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Full text of "Lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of England, from the earliest times till the reign of King George IV"



QJnrnrll ICaui ^rljnol ICibraty 

Cornell University Library 
KD 620.C18L7 1868 

Lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keeper 

3 1924 021 871 664 


The original of tliis book is in 
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The right of Tramlatim is reserved. 





Chap. Pagb 



CLXXXVI. — CoNTnnTATioK ob the Lieb oe Lobd Ebskdie tili 
THE Peikob oe WaiiES, HATiira become Ee- 




LINB 46 

CLXXXIX.— Continuation oe tee Liee oe Lobs Ebskinb till 

HIS last visit to Scotland 60 

CXC. — Conclusion op tee Liee oe Lobd Eeskine .. 74 

CXCI. — ^LiEE oe Lobd Ceancellob Eldon ebom his eibte 


CXCII. — Continuation op the Liee op Lobs Eldon till 


CXCIII. — Continuation op tee Life op Loed Eldon tili 


CXCrv. — Continuation of tee Life op Lobs Eldon tili 



Chap. ' Pagb 

OXOV. — Continuation ov the Lipe op Loed Eidon till 


CXOV^I. — Contintjation of the Lipe op Loed Eldon till 


Pleas 191 

CXCVII. — Continuation op the Lipe op Loed Eldon till 


CXCVIII. — Continuation op the I_pe op Loed Eldon till 


CXCIX. — Continuation op the Lipb op Lobd Eldon till 


CC. — Continuation op the Lipe op Loed Eldon till 


CCL — Continuation op the Lipe op Lobd Eldon *riLL 


Whigs 306 

ecu. — Continuation op the Lipe op Loed Eldon till 

THE conclusion OP THE GbHBBAIi PBACE .. 838 




or THE 




We must now regard Erskine in his political capacity while 
he was a member of the Fox and Grenville Govern- ^ ^ 
ment. He does not seem to have had any great 
weight either in Parliament or in the Cabinet. He rather 
shocked the Peers by the egotism of his maiden speech among 
them, which was upon the bill to indemnify witnesses who 
were to be examined pn the trial of Lord Melville : — 

" I feel it my duty, my Lords,'' said he, " to communicate my senti- 
ments on a subject of so much consequence to proceedings in Courts of 
Law. I have been seven-and- twenty years engaged in the duties of a 
laborious profession, and while I have been so employed I have had the 
opportunity of a more extensive experience in the Courts than any other 
individual of this generation. In the profession there have been and 
there now are men of much more learning and ability than I pretend to, 
but it is very singular that in these twenty-seven years I have not for a 
single day been prevented from attending in the Courts by any indispo- 
sition or corporeal infirmity. Within much the greater part of this 
period I was honoured with a patent of precedency, and have been en- 
g£^ed in every important cause in the Court of King's Bench. Your 
Lordships would have no concern with the history of my political life 
were it not coimected with the present inquiry ; but when I declare that 
I have never known an objection taken to an interrogatory, ' that thi 
answer might subject the witness to a civil suit,' it is material for yoia 
Lordships to know that my experience is not only equal to that of any 
individual Judge, but of all the Judges collectively. A decision of Lord 
Kenyon to the contrary has been cited ; but the report must be wrong, 
for I was counsel in the cause, and I have no recollection of such a point 

VOh. IX, B 


having been mooted, and the opinion imputed to Lord Kenyon is difTer* 
ent from what I have often heard him express. I must, therefore, op» 
pose this bill, and recommend that our legLslation on the occasion be 
confined to an act dedwriang the existing law ; and that, I think, will be 
sufficient to obviate the danger of witnesses refusing to be examined be- 
cause their answers may affect their civil rights, and if no other Lord 
more competent will undertake the tas^, I will myself bring forward a 
measure which will place the question' for ever in repose." 

He accordingly introduced a declaratory act to that effect, 
wHcli passed both Houses, and received the royal assent. 

The first hostile discussion which took place in the House 
of Lords after the formation of the new Government was 
upon the appointment of Lord EUenhorough, Chief Justice 
of the King's Bench, to a seat in the Cabinet. Lord Eldon 
and other Peers having strongly condemned it on the ground 
that the Cabinet Minister might have, as a Judge, to try the 
prosecution, for treason or sedition, which he had recom- 
mended, and on the event of which the stability of the Go- 
vernment might depend, the Chancellor left the Woolsack to 
plead for it, but was not very snccessful. After a laboured 
panegyric upon the learning and talents of Lord Ellen- 
borough, he contended that the King was entitled to the 
assistance in council of all his subjects, and that no oflSce, 
civil or military, lay or ecclesiastical, was a disqualification 
to a subject perfornling the duties of a Privy Councillor. He 
denied that the summoning of the Chief Justice of the King's 
Bench to the Committee of the Privy Council, commonly 
6alled the Cabinet, was either illegal or unconstitutional : — 

" The Cabmet" said he, "is a word never mentioned in any Act of 
Parliament, or in any parliamentary proceeding, and is wholly unknown 
to the law and the constitution. The King has his Great Council, con- 
sisting of the two Houses of the Legislature, and his Privy Council, con- 
sisting of such individuals as he chooses to swear to give him faithful ad- 
vice on affairs of state. He seldom summons all these in a body into his 
presence, referring particular subjects to particular members of the Privy 
Ooimcil, who are responsible respectively for the advice which they give 
to him. No one denies that a Judge may properly be sworn of the 
Privy Council, and since the Revolution the chiefs of the Courts in 
Westminster Hall have generally had this honour conferred upon them. 
But it would be an unqualified interference with the King's prerogative 
to tell him that he shall not ask advice of a Privy Councillor. It has 
not been usual for the Chief Justice of the King's Bench to be summoned 
to the Committee of the Privy Council, called the Cabinet ; but thai 
venerable magistrate Lord Mansfield was constantly so summoned, dur- 
ing several administrations, without any complaint or suspicion tht* 


thereby the law or the constitution had heen violated. There have been 
repeatedly Lords Justices named to exercise the functions of the Execu- 
tive Government in the absence of the Sovereign, and the Lord Chief 
Justice of the King's Bench for the time being has generally been one of 
th^m, without any suspicion being cast upon his judicial purity. As to 
prosecutions for treason, Judges, members of the Privy Council, have 
often attended when persons arrested on charges of treason have been ex- 
amined, and I believe that prosecutions for libel are left to the Attorney- 
General and the Home Secretary. Notwithstanding the elevated situa- 
tion which I occupy in this House, by the pleasure of my Sovereign, I 
will never forget my duty to the people, whose partiality I have so long 
enjoyed. I will ever bear in mind the active and successful part which 
I have taken to support Teial by Jury ; and if I saw any danger to 
public liberty in the appointment of Lord EUenborough to a seat in the 
Cabinet, I should have been the first to oppose it ; but taking a totally 
different view of the subject, I shall be glad, sitting by the side of my 
noble and learned friend, to consult, in conjunction with him, for the 
public welfare." 

The resolution of censure was negatived without a divi- 
sion," but the appointment was condemned by the public 
voice, and justly brought a great slur upon " all the ta- 
LESfTS." To urge that the " Cabinet is not known to the law," 
is a mere quibble.*" By our constitution in practice, it is a 
defined and acknowledged body for carrying on the executive 
government of the country, and the question cannot be 
evaded, whether a Judge employed in administering the cri- 
minal law may constitutionally belong to it? I without 
hesitation answer in the negative. The duties of Criminal 
Judge and Member of the Cabinet are incompatible. I can 
say from my own experience under Lord Grey's administra- 
tion, which may now be referred to as matter of history, that 
the policy of instituting prosecutions both for treason and 
seditious libels does and must come under the consideration 
of the Cabinet. Suppose that the Chief Justice of the King's 
Bench, being a Member of the Cabinet, absents himself from 
such discussions, how are the public to know that he was 
absent when he comes to preside at the trials ordered by his 
colleagues ? — and if he were to proclaim the fact, how can he, 
without suspicion, give an opinion upon the seditious ten- 

' Pari. Deb., vols. vi. vii. and, in point of law, all Privy Councillors are 

b It might be very convenient fcr a Prime equal. 1 am glad that I have not to refnee 

Minister, upon a requisition by some aspiring a request of yours : do not let me hear an- 

Bubordinate to be introduced into the Cabinet, other word about the Cabinet ; yon and 1 

to be able to say to him, — " My dear friend, have an equal right to be consulted by the 

the Constitution knows nothing of the Ca^ Sovereign when the advice of eitloer of tu If 

WET : you are already a ' Privy Councillor,' wanted." 

B 2 


dency of a publication which, contains much abuse of the 
public measures to which he is a party ? The evil does not 
cease with the Government to which he belonged, for when 
that is dissolved and his political rivals are in power, — being 
stamped with the character of a partisan, he is in danger of 
being suspected of a wish to thwart their prosecutions, and 
thereby to hasten their fall." — I do not think there is now 
much danger of the precedent being followed. * 

On the next question which arose in the House of Lords 
I must likewise use the freedom of dissenting from Lord 
Chancellor Brskine. He moved a resolution that, pending 
Lord Melville's trial on the impeachment by the Commons, 
no part of the proceedings should be published ; and even after 
the hearing of the case was over, he suppdrted a further re- 
solution, that the prohibition should be continued " until after 
the House shall have delivered its final judgment upon the 
said impeachment," — with much palaver about the dignity of 
the House and the danger to the administration of justice 
from partial reports.' But the House of Lords during an 
impeachment is a court of justice sitting foribms apertis, — 
that is, the public being admitted as far as there is accommo- 
dation for them, — and an accurate report of the proceedings 
is merely an enlargement of the Court, admitting all to be 
virtually present who choose to read a newspaper. Where 
there is a trial lasting many days, it is utterly impossible that 
by any other means than a daily publication, the bulk of the 
comm^unity can ever be made acquainted with the merits of 
the case. It is absurd to suppose that judges or jurymen can 
be biassed by an accurate report of what they have heard, and 
improper comments upon the merits are likely to be more 

* When Mr. Perry, the proprietor of the said of him that " his nose would take ink 

" Morning Chronicle," was tried in the year stains out of linen." — Sir Vicary went gene- 

1810. for a libel on George III., and was ac- rally by the soubriquet of Sir Vinegar ; and 

quitted under the direction of Lord Ellen- one fine summer'B day, looking more than 

borough, I happened to be sitting, along with usually acetous, the phenomenon was thus 

several other juniors, immediately behind Sir accounted for : 

Vicaty Gibbs. the Attorney^eneral -^^ho « The Sun's bleBs'd beam turns Vikega. 

turned round to us and said m ft loud whisper, j^^^q sour." ^h-^am 
" We shall never again get a Verdict for the 

Crown while the Chief Justice is in opposi- ^ This was written in 1847, when I was 

tion/' Yet the acquittal was allowed by all myself a member of the Cabinet, holding the 

impartial persons to be highly proper,— the office of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancas* 

alleged libel merely alluding, not disrespect- ter. Being made Chief Justice of England in 

fully., to the prejudices of the reigning Sove- 1850, I of course attended the Cabinet no 

reign against hia Roman Catholic subjects. ipore.—Ifote to AthJEdition, 1867 

tiibbs had a spite f^ainst Ellenborongh« who ^ 6 Pari. Deb. 928 ; vii. 250> 


mischievous if not corrected by a full statement of what has 
actually passed. The House was obeyed in this instance, 
but such an injunction was not issued on the trial of Queen 
Caroline, and would not now be endured. 

On the motion for the removal, by an address to the throne, 
of the Irish Judge Fox, accused of misconduct in his office, 
the Chancellor made a very characteristic speech : — 

" My noble and learned friend who spoke last, alluded to the motto 
which I have selected, which ornaments the panel of the carriage at 
your Lordships' door, and which is to be borne, with the insignia of the 
Erskine family, through all future generations. For ' Teial by Jury' 
I have fought in the hottest times, and shall ever fight ; but I do not 
imply anything in favour of the Jury separate from the Judge who pre- 
sides at the trial ; it is the trial of Judge and Jury which attracts my 
respect and admiration, and I do not stand up for the Jury more 
than for the Judge. Let us proceed against Mr. Justice Fox constitution- 
ally. I have been no flatterer of Judges. Did ever any man go further 
to remind Judges of their duties to the coimtry? For my boldness 
I have received public rebukes, which I have returned I trust with 
honest indignation. It is my pride that I was honoured with a gown 
of precedence, which permitted me to be counsel against the Crown, and 
the recollection of what I did on these occasions for my country consti- 
tutes po inconsiderable portion of the happiness of my life. Feeling as 
I do, I join with peculiar fervour in the wish of my noble and learned 
friend, that Judges may not be placed above the law, and permitted to 
trample on the rights of the subject. The true question is, what is the 
proper mode of investigation to be adopted in this case? Witnesses 
have been examined at your bar, but in the absence of the accused ; and 
though your Lordships are exalted, enlightened, and learned, you are 
still men, and subject to all the inSrmities of human nature. The wit- 
nesses have said, that this learned Judge condescended to bully the jury 
— but what a spectacle has this House exhibited ! While we are ar- 
raigning the Judge, what are we doing ourselves ? Have you not, be- 
hind his back, been haranguing one another ? — Inflaming one another ? 
Must not all justice perish if such proceedings are sanctioned ? Suppose 
when you ask the Commons to concur in your address they were to say 
' We choose to proceed by impeachment,' in what a situation would you 
be, having already prejudged the man whom you would be called upon 
to try ? Your Lordships would do better by referring the case to the 
ordinary tribunals, and letting the guilt or innocence of the learned 
Judge be decided by a jury upon a scire facias to repeal the patent by 
which he holds his office. At all events, let not your Lordships pre- 
judge a cause which you may probably be called upon judicially to de- 
termine." ' 

The bill for the immediate abolition of the Slave Trade — 

1 1 Pari. Deb. Jej. 


the great glory of the Fox and Grenville administration, waa 
supported by their Chancellor, who took occasion to announce 
his change of opinion upon this subject. " I was in the West 
Indies," said he, " some years ago in the service of my coun- 
try, and the condition of the slaves there seemed to me to be 
comfortable ; they were generally treated in the kind manner 
used by great families in England to their ancient domestics. 
Believing them to be happy and contented, I could not be 
hostile to a system which produced such results. I have 
since had reason to think that I was deceived by outward 
appearances, and that, without evil, man can never be the 
property of man. The horrors of a Guinea ship have been 
lately disclosed to me in the course of my profession. During 
the trial of a policy of insurance on a cargo of slaves it ap- 
peared, that having risen on the crew in hopes of liberty, and 
being fired upon, — some of them were mortally wounded, 
some voluntarily jumped overboard a prey to the sharks, — 
while others, who remained on board, died, from refusing to 
take food, — and a British jury was called upon to say, for 
which of these classes the underwriters were to make com- 
pensation to the slave dealers ? This country is the morning 
star which has enlightened Europe, and let us now set an 
example of humanity and justice which may be followed by 
all the nations of the earth." ^ He had the satisfaction, as 
First Lord Commissioner, to announce the royal assent to 
this biU. 

When the session closed he delivered the royaJ speech, and 
was observed, in accordance with the opinions he had so often 
expressed since the commencement of the war, to read with 
peculiar emphasis the sentence announcing that " His Ma- 
jesty being always anxious for the restoration of peace on 
just and honourable terms, was engaged in discussions with a 
view to the accomplishment of this most desirable end.""" 
But these hopes proved delusive ; through the ambition and 
obstinacy of Napoleon, hostilities continued to rage in Europe 
for many years, — ^till the hour appointed for his overthrow at 
last arrived. 

During the recess, all the friends of civil and religious 
liberty were deeply afflicted by the death of Mr. Fox, at a 
time when his countrymen, having renounced the prejudices 
they had long fostered against him, were eager to avail them 
selves of his services in negotiating a peace or in conducting 

8 } Pari. Deb. 80 J. h Ibi I26!l. 


tiie war, — ^which all agreed had been hitherto sadly mis- 
managed. Erskine felt the blow with peculiar severity, for 
he had not only, since his first entrance into public life, 
looked up to this great patriot and most amiable man as his 
political chief, but he had cherished for him an uninterrupted 
and ardent private friendship. On the melancholy day when 
the mortal remains of Charles James Fox were deposited in 
Westminster Abbey, near those of his illustrious rival William 
Pitt, — their deaths being divided only by a few short months, 
— Erskine was one of the pall-bearers, and could ill conceal 
his agitation as the coffin was lowered into the grave, and 
the awful words were pronounced, " Earth to earth — a'shes to 
ashes — dust to dust." ' 

He continued to hold the Great Seal, but he was not much 
consulted about the measures of the Government. From the 
meeting of the new Parliament in December till the Minis- 
terial crisis in March following, he did not speak in the House 
of Lords, except on occasions of form and ceremony. Lord 
Grenville himself proposed and carried through the bill for 
introducing into Scotland jtiry trial in civil cases ; and bills 
brought up from the other House by Eomilly to subject real 
estates to simple contract debts, and for other law reforms, 
remained unnoticed. 

From the beginning of March nothing was talked of or 
thought of but the bill moved by Lord Howick, now ^ 
the leader of the House of Commons, for allowing 
Eoman Catholic officers in England to hold commissions 
in the army in the same manner as since the year 1793 
they had been permitted to do in Ireland. This bill was 
npt mentioned to Lord Erskine tUl it was about to be 
brought in; and then, strange to say! he disapproved of 
it, although he did not think it of sufficient consequence 
to require his resignation. He concurred in the propriety 
of withdrawing it when it was found so obnoxious to the 
King ; but he strenuously supported Lords Grenville and 
Howick in their resisting the unconstitutional requisition 

1 " Most of the persons present seemed as And all the reawuing powers divine 

if they had lost a most intimate and a most To penetrate, resolve, combine j 

affectionate friend."^;?oma!3/-s Diary. Even ^ feelings keen, and fancy's glow,— 

. ... i!.;„,i «««.^„„* „„«„ «f.«„ .„„« They sleep with hun who sleeps" below.* 

a bitter political opponent soon after sang— , ^ j . . . .i r,.- .« . j? - .. 

r i^r c Introdmhon to the First Ccmto of " Jfar. 

" For talents mourn untimely lost, mion." 
When best employ'd and wanted most; 
Mourn genius hi^ and lore profound, 
And wit that lov'd to play, loot wound ; 


by the King, that they should give him a written promise, 
signed with their names, never again to propose any mea- 
sure for farther relaxing the penal laws against the Eoman 

His Majesty not yielding to the representations made to 
him on the impropriety of his demand, Lord Erskine, as the 
Keeper of his Conscience, — in a long interview with him, 
— attempted to bring him to reason. Of this we have the 
following amusing narrative in the Diary of Sir Samuel 
KomUly : — 

" March 19tli. — The Chancellor gave Pigot and me a long account of a 
very serious conversation he had yesterday with the King ; I should 
rather say, of a long speech he made to the King. When he went in to 
his Majesty, and had told him that the Recorder's report was to be made, 
he says that, though it is contrary to all court etiquette to apeak on any 
subject which the King has not first mentioned, he proceeded somewhat 
to this effect. He said he was about to do what he believed was veiy 
much out of order ; but he hoped that his Majesty would excuse it in 
consideration of the very extraordinary conjuncture in which the country 
was placed ; that he was sensible, when he first entered into his Majesty's 
service, his Majesty had entertained a prejudice against him ; that he 
was quite satisfied that this prejudice was now entirely removed ; and 
that his Majesty did him the justice to believe that he had served him 
faithfully ; that upon the measure which had been the original occasion 
of the present state of things (meaning the Catholic Bill, as it has been 
not very properly called) he thought, both religiously and .morally, 
exactly as his Majesty himself did ; that, however, after what had 
passed, it appeared to him that the Ministers who had signed the minute 
of council could not possibly, with any cousistency of character, retract 
it; and that to give a pledge not to offer advice to his Majesty on 
measures which the state,of pubUc affairs might render necessary, would 
be, if not an impeachable offence, yet, at least, that which, constitu- 
tionally, could not be justified. He then said that he thought it his 
indispensable duty to represent to the King the situation in which he 
stood ; that he was on the brink of a precipice ; that nothing could be 
more fatal than to persevere in the resolution which his Majesty had 
formed of dismissing his Ministers ; that the day on which that resolu- 
tion was announced in Ireland would be a day of jubilee to the Catholics ; 
that they would desire nothing more than to have a ministry who were 
supported by all the talents and weight of property in the country go out 
upon such a measure ; that he ventured to tell his Majesty that, if he 
proceeded with his resolution, he would never know another hour of 
comfort or tranquillity. The King, he says, listened to all this without 
once interrupting him ; that he could observe, however, by his counte- 
nance, that he was greatly agitated ; and when the Chancellor had con- 
cluded, the King said to him, ' You are a very honest man, my Lord, 
and I am very much obliged to you : '—and this was all. The Chan- 


cellor thinks that he has made a great impression, and half flatters him- 
self that the King will retract his resolution."'' 

Several days elapsed quietly ; and Brskine, ignorant of the 
intrigues of Lord Eldon and ihe Duke of Cumberland, who 
were then negotiating for the formation of a new Govern- 
ment, really believed that the danger had passed by, and that 
he might remain in office, under George III., till his patron 
and friend, the Heir Apparent, should mount the throne, — 
when he expected that the chief power would be vested in 
his own hands. He was in this frame of mind when, late at 
night on the 24th of March, he received a summons to attend 
the King on the morrow before twelve o'clock, to deliver up 
the Great Seal. 

Notice had been put up in Lincoln's Inn Hall that judg- 
ment would be pronounced the next day in another branch 
of the cause of PurceU v. M'Namara, which had been argued 
before him, assisted by the Master of the Eolls. Soon after 
ten he entered the Court, which was densely crowded, — his 
Honour following him ; and when they were seated, he ad- 
dressed the Bar in these words : — 

" 1 had fixed this morning as the earliest and most convenient time for 
finishing, with the assistance of his Honour the Master of the Eolls, at 
least the judicial part of this long and important case ; but late last 
night, — much too late to make it possible for me to apprise you of it, — 
I had notice to attend his Majesty, with his other Ministers, before 
twelve o'clock this day. I shall, therefore, ask his Honour to deliver 
his opinion, in which I heartily concur, — his Honour and myself hav- 
ing had long deliberations upon the subject. With regard to the other 
matters which stand for my own judgment, I shall not have time to 
deliver them in open Court. Adopting the same course as my Lord 
Eldon when he retired from the office of Lord Chancellor, I shall send 
them to the register. 

" If I should be called out of this world as suddenly as I have been 
out of this place, it will be a happy thing for me if I can render as clear 
an account of my conduct through life as of my administration of jus- 
tice during the period I have presided here. I believe it would not have 
taken an hour by the clock to have delivered all the judgments that re- 
main for me to pronounce. — I have altered nothing here. — I have removed 
no man. — But I cannot with justice to myself, or with propriety as it 
regards you, retire from this Court without returning you my most sin- 
cere thanks for the kind, honourable, and liberal manner in which you 
have uniformly conducted yourselves towards me. — I approach the 
threshold of my high office with conscious pride and satisfaction, — ^par- 

it Lifeof BomiUy ii. 187. 


ticularly when I consider the complicated nature of the duties I have 
had to fulfil, and their newness to me. I am happy to acknowledge that 
it is to the learning of the Bar, and the assistance I have derived from 
you, that I am indebted for having been enabled to administer these 
duties with justice and equity. — In retiring to private life, it will be my 
delight to cultivate that acquaintance which I have had with you in my 
public station." 

Mr. Attorney-General (Sir A. Pigot): — "I am sure, my Lord, I 
should not do justice to the sentiments of the Bar, if I were to suffer 
your Lordship to leave this Court without expressing their grateful sense 
of the kindness shown to them while your Lordship has presided here." 

The whole Bar rose and bowed to his Lordship, who in- 
stantly after retired." 

He then proceeded to the Palace. There he found all his 
colleagues assembled, and they were introduced one by one 
into the royal closet, for the purpose of resigning their 
wands, seals, keys, and other insignia of ofSce. To the 
general surprise, Erskine returned still bearing in his hand 
the purse containing the Great Seal ; and some supposed that, 
by reason of his. concurrence of sentiment with his Majesty 
as to the propriety of refusing any farther concession to the 
Catholics, he had been invited, and had consented, to serve 
under the " No-Popery Ministry." But the explanation of this 
phenomenon was, that " the King, understanding that there 
were some causes which had been argued, but in which the 
Chancellor had not yet pronounced his decrees, desired him 
to remain a week longer in ofQoe, that he might finish the 
business in his Court." ° 

The following day came the Ministerial explanations in the 
House of Lords ; and Lord Erskine said, — 

" He considered the subject of the Catholic question as completely ir- 
relevant as any other whatever to the change in his Majesty's couLcils, 
although it happened to be the subject which led to such a conjuncture. 
Although a member of the late Government, he was decidedly adverse 
to the measure, and should not have advised it, because he did not see 
the political necessity for it which had induced the gi-eat majority of his 
colleagues to recommend it to his Majesty. Yet he thought they were 
highly commendable in giving his Majesty such advice as they in their 
conscience thought just — as well as in declining to be bound by any 
pledge to refrain from giving to their Sovereign, upon this or any sub. 
jeot, such advice as they conceived was for the public good. The firmness 
with which his Majesty had maintained his own conscientious opinions 
by resisting the bill in the extent to which it went, had also his respect- 

"" Annual Register, 1807, p. 416. » Lite of RomiUy, 11. 1S9 


fill approbation ; but he must say his colleagues did right in declining 
to be bound never again to advise the measure under any possible pres- 
sure of circumstances. At the moment when bis Majesty's late Minis- 
ters relinquished the bill in concession to his Majesty's scruples, they 
stood in tbe same situation as on their first accession to oiBce. The right 
of his Majesty to change his Ministers no man would deny ; but for them 
to have remained in power upon any such condition as the pledge alluded 
to, would have been, in his opinion, contrary to every principle of Mi- 
nisterial duty, and directly in violation of the Constitution. Their dis- 
missal for no other reason than their declining the pledge, he was afraid 
was a declaration to the Catholics that the penalties and disabilities 
imder which they laboured were to be considered an essential part of our 
system of rule : what the result might be of such a conviction taking 
possession of their minds, he was afraid even to conjecture." 

Impartiality requires me to mention a circumstance ■wMch, 
I recollect, was generally censured at the time, — that although 
Lord Erskine had been allowed to retain the Great Seal for 
a week only to give judgment in causes which had been 
argued before him, he employed the interval to concoct a job 
for the benefit of a member of his family. It is thus related 
by Eomilly : — 

" Two days before Lord Erskine parted with the Seal, he appointed 
his son-in:law, Edward Moixis, a Master in Chancery. Sir William 
Pepys was prevailed upon to make a vacancy by resigning. This is 
surely a most improper act of Lord Erskine's. He ought to have con- 
sidered himself as out of office last Wednesday. Morris, though a very 
clever and very deserving man, has no knowledge in his profession of 
that particular kind which is necessary to qualify a man to discharge the 
duties of a Master. This is a matter which will draw reproach on the 
whole Administration, though in every other department they have most 
scrupulously, as I understand, abstained from making any promotions."" 

He had, no doubt, supposed, that while he held the Great 
Seal, aU its powers, privileges, and patronage belonged to 
him ; and I believe that if the vacancy had occurred in this 
interval by death, he would have been justified, according to 
established usage, in filling it np. 

Having cleared off his arrear of judgments, and on the 
1st of April granted the injunction which I have mentioned 
in the case of Gumey v. Longman f—^'viixhavA, any fresh leave- 
taking, he made his bow to the Bar, and proceeded to the 
Queen's Palace. There he finally parted with the Great Seal, 
and it was delivered to Lord Eldon, who kept it in his firm 
grasp for a continuous period of above twenty years. 

" Life of Eomilly, ii. 192. F Ante, Vol. VIII., p. 391. 


From Lord Erskine's farewell address to the Bar, it appears 
that he was himself well satisfied with the manner in which 
he had performed the duties of Chancellor ; and, though he did 
not do much to advance the science of equity, the suitors who 
came before him seem to have had little cause to complain of 
his decisions ; but I am afraid that Homilly, ruminating upon 
the probable disposal of the Great Seal upon a contemplated 
change of Ministry a few months after, expresses the general 
opinion of his own profession and of the public : — 

" The present Ministry can hardly, considering what the crisis is to 
which public affairs are hasting, be very long in power ; and if those 
whom they have supplanted should recover their authority, the Great 
Seal can scarcely be again intrusted to the hands of Lord Brskine : with 
all his talents (and very great they undoubtedly are), his incapacity for 
the ofiSce was too forcibly and too generally felt for him to be again 
placed in it." ' 

His faults as a judge were afterwards greatly exaggerated, 
and a report was spread abroad that most of his decrees were 
reversed. This having reached the United States of America, 
gave rise to a wager, which the parties, with Transatlantic 
coolness, referred to himself for decision. His reply to the 
American senator who had taken the reversal side of the ques- 
tion is extant, and is a striking instance of his buoyancy of 
spirit and frank good opinion of himself. 

" SiK, " Upper Berkeley Street, Nov. 13, 1819. 

" I certiunly was appointed Chancellor under the Administration in 
which Mr. Fox was Secretary of State, in 1806, and could have been 
Chancellor under no Administration in which he had not had a part ; 
nor would have accepted, without him, any ofBoe whatsoever. I believe 
the Administration was said, by all the Blockheads, to be made up of aL 
the Talents in the country. 

" But you have certainly lost your bet on the subject of my decrees. 
None of them were appealed against, except one, upon a branch of Mr. 
Thelluson's will — ^but it was c^rmed without a dissentient voice, on the 
motion of Lord Bldon, then and now Lord Chancellor. Tf you think I 
was no lawyer, you may continue to think so. It is plain you are no 
lawyer yourself; but I wish every man to retain his opinions, though at 
the cost of three dozen of port. 

^ " Your humble servant, 

" Eeskink, 
" To save you from spending your money upon bets you are sure to 
lose, remember, that no man can he a great advocate who is no lawyer. 
The thing is impossible." 

' Life of Eomilly, ii. 394. 




Some have regretted that Erskine did not close his mortal 
career on the day when he resigned his office ; but 
although he cannot hy any means be held up as a ' ' 
model for ex-Chancellors, he continued for many years, occa- 
sionally, to render important services to the public. He 
began with good resolutions — thus writing to a friend : "I 
am now retired — most probably for life — and am living what 
for me may be considered an idle, but I hope not a useless, 
life — as I keep up my reading, in case the chances of this 
changeable world should give me the opportunity of turning 
it to public account. Should I, however, remain long out of a 
public station, I shall find healthful and interesting occupation 
in the cultivation of the grateful Earth, who, if well culti- 
vated, is less capricious in the distribution of her favours than 
Courts or Princes." 

The late change of Government had been so highly un- 
constitutional, that " all the Talents " for some time thought 
they must speedily be restored to power. They had a decided 
majority in a House of Commons returned after an appeal by 
them to the people, and all the measures which they proposed 
had passed the other House of Parliament. The bill on 
which they had differed with the King was allowed by un- 
prejudiced men to be salutary, and no one had ventured to 
say a word in defence of the pledge he had demanded from 
them. Accordingly the Marquess of Stafford moved a reso- 
lution, " That it is the first duty of the responsible Ministers 
of the Crown not to restrain themselves by any pledge from 
giving any advice to his Majesty which, to the best of their 
judgment, the course of circumstances may render necessary 
for the honour of his Majesty's crown and the security of his 
dominions." On this occasion Erskine spoke early in the 
debate, and thus began : — 


" The particular situation in which I was placed in his Majesty's late 
councils, as it regards the subject now under consideration, and the many 
public references which have been made in various places to my office 
and to my opinions respecting it, make it not unfit, I hope, that I 
should seek the earliest opportunity, consistently with the forms of the 
House, of explaining to your Lordships why I think the resolution 
deserves your support. My Lords, it has been the fashion to represent 
the introduction of the bill which led to the dissolution of the late 
Administration, as an extravagant act of political suicide — as a rash, 
useless, and wanton proposition, dictated by no expediency, and opposed 
by insurmountable obstacles, within the knowledge of those who intro- 
duced it. Nay, my Lords, charges much more serious have been made. 
It has been more than insinuated that, to overcome these obstacles, 
recourse was had to the most unworthy arts of deception. Nothing is 
more easy, my Lords, for those who have an interest in such misrepre- 
sentations, than to invent and propagate them ; but it is not so easy to 
obtain belief (except in the surprise of the moment) that persons of 
acknowledged skill and ability as statesmen should suddenly conduct 
themselves so absurdly, or that distinguished and characteristic integrity 
should suddenly give place to dishonour and falsehood." Having at 
great length explained the existing state of the law with respect to Eo- 
man Catholics bearing military commissions in Ireland and in England, 
T—with the proposed alteration of it, and the course which the affair had 
taken between the King and his Ministers, he thus proceeds : — " I never, 
therefore, at the time the Ministry was on the eve of dissolving, could 
discover any just or rational ground for its dissolution ; and I could 
never, therefore, persuade myself that their removal was the sponta- 
neous act of the King, because, having the highest opinion of his Ma- 
jesty's honour and fairness, I could not reconcile their removal with 
either. A pledge was tendered, which is not only not argued to be legal, 
but the illegality of which is considered as a childish truism, utterly 
unfit for debate in Parliament : and yet this refusal, Without farther 
parley or explanation, and in the midst of the most respectful and 
affectionate submission, was made the only ground of a total, indiscrimi- 
nate dismission. I believe that independently of the avowed cause, the 
fate of the late Ministry had been settled by some secret advisers. We 
all know, my Lords, that in political life there are wheels within wheels, 
as many almost as in a silk-mill,— that the smallest, and apparently 
the most insignificant, are sometimes, from their situations, the most 
opera|ive ; and that some of them, besides, are sunk so deep in the dirt 
that It is very difficult to find their places, thou^ one can very easily 
find their tracks and their effects. It is admitted that, consistent with 
the coronation oath, Eoman Catholics may be ensigns, lieutenants, 
captains, majors, and lieutenant-colonels in the army ; but it is argued 
that they cannot rise to the rank of general officers without a violation 
of the King's solemn obligation to support the Protestant establishment 
of the Church of England. What, in the name of wonder, can the 
Church have to do with this distinction? Whether it was expedient, 


as a question of state, to open the army to Catholics at all, the thing is 
done. We are therefore confined only to the mysterious enigma of the 
perjury in carrying on their promotion to be officers on the staff. My 
Lords, as I was no party at all to the bill, I cannot but feel a most 
natural anxiety to deliver myself from the possible imputation of such 
gross stupidity and folly as to have ever objected to it on that principle. 
It should be remembered, my Lords, that, by the coronation oath, his 
Majesty swore to govern his people according to the -laws and customs 
of this realm ; and that, to require a pledge of his Ministers not to give 
him counsel on any subject, was manifestly contrary to the constitution 
and the laws and customs of the realm. To say, therefore, that the 
King, without an adviser, was the author of this, was to say that he 
had undoubtedly broken his coronation oath." ' He concluded with the 
following characteristic disclaimer of being at all tainted by any leaning 
to Popery : — " My Lords, I have now only to assure you that no man 
can be more deeply impressed than I am with reverence to God and 
religion, and for all the ministers and professors of the Christian faith : 
I am sure that I need not except even the right reverend prelates in 
whose presence I make this solemn declaration. My Lords, I glory in 
the opportunity of making it. Would to God that my life could be as 
pure as my faith ! I consider the Reformation, and its irresistible pro- 
gress in the age which has succeeded it, as the grand era in which the 
Divine Providence began most visibly to fulfil the sacred and encourag- 
ing promises of the Gospel. I look forward, my Lords, with an anxiety 
which I cannot express, but with a hope which is inextinguishable, to 
the time when all the nations of the earth shall be collected under its 
shadow, and united in the enjoyment of its blessings. It is by that 
feeling, my Lords, mixed perhaps with what may be considered as the 
prejudices of education, but which I cannot myself consider to be pre- 
judices, that I have been kept back from going the full length of 
Catholic expectation. I consider the Roman Catholic faith as a gross 
superstition — ^not chargeable upon the present generation, which contains 
thousands and tens of thousands of sincere and enlightened persons — but 
the result of the darkness of former ages, and which is fast giving way 
under the hourly increasing lights of religious and philosophical truth, — 
not that vain and contemptible jargon which has usurped the name of 
philosophy — ^but the philosophy of nature, which lifts up the mind to 
the contemplation of the 'Almighty, by approaching to him nearer, and 
discovering his attributes in the majesty and harmony of his works." ' 

The motion was negatived by 171 to 81, and all hope of 
disturbing the new Government was cut off by a more morti- 
fying defeat in the Lower House, where a similar notion was 
made by Mr. Brand, and where the Whigs had calculated on a 
large majority.' 

' Bomilly eays with astonishment. "No » 9 Pari. Peb. 353. 
Mtice was talcen of this by any of the Peere ' " ?th April. I dined at lard Bewick's, 
*bo spolie after."— £i/e,'ii. 197. with a large party of the late Ministers and 


Erskine was, for a time, a good deal dejected and disturbed 
by the prostrate condition of Ms party, — whicb, in private, he 
imputed to their own imprudence. The author of the " Ee- 
jected Addresses," alluding to his demeanour about this time, 
says, " I never saw him apparently vexed, except at a fete 
(Mmpitre given by Eichard Wilson, at Fulham. I there 
walked with him round the grounds, when he spoke very 
peevishly about Lord Grenville and the recently shattered 
Whig Administration, exclaiming, several times — ' A rope of 

The only other occasion on which he addressed the House 
of Lords, before the end of the session, was in support of the 
" Scotch Judicature Bill," when he rendered himself ridicu- 
lous by one of those displays of egotism and vanity which so 
much detracted from his dignity and usefulness, and made 
hearers believe it impossible that he should be the same man 
who had so nobly and successfully defended public liberty. 
Trial by jury being about to be introduced into Scotland, he 
took occasion to remind the House of his devoted attachment 
to this institution. The Duke of Cumberland, now King of 
Hanover, excusably joined in a titter occasioned by the repe- 
tition of what their Lordships had so often heard — when the 
indignant orator thus burst forth : 

" I observe an illustrious personage on the benches opposite smile, 
and I must be bold to tell him that such a smile is inconsistent with 
the decorum with which this House is in the habit of hearing every 
noble lord express his sentiments. But it is particularly indecorous and 
indecent in that illustrious personage to smile at a panegyric upon the 
' trial by jury.' ' Trial by jury ' placed the present royal family on the 
throne of England, and ' trial by jury ' has preserved our most gracious 
Sovereign, that illustrious person's father, throughout a long and glori- 
ous reign. ' Trial by jury ' is the best security for the rights of your 
Lordships, and of every order in the state ; and I can never cease to 
feel that ' trial by jury' has enabled me to address your Lordships upon 
equal terms with the highest man among you." " 

Soon after, the Parliament elected under Whig rule was 
dissolved, although the House of Commons had come to no 
resolution hostile to the present Government, except against 

their friends. They are very sanguine as to were locked up in the lobby, we supposed 

carrying, by a considerable nu^ority, Mr. ourselves the majority by about 20, but there 

Brand's motion. was a minority of 32 against us." — Z£fe t^ 

"8th. The debate was a very extraordi- BmnUVy, ii. 195. 
nary one. Perceval declaT«l that the King ° 9 Pari. Deb. 48?. 
had no advisers in the measure. While we 


the grant to Mr. Perceval of the Duchy of Lancaster for life , 
but it was thought right to take full advantage of the " No 
Popery " cry which now resounded through the length and 
breadth of the land. In vain did the Whig candidates boast 
of the good measures of the late Ministry, and comiplain of 
the unconstitutional manner in which it had been dismissed. 
The maxim that " the King can do no wrong," framed to 
establish the responsibility of his advisers, the nation trans- 
lated into a declaration " that the King is infallible, and his 
will is not to be questioned." Accordingly, a Parliament was 
chosen in which the Whigs were not much more numerous 
than when they were vainly struggling against the ascend- 
ency of Pitt. 

On the first day of the session, however, an amendment to 
the Address was moved in both Houses, — when Brskine made 
a last effort to persuade the Peers that the personal incli- 
nations of the Sovereign ought not to be regarded as law 
under a Constitutional Monarchy, and strongly inveighed 
against the late dissolution, saying, that " Ministers should 
yield to Parliaments, and not Parliaments to Ministers." — 
But he found himself in a minority of 67 to 160," and there 
being a majority of near 200 '' in favour of Ministers in the 
House of Commons, he abandoned systematic opposition in 

For many years he only came forward on rare occasions, 
to record his dissent to measures which he considered parti- 
cularly objectionable. He violently condemned the expedi- 
tion to Copenhagen,' and supported a motion for restoring' 
the Danish fleet." He took an active part in censuring the 
famous " Orders in Council," respecting neutral navigation, — 
truly foretelling, that they would lead to a war with America, 
and that, being found injurious to our own commerce, they 
must be abandoned.'' 

In opposing the infamous and ludicrous ^.ttempt to conquer 
France by prohibiting the exportation of Jesuits' „ . 
bark to the continent of Europe, he for a time re- 
vived his ancient fame. I can speak with confidence of the 
great talent as well as zeal he displayed on this occasion, for 
I then appeared for the first time at the bar of the House of 
Lords, soon after the commencement of my professional ca- 
reer. — Firmin de Tastet, a wealthy^ Spanish merchant, had 

» 9 Pari. Deb. 691. 7 lb. 65S. • 10 Pari. Deb. 354. 

» 10 Pari. Deb. 633. 1> lb. 929. 9J5. 1149, 1245, 1321. 



imported several large cargoes of Jesuits' bark from South 
America into England, with tlie view of forwarding them to 
different continental ports in the usual course of his trade ; 
and he petitioned against the bill, on the ground of the heavy- 
loss it wbuld iuflict upon him. — I was his counsel, and I well 
recollect my consternation when the great doors of the House 
were suddenly thrown open, and I was marched up to the bar 
by the Black Eod, who thrice stopped me to make my con- 
gkes. The House was very crowded, and in a state of great 
excitement. — Erskine, seeing my trepidation, most kindly 
came to the bar, shook hands witii me, and did every thing 
in his power to encourage me. I stated my case with some 
boldness, and got through pretty well with the examination 
of my witnesses, — he putting questions to them to bring out 
the facts more prominently than I could do from my inexpe- 
rience. I then moved, that, on account of the complication 
of the evidence and the numerous arithmetical calculations 
into which the witnesses had entered, I should be allowed 
tUl the following day to sum up ; and he warmly supported 
my application — pointing out from, his own practice the difB- 
otdty of counsel doing justice without preparation in such a 
case, and urging that the fate of one of the first merchants in 
the world might depend upon their Lordships understanding 
it. The Government resisting the application, he divided the 
House; but there was a considerable majority against us. 
— I replied with some energy ; and, throwing figures and 
calculations overboard, I not only dwelt upon the grievous 
private injury which the biU would inflict on my client, but 
— contrary to the caution I had received from the Lord 
Chancellor — I ventured to glance at its general inexpediency, 
and the discredit which it would bring upon the British name. 
^A very animated debate then took place on the question, 
whether the bill should be read a third time? No notion 
can be formed of Erskine's admirable speech from the miser- 
able report of it to be found in print. Even now I have 
a lively recollection of his impassioned tones, of his piercing 
eye, of his noble action, as witnessed on this occasion ; 
but I cannot attempt to follow the course of his reasoning, 
or to describe the manner in which he conjured the right 
reverend prelates, as ministers of Him who went about heal- 
ing the sick, to save us from the curse that must follow such 
unchristian conduct. The bill being carried by a majority 
of 110 to 44 he embodied his objections to it in the following 
protest - - 


" 1. Because the Jesuits' bark, tlie exportation of which is prohibited 
by this bill, has been found by long experience to be a specific for manj 
dangerous diseases which war has a tendency to spread and exasperate 
and because to employ, as an engine of war, privation of the only 
remedy for some of the greatest sufferings which war is capable of 
inflicting, is manifestly repugnant to the principles of the Christian 
religion, contrary to humanity, and not justified by the usage of 
civilised nations. 2. Because the means to which recourse has been 
hitherto had in war, have no analogy to the barbarous enactment of this 
bill, inasmuch as it is not even contended that the privation to be 
created by it has any tendency whatever to self-defence, or to compel 
the enemy to the restoration of peace — the only legitimate objects by 
which the infliction of the calamities of war can in any case be justified. 
3. Because the only possible answer to these objections is, that the bill 
will not produce the privation which ds held forth as its ostensible 
object, inasmuch as the Jesuits' bark may be exported under licences 
from the Crown ; but such an answer would only prove the bill to bo 
wholly useless to its purposes, whilst it would still leave in full opera- 
tion the odious precedent of having resorted in cold blood, for the mere 
speculative sale of our manufactures, even to the possible infliction of 
miseries not to be vindicated but by the view of self-jireservation, or in 
the extremities of war, directed to that justifiable object. 4. Because, 
as no scarcity of the Jesuits' bark appears to exist in France, and as, in 
the contrary case, no possible exertion on the part of this country could 
effectually prevent its importation into the numerous ports under the 
dominion and control of the French government, the bill is grossly 
vicious in principle, whilst it is absolutely nugatory in practice, and is 
therefore, in every point of view, disgraceful and absurd. 5. Because, 
if it were even just, expedient, or practicable to force the importation of 
our manufactures upon our enemies by withholding the Jesuits' bark, 
but upon condition of their permitting such importation, that principle 
should have been distinctly expressed in the bill, and the conditioni' 
specifically declared in it, instead of vesting in the Crown an arbitrary 
discretion to dispense with the prohibition by licences^ — a power de- 
structive of the equality of British commerce, and dangerous to the 
freedom of the British Constitution. 

" Erskine." « 

He next opposed unsuccessfully a bill very wantonly and 
offensively brought forward by Sir Vicary Gibbs, to enable 
the Attorney-General to arrest and hold to bail any persons 
against whom he has filed an ex officio information for a libel. 
It was aimed against proprietors and printers of newspapers 
who attacked the Government ; out there never had been an 
instance of defendants so prosecuted not duly pleading and 
taking their trial ; and if they actually, were to fly the coun 

" 10 Pari. Deb. 1320—1326 

c 2 


try, nothing could more eflfectiially answer the object of prose- 
cuting them. Erskine in vain showed that the bill was wholly 
unnecessary, and was a dangerous innovation, as it proceeded 
from a systematic desire to put down the discussion of public 
grievances. I doubt whether Sir Vicary ever did more than 
hang it in terrorem over the heads of the old ladies against 
whom he filed his informations, because they happened to 
have annuities payable out of newspapers in consequence of 
family settlements ; and although it stiU disgraces the Statute 
Book, certainly no Attorney-General since his time has ever 
thought of putting it in force. 

When Erskine gave his opinion on military matters, although 
he had been a soldier in his youth, he by no means did himself 
BO much credit. He considered it impossible that we should 
be able to defend Portugal, much less drive the French out of 
Spain. When thanks were moved to the army after the battle of 
Corunna, while he praised the gallantry of Sir John Moore and 
the other British officers who had gloriously fallen there, he 
said, " but for their immortal renown, it would have been 
better for them — certainly much better for their countiy — to 
have shot them on the parade of St. James's Park." '' He 
afterwards asserted, " the men who were sent to Spain were 
sent there to be massacred, without any prospect of their ever 
being able to do any good." ° Nay, he held the same language* 
after the battle of Talavera had been won, saying " he wotdd 
put an hypothetical case : suppose that the result of fighting a 
battle should be, although a victory was claimed, the failure 
of the main purposes of the campaign, — ^would it not be 
essential to have information with respect to the reasons for 
adopting that measure, before they voted thanks for a victory 
which had produced only disastrous consequences ? " ' And 
afterwards, when the plan of establishing our ascendency in 
the Peninsula was discussed, he said " it might as well, in fact, 
be expected to accomplish this by sending over the woolsack, 
with my noble and learned friend upon it." ^ 

But, leaving such vagaries, he almost entirely confined him- 

May 15, Self for somc years to a subject which he made pecu- 

i809. liarly his own, and with which his name will ever 

continue to be associated. Thus he began his speech in moving 

the second reading of his bill " For the Prevention of Cruelty 

to Animals : " — 

* la ParL Deb. 136. « 14 lb. 169. fislb. lOJ. 

s IS Pari. Deb. KM. 


" I am now to propose to the humane consideration of the House 
a subject which has long occupied my attention, and which I own to 
your Lordships is very near my heart. It would he a painful and dis 
gusting detail if I were to endeavour to bring before you the almost 
innumerable instabces of cruelty to animals which are daily occurring 
in this country, and which, unfortunately, only gather strength by any 
efforts of humanity in individuals to repress them without the aid of the 
law. These unmanly and disgusting outrages are most frequently per- 
petrated by the basest and most worthless — ^incapable, for the most 
part, of any reproof which can reach the mind, and who know no more 
of the law than that it suffers them to indulge their savage disposition 
with impunity. Nothing is more notorious than that it is not only 
useless, but dangerous to poor suffering animals, for a humane man to 
reprove their oppressors, or to threaten them with punishment. The 
general answer, with the addition of bitter oaths and increased cruelty, 
is, ' What is that to you ? ' — If the offender be a servant, he curses you, 
and asks ' ^ you are his master ? ' — and if he be a master, he tells you 
that ' the animal is his own.' The validity of this most infamous and 
stupid defence arises from that defect in the law which I seek to 
remedy. Animals are considered as property only. To destroy or to 
abuse them, from malice to the proprietor, or with an intention in- 
jurious to his interest in them, is criminal,— but the animals themselves 
are without protection — the law regards them not — they have no 
BIGHTS. I. am to ask your Lordships, in the name of that God who 
gave to man his dominion over the lower world, to acknowledge and 
recognise that dominion to be a moral tbttst." — After enlarging on 
this topic with great beauty, and fully explaining the preamble and 
enactments of the bill, he observed : " As to the tendency of barbarous 
sports, of any description whatsoever, to nourish the national character- 
istic of manliness and courage, — the only shadow of argument I ever 
heard on such occasions, — all I can say is this — ^that from the mer- 
cenary battles of the lowest of beasts — ^human boxers — up to those of 
the highest and noblest that are tormented by Man for his degrading 
pastime, I enter this public protest against such reasoning. I never 
knew a man remarkable for heroic bearing whose very aspect was 
not Mghted up by gentleness and humanity, nor a hill-amd-eat-him 
countenance that did not cover the heart of a buUy or a poltroon." >> 

When the bill was in committee, lie said, — 

" During the thirty years of my parliamentary life, I have never till 
now proposed any alteration in thie law. I possess no ostentatious wish 
to couple a statute with my name, and, on the present occasion, your 
Lordships will, I trust, give me credit for being actuated by a better 
motive. I venture to say firmly to your Lordships, that ' the bill I 
now propose to you, if it shall receive the sanction of Parliament, will 

t 14 Pari. Deb. 553. 


not only he an honour to tlie country, but an era in the history of the 
world.' " 

The bill passed the Lords after a slight opposition from 
Lord EUenborough, but was thrown out in the Commons by 
a speech of Windham's, who thus sneered at its author : — 

" We ought to be cautious how we begin ' new eras of legislation, 
and ought to have a reasonable distrust of the founders of ' eras,' lest 
they should be a little led away by an object of such splendid ambition, 
and be thinking more of themselves than of the credit of the laws or 
the interest of the community. To be the first who has stood up as 
the champion of the ' rights of brutes ' is, indeed, a. marked distinction. 
But I wish to know why, to tarnish his glory, he has excluded from 
protection animals not tamed or reclaimed ; for one would have sup- 
posed that their ' rights ' were more unqualified and more unquestion- 
able. It is said they are/erce natures — a learned distinction, but never 
before so whimsically applied. Again, we are told, if never treated 
with, cruelty, they would become too numerous and overrun the earth ; 
but how does this apply to a class of animals with which we are 
accustomed to make very free — the fishes ? If it is to be a misdemeanor 
to beat a donkey, surely to crimp a cod, or to skin an eel, ought to be 
felony without benefit of clergy. What a pretty figure shall we make 
in the world, if, in one column of a newspaper, we read a string of com- 
mitments under the ' Cruelty to Animals Act,' and, in another, the ac- 
count of a grand Battue — attended by princes of the blood, and ministers 
of state — or of ' a glorious run, five horses only being in at the death, of 
fifty who started, — several having died in the field ! ' If the horses be 
vrithin the purview of the statute, the hounds are not, and, at all 
events, the ' rights of the fox ' are violated virith impunity ! " ' 

Erskine again introduced his bill, with some amendments, 
A D 1810 ™ ^^^ next session, and it underwent much discus- 
sion, but finding that he was not likely to carry it 
through the House of Commons, he withdrew it after it had 
passed the committee.'' When Windham was gone, and the 
passion for bull-baiting and boxing had subsided, it was in- 
troduced there by Martin of Galway, and finally, ia Erskine's 
lifetime, received the sanction of the Legislature .'" Inde- 
pendently of " the rights of brutes," which it may be difficult 
to protect by human laws, although the subject of religious 
and moral obligation, I think there can be no doubt that any 
malicious and wanton cruelty to animals in public outrages 
the feelings, — ^has a tendency to injure the moral characteaf 

i 1» Pari. Hist. 120?. It 16 Part. Deb. »26, 845, 881, 883, lOlJ 

■» See Stat. 3 Geo. i.e. 11; stat. B «s 6 Wm. 4, c. 5». 


of those -who -witness it, — and may therefore be treated as a 

When the dispute arose upon the commitment of Sir Francis 
Burdett to the Tower, Erskine, yielding to the sin which most 
easily beset him, — the loTe of popularity, — took a violent part 
against the House of Commons, and maintained that all ques- 
tions of privilege ought to be decided by the courts of common 
law. He dwelt upon the danger of either House of Parliament 
exceeding its jurisdiction, — forgetting the danger, which has 
since been exemplified, of judges, with the best intentions in 
the world, attempting to deprive the two Houses of Parlia- 
ment of powers " essential to the due and effectual exercise 
and discharge of their functions and duties, and to the proino- 
tion of wise legislation." ° In a very unnecessary ebullition of 
bravery, after referring to the fact of Chief Justice Pemberton 
being sent to Newgate by the House of Commons, he ex- 
claimed, " If a similar attack were made upon my noble and 
learned friend who sits next me [Lord Ellenborough], for the 
exercise of his legal jurisdiction, I would resist the usurpation 
with my strength, and bones, and blood." ° Nay, he went so 
far as to lay down for law, contrary to repeated decisions of 
all the Courts in Westminster Hall, that a warrant of com- 
mitment by either House of Parliament must upon the face of 
it specify the particular facts alleged to constitute a breach of 
privilege, for the consideration of the Common-law Judges 
upon a writ of habeas corpus.'' It certainly would be desirable, 
for public information, that such warrants were so drawn ; but 
the pretension of judges to review the cause of commitment 
renders this course impossible, without subjecting all parlia- 
mentary privilege to their summary caprice, — and the esta- 
blished sufficiency of a warrant of commitment, generally 
alleging a breach of privilege, is the only practical security 
retained by the two Houses for the undisturbed enjoyment of 
the powers which they have hitherto exercised, and which the 
public good requires that they should continue to exercise. 
Although Erskine had nobly repelled attacks on public 
liberty, I cannot hold him up as an accomplished jurist or a 
great authority on constitutional law. 

I am happy to say that he gradually took a more liberal view 
of the claims of the Boman Catholics : he was not yet prepared 
to put them, as to civil rights, on an equal footing with Pro- 
testants, but he supported Lord Donoughmore's motion for 

■> See 3 Vict. c». ° 16 Pari. Deb. 851. P 1) lb. SS3, S9S. 


referring their petitions to a committee, saying, " The question 
now to be decided is — not whether the Koman Catholic reli- 
gion be good or evil as a religion, but whether, so long 
as it exists among so large a proportion of the population 
of Ireland, we are not called upon so to deal with its pro- 
fessors as to make them safe and sound members of the 
British empire." "^ 

I could have wished much, for his fame, that he had been 
more active in leading or assisting the efforts which now began 
strenuously to be made to soften the atrocious severity of our 
penal code : but I can only find that he once offered a few ob- 
servations, and voted in a small minority, in favour of the bill 
for'taking away capital punishment from the offence of steal- 
ing in a shop to the value otfive shillings' 

The Whigs were again tantalised by the seemingly certain 
prospect of a speedy accession to power. In the end, of the 
year 1810, the mental illness of King George III. was so 
aggravated that it could not be concealed from the public, and 
the functions of the Executive Government could not be car- 
ried on without the intervention of Parliament. The belief 
became general, which was verified by the event, that his 
Majesty was now permanently disabled from personally per- 
forming the duties of his high office. Notwithstanding the 
democratic doctrine adopted in 1788, that on such an emer- 
gency the two Houses of Parliament were entitled to elect 
any individual at their pleasure as Eegent, and to confer on, 
or withhold from him, any of the prerogatives of the Crown, it 
was easily foreseen that the Heir Apparent would soon be to 
all practical purposes upon the throne. After a little vacilla- 
tion, in consequence of a supposed revolutionary movement 
in the country at the commencement of the war, he had 
remained true to the political party to which he attached him- 
self in his youth ; and at this very time he was living on terms 
of the most familiar intimacy with the leaders of it — talking 
to them of the distribution of the great offices of state among 
them as soon as they were his to bestow. Erskiiie, in parti- 
cular, was in high favour with him ; and when they met, his 
Eoyal Highness, without loss of dignity, laying aside court 
etiquette, addressed him by the endearing appellative of TOM. 
If the ex-Chancellor again desired the Great Seal, it seemed 
within his reach. 

Upon the question as to the mode of proceeding to supply 

1 IJ Pari. Deb. 395. ' lb. 198. 


tlie deficiency in the exercise of the royal functions, he laid 
down Trhat I consider the true doctrine^that the two Houses, 
as the states of the realm, should find and declare the fact of 
the incapacity of the Sovereign, and that then the Heir Ap- 
parent, by right of birth, should carry on the government 
while that incapacity continues. He said, "Jsot having been 
in Parliament in the year 1788, I had not then an opportunity 
publicly to declare my sentiments upon the subject, but I con- 
sidered it most anxiously and deliberately, and I came to the 
conclusion that the power of election, arrogated to themselves 
by the two Houses of Parliament, is wholly inconsistent with 
the principles of hereditary monarchy, and may lead to all the 
horrors of civil war. There ife ,no analogy between this case 
and the Eevolution of 1688 ; for then the throne was vacant, 
and the two Houses were driven by necessity to fill it by call- 
ing in a new dynasty. But the throne is not now vacant, 
and the two Houses have no jurisdiction to assume or to 
change the royal authority." ' This short statement seems ab- 
solutely conclusive against the proceeding by biU ; for that 
proceeding cannot take place without the direct assumption of 
the royal authority, however strongly this usurpation may be 
disavowed. The Great Seal is not the organ of the two Houses, 
but of the King only. The Great Seal is used in judicial pro- 
ceedings by virtue of the King's general authority ; but for 
such solemn acts of state as opening Parliament, or giving 
the royal assent to bills, it is the symbol of the King's mind 
and intention, signified by the indispensable sign-manual. To 
employ the Great Seal for such purposes by the two Houses of 
Parliament is, therefore, a manifest violation of the Constitu 
tion. The proposed plan assumes the power of the two Houses 
to exercise the royal authority during the King's incapacity — by 
which evil men may introduce confiision, not likely to termi- 
nate with one generation. This is no visionary fancy; the 
Constitution has fallen a sacrifice to the principle of separating 
the political power from the natural person of the Sovereign, 
and may again lead to the levy of armies in his name to fight 
against him. 

When the restrictions to be put upon the Eegent came to be 
discussed, Erskine strenuously opposed them, contending that 
they were wholly unnecessary for the purpose of ensuring his 
Majesty's resumption of his royal authority on his recovery ; 
and he denounced the prohibitions against promotions in the 

■ 18 Pari. Deb. 12. 


peerage as particularly disrespectful to that Hcase, because 
they conveyed an insinuation " that their Lordships were ready 
to barter their allegiance against additional balls or straw- 
berry-leaves for their coronets." 

On the clause respecting the patronage of the household, 
the Government was beaten by a small majority in the com- 
mittee, where proxies could not be used ; and proxies being 
called on the " Eeport " to reverse this decision, the question 
arose whether, under the circumstances, the right of voting by 
proxy at all existed. Erskine contended that their Lordships 
were not sitting as a House of Parliament under the sanction 
of the King, so that the custom of voting by proxy did not 
apply ; and, at any rate, that the custom, being always under 
the control of the House, ought not to be permitted on this occa- 
sion ; "for what could be more calculated to bring it into utter 
contempt, and to cover it with the derision of the public, 
than to see a most momentous question decided by a majo- 
rity of the Lords present, at the end of long arguments, and in 
ten minutes afterwards to see that decision reversed by the 
very same assembly without an additional living man coming 
into the House, by the proxies of absent Lords, who, had they 
been present and heard the arguments, would very probably 
have confirmed the decision which they were supposed to 
condeimn ? " The Earl of Liverpool was so much ashamed, or 
so much afraid, of an adverse division, that he withdrew his 
call for proxies ; and the clause, as amended in the committee, 
stood part of the bill.' 

Anothfer violent altercation took place on Lord King's mo- 
tion, that Lord Eldon should be excluded from being a member 
of the Queen's Council to assist her in taking care of the King's 
person, — on the ground that he had frequently obtained the 
King's signature for commissions when his Majesty, on ac- 
count of mental disease, was under the care of physicians, who 
declared that he was incompetent to act. Erskine did not 
speak on this very delicate topic, but he voted for the motion, 
and joined in a strong protest against its rejection," setting 
forth the instances in which this practice had been followed, 
and concluding with the allegation, that " John Lord Eldon, 
having so conducted himself, is not a person to whom the 
sacred trust of acting as one of her Majesty's Council in the 
care of his Majesty's person, and in the discharge of the other 

« 18 Pari. HlBt. ?86, 805, 9J6. " 18 Pari. Deb. 1086. 


most important duties committed to the said Council, can witL 
propriety or safety be committed." 

The Kegency Act having received the royal assent by means 
of the "phantom," or sham commission ordered by 
the two Houses of Parliament, in the King's name, 
the Whigs expected to be in office next morning ; but, instead 
of a summons to attend the Eegent at Carlton House, they 
received certain intelligence that his Eoyal Highness had 
written a letter to Mr. Perceval, intimating that "he felt it 
incumbent upon him, in the present juncture, not to remove 
from their stations those whom he found there as his Majesty's 
official servants." An attempt was made to soften this disap- 
pointment, by holding out a hope, which proved to be illusory, 
that, as soon as the period of restrictions had expired, and the 
Eegent could freely follow his own inclination, he would get 
rid of the Ministers with whom he had been constantly at en- 
mity, and by whom he considered himself personally ill used, 
for the purpose of forming a close and permanent connection 
with his early friends. Erskine was not deluded by any such 
prospects, and soon perceived that his old patron had now 
contracted a mortal aversion to the Whigs and their principles, 
and was as firmly resolved as ever his father had been to prevent 
them from obtaining power. 


PEACE IN 1815. 

From this time our ex-Chancellor seems to have renounced all 
thoughts of official employment, and to have become ^ ^ ^^^^ 
rather indifferent about the estimation in which he ' " 
was held as a public man. He had paid very little attention 
to the judicial business of the House of Lords since his resigna- 
tion, and now he was seldom present at its political discussions. 
Giving up all professional reading, and without any serious 
occupation, he led the idle life of a man of wit and pleasure 
about town, spreading hilarity and mirth wherever he ap- 
peared, — seemingly cheerful and happy himseK, but spendii* 


many listless and melancholy hours in private, — sometimes 
mixing in scenes which his friends heard of with pain, and 
which brought upon him distress as well as discredit. 

He as yet retained his beautiful villa at Hampstead, near 
Caen Wood, called " Evergreen Hall." Here he gave gay 
parties, of which he was the life by his good-humour and 
whimsicalities. We have a lively description of one of these 
from Sir Samuel Eomilly, to whose gravity they were not 
quite suitable ■.-^- 

"I dined to-day at Lord Erskine's. It was what might be called a 
great Opposition dinner : the party consisted of the Duke of Norfolk, 
Lord Grenville, Lord Grey, Lord Holland, Lord BUenborough, Lord 
Lauderdale, Lord Henry Petty, Thomas Grenville, Pigott, Adam, 
Edward Morris (Ergkine's son-in-law), and myself. This was the 
whole company, with the addition of one person ; but that one, the 
man most unfit to be invited to such a party that could have been 
found, if such a man had been anxiously looked for. It was no other 
than Mr. Pinkney, the American Minister — this at a time when the 
Opposition are accused of favouring America to the injury of their own 
country, and when Erskine himself is charged with being particularly 
devoted to the Americans. These are topics which are every day 
insisted on with the utmost malevolence in all the Ministerial news- 
papers, and particularly in Oobbett. If, however, the most malignant 
enemies of Erskine had been present, they would have admitted that 
nothing could be more innocent than the conversation which passed. 
Politics were hardly mentioned, and Mr. Pinkney's presence evidently 
imposed a restraint upon every body. Among the light and trifling 
topics of conversation after dinner, it may be worth while to mention 
one, as it strongly characterises Lord Erskine. He has always ex- 
pressed and felt a great sympathy for animals. He has talked for 
years of a bill he was to bring into Parliament to prevent cruelty 
towards them. He has always had several favourite animals to whoni 
he has been much attached, and of whom all his acquaintance have a 
number of anecdotes to relate : — a favourite dog which he used to bring, 
when he was at the Bar, to all his consultations, — another favourite 
dog, which, at the time when he was Lord Chancellor, he himself 
rescued in the street from some boys who were about to kill it under 
pretence of its being mad, — a favourite goose, which followed him 
wherever he walked about his groimds, — a favourite macaw, — and 
other dumb favourites without number. He told us now that he had 
got two favourite leeches. He had been blooded by them last autumn 
when he had been taken dangerously ill at Portsmouth; they had 
saved his life, and he had brought them with him to town, — had ever 
Bince kept them in a glass, — ^had himself every day given them fresh 
water, and had formed a friendship with them. He said he was sura 
they both knew him, and were grateful to him. He had given them 
different names, Home and Clinb (the names of two celebrated sur- 


geons), their dispositions teing quite different. After a good deal ol 
conversation about them, he went himself, brought them out of his 
library, and placed them in their glass upon the table. It is im- 
possible, however, without the vivacity, the tones, the details, and 
the gestures of Lord Erskine, to give an adequate idea of this singular 
scene." ' 

The ex-Cliaiicellor used (but I believe only when he ex- 
pected his friends to detect him in the act) to take a spade in 
his hand and pretend to work in his kitchen garden. On such 
occasions he would say, " Here I am, enjoying my ' otium cum 
diggin a taity.' " — The garden was under the care of a Scotch 
gardener, who once coming to complain to him, as of grievance 
to be remedied, that the drought had burnt up all the vege- 
tables and was killing the shrubs, he said to him, " Well, John, 
all that I can do for you is, to order the hay to be cui; down 
to-morrow morning ; and if that does not bring rain, nothing 
will." — He encouraged the jokes of others when even a little 
at his expense. Boasting of his fine flock of Southdowns, he 
joined in the laugh when Colman exclaimed, " I perceive your 
Lordship has still an eye to the Woolsack." 

He afterwards parted with his property at Hampstead, and 
bought an estate in Sussex, which turned out an unfortunate 
speculation, for it produced nothing but stunted biroh-treee, 
and was found irreclaimable To lessen his loss, he set up a 
manufactory of brooms. One of the men he employed to sell 
them about the country being taken before a magistrate for 
doing so without a licence, contrary to the "Hawkers and 
Pedlars Act," he went in person to defend him, and contended 
there was a clause to meet this very case. Being asked which it 
was, he answered, " The sweeping clause, your worship — which 
is further fortified by a proviso, that ' nothing herein contained 
shall prevent or be construed to prevent any proprietor of land 
from vending the produce thereof in any manner that to him 
shall seem fit.' " 

With a view to improve this property, he began to study 
farming, and put himself under the celebrated agriculturist 
Coke of Norfolk, afterwards Earl of Leicester, observing that 
" having been instructed by CoJie at Westminster, he was now 
to be instructed by Coke, as great a man in his way, at Holk- 
iiam." But the master boasted little of the pupil, relating this 
anecdote of his progress : — " Coming to a finely cultivated field 
of wheat, the first specimen he had seen of drill husbandry, 

» Life of EomiUy, U. 233. 


Erstine exclaimed in a deligKted tone, ' What a beautiful piece 
of lavender ! / .' '" ' I have been favoured by a valued friend 
with the following reminiscence of one of the Holkham " sheep- 
ehearings " at which he was present : — 

" On the morning following my arrival at Holkham, happening to be 
rather late, I found that Mr. Coke, with a large party, had been examin- 
ing a ram that had been brought out of Sussex by Lord Erskine, as a 
specimen of his excellent breed of sheep. Our worthy host, however, 
and the Norfolk farmers did not seem to estimate his merits very 
highly, for they left him without expressing much commendation. I 
found Lord Erskine still lingering about his favourite animal. He was 
engaged in a dissertation, or rather lecture, upon a subject which at time engaged, and still does engage, the attention of the agri- 
cultural world, viz., the advantage of thick or thin sowing. His argu- 
ments were rather of a theological than of a practical character. ' The 
great God of nature,' he said, ' did not create the wire-worm or the 
caterpillar or the turnip-fly in vain : they have a right to their suste- 
nance as well as man. I therefore highly commend the practice of my 
excellent friend Mr. Coke, who sows turnip-seed in suflScient quantity 
to feed the fly during the summer, as well as his own cattle in the 
winter,' In pursuing this argument, he had placed himself upon his 
sheep's back, where I found him surrounded by twenty or thirty 
farmers. The animal at first bore his Lordship's weight, a light one, 
with great patience, but at length, growing weary, it made a°sudden 
move, the result of which was to throw the ex-Chancellor sprawling in 
the dust. He got up, and, deliberately wiping the dirt from his clothes, 
exclaimed, ' I vow to God I thought I was on the woolsack ! and give 
me leave to observe that this is not the first time that I have been 
unceremoniously kicked off it.' We then walked out together, and he 
eloquently expatiated upon all that he beheld ; but that which more 
particularly excited his surprise and admiration was a monstrous heap 
of oyster-shells. At first he could only account for this by the large 
and well-known hospitality exercised at Holkham. Upon further 
mquiry he found that oyster-shells, when pounded and burnt, had 
lately been introduced as a valuable manure. ' Now,' said ' Lord 
Erskine, Ms the time to do justice to the members of the maligned and 
much injured profession to which I have so many years belonged. You 
have doubtless all heard the story of the advocate who swallows the 
oyster himself, and hands over an empty shell to each of his clients 
In domg so it is perfectly clear that he was acting a most disinterested 
part, for while he contented himself with the poor cold fish for his owu 
share, he gave to those for whom he was engaged the means of improv- 

y I once pnzzM a legal Meud of mine, malt if he saw them growine toeether? H. 

who said he should certainly know oats from said he thought he should, bu he waa ^t 

wheat if he saw them growing together, by quite so sure, 
■sking blm if he should Icdow tarki/ from 


ing their lands, and of acquiring unlimited wealth.' — With jokes like 
these he proceeded to amuse the company, and succeeded in converting 
a grave cUdactio meeting into a scene of universal merriment and fun." 

By way of lounge, lie would not unfreqnently come to 
Westminster Hall, to chat with, his old frends — ever express- 
ing regret that he had left the Bar. Once he jumped on the 
table in the robing-room, and said, in a pitiful tone, " Here is 
the first day of term, and I have not a single brief in my 
bag." — I remember, on another occasion, when a group of us 
gathered round him to hear his stories, we flattered him much 
by anking him to introduce into his " Cruelty to Animals 
Bill" a clause "for the protection of Juniors" — telling him 
truly that we had suffered much bad treatment since he had 
left us. — Eemaining a Bencher of Lincoln's Inn, he often 
dined in the Hall, and was much more light-hearted than 
when he sat there with the Great Seal before him. — Yet, when 
pinched by returning poverty, he would occasionally think 
■With regret. of the very short period he had enjoyed his lucra- 
tive office. Captain Parry, the famous navigator, being asked 
at a dinner party, what he and his crew had lived upon when 
they were frozen up in the Polar Sea, said, " they lived upon 
Seals." "And very good living too," exclaimed Erskiae, "if 
you keep them long enough." 

Scion after his resignation, he was invited to a f6te at Oat- 
lands, where the Duchess of York had upon the lawn a number 
of rare animals, and, among others, a remarkable monkey 
with a long white hairy mantle flowing gracefully over his 
head and shoulders. Erskine was late in, appearing ; but, at 
last, while the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, and other 
royal personages, were standing in a group near the entrance 
to the court-yard, he arrived in a very mean-looking one-horse 
chaise. He immediately alighted ; but, instead of paying his 
duty to the " Eoyalties " before him, he suddenly stepped up 
to tbe monkey ; and, taking off his hat in a very dignified man- 
ner, and making three congees, he addressed the animal in these 
words, amidst the hearty laugh of all present : " Sir, I sincerely 
wish you joy — You wear your wig for life" ' 

He used to dine occasionally at the " Stakes " — saying, that 

z On the authority of a gentleman who round the face hair much longer than in 

was present— The Oatlands Monkey was other parts, so as to form a large mane like 

a specimen of the Simia Rosalia, — " smaU that of a lion — native of Guiana — ttie MarU 

red feet— hair very fine, soft, long, of bright kkm of BnfFon." 
yellow colour, resembling yellow silk — 

32 i.uKJL> KKSKINE. Chap. CLXXXVlI, 

he had once consulted a Bishop, whether it was lawful foi 
him, an ex-Chancellor, to do so, and received this oracular 
answer, " Gut them," which he thought himself bound to take 
in mitiori sensu. 

He frequently presided at the ceremony of laying the founda 
tion stone of buildings for literary institutions, and at the 
anniversary dinners of societies of all sorts — when he used to 
make very amusing speeches, which the audience were ntt 
sorry to find often embellished with anecdotes of himself. [ 
remember being present at an address from him to the mem- 
bers of the Law Life Insurance Society, at the Freemasonn' 
Tavern, when he gave us this account of^one of his earliest 
opinions : — " A case was laid before me by my veteran friend 
the Duke of Queensberry — better known as ' old Q.' — as to 
whether he could sue a tradesman for a breach of contract 
about the painting of his house ? and all the evidence he had 
to adduce was detailed — which was wholly insufScient ; where- 
upon I wrote, ' I am of opinion, that this action will not lie, 
unless the witnesses do.' " 

He was at all fashionable breakfasts and balls of peculiar 
eclat ; and whereas formerly he had risen at five in the morn- 
ing to sit down to his briefs, before the ladies of his family had 
returned from such parties, it was now sometimes later before 
he went to bed, — and at any hour next day he might have 
adopted the excuse of Thomson the poet, " Why should I get 
up when I have nothing to do ? " 

" Idleness of mind," says Burton, in his Anatomy of Melaji- 
CHOLY, " is the nurse of naughtiness, the step-mother of disci- 
pline, the cushion upon which the devil reposes, and a great 
cause of melancholy." Erskine's present mode of life, I am 
afraid, was no exception to the general rule — but his frailties 
were never obtruded on the world, and I am not bound to pry 
into them. When they were alluded to, — as he still displayed 
so many fine qualities, mankind were disposed to repeat the 
words of Lord Kenyon, applied to him in former times, 
"Spots on the sun! — spots on the sun!" although, as it 
has been observed in no unfriendly tone, " as the lustre of 
the luminary became more dim, the spots did not contract in 
their dimensions." " 

Erskine now sought to relieve his ennui, and to recover his 
consequence, by becoming an author, and he published an 
octavo volume under the title of " Aemata." This is a close 

■ Lord Brougham's Statesmen, i. 244. 


inatation of " Utopia " and " Gulliver's Travels," but is very 
inferior to those immortal productions, though lay no raeans 
without cleverness. " Morvin," the narrator, is supposed to 
have heen shipwrecked, and, getting somehow into another 
planet, to have reached a very distant region called " Ajrmata " 
(England), with a neighbouring island under the same govern- 
ment, called "Patricia" (Ireland) — having for its great rival 
in power another state, called "Capetia" (France). There 
are two Parts — one historical and political, the other describing 
manners and customs. I will copy a few extracts from it, to 
convey a notion of its contents, as the book is now very scai^ce. 
Tn an attempt to show that if lie French Eevolution had been 
treated differently by foreign nations, its excesses would not 
have been provoked, and war might have been avoided, he 
thus introduces the great patriot of *' Aemata " — who is no 
other than Charles James Fox : 

" My conSdenoe in this opinion," says the personage who is giving us 
an insight into Ai'matan politics, " is the more unshaken from the 
recollection that I held it, at smy time, in common with a man whom to 
have known as I did would have repaid all the toils and perils you have 
undergone. I look upon you, indeed, as a benighted traveller, to have 
been cast upon our shores after this great light was set. Never was a 
beiijg gifted with an imderstanding so perfect. He was never known to 
omit any thing which, in the slightest degree, could affect the matter to 
be considered, nor to confound things at all distinguishable, however 
apparently the same ; and his conclusions were always so luminous and 
convincing, that you might as firmly depend upon them as when sub- 
stances in nature lie before you in the palpable forms assigned to them 
from the foundation of the world. Such were his qualifications for the 
office of a statesman : and his profound knowledge, always under the 
guidance of the sublime simplicity of' his heart, softening without un- 
nerving the giant strength of his intellect, gave a character to his 
eloquence which I shall not attempt to describe, knowing nothing by 
which it may be compared. Had the counsels of this great man been 
accepted, — much more if he himself had lived to carry them into execu- 
tion with his eminent companions, — I must ever think that the peace of 
our world might have been preserved." 

Thus the traveller, giving an account of the Armatans, 
shadows forth Burke, and the state prosecutions launched 
most oppressively by the two Hoasss of Parliament in the yeai 
1794, when he himself acquired such glory : — 

" Alas ! the very voice which had breathed so happily the gentle ac- 
cents of peace, was now heard louder than the trumpet of war to collect 
our world to battle, — spreading throughout the land an universal 



panic, until the public councils complained of sedition. Instead ol 
leaving it to the Sovereign, in the ordinary course of law, to bring 
the suspected to trial, they exalted, it into treason of the highest 
order, and the evidence was published by their command. It was, no 
doubt, within their jurisdiction, and it was their highest duty to protect 
the state, — to proclaim a conspiracy if they believed it existed, and to 
direct prosecutions against the offenders ; but it was repugnant to the 
very elements of the Annatan constitution to involve individuals in the 
accusations, and to circulate amongst the people the accusing testimoi 
nies, stamped with their supreme authority, when inferior tribunals 
were afterwards to judge them. In any other country the consequences 
to the accused must have heen/atal: but there is a talisman in Armata, 
which, while it is preserved inviolate, will make her immortal ' — 

I ought to mention that, from modesty, not a word is intro- 
duced respecting the great ADVOCATE in whose hands the 
" talisman " was so powerful. 

He made ample amends in a subsequent edition for the 
slight the author had cast upon Wellington's early career. 
Morvin, in alluding to a fight which we easily discover to be 
Waterloo, says : — 

"The hardy sons of Patricia were in all our ranks, and her soil 
produced the immortal hero who conducted the battle. No victory 
in human annals ever produced results so sudden and extraordinary. 
The adversary, who had built a thousand vessels to convey his 
armies to our shores, and who was then erecting a column, even 
withm our view, to be crowned with his colossal statue, pointing at 
is with his finger for his own, now fled when no one was pursuing 
and gave himself up as a prisoner to the commander of a single ship." 

I am sorry to say that Morvin's political economy is ex- 
ceedingly bad, although supposed to be very sound by the 
author, and meant to guide us in England. He strongly 
reprobates the importation of foreign wool or foreign com m 
well as of any foreign manufactured goods ; he is not con- 
tented with protection, but would have bounties; and he scouts 
the doctrine that population can ever be excessive, thus con- 
cluding : " Be assured that the very being of your country 
above all at this moment, depends upon your making your own 
soil support your most extended population ; and that to con- 
sider population as an evU is to be wiser than God, -who com 
manded man to increase and multiply." Erskine' however 
knew as much about these matters as Sheridan, Grey or Fox 


himself. Of that generation of statesmen, Pitt alone had 
studied Adam Smith. 

I am surprised to find the following recommendation of 
wearing official costume in general society from Erskine, who, 
above all his contemporaries, appeared to despise formality and 
humbug : — 

. " We have," said Morvin, " robes of magistracy even in the lowest of 
bur Courts ; and not only our Judges, but all their inferior officers and 
attendants, have grave and suitable habits of distinction, but which are 
cast off the moment the business of our councils and courts is over ; 
when the highest of them are to he seen shouldered and jostled in the 
crowd, with the pickpockets whose imprisonments have just expired, 
and with the culprits they have amerced. This is by no means an an- 
cient custom amongst us, but one of late years, most ignorantly and 
thoughtlessly introduced. Supreme Judges, and. Indeed, magistrates of 
every description, — above all, when coming immediately and publicly 
from their tribunals, — should have some suitable distinctions, to point 
out their stations, and to continue, by habits of association, the reverence 
inspired by their dignified appearance when administering the govern- 
ment or the laws." " Then, adds the traveller in his own person, " I 
could not help smiling to myself at the ludicrous idea of all Palace Yard 
in an uproar at the astonishing sight of our Judges coming out of West- 
minster Hall in such shabby frocks and brown scratches as would infal- 
libly subject them to be rejected as bail in their own Courts, even for 
lOZ., though they were to swear themselves black in the face." 

Thus he boldly censures the abolition of ancient sinecure 
ofSces : — 

" To say they are useless because they have no useful duties, may be 
a false conclusion. A critic of this description might reason in the same 
manner vpith Nature, and accuse her of the most senseless profusion, for 
dressing out a cock pheasant and a peacock quite differently from a 
jackdaw or a crow. How unmercifully those poor birds would be plucked ! 
Not a feather would be left in their svnecwe tails ! " 

He pathetically laments the loss of his " Cruelty to Animals 

" It went down almost by acclamation to the other council for its 
assent, where its success would have been equally certain if the re- 
solutions of pubUc assemblies were invariably the result of general 
convictions ; but as the bravest armies have been put to flight by the 
panic of a single soldier, so the wisest councils, by the influence of indi- 
vidual error, may be turned out of the course of wisdom." He then goes 
on to have his revenge of Windham, on whom he charges " monomania, 
vr insanity quoad hoc." 

D 2 


He oonoludes the book in a strain of philosophical piety,_by 
which I believe, he was systematically animated, notwith- 
standing the occasional levity of his conversation or his 
conduct. After calculating that, at the swiftest rate ol 
travelling then known, it would take ninety-one millions 
of years to reach the nearest of the fixed stars, he thus pro- 
ceeds : — 

" When I reflect that God has given to inferior animals no instincts 
nor faculties that are not immediately subservient to the ends and pur- 
poses of their beings, I cannot but conclude that the reason and facul- 
ties of man were bestowed upon the same principle, and are connected 
with his superior nature. When I find him, therefore, endowed with 
powers to carry as it were the line and rule to the most distant worlds, 
I consider it as conclusive evidence of a future and more exalted desti- 
nation, because I cannot believe that the Creator of the universe would 
depart from all the analogies of the lower creation in the formation of his 
highest creature, by gifting him with a capacity not only utterly useless, 
but destructive of his contentment and happiness, if his existence were 
to terminate in the grave." 

" Armata " came out first anonymously, but the author 
avowed himself to his friends, and was well satisfied with his 
performance. He accompanied a presentation copy with the 
following note to Colman : — 

" Dbab Sib, 
" As men of real genius are always the most indulgent critics, I send 
you my little romance without fear. The two parts are veiy different. 
The first was intended to he a kind of bolus to swallow my old politics 
in, which were too long past to be a political pamphlet ; and having' 
gone out of this our world without going to that fitom whose bourne no 
traveller returns, 1 was obliged to come back again to town, describing 
it, however,' as if in the world I had just left. I should like to know 
whether you think my remarks upon the stage are correct. 

" Yours most faithfully, 

" Ebskinb." 

Dr. Parr pronounced the romance to be most valuable, and 
Erskine's name carried it through several editions : but, as 
the story is devoid of novelty or interest, and the great bulk 
of the observations are without much wit or point, it soon fell neglect. 

The year 1812 seemed propitious to the prospects of the 
i.D. 1812. ^'^ig^' ^'"'^ Erskine was often congratulated on his 
certain and speedy return to office. At the expira- 
tion of the restrictions imposed upon the exercise of the royal 


authority by tlie Eegency Act, the Eegent, through the Duke 
of York, professed a desire that " some of those persons with 
whom the early habits of his public life were formed would 
strengthen his hands and constitute a part of his Government ; " 
but it was found that this was only to be undef the ascendency 
of his new friends, Lord Eldon and Mr. Perceval, — and Lords 
Grey and Grenville declared the impossibility of their tmiting 
with the present Government, as their differences of opinion 
were too important to admit of such an union ; and in particular, 
the first advice they should tender to his Eoyal Highness 
would be to repeal those civil disabilities under which so large 
a portion of his Majesty's subjects still laboured on account of 
their religious opinions. In a debate in the House of Lords 
on this correspondence, Erskine said : — 

" Happy should I have been, and ever shallte, to manifest my attach- 
ment to the Prince. I stand in a peculiar relation to his Eoyal 
Highness ; I have been in his service for thirty years, and have received 
many marks of kindness and confidence from him ; and as I consider 
steadiness in friendship to be the source of aU honour and usefulness, 
public and private, I am anxious to explain why it is not in my power, 
consistently with the attachment I must ever retain for the Prince, or the 
duty I owe to my country, to give the smallest support to the present 
Administration." After taking a very able view of their policy, domestic 
and foreign, he observed, that " if a cabinet were to be formed by the 
proposed linion, like plus and mimus in equations they would destroy one 
another ; — one half determined upon a perpetual exclusion of the Catho- 
lics — the pther half convinced that te refuse the claims of the Catholics 
was to dissolve the Empire ; — one half resolved to keep up the Orders in 
Council, — the otherbalf thinking that the Orders in Council were unjust 
to neutral nations, and ruinous to our ovm commerce and manufactures. 
I deeply lament the present inauspicious state of affairs ; but as there is 
no unmixed good in this world, there is seldom evil unmixed vnth good, 
and some advantage may arise out of the present conjuncture ; it vrill fur- 
nish an unanswerable, and I hope a final, refutation of one of the falsest 
and most dangerous opinions which can be propagated among the lower 
orders of the people, — that their superiors are all alike — ^all equally cor- 
rupt — all looking only to ofBce by the sacrifice of all principle. The 
public may now be convinced, that what has been too frequently and 
invidiously stigmatised as party, may be better described as an honour- 
able and useful union of men, of great talents and influence, esteeming 
one another in private life, and pledged to their country and to each^ 
other by similar political principles. I am persuaded, that a finn pha- 
lanx of such men, who have acquired general confidence, which they can 
only hope to preserve by sacrificing their own advancement to the inter- 
ests' of the people, is one of the most important safeguards of the British 
constitution." in a subsequent part of the debate, he said, by way of 


explanation, " I should have approved of all that was proposed by the 
Cabinet of which I was a member, and much more than from circum- 
stances they could venture to propose, had 1 not thought that, from the 
King's prejudices, this course would dissolve the Administration. 
[' Hear ! hear ! ' from the other side of the House.] I am glad of that 
cheer — I laid a trap for it, — as it most strikingly marks the general dis- 
position to impute to public men the love of office as the ruling principle 
of their conduct. Surely this error is now refuted." 

