Horace Twiss.

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

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and now stands on the statute book as the 3 & 4 Will. 4. c. 37.

In the August of this year, after a short visit to Encombe, he again
visited his estate in Durham, and again suffered great depression of
spirits from the associations connected with the place.

"I have had," said he to Mrs. Forster, who joined him in the
north, "a vault made at the church which I built at Encombe.
There rests my wife, there rests poor William Henry, and there I
intend to rest myself; and it cannot be long ere I do so."

At intervals, however, his constitutional gaiety returned. In one
of these cheerful moods, on the eve of his return into Dorsetshire, he
said to Mrs. Forster,

" I wish, Mary, you could be with us to-night at Boroughbridge,
to have some conversation with the landlady. I was very much
amused with her last year. When I arrived, I sent for her, and asked
'if she knew me,' and she said, 'No, she did not.' I answered, 'I
was very much surprised at that, for the last time I had seen her, she
was three years old.' 'Then, sir,' said she, 'how is it possible I
should know you?' 'Why,' I answered, 'I did not know, but she
must be very forgetful.' Then I asked her if she remembered to have
heard of a gentleman who used to come there to fish, a Sir John
Scott.' ' Sir,' said she, ' I hear great things of him : he became a
member of Parliament ; then he became a lord, and I don't know
what.' So I told her I was this same Sir John Scott. Oh, she did
not know what to do ; she wanted me immediately to go into the
largest room in the house. That I declined, for I told her I preferred


the comfortable small one I was in. But when I went to bed, I found
she had taken care to put me in a large enough room. Then she came
to ask 'if she might tell her husband?' Well, I said that if I caused
a mystery between husband and wife, I did not know what might
happen, therefore I would allow her to tell him who I was, and away
she went. The next morning, before I set off', she came to ask me
to go into the garden with her, for she was sure she had something I
would like to see. So she took me to a bed of flowers, dahlias, and
very superb they were, and I admired them very much. Then she
begged and entreated I would step into the stable with her, where
she had a remarkably fine bull. This I could not undertake ; to go
and see a bull was what I rather would be excused doing ; so I re-
turned to my sitting-room, and there I had not sat long, before I saw
the bull paraded past the window. Our poor landlady was so sure I
would like to see the bull, that she actually had caused it to be brought
before my window ; and upon my word I must say it was a most
noble animal. Oh, we shall have some fun with her to-night."

From Rusheyford he returned to Dorsetshire, where Lord and
Lady Encombe passed the greater part of September with him. At
the end of that month he visited London, and took Early Court on
his way back to Dorsetshire. Of his visit there he writes thus to his
grandson after his return home :

(Franked Oct. 8th, 1S33.)

"I found myself obliged to be with my brother* early on Friday morning. I staid
that day with him and the next. I was so distressed with the state I found him in as
to mental health, (though, as to bodily health, uncommonly stout,) that I felt myself
compelled to leave Early Court on the Saturday evening, as I really could not bear
the state I was in. I got here on Monday night."

Lord and Lady Encombe passed the month of November with him
in Dorsetshire : and as Parliament, which had been prorogued on the
29th of August, was not to re-assemble till the 4th of February, 1834,
Lord Eldon might have enjoyed a long interval of quiet in the coun-
try, but for the importunity of a Mr. Dicas, an attorney, who insisted
on bringing up the venerable earl as a witness on the trial of an action
commenced by Mr. Dicas himself against Lord Chancellor Brougham
for false imprisonment, under a warrant issued by Lord Brougham
when sitting in Bankruptcy. It was on the question how far such a
warrant was consistent with law and practice, that Mr. Dicas sought
to obtain Lord Eldon's evidence. Lord Eldon, to whom he sent a
subpoena, explained very fully, by a letter, that independently of the
annoyance to him in point both of convenience and of health, his
attendance for the object proposed could be of no avail in the action,
the question of legality being solely for the judge ; but the plaintiff
persisted in requiring his presence, and he came to London accord-
ingly. The action was tried on the 3d of December. When Lord
Eldon appeared on the bench, the usual place for peers attending a
court of justice, the whole bar respectfully rose, with one accord,
from their seats. When he stood up to be sworn, the bar again

* Lord Stowell.


