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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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subjects arm, and tell their sovereign what laws he shall give them, in trulh, they
depose him. The moneyed folks here are in consternation the funds falling."

(Lord Eldon to Lord Stowell.} (Extract.)

(Michalemas day, 1830.)

"I hear the condescensions of the K. are beginning to make him unpopular. In
that station, such familiarity must produce the destruction of respect. If the people
don't continue to think a king somewhat more than a man, they will soon find out that
he is not an object of that high respect which is absolutely necessary to the utility
of his character.

" That varlet Talleyrand is here. I am told that he is a very singular figure. The
people stare at him and speak evil of him but not more, or so bad as he deserves."

( Lord Eldon to Lord Stowell.')

" Monday, October llth, 1830.

" Dear Brother,

"Like you, I am influenced by the effect of the habit of scribbling: for, in truth, no
matter occurs to me, that would lead me to write for the sake of stating it. I see no-
body I seldom, very seldom, hardly ever, stir out, except to bear Lady Eldon com-
pany in the coach when she goes out. I don't believe that since you have been
absent, I have taken a walk half a dozen times, and I don't recollect to have con-
versed in those few walks with a single person, not meeting any I knew. Very few,
some who are accidentally in town for a day or two, call upon me. I have lived,
therefore, in solitude, and I fear my letters could give you no amusement, though I
trust, as marks of my most hearty affection, you kindly receive them. Of foreign
news, I know only what I read, and what therefore you must read, in print, as well
as myself. I hope that your health will have received material improvement from
country air. What is the latest day when you come to town ? nobody shall learn it
from me. Report insists that a negotiation is going on between ministers and
Palmerston and Co. I incline to believe it: I hear that it is also reported, that a
pledge has been given, that there shall be a partial parliamentary reform, and some
kind of a parliamentary measure about tithes. I have heard also that there is likely
to be a reduction in the civil list. This may be all true, or there may be no truth in
it. I incline to believe that important parts of it are true.

"I would willingly hope that I am not too sanguine, when I say that I think Lady
Eldon's health is somewhat improved. She sends her love to you. The noise about
my ears is very uncomfortable, the sensation, that of boiling water on each side of
me, and this is always a-going. Ever affectionately yours,

The rumour that any pledge had been given or any expectation
held out, by the government, of any step toward parliamentary reform,
was utterly unfounded. But there seems to have been very good
ground for the belief, intimated in the foregoing letter, that Lord
Palmerston had become impressed with the necessity of a change in
the representation : for it was at that time understood among his friends


that he would not entertain the proposal which this letter mentions as
having been made to him for a junction with the then ministers, unless
their cabinet were to include some members of that party which was
avowedly favourable to reform. Now it is obvious that the aid of
Lord Palmerston's great talents in debate and long experience in
office, must have been highly desirable to ministers, and especially at
this anxious crisis of political party ; yet did they forego that import-
ant advantage in their very hour of need, rather than swerve from
their fixed opinions on the momentous subject of the constitution of
Parliament. There seems, therefore, to have been as little foundation
for the charge against the cabinet of a disposition to truckle on the
reform question, as for the vulgar imputation upon Lord Palmerston,
of having been first won over to the cause of reform by the offer of
the foreign secretaryship in the subsequent ministry of Earl Grey.

The session of Parliament was opened on the 2d of November,
1830. All things continued unpropitious to the government: the
disturbed state of the continental nations, particularly France the
consequent excitement among the middle classes in England, espe-
cially in the towns and the extensive destruction of property by
incendiaries in the rural districts. In this state of circumstances,
when the king's civil list was submitted to the House of Commons on
the 15th of November, the government were defeated by a majority
composed of the co-operating, though not expressly confederated,
forces of the Whigs and of the extreme Tories. This reverse, at the
opening of a new Parliament and of a new reign, decided the minis-
ters at once to give in their resignations : which were publicly an-
nounced on the following day.