Upon a division, however, the Government had a majority 

of 165 to gs.' 

Three months afterwards arose another Ministerial crisis, 
on the assassination of Mr. Perceval, when Erekine again 
behaved with spirit and disinterestedness. The Whig leaders 
were offered the power of forming an entirely new Cabinet, 
on a condition to which it was known they could not accede, 
— that the ofiScers of the household should not be changed. 
Although this novel and unconstitutional arrangement was 
defended by the Earl of Moira, and even by Sheridan, Erskine 
stoutly asserted that " Lords Grey and Grenville were bound 
to see that they had all the facilities and securities which were 
usual upon changes of Administration, to enable them to carry 
on the functions of Government with effect." ° 

During the five following j'ears, Erskine never opened 
his lips in Parliament. Lord Liverpool, much ridiculed 
when a youth for his proposed " March to Paris," and 
certainly one of the dullest of men, was now Prime Minister, 
and under him our military operations on the Continent 
of Europe were inore brilliant than under any of his pre- 
decessors since the time of Godolphin. Opposition almost 
entirely ceased, and all orders and parties joined in the 
eifort to maintain our independence against the ambition of 

During this long interval, Erskine devoted himself almost 
A.D. 180J— entirely to the enjoyments of private society ; but of 
^*^'- the space which he stUl occupied in the eyes of man- 

kind, we may judge from the following entries respecting him 
in the Diary of Lord Byron : — " On Tuesday dined with 
Eogers, Madame de Stael, Mackintosh, Sheridan, Erskine, 
Pajrne Knight, and others. Sheridan told a very good story 
of himself and Madame Eecamier's handkerchief. Erskine a 
few stories of himself only." . . . •; Lord Erskine called and 
gave me his favourite pamphlet, with a marjginal note and 

b 22 Pari. Deb. 62, 69, 89. « 23 Pari. Deb. 346, 596. 


corrections in his handwriting. — Sent it to be bound superbly, 
and shall treasure it." ..." Lord Erskine called to-day. He 
means to carry out his productions on the war, or rather wars, 
to the present day. I trust that he will. Must send to Mr. 
Murray to get the binding of my copy of his pamphlet finished, 
as Lord Erskine has promised me to correct it and add mar- 
ginal notes to it. Any thing in his handwriting will be a 
treasure, which will gather compound interest from years. 
Lord Erskine thinks the Ministers must be in peril of going 
out. So much the better for him." * 

The ex-Chancellor's abstinence from mixing in political 
debates at such a season might be proper ; but his neglect of 
law reform cannot be palliated. Eomilly, in his Diary, says, 
under date 20th June, 1814, " Lord Erskine told me on 
Saturday that he should certainly bring on my bill, which he 
has taken charge of, on this day. He had not, however, given 
any notice of his intention, or required that the Lords should 
be summoned ; and though he had formerly presided in the 
House as Chancelloi: for above a year, he was ignorant, till he 
learned from me with surprise and evident mortification, that 
a previous notice was, according to constant usage, necessary 
before he could move the second reading of any bill." And 
again, under date 5th March, 1816 : "I called this morning 
on Lord Grenville to endeavour to prevail upon him to take 
the charge, in the House of Lords, of my bill for subjecting 
freehold estates to the payment of simple contract debts : for 
if it continues this year, as it was the last, in the hands of 
Lord Erskine, who does not understand the subject, and is 
incapable of answering any objections that are made to it, 
there is no chance of its being carried." ° 

I cannot, however, join in the censure of the ex-Chancellor's 
political conduct at this period. He had, excusably, although. 

d This copy, now belonging to my friend randa in the handwriting of Lord Byron ; — 

Mr. Murray, of Albemarle Street, lies before .. -j^g correction and erasures in this volume 

me. It contains the following memorandum, ^re made by Lord Erskine's own hand, pre- 

In the handwriting of Lord Erskine :- y^^^^ j^ yg jmnonring me with the present 

" I have no other copy of the pamphlet but of this volume, 

this spurious edition— full of gross errors. " Oct. I2th, 1814. ' B." 

After Debrett had become a bankrapt. having „ ,^^ ^^ ^^^ t„ ^^ ^ j^^^ ^^^ 

published forty-eight editions, the present ^^^ .„ November (I think), 1813. 

edition appears to have been pubhshed, with „ q^^ jgjjj ^^^^^ ' g „ 

ft print which I am sanguine enough to hope . , • 

was intended as a caricature.* E." The corrections are few and immateriaL 

There are added the two following memo- ® Life, iii. 141, 15 6. 

* The print, altbou *%enea6, Is certainly by no means flattering. 


not magnanimously, accepted an unsolicited and unexpected 
offer, made to him out of personal regard by the Kegent, of 
a " green ribbon ; " and I am afraid he was rather too much 
gratified in wearing it, and showing in public the star of the 
order of the Thistle on his breast.' But, while the affair was 
creditable to the one party, I do not think that it ought to 
derogate from our respect for the other. At a recent public 
dinner, Erskine, in commenting on the arbitrary policy of the 
existing Government, had entered into a warm defence of 
" those principles which had placed the House of Brunswick 
on the throne of Great Britain ; " and his Eoyal Highness, 
on reading a report of this speech in the newspapers, had 
observed, " They are principles which would unseat any 
family from any throne." — However, as, upon Napoleon's 
escape from Elba, the new Knight concurred, with almost 
the whole of his party, in supporting the preparations for 
renewing the war, he is thus disparagingly noticed by 
Bomilly : " Erskine, who has lately accepted a green ribbon 
from the Eegent, voted with the Ministers, but did not speak. 
One might have expected, however, that he would have 
explained how it happened that his opinions now were so 
different from those which he entertained during the last war, 
and which he published in a pamphlet that had great cele- 
brity. This pamphlet I remember his carrying with him to 
Paris after the Peace of Amiens, and giving to a number of 
persons there, telling every one of them that there had been 
still later editions than that which he gave them, which was 
the twenty-sixth, or some other great number, for I do not 
recollect exactly which it was." But, whatever doubts might 
be entertained of the necessity for carrying on the war with 
the French Kepublic, almost all were convinced that peace 
with the Emperor was now impossible. 

Having published a pamphlet in vindication of the Whigs, 
he was answered in ' " A Letter from an Elector of West- 
minster," who thus assailed him : — 

"It was on the 9th of November, 1794, that I harnessed myself to 
the carriage of the Hon. Thomas Erskine, when that distinguished 
barrister was drawn through the streets of the metropolis amidst the 
blessings and the tears of a people whom he had saved from the gripe of 
oppression. ... No time, no, nor your Lordship's subsequent conduct, 

I It should likewise be recollected that forty years ago, as related by LoM Coiiunl» 
this was the fulfilment of the prophecy he sioner Atfam. Ante, Vol. VUL p, 353 
hid uttered when croeiing the bloated heath ' 


shall obliterate your share in the glorious struggle that gave a breathing- 
time to the last defenders of their country. The congratulations belong 
to the rescued prisoner, but the praise was all your own ; you were the 
saviour of the innocent, the restorer of liberty, the champion of law, of 
justice, aid of truth. Dazzled by your eloquence — animated by your 
courage — sympathising with your success — your fellow-countrymen sunk 
under their admiration, their gratitude, and their joy, and bowed down 
before the idol of their hearts. My Lord, you should have died when 
you descended from the triumph of that memorable day. The timely 
end, which is the sole protection against the reverses of fortune, would 
have preserved you from that more lamentable change which could have 
been occasioned only by yourself. Had your life closed with the proces- 
sion, you would have gone down to posterity pure and entire. As it is, 
your admirers have nothing left for it but to separate your early. career 
from your present state, and to look at the record of your former 
exploits as belonging more to history than to you." 

He then emimerates specifically the imputed misdeeds 
down to the acceptance of the " green ribbon." Erskine 
published an answer, — from which I copy his characteristic 
defence upon the last accusation : — 

" To this vulgar jest I reply, that if the author holds in republican 
contempt the most ancient distinctions of a monarchical state, he is un- 
doubtedly well justified'in considering the green ribbon as a laughable 
thing; but he fails altogether when his wit is not pointed .at that 
hnigMAood, but personally against me. It is well known that the order 
of the Thistle is a distinction for the nobility of Scotland ; and that, 
ever since the Union, it has been the custom to invest with it two 
English Peers. Now, as the author repeatedly taunts me vrith my 
Stuabt ancestors, he, perhaps, has inadvertently let down the force of 
the sarcasm he aimed at : because I am of the family of the King who 
instituted the order, and had been for many years in the service of the 
present Sovereign, it seems difficult to find fault, either with the Prince 
Kegent for bestowing it on me, or to make out my disqualification to 
receive it; but if the insinuation was pointed to convey that the accept- 
ing it was a departure from my principles or friendships, I hold the 
slander in the utmost contempt, because my whole life is its unanswer- 
able refutation. I stood towards the Prince Regent in a relation quite 
different from that of my friends in Parliament, having been in his 
Royal Highness's service from the first formation of his establishment. 
The appointment of those Ministers who still continue in office might 
for a season produce a corresponding coolness among public men, but 
which could not, with any propriety, involve me, from my particular 
situation, and from many personal obligations. I was bound to fulfil 
aU my duties. I remained, and still remain, faithful to the PHnce of 
Wales, but faithful alike to my principles and friends, — defying any 
man, as I now do, to charge me with the slightest deviation from the 
most perfect integrity and consistency as a member of Parliament fol 


nearly forty years. I value the distinction alluded to, because it was a 
fit one of my rank and birth ; and 1 value it the more, because it 
was given to me by the Prince as a mark of his personal regard, 
and without any wish or expectation that it could at all afleot my pub- 
lic conduct. So much for the ' Green Eibbon,' — which I have only at 
all adverted to because I will not suffer even a squib to come across 
the unsullied path of my public life without publicly treading it out." 

A collection, being published about this time of the speeches 
of his great leader, to whom he had ever been faithful, and to 
whose memory he was most affectionately attached, he thtis 
addressed Mr. Wright, the editor : — 

" The expression of my regret that the utmost care and attention 
could give but a very faint representation of their merit is, however, no 
preface to my wishing they should be suppressed. Far from it. It 
wjould be an absurd objection to a bust of Demosthenes or Cicero, that 
the vigour of the eye was lost in the marble, and the lips cold and 
silent, which were the sources of his fame. It would be as strange a 
criticism in a cabinet of natural history, that rare animals, however in- 
geniously preserved, were but feeble representations of them when living, 
— that, though we observed the form of a lion, we could not hear him 
roar, nor see him stalking over the desert in the tremendous majesty of 
his dominion, — or that, .though we could not but admire the form and 
plumage of an eagle, we should accoimt it nothing, because his vast 
wings \yere not in motion, nor his prey flying dismayed under their 
shadow. Eloquence, which consists more in the dexterous structure of 
periods, and in the powers of harmony of delivery, than in the extraor- 
dinary vigour of the understanding, may be compared to a human body, 
not so much surpassing the dimensions of ordinary nature, as remark- 
able for the symmetry and beauty of its parts. If the short-hand writer, 
like the statuary or painter, has made no memorial of such an oratoi^ 
little is left to distinguish him ; — ^but in the most imperfect reliques of 
Fox's speeches the bones of a giant are to be discovered. I cannot but 
look back as to the highest and most honourable circumstance of my 
life, that I thought and acted with Mr. Fox through so considerable 
a part of his time, apd that now, in my retirement from the world (for 
so I have considered it, since my professional course has been closed for 
ever), I have had the opportrmity of thus publicly expressing my vene- 
ration for his memory. When I followed him to the grave, I was un- 
able, from sorrow, to support with decent firmness the high place which 
my situation at that period assigned me in the funeral procession; and 
even now, when thus engaged in the review of his splendid and useful 
career, I cannot but feel the most affectionate and painful regret, seek- 
ing a kind of consolation, with his nunierous friends, fn m his being ii, 
a manlier still living in the representatives of his family." ^ 

s This is a well-merited compliment to the I myself received moi e personal kindnea 
genius and amiable qualities of his friend than from any political leader with whom I 
Lord Holland. — alas ! uo more,— from whom have ever been associa: ed. 


Although. Erskine ^t this period of his life never mingled 
in the political discussions of the House of Lords, a peei age 
case came on in which he took a deep interest, and on -which 
he bestowed immense labour — the claim of Lieutenant- 
Colonel KnoUys to the earldom of Banbury." He has been 
highly extolled by those who have hitherto written any 
account of his life, for his efforts on this occasion; but, 
although the zeal and the eloquence which he displayed are 
much to be admired, I think he took an entirely erroneous 
view of the subject, trying without any sufficient reason to 
set at variance legal presumption and physical fact. — William 
Knollys, the first Earl of Banbury, when an old man, married 
the Lady Elizabeth Howard, a girl of nineteen, and she had 
for her lover the yoimg Lord Vaux. While often in the 
company of her husband she twice became pregnant, but 
concealed her pregnancy from him, and she bore two sons 
during his lifetime, but concealed their birth and their 
existence from him. Very soon after his death she married 
Lord Vaux, and the boys taking the name of Vaux were 
long treated as Lord Vaux's children. Shortly before the 
old peer died, King Charles I. prevailed upon the House 
of Lords to allow him precedence for his hfe over Earls 
created before him, " considering how old a man this lord 
is, and childless." His will made no mention of any son ; and 
an inquisition taken after his death, respecting the lands of 
which he was seised, found that he died without heirs male of 
his body. But Edward, the elder son, afterwards claiming to 
be Earl of Banbury, it was found under a commission from the 
Court of Wards that he was the son and heir of the late Earl, 
and having assumed the title, he was killed abroad during his 
minority. Nicholas, the younger son, then called himself, and 
was generally called by others. Earl of Banbury. He was 
allowed to sit under that title in the Convention Parliament, 
which assembled in 1 660, but he was not summoned to the 
next Parliament. A committee of privileges reported that in 
the eye of the law he was the son of the late Earl — but still a 
writ was refused to him on the opinion of the Attorney- 
General, and he died without being allowed to take his seat. 

b I am in possession of his MSS. connected an abstract of all tbe facts of the cose — a col- 
Wth this case, which show, in a very stiik- lection of all the authorities upon legitimacy 
lag manner, the industry he could still, when — his long speech in support of the claim- 
necessary, call into action. These contain and hlB elaborate protest against the d&;;isi0]k 
fiill notes of all the arguments at the Bar — 


His son Charles was likewise excluded. He assumed tha 
title, however, and, being indicted for murder, petitioned tha 
Lords that he might be tried as a Peer, but they decided 
against him. He then pleaded his peerage in abatement, and 
the decision of the House of Lords being replied, Holt, C. J., 
to the great wrath of the Peers, with perfect propriety allowed 
the plea, as the decision of the Peers was not founded on any 
reference by the Crown. His descendants continued to call 
themselves Earls of Banbury, but were not summoned to the 
House of Lords, and did not again take any proceeding to 
establish their right till the petition presented by the present 
claimant. Erskine, being his private friend and thoroughly 
convinced that his claim was well-founded in law, delivered a 
very animated speech in the Committee of Privileges, to 
which it was referred : — 

" I admit," said he, " that the claimant labours under great disadvan- 
tages. The facts, in his case, are extraordinary, and the grave has long 
since been closed over all the individuals whose evidence could afford 
him any assistance. His claim is almost as old as the patent of his an- 
cestor, and successive generations have passed away without any recog- 
nition of it by this House. Yet time would be the instrument of injus- 
tice, if it operated to raise any legal bar to the claimant's right. Ques- 
tions of peerage are not fettered by the rules of law that prescribe the 
limitation of actions, and it is one of the brightest privileges of our or- 
der that we transmit to our descendants a title to the honours we have 
inherited or earned, which is incapable either of alienation or surrender. 
. . . . The rule relating to the bastardy of children born in wed- 
lock may be reduced to a single point — 'the presumption in favour of 
the legitimacy of the child must stand, until the contrary be proved by 
the impossiiility of the husband being the father, and this impossibility 
must arise either from his physical inability or from non-access.' It 
has been urged, that strong improbability is sufiBcient ; but this I con- 
fidently deny. We do not sit here to balance improbabilities on such a 
topic as this. If access can be proved, the inference from it is irresist- 
ible, — ^whatever moral probability there may exist of the adulterer being 
the father, whatever suspicions may arise from the conduct of the wife, 
or the situation of the family, — ^the issue must be legitimate. Such is 
the law of the land. Women are not shut up here as in the Eastern 
world, and the presumption of their virtue is inseparable from their 
liberty. If the presumption were once overthrown, the field would be 
laid open to unlimited inquiries into the privacy of domestic life ; no 
man's legitimacy would be secure, and the law would be accessory to 
the perpetration of every species of imposture and iniquity. A fixed 
rule may give rise to occasional deviations from justice ; but these 
amount to nothing more than the jmoe which every member of the com- 
munity may be called upon to pay fpr the advantaise ©f an enlightened 


oode. No laws can be framed snfSciently comprehensive to embrace the 
infinite varieties of human action, and the labours of the lawgiver must 
bo confined to the development of those principles which constitute the 
support and security of society. He tiews man with reference to the 
general good, and that alone. He legislates for men in general, — not 
for particular cases. No one can doubt that the interests of society 
are best consulted by making a question of such frequent occurrence 
as legitimacy to rest on a limited number of distinct facts — easy to be 
proved, but not to be counterfeited — ^instead of leaving it to be the re- 
sult of inference from a series of indefinite circumstances, separately 
trifling, and only of importance collectively, from the object to which 
they are applied. Marriage and cohabitation afford us a more sure 
solution of the question of legitimacy than we could arrive at by any 
reasoning on the conduct of the husband and vrife. — As to the ad- 
vanced age of the husband in this case, there is no statute of limi- 
tations on the powers and faculties of man. Instances of robust lon- 
gevity might be cited still more extraordinary. Sir Stephen Fox mar- 
ried at the age of seventy-seven, and had four children : the first child 
was born when the father was seventy-eight ; the second and third 
were twins in the following year, and the fourth was bom when the 
father was eighty-one. The Earl of llchester and Lord Holland can 
vouch for the accuracy of this statement, and I believe their genea- 
logy has stood hitherto unquestioned. Parr became a father when his 
first-born son was of a more advanced age than the old Earl of Banbury. 
Moreover, his Lordship seems to have kept all his faculties both of body 
and mind in full exercise. Though eighty-four or eighty-five years of 
age, not only does it appear, from the evidence of one of the witnesses, 
that he went out hawking up to his death, but the Journals of this 
House furnish us with the best evidence of his attention to more im- 
portant matters. Then, my Lords, why is the bounty of Lord Vaux to 
his step-son to be ascribed to another motive than what belonged to such 
a relationship ? Why is Nicholas to be supposed to have repudiated the 
title of Banbury, because in his childhood he had been called by the 
name of Vaux ? These are weak arms to encounter a presumption so 
strong as that which exists in favour of legitimacy. The same rights 
have descended to the present petitioner, and I trust they will be recog- 
nised by your Lordships." 

But it is quite clear, both from reason and authority, that 
although the hushand and wife may have had an opportunity 
of being in the society of each other about the time to which 
the origin of the child is to be ascribed, — without proof of the 
impossibility of the husband being the father, there may be cir- 
cumstances to lead to the conclusion that they did not live 
together as husband and wife, and that the paramour of the 
vnfe may be considered the father of the chUd. In the 
present case the concealment of the birth of the two boys 


from the Earl of Banbury, and the treatment of them as 
adulterous bastards, both by their mother and by Lord Vaux, 
afforded abundant ground for these inferences. — Lord Eldon, 
Lord Eedesdale, and Lord EUenborough accordingly gave a 
strong opinion against the claim. But such an impression 
was made by the plausible arguments in support of it, that 
upon a division in the committee it was only negatived by a 
majority of 21 to 13.' Erskine in a great rage, drew up a 
strong protest, which was signed by three royal Dukes and 
seven other peers, — and, writing about it to a friend, said : 
— " The Protest gives our opponents every fact and all 
arguments, but they are without a single voice in West- 
minster Hall from one end to the other." The decision, 
however, is in conformity to the Code Napoleon, which, on 
the birth of a child bom in wedlock being concealed from the 
husband, admits proof that it is the child of an adulterer, and 
having been followed in several cases since, which have been 
carried by appeal to the House of Lords, it is now universally 
acquiesced in and considered to be law.' 



The battle of Waterloo being gained, and Napoleon relegated 
A D 181? ^° ^*" Helena, — a measure necessary for the repose 
■ of the world, — party warfare likewise ceased for a 
time ; but Erskine was at his post when hostilities against 
the Constitution were .renewed, and he opposed with all his 
ancient vigour the " Seditious Meetings Bill " and the suspen- 

i It was said that among the twenty-one place between the husband and wife, whereby 

were four spiritual Peers who had never at- the child by possibility may be the child of 

tended, and ten lay Peers who attended only the husliand, it is presvmptio juris et dejure, 

occasionatiy; while the whole of the thirteen — or an Invariable rule of law,— that the 

had attended constantly, — being, I presume, child is legitimate ; but put the supposable. 

stanch partisans. thongh not probable case, that the husband 

k See Morris D.Davis, Clarke and Pinelly's and wife are whites, that the paramour is a 

Reports, vol. v. p. 163, where all the autho- . negro, and that tlie child is a mulatto. Quid 

Titles are collected. — The Judges all say, tbat juris 9 
If it be believed that iutercoorse did taice 


sion of the " ITabeas Corpus Act," denounoing these measuTea 
as sure to exoit-e instead of allay discontent, and as more in- 
jurious to the Constitution than any passed in the " Beign of 
Terror," under Mr. Pitt, when a foreign war, and apparent 
danger from the spread of Trench principles, afforded jime 2, 
some pretext for such arbitrary legislation." In ^^'^** 
opposing a new " Seditious Meetings Bill," he said, — 

" If the authors of this bill had the government of the seasons, they 
would no doubt set about a reformation upon their own system ; and the 
elements of fire, water, and air would no longer have their immemorial 
liberties, but would be put under such politic restraints as we are 
now about to lay upon the civil world. To Fire they would say, ' You 
are an excellent servant, most beneficial when under due discipline 
and control, but most dangerous when left unrestrained. You may, 
therefore, continue to blaze in our kitchen and in our chambers, but 
you shall no longer descend from heaven with electric flashes, destroying 
our persons and property, and striking even the spires of our churches 
with sacrilegious violence.' To Water they would say, ' We are de- 
lighted vrith your smooth face upon our calm transparent lakes, and 
with your ripplings in our summer streams ; but you must no longer 
come down from the hills in winter torrents, sweeping away our 
flocks and their masters.' To Air they would say, 'Be free as air; 
it is even a proverb, and we will support it; continue, therefore, to 
be free as air, at least in our improved sense of freedom. But not more 
than fifty clouds shall in future come together, without an order from 
seven farmers or graziers ; and if you shall presume to blight our fruit- 
trees or destroy our harvests, you shall be driven back to your caverns 
by a single justice of the peace.' " " 

He likewise brought in a bill to prevent arrest for libel 
before indictment found against the libeller. This measure 
he supported in a most elaborate speech, but it was rejected 
on the second reading by a large majority." 

In the following stormy session, in which the " Six Acts " 
were passed — (I hope the last trial of the coercive a.d. 1819— 
system for England) — Erskine was active and ener- '^^'^''• 
getio. He began by supporting Lord Grey's amendment to 
the Address ; when he condemned in severe terms " the 
massacre at Manchester," on the dispersion of Mr. Hunt's 
meeting there, — and the Secretary of State's letter, approving 
of the violent conduct of the magistrates and the military 
without any previous inquiry.'' 

■» 35 Pari. Deb. 1213, 1224, 1226 ; 36 lb. P « Pari. Deb. 26, 40: An anecdote whicli 

981, he then told, in the vain hope of inducing 

° 67 Geo. 3, c 3. Lord Eldon to retract an opinion he had at- 

' OS ParL Deb. tered, deserves to be recorded in hia owa 


On Lord Lansdowne's motion for a committee to inquire 
Not. 28, into the state of the country, Erskine said, with 
1819. much feeling, — ' 

" My Lords, I am now an old man, and have been nearly forty year* 
In Parliament ; yet I declare solemnly that I never felt more unqualified 
Tegret for any proceeding in it than the rejection of the amendment pro- 
posed by my noble friend, and so eloquently pressed upon our attention 
on the first day of the session. If your Lordships had fortunately 
adopted it, you could have had nothing farther to consider on this 
painful subject, and would have escaped the second error of rejecting 
the proposition of the noble marquess, to-night, which I cannot but 
painfully foresee. You would then have had an unanimous Parlia- 
ment reprobating all seditious combinations, calling upon both magis- 
trates and people, by the combined authorities of the state, to support 
the Constitution, and to maintain public order and tranquilUty. The 
amendment asked nothing more than that the people should not be 
condemned unheard. I have had many more opportunities of knowing 
the sentiments and feelings of those who are classed as seditious sub- 
jects than most of your Lordships can have ha<i, and, it is my un- 
alterable belief that a system of alarm, supported by mysterious green 
bags and the array of special commissions, followed as they have been, 
and will be, by convictions sufBciently numerous to inspire terror — ^not 
sufSciently numerous to enforce subjugation — only exasperate evils, the 
unfortunate existence of which we all deplore. The present discontent 
may be silenced by severity, but it will be a dangerous silence." " As 
to the Spenceoms," he said, " they cannot be gravely considered objects 
of criminal justice. Instead of the warrants of magistrates, the certifi- 
cates of apothecaries may secure their persons if they become dangerous. 
What other prison, indeed, but a madhouse can be opened to receive 

language :^*' There shoots across my miDd at misdirected the jury; so there must be a 

this moment a striking instance of candour new trial, and without costs.' Did this lower 

which I have long treasured up in my me- Lord Mansfield ? So far from it, that, having 

mory, having a strong interest to remember it, persuaded myself hia first opinion was the 

because it was nsefiil to me In the beginning of best, I could not help saying at the time that 

my professional Ufe. Having been engaged in if I had not been convinced of his integrity t 

a cause in which that great Chief Justice [Lord should have thought he was practising 'a 

Mansfield] had expressed a strong opinion fraud to advance his reputation. It was in- 

lu favour of my client, the jury found a corre- deed a justice to truth, which weak men are 

spending verdict; but a rule having been ob- afraid of rendering, and therefore it is so 

talned to set it aside for tlie Judge's misdirec- seldom rendered."— I have myself often been 

tion, I had to support his opmion in the Court surprised at the pusillanimous anxiety of 

of King's Benci. When I had finished my Judges in Bamc to support their rulings at 

argument, he said-I fear with more indulg- Nisi Priut. Very different was the conduct 

ence than truth—' This case has been remark- of a Judge in recent times, who, after all hl> 

ably well argued ; so well, indeed, that whUst brethren on the bench had pronounced Judg- 

the learned counsel was defending my direc- ment in his favour, said, "For the reasons 

tion, 1 began to think I had been in the right, given by my Lord and the rest of the Court. 

whereas I never was more mistaken in my I think that I was entirely wrong and that 

life. I totally misunderstood the case, and there ought to be a new trial I" 


peraons so completely insane as to entertain an expectation that in such 
a country as England they can bring its whole surface and property into 
general division and distribution. By an ordinary display of spirit and 
resolution, insurrection may be repressed without violating the law or 
the Constitution. In the riots of 1780, when the mob were preparing 
to attack the house of Lord Mansfield, I offered to defend it with a 
small military force ; but this offer was unluckily rejected ; and after- 
wards, being in the Temple when the rioters were preparing to force the 
gate and had fired several times, I went forward to the gate, opened it, 
and showed them a field-piece which I was prepared to discharge in case 
the attack was persisted in ; they were daunted, fell back, and dispersed." 

After this somewhat vainglorious narrative of his martial 
prowess (for which I find no other authority), he entered at 
great length into the law respecting public meetings ; and, 
having commented upon the late conduct of the Government 
on this subject, he observed, — 

"The threatened severe measures cannot restore confidence, nor 
willing obedience to Government. Confide yourselves in the people, and 
all murmurs and discontents will be at an end. For my own part, 
while I have life and strength to raise my voice, I ynU. continue to pro- 
test against them here and everywhere. I will not repeat with the 
same oath what I swore in the House of Commons when similar restric- 
tions were in agitation,^ but I will say firmly, that I was born a free- 
man, and I will not die a slave." ' 

Dissatisfied with himself, he thus apologised for what he 
considered his want of energy in Parliament as compared with 
his forensic efforts : — 

" I despair altogether of making any impression by any thing I can say 
— a feeling which disqualifies me from speaking as I ought. I have been 
accustomed during the greatest part of my life to be animated by the 
hope and expectation that I might not be speaking in vain, — without 
which there can be no spirit in discourse. 1 have often heard it said, 
and I believe it to be true, that even the most eloquent man Uving 
(how then must I be disabled !) and however deeply impressed vri th 
his subject, could scarcely find utterance, if he were to be standing up 
alone, and speaking only against a dead wall." 

As the several bills came forward, he strenuously, though 
ineffectually, opposed them in every stage;' but I do not 

^ Perhaps he recollected the lines in the ■■ 41 Pari. Deb. 441. 
"Pursuits of Literature," in which the author • lb. 682, 695, 108, 966, 981 1304, 1301 
of that satire, among things impossible 1310, 1374. 
( "Sooner," &c.) says, 
" Or Erslrine cease from impotent grimace, 
And his appeals to God, — his prime dis- 



dwell upon their odious enactifients, as in better times they 
have all been repealed or allowed to expire, and there seems 
no danger of their ever again being proposed, as, with a much 
greater disposition to insurrection among the lower orders 
than then existed, both the great parties in the state have 
wisely and successfully trusted to a vigorous and judicious use 
of the ordinary powers of the law.' 

While these discussions were pending, George III. expired. 

Jan. 29, Although the government had still been canied on 

1820. ' in i^s name, he had long ceased to control or to be 

conscious of public events ; and for many years, as if already 

sleeping in the grave — 

" Nor steel, nor poison. 

Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing 
Could touch him further." 

The Prince of Wales, under the title of Eegent, had exer- 
cised without restriction all the prerogatives of the Crown, 
and this event merely changed his title to that of George IV., 
without at all affecting his political position. 

But the lady to whom he had given his hand, instead of 
being an outcast, wandering in foreign countries, sometimes 
under a feigned name, with hardly pecuniary supplies to 
defray the expenses of her slender suite, was suddenly Queen 
of England, entitled by law to share the throne, and to enjoy 
many powers and privileges suitable to her exalted rank. 
The new Sovereign was now to pay a dreadful penalty for the 
manner in which he had insulted and abandoned her. Owing 
to the levity of her conduct, after the " Letter of Licence " he 
had given her — whether she had actually broken her mar- 
riage vow or not — Jie could not receive her back as his wif? 
without dishonour, and he could take no proceedings to obtain 
a divorce from her without exciting the sympathies of all 
mankind in her favour, and exposing his conduct towards her 
in a manner which must not only be fatal to his own reputa- 
tion, but even dangerous to the monarchy. With prudence, 
an arrangement could perhaps have been made by which she 
might have remained quietly abroad, her title and an adequate 
establishment being conceded to her ; but he still continued 
under the rule of his vindictive passions, and, to his lasting 

' I allude to the 'ffUg Qovemment in ercion, without being liable even to the sub- 

1839-40, and to the Conservative in 1841-42. . piciou of trying to throw odium on political 

1 must again express my Joy at being at opponents, 
liberty to reprobate the whole system of co- 


misfortune, and to the unspeakable prejudice of the nation, 
his Ministers had not the firmness to resist the mad measures 
which he suggested against her. Instead of entering into 
negotiation with her, the first rash proceeding of the new 
reign was illegally to exclude her name from the Liturgy, as 
if already convicted of some great crime, although the mean- 
est subject in the realm was entitled to the presumption of 
innocence till proved to be guilty. In spite of the threats 
held out to her, she boldly came to this country to claim her 
rights, — and in an evU hour Lord Liverpool and Lord Eldon 
yielded to the desire of her husband, that she should be 
brought to a public trial for adultery. This did not, as in the 
time of Henry VIII., take the shape of an indictment for 
high treason, as not only were her alleged offences committed 
beyond the seas, but it was not supposed that, under the 
circumstances, even if she had been convicted, the public 
would iave endured to see her share the fate of Anne Boleyn 
or Katherine Howard. All that was asked was, that, being 
declared guilty of adultery, her marriage with his Majesty 
should be dissolved, and she should be degraded from her 
state and dignity as Queen. Little did the authors of this 
measure calculate upon her spirit, or upon the love of justice 
which ever actuates the inhabitants of Britain. 

In the proceedings which followed, Erskine took a very 
prominent part, and, as it may be considered the close of his 
public life, I particularly rejoice to think that it was alto- 
gether worthy of him. Closely connected as he had been 
for so many years with the royal prosecutor, who regarded 
with indignation and abhorrence all opposition to his will on 
this subject, he exercised an impartial and independent judg- 
ment on the merits of the case, and gave his opinion and his 
vote on every question which arose in it, as if he had been 
sitting in an ordinary criminal court to decide upon his oath 
between humble individuals of whose "names he had never 
before heard. 

Differing with most of the members of his party, he sup- 
ported the preliminary motion for submitting to a . secret 
committee the contents of the " green bag " alleged to be suf- 
ficient to establish the Queen's guilt, as he thought the 
King was entitled to a hearing, and this step was analogous 
to the finding of an indictment by a grand jury." But when, 
after the report of the committee, the " Bill of Pains and 

» Ufmsard, usw Beries, i. 992, 1116, 1211. 

E 2 


PenaltieB " tad been presented, and a day was fixed for tlie 
second reading, which was to be the commencement of the 
open trial, he moved that before that day arrived the Queen 
should be furnished with a list of the witnesses to be pro- 
duced against her : — 

" This proceeding," said he, " is so rare, or rather so anomalous, that 
no precede^it can be found exactly to apply to it ; but, in trying to hold 
the scales of justice equal between the accuser and accused, we may b 
guided by the spirit of the excellent statute of William III. for the pro- 
tection of persons charged with high treason — whereby, before the Court 
is opened, the prisoner is to be furnished with a list of the witnesses, as 
well as a copy of the indictment. What is the principle of this admi- 
rable enactment, conferring a privilege which, in ordinary cases, is 
denied? — Because the prisoner has not to contend with an equal accuser 

and therefore he is covered all over with the armour of the law. 

Is not the present case of the same description? I do not mean to 
speak invidiously, but only to point out the situation of the illustrious 
accused. She has to contend against the Crown and its Ministers, and 
a^'ainst all the powers and influences which they possess. In most cases 
of high treason, the Crown and its Ministers have no personal wrongs to 
stimulate resentment, nor any other interest in conviction than a general 
interest in the safety of the state : but here the King himself is the in- 
dividual charged to be personally wronged, and he may be said to be per- 
sonally the accuser ; the illustrious accused is charged directly in the bill 
with ' a violation of the duty she owed to his Majesty,' — not as his sub- 
ject, but in violation of her duty as his wife. This gives an increased 
force to the great fountain of influence against which she has to contend. 
Ministers have staked their credit — ^perhaps their existence — on the success 
of the course they have recommended or assented to. Let it not, however, 
be thought that I am charging the Sovereign with making unworthy exer- 
tions in the prosecution even of a personal wrong, or his Ministers vrith a 
design corruptly to concur in them ; but the general presumption of law is 
entirely founded upon the probable abuse of power in trials for offences 
against the state, and it is impossible to resist or evade that presumption 
by arguing against any probable injustice in any particular case, without 
overthrowing the principle upon which the very law you yourselves 
have enacted, and have so long abided by, can alone rest for its support. 
I am well aware that no rules can bind us ; but how shall we escape 
from reproach if we refuse to abide by those rules which we have made 
binding upon others, the reason for their obligation applying equally, or 
more forcibly, to ourselves ? The generality of the charge also in the 
pre&,mble of this bill adds most imperiously to the demand of the statute 
of King William. It is in effect a criminal charge, or it is nothing ; yet 
it in no way resembles any other criminal charge ever exhibited, here 
or elsewhere, before any court of justice. Above all, it has none of the 
precision wluch is the very characteristic of English law. Her Majesty 
!■ not chargerl with any specific act of adultery, but with ' an adul- 


teroug interoourse ' — and this not at any specified time or times, but 
during her whole absence from Englaud, for six years together — which 
exposes her to criminating evidence, not only as to acts, but general de- 
portment on every one day or hour of the day throughout all that time ; 
— and this also not confined to any place or places, though it was known 
she had been travelling in countries remotely distant from each other. 
I do not mention this as an arraignment of the framers of the bill ; it is 
enough for my view of the subject, that this unparalleled generality of 
accusation creates an unparalleled diflBoulty of defence, and renders a 
list of the witnesses indispensably necessary for the ends of justice. As 
the adulterous intercourse is alleged to have taken place witti one whose 
station required his constant attendance on her person, through the many 
countries she visited, it is obviously impossible to anticipate, within 
whole years, or within thousands of miles, the assaults to be made 
upon her acte^ or even upon her general deportment, which the bill calls 
upon her to defend. Another analogy between this Bill of Pains and 
Penalties and a trial for high treason arises from the punishment to be 
inflicted on conviction. What, my Lords, is death, which in a moment 
ends us, to the lingering and degrading suffering which the accused may, 
under our ju(^ment, be sentenced to endure ? Bom a Princess, of the 
same illustrious house as the King her consort, and now raised to wear 
the imperial crown of the greatest nation that ever flourished on the 
earth, — she may be suddenly cast down to shame and sorrow, — and not 
only excluded from the society of her exalted kindred, but for ever de- 
prived of the esteem and affection of the whole female world. For my 
ovim part, my Lords, this appears to me the heaviest and most intolerable 
punishment which any human tribunal can inflict. These are my 
sentiments, and no person surely can reasonably accuse or suspect me of 
any leaning beyond that of justice to the cause of the illustrious accused : 
my leanings, if I could suffer their intrusion, would rather draw me to 
the opposite side. All your Lordships must know that I have spent a 
great part of my life in the service of the present King. I remember 
indeed, so well, and feel so strongly, the warm interest taken by his Ma- 
iesty in my prosperity and happiness, in some of the most important 
periods of my progress, that I could not be unjust to him. The habits 
of my professional life are, I hope, a useful shield against every bias 
whatsoever. I was bred, in my early youth, in two professions, the 
characteristic of which is honour. But, after the experience of very 
many years, I can say with truth, that they cannot stand higher for 
honour than the profession of the law. Amidst unexampled temptations, 
which, through human frailty, have produced their victims, the great 
bulk of the members of it are sound ; and the cause is' obvious — 
there is something so beautiful and exalted in the faithful administra- 
tion of justice, and departure from it is so odious and disgusting, that a 
perpetual monitor is raised up in the mind against the accesses of cor- 
ruption. The same protection ought also to apply to us, the highest of 
the Judges. When this House shall have deliberately and solemnly 
decided that the restraints imposed by common law and by statute, ta 


shut out all the approaches to mistake, influence, or corruption, may be 
set at nought, will not the reserve and caution of all inferior judicatures 
be impaired ? — will not the consequence be the disregard, perhaps even 
the repeal, of those admirable and now ancient rules by which, though 
we have enacted them to govern others, we ourselves have refused to be 
governed ? Believe me, my Lords, I feel upon this part of the subject, 
so inseparably connected with the illustration of our cotintry, much 
more than by any words I can express. It may be superstition, perhaps, 
but I cannot alter the nature and character of my understanding, which, 
as long as I can look back, has dictated to me, as a comforting truth, 
that the Divine Providence singles out particular nations, and perhaps 
even individual men, to carry on the slow and mysterious system of the 
world. This island, although placed on the very margin of civilisation, 
has been its example and its protector, — spreading the blessings of a pure 
religion and of equal laws to the remotest ends of the earth. My im- 
pression, my Lords, has always been, that such an unparalleled domi'j 
nion is but a more exalted trust, and that, if we fall off from the cha- 
racter which bestowed it, and which fitted us for its fulfilment, we shall 
be deservedly treated like sentinels who desert, or who sleep upon, their 
posts. Let us stand by the principles of the Revolution, which so hap- 
l)ily made us what we are, and by adhering to which we shall remain 
what we ought to be. My Lords, I have not made these observations 
from any desire to disappoint or obstruct the course we are engaged in. 
When the Court assembles, I will do my duty as if all the angels of 
heaven were taking notes of whatever passes through my mind on the 

But upon a division there were for the motion only 28, 

against it 78." A fevr days after, Erskine presented a peti- 
tion from the Queen, lamenting that the House of Lords had 
deemed it proper to refuse her a list of the witnesses, and 
praying for " a specification of the place or places in which 
the criminal acts charged upon her are alleged to have been 
committed — without which she could only adequately prepare 
for her defence by bringing from every place she had visited 
during the last six years every person who had had the means 
of observing any part of her conduct." Although he enforced 
a motion to this effect by another able speech, on this occa- 
sion only eleven Peers voted along with him/ so inauspi- 

ciously did the defence of Queen Caroline begin. But these 
flagrant outrages shocked public feeling, and greatly con- 
tributed to rouse that general sympathy in her favour which 
finally proved irresistible.' 

» Hansard, li. 314. 428, 470, 4»2. an action for erim. cm., a specification as to 

T lb. B?4, 586. Umes and places is ordered as » matter at 

' In Scotland a list of the witnesses is given cowse. 
in cvety criminal case ; and in England, in 


"When the trial actually tegan, tte eyes of mankind were 
chiefly turned on Mr. Brougham and Mr. Denman, whose 
heroic exertions in favour of their oppressed, if not innocent, 
client shed fresh lustre on English forensic eloquence. Ers- 
kine was still distinguished in striving for impartial justice 
between the parties, by watching the procedure and enforcing 
the rules of evidence. A discussion arising respecting the 
mode of swearing the witnesses, he related the following anec- 
dote, to the great amusement of the House : — 

" My Lords, when I was counsel in a cause tried in the Court of 
King's Bench, an important witness called against me, without describ- 
ing himself to be of any particular sect, so as to be entitled to indulgence, 
stated, that from certain ideas in his own mind he could not swear ac- 
cording to the usual form of the oath ; that he would Jiold wp his hand 
and would swear, but that he would not kiss the book. I have no diffi- 
culty in saying that I wished very much to get rid of that vritness ; and 
I asked what was his reason for refusing to be sworn in the usual form ? 
He gave a reason, which seemed to me a very absurd one, ' Because 
it is written in the " Revelations" that the angel stwnding on the sea 
HELD DP HIS HAND.' I Said, ' This does not a^ply to your case ; for, 
in the first place, you are no cmgel ; secondly, you cannot tell how the 
angel would have sworn if he had stood on dry ^ground, as you do.' 
Lord Kenyon sent into the Common Pleas, to consult Lord Chief 
Justice Byre, who expressed himself of opinion, that although the 
witness was not of any particular sect, yet if he stated (whether his rea- 
son was a good or a bad one) that there was a particular mode of swear- 
ing most consistent with his feelings of the obligation of an oath, this 
mode ought to be adopted. So the witness was sworn in his own fashion. 
Whether he spoke the truth or not, unfortunately for my client, 
the witness was believed by the jury, and I felt that the Judge was 
right, so that there was no ground for moving to set aside the verdict."' 

A motion being made by the Attorney-General to adjourn 
the trial, that additional witnesses for the prosecution might 
have time to arrive, Erskine strenuously resisted it, saying 
that " no such instance has ever been heard of in any court 
of justice : to grant such an application would be subversive 
of all those principles upon which the security and the life of 
every individual in the kingdom depend. I can believe that 
your Lordships will agree to it ; but if you do, I shall feel it 
my duty to record my solemn protest against such a decision. 
I have attended, with great inconvenience to myself at my 
advanced age, humbly to assist your Lordships on points of 

• 2 Uanaiud, til. 


law or evidence, with the result of my long experience ; but 
if such an application as the present be granted, experi- 
ence, reasoning, and precedent are no longer of any avail in 
this House ; and it is time for me to retire." The Attorney- 
General would still have had a large majority in his favour, 
if he had chosen to persist in his application ; but, in consider- 
ation of the feeling which was rising out of doors, he pru- 
dently withdrew it.' 

The case for the Crown being closed, and an adjournment 
of three weeks granted to enable her Majesty to prepare for 
her defence, Erskine made a very anomalous motion, which 
could only be excused by the peculiarity of the case, " That 
Mr. Brougham should then be allowed to comment on the 
King's witnesses, without being required to open the evidence 
he meant himself to adduce till the House met again." He 
urged with some effect the disadvantage under which the 
Queen had laboured for want of a list of the witnesses, and 
a specification, with time and place, of the charges against her ; 
and he pointed out the unfairness of allowing the evidence 
for the King, with the opening and summing up of his coun- 
sel, to remain so long in the minds of their Lordships and of 
the public without any answer. But precedent and conve- 
nience were on the other side, and, without any obloquy being 
on this occasion incurred by the House, the motion was pro- 
perly negatived by a majority of 170 to 49.° 

When all the evidence on both sides had been given, and 
the speeches at the bar were at last concluded, the import- 
ant debate on the second reading of the bill was opened by 
the- Lord Chancellor; and Erskine, rising to answer him, 

" I am now drawing near to the close of a long life, and I must end it 
as I began it. If you strike out of it, my Lords, some efforts to secure 
the sacred jjrivilege of impartial trial to the people of this country, and by 
example to spread it throughout the world, what would be left to me ? 
What else seated me here ? What else would there be to distinguish 
me from the most useless and insignificant among mankind ? Nothing 

—just nothing ! — And shall I then consent to this suicide this worse 

than suicide of the body, this destruction of what alone can remain to 
me after death — the good-will of my countrymen ? — I dabr sor do 
THAT.— Proceedings of this kind, my Lords, have never been counte- 
nanced but in the worst times — and have afterwards not only been 
reversed, but stigmatised. You were justly reminded at the bar tLst 

>• f Hwiaard. 132«. <• 3 Hansard, 40. 


they were ordered by suooeeding Parliaments to be taken off the file 
and burned, — ' to the end that the same might no longer be visible in 
after-ages ! ' But upon that I desire to repeat a sentiment which I 
remember to have expressed in struggling against arbitrary prosecutions 
in former times — that, instead of directing these records to be burned, 
they ought rather to have been blazoned in our Parliaments, and in all 
our tribunals, that, like the characters which appearing on the wall 
were deciphered by the prophet of God to the Eastern tyrant, they 
might enlarge and blacken in our sight to terrify us from acts of ' 

He was then proceeding to analyse the evidence, when, 
according to the Parliamentary History, "his voice suddenly 
ceased. The pause was not particularly noticed at first, as 
it appeared as if his Lordship were looking over the minutes 
placed on the table before him; but after some time had 
elapsed without his resuming his speech, some of the peers 
became alarmed, and rose from, their seats to gather round 
him. The anxiety of the House was now roused as he fell 
forward senseless on the table. There were cries of ' Open 
the windows ! ' and ' Some water ! ' The Lord Chancellor and 
the Earl of Liverpool evinced the greatest concern, and pro- 
ceeded immediately to Lord Erskine's assistance — along with 
Earls Grey and Carnarvon, Lord Holland, and Mr. Baron 
Garrow ; — but his speech and colour were gone. They were 
obliged to carry him into an adjoining room, where medical 
aid was procured— and the House adjourned."'' It was gene- 
rally thought that his end was to resemble that of the great 
Earl of Chatham, and it certainly would have been well for 
his reputation if he had now expired in the discharge of his 
public duty ; but it was found that he was suffering a violent 
temporary cramp in the stomach, — which was completely 
relieved soon after he had been conveyed home. When 
intelligence of his safety had been received, the House of 
Lords reassembled, and Lord Lauderdale continued the de- 
bate, contending, to the grief of his old political associates, 
that the proceeding against the Queen was laudable, and 
that her guilt was established by the witnesses she herself 
had called. 

The following morning Erskine was so far recovered as to 
be able to attend in his place ; but he did not then attempt to 
continue his argument, the day being exhausted by two very 
able speeches, on opposite sides, from Lord Grey and Lord 

d Mansard, 1469. 


Liverpool. But again appearing at the next sitting of the 
House, he resumed his discourse, and said : — 

"It is no longer my intention to minutely examine the evidence 
which I was proceeding to do when attacked hy sudden indisposition. 
I experienced kindness from your Lordships, for which I can never be 
BufBciently grateful. The admirable speech of my noble friend (Earl 
Grey), which, at every risk to my health, I yesterday attended to hear, 
renders such a course unnecessary. The attempt would only imsettle 
your minds from a conviction which must be impressed upon them by 
the perspicuity with which he laid the facts before you, and the cogency 
with which he drew the just inferences from them. I now offer myself 
to your Lordships rather as a kind of authority from long professional 
habits, than as a debater — omitting, however, none of the facts supposed 
to be established by the prosecutor — submitting to you, at the same 
time, the principles of law by which their truth or falsehood ought to 
be examined, and the just consequences which follow from such of them 
as are true. If I were a judge trying an action for adultery under 
similar circumstances, I think I should thus begin my summing up : 
' Gentlemen of the Jury, I am under no small embarrassment in 
stating my opinion on the case before you, after having seen your 
box opened, and the plaintiff in the cause admitted to assist you in the 
verdict you are to pronounce : but on this I wish to be silent, as it is a 
matter to which we must now submit, and which is expected to be a 
valuable improvement of the Constitution. All things arrive but by 
degrees at perfection, and the prejudices of our ancestors regarding the 
trial by jury, and the securities provided by them for its independence, 
are likely to be superseded by this grand discovery of the present age. 
The defendant certainly has laid before you the most positive evidence of 
the foulest practices to corrupt the sources of justice.' — My Lords, I 
find I cannot go on with a supposititious case, nor continue to address 
you as a jury ; amidst such disgusting instances of fraud and perjury I 
cannot preserve the coolness which becomes a Judge in a court of law, 
and I must speak with the freedom which may, in such a case, be not 
improperly exercised by a member of this House. A dark cloud hangs 
over the very beginning of the prosecution; arid when we find the 
accusation to have been hatched in secret, and to have been supported 
by all the power and influence of foreign governments, — when we see 
that some of the witnesses have been thrust forward by force, and others 
by the same force have been kept back — and that the foulest suborna- 
tion has been detected, — what security could we have had for the truth 
of any part of the evidence, even if it had not been impeached by the 
palpable perjuries which have been exposed ? If her Majesty be really 
guilty, and the prosecution is therefore a just one, no false testimony 
could exist ; false testimony is never found where a prosecution could 
be supported by truth, and one detected falsehood takes away from the 
credulity of testimony brought forward by the same party, although it 
stands without direct contradiction." Having commented at consider- 


able lengtli on all the principal witnesses, he said : "If I were in the 
Queen's situation, and I were convicted of adultery by your Lordships 
on such evidence as this, I would cast your decision in your face, and 
appeal to the other House of Parliament — ^to the representatives of the 
people. The House of Commons cannot pass the bill against their own 
conviction, and against the national noUe prosequi which resounds from 
every quarter of the island. — Of the legal proof of adultery I cannot be 
ignorant, having conducted every important case of that kind for thirty 
years, not only in Westminster Hall, but likevrise on the circuits ; and 
I am sure, my Lords, it is impossible to infer that the opinion I have 
formed on this unfortunate subject has arisen from prejudice or from 
partial inclination. To the King, who cannot be an indifferent spectator 
of this proceeding, I have many, many obligations, from the warm 
interest formerly taken by his Majesty in my advancement and credit, 
and from my belief that I am still held by him in the same personal 
regard — though political changes have removed me to a greater distance 
from his person. If his Majesty should ever be exposed to any injurious 
treatment, I should be ready to protect him at the peril of my life. I 
would contribute to his happiness by every sacrifice but that of my 
duty. • My principles I never have deserted, and never will desert." 

He is said to have sat down amid loud cheers. The second 
reading was carried, — but only by a majority of 28.° The 
bill was farther greatly damaged in the committee from an 
attack of Erskine, and still more from the diversity of opinion 
among the bishops, with respect to the canonical doctrine of 
divorce. , 

During the short debate on the third reading every one 
perceived that the measure was ^'■doomed;" and Erskine de- 
clared that " he should content himself with saying, notvnth- 
standing his great respect for the learning of his noble friend 
on the woolsack, he continued of the opinion he had formerly 
given on the effect of the evidence," — asserting that, "if it 
were the last word he had to utter in this world, he should 
pronounce the evidence to be wholly insufficient to support 
the charge; and he was certain that it would not be held 
sufficient in any Court in which justice was duly adminis- 
tered." The third reading was carried, but only by a ma- 
jority of 9.' 

Lc/rd Liverpool: "I cannot be ignorant of the state of the public 
feeling, and this House has determined that the hill shall be read a 
third time by a majority of not more than nine votes. Had the third 
reading been carried by as considerable a number of Peers as the second, 
I and my colleagues would have felt it our duty to persevtre, and to 

• 3 Hansard, 85 to 123. 1698. rib. 99 to 108. ]>44. 


send the bill down to the other branch of the Le^slature. In the 
present state of the country, however, and with the difference of senti- 
ment among your Lordships so nearly balanced, we have come to the 
resolution not to proceed farther with it. I move, therefore, that the 
farther consideration of the bill be adjourned to this day six months." 

Lord Ershine : " I see the fate of this odious measure consummated, 
and I heartily rejoice at the event. My Lords, I am an old man, and 
my life, whether it has been for good or for evil, has been passed under 
the sacred rule of the law. In this moment I feel my strength renovated 
by that rule being restored. The accursed charge wherewithal we had 
been menaced has passed over our heads. There is an end of that 
horrid and portentous excrescence of a new law — retrospective, oppres- 
sive, and iniquitous. Our Constitution is once more safe. My heart is 
too full of the escape we have just experienced to let me do more than 
try to express my sense of the blessings which we have regained ; — ^but 
I cannot praise them adequately myself, ajad 1 therefore prefer the 
language of one of the most eloquent writers of any age — Hooker — in 
his great work on Ecclesiastical Polity : ' Of Law, there can be no less 
acknowledged, than that her seat is the bosom of God ; her voice, the 
harmony of the world : all things in heaven and in earth do her 
homage, — the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not 
exempted from her power : — ^both angels and men, and creatures of 
what condition soever, — though each in different sort and manner, yet 
all with uniform concert, — admiring her as the mother of their peace 
and joy.' " * 

This proved to . be Erskine's last speech, in the House of 
Lords ; and it certainly was a glorious termination of his par- 
liamentary career. 



After the Queen's trial Erskine survived nearly three years , 
A.D. 1820- but he very rarely appeared in his place in Parlia- 
i*33- ment,_ and he never again addressed the Peers except 

once or twice, in a tone of conversation, upon a point of order. 
However, his chivalrous defence of Caroline of Brunswick 
in the midst of strong temptations to side with her prose^ 

B 3 Hansard, IMJ. 


cuttors, revived his ancient popularity ; and, without any fresh 
exertion, he continued till his death the idol of the mul- 
titude, almost as much as he had been when exposing the 
danger to liberty from " constructive treason" in the defence 
of Hardy and Home Tooke. He was loudly cheered as often 
as he appeared in public ; addresses, and gold boxes contain- 
ing grants of the freedom of corporations, poured in upon him 
from all parts of the country, and prints and busts of him 
ornamented every workshop and almost every cottage. 

The Scotch, who, notwithstanding their alleged nationality, 
have always been cautiously slow in doing honour to their 
eminent men while alive, — although they were proud of the 
greatest advocate that had ever practised at the English Bar, 
had never, hitherto, shown him any public mark of distinc- 
tion — piqued, perhaps, by his seeming neglect of them, for he 
had not once visited his native land since he first left it in 
the uniform of a midshipman, more than half a century ago. 
At last, however, a general desire existed in all ranks beyond 
the Tweed to see among them, and publicly to honour, the 
man who had done so much to raise the national fame and to 
remove the prejudice that they were time-serving politicians 
— ever ready, for the sake of a job, to support and to praise 
the minister of the day. Accordingly, he was invited to a 
public dinner at Edinburgh, and he at once accepted the 
invitation, — not only from gratified vanity, but from a desire 
to revisit the scenes of his childhood, and, above all, from a 
curiosity to cross by a bridge the look or lake which had been 
the northern boundary of Auld Eeekie, and to admire beyond 
it the splendid New Town of Edinburgh, where he had been 
accustomed to shoot wild ducks and snipes. 

On his arrival in the Scottish metropolis he eagerly flew 
to his old haunts, particularly the " flat " in the lofty ^^ ^^^^ 
house inhabited by his father and mother, — the High 
School where he had smarted under the toiose,— and the close 
in which he believed he had conversed with the ghost of the 
old family butler. It is said that he was affected by deep 
melancholy when he found that a second generation of men 
had nearly passed away since he had run about there a 
thoughtless, bare-legged, curly-pated stripling, and when he 
reflected that he must himself soon be spoken of as among 
those who had been. Confessing himself to be laudator temporis 
acti, he would not allow that many of the changes which he saw 
were improvements ; and, recollecting the lustre shed upon 


their oountry by Hume, Eobertson, and Adam Smith, he ques- 
tioned whether Scotland prospered in literature as much as in 
material wealth. But after he had passed a few days in the 
society of Franck Jeffrey, all these moody contemplations 
were banished from his mind, and he admitted tha,t for valu- 
able knowledge, for intellectual prowess, for refined taste, and 
for gentle manners, she could still show a man equal to the 
sons of whom she had been most proud in former days. 

Unfortunately, party spirit was dreadfully embittered by 
the recent trial of the Queen, and now raged in Edinburgh 
with unexampled fury. For this reason the Tories consi- 
dered themselves bound to keep aloof from him who had so 
crossed the wishes of the King, and who had rendered him- 
seK so obnoxious at Court. Walter Scott, whose benevolent 
disposition is to be admired not less than his genius, refused 
to meet him, and did every thing in his power to disparage 

Nevertheless, the dinner went off with eclat — Jeffrey, 
Cockbum, Cranstoun, Moncrieff, John Murray, Cunning- 
hame, and the other leading Scotch Whigs, assisting to do 
honour to their illustrious guest. They drank the health of 
" Plain Thomas Erskine," thinking that such a designation 
would be more grateful to his feelings than a pompous enu- 
meration of all the titles bestowed upon him and all the 
offices he had ever filled. His forensic triumphs were duly 
celebrated, and he was seen to shed tears at allusions to the 
glories of former days. 

His own speech was distinguished by good feeling and good 
taste. After a few introductory observations, he thus burst 
forth : 

" Breathes there a man with soul so dead 
Who never to himself has said. 

* TMs is my own. my native land ; ' 
Whose heart has ne'er within him bum'd 
■ When home his footsteps he has tnrn'd 
From wandering on a foreign strand ? 

The accomplished author well knew that there was no such Scotsman : 
no, I verily believe there is no such man — the great Author of our 
nature having implanted in us all an instinctive love of our country. 
It is this which makes the heart throb and vibrate when the eye recalls 
even the inanimate scenes of our earliest youth. A waste covered with 
heath or hroom — varied, perhaps, by no higher vegetation than a few 
stunted trees half dead with age, which, are yet remembered — will more 
affect the imagination of every human being, and will fill him with a 
far higher delight, than the most splendid scenery which nature assisted 


by art ever produced. It is on this account that when I shall visit St, 
Andrew's, the sequestered place to which my excellent parents retired 
for so many years, to perform the most sacred duty to their children, 
I shall feel more than I can express. The lifeless unadorned street, in 
which a traveller would read his book as he drove through it, will 
electrify me at every step. I shall gaze upon the old plastered «huroh 
wall (if it be yet standing) where I used to toil at fives when I was 
a boy, with more pleasure than St. Peter's at Eome could bestow.*" 
Gentlemen, these sentiments are quite universal, and they illustrate 
the Divine Providence in the economy of the world. Some regions are 
covered with never-fading fruits and flowers, whilst in others vegeta- 
tion sickens and human life almost goes out ; but the instinctive love 
of country gives, in the estimation of the native, equal lustre and enjoy- 
ment to them all. Without this attachment, indeed, there would be 
no such thing as a people, and we should be still, as in the earliest 
times, scattered tribes, roaming about in search of spots where acorns 
are most abundant, or wild animals may be most easily snared. Scot- 
land has ever been proverbially and fondly pre-eminent for this useful, 
this virtuous attachment ; and, however we may be driven to seek our 
fortunes in the most distant countries, we are still eager to return to 
our own." After dwelling at considerable length on the glory, martial 
and literary, which the Scotch had acquired by their love of country, 
he described his astonishment when he first saw the New Town, " not 
one stone of which stood upon another when, more than half a century 
£^0, he left Old Edinburgh, which gave him birth." He then, rather 
in a discursive manner, touched on parliamentary reform and other 
topics, and concluded by saying, " I shall look back with delight on this 
day during the remainder of my life — a period which cannot now be 
much prolonged — and I hope that all who shall ever be descended from 
me will hold it in perpetual remembrance." ' 

Of this dinner we have tlie following prejudiced account 
from Mrs. Grant of Laggam, who, though she had now he- 
come an Edinhurgh Tory, I must admit when she wrote her 
" Letters from the Mountains," displayed as much talent in 
describing Highland scenery and Highland manners as Mar 
'dame do S<5vign6 in painting the characters and narrating the 
intrigues of the Court of Louis XIV. : — 

b Aa a St. Andrew's man, I feel rather i An Edinburgh correspondent of mine, 

hurt at the slighting manner in which he who was present at this dimier, says: "His 

speaks of this seat of learning. The Presby- Lordship's speech rather caused a feeling ot 

terian Church, against which he played at disappointment, — it not having the brilliancy 

flTes, is not much to be commended for ex- we looked for. I must grant, however, that 

terior beauty; but the chapel of St. Salvator'a this may have arisen from cur want of 

College is a fine specimen of Gothic archi- good taste as to what a dinner speech should 

lecture, and the cathedral in ruins gives strik- be. It was a light, ramblhig, and jocular 

ing though melancholy evidence of the an- speech — ^whereas our stock speakers at that 

cient splendour of the metropolitan see of time delivered on such occasions regular and 

Scotland. formal spoken Umiyt." 


" The party have been paying great homage to Lord Erskine, and 
talking of his return to Scotland after fifty-one years' absencf as if a 
comet had re-appeared. I was asked to meet him last Saturday night, 
and saw him surrounded by all his satellites. He is a shattered 
wreck of a man, decked with a diamond star. This decoration he wore, 
I was told, as a Knight of the Thistle. I always thought of hira with 
the deep straw bonnet which he wore on his Gretna Green expedition.* 
On Monday the great dinner was given to the ex-Chancellor. Seve- 
ral great persons were expected, but none of them came." I observe 
that these despisers of rank are wonderfully vain of getting a title to 
grace their meetings." 

The illustrious stranger next visited the Oourt of Justiciary, 
and appeared there with the star of the order of the Thistle 
blazing on his hreast. The question to be considered was 
one which had occupied his thoughts much when he was 
Lord Chancellor — how far judges should interpose to punish 
in a summary manner printed comments on their own pro- 
ceedings? A schoolmaster at Glasgow had published in a 
newspaper a letter disapproving rather freely of a judgment 
of their Lordships, and the Lord Advocate complained of this 
as a contempt of Court, for which the culprit ought to be 
immediately committed to the Tolbooth. Mr. Cockbum, the 
defendant's counsel, argued that he had not exceeded the 
bounds of legitimate discussion, and that, at any rate, the 
case ought to be submitted to the determination of a jury, in 
the ordinary course of law. The Court, however, asserted its 
jurisdiction, and passed sentence of imprisonment. Lord 
Erakine decorously concealed all expression of opinion while 
he remained on the bench, but in private lamented that in 
Scotland " trial by jury " should be thus superseded." 

He afterwards went to the theatre, to see the representa- 
tion of " The Heart of Midlothian." It is a curious fact, that 
Walter Scott, who had studiously kept aloof from his society, 
was present on this occasion. The " Edinburgh Evening 
Courant," coupling them together, says, " they were loudly 
cheered on their- entrance and departure." It would have 
been highly becoming if they had been seen arm-in-arm ; and 
it had been impossible to distinguish which of them had the 
greater share of applause : but I have learned, from a private 

k I know nothing of the story here aUnded Walter Scott, were present at the dinner, 

•o- " His own conduct on such occasions had 

™ I suppose she means some Toiy peers, not been quite uniform and consistent See 

All the tmly great men in Edinburgh, except anti, Vol. VIII., p. 385. 


source, that, entering and departing at separate times, they 
sat on opposite sides of the house ; and that the ex-Ohancellor 
being the " great lion," much more attention was paid to 
him. This seems to have sunk very deep into the breast of 
Walter, who, years after, offered an ingenious solution of it 
to soothe his own feelings. In his Diary,— after alluding to 
the old woman at Carlisle, in the year 1745, who, when the 
Highlanders had taken that city by assault, being afraid of vio- 
lence to her person, and surprised that none was offered, called 
out, "When is the ravishing to begin?" — he considers 
how he should act if any public mark of respect should be shown 
to him at Paris, and thus proceeds : — " I am sure I shall 
neither hide myself to avoid applause which probably no one 
will think of conferring, nor have the meanness to do any 
thing which can indicate a desire of ravishment. I have seen, 
when the late Lord Erskine entered the Edinburgh theatre, 
papers distributed in the boxes to mendicate a round of ap- 
plause, — the natural reward of a poor player." " 

Dining with Lord President Hope, he asked " Whose por- 
trait is that?" looking at a very fine one of the famous law- 
yer Sir Thomas Hope, the founder of this branch of that 
distinguished family. The venerable judge answering the 
question, and adding " You are as nearly and directly de- 
scended from him as I am," Erskine exclaimed, with great 
interest and eagerness, " Ah ! I never before knew whence I 
inherited my law." 

Erskine wished much to cross over into Fife, that he might 
revisit St.' Andrew's, — above all, he said, " Lady Buchan's 
Cove," the " Scores," the " Witch Lake," across which he 
had often swam-^and the room in which he had learned to 
dance " shantrews ;" but these scenes he never again beheld, as 
he was summoned to preside at a great public dinner to be 
given in England, to celebrate the Queen's acquittal. 

Having parted with his numerous friends and admirers in 
Auld Eeekie, he took his passage for London in the smack 
Favourite, Mark Sanderson, master. It so happened that no 
vessel could get out of Leith harbour for several days, from 
want of water on the bar, a circumstance of rare occurrence ; 
and his Lordship, with other disappointed passengers, were 
seen at tide hours, day by day, on Leitli pier, waiting anxiously 
to be set afloat. 

When the Favourite at last cleared the harboui-, the 

» Life, by Lockhart, vl. 369. 


ex-Chancellor's feelings wero expreesed in the following 
stanza : — 

" Of depth profound, o'erflowing far, 
I bless'd the Edinburgh bar; 
"IVhilat, muttering oaths betweeu my teetti, 
1 curs'd the shallow bar of Leith." 

Among the passengers was Mr. Euthven, the inventor of 
the oslebrated portable printing-press ; and a motion was 
made, and carried unanimously, that this impromptu should 
forthwith be printed by him. With great glee he proceeded 
to gratify the company, and speedily executed the task allotted 
to him, with the addition of these lines by a Leith beauty on 
board the Favourite : 

" To Lord Ersldne. 

" Spare, spare, my Lord, your angry feelings. 
Nor leave us thus as if at war; 
'Twas only to retain you with us. 
We at our harbour placed a bar." 

The following tribute, by Lord Erskine, to the nautical 
skill of Captain Sanderson, was also printed, at the desire of 
the passengers, by Mr. Euthven when the vessel had reached 
the Nore : — 

" On Gaptam Mark Sanderson, of the Favcmrite. 

" All who in safety seek to be. 
Should watch the safest Tnarks at sea ; 
But, noting secMna/rks one by one, 
Commend me to Mask Sanderson" 

The dinner to which he had been summoned passed off 
with great eolat, and for some time Erskine's popularity was 
unbounded; but when the rejoicings on account of the 
Queen's acquittal had passed away he fell back into the 
ordinaiy routine of private life, which I am deeply concerned 
to say was no longer very happy for him, nor very creditable. 
From his unlucky purchase of land in Sussex, from a bad in- 
vestment of a large sum in the American funds, and from 
other acts of imprudence, he became straitened in his circum- 
stances. A gentleman in Derbyshire, from admiration of 
his public character, had left him by will a considerable 
landed estate; but the will was defeated by the ignorance 
of a country attorney, who recommended that the testator 
should " suffer a recovery " to confirm it, whereby it was 


rendered invalid."" Having parted with his splendid mansion 
in Lioooln's Inn Fields,- as well as his villa at a.d. 1821— 
Hampstead, he now lived in a lodging in Arabella '^^^• 
Eow, Pimlico, moving occasionally to a cottage in Sussex, 
which he called Buchan Hill : and he had contracted a 
second marriage — when, how, or with whom, I have not 
learned upon any authority. 

I cannot venture, ex cathedra, to say lightly, as Sheridan 
did, — 

" When men like Erskine go astray, 
Their stars are more in fault than they." 

Considering his years, his station, the feelings of those who 
looked tip to him, and his own lively perception of what was 
right, his errors are attended with considerable aggravation. 
" The usual course, on such occasions, is to say : Taceamus 
de his — but History neither asserts her greatest privilege, 
nor discharges her higher duties, when, dazzled by briUiant 
genius or astonished by splendid triumphs, or even softened 
by amiable qualities, she abstains from marking those defects 
which so often degrade the most sterling worth, and which 
the talents and the affections that they accompany may some- 
times seduce men to imitate." ' However, if I conceal none 
of his errors which have come to my knowledge, I hope I 
shall not be generally blamed for not curiously inquiring 
into them. 

It is said, that, to relieve himself from the depression of 
spirits under which he sometimes laboured, he got into the 
pernicious habit of eating opium ; but I think this statement 
must be incorrect, for in his correspondence he ever continued 
to display his wonted playfulness, and when he appeared in 
society I can testify that he was gay, lively, and debonair.' 

P He used to give an amusing account of adding, in a note, " Mr. Barrister Erskine is 

the attorney who came to him after the tes- fcmums for taking opium." But no faith is tv 

tator's death to announce the Intelligence of be given to this liheller, either when he al- 

his lieing now owner of a great estate, con- tacks classes or individuals, 
eluding thus; "And your Lordship need have The Right Hon. T. Erskine has since 

no doubt as to the validity ot the will ; for, .written to me, " This stoiy about the habit of 

after it was made, uk suffered a recovery to taking opium I believe to he wholly without 

confirm it" This legal absurdity is cor- foundation. His constitutional hilarity and 

rected by a bill 1 had the honour to Intro- elasticity of spirit never required it. He 

duce into Parliament. always had the faculty of throwing off his 

'1 Lord Brougham. mind upon entering into society all snl^ects 

' So early as the year 1?96, the "Pursuer of care and annoyance with the ease with 

of Literature " had impudently written, which a man puts off hw great coat upon en- 

" In state affairs all barristei Bare dull, tering into a house. He required neither 

And Erskine nods, — the opium in his stimulus nor anodyne." 


P 2 


Being asked bj' George Sinclair his opinion respecting a 
paper currency, he wrote back merrily, that " his complaints 
now related more to the quantity than the qiudity of Bank- 
notes." We have an agreeable representation of the some- 
what eccentric, but ever gentleman-like, manner which still 
marked him, in the Journal of an American minister : — 

" At an evening party at the DukeofCumherland's a nobleman came 
up and addressed Mr. Hush abruptly : ' I'm going to bring a Bill into 
Parliament, making it indictable in any stranger, whether ambassador 
from a republic, kingdom, or popedom, ever to leave his card without 
his address upon it. How do you do, Mr. Bush, how do you do ? I've 
been trying to find you every where. I'm Lord Brskine : 

Csetera nomnt 
Snsquehamia, Hudson, Connecticut, Mississippi.' 

The monologue continued as follows : — ' I had a letter for you from 
my brother the Earl of Buchan ; but you have made me carry it so 
long in my pocket that I lost it. It had no secrets, — it was only to 
congratulate you on your arrival : he was long a correspondent and 
friend of your father, and wants to transfer his feelings to you, — that's 
all ; so you can write to him as if you had received it.' His 
Lordship added, that ' be had always loved the United States, and 
hoped to visit them yet, as he was an old sailor and cared nothing for 
storms.' " In a subsequent entry in the same journal we hjive the fol- 
lowing amusing notice : — " Lord Erskine called upon me according to 
promise. I pass by all, to come to what he said of Burke. My boys 
being in the room, he asked if 1 had found a good school for them ? I 
said they were at present with Mr. Poothead in my neighbourhood. 
' You are lucky,' he said, ' if Burke's recommendation goes for any 
thing, for he thought well of him as a teacher of the classics. What 
a prodigy Burke was ! ' he exclaimed. ' He came to see me not long 
before he died. I then lived on Hampstead Hill. " Come, Erskine," 
said he, holding out his hand, " let us forget all ! I shall soon quit this 
stage, and wish to die in peace with every body, especially you 1 " I 
reciprocated the sentiment, and we took a turn round the grounds. 
Suddenly he stopped. An extensive prospect broke upon him. He 
stood wrapt in thought, gazing on the sky as the sun was setting. 
" Ah, Erskine," he said, pointing towards it, " you cannot spoil that 
because you cannot reach it, — ^it would otherwise go, — ^yes, the firma- 
ment itself, — ^you and yoiu- reformers would tear it all down."* I 

• The KIgtat Hon. T. Erskine says ; " Mr. beauty of Kenwood (Lord Mansfield's) and 
Rush has spoiled Burke's sarcasm. Upon the distant prospect burst upon them. ' Oh,' 
being conducted by my father to his garden, said Burke, • thit is just the place for a Re- 
through a tunnel under the road that di- former— all the beauties are beyond your 
vided the bouse f^om the shnibbery, all the reach.' " 

A.U. 1821-23. HIS LAST LETTER TO DR. PARR. 69 

was much pleased with his friendly familiarity, and we went into 
the house, where kind feelings hetween us were further improved. A 
short time afterwards he wrote that attack upon the Duke of Devon- 
shire [Bedford?], Fox, and myself which flew all over England, and 
perhaps the United States.' All this his Lordship told in the best 
naanner. In my form of repeating it I cannot do him justice. Desiring 
to hear something of Burke's delivery from so high a source, I asked 
him about it. ' It was execrable,' said he. ' 1 was in the House of 
Commons when he made his great speech on American conciliation, the 
greatest he ever made. He drove every body away. I wanted to go 
out with the rest ; but was near him, and afraid to get up, — so I squeezed 
myself down and crawled under the benches like a dog, until 1 got to 
the door without his seeing me, — ^i-ejoicing in my escape. Next day 1 
went to the Isle of Wight. When the speech followed me there, I 
read it over and over again. 1 could hardly think of any thing else. 
I carried it about me, and thumbei it until it got like wadding for my 
gun.' Here he broke out with a quotation from the passage begiuning, 
' But wljat, says the financier, is place without money?' which he 
gave with a fervour showing how l\e felt it. He said that he was in 
the House when he threw a dagger o q the floor in his speech on the 
French Revolution, and ' it had like to have hit my foot : it was a sad 
failure ; but Burke could bear it.' lie sat upwards of an hour, leav- 
ing me to regret his departure." 

Our ex-ChanoeUor had not for some years visited West- 
minster Hall, — all his old associates having disappeared, and 
a new race having sprung up who knew him only by repu- 
tation; but at the Alfred Club, to which he belonged, he 
would still occasionally mount upon a table and give a spe- 
cimen of his rhetorical powers, again fighting over fields that 
he had won. Nay, though steadily professing a belief in the 
Queen's innocence, he criticised the manner in which the pro- 
secution had been conducted, and showed the line of examina- 
tion and of argument by which an adverse decision might 
have been obtained. 

He likewise still kept up a correspondence with his absent 
friends, and sent them metrical scraps, with which he tried 
to fiU up his leisure. The following is his last letter to one 
of the warmest of his admirers : — 

" Buchan Hill, Feb. 17, 1822. 
" My vbky deab Parr, 

" If you wonder why I have not sooner thanked you for your most 
kind and delightful letter, which I shall keep as an heir-loom, it can 
only be from not having duly considered how difBcult it is to find 
words to acknowledge it. I have read it over and over again, and my 


children shall read it hereafter. There was an inaccuracy in my little 
sonnet upon the infant Hampden — which should run thus : — 

* Thy iufant years, dear child, had pass'd unknown. 
As wine bad flown upon thy natal day ; 
But that the name of Hampden fires each soul, 
To Bit with rapture round thy birthday bowl- 
Honest remembrance of his high renown 
In the great cause of law and liberty. 

Should Heaven extend thy days to man's estate. 
Follow his bright example ; scorn to yield 
To servile judgments ; boldly plead the claim 
Of British rights ; and should the sacred flame 
Of eloquence die in corrupt debate. 
Like Hampden, urge their justice in the field,' 

" These last lines may one day get this young gentleman hanged, 
unless he can take one just turn in hanging very many who so richly 
deserve it. 

" Yours, very aflfeotionately, 

" Eeskinb." 

Dr. Parr, in his will, thus testified his feelings for his pa- 
triotic correspondent : — " I give to the Eight Honourable 
Lord Erskine a mourning ring, as a mark of my unfeigned 
respect for his noble exertions in defending the constitutional 
rights of juries and the freedom of the press, and for his 
vigorous and effectual resistance to the odious principle of 
constructive and accumulative treasons, — and, I thankfully 
add, for his disinterested acts of kindness to my sister and 
myself." ' 

To support the cause of the Greeks, in the autumn of the 
year 1822 Erskine published a pamphlet, in the shape of a 
" Letter to Lord Liverpool ;"_ which, if it be marked by a 
growing false taste in composition, proves a true and unabated 

* The lawyer and the divine had long been the very few who are capable of estimating 
accustomed to praise each other very lavishly, either of them, and who ought to take the 
Erskine writes, soon after the State Trials in lead in England, whether ancient learning 
H94,— " The approbation of such an excel- and eloquence are to be judged of in the ab- 
lent judge of every accomplishment Is a great stract, or compared with the shadows which 
prize. It was not for nothing that I left the their descended radiance still gives birth to 
full-monied term of last November at West- in onr latter days." When the two met, 
minster. No, lam no better than my neigh- their flattery seems to have been still more 
hours,— I was only prudently preaching in intense. On one occasion. Parr, at last, as 
these days of innovation for coin not subject the highest recompense that could be be- 
to be debased in the esteem and approbation stowed, said, " When you die, I will write 
of such men as yourself ; and I have so far your epitaph." Erskine replied, " This is 
succeeded, by the dint of sheer honesty (for I almost a temptation, my dear doctor, ill- 
have little else to boast of), as to be com- stantly to commit suicide ! " 
pared to Demosthenes and Cicero, by one of 


love of freedom. He presented a copy of it to a lady of 
literary celebrity, with, the following note : — 

" Dbak Lady Morsan, 
" A long time ago, in one of your works (all of which I have read 
with great satisfaction), I remember you expressed your approbation 
of my style of writing, with a wish that 1 would lose no occasion of 
rendering it useful. I wish I could agree with your Ladyship in your 
kind and partial opinion ; but as there never was an occasion in which 
it can be more useful to excite popular feeling than in the cause of the 
Greeks, I send your Ladyship a copy of the second edition, published 
a few days ago. 

" With regard and esteem, &c. &o. 

" E. 
" No. 13, Arabella Row, Pimlico, LoDdoD, 
October II, 1822." 

Lady Morgan, when first introduced to him a good many 
years before, wrote this account of him to a friend : " I was 
a little disappointed to find that Erskine spoke like other 
persons, — was a thin, middle-aged gentleman, and wore a 
brown wig ; but he was always delightful, always amusing, 
frequently incoherent ; and, I thought, sometimes affectedly 
wild, at least paradoxical." Now she wrote, with great can- 
dour and kindness of heart : " The pamphlet for the Greeks 
is worth citing as a testiinony to prove that years do not make 
age, and that freshness of feeling and youthful ardour in a 
great cause may survive the corporeal decay which time 
never spares, even to protracted sensibility." 

I give one or two specimens to justify this criticism : " I 
feel, whilst I am writing, that the ink must first have become 
blood, to enable me fitly to express my detestation and abhor- 
rence of their Turkish oppressors. To judge of what the 
Greeks under good government are capable of being, we 
have only to look back to what they have been. Their pedi- 
grees, in which we can trace so many great men who never 
should have died, ought to protect them from the Saracens, 
who cannot show in all their escutcheons "a single man who 
should have lived." Proposing to eject the Turks from Eu- 
rope, he declares that " he would confide the matter to some 
long-practised diplomatist, with the assistance of a lawyer to 
draw up the mtice to quit." He does not go on to explain 
how the writ of habere facias possessionem was to be executed. 
— But it should be recollected that at this time such senti- 
ments were shared by the most distinguished men. Byron 


was actually carrying arms in the gi-eat enterprise ; and 
LorA. Dudley, though, a non-combatant, wrote to the Bishop 
of Llandaff, " I have always considered it the greatest dis- 
grace of Christendom to suffer these hated barbarians, the 
Turks, to remain encamped upon the finest and most re- 
nowned part of Europe for upwards of four centuries — 
during at least two of which it has been in our power to 
drive them out whenever we pleased ; let us at least have 
one civilised and Christian quarter of the globe, although it 
be the smallest." 

In thus addressing Lord Liverpool as an advocate for 
the liberty of the Greeks, Erskine showed that he had 
become a zealous convert to the abolition of the African 
slave trade, — forgetting even that he had once been de- 
luded by the apparent happiness which he had seen the 
negroes enjoying in their midnight dances in the West Indies. 
After giving an affecting description of the horrors of the 
middle passage, particularly the slaves jumping overboard to 
be devoured hf the sharks, which he says he had frequently 
beheld, he adds — "When, after all this, it fell at last to my 
lot, and through ways as unaccountable as unexampled, to 
preside in the Lords' House of Parliament, on their deliver- 
ance — to hold up in my hands the great charter of their 
freedom, and with my voice to pronounce that it should be 
law, your Lordship, I am sure, whom I respect and regard as 
a man of honour and feeling, will rather approve than con- 
demn my retaining the whole subject of slavery in the most 
affecting remembrance." " 

Erskine was thus employed during the visit of George IV. 
to the Scottish metropolis. He privately expressed a wish 
that he might have been of the party, — to point out the 
beauties of his " own romantic town " to the first Bruns- 
wick Sovereign who had " kept court in Holyrood ;" but 
there was a complete alienation between " Tom" and his old 
patron, who now hated all liberal men as well as liberal prin- 
ciples, and could with great difficulty be persuaded by his Tory 
Ministers to agree to the emancipation of the Catholics. 

" I am sorry to say that the lawyers were terous Thurlow, and for a moment trembled 

the last in the community to support the upon the lips of Ersldne." . . . . "The Bar 

rights of their black brethren. Wilberforce, were all against us upon the question of the 

in his Piary, sv*.— *' That the general bias African Slave Trade. Fox could scarcely 

of the Bar W£(S in favour of an established prevent Ersltine from making a Sfit speech in 

trade in slaves with Africa, was confirmed favour of the trade." 
by the defence which burst from the boia- 


ThoTigli no" longer attending in Parliament, nor even 
making speeches at anniversary dinners, our ex-Chancellor 
was still desirous of keeping his name before the public,— or 
I ought^ perhaps, rather to say, of rendering service to the 
country, — and, in the beginning of the year 1823, he pub- 
lished a pamphlet, which proved to be his last ; for though 
his figure was still juvenile and his eye piercing, his career 
•was near its close. The all absorbing subject of. the day was 
" Agricultural Distress," which, notwithstanding the protect- 
ing sliding scale of 1815, intended to prevent the price of 
wheat falling under eighty shillings the quarter, was now 
said to be dreadful ; and certainly Erskine's attempts to raise 
wheat on land intended by nature only for the production of 
birch brooms had turned out very disastrous. In his " Letter 
to the Proprietors and Occupiers of Land, on the Causes 
and Remedies for the Decline of Agricultural Prosperity," he 
still harps upon " insufficient protection," and the " burdens 
on land ;" but he makes some good observations on the 
abuses of the old Poor Law, which many are so eager to 
restore. He thus illustrates his objection to the " allowance 
system" (i. e. apportioning parish relief according to the 
number of the family and the price of corn) then prevailing 
over the south of England : — 

" A friend of mine in Sussex had a useful servant, who managed his 
small farm, and, being satisfied with his services, gave him higher wages 
than the common rate, a comfortable house to live in, besides firewood, 
with some Uttle advantages which occasionally occurred. Nevertheless, 
this innocent-minded man, in a state of breathless agitation, addressed 
his master as follows : ' Master, be I bound to maintain five children ? ' 
To which the master said, ' Whose children are they ? ' ' Why, I be- 
lieve them to be my own,' was the answer , to which the gentleman re- 
plied, ' Who else should maintain them ? ' ' Why, the parish,' replied 
the countryman, still more agitated. ' What can ycu mean by that ? ' 
said the master ; ' have you not sufficient wages to maintain your wift 
and children comfortably 1 ' ' Why, to be sure, I have,' said the country- 
man, ' thanks to your honour's kindness ; my vrife is a sober, good wo- 
man, so that we lays by a few shillings a week ; but why be 1 to have 
no money from the parish, when every one else is paid who has child- 
ren ? ' The end of this dialogue was, that the man was directed never 

* ** It was well observed by Mr. Holme tion of the poor, however judicious, will be 

Sumner, that a Succes^ul clamour for cheap attended with any material relief to the 

bread, by the encouragement of foreign im- country, until we shut our ports by a higher 

porters, would soon leave ttie people no scale than we have adopted." — Lord JSrgleint^s 

bread at all. lHo schemes for the sustenta- i*aim}kLet. 


to think of the parish any more ; and he now lives contented in his 

The public was disposed to applaud -what was good, with- 
out criticising severely what might be questionable, in the 
writings or actions of an old favourite. He was now regarded 
with general fondness. Annually, at a dinner (which he was 
not asked to attend, that his praise might be sounded more 
freely) given to celebrate the acquittal of Hardy in 1794, his 
health was drunk with increasing enthusiasm — the company, 
on account of the tergiversation of his colleague, drinking in 
solemn silence " The memory of Sir Vicary Gribbs." Eidgway, 
under his revision, had a few years before published a collec- 
tion of his speeches at the Bar. To my utter astonishment, 
it never reached a second edition ; but it was in the hands 
of all who had any taste for genuine oratory, and it proved 
that his great fame as an advocate was scarcely equal to his 
merits. The " Indian Chief" was declaimed by schoolboys, 
— lawyers conned night and day his arguments against con- 
structive treason, — and his analysis of mental alienation in 
his defence of Hadfield was studied and admired by philoso- 
phers. He had lived sufficiently both to nature and to glory ; 
and if he had survived much longer, his reputation might 
have been permanently dimmed by the faults and follies 
into which he might have fallen. But, while it seemed 
that the strength of his constitution could only be under- 
mined by a long decay, an acute disorder saved him from 
these perils. 



