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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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should, in attending to the trees at Encombe, become attached to the
place ; but from this period, the advance of years, the loss of Lady
Eldon, and the decline of his health and spirits which immediately
followed her decease, made him probably regard me more in the light
of an immediate successor than in that of a young companion. I do
not mean that this feeling constantly showed itself; far from it; but
when once it had existed, I doubt whether it ever was entirely extin-

(Lord Eldon to Lord SlowellJ (Extract.)

(Postmark, Nov. 2d, 1831.)

" The thing that I most feel to be dangerous is the formation of bodies of men under
the name of political unions, which I see are forming in London, in every part of
England, and in Ireland the latter, professedly to support English reform, as neces-
sarily leading to the attainment of Irish objects as well as English objects. As to
these political unions, I am confident that if parliament does not do what it did be-
tween 1789 and 1794, put them down by act of Parliament, they will put down the
Parliament itself. I have seen a great deal of mischief going forward in the country;
but till those institutions were becoming general, and till the government, by con-
nivance and apathy, can be said rather to encourage than discourage them, I have had
hopes that matters might get right. The crisis is formidable, because of those unions."

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

(November 3d, 1831.)

"We are safe here, as far as any body can be safe anywhere, (I mean in Purbeck),
by the good disposition of the inhabitants of the island of Purbeck. But the mischief
everywhere is occasioned by strangers from other parts coming to do mischief. I
fear that rents will not this year pay the expenses of watching against those villainous
intruders. Yours most affectionately,

The feeling of security expressed in the last letter was a short-lived
one; for, on the evening of Friday the 4th, Mr. Ledgard, junior, of the
Poole Bank, came to Lord Eldon with intelligence that a mob had
resolved " to visit and do its best to destroy" Encombe, on the fol-
lowing afternoon. Immediate notices were sent to the yeomanry and
magistrates, and that night and the Saturday morning were employed
in preparing the labourers, and others who were willing, for the
announced conflict : special constables were in readiness, arid twelve
muskets in order.

The insurgents were expected from the quarter of Poole : but by
the address and resolution of Mr. Thompson, a farmer and brick-
maker of Lake, in the parish of Hamwarthy which is adjacent to
Poole, their operations were effectually frustrated. The way of pass-
ing from Poole to the Isle of Purbeck, where Encombe is situate,
was by flat-bottomed canoes, in which the passengers were ferried
from the narrow part of Poole Harbour to Gold Point in Purbeck : it
was at Lake that these canoes lay. Mr. Thompson got possession of
them all and bored holes in their bottoms, giving notice at the same
time that he would shoot the first man who should attack his premises
at Lake. The rioters, thus cut off from the water-passage, had no
road to Purbeck but by traversing on foot the long route which leads
round, over Wareham Bridge: and thus foiled, they gave up the


(Nov. 1831.)
"My dear Brother,

"I am afraid I plague you with my daily letters; but writing them is almost the
principal comfort I have. As Goldsmith says of his heart, when on his travels, and
thinking of his brother at home, so say I, It ' still to my brother turns.'


" Yours, ever affectionately,

" EI.DON."

By this time, however, his mind had its gleams of cheerfulness ;
and towards the end of November he was able to receive a visit, at
Encombe, from the Duke of Cumberland.

During his lady's life, he had been not only secluded from general
society, but even somewhat limited as to his family circle. After her
death he began, and for the rest of his life continued, to assemble
round him the connections of his family, and to find pleasure and con-
solation in their attentions.




Letters of Lord Eldon to Lady F. J. Bankes. Address on opening of session: Black
List. Letters of Lord Eldflh to Lady F. J. Bankes, Lord Encombe and Lord Stow-
ell. Irish tithes. Attack on Lord Eldon for supposed accumulation of patronage
upon his son: his vindication of himself in the House of Lords. Letters to Lady
F. J. Bankes and Lord Stowell. Third Reform Bill : Lord Eldon's speech on the
second reading. Letters of Lord Eldon to Lord Encombe. Defeat of ministers by
Lord Lyndhurst in committee on Reform Bill. Threatened creation of peers to
force the bill: remonstrance of Lord Eldon: Reform Bill finally carried.