Earl Grey was the person authorized to form the new administration :
and he endeavoured to strengthen it from all quarters. Of the old Tory
section, the Duke of Richmond alone consented to join his cabinet:
the other leading members of the Anti-Catholic party declined to profit
by the victory which they had assisted to obtain. The cabinet offices,
therefore, were distributed as follows:

Earl Grey, first lord of the treasury : Mr. Brougham, then created
Lord Brougham and Vaux, lord chancellor: Lord Althorp, chancellor
of the Exchequer, leading the House of Commons ; Lords Melbourne,
Palmerston and Goderich, secretaries respectively for the home, the
foreign, and the colonial departments: Lord Lansdowne, president of
the council: Lord Durham, privy seal : Sir James Graham, first lord
of the admiralty : Mr. C. Grant, president of the Board of Control :
Lord Auckland, president of the Board of Trade : Lord Holland, chan-
cellor of the duchy of Lancaster : the Duke of Richmond, postmaster-
general. Lord Carlisle had a seat in the cabinet without office : Lord
Stanley was secretary for Ireland, and Lord John Russell, paymaster
of the forces, without seats in the cabinet.

What part Mr. Huskisson would have taken in the movements of
the session and of the ministry, can be matter only of conjecture: a
fatal accident from a train of carriages upon the Manchester and
Liverpool railway having, in the preceding September, deprived his
country of that sound and sagacious statesman.



House of Lords: appointment of magistrates : distress of the country. First Reform
Bill: letters of Lord Eldon to Lady F. J. Bankes and to Lord Stowell. Pitt Club.
Vauxhall School: Letter from Prince George, of Cumberland, to Lord Eldon.
New Parliament: Scotch divorces. Death of Lady Eldon: letters of Lord Eldon
to Lord Stowell, of the Duke of Cumberland to Lord Encombe and of the Bishop
of Bristol to Lord Eldon: consecration of burial ground at Kingston by the bishop.
Lord Eldon's return to public business: Chancellor's absence from the House of
Lords. Second Reform Bill: letters from Lord Eldon to Lord Stowell. Visit of
Lord Eldon to the burial-place of his wife: letters from him to Lord Stowell.
Coronation of William IV. Approaching marriage of Lord Encombe. Produc-
tion of opinions of law officers. Bankruptcy Court Bill: letter from Lord Eldon
to Lord Brougham upon the patronage of the great seal. Petitions to the House
of Lords on the Reform Bill. Chancellor's absences. Letters from Lord Eldon to
Lord Feversham and Lord Encombe: marriage of Lord Encombe. Debates on
the Reform Bill: letters to Lord Stowell: rejection of the bill: letters of Lord
Eldon to Lady F. J. Bankes and Lord Stowell. Disturbances in Dorsetshire : ill
health and uneasy feelings of Lord Eldon: threatened attack on Encombe: letters
to Lord Stowell.

LORD BROUGHAM, on the 29th of November, 1830, a few days after
his accession to the great seal, suggested in the House of Lords that
the lords lieutenants of counties would do well to recommend some
additional magistrates for the commission of the peace : in default
whereof he must himself, he said, make some such additions.

Lord Eldon observed that the chancellor had clearly the right to determine who
should and who should not be justices of the peace. He had himself been greatly
indebted to the lords lieutenants of counties for their recommendations to him of
proper persons for the magistracy: since a chancellor did not usually possess, without
such assistance, that knowledge of individuals which was necessary to a due exer-
cise of his discretionary powers. He had taken care, however, that no lord lieu-
tenant should strike out from the commission any magistrate once in it. The only
case, indeed, in which any such attempt had been made, if he recollected rightly, was
when the late Bishop Barrington had sought to strike out an individual: and against
that he had interfered, because he thought that none but the chancellor ought to have
this power.

On the 9th of December, Lord Eldon supported a motion of Lord
Wynford for a committee on the distress of the country. The Earl of
Radnor having pronounced a sweeping condemnation of the course
pursued by the governments of this country for the fifty years pre-

Lord Eldon begged to say it was among the greatest of his consolations in a retro-
spect of his political life, that he had always maintained principles the reverse of the
noble earl's.


Both Houses having adjourned before Christmas, reassembled in
February. Then approached that remarkable period of our history,
when the greatest revolution which it records was stirred up and
carried through, not by a mob or a soldiery, but by the constituted
guardians of the state, the ministers of the crown itself; a revolution
too, not aiming at the mere change of a despot or even of a dynasty,
but dissolving the entire frame of the British Constitution.