During his short visit to Scotland in the year 1820, Erskine 
AD 1823 ^^ ^^^^ "^ ^ perpetual hurry and bustle, and had 
been constantly subjected to the public gaze. He 
longed to contemplate in repose the scenes of his infancy, and 
to enjoy an affectionate intercourse with his surviving re- 
latives. His eldest brother, the Earl of Buchan, was now 
residing at Dryburgh Abbey, in Berwickshire, and, having by 
long economy repaired the shattered fortunes of his family, 
was in comparative wealth. Henry, his second brother, had 

A.D. 1823. HIS DEATH. 75 

paid tlie debt of nature, but had left a widow — a lady of superior 
understanding and most agi'eeable manners, to whom, as well 
from her own merits as from a regard to the memory of the 
deceased, he was warmly attached. He likewise desired to 
form an acquaintance with the junior branches of his noble 
house, and for its honour to give them the advantage of his 
experience in directing their pursuits in life. He therefore 
resolved, in the autumn of 1 823, to revisit his native land and 
to pass the ensuing winter there. "When he intimated his 
wish to go by sea, he was reminded that the equinoctial gales 
were to be expected ; but, expressing a great dislike of being 
boxed up in the mail-coach, or posting over 400 miles of dusty 
road, he added, — " What is a pu£F of wind on the German 
Ocean to an old sailor who has often combated a tornado in the 
West Indies ? " Accordingly he embarked at Wapping in a 
Leith smack, accompanied by one of his sons. 

At first the weather was propitious, but when they were 
abreast of Harwich a violent gale arose from the north-north- 
east, accompanied by rain and sleet. The " old sailor " would 
remain on deck to show his hardihood, — till he found himself 
seriously indisposed. In a few hours it turned out that he was 
attacked with inflammation in the chest — a complaint from 
which he had suffered before, and against which he ought cau- 
tiously to have guarded himself. When the ship reached Scar- 
borough he was so seriously ill that it was necessary to put 
him ashore. He rallied to a certain degree, and was able by 
easy stages to reach Almondell, the residence of his sister-in- 
law. There he had skilful medical advice, and the tenderest 
attentions which affection and respect could prompt ; but he 
experienced a relapse of his malady, and after suffering severe 
bodily pain with much fortitude, on the 17th of November, 
1823, he expired, in the 73rd year of his age. I have not been 
able to obtain any farther authentic particulars of his last 
hours ; but we need not doubt that he then found consola- 
tion in the deep religious feelings by which, when he had 
leisure for reflection, he was ever influenced; and we may 
humbly express a hope, in his own beautiful language, that, 
" instead of a stem accuser exposing before the Author of his 
nature the frail passages in a life generally well directed, their 
guilt was mitigated by a merciful intercession, and true re- 
pentance blotted them out for ever." ^ 

y Mr. Thomson, a very respectable gentle- who attended Lord Erskine in his last illness 
man, the son of Dr. Thomson, the physician thus writes to me : — " Either on the dav be- 

76 LORD EESKINjS. Chai>. CXC, 

Had lie died in London, he certainly would have been 
honoured with a public funeral, and his mortal remains would 
have been deposited in Westminstei' Abbey, near those of his 
distinguished contemporaries, Pitt, Fox, and Wilberforce. But 
they moulder in the family burying-plaoe at Uphall, a remote 
parish in the county of Linlithgow, — the hearse that conveyed 
them thither being attended only by a few relations and pri- 
vate friends. On this occasion, no solemn knell announced 
the approach of the illustrious deceased to his last resting- 
place, — ^no priest in holy vestment, with book in hand, paced 
the churchyard, chanting " I am the resurrection and the 
life," — ^no swelling anthem resounded through the fretted 
aisles of a Gothic minster. In a narrow vault covered by 
weeds, near a small church, erected since the Reformation, 
and scarcely to be distinguished from a bam, the unadorned 
coffin of the, immortal Thomas Erskine was placed by the side 
of his brother Henry ; and the company having reverentially 
remained silent and uncovered while the ceremony was per- 
formed, departed, after casting a sorrowful look at the spot 
where he was to repose till the last trumpet should summon 
him to judgment. — But, though the interment was conducted 
in the Presbyterian fashion, the horror of Popish rites was so 
far relaxed in the country, that the Reverend Mr. Fergusson, 
the parish clergyman, prayed, and delivered an impressive 
address, before the simple procession moved from Almondell, 
and — ^without cassock or surplice — he followed it to the grave. 
Although it may be regretted that the beautiful funeral ser- 
vice La the English Liturgy is rejected, as superstitious, by our 
Scottish brethren, the extempore prayers and exhortations 
substituted in its place, for the edification and consolation of 
surviving relations and friends assembled in the house where 

fore or on the very day that Lord Erskine this anecdote, say that these words of Lord 
died, when he had fallen into the state of Ersldne's forcibly brought to his recollection 
delirium by which death is so often preceded, what Dr. Baillie had told him relative to Mr. 
and in which the last thoughts that fleet Pitt's last hours ; Dr. Baillie, having hap- 
through the mind previous to its separation pened to arrive before the other medical 
from its terrestrial associate are apt to be ex- attendants, entered his bedroom alone, when 
pressed in mutterings, my father heard him he beard him mutter in an irritable tone, and 
pronounce these words with some declama- with a repetition of the expressions, ' What, 
tory emphasis : — 'They have neither talents sir ! haven't you got enough ? ' — an expostu- 
nor virtue to govern a nation.' Whether this latory in,terrogation which Dr Baillie said he 
sentiment had reference to the Government feared must have been directed, in the wan- 
then actually existing, or to some other dering imagination of the Premier, against 
which *his imagination had recalled, I must the msatiable demands of some placo-seekiaG 
leave it to your Tjordship's sagacity to deter- countrym^ of his own." 
mine. 1 have heard my father, in mentioning 

Chap. CXC. HIS WILL. 77 

the body lies, often produce an effect as touching and as 
salutary. Dr. Johnson himself has said, — 

" Legitimos faciuDt pectora pura precea." 

There is no marhle monument erected to Erskine's memory 
— nor any mural inscription to celebrate his genius and 
public services ; but the Collection of his Speeches will pre- 
serve his name as long as the English language endures, and 
a simple narrative of his life will best show his claim to the 
gratitude of posterity. 

On searching his papers the only will found was one dated 
so far back as the 15th of November, 1782. This had, been 
made in contemplation of an affair of honour which proceeded 
to a hostile meeting in the field, but ended without bloodshed.' 
He prefaces the disposition of his property by a declaration 
that, " from a sense of honour, and not from any motive of 
personal resentment or revenge, he was about to expose his 
life to great peril." Nine thousand pounds in 3 per cent, 
consols, and one thousand pounds in bills, stated to be all 
acquired by his practice at the Bar, he left to his then wife, 
with the highest expressions of confidence and affection, for 
the maintenance of herself and her children, — they to in- 
herit it, after her decease, in equal shares, as they attained 
twenty-one. But he provided that as, on account of her 
youth, she might probably marry again, and as such an event, 
though by no means deprecated by him, might be incom- 
patible with the interests of his children, upon such second 
marriage the fund should be transferred to his sister. Lady 
Anne Erskine, in trust for the purposes above mentioned. 
By a codicil, dated October 2, 1786, when his property had 
greatly accumulated, he confirmed his will, and directed equal 
portions to after-born children. I am afraid that, at last, 
there was little forthcoming for these bequests to operate 
upon ; but his family prized more his splendid reputation than 
any riches which he could have transmitted to them, and, 
without a murmur, thought of him with unmixed veneration 
and thankfulness. 

To be descended from such a parent was indeed a great in- 
heritance. Many generations may pass away before his equal 
is presented to the admiration of mankind. Of course, 1 do 
not refer to his qualifications as a Judge ; and can only say Oi 

z He was never fund of any allusion to this It arose out of an altercation ia a ball-rooni 
affair, as bis antagonist was an apothecary, at Lewes. 



Chap. CXC. 

him as a politician, that he was ever consistently attached to 
the principles of freedom, though by no means above the pre- 
judices of education and country. As a parliamentary debater 
he was much inferior to several of his contemporaries ; and 
even in our own degenerate age we could outmatch him.* But 
as an Advocate in the forum, I hold him to be without an 
equal in ancient or in modem times. 

Notwithstanding the flippant observations of some who can 
write and speak very fine sentences, without any notion of 
the real business of life, and who pretend to despise that for 
which they themselves would have been found utterly unfit, 
I boldly affirm that there is no department of human intellect 
in which the mens dioiniar may be more refulgently displayed. 
I despise, as much as they can do, the man wearing a gown, 
be it of bombasin or of silk, who is merely " prseco actionum, 
cautor formularum, auceps syllabarum," — or who sordidly 

^ Some have supposed that his senatorial 
efforts appear to us generally so indifferent 
from bad reporting ; but the following letter 
from him to Mr. Wright, the editor of the 
"Parliamentary Debates" (the original of 
which is in my popsession. a presentftommy 
friend Mr. Surtees), shows that he was quite 
contented with the reports of his speeches in 
that collection as being full and faithful : — 
" Dear Sir, 

•* If I did not know from long experience 
your singular correctness regarding your 
papers, I should be almost quite sure that 
you had all the speeches you ever sent me in 
time for the publication, except two, which, 
coming too late, you were so kind as to say 
(and which I hope you will not forget) you 
would reprint in the manner you mentioned. 
1 am naturally very anxious that after, 
through your kind attention, so many of my 
speeches in Parliament appear bo nearly as 
they were spoken, that the one in question 
sh<iuld have the same advantage. I shall be 
in town on Sunday, when I will call on you; 
and although you may not be able to cut out 
a copy as you did with the others, you might 
find the book ttova. which the others were 
taken, fi*om which I would correct it with- 
out a moment's delay. 

" Yours very sincerely, 

** EliSttlNE. 

" Buchan Hill, near Crawley, 
Nov. aeth, 1818." 

However, he sometimes complained bitterly 
of the short-hand writers. In one of his let- 
ters to Mr. Howell, the editor of the ** State 
Trials," now in my possession, he says : " I 
am used to the systematic bad grammar of 
the short-hand writers. None of them (6ur- 
ney excepted) ever use any tense but the 
present. If the speaker is speaking of a 
transaction as ancient as the flood, it is still 
the present tense, * Noah enters into the 
ark.' 1 believe no man who ever spoke ex- 
tempore ever was so correct in tenses as my. 
self. I have accustomed myself so much 
to that correctness in common conversation, 
that I could not depart from It if I were to 
try ; and yet there is hardly any line in the 
whole copy you sent me in which there ia 
not put into my mouth the present tense» 
for all that forms the variety of our English 
verbs. It is truly disgusting with other simi- 
lar blunders ; but to* a person so conversant 
with their ignorance and stupidity as 1 am, it 
can be corrected in half an hour." 

Referring to his speech for the " Courier," 
he says : '• I put every thing else aside, and 
turned the whole from the third person to 
the first. It is an admirably correct re- 

Sic, instead of " by,"— and rather careless m this lioast of superior accui acy I 


thinks only of amassing money, and regulates his attendance 
and his exertions according to the fee marked on his brief. 
But let ns imagine to ourselves an advocate inspired by a 
generous love of fame, and desirous of honourably assisting 
in the administration of justice, by obtaining redress for the 
injured and defending the innocent, — who has liberally 
studied the science of jurisprudence, and has stored his mind 
and refined his taste by a general acquaintance with elegant 
literature, — ^who has an intuitive insight into human charac- 
ter and the workings of human passion, — who possesses dis- 
cretion as well as courage, and caution along with enthusiasm, 
— who is not only able by his powers of persuasion to give 
the best chance of success to every client whom he repre- 
sents in every variety of private causes, but who is able 
to defeat conspiracies against public liberty, founded upon 
a perversion of the criminal law, — and w^ho, by the victories 
which he gains, and the principles which he establishes, places 
the free Constitution of his country on an imperishable basis ! 
Such an advocate was Erskine ; and although he did creditably 
maintain his family by professional honoraries voluntarily pre- 
sented to him, he was careless as to their amount, and he was 
ready on every proper occasion to exert his best energies 
without any reward beyond the consciousness of doing his 
duty.' Such an advocate, in my opinion, stands quite as high 
in the scale of true greatness as the Parliamentary leader who 
ably opens a budget, who lucidly explains a new system of 
commercial policy, or who dexterously attacks the measures 
of the Government. Certainly, different qualities of mind as 
well as different acquirements are demanded for these two 
kinds of eloquence ; and it may be admitted that in senatorial 
deliberations there is a wider scope for an enlarged view of 
human affairs, and that they alone afford an opportunity for 
discussing the relative rights, duties, and interests of nations. 
But the forensic proceeding, though between private parties, 
or between the state and individual citizens, and though con- 
fined to a comparatively narrow field of investigation and of 
argument, has great advantages, from the intense and con- 
tinued interest which it excites, — for, like a grand drama, it 
has often a well-involved plot, and a catastrophe which cannot 
be anticipated, rousing all the most powerful sympathies of 
our nature ; and sometimes, as on the impeachment of Lord 

b E. g. When counsel for Haidy, Home Indeed, it is contrary to professional etiquette 
Tooke, and Tbeiwall, he pleaded for Une, to take a fee in high treason. 

80 LORD EESKI^3. Chap. CXa 

Strafford, or the Treason Trials of 1794, the fate of the empire 
may depend upon the Yerdict. Look to the recorded efforts of 
genius in both departments. I will not here enter into a 
comparison of the respective merits of the different sorts of 
oratory handed down to us from antiquity, but I may be 
allowed to observe that, among ourselves, in the hundred and 
fifty volumes of Hansard there are no specimens of Parlia- 
mentary harangues which, as literary compositions, are com- 
parable to the speeches of Erskine at the Bar, with the excep- 
tion of Burke's, — and these were delivered to empty benches. 
Do not, therefore, let it be assumed that Erskine is to be 
degraded into an inferior class of artists because he was not 
a skilful debater. He no doubt would have been a yet more 
wonderful creature if he had been as transcendent in the 
Senate as in the Eo^rum ; but we should recollect that, in the 
department of eloquence in which he did shine, he is allowed 
to have excelled, not only all his contemporaries, but all 
who have attempted it in this island, either in prior or in 
subsequent times, — ^while mankind are greatly divided as to 
the individual to whom the palm of Parliamentary eloquence 
should be awarded ; — and there will again probably be a 
debater equal to Pitt tbe father, Pitt the son, Eox, Sheridan, 
Burke, or Grey, before there arises an advocate equal to 

Some have denied the possibility of his exalted pre-emi- 
nence, on account of his limited stock of general knowledge ; 
but, although much culture is indispensable to the develop- 
ment of the intellectual powers, and to the refinement of 
taste, this culture may be applied without the knowledge of 
a great variety of languages, and without any deep insight 
into science. No Greek knew any language but that which 
he learned from his nurse, and Shakspeare could not have gone 
through an examination as difficult as that of many modem 

*^ I find him thus compared with his rivals not equal." 

in the Court of King's Bench :— " He could 1 have heard much speculation respecting 

not display the peculiar energy of Law, in- the probable success of the younger Pitt, had 

vigorated as it was by a Latinised phrase- he remained at the Bar. I think it must 

ology, and a pronunciatioD slightly tinctured have been splendid ; but, unless he had ex- 

with a Northern burr. He had not the coarse hlbited greater variety of manner and a 

humour of Mingay, the tormenting perti- more familiar acquaintance with the'common 

nadty of Gibbs, or the interrogative astute- feelings of mankind, it never could have ap- 

nessofOarrow; but he possessed an opulence preached that of Erskine. Fox, in arguing 

of imagination, a fertility of fancy, a power questions of law on Hastings's trial, excited 

of commanding at an instant all the resources the astonishment and admiration of the 

of his mind, and a dexterity in applying them. Judges; and in every branch of forensio 

which the whole united Bar of England could practice he would have been supreme. 


parish schools. Far be it from me to discourage the acquisi- 
tion of classical and scientific lore : this is delightful in itself, 
and it gives the best chance of success in every liberal pur- 
suit ; but where true genijis exists, it maybe brought into full 
operation and efficiency by suitable discipline within very 
narrow limits ; and a man may be superior to all others in his 
art, and be ignorant of many things which it is disgraceful to 
the common herd of mortals not to know. Let it not be 
said, therefore, that Erskine could not, better than any other 
man, lead the understandings and control the passions of his 
audience when arguing a point of constitutional law, or ap- 
pealing to the affections of domestic life, because he talked 
nonsense if he indiscreetly offered an opinion upon a question 
of prosody or of political economy. His moderate acquaint- 
ance with the Latin poets, and his intense and unremitting 
study of the best English writers, both in prose and verse, had 
taught him to think, and had supplied him with a correct, 
chaste, forcible, and musical diction, in which to express his 
thoughts. Although, judged by his common conversation, 
he was sometimes very lightly esteemed, — listen to his dis- 
courses when he is rescuing from destruction the intended 
victim of an arbitrary Government, or painting the anguish 
of an injured husband, and he appears to breathe celestial 

In considering the characteristics of his eloquence, it is 
observable that he not only was free from measured sen- 
tentiousness and tiresome attempts at antithesis, but that he 
was not indebted for his success to riches of ornament, to 
felicity of illustration, to wit, to humour, or to sarcasm. His 
first great excellence was his devotion to his client ; and, in 
the whole compass of his orations, there is not a single instance 
of the business in hand — the great work of persuading — being 
sacrificed to raise a laugh or to excite .admiration of his own 
powers. He utterly forgot himself in the character he repre- 
sented. Through life he was often ridiculed for vanity and 
egotism, — but not from any thing he ever said or did in con- 
ducting a cause in a court of justice. There, from the moment 
the jury were sworn, he thought of nothing but the verdict, 
till it was recorded in his favour. Earnestness and energy 
were ever present throughout his speeches — impressing his 
argument on the mind of his hearer with a force which seamed 
to compel conviction. He never spoke at a tiresome length ; 
throughout all his speeches' no weakness, no dulness, no 

VOL. IX. ti 


flagging is discoverable ; and wo have ever a lively statement 
of facts, — or reasoniag pointed, logical,, and triumphant. 

I tliink I ought particularly to mention the familiar know- 
ledge he displays of the most secret workings of the human 
mind. How finely he paints the peril arising from the per- 
version of what is good ! " Some of the darkest and most 
dangerous prejudices of men arise from the most honourable 
principles. When prejudices are caught up from bad passions, 
the worst of men feel intervals of remorse to soften and dis- 
perse them; but when they arise from a generous though 
mistaken source, they are hugged closer to the bosom, and 
the kindest and most compassionate natures feel a pleasure in 
fostering a blind and unjust resentment." He spoke as his 
clients respectively would have spoken had they been en- 
dowed with his genius. " The dervise in the fairy tale, who 
possessed the faculty of passing his own soul into the body of 
any whom he might select, could scarcely surpass Erskine in 
the power of impersonating for a time the feelings, wishes, and 
thoughts of others." '' 

I must likewise mention the delight I feel from the exquisite 
sweetness of his diction, which is pure, simple, and mellifluous, 
— the cadences not being borrowed from any model, nor fol- 
lowing any rule, but marked by constant harmony and variety. 
The rhythm of the Indian Chief is, I think, more varied, richer, 
and more perfect than that of any passage from any other com- 
position in our langu^e. 

When the great Lord Chatham was to appear in public, 
he took much pains about his dress, and latterly he arranged 
his flannels in graceful folds. It need not then detract from 
our respect fiir Erskine, that on all occasions he desired to 
Ipok smart, and that when he went down into the country on 
special retainers he anxiously had recourse to all manner of 
innocent little artifices to aid his purposes. He examined the 
court the night before the trial, in order to select the most 
advantageous place for addressing the jury. On the cause 
being called, the crowded audience were perhaps kept waiting 
a few minutes before the celebrated stranger made lus appear- 
ance ; and when at length he gratified their impatient curiosity, 
a particularly nice wig and a pair of new yellow gloves distin- 
guished and embellished his person beyond the ordinary cos- 
tume of the barristers of the circuit." 

It maybe more useful to hold up for imitation his admirable 

•1 Townsend's Eminent Judges, i. 431. » Soacoe, 390. 


demeanour while engaged in business at tlie Bar, — to which, 
perhaps, his success was not less due than to his talents. 
Eespectful to the Judges, although ever ready to assert his 
independence, — courteous to the jury, while he boldly re- 
minded them of their duties, — free from asperity towards his 
opponents, — constantly kind and considerate to his juniors, — 
treating the witnesses as persons, generally speaking, reluc- 
tantly attending to assist in the investigation of truth, — looking 
benevolently even on the bystanders, and glad when he could 
accommodate them with a seat, — of a gay and happy tempera- 
ment, enjoying uninterruptedly a boyish flow of animal spirits, 
and enlivening the dullest cause with his hilarity and good- 
humour, — he was a universal favourite — there was a general 
desire, as far as law and justice would permit, that he should 
succeed, and the prestige of his reputation was considered the 
sure forerunner of victory. I have myself witnessed, from tho 
students' box, towards the conclusion of his career at the Bar, 
his daily skirmishes and triumphs ; but it is vain to try by 
words to convey an idea of the qualities which he displayed, or 
the effect which he produced. 

Perhaps I may here appropriately introduce the estimate 
of other writers, entitled to more weight than mine, of his 
eloquence and professional qualifications. Butler, who had 
frequently heard him, observes : — " He often rose to the 
highest oratory, but it was always simple ; and even in his 
sublimest flights there was much that was very familiar, but 
this rather set off than diminished their general effect." ' 
"In examining those particular qualities of Lord Erskine's 
speeches," says Eoscoe, " which contributed more obviously 
to their success, the most remarkable wiU appear to be the 
exact and sedulous adherence to some one great principle 
which they uniformly exhibit. In every case he proposed a 
great leading principle to which all his efforts were referable 
and subsidiary — which ran through the whole of his address, 
arranging, governing, and elucidating every portion. As the 
principle thus proposed was founded in truth and justice, 
whatever might be its application to the particular case, it 
necessarily gave to the whole of his speech an air of honesty 
and sincerity which a jury could with difficulty resist." 
" Juries have declared," says Lord Brougham, " that they felt 
it impossible to remove their looks from him when he had 
riveted, and as it were fascinated, them by hie first glance. 

f BnUer's Rem. 12. 

G 2 


Then hear his voice, of surpassing sweetness, clear, flexible, 
strong, exquisitely fitted to strains of serious earnestness, de- 
ficient in compass, indeed, and much less fitted to express 
indignation, or even scorn, than pathos, but wholly free froia 
harshness or monotony. No man made fewer mistakes, none 
left so few advantages unimproved; before none was it so 
dangerous for an adversary to slumber and be off his guard, 
for he was ever broad awake himself, and was as adventurous 
as he was skilful, and as apt to take advantage of any the 
least opening, as he was cautious to have none in hia own 
battle." " His action," says Espinasse, " was always appro- 
priate, chaste, easy, natural, in accordance with his slender 
and finely-proportioned figure and just stature. His features, 
regular, prepossessing, as well as harmonious, bespoke him of 
no vulgar extraction. The tones of his voice, thougli sharp, 
were fiiU, destitute of any tinge of Scottish accent, and 
adequate to every emergency, — almost scientifically modu- 
lated to the occasion. He enlivened those who surrounded 
kim with whimsical conceits, and jokes on what was passing. 
- had a full share of his jeux d'esprit, as my place in court was 
directly at his back." " Adequately to estimate what Erskine 
was at this period," says another brother barrister, " we must 
forget all that the English Bar has produced after him. 
They wUl afford no criterion by which he can be appreciated. 
They are all of inferior clay, — the mere sweepings of the Hall, 
in comparison. Nor is it easy to form any tolerable idea of 
him but by having seen him from day to day, from year to 
year, in the prime and manhood of his intellect, running with 
graceful facility through the chaos of briefs before him ; it 
is only by that personal experience that it is possible to 
form any notion of the admirable versatility with which Le 
glided from one cause to another — the irony, the humour, thu 
good-nature with which he laughed down the adverse cause, 
and the vehemence and spirit with which he sustained his 

In describing his professional merits, I ought by no means 
to omit his skill in examining witnesses, upon Which the event 
of a cause often depends much more than upon fine speaking. 
— When he had to examine in chief, — ^notj as in commor 
fashion, following the order of the proofs as set down in tht 
brief, — seemingly without art or effort, he made the wit 
ness lucidly relate, so as to interest and captivate the jury, 
all the facts that were favourable to his client. In cross- 


examination he could he most searching and severe ; but ho 
never resorted to browbeating, nor was gratuitously rude. 
Dften he carried his point by coaxing ; and when the evidence 
could not be contradicted, he would try by pleasantry to 
lessen the effect of it. Having to cross-examine a coxcombical 
fellow, belonging to the self-important class of persons sent 
by the wholesale houses in London to scour the country for 
orders, — formerly called " Eiders," now styling themselves 
" Travellers," — he began, " You are a Eider, I understand ? " 
" A Traveller, sir," was the answer. " I might have dis- 
covered," replied Erskine, " that you considered yourself 
licenced to use all the privileges of a Traveller." — Another 
of the fraternity having long baffled him, he suddenly re- 
marked, " You were born and bred in Manchester, I per- 
ceive?" The witness said he could not deny it. "I knew 
it," said Erskine, carelessly, "from the absurd tie of your 
neokcloth." The travelling dandy's weak point was touched ; 
for he had been dressing after Beau Brummel ; and his pre- 
sence of mind being gone, he was made to unsay the greatest 
part of his evidence in chief. — On the trial of an action 
to recover tbe value of a quantity of whalebone, the defence 
turning on the quality of the article, a witness was called, 
of impenetrable stupidity, who could not be made to dis- 
tinguish between the two well-known descriptions of this 
commodity — the "long" and the "thick." StiU confound- 
ing thick whalebone vrath long, Erskine exclaimed, in seem- 
ing despair, " Why, man, you do not seem to know the 
difference between what is thick and what is long ! Now 
I tell you the difference. You are i/wcA-headed, and you are 
not long-heaAedi." — I myself remember when a student being 
present when he was counsel for the plaintiff in an action on 
a tailor's bill, — the defence being, that the clothes were very 
ill-made, and, particularly, that the two sleeves of a dress- 
coat were of unequal length. The defendant's witness ac- 
cordingly swore, that " one of them was longer than the 
other ; " — upon which Erskine thus began : " Now, sir, will 
you swear that one of them was not shorter than the other ? " 
The witness negativing this proposition, after an amusing 
reply the plaintiff had the verdict. — The more difBcult and 
delicate task of re-examination he was in the habit of perform- 
ing with equal dexterity, — not attempting clumsily to go over 
the same ground which he had before trod, but, by a few 
questions which strictly arose out of the cross-examination, 


restoring the credit of his witness, and tying together tho 
broken threads of his case. 

As a mere author, I doubt whether he would ever have 
emerged from obscurity. From his peculiar temperament he 
seems to have required the excitement of listeners, and of 
controversy, and of instant applause, to brighten his ima- 
gination and to sharpen his faculties. Most of his prose 
compositions passed through several editions, as people had a 
curiosity to see an ex-Chancellor become a romance writer, 
or a pamphleteer; but if they had been published anony- 
mously, or as written by John Smith or Thomas Tomkins, 
they would not even have reached the dignity of being cen- 
sured by gods or men, or the columns of a newspaper. 

We have seen that he likewise dabbled ia poetry ; but he 
prudently did not attempt more than vers de socie'te, — and some 
of his metrical effusions are well calculated to promote the 
amusement of a drawing-room. I will here add a few to 
those which I have alrea^ introduced. 

He had a kindness for his countryman Park, afterwards 
a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, but occasionally 
quizzed him; and he wrote upon him the following lines, 
which, with a little alteration, might have been applied tu 
himself: — 

" J ames Allan Park 
Came naked stark 

From Scotland ; 
But now wears clo'es, 
And lives with beaux 

In England." 

On the long lanky visage of Mr. Justice Ashurst, before 
whom he daily practised, he penned the following couplet : — 

" Judge Ashurst. with his lantemjawSt 
Throws ligM upon the English laws." B 

The Clerk of the Eules, a most important officer in the 
King's Bench, then vas Mr. Short, who, notwithstanding 
severe illnesses, had reached a great age. On his eightieth 
birthday Erskiae threw him the following lines, written on » 
scrap of paper torft from a brief: 

' B It has been said that be was thu author but Latin veiSifying was unknown at St 

af the epigram on Judge Grose— Andrew's in his time, and he would hardly 

"Quails sitGrotiusjude^, nnoaccipe verso, (^ *■' could) havo given utterance to sum a 

Exclamat, dubitat, stridet, balbutit et savage eSuniou. 
errat ;" 

Chap. CXC. HIS VEKSES. 87 

" Tho' Short thy name, yet long thy life. 
Triumphant o'er disease's strife ; 
For man's short days are long and full 
To those who live, like you, by Ktjle." 

The paper was immediately tossed back to him, with this 
answer subjoined, which he handed np to the bench, for the 
private amusement of my Lords the Judges : 

" Your iJute's discharged. 'Tia plaili your life 
Has been and is maintained by— strife : 
May still thy bag with Eules be full; 
But livBy as heretofore, sam^ Bni.E." h 

When Sir Walter Scott, with a view to profit rather than 
fame, published "Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk," with some 
very indifferent verses to celebrate the battle of Waterloo, 
Erskine, sitting at table, came out with the following im- 
promptu : 

" On Waterloo's ensanguined plain 
lie tens of thousands of the slain ; 
But none, by sabre or by shot, 
Fell half so flat as Waitkk Sooti." 

However, Erskine was generally more indined to be good 
humoured and complimentary. Being much indisposed during 
dinner at Sir Ealph Payne's, in Grafton Street, he retired 
to another apartment, and reclined for some time on a sofa. 
In the course of the evening, being somewhat recovered, 
he rejoined the festive circle; and Lady Payne inquiring 
how he found himself, he presented to her the following 
couplet : 

" 'Tis true I am ill, but I need not complain, 
For he never knew pUaswre who never knew Patwb." 

The house of an eminent counsel in Eed Lion Square 
being taken by an ironmonger, Erskine thus celebrated the 
event : 

"This house, where once a lawyer dwelt. 
Is DOW a smith's, alas ! 
How rapidly the iron age 
Succeeds the age of brass ! " 

He composed the following lines to the memory of a beloved 
pony, " Jack," who had carried him on the Home Circuit when 

h The original now lies before me, having tralia^ who is married to a grand-danghtei 
been transmitted to me from the Antipodes, of Mr. Short.— 3rd HciUum. 
tpy .Sii H. E. Young, Governor of South Aiis- 


he was first called to the Bar and could not afford any more 
sumptuous mode of travelling : 

*' Poor Jack I thy master's friend when he was poor. 
Whose heart was faithful, and whose step was sur«, 
Should prosperous life debauch my erring hearty 
And whisp'ring pride repel the patriot's part; 
Should my foot falter at Ambition's shrine, 
And for mean lucre quit the path divine ; 
Then may I think of thee when I was poor, 
Whose heart was faithful, and whose step was sure." 

Having thus spoken, in one of his pamphlets, of Frederica 
Duchess of York, " a lady whose talents, manners, and distin- 
guished accomplishments I should have been more desirous to 
record in unfading numbers ; but no man can add a cubit to 
his stature, and I must therefore content myself, in this note, 
to express my affection, admiration, and respect," — and being 
afterwards at Oatlands, the company insisted on his inditing 
some verses, for which they maintained he had a genius. He 
extemporised this sextain : — 

" Tom Erskine was once sailor, soldier, and lawyer, 
A cross, beyond doubt, 'tween the Devil and Sawyer ; 
He tried all the tricks of the old common law,- 
Till to Chancery sent, which can cure every flaw ; 
So merrily, merrily let him live now, 
A planter of trees, and a bolder of plough." 

On another visit at Oatlands, where he met Lewis the 
dramatist. Lady Anne Cullen Smith, and other wits, male 
and female, the company amused themselves in writing, after 
dinner, what they called " Threadpaper Ehymes." Erskine, 
Laving borrowed Lewis's pencil, returned it with the follow- 
ing impromptu : — 

" Your pencil I send, with Ihanka for the loan ; 
Yet, writiug for fame now and theu. 
My wants I must still be content to bemoan, 
Unless I could borrow— your pen." 

Having, in another stanza, glanced -^vith some severity al 
female failings, Lewis thus answered : — 

*' Lord Erskine, at women presuming to rail. 
Says wives are Un canisters tied to our tail ; 
While fair Lady Anne, as the sut^jcct he carries on. 
Feels hurt at his Lordship's degrading comparison. 
Yet wherefore degrading? Conslder'd aright, 
A canister 's useful, and polish'd, and bright; 
And should dirt its original purity hide. 
That '8 the fault of the puppy to Mom it is tied." 

Chap. CXC. HIS VEBSES. 89 

Erakine immediately put in his rejoinder : — 

" When smitten with love from the eyes of the fair. 
If marriage should not be your lot, 
A ball from a pistol will end your despair — 
It's safer than canister-shut" 

Tinprompta vmtten by Loud Ebskine at OaUands, on reaeimng from the 
DocHESs OF YoBK a Lock of Hair of the late lamented Charles James 

" Could relics, as at Rome they show, 

Work miracles on earth below. 

This little hallow'd lock of hair 

Might soothe the patriot's anxious care ; 

Might, to St. Stephen's Chapel brought. 

Inspire each virtuous, noble thought, 

As when those ancient benches rung. 

Whilst Uiunder roll'd o'er Fox's tongue ; 

Then might Old England hold more high 

Her proud and matchless liberty. 

Alas ! alas ! the vision 's vain, 

From the dark grave none come again.' * 

He afterwards printed for private circulation a poem of con- 
siderable length, which, he thus prefaced : — " The following 
lines were occasioned by my having, at the instance of my 
bailiff in Sussex, complained to a neighbour" of his rookery, — 
the only one in that part of the country : but having been 
afterwards convinced of the utility of rooks, I countermanded 
my complaint, and wrote ' The Farmer's Vision.' The lines 
are very incorrect and unfinished, being sketched only as a 
domestic amusement to inspire humane and moral feelings in 
a new generation of my family, and with that view were 
inscribed to my eldest grand-daughter, Frances Erskine, as the 
fair poetess of St. Leonard's Forest, who, not then sixteen 
years of age, could have handled the subject much better her- 
seK. It is indeed so capable of being made interesting, that 1 
would have prolonged the vision, and worked it up into a 
poem, but for an insuperable objection, viz. that I am not a 
poet. It is not fit for publication ; a few copies are only printed 
for friends, who asked for them, as it was too long to make 
them in writing. — Buchan HiH, Sussex, Deo. 25, 1818.!' — I copy 
a short specimen : — 

" Old iGsop taught vain man to look 
In Nature's much-neglected book, 
To birds and beasts by giving speech. 
For lessons out of common reach. 
They whisper truths in reason's ear, 
If human pride would stoop to hear,— 


Nay, often in loud claraours crave 

The rights which bounteous Nature gave. 

A flock of rooks, my story goes, 

Of all our birds the most verbose — ." 

We are then told how the hailiff fired into a congregation of. 
rooks and killed several of them, — ^when the woqaded leader 
hoarsely thus appealed to the superior court : — 

" * Before the Lord of this domain 

Sure justice should not plead in vain ; 
And shall he now, with such blind fury. 
In flat contempt of judge and jury, 
Foul murder sanction in broad day, 
Kot on the King's, but God's, highway?' 

" Touch'd with the sharp hut just appeal. 
Well tum'd at least to make Trie /eel. 
Instant this solemn oath I took — 


Then comes the " Vision : " — 

" A form angelic seem'd to fly 
On meteor wing across the sky : " — 

and he discourses at much greater length, but not more poeti- 
cally, than the rook, on the duty of humanity to the whole 
brute creation. 

In the scarcity of 1801, the lawyers, under the presidency of 
the Master of the Rolls, having met and agreed to restrict their 
consumption of bread at all meals, Erskine sent the following 
protest to his Honour : — 

" My early meal thy prudent care controls, 
Lord of the breakfast ! Master of the Rolls ! 
But as to dinner ? What is that to thee ? 
There Coke alone shall give the law to me ! " 

One day, in 1807, when engaged to dine on turtle with the 
Lord Mayor, he was obliged to sit late on the woolsack, Plumer 
pleading at the bar with extraordinary turbulence and tedious- 
ness, and justifying the saying that " his eloquence was like a 
tailor's goose, hot and heavy," — ^the Chancellor was secretly very 
impatient and angry, but was observed to be writing diligently. 
Bishop Majendie then came up to Lord Grenville and said, 
" Lord Erskine seems very intent on this cause." Lord Gren- 
ville answered, " My Lord Chancellor always takes a note." 
Lord Holland, who was very familiar with him, and sus- 
pected from his manner that liiere was something unusual in 
his occupation, had overheard the conversation and asked for a 

Chap. CXC. HIS SUCCESS IN sociErV. 91 

sight of his note-book. Being produced, it was found to con- 
tain the following lines addressed to Plumer — the ink not yet 

" Oh that thy cursed halderdash 
Were swiftly changed to callipash ! 
Thy bands bo stiff, and snug toapee, 
Corrected were to callipee ; 
That, since I can nor dine nor slip, 
I might arise and eat thee up ! " 

Being once in a festive party, where every one present was 
required to make a new riddle, he most indecorously proposed 
the following : — 

" De quodau Eege. 
" I may not do right, though I ne'er can do wrong ; 
I never can die, though 1 may not live long : 
My Jowl it is purple, my head it is fat — 
Come, riddle my riddle. What Is it ? What f What t "i 

He was, nevertheless, a devoted friend to monarchy, and in his 
graver mood he was ready to do justice to the firmness of pur- 
pose and domestic virtues belonging to the Monarch, with 
whose appearance and phraseology he now used such unjusti- 
fiable freedom. 

Without any refined wit, and with only a moderate portion 
of humour, he had much success in society from his con- 
stant hilarity and well-bred respect for the feelings of others. 
Fond as he was of talking, he never attempted to engross 
the whole conversation to himself, and, in choosing his topics 
and the manner in which he enlarged upon them, he con- 
sidered the company he was addressing — not declaiming 
interminably, as if the listeners, whether ladies, military of- 
ficers, members of parliament, or judges, were pupils to be 
instructed in a lecture-room, — nor entering into a disquisition 
on some recondite question vnth another reckless controver- 
sialist, each of them caring as little for the rest of the com- 
pany as if the two were disputing together on Salisbury Plain. 
He paid to sex and station the deference due to them, and he 
was eager to bring forward into notice the most unobtrusive of 
all who were present. 

It must be confessed that he much too often introduced 
stories of which he was himself the hero. His egotism is 
thus ingeniously and elegantly accounted for and palliated : 
" With an appetency of applause equal to that of which the 

i George m., distinguished by his " purple Jowl " and inteijection of What! What 1 


celebrated Garrick was accused, he saw the evidences of his 
triumph daily, and was intoxicated with the incense. The 
loud laughter or tears' of the audience, the occasional faint- 
ings in the boxes, could not more delight the soul of the mo- 
dem Eoscius, open to all the titillations of vanity, than did the 
visible emotions of jurymen — their relaxed muscles at the jest 
— the dark look of indignation at the invective — the plaudits, 
scarcely suppressed in deference to the Court — ^the favourable 
verdict — gladden the heart of the sensitive orator. Both were 
alike players, strutting their hour upon the stage, and would 
alike enact their parts over again, too frequently erwore their 
best things at private rehearsals, making their homes a theatre, 
and their friends an audience."^ 

This propensity of Erskine drew down upon him much 
satire —without being at all repressed. A newspaper apolo- 
gised for breaking off a speech of his at a public dinner in the 
middle because their stock of I's was quite exhausted. Ca- 
ricatures of him were published, under the name of " Coun- 
sellor Ego;"— and when he was to be raised to the peerage, 
it was proposed that he should take the title of " Baron Ego, 
of Eye, in the county of Suffolk." " The Pursuits of Lite- 
rature" introduced this Dialogue between Octavius and the 
Author, who had been talking rather vaingloriously of his own 
exploits : — 


This of yourself? 




, You're tui'n'd plain fool, 

A vain, pert prater, bred in JSrtkim'i school." 

Canning, in the " Anti- Jacobin,'' in the following pretended 
report of his speech at a dinner of the " Whig Club," at- 
tempted ,to ridicule his admiration of himself and of the 
French Directory, then lately established in power : — 

" He had not the advantage of being personally acquainted with any 
gentleman of the Directory ; — ^he understood, however, that one of 
them (Mr. Merlin), previous to the last change, had stood in a situation 
similar to his own ; he was, in fact, nothing less than a leading advocate 
and barrister, in the midst of a free, powerful, and enlightened people. 
The conduct of the Directory, with regard to the exiled deputies, had 
been objected to by some persons on the score of a pretended rigour. For 

J Townsend's Kminent Judges, i. 458. 


his part, he should only say that, having been, as he had been, both a 
Boldier and a sailor, if it had been his fortune to have stood in either of 
these two relations to the Directory — as a man and as a major-general 
he should not have scrupled to direct his artillery against the national 
representation : — as a naval officer he would undoubtedly have under- 
taken for the removal of the exiled deputies : admitting the exigency, 
under all its relations, as it appeared to him to exist, and the then cir- 
cumstances of the times, with all their bearings and dependencies, 
branching out into an infinity of collateral considerations and involving 
in each a variety of objects, political, physical, and moral ; and these, 
again, under their distinct and separate heads, ramifying into endless 
subdivisions, which it was foreign to his purpose to consider. Mr. Ers- 
kine concluded by recapitulating, in a strain, of agonising and impres- 
sive eloquence, the several more prominent heads of his speech : he had 
been a soldier and a sailor, and had a son at Winchester School, — 
he had been called by special retainers, during the summer, into many 
different and distant parts of the country — travelling chiefly in post- 
chaises. He felt himself called upon to declare, that his poor faculties 
were at the service of his country — of the free and enlightened part of it 
at least. He stood here as a man — ^he stood in the eye, indeed in the 
hand, of God — to whom (in the presence of the company and waiters) 
he solemnly appealed. He was of noble, perhaps royal, blood — he had 
a house at Hampstead — was convinced of the necessity of a thorough and 
radical reform. His pamphlets had gone through thirty editions — skip- 
ping alternately the odd and even numbers. He loved the Constitution, 
to which he would cling and grapple — and he was clothed with the 
infirmities of man's nature. He would apply to the present French 
rulers (particularly 'Barraa and Rewbell) the words of the poet — 

■ Be to their faults a little blind. 
Be to their virtues very kind ; 
Let all their ways be unconfin'd, 
And clap the padlock on their mind.' 

And for these reasons, thanking the gentlemen who had done h'lm the 
honour to drink his health, he should propose ' Merlin, the late Minister 
of Justice, and Trial hy Jury.' " 

Cobbett about the same time published the following notice 
of one of his parliamentary harangues : — 

" Mr. Erskine delivered a most animated speech in the House of Com- 
mons on the causes and consequences of the late war, which lasted thir- 
teen hours, eighteen minutes, and a second, by Mr. John NichoU's stop 
watch. Mr. Erskine closed his speech with a dignified climax — ' I was 
born free, and, by G — d, I'll remain so ! ' [A loud orj^ of Rear, hear ! in 
the gallery, in which were citizens Tallien and Barrere.] On Monday 
three weeks we shall have the extreme satisfaction of laying before the 
public a brief analysis of the above speech, our letter-founder having 
entered into an engagement to furnish a fresh fount of I's." 


This distributor of honours afterwards offered him the title of 
" Lord C/acAmannoa." 

A stronger proof of his incorrigible habit, we have in the 
following entry in the Journal of his friend and general 
admirer, Lord Byron : — 

" A goodly company of lords, ladies, and wits. There was Erskine, 
good, but intolerable : he jested, he talked, he didevery thing admirably ; 
but then he would be applauded for the same thing twice over. He 
would read hia own verses, his own paragraphs, and tell his own stories 
attain and again — and then the trial by jtjey ! ! ! I almost wished it 
abolished, for I sat next him at dinner. As I had read his published 
speeches, there was no occasion to repeat them to me." 

In the Life of Dr. Bumey by his daughter, we have a very 
lively picture on the same subject : she is giving an account of 
a party at Mrs. Crewe's, at which Lord Loughborough and Mr. 
Burke were present : — 

" Mr. Bh'skine had been enumerating fastidiously to Mrs. Crewe his 
avocations, their varieties, and their excess ; till at length he mentioned 
very calmly, having a cause to plead soon against Mr. Crewe, upon a 
manor business in Cheshire. Mrs. Crewe hastily interrupted him, with 
an air of some disturbance, to inquire what he meant, and what might 
ensue to Mr. Crewe. ' Oh, nothing but losing the lordship of that spot,' 
he coolly answered, ' though I don't know that it will be given against 
him ; I only know for certain that I shall have 300Z. for it.' Mrs. Crewe 
looked thoughtful ; and Mr. Erskine then, finding he engaged not her 
whole attention, raised his voice as well as his manner, and began to 
speak of the new Association for Reform by the Friends of the People, 
— descanting in powerful, though rather ambiguous, terms upon the use 
they had thought fit in that Association to make of his name, though he 
had never yet been to the society ; and I began to understand that he 
meant to disavow it ; but presently he added, ' I don't know, I' am un- 
certain whether I shall ever attend. I have so much to do — so little 
time — such interminable occupation 1 However, I don't yet know. I 
am not decided, for the people must be supported ! ' " — " This renowned 
orator," Madame D'Arblay satirically adds, " at a convivial meeting at 
his own house, fastened upon my father with all the volubility ofhis elo- 
quence, and all the exuberance of his happy good-humour, in singing 
his own exploits and praises, without insisting that his hearer should 
join in the chorus ; or rather, perhaps, without discovering, from his 
own self-absorption, that this ceremony was omitted." 

His infirmity is likewise censured by Hannah More, who, I 
suppose, had been silenced when she wished to enlarge upon 
her o^^Ti writings and her own good deeds : — 

Chap. CXC. his PUNS. 95 

" Among the chief talkers at the Bishop of St. Asaph's," says she, 
" was Mr. Erskine. To me he is rather brilliant than pleasant. His 
animation is vehemence ; and he contrives to make the conversation 
fall too much on himself — a sure way not to he agreeable in mixed com- 

One celebrated " blue-stocking," however, seems to have 
been almost in love with him when she was well stricken in 
years, and she bestows enthusiastic commendation on his social 
powers : — 

" The enchanting Mr. Erskine," writes Miss Seward, " honoured mc 
with frequent attentions in the ball-room at Buxton, and with frequent 

visits at my lodgings, where he often met Mr. Wilberforce Did 

Mr. Erskine tell you of our accidental rencontre on the Chatsworth road ? 
I said to my mind, ' What an elegant figure is that gentleman approach- 
ing us, who, loitering with a hook, now reads, and now holds the volume, 
in a dropt hand, to contemplate the fine views on the right ! There 
seems mind in every gesture, every step ; and how like Mr. Erskine ! ' 
A few seconds converted resemblance into reality. After mutual ex- 
clamations, the graceful Being stopped the chaise, opened the door, and, 
putting one foot on the step, poured all his eloquence upon a retrospect 
of the hours we had passed together at Buxton, illuminating, as he flat- 
teringly said, one of'those' seldom intervals of his busy life, in which 
his mind was left to enjoy undisturbed the luxury of intellectual inter- 

All impartial persons allowed, that, however excessive 
Erskine's egotism might be, it was accompanied with much 
borAomie, and was entirely free from arrogance or presumption. 
ITiough vain, he never felt any envy or jealousy of others ; 
and, instead of trying to stifle the reputation of rivals by open 
or secret means, he sincerely and cordially praised, and heard 
praise bestowed upon, what was meritorious in the depart- 
ments which most excited his awn emulation.'' 

When I entered Westminster Hall, it rang with Erskine's 
jokes, consisting chiefly of puns, — some of them very good, 

k Since I wrote these observations, I liave fatlier's fault was in not appreciating tbc sen- 
received a letter from the Right Hon. Thomas sitiveness of others, and in not perceiving 
Erskine, in which, referring to Miss Bumey's the necessity for controlling this universal 
strictures on his illustrious father, he says, — passion. He was too artless to disguise his 
" The merits of ' Evelina ' were probably but love of praise ; but he is entitled to this dis- 
little known to my father, who seldom read tinction, — his thirst for approbation never 
books of that sort, ITie clever authoress, led him to depreciate the merits of others ; 
with great naivety, mentions the fact, that and his whole life pronounces him innocent 
'Mr. Erskine confined his attention exclu- of that bitterness of spirit which too often 
sively to Mrs. Crewe;' and thus imcon- marks the impatience of 'genius and talent 
sciously records another instance of the all- when the appetite of a rival for the common 
pervading infirmity of egotism. My poor food is too little disguised." 


and some of them requiring his established reputation to 
make them circulate. — A junior barrister, joining the circuit, 
had the misfortune to have his trunk cut off from the back of 
his post-chaise, on which the jocund leader comforted him by 
saying, "Young gentleman, henceforth imitate the elephant, 
the wisest of animals, who always carries his teunk iefore Mm." 

He afterwards embraced a favourable opportunity of repeat- 
ing the same joke. Polito, the keeper of the wild beasts in 
Exeter 'Change, having brought an action against the propri- 
etors of a etage-coaoh for negligence, whereby his portmanteau 
was stolen from the boot of the vehicle, he himself having been 
riding on the box, — " Why did he not," said the defendant's 
witty counsel, " take a lesson from his own sagacious elephant, 
and travel with his TRtJifK before him ?"" 

Crossing Hampstead Heatii, he saw a ruffia.nly driver most 
unmercifully pummelling a miserable, bare-boned pack-horse, — 
and, remonstrating with him, received this answer, " Why, it's 
my own ! mayn't I use it as I please V " As the fellow spoke, 
he discharged a fresh shower of blows on the raw back of his 
beast. Erskine, much irritated by this brutality, laid two or 
three sharp strokes of his walking-stick over the shoulders o) 
the cowardly offender, who, crouching and grumbling, asked 
him what business he had to beat him with a stick ? " Why,' 
replied Erskine, "my stick is my own ; mayn't I use it as 1 
please ? " 

Being counsel for a person who, whilst travelling in a stage- 
coach which started from the " Swan with two Necks," in Lad 
Lane, had been upset and had his arm broken, he thus with 
much gravity began : — " Gentlemen of the jury, the plaintiff 
in this case is Mr. Beverley, a respectable merchant of Liver- 
pool, and the defendant is Mr. Nelson, proprietor of the Swan 
with two Necks, in Lad Lane, — a sign emblematical, I suppose, 
of the number of necks people ought to possess who ride in his 

In an action against a stable-keeper, for not taking proper 
cave of a horse, — " The horse," said Mingay, who led for the 
plaintiff, " was turned iato a stable, with nothing to eat but 
musty hay. To such feeding the horse demurred." " He should 

™ The Right Hon. Thomas Erskine, from to his own indiscretion, and gave a verdict 

whom I have this anecdote, adds, — " Polito's for the defendant, to the great indignation of 

portmanteau was put into the boot hehind by Lord Kenyon, who had told them it was an 

his own directions; and the jury adopted my undefended cause. The Jolse. perhaps, helped 

father's sugeestion, that the loss was owine the conclusion." 


have gojw to the country," retorted Erskine. This, though camart 
to the multitude, to a true special pleader is of exquisite reilish, 
— "demurring," and "going to the country," being the 
technical terms for requiring a cause to be decided on a 
question of law by the judges, or on a question of fact by the 

I must have credit with non-professional readers for my 
assertion that the following is equally delectable. Billy 
Baldwin, a low practitioner in the King's Bench, was much 
employed in bail-business, and moving attachments against the 
sheriff " for not bringing in the body," i. e. for not arresting 
and imprisoning debtors. Being told that Billy had sold his 
house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, now Surgeons' Hall, to the Cor- 
poration of Surgeons, " I suppose," said Erskine, " it was re- 
commended to them from Baldwin being so well acquainted 
with the practice of bringing in the body." 

When he was Chancellor, being asked by the Secretary to the 
Treasury whether he would attend the grand Ministerial fish- 
dinner to be given at Greenwich at the end of the session, he 
answered, "To be sure I will; what would your fish-dinner 
be without the Great Seal ? " 

I venture on one more, which, though it has a legal 
aspect, all wiU understand. His friend Mr. Maylem, of 
Kamsgate, having observed that his physician had ordered 
him not to bathe, " Oh, then," said Erskine, " you are malum 
prohibitum." "My wife, however," resumed the other, "does 
bathe." "Worse still," rejoined Erskine, "for she is malum 
in SE." 

When about to be created a Knight of the Thistle, he was 
jeered by one of his friends, who observed, "I suppose you 
next mean to have the Garter." He answered, " You seem to 
suppose that, having been in the Navy, the Army, and the 
Law, I am now going to take Orders." 

In the exuberance of his fan he was likewise fond of whal 
may be called practical jokes. The late worthy Sir John 
Sinclair having proposed that a testimonial should be pre- 
sented to himself by the British nation, for his eminent public 
services, — in answer to one of his circulars, Erskine wrote 
on the first page of a letter in a flowing hand these words, 
which filled it to the bottom :-^ 

" My dear Sib John, 

" I am certain there are few in this kingdom who set a higher 


value on your public services than myself — and I have the honou^ to 
suhscribe " — 

Then, on turning over the leaf, was to be fotmd — 

" Myself, 

" Your most obedient faithful servant, 

" T. Ebskine." 

He would produce his leeches at consultation under the 
name of " bottle conjurors," and argue the result of the cause 
according to the manner in which they swam or crawled ; — 
and a still more favourite amusement with him was to make his 
large Newfoundland dog, Toss, personate the Judge. He had 
taught this animal to sit with much gravity upon a chair with 
his paws placed on the table, and occasionally he would 
put a full-bottom wig on his head and a band round his 
neck — placing a black-letter folio before him. The clients, as 
we^may suppose, were much startled by such exhibitions ; but 
then was the time when he took his amusement, and, rising 
next morning at cock-crow, he read all his briefs before the 
Court met, and won all the verdicts. 

His general urbanity of manner to all classes and degrees of 
men deserves to be specially recorded. Notwithstanding his 
occasional effusions about his " noble, if not royal, descent," he 
was, in truth, free from the slightest taint of arrogance or 
hauteur. Once he asserted, in a marked manner, his prece- 
dence as an Earl's son. During the State Trials, in 1794,' he 
thought that Eyre, from the bench, had treated him with indig- 
nity; and, both dining at the Old Bailey the same day, he 
ostentatiously took the pas of the Chief Justice. But on ordi- 
nary occasions he did not at all presume upon his birth, and he 
was willing to place himself on a footing of perfect equality 
with all who approached him." 

I ought farther to mention that humanity to animals was 
not a mere subject of talk or of legislation with him, but 
was a constantly actuating principle of his life. Of this I 
find a striking instance recorded in the Annual Eegister : — 
"Feb. 3rd, 1807. As the Lord Chancellor was passing 
through Holbom on foot, he observed a number of men and 
boys hunting and beating on the head a little dog with sticks, 
under the idea of his being mad. The Ld. Chan., with great 

" I have no doubt that his rank, being and made him more favourably listened to, 
joined with poverty and energy, materially both by Judges and jni^nien. 
assisted his progress. It gave him confidence. 


Lumanity, obser^'ing not the least symptom of madness, 
rushed into the crowd, seized the poor animal from the hands 
of its destroyers, and carried it some distance, till he met a 
hoy, whom he hired to carry it home with him, to his Lord- 
ship's house in Lincoln's Inn Fields : when he gave it into the 
care of a servant to he taken to his stables." — N ot only was he 
kind to such attached favourites as " faithful Jack," the goose 
who followed him about his grounds, and Toss, so like a 
judge ; but he ever took delight in protecting from ill-usage 
any living creatures, in watching their sports, and adding to 
their enjoyments. 

Although he sometimes talked with levity on sacred sub- 
jects, he had deep and sincere religious feelings, and he might 
be considered as inclining to superstition rather than to scep- 
ticism. He not only believed in the general moral govern- 
ment of God, but in particular interpositions of his power for 
the benefit of highly- favoured individuals. "At the famous 
State Trials, in 1794, he lost his voice on the evening before 
he was to address the jury. It returned to him just in time ; 
and this, like other felicities of his career, he always ascribed 
to a special providence, with the habitually religious disposi- 
tion of mind which was hereditary in the godly families that 
he sprung from." ° 

He either was, or pretended to be, a believer in Second Sight 
and Ghosts. Perhaps he worked himself up to the persuasion 
that he was sincere, in order that he migM, with a good con- 
science,, appear a very extraordinary man, and make people 
stare ; but I suspect that he would occasionally, with deliber- 
ation, mystify his hearers. There being a round of ghost- 
stories in a large company at the old Duchess of Gordon's, 
when it came to the turn of Erskine, then an ex-Chancellor 
he spoke as follows : "I also believe in Second Sight, because 
I have been its subject. When I was a very young man, I had 
been for some time absent from home. On the morning of my 
arrival in Edinburgh, as I was descending the steps of a dose, 
on coming out from a bookseller's shop, I met our old family 
butler. He looked greatly changed, — pale, wan, and shadowy 
as a ghost. ' Eh, old boy,' I said, ' what brings you here ? ' He 
replied, ' To meet your Honour, and solicit your interference 
with my Lord, to receive a sum due to me, which the steward, 
at our last settlement, did not pay.' Struck by his look and 
manner, I bade him follow me to the bookseller's, and intc 

° Lord Brouj^ham. 


wkose shop I stepped back. But when I turned round to him, 
he had vanished. I remembered that his wife carried on some 
little trade in the Old Town ; I remembered even the house 
and flat she occupied, which I had often visited in my boyhood. 
Having made it out, I found the old woman in widow's mourn- 
ing. Her husband had been dead for some months, and had 
told her, on his death-bed, that my father's steward had 
wronged him of some money, but ' that when Master Tom 
returned, he would see her righted.' This I promised to do, 
and I shortly after fulfilled my promise. The impression was 
indelible ; and I am extremely cautious how I deny the possi- 
bility of such 'supernatural visitings' as those which youi 
Grace has just instanced in your own family." 

Brskine's personal advantages have been already alluded to. 
His constitution was remarkably strong ; and it was mentioned 
by himself, in the House of Lords,* as a singular fact, that 
during the twenty-eight years of his practice at the Bar, he had 
never for a single day been prevented from attending to hii 
professional duties. 

Before coming to his descendants, I must briefly notice his 
two brothers^ with whom he always kept up an affectionate in 
teroourse during their respective lives. The Earl of Buchan 
who spent half a century in increasing his income by saving— 
from 200L to 2000Z. a-year, might by his talents have madi 
a considerable figure in the world had it not been for hi^ 
morbid vanity, which is said to have been more excessive thai 
ever was seen in a human being. Having no children by hi 
wife, he used often to observe, "According to Bacon, ^ grea 
■onen ham no continuanoe,' and in the present generation there 
are three examples of it, Frederick of Prussia, George Wash 
ington, and myself." At the university of Leyden, whili 
bearing the title of Lord Cardross, he had been a fellow 
student with Lord Chatham, who afterwards kindly offeree 
him the appointment of secreiary of embassy at Lisbon ; bu 
he refused it because Sir James Gray, the ambassador, wa,- 
only a baronet. To be sure Dr. Johnson ignorantly am 
foolishly said, " Sir, had he gone secretary while his inferic 
was ambassador, he would ha,ve been a traitor to his rank ani 
family." There can be no doubt that he acted most absurdly. 
He comforted himself for the rest of his days in talking of h'if 

ancestors, and corresponding with great people. Observing 

to the Duchess of Gordon, "We inherit all our cleverness 

P Tart. Deb. vi. 247. 


from our mother ;" slie answered, " I fear that, as is usWV 
the case with the mother's fortune, it has all been settleoL o^ 
the younger children." ^-/•^ 

He still continued to write letters to Lord Chatham, and in'~ 
one of these he curiously introdilces the future Chancellor : — 
" A brother of mine is just arrived from our colonies of East 
and West Florida, and gives me but a very unfavourable 
account of the capabilities of those countries. He brought me 
likewise a curious account of a negro conqueror, who has sub- 
dued a great part of Africa, lying nearer our settlements, and 
has occasioned the building of our new fort on that coast. He 
carries eight Arabic secretaries, who record his feats in that 
language. My brother has also conversed vyith Commodore 
Byron's officers, and confirms the account of the Patagonian 
giants." ■> — Occupying, like his father, a " flat " in the old town 
of Edinburgh, he thought to place himself at the head of 
the literati there, but was baffled in an attempt to found a 
" Society . of Antiquaries," — when he thus complaiued to a 
distant friend: — "I have been ungenerously requited by my 
countrymen for endeavouring to make them happier- and more 
respectable. This is the common lot of men who have a spirit 
above that of the age and country in which they act, and I ap- 
peal to posterity for my vindication. I could have passed my 
time much more agreeably among Englishmen, whose character 
I preferred to that of my ovitq countrymen, in a charming 
country too, where my alliance with the noblest and best fami- 
lies in it, and my political sentiments, would have added much 
to my domestic as well as civil enjoyments ; but I chose rather 
to forego my own happiness for the improvement of my native 
country, and expect hereafter that the children of those who 
have not known me, or received me as they ought to have 
done, will express their concern, and blush on account of the 
conduct of their parents. ' PrseclarS conscientiS. igitur susten- 
tor, cum cogito me de republic^, aut meruisse quum potuerim, 
aut certe nunquam nisi divine cogitasse.' " 

Soon after, he entirely abandoned the ungrateful city of 
Edinburgh, and concealed himself amid the shades of Dry- 
burgh, where he had purchased an estate. On this occasion 
he published a general epistle in Latin, addressed to all the 
literati of the world. He afterwards thus apologised for not 

•^ The '* Middy " seems to have considered phagi. and men whose heads do grow beneath 
himself " Ikenstd as a traveUer" and to have their shoulders." 
told as great wonders as of " the Anthropo- 


doing more to enligliten mankind : — " My insatiable tliirst of 
knowledge, and a genius prone to splendid sciences and the fine 
arts, has distracted my attention so much that the candid must 
make ample allowances for me in any one department ; but, 
considering myself as a nobleman and not a peer of Parliament, 
— a piece of ornamental china as it were, — I have been obliged 
to avail myself of my situation to do as much good as I pos- 
sibly could without acting in a professional line, which my 
rank and my fate excluded me from. A discarded courtier, 
with a little estate, does not find it easy to make his •voice be 
heard in any country, and least of all in Scotland." — However, 
he contrived to persuade him .whom he styled sometimes the 
" American Buchan," that he was really a great man, and 
sending him a snuff-box made from the oak which sheltered 
Wallace after the battle of Falkirk, received Washington's por- 
trait in return, with the following acknowledgment : " I accept 
with sensibility and satisfaction the significant present of the 
box, which accompanied your Lordship's letter." 

Lord Coke says, " a man has in him all his posterity ;" and 
Lord Buchan thought that he had in himseK all his ancestors, 
or that the whole line formed a corporation sole never visited 
by death. He always spoke, therefore, of their actions as his 
own ; and a stranger, not aware of this habit, was amazed once, 
although his Lordship did look very old, to hear him saj"^ 
at a dinner table, " I remonstrated strongly, before it took 
place, against the execution of Charles I." 

An uncle of mine, a clergyman, who lived in the neighbour- 
hood, once gave me a ludicrous account of the Earl's installa- 
tion of a colossal statue to Sir William Wallace on the anniver- 
sary of the victory of Stirling Bridge, obtained in 1297. The 
following was the inscription on the base : " In the name of 
my brave and worthy country, I dedicate this monument, as 
sacred to the memory of Wallace, — 

" * The peerless Knight of Ellerelie, 
AVho woo'd on Ayr's romantic shore 
The beaming torch of liberty ; 
And roaming ro^nd from sea to sea, 
From glade obscnre, or gloomy rock, 
His bold compatriots called to free 
The realm from Edward's iron yoke.' '* 

A great curtain was drawn before the statue, which 
dropped at the discharge of a cannon ; and then the Knight 
of Ellerslie was discovered with a huge German tobacco-pipe 
in his mouth, which some wicked wag had placed there, — to 


the unspeakable consternation of the peer, and amusement of 
the company. 

Nevertheless, he did some good by his patronage of letters. 
He encouraged the early efforts of Bums, Scott, and other 
men of genius ; and he founded an annual prize in the Uni- 
versity of Aberdeen, as an incentive to the study of the 
classics. It must Ipe confessed, however, that 'the prize was 
of very minute intrinsic value, and operated only like the 
crowns of laurel and parsley distributed at the Olympic 

Of all his poetical writings there are now extant only four 
lines, which he wrote with his own hand on the wall of St. 
Bernard's Well, in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh : — 

" drink of me only ; drink of this well. 
And fly from vile whiskey, that lighter of hell. 
If you drink of me only — or drink of good ale — 
Long life will attend you — good spiritf: prevail." 

[Quoth the Earl of Buclimi.] 

He considered himself quite superior in genius to his 
younger brothers, and he was rather shocked that they had 
got on in the world by following a trade. Yet at times he 
would boast of their elevation,— taking all the credit of it 
to himself. He said to an English nobleman who visited him 
at Dryburgh, " My brothers Harry and Tom are certainly 
extraordinary men ; but they owe every thing to me." This 
observation occasioning an involuntary look of surprise in 
his guest, he continued, "Yes, it is true; they owe every 
thing to me. On my father's death, they pressed me for a 
small annual allowance. I knew that this would have been 
their ruin, by relaxing their industry. So, making a sacrifice 
of injr inclination to gratify them, I refused to give them a 
fairthing ; and they have both thriven ever since, — owing every 
thing to me." 

While the head of the family made himself so ridiculous, 
Henry Erskine, the second brother, was universally beloved 
and respected. After studying at the Universities of St. 
Andrew's and Edinburgh, he was called to the Scotch Bar, 
and became! its brightest ornament. Like Lord Loughbo- 
rough; he first distinguished himself as a Euling Elder in 
the debates of the General Assembly, then the best theatre 
for deliberative eloquence to be found in Scotland. He soon 
got into extensive practice, and he established a new aera in 
the history of the Parliament House. The old pleaders. 


reared at tte Dutch Universities, were very learned, but 
confined themselves to heavy quotations from Craig, Vinius, 
and Voet. He, by no means deficient in professional learn- 
ing, indulged in the boldest sallies of imagination ; and his 
seria commixta joois, while they delighted the Judges and the 
crowd who came to listen to him, in all sperate cases secured 
the judgment of the Court in favour of his clients. He had 
the fervid genius of the youngest brother without any of his 
eccentricities, and only required the same field for a display 
of his powers to have excelled him. Yet while, by the 
unanimous suffrages of the public, he found himself placed 
without a rival at the head of a commanding profession, his 
general deportment was characterised by the most unaffected 
modesty and easy affability ; and his talents were not less at 
the service of indigent but deserving clients, than of those 
whose wealth or influence enabled them most liberally to 
reward his exertions. Henry Erskine was in an eminent 
sense the " advocate of the people " throughout the long course 
of his professional career. It is said that a poor man, in a 
remote district of Scotland, thus answered an acquaintance 
who wished to dissuade him from engaging in a lawsuit with 
a wealthy neighbour, by representing the hopelessness of his 
being able to meet the expense of litigation : " Ye dinna ken 
what ye're saying, maister ; there's no a puir man in a' Scotr 
land need to want a friend, or fear an enemy, sae lang as 
Hairry Askin lives." 

True to the "Whig principles in which he was reared, he 
was in Opposition during nearly the whole of his life ; but 
■ such was the habitual sweetness of his temper, and such the 
fascination of his manners, that, in times when political ani- 
mosities were carried to a lamentable height, no one was 
known to speak or to think of him with any thing approach- 
ing to personal hostility. By the choice of his brothel* ad- 
vocates, he many years 'enjoyed the dignity of Dean of Fa- 
culty, and twice he tasted office under the Crown as Lord 
Advocate — ^first during the "Coalition Ministry" in '1783, 
and again under the "Talents," when Thomas was Chan- 
cellor. I remember then hearing him plead a cause at the 
bar of the House of Lords— all the Courts in Westminster 
Hall being deserted from a curiosity to compare the two bro- 
thers, — and full justice was done to the elder. He at that 
time represented Dumfries, but he neveV opened his mouth 
in the House of Commons; so that the often-debated ques- 


tion, how he was qualified to succeed there, remained un- 
solved. Though haifled in some of his puis^xits, and disap- 
pointed of the honours to which his claim was universally 
admitted, he, never allowed the slightest shade of discontent 
to rest upon his mind, nor the least drop of bitterness to 
mingle with his blood. On the approach of the infirmities of 
age, he retired to his beautiful villa of Almondell, in West 
Lothian. " Passing thus," says one who knew him well, " at 
once from all the bustle and excitement of public life to a 
scene of comparative inactivity, he never felt a moment of 
ennui or dejection ; but retained unimpaired, till within a day 
or two of his death, not only all his intellectual activity and 
social affections, but, when not under the immediate infliction 
of a painful and incurable disease, all the gaiety of spirit and 
all that playful and kindly sympathy with innocent enjoy- 
ment which made him the idol of the young and the object of 
cordial attachment and unenvying admiration to his Mends of 
all ages." 

Such was his fame for wit, that, besides the genuine off- 
spring of his own brain, most of the good things of the day, 
and many of days long gone by, were imputed to him.' A few 
have been sent to me, which may be relied upon as genuine. 
Having been speaking in the Outer House, at the bar of 
Lord Swinton, a very good but a very slow and deaf Judge, 
he was called away to the bar of Lord Braxfield (the well- 
known Justice Clerk Macqueen), who was Lord Ordinary for 
the week. On his coming up, Lord Braxfield said to him, 
"Well, Dean, what is tms you've been talking so loudly 
about to my Lord Swinton ? " " About a cask of whiskey, 
my Lord " (replied Harry) ; " but I found it no easy matter 
to make it run in his Lordship's head." 

Andrew Balfour, one of the commissaries of Edinburgh, 
was a man of much pomposity of manner, appearance, anij 
expression. Harry met him one morning coming into the 
Court, and observing that he was lame, said to him, " What 
has happened. Commissary ? I am sorry to see you limping." 
" I was visiting my brother in Fife," answered the commis- 
.sary, " and I fell over his stile, and had nearly broken my 
leg." " 'Twas lucky, Commissary " (replied Harry), " it was 
not your own stile, for you would then have broken your neck." 

For example, I well remember bearing, short," answered, " It will be long enough 
when a boy, that Harry Erskine, being told before I get another."— To be found in Swift'i 
by a friend that " his coat was much too " Polite Conversation." 


His brother, the Earl of Buchan, who aimed at being a 
jester as well as a philosopher and a poet, one day putting his 
head below the look of the parlour-door, exclaimed, "See, 
Harry, here's ' Locke on the Human Understanding ; ' " — 
" Eather a poor edition, my Lord," replied Harry. 

Succeeding Dundas as Lord Advocate, that good-hUmoured 
politician offered to lend him his embroidered official gowii, 
as he would not want it long. " No," said he in the same 
spirit, " I will not assume the abandoned habits of my prede- 

These smart sayings were sometimes lost upon some of his 
countrymen — who at least required time to consider them. 
It is related that Lord Balmuto, sitting on the bench, would 
retain the most inflexible gravity, notwithstanding a mirth- 
moving jest from the Dean; and some hours after, when 
another cause was called, would suddenly grin and exclaim, 
" Oh ! Mr. Erskine, I hae ye noo — I hae ye noo : very gude, 
very gude ! " 

Henry likewise displayed the family faculty for versifying 
— of which we have a specimen in the lineshe improvised 
on reading Moore's translation of Anacreon : — 

" Oh ! moum not for Anacreon dead ; 
Oh ! weep not for Anacreon fled ; 
The lyre still breathes he touch'd before, 
For we have one Anacreon Moorr." 

Sii- Walter Scott, in his Diary, thus speaks of the three 
brothers : — " April 20, 1829. Lord Buchan is dead, a person 
whose immense vanity, bordering upon insanity, obscured or 
rather eclipsed very considerable talents. His imagination 
was so fertile that he seemed really to believe the extra- 
ordinary things which he delighted in telling. His economy, 
most laudable in the early part of his life, when it enabled 
him from a small income to pay his fathet's debts, became a 
miserable habit, and led him to do mean things. He had a 
desire to be a great man, and a Mecaenas a Ion marchi. The 
two great lawyers, his brothers, were not more gifted by 
nature than I think he was ; but the restraints of a profession 
kept the eccentricity of the family in order. Henry Erskine 
was the best-natured man 1 ever knew — thoroughly a gentle- 
man — and with but one fault ; he could not say ' No,' and 
thus sometimes misled those who trusted him. Tom Erskine 
was positively mad. I have heard him tell a oook-and-a-bull 
story of having seen the ghost of his father's servant, John 


Bamett, with as muoh gravity as if he believed every word 
he was saying. Both Henry and Thomas were saving men, 
yet both died very poor : the latter at one time possessed 
200,000Z. ; the other had a considerable fortune. The Earl 
alone has died wealthy. It is saving, not getting, that is the 
mother of riches. They all had wit. The Earl's was crack- 
brained, and sometimes caustic. Henry's was of the very 
kindest, best-humoured, and gayest sort that ever cheered 
society; that of Lord Erskine moody and muddish. But I 
never saw him in his best days." Sir Walter himself was at 
this time in declining health, his spirits affected by the pecu- 
niary difficulties in which he was involved, and his judgment 
still biassed by political animosity, which grew stronger as 
he approached the end of his career, — otherwise his kindly 
nature, and exquisite relish for the beautiful and the good, 
wherever to be discerned, would have induced him to speak 
more warmly of the merits, and more mercifully of the 
failings, of Lokd Chancellor Erskine. ' 

This extraordinary man, — who will be a greater boast to 
his descendants than any Earl of Buchan or of Mar, or any 
royal progenitor, — by his first marriage had eight children: 
Frances, married to the Eeverend Dr. Holland, Prebendary 
of Chichester ; Mary, married to Edward Morris, Esq., the 
Master in Chancery ; David Montague, the present Lord, who 
has served his country as minister to the United States of 
America and at the Court of Wirtemburg ; Thomas, a Judge 
of the Court of Common Pleas, one of the most upright and 
amiable of men ; and Esme Stewart, an officer in the army, 
who fought gallantly at Waterloo, and died from the conse- 
quences of a severe wound he received from a cannon-shot 
near the end of the day, by the side of the Duke of Wel- 

I must now reluctantly take leave of a task which I feel 
that I have inadequately performed — having attempted to 
describe the mental powers and intellectual achievements of 
Erskine. With his external lineaments posterity will be 

■ Walter could even utter a bitter joke at a man who had been wrong in the head all 

the funeral of the old Earl — "April 25th. his life would scarce become right-headed 

Time to set out for Lord Buchan's funeral after death.' " He concludes, however, with 

at Dryburgh. His Lordship's burial took a touch of tenderness: *'l felt something at 

place in a chapel amongst the mlns. His parting with this old man, though but a 

body was in the grave with its feet pointing trumpery body. He gave me the first ap. 

westwards. My cousin Maxpopple was for probation I ever obtained from a stranger " 
taking notice of it ; bot I assured him ' that 

lOS l,ORD EESKlMli. Chap. CXC. 

rendered familiar Irom the admirable representations of him 
which remain, by eminent painters and sculptors. The best 
portrait of him is by Hoppner, in the -royal gallery at Windsor ; 
and there is an admirable bust of him in Holland House, by 
NoUekens, with the inscription — 

'* Nostra! eloquentis forensis facile princeps." 

But the likeness of him which I regard with most delight 
is a statue, by Westmacott, in Lincoln's Inn Hall. This is 
the produce of a subscription eagerly made soon after his 
death by the members of that profession which he had so 
much adorned. The attitude is dignified and commanding; 
and although it was beyond the art of sculpture to convey 
any notion of that speaking eye which so much heightened 
the effect of the varying sentiments which proceeded from 
bis lips, all the other features of his countenance are admir- 
ably portrayed, and still seem animated by the fervid genius 
which burned in the bosom of the original. I hope this 
statue may long exercise a salutary influence, not only on the 
young student who enters the Hall in the cotirse of the dis- 
cipline prescribed to him to qualify him for the Bar, but on 
all successful practitioners who come here to plead before the 
Lord Chancellor. Let it constantly remind them of the 
noble objects of our profession, and impress upon them the 
important truth, — that its highest rewards may be obtained 
without the sacrifice of honour or consistencv. 




Happily for myself and my readers, I approach the termma 
tion of my biographical lahours — 

'• nos immensum spatiis confecimus sequor 

Eb jam tempus equum fumantia solvere coUa." 

Only one deceased Chancellor remains to be recorded by 
me. I began with Augmendus, who in the seventh centurj 
was Chancellor to Ethelbert, the first Christian Anglo-Saxoi 
king, and I have to finish -with. John Scott, Lord Eldon, whc 
was Chancellor to George III. and George TV., and, having 
struggled to return to power under William IV., died in the 
reign of Queen Victoria. 

I am now appalled by the difficulty of knowing too wel 
the subject of my memoir, and by the consideration that it ii 
to be read by surviving partisans and attached relatives o 
this great man. I often practised before him, and I wa; 
honoured with some notice from him in private; — but, un- 
luckily, I took an interest in political strife for a large por 
tion of the period during which he occupied the woolsack 
almost uniformly differing from the principles which he pro 
fessed ; — and I afterwards actually held office under an Ad- 
ministration to whose measures he was violently opposed. 
Thus, with the advantage of personal observation, I have tc 
encounter the suspicion of political enmity. 

I have sufficient confidence, however, in my own impar- 
tiality to proceed with boldness; and while I trust that I 
shall not deal out praise to his merits with a niggardly hand, 
dread of the imputation of party bias shall not deter me from 
pointing out his defects, or censuring his misconduct. 

We biographers generally make it equally redound to the 
credit of our hero, whether he be of illustrious or of humbh 
parentage, saying, with the same complacency, "he wa^ the 
worthy descendant of a long line of noble ancestors," or " h( 
raised himself by his talents, being the first of his race eve 

110 LORD ELDON. Chap. CXCl, 

kndwn to fame." Althottgh the latter glory undou'btedly 
belongs to Lord Eldon, an absurd attempt has been made to 
trace his pedigree to Sir Michael Soott of Balwearie, in the 
county of Fife, who, in the fourteenth century, was one of the 
ambassadors sent to bring the " Maid of Norway " to Scotland, 
upon the death of Alexander III., and who is celebrated for 
his magical incantations in the " Inferno," " and in the " Lay 
OF THE LAST M^^^STEEL." *■ He might with more probability 
have been connected with Duns Scotus, the enemy of the 
Thomists, who undoubtedly was of a Northumbrian family ; but 
the truth is, that both he and his brother Lord Stowell had 
much too great a share of good sense and good ta,ste to set up 
an unfounded claim to gentility of blood. When they were 
rising in the world, and found it necessary to have arms, — 
the seal used by their father having had nothing engraved 
upon it except W. S., his initials, — after looking at the ar- 
morial bearings of the different families of the name of Scott, 
they accidentally chose the "three lions' heads erased, gules," 
formerly borne by the Scotts of Balwearie, and now the just 
boast of their representati\'e. Sir William Scott of Ancrum. 
From the interesting " Sketch of the Lives of Lords Stowell 
and Eldon," by their relative Mr. Surtees, it appears quite 
clear that they could not go further back in their genealogy 
than their grandfather William Scott of Sandgate, who is 
said to have been clerk to a " fitter," and who, in the latter 
part of his life, himself became the owner of several " keels," 
— a " fitter " being the person who buys and sells coals 
between the owner of the mine and the shipper, and who 
conveys them in "keels," or barges, from the higher parts 
of the Tyne to Newcastle or Shields, where they are loaded 
for exportation. Sandgate, an old street by the water-side, 
beyond the walls of Newcastle, bearing a great resemblance 
to Wapping, had long been connected with this trade,— as 
we learn from an ancient ballad, set to a tune well known 
through the North as the " Keel-row," — of which the following 
is the first sttaza : — 

" Queir altro che ne' flancbi i cosi poco That when to Salamanca's caTO 

Micliele Scotto fu, che veramente Him listed his magic wand to wave, 

Delle magiche frode seppe 11 gliioco." The bells would ring in Notre Dame." 

Inferno, canto xx. Lay of- Last Minstrel, canto ii. 

' In these far climes It was my lot ^ never heard the Chancellor accused ol 

To meet the wondrous Michael Scott, dealing in the block art ; and I do not discover 

A wizard of such dreadful fame, any resemblance between him and his sud- 
DOsed ancestor. 


" As 1 came thro' Sandgate, thro' Sandgate, thro' Sandgate. 
As I came thro' Sandgate, 1 heard a lassie sing, 
Weei may the keel row, the keel row, the keel row ; 
Weel may the keel row that my laddie 's in." "^ 

This William Scott had a son William, who on the 1st of 
September, 1716, ■was bound apprentice for seven years to a 
coalfitter in Newcastle, with a fee of 51., — and whose inden- 
ture of apprenticeship is the first written muniment of a family 
destined to such distinction. The boy is here described as 
" son of William Scott of Sandgate, yeoman." This is not 
at all inconsistent with the representation that he had be- 
come a keel-owner, for " yeoman " did not necessarily mean, 
as we now understand it, " the cultivator of his own little 
farm," but simply meant " a householder of too poor estate to 
allow of his designation either as a gentleman or merchant, 
yet raised above the ranks of servile drudgery." '' The Scotts 
of Sandgate weU exemplify the quaint definition which the 
venerable Fuller gives of this class : " The good yeoman is a 
gentleman in ore, whom the next age may see refined ; and is 
the wax capable of a gentle impression when the Prince shall 
stamp it." 

William, the younger, showed great prudence, steadiness, 
and shrewdness ; and when out of his apprenticeship, becom- 
ing himself a " fitter," and commencing with the " keels " he 
inherited from his father, amassed considerable substance. 
To swell his profits, he is said at one time to have kept a sort 
of public-house, near the Quay at Newcastle, for the purpose 
of supplying his own keelmen with their liquor, on the 
principle of the truck system. He afterwards became a large 
ship-owner, and engaged in the maritime insurance then in 
vogue, called " bottomry." By " servitude " he was entitled 
to the freedom of the town of Newcastle, which he took up on 
the 2oth of August, 1724; and on the 7th of September,' in 
the same year, he was admitted into the " Hoastmen's Com- 

•^ This is taken from a Fife song, which I One stanza is particularly touching: — 
was taught when a child .— " When Jamie vow'd he would be mine, 

" weel may the boatie row. And wan frae me my heart, 

That fills a heavy creel, 1 muckle lighter grew my creel ! 

And cleads us a", true head to feet, He swore we'd r.ever part. 

And buys our parritch meal. The boatie rows, the boatie rows. 

The boatie rows, the boatie rows. The boatie rows fu' weel, 

The boatie rows indeed i And muckle lighter is the lade 

And happy be the lot of a' When love bears up the creel." • 

That wish the boatie speed." d Surtees, p. 3. 