LORD ELDON returned to London for the meeting of Parliament at
the beginning of December 1831. To this date seems to belong the
letter of which an extract follows, commemorating the behaviour of
his now constant companion, Pincher, a favourite German spaniel
belonging to his son William Henry.

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

(Probably beginning of Dec., 1831.)

" When I got to Southampton, Pincher, who sends his kindest regards, marched up
to the bed-room, in which I slept the two last times I was there. The chambermaid
provided another room for me, the house being full of company, there being a ball at
Southampton. Pincher was uneasy at this, and out of humour, and if he could
speak he would not have allowed it."

In the Lords' debate of the 6th of December, the opening day of
the session, Lord Eldon made some remonstrances against the line of
argument taken by Lord Lyttelton in reference to the Reform Bill of
the session preceding.

Lord Eldon observed that with that bill their lordships had no concern at present.
It was, indeed, he said, an irregularity to have referred to it at all in this discussion,
inasmuch as it had not been mentioned in the speech from the throne. There was
no reason to believe that the same bill would be proposed again: if it should, the
House would be bound to reconsider it, and it would be the duty of any noble lord
who, on such reconsideration, should think he had mistaken his duty in opposing it
before, to retrace his steps. He had no disposition to say other than " content" to the
address. In reference, however, to that part of the speech which touched upon the
necessity of punishing the violators of the law, he must mention to the House a pub-
lication, which, if he had not seen that it was left unpunished, he could not have
believed endurable. He did not speak of the newspapers, for in them there was
generally some reasoning to be met with ; he spoke of a thing called the Black List.
He was there put forward as receiving 54,000/. a year out of the taxes, and his elder
brother, whom this accurate list described as his nephew, was represented as re-
ceiving a pension of 4000/. a year. The noble lords, who, in the last session, had
voted against the Reform Bill,' were held up in this paper as receiving millions of
money among them out of the taxes. He felt it fair, however, to add, that some of
the reformers were included in the same list. As he understood that many thousand
copies of this publication had been sold, he must think it matter of just complaint
that some means had not been taken to stay the circulation of such falsehoods.

Earl Grey excused the forbearance of the government, on the ground that the


contents of the paper in question were too stupidly false, too extravagantly absurd,
to influence any honest or intelligent man in the community.

Perhaps it may be not unreasonable to observe, in passing, that the
"honest and intelligent" members " of the community" are not pre-
cisely the classes with respect to whom a careful statesman would
think it most necessary to be on his guard against excitement. Lord
Eldon observes, as to this Black List, in a letter to Lord Stowell, bear-
ing the post-mark of the 27th of the preceding October, that

"If good men have the law administered on their side, and some bad men have the
laws constantly violated on their side, there is no doubt that finally the latter will
destroy the former."

In or out of office, the Duke of Wellington never abated his watch-
fulness for the welfare of his country : witness the following extract
of a letter from Lord Eldon to Lord Stowell :

(Post-mark, December 8lh, 1831.)

"The Duke of Wellington did not attend the House the other night. I sat with
him near an hour the day before, in deep conversation, and most interesting. Let-
ters that, he wrote to a great personage produced the proclamation against the Unions.
But if Parliament will not interfere further, the proclamation will be of little use,
I think, of no use."

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

" December 10th, 1831.

"I don't think any thing material passed in the Houses last night Lord Grey said
that he has no further measures to propose about the Unions. Indeed, I do not know
how he should, having been once himself at the head of a political association which
was in fact a political union."

On the 12th, the third Reform Bill was opened by Lord John Rus-
sell to the House of Commons. Next day, Lord Eldon writes thus to
Lord Stowell :

(December 13ih, 1831.)

"At present, I can make no other observation upon it, except that ministers, who,
at the end of the recess, have been obliged to confess that they were, before that
recess, pressing for the passing of a bill of the utmost importance, upon imperfect
information as to so many things which required that they should have the most per-
fect and complete information, that such ministers deserve impeachment."

The House of Lords adjourned on the 16th for the Christmas
vacation, which Lord Eldon passed at Encombe.