simultaneously rose. He was interrogated by Mr. Platt, the leading
counsel for the plaintiff, about his recollection of certain points of
practice as they had been in his own chancellorship. He stated that
he could not distinctly recollect these points at such a distance of time ;
but that he could not hope to have so conducted the business of his
court, as not to have made some mistakes in a period of almost five-
and-twenty years, during which he had held the great seal ; though
he was not aware of any particular instance in which errors had been
committed by him. At the close of his examination in chief, he
added, " I am not a willing witness. I thought it my duty to comply
when I was summoned by a subpoena; but at my age, and the dis-
tance I was at, I should have hardly been willing to come, unless I
had considered it to be a duty between man and man." It fell to
Sir John, now Lord Campbell, at that time solicitor-general, who led
for the defendant, the then lord chancellor, to cross-examine Lord
Eldon. The learned solicitor began by saying, " Allow me, in the
name of the bar, to express the satisfaction we all have in the honour of
seeing your lordship:" and then proceeded with his cross-examina-
tion. When it concluded, Lord Eldon, who had given his evidence
in a low tone of voice, retired : and as he withdrew, the bar again
expressed their reverence, by rising from their seats as before. This
was, probably, the only case in which it ever happened that a lord
chancellor (Lord Brougham), was defendant; and an ex-lord chan-
cellor (Lord Eldon), a witness; and another ex-lord chancellor (Lord
Lyndhurst), the judge.

(Lord Eldon to Mr. Commissary Gordon.) (Extract.)
" My clear Sir,

" I thank you most sincerely for your very kind expression of your very kind wishes

respecting my health. My dear sir, advanced nearly thirteen years beyond the three

score years and ten, after which the best authority tells us all is but labour and sorrow,

I have little to hope ; and, precious parts of my family have fallen before me and gone

to their rest, I have little anxiety as to more than exemption from severe bodily pain.

" My brother's bodily health continues very good, but I fear his memory is affected.

"When I look at the state of the country, and see, or think I see, the monarchy,

the peerage, the owners of property, sinking, I fear inevitably sinking, under the

rule and domination of democrats, I have no comfort in looking forward.

" Man can do nothing for us now that will be effectual, unless that power which
can still the raging of the sea should interpose to protect the country against the mad-
ness of the people.

"I shall give most particular attention to what your letter represents respecting the
marriage cases and divorces in Scotland, and the Birtwhistle case; I doubt without
much utility. Years have passed since I was thought a lawyer, at least if I can
judge by the indisposition manifest to listen to my humble sentiments on law subjects.
" Wishing you heartily wishing you many, many happy new years, I remain, dear
sir, with the sincerest regard and respect,

" Yours,

"Dec. 13th, 1833.
" Encorube, Dorset."




Chancellorship of Oxford: vacated by death ofJLord Grenville: unanimously con-
ferred on Duke of Wellington. Letters of Lord Eldon to Lady F. J. Bankes. House
of Lords : Trades' Union processions : disfranchisement of Liverpool freemen. Let-
ters to Lady F.J. Bankes. Schisms in the cabinet: Melbourne ministry. Letters of
Lord Eldon to Lord Encombe and Lady F. J. Bankes. Irish Church Commission.
Letters to Lady F. J. Bankes: Oxford installation: honours to Lord Eldon in the
theatre. House of Lords: chancellor's absence. Letters to Lady F. J. Bankes.
Great Western Railway Bill: last time of Lord Eldon's speaking in the House of Lords.
Third visit of Lord Eldon to Durham: Miss Forster's recollections of it. Freedom
of Exeter. Purchase of Shirley. Letters of Lord Eldon to Lord Encombe and Miss
Forster. Sudden displacement of Melbourne ministry. Letters of Lord Eldon to
Lord Encombe and Lady F. J. Bankes. Invitation to Lord Encombe to become a
candidate for South Durham, declined. Formation of Sir R. Peel's first ministry.