* " Creel ' is the basket in which the Scottish paitwrdes cany fish on their backs to market 

112 LORD ELDON. Chap. CXCI. 

pany," wMuh his sons used to observe was the most repuiahle 
in the whole corporation. He seems by his industry and 
frugality to have rises to high consideration among the trad- 
ing community of his native town, although he mixed little 
in society, and read no books except his Bible and his ledger. 
Aug. 18, He married the daughter of Mr. Atkinson of New- 
^'*''' castle, a woman who was the model of aU. the do- 
mestic virtues, and of such superior understanding that to 
her is traced the extraordinary talent which distinguished 
her two sons, WiUiam and John,- — Lord Stowell and Lord 

Their destiny was materially influenced by the chivalrous 
effort, in the year 1745, to restore the House of 
Stuart to the throne. If Prince Charles and his gal- 
lant band had not crossed the Border, William would never 
have been a Fellow of University College, Oxford, and in all 
probability John never would have been Lord Chancellor of 
Great Britain. Although WUliam's birth certainly took place 
in the county of Durham instead of Northumberland from the 
advance of the rebel army to the Tyne, there are two repre- 
sentations of the circumstances attending his mother's flight 
previous to this event. According to the more romantic 
story, Mrs. Scott, dreading the violence of the Highlanders, 
about whom the most frightful rumours were spread, — when 
they approached Newcastle, resolved to hide herself in the 
country ; but she found fell the gates shut and fortified, and 
egress strictly interdicted to all persons of every degree; 
whereupon, although very near her confinement, she caused 
herself to be hoisted over the wall in a large basket, and 
descended safely to the water-side ; there a boat, lying in 
readiness to receive her, conveyed her to Heworth, a village 
distant only about four miles from Newcastle, but on the right 
bank of the Tyne. Here she was delivered the same night of 
twins, WUliain and Barbara. — But the following is the ac- 
count of the affair by Mrs. Foster, a grand-daughter of Mrs. 
Scott, from whom she says she had heard it hundreds oi 
times : — " My grandmother Scott being with child in the yeai 
of the rebellion 1745, it was deemed more prudent for her to 
be confined at my grandfather's country house at Heworth 
than in the town of Newcastle. She was therefore attended 
at Heworth by a midwife, who delivered her of a male infent 
(afterwards Lord Stowell) ; but some difficulty arising in the 
birth of the second child, a man on horseback was despatched 

A.D. 1751. HIS BIRTH. 113 

to WHckham for Dr. Askew, a medical practitioner of consi- 
derable eminence at that time. Dr. Askew not being at 
home, the man proceeded to Newcastle for Mr. Hallowel. 
When Mr, Hallowel reached the town gate, it was, on account 
of the Kebellion, closed for the night; and further delay- 
becoming serious, — instead of waiting until permission was 
procured from the mayor for his egress, he was let down from 
the top of the town wall, on the south side, and proceeded 
immediately to Heworth, where he delivered my grand- 
mother." • 

After the retreat of the Chevalier from Derby, by the 
western side of the island, she returned to her hus- 
band's housg in Love Lane, Newcastle, and there, in ' ' 
1751, on the 4th of June, the birth-day of George III., she 
produced her son John, the future Chancellor, who was like- 
wise accompanied by a twin sister, and was baptized along 
with her at All Sainte' Church on the 4th day of d uly follow- 
ing. Love Lane is a narrow passage between two streets — in 
Scotland called a " wynd," — and ia Newcastle a " chare," — 
the lower extremity being there called the " chare-foot ; " and 
Lord Eldon, who had always genuine delight in referring to 
native localities, used to amuse the Chancery Bar by declaring 
that "he ought not to complain of a small and inconvenient' 
Court, as he was bom in a chare-foot." ' 

I find nothing remarkable related of our Chancellor's in- 
fancy — ^nor any omen of his future greatness — except that 
he showed he was bom with the faculty of always lighting on 
his legs. His elder sister, Barbara, used to relate that " during 
one of their mother's confinements. Master Jackey being in 
her room in a go-cart, the nurse quitted her for something 
that was wanted, leaving the door open : away went Mr. 
Jackey after her, tumbling down a whole flight of steps, 
go-cart and all ; but though his mamma, who was unable to 
get out of bed to stop him, got a dreadful fright, he took 
no harm, and was found standing bolt upright in the passage 

' Letter to the present Earl of Eldon, 14tti this evidence, as being obviously that of an 

June, 1840. — TwUs, i. 23. insane cersou. The foreman of the jury, 

' Mr. Twiss tells a story, that *'at the however, restored the credit of the witnera 

Newcastle Assizes, in a case where a witness by explaining that-the eha}'e from whose /og< 

swore that at a certain time he saw three the three men had been seen to issue was not 

men come out of the foot of a chare, the an article of furniture fauta 'narrow street'* 

Judge who tried the indictment recom- Vol. 1. p. 26. 
mended it to the jury to take no notice of 

VOL. IX. ' 

114 LORD 2LD0N. Chap. CXCJ. 

He was taught to read by a master whom 1 suspect to have 
been a Scotsman, from his being called Dominie Warden, and 
his mode of '■^mufiing the consonants," in which I was myself 
i.D. H60— initiated.* But the success in life of both brothers is 
i'65. mainly to be ascribed to the admirable instruction 

they received from the Eev. Mr, Moises, master of the Free 
Grammar School at Newcastle, — under whom they laid in a 
large stock of classical learning, and acquired a habit of steady 
application, enabling them to overcome every difficulty which 
they had afterwards to encounter.' The only thing that could 
be said against this zealous teacher was, that he was too much 
accustomed to mix his conversation with grave appeals to his 
conscience and his God — setting an example which at least 
one of his pupils very sedulously followed. 

We have a striking illustration of " the boy being the father 
of the man," in an authentic account of the difference between 
the two brothers in their Sunday evening performances: 
" When asked to give an account of the sermon, their father's 
weekly custom, William would repeat a sort of digest of the 
general argument — a condensed summary of what he had 
heard ; Jolm, on the other hand, would recapitulate the miimtke 
of the discourse, and reiterate the very phrase of the preacher. 
He showed a memory the most coniplete and exact, but failed 
in giving the whole scope and clear general view of the ser- 
mon, embodied in half the number of words by the elder 
brother.'"' Lawyers immediately conceive themselves first 
delighted with a judgment of Lord Stowell, in Eobinson's 
Eeports, and then toiling through one of Lord Eldon, in 
Vesey, junior. 

Although we know that John Scott, under Mr. Moises, was 
extremely diligent and well-behaved, and a prodigious iar 
vourite with his master, — when an ex-Chancellor, he used to 
■relate anecdotes of his boyish days which would rather repre- 
sent him as having been a, pickle. "I remember," he said, 
"my father coming to my bed-side to accuse Henry' and mo 
of robbing an orchard, of which some one had come to com- 
plain. Now my coat was lying by my bed with its pockets 
fuU of apples, and I had hid some more under the bed-clothes 
when I heard my father on the stairs, and I was at that mo- 
ment suffering intolerable torture from those I had eaten. 

B According to this mode of teaching the t Townsend's Life of Lord Stowell. 
alphabet, a vowel is placed before, instead of i Henry was another brother, who fUO 
«fter, the cuusonant ceeded to his father's business. 

A.D. 1760-65. HIS SCHOOLBOY LIFE. 115 

Yet I had the audacity to deny the fact. We were twice 
flogged for it, once by my father, and once by the school- 
master. I do not know how it was, but we always considered 
robbing an orchard- -' boxing the fox,' as we called it — as an 
honourable exploit. I remember once being carried before a 
magistrate for robbing an orchard. There were three of us, 
and the magistrate acted upon what I think was rather a 
curious law, for he fined our fathers each thirty shillings for 
our ofience. We did not care for that, but then they (M : so 
my father flogged me, and then sent a message to Moises, and 
Moises flogged me again." 

He used to relate, likewise, how he was flogged for going 
without leave to Chester-le-Street, a place eight miles off, to 
buy " short-cake," for which the place was famous, and stay- 
ing away a whole night — and again for the offence of playing 
truant tiiree days from the writing-school, aggravated by a 
declaration to his father that he had been there punctually 
every day ; * — how he possessed the art of blowing out the 
Candles in the shops, and escaping detection ; — and how, 
having lost his hat in a scuffle, his father made him go three 
months bare-headed, except on Sundays. He gave a very 
entertaining account of the manner in which his father ap- 
plied the taws, or ferula, in the family, till this instrument of 
punishment was stolen by the children ; "" and of the distin- 
guished manner in which he danced hornpipes at the annual 
Christmas ball given by his father to the keelmen. But, 
above all, he dwelt with complacency on his early gallantry : 
" I believe," he would say, " no shoemaker ever helped to put 
on more ladies' shoes than I have done. At the dancing- 
school the young ladies always brought their dancing-shoes 
with them, and we deemed it a proper piece of etiquette to 
assist the, pretty girls in putting them on. In those days, 
girls of the best families wore white stockings only on the 
Sundays, and one week-day, which was a sort of public day : 
on the other days they wore blue Doncaster woollen hose, 
with white tags. We used, early on the Sunday mornings, 
to steal flowers from the gardens in the neighbourhood, and 
then we presented them to our sweethearts. Oh ! those 
were happy days— we were always in love." — It might be 

k Yet be wrote a most beautiful bandt aimnall; when tbebrotbers met at Newcastle, 

wbich be retained to extreme old age. and talked over, with glee and trinmpfa, tLe 

™ Tbe taws were preserved by Henry; exploit of stealing them, 
and, after the other's death, were produced 

I 2 

1 1(5 LORD ELDON. CiiiP. CXCI. 

presumed that he had peculiar pleasure in helping the 
sweet Elizabeth Surtees to put on hor dancing-shoes, and 
that he prepented to her the most beautiful flowers : but tliis 
was not the fact; for he had not yet seen his destined 

In the midst of these wild pranks, which he took pleasure 
in exaggerating in his old age, he made great progress in his 
studies, and, while yet in his fifteenth year, he was not only 
a good classical scholar, but he was pretty well exercised in 
English composition — often so sadly neglected. He would 
afterwards occasionally regret that he had not had the ad- 
vantage of being at Eton or Westminster. Talking of his 
illustrious class-fellow Lord CoUingwood, he once said, " We 
were placed at that school because neither his father nor mine 
could afford to place us elsewhere ; " but he related that 
George III. expressing his surprise how a naval officer could 
write so excellent a despatch as that which contained Col- 
lingwood's account of the battle of Trafalgar, his Majesty sud- 
denly added, " I forgot that he was educated under Moises." 
And it is pleasing to think that Lord Eldon always retained 
a grateful and affectionate recollection of the High School of 
Newcastle. At the commencement of his " Anecdote Book," 
written by him for the amusement of his grandson, he says : 
" The head-master was that emiuent scholar and most ex- 
cellent man, the Rev. Mr. Moises. I shall hold his memory 
in the utmost veneration whilst I continue to exist." — In one 
of , the last judgments which he delivered ia the Court of 
Chancery, respecting a grammar school, he observed, " I re- 
member that when I had the benefit of an education at one 
of those grammar schools, the boys were headed by their 
venerable master to church constantly upon Sundays, and 
that part of the duty of a master of a grammar school was, 
in those days, as much attended to as teaching the scholars 
what else they ought there to acquire." — Jack Scott did not 
hold the Great Seal more than two days before he gladdened 
the heart of his old preceptor by appointing him one of his 
chaplains, and he afterwards pressed upon him high prefer- 
ment in the Church, which was modestly declined. — ^Finally, 
several years after the death of Mr. Moises, Lord Eldon wrote 
the following very amiable letter to the Eev. J. Brewster, of 
Egglescliff, in Durham, who had been a class-fellow, and had 
sent him the copy of a Memoir, which he had privately 
printed, of their beloved preceptor : — 

A.D. 1761-66. SENT TO LONDON, IIT 

"Pardon me if my engagements have made me too dilatory in 
acknowledging your kindness in sending me your Memoir of the late 
Master of the Grammar School in which we were both educated. It has 
highly gratified me to find that the public are in possession of such a 
record of that excellent person's merits and worth. I feel the obligation 
I owe you for the mention of my name in that work. Throughout a 
long life, in which it has pleased God to confer upon me many blessings, 
I have always deemed it one of the most valuable that I had in the 
earliest period of my life the benefit of being educated under Mr. 

" I am your obliged servant, 

" Eldon. 
"Liucoln's Inn H»U, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 1S25." ° 

In the spring of the year 1766 the worthy hoastman 
began to deliberate seriously respecting the way of life by 
which his son John was to earn his bread, and after due 
deliberation resolved to bind him apprentice to his own trade 
of a coal-fitter. He did not think it necessary to care much, 
about the boy's own inclination; but, before preparing the 
indentures, he wrote to his eldest son William, then 
at Oxford, to inform him of his intention. Several 
years ago, this wonderful youth, when only sixteen,, taking 
advantage of the accidental place of his birth, had 
gained a Durham scholarship at Corpus Christi Col- ^"'' "°*' 
lege, and afterwards a Durham fellowship at University ; and 
he enjoyed so high a reputation, that before he had „ 
completed his twentieth year he was appointed 
College tutor. Thinking that his youngest brother was 
capable of higher things than buying and selling coals, and 
having much affection for him, he wrote back to his father, 
" Send Jack up to me ; I can do better for him here." Ac- 
cordingly, in the beginning of May, 1766, Jack was packed 
off for London in the Newcastle stage-coach, which, by reason 
of what was then considered its rapid travelling, was called 
the " Fly "^-seeing that it was only three nights and four 
days on the journey ; its panels bearing the modest inscrip- 
tion, " Sat cito, si sat bene." 

■■ By the kindness of my friend Mr. W. B. When the master of a puWic school is at once 

Surtees, I am in pussessiun of a copy of this a fine scholar and an enthusiast in teaching, 

interesting memoir. Not only Lord Eldon be is one of the most useful, and ought to 

and Lord Stowell, but Lord Collingwood, and be one of the most respected, members of 

several other very distinguished Northum- society, 
brians, were flogged into greatness by Moises. 

118 LORD KLDON. Chap. CXCI. 

Our young traveller amused himself by the -way in making 
jests on an old Quaker, who was his feUow-passenger. _ When, 
the coach stopped at the Inn at Tuxford, Aminadab desired the 
chamhermaid to Gome to the door of the leathern conveyance, 
and gave her a sixpence, telling her that he forgot to give it 
to her when he slept there two years before. Scott. " Friend, 
hast thou seen the motto on this coach?" — Quaker. "No." 
— Scott. " Then look at it, for I think that giving her only 
sixpence now, for all she did for you two years ago, is neither 
sat cito nor sat bene." — He afterwards moralised this motto, and 
used tp say : " In all that I have had & do in life, profes- 
sional and judicial, I always remembered the admonition on 
the panels of the vehicle which carried me from school. Sat 
cito, si sat bene. It was the impression of this which made me 
that deliberative judge — as some have said, too deliberative — 
and reflection upon all that is past will not authorise me to 
deny that whilst I have been thinking sat cito, si sat bene, I 
may not have sufficiently recollected whether sat bene, si sat 
cito, has had its due influence." 

His brother William was waiting to receive him at the 
White Horse in Fetter Lane, Holbom, and treated him to 
the play at Drury Lane, where he saw " The Devil to Pay," 
Love acting Jobson, and Miss Pope Nell. On the 15th of 
May, 1766, he was matriculated as a member of the Uni- 
versity of Oxford, by Dr. Durell, the Vice-Chancellor, and 
the same day signed the following form of admission to Uni- 
versity College : — " Ego Johannes Scott, Alius natu minimus 
Gulielmi Scott, Generosi, de Novo Castro super Tinam, in 
Com. Northum. lubens subscribo, sub tutamine Domini Scott, 
annos natus ciroiter quindeoim." Though with a mind well 
cultivated, his manners were rather rustic ; he spoke with a 
strong Northumbrian accent ; and his stature was short, even 
for his tender years. Lord Stowell used afterwards to say, 
" I was quite ashamed of his appearance, — he looked such a 
mere boy." 

After he had been a few weeks at Oxford, the Summer 
i?66 '^^^'^tion arrived, and, returning to Newcastle, his 
father very judiciously, though much against the 
lad's inclination, replaced him, till the following term, under 
Mr. Moises, at the Grammar School,— where he was obliged 
to construe with his old schoolfellows, but was exempt from 
the discipline of the rod ; so that he had no occasion to com- 
plain, with Milton, — 

A.D. 1767-70. AT OXFORD. 119 

" Nee duri libet usque minas perferre magistri, 
C(Bteracpjit ingenio mm subeu/nda Tneo." 

He at this time went, among his townsmen, by the name of 
the " Oxonian ; " rather, it would seem, derisively, from his 
puerile appearance, than out of respect to his new digni+y. 

In October he returned to Oxford, and continued to reside 
there, as an under-graduate, above three years. It juiyii, 
has been stated, as a proof of his wonderful profi- "*"• 
ciency, that when he had just completed his sixteenth year, 
he was elected a fellow of his college ; but he himself, with 
his usual candour, ascribed this promotion entirely to his 
brother, good-humouredly saying, " His birth in the vicinity 
of Durham qualified him to be a candidate for the fellowship 
in Oxford which he afterwards obtained, and his influence in 
that station procured for me the fellowship in Oxford which I 
afterwards obtained. These fellowships were of great use to 
both of us in our future success in life ; and although we have 
ever been steadily attached to the Throne; it may truly be 
said that ' we owe every thing to Kebeli/Ion.' " 

Under the admirable tuition of his brother, he attended 
rather more to learning than was then usual at Oxford, and 
he was very regular in his habits ; but he showed no enthu- 
siasm in study, and he looked no higher than to qualify him- 
self for what he considered his destination — to be the incum- 
bent of a college living. Now he contracted the orthodox 
relish for port wine, to which he ever after adhered ; and, 
from his strong head and robust constitution, he could with 
almost entire impunity imbibe a portion of this generous 
liquor which weaker men found to disturb their reasoning 
powers, and render them martyrs to the gout. 
. The most stirring emulation among the gownsmen at Ox- 
ford seems to have been to make bad puns. Some of a.d. ner— 
these he used to repeat with glee, as if they had "'"• 
been his own composition. " The diinking-oups, or glasses, 
from their shape, were called ox-eyes. Some friends of a 
young' student, after inducing him to fill his oas-eyejoach fuller 
^nd oftener than consisted with his equilibrium, took pity at 
last upon his helpless condition, and led or carried him to his 
rooms. He had just Latin enough at coromand to thank them 
at the stair-head with ' Pol, me oa;-ey«-distis, amici.' " — "Wind- 
bam, then an under-graduate, hated a pun, good or bad. 
Heading Demosthenes one day with great adipiration, and 
coming to TidyijKe iblXiirirog ; (Is Philip dead ?) Oi, /ia Aj" 

120 LORD ELDON. Chap. CXCl 

(No! by Jupitor!) lie was put into a great passion by a 
fellow-student saying, ' No, Windbam, you see be is not dead; 
the Greek words only say be may die.' " — " The Vice-Cban- 
oellor, Dr. Leigb, of Balliol, a determined punster, baving 
given offence to tbe young men by some act of discipline, 
when he next appeared among them be Tvas sainted with 
much sibilation ; whereupon, turning round, be said, ' Aca- 
demici, laudamur ab his ? ' which produced a change in his 
favour, and they loudly applauded him." — Smoking was com- 
mon in those days, and a Fellow secretly indulged even in 
the habit of chewing tobacco. Having once inadvertently 
squirted near the master's niece, who was passing by, he was 
thus admonished, " Ne quid nigh Miss." — " A clergyman who 
had two small Corpus livings adjoining each other, Newbury 
and BiBURY, and who always performed the morning service 
in the former and the evening in the latter, being asked in 
the Hall why be did not divide tbe duties equally between 
them, made answer, ' I go to nubere in the morning because 
that is the time to marry ; and I go to bibere in tbe evening 
because that is the time to drink.' " — " When I was an under- 
graduate, I was skating on Christ Church meadow, and the 
, ice breaking, I was let into a ditch up to my neck in water. 
I scrambled out, but was dripping from tbe collar, and oozing 
from the stockings. A brandy-vender, seeing my pitiable 
plight, shuffled towards me, and recommended a glass of 
something warm ; upon which Ned Norton, of our college, a 
son of Lord Qrantley, sweeping past, cried out to the retailer, 
' None of your brandy for that vxt young man ; he never 
drinks but when he is dry.' " ° 

The approach of the time when John Scott was to be ex- 
amined for bis bachelor's degree caused him no trepidation. 
A form of examination was gone through, — but the term 
" double-first " had not yet been beard of on the banks of the 
Isis, and plwMng was unknown. The following is the account, 
in his own words, of the trial he went tbrongh to test his pro-' 
flciency : — " I was examined in Hebrew and history. ' "What 

° The proper pendant to this joke is that his class-fellow and brother-in-law, the ReT. 

of the old Scotch woman, who, upon an vmr Dr. Ridley, afterwards prebendary of Glou- 

popular preacher coming into her house after cester, — a most good-humoured, worthy man, 

being exposed to a heavy shower of rain, and from whom I had many excellent dinners 

asking leave to dry himself at her Are, ad- when I attended the Oloucester Sessions and 

vised him " to go into the poopit, where he Assizes ; paying, however, sometimes rather 

would be sure to be dry fmough," dear for them, by being obliged to laugh at 

Lord Eldon was soon cured of the punning his bad puns, 
propensity ; but It adhered invetcrately to 


is the Hebrew for the place of a skull ? ' I replied ' Golgotha.' 
' W ho founded University College ? ' I stated (though ty 
the way the point is sometimes doubted) ' that King Alfred 
founded it.' ' Very well, Sir,' said the Examiner, ' you are 
competent for your degree.' " Accordingly, on the 20ili of 
February, 1770, it was duly conferred upon him. 

He did not then, according to modern custom, leave the 
University, but continued in its classic bowers to prosecute 
the studies which should qualify him for being a Master. 
Under his brother's advice he wrote for the prize lately esta- 
blished by the Earl of Lichfield, Chancellor of the University, 
for the best composition in English prose — the subject being 
"The Advantages and Disadvantages of Foreign Travel." 
The essay with the motto " Non alibi sis, sed alius," .^^ 
was decreed to be the best, and this was found to 
have for its author John Scott. His success gave much 
delight to his brother, but still more to his old preceptor, 
who, having heard the joyous news, rushed into the school 
with a copy of thfe prize essay in his hand, saying to the 
senior lads, — " See what John Scott has done ! " ' It has been 
published in " Talboys' Collection of Oxford English Prize 
Essays," and is certainly very creditable to a Northumbrian 
of twenty, who had never travelled except in the country 
between the Tyne and the Thames, but is much inferior to 
the " Athenian Letters " written at the sister university by 
younger men. He seems to have formed his style on the 
model of Dr. Johnson, who was then worshipped by Oxo- 
nians, although in former times they had refused him a 
degree. We might suppose that we were begianiag an indif- 
ferent Eambler : — 

" There are few principles of action which have been more imme- 
diately beneficial to society, and which therefore merit more assiduous 
cultivation, than the love of our country. But, whilst we have been 
studious to regard our parent with the tenderness of filial affection, we 
Lave imbibed the weak prejudices of children, and, like the undisceming 
lover, have fondly gazed without discrimination upon her beauties and 
her deformities. He who over-rates his own merits, will probably 
undervalue the deserts of others. From this arrogant conceit of our 
worth, as a people, has sprang that uncharitable opinion which confines 
excellence to the boundaries of a small island, and, with the true spirit 

P *• Mr. Moises afterwards, when any of but I have bad lads that would have dona 
his boys did well, would give them this qua- better ; — the Scotts would have done better 
alied praise : ' Well done, very well done I than that.' " — TuniSt i. 45. 

122 LORD ELDON. Chap. OS CI. 

of ancient Greece and Italy, has adjudged every other people to be com- 
paratively barbarous. TWs illiberal idea, it is confessed, has been 
attended with salutary consequences : it has aroused the soul of the 
warrior, and by teaching the brave defenders of our country to deepiso, 
it has taught them to conquer, their enemies." 

Thus lie contemplates a visit to the " Eternal City : " — 

" Amidst a variety of objects which will challenge the attention of 
the traveller, few will prove more copious sources of delight, or supply 
him with ampler matter for useful reflection, than those awful monu- 
ments of ancient industry and power, which seem to have been hitherto 
preserved as memorials of a destructive luxury, the havoc of which was 
felt when the shocks of time were yet imperceptible. How must the 
British statesman feel for his country when he surveys the venerable 
ruins of a senate which stood secure till gold was accepted aa an equiva- 
lent for freedom, and the Bomaa legislature, softened by pleasure, em- 
braced the shackles of slavery ! Whilst the eye is ravished, the mind 
cannot be unemployed, but recurs to the virtues which established, and 
the vices which overthrew, the grandeur it surveys." 

The superiority of modem Italy in painting and sculpture 
he thus patriotically scorns : — 

" He who has not a single right to protect, may endeavour to render 
his servitude supportable by studying the arts of politeness ; but let 
not the Briton be taught to leave his distinguishing privilege — ^his 
liberty — without defence, whilst he affects these elegant improve- 
ments ! " 

Afterwards, in pointing out the danger of exchanging pre- 
judice for, to prejudices against, our country, he introduces 
some " protectionist " sentiments, which, together with his 
dislike of the Eoman Catholics, and his support of the severe 
criminal code, make his memory precious to his indiscriminate 
admirers : — 

" To this only can we attribute a prevailing passion for foreign pro- 
ductions, which, as it deprives our own artists of the rewards of their 
industry, claims and withholds from our manufacturer every encourage- 
ment which can animate his labours." 

He gracefully concludes with a compliment to his Alua 

Mater : — 

" Where, then, shall we seek a remedy ? Must it not be in that 
education which watches over the morals with the strictest vigilance^ 
and, by fortifying the mind with the soundest principles of religion, 
enables it to pursue with safety those inferior accomplishments whosa 

A.D. 1771. HIS MODESTY. 123 

only merit is to heighten the beauty of virtue, and which become truly 
dangerous when they soften the deformities of vice ? " 

I concur in the candid and diBcriminating criticism on this 
Essay by Mr. Snrtees : " Its matter and arrangement indicate 
the possession of strong sense by its writer, together with a 
disposition to heap conflicting doubts into each scale, and 
then to watch with delight the trembling of the uncertain 
balance ; but there is not to be found in it an originality of 
thought or imagination which can entitle it to the highest 
praise ; namely, that it is a work of genius." For the honour 
of the order of lawyers, for which I am always solicitous, I 
am afraid that, although Lord Eldon was the greatest Chan- 
cellor that had appeared since Lord Hardwicke, and enjoyed 
such a splendid reputation in Westminster Hall, he could 
hardly have made his bread by literature, and he would have 
been of small account in Paternoster Eow. 

In his hour of victory he was not only modest, but shame- 
faced. Sixty years later he was reminded by the Bishop of 
Clonfert of his embarrassment in the vestibule of the Shelden 
theatre : "I," said the venerable prelate, " recited my prize 
poem first; and when I came out, you hesitated so much 
about going in, that I actually had to take you by the 
shoulders and push you* in." But to this triumph Lord 
Eldon, in his old age, would often revert with honest pride 
and pleasure ; dilating on the increased confidence he acquired 
by it, and the encouragement it afforded him. in his future 

We have a more favourable specimen of his English style 
in a letter (his earliest extant) written by him from New- 
castle to his class-fellow, Henry Eeay, from whom he seems 
to have received a tedious account of a tour in Cheshire. 
After some introductory matter, he proceeds thus in merry 
vein : — 

" With what modest diffidence, then, shall I enter upon the laborious 
task of describing this place of my residence! — a task I should not 
undertalie (so unequal are my shoulders to the weight) unless to oblige 
you, my friend,, by giving you such a description of Newcastle as may 
enable you to form a clear and distinct idea of this town, though you 
never saw it. Say, Muse, where shall I begin ? At the bridge ? This 
is an elegant structure of thirteen arches. The battlements are beautified 
with towers, houses, &c. ; and, what is a very extraordinary circum- 
stance, it is built over a river. Prom hence you proceed to the Sand- 
hill, Here you have presented to your view the Exchange,, and Nelhf&, 

124 LOKD ELDOU. Chap. CXCI. 

Katy's, and Earnsor^s ooffeehouses ; from the -windows of which you 
observe the operations of shaving, turnip and carrot selling, and the fish- 
market — ^if you turn your eyes that way. The quay is reckoned one 
of the best in England. The water makes the prospect very agreeable ; 
and there is no deficiency of wood, in the shape of planks, tar-barrels, 
and trees of that kind. At the east end of this, passing through a 
magnificent arch, you come to a street called Sandgate, which, whether 
you consider the elegance of the buildings, or the number of the inhabit- 
ants, or that strict regard they pay to decency, is equalled by none in 
the kingdom." 

So he goes on describing the dirt and misery of his native 
place — well known to his correspondent. 

Notwithstanding such sallies, — now in his baccalaureate state 
he considered himself irrevocably destined to the Chnrch 
— and, if in an ambitious mood, he would dream of being 
a dean or a prebendary, but in his ordinary frame of mind he 
looked no higher, than a snug rectory or vicarage — anticipat- 
ing with pleasure and contentment the jucunda ohlivia vitas. 
And there can be little doubt that he would have ended his 
days as a country parson, recorded only by some annalist, 
like " P. P., clerk of this parish," had it not been for an im- 
prudent step, which at first was thought to be his utter ruin, 
but which, changing the whole colour of his life, in its con- 
sequences made him a millionaire, 4n Earl, Lord Chancellor 
for a quarter of a century, a prominent character in history, 
and the founder of one of the most distinguished families in 
the peerage of England. 

On a foggy momiag in the month of November in the 
AD 1172 folio'^^iig ye^^, Mr. Moises, with a very different 
countenance from that which he wore when an- 
nouncing the prize essay, rushed into the school, beating 
his breast and exclaiming, " Jack Scott has run off with 
Bessy Surtees! The poor lad is undone! the poor lad is 
undone ! " 

I have now a love story to relate. But I must not say 

" How can I name love's very name, 
Nor wake my heart to notes of flame ? " 

I must remember that— not a minstrel pouring forth the 
unpremeditated lay — I am " a sad apprentice of the law " — 
chronicling the Life of a Lord Chancellor. 

It has already been seen that my present hero had a very 
inflammable fancy. Eomeo had been attached to Eosaline 
be.fore he beheld Juliet, and " Miss Allgood, daughter of Sir 

A.D. 1772. HIS COURTSHIP. 125 

Launcelot Allgood," said Lord Eldon, " was my first love ; 
but she -was scornful." "While smarting from her disdain, it 
happened that as he was travelling he accidentally entered 
during divine service the fine old Gothic church at Sedge- 
field, a pretty village in the county of Durham, — and there 
for the first time he beheld his future wife, then a blooming 
girl of sixteen, in company with an old maiden aunt. He 
instantly fell in love with her, and learned to his great sur- 
prise that she was the daughter of his townsman, Aubone 
Surtees, the banker. The Surteeses holding their heads rather 
high in Newcastle, she had not been allowed to go to the 
dancing school, — or Jack Scott must often have helped her to 
put on her shoes, and have presented her with a nosegay. But 
they, quoting Camden, who says " Eivers have imposed names 
to some men as they have to towns situated on them, as the 
Old Baron Sur Toys, that is on the river Tays," — claimed to be 
a younger branch of the family of Surtees of Dinsdale, in 
Durham, on the banks of the Tees, who held the barony of 
Gosforth in the reign -of Henry I. ; and they did not stoop to 
a visiting acquaintance with the Sootts,— bankers and coal-. 
FITTERS being considered the opposite extremes of the trading 
world. Johi Scott contrived to be introduced to the aunt, 
who lived close by, and so made acquaintance with the niece., 
Being then a tall, handsome young man, with black eyes, 
regular features, and most pleasing manners, he made an 
auspicious impression upon her ; and the fame of his prize 
essay, with which Newcastle had rung, no doubt helped the 
prepossession in favour of an admirer of whom she had heard 
so much, and who was supposed to be such a credit to the 
place of his nativity. He stayed a few days at a small inn at 
Sedgefield, and before he left the village they had plighted to 
each other their mutual troth. 

When she returned to Newcastle, he was not permitted to 
see her at her father's house, but they had flirtations on the 
Shields road, where she used to ride, attended only by a 
man-servant, who was bribed to silence by an occasional half- 
crown. " The riding scheme," says Mr. John Surtees, her 
brother, " began in this way : Sir WiUiam Blackett, popularly 
called the King of Newcastle, then I suppose seventy years of 
age, used to lend Lady Eldon a handsome pony, and to accom- 
pany her on horseback. He was called to London to attend. 
Parliament, and died soon after. She, riding one of my 
father's horses, continued her rides as before, and Lord Eldon 


used, I believe, to meet her." He then goes on to state, that 
although Sir William Blackett might have intended to court 
her, "she never considered him in any other light than that 
of a benign old man who was kind to her." 

Miss Surtees came out at a Newcastle ball, given on the Ist 
of September, 1771, on the occasion of a visit paid to that 
town by Henry Duke of Cumberland, brother to George III. 
John Scott was there, but he did not venture to ask her to 
dance, — and, to conceal his new passion, he wrote to his 
friends as if he had still been under the sway of Miss AUgood. 
In a letter sent by him next morning to Mr. Bray he says, 
" The ladies are, as we supposed, half mad about the Duke of 
Cumberland. Miss Surtees and my dear Bell, it seems, were 
frightened out of their wits when he danced with them." 
However, at the next weekly assembly he contrived to dance 
with his new Dulcinea, and the ice being broken, he openly 
paid her marked attention. EecoUecting these scenes, he said 
in his old age to his grand-niece. Miss Foster, " At the 
Assembly Eooms at Newcastle there were two rooms and a 
stair-head, between them, so we always danced down the large 
room across the stair-head, and into the other room. Then 
you know, Ellen, that was very convenient, for the small 
room was a snug one to flirt in." 

These flirtations gave rise to much gossip in the town of 
Newcastle, and the families of both parties became well ac- 
quainted with the devoted attachment of the enamoured pair. 
The Scotts very much regretted Jack's entanglement ; but as 
the young lady herself was so charming, and her family was 
so respecteble, they would not forbid the match, although they 
strongly counselled delay. Thus wrote Mr. William Scott to 
his father : — " In a letter from Jack I find that you are now 
fully acquainted with the affair between Miss Surtees and 
himself, and that you are kind enough to forgive any indis- 
cretion which a rigid prudence might perhaps condemn. I 
must own. I am clearly of opinion, that, in consenting to his 
wishes, you act with a true paternal regard to his happiness, 
which, as far as I can judge from my own experience, would 
not be much promoted by a long continuance in college. The 
business in which I am engaged is so extremely disagreeable 
in itself, and is so destructive to health (if carried on with 
Buch success as can render it at all considerable in point of 
profit), that I do not wonder at his unwillingness to succeed 
mb in it. The kindness of his friends, therefore, would be 

A.D, 1772. HIS COURTSHIP. 127 

very judiciously employed in providing for him in some 
manner more agreeable to his own inclinations, and more con- 
sistent with his health. The purchase of a next presentation 
to a living is the most ohvious way of giving him an early 
settlement. If yon determine upon this method, the sooner 
we make the necessary inquiries the better. If you will give 
me leave, I will endeavour to procure what information I 

The Surtees family, on the other hand, were most hostile 
to the proposed union. Their pride was hurt by stoiies about 
the public-house kept by old Scott for his keelmen, and they 
expected their daughter, who was such a b,3auty, to make 
some splendid alliance. Not only had she engaged the affec- 
tions of old Sir William BlacKett, the member for the town, 
but Mr. Spearman, a young gentleman of considerable landed 
property in the county of Durham, and of great talents, air 
though a little eccentric and flighty, and Mr. Erington, with a 
large estate in Northumberland, and of respectable character, 
had already proposed to her, and had been rejected, for the 
sake of Mr. John Scott. 

Mrs. Surtees had been a Miss Stephenson, and she had a 
brother, Mr. Henry Stephenson, who was very rich, with a 
splendid mansion in Park Lane, a country-house at Taplow 
in Berkshire, and a daughter, an only child. It was there- 
fore resolved, that, to cut off all intercourse between Eliza- 
beth and the coal-fitter's son, she should be sent to spend 
some months with her relations in the south — a hope being 
entertained that she might be noticed by the Duchess of 
Northumberland, and that, being so advantageously intro- 
duced into society, she might produce a sensation in the me- 
tropolis — a strict injunction beiag given that no intercourse, 
by word or letter or signal, should be allowed to her vrith 
Mr. John Scott. The old hoastman, hurt by this proceeding, 
likewise ordered Jack to think no more of Miss Surtees. 

" Sed vetuere patres, quod non potuere vetare. 
Ex sequo captis ardebant mentibas ambo." 

The eager lover followed his mistress to London, and there, 
meeting his cousin Keay, who was his confidant, contrived 
measures for seeing her. She was noticed, as had been ex- 
pected, by the Duchess of Northumberland, who would some- 
times take her by the arm at Northumberland House, and 
present her to the guests as " my Newcastle beauty." " The 

128 LORD ELDON. Chap. CXCI. 

fellow of University " had then no means of introduction to 
the gay societies which she frequented ; but he went to a 
masquerade, to Eanelagh, and to the Opera-house, in the 
vain hope of descrying her.'' At last, by watching in Park 
Lane, he traced her -to Hyde Park, and on several occa^ 
sions, as she was walking there with a female companion, he 
contrived to have interviews with her^when they renewed 
their vows. 

Being obliged to return to Oxford, he wrote the following 
letter to Eeay, who remained in London : — 

"MoN cHEB Ami, 

" After ■being almost choked with dust, and suffering other inconveni- 
ences too numerous to be related, we at length arrived once more upon 
this classic ground. Sad exchange, of Banelagh for the High Street, — 
of dominos for gowns and caps, — of a stroll in Hyde Park, comitante 
Surtesia, for a trot up the hill with the hussar ! For your satisfaction, 
however, give me leave to inform you, that we both enjoy health of 
body, though strangers to peace of mind, and wear clean shirts, though 
we have not a guinea ! As Fisher and I were reduced to a melancholy 
duet by the departure of Haverfield, we found no small pleasure in ■ 
having an accession to our party by the arrival of Ridley and Young. 
As the latter has not opened his mouth nor his eyes since he came, 
though to my certain Imowledge the bell has rung thrice a day, we yet 
consider ourselves as but a trio. Harry, whom Nature formed in a very 
philosophic mould, and endued with such a seeming indifference to 
place, that one should conclude she intended him for a citizen of the 
world, expresses but little regret upon the occasion, and accommodates 
himself with great facility to the collegiate plan. How happy would it 
be for those who are doomed to drag on a few more years here, if they 
could acquire this blessed versatility^ and thus calmly acquiesce ia what 
they cannot avoid ! 

" I was about to begin my lamentations upon the invisibility of a 
certain fair one, but I am determined to check my inclination. If I do 
not take the advice contained in that salutary aphorism, ' Obsta- prin- 
oipiis,' the subject is so favourite an one, the theme so much my darling, 
that I generally forget that there is something impertinent in boring 
others upon topics indifferent to them, however interesting to yourself. 
If you have experienced this from' me, I know you will make charitable 
allowances. 1 confess my weakness, and will guard against it. 

" The Count of the Flaxen Empire ' intends visiting this seat of 
literature : I shall have the honour, I suppose, of escorting his mighti- 
ness around this place. His Burgundy must suffer for this in the long 

1 while at the latter place, it is said that he fell asleep, — and he used to say that be 
when the hope of discovering his inamorata found ft *' opera atque lahorea." 
was gone, taking no pleasure in the music, ' Mr. Aubone Surtcea. 

A.D. 1772. HIS COURTSHIP. 129 

vacation. As to the dear little tigress of Taplow, I will not flatter 
myself mth the hopes of seeing her, where a disappointment is so 

" 1 had some thoughts of delivering your compliments to the Countes.i 
of the Hill * en passant, but I was deterred by considerations of pro- 
priety, nor was I certain how far the awkwardness of a fellow of a 
college might have been detrimental to the interests of his friend with 
the lady. 

" Come in ! — 'tis the little barber ; which puts me in mind that I left 
the gentleman of Tanfield Court without paying him. It was his own 
fault ; however, pray inform him that after our next charity sermon, he 
shall have his share of the collection : i. e. when I come to town again 
I will pay him ; or, if he is in any grea^ hurry for the cash, if you will 
ask him what sum his honour will he satisfied with, I will send it him 
by the first opportunity. 

" Pray remember me to Bunney, Lane, etc. ; and if invisibility become 
^ visible, then remember me, who am, with great sincerity, 
" Your affectionate friend, 

"J. ScoTT. 
"Univ. Coll., Wednesday." 

It is said that " Invmbility did become visible,'" and that, 
travelling from Oxford in tlie night, at sunrise he had the 
happiness of some rencontres with the dear little tigress in 
the shady lanes near Taplow ; but this rests on no sufficient 
authority. — The London season then ended in May ; and after 
it was over she continued for some months in this charming 
retreat, along with her fair cousin, under a pretty strict sur- 
veillance. We have pleasing portraits of the young ladies as 
they appeared at this time, by Mr. W. E. Surtees. "Of 
the two cousins. Miss Surtees was the elder by some three 
years. Her figure was slight, and of a short middle size ; her 
hair, of the deepest brown, streamed in rich- ringlets over 
her neck. From her mother (the beauty of a preceding 
generation) she had inherited features of exquisite regularity, 
as well as a strongly marked character, and a warm temper. 
Miss Stephenson, though yielding nothing in beauty to her 
cousin, had features somewhat less symmetrical. The mouth, 
of an infantine simplicity, but as sweet as that of a smiling 
infant, indicated more of pliability and less of individual 
character." ' 

" The Lady Mary O'Bryen, Countess of early attachment ; but this, in accordanqe 

Orkney in her own right, who resided at Tap- with the more ambitious views of her pn- 

low Court. rents, she was induced to forpgo, and she bi»- 

' He afteru'ardfi says,— "She, too, had an cametbetrideof theEarlot'Mexborough. lit 


Miss Surtees returned to Newcastle in the autumn. We 
are informed of few particulars till the catastrophe which I 
am now about to narrate ; but we know that a renewed offer 
ot a very advantageous match was made to her, — that her 
parents strongly pressed her to accept it, thinking that her 
childish predilection had been effaced by absence ; — tha,t they 
expressed high displeasure when she talked of fidelity to her 
engagement, — and that they peremptorily told her she must 
comply with their wishes. John Scott being then at New- 
castle, she contrived a meeting with him ; and, when she had 
stated the force that was put upon her inclinations, he pro- 
posed, as the only resource remaining to them, that she should 
run away with him. She blushed and consented. 

" The house in which Mr. Surtees lived was a very large 
old fashioned building, in a row of houses called Sand-hUl, 
which fronts towards the town hall, the Exchange, and the 
river. The ground floor was occupied by the shop and 
warehouse of a Mr. Snow Clayton, an extensive clothier ; but 
between the shop and the rest of the house there was no com- 
munication, each having a separate entrance. — Mr. John 
Scott had an early friend of the name of Wilkinson, and to 
him he confided a plan for an elopement. Wilkinson, who 
was a young man of some small independence, which he 
contemplated investing in trade, had apprenticed himself to 
Clayton the clothier ; and, as Clayton's shop was under Mr. 
Surtees's residence, his apprentice must have possessed pecu- 
liar means of facilitating the escape. — The night of Wednes- 
day, the 18th of November, 1772, was that selected for the 
elopement. At that time the garrison within the house at 
Sand-hill was weakened by the absence of Mr. Surtees's eldest 
son, WiUiamj who was on a visit of a few days' duration to 
some friends. He had been the schoolfellow of Mr. John 
Scott, and, being nearly of the same age, would, if at home, 
have been very capable of either intercepting a flight or 
leading a pursuit. — Wilkinson was faithful to Scott in aiding 
and abetting the enterprise, and is supposed to have mate- 
rially assisted him by concealing a ladder in the premises of 

her hey-day, Almack's brightened at her jndiclons introdnctloQ of parterres filled with 
smile; and there, also, in age was she seen Spring's gayest flowers ; but still, as it was 
•with cheelcs where art had vainly tried to said of her by one who could even then find 
retrieve the faded bloom of nature, and re- sufficient traces of pristine brightness to corn- 
store the rosy light of youth. She was a mand homage, she was * Ike Jinut rutn tii 
ruin, from the otherwise serene beauty of Englcund* " (p. 10.) 
whose aspect much was detracted by the in- 

A.D. 1772. HIS MARRIAGE. 131 

Mr. Clayton below. A ladder, probably produced by Wilkin- 
son, was placed against the most westerly window of the 
first floor ; and down, it Bessy Surtees, ' with an unthrift lave,' 
descended into the arms of John Scott." " 

The young lady behaved most heroically ; and, after great 
peril of being discovered and stopped, they reached a post- 
chaise which was in waiting for -them. Instead of driving to 
Gretna Green and soliciting the aid of the blacksmith, they 
took the road by Morpeth to Coldstream, and " over the 
border and away ;" they next morning reached the village of 
Blackshiels, close to Fala, only two stages from Edinburgh. 
Here they halted, and were married by the Eeverend Mr. 
Buchanan, who was not, as has been often said, " the esta- 
blished Presbyterian minister," but the cler^onan of an Epis- 
copal congregation at Haddington." 

The following is the certificate of this marriage, which 
Lord Eldon had carefully preserved, and which was found 
among his papers after his death : — ^ 

"John Scott, of the parish of All Saints, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 
gentleman, and Elizabeth Surtees, of St. Nicholas parish, in the same 
town,, spinster, were married at Blackshiels, North Britain, according 
to the form of matrimony prescribed and used by the Church of 
England, on this 19th day of November, 1772, by 

" J. Buchanan, Minister. 
" In pre- 1 James Paikbaikn. 

sence of ) Thomas Faikbaien." 

As soon as the ceremony was performed and duly recorded, 
the bride and bridegroom set off on their return for their own 
country, meaning to pass the wedding-night at Morpeth. 
When they arrived there, late in the evening, they found that 
a 4air was holding in the town — a circumstance they had not 

" W. E. Surtees, pp. 11—13, from "ori- " Ttaecanonsof the Church of Scotland are 

gioal sources of iuformatlOD." The faithful extremely strict about marriage, requiring 

friend, so useful in this emergency, dying in a proclamation of banns and the intervention 

1801, Lord Kldon, in a letter to Beay, thus of a minister, although, for civil purpuses, 

feelingly commemorates him ; " Before 1 say marriage is constituted by consent of the 

% word about other matters, let me heave parties in the presence of any witness, 

one sigh over James Wilkinson ! It was but The circumstanco of Mr. Buchanan usually 

yesterday that we three were engaged in the residing at Haddington has induced others to 

follies of childhood and the sports of youth, represent this town as the scene of the mar- 

The period which has since passed seems riage. How he came to be at Blackshielai 

short, — ^how short, in all probability, must and how the runaway couple were introduced 

that appear, theu, which is yet to pass before to him, I have not been able to ascertain, 
we shall be gathered iogether again ! " 

K 2 

] 32 LORD jSLDON. Chap. CXCI. 

noticed as they had hurried through in their joumey to 
the north — and that all the inns were full. However, their 
peculiar situation heeoming known, Mr. and Mrs. Nelson, of 
the Queen's Head, good-naturedly gave up their own room to 
the new-married couple. 

Great had heen the consternation at Newcastle, caused by 
their flight. Jane Scott, John's twin sister, had heen his con- 
fidante ; and when she -went to bed on Wednesday night she 
burst out a-crying, saying to her sister Barbara, " Oh, Babby, 
Jack has run away with Bessy Surtees to Scotland to be mar- 
ried—what will my father say ? " They wept all night — but, 
bathing their eyes in cold water, they composed themselves 
as they best could, and went down to breakfast in the morn- 
ing. A letter from Jack to the old gentleman he read and 
put in his pocket, without saying a word or altering his 
countenance — and all that day the family remained in a state of 
suspense with respect to the line of conduct which he would 
pursue. The following morning he was melted by a contrite . 
epistle from Morpeth; and Henry, the third brother, was 
despatched thither with a pardon and an invitation to the 
young couple to take up their residence in Love Lane. The 
bride used to describe the third day of their marriage as very 
sad : — " Our funds were exhausted ; we had not a home to 
go to, and we knew not whether our friends would ever 
speak to us again. In this mournful dilemma I suddenly 
espied from a window a fine large wolf-dog, belonging to 
the family, called Loup, walking along the street, — a joyful 
sight, for I knew a friend was near, and in a few minutes 
John's brother, Mr. Henry Scott, entered the room with 
tidings of peace." The invitation to Love Lane was of course 
gladly accepted. 

But the Surteeses were for some time implacable. Mrs. Sur- 
tees had been so affected by her daughter's flight that she 
had kept her bed for several days, and her mind fluctuated 
between sorrow and anger. She was still more irritated by 
receiving a letter from Mrs. Henry Stephenson, who, piqued 
that the good advice she had given her niece the preceding 
season had all been thrown away, said, — "Mr. and Mrs. 'John 
Scott cannot be received in Park Lane, as our own family 
consists only of a daughter with a very pretty face and a 
very good fortmie, before whom it would be impmdfent to 
present a sanction to elopements." The old banker waS so 
much displeased that he would not even speak to the old 


coal-fitter, with whom he used before to converse on friendly 
terms. But at last " Montaque " broke through the reserve, 
and going up to " Capulet " on the Exchange, said to him 
characteristically, — " Why should this marriage make you so 
cool with me ? I was as little wishful for it as yourself ; but, 
since what is done cannot be undone, — for every hundred 
pounds you put down for your daughter, I will cover it with 
another for my son." The answer was, — " You are too for- 
giving ; you are too forgiving ; that would be rewarding dis- 

When the news transpired at Oxford, Mr. William Scott 
said to a friend there, " I suppose you have heard of this 
very foolish act of my very foolish brother." The softening 
observation being made, — " I hope it may turn out better 
than you anticipate," he replied, "Never, Sir, never! he is 
completely ruined, nor can anything now save him from 
beggary. You do not know how unhappy this makes me, 
for I had good hopes of him till this last confounded step has 
destroyed all." — The despair of Moises I have already com- 

A story is told that, in the present abject state of his for- 
tunes, the future Chancellor was in imminent danger of being 
punished for his imprudence by being condemned to spend 
the remainder of his days in selling figs and raisins. It is 
said that an old and very wealthy grocer, being childless, 
went to Scott the father, and, saying " he took compassion 
on the destitute condition of John," ofiered at once to give 
him an equal share of his lucrative business without any 
■ premium, — that the father was well pleased with the pro- 
posal, but said, " he could not accept it without consulting 
his oldest son, who was at Oxford," — that he wrote to William 
accordingly, and that it was only upon William requesting 
that John might be sent back to his college, wife and all, and 
promising to do what he could for them, that the offer was 
rejected. But there is no written, and very slender parol, evi- 
dence for this statement, and it was probably invented to mul- 
tiply the marvels of Lord Eldon's career. I do not believe that 
after his academical distinction he would ever have submitted 
to the degradation of standing behind a counter. At the very 
time when this negotiation is supposed to' have been going 
on, conscious of his own upright intentions, and relying with 
some confidence on his own powers, he wrote the following 
spirited letter to his cousin Eeay, then at Oxford : — 

134 XOED :ELD0N. Chap. CXCI. 

" My dear Beat, 
" It gives me some satisfaction to find that, amidst the censures of 
those whose frowns I despise, and the applause of others whose good 
opinion I am not very anxious to secure, a change of life on my part has 
not been attended with a change of sentiment on yours. Those who 
knew me not were at liberty to deal out their plaudits, or express their 
disapprobation, in as strong terms as they pleased ; and whilst I ex- 
pected, from impertinent ignorance or morose old age, reflections upon 
my honour and my prudence, I was contented that the latter should 
be suspected by those friends whose knowledge of me would lead them 
without hesitation (I flatter myself) to believe that I had acted with an 
unremitting attention to the former. Vfh'tute mea me mvolvo : and I 
can with the greatest confidence retire, from the harsh criticisms of a 
world which must ever remain ignorant of the justifying circumstances, 
to a heart which will never reproach me. I hope I slwU not be sus- 
pected of vanity, if I assert that no man, who knew me thoroughly, 
would condemn me as consulting only the gratification of a boyish 

" You have long known me, Hal ; you will not suspect me of dissi- 
mulation, if, where there is so little occasion for any .other ailments 
to disarm you of any suspicions with respect to the reotitiide of my 
conduct, I farther assert in g0neral terms, that J have only acted the 
unavoiicMe x'art : I cannot honouiably descend to 5uoh particulars as 
may prove the truth of the assertion. I should not have said so much, 
if I had not been writing to a person whose behaviour has endeared him 
to me so greatly, that 1 should be uneasy under his disapprobation. 

" Such are the motives upon which the scheme was undertaken : it 
was executed with some wonderful escapes, and exhibits in my con- 
duct some very remarkable generalship : I eluded ithe yigilanee of three 
watchmen stationed in the neighbourhood, without the assistance of a 
bribe ; and contrived to be sixty miles from Newcastle before ,it was. 
discovered that I had left the place. My wife is a .perfect heroine, and 
behaved with a courage which astonished me. In truth, /orfcs Fortvma 
juvaf ; how else can I accoimt for the first intimations about a scheme 
which I should not have dreamt would ever have been thought of, — 
the success of a plan seemingly impracticable, — and the ready for^ve- 
ness of those whom I expected to have found unrelenting? — I have 
now, Eeay, bid adieu to all ambitious projects, because my highest 
ambition is gratified : ithou^ a husban.d, I am yet so much of a lover, to think the world well lost, whilst I retain the aflfectiong of one 
woman, the esteem of a few friends., and the good wishes of Reay. 
Some of the good folks here, as you surmised, have starved me, out of 
pure pity : but, though I shall not expire by a surfeit, I think I shall 
scarce die of hunger. 

• •»»*■»• 

" With respect to your being a candidate for my fellowship, the col- 
lege will suffer no loss by my imprudence if I have such a successoi 


I expect to hear from you again soon : in the miean time, helieve me to 
be, dear Eeay, 

" Tour sincere friend, and 

" (Upon your mother's authority) 

" Your affectionate cousin, 

" J. Scott. 

" Wednesday.* 

" A love-match, may be a very silly and selfish action, or a 
very wise and disinterested one — ^the suggestion of a passing 
fancy, or the result of reflection and self-knowledge." ^ The 
elopement of Mr. Scott and Miss Surtees was of a very 
venial character, and is chiefly to be regretted as giving 
countenance to a practice which can seldom admit of such pal- 
liations. Her parents, though they might reasonably refuse 
their consent to her union with a young man unable to sup- 
port her, had no right to insist on her marrying another, 
when her' affections were pre-engaged. His family having 
once countenanced the courtship, were not justified in sud- 
denly trying to put a stop to it ; and it ghould always be 
remembered that he was ready to submit to all the exer- 
tions, privations, and sacrifices demanded by the relation ha 
thus clandestinely contracted. Both made ample atonement 
to society for their offence, if it was one. There never was a 
more faithful or affectionate pair ; and they afforded a beau- 
tiful example of the consortium vifce, which constitutes the 
essence of the married state. She conformed to his tastes, 
and thought only of his advancement. One example is more 
worth than any amount of general praise. "When her hus- 
band was qualifying himself for the Bar, ^e would sit up 
with him during his midnight studies, watching him with 
silent affection, and moving about on tip-toe that she might 
not disturb the connection of his thoughts. The faults of 
penuriousness and seclusion, which she afterwards displayed, 
grew out of the habits she acquired when exercising self- 
denial for his sake. He showed his deep sense of the 
obligations under which he had come — not only by his un- 
wearied exertions to be able creditably to maintain her, but 
when youth and beauty were gone, and peculiarities of tem- 
per and manners appeared in her which were to be regretted, 
though excusable, he still treated her with fondness. Being 
told, after the clandestine match oif his eldest daughter, Lady 

J Woids of Iiord SIdon in bis old age. 

136 LORD ELDON. Chap. CXCI. 

Elizabeth, that he should force Lady Eldon into society, in 
order to chaperon the younger daughter, Lady Trances, — he 
replied, " When she was young and beautiful, she gave up 
every thing for me. What she is, I have made her ; and 1 
cannot now bring myself to compel her inclinations. Our 
marriage prevented her mixing in society when it might have 
aiforded her pleasure ; it appears to give pain now, and why 
should I interpose ? " — When she was snatched away from him 
by death, he still tenderly cherished her memory. Within 
two or three years of his own decease, when a north-country 
friend came over to see him at Eushyford, the old peer ob- 
served to him, " I know my fellow-townsmen at Newcastle 
complain of my never coming to see them, but how can I 
pass that bridge?" — meaning the bridge across the Tyne, 
looking upon the Sand-hM. Then musing on the dead — ^with 
tears in his eyes, — after a pause he exclaimed, " Poor Bessie I 
if ever there was an angel on earth, she was one. The only 
reparation which one man can make to another for running 
away with his daughter, is to be exemplary in his conduct 
towards her." 

But we have now to attend Mr. and Mrs. John Scott in 
Love Lane. She was, and therefore so was he, still most 
wretched, on account of the obduracy of- her father, who 
vowed that he never would see her more, nor forgive her even 
on his death-bed. But at length the old gentleman, hearing 
of her anguish, and feeling the want of her pious attentions, 
in which he had so much delighted, gradually relented, and 
sent her his forgiveness and his blessing. Her brother John, 
who was the bearer of this message, said, " She threw her 
arms about me in a transport of joy, and kissed me for a .con- 
siderable time without intermission." 

They now removed to Mr. Surtees's house on Sand-hill, where 
they met with a kind reception. 

Soon after, " Articles " were executed, whereby Mr. Scott 

Jan.?, settled upon them 2000?., and Mr. Surtees lOOOZ. 

i''3. (which he afterwards doulsled), to bear interest at 
61. per cent. 

I need not formally refute the false statement which has 
been so often repeated, — that Lord Eldon, never having been 
reconciled to Mr. Surtees, showed his thirst for revenge by 
sealing with his own hand, when Chancellor, a commission 
of bankruptcy against him. Mr. Surtees lived and died in 
affluent circumstances, although the bank to which he be- 


longed long afterwards failed ; and lie lived with his son-in- 
law on terms of the greatest confidence and affection.* 

To bring this matrimonial narrative to a conclusion, I have 
only to state, that although no doubt was entertained about 
the marriage celebrated at Blackshiels being sufficient, both 
in law and reli^on, — with a view to easy evidence of mar- 
riage in future times, it was thought right to follow the prac- 
tice of the Chancellor with respect to his wards, and to have 
the parties re-married in England, in conformity to the provi- 
sions of Lord Hardwicke's Act. Accordingly the ceremony 
was again performed in the parish church of St. Nicholas, 
Newcastle, in the presence of the father of the bride and the 
brother of the bridegroom, and the following entry was made 
of it in the register : — 

" John Scott and Elizabeth Surtees, a minor, with the consent of her 
father, Auhone Surtees, Esq., and both of this parish, were married in 
this church, by licence, the 19th day of January, 1773, by me, 

" CuTH. Wilson, Curate. 

" This marriage was solemnized between us, — 
John Scott and 1 In the presence of us, 

Elizabeth Surtees, J Aubone Surtees, Henry Scott." 

The bride and bridegroom, on this occasion,- without tre- 
pidation, entered a post-chaise which waited for them at the 
church door, — and, rapidly crossing the Tyne, bade adieu to 

"The world was all before them, where to choose 
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide." 

' Of this I have a very striking probf in a law to the delicate matter of advising witk 
letter from the son-in-Uiw, showing that he him about the framing of hlB will. 
waft afterwards employed by hia JJather-in- 

138 LORD ELDON. Chap. CXCIl. 



It was now neoessaiy tliat Mr. John Scott should form a new 
scheme of life. He could no longer look to the Church 
as a profession. After the year of grace his fellow- 
ship was lost by his marriage, and he had no other chance of 
ecclesiastical preferment. He resolved, if a college living 
should fall vacant within the year, to claim it, hut immedi- 
ately to begin the study of the law — ^having for a little time 
two strings to his bow. Although he by no means felt any 
enthusiasm for his new profession, he knew that from a sense 
of duty he should be able to submit to its labours. Accordingly, 
on his arrival in London, he was admitted of the Middle 
Temple. The following is a copy of his admission : — 

" Die 28 Januarii 1773, Ma'. 
Johannes Soott, filius tertius Gulielmi Scott de Novo Castello 
super Tinum, Armigeri, admissus est in Societatem Medii 
Templi Londini speoialiter. Et dat pro fine 4Z." 

Mr. and Mrs. John Soott proceeded to Oxford, which was to 
be the place of their residence while he was preparing for the 
Bar. A lady, who met them at a friend's house where they paid 
a visit on their way, observed, in a- letter written many years 
after, " Her appearance was considered his sufficient apology, 
for she was extremely beautiful ; and so very young as to give 
the impression of childhood, especially as her dress corresponded 
with that idea, the white frock and sash being in those days the 
distinguishing mark of a child, as well as the flowing ringlets 
which hung around her shoulders." 

Sir Robert Chambers, Principal of New Inn Hall, and Vine- 
rian Professor of Law, had just been appointed a Judge in the 
East Indies, and the job had been arranged that he should 
retain these appointments during his absence, performing their 
duties by deputy. Accordingly John Scott was named Vice- 
Principal of New Inn Hall, having rooms for his family in the 


Lodge, and Vice Law Professor with a salary of 601. a year, 
being employed merely to read the lectures written by his supe- 
rior. He himself gave the following amusing account of his 
ddbut in this line : — " The law professor sent me thejfirst lec- 
ture which I had to read immediately to the students, and which 
I began without knowing a single word that was in it. It was 
upon the statute (4 & 6 P. & M. c. 8) ' Gf young men run- 
ning away with maidens.' Fancy me reading, wi& about 140 
boys and young men all giggling at the proifessor ! Such a 
tittering audience no one ever had ! " 

He likewise eked out his income by private pupils sent to 
him from University College ; and with the aid of a quarterly 
present from his brother William, and of strict good manage- 
ment, he and his wife could make the two ends meet. Tea- 
parties were the only entertainments they could venture to 
give to their friends. At these symposia they sometimes had 
a no less distinguished guest than Dr. Samuel Johnson, and 
Mrs. John Scott used to relate that she herself helped him 
one evening to fifteen cups of his favourite beverage. 

Lord Eldon does not seem, like his brother, Sir William Scott, 
to have cultivated literary society on removing to London ; but 
he watched the great Lexicographer with mncli attention, and 
was eager to get into his company during his visits to Ahna 
Mater. " The Doctor was so absent," he would say, " fliat 1 
have seen him standing for a long time without moving — with 
a foot on each side of the kennel, which was then in the middle 
of the High Street, Oxford, — ^with his eyes fixed on the running 
water." He related, that " in the common room of University 
College, a controversialist having frequently interrupted John- 
son during a narrative of what had fallen under his own observa- 
tion, saying, '' I deny that,' he at last vociferated, ' Sir, Sir, 
you must have forgot that an author has said. Plus iwgabit units 
asinus in und hard, quam centum pMbsophi probaverint in centum 
amis.' " — But the following is his best Johnsonian anecdote. 
" I had a walk in New Inn HaH Garden with Dr. Johnson, Sir 
Eoljcrt Chambers, and some other gentlemen. Sir Edbert was 
gathering snails and throwing them over the wall into his 
neighbour's garden. The Doctor reproached kirn very roughly, 
asserting that this was nnmannerly and unneighbourly. ' Sir,' 
said Sir Eobert, " my neighbour is a dissenter.' ' Oh,' said the 
Doctor, ' if so. Chambers, toss away, toss away, as hard as you 
can.'" The real good-humour here displayed makes us forget 
the apparent bigotry. 


At this time Lord Eldon gave the first specimen of his 
judicial powers — which must be allowed to have been, very 
promising, althoiigh as yet he had but a slender portion of 
jurisprudential lore. Being senior resident fellow of Univer- 
sity College, two under-graduates came to complain to him, 
that " the cook had sent them up an apple-pie tliat could not be 
eaten." The defendant being summoned, said, " I have a 
remarkably fine fillet of veal in the kitchen." The Judge 
immediately overruled this plea as tendering an immateriaV 
issue, and ordered a profert in curiam of the apple-pie. The 
messenger sent to" execute this order brought intelligence that 
the other under-graduates, taking advantage of the absence of 
the two plaintiffs, had eaten up the whole of the apple-piip. 
Thereupon judgment was thus pronounced : " The charge here 
is, that the cook has sent up an apple-pie that cannot be eaten. 
Now that cannot be said to be uneatable which has been eaten ; 
and as this apple-pie has been eaten, it was eatable. Let the 
cook be absolved." He used to say, in telling the story, " I 
often wished, in after-life, that all the causes I had to decide had 
been apple-pie causes, and then no one could have complained of 
my doubts or delays." 

But, by gigantic efforts, he was now laying the foundation of 
the unrivalled fame as a great magistrate which he acquired - 
when presiding on the woolsack. Having taken his Master's 
degree- on the 13th of February, 1773, he began the study of 
the law with the most devoted resolution to conquer all its 
diiBculties. There was but little chance of a college living 
falling in during his year of grace, and on the 1 9th of Novem- 
ber following, — the anniversary of his Blackshiels marriage, — 
he actually gave up his fellowship. His efforts were redoubled 
when his new profession afforded the only chance of his being 
able to maintain himself and his family. He rose in the morn- 
ing at four — took' little exercise — made short and abstemious 
meals, and sat up studying late at night, with a wet towel 
round his head to drive away drowsiness. I am grieved to 
hear that the reading of " Coke upon Littleton " is going out of 
fashion among law students. When I was commencing my 
, legal curriculum, I was told this anecdote : — A young stu- 
dent asked Sir VicaryGibbs how he should learn his profession. 
Sir Vicary: " Bead Coke upon Littleton." Student: "I have 
read Coke upon Littleton." Sir Vicary : " Bead Coke upon 
Littleton over again." Student : " I have read it twice over." 
Sir I \xiry ; " Thrice ? " Student : " Yes, three times over very 

A.u. iii-h-io. naMOym FKOM uXFtJRD TO LONDON. 141 

carefully." Sir Vkary : " You may now sit down and make an 
abstract of it." If my opinion is of any value, I would heartily 
join in the same advice. The hook contains much that is 
obsolete, and much that is altered by statutable enactment ; but 
no man can thoroughly understand the law as it is without 
knowing the changes it has nndei'gone, and no man can be 
acquainted with its history without being familiar with the 
writings of Loid Coke. Nor is he by any means so dry and 
forbidding as is generally supposed. He is certainly imme- 
thodioal, but he is singularly perspicuous, he fixes the atten- 
tion, his quaintness is often most amusing, and he excites 
our admiration, by the inexhaustible stores of erudition which, 
without any eifort, he seems spontaneously to pour forth. 
Thus were our genuine lawyers trained. Lord Eldon read 
Coke upon Littleton once, twice, and thrice, and made an 
abstract of the whole work as a useful exercise — obeying 
the wise injunction, " Legere multum — non rmdta." On the^i 
8th of March, 1774, he had a fresh- incentive to industry in the 
birth of a son. 

Soon after, his health suffering, he consulted a physician, who 
seriously advised him to be more moderate in his application ; 
but he answered, " It is no matter — I must either do as I am 
now doing, or starve." He had a little relaxation in going for 
a few days, four times a year, to keep his terms in the Middle 
Temple ; and during the general election in 1774 he paid a. 
visit to his native place, when he took up his freedom as the 
son of a " hoastman," and voted for Sir William Blackett and 
Sir Matthew White Ridley. It is said that in this journey, 
coming late at night to the Hen and Chickens, at Birmingham, 
the house he used to frequent in travelling between Newcastle 
and Oxford, the landlady, seeing him look so dreadfully ill,- 
insisted on dressing something hot for his supper, saying " she 
was sure she should never see him again." 

While residing in New Inn Hall, his brother Henry married, 
and he -wrote a number of letters to his new sister-in-law and 
to his other relations at Newcastle, which are preserved; but 
they are dreadfully stiff and dull, and indicate an utter loss 
of his ante-nuptial sprightliness.' 

It -was full time that he should be transferred to a livelier 
scene, and the approach of his call to the Bar ren- ^ ^ ^^^^ 
dered his residence in London indispensable. Ac- 
cordingly, in the long vacation of 1775, he bade Oxford a 

** Twiss, ch. iv. 

1 42 LORD ELDON. Chap. CXCIl 

final adieu, and he moved, with his family, to a small house 
in. Cursitor Street, near Chancery Lane. Thi» honse he 
would point out to' his friends late in life, saying; " There 
was my first perch : many a time have I run down from- Cur- 
sitor Street to Fleet Market to buy sixpenn'orth of sprats for 
our supper." 

He now diligently attended the Courts m Westminster Hall, 
with his note-book in his hand. Lord Bathurst presiding in 
the Court of Chancery, from whom little was to be learned, he 
took his: piaeei in the students' box in the Court of Ring's 
Bench, where Lord Mansfield shone in the zenith of his fame ; 
but he never would acknowledge the extraordinary merits of 
this great Judge, and was always disposed to sneer at him. 
One source of prejudice was the marked predilection of the 
Christ Church man for his college, and the slighting manner 
in which he would talk of " University" along with all oliier 
colleges and halls at Oxford. This we shall find was the 
ostensible ground for Mr. Scott afterwards quitting the Com- 
mon Law for Equity. 

He seems to have been less struck by the learning of the 
Judges than by that of Serjeant HUl — supposed to be the 
greatest black-letter lawyer since Maynard's time, and as much 
celebrated for his eccentricity as his learning, — ^insomuch that 
on his wedding night, going to his chambers in the Temple, 
and continuing there reading cases till next morning, he 

" Thought of the ' Year Books ' and foi:got his bride." 

Lord Eldon related that, at their first interview in West- 
minster Hall, being entire strangers, the following dialogue 
took place between them •.■r—HUl, stopping ScoU: "Pray, young 
gentleman, do you think herbage, and pannage rateable to the 
poor's rate ? " SeoU : " Sir, I cannot presume to give any opi- 
nion, inexperienced and unlearned as I am, to a person of your 
great knowledge and high character in the profession." Hill : 
" Upon my word you are a pretty sensible young gentleman ; 
I don't often meet with such. If I had asked Mr. Burgess, 
a young' man upon our circuit, the question, he would have 
told me that I was an old fool. You are an extraordinary 
sensible young gentleman." * 

b The firet day I dined in Lincoln's Inn dressed me : " Pray, Sir, what is your opinion 

Hall, a brother student, whose name I had of the scintiUa juris f" I entered into a 

not before beard of— But who -has since de- discussion with him about the/eedinpo/iues 

lervedly reached high professional distinction —but I am afraid I never could induce him to 

—alter a long silence in our mess, thus ad- think me " an extraordinary sensible yonnK 

A.D. 1774-76. HIS LIFE AS A LAW STUDENT. 143 

The custom having Ijeeii introduced for law students to be- 
come pupils of a special pleader, or of an equity draughtsman, 
Mr. Scott would have been very glad to have conformed to it, 
if the state of his finances would have enabled him to pay the 
usual fee of a hundred guineas ; but this he could not do 
without borrowing, — a habit he ever held in abhorrence ; and 
he would have been without any preliminary discipline of this 
sort, if Mr. Duane, an eminent Catholic conveyancer," had not 
agreed to let him have " the run of his chambers," for six 
months, without a fee. He was particularly anxious to be ini- 
tiated in this branch of the profession ; for, ever since he took 
to the law, he cherished the plan of settling as a provincial 
counsel at Newcastle, where skill in conveyancing would have 
been essentially necessary to his success.* 

Soon after making this arrangement, he wrote the following 
letter to his brother Henry : — 

" Deae Bbothee, 
" I am at length settled in the circle of lawyers, and begin to breathe 
a little after the laborious task of removing a family, which is a work 
as difficult as that of removing a mountain. You know, probably, that 
this is only a step preparatory to a settlement among you, which 1 
begin to think is a prospect that brightens upon me every day. I have 
- been exceedingly fortunate in forming my previous connections, as the 
object which I had most at heart I have obtained. The great convey- 
ancing of your country is done by Mr. Duane : it seemed to be, there- 
fore, a most desirable thing to be connected with him, as his recom- 
mendation and instructions might probably operate much in my behalf 
hereafter. The great fear arose from his never having taken any person 
in the character of a pupil before, and the apprehension, that if he 
should now break through a general rule, it must be on terms with 
which I could not afford to comply ; but he has offered me every as- 
sistance in his power, and is so extremely ready to forward my schemes, 
as to declare himself contented with the satisfaction he will enjoy in 
contributing to the success of a person whom he is so uncommonly kind 
as even to honour. This conduct of his has taken a gi'eat load of nn- 

gentleman." 1 may now state that this was considered the last of this nee. 

Lord St. Leonards, ex-Cliancellor of Ireland ^ So early as 28th May, 1774, he says, in a 

and of Great Britain. letter to his brother Henry: "i hope once 

<^ At this time conveyancing was chiefly more to see yon, about this time two years, 

in the hands of Roman Catholics. Being when 1 intend, if 1 can manage it, to come 

long, prevented by their religion from being your circuit ; and in case of encouragement, 

called to the Bar, they practised successfully I shall, some three years after that, perhaps, 

in chambers; and being employed at first settle in Newcastle." There is no founda- 

by their co-religionists, their industry and tion for the common opinion that his plas of 

Utemlng forced them into general business, settling at Newcastle originated from IlIb bad 

Charles Butler, whom 1 well knew, may be success in London. 

144 LORD ELDON. Chap. CXOa 

easiness off my Liind, as in fact our profession is so exceedingly expen- 
sive that I almost sink under it. I have got a house barely suflBcient 
to hold my small family, which (so great is the demand for them here) 
will in rent and taxes cost me annually sixty pounds. I thank God, 
it will he only for two years at moat. I have been buying books, too, 
for the last ten years, and I have got the mortification to find, that 
before I can settle, that article of trade— for as such I consider it — will 
cost me near two hundred pounds : — ^not to mention the price of a 
voluminous wig."" 

During the six months agreed upon, he worked at Mr. 
Duane's almost night and day, making a gigantic cioUeotion of 
precedents, and examining all the draughts and cases which 
went through the office. To this period of study he ascribed 
much of his success in the profession. When he referred, as 
he was fond of doing, to Mr. Duane's liberality in taking him 
without a fee, he would add, " That was a great kindness to me. 
He was a most worthy and excellent man. The knowledge I 
acquired of conveyancing in his office was of infinite sei-vice to 
me during a long life in the Court of Chancery." 

I will here finish what I have to relate of his legal studies. 
To supply the deficiency arising from his not having been 
with a special pleader or equity draughtsman, he copied all 
the MS. forms he could lay his hands tipon. He was very 
proud of the volumes he thus compiled, and regretted their 
loss, suggesting that " he had lent them to friends witk a bad 
Tmmory." Unconscious of the joke which I have often heard 
circulated against himself, — that, when Chancellor, he greatly 
augmented his own library by borrowing books quoted at the 
Bar, and forgetting to return them, — ^he would say of such 
borrowers, " Though backward in accounting, they are well 
practised in look-keeping." 

He engaged in a course of reading, — the expediency of which 
I should doubt. It is well for the student to peruse consecu- 
tively the Eeports of Lord Coke and of Plowden ; but Mr. Scott 
went through a systematic course of Eeports, and, coming down 
to a reporter of such low credit as Vernon, he could tell the 
names of most of the cases reported, with the volume and page 
where they were to be found. 

I wish I could add, that at the same time ho attended to 
more elegant pursuits ; but for such a combination I fear that 

"InaletterfroraWiUiamSootttohislJTOther under a conveyancer. God grant him snoceu 
Hpnry, dated Oxford, Nov. 1, 1175, he says : In bis profession ; Le deserves the best 
' Brotlicr Jack is gone to town to settle there wishes of bis friends.'' 

A.D. 1776. CALLED TO THE BAR. 145 

human strength is insufficient. He seemed to have renounced 
all taste for classical learning with his academical cap and 
gown, and never to have taken the smallest interest in the 
literature of the day. He read a weekly newspaper, but no 
other periodical publication ; and although when a boy he had 
studied the Eambler and Johnson's earlier works, he is not 
supposed to have spared time from copying precedents to read 
the " Journey to the Hebrides," or the " Lives of the Poets." 
Hence we have to desiderate in him the vein of classical allu- 
sion, and the beautiful diction, which gave such a charm to the 
conversation and compositions of Lord Stowell. But we ought 
to honour his unwearied industry, and to admire his stupen- 
dous acquirements in one department of human knowledge. 
Before he had ever pleaded a cause, he was fit to preside on the 
bench ; and there he would have given more satisfaction than 
most other members of the profession, who could boast of their 
" lucubrationes viginti annorum." It must be remembered 
always, that he had by nature an admirable head for law, and 
tiiat he seemed almost by an intuitive glance to penetrate into 
its most obscure mysteries. — He was ere long to reap the 
reward of his industry. 



Me. John Scott was called to the Bar by the Honourable 
Society of the Middle Temple on the 9th of February, ^ ^ ^^^^ 
1776 ; but he did not begin to appear as a candidate 
for practice till Easter term following. He used in his latter 
years to talk much of his bad success at starting ; but I am 
bound to say that this Jie greatly exaggerated. It seems to 
me, that, with a view to enbance the marvel of his ultimate 
rise, he was unconsciously disposed to dwell rather too 
much upon the difBculties he had overcome, and to forget 
the encouragements he had met with, — ^till at last, by oft 
repetition, he himself gave faith to a representation of his first 

VOL. IX. ^ 


years at the Bar considerably at variance with the genuine 

According to the following statement hy himself, he was 
cheated of his maiden fee : — " I had been called to the Bar 
but a day or two, when, on coming out of court one morning, 
I was accosted by a dapper-looking attorney's clerk, who 
handed me a motion paper, in some matter of course, which 
merely required to be authenticated by counsel's signature. I 
signed the paper, and the attorney's clerk, taking it back from 
me, said, ' A fine hand your's, Mr. Scott — an exceedingly fine 
hand ! It would be well if gentlemen at the Bar would always 
take a little of your pains to ensure legibility. A beautiful 
hand. Sir.' While he spoke thus, the eloquent clerk was 
fumbling first in one pocket, then lq the other, till, with a 

hurried air, he said, ' A — a — a 1 really beg your paxdon, 

Sir, but I have unfortunately left my purse on the table in the 
coffee-room opposite ; pray do me the favour to remain here, 
and I will be back in one momentj So speaking, the clerk 
vanished with the rapidity of lightning, and I never set eyes 
on him agaia." 

He dilated often on the difficulty he had in proouiing an 
equipage to go his first circuit. " At last," he continued, " I 
hired a horse for myself, and borrowed another for an inexpe- 
rienced youth who was to ride behind me with my saddle-bags. 
But I thought my chance was gone ; for having been engaged in 
a discussion with a travelling companion, on approaching the 
assize town I looked behind, but there was no appearance of my 
clerk, and I was obliged to ride back several miles, till I found 
him crying by the road-side, his horse at some distance from him, 
and the saddle-bags still farmer off ; and it was not without 
great difficulty that I could accomplish the reunion between 
them, which he had in vain attempted. Had I failed too in 
this undertaking, I never should have been Lord Chancellor." 

He represented his gains for twelve months after he put on 
his gown to amount to 9s. sterling, and no more. " When I 
was called to the Bar," he would say, " Bessy and I thought 
all our troubles were over ; business was to pour in, and we 
were to be rich almost immediately. So I made a bargain with 
her, that during the following year all the money I should 
receive in the first eleven months should be mine, and what- 
ever I should get in the twelfth month should be hers. That was 
our agreement, and how do you think that it turned out ? In the 
twelfth month I received half a guinea ; eighteen pence went 

fl.D. 1777. HIS DEBUT AS A MOB OEATOB. 147 

far charity, and Bessy got nine sliillirigs.' In the olher eleven 
months 1 got not one shilling." It may be true, although it is 
highly improbable, (considering his north-country connections, 
the friendship of Mr. Duame, and his own agreeable manners,) 
that he had no other business in London during his first year ; 
but in the summer of this year he went the Northern Circuit, 
where we know, from undoubted aiithority, that he prospered. 
There is extant a letter from Sir William to their brother 
Henry, written on the 2nd of October, J.776, containing this 
passage : — " My brother Jack seems highly pleased with his 
circuit success. I hope it is only the beginning of future tri- 
umphs. AU appearances speak strongly in his favour. If he 
does not succeed, I will never venture a conjecture upon any 
one thing again. He is very industrious, and has made great 
progress in the knowledge of his profession." , 

Lord Eldon had fallen into the belief that his famous argu- 
ment in Ahroyd v. Smithson, before Lord Thurlow, in the 
year 1780, was the first opportunity he ever enjoyed 
of gaining distinction. But it now appears, that early in the 
year 1777 he repeatedly harangued the freemen of Newcastle 
at a contested election for that borough, and that in the ensu- 
ing session of Parliament he was counsel before a committee 
of the House of Commons, upon a petition which arose out of 
it. Stoney Bowes had lately married the Countess of Strath- 
mpre, after fighting a sham duel, in defence of her honour, 
with the Eeverend Bat« Dudley, editor of the Morning Post, — 
and was now, in her right, become entitled to large estates 
in the county of Durham. During the honey-moon he an- 
nounced himself as a candidate to represent Newcastle on the 
death of Sir William Blackett ; and his absence being excused 
on account of the duties he had to discharge elsewhere, John 
Scott, retained as one of his counsel, not only argued the vali- 
dity of votes on his behalf before the returning officer, but used 
to speak for him in public. " As a mob orator, his townsmen 
considered him to have failed ; he proceeded with hesitation, 
stopped frequently, and with a nervous action raised his hand 
to his mouth, as though to pull out the reluctant words."" 
The printed poll-book shows that John Scott, along with his 

' This mu6t have been a half-guinea mo- piece acted on the ItaNn stage, where there 

tion, the last day of term— when there was a is a shBilar ditHculty experienced, Punchi- 

deducBon (it nsed to be only u. in the King's nello runs his head into the stomach of the 

Bench) for the benefit of poor prisoners con- stammering orator— to make the words jun- p 

Sued for debt. unt. 

' Tf. E. Snrtees, 51. In a hnmoroiw 

L ?. 


brothers William and Henry, as freemen of the Hoastmen's 
Company, voted for Bowes ; but Trevelyan, the opposite can- 
didate, had a majority of votes, and was returned.'' The poU 
lasted fourteen days, and our' young barrister received an 
honorarium of 200 guineas, which he must have carried back to 
Bessy with high glee, although somehow it afterwards slipped 
entirely from his recollection. But his forgotten good fortune 
did not end here. There being a petition against the return, 
he was retained for the petitioner, against Dunning, Serjeant 
Glynn, and Jack Lee — and, with mutual charges of bribery, 
the case was fiercely fought many days. While it was pend- 
ing, he wrote a letter to his brother Henry, who had been 
one of Bowes's agents during the election ; in which, after 
stating that he had summed up the evidence for the petition 
that morning in a long speech, — that a greater impression had 
been made upon the committee than was expected, but that 
their witnesses had been rigorously cross-examined with a view 
to recrimination, he adds : — " I hope you have not been so zea- 
lous as to overleap the bounds of law and prudence, for I take 
it for granted that they will spare nobody — our case has irri- 
tated and surprised them so much. 1 think, upon the whole, 
it will not be a void election, but will contribute to establish 
Bowes's importance very much." 

The committee at last reported that the sitting member was 
duly elected, when John Scott, in another letter to his brother 
Henry, says, " The committee cleared the room to take the 
sense of the majority ; but, after debating two hours, they were 
so much divided, that they could not come to a determination. 
They met according to adjournment again yesterday, but again 
broke up without a decision. This morning they met a third 
time, and I am just informed the majority is against us. Thus 
this ' vexatious and frivolous petition ' has proved respectable, 
though not successful." ' A few days afterwards Sir William 
wrote — " I am very happy to find that my brother John ac- 
quitted himself so much to the satisfaction of his friends in 
the matter of the petition. That affair is well ended for us 
all, — all circumstances considered." ' 

k 1163 to 1068. Bowes B retainers, nor <B any memoiy of them 

i These election pixiceedings not having extant in the Eldon family." Bnt the old 

heen communicated to Mr. TwiBS,_ he does Earl could hardly have forgotten " hriefs, 

not refer to them in his first or second edi- consultations, and re&eshers," which must 

tion. In a note on fte third he says,— have been so Important to him ; and 1 sus- 

* Among the papers left by Lord Eldon there pect he became ashamed of his connection 

has been found no trace of, or allusion to, Mr. witb a client who turned out such a repro* 

XT>. 1777. DEATH OF HIS FATHER. 149 

The same year Mr. John Scott, through the influence of 
his father-in-law, had a general retaijier from the corpo- 
ration of Newcastle, and received a brief, with several 
emiuent leaders, to support a claim of the Duke of Northum- 
berland to an ancient office against Lord Gwydir. Of this 
last employment he would often talk, saying, " It was only a 
handsome way of giving me twenty guineas a day for walking 
down to the House of Lords." '' 

This summer he again went the Northern Circuit, and had 
evidently taken root there, having various briefs in the Crown 
Court at Newcastle, where the attorneys showed a disposition 
to employ him, and were well pleased with his performances. 
Above all, Mr. Cuthbert, the topping attorney of the town, was 
his avowed patron." 

In the end of the preceding year he had lost his father, who, 
by his will, left him a legacy of lOOOZ. He placed a tablet 
with an unostentatious inscription, in St. Nicholas's church, 
to the memory of the worthy coal-fitter, and always behaved 
with kindness to his surviving parent, who lived to see him a 

At this time, rather attracted by the harvest which he 
thought was ripe for him in his native place, than despairing of 
ultimate success in the metropolis, he resolved at once to settle 
as a provincial counsel ; and he actually hired a house in Pil- 
grim Street, on the bank of the Tyne ; — the summit of his am 
bition being, as yet, the Eecordership of Newcastle. 

But before he had removed his family from London hf 
altered his plans, and made over the lease of his house 
ia PUgrim Street to his brother Henry. What was the 
cause of this sudden change has not been cleared up to 
us. Mr. Heron, another leading Newcastle attorney well 

bate. Mauy years after, Sir John Scott was Newcastle, he was occasionally the guest of 

examined as a witness in the Court of Com- Mr. Surtees, when Mrs, John Scutt and her 

mon Pleas to prove that, at the time of this infant son were there. His Grace would often 

contested election, Mr. Bowes and Lady take the boy on his knees, calling him his 

Strathmore lived together on cordial terms. Captain, and saying good-humouredly, " You 

In a letter dated 1st May, 1 IIS, he says : " I shall soon be an officer in my regiment," 

see your friend Bowes very often, hut I dare ™ The importance attached by the family 

not dine with him above once in three to this patronage appears by a letter written 

months, as there is no getting away before at this time by Sir WlUiam, complaining 

midnight ; and, indeed, one is sure to be in a much of Cuthbert's conduct in some negotia- 

eondition in which no man would wish to be tlon, in which he says, — " However, Jack's 

in the streets at any other season." interest is concerned in not saying anything 

k When the Duke was commander-in- affronting to him; otherwise 1 should not 

chief of the northern forces during the Ame- spare him," 

rican war, his head-quarters being fixed at ' 

150 LORD ELDON. Chap. CXCai. 

aifeoted to Mm, strongly urged that London was the proper 
field for such, powers and acquirements as his, and added, 
" Only go, and I'll give yon a guinea now, on condition that 
you give me a thousand when you're Chancellor." So saying, 
lie handed him a guinea, which Mr. John Scott, who did not 
like to refuse money, was proceeding to put into his pocket. 
On this Sir William, who was present at the deliberation, 
exclaimed, in a tone of remonstrance, " Jack, you're robbing 
Heron of his guinea," and it was returned. I suspect that 
London was at this time preferred on account of a promise 
given by Lord Thurlow, on the application of Lord Darlington, 
— though never fulfilled, — to confer upon Mr. John Scott a 
Commissionership of Bankrupts. Accustomed to doubt long on 
questions of law, he ever showed great decision iu acting 
where his own interests were concerned. " I much question," 
says Mr. W. E. Surtees, " whether, in his whole life, he was 
ever prevented by his doubts from undertaking any enterprise 
which promised advantage. His were the doubts of the cou- 
rageous but cautious general, who, even while making his 
advance, prepares for the hard necessity of retreat." 