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

(Not dated; 1831 )

"I am told that the French in this country attribute, very much, what is passing in
their own, to our proceedings here. Our riots, our tumult, our talk and proceedings
about reform, the rumours of creating peers to stifle the voice of the majority of
peers here, these things the French here think have hastened their country, more,
to do the works of mischief they have done in France. Their countrymen are more
volatile than we are they have travelled somewhat quicker on the road to ruin than
we sluggish Englishmen travel; but we are, I fear, on the same road."

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

(Not dated; 1831 )

" Smith's constant attention to me, at a time when I cannot but be very troublesome
to a servant always about me, has been invaluable, and, indeed, I must say that all
my servants behave most attentively and well to me. My heart aches when I think
and often do I think 'what I am,' and contrast it with* what I have been:' per-
haps this severe visitation is intended to fix my thoughts 'upon what I have been,'
and to contrast that ' with what I ought to have been.' God grant me power and will
to act ' as I ought,' whilst he continues me here."


On the first day of the new year, he wrote one of his short, but
affectionate remembrances to Lord Stowell :

" Dear Brother, I trouble you with this, to wish you on New Year's day all the
health and happiness that a brother's affection can possibly lead him to wish you may
enjoy. God bless you, is my anxious, heartfelt wish and prayer.

" You will hear from me again very shortly as to my intended movements from
hence. Beautiful weather here.

" Yours, most affectionately yours,

" New Year's day."

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

"1st January, 1832.

"The state of the poor in this neighbourhood is miserable. I have done as much
as I can to relieve it, and I hope I have, in some degree, at least, comforted them."

About the third week of January, he returned to London to attend
his duty in Parliament. On the 23d of January, in a note to Lord
Encombe, who was now in town, Lord Eldon writes,

"In walking back from the Duke of Wellington's yesterday, I found two persons
in debate, in front of my house, upon the sufficiency or insufficiency of the defences
of my windows to protect them. Their verdict was unfavourable to me, as far as I
could hear it."

Parliament re-assembled on the 17th of January. In a debate of
the House of Lords on the 2d of February respecting the Russian-
Dutch Loan, Lord Eldon censured the ministers for the course they
had taken respecting that matter ; but the topics of the discussion were
temporary, and have long since lost their interest.

The great question of Irish Tithe was now exciting a deep anxiety
among the friends of the church. How Lord Eldon felt upon it will
be seen not only from his speeches in February and March, but from
his letters to his brother.

(Lord Eldon to Lord Stowell.")

(Poat-mark, February 23d, 1832.)
"My dear Brother,

"The Irish tithes are matters infinitely difficult to manage, and, from all I can
learn, the day is approaching, and fast approaching, when laws of all sorts in that
country will give way to force and arms.

" I did not go to the levee; I will try to go next Wednesday, if my back will per-
mit. I have, by way of diverting my mind from attention to pain as well as I can,
begun attendance upon causes in the House of Lords.

"Ever most affectionately yours,


On that night, petitions for the abolition of tithes in Ireland were
presented to the House of Lords by Lord King, who stated that the peo-
ple of Ireland were unalterably determined on the total extinction of
that burthen.

Lord Eldon implored the House, for God's sake, to take care how they dealt with
acknowledged property. He would ask the lay impropriators whether they could
agree to this total abolition, simply because the people said they would not pay!

This subject came again under discussion on the 27th, when

Lord Eldon begged the House to observe in what way it had been introduced to
their notice. It had been introduced by tirades of all kinds against the clergy of
Ireland. These were accompanied by similar attacks on the lay impropriators, who,
it was said in one of the petitions, desecrated the property devoted to pious and


charitable uses. He hoped the Duke of Bedford, and other members of their lord-
ships' House, would look a little closely into the effect of this argument of desecration.

(Lord Eldon to Lord Stowell.')