THE declining health of Lord Grenville had made it probable, that
a vacancy would soon occur in the chancellorship of the University
of Oxford ; and some of Lord Eldon's old supporters had suggested
to him, through Lord Sidmouth, that he should then allow himself to
be brought forward as a candidate. His motives in declining this
invitation are thus stated by the present earl :

" When, at different illnesses of Lord Grenville, the same subject
had been broached to Lord Eldon, after his final resignation of the
great seal, I can well remember his naming it to me as a thing for
which he had grown too old ; that he should thus late in life be elected
to this office, it could, under all the circumstances, add comparatively
but little honour to one who had held the great seal for nearly a quarter
of a century ; that however unlikely any opposition might appear, yet
should any, by the remotest chance, start up, it w r ould, at all events,
be a great drawback from the honour ; that the bare possibility of a
defeat, which might form the closing scene of his public life, would
be such a catastrophe, that scarcely any thing could justify him in
risking it.

" Lord Eldon having stated his views to Lord Sidmouth, in answer
to Lord Sidmouth's letter of Nov. 16th, 1833, the latter replies on
Dec. 2d :

"'Your determination,! reluctantly own, appears to me to be right; certain it is that
such would have been mine, under similar circumstances.' "

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

" Sunday, (latter part of January, 1S34 )

" We believe here that Grey has tendered his resignation, on account of differences
in the cabinet but the lovers of good places and their emoluments, like other lovers,
know how to settle quarrels which they wish had never begun.


"I take it that the Duke of Wellington will certainly be the chancellor of Oxford.
It is singular that the warmest supporters of the author of the Roman Catholic bill
seem to be those who, on account of that anti-Protestant measure, threw out Peel
from his situation of M. P."

Lord Grenville's death had taken place on the 12th of January,
and on the 29th the Duke of Wellington, having accepted the invi-
tation of the university, was elected without a competitor.

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

" Saturday, (Feb. 8th, 1834.)

"The new chancellor of the University of Oxford gave his dinner .yesterday, upon
being sworn into office. Being asked as high steward, I thought it right to go.
There were a great many heads of the colleges from Oxford. Those, who did not come
from that place, were the chancellor of Cambridge, the Duke of Gloucester; the chan-
cellor of Dublin, the Duke of Cumberland; the high steward of Oxford, Lord Eldon;
the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Duke of Beaufort; Lord Talbot; Lord Sidmouth;
the two members for the university, and one or two others. The Duke of Wellington
proposed my health in a very handsome speech, and I addressed the company in an
answer of thanks, in a way I hope tolerably good, and very well received. The attend-
ance was fatiguing, but to-day I am not the worse for it. I was invited as high
steward to attend the great ceremonial in June at Oxford; but that would be too much
for me, and I should have no pleasure in it."

In his letter to Lady Frances, on the 10th of February, he adds,

"The members of the different colleges, present at the dinner, were very respectful
and kind to me."

The king opened the session of Parliament on the 4th of February.
This session was the last in which Lord Eldon's strength permitted
him to take any part in debate. A meeting of the Trades' Unions of
the metropolis had been held in Copenhagen Fields on the 21st of
April, for the purpose of proceeding in procession to the office of the
home department, with a petition in favour of certain offenders who
had been convicted at the Dorchester assizes of administering unlawful
oaths. The march of the petitioners, who were said to be 30,000
strong, through the streets of London, collected vast crowds and
created much alarm. Lord Melbourne, who was then home secretary,
gave directions that their petition should not be received while those
disquieting circumstances continued : and the persons entrusted with
it were obliged to retire from the home office and disperse their party.
On the 24th the petition was presented by a small deputation, and
laid before the king in the usual way. The Marquis of Londonderry,
on the 28th, adverted to this matter in the House of Lords ; and Lord
Melbourne, having intimated a general opinion, with respect to the
habitual Sunday marches of the Trades' Unions, that the interference
of the government with these processions would not be legal, so long
as the persons taking part in them should commit no direct violation
of the laws,