The Catholic emancipation had riven the Conservative body asun-
der: and through that chasm, the Reform Bill forced its way. It wa
on the 1st of March, that Lord John Russell propounded the original
scheme of it to the House of Commons. The project appeared, to
most of his hearers on that night, too extravagant to have been
intended seriously ; and it was a pretty general opinion in the House,
that the Whigs, having little hope of retaining office themselves, had
started this invention with a view of so unsettling the popular mind
as to make the government untenable by any other ministers. But
when, on the following day, the public learned through the news-
papers what it was that the king's servants were willing to do, and
the king to sanction, it became instantly obvious that nothing was
too excessive for the appetite of the time. The whole country took
fire at once. The working people expected that they were to change
places with their employers. The middle classes believed that by
breaking down the parliamentary influence of the peers, they should
get the governing power of the state into their own hands. And the
ministers, the contrivers of the design, persuaded themselves that the
people, out of sheer gratitude, would make the rule of the Whigs
perpetual. If, to all these interested hopes, we add the jealousy of
the vulgar at all privileges not shared by themselves, the resentment
of the majority of the nation at the disregard of their sentiments
respecting the Roman Catholic Bill and the superficial notion that
the direct representation of numbers is the principle of the elective
franchise, we shall have a tolerably correct conception of the mo-
tives of a revolution which has come already to be scouted by all
classes of the state, which, while it has trebled the corruption of the
electors, has debased the tone and character of the House of Commons,
which, by shutting the doors of Parliament against the variety of
interests and intelligences formerly returned through the close boroughs
irrespectively of local connection, has resolved all other objects into
a fierce engrossing struggle between the only two forces now left in
the representation, the land and the towns, which has narrowed the
sovereign's choice of the public servants in the parliamentary offices
of state, to the very small circle of the persons having seats at their
own command, which has wasted weeks and months of each session
in harangues delivered for no other purpose than to show the mob-
constituencies that their members are astir, which has choked the
progress of all practical business, and left still unsolved, after twelve
years of trial, the great problem propounded by the Duke of Welling-
ton in the House of Peers, " But, my lords, how is the king's govern-
ment to be carried on ?"

VOL. II. 16


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

"3d March, 1831.

"There is no describing the amazement this plan of reform, which, before this
time you will have read in your paper, has occasioned. There are divers opinions,
whether it will or not pass the Commons. Generally it is thought that it cannot;
but what the result of the operation of fear of the consequences that will follow, in
the minds of revolutionary men, if it does not pass, and of fear, in the minds of
sober-minded men, if it does pass, there is no saying."

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

"Thursday morning, (10th March, 1831.)

"The system of threatening persons, who don't vote for reform, is carried to a
shocking length. Whether the members of the legislature have nerves to with-
stand it, is very doubtful."

The first reading was permitted to pass without a division ; the
second was carried by a majority of one. The struggle was then
suspended for a short time, by the intervention of the Easter holidays.
During this interval, Lord Eldon addressed to Lord Stowell the two
letters, of which extracts follow :

(April, 1331.)
" Dear Brother,

" I shall be glad if I am able, by my notes, to give you either information which
may amuse you, or acquaint you with what you cannot find in your newspapers. At
present, however, that is impossible; for, though Parliament begins to sit again next
week, and, to save the country, the present week ought to be spent in making
arrangements to defeat the mischievous projects now on foot, every person, whose
counsels and co-operations would be of use for that most pressing and desirable
object, are gone out of town to amuse themselves during the Easter holidays, with as
little concern about public affairs as if we lived in the happiest moments that old
England ever knew.

"All will be lost by the confidence with which people act, and with which they
persuade themselves that all will be safe. Our friend Lord Sidmouth, on the day in
which the second reading of the bill was carried, spoke to me of the majority, by
which it would undoubtedly be lost and negatived. And now, the few, very few
individuals here whom I see, speak of the rejection of the bill, as if it was certainly
to be rejected, though no two persons agree as to what shall be the course of measures
by which its rejection can be accomplished. The folly with which people act is
inconceivably provoking.