In this transaction we have a striking instance of his 
characteristic caution and the liberties with fact which he 
deemed justifiable. Although he was to part with all interest 
in the house, and he had abandoned for the present all notion 
of settling in Newcastle, he writes from London to his bro- 
ther Henry : " You will be so kind as to second my wishes to 
keep Newcastle open for me, in case I am defeated here, and, 
for that purpose, to assert that I have not relinquished, but 
only delayed for a short time, my plan of settling there." 
And in a subsequent letter he says to Henry, who seems him- 
self actually to have been taken in by these statements : " I 
thought we had understood each other too well, to make it 
possible for you to receive any disturbance upon the subject 
of the house. I wished only to have it held out to the world, 
and, among the rest, to Cuthbert himself, that I might have 
the house again at a short warning — ^by way of impressing 
them and him with so strong an idea of an intention in me 
hereafter to settle at N.C. as effectually to prevent any other 
person from taking that step in the mean time." . . . Previous 

" This explanation reminds one of the riage at Abingdon, in the county of Berks 
icenc in Foote's farce of " The Ltak," where to the imaginary Miss Lydia Sybthorp :— ' 
even PapUlon had been taken in by Young Pap. " I am amazed, Sir, that you have so 
Wilding's circumstantial account of his mar- carefully concealed this transaction from me." 

T, tfild. 


to my receiving CuthTDert's letter to-day, I had wrote to Mm, 
proposing a diSerent method of transferring my interest, and 
telling him that I had determined to part with the whole of 
it, contrary to his advice, and to run the risk of getting 
another when I wanted it. If he intierprets this into an 
intention of giving N.O. up absolutely, you may give him the 
most positive assurances to the contrary, — telling him and 
other people (^for it is but a white lye), that, as I have taken this 
step to suit your convenience, we shall easily settle any diffi- 
culty that may arise." — Henry accepted an assignment of the 
house, in spite of the remonstrance of Sir William, who 
thought it would involve him in too great pxpense, and had 
thus concluded a letter, inculcating upon him frugality and 
attention to business : " We inherit from our deceased father 
not only a provision, but, what is more, an example." 

Mr. John Scott, moving from his " first perch" in Cursitor 
Street, now took a small house in Carey Street, which, from 
its vicinity to Lincoln's Inn, obviated the necessity of his 
holding chambers at the same time. Still continuing regu- 
larly to go the circuit, and so far considering himself a com- 
mon lawyer, he had transferred himself to the Court of 
Chancery, as his usual place of practising in London. Of 
this transfer he used to give the following account : — " The 
Court of Chancery was not my object when first called to the 
Bar. I first took my seat in the King's Bench ,■ but I soon 
perceived, or thought I perceived, a preference in Lord Mans- 
field for young lawyers who had been bred at Westminster 
School and Christ Church, and, as I had belonged neither to 
Westmins'ter nor Christ Church, I thought I should not have 
a fair chance with my fellows, and therefore I crossed over to 
the other side of the Hall." ° 

The experiment was at first by no means successful. The 

' old Chancery practitioners were a little hurt at ad. im— 

seeing among them a new candidate for business, "'^■ 

who had not been regularly bred to their craft ; but they felt 

no alarm, and they sneered at the notion of a man aspiring to 

¥. WUd. " Heyday ! what, do you believe leally taken in ? " 

It too ? " . ° The number of counsel at that time prac- 

Pap. *' Believe it! Why, is not the story tising in Chancery is said not to have exceeded 

of the marriage true?" twelve or 'fifteen. Till many years after, 

F. Wild. " Not a syllable." the proceedings of that Court were never 

Fap. "And the cat, and the pistol, and noticed in the newspapers ; and an equitj 

the poker i ' counsel, as such, was rather an obscure cha. 

T, Wild. "All invention! And were you racter. 


be an equity lawyer who had never penned a bill or answer 
in an equity draughtsman's office. For a year or two their 
predictions were verified. In January, 1T79, Sir WUliam 
writes to his brother Henry, — "Business is very dull with 
poor Jack — very dull indeed ; and of consequence he is not 
very lively. I heartily wish that business may brisken a 
little, or he will be heartily sick of his profession. I do all I 
can to keep up his spirits, but he is very gloomy. But mum ! 
not a word of this to the wife of your bosom." — He filled up 
his time by diligently reading every thing to be found in 
print, connected with the practice and doctrine of courts of 
equity, till continued hard study, or continued low spirits 
from want of business in London, began to undermine his 
health. He consulted Dr. Heberden, who despatched him to 
Bath, with an intimation that if in three or four weeks the 
waters should bring out the gout, all was well ; but if this 
result was not effected, he must prepare for the worst. In 
narrating this interview, he said, " I then put my hand into 
my pocket, meaning to give the doctor his fee ; but he stopped 
me, asking, ' Are you the young gentleman who gained the 
prize for the essay at Oxford ? ' I said I was. ' I will take 
no fee from you. Go to Bath, and let me see you when you 
return.' He was a very kind man ; he would never take a 
fee from me." — The Bath waters did produce a fit of the gout, 
and the patient's health was improved. 

His professional prospects were still discouraging ; but he 
A.D. i7«6— was afterwards in the habit of considerably overstat- 
1180. jjjg jjjg supposed failure. He would say, " One year 

I did not go the circuit, because I could not afford it. I had 
borrowed of my brother for several circuits, without getting 
adequate remuneration." Whereas it is proved by the circuit 
records that he regularly attended the assizes in the four 
northern counties from the time when he first joined it, and 
that he could only have been absent one spring circuit from 
York and Lancaster, where, as yet, he was little known. In 
reference to his obscurity there, the Eeverend Sydney Smith, 
in an assize sermon delivered in York Cathedral, in 1824, 
from the text, "And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up and 
tempted him,"'' — for the encouragement of the desponding 
young barristers, said "Fifty years ago, the perBon at the 
head of his profession, the greatest lawyer now in England, 
perhaps in. lie world, stood in this church on such an occasion 

P Luke z, 20. 


as the present, as obscure, as unknoTsm, and as much doubting 
of his future prospects, as the humblest individual of the pro- 
fession here present." But in the four northern counties he 
had almost from his first start a good share of business. It is 
curious to think that this chiefly, consisted in defending pri- 
soners in the Crown Court — or what is jocularly called in the 
profession the " rope-walk." But he had not the common 
reputation of lawyers who are eminent in this line, — that they 
greatly assist in the execution of the criminal law by hanging 
their clients ; — ^instead of getting out the truth by indiscreet 
cross-examinations, he was wont to say that he had been a 
most effective advocate for prisoners, as he had seldom put a 
question to a prosecutor. He told this story to illustrate his 
practice : " I was counsel for a highwayman at Durham, who 
was certainly guilty, but against whom no sufficient case was 
made out by legal evidence : I would not aid the prosecution 
by cross-examination, and, remaining quiet, my client was 
acquitted and discharged. Sitting in my lodgings in the 
evening, a very ill-looking fellow, whose face I had seen be- 
fore, but could not at first recollect where — ^for he had changed 
his dress — burst in, my clerk being absent — and said, ' Law- 
yer Scott, you owe me two guineas. You were my counsellor 
to-day, and you did nothing for me. I am, therefore, come to 
have my fee back again: and my fee I will have.' I seized 
the poker, and said, 'Sirrah, although you escaped to-day, 
when you deserved to be hanged, you shaU be hanged to-mor- 
row for attempting to rob me, unless you instantly depart.' 
At that moment my clerk luckily came in, and the highway- 
man slunk off, or I am not sure that he would not have carried 
away with him not only his own fee, but aU. the fees I had 
received on the circuit." 

He had for some time succeeded so much better in the 
country than in London, that he again seriously meditated 
becoming " a provincial." I believe that, if there had not 
been a speedy turn in his metropolitan practice, he would 
have carried it into effect; and, considering the important 
part he played diiring the King's illnesses, and on the -dissolu- 
tion of several administrations, who can tell how the history 
of the country might have been changed if he had been only 
Eecorder of Newcastle, instead of being Lord High Chan- 
cellor of Great Britain ? 

But his extraordinary merit as a lawyer was now about to 
be disclosed to all the world ; and from this time his rise was 


rapid and steady. He had only one brief before Lord Chan 
cellor Baihurst, who was then entirely under the dominion 
of Thnrlow, the Attorney-General. After Thurlow and Wed- 
derbum had argued the case at considerable length for oppose 
ing parties, between whom it was supposed to lie, and Lord 
Bathurst had intimated a strong opinion in favour of Thur- 
low's client, — Scott, a very young man, and wholly unknown, 
appeared as counsel for a third party. The Chancellor was 
disposed (though with much courtesy) to conclude that the 
young counsel could not cast much light upon the contro- 
versy. StUl he suffered him to speak, — but without iadicatiag 
any symptom of being convinced — when Thurlow rose, and, 
in a very decided tone, exclaimed, " My Lord, Mx. Scott is 
right ; " and dictated a decree accordingly.'' 

The first reported case in which he seems to have been 
employed, in the Court of Chancery was Green v. Howard,' 
in which he was junior to Mr. Ambler and Mr. Maddocks, 
and in vain tried to persuade Lord Thurlow, who had lately 
succeeded to the Great Seal, that a bequest to the testator's 
" relations " would extend beyond that class of relations who, 
had he died intestate, would have taken under the " Statute 
of Distributions." His argument on this occasion, though 
badly reported, seems to have been very creditable to him. 

But his fortune was made by Ahroyd v. Smithson.' Not 
more than three weeks before his death, he gave the fol- 
lowing very interesting account of that case to Mr. Farrer, 
who was dining with him, and put a question to him respect- 
ing it : — 

'' Come, helpyourself to a glass of Newcastle port, and gjveme a little. 
You must kbow that the testator in that cause had directed, his real es^ 
tates to be sold, and after paying his debts, and funeral and testamen- 
tary expenses, the residue of the money to be divided into fifteen parts 
— which he gave to fifteen persons whom he named in his will. One of 
those persons died in the testator's lifetime. A bill was filed by the 
next of kin, claiming, amongst other things, the lapsed share. A brief 
was given me to consent for the heir-at-law, upon the hearing of the 
cause. I had nothing then to do but to pore over this brief. I went 
through all the cases in the books, and satisfied myself that lie lapsed 

'i This anecdote rests on Lort Eldon's own him, and that his client wonld have heen put 

Jinthority.— Sir Vicary Gibba told me, that to the expense of correcting the Judge's 

on the Western Circuit, when counsel for the error. 

plaintiff, Baron Graham was for deciding in ' 6th Feb. Ijt9. Br. Chancery Cases, (k 

his favour; but he insisted on being non- 31. 

suited, conscious that the law was against • lb., vol. i. p. 603. 


shsire was to be considered as real estate, and belonged to my client (the 
heir-at-law). The cause came on at the Eolls, before Sir Thomas 
Sewell. I told the solicitor, who sent me the brief, that I should consent 
for the heir-at-law, so far as regarded the due execution of the will, but 
that I must support the title of the heir to the one-fifteenth which had 
lapsed. Accordingly, I did argue it, and went through all the authori- 
ties. When Sir Thomas Sewell went out of Court, he asked the Regis- 
ter who that young man was. The Register told him it was Mr. Scott. 
' He has argued very well,' said Sir Thomas Sewell, ' but I cannot agree 
with him.' This the Register told me. He decreed against my client. 
The cause having been carried, by appeal, to the Lord Chancellor 
Thurlow, a guinea brief was again brought to me to consent. I told my 
client, if he meant by ' consent ' to give up the claim of the heir to the 
lapsed share, he must take his brief elsewhere, for I would not hold it 
without arguing that point. He said something about young men 
being obstinate, but that I must do as I thought right. You see the 
lucky thing was, there being two other parties, and, the disappointed one 
not being content, there was an appeal to Lord Thurlow. — la the mean 
while they had written to Mr. Jolmston, Recorder of York, guardian to 
the young heir-at-law, and a clever man, but his answer was, ' Do not 
send good money after bad : let Mr. Scott have a guinef\ to give consent ; 
and if he "will argue, why, let him do so, but give him no more.' So I 
went into Court, and when Lord Thurlow asked who was to appear 
for the heir-at-law, I rose, and said modestly, ' that I was ; and as I 
could not but think (with much deference to the Master of the Rolls, for 
I might be wrong) that my client had the right to the property, 
if his Lordship would give me leave I would argue it.' — It was rather 
arduous for me to rise against all the eminent counsel. I do not say 
that their opinions were against me, but they were employed against me. 
However, 1 argued that the testator had ordered this fifteenth share of 
the property to be converted into personal property, for the benefit of 
one particular individual, and that therefore he never contemplated its 
coming into possession of either the next of kin, or the residuary legatee ; 
but, being land, at the death of the individual it came to the heir-at-law. 
— ^Well, Thurlow took three days to consider, and then delivered his 
judgment in accordance with my speech, and that speech is in print, and 
has decided all similar questions ever since. — As I left the Hall, a re- 
spectable solicitor of the name of Forster came up, and touched me on 
the shoulder, and said, ' Young man, your bread and butter is cut for 
life,' or 'You have cut your bread and butter.' — But the story otAkroyd 
Y. ■kmithson does not stop there. In the Chancellor's Court of Lancaster, 
where Dunning (Lord Ashburton) was Chancellor, a brief was given me 
in a cause in which the interest of my client would oblige me to sup- 
port, by argument, the reverse of that which had been decided by the 
decree in Ahroyd v. Smithson. When I had stated to the Court the 
point I was going to argue, Dunning said, ' Sit down, young man.' — 
As I did not immediately comply, he repeated, ' Sit down. Sir, I won't 
^ear you.' — I then sat down. Dunning said, ' I believe your name is 


Scott, Sir.' — ^I said it was. Upon which Dunning went on:— 'Mr. 
Scott, did not you argue that case of Akroyd v. Smithson ? ' — I said that 
I did argue it. — Dunning then said, ' Mr. Scott, I have read your argu- 
ment in that case of Akroyd v. Smithson, and I defy you, or any man 
in England, to answer it. I won't hear you.' " ' 

Mr. Scott's argument in Ahroyd v. Smithson made a great 
sensation in Westminster Hall, and, in the words of Lord 
Byron, " next day lie awoke and found Limself famous," — 
althongli from th.e nature of the subject the iclat could not 
be compared with that acquired nearly about the same time 
by Erskine as counsel for Captain Baillie. But erroneous 
accounts have been given of its immediaie consequences. 
Several writers have said that Lord Thurlow immediately 
offered him a Mastership in Chancery. Such an offer would 
have been gladly accepted, but was never made. The fulfil- 
ment of the promise of a Commissionership of Bankrupts was 
still in vain expected, and the Chancellor being some years 
afterwards interrogated on this subject, said that "from his 
high opinion of Scott he had not given him the appointment, 
as it might have been his ruin." ° Again, it is said that not 
long afterwards an offer was made to him of the Eecordership 
of Newcastle, and that, having accepted it, he caused a house 
to be engaged for him there ; but Mr. W. S. Surtees has satis- 
factorily proved that he never was Recorder of Newcastle, 
and that no offer of that oiflce could ever have been made to 
him. The story of the residence must have originated from 
the circumstance of his having actually, in 1777, engaged the 
house which he assigned over to his brother Henry.' 

The year 1780 continued a very lucky one for him. On the 
dissolution of Parliament, Mr. Bowes being returned, with Sir 
Matthew White Ridley, for Newcastle, there was a petition 
against them by Mr. Delaval, the unsuccessful candidate ; and 
— Mr. Scott being their counsel, with Jack Lee — after the 
committee had sat many days, and many fees were received, 
the petition was voted " frivolous and vexatious." 

He was about this time in serious peril from Lord George 

» Tvrtas, vol. i. oh. vi. What he meant was, that he had learned 

« Lord Eldon said,—" I have now a letter (a clear truth) that I was by nature very 

in which Lord Thurlow promised me a Com- indolent, and it was only want that conld 

missionership of Bankruptcy when it would malEe me industrious." This could only 

have been most valuable to me in point of have been meant as a bantering apolc^ ibi 

Income ; he never gave it me, and he always a broken promise, 

laid it was a favour to me to withhold It. x gmtees, ch. li. 


Gordon's mobs, and, what was worse, Mrs. Scott was exposed 
to insult — when he was taking her for safety to tlie Temple, 
which was fortified. I observe that the lawyers all pretended 
to great prowess in this emergency. We have seen Erskine's 
boasting narrative of his putting the insurgents to rout with a 
piece of artillery. Lord Eldon, after stating how bis wife's 
hat was lost, and every article of her dress was torn, proceeded 
with much quiet humour : " We youngsters at the Temple 
determined that we would not remain inactive during such 
times ; so we introduced ourselves into a troop to assist the 
military. We armed ourselves as well as we could, and the 
next morning we drew up in the court, ready to follow out a 
troop of soldiers who were there on guard. When, however, 
the soldiers had passed through the gate, it was suddenly shut 
in our faces, and the officer in command shouted from the 
other side, ' Gentlemen, I am much obliged to you for your 
iutended assistance, but I do not choose to allow my soldiers 
to be shot ; so I have ordered you to be locked in,' — and away 
he galloped." 

The following year saw Mr. Scott fully established in 
business, and an uninterrupted tide of prosperity 
flowed in upon him for the rest of his life. Fond of " ' 
making people stare when he referred, in his old age, to his 
early history, he would sometimes ascribe all his success to 
the accident of being employed as counsel before the Clitheroe 
election committee — ^which he thus narrated : — 

" Mr. (afterwards Lord) Curzon, and four or five gentlemen, came to 
my door and woke me, and when I inquired what they wanted, they 
stated that the Clitheroe election case wa.s to come on, that morning at 
ten o'clock, before a committee of the House of Commons ; that Mr. 
Cooper had written to say he was detained at Oxford by illness, and 
could not arrive to lead the cause ; and that Mr. Hardinge, the next 
counsel, refused to do so, because he was not prepared. ' Well, gentle- 
men,' said I, ' what do you expect me to do, that you are here ? ' They 
answered, ' they did not know what to expect or to do, for the cause 
must come on at ten o'clock, and they were totally unprepared, and had 
been recommended to me as a young and promising counsel.' . I an- 
swered, ' 1 will tell you what I can do ; I can undertake to make a dry 
statement of facts, if that will content you, gentlemen, but more I can- 
not do, for I have no time to make myself acquainted with the law.' 
They said that must do ; so I begged they would go down stairs and let 
me get up as fast as I could. Well, I did state the facts, and the cause 
went on for fifteen days. It found me poor enough, but I began to be 
rich before it was done : they left me fifty guineas at the beginning ; 


then there were ten guineas every day, and five guineas every evening 
for a consultation — ^more money than I could count. But, better stiU, 
the length of the cause gave me time to make myself thoroughly ac- 
quainted with the law. — On the morning on which the counsel for the 
petitioner was to reply, Hardinge came into the committee-room, mean- 
ing to reply. I saw the members of the committee put their heads to- 
gether and then one of them said, ' Mr. Hardinge, Mr. Scott opened 
this case, and has attended it throughout, and the committee think, that, 
if he hkes to reply, he ought to do so : Mr. Scott, would you like to 
reply ? ' — 1 answered ' that I would do my best.' I began my speech 
with a very bad joke. You must know that the leading counsel on the 
other side, Douglas, afterwards Lord Glenbeme, had made one of the 
longest speeches ever known before a committee, and had argued that 
the borough of Clitheroe was not a borough by prescription, for it had its 
origin within the memory of man. I began by saying, ' I will prove to 
the committee by the best evidence, that the borough of Clitheroe is a 
borough by prescription ; that it had its origin before the memory of 
man. My learned friend will admit the commencement of this borough 
was before the commencement of his speech : but the commencement of 
his speech is beyond the memory of man : therefore the borough of 
Clitheroe must have commenced before the memory of man.' We were 
beaten in the committee by one vote. After this speech, Mansfield, 
afterwards Sir James Mansfield, came up to me in Westminster Hall, 
and said he heard that I was going to leave London, but strongly ad- 
vised me to remain in London. I told him that I could not, that I had 
taken a house in Newcastle, that I had an increasing family, in short, 
that I was compelled to quit London. Afterwards Wilson came to me 
and pressed me in the same manner to remain in London, adding what 
was very kind, ' that he would insure me 4:001. the next year.' I ^ave 
him the same answer as I had given Mansfield. However, I did remain 
in London, and lived to make Mansfield Chief Justice of the Common 
Pleas, and Wilson a Puisne Judge." ' 

This narrative is chargeable with several inaccuracies 
whicii show that Lord Eldon's senile reminiscences of his 
youth are to be taken with grains of allowance. How the 
counsel should have allowed the committee to encroach on the 
privileges of the Bar, and dictate who should reply, is rather 
incredible ; and I cannot help suspecting that the argument 
to prove the antiquity of the borough of Clitheroe had been 
premeditated, instead of being improvised. But if he asserted 
to Sir James Mansfield and Mr. Wilson that a house was then 
taken for him at Newcastle, this was " a white lye." His 
supposed determination then to retire from London, on ac- 
count of professional disappointments and pecuniary embar- 
rassment, must have been pure invention, as his fortune had 

f Iwiss, I. SJ. 

A.D. 1777-82. A LEADER ON THE CIRCUIT. 15? 

been made, more than a year before, by Akroyd v. Smithson, 
— and ("best of all ! ) Wilson, — having been created a Judge 
of the Court of Common Pleas by Lord Thurlow, — died in 
the year 1793, eight years before Lord Eldon was Chancellor ! 

It is likewise said, that he first got into the lead of civil 
causes on the circuit by lucky hits. I am glad that ji.d. utv— 
the account very generally circulated of his earliest ^■"''• 
triumph in the North is not in the " Anecdote Book," as it must 
be fabulous. " He was retained as junior counsel in an action 
of assault by a Mr. Termor against a Miss Saustem, an elderly 
maiden lady. His leader was absent ; and, having addressed the 
jury, he proved by witnesses, that, the parties playing at whist, 
high words arose between them, — whereupon the defendant 
threw her cards at the plaintiff, which knocked him down. The 
defendant's counsel argued, ' that there was a fatal variance 
between the allegata and probata, — the declaration stating that 
the defendant assaulted the plaintiff with her hand, — whereas 
the assault was committed by pieces of pasteboard converted into 
missiles.' The plaintiff was about to be nonsuited, when 
Mr. Scott insisted 'that the proofs substantially supported 
the averment in the declaration of an assault committed 
with the hand; for that, in the common parlance of the card- 
table, which alone ought to be regarded in such a case, 
the ' hand ' means the ' hand of cards,' — and therefore that 
Miss Saustem, having thrown her cards in Mr. Fermor's face, 
had clearly assaulted the plaintiif with her hand.'' The Judge 
then overruled the objection, and the jury found a verdict for 
the plaintiff, with large damages." ' 

At times he would himself ascribe his success on the circuit 
to his having gained a verdict in a great mining cause against 
the summing up of BuUer. " When I went to the ball, that 
evening," he would boast, " I was received with op^ arms 
by every one. Oh ! my fame was established ; I really think 
I might have married half the pretty girls in the room that 
night. Never was a man so courted ! " 

Then he would relate how, after going seven years to Car- 
lisle without any business, he had a guinea brief delivered to 
him by accident, for the defendant in an assault case, where, 
the plaintiff's attorney's name being Hobson, he made a very 
obviouB and bad joke about " Hobson's choice," and induced 
the jury to give one penny damages. Thus he concluded his 
narrative : " When I record that, at the same assizes, I re- 

' Last edition of Joe Miller's " Jest Book." 

1 60 LOED ELDON. Chap. CXCIIl. 

ceived seventy pjuineas for this joke — for briefs came in 
rapidly — I record a fact, whicli proves that a lawyer may 
hegin to acquire wealth by a little pleasantry, who might 
long wait before professional knowledge introduced him into 

But he would assert, that he was " first brought into notice 
on the circuit by breaking the 2'en Commandments," — thus ex- 
plaining the enigma : — " I was counsel in a cause, the fate of 
which depended on our being able to make out who was the 
founder of an ancient chapel. I went to view it. There was 
nothing to be observed that gave any indication of its date or 
history. However, I observed that the Ten Commandments 
were written on some old plaster, which, from its position, 
I conjectured might cover an arch. Acting on this, I bribed 
the clerk with five shillings, to allow me to chip away a part 
of the plaster ; and, after two or three attempts, I found the 
key-stone of an arch, on which were engraved the arms of an 
ancestor of one of' the parties. This evidence decided the 
cause ; and I ever afterwards had reason to remember with 
much satisfaction my having, on that occasion, broken the Ten 

I may now safely dismiss the notion of his having made 
his fortune by any one great speech. Erskine certainly 
was miraculously, as it were, raised at once to the very 
top of. his profession by his defence of Captain Baillie ; but 
I can testify that there has been no such case for the 
last forty years, — I believe there have been very few such 
instances in any age, — and it is quite certain that Scott got 
on by the gradual discovery of his learning, ability, and, use- 

While he attended most diligently to the interests of his 
clients, he entered with much spirit into all the gamesome 
proceedings of his brethren at the Bar. In the Grand Courts 
held for the trial of mock offences "against the peace of our 
Lord the Junior," he acted a distinguished part,— insomuch 
that, in 1780, he was appointed Solicitor-General, and in 1781 
Attorney-General of the circuit, — being a terror to evil doers 
while he held these high offices, — and giving a foretaste of the 
activity with which he> prosecuted traitors and libellers when 
he became a law officer of the Crown." 

' There was a corresponding field of ambi- only reached the dignity of Cryer,— holding a 
tion open on my circuit— the Oxford ; but fire-shovel in my hand as the emblem of my 
according to the obscurity of my career, I ofSce. An epitaph was made for me, in the 


Northern Circuit stories, according to the custom of 
Northern Circuit men, constituted the staple of Lord Eldon's 
jocular talk as long as he lived. I will mention a few 
of those which he most frequently repeated. "While Sir 
Thomas Davenport, a very dull orator, was making a long 
speech at the York Assizes, a chimney-sweeper's hoy, who 
had climbed up to a dangerous place in front of a high 
gallery, having been put to sleep by him, fell down, and was 
killed. Whereupon 1, being then Attorney-General of the 
circuit, indicted Sir Thomas in our Grand Court *" for the 
murder of the boy ; and the indictment (according to the 
rule of law which requires that the weapon shall be de- 
scribed, and that there shall be an averment of its value, or 
that it is of no value °) alleged that the murder was committed 
with ' a certain blunt instrument of no value called a long 


" When I first went the Northern Circuit, I employed my 
time, having no business of my own, in attending to the 
manner in which the leading counsel did their business. I 
left Lancaster at the end of a circuit, with my friend Jack 
Lee, at that period a leader upon the circuit. We supped and 
slept at Kirkby Lonsdale, or Kirkby Stephen. After supper I 
said to him, ' I have observed that throughout circuit, in all 
causes in which you are concerned, good, bad, indifferent, 
whatever their nature was, you equally exerted yourself to 
the uttermost to gain verdicts, stating evidence and quoting 
cases, as such statement and quotation should give you a 
chance of success, the evidence and the cases not being stated 
clearly, or quoted with a strict attention to accuracy and to 
fair and just representation. Can that,' said I, ' Lee, be 
right? Can it be justified ? ' — 'Oh, yes,' he said, 'undoubt- 
edly. Dr. Johnson has said that counsel were at liberty to 
state, as the patties themselves would state, what it was most 
for their interest to state.' After some interval, and when he 
had had his evening bowl of milk punch and two or three 
pipes of tobacco, he suddenly said, ' Come, Master Scott, let 
us go to bed. I have been thinking upon the question that 

Datnral expectation that I should die in this the High Jinks fashion, to bring moclc 
oflBce, — thus diaritably concluding : charges against the mem)}ers. 

..TT r.,. f,. <. 1 r.™ ° 1''''' ™"= "'"' " ^'ew to the deodand 

Buttw ,?e'h„"Je L'^fsreSEigher.'. -* T<^^^^ '" "« T; ««' "^ ^ "'il whicU 

1 haa xne honour to introduce and carry 
o rhe Grand Court is holden with a view through Parliament in the year 1846, all deq^' 
to the discipline of the Bar, but chiefly in dunds were abolisheil. 



you asked me, and I am not quite so sure that the conduct you 
represented will bring a man peace at the last.' " 

" Jack Lee, though a Yorkshireman, had attended the York 
Assizes several years ^vithout a brief. One day after dinner 
he said, ' I find a prophet has no honour in his own country, 
and as I have never yet received a single guinea at this place, 
I will shake the dust off my feet — ^leave it this very night, and 
never be seen in this room again.' Davenport and Wedder- 
burn thereupon drew up a brief which they entitled Ebx v. 
Inhabitants of Hum-town, and which in due form gave 
instructions in a prosecution for not repairing a road within 
the parish leading from Goose-green to CrackskuU-common. 
This they sent to Lee's lodgings, with a guinea as the fee. 
In the evening the barristers assembled as usual in the 
circuit-room to sup and play at cards, and the discontented 
Yorkshireman appearing among them, Wedderbum said, ' Bless 
me, Lee, I thought you were gone ! ' ' Well,' said Jack, ' it 
is very extraordinary : I was just going, I was shaking the 
dust of this place off my feet as an abominable place that I 
never would see again, when, lo and behold, a brief is brought 
to me and I must stay.' ' Well,' said Davenport, ' in what 
cause may it be?' Lee answered, 'In the King v. Hum- 
town.' ' Oh dear,' cried Davenport, ' they brought me a brief 
in that case with a bad guinea, and I would not take it. I 
dare say they have given you the bad guinea." ' I have it in 
my pocket,' said Lee ; ' here it is.' Davenport, looking at it, 
said, ' Yes, the very same guinea,' and put it in his pocket. 
They then told him the joke they had practised upon him, 
that they might not lose the pleasure of his company. 
Although a good-natured man, he never forgave this joke, 
although it kept him at York, where, in a few years after, he 
led every cause." 

As a pendant to this. Lord Eldon used to" relate a story 
which he had actually thus recorded in his " Anecdote Book," 
but for which I think there could only have been a slight 
foundation of fact. " At an assizes at Lancaster we found Dr. 
Johnson's friend. Jemmy Boswell, lying upon the pavement 
— inebriated. We subscribed at supper a guinea for him, and 
half a crown for his clerk, and sent him, when he waked next 
morning, a brief with instructions to move for what we de- 
nominated the writ of ' Quare adh»sit pavimento,' with ob- 
servations duly calculated to induce him to think that it 
required great learning to explain the necessity of granting it. 


to the Judge before whom he was to move. Boswell sent all 
round the town to attorneys for books that might enable 
him to distinguish himself — ^but in vain. He moved, how- 
ever, for the writ, making the best use he could of the 
observations in the brief. The Judge was perfectly asto- 
nished, and the audience amazed. — The Judge said, ' I never 
heard of such a writ — what can it be tibat adheres pam- 
■mento ? — Are any of you gentlemen at the Bar able to explain 
this ? ' The Bar laughed. At last one of them said, ' My 
Lord, Mr. Boswell last night adhcesit pavimento. There was no 
moving him for some time. At last he was carried to bed, 
and he has been dreaming about himself and the pavement.' " '' 
— But Jemmy Boswell, who has written one of the most en- 
tertaining and instructive books in the English language, and 
had often pleaded causes of great importance in the Court of 
Session, and at the bar of the House of Lords, could not by 
possibility have been taken in by such a palpable hoax. The 
scene here described could not have been acted before the 
King's Judges, but must be a reminiscence of something 
which had taken place in the Grand Court when the barristers 
were sitting in High Jinks foribus clausis. 

Lord Eldon is said to have given this amusing account of a 
trial at York arising out of a horse-race : " One of the condi- 
tions was, that ' each horse should be ridden by a gentleman.' 
In an action for the stakes, the question arose, ' whether the 
plaintiff was a gentleman or not ? ' After much evidence and 
oratory on both sides, the Judge thus summed up : ' Gentle- 
men of the Jury, when I see you in that box I call you 
gentlemen, for I know you are such there ; but out of that box 
I do not know what may be the requisites that constitute a 
gentleman ; therefore I can give you no direction, except that 
you will consider of your verdict.' The jury found for the 
defendant. Next morning the plaintiff challenged both Law 
and me, who were conducting the cause against himi, for 
having said that he was no gentleman. We sent him this 
answer, ' that we could not think of fighting one who had 
been found no gentleman by the solemn verdict of twelve of 
his countrymen.' " " 

<* Twiss, vol. i. ch. vi. big, and threatened to call ont Mr. Law, who 

® Twias, (vol. 1. ch. vl.) on the authority of led the cause, and could alone have said the 

Mrs. Foster. An article in the " Law Re- offensive words. That gallant individual 

view" (No. II. p. 279), attributed to Lord put off his journey to Durham for half a day, 

Brougham, saya, — " This is a great mistake, and walljed about, booted and spurred, before 

The person in qnestion blustered and talked the coffee-house, the most public place in 

M i^ 


He once had a narrow escape from a watery grave. From 
Ulveretone to Lancaster therp is a short but very dan- 
gerous cut across the sands, and, being in a hurry, he was 
going to take it at the time of greatest peril, — when the 
tide was beginning to flow. But as he was setting off he 
asked the landlord whether any persons were ever lost in 
going to Lancaster by the sea-shore. "No, no," was the 
answer, " I think nobody has ever been lost — they have all 
been found at low water." ' 

To illustrate the unreasonable complaints against public 
functionaries, he would relate that on the circuit, stopping to 
bait at a place where many years before Mr. Moises had been 
curate, he had the curiosity to ask the landlord of tJie inn 
whether he remembered him? " Yes," answered he with an 
oath, " I well remember him. I have had reason enough to 
remember him. It was the worst day this parish ever saw 
that brought him here." The lawyer, afraid of hearing some- 
thing hard on the character of his old master, said, with some 
solemnity, " Mr. Moises, I am certain, was a most respectable 
man." " That may be," cried Boniface, " but he married me 
to the worst wife that ever man was plagued with." " Oh ! is 
that all ? that was your own fault ; she was your own choice, 
not Mr. Moises'." "Yes," concluded he, unconvinced — "but 
I could not have been married if there had not been a parson 
to marry us." 

Lord Eldon had not quite as high a respect for " trial by 
jury " as Lord Erskine. He said, " I remember Mr. Justice 
Gould trying a cause at York, and when he had proceeded for 
about two hours, he observed, ' Here are only eleven jury- 
men ; where is the twelfth ? ' ' Please you, my Lord,' said one 
of the eleven, ' he is gone away about some business, but he 
has left his verdict with me.'"^ — Once, when leaving New- 
York, ready to repel force, 11 offered, by f There is an ancient office of " Gnide 
force— because personal chastisement had across Ulverstone Sands," -which is in the gift 
also been threatened. No message was sent, of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, 
and no attempt was made to provoke a breach and to which, upon a vacancy, I have lately 
of the peace. It is very possible Lord Eldon appointed ; so that I hope to hear no more of 
may have said, and Lord EUenborough too, " bodies being found at Urn uater." 
that they were not bound to treat one in such B This, aft«r all, is pretty much like voting 
I predicament as a gentleman, and hence the by proxy in a certain deliberative assembly ; 
itory has arisen in the lady's mind. The although there the fiction is, that the peer 
fact was as well known on the Northern Cir- holding the proxy votes according to his own 
cuit as was the answer of a witness to a conscience ; and holding two proxies, if he 
question, whether the party bad a right by votes on opposite sides (as he may), he ia 
nis circumstances to keep a pack of fox- supposed suddenly to have changed hil 
Qounds; 'No more right than 1 to keep a opinion, 
pack of archbishops.' " 

A.D. 1782-83. HIS SILK GOWN. 1C5 

castle, after a very successful assize, a farmer rode up to him, 
and said, " Well, lawyer Scott, I was glad that you carried 
the day so often ; and if I had had my way, you should nevei 
once have been heaten. I was foreman of the jury, and you 
were sure of my vote, for you are my countryman, and we are 
proud of you." 

Mr. Scott was now very prosperous. His " Opinions " con- 
tained so many "ifs,"and "buts," and "thoughs," 
that the solicitors seldom laid oases before him, — 
while Kenyon, giving direct answers which could be acted 
upon, was making, by case-answering alone, 3000Z. a year. 
He was, however, a zealous and not too scrupulous advocate, 
and from his circuit and town practice he began to count a 
yearly saving, which at length accumulated into a princely 
fortune. StUl he was fond of grumbling. Giving an account 
of a sinecure of 4:001. a year, which his brother William had 
got in Doctors' Commons, the future Chancellor despondingly 
adds, "As to your humble sei-vant, I have the younger 
brother's portion, a life of drudgery; our part of the pro- 
fession has no places for young men, and it will wear me otit 
before I cease to be such." 

To relieve his melancholy at this period of his career, 
although he despised the sweetest warblings of Italian song, 
he would go on a Saturday night to witness the triumph of 
the histrionic art at Drury Lane Theatre. " You will see,"' says 
he, in a letter to a friend, " the papers are full of accounts of a 
Mrs. Sidons,'' a new actress. She is beyond all idea capital. 1 
never saw an actress before. In my notion of just affecting action 
and elocution, she beats our deceased Eoscius all to nothing."' 
— But excitement more congenial to him was at hand. 

Though he wore a stuff gown, he was rapidly getting into 
the lead, and was throwing worthy plodders, who June 4, 
were his seniors, out of business. Therefore a silk "^^• 
gown was offered to him without solicitation. The moving 
cause to the promotion which now took place was the wish 
to advance Erskine, who had lately so much astonished the 
world by his eloquence, and was a special favourite with the 
reigning Administration. An attempt was made to place him 
at the head of the batch ; but Mr. Scott, who was his senior, 
resolutely resisted this arrangement, and obtained a patent 
of precedence, which preserved his relative rank among those 
who took their places within the bar along with him.'' 

h Sic. i SurtMB, p. 76. It Vide mUe. Vol VIII., Ch. CLXXVII 1 

1(56 LORD ELDON. Chap. C2C1V. 



Hitherto tlie successful lawyer had cautiously avoided mixing 
at all in party politics. He was known to he a good 
Oxford Tory, of genuine Church-and-King principles, 
whicli he did not seek to disguise ; hut in the struggles 
between Lord North and the Whigs, or between the different 
sections of the Whigs, after . the death of Lord Eockingham, 
he had outwardly shown no interest — prudently devoting 
himself to his profession, without giving offence to any one. 
Corresponding with his brothers during the American war, he 
showed that he had a poor opinion of the Ministry, but thought 
much worse of Opposition. When the intelligence arrived of 
the surrender of General Burgoyne and his army, he wrote to 
Henry : " You could not be more deeply concerned for the fate 
of the gallant Burgoyne, than were your two brothers and 
your sister. We mingled our tears for two days together, 
being English folks of the old stamp, and retaining, in spite of 
modem patriotism, some affection and reverence for the name 
of Old England. All people whose hearts lie in the same 
dirfection are extremely concerned. It is totally unknown, 
even to themselves, what the Ministry will do : I think they 
want common sense and common spirit, as much as the 
minority wants common honesty.!' He highly approved the 
sentiments, and he implicitly followed the advice, soim after 
communicated to him in a letter from Sir William : "For my 
own part, I am sick of politics — there is so much folly on the 
part of Ministers, and so much villany on the other side, under 
the cloak of patriotism, that an honest man has nothing to do 
but to lament the fate of his country, and butter his own 
bread as well as he can. And I hope you take care to do so." 
Thus, in great perplexity, he expresses himself on the forma- 
tion of Lord Shelbume's Administration : " We seem here to 
think that Charles Fox can't get in again, and that Loitl 
Shelbume cannot keep in, and that Lord North may rule the 

A.1). 1783. M.P. FOU WEOllLY. 167 

roast again whenever he pleases. I like the language of Lord 
North, better than that of any other man or set of men in the 
House, upon the subject of peace : all parties but his seem to 
be struggling who can give up most of the old rights of Old 

However, when the " inglorious peace " had been censured 
by a vote of the House of Commons, and the " Coali- 
tion " had stormed tjie royal closet. Lord Thurlow, ^'°' "^^' 
leading the Opposition, with the zealous aid of the King, 
urged Mr. Scott to enlist as a recruit under his banner, — 
arguing that, on public grounds, the Crown ought to be sup- 
ported, — and pointing out the ambitious prospects which must 
open to him if he became a " King's friend," as soon as his 
Majesty should be rescued from the bondage to which his 
Majesty had been reduced, biit which his Majesty was deter- 
mined not to bear. A regard for principle and for personal 
advantage recommended the proposal to one so much attached 
to the King and to himself, — and he yielded. The ' ex- 
Chancellor undertook to procure him a seat in the House of 
Commons, and speedily succeeded through Lord Weymouth, 
owner of the borough of Weobly, — now, alas ! disfranchised." 
A stipulation being easily made, that "his conduct in parlia- 
ment should be entirely independent of Lord Weymouth's 
political opinions," — ^which corresponded exactly with his 
own, — he posted down to Weobly with the conge ^e'lire in his 
pocket, and, according to ancient custom, he proceeded to the 
house that contained the prettiest girl in the place, and began 
his canvass by giving her a kiss. At the hustings, the cere- 
mony of election was to have been quietly gone through as 
usual, but he was addressed by a veiy old man, who said, 
with a true Herefordshire accent, " We hear how as you be a 
la'er, and if so be, you ought to tip us a speech — a thing not 
heard in Weobly this thirty year ; and the more especially as 
Lord Surey has been telling the folks at Hereford as you be a 
Newcastle-upon-Tyne gentleman, sent down by a peer, and 
not having no connection with this here place." Lord Eldon 
gave the following good-humoured account of the fresh effort 

™ I have already pointed out,* and 1 will on variouB occasioQB in Lord Eldon's old age 

not again dwell upon, the palpable misre- his memory had failed him, or he conceived 

presentation of Lord Eldon respecting Fox'b himself juBtifled in using considerable liber 

wish to have had Thurlow for Chancellor to ties with truth. 
the Coalition Ministry.f 1 must say, that 

• Life of Lord Thurlow, Vol. VIL, Ch. CLVIIL t Twiss, i. 100. 


he was driven to make as a mob orator — when he seems to 
liave succeeded much better than in his native town. 

" 1 got upon a heap of stones, and made them as good a speech upon 
politics in general as I could, and it had either the merit or demerit of 
being a long one. My audience liked it, on account, among other 
things, of its length. I concluded by drawing their attention to Lord 
Surrey's speech. I. admitted that I was unknown to them. I said that 
I had explained my public piinciples, and how I meant to act in Par- 
liament; that I should do all I had promised; and that, though then 
unknown to them, I hoped I should entitle myself to more of their con- 
fidence and regard than I could have claimed, if, being the son of the 
first Duke in England, I had held myself out as a reformer whilst 
riding, as the Earl of Surrey rode, into the first town of the county, 
drunk, upon a cider cask, and talking, in that state, of ' reform.' My 
audience liked the speech, and I ended, as i had begun, by kissing the 
prettiest girl in the place ; — ^very pleasant, indeed. Lord Surrey had 
often been my client, even at thaX early period of my life. He had 
heard of, or read my speech ; and, when 1 met him afterwards in town, 
he good-humouiedly said, ' I have had enough of meddling with you ; 
I shall trouble you no more.' " 

Of course he was returned without opposition. He took his 
seat before the prorogation of Parliament, but reserved his 
maiden speeehwtill the ensuing session. 

Then came the most deadly struggle recorded in our party 
annals. As I have already had occasion to state, Scott and 
Erskine, the hopes of the opposite parties, spoke for the first 
time in the debate on Fox's India Bill, — and both egregiously 
failed." The Honourable Member for Weobly very charac- 
teristically required " more time to make up his mind upon 
the measure," but "was nevertheless clear to say that it 
seemed to him rather of a dangerous tendency ; but he would 
not declare against it ; he would rather wait till he got more 
light thrown upon the subject ; and as he was attached to no 
particular party, he would then vote as justice seemed to 
direct. He meant hereafter to give an opinion upon the Bill ; 
he could assure the House he would form it elaborately, and 
when he gave it, it should be an honest one."° Mr. Fox 
good-naturedly paid a compliment to the new member's pro- 
fessional reputation, but " could not refrain from remarking 
on his inconsistency ; for, after stating the necessity for time 
to deliberate on the Bill, he had immediately, without any 
opportunity for deliberation, ventured to pronounce a decision 
against it, and with a good deal of ppsitiveness." 

° See Life of Erekine, Vol. VIII. Ch. CLXVIII. » 23 Pari. Hist 1239. 

A.D. 1783. HIS "MEDLEY" SPEECH. 169 

To repair his misfortune, Scott formed the most insane 
scheme that ever entered the mind of a sensible man. He 
resolved, in the debate on the third reading of the Bill, to be 
revenged on Fox, by imitating the manner of Sheridan, and 
becoming witty and saroastic. Accordingly, from a volume 
of Elegant Extracts, a new edition of Joe Miller, and the 
Bible, he crammed himself with quotations, jokes, and texts, 
as laboriously as if he had been preparing to argue a case upon 
a contingent remainder before the twelve Judges. He began 
however, more suo, by alluding to certain insinuations, " that 
agreeably to the common conduct of lawyers, he would not 
scruple to espouse any cause which he shotdd be paid to 
defend. In the warmest terms he reprobated such unworthy 
imputations : he asserted the reluctance of his nature to such 
practices, and he declared that on this occasion he considered 
it his duty to deliver his sentiments — the solemn sentiments 
of his heart and conscience." Then, without having at all 
prepared his audience for the transition, he came to his fcccetice, 
and, alluding to the popular caricature upon Mr. Fox as 
" Carlo Khan," he affected to speak very courteously of the 
Whig chief, and observed, " As Brutus said of Csesar — 

. . . ■ he would be crown'd ! 
How that might change his nature, — there's the question.' " 

In a moment the orator plunged into Scripture, saying, " It 
was an aggravation of the affliction that the cause of it should 
originate with one to whom the nation had so long looked up ; 
a wound from him was doubly painful. Like Joab, he gave 
the shake of friendship, but the other hand held a dagger 
with which he despatched the Constitution." He next pulled 
a New Testament from his pocket ; and, after a proper apology 
for again alluding to any thing recorded in sacred writ, read 
some verses in different chapters of the book of Eevelation, 
which seemed to express the intended innovations, in the 
affairs of the East India Company : " And I stood upon the 
sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise out of the sea, having 
seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns. 
And they worshipped the di-agon which gave power to the 
beast ; and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like 
unto the beast ? Who is able to make war with him? And 
there was given to him a mouth speaking great things ; and 
power was given unto him to continue forty and two months." 
[" Here," said Mr. Scott, " I believe there is a mistake of six 


months."''] " And he causeth all, both small and great, rich 
and poor, to receive a m^rk in their right hand, or in their 
forehead." [Here places, pensions, and peerages are clearly 
marked ont.] "And' he cried mightily with a strong voice, 
saying Babylon the Great " [plainly the East India Company] 
" is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, the hold 
of every foul spirit, and the cage of every unclean bird." 
Having at great length continued to read these prophecies, 
and to show their fulfilment, he came to Thucydides, where the 
Athenian ambassadors observe to the Lacedaemonian magis- 
trates, that " men are much more provoked by injustice l£an 
by violence, inasmuch as injustice coming as from an equal, 
has the appearance of dishonesty, while mere violence, pro- 
ceeding from one stronger, seems but the effect of inevitable 
necessity." Steering from grave to gay, and throwing in some 
Oxford puns, he anticipated that the new Kings, who were to 
supersede the Directors, might in their turn be pronounced 
inadequate to the government of so remote a country ; " and 
then," said he — 

'* de te 

Fabula narratur." 

He at last concluded by pathetically comparing the Directors 
of the Bast India Company to the wife of Othello, about to 
be murdered in her bed : "They cry out for some respite, — 
they plead, like Desdemona, ' Kill me to-morrow — let me live 
to-night — but half-an-hour.' When that prayer was rejected, 
a deed was done which was repented too late." "i 

The House seems to have listened with much amazement to 
this pedantic jumble of profane and scripturaj, humorous and 
pathetic, quotetions from the mouth of a lawyer. But he was 
the cause of wit in other men, and much merriment followed 
in allusions to him during the remainder of the debate. 
Sheridan, in particular, feeling that his province was invaded, 
is said to have been cruelly severe upon legal oratory : but, 
luckily for our order, all that the "Parliamentary History" 
records is, that " he cited, with most happy ease and correct- 
ness, passages from almost the same pages — which con- 
troverted these quotations, and told strongly for the Bill ; he 
quoted three more verses from the Eevelation, by which he 
metamorphosed the beast with seven heads with crowns on 
them, into seven angels clothed in pure and white linen." ' 

P The Bill was to be in force only for months. 1 24 ParL Hist. 33. 

three years, — thirti/'Six instead of forty-two ' II. 51 


Mr. Scott was sadly chagrined by the result of his attempt 
to be lively; and henceforth, reading the Bible only for 
spiritual edification, he renounced the other books which he 
had quoted, and all such trumpery, for the rest of his days. 
In his parliamentary efibrts he trusted thenceforward to legal 
learning, metaphysical subtlety, strong good sense, and fre- 
quent appeals to his conscience. He never acquired the fame 
of a good debater, but he sometimes spoke with considerable 
weight and effect, and he was a useful ally in both Houses of 

The Coalition Ministry being dissolved on the rejection of 
Fox's India Bill in the House of Lords, and Mr. Pitt being 
Prime Ministet, it was thought legal promotion was now open, 
to Mr. Scott; and it is believed that Lord Thurlow, on 
recovering the Great Seal, made an effort to have him made 
Solicitor-General. But Mr. Pitt insisted on appointing Pepper 
Arden, saying that " the member for Weobly, — for whom he 
professed much respect, notwithstanding his quotations, — must 
be contented to taie his turn in professional promotion after 
his seniors." 

Although the party to which Mr. Scott had attached him- 
self was, by a combination of lucky chances, and by the 
splendid talents of its chief, firmly possessed of power, he had 
been five years in Parliament before he attained office ; which 
ought to soften the discontent of young lawyers, who„.axe apt 
to think that they are ill-used, and to despond,' if they are not 
made law officers of the Crown, or Judges, as soon as they are 
returned to the House of Commons. During this interval he 
steadily supported the Government, although he once or twice 
followed a course which prudence, as well as conscience, 
recommends, — by showing that he could form an opinion of 
his own, and that, if not properly appreciated by the Minister, 
he might become a formidable antagonist. 

He gallantly combated the motion of the Coalitionists to 
stop the supplies when the King refused to dismiss Feb. 20, 
his Ministers on the Address of the House of Com- "^*- 
mons, saying, " I advise Ministers not to think of a resigna- 
tion : at present they have the people on their side, — many of 
whom, in petitions to the Throne, speak very different lan- 
guage from that of their representatives in this House." ' 

As the struggle proceeded, the King and the Premier 
becoming daily more popular, and public indignation being 

• 24 Pari. Hist. 616. 


Btrongly roused against Mr. Fox and Lord North, the time was 
come — which had been wisely "■bided" — for an appeal to the 
people. While this was expected, Mr. Scott wrote to his 
friends at Newcastle : "No dissolution to-day; life promised 
by Pitt till Monday, and no longer promised ; but whether to 
be enjoyed, doubtful. Both our Newcastle members voted 
against us last night; but the majority, you see, crumbles; 
and if it was not for North's myrmidons, which he bought with 
the Treasury money, we should have a complete triumph. I 
told the Chancellor to-day, that he ought to resign, or dismiss 
us.. But what will be done, or what will become of the coun- 
try, God knows. I have the offer of two other seats in Par- 
liament gratis ; but I shall keep my old one." ' ' 

Accordingly, on the general election, he was again returned 
for Weobly ; and, close as the borough was, he was obliged 
to show himself there — Cleaving his briefs and fees at the Lan- 
caster Assizes — which he said " he could ill afford," — although 
he must now have been in. the receipt of a large professional 

The first occasion of his speaking in the new Parliament 
was on the Westminster scrutiny — when he justly gained 
great credit. The election for this city, instead of being over 
in one day, according to our fashion, had lasted from the 
1st of April to the 16th of May, the day on which Parliament 
was summoned to meet ; and although Mr. Pox ought clearly 
to have been returned, the High Bailiff, from corrupt motives, 
at the request of Sir Cecil Wray, granted a scrutiny. This 
proceeding was most improperly countenanced by Mr. Pitt 
and the majority now at his command. But in the month of 
March in the following year the scrutiny had made little pro- 
gress, and there seemed a strong probability that before it was 
concluded Parliament would be dissolved. The case was so 
flagrant, that after several divisions, on which the numbers in 
favour of the Government gradually lessened, a resolution 
was carried, ordering the High Bailiff to make an immediate 
Feb. 1, return, — and this Mr. Pox followed up with a mo- 
1'^^- tion, that all the former proceedings respecting the 
scrutiny should be expunged from the Journals. The motion 
was supported by Mr. Scott, against whose prior votes on this 
subject some sarcasms were levelled. He seems to have taken 
a most masterly view of the whole subject, although the 
printed report of his speech is so defective that we can form 

• Twisa, i. 1 IS. 


but an inadequate notion of its merit. From the principles of 
the common law, and the statutes for regulating elections 
since the reign of Henry IV. down to that of George III., he 
deduced the doctrine " That the election must 'bB finally closed 
before the return of the writ, and that the writ must be 
returned on or before the day specified in it : " — 

" At the same time," he added, " that I condemn the scrutiny, I 
should be sorry to be supposed to impute improper motives to those 
who have voted for it. I am willing to give them credit for purity of 
intention ; they were wrong only in judgment. They had a very un- 
necessary tenderness for the conscience of the High Bailiff, which they 
say they would not torture by compelling him to make a return before 
he should have thoroughly scrutinized his poll : but surely his oath 
does not bind him to any thing more than to make his return to the 
best of his judgment, in the time which the law allowed him to satisfy 
his conscience. To make him do this speedily, is no more to torture 
his conscience, than you torture the conscience of jurymen by com- 
pelling them to find their verdict before they are permitted to eat, or 
drink, or to warm themselves at a fire. Indeed, the prompt obedience 
he has paid to the order of .the House, communicated to him in conse- 
quence of the vote of last week, shows that his conscience is not of the 
most delicate texture ; for, as it would have been tyrannical in the 
House to attempt to . force his conscience, so it would have been un- 
christian in him to violate his conscience merely to obey an imjust 
order. But he did not require, it seems, much time to make up his 
mind when the House commanded him. Why, then, should he not 
have paid as prompt an obedience to the mandate of the King's writ? 1 
confess I do not like that conscience in returning-ofBcers, under colour 
of which they may prevent the meeting of Parliament for ever, or at 
least present the nation with the rump of a Parliament on the day when 
the representatives of the whole nation ought to assemble." 

He was not only listened to with the marked attention 
which any member speaking against his party is sure to com- 
mand, but his playfulness on " conscience " exceedingly tickled 
his hearers, and he sat down amidst loud shouts of applause 
from the 'Opposition benches." Mr. Fox, commenting on the 
speeches of the different speakers who had taken part in the 
debate, said, " One learned gentleman in particular (the 
honourable member for Weobly) has entered into the whole 
of the case, with a soundness of argument, and a depth and 
closeness of reasoning, that perhaps has scarcely been equalled 
in the discussion of any topic within these walls, that turned 
on the statute and common law, on the analogy of writs, and 

» 25 Pari. Hist. 120. 


the combination of technical and constitutional learning. So 
well and so ably, indeed, has that learned gentleman 
argued it, that nothing like an answer has been 
offered to any one of his appeals to his brethren of the long 
robe. In truth, I am convinced it is out of the power of 
ingenuity itself to overthrow the positions laid down by that 
learned gentleman — to whom I will offer no apology for any 
allusion I may have made to him on a former day ; and I Con- 
sider myself peculiarly happy in having been able to say any 
thing that could draw forth so masterly and instructive a 
speech." Mr. Scott found himself in a minority of 137 against 
242 ; but he enhanced his importance with the Minister by 
this instance of independence, and he secured respectful treat- 
ment from the leader of Opposition. Towards the close of his 
life he observed, " Fox never said an uncivil word to me during 
the whole time I sat in the House of Commons ; and I'll tell you 
to what I attribute that. When the legality of the conduct of 
the High Bailiff of Westminster was before the House, all the 
lawyers on the Ministerial side defended his right to grant the 
scrutiny. I thought their law bad, and I told them so. I 
asked Kenyon how he could answer this, — that every writ or 
commission must be returned on the day on which it is made 
returnable ? He could not answer it. Pox afterwards came 
to me, and said something very civil and obliging." * 

Mr. Scott, immediately after this escapade, returned to his 
allegiance to Mr. Pitt — from which he never again swerved. 
He still considered himself, however, as more particularly 
under the auspices of Lord Thurlow, to whom he owed his 
seat, and who evinced a strong desire to push him forward. 
For this reason he warmly espoused the cause of Warren 
Hastings, and made a speech in his favour on the very serious 
charge of the Kohilla war. In concluding, he alluded, with 
just severity, to an observation made the preceding day by 
Mr. Fox, who had said " that he would alwaj's watch gentle- 
men of the profession of the law in their arguments." Mr. 
Fox now very handsomely declared, " that none but a fool or 
a madman would disparage or despise the legal profession. 
He had a very high regard for it, and for the learned gentle- 
man in particular, whose great abilities and high character 
entitled him to universal respect. He assured the House and 
the learned gentleman, that he meant nothing more by saying 
that ' he would watch the arguments of gentlemen of that pro- 

* Twiss, i. 121. 


fession,' than that the gentlemen of the law, from being in the 
habits of a peculiar style of reasoning, were apt to infuse that 
style into their arguments in that House." ' 

In the following session of Parliament, Mr. Scott spoke ably 
in defence of the principles of free trade in support- March a, 
ing the commercial treaty with France against the ■"^'• 
very unjust and illiberal attacks of the Whigs. Having 
charged them with having had a similar plan in contemplation 
when they were in office, he said, "1 am happy that the 
measure is now accomplished in a manner which promises a 
great accession of wealth to England, and holds out the most 
liberal encouragement to her artisans, — whose industry, skill, 
and perseverance, joined to their prodigious capital, must ever 
insure them superiority over all competitors." ' 

He now received his first judicial appointment, being 
named by Bishop Thurlow Chancellor of the County Pala- 
tine of Durham. He therefore ceased to attend the assizes at 
Durham as a counsel, and presided in his own Court with all 
proper solemnity. Here he was very little troubled with 
equity business. We only know of one case which came 
before him, and that was not contentious ; but he made the most 
of it. Upon an application to direct an allowance to a minor, 
then at college, who would be entitled, when of age, to an 
income of about 300?. a year, he thus addressed the ward oi 
the Court : — 

" Young gentleman, you will shortly become entitled to a small pro- 
perty, which may prove to you either a blessing or a curse, according 
as you use it. It was, perhaps, fortunate for me that I was not situ- 
ated in my early life as you are now. I had not, like you, a small for- 
tuue to look to ; I had nothing to depend on but my own exertions : 
and, so far from considering this a misfortune, I now esteem it a bless- 
ing ; for if I had possessed the same means which you will enjoy, I 
should in all probability not be where I now am. I would therefore 
caution you not to let this little property turn your mind from more 
important objects ; but rather let it stimulate you to cultivate your abili- 
ties, and to advance yourself in society." 

Mr. Pitt, for some mysterious reason, having suddenly aban- 
doned Hastings, and — contrary to the wish of Lord ^ ^ ^^^^ 
Thurlow, who had a scheme for making him a Peer, 
perhaps a Minister — having given him up to impeachment, Mr. 
Scott took no part in the subsequent proceedings against him ; ' 

y 25 Pari. Hist. 58. ^°^ ^^ voted on the Benares charge, when 

« 26 Pari. Hist. 505. Mr. Pitt went over so abruptly that his ow'j 

• I have not been able to ascertain even Attomey-General would not follow him. 

176 LORD ELDON. Chap. CX(JIV. 

but he resolutely defended Sir Elijah Impey, charged ■with 
having illegally hanged the great Brahmin, Nimcomar ; and 
he struggled against the attempts to prejudice the cause of the 
accused Judge by the admission of improper evidence, — en- 
larging on the necessity for adhering to the rules of law in all 
proceedings in any sort tending to a judicial determination. 
In consequence, Mr. Fox, in a tone very unusual with him, 
" attacked the lawyers with a good deal of warmth and as- 
perity, for coming down in a body to juggle and confound the 
members of that House." '' 

Mr. Scott, before he was Solicitor-General, chiefly made 
himself prominent in the House of Commons by speaking in 
favour of a bill — which caused much excitement at the time, 
but has now lost all interest— for declaring "that the East 
India Company, according to the just construction of the India 
Bill, 24 Geo. 3, c. 25, was liable to repay to the Government 
at home the charges of sending a military force to the East 
Indies." Erskine, then out of Parliament, was heard at the 
bar of the House of Commons, as counsel for the Company, 
and strongly animadverted on certain arguments of Mr. Scott 
to prove the liability of his clients, contending that, at all 
events, the Legislature was here usurping judicial functions, 
and that the question ought to be decided by a Court of Law. 
— Mr. Scott, on several occasions, defended his opinion, and 
insisted that this was a fit occasion for Parliament, by a 
declaratory Act, to pronounce what its intentions really were. 
Mr. Sheridan, Colonel Barre, and other Opposition members, 
furiously assailed the arguments of the honourable and learned 
member for Weoblj' in this controversy ; — but the position he 
had acquired in the House may best be estimated from the 
laboured attack upon him by Mr. Erancis (pretty generally 
supposed to be Junius), in which the orator, with much 
unmerited abuse of the individual and his order, animadverts 
with some felicity on his inveterate habit of lauding his own 
honesty : — 

" This is not a legislative question, and it is absurd for Parliament 
to ask lawyers what it meant by its own act and deed ? In this House, 
to be sure, we have every assistance that learning and practice can 
afford. We have a learned person (Mr. John Scott) among us, who is 
universally acknowledged to be the great luminary of the law, whose 
opinions are oracles, to whose skill and authority all his own profession 

b 27 Pari. Hist. 31. 38. 


look up with reverence and amazement. Well, Sir, what informatioD 
have we gained from that most eminent person ? I will not attempt to 
follow or repeat so long; and, as I have been told, so ingenious an argu- 
ment. Ingenuity, it seems, is the quality which is chiefly wanted and 
relied on, on the present occasion. But I well rememher the course of 
it. The first hal? hour of his speech, at least, was dedicated to himself. 
He told us who he was : he explained to us, very distinctly, the whole 
of his moral character, which I think was not immediately in question ; 
and assured the House that his integrity was the thing on which he 
valued himself most, and which we might with perfect security rely on. 
Of his learning, I confess he spoke with more than moderation, — ^with 
excessive humility. He almost stultified himself, for the purpose of 
proving his integrity. For the sake of his moralily, be abandoned his 
learning ; and seemed to dread the conclusions that might be drawn 
from an overrated opinion of his excessive skill and cunning in his 
profession. In my mind. Sir, there was no occasion for this extraordi- 
nary parade. The learned gentleman's reputation in private life, I 
believe, is unimpeached. What we wanted, what we expected of him, 
was his learning, not his character. At last, however, he proceeded to 
the subject of debate. Here we were all in profound silence : attention 
held us mute. Did he answer your expectation ? Did you perfectly 
understand him ? Did he perfectly understand himself ? I doubt it 
much. If he had understood, he could have explained himself to the 
meanest capacity. If you had distinctly understood him, yon might 
distiuctly remember what he said. Now, setting aside those who have 
been initiated in the mysteries of the profession, is there a man here 
who can remember and is able to state the learned gentleman's argu- 
ments ? — I believe not. For my own part, though it is impossible for 
me to listen with more attention than I did, I confess I soon lost sight 
of him. At first, indeed, he trifled with the subject, in a manner that 
was intelligible at least, perhaps dexterous, though not conclusive. He 
argued some little collateral points with a good deal of artifice : he made 
many subtle argumentative distinctions ; he tried at least to involve us 
in nice, logical difficulties, and to drive us ad dbsurdvm. by what he 
called unavoidable inferences, from false premises. In short, he 
attacked or defended some of the out-posts of the questions, with what 
I suppose is held to be great ability in Westminster Hall. He skir- 
mished well at a proper distance from the main body of the subject. AH 
this I acknowledge. But when he came at last to the grand point, at 
which we had waited for him so long, at which we had impatiently 
expected the predominant light of his superior learning, — the decision 
of the oracle,-^id he resolve your doubts ? Did he untie, or did he 
cut, the Gordian knot ? Did he prove to you, in that frank, plain, 
popular way in which he ought to have addressed this popular assem- 
bly, and which he would have done if he had been sure of His ground, 
—did he demonstrate to you, that the Act of 1784, clearly and evi- 
dently, or even by unavoidable construction, gave the power declared 
by the present Bill ? Sir, he did no such thing. If he did, let us hear 
VOL. ES. " 


It once more. He who understands can remember. He who remem- 
bers can repeat. I defy any man living, not a lawyer, to recite even 
the substance of that part of his argvmient. The truth is, he left the 
main question exactly where he found it. So it generally happens. It 
belongs to the learning of these gentlemen and to their prudence not to 
decide. It is so now. It was so 2000 years ago." — ^Having given an 
account of the consultation in Terence, aiter wUoh the old gentleman 
who had desired the opinion of three lawyers on the validity of his 
son's marriage, exclaimed Incertior sum, miMo qvmm dudum, he con- 
tinued, " Well may the Court of Directors, — ^well may this House make 
the same observation on the present occasion. In the name of God and 
common sense, what have we gained by consulting these learned per- 
sons ? It is really a strange thing, but it is certainly true, that the 
learned gentlemen on that side of the House, let the subject be what it 
may, always begin their speeches with a panegyric on their own in- 
tegrity. Tou expect learning, and they give you 'morals ; you expect 
law, and they give you ethica ; you ask them for bread, and they give 
you a stone. In point of honour and morality, they are undoubtedly 
on a level vfith the rest of mankind. But why should they pretend to 
more? Why should they insist on taking the lead in morality? Why 
should they so perpetually insist upon lieir integrity as if that objec- 
tion were in IvmMe, as if that were the distinguishing characteristic, 
the prominent feature, of the profession ? Equality is their right. I 
allow it. But that they have any just right to a superior morality, to 
a pure and elevated probity, to a frajik, plain, simple, candid, unrefined 
integrity, beyond other men, is what I am not yet convinced of, and 
without new and unexpected proofs never will admit." = 

The Bill was sure to be carried by the overwhelming ma- 
jorities which the Minister commanded, but the credit of the 
Government on this occasion was mainly supported by Mr. 
Scott — the Attorney and Solicitor-General not having any 
weight in the House. 

The expected promotion in the law had been long delayed 
by intrigues respecting the appointment to the offices of Chief 
Justice of the King's Bench and Master of the Eolls, but at 
last, on the resignation of Lord Mansfield, Sir Lloyd Kenyon 
succeeded him, — Pepper Arden, in spite of Thurlow, was made 
Master of the Bolls, — and Sir Archibald Macdonald being pro- 
moted to be Attorney-General, John Scott, Esq., was, to the 
high contentment of the Bar, and the general satisfaction of 
the public, appointed Solicitor-General. 

There were great rejoicings at Newcastle, particularly 
when the good folks there knew that their townsman had be- 

° 2f Pari. Hist 263. For Mr. Scott's speeches on this soltiect, see 2t Pari. Hist 
3t, 86, 186, 186. 


come Sir John. He modestly wished to avoid knighthood, 
but George III. then laid down a rule, which has been ad- 
hered to ever siaoe, that the Attorney and Solicitor-General, 
and the Judges, if not "honourable" by birth, shaU be 
knighted, — to keep up the reputation of the ancient order of 
Knights-bachelors, — and the ceremony ought to be cheerfully 
undergone by them, as an accompaniment of professional pro- 
motion. On this occasion, Maodonald, who, liiough Solicitor 
General for some years, had remained " plain Archy," now 
knelt, and rose Sir Archibald. 

Sir John Scott gave an amusing account of his elevation in 
tlie following letter to his brother Henry : — 

"Dkar Habbt, 
" I kissed the King's hand yesterday as Solicitor-General. The 
King, in spite of my teeth, laid his sword upon my shoulder, and bid 
Sir John arise. At this last instance of his royal favour, I have been 
much disconcerted ; but I cannot help myself, so I sing — 

* Oho, the delight 
To be a gallant knight ! ' 

I was completely taken in, having no idea that the King had any such 
intention. My wife is persecuted with her new title, and we laugh at 
her from morning till evening. — Be so good as with my best loye to 
communicate this intelligence to my brother and sisters. Bessy joins 
in affection to your wife and Mary, and I am 

" Yours faithfully, 

" J. SOOTT." 1 

He had to go through the form of a re-election for "Weobly, 
and he again treated the electors with a speech, in which he 
assured them, tha,t, "though in office under the Crown, he 
would continue to be a faithful guardian of the rights and 
liberties of the people." — The session of Parliament was 
closed almost immediately after he resumed his seat in the House 
of Commons, and there was an unexampled cessation of all 
political excitement. The Whig party seemed for ever anni- 
hilated; its leaders, still labouring under the unpopularity 
they had incurred by the " Coalition," had almost entirely 
ceased to offer any show of opposition to the measures of Go- 
vernment, — and the country, rapidly advancing in wealth and 
prosperity after the disasters of the American war, hailed the 
choice of the Sovereign as a " heaven-bom minister." There 

i T\riiw, i. 131. 

N 2 


was likewise profound peace abroad, and England was respected 
and courted by all foreign nations. 

It was expected that the new law officer, till in due grada- 
tion he was raised to the Bench, would never have any mor© 
anxious duty to perform than to sign a patent of peerage, or 
to prosecute a smuggler in the Court of Exchequer. 

In the absence of all official business, he took the very im- 
usual step of going the round of the Northern Circuit — 
although professional etiquette has always been understood 
to require that a barrister, being appointed Attorney or Soli- 
citor-General, shall immediately give up his circuit — which 
often produces great peril, and sometimes serious loss, when 
the administration which he joins is in a state of cadueitj^. 
But I do not find that any complaint was made on tlus 
occasion, as when Mr. Wedderbnm first joined the circuit with 
a silk gown. There was not even an " Information of In- 
trusion" filed against Sir John Scott by the Attorney-Ge- 
neral in the Grand Court, and he ever continued on the best 
terms with all his professional brethren. He took final leave 
of the circuit at Lancaster, but for the rest of his days his 
great delight was to talk of the " Grand Court," — and we 
shall see that when he was ex-Chancellor a new generation 
of cirouiteers took occasion to testify unabated regard fpr 

'^ By a special grace (passed unanimously the two former gentlemen, in such a mas- 

at a Grand Court held at York on the 12th of querade dress IJiat Mr. Att^. Gen. cou'd not 

July, 1847, for which I am most deeply grate- produce any witness who cou'd take upon 

ful^, 1 -have had access to the Records of the him to swear to the identily of their persons, 

Northern Circuit, and I extract from them hut Mr. Law being called upon, depos'd that 

some interesting entries respecting Lord he saw Mr. Taylor appear on the stage in 

Eldon:^ his bar wig acting the part of CounseUor 

"York Grand Night; Sat. Mar. 16, 1Y82. Traverse In the Clandestine Marriage, and 

" Mr. Atty. Gen. Scott* mention'd, that he tho' Mr. Taylor acted the Counsellor then, as 

had no sooner arrived in York than a play- he always does, in an inimitable manner, yet 

bill was put into his hands, in which, to his the Court was of opinion that, by appearing 

great astonishment, he found the respectable on the stage in that habit, he rather lessen'd 

names of many of his brethren on the Circuit the Dignity of the Wig, and therefore fln'd 

The play of the Clandestine Marriage was to him 1 Bottle, pil. 

be performed for the benefit of Mr. Back. *• Mr. Arden f in a speech this morning had 

Mr. Smith was to lay aside the peaceful gown made use of the following expressions — ' No 

and array himself in a military babit ; and man wou'd be such a damn'd fool as to go to 

a very distinguishable and conspicuous part a lawyer for advice who knew how to act 

was to be perform'd by Mr. Taylor, who ap- without it.* In this he was considei^d as 

pear'd there in his proper character, not as doubly culpable — in the first place as having 

* He had been appointed Attorney-General to the Circuit, with the duty of prosecuting all 
offences before the Grand Court presided over by our Lord the Junior. 
t F^pper Arden, afterwards Master of the Bolls and Lord Alvanley. 

A.D '788. 





Neve^i was there in England such a sudden change in the 
aspect of public affairs as in the autumn of this year : 
scarcely had the Solicitor-General returned to Lon- ^^' "^^' 
don, contemplating an indefinite prolongation of ease and 

offended against the laws of Almighty God 
by his profane cursing, for which however 
he made a very sufficient atonement by 
paying a bottle of claret ; and, secondly, as 
having made use of an expression which, if 
it 9hou'd become a prevailing opinion, might 
have the most alarming consequences to the 
profession, and was therefore deservedly 
consider'd in a far more heinous light : for 
this last offence he was fiu'd 3 Bottles, pd." 

" Mr. Scott laid Mr. Davenport 5 guineas 
that Lord Ashburton* will be Chief Justice 
of the King's Bench before he dies. The bett 
was made at York in the presence of Mr. 
Withers, but not being communicated to the 
Junior at that time, he had no opportunity 
of recording it sooner." 

"Lancaster Grand Night, Saturday, 
astb March, 1783. 
" Jn". Scott, Esq^, for having come into 
Lancaster the day before the Commission day, 
and having taken up his abode that evening 
at the King's Arms in Lancaster, fined one 
gallon, pd, 11. 18. 

" York Grand Night, Thursday, 
yth August, 1783. 

£. ff. d. 

" Mr. J. Scott was congratulated 
on his Patent of Precedence, 
2 gall*, pd 2 2 

** Mr. J. Scott was also congratu- 
lated on his Election for 
Weobly, 1 gaL pd. ... 1 


"Lancaster Grand Night, 27 March, 1785. 
* Mr, Sraj*. Bolton rose and moved (having 

first prefaced his motion with an eloquent 
address to the Court), ' that John Scott, Esq, 
be congratulated in a bottle on his lively 
expectations of succeeding to a Directorship 
in the East India Company '—ordered ac- 
cordingly— pd. 1 bottle. 

"John Scott, Esq"", having pleaded guilty 
to a_charge exhibited against him by an 
honble and learned member, of having con- 
descended (in derogation of the honour of 
this Court, and in contempt of its great au- 
thority) to ask leave of absence of the House 
of Commons, was fined 1 gU". paid. 

" Ordered accordingly." 

" Lent Assizes, Lancaster Grand Night, 

1 April, 1786. 
" Mr. Scott for having debased himself so 
much as to ask leave of the House of Com- 
mons to attend this Circuit, was fined 1 gal- 
lon, pd." 

" Mr. J. Scott having been appointed Chan- 
cellor of Durham, was congratulated there- 
upon by the title of ' His Honouk/ in 3 gal- 
lons : by consent, pd. 

"Mr. Lee, as a suitor to His Honour's 
Court, was congratulated on the security of 
his title to his estate under the administration 
of His Honour. 1 gall, pd." 

" Lancaster Grimd Night, Augt. 6*1", 1788, 
"The Soil' Geni., J. P. Heywood, rose and 
mov'd that Sir John Scott, Kn',, SolF. Geni. 
to his Majesty, might be congratulated on his 
appointment to the high office of SoU'. Geni.. 
and on his being made a Kn*.,— that he might 
be condoled with for having lost his seat in 

• Dunning. 


office, when he found himself involved in the most tremendoua 
golitioal crisis that had occurred since the Eevolution of 1688 
-with almost a certainty of being inunediately turned adrift 
/ith all his party. The rumours spread of the King's aberra- 
tion of mind were iinhappily confirmed by his Majesty's 
demeanour at a lev6e, which he insisted on holding in the end 
of October ; and on the 20th of November, the day to which 
p^arliament stood prorogued, the royal authority was in com 
plete abeyance, his Majesty's intellect being much disturbed, 
and his person being under restraint. 

Sir John Scott ably supported the course which the unpopu- 
larity of the Heir Apparent and his Whig favourites enabled 
Mr. Pitt suooessfally to take on this occasion, contrary (I 
think) to all the principles of an hereditary monarchy ; which 
was to assert a right in the two Houses of Parliament to elect 
any person Eegent whom they shotdd prefer, with such 
powers as they should think fit to bestow upon him. — When 
the resolution embodying this doctrine was moved in the 
House of Commons, — 

" The Solicitor-General contended that the King was still in contem- 
plation of law as perfect as ever, and the positive right of the Prince of 
Wales to the regency was in the present case clearly undefined. No 
precedent, no. analogy, could be furnished from the legal records of the 
Constitution, that established it as a right : no provision, then, having 
been made by law in the present conjuncture of affairs. Parliament was 
called upon to establish a precedent, which the contingency of past ages 
had not furnished." 

On a subsequent day he thus reasoned the question, 
whether the form should be adopted of putting the Great 
Seal, during the King's incapacity, to a commission for 
opening Parliament, and giving the royal assent to the Ee- 
geucy Bnis : — 

niri>.,— and congratulated on his re-election. " S". J. Scott then rose, and stated tliat by 

£• «• d. y« Act 14 Hen. 8, c 36, s. 12, he had a right 

*■ ^„^ wf??.^',°^I?X°^m *° "PP"*"' » "iapW-. and that he wished to 

on^his being made SolI._^ ^ show eve,7 respect to the Conrt: he there- 

liiiited ' ' 2 a 0»<i '°™ °"^'* *''' ^^ ^ Bishop* immediately 

Condoled with'for the '"'**!° ^^^t'". «>d that he would sign his 

loss of his seat in nomination. He was immediately oldainM 

PBrl<. 1 1 Ojxl. a grand procession with flambeaus oonducleo 

CongraJ. le-eleotion .1 1 Opd. bimround the table to the Bishop."* 

* The Chrcttit had then an officer called " Bishop." 
f This is the last time Scott appe are on the Circuit 


" Will any man dare to express a doubt whether the King sits on 
the throDie or not ? For my part I am determined to support the law, 
because the law supports the King on the throne. The throne is at 
present full of the Monarch, and no man dares to say that his Majesty is 
deficient in his natural capacity. I will therefore vote for the Commis- 
sion upon the simple ground of preserving the forms of the Constitu- 
tion ; and be it remembered that upon the preservation of the forms 
depends the substance of the Constitution. The parliament held in the 
first year of Henry VI. was a perfect legislature, consisting of King, 
Lords, and Commons, although the Seal was put to the Commission for 
opening it by a babe of nine months old. It has been said, that if the 
two Houses can thus procure the Boyal assent to the Begency Bill, 
they may proceed to pass other Bills in the same way. But the right 
which necessity creates, is limited by the same necessity. As a justi- 
fication of the use of the Great Seal in the King's name, I must observe 
that, notwithstanding his Majesty's temporary incapacity, — in the eye of 
the law his politic capacity remains entire. Therefore, there would be no 
illegality in passing a Begency Bill in his name, and in no other way can 
a regent be lawfully appointed. The succession to the throne is un- 
doubtedly hereditary, but the wisdom of ages has left it to the two 
Houses of Parliament to provide for the exercise of the Government on 
an emergency like this. If a commission had been sealed for opening 
the Parliament before the two Houses met on the 20th of last month, 
I am of opinion that it would have been legal.' Gentlemen may talk 
as they please about hgail metwphysics ; the law is as I have explained 
it. An honourable member has said, ' If you can by putting the Great 
Seal to a commission make a legislature, why did they' not drag the 
Thames for the Great Seal at the Eevolution, and go on passing bills, 
without calling in William and Mary ?' I answer to the honourable 
member. Let the throne be vacant, and I care not where the Great Seal 
is ! When the throne is vacant, every function of the Executive Govern- 
ment is at an end ; the Courts of justice do not sit. But let the 
House remember that the Courts of justice are now sitting, and the 
Judges are administering justice In the King's name upon the very 
maxim that the political capacity of the King is entire. At the Ee- 
volution, the throne being vacant, the Great Seal was inoperative, 
there being no Sovereign in whose name acts of state could be done,; 
but William, the great deliveirer of the nation, after the legislature was 
complete, passed a statute giving legal validity to the proceedings of the 
two Houses during the interregnum. I conclude with solemnly pro- 
testing that the opinion I have given proceeds from principle only — 
and is uninfluenced by any motive but a regard for the Constitution 
and a reverence for the wisdom of ages." e 

f This bold doctrine, which even super- some occasions as Chancellor,— when he put 
•edes the two Honses of Parliament— vesting the Great Seal to commissions under war- 
supreme power in the person who, for the time rants signed by the King while in the CDl 
being, is in possession of the Great Seal, may, tody of his medical attendants, 
perhaps, account for Lord Eldon's conduct on 8 21 Pari. Hist. 825. 

184 lOKD ELDON. Chap. CXCV 

When the proposal came to be debated of vesting in the 
Jan. 19, Queen the power of appointing to all the offices in 
i'89. ^^g Household, Sir John Scott said, — 

" When gentlemen tell me that by withholding from the Eegent the 
patronage of the Eoyal Household they would be guilty of a breach of 
the Constitution, let them explain how I am to discharge my allegiance 
to the Sovereign on the Throne, without taking care that his resump- 
tion of his royal authority may be rendered as little difiBcult as possible. 
I do not speak with indelicacy towards the Prince of Wales if I show 
that jealousy which belongs to my character as a member of Parliament 
— which it is my duty to show to the other branch of the Legislature, 
and to the Executive Grovernment. If the sense of the people be taken 
at your bar, or in any other way, the language they would hold would 
undoubtedly be, ' What ! could you not do your duty for three short 
months ? Were you so hasty to dethrone your lawful Sovereign, that 
you treated him with the grossest disrespect, and stripped him of every 
mark of regal dignity and distinction, after he had been ill no longer 
than a month?' Do gentlemen seriously argue that the Regent, with 
the army, the navy, the church, and all the offices connected with the 
public revenue at his command, cannot carry on a vigorous and effective 
government ? Where is the integrity of the House, if such arguments 
are used ? Are there no men who will act from the impulse of a higher 
feeling — from a sense of duty, and from what they owe to their country 
and to their own character ? I ask, is not his Majesty alive, and afflicted 
with a severe malady ? — and is not this a reason for giving hiTn additional 
attendance, rather than taking away what he before had ? It has been 
said, that to give this patronage to the Queen would be so much influence 
thrown into the hands of Opposition ; but it would be a gross and inde- 
cent reflection on that exalted and virtuous personage, to suppose that 
.she would employ her power for the purpose of opposing the government 
of her son. No plan can be suggested which is not clogged with some 
evil ; but upon my honour, and upon my conscience, that which we are 
called upon to adopt I sincerely believe the most safe, the most consti- 
tutional, and the most expedient." >■ 

Finally, on the motion that the Great Seal should be put to 
a commission for opening Parliament, Mr. Solicitor said,— 

" This is the only legal mode of proceeding j the other — ^that of ad- 
dressing the Prince to ta^e upon him the Regency, (a term unknown to 
the law,) is wholly illegal. You must proceed by Act of Parliament j 
and the Great Seal once put to it gives it all the authority of law, 
30 that no inquiry can be instituted as to the mode in which it has 
Deen passed. If letters patent are sealed With the Great Seal, without 
•iie King's warrant having been previously granted, — however criminal 

h 2T Pari. Blst. 1033. 

A.D. 1789, THE KING'S KECOVEEY. 185 

may be the conduct of the person who has so acted, they are of full 
force, and bind the King himself as much as if signed with the King's 
own hand. We are not now discussing a party guestion, and I know 
that my opinion is not influenced by any party bias. If the Prince 
were to accept the regency on an address, he must represent the King 
in the House of Lords without authority, and he taust give the royal 
assent to a Regency Bill, — thereby appointing himself Eegent, — so that 
he might be exposed to future difficulties from grave questions arising 
as to his authority. The commission is a fiction, I admit ; but there 
are many fictions of law, and from some of these fictions arise the best 
security of the rights of the subject. The present may be called a whole- 
some fiction, inasmuch as it saves the Constitution from danger, and 
proves this Constitution to be so admirably constructed that it contains 
in itself a provision for every emergency." ' 

Such, arguments prevailed in England ; althougli, after the 
consideration I have repeatedly given to the subject, I must 
ever think that the Irish Parliament proceeded more consti- 
tutionally by considering that the Heir Apparent was entitled 
to exercise the royal authority during the King's incapacity, 
as upon a demise of the Crown, and by presenting an address 
to him, praying him to do so, instead of arrogating to them- 
selves, in Polish fashion, the power of electing the supreme 
magistrate of the republic, and resorting to the palpable lie of 
the proceeding being sanctioned by the afflicted Sovereign. 
"While the bill was stUl pending iu the House of Lords, all 
these speculations were cut short, for this turn, by George's 
happy recovery. 

The disappointed Whigs tried to assuage their grief by 
ridiculing Sir John Scott, and the others who had fought most 
stoutly against them, in the following jeu ^esprit, which they 
published in the " Eolliad : " — 



Thwn4er.~S CaXdran boiling. 
Enter three Witches. 
Firtt Witch. Thrice the Doctors have been heard. 
Second Witch. Thrice the Houses have conferr'd. 
mrd Witch. Thrice hath Sydney cocKd his chin, 

Jenky cries — Begin, begin. 
JVrrt TTift*. Eound about the ealdron go, 
In the feU ingredients thiuvr. 

i 21 Pari. Hist. 1155. 

186 LORD ELDON. Chap. CXCV. 

StUlbomfcetus, bom and bred 

Xn a lawyer's puzzled head. 

Batch' d by ' Metaphysic Scott,' 

Boil thmt in th' enclumtedpot 
jll. Double, double toil and trouble; 

Fire bum, and caldron bubble. 
Second Witch. Skull, that boldB the small remains 

Of old Camden's addle brains ; 

liiver of the lily's hue, 

"Which in Richmond's carcass grew ; 

Tears which, stealing down the cheels 

Of the ringed Thuvlow. speak 

All the poignant grief he feels 

For his Sovereign — or the Seals ; 

For a charm of powerful trouble. 

Like a hell-broth, boil and bubble. 
Jll. Double, double toil aod trouble ; 

Fire burn, and caldron bubble. 
Third Witch. Clipphags of Corinthian bra^ 

From the visage of Dimdas ; 

Forg'd address, devis'd by Rose, 

Half of Pepper Arden's nose ; 

Smuggled vote of City thanks. 

Promise of insidious Banks ; 

Add a grain of RoUo's courage, 

To inflame the hellish porridge. 
First Witch. Cool it witb Lloyd Kenyon's blood. 

Now the charm is firm and good. 
All. Double, double toil and trouble ; 

Fire burn, and caldron bubble. 

Unter Heoate, Qiteen of the Witches. 
Secate. Oh ! well done ! I commend your pains, 

And ev'ry one shall share i' tb' gains." 

The losing party likewise raised a laugh against their 
antagonists, by pretending that Lord Belgrave, afterwards 
Marquess of Westminster, who, on this occasion, declared 
against them, and quoted, in debate, a passage from the Greek 
text of Demosthenes, had actually spouted the following line 
from Homer, — 

publishing translations of it (for the benefit of the country 
gentlemen) by those who had chiefly combated the right of 
the Prince of Wales during the late crisis. 