Lord Eldon said he could not refrain from offering a few observations to their
lordships on this subject. It seemed to him as if they were losing sight of all the
settled principles on which a country ought to be governed. The multitude assembled
the other day, whose aspect was that of force, could not but weaken the government;
and he was of opinion, that the assembling of large numbers in this menacing manner
was in itself an offence. If such an opinion had been slated from the mouths of the
judges of England, it would have been of infinite use: it could not have failed to pro-
duce a most important effect. He agreed, that if the subjects of the country lawfully
VOL. II. 19


met to discuss their grievances, their numbers would not make such a meeting illegal,
but if they met, as their lordships were told (in those sources of authority which
they had the misfortune to refer to every morning of their lives,) these men did meet,
their purpose was unlawful. Their lordships were told, that meetings had been
held to refuse the payment of certain taxes. They should, perhaps, soon be told, that
meetings had been held to refuse the payment of all taxes whatever. He asserted,
that these meetings superseded the authority of the government. The people had a
right to a discussion of their grievances; but that any class of men should join to-
gether to declare that they would disobey the law, was, he asserted, an offence against
the law. Neither had any men a right to meet together to constrain others to adopt
i particular course in their business. He would illustrate his meaning by a case.
He had a right, as an individual, to say, "I live in a certain street, and I will not
employ a single tradesman in that street;" but he should have no right to come
dovyn to that house, and say to every noble lord in it, " Let us agree not to deal with
a single tradesman in that particular street:" for that would be a conspiracy, and all
who joined in it would be liable to be punished for a conspiracy. He hoped their
lordships would not allow those meetings. He solemnly declared it to be his opinion
and he considered, from the high judicial station which he had had the honour of
holding, he would not be justifiable in withholding that opinion, that such meetings
were illegal, and, if not opposed, would be attended with mischief.

A bill was before the House of Lords in this session, by which it
was proposed to disfranchise the whole body of the freemen of Liver-
pool on account of the corruption of some among them. The measure
seems to have been ultimately abandoned ; but while it was in pro-
gress, on the 1st of May, a discussion arose upon it, in the course of

Lord Eldon begged the attention of the House to the object of this bill. It seemed
to have been found out in 1834 that some freemen of Liverpool, previous to the
passing of the Reform Bill, had been corrupt, and because those few freemen
had been corrupt, they were called on to disfranchise the whole of the freemen of
Liverpool, innocent as well as guilty. That such a bill had ever before been sub-
mitted to Parliament, he did not believe. He was an old man, and it might per-
haps be said was too fond of the institutions of his country; but he recollected that
Lord Mansfield, when Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench, said, that all new
laws on the subject of bribery were useless, because the common law was sufficient
to overtake those guilty of that offence. But upon that, Charles James Fox said,
that he could not make up his mind to disfranchise those guilty of bribery unless an
act was passed to point out to the people, that for bribery they should be liable to the
punishment of disfranchisement, in addition to what they were liable to by the com-
mon law. In the same manner, he himself was unable to make up his mind to
punish all parties for the offence of a few. He could not consent to confound the
innocent with the guilty.

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

Tuesday, ( May 27th, 1834.)

"The ministers were beaten in the House of Commons last night by a majority
of 61, upon a very important point; but go on they do and will. This is quite a new
way in our history of public conduct.

Our sovereign lord, we are told, is about to have a review at Windsor, one pro-
ceeding in which is to be an attack upon Windsor Castle, in the nature of a siege,
by the troops who are to capture it. This is a very dangerous piece of folly.
* '

a " anecdote of our fri end Pincher. There being below stairs
n a hP '^ Wa ^- th U * ht e *P edien t by Smith to get a hedgehog, in order

? but i nr^v H ,r d - ^ P ' nCh did not like this new visitor-and was for attacking
hv manlpmln? T & dlsa ^ reeable m rsel, from its quills, in Pinch's mouth ; and
milder S,?P?irh 6 - g v! ver - v '""'mate with it, and they commune in a friendly
manner and Pinch is very happy with his new acquaintance.

" 13110 inParliam ' lately: it relieves me, so far, that I

, ,

am so urd hon , u f r the time bein ?" More tomorrow. I

at Oxford ' that ' be * in to


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

( May 28th, 1831 )

"I hear that the ministers, as to some of whom we heard so positively that they had
resigned, have made up their quarrel. The fact seems to be that they have, by their
measures, fallen so far short of doing all that the radicals expected of them, that, if
any of them quitted, they could not tell how to get persons to supplv their places:
and, on the other hand, nobody, as a new ministry, if they all resigned, could under-
take the government. The present Parliament would not support new ministers, as
being altogether or nearly altogether republicans : and new ministers now, 10/.
householders being so numerous, could not get a House of Commons belter than the
deplorably bad one we now have. There is nothing for the country but the efficacy
of our prayers,' O save the country, Heaven ! ' if our prayers could be of any avail.
How different in the time of poor Pitt, whose memory will be celebrated by a Pitt
Club to-morrow! In discharge of my pledge, given near thirty years ago, that I
would attend the annual commemoration as long as I lived, I shall endeavour to