(Post-mark, February 28th, 1332 ) "Tuesday.
" Dear Brother,

"We had, in the House of Lords last night, as you will perceive from your paper,
the 'Standard,' a brush upon all manner of things, foreign and domestic. I spoke
out upon many of the points, in such plain language and in an extent which will
expose me to the fierce resentment of many : but I see no way of awakening people
to the result, which must, both as to our foreign and domestic concerns, result from
their apathy, but devoting one's self in Parliament to such resentment. The misfor-
tune is, that from pain and weakness, I can scarce make myself heard."

On the 8th of March, Lord Lansdowne, as a member of the go-
vernment, moved a series of resolutions on the subject of Irish tithe,
by the last of which it was proposed to declare the necessity of a
universal and complete commutation. This proposal was strongly
resisted by Lord Eldon, who held it wholly unjustifiable to vote the
extinction of the tithe, until the equivalent for it should be settled by
some definite plan.

He said that when a measure was brought forward which went directly to the an-
nihilation of church property, and when they were not even told, by those who
brought such a measure forward, what they would substitute for that property, he was
very much disappointed not to see a single member of the right reverend bench
rise, to defend the interests of the church now so vitally at stake, and to protest
against a measure of such a description as the present. There was no argument
which applied to the extinction of church property in Ireland, but what was equally
cogent against church property in England. He thanked his God, however, that he
should not be amongst either the ecclesiastical or the lay supporters of this motion.
He would not give his assent his opposition he saw, would be useless to a measure
which went to deprive the ministers of the united Church of England and Ireland of
that which constituted their entire support, and to which they had as much right as
there existed to any lay property in any part of England. It was perfectly absurd to
suppose that what would take place in Ireland in this instance would not be sure
afterwards to take place in England also.

A motion having been made in the House of Commons, on the 6th
of March, by Mr. Dawson, respecting the accumulation of legal
patronage by Lord Plunkett (then chancellor of Ireland), upon his own
relations and connections,

Mr. Spring Rice, in defence of that learned lord, referred to the report of a com"
mittee of the House of Commons, from which it appeared that six legal offices of
profit were held by Lord Eldon's son, the Hon. VV. H. J. Scott. Mr. Rice added, that
no doubt, if there had been six sons, thirty-six offices would have been distributed
among them ; and he could not help feeling astonished that Mr. Dawson, with such a
record open to his inspection, had thought proper to reserve his virtuous indignation
for the Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

Mr. George Bankes observed, that two of the offices which had been bestowed
upon Mr. Scott were offices in reversion, of which he had never arrived at the enjoy-

On this discussion, Lord Eldon writes thus to Lord Stowell :

(Post-mark, March 8ih, 1832.)
" Dear Brother,

" Before you receive this, you will have seen in the papers a speech in the House
of Commons of Mr. Rice, justifying Lord Plunkett's appointments for the benefit of
the Plunkett family and justifying him by the example of Lord Eldon's conduct in
giving offices to his son. Neither I, nor any friend of mine, had any notice of that
gentleman's intent to say one word relative to me and my son.

" I am going down to the House of Lords, though very ill able so to do, to seek an


opportunity of saying something upon the subject and though this sort of business
is very unpleasant, I have no doubt that when my explanation is made I shall be very

" Politics go on ill.

" I am determined to take the first opportunity I can, to have this matter fully
explained. Yours affectionately,


In the House of Lords, that afternoon, before the debate on the
Irish Tithes, Lord Eldon gave notice that, on the following Monday,
he should bring forward a motion relative to his own character and

He said that, in this, he had no other object but to set himself right in the opinion
of his countrymen, to whom he would leave it to decide wheiher his conduct, while
he filled the office of chancellor, had been right or wrong. He had discharged his
duty, invariably, to the best of his ability; and he would allow no man, unanswered,
to arraign him. He wished his countrymen to know that he was content to apply to
them for their opinion of his public conduct.

On the 12th of March, he brought on the motion of which he had
thus given notice.