Translation bt Sm John Scott. 

" With metaphysic art his speech he plann'd, 
And said — what nobody could understand." 

However, we have " Another by the Chancellor," in 
honour ofhiB prot^g^ : — 


" To him Achilles, with a furious nod, 
Beplled ' A very pretty speech, by ! * " k 

The ultra-loyal lawyer was abundantly compensated for aU 
these gibes by a message, some little time ^terwards, from 
George III., requesting a call from him at Windsor. Being 
ushered into the Eoyal presence, the King most graciously 
said to him, " I have no other business with you, Sir Jolm 
Scott, than to thank you for the' affectionate fidelity with 
which you adhered to me when so many had deserted me, in 
my malady." ^ 

Sir John Scott led a very quiet life from this time for four 
years, — till he was promoted to be Attorney-General, a.d. was— 
and the " Eeign of Terror " began. During this long ^"2- 
interval, he hardly ever had occasion to open his mouth in the 
House of Commons : — there were no state prosecutions ; and, 
answering a few Government cases, which could have given 
ViiTn little trouble) he had only to attend to his business in the 
Court of Chancery. There, those who came next to him were 
at an immense distance behind him, and his gains must have 
been enormous. Yet he was at great pains to inculcate the 
doctrine that a successful barrister is a loser by becoming a law 
ofacer of the Crown ; and in the " Anecdote Book " he gives 
this account of a dialogue with George III., in which I must 
say he seems considerably to have mystified his worthy old 
master : — 

" Soon after I became Solicitor-General, his Majesty George in., at 
Weymouth, with the kindness which he uniformly manifested to me, 
feiid, ' Well, I hope your promotion has been beneficial to you ? ' I 
asked his Majesty, if he meant in professional income ? He said ' Yes, 
in that and in other respects.' I told him, what was strictly true, thac 
in annual receipt I thought I must lose about two thousand pounds a 
year. He seemed surprised, and asked how that could be aiccounted for ? 

k Eolliad, 20th edition, p. 631. sinnatcd that Sir John Scott himself wq( 

" Lord Eldon used to cUscredit the report privy to these intrigues, and had a hope 

iiTharlow's double-dealing on the late oo- nnder Thurlow's auspices, of being Solidtoi. 

caaion, saying, '• I was at the time honoured General to the Regent ; but I do not believe 

with his intimacy ; scarcely a day passed in that there is any foundation for this. He 

which there was not much interesting con- never seems to have been privy to Thurlow's 

versation upon that subject between Lord negotiations with the Whigs ; and I make no 

Thurlow and the King's friends, with which doubt that he acted on the occasion of the 

1 was acquainted, and I do not believe there Regency with entire singleness of purpose, 

was a word of truth in the charge." But the Gratitude made him eager to disbelieve any 

truth of it has been established beyond all thing to Thurlow's disadvantage, as well am 

possibility of contradiction or doubt. (See to magnily his good qualities. 
VoL VII. Chap. CLX.) I have heard it iu- 




1 stated fo him tliat the attention of his law officers was called *» aiat- 
ters of international law, puhlic law, and the laws of revenue, and othel 
matters, with which not having been previously familiar, they were 
obliged to devote to them a vast deal of time, and to withdraw it from 
those other common matters of business which were very profitable ;^ and 
I concluded by stating what was then the habit of the solicitors of the 
public offices, to give the Solicitor-General only three guineas vrith his 
Majesty's (the Government's) cases, which required more time and atten- 
tion fully to consider, and satisfactorily to answer, than the cases of pri- 
vate individuals, with which their attorneys frequently left fees of ten^ 
fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five guineas. ' Oh ! ' said the King, ' then 
or the first time I comprehend what I never could before understand, 
why it has been always so difficult to get any opinions from my law of- 
ficers ! '" 

I must be permitted to doubt whether, in the tranquil 
times of his Solicitor-Generalship, he ever sacrificed a particle 
of private practice to his public duty ; and his professional 
emoluments — with the higher fees given by ordinary clients 
to a counsel who enjoys the highest dignity at the Bar — 
must have abundantly indemnified him for giving up his eir 
cuit. — In spite of his heavy losses, instead of being again re- 
duced to buy sixpenn'orth of sprats for supper in Fleet 
Market, in the course of a few years he bought the fine 
estate of Eldon, in the county of Durham, from which he 
afterwards took his title." 

Parliament being dissolved in June, 1790, he was again 

AD 1790 J'stumed for Weobly, and made a speech to the 

rustics on the blessings enjoyed under the English 

Constitution, — cautioning them against French principles, of 

which he early became apprehensive. 

The first subject discussed in the new House of Commons 
Was "whether the impeachment against Mr. Hastings had 
abated by the dissolution?" and, this being considered an 

° since writing the last paragraph, I have 
met with an exact statement of Sir John 
Scott's gains from his own fee-1)ook— abun- 
dantly corroborating my conjectures ; for it 
appears that the first year he was in ofOce, 
Instead of losing 20001., he made more than 
lOOOC beyond the receipts of the preceding 
Tear, and that his income went on constantly 
increasing: — 

£. t. d. 

me .... 6,833 f 
M8? .... t.eoo 1 

1)88 .... 8,419 1« " 



£. I. 
9,659 10 
9,684 15 
10,213 13 


lf93 .... 10,330 1 « 
1194, .... 11,692 I 
1795 .... 11,149 15 4 
I?96 .... 12,140 16 » 
1?9T .... 10,861 6 ( 
V. 1J98 .... 10,5B» 1» ( 
—Tuiiit, L 218. Some of the fees then re. 
celved by the law officers of the Crown havl 
fallen off, but we have been pretty ^'cU i> 
demciflad bv " patents of invention." 


open question, although. Mr. Pitt and Mr. Dundas held the 
negative, Mr. Solicitor, under the influence of Lord Thurlow, 
contended strongly for the afBrmative. In answer to the 
argument, that this would enable the Crown at all times to 
defeat an impeachment by dissolving Parliament, although it 
be declared by the Bill of Bights that a pardon under the 
Great Seal cannot be pleaded in bar to an impeachment, — 
he went so far as to aver, that " the Crown ought to have 
the right of dissolving for the express purpose of abating an 
impeachment, saying that the new House of Commons, if they 
think fit, may commence proceedings de novo." ° But this most 
preposterous doctrine, which I am sorry to say several lawyers 
of eminence supported, was overruled by the good sense of 
the House, and is now universally allowed to be untenable. — 
It seems to have been absurdly insinuated in the newspapers, 
that Sir John Scott and his associates of the long robe had 
been bribed by Mr. Hastings; for, a few days after the 
decision, writing to Henry, at Newcastle, to give an account 
of an attack of the gout, he refers to this calumny, and takes 
occasion to mention that his opinion was unchanged : — 

" Oh ! the dignity of the cloth shoe ! How hard it is upon me that 
I, the youngest, and most temperate and abstemious of the three, should, 
the first of all the brothers, arrive to this dignity ! I hope most heartily 
you may escape ; because, between the pain felt and the pain of being 

laughed at, the complaint is quite intolerable You would see by 

the papers how unnieroifully we poor lawyers have been treated in the 
House of Commons. — But the hlach sqimdron, as we are called, are an 
obstinate little handful, and in the long run, in a right cause, we shall 
at least fall gloriously. As to newspaper slander, all which to my know- 
ledge is paid for, I hold that cheap, — and, in spite of it, I shall have, at 
our next meeting, another tumble down with Charles Fox and William 
Pitt, who, for once at least, agree in a business in which they are both 

The only other measure on which he spoke while Solicitor- 
General was Mr. Fox's Libel BUI. This he was not per- 
mitted directly to oppose, for Mr. Pitt and Lord GrenviUe, to 
their immortal honour, were determined to carry it against 
the efforts of Lord Thurlow and the bigoted opinion of all the 
Judges ; but he did what he could to disparage and to weaken 
it. According to the Parliamentary History, " the Solicitor- 
General began by professing a most religious regard for the 
institution of juries, which he considered the greatest 

° 23 Pari. Hist. 10Y4, 1028, 1160. 


blessing which the British Constitution had secured to the 
subject. He had his doubts, however, whether the bill then 
before the House would add to the utility of that invaluable 
institution." He then stood up for the old doctrine that 
libel or no libel? was a question of law for the Judges, and 
suggested that " a bill to unsettle a well-established rule, by 
which the courts had been guided for a century, ought not to 
pass with precipitation." ^ Finding that the bill must pass, 
he afterwards added a proviso which was very unnecessary, 
and which for a good many years proved very injurious, " that 
on trials for libel the Judges should, according to their dis- 
cretion, give their opinion and directions to the jury on the 
matter in issue between the King and the defendant, in like 
manner as in other criminal cases." ' 

A few days after the Libel BUI received the Eoyal assent. 
Lord Thurlow was forced to surrender the Great Seal. On 
this occasion Sir John Scott acted a very honourable and 
spirited part, of which we have an extremely interesting 
narra;tive from his own lips, delivered to his brother-in-law, 
Mr. John Surtees : — 

" Having received a message from Mr. Pitt, begging that I would call 
A D iJM ^V°^ him, I called accordingly. Mr. Pitt said, — ' Sir John 
Scott, I have a circumstance to mention to you, which, on 
account of your personal and political connection with Lord Thurlow, I 
wish that you shoulders* hear from myself. Lord Thurlow and I have 
quarrelled, and I have signified to him his Majesty's commands that he 
should resign the Great Seal.' I replied, ' I am not at all surprised at 
the event which has taken place ; I have long looked forward with great 
pain to the prohablUty of such an event, and my resolution is formed. I 
owe too great obligations to Lord Thurlow to reconcile it to myself to act 
in political hostility to him, and I have too long and too conscientiously 
acted in political connection with you to join in any party against you. 
Nothing is left for me but to resign my office as Solicitor-General, and to 
make my bow to the House of Conunons.' Mr. Pitt reasoned with me, 
and implored me not to persist in that resolution — in vain, — ^but at 
length prevailed upon me to consult Lord Thurlow before I proceeded, 
any farther. After I had stated to Lord Thurlow what had passed be- 
tween Mr. Pitt and myself, he said, ' Scott, if there be any thing which 
could make me regret what has taken place (and I do not repent it), it 
would be that you should do so foolish a thing. I did not think that 
the King would have parted with me so easily. As to that other man, 
he has done to me just what I should have done to him if I could. It 
is very possible that Mr. Pitt, from party and political motives, at thii 

r 2» FU-L Hist. 591, 594, 602. 1 32 Geo. 3, c. SO, B. », 


moment may overlook your pretensions ; but sooner or later you must 
hold the Great Seal. I know no man but yourself qualiiled for its duties.' 
I yielded ; and, preserving the friendship of Lord Thurlow, I continued 
to act with undiminished cordiality with Mr. Pitt." ' 

His last prominent act as Solicitor-General was, very pro- 
perly, to appeal to the laws of his country against a gentleman 
who sent him a challenge for words spoken by him as counsel, 
strictly in the discharge of his professional duty. There was 
no reason to douht his personal courage, but a display of it 
on such an occasion would have been a wanton exposure of 
his own valuable life, and would have established a precedent 
highly detrimental to the interests of suitors in courts of 
justice.' His conduct was entirely approved of by the Bar 
and by the public. The challenger, who thus sought to repair 
his reputation from the damage which the evidence in the 
cause had cast upon it, was sentenced by the Court of King's 
Bench to fine and imprisonment. — But scenes were at hand in 
which our hero appeared with little advantage. 



I NOW with unaffected pain approach Sir John Scott as At- 
torney-General, for I shall be obliged to censure him ^^ ^^^^ 
severely in this capacity. I doubt not that he acted 
all the while in strict conformity to his own views of justice 
and expediency, but I consider that in several instances these 
were most erroneous. It must be admitted that the times 
were perilous. Although the vast bulk of the inhabitants of 
this country were steadily attached to the monarchical govern- 
ment under whicb they and their ancestors had so signally 
prospered — in the movement produced by the French Kevo- 
lution there were some ill-designing men who wished to in- 
troduce public confusion, in the hope that they might suddenly 
attain the high station in society for which they were un- 
wiUittg to strive by patient industry ; and there were some 

' Twiss, i. 118. 


well-meaning enthusiasts, who thought that the happiness of 
the conimunity might be promoted by a considerable change 
in our institutions. Both classes ought to have been repressed — 
and might easily have been repressed — ^by a firm and temperate 
administration of the existing law ; but the existing law was 
strained and perverted, and new penal enactments were intro- 
duced by which the most important rights of the subject were 
suspended, and the Constitution was seriously endangered. Of 
this system, by which discontent was aggravated, and odium 
was brought upon courts of justice and upon the legislature, 
Sir John Scott was a most strenuous instigator and supporter, 
On the 13th of February, 1793, he became public prose- 
cutor, succeeding Sir Archibald Macdonald, promoted to the 
office of Lord Chief Baron, and on the 27th of May following 
he brought to trial John Trost for some foolish words spoken 
after dinner in a coffee-house. I have already given an 
account of this most un-English prosecution, and expressed my 
opinion pretty freely upon it." In fairness I now give the 
Attorney-General's justification of himself in his reply — 
premising that Erskine had tried to apologise for him by sug- 
gesting that he persisted in the prosecution, not because it had 
his own approbation, but because it had devolved upon him 
from his predecessor : — 

" I protest against that doctrine, that the Attorney-General of Eng- 
land is bound to prosecute because some other set of men choose to re- 
commend it to him to prosecute, he disapproving of that prosecution. 
He has it in his power to choose whether he will or not, and he will act 
according to his sense of duty. Do not understand me to be using a lan- 
guage so impertinent as to say, that the opinions of sober-minded per- 
sons in any station in Ufe, as to the necessity that calls for a prosecu- 
tion, ought not deeply to affect his judgment. But I say it is his duty 
to regulate his judgment by a conscientwus pursuance of that which is 
recommended to him to do ; and if any thing is recommended to him 
which is thought by other persons to be for the good of the country, but 
which he thinks is not for the good of the country, no man ought to be 
in the ofBce who would hesitate to say, ' My conscience must direct me ; 
your judgment shall not direct me.' And I know I can do this ; I can 
retire into a situation in which I shall enjoy what, under the blessings 
of that constitution thus reviled, is perhaps the best proof of its being a 
Valuable constitution — ^I mean the fair fruits of a humble industry, 
anxiously and conscientiously exercised in the fair and honourable pursuitB 
of Ufe. I state, therefore, to my learned friend, that I cannot accept 
that compliment which he paid me, when he supposed it was not my 

• ride (Mitt, Vol. nil. p. 146. 


act to bring this prosecution before you, because it was not what I my- - 
self could approve. Certainly this prosecution was not instituted by 
me ; but it was instituted by a person whose conduct, in tfce humane 
exercise of his duty, is well known; and I speak in the presence of 
many who have been long and often vritnesse? to it ; and when it de- 
• volved upon me to examine the merits of this prosecution, it was my 
bounden duty to examine, and it was my bounden duty to see if this 
was a breach of the sweet confidences of private life. If this was a story 
brought from behind this gentleman's chair by his servants, I can hardly 
figure to myself the case in which the public necessity and expediency 
of a prosecution should be so strong as to break in upon the relations of 
private life. But is this prosecution to be so represented? When a man 
goes into a coffee-room, who is, from his profession, certainly not 
ignorant of the respect which the laws of his country require from him as 
much as from any other man, and when he in that public coffee-house 
(provided it was an advised speaking) uses a language which I admit it 
is clear, upon the evidence given you to-day, provoked the indignation 
(if you please so to call it) of all who heard it— when persons, one, two, 
three, or more, come to ask him what he meant by it — ^when he gives 
them the explanation, and when he makes the offensive words still more 
offensive by the explanation that he repeatedly gives, — ^will any man tell 
me, that if he goes into a public coffee-house, whether he comes into it 
from up-stairs, or whether he goes into it from the street, that he is en- 
titled to the protection that belongs to the confidence of private life, or 
that it is a breach of the duties that result out of the confidence of private 
life to punish him. ? " ' 

I will only diatw attention to the admission, that the prose- 
cution could only be defended provided it was " an advised 
speaking," and remark that, instead of being "an advised 
speaking," the words were elicited by rude provocation from 
a man who had been indulging in wine. Yet, being in the 
rank of a gentleman, lie was not only sentenced to six months' 
imprisonment in Newgate, and to be expelled from his pro- 
fession of an attorney, but to stand one hour in the pillory at 
Charing Cross ! ! ! 

This was a fit prelude to the famous State Trials which took 
place in the following year. The blame of these rests 
chiefly with Mr. Pitt, and I am sorry to say that it ' ' 
fixes a deep stain upon his memory. If he had sincerely 
changed his opinion on parliamentary reform, it was not right 
in him to try to bring his former associates to an ignominious 
death for zealously treading in. his footsteps. Lord Lough- 
borough, then Chancellor, was next to blame ; for he too — 
though for a short space — ^had been a reformer, and he had 

• 22St.Tr.S10. 


agitated at piiblio meetings, holding language almost as inUiva ■ 
perate as the members of the " Corresponding Society." Six 
John Scott, from his earliest years, had been the steady and 
consistent enemy of all innovation, and had looked with alann 
on every popular movement. He might, therefore, better be 
excused for believing that those who advocated parliamentary- 
reform were very dangerous characters, and were resolved to 
subvert the established government of the country. It must 
likewise be recoUected, that in these proceedings he never 
displayed anything like rancour or bitterness against any 
individual, and that his language and his manner were uni- 
formly mild and forbearing. Yet, in spite of the self-compla- 
cency with which he spoke and wrote upon this subject tiU the 
close of his life, I am afraid that impartial history must con- 
demn his conduct ; for, as a great lawyer, he ought to have 
known that seditious harangues and publications were only to 
be treated as misdemeanors, and that to say men " compassed 
and imagined the death of our Lord the King," and ought to 
be executed as traitors, because they were liable to an ex- 
offido information on which they might be fined and' impri- 
soned, was to confound offences of a very different character, 
and to do away with the security which the Statute of Treasons, 
so long ago as the reign of Edward III., had conferred upon 
the citizens of this free land. 

In the manner in which the prosecutions were conducted, 
I can blame nothing, except that an attempt was made to pre- 
judge the case by parliamentary committees, and by passing 
an act of the legislature, which recited the existence of the 
traitorous conspiracy — and that when the prisoners were 
apprehended and examined before the Privy Council, the 
judges who were to sit upon their trials were called in to listen 
to the evidence, and to join in the commitment. Such a 
course would not be endured at the present day, and no Go- 
vernment composed of any party in the state would venture to 
propose it. 

To avoid repetition, I must now abstain from entering into 
the details of the trials of Hardy, Home Tooke, and Thelwall 
—which will be found in the life of Erskine. I would will- 
ingly give the whole of the Attorney-General's opening speech 
of nines hours, but I am afraid that my work may be already 
considered too length/ and too weighty, and I must confine 
myself to the following sketch of it, which has been adopted 
by Mr. Twiss : — 


" The Attorney-General, in opening the various circumstances to the 
jury, as evidence to prove the treason of compassing the King's death, 
stated that the proofs, which it would be his duty to adduce, would suf- 
ficiently establish the fact of a conspiracy to depose the King, which in 
point of law is an overt act of compassing his death : and he argued 
that it could not be less an overt act of compassing the King's death for 
being included in the still wider design of subverting the entire mon- 
archy and substituting a commonwealth, which was the real object 
aimed at under colour of ' a full and fair representation of the people.' 
If a conspiracy to depose the King is an overt act of compassing his 
death where the conspirators intend to supersede him by another king, 
it is equally so where they intend to supersede him by a republic. The 
convention contemplated by these conspirators was intended to claim &il 
civil and political authority ; which authority it was to exercise, by 
altering the government independently of the legislature and of the 
statutes by which the King is sworn to govern. The conspiracy to as- 
semble such a convention was a conspiracy to depose the King from his 
sovereign power ; and the insufficiency of the force by which the object 
might be attempted could make no difference in the character of the ob- 
ject itself, which must be equally treasonable whether successful or un- 
successful. Nor would it make any difference whether the first assem- 
bly to be convoked was to be itself a convention assuming all civil and 
political authority, or was only to devise the means of forming such, a 
convention. Neither would the conspiracy be the less a treasonable one 
for purposing to continue the name and office of King in the person of 
George the Third, if that continuance was intended to be coupled with a 
proviso that he should govern with a new kind of legislature, to be con- 
stituted by the convention. A king who should consent so to govern 
would no longer be the lawful king ; he would have been deposed from 
his character of king as established by law. But he covld not so con- 
sent ; for so to govern would be to violate his coronation oath : therefore 
he must refuse, must resist, and, in consequence of resisting, his life 
must he in danger. In either case he would have been deposed : for the 
meeting of a convention, assuming all authority, must in itself have been, 
at least pro tempore,'& deposition of eveiy other power. But in this case 
the evidence went beyond that kind of incidental deposition of the King : 
it proved that his actual deposition was the direct and express object of 
appointing a committee to constitute this convention. Beside the overt 
act of conspiring to depose the King by means of a convention, there 
were other overt acts of conspiracy to depose the King by other means : 
by endeavouring to introduce into this country, through the agency of 
affiliated societies, the same principles which had been set at work in 
France, and to follow them out to the same end. The doctrine put for- 
ward by the societies was that of ' equal active citizenship,' on which 
they sought to found a representative government. That was the prin- 
ciple upon which was formed the French constitution of 1791 — a con- 
stitution preserving the office of king, and setting up a sort of royal de- 
mocracy. But in August 1792 that constitution was destroyed : and 



the transactions of the English societies, in and after the October suc- 
ceeding that date, proved that, if not earlier, yet at least from October 
1792, they meant to destroy the kingly ofiSce in England. They sought 
to advance this object by stimulating their members to arm : and va- 
rious divisions did arm, and clandestinely practise the manual exercise." " 

Lord Eldon used to relate very amusing anecdotes of this 
trial. " Every evening, upon my leaving the Court; a signal 
was given that I was coming out, for a general hissing and 
hooting of the Attorney-General. This went through the 
street in which the Court sat from one end of it to the other 
and was continued all the way down to Ludgate Hill and hy 
Fleet Market." — " One evening, at the rising of the Court, I 
was preparing to retire, when Mr. Garrow said, ' Do not, 
Mr. Attorney, pass that tall man at the end of the table.' 
' And why not ? ' said Mr. Law, who stood next. ' He has 
been here,' answered Mr; Garrow, ' during the whole trial, 
with his eyes constantly fixed on the Attorney-General,' ' I 
wiU pass him,' said Mr. Law. ' And so will I,' was my re- 
joinder. As we passed, the man drew back. When I entered 
my carriage, the mob rushed forward, crying, ' That's he, drag 
him out ! ' Mr. Erskine, from whose carriage the mob had 
taken off the horses to draw him home in triumph, stopped 
the people, saying, ' I will not go without the Attorney-Gene- 
ral.' I instantly addressed them : ' So you imagine, that if 
you kill me, you wiU be without an Attorney-General? 
Before ten o'clock to-morrow there will be a new Attorney- 
General, by no means so favourably disposed to you as I am.' 
I heard a friend in the crowd exclaim, ' Let him alone ! let 
him alone ! ' They separated, and I proceeded. When I 
reached my house in Gower Street, I saw, close to my door, 
the tall man who stood near me in Court. I had no alter- 
native ; I instantly went up to him : ' What do you want ? 
I said. ' Do not be alarmed,' he answered ; ' I have attended 
in Court during the whole of the trial— I know my own 
strength, and am resolved to stand by you. You once did an 
act of great kindness to my father. Thank God, you are safe 
at home. May He bless and protect you ! ' He instantly dis- 

"Erskine was, of course, extremely popular. He was re- 
ceived vifith universal plaudits, and there was nothing to 
disturb his enjoyment of this contrast, or to soften my morti- 
fication, until one evening the multitude which had thought 

" See 24 St. Tr. Ml. Of this last ollegaUon no evidence could be produced. 

A.t>. 1794. TRIAL OF HOENE TOOKE. 197 

proper to take his horses from his carriage that they might 
draw him home, conceived among them such a fancy for a 
patriot's horses as not to return them, but to keep them for 
their own use and benefit." " 

" The jury retired to deliberate. Upon their return, 
their names were called over. I never shall forget that 
awful moment. ■ ' Gentlemen of the jury,' said the Clerk of 
Arraigns, ' are you agreed in your verdict ? What say you ? 
Is Thomas Hardy guilty of the high treason whereof he stands 
indicted, or not guilty ? ' ' Not guilty,' in an audible voice, 
was the answer. It was received in Court without noise — all 
was still — but the shout of the people was heard down the 
whole street. The door of the jury box was opened for the 
jurymen to retire ; the crowd separated from them as the 
saviours of their country." ^ 

Mr. W, E. Surtees, in his " Sketch of the Lives of Lords 
Stowell and Eldon," says: "Scott, not long afterwards, said 
' the evidence was, in his opinion, so nicely balanced, that had 
he himself been on the jury, he did not know what verdict he 
should have given.' " ' Surely the other prisoners ought to 
have had " the benefit of this doubt ; " — and I have always 
been wholly at a loss to conjecture his motive for proceeding to 
the trial of Home Tooke. 

The expedient was tried of making Sir John Mitford, the 
Solicitor-General, open the case, — the Attorney-General re- 
sei'ving the reply to himself. Speaking of the design im- 
puted to the conspirators to compel the King to govern 
against his coronation oath, Mr. Attorney rather incautiously 
said, " He ought to lose his life, and I trust would be willing to 
lose his life, rather than to govern contrary to that coronation 
oath." Mr. Tooke: " What! is the Attorney-General talking 
treason ? I should be unhappy to mistake you : did you say 
the King ought to lose his life ? " Attorney- General : "It is 
really difficult to decide for one's self, whether this interrup- 
tion is or is not proper." Mr. Tooke : " I ask pardon of the 
learned gentleman ; and I promise I will not interrupt him 
again during the whole of his reply. I only wished to know 
whether, in prosecuting me for high treason, the Attorney- 
General intentionally said something far worse than' anything 
he has proved against me." Attorney-General : " I am very 
much obliged to the gentleman. I say this : that the King 

" This imputation upon his admirers Era- weak invention of the enemy." 
kine himself denied,— saying that it was " a y Twiss, i. 186—87. » Page 8». 


of Great Britain is bound by bis coronation oatb to govern 
according to the laws establisbed in Parliament, and the 
customs of the realm ; that be is bound by that coronation 
oath to resist every power that seeks to compel him to 
govern otherwise than according to those laws ; that it must, 
therefore, be understood that the King of Great Britain would 
resist such a power as that, because he would be acting only 
in the exercise of his sworn duty ; and in resisting such a 
power as that he must inevitably lose his life." 

Before concluding, Mr. Attorney (as might have been ex- 
pected) pathetically appealed to his conscience : — "I here 
declare," said he, " that not one step would I take in this pro- 
secution repugnant to the dictates of my own judgment, 
exercised according to what my conscience prescribes to that 
judgment, not for all which this world has to give me. 
Gentlemen, why should I ? You will allow me to say, after all 
that has passed, that I have no desire with respect to myseK 
in this cause, but that my name should go down to posterity 
with credit. I cannot but remember this is an interest most 
dear to uae. Upon no other account my name will be trans- 
mitted to posterity : — with these proceedings it must be 
transmitted-. That name, gentlemen, cannot go down to that 
posterity without its being understood by posterity what have 
been my actions in this case. And when I am laid in my 
grave, after the interval of life that yet remains for me, my 
children, I hope and trust, wUl be able to say of their father, 
that he endeavoured to leave them an inheritance, by at- 
tempting to give them an example of public probity, dearer to 
them than any acquisition or any honour that this country 
could have given the living father to transmit to them." — The 
Solicitor-General, who was not generally of the melting mood, 
to the surprise of the beholders sobbed violently in sympathy, 
and some one exclaiming "Just look at Mitford! what on 
earth is he crying for ? " Home Tooke sarcastically answered, 
— " At the thought of the littk inheritance that poor Scott is 
likely to leave to his children." 

When the verdict of not guilty had been pronounced, it is 
said that the reverend and witty philologist — instead of ex- 
pressing any exultation — with waggish solemnity declared that 
" if he should again have the misfortune to be indicted for high 
treason, he would immediately plead guilty, as he considered 
hanging and beheading preferable to the long speeches of Sir 
John Soott." However, he acknowledged that the prosecution 


had been veryfairly conducted, and, meetingthe Attorney-Gene- 
ral a few weeks afterwards in Westminster Hall, he walked up 
to him and said, — " Let me avail myself of this opportunity to 
express my sense of your humane and considerate conduct 
during the late trials." 

As I have ventured to condemn Lord Eldon rather sharply 
for instituting these prosecutions, it is fit that he should 
be fully heard in his defence. Thus he wrote in his 
" Anecdote Book," for the information of his grandson and 
of posterity : — 

" The trials, in 1794, of Hardy, Tooke, &o., for high treason, at the 
Old Bailey, were the most important proceedings in which I was ever 
professionally engaged. As 1 was Warned by some, perhaps by many, for 
indicting them for high treason, instead of indicting for misdemeanor 
and sedition only, I record here the reasons which led me to take the 
course J adopted, and to produce that great mass of evidence before the 
jury, which many thought perplexed them so much, that they were 
unable to draw. the true inferences. When the societies of which these 
individuals were members were broken up by order of Government, and 
many of the members (among others, the individuals indicted and tried) 
were, together with all their papers, and particularly those respecting 
the proceedings of the different aflBliated societies, seized, by warrants, 
on suspicion of high treason, such of the Judges as were Privy Councillors, 
and were present at the many and long examinations of the pcvrties 
apprehended, at the reading of the papers seized, and at the examination 
of the witnesses, being called upon for their opinion, stated that in their 
judgment the parties were guilty of high treason. The warrants of com- 
mitment for trial treated them as parties committed on account of high 
treason. The cases, as treasonable cases, were the subject of communi- 
cations to, and debates in. Parliament. As Attorney-General and 
public prosecutor, I did not think myself at liberty in the indictments 
to let down the character of the offence. The mass of evidence, in my 
judgment, was such as ought to go to the jury for their opinion, whether 
they were guilty or not guilty of Tbbason. Unless the whole evidence 
was laid before the jury, it would have been impossible that the country 
could ever have been made fully acquainted with the danger to which it 
was exposed, if these persons, and the societies to which they belonged, 
had actually met in that national convention, which the papers seized 
proved that they were about to hold, and which was to have superseded 
Parliament itself, and it appeared to me to be more essentiai to securing 
the public safety that the whole of their transactions should be published, 
than that any of these individv/xls should be convicted. They, too, who 
were lawyers and judges, having stated their opinion that these were 
cases of high treason, I could not but be aware what blame would have 
been thrown upon the law officers of the Crown if they had been in- 
dicted for misdemeanor, and the evidence had proved a case of liigb' 


trsason, which, proved, would have entitled them to an acquittal for the 
misdemeanor ; and then the country would not have tolerated, and 
ought not to have tolerated, that, after such an acquittal, their lives 
should have been put in jeopardy by another indictment for high 
treason. It was true that a charge for misdemeanor might have been 
so conducted as not to risk the danger of acquittal on the ground of 
guilt of a higher nature, viz. by giving no more of the evidence than 
just enough to sustain the charge of misdemeanor ; but then the 
great object of satisfying the kingdom as to the real nature of the case 
could not possibly have been attained. The Judge who summed up the 
evidence, after hearing both sides, had more doubt whether the case of 
high treason was made out than he had when he attended the Privy 
Council. Brskine and Gibbs, the prisoner's counsel, ably took advan- 
tage, particularly the latter, of the prejudices against what is called 
constructive treason : the jury were fatigued and puzzled ; and, in the 
state in which they were, it cannot be surprising that they acquitted the 
accused. When a little time had enabled the public to judge coolly 
about the proceeding, the public mind seemed satisfied with the 

But I must pronounce this apology to be wholly insuiS- 
A.D. im— oient. The preliminary opinion obtained froni the 
1795. Judges before the Privy Council ought not to have 

been referred to without a blush, and the voice of the two 
Houses of Parliament was only the echo of the Attorney-Ge- 
neral's own. The necessity for communicating information to 
the country is a poor reason for exposing the lives of men 
to peril, and it might have been as well gained by a prose- 
cution for a misdemeanor. The risk of an acquittal in that 
case, on the ground that the oifence might have been pro- 
nounced to amount to high treason, every lawyer must know 
to be a mere pretext. In several Chartist cases which while 
Attorney-General I prosecuted as misdemeanors, the evidence 
came far nearer to high treason, and I obtained convictions 
without such an objection being made or thought of in any 

I must now attend to the new penal enactments which had 
passed in the mean time. For these the Attorney-General is 
less responsible, and, though they were unconstitutional, they 
do not deserve so much censure as an attempt judicially to 
pervert the criminal law. First came The Traitorous Corr&- 
apondence Bill, brought in by Mr. Attorney, which, departing 
from the statute of Edward III., our second Magna Chabta, 
made an agreement to funish naval or military stores to 

» 24 St. Tr. 241. 25 lb. 497. 


I'rance, — ^the investing of English capital in French funds or 
land, and other such acts, — ^high treason ;'' — next, he brought 
in the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act" — and then the Seditious 
Practices Act, by which the holding of public meetings, unless 
with the consent of certain functionaries, was forbidden, and 
serious impediments were opposed to the right of petitioning.'' 
The Attorney-General carried through these measures with 
great vigour, and his opinion on all legal points was listened 
to with much respect by the House of Commons.. He par- 
ticularly distinguished himself in successfully opposing the 
bill to disfranchise the borough of Stockbridge," — in defend- 
ing the conduct of Government respecting the employment of 
Hessian troops,' — in showing the legality of voluntary sub- 
scriptions to the public revenue,^ — and in palliating 
the savage proceedings in political cases of the Court 
of Justiciary in Scotland."" 

When Parliament met after the State Trials, they were 
made the subject of strong animadversion ; and the Attorney- 
General, in moving for a continuance of the suspension of the 
Habeas Corpus Act, attempted to defend the manner in which 
they had been instituted and conducted. He thus argued 
— very disingenuously, for the result had not depended upon 
any technical rule of law, but upon the clear merits of the 
case: — 

" A legal acquittal is not necessarily a moral one. I will put a case 
upon this subject. Suppose, upon a charge of treason, any gentleman 
of unblemished honour were to give evidence of an overt act, to the 
satisfaction of every man who heard him, still, if there was no other evi- 
dence, the prisoner must be acquitted, because the law says there must 
be two witnesses. Here would be a case of a verdict of not guilty, in 
which every person must be satisfied of the real guilt of the person ac- 
quitted. There are cases even in which the confession of guilt by the 
party accused could not legally be received against him in evidence. In 
such cases, though a jury might be bound by law to acquit the person, 
could any man think that the verdict of not guilty was a proof of moral 
innocence?" We are told that " he then inveighed against the mis- 
chievous writings of some authors very popular with the revolutionary 
party, and censured the language of members of the Opposition, who ap- 
plied the light and inadequate epithets of ' idle,' and ' foolish,' to the 
conduct of those who had adopted revolutionary doctrines, and had ex- 
pressed a desire for a national convention in England. He asked whe- 

b 30 Part. Hist 681. " 30 Pari. Hist 966. 

" 31 Pari. Hist. 620. ' lb. 1381. 31 lb. 9tl. 

<• lb. 929. ' 31 lb. lOf . 


ther, while such opinions were in motion, was it not absolutely neces- 
sary that Government should be armed with extraordinary powers tc 
resist them ? " ' 

Tte coercive system, however, was rapidly falling into dis- 
credit, — when it was revived with double fury by taking 
advantage of insults offered to the King on his way to the 
House of Lords to open the next session of Parliament. 
These his Majesty himself — with the courage he ever dis- 
played at the appearance of danger — treated with indifference, 
but they were much exaggerated by the courtiers about him, 
who, converting the scandalous outrage of throwing pebbles 
at the King's carriage into a traitorous attempt upon his life, 
talked of " the shot striking the window of the state coach," 
and reported that " one of the windows was perforated by a 
bullet from an air-gun." An address was very properly pre- 
sented to his Majesty by both Houses of Parliament, express- 
ing their indignation at the treatment which he had expe- 
rienced. But the enthusiastic loyalty which was excited on 
the occasion Ministers culpably n^ade the instrument of fur- 
ther injuring the Constitution. 

The Attorney- General immediately prepared the " Trea- 
sonable Attempts Bill," which he called " a legislative expo- 
sition of the statute of Edward III.," greatly extending the 
provisions of that famous law, which for many centuries had 
sufficiently guarded the safety of the throne and the liberties 
of the people. Instead of the simple enactments against 
" compassing the King's death," or actually " levying war 
against him," the penalties of high treason were applied to 
the vague charges of imagining to do any bodily harm tending 
to the wounding, imprisonment, or restraint of the person of 
the King, or to depose him from the style, honour, or kingly 
name of the imperial Crown of this realm, or imagining to levy 
war against him, or imagining to put any form or constraint 
upon or to iwtimidate or overcome both or either Houses of Parliament 
— such imaginings being expressed hj publishing any writing or 
by any overt act or deed."' 

i 31 Pari. Hist. 1153. nation had ropndiated. TJpou a strict con. 

k 36 Geo. 3, c. 1, made perpetual by 6? struction of the act I doubt very much 
(ieo. 3, c. 6. The object seems to have been whether the proceedings of Mr. Cobden, 
to include within these words such cases as praised so highly by Sir Robert Peel, might 
those of Lord George Gordon, and Hardy and not be brought within it, in a speech of nine 
Home Tooke, so as, bythis " legislative ex- hours from an ingenious counsel. It still re- 
position," to establish, the doctrine of «m- mains on the statute book — but may be con- 
etnictive treason, which Juries and the whole sldered a dead letter. When 1, as Attorney- 


Mr. Attorney seems to have been haunted hy an absolute 
horror of libels, which, where they do not incite to the com- 
mission of crime, we have found out to be very harmless, and 
we suffer to be forgotten with impunity. In defending his 
Bill he said, " he considered it as not extending the law of 
treason beyond the true intent of the statute of Edward III., 
but only as defining and explaining that statute, which had 
itself provided that in all cases of doubt upon its exposition, 
recourse should be had to Parliament for a more definite ex- 
position. Persuaded as he was, by the unprecedented assem- 
blages and libels of the time, that a design existed to subvert 
the Government and Constitution, he would not incur any 
merited change of supineness. He had done his utmost to 
repress the evil by the already existing laws, for in the last two 
years there had been more prosecutions for libels than in any twenty 
years before. But the offence had now swelled to a magnitude 
with which the existing laws were no longer adequate to 
cope ; and unless some further aid were given by Parliament 
for its suppression, the House would too late regret that they 
had not encountered it by a timely remedy." " In subse- 
quent discussions on this Bill, and another, which was for- 
tunately only of a temporary character, forbidding the meet- 
ing of more than fifty persons for the purpose of petitioning 
or deliberating upon grievances, and suppressing unlicensed 
places for political discussions or discourses, he said, " there 
were people now who lived by libels ; it was become a trade. 
It was not unusual to see the wares of useful trades exposed 
to sale on one side of a shop, and libels on the other. Such 
were their numbers, that it was his conscientious opinion 
they could not be effectually checked if some law were not 
made to stop their progress. However irksome it was for a 
lover of the Constitution to feel his liberty abridged, ever)' 
wise man would admit, that when everything dear to him 
was in danger from the daring herd of rash innovators and 
the licentious doctrines of the dealers in sedition, valuable as 
British freedom was, a part should be sacrificed for a time for 
the safety of the whole." ° — He again boasted, that, " in the last 
two years there were more prosecutions for libels than in any twenty 
years before." He said that " if every libel were punished as 

General, prosecuted Frost and his associates tiire to say that every offender who ought tti 

for high treason, at Monmouth, in the year be prosecuted for high treason may easilT 

1840, 1 proceeded entirely on the old statute be brought within this statute, 

of Edward III., and I obtained a conviction " 31 Pari. Hist. 1153. 

gitainst them without difficulty. I will ven- ° 32 Pari. Hist. 3J0. 

204 ' LORD ELDON. Chap. CXCVI. 

a mere misdemeanor, there were many men whose lives, if 
protracted to the greatest extent of human longevity, would 
not see the end of their punishments. The ohject of the so- 
cieties was to degrade and destroy every principle of virtue, 
and all natural religion, and all political order. He could with 
odnfldence declare, that there had never been a case in which 
he had been called upon to prosecute, that he did not state 
to the jury, that he would rather have the gown stripped from 
his back, than ask them to give a verdict contrary to their 
consciences." ° 

The bills were carried through Parliament by large majori- 
ties ; but, while the Administration gained some temporary 
strength from the alarm they propagated in the country, 
their tendency was to inflame public discontent, and to lessen 
the eifect of the contrast which was then exhibited to the world 
between the blessings of regular government in England and 
the horrors of anarchy in France. 

The Whig leaders, although with a very slender following, 
made a noble stand against these encroachments on public 
liberty. But they incur almost equal blame for a prosecu- 
tion which they originated, and which exemplifies a remark 
I have often made to myself in perusing both ancient and 
modem history, that where two parties in a state have been 
long struggling for superiority, moderation, wisdom, and jus- 
tice are never to be found exclusively with either of them, and 
the excesses of one side are sure to be pretty nearly matched 
by those of the other. Mr. Fox, instigated by Mr. Sheridan, 
Mr. Grey, and Mr. Erskine, and actuated, I am afraid, by the 
recollection that Mr. John Eeeves was an active partisan 
of the Government, and had made himself conspicuous by 
placing himself at the head of an association professing to put 
down republicans and levellers, made the motion against him 
which I have already had occasion to reprobate,"" — that, on 
account of some antiquarian researches respecting the original 
constitution of Parliament, he was guilty of a breach of the 
privileges of the House of Commons, and ought to be prose- 
cuted by the A ttomey-General. Sir John Scott very tem- 
perately observed, that " it had been found in former in- 
stances of complaints sent from the House, a jury, after a 
long investigation of the facts charged, differed in opinion, 
and acquitted the party prosecuted. Indeed if the construc- 
tion which gentlemen had put upon this passage was that 

» 32 Pari. Hist., 62?, 634 P Anti, VoL VIII., p. 329. 


which ths author meant to convey, then most unquestionahlj 
it was a gross libel ; hut upon that point he would not give 
his opinion. He always considered it an unfortunate circum- 
stance when a jury felt themselves bound to pronounce a 
different opinion from that of the House of Commons. How- 
ever, honourable members were to divide upon the question, 
and if he was ordered to prosecute he would discharge his 
duty faithfully." " 

The prosecution being ordered, Mr. Attorney filed a crimi- 
nal information against Mr. Reeves, and, having May 20, 
brought him to trial, very fairly stated to the jury, '"'• 
" If you are of opinion that this is an ill-advised execution of 
a purpose which was really not criminal, it is not consonant 
to the lenient, genuine spirit of the law under which we live, 
that in such a case you should press a man with the conse- 
quences of guilt. But if, on the other hand, you are satisfied, 
on attending to the whole of this book, that the purpose of 
the author was ciiminal, as it is charged in this information — 
that he has attempted to shake the foundation of that security 
which is afforded to a British subject by our Constitution 
under a British King and a British Parliament, you are called 
upon to pronounce the verdict of guilty, which is due to 
God and to your country." 

The defeated House of Commons did not venture to make 
any complaint against their counsel, who, though in his heart 
not sorry to fail, was allowed to have done sufficient justice to 
their case.' 

The only other occasion of Sir John Scott taking part in the 
proceedings of the House of Commons, to which I j^^ j^^g 
shall feel it necessary to advert, was his introduction 
of a " Bill to regulate the publication of Newspapers." Hi- 
therto, serious difficulty had often been found in proceeding 
either civilly or criminally for libels contained in newspapers, 
from the concealment of the names of the printer and proprie- 
tor ; but it was now required that the proprietor and printer of 
every newspaper should make an affidavit, to be filed at the 
Stamp Office, stating the proprietorship and place of publica- 
tion ; that every copy of a newspaper should set forth the names 
of the printer and proprietors, with the place of publication; 
and that a copy of such newspaper, bearing the title and pur- 
porting to be printed at the place specified in the affidavit, 
should be prin^ facie evidence against those by whom the 

' 32 Pari. Hfat. 627, 834. •• 26 St. Tr. 629— 515. 

20t» LORD ELDON. Chap. CXCVI. 

affidavit was made. The bill was strongly opposed, but waa 
not, in my opinion, any enoroaobment upon free discnssiou, 
and, on "tbe contrary, bad a tendency to raise tbe cbaracter of 
tbe newspaper press, by discouraging tbe scurrilous and 
licentious journals wbiob subsisted by attacks on private cba- 
racter. Tbe bUl passed, and has, I tbink, in practice been 
found very beneficial.' 

We must again attend our Attorney-General into tbe Cri- 
minal Courts, wbero it was bis fate frequently to be defeated, 
even wben be bad law and justice on bis side. I believe 
tbat tbis arose from tbe alarming multiplicity of bis prosecu- 
tions, and tbe suspicion wbiob juries entertained tbat be 
was ' unfriendly to freedom. He now very properly 
brpugbt to trial for bigb treason Stone, wbo had 
corresponded with tbe enemy and bad invited an invasion ; 
but Erskine, by insinuating that this was like tbe case of 
Hardy and Home Tooke, and that it was founded on tbe late 
odious Acts of Parliament, obtained an acquittal.' Tbe next 
state trial was that of Crossfield and others for high treason 
in conspiring to discharge a poisoned arrow at the King. 
There could be no doubt here about tbe law, and the fact was 
sworn to by several witnesses ; but the jury did not believe 
them, and found a verdict of Not Guilty." 

Sir John Scott's last prosecution for high treason was 
May 1199 ^'S^i'^s*' Arthur O'Connor, the Eev. James O'Coigley, 
John Binns, and others, for corresponding with the 
Executive Directory of Trance, and inviting foreign invasion. 
Mr. Gumey, afterwards a Baron of the Exchequer, then in 
tbe " sedition line," being counsel for one of the prisoners, 
made it a powerful topic with the jury tbat the Attorney- 
General had always failed in his prosecutions for high 
treason :— 

" The Attorney-General in his opening told you, with a seriousness 
and solemnity well becoming the occasion, that he should make out such 
a case against the prisoners at the bar that he thought it was not within 
the compass of possibility for them to give such an answer to it as to 
entitle them to a verdict of acquittal. Gentlemen, that language may 
be sottiewhat new to you, but it is not new to me. I have heard the 
same language from the same learned gentleman, delivered in the same 
solemn manner, more than once, or twice, or thrice, or four times ; but 

• 38 George 3, c »8, 33 Purl. Hist. 141B, 1482. 
■ 35 St. Tr. 11G6 6 as SU Tr l—Xt. 


I never yet knew that jury, in a case of high treason, who at the 
conclusion of the trial coincided with him in judgment." 

On this occasion one prisoner, O'Coigley, was convicted," 
but all the others, though undoubtedly implicated in the 
traitorous conspiracy, were acquitted.' 

Mr. Attorney was more successful with his misdemeanors, 
but I cannot say that he thereby increased his credit. He 
obtained a conviction, followed up with fine and imprison- 
ment, of the proprietor and printer of the Courier newspaper, 
for a paragraph which appeared in that journal, stating that 
" the Emperor of Eussia (Paul) was rendering himself ob- 
noxious to his subjecte by various acts of tyranny, and ridi- 
culous in the eyes of Europe by his inconsistency." ' Then 
came the scandalous verdict against Mr. Cuthell, ihe respect- 
able bookseller, because, without his authority or knowledge, 
a few copies of Gilbert Wakefield's pamphlet had been sold in 
his shop. I must do Mr. Attorney the justice to say, that he 
seemed heartily ashamed of this case, for he hardly said more 
to the jury than laying down for law, that " every man who 
publishes a book is answerable for the contents, whether he 
knows them or not ; and when a man publishes a book, he 
takes his chance ; if it be an innocent book, it is well — if a 
libel, the publisher is answerable for its contents :" but he did 
not venture to grapple with the question, whether, in fact or 
in law, the defendant was the publisher ?* 

Mr. Attorney's last exploit in this line was prosecuting the 
Eev. Gilbert Wakefield himself for the pamphlet, which con- 
tained, with much sound learning, much that was absurd and 
censurable, but which was not calculated to do any serious 
mischief.* The defendant having addressed the jury as his 
own counsel, with ingenuity and erudition, but little discre- 
tion, — Sir John Scott observed, " From what the reverend 
gentleman has said, he seems to conceive that there should be 
one law for him, and another for all the rest of his country- 
men. I should think that I degraded myself, and insulted 
you, by offering to make any reply to what has fallen from 

* It was goon after ibis conviction that Sir he might have been a Scotchman : he was a 

James Mackintosh, then groundlessly snp- priest, he might have been a lawyer: he was 

posed to have gone over to the Tories, having a traitor ; he might have been an apostate." 
observed to Dr. Parr, " There never was, nor 7 26 St. Tr. 1191. 27 St. Tr. 1. 
can there be, a worse man tlian O'Coigley," ' Rex v. Vent, 21 St. Tr. 617. Ante, Vol 

the Doctor retorted — "You are wrong, VIIJ., p. 343. * lb. 

Jammj, you are wrong : be was an Irishman ; b 27 St Tr. ^41. 


him." The defendant was sent to prosecute his studies two 
years in Dorchester gaol." 

I by no means impute these proceedings to any harshness 
in the character of Sir John Scott, which, on the contrary, 
was mUd and benevolent, — ^but to the rancorous policy then 
adopted by the party to which he belonged. It is agreeable 
to think that there is no danger of again seeing a " Eeign of 
Terror " in this country. Of late years such prosecutions 
would as little have been instituted by Sir Frederick Pollock 
or Sir Frederick Thesiger as by Sir John Campbell or Sir 
Thomas Wilde.* 

The last appearance of Sir John Scott in a criminal court 
was in prosecuting the Earl of Thanet and Mr. Cutlar Fer- 
gueson for a riot in attempting to rescue Arthur O'Connor 
after his acquittal at Maidstone. If all that the witnesses for 
the Crown swore was true, there had been' a grave insult 
offered to the administration of justice in the presence of the 
King's Judges, and little blame was incurred by bringing the 
case before a jury ; but the defendants showed that they had 
tried to quell the disturbance instead of exciting it ; and they 
would probably have been acquitted, had it not been for the 
foolish declaration of Mr. Sheridan, when examined on their 
behalf, that he " believed they secretly wished Mr. O'Connor to 
escape, although he observed nothing in their conduct to show 
that they felt such a wish." 

In reading this and other trials in which Sir John Scott 
was concerned, I have in vain desired to select passages which 
might convey a favourable opinion of his style as an advocate. 
He confined himself to a detail of facts, mixed up with pro- 
testations of his own honesty and good intentions, quite care- 
less as to the structure of his sentences, or the order of his 
discourse. I can offer nothing better than the following very 
sensible statement of his duly as public prosecutor : — " The 

° 27 St. Tr, 699. TTpoD this trial Lord Illustrated by a letter written in 1801 bjr Sir 

Kenyon, laylngaside"latetanguisinherbE," John Mitford. tlie new Attorney-General, 

introduced a new quotation — saying, in allu- who was Ulcewise a very mild, good-natured 

sion to the defendant b great classical acquire- man : — " 1 flatter myself that the very tenv- 

ments, — perate exercise of the office of Attomey- 

^... , «, ..i _i General whilst Lord Eldon held it, and since 

" ;:r^te?SL^ "^ ' « '■'« ^^ in o™ "ho has carefully followed 

IfimoUit mores — *.• j. -l , , «.,. ,, 

ma steps, has had an effect in producing a 

is an ezpresoion which has often been tised ; general persuasion that the powers of that 

but the experience of this case has shown officer have never been used hut where the 

that it is not always correct." case manifestly demanded that they ehonld 

^ The ideas of that age are strikingly be put in foroa " 


Attorney-General of the country, as it appears to me, has a 
public duty to execute, iu reference to which he ought to con- 
ceive that he has properly executed that duty if he has brought 
a fit and proper accusation before a jury, and has proceeded to 
the length of honestly and fairly examining the several cir- 
cumstances given in evidence in support of, and in answer to 
that accusation ; always recollecting that the jury will finally 
hear, from that wisdom which cannot mislead them, the true 
inferences that will arise upon facts which have been given 
in evidence on both sides." When sentence was to be pro- 
nounced on Lord Thanet and Mr. Fergusson, he said, " My 
Lords, I owe it to the noble Peer who staaids before me, and 
I owe it to the learned gentleman who has been bred to my 
own profession, and I owe it to myself and to the public, to 
declare to your Lordships, that no inducement could have 
persuaded me to institute this prosecution, but a conviction 
produced by that evidence which was laid before me, that the 
noble Lord and the other defendant were justly implicated in 
the charge. Having done my duty to the public, according 
to what my notions of my duty require of me, I cannot do 
better than to leave the case where it is, and to caU upon 
your Lordships to do that which is right between these de- 
fendants and the public."" « 

1 wish I could enliven these dull details of criminal pro- 
ceedings by some professional facetiee ; but I must not intro- 
duce well-known stories on no better plea than that Lord 
Eldon was in the habit of telling them. One or two, in 
which he was an actor as well as narrator, perhaps deserve to 
be recorded. " Lord Thurlow, when Chancellor, had asked 
me if 1 did not think that a wooden machine might be in- 
vented to draw biUs and answers in Chancery ?^ Many years 
after this, when he had ceased to be Chancellor, and I was 
Attorney-General, a bill was filed against his friend Mac- 
namara, the conveyancer, — and Lord Thurlow advised him 
to have the answer sent to me to be perused and settled. 
The solicitor brought me the answer ; I read it. It was bo 
wretchedly ill- composed and drawn, that I told him not a 
word of it would do — that I had not time to draw an answer 
from beginning to end — that he must get some gentleman to 
draw the answer, from beginning to end, who understood 
pleading, and then, bring it to me to peruse. I went down to 

« 27 St. Tr. 821—986. 
I Mr. Babliage is said to hiiTe taken from this (be idea of hu " calcnlatliig machise." 
VOL. K. P 


the House of Lords the same day, to plead a cause at the bar 
there. Lord Thurlow was in the House, and came down to 
the bar to me, and said, ' So I understand you think my friend 
Mac's answer won't do.' ' Do ! ' said I, ' my Lord, it won't do 
at all : it must have been drawn by that wooden machine which 
you formerly told me might be invented to draw bills and 
answers.' ' That's very unlucky," says Thurlow, .' and im- 
pudent too, if you had known the fact — tliat I drew the answer 
myself.'' "" , _ 

" I was generally successful against those who committed 
frauds on the revenue — but one smiiggler beat me completely. 
There being a great rage among the ladies for French kid 
gloves, which were contraband, he imported from Calais 3000 
right-hand gloves, which being immediately seized and sold by 
the Custom-house, he bought them for a trifle, as they were 
of no use without the left-hand gloves. He then imported 
3000 left-hand gloves, and these he contrived to buy in a 
similar manner, as they were of no use without the righf-hand 
gloves. Having got both sets, he was entitled to sell them 
at his own price, under the authority of the Government, to 
every milliner in London. 

" Jemmy Boswell called upon me at my chambers in 
Lincoln's Inn, desiring to know what would be my definition 
of Taste. I told him I must decline informing him how I 
should define it, because I knew he would publish what I said 
would be my definition of it, and I did not choose to subject 
my notion of it to public criticism. He continued, however, 
his importimities in frequent calls, and in one complained 
much that I would not give him my definition of taste, as he 
had that morning got Henry Dundas's (afterwards ' Lord 
Melville), Sir Archibald Macdonald's, and John Anstruther's 
definitions of taste. — ' Well, then,' I said, ' Boswell, we must 
have an end of this. Taste, according to my definition, 
is the judgment which Dundas, Maodonald, Anstruther, 
and you manifested when you determined to quit Scotland 
and to come into the South. You may publish this if you 
please.' '"■ 

But perhaps there is nothing more amusing than the ac- 
count of his soldiering, for when the dread of invasion spread 
over the land, he, too, wished to become a soldier, and bought 
a gun and a bayonet. But this was not the line in which he 
was destined to acquire a high reputation and to serve his 

E Twiss,i. 207. k lb. 


country : " During tlie long war," said he, " I became one of 
the Lincoln's Inn volunteers, Lord Ellenborough at the same 
time being one of that corps. It happened, unfortunately for 
the military character of both of us, that we were turned out 
of the awkward squadron for avokwardness. I think EUenborough 
was more awkward than I was, but others thought that it was 
difficult to determine which of us was the worst." It should 
be mentioned, however, for the honour of the house of Scott,- 
that Sir William used to say " militavi non sine glorid," for he 
actually commanded a corps of Civilians at Doctors' Commons, 
who were exceedingly warlike, their profitable practice in the 
Admiralty Court being threatened with annihilation by any 
rumour of peace.' 

As Sir John Scott is forthwith to be raised to the Bench, 
I am desirous of taking friendly leave of liim as a barrister ; 
and I cannot do this more effectually than by quoting the 
testimony in his favour left us by "William TVilberforce : 
" Sir John Scott used to be a great deal at my house. I 
saw much of him then, and it is no more than his due to say, 
that when he was Solicitor and Attorney-General under Pitt, 
he never fawned and flattered as some did, but always as- 
sumed the tone and station of a man who was conscious that 
he must show he respects himself, if he wishes to be respected 
by others." "' 

I likewise copy, with pleasure, the simple and forcible 
praise of Townsend : " For six years of active official and 
extra-official duty, during which he screwed the pressure of 
his power more tightly than any Attorney-General before or 
since, with the single exception of Sir Vicary Gibbs, he stiU 
retained a large share of personal good-will, and was the 
favourite alike of the Bar, of suitors, and the public." 

i Mr. Attorney, in a letter to his brother- the modesty not to show myself in alms, 

in-law, Mr. Surtees, dated 6th June, 1799, though I have military character enough 

thus speaks in modest terms of his own mill- to attend the drill occasionally in a more 

taiy prowess and Sir William's :— " We had private scene. Your friend Major Sir Wll. 

a most glorious exhibition here on the King's liam Scott's corps, not having yet been bold 

birth-day, in the review of the volxmteer enough to attempt the strong measure of 

corps, which furnished much the most mag- firing, were also absent," — Twiss, i. 216. 

nificent spectacle I have ever seen. As a . k LiteofWilberforce, vol. v. p. ji*. 
noD-effectlvb In an awkward squadron, 1 had 

p 2 




On the 8th of July, 1799, died Sir James Eyre, Chief Jtistioe 
of the Common Pleas, — and the Attomey-Genersj 
claimed his " pillow." Mr. Pitt and Lord Lough- 
borough, the Chancellor, wished much to retain him in his 
office, — representing to him how important it was for the 
Government to have his assistance in the House of Commons, 
and suggesting that for his own sake it would be better to 
wait for higher promotion. But his health and comfort re- 
quiring repose, he insisted on his right, and it waa conceded 
to him, under an arrangement that he should be raised to the 
peerage. He used always to add : " The King, likewise, 
made it a condition that I should promise not to refuse the 
Great Seal when he might call upon me to accept it, — and 
this condition I thought I was bound to accede to." " — WhQe 
deliberating about his title and his motto, he thus wrote to Sir 
William : " There seems to be, as suggested by Mitford, a 
difficulty about Allondale. The whole dale belonging to Mr. 
Beaumont, and I having no connection with it, it's thought it 
may give offence to trespass upon it. If the Chancellor thinks 
so and you, I must resort to something else ; there's hardly any 
that don't open to some such objection, and I may be driven 
to Eldon at last. — ' Sit sine lobe deciis,'—iB the best motto by far 
that I have heard of; and John told me he had it from you. 

" As the ring is to be a compliment to the King, I have 
thought of Virgil's description of the hive when the king is 
Secure, as applicable to the unanimity of the country in the 
present security of its monarchy. 

' Rege incolumi, mens omnibus nna.' ° 

" George HI. certainly had felt a high view of showing that he held the Great Seal 

regard for him ever since the Regency ques- directly of the Crown, and that he was at 

tion, and entirely approved of all his conduct, liberty to take part, if he chose, against the 

both in Parliament and as public prosecutfjr ; Prime Minister. 

but, perhaps. Lord Eldon a little magnified ° Thisalludea to the ceremony of his being 

his Mi^esty's fondness for him. with the called to the degree of Seijeant-at-Law, 

A:D. 1799. CfflEF JUSTICE AND A PEER. 213 

" Pray, my dear brother, send me a line when yon receive 
this. I am going to spend my last day in the Court of Chan- 
cery, and then I am to dine with the Chancellor, so that I fear 
I cannot get to the Commons ; and, the moment I come out 
of Court, I could only come under strong emotion of spirits, 
I can find nohody that can think that Scott " will do, except 
Lord E. ; and I won't have it unless you bid me." 

At last, resolving to take his title from his estate, he be- 
came John Lord Eldon, Baron Eldon, of Eldon, in the county 
palatine of Durham ; and, being sworn of the Privy Council, 
and his patent as Chief Justice having passed the Great Seal, 
he thus addressed his venerable parent, who survived to re- 
joice in his elevation : — 

" Lincoln's Inn, 19th July, 1799. 
" My dbab Mothbb, 

" I cannot act under any other feeling than that you should be the 
first to whom I write after changing my name. My brother Harry will 
have informed you, I hope, that the King has been pleased to make me 
Chief Justice of the Common Fleas and a Peer. I feel that under the 
blessing of Divine Providence I owe this — I hope I may say I owe this 
— to a life spent in conformity to those principles of virtue which the 
kindness of my father and mother early inculcated, and which the affec- 
tionate attention of my brother. Sir William, improved in me. I hope 
God's grace will enable me to do my duty in the station to which I am 
called. I write in some agitation of spirits, but I am anxious to express 
my love and duty to my mother, and affection to my sisters, when 1 first 
subscribe myself 

" Your loving and affectionate son, 


I prefer the letter to his brother : — 

"My dear Habby, 
" 1 would write you a longer letter, but I am really so oppressed with 
the attention and kindness of my friends, that I can't preserve a dry eye. 
God bless you and my sister ; remember me affectiouately to Mr. and 
Mrs.. Forster. You shall hear from me again. With the same heart- 
felt affection with which I have so often subscribed the name- of J. Scott, 
I write that of your affectionate brother, 

" Eldon." 

which was a necessary preliminary to his " The titte of LoKO Scott, if he had taken 

being made a Judge. Bings are distributed it, would by this time have appeared sounding 

by a new Seijeant, with an appropriate and historical, like Lord Say or Lord North, 

motto. An act of Parliament was passed The surnames of Pitt and Fox, now so ilhis- 

(39 Geo. 3, c 113) to allow him to be called tarlons, most once have appeared very meas- 
Serjeant in vacation. 


When these letters reached Newcastle, the members of the 
family threw themselves into each other's arms in a transport 
of joy, and the good old lady exclaimed, " To think that 1, in 
this out-of-the-way comer of the world, should live to be the 
mother of a lord ! " 

In the midst of all these distinctions, one object for which 
he struggled he could not yet obtain. To please Lady Eldon, 
who had a just horror of the wigs with which Judges were 
then disfigured m society, he prayed the King that when he 
was not sitting in Court he might be allowed to appear with 
his own hair — observing, that so lately as the reigns of 
James I. and Charles I. judicial wigs were unknown. 
" True," replied the King, " I admit the correctness of your 
statement, and am willing, if you like it, that you should do' 
as they did ; for though they certainly had no wigs, yet they 
wore long beards." 

Lord Eldon took his seat in Court on the first day of 
Michaelmas Term following. 

All accounts admit that he was a most admirable Common- 
i.D. W99— law Judge. At this period of his life he was not even 
lao] . deficient in decision or despatch, — .whether sitting with 
his brethren in banc, or by Mmself at nisi prius ; — and, though 
the business before him sensibly increased from the reputation 
he acquired, he did not suffer any arrears to accumulate. His 
judgments are well reported by Bosanqitet and Puller ; but they 
are almost all on abstruse and technical subjects. I have 
looked through them with a desy:e to select a few that might 
be interesting to my readers ; but I find generally such points 
as these : that, " If the tenant in a writ of right pray aid after 
a general imparlance, it is good cause of demurrer," >■ — and 
that, " On a joinder in demurrer without a Serjeant's hand, 
there may be a non pros., as a serjeant must be met by 
a Serjeant." "^ One case turning on a principle of general 
jurisprudence he determined, — respecting the arrest in this 
oountrj"- of the Comte d'Artois (afterwards Charles X. of 
France) for a delat contracted by him at Coblentz, in 
raising a corps of French emigrants, jointly with his brother 
(afterwards Louis XVIII.). Lord Eldon, after stating that 
" the case of this illustrious person must be decided on the 
same grounds that would operate in favour of the meanest 
individual," went on to examine the facts as they appeared 

P Onslow 1). Smith, 2 B. & P. 3S4. ■> 2 R Jt P. 336. 

A.D. 1799-1801. HIS JUDGMENTS. 21S 

in the aflBdavits, and gave it as his opinion that the defendant 
was not liable to be arrested, — regard being had to the nature 
of the debt, and the circumstance of the defendant being an 

On another question, which caused much excitement at the 
time, although fortunately it has become unimportant, I must 
take the liberty to think he was wrong ; and I am afraid that, 
unconsciously to himself, his opinion was a little biassed by 
religious prejudice. This was, " whether Boman Catholic 
peers had a right to frank letters sent by the post ? " They 
received a writ of summons to Parliament like all other peers ; 
they might have sat and voted any day, on taking the oaths 
o! supremacy and abjuration; no one could tell that they 
might not have chosen to do so ; they were admittedly en- 
titled to all other privileges of the peerage; and Protestant 
peers were allowed to frank without taking the oaths and 
their seat, — nay, began to frank forty days before the time 
appointed for the meeting of Parliament. The fact that Ca- 
tholic peers, in practice, had not enjoyed the privilege, was 
only proof that they had been oppressed, and could not 
operate as a forfeiture. Yet Lord Eldon, thinking, perhaps, 
that this might be the first step towards Catholic emancipa- 
tion, — a measure which he ever conscientiously believed 
would be the ruin of the country, — persuaded himself and his 
brother Judges that, as the Catholic peers did not, de facto, sit 
in Parliament, and as they had no petitions sent them to be 
presented to the House of Lords, and as they did not take a 
part in any parliamentary proceedings, the right of franking 
given to the members of the legislature — the better to enable 
them to do their duty in Parliament — ought to be confined to 

Lord Eldon, while Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, 
introduced the excellent custom of giving reasons for the 
certificate of the Judges upon a case from a Court of Equity 
upon a legal question ; but, when Chancellor, he so carped 
at the reasons of Lord Kenyon and other Common -law 
Judges, that they refused to do more than simply to give 
an answer in the affirmative or negative to the questions put 
to them.' 

' Sinclair*. Charles Philippe, 2 B.& p. 363. dissertation by him in a " certificate case," 

• Lord Petie i). Lord AucliUnd, 2 B. & P. on the point whether, under a general devise 

]39, of ** all manors, messuages, tenements, and 

< See Thompson v. Lady Lawley, 2 Ros. & hereditaments." letmholi messuages shall 

Pul. 303, where will be ioimd an admirable pass? 


I find in " the books " the report of only one case that came 
before him on the circuit. At Exeter he had to try a number 
of tailors who were indicted before him for a riot arising out 
of a combination for a rise of wages. Jekyll, for the defend- 
ants, cross-examining a witness as to the number present, the 
Lord Chief Justice reminded him that, as according to law 
" three may -make a riot," this inquiry was irrelevant. Jekyll : 
" Yes, my Lord, Hale and Hawkins lay down the law as your 
Lordship states it, — and I rely on their authority ; for if there 
must be three men to make a riot, — ^ihe rioters being taMors, there 
must be nine times three present, and, unless the prosecutor 
makes out that there were twenty-seven joining in this breach 
of the peace, ' my clients are entitled to an acquittal." Lord 
C. J. (joining in the laugh): "Do you rely on common law 
or statute ? " Jekyll : " My Lord, I rely on the well-known 
maxim, as old as Magna Chaeta, Nine tailors make a man." 
Lord Chief Justice Eldon overruled the objection; but the 
jury took the law from the counsel instead of the Judge, and 
acquitted all the defendants." 

He took his seat in the House of Lords on the 24th of 
September, 1799, when Parliament was suddenly called to- 
gether for an augmentation of the regular army, by pennitting 
voluntary enlistment into it from the militia. — He had consi- 
ders^ble weight here; but this arose from his high station, 
from his repute as a great Judge, and from the earnestness 
and seeming sincerity of his mode of speaking ; for he never 
was much of an orator, or even of a debater, — ^having no na- 
tural felicity of diction, — being utterly reckless as to the con- 
struction of his sentences, — and having no scruple or remorse 
in using the same word several times in <he same sentence with 
a diiferent meaning, or in using different words in the same 
sentence with the same meaning.* There was not the slightest 
effort at arrangement in his discourses, and his reasoning on 
political subjects was often shallow and illogical. But, to give 
effect to his arguments, he appealed to his conscience ; and, 
if he was at a loss for language, he could always shed tears. 
His maiden speech in the House of Lords was on the third 
Feb. 27. reading of a bill to continue the suspension of the 
1800. Habeas Corpus Act. Lord Holland having thrown 
out a taunt that notwithstanding the alleged frequency of high 
treason, and the vast crowds who had been charged with that 

" Joe Miller, 23rd edition, p. 235. be judged of by ihe reports, which generally 

« 'I'he iiccaracy of his phraseology is not to greatly improved it. 


crime in England, O'Coigley, the piiest, was the single indi- 
vidual who had been found guilty ; Lord Bldon said, that 
" the person so convicted was proved to have been planning, 
with disaffected bodies of men in this country, the destruction 
of the British interest in Ireland ; and surely the noble Lord 
need not be told that a person attempting to sever the crown 
of Ireland from that of England was guilty of an overt act of 
treason. The noble Lord had argued that none should be 
apprehended but such as could be brought to trial ; but he 
should know that cases might occur, in which, for want of 
two witnesses, persons could not be legally convicted, though 
no doubt remained of their guilt. But would the noble Lord 
say that therefore no danger existed ? Would the noble Lord 
argue, that, because sufficient legal proof could only be 
brought against one of the men who were put upon their 
trial at Maidstone, the legislature 'should not have endea- 
voured to prevent the mischief? He would venture to say, 
that to the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act was owing 
the preservation of the crown in the house of Hanover ; and 
that, by it, late and former conspiracies had been broken to 
pieces." ' 

He warmly supported Lord Auckland's bill to forbid a 
marriage between a woman divorced for adultery, and her 
paramour. He said, " he did not think it would be sufficient 
to prevent the enormous crime, for so he regarded it, of adul- 
tery, but because he thought it would have a tendency to such 
prevention. It was true that the contract of a seducer to 
marry his victim was invalid in law ; but a simple and silly 
woman might be likely enough to act on the opinion that 
it would be fulfilled, and that might be one of the terms on 
which she surrendered her virtue. Let her, therefore, be told 
by this bill that she would be effectually prevented from mar- 
rying her paramour. He was certain that nine out of every 
ten cases of adultery that came into the Courts below, or to 
that bar, were founded in the most infamous collusion, and 
that, as the law stood, it was a farce and a mockery, most of 
the cases being previously settled in some room in the city ; 
and that juries were called to give exemplary damages, which 
damages were never paid to, nor expected by, the injured 
husband."' The bill passed the House of Lords, but was 
thrown out in the House of Commons. 

The Irish Union chiefly occupied the attention of Parlia- 

> 31 Pari. Hist. 1488. ' 35 lb. 233, 237. 280. 


ment during the present session ; but lie took no part in the 
discussions on this measure. Had he been aware of Mr. Pitt's 
ulterior views with respect to the Boman Catholics, he no 
doubt would have opposed it. 

When on the point of still greater elevation, Lord Eldon 
was deprived, by death, of two dear relatives, whose loss 
rendered prosperity of less value in his eyes. In the end of 
the year 1799 expired his brother Henry, to whom he had 
been tenderly attached. Writing to one of his sisters, he 
said: — "I have felt very acutely upon this event; and my 
mind has been running back through scenes of infancy, youth, 
and manhood, which I spent with poor Harry, till my firmness 
has occasionally quite fiiiled me, and my spirits have been 
depressed excessively." In the following summer the worthy 
coal-fitter's widow paid the debt of nature, after seeing her 
eldest son universally i*vered as Judge of the Court of Ad- 
miralty, as well as her youngest making her " the mother of 
a lord ; " and although, as she was in her ninetyvfirst year, 
her "boy Jack," as she continued to call him, must have felt 
grateful that she had been preserved to him so long, it must 
have been a sore reflection to him, that on any future good 
fortune that might befall him, the pleasure of making her 
happy by announcing it to her was gone for ever. 

In the life of Lord Loughborough I have entered minutely 
in 1801 ™*^ *^® history of the crisis which ended in the 
resignation of Mr. Pitt, and the appointment of Mr. 
Addington as Prime Minister." I do not think that Lord 
Eldon was concerned in it till the King at length received ^ 
Mr. Pitt's proposal for Catholic Emancipation. He is sup- 
posed then to have been consulted at Buckingham House, and 
to have concurred in the answer, that " his Majesty, highly 
disapproving of the measure, would apply himself, as speedily 
as possible, to the reconstruction of the Cabinet." He re- 
joiced much to see a man of Mr. Addington' s inflexibly Pro- 
testant principles placed at the head of the Treasury, but ho 
ever eagerly asserted that the offer of the Great Seal was 
made to him directly by the King, and he delighted in the 
appellation of the "King's Lord Chancellor," — making a 
distinction unknown to the Constitution — and thinking, er- 
roneously, that his relation to the First Minister of the Crown 
was difierent from that of a Chancellor appointed in the or. 
dinary manner on the composition of a new Government. 

• Vol. VIII., Oh. CLXXIV. 


Early in February it was generally rumoured, and I believe 
definitively settled, that the Great 8eal should be intrusted to 
him, both the King and the new Premier having unbounded 
confidence in his anti-Catholic zeal. Congratulations poured 
in upon him from all quarters ; but by the following letter it 
appears that he was resolved not to " take joy " till the bauble 
was actually in his custody ; — a caution the more necessary 
on account of the alarming state of the King's health. 

" 14th February, 1801. Common Pleas. 
" Deak Lord Kenton, 
" I feel a good deal of uneasiness to protect myself against the possi- 
bility of your Lordship's thinking that I am wanting in the respect and 
duty which I owe to you, and which I can truly say has ever been ac- 
companied with the most grateful and affectionate regard. May I there- 
fore be allowed to assure you that, whatever other persons may have 
thought it becoming to mention in conversation respecting themselves 
or me, nothing has passed yet with respect to me, that would warrant 
me, consistently with propriety, in making that communication to you 
which it would be my duty to make, as I wish to make it to you, when- 
ever the matter is settled the one way or the other ? I can say no more 
than that there is a probability that I may be compelled to quit this 
little Court, in which I should have wished to end my days. 

" Your obliEced and faithful friend and servant, 

" Eldon." 

Thurlow, probably still more delighted with the dismissal 
of Loughborough, against whom he continued to cherish the 
deepest hatred, than with the promotion of his own protige, 
poured forth his feelings in the following effusion to him 
whom he considered the new Lord Chancellor • — 

" My dbak Loed, 

" Though I don't know the circumstances which induced you to give 
up the Common Pleas, I have no doubt your decision upon them was 
guided, as upon all occasions, by wisdom and honour ; and I rejoice 
sincerely in the event. " 

" But I congratulate still more with the House and the country. 
Their judgments will be no less illustrated by sound principles and clear 
deductions than supported by authority ; not let down by unsatisfac- 
tory attempts to argue, or shaded by surmises of mean partialities and 

" If 1 can shake off this painful disorder, my first exertion will be an 
endeavour to see you. There is not enough remaining of me to be use- 
ful ; but I shall take great satisfaction in finding arranged the funda- 


mental principles of that conduct, which is to extricate the present dif- 
ficulties incurred by the mere want of such principles. ... 

" I am ever, my dear Lord, 

" Tout very faithful and affectionate friend, 

■■Wednesday, ISfJi Feb. 1801." 

After a month, of unexampled confusion, during which it 
was difficult to say in whom the executive government was 
vested, the attempt to retain Mr. Pitt at the head of aifairs, 
on his renouncing all his measures for the relief of the Catho- 
lics, failed, and his administration came to a close. The 
transfer of the Great Seal took place on the 14th of April, in 
an interval when his Majesty was better, but still in a state 
of much excitement. Lord Eldon used to give the following 
account of the scene — which he represented as a striking 
proof of the King's fondness for him : — " When I went to him 
he had his coat buttoned thus (one or two buttons fastened at 
the lower part), and, putting his right hand within, he drew 
out the Seals from the left side, saying, ' 1 give them to you from, 
my heart r" Mr. Twiss observes, "It is not impossible that 
the unusual demonstration with which the King accompanied 
the transfer of the Great Seal to Lord Eldoa may have been 
partly occasioned by the then unsettled state of the royal 
mind." "■ 

Lord Eldon, at the, commencement of his career as Chan- 
cellor, was placed in a situation of extreme difficulty, and he' 
has been severely blamed for the course he pursued. It is now 
incontestably proved that for above two months the King, 
with short intermissions, was in a state of mental alienation, 
and was under the care of physicians particularly skilled in 
the treatment of his peculiar malady. His Chancellor always 
Stoutly asseverated that the royal signature was never ob- 
tained, nor the royal pleasure taken on any act of state, when 
the royal mind was not clear and collected. This statement 
it is very difficult to credit. The following extract from 

o 1 Twiss, 251. We may judge of the whether the King should only transfer the 

cpinlon of the new Ministers on this sulject Great Seal from Lord LoughlMrongh to Lord 

from an entry in the Diary of Mr. Abbot Eldon, or be requested to do several other 

^afterwards Lord Colchester), lately ,pub- things; and the unanimous opinion was, 

lished in the Memoirs of Lord Sidmouth j — that Ms Majesty should only do one thing tfuU 

"April 15th. Mr. Addington told me in the day." — Vol. i. p. 401. 
House that the alternative yesterday was. 

A.l>. 1801. MADE LOED CHANCELLOR. 221 

Lord Eldon's "Anecdote Book" shows tte King's general 
situation : — 

" His Majesty not being able to hold a council, and his recovery being 
doubtful, it was not judged fit that the Chief- Justiceship of the Com- 
mon Pleas should be resigned, the ofBces of Chancellor and Chief Jus- 
tice being by law capable of being held together, and in case his Majesty 
did not recover, it being thought certain that the Great Seal would be 
taken from my custody, and that I should not be restored to the Chief- 
Justiceship if I had resigned it. During all the period, therefore, in 
which his Majesty's indisposition continued, 1 remained in the very 
singular situation of a person both Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief 
Justice of the Common Pleas, exercising publicly the duties of 
both offlces." ■= 

Yet his Majesty was allowed to sign commissions as usual. 
He could write seemingly rational notes like the following ; 
but they did not deceive the Chancellor, who was in corre- 
spondence with his medical attendants and witti members of 
the royal family : — 

"Kew, April 29th, 1801,— past One, p.m. 

" On returning from walking, the King has found his Lord Chan- 
cellor's letter, and desires the commission for passing the bills now 
ready for his assent may, if possible, be sent this evening to the 
Duke of Portland's ofBoe, from whence it will be forwarded early to- 
morrow morning. His Majesty is pleased at finding the Bill gainst 
Seditious Meetings got through the House of Lords yesterday with so 
little trouble. 

" The King would by no means have wished that his Lord Chancellor 
Ebould have omitted sitting in the Court of Chancery to-morrow, for the 
mere matter of form of bringing himself the commission, as his Majesty 
is so fully convinced of the satisfaction the suitors must feel at that 
Court being presided over by a person of real integrity, talents, legal 
knowledge, and good temper. He cannot but add having felt some plea- 
sure at hearing that the Lord Chancellor sat the other day on the Wool- 
sack between Sosslyn and Thurlow, who ever used to require an interme- 
diate power to keep them from quarrelling. How soon will the shins of 
Pepper permit him to take the coif ? 

^ " Gboegb B." 

After his Majesty's health had considerably improved. Dr. 
John Willis thus addressed the Chancellor : — 

"May 16th, 1801. 
" My Lokd, 
" We have not seen the King better than this morning. Your Lordo 

° Twiss, I. 2S2. 


ship's conversations with his Majesty have not hitherto produced all the 
effect we wish. He seems rather to select and turn any part to his pur- 
pose than to his good. The Council, he tells us, you propose to be in 
London. Of course, we wish much that your Lordship should see the 
King again soon — ^that every means possible should be used to reconcile 
his Majesty to the present control : for till a consciousness of the neces- 
sity of temperance arises in his own mind, it is absolutely necessary to 
have resort to artificial prudence. I have the honour to be 

" Your Lordship's obedient humble servant, 

" J. Willis." 

The puWio, liowever, were kept in ignorance of the " con- 
trol" and "artificial prudence" exercised, and at times the 
excitement seemed entirely to have subsided. Prior to a 
Council, at which his Majesty was to appear, and important 
acts of state were to be sanctioned, thus wrote the Prime 
Minister to the Chancellor : — 

" Downing Street, 21st May, 1801. 
" Mt dear Lokd, 
" I came so late from Kew, and, was so hurried afterwards till half- 
past twelve, when I went to bed, that it was not possible for me 
yesterday to write to you, as I wished and intended. During a quiet 
conversation of an hour and a half, there was not a sentiment, a 
word, a look, or a gesture, that I could have wished different from 
what it was ; — and yet my apprehensions, I must own to you, predo- 
minate. The wheel is likely to turn with an increasing velocity (as I 
cannot help fearing), and if so, it will very soon become unmanageable. 
God grant that I may be mistaken ! We have, however, done our best. 
The Council, as your Lordship has probably been apprised by Mr. Faw- 
kener, is to be held at the Queen's House at one. 

" Ever sincerely yours, 

"Henet Addinqton." 

In a few days after, Dr. Thomas Willis, the clergymaiii 
supposed to be the most skiLfiil of the family, wrote to the 
Cbdncellor as follows : — 

"Kew House, May 25th, 1801. 
"Mt Lord, 

" Dr. John {Willis] is riding with the King, but we conferred togethei 
before he set out, and! he desired that I would write the letter which yOQi 
Lordship had requested to have this morning. 

" The general impression yesterday, from the King's composure and 
quietness, was, that he was very well. There was an exception to this 
in the Duke of Clarence, who dined here. ' He pitied the family, for he 
saw something in the King that convinced him that he must soon be 
confined again.' 


" This morning I walked with his Majesty, who was in a perfectly 
composed and quiet state. He told me, with great seeming satisfaction, 
that he had had a most charming night, ' hut one sleep from eleven to 
half after four ; ' when, alas 1 he had hut three hours' sleep in the night, 
i?hich, upon the whole, was passed in restlessness, in getting out of hed, 
upening the shutters, in praying at times violently, and in making sxich 
remarks as hetray a consciousness in him of his own situation, hut which 
are evidently made for the purpose of concealing it from the Queen. He 
frequently called out, ' I am now perfectly well, and my Queen, my 
Queen has saved me.' Whilst I state these particulars to your Lord- 
ship, I must heg to remind you how much afraid the Queen is lest 
she should be committed to him ; for the King has sworn he wil} 
never forgive her if she relates anything that passes in the night. 

" The only thing that he has repeated of your Lordship's conver- 
sation is, that you told him to keep himself quiet. He certainly intends 
going to Windsor to-morrow morning early for the day. Had not your 
Lordship, therefore, hetter write to his Majesty, that you had proposed, 
agreeahly to his permission, to have paid your duty to him to-mon-ow, 
but that you understand he is going to Windsor, — where you may en- 
deavour to fix your audience for Wednesday ? 

" It is too evident, my Lord, that it cannot be proper, since it cannot 
he safe, for the King to go to Weymouth so soon as he iatenda. Your 
Lordship will, therefore, no doubt, think it requisite to take steps to pre^ 
vent it as soon as possible. I have the honour to be 

" Your Lordship's most obedient servant, 

" Thos. Willis." 

Lord Eldon, accordingly, thus addressed the King : — 

"The Lord Chancellor, offering his most humble duty to your Ma- 
jesty, presumes to submit to your Majesty's most gracious consideration, 
that it appears to him that great difiSculties may arise in matters of pub- 
lic concern, if your Majesty should be pleased, during the time of the 
sitting of Parliament, which he conceives cannot now be long, to remove 
to any considerable istance from Parliament. It cannot but happen 
that before Parliament can be closed, some intelligence should be received 
from abroad, upon which it may be absolutely necessary to learn promptly, 
and perhaps instantly, your Majesty's pleasure, and to learn it by 
communications more ample than your Majesty could possibly allow to 
your servants, if they were not personally attending, in the discharge of 
their duty, upon your Majesty. Communications, in the form of mes- 
sages to Parliament, not admitting of delay, may also become necessary. 
Impressed at this moment with a deep sense that it is extremely impor- 
tant on all accounts to your Majesty's welfare, that your Majesty should 
he graciously pleased to secure to your servants the means of personally 
communicating with your Majesty, at least during the short interval 
which must elapse before Parliament separates, at the close of which they 
way, in obedience to your Majesty's commands, attend yom' Majesty 


any where, the Lord Chancellor ventures to hope that your Majesty will 
not think it inconsistent with his duty, that he should have most 
humbly, but most earnestly, submitted to your Majesty the expression 
of his conscientious conviction upon this subject. 

" The Lord' Chancellor also requests your Majesty's gracious permis- 
sion to introduce to your Majesty the Master of the Rolls and the Solici- 
tor-General previous to your Majesty's birth-day. As Tuesday is the 
seal-day in your Majesty's Court of Chancery, your Majesty may pro- 
bably have the goodness to give that permission on Wednesday." 

From his Majesty's answer, it might be supposed that his 
recoYery was complete : — 

" Kew, May Slst, 1801. 

" The King cannot allow any difBoulty to stand in the way of his 
doing what may be most useful to the public service. He will, therefore, 
postpone his journey to Weymouth till the close of the session of Parlia- 
ment, relying that the Lord Chancellor and Mr. Addington will bring it 
as soon as possible to a conclusion. He will not, therefore, change any 
arrangement for removing the things necessary to be sent to Weymouth^ 
but he and his family will remain at hand till that period. His Majesty 
will be glad to receive at the Queen's Palace the Master of the Rolls and 
Solioitor-Greneral on Wednesday, any time after one that may best suit 
the Lord Chancellor ; when he hopes to hear wlio may be most eligible 
to be appointed Solicitor-General to the Queen. 