"The members for counties, will, some, keep silence many, vote against rejecting
the Reform they are afraid of losing their seats they have not the sense to see,
that, if the measure is carried, they must lose their consequence, their rank, and,
most assuredly, their property.

"You will have observed that the minister, who says that he will stand or fall by
his measure, that he will brave consequences, has gone the length of stating that
the connection between England and Ireland may be preserved and be as equally
useful to both, if these are different church establishments, as if there were the same
church establishments in. the two islands in one Protestant, in the other Roman,

"And yet all the petitioners, or many of them, whose petitions I presented against
the Catholic Relief Bill, are petitioners for the Reform Bill; for, say they, a House of
Commons, which could vote for that Emancipation Bill, cannot be such a House of
Commons as ought any longer to exist. Such is the folly and insanity with which
people are acting. Yours ever most affectionately,


(Lord Eldon to Lord StowdL) (Extract.)

(April, 1831.)

" You will perceive that at the lord mayor's Easter Monday dinner, all the minis-
ters, one after another, declared the K.'s entire confidence in them, and determina-
tion to support them. This was all perfectly unconstitutional, and there are here
some persons who do not believe one word oif what they said. I cannot say that I
am altogether so incredulous."


When Parliament re-assembled after the Easter recess, the contests
on the Reform Bill were resumed with unabated violence : and parties
in the House of Commons being almost equally divided, the ministers,
on the 22d of April, deemed it necessary that his majesty should come
in person to Parliament and announce a dissolution.

The clamour of the multitude was now loud and fierce against all
who were known to be the opponents of the ministerial scheme.
Lord Eldon, however, did not shrink from the avowal of his senti-
ments. He attended the anniversary of the Pitt Club in May, and
made a speech there, of which the following is an extract:

"The aristocracy once destroyed, the best supporters of the lower classes would
be swept away. In using the term lower classes, he meant nothing offensive. How
could he do so? He himself had been one of the lower classes. He gloried in the
fact, and it was noble and delightful to know that the humblest in the realm might,
by a life of industry, propriety, and good moral and religious conduct, rise to emi-
nence. All could not become eminent in public life, that was impossible; but
every man might arrive at honour, independence and competence."

"It was," says the present earl, "the custom of Mr. Francis, the
founder of the Eldon School at Vauxhall,* to have an annual exami-
nation of the scholars on Lord Eldon's birthday, the 4th of June, and
afterwards to entertain the visitors with a collation. In 1831, Lord
Eldon was present, and it being desired that his health should be
drunk, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had examined the boys,
requested Prince George of Cumberland to give the toast. The prince,
who had but just completed his twelfth year, and who had excused
himself from partaking in some boat races at Windsor in order that
he might come to the Eldon School, immediately complied in the
most obliging manner, and spoke, in the happiest terms, of Lord
Eldon as a pattern that had been constantly held up to him, and that
he would always endeavour to imitate. I was present, and particu-
larly remember his naming my grandfather, accompanied with the
words, ' whom I love and honour as my own father.' Lord Eldon
afterwards wrote to thank the prince, and at the same time to offer his
congratulations on the birthday of the Duke of Cumberland, June 5th.
The prince sent this answer :

" From Prince George of Cumberland, now Crown Prince of Hanover, to Lord Eldon.

" 'Kew, June 6th, 1831.
"' My dear Lord,

"'Pray accept my best thanks for your kind letter of congratulations on papa's
birthday. I sincerely hope that God may grant him a long life, and that I may be
permitted to enjoy many happy years with both my parents. I assure you that the
wishes, which I expressed on proposing your health at the Eldon School, came from
my heart, and with God's help I shall certainly follow them up in life. I hope that I
may find a friend through life, such as you have been and are to papa.

'"Papa and mamma send their best regards to you, and Lady Eldon ; the former
hopes to meet you at dinner to-day, the latter is happy that Lady Eldon so kindly
accepted of the flowers. I remain, My dear lord,

" ' Your affectionate friend,

" ' GEORGE.' "

On the 14th of June, the new Parliament met, and the session was
opened on the 21st by his majesty in person. On the 24th, Lord

See Chap. LII.