He said that it had been his own wish, when the great seal was offered him, to re-
main Chief Justice of the Common Pleas; but that he had been drawn forth by his
sovereign's behest to the office of chancellor, which he had accepted only from a
sense of the duty of obedience which he owed to the command of the crown. In
consequence of the death of two out of three individuals who had been appointed to
situations connected with the Court of Chancery, his gracious majesty, King George
III., had pressed him to accept the patents of those offices. He for a long time declined
doing so ; but his majesty continued to importune him so much on the subject, that
he at last thought it a matter of duty no longer to resist the wish of his sovereign.
It was not until 1805, four years after he entered office, that any place was given to
his son. It would doubtless be in the recollection of their lordships, that when the
doctrine was broached that reversions ought not to be granted, those which were at-
tached to courts of justice were made matter of special exception. He had always
thought it his duty to the crown to insist upon the patent right to those offices ; but,
taking into view the probabilities of life, they were in fact not worth having, except
as marks of the favour of the crown. He claimed credit for the forbearance which he
had shown in not bestowing upon his son offices which, fairly and according to usage,
he might have given to him, and concluded by moving for a return of the offices, in
possession and reversion, held by himself and his family.

His speech is very imperfectly reported ; but the gist and result of
it are supplied by himself in the succeeding letter :

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

" March 13ih, 1832.

" The business of last night went off very well. My voice is too weak to have
any thing that proceeds from it well reported.

"Publications here, wicked and diabolical, have represented W. H. J. as receiving,
under a patent in bankruptcy, 12,0007. a-year. I proved to the House, that, under
that patent, he did not receive one farthing.

"I proved to the House, also, that instead of greedily laying hands on all sources of
income in the office, I had, out of my own pocket, supplied, in ease of the suitors,
sixty-two thousand pounds. I think I can assure you, that all sides of the House
were very well satisfied. Even many, who, for various reasons, wished me to with-
draw my intention of moving, came to me after I had done, expressing their delight
that I had refused to attend to those wishes. The chancellor stated, that I had acted
in my communications with him with perfect liberality, and that W. H. J., in the
office that connected him with the chancellor, had conducted himself entirely to his

The six offices granted by Lord Eldon to his son were as follows :
In possession, those of clerk of patents, registrar of affidavits, re-
ceiver of fines and cursitor.


In reversion, the office of clerk of the crown in Chancery, and the
office for the execution of the statutes of bankrupts.

Mr. W. H. J. Scott had been a commissioner of bankrupts from
1816 to 1821.

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

(Post-mark, March 13th, 1S32.)

"It seems tome now too clear, that the opponents to the Reform Bill will split upon
the question, about reading the bill a second time, or rejecting it upon the second
reading. If they do, I fear the bill will pass. I attribute much to affright and fear of
mobs. I don't wonder that there should be such affright and fear. The numerous,
most violent and furious menacing letters which I receive, are enough to affright per-
sons less accustomed than I am to receive them. I am myself sure that those who
are afraid of the immediate consequences of rejecting the bill, will ultimately suffer
much more by passing it the bishops particularly."

(Lord Eldon to Lord Slowell.)

(Post-mark, March 23J, 1832 )
" Dear Brother,

"Last night the Reform Bill passed the Commons by a majority of 116 594 mem-
bers voted.

" In the House of Lords, the Bible was denied to the government Irish schools, by
a majority of 37. Yours affectionately,


Mr. Pennington, Lord Eldon's medical adviser, had now come to
an opinion, that Lord Eldon's health would be assisted by frequent
movements through long columns of air. From this time, therefore,
for the remainder of his life, he travelled a good deal, and some-
times with no object but the journey itself. In the early part of April,
1832, he made a little tour with his own horses, but returned to Lon-
don for the debate in the House of Lords on the second reading of
the new Reform Bill, which had been brought thither on the 26th of
March and read there a first time on the same day. The debate on
the second reading began on the 9th of April and lasted, by adjourn-
ments, through the 10th, llth and 13th. On the last of these nights,
Lord Eldon spoke to the following effect :

He said that, during the fifty years of his public life, he had never suffered such
deep pain as on seeing the House of Commons come to the bar of that House with the
bill now upon their lordships' table. Looking at that body as representing the con-
stituency of the country the light in which all great constitutional authorities held

Online LibraryHorace TwissThe public and private life of Lord Chancellor Eldon, with selections from his correspondence (Volume 2) → online text (page 39 of 65)