" Geoegb R," 

Yet, a week after, the Princess Elizabeth thus writes to 
Dr. Thomas Willis :— 

"June 6th, 1801. 

" After receiving one note you will be surprised at this ; but second 
thoughts are sometimes best : besides which, I am commanded by the 
Queen to inform you by letter how much this subject of the Princess is 
still in the King's mind, to a degree that is distressing, from the unfor- 
tunate situation of the family ; and Mamma is of opinion that the Lord 
Chancellor should be informed of it, as he has mentioned the subject to 
Mr. Dundas to-day. The Queen commands me to add, that if you could 
see her heart, you would see that she is guided by every principle of jus- 
tice, and with a most fervent wish that the dear King may do nothing to 
form a breach between him and the Prince, — for she really lives in dread 
of it; for from the moment my' brother comes into the room till the in- 
stant he quits it, there is nothing that is not kind that the King does 
not do by him. This is so different to his manner when well, and his 
ideas concerning the child so extraordinary, that, to own to you the truth, 
I am not astonished at Mamma's uneasiness. She took courage, and 
told the King, that now my brother was quiet, he had better leave him 
so, as he never had forbid the Princess seeing the child when she pleased ; 
to which he answered, ' That does not signify ; the Princess shall have 

A.a 1801. THE KING'S ILLNESS. 226 

her child, and I -will speak to Mr. Wyatt about the huilding of the 
wing to her present house.' Tou know full well how speedily every 
thing is now ordered and done. In short, what Mamma wishes is^ 
that you would inform the Lord Chancellor that his assistance is 
much wanted in preventing the King doing any thing that shall hurt 
him. The Princess spoke to me on the conversation the King had 
had with her, expressed her distress, and 1 told her how right she 
was in not answering, as I feared the King's intentions, though most 
kindly meant, might serve to hurt and injure her in the world. I hope 
I was not wrong, but I am always afraid when she speaks to me on such 
unfortunate subjects. I think the King heated and fatigued, which I 
am not surprised at, not having been one minute quiet the whole daj-. 
I assure you it is a very great trial, the anxiety we must go through ; 
but we trust in God, — therefore we hope for the best. 

" Your friend, 

" Elizabeth." 

In another letter to him, dated 9th June, her Koyal High- 
ness, after mentioning the Queen's name in connection -with 
some indifferent subject, thus proceeds : — 

" She commands me to say to you that she wishes the Lord Chan- 
:ellor would show Mr. Addington, that, as the King is contented with it, 
that he had better not hurry our going, as he is so much better, that 
there is hope that in gaining strength it will ensure us from having 
a relapse, which you may easily believe is her earnest and daily 
prayer. He has been very quiet, very heavy, and very sleepy, all the 
evening, and has said two or three times, yesterday was too much for 
him. God grant that his eyes may soon open, and that he may see his 
real and true friends in their true colours ! How it grieves one to see so 
fine a character clouded by complaint ! But He who inflicted it may 
dispel it ; so I hope all will soon be well. 

" Your friend, 

" Elizabeth." 

Finally she writes to him on the 12th June : — 

" I have the pleasure of saying, yesterday was a very good day, though 
the sleepiness continues to a great degree. I am told the night has been 
tolerable, but he has got up in his usual way, which Is very vexatious. 
I am commanded by the Queen to desire you will say every thing from 
her to the Lord Chancellor, and thank him in the strongest terms for the 
interest he has taken in her distress. She so entirely builds her faith 
on him, that she doubts not his succeeding in every thing with his Ma- 
jesty, who, to say true, greatly wants the advice of so good a friend and 
so good a head. How providential is it that he is, thank Uod 1 placed 
where one can know his worth ! I have just seen Brown, who is very 

VOL. IX. 4 


well satisfied. This morning, therefore, I trust all is going on well, 
though I feel that there is still fear. 

" Your friend, 


Near a week after, Dr. Thomas Willis wrote the following 
alarming letter to the Lord Chancellor : 

" Kew Green, June 16th, 1801. Eight o'clock, p.m. 
" My Lobd, 
" Dr. John, who has not seen the King, will bring this to town. I 
have nothing to say that is in truth very favourable. His Majesty rode 
out this morning at ten o'clock, and did not return tiU four : he paid a 
visit in the course of the day to Mr. Dundas. His attendants thought 
him much hurried, and so tliink his pages. He has a great thirst upon 
him, and his family are in great fear. His Majesty still talks much of 
his prudence, but he shows none. His body, mind, and tongue are all 
upon the stretch every minute ; and the manner in which he is now ex- 
pending money in various ways, which is so unlike him when well, all 
evince that he is not so right as he should be. 

« My Lord, 
" Your Lordship's most obedient servant, 

" Thomas Wilms." 

His Majesty seems now to have become very impatient of 
the control of the Willises, and very desirous to get rid of 
them ; whereupon Lord Eldon, who was supposed to have the 
greatest influence over him, wrote to him, earnestly request- 
ing that at least Dr. Eobert might still be allowed to be in 

His Majesty returned the following very touching answer, 
which it is difficult to peruse with a dry eye : — • 

" Kew, June 21st, 1801. 
" The King would not do justice to the feelings of his heart, if he an 
instant delayed expressing his conviction of the attachment the Lord 
Chancellor bears him, of which the letter now before him is a fresh proof; 
but, at the same time, he cannot but in the strongest manner decline the 
idea of having Dr. Eobert Willis about him. The line of practice fol- 
lowed with great credit by that gentleman renders it incompatible with 
the King's feelings that he should, now by the goodness of Divine 
Providence restored to reason, consult a person of that description. 
His Majesty is perfectly satisfied with the zeal and attention of Dr. Gis 
borne, in whose absence he will consult Sir Francis MiUman ; but can- 
not bear the idea of consulting any of the Willis family, though he shall 
ever respect the character and conduct of Dr. Eobert Willis. So person, 


that ever has had a nervous fever, can bear to continue the physician 
employed on the occasion : and this holds much more so in the calami- 
tous one that has so long confined the King, hut of which he is now com- 
pletely recovered. 

" Gboege R." 

The Lord Chancellor vsras ready enough to take the King's 
word for his recovery ; and having sent him a commission to 
sign, for giving the Eoyal assent to Acts of Parliament, re- 
ceived the following answer : — 

" Kew, June 23rd, 1801. 

" The King is much pleased with the whole contents of the Lord 
Chancellor's letter, and returns the commission, having signed it, for 
passing the hills now ready for the Eoyal assent. He cannot avoid add- 
ing, as he knows it will give pleasure to the person, to whom it is ad- 
dressed, that appetite and good sleep is perfectly, by the goodness of 
Divine Providence, restored ; and that no degree of attention shall be 
wanting to keep those necessary assistants of perfect health. 

" Gboege R." 

In spite of the apprehensions of his family and his physi- 
cians, his Majesty's health soon after really was restored, and 
he remained pretty rational for several years. Lord Eldon, I 
think, has heen much too severely blamed for his personal 
dealings with the King under such circumstances. In a letter 
which he wrote at this time to Lord Ellenborough he says ; 
— " I think Dr. Eeynolds told us one day in yqjxr absence, that 
the King was better when he was speaking to us than he was 
for a long while after he began to go out again in 1789. Taking 
this to be as improper as may be in Thurlow, Camden, &c., 
still we may do great prejudice if we do not attend to it^and 
assume, upon an incorrect view of fact, a ground of despair." ' 
When there was a moral certainty, that if entirely conscious 
and in possession of his faculties, the King would have ap- 
proved of the steps to be taken, and that he would be sure, if 
again conscious and in possession of his faculties, to sanction 
and ratify what had been done in his name, — and when the 
most serious detriment would have arisen to the public ser- 
vice from suspending the exercise of the Eoyal authority, — 
I must say that the loud complaints against Lord Eldon for 
acts of state done in the King's name, during the King's tem- 
porary incapacity, savour a little either of prudery or of fac- 
tion. Nor could it be expected that iii public the Chancellor 

" MS. letter in the papers uf the Esirl of EUenboiongb. 

«J 2 


would admit the full truth— thougli I could much wish that 
he had made his statements on the subject in Parlia,ment with 
less of emphasis and solemnity. — He will more easily be for- 
given for the manner in which he mystified his friends who 
put impertinent questions to him on the subject in private 
society. " Eldon," says Wilberforce in his Diary, "had just 
received the Great Seal, and I expressed my fears that they 
were bringing the King into public too soon after his late 
indisposition. ' You shall judge for yourself,' he answered, 
' from what passed between us when I kissed hands on my 
appointment. The King had been conversing with me, and 
when I was about to retire, he said, ' Give my remembrance 
to Lady Eldon.' I acknowledged his condescension, and 
intimated that I _was ignorant of Lady Eldon's claim to such 
a notice. ' Yes, yes,' he answered, ' I know how much I 
owe to Lady Eldon ; I know that you would have made your- 
self a country curate, and that she has made you my Lord 

Till the happy and unexpected turn which took place in 
the King's health in the end of June, Lord Eldon had been, 
contemplating a Eegency, and a speedy change of Adminis- 
tration ; but he now looked forward to a long tenure of office, 
although he would not have believed any wizard who should 
have foretold that he was to be Chancellor, not only under 
George III., by whom he was so much Uked, but under 
George IV., by whom as yet he was mortally hated, — and that 
he was to hold the office longer than any of his predecessors 
since the time of St. Swithin. , 

On the first day of Easter Term he headed a grand pro- 
cession from his house in Bedford Square to Westminster Hall, 
and he was installed in the Court of Chancery, being attended 
by air his colleagues in the Cabinet, and the whole profession 
of the law.' 

d Life of Wilberforce, ili. 9. sworn into the said office before his Majesty 

* "Alexander Lord Loughborough, Lord in Council. His Lordsiiip sat in Lincoln's 

High Chancellor of that part of the tTnited Inn Hall during the Seals before Enster 

Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland called Term, and on Wednesday, the 22nd day of 

Oreat Britain, having delivered the Great April, 1801, being the first day of Easter 

Seal to the King at the Queen's House on Term, he went in state from his house in 

Tuesday, the Uth day of April, 1801, his Bedford Square, accomp&nied by the Earl of 

Majesty the same day delivered it to John Chatham, Lord President of the Council, the 

Lord Eldon, Chief Justice of the Court of Earl of Westmoreland, Lord Keeper of the 

Common Fleas, with the title of Lord High Privy Seal, his Grace the Duke of Portland, 

Chancellor of that part of Great Britain and one of his Majesty's Principal Secretaries of 

Iieland called Great Britain, who was tbea State, the Earl of St. Vincent, the Earl of 

A.D. 1801. IN THE HOUSK OF LORDS. 229 

His promotion had been very generally approved of, and, 
althoiigli it cannot be said that he continued to enjoy the 
same unmixed applause which had been showered down upon 
him as Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, the public ex- 
pectation of him in his npw position was by no means dis- 
appointed. I reserve for the conclusion of this memoir a 
deliberate estimate of his qualities as an Equity Judge, and 
a review of his decisions. At present it must suffice to say, 
that if there was still something to desiderate, the " marble 
chair " certainly had not been so ably filled since the time of 
Lord Eardwicke. 



Lord Eldon's first speech in the House of Lords as Chancellor 
I myself heard, and I have mentioned it in my ac- May 20, 
count of the striking scene when Lord Thurlow, ^^°'- 
after years of absence, reappeared, to support the right of a 
woman to be divorced from her husband, who had committed 
incest with her sister.' 

He next came forward to support a Bill brought in to in- 
demnify those who had acted in arresting and detaining per 
sons suspected of high treason during the suspension of the 

Rosslyn, Lord Hobart, one oUier of his Ma- eery, holding the book (the Master of the 

jesty's Principal Secretaries of State, Lord Rolls being prevented from attending by in- 

Keuyon, Chief JusUoe of the Court of King's disposition) r which being done, the Attor- 

Bench, the Bight Hon. HenryAddington, Chan- ney-General moved that it might be recorded, 

cellor and Under Treasurer of the Exche- and it was ordered accordingly. Then the 

quer, the Eight Hon. Sir Wm. Scott, Knight, Lords departed, leaving the Lord Chancellor 

Judge of the High Court of Admiralty of in CmrV—Mimute Book, No. 2, foL 80. 

England, the , Judges, King's Seijeants, I ought to have mentioned that, on the 

King's Counsel, and several other persona, arrival in his own country of the news of his 

The Lords accompanied him to the Court of appointment as Chancellor, all the bells in 

Chancery, where (before he entered upon Newcastle and Gateshead were set a-ringing, 

business), in their presence, lie took the and all the ships in the Tyne hoisted their 

oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and the flags. The "Hoastmen's Company" must 

oath of Chancellor, the same being adminis- have been particularly proud of their brother 

tcred by the Deputy Clerk of the Crown, freeman. 

Master Holford, the Senior Master in Chan- f AM, Vol. VII. 35 Pari. Hist. 1432. 


' ' Habeas Corpus Act." This was violently opposed by Tburlow, 
from spite to Mr. Pitt and Lord Longhborough ; but Lord 
Eldon gallantly defended it, saying that " one of his earliest 
maxims in politics Was, that political liberty could not be 
durable unless the system of its administration permitted it to 
be oocasiohaUy parted with, in order to secure it for CYer. 
When it was otherwise, liberty contained the seeds of its own 
destruction. With respect to the consideration of necessity, 
he was aware that it was often the plea of tyrants ; yet it was 
iliat consideration on which the most moderate men, when 
they took prudence for their guide, must sometimes act. In 
all periods of our history, their Lordships would find that the 
benefits of the Habeas Corpus Act were occasionally relin- 
quished ; but the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act did not 
take away the responsibility of Ministers. There were cases 
in which, if a Minister did not act, he would deserve to lose 
his head. Such, for instance, and he stated no hypothetical 
case, was the occasion of ambassadors passing from Ireland 
through England to France, and vice versd, for purposes' of a 
treasonable nature. In such a case, where the information 
was such as could not be doubted, if a Minister refused to act, 
what would he not deserve ? And yet such a person could not 
be indemnified for his conduct, without such a Bill as that 
before their Lordships.'' The Bill was carried by a majority 
of 54 to 17.8 

The only other debate in which he took a part, before the 
conclusion of the session, was on the BUI directed against 
HoENE TooKE " to prevent priests in orders from sitting in the 
House of Commons " — when he had, again, to combat Loid 
Thurlow,'who insisted that it was an onoroachment on the 
rights of the clergy. The ground taken by Lord Eldon was, 
that, by the canons of the Anglican Church, orders are indelible 
-^but this does not. seem to show very conclusively that a 
clergyman, without cure of souls, or benefice, may not sit in 
the House of Commons, while bishops, with a still more sacred 
character impressed upon them, and with all their episcopal 
duties to perform, sit in the House of Lords, to the general 
contentment of the nation."" 

A few days before the prorogation his Majesty set oif on his 
long talked of excursion to Weymouth, and in his way paid a 
visit at Cufihels in Hampshire. While he was there, Mr. Eose, 
the master of the mansion, wrote a very alarming letter to 

E 35 Pari. Hist. 153?. h lb. 1G43. 


Lord Eldon, — ^in which, after giving an account of the King, 
when riding to Lymington, bfeing caught in a heavy shower 
of rain.^being wet through, as no entreaties would prevail 
with him to put on a great coat, — ^remaining three quarters of 
an hour convereing with the mayor, — proceeding to Sir Harry 
NicoU's, and dining without changing his clothes, — and again 
getting wet as he rode home, adds — 

" There is no describing the uneasiness I felt at his Majesty keeping 
on his wet clothes, because I recollect Mr. Pitt telling me that his first 
illness, in 1788, was supposed to be brought on by the same thing ; 
but there was no ijossible means of preventing it. The exercise, too, 
must have been, I fear, too much after the disuse of riding for some 
time. His Majesty intends going to Southampton (ten miles) on horse- 
back to-day, and returning to dinner. I mention these circumstances 
to your Lordship, deriving some relief to my own mind from it, with- 
out a hope of your being able to take any immediate step in concert 
with Mr. Addington oi others of his Majesty's servants, but trusting 
that it may induce your Lordship to make as early a visit to Wey- 
mouth as possible." 

Lord Eldon hurried down to Weymouth on pretence of 
carrying important papers for his Majesty to sign, but, finding 
him perfectly tranquil, returned after a stay there of three 

Nothing was now talked of but the negotiation with Bona- 
parte. It was generally understood that the Chancellor was 
of the section in the Cabinet bent on carrying on the war, and 
in this belief Windham wrote him a letter on the measures 
which ought to be taken to guard the country against invasion, 
thus concluding — " With all my dread of invasion, I hope you 
do not suppose me to consider the danger of invasion as by 
any means equal to those of peace. A man may escape a 
pistol, however near his head, but not a dose of poison. If I 
am not mistaken, you do not very materially differ from me in 
this opinion." This conjecture was pretty near the truth, but 
within a fortnight Lord Eldon wrote the following letter to his 
brother. Sir William : — 

" The preliminaries of peace with France were signed last night. 
The terms, I understand, I am not at liberty to mention. With my 
head and heart so full as they have been for ten days past, I have felt, 
most deeply, the want of such a friend as you here. 1 am perhaps, at 
this moment, one of the most anxious of mankind. I think, upon the 
whole, the peace, as to its terms, not objectionable, if we could forget 
tlie damnable principles upon which France has acted and may con- 


tinue to act. You would excuse a great deal upon all subjects if yon 
knew the state of mind I ani in." • 

When the preliminaries were about to be discussed in tho 
House of Lords, he thus addressed his predecessor, in the hope 
of mollifying him and of obtaining his vote or his proxy : — 

" My dbab Lokd, 

" I received the honour of your Lordship's letter from Bath, and 
shall give all due attention to the subject of it. 

" His Majesty has put into my hands the paper which your Lord- 
ship gave him at Weymouth respecting the Prince.sses, and in the 
course of next week that business will be finished. 

" I most sincerely hope that your Lordship's health is re-established. 
My vacation, which has been, spent in great anxiety of mind and depres- 
sion of spirits arising from apprehensions, is coming to its close, leaving 
me little relieved from either. If your Lordship had been within the reach 
of conversation, I might occasionally have unburthened that mind to 
you so far as I understand the principles upon which a person who has 
the misery of being in a cabinet is to act would have allowed me. Your 
Lordship will conjecture that 1 am alluding to what has passed as to 
the peace, with reference to which the grounds upon which 1 have 
acted cannot perhaps with propriety be stated vipon paper, or without 
mischief be insisted upon in debate. They are such, that if I can rejoice 
in the peace it is with trembling, and I am not surprised that many 
men whom I honour and revere tremble without rejoicing. I have 
satisfied myself that, attending to all considerations, such as can and 
such as cannot be publicly stated, the measure is justifiable and nght ; 
but your Lordship, I think, can sufficiently conjecture what are my 
principles to believe that I feel considerably on this subject. I have 
written thus much under a persuasion that your Lordship will receive 
in confidence what is written from respect, and from respect due from 
me to you, whatever may be your opinion upon what has been passing. 
Whatever that may be, 1 sincerely hope your health and your inclina- 
tion vdll bring you to Parliament. If you there approve what has been 
done; it will give great sanction to the measure, and great consolation 
to me personally. If you disapprove, I shall nevertheless, I am sure, 
have the satisfaction of seeing you repressing by the weight of your 
authority those who will approve upon the principles broached at the 
Shakspeare Tavern, and which you and I abhor. I do not know whe- 
ther your Lordship will or vdll not blame me for what I have written, 
but I had my pen in my hand, and I could not refrain from unburtheu- 
ing a mind labouring with anxiety. You'll be so good as commit it to 
the fire after you have read what remains — which is only a cordial ex- 
pression of all gbod wishes for your health, with an assurance that I 
am, with much respect and regard, my dear Lord, 

" Your obliged and obedient humble servant, 
-Ootcber24,1801."< " EldON. 

i n«i»i. Mss. 


• Stiff and formal as is this production under the pretence of 
great openness, it produced the desired effect, and Lord Lough- 
borough offered him his proxy, although he said he could not 
make a speech in defence of the peace. A proxy was sent for 
signature in the following letter : — 

" Mx DEAR Lord, 

" I return your Lordship a great many thanks for your very kind 
and obliging letter. I shall certainly think myself much honoured in 
having your Lordship's proxy. 1 did not think myself authorised to 
hope for it to-morrow night, and therefore have not sent the inclosed 
sooner. In fact, upon a point of such magnitude as will form the suh- 
ject of to morrow's debate, — the peace. — ^I think your Lordship's great 
character would hardly admit of your voting in absence. I find Lord 
Grenville objects also to the Russian Convention, which is to be de- 
bated on Friday. May I crave your opinion upon that ? I confess I 
cannot bring myself to think much of some of the objections. 

" With every good wish for your Lordship's health, permit me to 
add that I am, with very sincere regard, 

" Your obliged and faithful friend and servant, 

" Eldon. 
" Monday." k 

Lord Eldon spoke late in the debate, and said, — " In ad- 
vising his Majesty to make peace, I would perish Mayia, 
sooner than I would sacrifice any of the essential ^^'>^- 
interests of the country ; but when I say this, I must not be 
understood to vapour in praise of the peace as if it were a very 
honourable one." Again, upon the motion for approving of the 
Defensive Treaty, he observed : — " I am not ready to assert 
that the present is a glorious peace, but I have discharged my 
duty conscientiously in advising his Majesty to sign it, and I 
trust that, if candidly viewed, it will be found as good a peace 
as was likely to be obtained, all the circumstances under 
which it was made taken into consideration." On both occa- 
sions he went over all the articles in a very minute and I must 
admit very tiresome manner, as if he had been discussing 
exceptions to the Master's report in a Chancery suit." But in 
the debate on the Eussian Convention he gave an oot. 13, 
able exposition of our belligerent rights with regard i^"'- 
to neutrals, — probably having the invaluable assistance of his 
brother, Sir 'William, whose judgments in the Court of Admi- 
ralty have placed them on an imperishable basis." 

k Bossl. MSS. " 36 Pari. Hist HI, 696. 724. ° lb. 236. 


He. did not, for a long time after, take any part in debate, 
Dec. 15, except in answering the Earl of SnffoU:, who praised 
i^o^- the present Administration at the expense of Mr. 
Pitt, whom he accused of detaining for a long time persons 
suspected of treasonable practices, without ever bringing iJiem 
to trial. " The Lord Chancellor declared, with much warmth, 
that he would sooner suffer death upon the spot than hear the 
conduct of the late Administration aspersed. If it was crimi- 
nal, he was as deeply criminal as they ; and the only reason 
for pursuing a different conduct now was, that the country was 
under different' circumstances." He concluded with a pane- 
gyric on Pitt, under whom alone, he began to think, he could 
hold the Great Seal with any security." 

Lord Eldon interfered little in politics from this time till 
the spring of the year 1804, when, through his agency, while 
the King was again seriously indisposed, the plan was perfected 
of turning out Mr. Addington and restoring Mr. Pitt to his 
post as Prime Minister. During this interval the Chancellor 
still grew in royal favour, and his Majesty was in the constant 
habit, on returning papers sent for the royal signature, to write 
him letters^ showing his ajBfection for his " friend," and his 
minute attention to public business. Of these, many will be 
found in Mr. Twiss's valuable work — but I must be content 
with giving two or three as a specimen : — 

" Windsor, April 15tL, 1802. 
" The King returns the Commission for passing the Bills this day to 
the Lord Chancellor, having signed it. He at the same time expresses 
a most sincere wish that the recess may be crowned with the restoration 
of the Lord Chancellor's health, and strongly recommends that he will 
not, at first coming out, be quite so assiduous as he was in business 
before his confinement, to which he rather attributes the duration of the 
fit of the gout. 

" Gboboe E." 

" Queen's Palace, April 30th, 1802. 
" The King returns to the Lord Chancellor the Commission, which 
he has signed, for giving his assent to the Bills now prepared for that 
purpose. At the same time the King avails himself of the opportunity 
to express the satisfaction he receives from the assurance of the Lord 
Chancellor's gout having entirely subsidfed. That a degree of lameness 
. and weakness still remains is the natural effect of the disorder, but will 
daily iiminish j and the King therefore strongly recommends tc the 

' 36 Pari. Hist. 1134. 


Lord Chancellor the not coming next "Wednesday to St. James's, but 
the coming here on Thursday for the Hecorder's report, which will avoid 
the necessity of going up stairs ; and Wednesday is the first day of 
Term, which must in itself he a day of some fatigue. 

" George E." 

" Weymouth, August 14th, 1802. 
" Yesterday the King received the Lord Chancellor's letter. He 
trusts that the fatigue of sitting in this warm weather in Lincoln's Inn 
Hall has not proved so inconvenient as might have been expected. The 
King is much pleased at Dr. Ridley's being placed .in the Isle of Wight. 
His being of the family of so celebrated a man as the Bishop that bore 
that name, in addition to his connection with the Lord Chancellor, verv 
properly entitle him to that situation. 

" Gbobgb E." 

" Windsor, Nov. 13th, 1802. 
" The King returns the Commission for opening the Parliament, 
which he has signed. Having had the curiosity of reading the Com- 
mission, have found a mistake, the insertion of George Earl of Leices- 
ter, instead of William Earl of Dartmouth, as Lord Steward of the 
Household, which can easily be corrected by the Lord Chancellor 
ordering liiis change of names, though the King has signed the 

" George E." 

" Windsor, Feb. 27th, 1803. 
" The King has, with great satisfaction, signed the Commission for 
passing the Bill to restrain the Bank of England from paying cash, as 
he is convinced of the utility of the measure, and ardently hopes it may 
be prolonged the next year ; or, if the situation of public affairs should 
at that time prove more favourable, that the Bank will at least be re- 
strained from paying cash above a certain proportion of each payment 
it may have to issue. 

" George E." 

About this time Lord Eldon, being appointed High Steward 
of the University of Oxford, was alarmed by news 
that he must return thanks in a Latin epistle, and in 
consternation he wrote to Sir William, " Pray, pray, give me 
two sentences thanking them, and assuring them that to the 
best of that judgment (the talent they axe pleased to allow me) 
I wish to dedicate my old age with ' diligentia,' and more of it 
than adorned my ' adolescentia' to ' Uteris, virtuti, probitati et 
pietati.' " i" But he was greatly relieved by an intimation from 

P These were words in the address to him from the Convocation. 


the Duke of Portland, then Chancellor, that, in expressing his 
gratitude, he might make use of his mother tongue. This 
incident must have caused much pleasantry in his family, 
where, although he was regarded with a high degree of respect 
as well as affection, he amiahly allowed hSnself to be treated 
• with considerable familiarity. 

Soon afterwards his eldest son played off a good-humoured 
hoax upon him, by writing him a metrical application for 
a living, supposed to come from a poor parson, who had 
been at school with him — but without signing his name — 
merely dated it, " No. 2, Charlotte Street, Pimlico." Thus 
it began : — 

*' Hear, generous lawyer ! hear my prayer, 
Nor let my iVeedom maJce you stare, 

In hailing you, Jack Scott I 
The' now upon the woolsack placed. 
With wealth, with power, with title graced, 
Onoe nearer was our lot. 

" Say, by what name the hapless hard 
May best attract your kind regard, 

Plain Jack ? — Sir John ?— or Kldon ? 
Give, from your ample store of giving, 
A starving priest some little living, — 
The world will cry out ' Well done 1* 

** In vain, without a patron's aid, 
I've pray'd and preach'd, and preach'd and pra/d,— 

Applauded, but ill-fecL 
Such vain dclat let others share ; 
Alas ! I cannot feed on air, — 
I ask not praise, but bread." 

The Chancellor himself went to Charlotte Street, Pimlico, to 
inq^uire after the writer, but could find neither poet nor parson 
in those regions.' 

We must now attend to much graver matters. While Par- 
A.D. 1804. liament was sitting, in Tebruary, 1804, deliberating 
upon the measures necessary to be taken for the 
military defence of the country, in consequence of the renewed 
hostilities with Napoleon, now become Emperor, — afflicting 
rumours were spread of a return of the King's malady ; and 
there can be no doubt that he was then attended by Dr. Willis, 
and kept under restraint. A question upon the subject being 
put in the House of Commons, Mr. Addington very guardedly 
answered that "there was not at that time any necessary 

■' The poem is said to have orlpclnated in could not disguise his handwriting so as to 
an assertion by the Chancellor, that his son deceive him. 


suspension of such royal functions as it might be necessary foi 
his Majesty then to discharge."' Two days after, Lord 
Hawkesbury having held the same vague language in the 
House of Lords, Lord King and Lord ritzwilliam urged that 
more explicit information should be given by the noble and 
learned Lord on the woolsack, who, as keeper of the Great 
Seal, was peculiarly and personally responsible. Lord Eldm, : 
" I can assure the noble Lords who have personally alluded to 
me in such pointed terms, that I am fully sensible of the 
responsibility which attaches to me in particular. I have 
considered — and that deeply — the duty which is incumbent 
upon me at this trying crisis. I am aware that, while I am, 
on the one hand, constantly to keep in view what is due from 
me in point of delicacy to my Sovereign, I ought, on the other, 
never to forget that I have a duty to perform to the legislature 
and to the public. I have settled in my own mind what line 
of conduct I ought to pursue on this occasion, and that line I 
have pursued. I am anxious that there should be no misappre- 
hension on this subject, and therefore I declare that my noble 
colleague has correctly stated the convalescence of his Ma- 
jesty. Delicate as this subject is, I certainly would not have 
mentioned this much if I had not been compelled to it ; but, 
as I have been compelled to it, I wiU state, that, at this moment, 
there is Jio suspension of the royal functions." ' Lord Grenville 
complaining that the noble and learned Lord had conveyed no 
information to the House, Lord Eldon added: "From that 
attachment and duty which I owe to his Majesty, no conside- 
ration shall make me swerve so far as to go into what I conceive 
an unnecessary and improper explanation." ' 

The country was now in a most perilous situation. The 
Mutiny Act was about to expire in a few days, and unless it 
were renewed, the army could not lawfully be kept on foot. 
A' bill to renew it had passed both Houses along with several 
other bills, which, for the public safety, ought to receive the 
royal assent without delay. 

Lord Eldon boldly, and I think excusably, obtained the 
King's signature to a commission for passing these bills, at a 
time when it is quite clear that, if his Majesty had been a 
private person, any deed or will executed by him would have 
been adjudged to be a nullity. The Commission being pro- 
duced in the House of Lords, Lord Fitzwilliam said "he 
entertained doubts as to the state of his Majesty's mind — 

' 1 Pari. Deb. 1134. • lb 639. ' lb. 641. 


which induced him to call upon the Lord Chancellor for 
further information, before the very important exercise of 
the prerogative which had been announced was carried into 

Lard Eldon. " I can assure the noble Earl and tbe House, that ir 
every thing connected with so grave, important, and momentous an 
occasion, I hare proceeded with all due delicacy, deliberation, and cau- 
tion ; even with fear and trembling. Not satisfied with the reports of 
the medical attendants of his Majesty, I have thought it proper and 
necessary to have a personal interview with the Sovereign, when due 
discussion took place respecting the Bills offered for the royal assent, 
which assent was fully expressed. I would sooner suffer my right 
hand to be severed from my body, than act in such an instance upon 
light or superficial grounds ; and I have no hesitation to aver, that the 
result of all which took place on the occasion amply justifies me in 
announcing his Majesty's assent to the Bills specified in the Boyal Com- 
mission. I know and feel with gratitude my obligations to the best of 
Sovereigns, and to his person I bear the wannest affection. But I can 
most conscientiously say, that no considerations whatever, not even those 
to which I have alluded, shall ever induce me to break that sacred cove- 
nant which I have made with myself not to suffer that any thing shall 
warp my judgment, or bear me from the rule of strict duty and recti- 
tude. I am fully aware of the high responsibility under which I stand, 
and with reference to which I act on this occasion." '' 

It wUl be observed that his Lordship on this occasion avoids 
making any assertion as to the competence of the Sovereign — 
does not at all disclose what the rule of rectitude and duty was 
which he had covenanted with himself to observe — nor exclude 
the possibility of his having obtained a release from the cove- 
nant, — which it is so easy to obtain when covenantor and 
covenantee happen to be the same individual. However, the 
clerk having read the commission, concluding with the words, 
" By the King himself — signed with his own hand," and " Le 
Eoy le veut," being pronounced over each of the Bills, they 
all became law. 

The following is an account of this transaction, written by 
Lord Eldon many years after ; and, even assuming that he has 
neither coloured nor suppressed any of the circumstances of 
the interview, it is plain that he relied mainly upon what be 
considered " the competency of the King, as king, notwith- 
standing his indisposition," and that he would by no means 
have become vsdtness to the act and deed of a private individual 
in such a state of mind : — 

o 1 Pari. Deb. U08. 


" During one of his Majesty's indispositions, and when there was a 
doubt whether he was sufficiently recovered to make it fit to take his 
royal sign-manual to a commission for passing Acts of Parliament, the 
time approached when, if the Mutiny Bills were not renewed and 
passed, the establishments of the ai-my and navy, in the midst of war, 
must be broken up. It became, therefore, absolutely necessary to have 
his royal sign-manual to acts for continuing those establishments. The 
Chancellor is the minister responsible for that. I waited upon his 
Majesty, and carried with me the commission, and a brief abstract of 
the several intended acts, but in much more of detail than the previous 
statements made upon such occasions. I began reading that abstract, 
— a caution not usual when the King was well ; and he said, ' My 
Lord, you are cautious.' I entreated his Majesty to allow that, under 
the then circumstances. ' Oh ] ' he said, ' you are certainly right in 
that ; but you should be correct as well as cautious.' I said I was not 
conscious that I was not correct. ' No,' said he, ' you are not: for if 
you will look into the commission which you have brought me to sign, 
you will see that I there state that I have fully considered the bills pro- 
posed to receive my sign-manual to be correct ; therefore, I should have 
the bills to peruse and consider.' I stated to him that he never had had 
the bills whilst I had been Chancellor, and that I did not know that he 
had ever had the bills. He said during a part of his reign he had always 
had them, imtil Lord Thurlow had ceased to bring them ; and the 
expression his Majesty used was, that Lord Thurlow had said it was 
nonsense his giving himself the trouble to read them. I said his Ma- 
jesty had satisfied me that I had used caution enough, took the sign- 
manual and went to the House of Lords ; and when about passing the 
commission. Lord Fitzwilliam rose and said, ' I wish to ask whether 
the Chancellor declares his Majesty is equal to the act of signing the 
commission with full knowledge upon the subject,' or to that effect. 
I answered, 'Your Lordship will see the commission executed im- 

" I have committed this to paper, having been much abused on ac- 
count of this transaction, and for the purpose of stating that it was my 
determination, if I thought his Majesty sufficiently well as an indivi- 
dual to give his assent, to take the royal sign-manual to the commis- 
sion, and execute it without making observation ; if, on the other hand, 
1 did not think him so well as an individual, — inasmuch as the com- 
petency of the King, as king, was what the law authorised me to 
consider as belonging to him, notwithstanding his indisposition, I deter- 
mined to take the royal sign-manual to the commission, and after 
executing it, to state to the House in what condition of his Majesty I 
had taken this step, and to throw myself on Parliament's consideration 
of my case, and my having so acted, in order, in a most perilous period, 
to prevent the establishments necessary for the defence, and indeed the 
existence, of the country from going to pieces. Many thought 1 acted 
too boldly in this proceeding ; but I could not bring myself to think 
that I ought to countenance the notion that the King's state of mind 


considering him as an individual, was such as I in my conscience did 
not believe it to Vie ; and I did think that it was my duty to expose 
myself to all that might happen, rather than give a false impression of 
the actual state of iny Sovereign and Boyal Master to his people. 

" God grant that no future Chancellor may go though the same dis- 
tressing scenes, or be exposed to the dangerous responsibility which 1 
went through, and was exposed to, during the indispositions of my 
Sovereign 1 My own attachment to him supported me through those 
scenes. Such and so cordial was the love and affection his people bore to ■ 
him, that a servant meaning well, and placed amidst great difBculties, 
would have been pardoned for much, if he had occasion for indemnity. 

" When I went to take the King's sign-manual, some other ministers 
wanted it in their department. They sent the papers to me, instead of 
coming themselves to support me by their acts. 1 refused to tender any 
"of them to the King." ' 

Lord Eldon told the following anecdote, referable to the 
same period : — 

" In one of his Majesty George III.'s illnesses, when he was at Buck- 
ingham House, it was conceived to be my duty as Chancellor to call 
at that house every day. This was constantly done, to the interrup- 
tion of the business of my Court to a great extent, for which the public 
opinion made no allowance. Upon one day, when I went to make 
my call of duty, Dr. Simmons, the medical attendant constantly there, 
represented to me the embarrassment he was exposed to, being per- 
suaded that if his Majesty could have a walk frequently round the 
garden behind the house it would be of the most essential benefit to 
him ; that if he took his walk with the doctor, or any of his attendants, 
he was overlooked from the windows of Grosvenor Placis,. and reports 
were circulated very contrary to the truth respecting his Majesty's 
mental health ; that, on the other hand, his Majesty's family were afraid 
of accompanying him ; and that he, the doctor, did not know how to act, 
as the walk was of vast importance to his Majesty's recovery. It was 
to me plain that he wished that I should offer to attend his Majesty, 
and walk with him in the garden. I offered to do so, if he thought it 
likely to be useful to the King. He then went into the next room, 
where the King was, and I heard him say, ' Sir, the Chancellor is come 
to take a walk with your Majesty, if your Majesty pleases to allow it.' 
' With all my heart,' I overheard the King say, and he called for his 
hat and cane. We walked two or three times round Buckingham House 
gardens. There was at first a momentary hurry and incoherence in his 
Majesty's talk, but this did not endure two minutes ; during the rest 
of the walk there was not the slightest aberration in his Majesty's con- 
versation, and he gave me the history of every Administration in hia 
reign. When we returned into the house, his Majesty, laying down hia 
hat and cane, placed his head upon my shoulder, and burst into tears ; 

« Twlm, I 385. 


and, after recovering himself, bowed me out of the room in his usual 
manner. Dr. Simmons told me afterwards that this had been of infi- 
nite use towards his recovery." 

The wary Chancellor, when in a communicative mood, also 
related that the King complained to him that a man in the 
employ of one of "his physicians had knocked him down. 
" When I got up again," added the King, " I said my foot 
had slipped, and ascribed my fall to that : for it would not 
do for me to admit that the King had been knocked down by 
any one." 

His Majesty continued in this unsatisfactory state of mind 
till the month of June following, some members of the Cabinet 
not having nerve to transact business with him ; but, during 
this period. Lord Eldon not only obtained his assent to acts of 
state, such as giving the royal assent to bills that had passed 
both Houses of Parliament, but actually induced him to dis- 
miss Mr. Addington, and to take back Mr. Pitt as his Prime 
Minister. The Sovereign being sometimes better and some- 
times worse, and occasionally appearing to talk and to write 
rationally, and the physicians all agreeing that he was likely 
to recover soon, — although, if a private person in the care of a 
committee under the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery, it 
is quite clear that he would not have been restored to liberty, 
— perhaps Lord Eldon did well in continuing to treat him as 
competent fully to exercise all the prerogatives of the crown. 
Not being completely disabled, as he was in 1788 and in 1810, 
any proposal to suspend his functions, or to supersede his 
authority, might have led to a public convulsion ; and the 
smaller evU to be chosen might be to consider his legal com- 
petence as unimpaired, — there being advisers for every act 
that was done, responsible to Parliament and to the country. 

But I can by no means offer so good a defence to another 
charge against Lord Eldon — that, in the intrigue by which 
the change of Government was effected, he betrayed his poli- 
tical chief. This charge, which has been several times 
advanced, is reiterated in the recent Life of Lord Sidmouth, 
by Dr. PeUew ; and, I am sorry to say, I think it is completely 

When Mr. Pitt, not pleased to see those whom he considered 
his own creatures assuming an independent existence, had 
become impatient for a retiirn to power, and had coalesced 
with the two parties, in regular opposition, under Mr. Fox 
and Lord Grenville, the existing Government was in jeopardy, 



and its majorities decreased on every division. Nevertheless, 
the King, highly satisfied with his Prime Minister, was 
resolved resolutely to stand by him ; and, till the result of the 
debate on the 25th of April respecting the defence of the 
country against invasion, in which the different 'sections of 
opponents heartily concurred, neither King nor Prime Minister 
had any thought of a change. But, long before this, Lord 
Eldon, without the knowledge of the King, and without the 
privity of any of his colleagues, was in secret communication 
with Mr. Pitt, now the declared enemy of the King's Govern- 
ment. He might most reasonably have thought that Mr. 
Addington could not longer be allowed to be at the head of 
affairs with safety to the state — but then it would have been 
his duty, boldly and openly, to have said so to Mr. Addington, 
and it would have been his duty instantly to resign the Great 
Seal into his Majesty's hands. Eetaining the Great Seal, — 
professing to serve under Mr. Addington, — and regardless of 
the " wishes of his Eoyal Master," about which, when it 
suited his purpose, he could be so pathetic, he, of his own 
accord, through the medium of a note sent by his son, then a 
member of the House of Commons, opened a negotiation with 
Mr. Pitt for Mr. Addington's overthrow.'' This fact is incon- 
testably established by the following letter from Mr. Pitt to 
Lord Eldon : — 

" York Place, Tuesday night, March 20th, 1804. 
" Mt dear Lord, 
" Mr. Scott was so good as to give me your note this evening in the 
House of Commons.' I am very glad to accept your invitation for Satur- 
day, as, whatever may he the result of our conversation, I think the 
sooner we hold it the better. The state of public affairs makes it im- 
possible that the present suspense should last very long, and nothing can 
give me more satisfaction than to put you con6dentially in possession of 
all the sentiments and opinions by which my conduct will be regulated. 
Believe me, my dear Lord, 

" Yours, very sincerely, 

" W. Pitt." 

AH that we know of their proceedings in March is, that 
after their secret meeting, thus arranged, they had " a tete-d- 
tSte dinner." ' It is supposed that the negotiation was inter- 

y All possibility of a coalition between nistration. 

Mr. Pitt and Mr. Addington had long gone ' This refers to the CSiancellor's eldest son, 

by, Mr. Pitt having declared that he would then M.F. for Boronghbridge. 

not even become head of the Treasury with- ■* This is proved by an entry in the journal 

out first dismlving Mr. Addington's Admi- of Mr. Abbot (afterwards Lord Colchester;, 


rupted by the King being so much under the influence of his 
malady, that he could not be produced to hold a Council, or 
have any political communication made to him.' 

On the 23rd of April Mr. Fox was to lead a grand assault of 
the combined Opposition, which it was thought might prove 
fatal to the Government ; and, the day before, Mr. Pitt thus 
wrote to the Chancellor : — 

" Tork Place, Sunday, April 22nd, 1804. 
" My deae Lord, 
" Under the present peculiar circumstances, I trust your Lordship will 
forgive my taking the liberty of requesting you to take charge of the en- 
closed letter to the King. Its object is to convey to his Majesty, as a 
mark of respect, a previous intimation of the sentiments which I may 
find it necessary to avow in Parliament, and at the same time an assur- 
ance, with respect to my own personal intentions, which I might perhaps 
not be justified in offering, uncalled for, under any other circumstances, 
but which you will see my motive for not withholding at present. I 
certainly feel very anxious that this letter should be put into his Ma- 
jesty's hands, if it can with propriety, before the discussion of to-mor- 
row ; but having no means of forming myself any sufficient judgment 
on that point, my wish is to refer it entirely to your Lordship's discre- 
tion, being fully persuaded that you will feel the importance of making 
the communication with as little delay as the nature of the case will 
admit. I shall enclose my letter unsealed for yowr inspection, knowing 
that you wiU allow me in doing so to request thai you will not com- 
municate its contents to any one hut the King himself. I am, the 
more anxious that you should see what I have written, because I can- 
not think of asking you to undertake to he the hearer of a letter ex- 
pressing sentiments so adverse to the Government with which you are act- 
ing, without giving you the previous opportvmity of knowing in what 
manner those sentiments are stated, 

" Believe me, with great truth and regard, 
" My dear Lord, 

" Faithfully and sincerely yours, 

" W. Pitt. ' 

It would appear that Lord Eldon had sent back the letter, 
to have some alteration made in it, — expressing a readiness to 

copied in Pellew's " Life of Lord Sidmouth," which I wish to commnnicate to yon, I tako 
li, 277. advantage of your promise to apply to you 

* The foUowinft note from the Queen to when under any difficulty, and beg to see 
Lord Eldon seems to show that his Mitfesty you for a moment, in case you call at the 
was worse about the middle of April :— Queen's House this morning, before you go to 

the King. 
'Mi Lobd, " Chaelotie 

- Something having occurred last night " Q. H., April 14th, 1804." 

B 2 


deliver it when the King should be in a state of mind in 
which he could receive it. 

" York Place, Sunday night, April 22nd, 1804. 


" I have no hesitation in availing myself of your permission to return 
into your hands my letter to the King. My wish is to teave it entirely 
to your discretion, whether it can with propriety he delivered hefore the 
debate to-morrow. If not, I anxiously wish that it should be known to 
his Majesty in due time, that it was deposited with you in order that it 
should be so delivered, if you should judge that it could with pro- 

" I am, my dear Lord, 

" Faithfully and sincerely yours, 

" W. Pitt." 

Mr. Twiss, — not having seen Dr. Pellew's statements, — 
after mentioning the CouncH held on the 23rd of AprU, at 
which the King was well enough to appear, good-naturedly 
observes, " The attempt to remodel the Government seems to 
have been immediately resumed through the agency of the 
Lord Chancellor, on whom alone, in a matter where the per- 
sonal intervention of Mr. Addington was necessarily out of 
the question, the King inclined to rely." The public now 
most certainly know that till the 29th of April the King did 
not employ the agency of Lord Eldon in communicating with 
Mr. Pitt, whom he then regarded as little better than a Whig, 
and that he eagerly hoped Mr. Addington might continue 
Prime Minister. 

Mr. Fox's motion was actually made on the night of the 
23rd of April, and was warmly supported by Mr. Pitt, but 
was defeated by a majority of 52 ; and Mr. Addington still 
resolved to retain his post, the King backing him, and ex- 
pressing high resentment at the contents of Mr. Pitt's letter, 
which had been shown to him. But rumours — spread by 
whom was never known — became rife that the King was 
desirous of changing his Minister ; and when a similar motion 
was repeated on thei 25th, although there was no increase in 
the numbers of the Opposition, Mr. Addington's supporters 
fell off, and his majority was reduced to 32. He thought he 
could stand his ground no longer, but he did not communicate 
to any of his colleagrjes his intention to resign till Sunday, 
the 29th of April. On that day a Cabinet was held, when he 
reproached the Chancellor for having been the bearer of a 


letter from Mr. Pitt to the King, containing expressions so 
inJTirious to the Government with which he was acting, and 
for the head of which he had always expressed so much 
regard. All present agreed in the necessity of immediate 
resignation. Lord St. Vincent afterwards " expressed, as one 
main ground of the Government being defeated, when, with 
the hearty support of the King, he considered the struggle as 
any thing but desperate, the secret understanding between 
Lord Eldon and Mr. Pitt, or, as he phrased it, ' the enemy 
having a friend in the citadel, who opened the gates to 

-The resolution of the Cabinet being communicated to the 
King, his Majesty, who had been kept in ignorance of the 
previous intercourse between Mr. Pitt and Lord Eldon, and 
of the fact that Lord Eldon was privy to the contents of Mr. 
Pitt's letter, of which he had been the bearer, was made to see 
the absolute necessity for parting with his favourite Minister, 
and authorised Lord Eldon to desire Mr. Pitt to attend him at 
Buckingham House with the view of forming a new Adminis- 
tration. The foUowiag is Mr. Pitt's answer to the confidential 
note which he received, begging a prior personal interview 
with the Chancellor : — 

" York Place, Sunday, April 29th, 1804. 
" My dear Lord, 

" I am very much obliged to you for your letter, and must feel great 
satisfaction in learning the manner in which the assurances contained in 
my letter were received. I shall be at home till half-past two to-day, 
and afterwards from five to six, and any time before two to-morrow, if 
you should find occasion to call here ; or if you prefer seeing me at any 
other hour, or at your house, yon -will have the goodness to let me 
know, and I shall be at your commands. 

" I am, my dear Lord, 

" Sincerely and faithfully yours, 

" W. Pitt." 

Great difficulties arose in the negotiations which were now 
begun, for I believe that Mr. Pitt was sincere in his wish to 
introduce Mr. Fox, as well as Lord Grenville, into the 
Cabinet, and Mr. Pox was most odious both to the King and 
the Chancellor. 

The Marquess of Stafford, leagued with the Opposition, had 
a motion standing in the House of Lords for the Monday, 

" Lord Brougbam on his personal knowledge, In a very able article in the Second Num. 
ber o( the Lav Beview 


respecting the defence of the country. At the meeting of the 
House, Lord Hawkesbury, as the organ of the Government, 
stated, that " he had reasons of the highest and most weighty 
importance, which induced him to request the noble Marquess 
to postpone his motion. These reasons, it was true, were of 
that delicate and peculiar nature that he could not at the 
present moment, consistently with his duty, enter into them 
farther." Lord Grenville and other lords expressing a wish 
for farther explanation, the Lord Chancellor quitted the wool- 
sack and said : " Being of opinion, my Lords, that sufficient 
grounds exist for your Lordships to exercise your good sense 
and discretion upon the point under consideration, I shall say 
no more, being determined, for my own part, to fulfil, as long 
as I have a drop of blood in my veins, my duty to his Majesty 
and the country, — ^for these terms, my Lords, mean the same 
thing : to do my duty to his Majesty, is to do my duty to the 
country ; and to perform my duty to the country, is to perform 
my duty to my Sovereign. And upon my most awful sense of 
what I think my duty to both, my conduct has been, is, and 
shall ever be regulated, and this paramount consideration now 
induces me to go the. length of joining my noble friend in 
recommending the noble Marquess — as far as the opinion of an 
humble individual may be deserving of attention — ^to postpone 
his motion." Who could have conjectured the manner in 
which the noble and learned Lord had been performing his 
duty to his Sovereign and his country during the preceding 
month ? 

On the 2nd of May Mr. Pitt wrote a long letter to the 
King, which has never been published, but in which he must 
have fully explained his views about the formation of the new 
Government. This he sent, with the accompanying note, to 
Lord Eldon : — 

" York Place, Wednesday, May 2nd, 1804, 
Three quarters past one, p.m. 
"Mt dbae Lobd, 

" I enclose a letter addressed to you, which I shall be much obliged to 
you if you will lay before his Majesty. I am sorry not to have been 
able to make it shorter, or to send it you sooner. As I think it may 
probably find you at the Court of Chancery, I will, at the same time 
that I send it, ride down to Mr. Eose's, at Palace Yard, in order that I 
may be easily within your reach, if any thing should arise on which you 
may wish to see me before you go to the Queen's House. If you should 
lot be at the Court of Chancery, I shall order my letter to be ca:- 


lied to your house, unless my servant should learn where it can be de- 
livered to you sooner. 

" Ever, my dear Lord, 

" Yours very sincerely, 

" W. Pitt." 

It seems that Lord Eldon added to Mr. Pitt's communi- 
cation a soothing missive from himself, and that the King, 
much excited, and unable to conceal his dislike of the change 
forced upon him, had returned an answer to Mr. Pitt, testifying 
even contempt for the sentiments and style of that Minister. 
This answer will probably never see the light ; but the following 
letter from the King to Lord Eldon shows very strikingly how 
his Majesty stood affected : — 

" Queen's Palace, May 5th, 1804, 
" 19 minutes past six, p.m. 
" The King is much pleased with his excellent Chancellor's note : he 
doubts much whether Mr. Pitt will, after weighing the contents of the 
paper delivered this day to him by Lord Eldon, choose to have a per- 
sonal interview with his Majesty ; but whether he will not rather pre- 
pare another Essay, containing as many empty words and little infor- 
mation as the one he had before transmitted. 

"His Majesty will, with great pleasure, receive the Lord Chan- 
cellor to-morrow, between ten and eleven, the time he himself has 
J roposed. 

"Geoegb E." 

Lord Eldon most earnestly denied that he exercised any 
influence over the King in disinclining him to the admission 
(if Mr. Fox into the Cabinet. If he believed that such a step 
would be detrimental to the public service, I cannot see the 
harm of the Chancellor, when consulted, expressing his opinion 
upon it ; and unless some such influence had been used, I am 
persuaded that his Majesty would now have assented to it, as 
he verj' readily did in 1806. 

The King, of his own accord, or by persuasion, remaining 
inflexible, the GrenviUes would not separate themselves from 
Mr. Pox, and the memorable Administration was to be formed 
in which all the power of the State was to be centred in one 
individual. The new Prime Minister Elect thus addressed 
the King : — 

" May 7th, 1804. 

" Mr. Pitt humbly begs leave to acquaint your Majesty, that he finds 
Lord Gvenville and his friends decline forming a part of any arrange- 


ment in which Mr. Fox is not included. Mr. Pitt hopes to be enabled 
by to-morrow to submit, for your Majesty's consideration, the most 
material parts of such a plan of Administration as, under these circum- 
stances, he wishes humbly to propose." 

Although Mr. Pitt was now in direct communication with 
the King, he never moved unless in concert with the Chan- 
cellor, on whom he chiefly relied for intelligence respecting 
the state of the King's health. Thus he addressed him when 
the arrangements were, complete, and only required his 
Majesty's sanction : — 

" York Place, Tuesday, May 8th, 1804. 
" My DBAB Lord, 
" I shall be much obliged to you if you can send me a single line to 
let me know what accounts you have from the Queen's House this 
morning. I shall be very desirous of seeing you in the course of the 
day, and will endeavour either to find you near the House of Lords be- 
tween four and five, or vrill call on you in the evening. It will proba^ 
bly be desirable that I should see the King again to-morrow. 
" Ever, my dear Lord, 

" Sincerely yours, 

"W. P." 

At this meeting the Ministry was settled, the King evidently 
being in a state of mind in which, as a private man, he would 
not have been allowed to sign an ordinary contract. When it 
was over, he thus addressed Mr. Addington : — 

" Queen's Palace, May 9th, 1804, 48 m. past six, p.m. 
" The King has this instant finished a long, but most satisfactory, 
conversation with Mr. Pitt, who will stand forth, though Lord Grenville, 
Lord Spencer, and Mr. Windham have declined even treating, as Mr. 
Fox is excluded by the express command of the King to Mr. Pitt. This 
being the case, the King desires Mr. Addington will attend here at ten 
to-morrow morning with the Seals ofChancellor of the Exchequer. The 
King's friendship for Mr. Addington is too deeply graven on his heart 
to be in the least diminished by any change of situation : his Majesty 
will order the warrant to be prepared for creating Mr. Addington Earl 
of Banbury, Viscount Wallingford, and Baron Reading ; and will order 
the message to be carried by Mr. York to the House of Commons for the 
usual annuity, having most honourably and ably filled the station of 
Speaker of the House of Commons. The King will settle such a pension 
on Mrs. Addington, whose virtue and modesty he admires, as Mr. Ad- 
dington may (£oo8e to propose. * • ♦ 

" George E." 


The same evening Mr. Pitt thus addressed his confidant : — 

" York Place, Wednesday night, May 9th, 1804. 
" My dear Lokd, 
" I have had another interview to-day, not quite, I am sorry to say, 
so satisfactory as that of Monday. I do not think there was any thing 
positively wrong, but there was a hurry of spirits, and an excessive love 
of talking, which showed that either the airing of this morning, or the 
seeing so many persons, and conversing so much during these three days, 
has rather tended to disturb. The only inference I draw from this ob- 
servation is, that too much caution cannot be used in still keeping exer- 
tion of all sorts, and particularly conversation, within reasonable limits. 
If that caution can be sufficiently adhered to, I have no doubt that every 
thing will go well ; and there is certainly nothing in what I have ob- 
served that would, in the smallest degree, justify postponing any of the 
steps that are in progress towards arrangement. I am, therefore, to at- 
tend again to-morrow, for the purpose of receiving the Seals, which Mr, 
A. will have received notice from his Majesty to bring. If I should not 
meet you there, I will endeavour to see you afterwards at the House of 

" I am, my dear Lord, 

" Ever sincerely yours, 

" W. Pitt." 

The following day the change of Government formally took 
place, and Lord Eldon was confirmed in his office under the 
new chief. " The upshot of the whole intrigue is, that Mr. 
Pitt shoves Mr. Addington out of his place, which he takes 
himself, and retains his coadjutor in tiie business as Chan- 
cellor, ' his ally within the besieged garrison, who opened the gate to 
him under the cloud of night while the rest slept.' " ^ 

I add Lord Eldon's own account of his part in the transac- 
tion, as recorded in his autobiography entitled the " Anecdote 
Book," showing with what caution this work is to be perused ; 
for he would represent that the King was quite recovered 
when the change took place, — he entirely suppresses his owii 
previous intercourse with Mr. Pitt, as if the idea of this 
Minister's return had originated in a spontaneous order of 
the King requiring an immediate interview, — and he would 
induce a belief, that, after Mr. Pitt was installed, it became 
matter of deliberation whether he himself should continue 
Chancellor, — whereas all mankind must now believe that this 
was as well understood between them, as that George IIL 
should continue on the throne : — 

Law Review, No. xi. p. 264. 


" When Mr. Addington went out of office, and Mr. Pitt succeeded 
him, the King was just recovered from mental indisposition. He or- 
derai me to go to Mr. Pitt with his commands for Mr. Pitt to attend 
him. I went to him, to Baker Street or York Place, to deliver those 
commands. I found him at breakfast. After some little conversation, 
he said, ?s the King was pleased to command his attendance with a 
view to forming a new Administration, he hoped I had not given any 
turn to the King's mind which could affect any proposition he might 
have to make to his Majesty upon that subject. 1 was extremely hurt 
by this. I assured him I had not ; that I considered myself as a gen- 
tleman bringing to a gentleman a message from a king ; and that I 
should have acted more unworthily than I believe myself capable of act- 
ing, if I had given any opinion upon what might be right to his Majesty. 
Mr. Pitt went with me in my carriage to Buckingham House, and, when 
we arrived there, he asked me if I was sure his Majesty was well enough 
to see him. I asked him whether he thought that I should have brought 
him such a message if I had any doubt upon that, and observed that it 
was fortunately much about the hour when the physicians called ; and, 
it turning out that they were in the house, I said he might see them in 
an adjoining room. He asked me to go with him into that room. After 
what had passed, I said I should not do so, and that it was fit that he 
should judge for JjisBself, and that I should be absent. He then left me, 
and, after being with the physicians a considerable time, he returned, 
and said he was quite satisfied with their report, and expressed his as- 
tonishment at what he had heard from them : that he had learnt, he 
thought from unquestionable authority, only the day before, that I never 
had seen the King but in the presence of the doctors or doctor who at- 
tended him on account, of his mental health. He intimated that this 

was intelligence which had come from C n House, and which he 

had now learned was utterly devoid of truth. He was soon after intro- 
duced to the King, and he remained with his Majesty a considerable 
time. Upon his return he said he found the King perfectly well, — that 
he had expressed his full consent to Lord Grenville's being a part of the 
new Administration, but that all his endeavours to prevail upon his Ma- 
jesty to consent to Mr. Fox also being a member of it had been urged in 
vain in the course of a long interview and conversation. It is well 
known that Mr. Pitt was obliged to form an Administration without 

" After Mr. Pitt had formed the rest of his Administration, he con- 
versed with me as to remaining Chancellor. I told him that I must 
first know whether he had any reason to believe that it had been neces- 
sary to ask me whether I had given any turn to the King's mind that 
could affect any proposition he had to make to the King. He said, that 
when he left his Majesty he was convinced that nothing had passed be- 
tween his Majesty and me relative to the formation of an administration, 
as to any person who should or should not form a part of it ; and that, 
if I desired it, he would give me a written declaration, in any terms 
which would be satisfactory, that he had no reason to think that I had 


in any way influenced his Majesty's mind. I told him that what he 
had said was enough." 

But, conscious that his plotting against Mr. Addington 
could not be concealed from the world, and that, primdfacid, 
he was liable to the accusation of treachery, he was ever after 
indefatigable in repeating the assertion that he was the 
" King's Chancellor," and not Mr. Addington's. He harped 
upon his promise to accept the Great Seal, when he was made 
Chief Justice of the Common Pleas : he said, " Upon the duty 
of a subject to obey the commands of the sovereign as to 
accepting office, I have some notions that, I believe, are much 
out of fashion ; " and he declared, " "With respect to the Chan- 
cellorship, I was indebted for that office to the King himself, 
and not, as some supposed, to Mr. Addington, and as some of 
Mr. Addington's friends supposed." But if we give entire 
credit to these representations, they in no degree mitigate the 
censure due to his indirect proceedings ; for the duties of his 
situation were the -same, however he obtained it; and no 
degree of royal favour could entitle bim to deceive a colleague 
who placed implicit confidence in his honour.* 

Lord Eldon must, at all events, be allowed to have been a 
most consummate master of political intrigue ; and, always 
persuading himself that his objects were laudalsle, he gained 
them without any unnecessary artifices. On this occasion, 
although thwarting the royal wishes, he contrived to persuade 
the King that he lived but to obey him; and when Mr. 
Addington had by bis means been violently torn from the 
King's embrace, his Majesty was taore than ever charmed 
with the Chancellor. At the end of the first week of the new 
regime, thus wrote the delighted and deluded Sovereign : — 

" Queen's Palace, May 18th, 1804, 5 m. pt. 10, a.m. 
" The King having signed the commission for giving his Royal Assent, 
returns it to his excellent Lord Chancellor, whose conduct he most 
thoroughly approves. His Majesty feels the difficulties he has had, 
both political, and personally to the King ; ' but the uprightness of Lord 
Eldon's mind, and his attachment to the King, have borne him with 

' " However the debilitated energies of the of gentlemen if he had himself retired from 

coantry might demand that some change the Ministry when he considered it too weals 

should be wrought suddenly, however the to serve the country efBciently, before he 

tottering mind of the King might require entered into a secret negotiation, which 

that the change should be wrought quietly, might end, as it did end, in its subversion." 

Btill it would have been more analogous to —W.E. Svrteet, p. 103. 
the ordinary principlee and common conduct f Sic 


credit and honour, and (what the King knows will not be without ita 
due weight) with the approbation of his Sovereign, through an unplea- 
sant labyrinth." 

Commissions continued to be signed by the King for passing 
bills, and all other acts of state were done in his name, in the 
ordinary ooiirse of business ; but the following two letters 
show that the Chancellor still acted on his distinction between 
his Majesty's natural and political capacity : — 

Hie Duke of York to Lord Eldon. 

" Horse Guards, May 25th, 1804. 
" Mt dbae Lokd, 

" Having missed the pleasure of seeing your Lordship to-day as I had 
intended, I trust that you will excuse my troubling you with this letter, 
to put you in mind of the necessity of speaking as early as possible to 
his Majesty upon the propriety of the Queen's keeping his birthday at 
St. James's ; as, if it is not announced in the Gazette to-morrow night, 
persons who mean to appear at the drawing-room will not have time to 
prepare their dresses. I am afraid, from what I have heard, that things 
were not comfortable at the Queen's house this morning, and wish that 
you would inquire of Sir Francis Millman and Dr. Simmonds before you 
go in to the King, as he seems to dwell much upon the illegality of his 
confinement, and is not aware of the dreadful consequences which may 
attend him if any unfortunate circumstance can be brought forward in 

" Believe me ever, 

" My dear Lord, 

" Tours mostsincerely, 

" Pbedebick." 

Mr. Pitt to Lord Eldon. 

" Bromley Hall, Saturday Evening, May 26th, 180i. 
" Mt dear Loed, 
" As I was leaving town this evening I learned (in a way on which I 
can entirely depend) some circumstances of a conversation in one of the 
audiences on Thursday, which seem very alarming. The topics treated 
of were such as did not at all arise out of any view (right or wrong) of 
the actual state of things, but referred to plans of foreign politics, that 
could only be creatures of an imagination heated and disordered. This 
part of the discourse, however, though commenced with great eagerness, 
was not long dwelt on, and in the remainder there was nothing in sub- 
stance wrong. This information has been given me, as you may ima- 
gine, in strict confidence ; but I desired and received nermission to com- 
municate it to you, and to mention it to Dr. S. "I will tell you the 

A.D. 1804-6. KING'S RECOVERY. 253 

name of my infonnant when I see you, and you will protably not find 
it difficult to guess him in the mean time. There is nothing very ma- 
terial to be known as to the particulars (as far as it strikes me), except 
that they related to plans, political and military, about the Netherlands. 
I mention thus much now, because it may enable you to learn from Dr. 
S. whether any thing has before passed on this point. I would have en- 
deavoured to see you in town to-morrow morning, but I understand you 
will be setting out early to Windsor. On your return, either that even- 
ing or Monday morning, I shall be very anxious to see you at any hour 
that suits you best, and will beg you to send to Downing Street to let 
me know. 

" Ever, my dear Lord, 

" Sincerely yours, 

" W. Pitt." 

Even so late as tlie 30th of June, the King wrote a letter 
to the Chancellor — in which, after lamenting that business in 
Parliament had been protracted to so late a period of the 
session, he says, " But, in truth, part of this must inevitably 
be laid this year . to the door of the King's long, tedious, and 
never-ending confinement, which has thrown much perplexity 
in every quarter, but which he is resolved, the protection 
of Divine Providence, carefully to avoid in future." The 
determination to avoid " confinement " in future, rather seems 
to indicate a present necessity for it. However, his Majesty's 
health soon after rallied greatly, and, till his attack in 
the year 1810, when he was permanently disabled from per- 
forming any of the functions of royalty, he displayed the same 
acuteness and vigour of intellect, as well as mental activity, 
which had formerly distinguished him — ever devoted to what 
he considered his duty — ^but ever retaining the prejudices of 
education which led to the misfortunes of his reign. 

During the remainder of Mr. Pitt's life. Lord Eldon was 
not very conspicuous in politics. I do not think he a.d. i804— 
was at all consulted about foreign affairs, and he is '^''^• 
not answerable for the new continental coalition against 
France, which ended in the capitulation of Ulm and the battle 
of Austerlitz. He took some part in the proceedings of the 
House of Lords, but these were not very important, as the 
Whig leaders had in a great measure seceded from Parliament. 
He ineffectually opposed the bill for disfranchising Aylesbury, 
and giving the right of election to the adjoining hundreds,^ — 
he succeeded in throwing out the bill for the abolition of the 

K 2 Pari. Deb. 6X7, 532, 681—82. 


slave trade,''— and he strenuously opposed all relaxation of the 
law of imprisonment for debt, which in its then state he con- 
tended was essentially necessary for our prosperity as a com- 
mercial natiori.' 

The question of Catholic Emancipation being started, on 
a petition from the Eoman Catholics of Ireland, he made a 
long ■ speech against it — bringing forward very boldly the 
religious principles to which he ever after most steadily 
adhered. He maintained that whatever was required by 
toleration had already been conceded to the Eoman Catholics, 
and that their numbers should be disregarded, the legislature 
looking only to the reasonableness of their demands. He 
argued that the Eoman Catholics' of Ireland were highly 
favoured, as they had a greater latitude in the form of their 
oath of allegiance than wA,s allowed to the Protestant Dis- 
senters of England; for the Irish Eoman Catholics were 
required only to swear allegiance to the King and his family, 
whereas the form of the English oath was, to the King and 
his family, being Protestants. The British • Constitution, he 
contended, was not based upon the principles of equal rights 
to all men indiscriminately, but of equal rights of all men 
conforming to, and complying with, the tests which that 
Constitution required for its security.'' By such arguments 
he carried with him a majority of 178 against 49.™ 

Lord Eldon was employed during the summer and autumn 
of 1804, and the spring of 1805, in a very diiBcult negotiation 
between the King and the Prince of Wales, who had long been 
at open enmity with each other. The spirit in which it was 
begun by his Majesty may be discovered from a note to the 
Chancellor, in which he says, — " Undoubtedly the Prince of 
Wales's making the offer of having the dear little Charlotte's 
education and principles attended to, is the best earnest he 
can give of returning to a sense of what he owes to his father 
and indeed to his country, and may to a degree mollify the 
feelings of an injured father ; but it will require some reflec- 
tion before the King can answer how soon he can bring 
himself to receive the publisher of his letters." ° The Chan- 
cellor prevailed upon ttie King to agree to an interview, but 
afterwards received a note from him annexing this proviso — 
that " no explanation or excuses should be attempted by the 
Prince of Wales, but that it should merely be a visit of 

t 2 Pari. Deb. 931. ' 1*. 1130. k 4 Pari. Deb. J93. 

" lb. 643. " 18th July, 1804. 


civility, as any retrospect would oblige the King to utter 
truths which, instead of healing, must widen the breach." ° 
The Prince agreed to these terms, but, before the appointed 
time arrived, became deeply wounded by discovering what he 
considered imdue partiality in favour of the Princess of Wales. 
His Majesty had written another note to the Chancellor, con- 
taining the following expressions respecting her Eoyal High- 
ness : — " In the interview he had yesterday at Kew with the 
Princess, her whole conduct and language gave the greatest 
satisfaction. She will entirely be guided by the King, who 
has directed her to state whatever she pleases to the Lord 
Chancellor as the person alone to be trusted by her in any 
difficult occasions that may arise. She is deserving of every 
attention, and therefore strongly recommended by the King 
, to his Lord Chancellor." The Chancellor in consequence 
having spoken favourably of the Princess to the Prince, his 
Eoyal Highness positively refused to meet the King, and 
desired that the Chancellor would carry a message from him 
to his Majesty to that effect. The Chancellor venturing on 
expostulation, the Prince replied, — "Sir, who gave you 
authority to advise me ? " Lord Climicellor : " I express very 
sincere regret that I have offended your Eoyal Highness by 
doing so ; but then. Sir, I am his Majesty's Chancellor, and it 
is for me to judge what messages 1 ought to take to his 
Majesty : your Eoyal Highness must send some other mes- 
senger with that communication ; I wiU not take it." It was 
agreed that the Chancellor should write to the King to put off 
the interview on the ground of 'the Prince being much indisr 
posed, as we find by the following note from his Majesty to 
his Chancellor : — 

" Kew, Aug. 22nd, 1804, 10 m. past one, p.m. 
" The King, soon after his arrival here with the Queen and his daugh- 
ters, found the Dukes of Kent and Cambridge, since which the Lord 
Chancellor's letter has been brought by a servant of the Prince of Wales 
The King authorises the Lord Chancellor to express to the Prince of 
Wales his sorrow at his being unwell ; that, in consequence of this, hib 
Majesty will postpone his interview with the Prince of Wales until hih 
return from Weymouth ; and then, as was now intended, it will he in 
presence of his family at Kew, of which the Lord Chancellor will he em 
powered to give due notice to the Prince of Wales. 

" George E-* 

After the King's return from Weymouth, an interview did 

° 20ib Aug. 1804. 


take place between him and the Prince, which, his Majesty 
declared " was every way decent, as both parties avoided any 
subjects but those of the most trifling kind." And, after a 
long and tedious negotiation, the Chancellor succeeded in 
bringing about an arrangement, whereby the care of the 
Princess Charlotte was transferred to the King, although his 
Majesty and the Prince of Wales still continued in a state of 
irreconcilable hostility.'' 

Lord Eldon had a difficult part to play during these alter- 
cations ; but, although naturally unwilling to make 
'an enemy of the Heir Apparent, he seems to have 
conducted himself with becoming spirit, if not always with 
the best tact. In Lord Malmesbury's Diary we have the fol- 
lowing account of a fracas between him and the Prince, 
which must have happened soon after. Lord Eldon said to 
the Prince, " The Princess hoped her dignity and comfort 
would be attended to." Prince : " I am Qot the sort of person 
to let my hair grow under my wig to please my wife." Lord 
Eldon (respectfully but firmly) : " Your Eoyal Highness con- 
descends to become personal. I beg leave to withdraw." He 
accordingly bowed very low, and retired. The Prince, 
alarmed at this, could find no other way of extricating him- 
self than by causing a note to be written the next day to 
Lord Eldon, to say that " the phrase he made use of was 
nothing personal, but simply a proverb — a proverbial way of 
saying a man was governed by his wife." Lord Malmesbury adds, 
" Very absurd of Lord Eldon, but explained by his having 
literally done what the Prince said." '' It was then little ex- 
pected that George IV. would call Lord Eldon his Chancellor, 
and address him by the familiar and endearing sobriquet of 
" Old Bags." 

In the midst of these distressing disputes in the Eoyal 
Family, to which it will be my painful duty ere long to return, 
it is refreshing to find the following letter to the Chancellor 
from another son of the King, who seems uniformly to have 
conducted himself with propriety in all the relations of public 
and domestic life : — 

P " The Prince declared a statement that ChanceUor is desired to take a copy for the 

he would not see the Chancellor to be * a King of this returned paper of Instructions, 

strange fabrication of the King; ' while the and prepare the paper to be transmitted to the 

King declared that 'fair dealing was the "PnTuxofWaiss, who certainly means further 

honourable line to combat misapprehension, chicane.' "^LordMalmesb,, 10th Match. 1805. 

chicane, and untruth ; ' and thus concluded 1 Vol. iv. p. 223. 
his last missive on the subject: 'The Lord 


The Duke of Kent to Lord Eldon. 

" Saturday morning, Feb. 9tli, 1805, 
Kensington Palace. 
" My dear Lord, 

" Fearful lest your Lordship should, in the multiplicity of business 
Jn which your time is so much engaged, forget what I did myself the 
pleasure of saying to you (relative to my attendance in Parliament) on 
the day when the session was opened, and from that cause, that I may 
at any time be absent, when my presence would have been wished for 
by his Majesty's Government, I now do myself the pleasure to address 
you these lines, in order to repeat my readiness to attend in the House 
of Peers, whenever your Lordship is so good as to send me the slightest 
direct intimation that my appearance is wished for. In doing this I 
am anxious your Lordship should understand, that I am actuated by 
that principle I have ever professed, of supporting the King's Govern- 
ment, and never taking any part in political disputes, for which I have 
the utmost abhorrence, and indeed am less fit than any other member 
of the House, having never given my attention to any other pursuit but 
that of my own profession. The King is my object : to stand by him 
at all times, my first duty and my inclination ; and I think I cannot 
prove this more strongly, than by pledging myself, as I did when first 
1 received my peerage spontaneously, always to support his servants, 
where my feeble voice could be of use. I have ever acted up to this 
profession, and I ever will ; but it is not my system to attend Parlia- 
ment otherwise ; therefore, I solicit to be informed by your Lordship, 
when I am wanted, that I may not then be absent. Having said this, 
I now beg leave to add, that, as the King remains at Windsor till 
Tuesday the 19th instant, it is my wish to be a couple of days with 
him in that time, and I therefore am anxious to learn from your 
Lordship if I shall be wanted in the course of the next week, and 
on what days, so as not to be from here on such as you shall name. 

" With a thousand apologies for this intrusion,, and sentiments of the 
highest regard and esteem, I remain, 

" My dear Lord, ever yours, 

" Most faithfully and sincerely, 

" Bdwabd." 

Towards the close of this session of Parliament, the Ministry 
■was in a very nivprosperoiis condition. The strength which it 
had gained by Mr. Addington being prevailed upon to forget 
his wrongs, and to accept a peerage and a seat in the Cabinet, 
was more than counterbalanced by the vote of the House of 
Commons against Lord Melville, in consequence of which that 
minister was dismissed from office, and his name was struck 
out of the Privy Council. Lord Eldon had now the prospect 

VOL. IX. s 

258 LORD ELDON. Chap. CXC\ IJI, 

of presiding in the House of Lords on tlie trial of liis fonuer 
colleagTie ; but prior to his resignation of the Great Seal the 
preliminary arrangements had not been completed, and he was 
only called upon to give his opinion respecting the Bill for 
indemnifying the witnesses, when he very properly laid down, 
that " liability to a civil action was no sufficient reason for a 
refusal to answer a question," and the indemnity was confined 
to criminal proceedings.' At last, to the great relief of the 
Government, Lord Eldon, under a commission from the King, 
pronounced the prorogation. 

Before Parliament met again, death had committed ravages 
which deeply affected the Chancellor, both in domestic life and 
as a public character. He had the heavy misfortune to lose his 
eldest son, to whom he was tenderly attached as his first-bom, 
and, for ten years, his only child, — who, about a year before, 
had been married to an amiable young lady, now in an ad- 
vanced state of pregnancy, — and who, tiougli not of brilliant 
talents, had ever been most exemplary in his conduct, so that 
Pope's lines on the son of Lord Chancellor Harcourt might well 
have been applied to him : — 

*' Who ne'er knew joy bufc friendship might divide, 
Or gave hia father grief but when he died." 

I am afraid that the subject of this memoir not unfrequently 
pretended to deep sensibility when his heart was unmoved ; 
but the following letter, written by him to Sir William, speaks 
the genuine language of nature, and touchingly shows the 
anguish of a bereaved parent : — 

"" December 24th. 
" My evek deae Brother, 

"With a broken heart I inform you that, before I had written the 
last paragraph of the letter I sent by this day's post, my poor, dear, 
dear John was no more. I am so distressed, and all around me is such 
a scene of distraction and misery, that I know not what to do. May 
God Almighty preserve you and yours from what we suffer! His 
mother is living in my arms out of one hysteric into another, and Ms 
poor widow is in a state which can neither he conceived nor described. 
For myself, I am your ever ever affectionate, but ever ever unhappy 

" Eldon." 

Sir W illiam hurried to the house of mourning, and wrote to 
his daughter an affecting account of what he beheld : " Her 

' « Geo. 3, c. 126. 

A.D. 1805-6. DEATH 'OF MR. PITT. 269 

(Lady Eldon's) grief is still as wild and passionate as ever, 
without the least abatement. She takes hardly any suste- 
nance, and is falling away in such a degree, that I should not 
he surprised at any conseq[uenoes that were to follow from 
the decay of her strength. It is impossible to describe the 
degree iu which my brother is worn down by the constant 
attentions he is obliged to pay to her. She will hardly suffer 
him to be out of the room, and, during the whole time he 
is there, he is a witness to the indulgence of such sorrow as it 
is quite impossible for any man to stand. He is much affected 
in his health." 

Lord Eldon met with much sympathy on this melancholy 
occasion, and he received letters of condolence from Mr. Wil- 
beiforce, Lord Ellenborough, and many other friends. Even 
Mr. Pitt, although struck by the illness which proved fatal 
to him, and still more depressed by the fatal result of his 
measures for humbling the power of Napoleon, thus wrote to 
Sir William Scott : — 

" Bath, Deo. 27th, 1805. 
" Mt DBAS Sib, 

"It -is with great regret I break in upon you in the moment of a 
calamity in which you so nearly participate ; but I feel too deeply for 
the loss which the Chancellor and all his family have sustained, not to 
be anxious to inquire how he and they support themselves under this 
heavy affliction. I know how vara every topic of consolation must be 
in the first impression of so much just sorrow, but I trust he will 
gradually find the relief, which even the sympathy and affection of his 
friends cannot administer, in the resignation and fortitude of his own 
mind. You will, 1 am sure, pardon my giving you this trouble, and 
will oblige me much by any account you can give me. I much wish 
he may be induced to try for a time the benefit of change of scene, and 
of a place of quiet. 

" Believe me, my dear Sir, 

" With great truth and regard, 

" Most faithfully and sincerely yours, 
" W. Pitt." 

Lord Eldon was necessarily recalled to the discharge of his 
public duties by the very embarrassed state of public ^ ^ 
affairs. Parliament was to meet on the 21st of Janu- 
ary, and when that day approached, Mr. Pitt, broken-hearted, 
having returned from Bath to his house at Putney, was known 
to be dying. In the midst of the deepest gloom, the session 
was opened by a speech which Lord Eldon delivered to the two 

s 2 


Houses as Lord Commissioner, and a generous forbearance 
was exhibited by the Opposition. On the 23rd of January the 
proud spirit of the Premier took its flight to another sphere of 
existence ; and there really seenls to have been more solici- 
tude to do honour to his memory by voting a public funeral 
for his remains, and money to pay his debts, than to struggle 
for the power which was in abeyance. All parties were now 
disposed to look upon him as a noble-hearted Englishman, who 
had ever been the champion of his country; and while the 
partialities of many dwelt upon his efforts against French 
conquest and French principles, others remembered his early 
struggle in the cause of reform, and, justly asserting that he 
had always been true to the principles of free trade, and that 
if not thwarted by bigotry he would have united Ireland to 
England, by the indissoluble bond of affection, they palliated 
his encroachments on the Constitution, and the persecution of 
his old associates, by the pressure to which he was subjected, 
and the unknown dangers arising out of the great revolutionary 
movement then in operation over the world. 

But a ministry must be speedily formed. I do not find that 
during this crisis Lord Eldon engaged in any intrigue to patch 
up a Tory Government, or to exclude Mr. Fox. Either un- 
nerved by domestic sorrow, or submitting quietly to what 
appeared to be an inevitable misfortune, he seems passively to 
have looked on while Mr. Fox and Lord Grenville were form- 
ing their arrangements, and to have made no attempt to retain 
the Great Seal. 

On the 3rd of February he announced his resignation, and 
said that he should not sit in the Court of Chancery aftei 
the following day. In rising to quit the chair on the 4th, 
he thus, in a tremulous voice and with real emotion, addressed 
the Bar : — 

" Befoi-e I take leave of this Court, I wish to address a few words tc 
you, gentlemen, expressive of the feelings I entertain for the respectful 
attention I have on all occasions experienced from you. I had doubted 
whether the more dignified manner of paiting would not be simply 
to make my bow to you, and retire; but'observlns that I have been 
represented, yesterday and the day before, to have addressed you on the 
subject, I shall not resist the impulse I feel to say a few words. I quit 
the office I hold without one painful reflection. Called to it by 
authority of those whom it was my duty to obey, I have executed it, 
not well, but to the extent of my humble abilities, and the time which 
I have been able to devote to it; and I enjoy the grateful feeling that 
there is no suitor of this Court who can say I have not executed it con* 


scientiouply. There is yet, however, one painful emotion by which 1 
am assailed — it is the taking leave of you. In retiring into private life, 
I am upheld by the hope that I shall carry with me the continued 
esteem of a profession for which I feel an attachment that will descend 
with me to the grave. For the great attention, respect, and kindness I 
have always received from you, accept, gentlemen, my sincerest thanks, 
accompanied by my best wishes for your long-continued health and 
happiness, and uninterrupted prosperity." 

In the evening of the same day lie thus wrote to his ■wife, 
showing the high self-complacency which stuck by him to his 
last hour : 

"Deak Besst, 
" I took leave of the Court of Chancery this morning : I don't mean 
to go to the Woolsack in the House of Lords to-morrow, or any more. 

I am to resign the Seal at two o'clock on Friday." "I cannot 

describe my own situation in point of health and feeling otherwise than 
as excellent, — as that which a man has a right to possess, who, having 
done his duty to God, his King, and to every individual upon earth, 
according to the best of his judgment, has a right to support himself 
under heavy afflictions by the consciousness of proud and dignified 

The transfer of the Great Seal took place at the Queen's 
house on the 7th of February. In a narrative which he wrote 
at the time, he merely said, " When his Majesty took the Seal 
from my hands, his Majesty's demeanour and assurances were 
in all respects satisfactory to me." But he afterwards stated, 
in his old age, — " The King appeared for a few moments to 
occupy himself with other things : looking up suddenly, he 
exclaimed, ' Lay them dov^n on the sofa, for I cannot and I mil 
not take them from you. Yet I admit you can't stay when all 
the rest have run away.' " 

The ex-Chancellor certainly carried with him the respect of 
the Bar and of the public. For five years he had presided in 
the Court of Chancery with consummate ability. In spite of 
the doubts and delays by which his usefulness was so much 
marred, the business of the Court -had been transacted very 
satisfactorily, and there was yet no such accumulation of arrears 
as called forth the complaints which disturbed his second 
Chancellorship. The appeals in the House of Lords he had 
with hardly any assistance decided in a manner which pleased 
the English — and the Scotch still more. 

He gained popularity by puffing himself (which he was 
never slow to do upon any subject) respecting the reform he 


introduced in considering tlie Eecorder's Eeport of prisoners 
capitally convicted at the Old Bailey. " The first time 1 
attended," he said, " I was exceedingly shocked at the careless 
manner in which the business was conducted. We were called 
upon to divide on sentences affecting no less than the lives of 
men, and yet there was nothing before us to enable us to judge 
whether there had or had not been any extraordinary circum- 
stances ; it was merely a recapitulation of the judge's opinion 
and the sentence. 1 resolved that I never would attend 
another report without having read and duly considered the 
whole of the evidence of each case ; and I never did. It was 
a considerable labour in addition to my other duties, but it 
is a comfort to reflect that I did so, and that in consequence 
I saved the lives of several individuals." We know on un- 
doubted authority that he did take great pains with this 
department of his duty, but he surely very unjustly disparages 
his predecessors and his colleagues, and there is no reason to 
suppose that such men as Lord Kenyon and Lord Ellen- 
borough could be so grossly negligent and reckless as he 
describes them. 

, Erskine was now Chancellor. "All the Talents" were in 
their palmy state, and the old Tory party, which was soon 
to recover power and to retain it many years, seemed ex- 
tinguished. Lord Eldon did not by any means relish his 
position. He had a pension of 4000?. a year, under the 
recent Act of Parliament;' but this was a poor consolation 
to him for the loss of the profits of the Great Seal, and he 
thought to himself that if he had continued at the Bar he 
should have been in possession of a much larger income. 



I COULD have wished to relate that our ex-Chancellor now 

A.D. 1808. ®^srly resumed his classical studies, and tried to 

discover what had been going on during the last 

• 39 Geo. 3, c. 110. 


thirty years in the literary world, — but lie spent his time 
in poring over the newspapers, and gossiping with attorneys, 
in whose society he ever took great delight. ' ' The form of the 
ex-Chancellor was then often seen to haunt the Inns of Court, 
the scenes of his departed glory ; and often would he drop in 
to the chambers of his old friends, and, in the enjoyment of his 
pleasing conversation, make others as idle as himself." ' He 
says that he now again read over " Coke upon Littleton ;" but 
he certainly did nothing more, while he remained out of office, 
io enlarge his mind or to improve his taste. He found no de- 
light in leisure, even for a little month, and he was more and 
more eager for his return to office. At first he was sanguine, — 
from the King's known dislike to Mr. Fox ; but he was dread- 
fully alarmed by reports, which from time to time reached him, 
that the new Foreign Secretary was rapidly doing away with 
the prejudices against him in the royal bosom, and was likely 
to become a favourite at Court. 

