and corroborated by
what Dr. Doyle had said in his evidence before their lordships. When asked if, by
virtue of his oath, he should feel himself obliged to disclose to his sovereign any trea-
sons committed, or about to be committed, which had been revealed to him in con-
fession, he said, "No: it was true that the words of his oath required him to do so,
but every body knew that the Roman Catholic clergy did not think it their duty to
disclose what was revealed to them in confession." So that he proved, beyond ques-
tion, that the words of the oath did not hurt him, but only helped to show how much
of what he swore to he was bound by. Lord Hale's observations were on the same
subject. He said, the Pope of Rome, in order to increase his power in this kingdom,
took a subtle distinction between what was spiritual and what was temporal in ordine
ad spirituale, and he added, that the Oath of Supremacy was framed in order to meet
this difficulty. As this, however, was found insufficient, the declaration against tran-
substantiation was resorted to, because, until the character of an individual could be
got at, it was impossible to know by how much of the oath he swore to he was bound.
In the course of this debate, a noble lord had alluded to the necessary rejection of the
Duke of Norfolk on account of his faith, should he present himself to that House to
assume the right of his ancestors. With respect to himself individually, he could
only say, that a more painful duty than that suggested could not by possibility have
been imposed on him, while he had the honour of a seat upon the woolsack. But, if
the sovereign himself should appear there without having previously taken the oaths
and the declaration against transubstantiation as required by law, he should be con-
strained to inform him, that he was ipso facto incapacitated from discharging the
constitutional functions of king. Touching the Coronation Oath, he would say, if in
this Protestant state and kingdom for such the acts of Parliament warranted him in
calling it his majesty should think that, consistently with his duty, he could not give
his consent to bills for the relief of the Roman Catholics, he would be under as solemn
an obligation as any man could ever be placed under to refuse that consent, although
those bills should have passed both Houses. It was worthy of notice, that the act
which set forth the unconstitutional attempts of James II., previous to his abdication,
did not merely declare that he had sought to subvert the laws and constitution of this
country, but that he had endeavoured to subvert the Protestant religion, and the Pro-
testant government of the state. When the act of settlement was passed, it was
required that the king should be in the communion of the Church of England, and not
be united in marriage to a member of the Roman Catholic religion. They had, there-
fore, a king upon the throne who was obliged to be in communion with the church,
to make the declaration against transubslantiation, and to fulfil all those other duties
which the Parliament thought fit to impose. From that time to the present day, the
constitution, in all its branches, had been essentially Protestant. The Act of Union
with Scotland was founded on the same principle, and the Scotch act on this subject
actually went the length of declaring, that Roman Catholics should neither be electors
nor elected, in the representation of the kingdom. They had, therefore, the Act of
Settlement, the Bill of Rights, and all subsequent acts, the fundamental laws of the
kingdom, which declared it impossible that Catholics should be admitted to power.
In the course of the debate, a great deal had been said about securities; but they
should recollect, that the proposition they had now to discuss did not, in the remotest
degree, allude to that important topic. Their lordships undoubtedly had authority
to guard the church in the same manner as it was at present guarded; it was com-
petent to them to secure it with still stronger protection; but they had no authority
to plunge the country into a state into which it had never before been plunged, and

Online LibraryHorace TwissThe public and private life of Lord Chancellor Eldon, with selections from his correspondence (Volume 2) → online text (page 30 of 65)