Lord Eldon had been misinformed as to the termination of the
ministerial differences mentioned in the foregoing letter. On the day
before he wrote it, the final resignations of four of the ministers were
already given in. Mr. Ward, the present member for Sheffield then
representing St. Alban's, had announced a motion for the 27th of May,
by which he was to propose the passing of a resolution of the House
of Commons, that the temporal possessions of the Protestant Church
in Ireland (reduced as they had been by the Temporalities Bill of the
preceding year) still exceeded the spiritual wants of the people, and
that the distribution of church property was a matter for the discretion
of Parliament. This avowal of an intention to seize, or, as it was
called, to appropriate, church property for state purposes, gave alarm
to the more scrupulous section of the cabinet: and on the day of the
motion, Lord Stanley, Sir James Graham, Lord Ripon, and the Duke
of Richmond, unable to acquiesce in the principle of " appropriation,"
besought the king's permission to quit their offices. They were suc-
ceeded respectively by Mr. Spring Rice, Lord Auckland, Lord Car-
lisle and Lord Conyngham, the last taking no seat in the cabinet.
The ministry, so modified, went on till July, when circumstances
connected with the administration of Irish affairs induced the resig-
nation of Earl Grey, the only cabinet minister resolutely determined
on maintaining the authority of the law in Ireland. The rest of the
Whig cabinet, though thrown into temporary confusion by the loss of
their leader, soon settled themselves again ; and, being gathered under
the wings of Lord Melbourne, went quietly through the remainder of
the session.

Lord Eldon fulfilled the intention expressed by him in the foregoing
letter, of attending the anniversary of the Pitt Club on the 29th ; but
it was for the last time. His strength was now no longer equal to
that sort of exertion. He appears to have been present at every
anniversary from 1808 to 1834, both included, with the exception of
the years 1810 and 1815. There was no commemoration in 1830,
King George IV. being then in his last illness.

On the 4th of June, his birth-day, his family dined with him.
Lord Encombe had a note from him the day before, saying,


" Dear Encombe,

" To be as fashionable as I can be, a thing I have always aimed at, I trouble you
to say that I shall dine on the 4th, at half past six instead of six.

" Yours most affectionately,


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

"June 5th, (1834.)

" I wish I deserved half the attention which was shown to me yesterday on account
of my birth-day, personally and by letters from different parts of the country. I sup-
pose I may have enemies that there may be some who don't think I deserve to have
a good opinion entertained of me ; but I have the satisfaction of knowing that, take
the community through, I could almost confidently assert that you would with difficulty
find another individual who receives, even from his enemies, so many demonstrations
of kindness and regard.

* * * *

" Pincher's duty. He treats his play-fellow with much tenderness, and brings him
the hedge-hog up stairs in his moulh to show him to me."

It had been resolved by the government, in order to lay a founda-
tion for further measures on the subject of the Irish Church, to issue
a commission, for inquiring into the proportion between the endow-
ments and the spiritual wants of all the parishes in Ireland, and for
ascertaining the numbers of the Protestant and Roman Catholic
population in each. This commission being made the subject of a
motion by Lord Wicklow in the House of Lords,

Lord Eldon desired to say, that, if there were any of their lordships, or any portion
of his countrymen, who regarded his opinion as an old lawyer, he did there, in his
place, solemnly deny that the state had any right to appropriate the property of the
church at all. If there were any who would value his opinions when he was gone
from amongst them, he now left it behind him as his solemn and deliberate decla-
ration, that no lawyer on earth could prove that, according to any known principle of
law, this alleged surplus could be appropriated to any other than church purposes."

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

" Saturday, (June 7th, 1834.)

" We had a very interesting debate in the House of Lords last night. The nature

Online LibraryHorace TwissThe public and private life of Lord Chancellor Eldon, with selections from his correspondence (Volume 2) → online text (page 43 of 65)