Eldon introduced a bill to settle the law, on the subject of divorces
granted in Scotland for dissolution of marriages celebrated in England.
It was forthwith read a first time. But it was fated to proceed no
further : for, on the 28th of June, the long illness under which Lady
Eldon had been suffering put an end to her life, and overwhelmed
Lord Eldon with an affliction from which he never wholly recovered.
The following is the letter written by him to his brother on that sor-
sowful day:

(Lord Eldon to Lord Stowell.')
" My ever dear Brother,

"Your letter reaches me in a flood of tears and a sort of burst of agonizing feeling.
I submit as well as I can I fear not as well as I ought to God's will. But I will do
my utmost to acquire the means of doing my duty. I am quite sure that our meeting
as yet would overpower me; and I fear, also, you, that you are the person who is
the object of all my affections and anxieties along with my offspring.

" W hen I can have the strength and fortitude in person to say to you ' God Almighty
bless you,' as I now say it in correspondence, I shall in person assure [you], that
I am, as I have [been] through life, and [have] had so much reason to be, [your]

" Ever affectionate,


Little as Lady Eldon had been personally known among the friends
of her lord, the feeling for her loss was general and fervent. The
Duke of Cumberland was among the earliest to express his sympathy.
Passing Hamilton Place a few hours after Lady Eldon's decease, and
seeing the window-shutters closed, he left a kind message at the door,
and wrote on the same day to Lord Encombe, desiring that his con-
dolence might be expressed to Lord Eldon, and adding,

"But, for God's sake, use your endeavours to support him in his present affliction,
as he is of the greatest consequence for the welfare of this country. I can imagine
his misery and woe at this moment; but the same Almighty, who has caused this
misery, will give him, I trust, strength to support it."

" Immediately upon Lady Eldon's death," says the present earl,
" Lord Eldon formed the wish that a family vault should be prepared
at Kingston, in his parish of Corfe Castle, Dorset, where he might,
as he expressed it in a letter to his steward Mr. Willis, l repose with
her till the hour of death is followed by the day of judgment.'
Instead of occupying a part of the existing chapel-yard to the partial
exclusion of the other parishioners, he preferred applying land of his
own to that purpose. In the mean time a temporary vault was made
for the remains of Lady Eldon in the chapel near the communion
table: there they were deposited on Saturday, July 9th, 1831, my
uncle W. H. J. Scott, Mr. Edward Bankes, Mr. W. V. Surtees, my-
self, and others, attending as mourners."

Having applied to the Bishop of Bristol, whose diocese then com-
prehended Dorsetshire, to consecrate the new ground, Lord Eldon
received from him this kind and pious answer :

"Great George Street, July 9th, 1831.
" My dear Lord,

" I read, with painful reflections and sympathy, your lordship's affecting letter,
and am anxious to offer any suggestion which the moment can dictate, of consolatory
consideration. A great deprivation you have indeed sustained; but who, my dear
lord, is so supported by the strong convictions of an enlarged mind to bow to, and to


adore, the dispensations of Providence 1 ? Who is more faithfully convinced of the
mercies of a Redeemer and of the inspiration of those writings in which his proceed-
ings are disclosed? I shall most readily undertake to consecrate the ground at the
time that may be most grateful to your lordship's feelings. I will consider whether
it can be effected during my present visit in Dorsetshire, so as not to prevent my
return to London by the 2d of August; or I will at any future time visit your lord-
ship for the express purpose; I shall be happy to communicate again with your
- lordship in a few days, as I do not leave London till Saturday. I remain,

" My dear lord,

" Most sincerely and faithfully yours,


The consecration took place on Friday, the 22d of the same month :
and the following is the account of it, which Lord Encombe received
a few days afterwards from the Rev. Frederick Choppin, curate of
Corfe Castle:

" The bishop arrived on the spot about seven. After hearing prayer,
his lordship proceeded to the burial ground, (which was perambulated)
and signed and sealed the deed under a marquee erected in the
centre. Then the sentence, and the prayer of consecration were read,
and three verses sung and the bishop gave his blessing. Returning

Online LibraryHorace TwissThe public and private life of Lord Chancellor Eldon, with selections from his correspondence (Volume 2) → online text (page 36 of 65)