He did not speak often in Parliament from the Opposition 
bench ; but he censured the appointment of Lord Ellenborough 
to a seat in the Cabinet while at the head of the criminal law. 
With mildness of manner and apparent candour, " that such an 
arrangement was not illegal he admitted : and he would not 
say that it was unconstitutional ; but he thought it inexpedient, 
because it tended to excite a suspicion of political partiality in 
the administration of justice. It was observable that Lord 
Mansfield, whose case formed the solitary precedent, had be- 
come extremely unpopular after his entrance into the councils 
of the Government ; and the jealousy which then arose in the 
minds of the people, however ill-founded, had been sufficient 
to weaken the confidence which ought ever to be reposed in a 
judge. Lord Eldon declared himself persuaded that a tenure 
of a seat in the Cabinet would not in the slightest degree 
affect the purity of Lord Ellenborough's judicial administration ; 
but he thought, that, for the satisfaction of the country at large, 
it was undesirable to have the Lord Chief -Justice in such a 
position ; and he trusted that, on reflection, the Learned Lord 
himself would not wish to retain it. It would not be proper 
that the same individual should act, first as a minister to 
institute prosecutions for treason and sedition, and afterwards 
as the Judge to preside at the trials. A Lord Chief Justice, it 
was true, might, in such cases, absent himself from the Council, 
or delegate the trial at law to some other judge ; but in eithei 

' W. E. Surtees, p. 105. 


of these oases he abandoned some duty appertaining to one of his 
two appointments. There might occur prosecutions, not for of- 
fences affecting the general foundations of government, but for 
mere libels on the party in ofSce; and the person accused, 
in any such case, would never be satisfied of the fairness of his 
trial, if the presiding judge were a member of the Cabinet 
directing the prosecution. Lord Eldon added, that he had 
himself been connected with Lord EUenborough, for nearly 
thirty years, by the sincerest friendship : and even if he could 
suppose that this personal regard could be at all weakened bj' 
any thing which he had then said, still he felt himself so 
strongly impelled by a sense of duty, that he could not refrain 
from expressing his opinion. He concluded by a suggestion 
that the best way of disposing of the matter would be to leave 
it to the consideration of Lord EUenborough himself; and he 
was convinced that his noble friend would arrive at that result 
which would be satisfactory to the feelings of the public as well 
as to his own." ° i 

During the trial of Lord Melville's impeachment. Lord Eldon 
did not take an active part in examining the witnesses, or 
arguing questions of evidence, Lord Chancellor Erskine here 
having a decided advantage over him. When it came to the 
verdict, he said not guilty on all the charges, although on one 
or two of them he was in a narrow majority. 

The session having passed off prosperously for the new Go- 
vernment, the hopes of the Opposition were revived by the death 
of Mr. Eox ; but the Whigs 'all rallied under Lord Grenville, 
and it seemed as if the King himself had gone over to them, 
for he consented to a dissolution of Parliament for the purpose 
of giving them strength. Although the existing House of Com- 
mons had been very quiescent, it was known to be of good Tory 
materials, and ready on the first opportunity to stand up for the 
restoration of Tory rule. The Tory leaders had not dreamed 
that the King, who had so reluctantly parted with them, would 
consent to Parliament being prematurely disbanded. It was 
only four years old ; and since the passing of the Septennial 
Act, nearly a century ago, there had not been an instance of a 
dissolution till the Parliament had completed its sixth session, 
— with the exception of the precedent set by Mr. Pitt in 1784, 
considered necessary from the difference between the two 
Houses, and the rebellion of the House of Commons against 
the King and the people. 

o 6 Pari. Deb. 263. 


In the whole history of Lord Eldon's life there is nothing 
more extraordinary than the effect which the news of this 
measure produced upon him. Not only did he suspect that 
Canning and many Pittites were going over, but he thought 
and wrote most unkindly, and I must say most disrespect- 
fully and irreverently, of his " dear old master, George III.," 
who, while favouring him, had been, and again became, the 
God of his idolatry. Thus he pours out his indignation to his 
brother, Sir William Scott : — 

" I am not in the least surprised at what you say about C. I have 
for some time thought that much less than a dissolution would serve 
him as a cause of separation, and I suspect that Lord G-. has known 
him so well as by flattering his vanity on the one hand, by making him 
the person of consequence to be talked with, and alarming that vanity 
on the other, by disclaiming intercourse through any body with the 
Pittites as a body, to make him the instrument of shaking, among the 
Pittites, that mutual confidence which was essential to give them 
weight, and thus to keep them in the state of a rope of sand till a dis- 
solution, when he won't care one fig for them all put together. The 
King's conduct does not astonish me, though I think it has destroyed 
him. Eis language to me led me to hope better things ; and, in 
charity, I would suppose from it, that his heart does not go with his 
act. But his years, his want of sight, the domestic falsehood and 
treachery which surround him, and some feeling (just enough, I think) 
of resentment at our having deserted him on Mr. Pitt's death, and, as 
to myself particularly, the uneasiness which, in his mind, the presence 
of a person who attended him in two fits of insanity excites, have con- 
spired to make him do an act unjust to himself. 1 consider it as a 
fatal and final blow to the hopes of many, who have every good wish of 
mine. As to myself personally, looking at matters on all sides, I think 
the Chancellorship would never revert to me, even if things had taken 
another turn, and it is not on my own account I lament the turn they 
have taken. As to any other ofBce, I could have no motive, on my 
own account, to wish for any, and, with' a disposition to co-operate for 
the good of others who have public objects, I have only to pray God to 
continue to me, if it be His pleasure, the other sources of happiness of 
a private kind. I have had a letter from Lord Eedesdale, also very 
dismal, and, in its contents about the Prince, like yours. The Duke 
of Cumberland sent me a military express to inform me of the dissolu- 

" Ever yours affectionately, 

" Eldon." 

Can any one who reads this letter doubt that, if the "Whig 
Government had stood, George III. steadily supporting it. 
Lord Eldon would, ere long, have personally assailed him, and, 


if his " dear old master'' had been reduced to the same situa- 
tion in which he was in 1801 and 1804, would have denied his 
capacity to govern ? 

The ex-Chgiucellor had about the same time, probably in 
more guarded language, unburdened his mind in a letter to 
the Duke of Portland. Fortunately, his Grace's answer is 
preserved : — 

" Bulstrode, Nov. 24th, 1806. 

" I will add little to the length of this letter, except to contradict the 
rumours you have heard of any intimation having been made to me, 
either directly or indirectly, of H. M.'s sentiments upon any poUtical 
subject whatever. H. M. was pleased to come to this place on the Sa- 
turday before the dissolution of Parliament, accompanied only by the 
Queen and Princesses, and the Dukes of York and Cambridge ; but not 
a syllable, or even allusion, to the present state of things, or to the 
event then impending, (with which, however, I have some reason to 
think he was at that time unacquainted,) except, if it can bear such an 
interpretation, his repeatadly, for three or four times, expressing his 
regret at having a good memory, and lamenting it as a serious misfor- 
tune. Believe me, my dearest Lord, nothing can relieve my mind so 
much as unburthening it to you in the present crisis. The friendship I 
have for so many years experienced for you, teaches me to beUeve that 
I cannot use any argument so likely to induce you to gratify my 
wishes. I therefore conclude, with the most cordial assurances of 
regard and attachment. 

" Your Lordship's most faithfully ever, 

" Portland." 

The elections went strongly in favour of the Whigs, and 
Lord Eldon really was in despair. Yet he judged it good 
policy that he should not appear dejected, and that active pre- 
parations should be made for opposing the Government. In a 
long letter to Lord Melville, he says : — 

" 1 had also, for twelve months past, observed, not without grief, 
that all my exhortations to plan, to union, to system, had been thrqwn 
away upon every body here. If they had not, I think I should at this 
moment have seen a very different state of things. I certainly did 
express strongly, at the Priory, my fears that the opinion expressed by 
your Lordship (to which so much respect would be paid because it was 
due to it) upon this measiue, would greatly augment the panic that 
existed, whilst it did not appear to me that it could do any good. 
Upon the matter of fact (what this dissolution does prove as to the 
mind or intention of cmy iody concerned in it) we may live to converse 
together ; " but whatever my belief of the actual mind and intention of 

* A very cautious but Bigni&cant allusion to the Elog. 


any person concerned in it may be, though you know I am no politi- 
cian, I should be deservedly thought an idiot, if I did not feel with 
what universality it will be deemed to import that mind and intention 
which you think it imports, and how impossible it is to give weight, 
generally, to any grounds of belief to the contrary, unless they are fur- 
nished by acts or declarations for which it cannot be reasonable to look. 
That mischief, great mischief, has been done, let the truth of the case 
be what it may be, cannot he doubted. My poor opinion is, that it 
will be augmented, and unnecessarily, if we act upon the supposition 
that it will not bear dispute what the truth of the case is." ' 

But Lord Eldon placed all his hopes upon a scheme wmch 
had been actively going on for some months, but -which, 
being confined to a snaall junto, he did not venture to state or 
hint at to Lord Melville, who probably would have strongly 
condemned it. 

The Prince of Wales having laid certain charges, of a very 
serious nature, touching the honour of his wife, before the 
King,' four members of the Cabinet, Lord Chancellor Erskine, 
Earl Spencer, and the Lords Grenville and Ellenborough, were 
appointed commissioners to inquire into the charges, with Sir 
8amuel EomiUy, the Solicitor-General, as their secretary. 
They conducted the proceeding with a sincere anxiety to 
arrive at the truth, but not very regularly or discreetly, — 
for they gave the Princess no notice of what was alleged 
against her, and she had no opportunity to contradict or to 
explain the evidence, which placed her conduct in an equi- 
vocal point of view. It likewise turned out that, in taking 
down the examination of the witnesses, they only- stated 
the substance of what each was supposed to have sworn — • 
not giving the questions as well as the answers — so that 
the exact effect of their testimony could not be accurately 
judged of." 

The unhappy lady, when she heard from rumour of what 
was going on against her, applied for advice and assistance to 
the ex-Chancellor, who was delighted to become her patron ; 

' He afterwards goes on to blame, very 180J. 
severely, Mr. Pitt's attempts to bring in Mr. ' This investigation originated in the ad- 
Fox. Lord Melvilie wrote him back a very vice of Lord Thurlovp. See Sir Samuel Eii- 
manly answer, in which he justifies what Mr. milly's Memoirs, ii. 140, 142, 144.— Lord 
Pitt did i and having shown that no evil Grenville thought that the alleged birth of 
could have arisen if the King had taken his a child " would render it impossible to avoid 
advice, thus concludes :—" Compare that making the matter public, and the subject ol 
state of the King and country with the stale a parliamentary proceedmg." 
of botli now, and then judge of the wisdom » See Sir S. Romilly's Memoirs, lii. 82. 
and roc U'ude of Mi. Pitf s views ! "-WoBuar]/ 


for he thonglit that he might thereby please the King, who 
he believed secretly favoured her, although his Majesty had 
sanctioned this investigation ; — he was pleased to thwart the 
Prince, whom he regarded as a political enemy ;— he expected 
that an opportunity might arise for censuring the conduct of 
the Ministers, and bringing unpopularity upon them for their 
attack upon the persecuted Princess; — and let us charitably 
suppose, that, convinced of her innocence, he had something of 
a disinterested desire to see her righted.'' Accordingly, a very 
intimate intercourse, both by visits and letters, was established 
between him and her Eoyal Highness. " Lord Eldon at that 
period would often dine with her at Blackheath ; and to him 
she used to assign the seat of honour on her right hand. In 
Germany it had not been the custom for gentlemen to help the 
ladies near them to wine ; but each sex fill their own glasses 
at their option. The Princess, however, as Lord Eldon related, 
used to reverse in some sort our old English fashion in his 
favour ; for she would quietly fill his glass herself, — and so 
frequently, that he seldom left her house without feeling that 
he had exceeded the limits of discretion. Those indeed who 
recollect the proverb, ' that though one man may take a horse 
to the well, ten men cannot make him drink,' will moderate 
their commiseration for the hard lot of the ex-Chancellor." ° 

The follo'Vi'ing are two of the letters which she addressed to 
him, before she heard of the result of the " Delicate Investi- 

" Blackheath, June 24th, 1806, 
. " My deae Sib, 

" 1 must mention to your Lordship that the two letters from Lady 
Douglsa to Mrs. Fitz Gerald, which your Lordship saw on the occasion, 
never to enter again to my house, (which would have been very great 
proofs against Lady Douglas, and show her true character,) have heen 
taken out of my drawers, in which all the papers were, and upon each 
was written what were the contents of each different parcel. Tester- 
day, to my greatest astonishment, I missed that parcel. Every search 
in the world has been made, in case my had memory had led me to 
put it In some other place ; but I have not succeeded to find them, and 
am led to believe, that the same person, who was able to take a hundred 

b It requires b considerable effort to make Grey, in reference to the charge now brought 

us ascribe to him much of good motive in his against her, — " My opinion is, and a2u»z?/< uw, 

treatment of Caroline of Brnnswiclc. Al- that though she was not with child, she bup* 

though' at this time he maintained that she posed herself to be ttith child." EO' 

w&s the chastest and most injured of her sex, milly's Menwirs, iii. 104. 

he afterwards said, in contidence to Lord *= Surtees, p. 116. 


pound note from Carlton House, could easily take this parcel; which 
was so great a proof against Lady Douglas's character. No step has 
been taken by me to find out if he is the guilty one. In case you wish 
to see me, 1 shall be very happy to receive you to-morrow, or on Thurs- 
day morning, at any hour, and I beg to entreat of your Lordship, to 
take it well into consideration, that it is quite impossible for me to 
remain any longer silent upon this subject, in which my honour is so 
much implicated, and which is so much the talk of the public at this 
moment, that 1 hope your Lordship will take it in the most serious 
light, and to take some steps which will lead to any conclusion, what- 
ever it may be. My health, as well as my spirits, suffer too much to 
be left any longer in suspense ; and you, who ha^•e always shown your- 
self as a sincere friend to me, will feel as 1 do upon this subject. I 
remain for ever, with the truest sentiments of high regard, esteem, and 

" Your Lordship's sincere friend." 

"Blackheath, July 25th, 1806. 

" The Princess of Wales entreats and desires Lord Eldon to go as to- 
morrow to Windsor, and ask an audience of his Majesty, and deliver to 
his Majesty the enclosed letter. The Princess is under very great 
apprehension, that the report made from the examination, to Ms 
Majesty, has not been fairly and literally delivered to his Majesty. 
She wishes for that reason that Lord Eldon should verbally explain, 
and open his eyes on the unjust and unloyal proceedings of his 
Ministers. The Princess cannot help thinking that bis Majesty has 
been led into error, otherwise he would have by this time shown his 
usual generosity and justice, by declaring the Princess's innocence. 
The Princess is quite resigned to her cruel fate, from the period that 
her honour was in the hands of a pack of ruffians, and who are only 
devoted, and slaves, to her most inveterate enemy. The Princess hopes 
that on Simday Lord Eldon will be able to give her a satisfactory 
account of the reception he received of his Majesty, and the Princess 
has been now for seven weeks in the most dreadful and tormenting 
suspense. The Princess will be very much obliged if Lord Eldon will 
do her the favour of losing no time for setting off for Windsor and of 
seeing the King. The Princess sends to his Lordship the letter to 
the King for his perusal. If he should wish to alter any part in the 
letter, the Princess desires that Lord Eldon would mark it down and 
send it back ; the Princess would in less than an hour send it to him 

" The Princess remains, with the highest esteem and regard, his 
Lordship's most sincere friend, 

" C. P." 

The Keport of the Commissioners to the King, dated the 
14th of July, 1806, acquitted the Princess of the charge that 
she had given birth to a child long after her separation from 


her husband, but stated " that evidence had been laid before 
them of other particulars respecting the conduct of her Eoyal 
Highness, such as must, especially considering her exalted 
rank and station, necessarily give occasion to very unfavour- 
able interpretations."'' On the 11th of August a copy of this 
Eeport was sent to her by Lord Chancellor Erskine, with an 
intimation that " she was to be admonished by his Majesty to 
be more circumspect in her conduct." Under Lord Eldon's 
advice, she several times wrote to the King, complaining of 
the manner in which the proceeding against her had been con- 
ducted by his Ministers ; solemnly denying the levities which 
the Eeport imputed to her, and praying " that she might again 
be admitted into the presence of her uncle — her father-in-law 
and her Sovereign — who had ever hitherto proved her friend 
and protector." 

The King, melted by these expressions, and still exasperated 
against his son, was supposed to be favourably inclined towards 
her, although, as her conduct had been made an affair of state, 
he could not now, against the advice of his Ministers, receive 
her at Court as if free from blame. 

Lord Eldon was prudent enough not to commit his senti- 
ments on this subject to writing. The two following are the 
only other letters to him from "the Princess which have been 
allowed to see the light : — 

" Blackheath, Oct. 13th, 1806. 

" The Princess of Wales, with the most grateful sense, is most 
sincerely obliged to Lord Eldon for his kind inquiry through Lady 

" Her body as well as her mind have naturally much suffered from 
the last melancholy catastrophe, having lost in so short a time, and so 
unexpectedly, a most kind and affectionate brother and a sincere friend. 
The afflictions which Providence has sent so recently to her are very 
severe trials of patience and resignation, and nothing hut strong feel- 
ings of religion and piety could with any sort of fortitude carry the 
Princess's dejected mind through this. She puts her only trust in 
Providence, which has so kindly protected her in various ways since 
she is in this kingdom. 

<i sir S. Komilly says,—" The result of this November in the same year."— ^em., ii. 144. 

examlDalion was such as left a perfect con- Yet, although there is no pretence for the 

viction on my mind, and I believe on the niition that " Billy Austin" was the son of 

minds of the four Lords, that the boy in the Princess of Wales, or that she was ever 

question is the son of Sophia Austin ; that in a state of pregnancy after the birth of the 

he was born in Brownlow Street Hospital, Princess Charlotte, it is now ascertained that 

on the nth of July, 1802, and was taken by he was of totally different parentage, and 

the Princess into her house on the 15th of bom in Germany. 


" The Princess also has the pleasure to inform his Lordship that the 
Queen has twice made inquiry, by Lady Ilchester, through Lady Shef- 
field, about the Princess's bodily and mental state. The Duchess of 
York, through her lady to Lady Sheffield, and the Duke of Cambridge 
in the same way, made their inquiries. The Duke of Kent wrote him- 
self to the Princess, which of course she answered herself. The Duke 
of Cumberland, who has twice been with the Princess after the melan- 
choly event took place, desired her to announce, herself, to his Majesty 
the unexpected event of the death of the Prince Hereditary of Bruns- 
wick. She followed his advice, and the letter was sent through Lady 
Sheffield to Colonel Taylor. The answer was kind from his Majesty, 
and full of feeling of interest for the severe loss she sustained in 
her brother. Lady Sheffield's health did not allow her to stay longer 
with the Princess. Mrs. Vernon, one of her ladies, is now at Mon- 
tague House, in case his Lordship wished to write by her to the 

" The Princess trusts that soon she will have comfortable and pleas- 
ing tidings to relate to Lord Eldon. She has, till that moment, nothing 
further to inform him of, than to repeat her sentiments of high regard, 
esteem, and gratitude, with which' she remains for ever his Lordship's 
most sincere friend, 

" C. P." 

" Blackheath, Nov. 16th, 1806. 

" The Princess of Wales makes her apology to Lord Eldon for her 
unfortunate mistake. The letter which was intendrd for his Lordship 
is gone to Altona to the Duke of Brunswick. TL.,- contents of the 
letter consisted in desiring his Lordship to agree to 1 he request of the 
Princess to discharge the three traducers and slanderers of her honour 
from her household, of which some are even yet under the Princess's 
own roof at this present moment. The Princess, by not having yet 
discharged them, is liable to receive great affronts from them, which 
Mr. Bidgood has tried in all means by hurting the Princess's feelings. 
The pew at Church, which is only appropriated for the Princess's 
servants, is close to her own at Greenwich, where she constantly goes, 
if not illness prevents her. Mr. Bidgood shows himself there every 
time, and even had not the proper attention of appearing lately in 
mourning, which all the servants of the Princess are accustomed to be 
as long as their Eoyal Mistress is in deep mourning. 

" 1'he Princess begs Lord Eldon to take all these matters into con- 
sideration. Mr. Perceval, who is also informed on the same subject, is 
perhaps more able to explain the whole circumstance to his Lordship 
than the Princess can. The Princess flatters herself that his Lordship 
will do her the honour and pleasure to come on Tuesday at six o'clock 
to dinner to meet Sir William Scott."" 

• Sir William became such a favonrite ject of a good deal ol raillery among hiB 
»lUi lirr Royal Highness as to be the sub- friends j and after the Queen's trial, being 


Lord Eldon l L,d Mr. Perceval then set their wits to work, 
and (as it was supposed, with the assistance of Mr. Plumer, 
afterwards Solicitor-General, Vice-Chancellor, and Master of 
the Kolls) composed and printed " The Book," long so mys- 
terious in its .origin, its nature, and its history. This was to 
be used not only as an instrument for the restoration of the 
Princess, but for the ruin of the Ministry.' 

Her Eoyal Highness now intimated to his Majesty, that 
"unless she were relieved from further suspense, her case 
must be immediately laid before the public." This threat so 
far operated, that in the end of January, 1807, Lord Chancellor 
Erskine transmitted a message to her, by order of the King, 
acquainting her that '■ his Majesty was advised it was no 
longer necessary for him to decline receiving her into the 
royal presence." The Prince of Wales then interposed; and 
Lord Chancellor Erskine, from ancient attachment, taking his 
part, and believing that, although there was no proof of the 
Princess having broken her marriage vow, her levity of man- 
ner should be seriously discouraged, the King consented to 
her restoration being deferred. This was good news for 
Lord Eldon and Mr. Perceval, and by their advice she wrote 
again to the King, " that unless justice were speedily done to 
her, she should appeal to the public, and make a disclosure to 
all the world of the infamous charges against her, and the 
irrefragable evidence by which they were repelled." There 
was thus every prospect of " The Book " being published ; and 

questioned reepecting the footing on wliich otlier published, and is lllcely, when puh- 

they had lived together, he would give no lished, to malce a strong impression in favour 

other answer than "Non mi ricorxlo." — of the Princess." He adds in a uote, that be 

Though the most moral of men, he would in- had afterwards ascertained that, although 

dulge in a little free badinage, — insomuch Plumer had altered and corrected it, it 

that, being asked by a Duchess •' what would was drawn up by Perceval, and printed 

happen if he, the supreme Ecclesiastical under his superintendence. He does not 

Judge, shouild himself be guilty of a pecca- specify the hand which Lord Eldon had in it, 

dillo?" he replied, " 1 have been considering —being always rather chary of the reputa- 

that ever since I became acquainted with tion of the Chief of his Court. But there can 

your Grace." be no reasonable doubt that Lord Eldon was 

t Sir S. Romilly, under date 27th Nov. privy to the whole transaction Mr. Surtees 

1806, says of this production,—" Instead of says that "Mr. Perceval had the sanction 

the dignified defence of an injured and calum- of Lord Eldon, of the Dulie of Cumberland, 

mated Princess, it is a long, elaborate, and then in confidential communication with hla 

artificial pleading of an advocate; and no Majesty and Lord Eldon, and of (it may 

person, as much accustomed as I am to hence be fairly inferred) a still more exalted 

Plumer's manner, can doubt that he is the personage" (P. 117, See S4 Pari, 

author of it. As a pleading, however, it is Dob. 1132, 1144; Edinburgh Beview, No. 

conducted with great art and ability. It is cxxxv. 29, 32. 
manifestly intended to be a., tiome time or 


rilthougli it might have brought much discredit on the Eoyal' 
Family, and must have been injurious to the morals of the 
people, it probably would have answered the purpose of the 
authors, and would have caused a rupture between the King 
and his Ministers. 

The return of the Tory Opposition to power was effected, 
however — not, as had been projeeted, by a cry of "The in- 
justice of the Delicate Investigation," but by the ciy of " The 
Church is in danger." — We must now attend to the proceed- 
ings of the new Parliament. 

The session opened very auspiciously for the Whig Govern- 
ment. After a little gmmbling at the dissolution, the 
Address being carried in both Houses without a divi- *"' 
sion, and thanks being voted for the battle of Maida, Lord 
Grenville introduced his Bill to abolish the Slave Trade. This 
was strongly opposed by Lord Eldon, who cavilled at its title,^ 
and contended that, admitting the trade to be contrary to 
justice and humanity, the circumstances, the mode, and the 
time of its abolition were proper matters of consideration. He 
said he did not believe the measure now proposed would 
diminish the transport of negroes, or that a single individual 
would be preserved by it ; at the same time that it would be 
utterly destructive of the British interests involved in that 
commerce. He tauntingly asked, " was it right, because there 
was a change of men, and of public measures in consequence, 
that the interests of those who petitioned against the bill 
should be disregarded, and what was before considered fit 
matter of inquiry should now be rejected as immaterial and 
inapplicable ? " '' The bill nevertheless passed, as it would 
have passed years before if Mr. Pitt had been sincere in his 
support of it ; — and the next" time that a Liberal Government 
was established in England, slavery was abolished in all the 
dominions under the British crown. 

Lord Eldon did not take a prominent part in Parliament in 
resisting any other measure of the present administration, but 
he was very actively and effectively employed in bringing 
about the restoration of his own party to power. His prin- 
cipal associate at this time, and for many years after, was his 
Eoyal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, a prince of very 
considerable talents, as well as energy, and a very zealous and 
steady friend of the Tories. His Eoyal Highness had un- 
bounded influence oyer his father, and was ready to take 

6 8 Pari. Deb. 25Y. t lb. 614. 



advantage of any incident whioli could be used to remove from 
office tliose whose principles he so much disliked. 

While the Tory Opposition were very low, placing their 
sole reliance on their advocacy of the cause of the Princess of 
Wales, their spirits were suddenly revived by a notice in tho 
House of Commons, by Lord ilowick, of a motion " for leave 
to bring in a bill to allow Koman Catholics to hold commis- 
sions as field-of&cers in the army." Notwithstanding the 
success of the Government at the late general election, con- 
siderable distrust had been shown of them from the suspicion 
that they favoured Catholic Emancipation, and a strong anti- 
popery spirit was known to exist in the country. Under such 
circumstances it was, I fear, an instance of gross imprudence 
to bring forward a measure which, though laudable in itself, 
was not very important, nor very pressing, and was sure to 
give the King and all the enemies of the Government a for- 
midable advantage. A resolution was taken by the Toiy 
leaders that it should be strenuously opposed, and that an 
alarm should be given of danger to the Established Church. 
Accordingly, on the day on which it was introduced and ex- 
plained in an admirable speech by Lord Howick, Mr. Perceval 
declared that "he felt himself bound to oppose its principle, 
and to call the attention of the House and of the public to 
one of the most important and most dangerous measures that 
had ever been submitted to the judgment of the legislature." 
H e then proceeded, in a very inflammatory harangue, to address 
himself with much dexterity to the religious prejudices of the 
nation, and foretold, that " if the measure were agreed to, all 
our most valued institutions must be swept away." '' 

A panic was spread over the country ; and the King, roused 
by the Duke of Cumberland, sincerely believed that he was 
now called upon to give his assent to a dangerous measure, 
contrary to his coronation oath. With the sagacity and decision 
which ever distinguished him on such occasions, he perceived 
that he unexpectedly had an opportunity of getting rid of 
Ministers who had been forced upon him, and whom he still 
regarded with aversion. He therefore not only insisted upon 
the Bill being dropped, but, when this concession was made to 
him, he demanded a written engagement from all the members 
of the Cabinet, that they never in future would advise him to 
make any further concession to his Boman Catholic subjects. 
They tmanimously refusing to give such a pledge, he dismissed 

i 9 FarL Deb. a 


them all from their oiBces. There is no proof that Lord 
Eldon suggested this most imconstitutional proceeding, al- 
though he had the opportunity of doing so in an inter^'iew 
which he then contrived to have with the King at Windsor ■ 
but he certainly made himself responsible for it by approving 
it, and by taking advantage of it. There is much plausibility 
in the doctrine, that new Ministers, by accepting oiHce, make 
themselves answerable for the grounds on which their prede- 
cessors were' turned out, as otherwise the King does an im- 
portant act without any one being answerable for it, and he 
might be supposed to have done wrong : — but in this instance 
Lord Eldon did not hesitate positively to applaud all the 
King's proceedings in effecting the change. 

When the new arrangements were completed. Lord Eldon, 
finding that the Great Seal was to be restored to him, was 
happy, — although not very proud of the Duke of Portland as 
his new chief, — and although he felt a little regret at the ex- 
clusion of Lord Sidmouth, the manner in which he had behaved 
to his former chief having occasionally caused him some 
remorse, in spite of the oft-repeated assertion that he was the 
"King's Chancellor." He was soon quite satisfied, however; 
and thus he wrote to his brother, Sir William : — 

" I am most sincerely hurt that Lord Sidmouth is not among us. 
My earnest wish and entreaty has been, that he should — and many 
others have wished it ; but it has been urged by some, that, at this 
moment, it cannot be ; that not an individual connected with Lord 
Melville would join or support, if it was so ; that a large part of Mr. 
Pitt's friends would secede ; that among Lord Grenville's majority 
there are persons not adverse, and likely enough to be friendly, who are 
so desperately angry at Lord S., that, with him in Administration, 
they would be against it to a man ; that Canning declines office if Lord 
S. was to have oflSce now, but would not object a few months hence ; 
and all the Pittites who talk to me hold themselves bound, by their 
view of past transactions, not to desert Canning in a question between 
him and Lord S. Note, the language which those two have held 
respecting each other has done infinite mischief And finally, to make 
bad worse, (with a determination formed, as I understood, to offer a 
continuance of their situations to Bragge, Bond, &c. &c. of Addington's 
friends, as laying the foundation of their future junction with himself,) 
about the very moment that it was formed, they sent resignations — a 
step which has had a very bad effect. In short, it's a sickening scene 
that's passing ; but I can present it to you more conveniently in con- 
versation than correspondence. When do you return to town ? 1 have 
written to Sir W. Wynne. I take the Great Seal again to-morrow, if it 
pleases God. The 1st of April is an ominous day. It will not be in 

T 2 


my possession a month, if there is not a dissolution. On my own per- 
sonal account, I have no wish about it — much less than I thought 1 
should have had." 

The same day he sent the following most characteristic 
effusion to his brother-in-law. Dr. Eidley : — 

" The occurrence of again taking the Great Seal, Harry, gives me but 
one sentiment of comfort, — that it is possible I may be of use to others. 
The death of my friend Mr. Pitt, the loss of my poor dear John, the 
anguish of mind in which I have been, and ever must be, when that 
loss occurs to me, — ^these have extinguished all ambition, and almost 
every wish of every kind in my breast. I had become inured to, and 
fond of retirement. My mind had been busied in the contemplation of 
my best interests, — those which are connected with nothing here. To 
me, therefore, the change is no joy : — I write that from my heart. But 
I cannot disobey my old and gracious Master, struggling for the es- 
tablished religion of my country ; and I hope all good men will join in 
our efforts, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem. But all good men 
must join in his support, or he and our establishments will fall 

" I am to receive the Great Seal to-morrow. Whether party will 
allow me to keep it a fortnight, I know not. On my own account I 
care not." 

Before making any comment, I add an extract of a letter to 
his old friend the Kev. Dr. Swire, written the day after he was 
actually Chancellor the second time : — 

" Whilst dreaming of a visit to you, I have awaked with the Great 
Seal in my hand, to my utter astonishment. But this attack upon the 
Establishment has brought forward on the part of the King, governed 
by his own determinations and without any assurance of support, a 
firmness which, I confess, astonishes me. The world should not have 
induced me to take the Seal again, if his commands had been of such a 
nature as to leave me any choice ; or the circumstances, which must 
inevitably lead to difficulties in Parliament, probably insuperable, and 
appeals to the people perhaps without sufficient eifect, had not shamed 
me into decision, that this great and excellent man, for great as well as 
excellent he has now shown himself, shall not want the aid of every 
effort I can exert. 

" He considers the struggle as for his throne ; and he told me btit 
yesterday, when I took the Seal, that he did so consider it ; that he 
must be the Protestant king of a Protestant country, or no king. He 
is remarkably well — firm as a lion — placid and quiet, beyond example 
in any moment of his life. I am happy to add that, on this occasion, 
his son, the Prince, has appeared to behave very dutifully to him. 
Two or three great goods have been accomplished if his new Ministers 
can stand their groundt First, the old ones are satisfied that the King, 


whose state of mind they were always doubting, has more sense and 
understanding than all his Ministers put together : they leave him with 
a full convictioE ot that fact. Secondly, the nation has seen the in- 
efficiency of ' All the Talents,' and may perhap.s therefore not injure us 
much by comparison. When he delivered the Seal to me yesterday, he 
told me he wished and hoped I should keep it till he died. If we get 
over a few months we miay support him." 

Very different language this of the restored Chancellor to 
that of the discontented ex-Chancellor on the dissolution of 
the late Parliament ! ! ! The King is now one of the most 
rational, right-headed, hest-disposed, and hest conducted of 
men. His Majesty no longer feels uneasiness at the presence 
of " the person who had attended him in two fits of insanity," 
and, instead of being " suiTOunded by domestic falsehood and 
treachery," even his eldest son " appears to behave very 
dutifully to him." But, in perusing these letters, disgust is 
chiefly excited by the hypocritical lamentations which they 
express upon the writer being again compelled to take the 
Great Seal. While excluded from office, he had been the 
most discontented, and restless, and turbulent, and impatient 
of his whole party. I do not presume to criticise his feelings, 
or blame his activity, while in opposition, although I may 
wish that he had discovered more creditable Bubjects for his 
intrigues than the " Delicate Investigation," and the " Danger 
to the Church ; " but when, by good luck and skilful conduct, 
he had gained the object so near his heart, it is too bad that 
in writing to his bosom friends — having nothing to gain by 
dissimulation — he should pretend that he considered his re- 
sumption of the Woolsack a grievous calamity, to which he 
never would have submitted had it not been for the promise 
extorted from him by George III. at the time he was raised 
to the office of Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and the 
peremptory manner in which that promise was enforced. A 
distinguished writer in the Law Eeview'' saj's, perhaps rather 
harshly, " there is a positive certainty that this cannot be an 
honest representation of the fact ; " and, believing that by the 
frequent repetition of such sentiments the noble and learned 
Lord at last really became his own dupe, I would rather adopt 
the candid defence of him by his kinsman, Mr. E. W. Surtees, 
who says, " The reiterated attempts to represent the highest 
honours of his life as to him only grievous incumbrances, 
forced upon his reluctant acceptance, were in aU probability 

k Vol. i. No. xii. 256. 


the mere result of that inveterate habit of canting, which, 
whether originally caught from the example of his old school- 
master, Dr. Moises, or adopted to acquire admiration or dis- 
arm envy, disfigured and degraded a character in which there 
was much to admire and love." ^ 

The Great Seal was again put into Lord Eldon's hand 
with the title of Lord Chancellor, on the 1st of April — 
many jests being passed upon him and his colleagues for their 
selection of "All Fools' Day" for the solemnity of their 

He was warmly welcomed on his return to the Court of 
Chancery — where even the Whig lawyers had, for thirteen 
months, felt very uncomfortable. It happened that, on the 
first day of his sitting in Lincoln's Tnn Hall, he was delayed 
from taking his place on the bench by the want of his wig. 
Sir Samuel Eomilly, hearing of this emharras, went into the 
private room where the Chancellor was sitting, and with 
some apology offered him the use of his. Lord E. : " I 
willingly accept your offer. Sir Samuel; but I cannot help 
feeling how very much better the wig would be worn on this 
occasion by its proper owner." Sir S. : " I thank your Lord- 
ship for your kind speeoh^and let me £|ivail myself of the 
opportunity which it gives me of assuring you, in all sincerity, 
that, greatly as we differ in our political views, there is no 
man who rejoices more heartily than I do at your resuming 
your place in this Court." ° 

In a debate which took place in the House of Lords soon 

™ Lives of Lords Stowell and EldoD, p. persous. The Lord Cbaucellor proceeded 

97. into the Court of Chancery, where, before he 

" The chronicler of the Court of Chancery, entered upon business, in the presence of the 
however, proceeds with his accustomed gra- Earl of Camden, Lord President of his Ma- 
vity : — •' 1st April, 1807. Thomas Lord Ers- jesty's Council, and Lord Hawliesbury, one 
kiue, Lord High Chancellor of that part of of his Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, 
the United Kingdom of Great Britain and and a full Court, be tooli: the oaths of alle- 
Ireland called Great Britain, having delivered glance and supremacy, and the oath of Chan- 
the Great Seal to the King at the Queen's cellor, the same being administered by the 
Palace, on Wednesday the Ist day of April, Deputy Clerk of the Crown, his Honour the 
1807, his Mi^esty the same day delivered it Master of the Rolls holding the book, and 
to the Right Hon. John Lord Eidon, with the three other Masters being present; which 
title of Lord High Chancellor of Great Bri- being done, the Attorney-General moved that 
taitL who was then sworn into the said office it might be recorded. Then the Lords Cam- 
before his Majesty in Council ; and on Wed- den and Hawkesbury departed, leaving the 
nesday the 15th day of April, being the first Lord Chancellor in court."— JTm. Book, No. 
day of Easter Term, he went in state from 2, fol. 85. 

his house in Bedford Square to Westminster ° On the authorltr^ of a Right Reverend 

Hall, accompanied by tlie Judges, King's Prelate, to whom Lord Eldon related the 

Seijeants, King's Counsel, and several other anecdote. 


after the new Ministers were installed, upon the unconstitu- 
tional manner in which their predecessors had been dismissed, 
Lord Eldon was charged with having taken advantage of the 
private interview which he had with the King respecting the 
disputes between the Priace and Princess of vVales, to advise 
his Majesty to insist on the " pledge " which was the im- 
mediate cause of their dismissal. V\ e have only the following 
short sketch of the answer which he then made : " The Lord 
Chancellor represented the present discussion as wholly new, 
irregular, and unparliamentary. Indeed he thought the 
sense of their Lordships should be strongly marked to that 
effect on their Journals. As to the insinuations which had 
been personally thrown out against himself, as having been 
one of those who secretly advised his Majesty to dismiss his 
late Ministers, he should treat them only with the contempt 
they deserved. The circumstance of his having had the 
audience of his Majesty he had stated to the noble Baron (Lord 
Grenville), and he trusted that the noble Lord was perfectly 
well satisfied with the sincerity of his statement. The only 
pledge he had given was, the uniform tenor of his public life. 
His Majesty asked no other, and he should continue to sei-ve 
his Sovereign, to the best of his abilities, without fearing any 
responsibility that might attach to his official conduct." ^ 
Afterwards, in the year 1813, when Earl Grey was sitting by 
him on the woolsack, and they were talking on the subject of 
the Princess of Wales, he said, " I do assure you — you may 
believe it or 7cot, as you think proper — but I do assure you, that 
when I had the conference with the King in 1807, which I 
requested, it was solely for the purpose of representing to 
him what mischief might follow if Perceval was not pre- 
vented from publishing the book which he was then bent on 
publishing."'' As he confessed that he did not expect to be 
believed, we may be allowed to entertain some doubts as to 
the accuracy of his recollection of all that passed in the inter- 
view with the King. In the " Anecdote Book " he says 
(I believe with strict truth), " In order to disarm political 
jealousy, I communicated to Lord Grenville, then Minister, 
that I was going to Windsor, and the nature of the business 
which led to my visiting his Majesty." He goes on flatly 
and circumstantially to deny the charge, — but he materially 
weakens the force of his denial by introducing it with thia 

P Pari. Deb. ix. 422. 
1 Mem. of Sir S. EomillT. iii. 104. Twiss db. xxiv 

280 LORD ELDOlf. Chap. CXCIX. 

insincere sentence : — " It happened, unfortunatdy, about this 
time, that the Administration meditated a bUl in Parliament 
which was favourable to the Eoman Catholics, and that there 
was that misunderstanding in consequence of it Which led to 
the King's dismissing his Administration." He must have 
thought that those were very credulous who could be per- 
suaded that he considered the bliinder of the Whigs in bringing 
forward the "Eoman Catholic Officers BiU," and their conse- 
quent dismissal, as rmsfartunes, — and he could not have sifted 
very nicely the facts which he was to lay before them. 

It would appear that for a short time after the formation 
of the new Government, — for the purpose of wreaking ven- 
geance on the discomfited Whigs, — there was an intention 
to publish " the Book." Lady Hester Stanhope, in a conver- 
sation with her physician, in the year 1837, referring to this 
subject, said, — " I prevented the explosion the first time, and 
I will tell you how. One day the Duke of Cumberland called 
on me, and in his accustomed manner began : — ' Well, Lady 
Hester, it will be all out to-morrow. We have printed it ; ' and 
to-morrow it will be all out.' I knew what he meant, and 
said to him, ' Have you got the Chancellor's leave ? I, for my 
part, don't like the business at all.' ' Why don't you like it? ' 
asked the Duke. ' Because,' answered I, ' I have too much 
respect for Eoyalty to desire to see it made a subject for Grub 
Street songs.' *I did not say this so much on the Prince of 
Wales's account as for the sake of the Princess. I dreaded the 
other disclosures to which a business like this might lead. The 
Duke turned away, and I saw that the same idea struck him ; 
for, after a pause, he resumed his position, and answered, — 
' You are quite right, Lady Hester ; by God, you are quite 
right ; but what am I to do ? We have gone too far ; what 
am I to do ? ' ' Why, I think,' rejoined I, ' the best thing you 
can do is to go and ask the Chancellor.' So off he packed ; and 
I fancy Mr. Perceval and the Chancellor and he talked it over, 
and decided on quashing the business." ° 

It has been said that the chief opposition to the suppression 
came from the King, who, " hating his eldest son with a 
hatred scarcely consistent with the supposition of a sound 
mind,'^ wished that he should be exposed to public obloquy.' 

' It was printed at a private press in the credit, that Mr. Perceval paid 10,000?. out ol 

house of Mr. Perceval, on the west side of the secret service to recover one copy oJ 

Lincoln's Inn Fields. " the Book," which had been stolen from 

" Vol. i, p. 395. Lady Hester afterwards his table, 
states, in a manner which rather impaiis her ' Lord Brougham. 


The true end for which " the Book " had been composed having 
been acoomphshed, the authors themselves soon became ver? 
much ashamed of it, and were eager to destroy every trace of 
Its existence. Some copies, however, surreptitiously got into 
circulation and in the "Phoenix" Sunday newspaper, pub- 
lished on the 21st of February, 1808, there appeared the fol- 
lowing announcement and mottoes : — 

" We are fortunate enough to be in possession of some most im- 
portant documents on a subject so peculiarly interesting, that when we 
farther explam ourselves, the pubUc will be astonished to learn that 
they are now likely to be brought to light. The insertion of them shall 
take place as soon as we have made the necessary preparations for 
giving the most extensive circulation to our paper. 


■ I have news to tell you MI' £■«„. vitl. Act 4. 

I'll astonish the natives !' ReynoWs. 

' Better late than never ! ' oj^ Pr&verb, 
■I'll show your Grace the strangest sight 

think your highness saw this many a day! ' Jim. Till. Act ^ 

* The tidings that I bring will make my boldneaa manners,' Jtt, 
' At what ease 

Might corrupt minds procure knaves as corrupt 

To swear against you ! Such things have been done I lb. 

* When I am dead, good wench, 

Let me be used with honour ; strew over me 

With maiden flowers, that all the world may know 

I was a chaste wife to my grave ; embalm me, 

Then lay me forth ; although unqueen'd, yet like 

A queen and daughter to a king, inter me ! ' 2b. 

After my death, I wish no other herald. 

No other speaker, of my living actions. 

To keep mine honour from corruption. 

But such an honest chronicler as Griflith.' II." 

The Chancellor and Mr. Perceval were grievously alarmed ; 
and' Sir Vicary Gibbs, the Attorney-General, with a. ^^ 
view to stop the publication by injunction, filed an ' ' 
information in the Court of Chancery, stating that a com- 
mission had issued by the King's orders to certain privy coun- 
cillors, to inquire into certain charges against her Eoyal High- 
ness the Princess of Wales ; that they had made a Eeport upon 
the subject to his Majesty ; that Francis Blagdon, the pro- 
prietor of the Phoenix Sunday newspaper, pretended to have 
got a copy of this Eeport, and that he was about to piiblish it 
with certain scurrilous commentaries, and praying that he 


might be prevented iiy injunotion from doing so, and that by 
a decree he might be ordered to deliver tip the same to the 
Attorney-General for the use of his Majesty. 

Strange to say, the case caime on before the Lord Chancellor 
Eldon, one of the authors of "the Book." He adjourned the 
hearing of it from Lincoln's Inn Hall to his private room. 
There the motion was made by the Attorney-General in 
person,— assisted by Sir Arthur Pigot, Sir Samuel Romilly, 
Mr. Bell, and Mr. Mitford, " that an injunction might be 
awarded to restrain the defendant from parting with and from 
printing' or publishing the Report in the Information men- 
tioned, or any document or proceeding made or had in the 
prosecution of the said commission, or any abstract or extract 
of or from the. same." I have not been able to learn what 
passed during the discussion, but, from an office copy of the 
Order made, which lies before me, along with the information 
and affidavits, it appears that the injunction was granted in 
the terms prayed for. 

One would have expected that the matter would have been 
handed over to the Master of the EoUs, but I do not suppose 
that there was any impropriety in Lord Eldon himself sitting 
and giving judgment on this occasion, for the application did 
not proceed on the piracy of any original observations on the 
Eeport from his pen, as a violation of literary property, con- 
trary to the law of copyright, — but merely upon the title of 
the Crown to prevent the publication of a Keport made by 
privy councillors in such an inquiry ; and there could be no 
doubt respecting the law upon this subject, although it seems 
to have been utterly forgotten by those great lawyers. Lord 
Eldon, Mr. Perceval, and Mr. Plumer, when they themselves 
composed and printed " the Book" for general circulation. 

Although " the Book " was suppressed, the unhappy Princess 
was received at Court, and was treated with much kindness 
and respect by her present protectors, till her husband became 
Regent and King, and they became his Ministers. 




Lord Eldon, on being re-appointed Chancellor, thought his 
tenure of the Great Seal exceedingly precarious ; yet 
he held it continuously for more than twenty years — 
taking a prominent part in an Administration which, in the 
midst of unexampled difficulties, skilfully conducted our foreign 
affairs, and, by the aid of the most consummate General who 
ever led an English army to victory, overthrew the power of 
Napoleon, and restored peace to the world. 

The first measure of the new Administration was an imme- 
diate dissolution of the Parliament, which had only sat a few 
months. This Loid Eldon strongly recommended, notwith- 
standing his violent animadversions on the late Ministers for 
dissolving a Parliament which had sat above four years. The 
speech delivered by him, closing the session in the King's 
name, announced the object of this proceeding to be, " to 
afford to his people the best opportunity of testifying their 
determination to support him in every exercise of the pre- 
rogatives of his crown, which is conformable to the sacred 
obligations under which they are held, and conducive to the 
welfare of his kingdom and to the security of the Constitu- 
tion." This plain denunciation of the Catholics was received 
with loud applause, and most of the candidates supposed to 
be favourable to their claims were defeated at the hustings. 
W hen the " Ko-Popery Parliament " met, the note of triumph 
was sounded in the rt)yal speech delivered by the Lord Chan- 
cellor, which boasted of "the numerous addresses which his 
Majesty had received from his subjects, expressing their firm 
resolution to support him in defending the just rights of his 
crown and the tarue principles of the Constitution." " 

An amendment being moved, censuring the late dissolution, 
and the principles upon which the change of Administration 
had taken place, " the Lord Chancellor said the present Go 

" 9 Pari. Deb. 611. 

284 lORD ELDON. Chap. CC. 

vernment was stigmatised by the amendment, which accused 
them of manifest misconduct. He defended the dissolution, 
which had been found necessary for the safety of the Esta- 
blished Church; and he denied the general doctrine, that 
Ministers, by accepting office, were responsible for the manner 
in which their predecessors had been dismissed," although he 
declared his entire approbation of the principles on which the 
King had lately called to his councils men in whom not only 
his Majesty but the nation confided." >' The amendment was 
rejected by a majority of 160 to 67.' 

On a subsequent day. Lord Erskine and Lord Spencei 
having reiterated the same complaints on the occasion of the 
second reading of a Bill to indemnify Ministers fur an Order 
in Council rendered necessary by the dissolution of Parlia- 
ment, " the Lord Chancellor avowed, that, with a view to 
render the new Administration as firm and as vigorous as 
possible, he had been a strenuous adviser — probably one of 
the most strenuous advisers — of that measure. He looked to 
the Protestant people, whose regard and veneration, once lost 
to the Government, would at least be but imperfectly replaced 
by the conciliation of the Eoman Catholics. But such a con- 
ciliation was not, in his opinion, at all likely to be effected. 
He concluded by taunting the late Government for confining 
their measure of relief to officers in the army and navy, and 
asked why it should not be extended to all professions and all 
offices in the state ? " " In a subsequent stage of the bill he 
was quite jocular in answering a charge of having been fac- 
tious when in Opposition, and observed, that "'All the Tcdents, 
as they were called, had been absolutely without any oppo- 
nents in that House, or he believed any where else, untU they 
began to oppose themselves." *■ 

The only other occasion of his addressing the House during 
this session was for the purpose of throwing out Lord Hol- 
land's Bill for the establishment of Parochial Schools, -on the 
ground that " it departed from the great principle of educa- 
tion in this country, by taking the business of instruction, in 
a great degree, out of the superintendence and control of the 
clergy." He even objected to a provision in the bill giving 

* sir Robert Peel, who will generally be self responsible for' that act, although lie was 

found to lay down sound constitutional doc- at Home when It took place, and he was in 

trine, admitted in the Parliament which met no respect actually privy to it. 

in the beginning of 1835, that iu accepting y 9 Pari. Deb. 605. 

of&ce, after the dismissal of Lord Melbourne s * lb. 607 * lb. 119, 

Government by WilUtlm IV., be made him- b u, 80S. 

tL.D. 1807. HIS SUPREMACY. 286 

the Court of Chancery jurisdiction over the funds appro- 
priated to the use of the schools ; saying, — what he would not 
have allowed any one else to say without expressing high 
indignation, — "It should be recoUeoted how money so in- 
trusted was sweated in that court, and how, in the end, when 
the oyster came to he divided, the parties entitled got nothing 
but the shells." " His will in the House of Lords was hence- 
forth law, and at the prorogation he exultingly returned 
thanks to them in the King's name, "for the steady loyalty, 
and the zealous devotion to the public service, which had 
characterised all their deliberations "-'' — although only a few 
months had elapsed since his desponding conviction that the 
King was alienated from him, and that the Whigs, with their 
new Parliament, were permanently fixed in power. This re- 
volution was in no small degree to be attributed to his own 
dexterity in turning to account the prejudices of the King 
and of the people. 

Lord Eldon at this time exercised a much greater influence 
in the Cabinet than had belonged to any Chancellor for a vast 
number of years. The nominal head of the Government was 
the Duke of Portland — never a very vigorous statesman, and 
now enfeebled by age and disease ; and Mr. Perceval, leader 
of the House of Commons, having long practised as counsel 
under the Chancellor, still regarded him as his chief. Lord 
Camden, Lord Westmoreland, Lord Mulgrave, and Lord 
Chatham, were very little considered ; and Lord Hawkesbury, 
Lord Castlereagh, and Mr. Canning, though aspiring states- 
men, had not yet acquired much ascendency. Lord Eldon 
continued in high favour with the King and the Duke of 
Cumberland ; and his colleagues, sensible that they chiefly 
owed their places to his skilful intrigues, were, for a while, 
much disposed to defer to his opinion. 

He zealously supported, if he did not suggest, two measures 
of great energy, but very doubtful justice and expediency — 
the discussion of which long occupied Pailiament and the 
public — the Orders in Council against Neutral Commerce, and 
the seizure of the Danish fleet. Napoleon's Berlin and Milan 
decrees having declared " the whole of the British dominions 
in a state of blockade," and ordained that " every article of 
her manufacture, or belonging to her, or coming from her 
colonies, wheresoever found, should be lawful prize," it was 
judged right, through orders in council, to retaliate, by de- 

•" 9 Pari. Deb. Ills. i> lb. 1223. 

286 LORD ELDON. Chap. OC 

daring " that not only the ports and places of France and ner 
allies, and of any other country at war -with his Majesty, but 
likewise all ports and places in Europe from which the 
British flag was excluded, and all ports and places in the 
colonies of the King's enemies, should be subject to the same 
restrictions, in point of trade and navigation, as if they were 
under actual blockade ; and further, that all trade in the pro- 
duce or manufacture of the said countries or colonies should 
be deemed unlawful ; and that every vessel trading from or 
to them, and its cargo, and every article of the produce or 
manufactures aforesaid, should be liable to be captured as 
enemies' property." Of these orders in council Napoleon had 
no right to complain; but they were grievously unjust to 
neutrals, and it is now generally allowed that they were 
contrai'y to the law of nations and to our own municipal law. 

On the seizure of the Danish fleet, diversity of sentiment 
still prevails ; but, in my opinion, the act was unjustifiable, 
for the Danes had offered us not the slightest provocation, 
and it is vain to say that self-presei-vation required such an 
outrage upon an independent and friendly people, — the only 
pretext for it being that, if we did not seize their ships, pro- 
bably, ere long. Napoleon would have tried to do so.' 

The stormy session of Parliament which began in January, 
1808, was almost entirely taken up with motions on these 
two subjects. Lord Eldon repeatedly defended with ability 
the orders in council. " He denied that they were contrary 
either to international or municipal law. He admitted that 
neutrals might suffer some inconvenience by the retaliation 
which placed them between confiscation by France or by 

" I have received from the venerable ex- he learnt that Buonaparte was at that very 

Lord Justice General Hope a letter, in time marching small detachments of sailors, 

which, after some complimentary expres- under lieutenants, through Germany to Co- 

sions, he says, " 1 differ from you respecting penhagen. there to take possession of, and 

the expedition to Copenhagen, and the sei- man, the Danish fleet This fact Mr. Henry 

zure of the Danish fleet. The fact was this : Hope communicated to my brother, Sir Wil- 

— Mr. Henry Hope, of Amsterdam, and of liam, who of course communicated It to the 

the great house of Hope and Co. there, upon Board of Admiralty, of which he was then a 

the invasion of the French on Holland, member, and of course our expedition was 

came over to this country, and lived in undertaken in order to anticipate that of 

that large house in the corner of Harley Buonaparte. Now this private history could 

Street, Cavendish Square, in which he had not be made public at the time ; for if it had, 

that fine collection of pictures. On ac- Buonaparte would have put to death the one 

count of his mercantile and banking pro- half of his officials in Paris. In consequence 

oeedings, he was led to have secret agents our Government was obliged to let the affair 

and banking correspondents in every court pass as a voluntary and spontaneous move 

of Europe: among others, at Paris in the ment of ours."— ;\'ote (o Sri JMitton. 
time of Buonaparte. And by them at Parib 


England ; but a neutral nation, which hy her acquiescence in 
an invasion of her rights lent herself to ope belligerent at the 
expense of the other, could have very little reason to complain 
if the other belligerent protected himself by the necessary 
measures for rendering such a combination ineffectual. 'J.'hese 
measures were aimed not at the neutral but at the adverse 
belligerent — the damage to the neutral was only incidental. 
It might be an evil, but it was not an injury, vv'ith respect 
to America, the chief sufferer, we must recollect the mischief 
she caused us by acquiescing in the decrees of Buonaparte, 
as well as the advantage she might bring to us by her trade 
and friendship ; and he hoped that, instead of going to war 
with us, she wbuld join us in resisting the extravagant pre- 
tensions of the common enemy of all civilised nations." It 
required much suffering to ourselves from the Orders in Coun- 
cil, as well as a long-continued series of attacks against them 
in both Houses of Parliament, to do away with the effect of 
such arguments.' 

The cause of the Danes was warmly taken up by Lord 
Ellenborough and Lord Sidmouth, who, having been ejected 
with the vv higs, were not disposed to view with much favour 
the measures of the new Government, and who commented 
severely on this expedition as dishonourable to England and 
discreditable to those who had advised it. Lord Eldon had 
been shocked at the carnage caused among the Danes, which, 
however, he ascribed to "weak pride and false honour," in 
not quietly submitting. In a letter to Lady Eldon, giving 
an account of a conversation with some of the officers present, 
whom he had met at dinner on their return, he says, " The 
state of the inhabitants in Copenhagen, and their distresses, 
must have been terrible and tremendous. In one street our 
mortars destroyed five hundred persons, principally poor 
helpless women and children. It seems weak pride and false 
honour that actuated the Danish commander. From the first 
he meant to surrender, and yet wished to have the credit of 
a battle before he did so; and to this point of military eti- 
quette he sacrificed one-fourth of the buildings of the town, 
and devoted to destruction property and lives to a terrible 
amount. It made my heart ache, and my blood run cold, to 
hear the accounts these gentlemen gave." But now, in the 
House of Lords, he declared that, " so far from feeling him- 
self dishonoured as an Englishman by the measure adopted, 

f 10 Pari. Deb. U9. 641, W.9, 1244. 

288 LORD ELDON. Chap. CC. 

-he should have felt himself dishonoured if, under all the cir- 
cumstances, he had hesitated to concur in advising it ; "—and 
he scouted the proposal that the ships should be restored to 
Denmark at the end of the war, saying " that the Danish 
Government had not even a pretence for demanding a restitu- 
tion, which had been offered only on the condition of peace- 
able surrender."" 

Soon after came the Jesuits' Bark Bill, in opposing which, 
April 7, as counsel, at the bar of the House of Lords, I made 
1808. ' my ctebat in public life.'' Lord Eldon behaved with 
great courtesy to me, and, I must say, seemed impressed by 
my observations and evidence as to the private injustice 
which would be done to my client, the owner of several valu- 
able cargoes, which would be embargoed and rendered useless 
by this measure, directed against the fever hospitals of France. 
He took no part in the debate, leaving it to others to contend 
that the bill rested on the principle which justifies cutting 
off supplies of aims and provisions from a besieged town, — 
although he was compelled to vote in the disgraced majoritj' 
of 110 to 44, by which it was carried.' 

He still continued his intimacy with the Princess of Wales, 
who was patronised by the King, and not only visited her at 
Blackheath, but gave her a grand dinner in his own house in^ 
Bedford Square. From the following good-natured note, we* 
find that this entertainment had gone off well, although he 
had not been able to prevail on Lady Eldon to appear at 

table : — 

" Thursday, June 9th, 1808. 

" The Princess of Wales desires of the Lord Chancellor to express to 
Lady Eldon how much she was mortified at not having had the plea- 
sure of meeting her at the Chancellor's agreeable dinner ; and trusts 
that, whenever another opportunity shall offer itself, she may have the 
gi-atification of assuring the Lord Chancellor, as well as Lady Eldon, 
that the Princess will ever be happy o£ personally assuring them of hei 
highest regard at their house." 

6 10 ParL Deb. 656. He uBCd afterwards upstairs or down when be received ycu' 

*ju relate, on the authority of the King him- ' He was on the, ground floor,' was the an- 

Belf, an anecdote showing that on this occa- swer. ' 1 am glad of it, 1 am glad cf it,' l«- 

sion his Majesty could not have approved of joined the King, ' for if he Oad half the 

the act of his Minsters. " When Mr. Jack- spirit of his uncle George III., he would in- 

son, our ambassador sent to Copenhagen to fallibly have kicked you down stoirBl'" 

demand the surrender of the fleet, was pre- b AnU, Oh. CLXXXVl. 

sented at Court on his return, the King i 10 ParL Deb. 1320. 
abruptly afiked him, ' Was the Prince Royal 


The same aTitiimn he received a -visit of some days, at his 
country residence, Encombe, in Dorsetshire, of his steady 
friend and associate in Cabinet-making, the Duke of Cumber- 
land. An entertaining account given by him, in a letter to 
his daughter-in-law, of his Eoyal Highness's gracious demean- 
our, says, " He was very good-humoured and condescending, 
and we all behaved well. . . . dear Mamma very well, after the 
flutter which, you know, so rare a scene would occasion. . . . 
Fanny got an embrace, and we have had some difficulty to get 
her to allow her face to be washed since, lest she should lose 
the impression." 

The session of 1809 was very inactive with the Lords, who 
were obliged to look quietly on while the nation was Mar. 19, 
almost convulsed by the proceedings in the House of '^'"• 
Commons against the Duke of York. Lord Eldon privately 
gave advice as to the conduct of the defence — and if it had 
been implicitly followed, the result would probably have been . 
less disastrous. On the resignation of the comm&,nd of the 
army, he wrote to his daughter-in-law, — " People in general, 
as far as I have seen any body, seem affected and softened in 
consequence of this step ; but whether the bloodhounds of 
St. Stephen's on Bragge Bathurst's motion to-mon-ow wUl or 
will not continue to hunt him down in his retirement, T 
cannot say ; but I have seen so much of injustice that I shall 
not be surprised to see a good deal of hard-heartedness ; 
and the Duke's measure having disappointed some political 
manoeuvres, the vengeance of politicians may still follow him, 
when men with hearts would forgive and relent." However, 
ne judged rather harshly of the Duke's prosecutors ; for the 
vote charging him with complicity in the sale of commissions 
by Mrs. Clarke was not pressed, and the general belief being 
that his conduct, although censurable on the score of morality, 
was entirely free from pecuniary corruption, he was allowed, 
two years afterwards, to resume the c6mmand of the army, 
when, by the admirable management of it, he essentially 
contributed to the triumphs achieved by England in the 

Lord Eldon had an opportunity of showing his abhorrence 
of innovation, on a proposal being made (which has since been 
carried into effect) of prohibiting the sale of all offices con- 
nected with the administration of justice. As he must be 
supposed to have read the trial of Lord Macclesfield, he no 
doubt caused some astonishment when he said " he believed 

yoL. IX. u 

290 LORD ELDON. Chap. CC. 

there was not on record an instance where the patronage be- 
stowed on the Keeper of the Great Seal had been abused, 
from the Eevolution to the present hour, although that patron- 
age was a main link in the chain that fitted each noble person 
who preceded him in office during that period, to have the 
personal means .of holding rank consistently and suitably with 
others of their Lordships." '' 

In the House of Lords there was nothing more memorable 
during the session than the event of Lord Byron taking his 
seat on coming of age. Those who are ignorant of the care- 
less manner in which such a ceremony is always conducted, 
have speculated much, and foolishly, upon the poet's disap- 
pointment at not being received with more distinction. We 
have the following authentic account of it from himself, in 
one of his note-books : — " When I came of age, some delays, 
on account of some birth and marriage certificates from Corn- 
wall, occasioned me not to take my seat for several weeks. 
When these were over, and I had taken the oaths, the Chan- 
cellor apologised to me for the delay, observing that these 
forms were a part of his duty. I begged him to make no 
apology, and added, as he certainly had shown no violent 
hurry, ' Your Lordship was exactly Hke Tom Thumb (which 
was then being acted), 

" * You did your duty, and you did no more,' " 

Parliament was prorogued so early as the middle of June, 
and Lord Eldon expected a tranquil long vacation at Encombe ; 
but. he was doomed to suffer much anxiety before the return 
of Michaelmas Term, — and, in the course of a violent and 
protracted Ministerial crisis, he repeatedly thought that the 
Great Seal had for ever departed from him. The age and 
declining health of the Duke of Pori;land showed that the 
office of First Lord of the Treasury must soon be vacant. The 
King, referring to this subject, had "expressed himself as 
thinking the Duke could not remaia long where he was, and 
therefore it was necessary that his other Ministers should look 
about them."" The grand struggle was between Mr. Per- 
ceval and Mr. Canning, — the former being patronised by Lord 
Eldon, and the latter preferred by the majority of the Cabinet, 
particularly by the more liberal section of it, who had been 
the personal friends of Mr. Pitt. Canning commenced opera- 
tions, with a view to establish his own ascendency, by insist- 

k U Pari, Deb. 101«. " Letter from Mr. Perceval to Lord Eldon, IBOi Auf^ 1809. 


mg that Lord Castlereagh., aJthougli permitted to retain his 
office, should be removed from the conduct of the War Depart- 
ment, for which he was supposed to have shown himself very 
imfit, and which was to be transferred to Lord Wellesley. 
This demand was conceded to him ; but it was arranged that 
the iatended change should not be communicated to the j)arty 
principaUj- interested till after the sailing of the Walcheren 
expedition (of which he was the author), and that it should 
then be broken to him by his near relation, Lord Camden. 
The result of this expedition having been still more disastrous 
than had been apprehended. Canning insisted that the pro- 
mise made to him should be carried into effect ; and, being 
told not only that Lord Castlereagh had yet been kept in 
ignorance of the whole arrangement, but that new difficulties 
had arisen of which he had not been before apprised, he 
insisted that his own resignation, which he had before ten- 
dered, should be laid before the King. He likewise desisted 
from any further attendance in Cabinet, although he con- 
tinued to do the routine duties of his office till his successor 
should be appointed. The Duke of Portiand, feeling his 
inability to quell the raging storm, announced his retirement, 
which was immediately followed by that of Lord Castlereagh. 
The country being suddenly left without a Government, 
Lord Eldon was summoned from his repose at Encombe, 
and, on his arrival in town, found, to his horror, that there 
was a scheme in agitation by which he was to be deprived 
of the Great Seal. Canning, by way of getting rid of Per- 
ceval as a candidate for the Premiership, had proposed that, 
after having been Chancellor of the Exchequer for three 
years, he should return to the profession of the law, to which 
he had been bred, and should be made Lord High Chancellor 
of Great Britain, — the further advantage no doubt being 
calculated upon, of entirely excluding from the Cabinet him 
who not only had a personal spite against the semi-liberal 
proposer of this ingenious expedient, but who was a decided 
enemy to all improvement in our institutions. In this state 
of things. Lord Eldon wrote the following letter to his wife, 
which places him in a very amiable point of view by proving 
his affection for her, and the confidence he reposed in her :— 

" My dbaeest Bksst, " Monday, Sept. 11th. 

" We are here in a most singular state. 

" Ab soon as the account came that the expedition could not be 


292 LORD ELDON. Chap. CC. 

pursued, Canning renewed his insistings that Lord Castlereagh should 
deliver up his situation to Lord Wellesley. The latter" magnani- 
mously, hut I think most foolishly, said, he considered C — g's services 
in the House of Commons of so much consequence that he would 
resign ; and accordingly sent his resignation, stating, however, that he 
would not condescend to take any other ofBce. This had nearly pro- 
duced .the resignation of Perceval, Liverpool, Camden, and Bathurst. 
They saw plaiiSy, that if the D. of Portland could give way to Can- 
ning, so far as to turn out Lord Cas. merely hecause that gentleman 
chose it. Canning was really the Minister, the Duke but an instrument 
in his hands, and that the world must see it too, and that eveiy hody 
was at the mercy of that gentleman's caprice. This intended measure 
alarmed the Duke ; he thought the King would be deserted ; that if 
some other great nobleman was put in his place we might be all kept 
together still ; and so the Duke sent in a tender of his resignation, and 
the King accepted it; and he has commanded Perceval, Liverpool, and 
myself to get him an Administration, which I think we 'shall not be 
able to do. For, mark what follows. This well-intended step on the 
part of the Duke has produced what shows me that I have been right 
in my conjectures, what from the first have been Canning's objects. 
Canning instantly wrote to Perceval, to say that some person in the 
House of Commons must he Minister, and in a roundabout way in- 
timated that he, Canning, could not think of Perceval's being Minister, 
which of course left Canning the only person to he Minister ; and he 
intimated, that if either there was a Minister in the H. of Lords, or 
Perceval was Minister, that he (C.) must resign. This quick step 
appears to me, I own, to have been a mode of trying whether Perceval's 
attachment to the King would be so far taken by surprise, as to lead 
him, at the moment, to give way. Little P., however, was upon the 
alert : he stated his willingness to remain as he was, provided nobody 
in the House of Commons was put over his head, but he would not act 
under Mr. Canning as Minister, tho' upon equal terms with him he 
would act. Canning's present suggestions therefore seem to be, that he 
will resign. I think, however, he will make an attempt, professing to 
fall in with the purpose of having a Minister in the H. of Lords, to get 
somebody named who shall he entirely under his own influence; and if 
that scheme does not succeed, which I think it will not, he will 
retire ; and will thus, in. the attempt to gratify his ambition, have con- 
trived to overthrow himself and all of us along with him ; and this \f 
ca;lled serving the King. 

" There are but two things which in that case can he done. The one 
is to attempt to strengthen the King's friends who hang together, by 
some junction of parties ; the other, to fight it out with such aid as we 
can get from our own party. I think Liverpool clearly is for the 
former plan; I think Perceval also is, but not so clearly, — he has 
doubts. I own I do not like it. In the first place, I think nobody. 

' Lord Cutlereagh mast be meant. 


that joins from other parties, would join unless I cease to be Chan- 
cellor ; and, In the next place, I have an opinion about this thing called 
' junction of parties,' which would disincline me to remain Chancellor. 
1 think it never strengthens anybody, and it does nobody credit. And 
that body of us who have hitherto thought ourselves strong in public 
opinion would lose the whole of the good opinion of the public. On 
the other hand, Ilhink it very clear, that if we stand alone, we must 
fall after a very short — very, very short — desperate conflict, with the 
Opposition joined by Canning and his followers. In the latter mode I 
think the King will oblige us to fight the battle, at all hazards, if he 
can persuade us — but I am not sure he can persuade enough of us to 
fight it so. Upon the whole I think it quite clear, either that some 
iuDction of parties will immediately take place, or that a change with- 
out a junction of parties will very soon take place. What will you 
think of politicians, when I tell you. that it has even been suggested 
that Perceval should return to the law, and be made Chancellor, and 
that, to provide for keeping things together in this way, I should retire ? 
Perceval himself told me this : he did not name Canning as proposing 
it, but I take, upon suspicion, that to have been so ; and then, Perceval 
being Chancellor, Canning might be Minister. Perceval treated this as 
he ought. 

" I thought you would like to know how things go on ; and though, 
as they are going on, I can give no guess when I shall have the bless- 
ing of seeing you, it is quite manifest that either I shall return to you 
without the Seals, which I think very probable, — or, if that is not 
so, that before Christmas they will not be in these hands. Immediately 
therefore, or shortly, those days will commence in which we may, with 
God's blessing, fear no interruption of our happiness by any future, even 
temporary, separation between us. Tliis I write all to yourself." 

WMle things continued in this plight, he thus vents his 
spleen against Canning and tLe Duke of Portland in another 
letter to Lady Eldon : — 

"I think the individual who has occasioned all this mischief, is 
Vanity in a human form. Nothing vrill serve him but being what he 
will never be permitted to be. 

" And I believe now, such is the imbecility of man, that the old D., 
who had resigned, is trying, in vain, to get back again." 

He continues his bulletins : — 

" Thursday (Sept. lith). 
" My evek dear Life, 
" One after another, all of us saw the King yesterday : he is more to 
be pitied than any man in his dominions : and one ambitious man is 
the cause of all he now suffers. Mr. 0. thinks proper, that his deter- 
mination not to act under a third person, or to do any thing else 

294 LORD ELDON. Chap.CC. 

but be himself Minister, sbould remain nnshaken : and his resigna- 
tion [is] certain. I am just going to a meeting of such of us as have 
hearts feeling for the King, to see what can possibly be done, as all 
attempts to bring matters to rights again have finally failed. I cannot, 
for one, see a ray of hope that any thing can be arranged which can 
have any endurance, — if indeed any arrangement whatever can be 
made ; and yet the poor K., in language that makes one's heart bleed 
for him, urges that we should not run away from him. My head and 
heart are perplexed and grieved for my old master's sake ; upon my 
own account I do not care a fig about it." 

" Friday morning (Sept. 15th). 

" After a great many hours spent in consultations yesterday, to be 
succeeded by more to-day, among those in whom the King thinks he 
can still have confidence, we have formed, or shall form, opinions which 
are to be offered to his consideration, and which he will adopt or reject 
as he thinks fit. I still think that it cannot end in my remaining in 
office. 1 use the expression, in whom the King thinks he can have 
confidence, because I am sure there is scarce a man living, of whom he 
can say that he knows he may have confidence in him. 1 wish to God 
the thing was settled one way or the other ! If I knew that I was to 
go out 1 would come to you instantly, and stay over Christmas ; if I 
knew I was to stay in, I could thenjsnow when and how I was to see 
you. Some of the plans proposed* are what I do most greatly abhor, 
and I think they won't succeed. 1 have offered my office to the King, 
and told him, for I write constantly when I don't see him, my likings 
and dislikings. ' For God's sake,' he says, ' don't you run away from 
me : don't reduce me to the state in which you formerly left me. You 
are my sheet anchor ! ' I fear the effects of his agitation and agony — 
atid I do pray God to protect him in this his hour of distress. 


" May God's best and kindest providence watch over her who has 
the whole heart of her 

" Bldon." 

"Monday, Sept. 18th. 
" I proceed to tell you with much feeling, that the train of settle- 
ment we seemed to have got into is all undone. Shocked as I am to 
say it, George Eose has declared his attachment to Canning, — Hu6- 
kisson has done the same, — Charles Long won't abide by us, — Sturges 
Bourne has declared for Canning. As these are the four men of busi- 
ness, it appeared to us last night that, vdthout junction, the King must 
be sacrificed ; with it, I do not know how he is to be saved in any 
degree of comfort. We are to take the resolution as to what is to be 
communicated to him at a meeting to-day at one o'clock. I cannot 
help thinking but that it must, that it necessarily must, lead to my 
being restored to a life of privacy." 


" Thursday, Sept. Slat. 
" My evbb loved Eliza, 

" After T finished my letter yesterday, 1 went to the levee, and I had 
an audience of the King for a full hour. His agitation and uneasiness 
were such as have left me perfectly agitated and uneasy ever since I left 
him, though, I thank God, I am quite well. I dare not commit to 
paper what passed, for fear accident should not bring that paper to the 
hands of my Eliza ; and though I promised her a letter of particulars, 
the particulars that passed are really so very special in their kind, that 
I cannot communicate them even to her except in conversation — and 
would I could have that conversation ! He would not decide what he 
would do, but said he should compose a paper at Windsor last night, 
and require from us written answers to several questions he should put 
in that paper, and order us to be convened to-day to consider the ques- 
tions and give the answers : and accordingly we are summoned to meet 
at one o'clock at Perceval's ; and 1 think it not unlikely, from what I 
know, that we may sit there till one in the morning. By we I mean 
such of us as have not resigned or tendered our resignations." 

The same day had taken place, on Wimbledon Common, 
the famous duel between Castlereagh and Canning, in which 
the latter received a pistol-ball in his thigh. The Chancellor 
continues his bulletins to Lady Eldon : — 

" Sept. 22nd, Friday. 
" My evee dearest, 

"I had hoped, when I wrote yesterday, that I should have been a 
great deal wiser to-day than I am. We waited at our meeting to a 
late hour, but no paper came from the King. I infer from this that he 
is in a most unhappy state of difficulty, and knows not what to do ; and 
I greatly fear that something of the very worst sort may follow upon 
the agitation. If it jileases God to avert this greatest of all evils, we 
shall, I hope, have his paper to-day, and proceed in the consideration joi 
it. But if he has taken so much time to consider it, I fear I must look 
to those before whom it is to be laid taking some before they can make 
up their minds what answer they shall give to his questions and obser- 
vations ; and thus things train on from day to day, through a period of 
time which is veiy long, and seems longer and longer as it is protracted. 
This dreadful business of the duel between Castlereagh and Canning, 
whilst it is to be lamented on every ground, adds difficulty to difficulty, 
and I have no doubt will create a great deal indeed of additional un- 
easiness in the King's mind." 

" Saturday, Sept. 23rd. 

" After I vreote to yon yesterday, I went to the meeting, and £ there 
tound that Perceval had received the King's paper, which is one of the 
finest compositions, and the most affecting, I ever saw or heard in my 
life. After discussing the strength which any Administration could 

296 LORD ELBON. Chap. CC. 

have that did not include Gr. and Gr., he acknowledges that there would 
be a weakness in it, which a sense of duty to his people calls upon him, 
by every personal sacrifice not affecting his honour and conscience, to 
endeavour to avoid : he therefore peimits his present servants to con- 

• verse with them upon a more extended Administration than his present 
servants could themselves make, but declares previously and solemnly, 
that, if any arrangement is offered to him which does not include such 
a share of his present servants as shall effectually protect him against 
the renewal of measures which his conscience cannot assent to, that he 
will go on with his present servants at all hazards, throwing himself 
upon his people and his God, — his people, whose rights, he says, he 
never knowingly injured, and his God, to whose presence he is deter- 
mined, whenever he is called hence, to go with a pure conscience. He 
predicts, however, that though he, in duty to his people, submits to this 
mortifying step, they (G. and G.) will not allow any effect to it ; and 
then addresses himself in the most pathetic strains to all his present 
servants, calling forth all their courage, their resources, and the dis- 

■ charge of their duty to him. Perceval and Liverpool, thprefore, will 
talk with the two G.'s : and it will either end in a junction, with a 
good many of the present servants left, or we shall live for about a 
fortnight after Parliament meets. They cannot begin their conferences 
till about the middle of the week ; and I should suppose, if they begin 
conferences, they will conclude them in the week. I shall not, how- 
ever, be surprised if these gentlemen, the G.'s, refuse to confer at all 
with Perceval and Livei-pool, and I think they will refuse, especially if 
they have any understanding with Canning. The Eling has also written 
a most dignified paper upon the fact of two persons, yet having the 
Seals of Secretaries of State in their hands, fighting a duel. I doubt 
much whether he will permit either of them to make their formal resig- 
nations in his presence." 


" Sept. 28th, Thursday. 
" 1 cannot bring my mind to think any thing so proper or so good for 
me as to have done with ofSce now, and to spend the rest of my days in 
some degree of quiet and retirement ; but I am afraid, and indeed sure, 
that unless he is so driven to the wall as to be able to do nothing what- 
ever that he wishes to do, he will make it a most difficult thing for me 
to quit his service. Ifet I shall beg very hard, for in truth the labour 
of ray office is too much for me in the time of business, and what 
recompense can I have for what — I speak from my present sufferings — 
for what I undergo, in having my time of vacation ruined as this is?" 

" Monday, Oct. 2nd. 
" My ever deakest and most beloved, 
" I told you in a little note, on Saturday, that I was obliged to go to 
Windsor : I was compelled to do it, and therefore I could not help 
myself. I was called up in the night, so as to set off exactly at throe 


o'clock in the morning : and I was witli the King from seven till a 
little after eight, engaged with him in a conversation, the most interest- 
ing, and affecting, and important, that 1 have ever had with man in my 
life. I shall soon, I thank God, I shall soon be able to state the par- 
ticulars of it in my dearest Elizabeth's hearing, and these particulars 
I really dare not commit to paper. The general result is, that we 
stay in, making such arrangements, without junction, as we can, — 
standing of course till Parliament meets, and then standing or falling as 
that body will please to deal with us. I think we had better have 
resigned ; but that the King would not hear of for a moment. I think 
going on, with the certainty of being 'turned out, would be better than 
junction : at least to me it is more acceptable ; and if we are turned 
out, as we shall be, I shall have the satisfaction of remembering that I 
declined being a negotiator for junction, and have stood, throughout, 
the servant or no man or men, but the King, and determined to abide 
by him and him only, to his last breath, or to my last breath, as far as 
I have any thing to do with politics. After' I left him, the Duke of 
Cumberland's Encombe servant I found waiting, to tell me that the 
Duke had just heard that I was there, and had got breakfast for me ; 
and I was shown up to his apartments ; and I received a great proof of 
his good nature and attention, as I thought it, and as he certainly meant 
it ; for he had sent off for and got up William Henry from Mrs. Mid- 
dleton's," and he breakfasted with us at the Castle. This was a very 
pleasing incident. I had very little time to stay, and after sitting 
awhile and shaking hands with William Henry, who is very well, 
I returned here upon my business. Perceval will be First Lord of 
the Treasury in the room of the Duke of Portland. That is at present 
the only appointment settled. Lord Melville is behaving well ; so is 
Lord Sidmouth. But what is most unexpected, the Prince has really 
conducted himself towards his father upon this occasion with exemplary 
propriety. The King showed me yesterday the Prince's letter to him, 
and his answer ; and I'll tell you all about them when I see you. 

" At the end of my conversation with him (the King) I asked his 
leave to return to Encombe. He said I should not go till after his 
levee on Wednesday, for he must see me there ; that I might then put 
myself in my chaise, come to you without stopping, and stay with you 
to the end of the month. This was our bargain at parting ; and I hope, 
therefore, to dine vrith you on Thursday. And of God I have no 
blessing to ask or pray for with so much of anxiety and importunity, 
as that nothing may interrupt this. I think nothing will or can. 
(hit I was with you ! For ever, and ever, and ever, 

" Tours, your own, 

" Eldon." 

Extracts from two of his letters to Sir William will com- 

° Eton School. 

298 LORD ELDON. Chap. CC, 

plete the liistory of this famous journey to London, and bring 
him back, still holding the Great Seal, to Encombe. 

" Oct. 4lih, 1809. 
" Dbab Beother, 

" If you recollect at what vast distances men to be talked with are, 
you'll not be surprised that I have not filled up vacant ofBces in my 
correspondence. Melville must either be in oflSce or be satisfied with 
being out of it. Now a letter to him, and an answer from him, and a 
reply to his answer, occupies thirteen days and a half. There's a hope 
that Lord Wellesley will take the Foreign Secretaryship. He is in 
Spain. I think Bathurst will have it ad interim. One infinite dif- 
ficulty about Sidmouth is, that every person connected with him must 
have office found for him : Bragge, Vansittart, Hiley, Hobhouse, &c. &c. 
Sidmouth's army are all officers, and no soldiers. I stspect George 
Eose wants to be Chancellor of the Exchequer. As to calling Parlia- 
ment soon, that will never do. Bets here go twenty guineas to one, 
that we never face it. But odds are sometimes lost. I think we shall 
now have no Parliament on this side of Christmas. 

" The silence of such of Cas.'s colleagues who knew of the matter 
cannot be well vindicated. With respect to myself, I feel uneasy; 
though the period at which I heard it, the personage (the K.) who told 
it me, and the injunction with which he accompanied a communication 
which I must needs say he ought not to have made under such an inr 
junction, give me a good deal to say for myself. But, in some degree; 
all who knew it have been — more or less blamable, but — ^blamable. 

"Nothing can be worse than the Walcheren business. But that 
business itself will grow worse and worse. The island must be eva- 
cuated, and I think you'll soon hear the Army accusing the Navy, and 
the Navy accusing the Army, as the cause of Ihe failure. There will 
be warm blood in the two services. 

" Harrowby, I think, will go to the Board of Trade, if he continues 
to exist : he is very ill. If you don't hear from me on Friday, I shall 
have gone to Encombe to bring my family home, with such leave of 
absence as the King to-day shall oifer me. I shall not ask any ; but I 
have had a hint that he means to press a short absence on me. In fact 
I have got to the full extent of all the good I can do here." 

"Encombe, Oct. 7th, 1809. 
" Dbab Bbothbe, 

" As I intimated it was likely, I set out after the levee, about eight 
at night on Wednesday, for this place, and I got here late on Thursday, 
though I did not stop on the road. I lay so long in bed on Friday 
that I lost the post, and this I write on Saturday evening for to-mor- 
row's post, Saturday not being post-day here. I shall have all things 
packed up here, that we may all return on a moment's notice to me to 
come back. After the full explanation I have given of all I have to 
say on the present business, I do not know why I should be called up, 


but I take it for granted I shall, and therefore shall have my household 
as well as myself in a complete packed-up state. The Duke of P. gave 
me a fair opportunity enough, for he took occasion to tell me, that, let 
what would happen, I must not leave the King : he would not endure 
it, — that is, he, the King, would not. I replied, that I thought if there 
was a junction, the new ones would not endure me, and that I was hurt 
to find that, among the old ones, those whose confidence I thought 1 
had, had been represented to be ready enough to suggest my separation 
from ofiSce, and therefore from the King, without even the mention of 
it to me. He was apparently embarrassed, said nothing, and looked 
foolish. I should have pressed him to the quick, but a man labouring 
under the torment of the stone at the moment was less an object of 
pity. Of my fact I am sure : there are so many witnesses to it, that 
there can be no mistake." 

I have tboTight it best to allow Lord Eldon, in this affair, to 
be his owii historian, and these letters afford the most favour- 
able specimen I have met with of his epistolary style. Once 
more had he completely triumphed in political intrigue. 
Perceval, whom he favoured, was now Prime Minister ; and 
Canning, who had the audacity to ihink of a new Lord Chan- 
cellor, was, for the present, chased from office — though 
destined hereafter to have his revenge, by actually putting 
the Great Seal into the hand of Lord Lyndhurst. 

Lord Eldon was known to have had a narrow escape in the 
late crisis, and his official life was for some time considered 
very precarious. Of the public opinion upon this subject we 
have a striking proof in the result of an election for the office 
of Chancellor of the University of Oxford. Had a vacancy in 
this office taken place when he was understood to be firmly 
seated on the woolsack, he must have succeeded to it as a 
matter of course, combining every possible qualification for it 
— academical distinction — unspotted private character — high 
church-and-king principles — and a steady opposition to any 
relaxation of the laws against Eoman Catholics or Dissenters 
— with the prospect of long continuing to dispose of ecclesias- 
tical dignities. At present, the last and not the least essential 
was wanting. The " Q. and G. negotiation " was well known, 
and many thought that within a few weeks Lord Grenville 
would be at the head of the Treasury, with Lord Erskine, or 
Sir Samuel Eomilly, as Lord High Chancellor. In this 
posture of affairs died the Duke of Portland, Chancellor of the 
University of Oxford, and Lord Eldon and Lord Grenville 
were started as candidates to succeed him. The King said 
" it would be hard if Cambridge had a Unitarian Chancel- 

300 LORD ELDON, Chap. CC. 

lor,!' and Oxford a Popish, one." This was a strong declaration 
against Lord Grenville for Ms adTocacy of Catholic emancipa- 
tion, and Lord Eldon construed it into a pledge to support 
himself — which he evidently thought had been, violated. For 
some unexplained reason, a party at Court brought forward 
the Duke of Beaufort, a very respectable nobleman, but 
having nothing to recommend him except Ms high lineage, 
and that he kept near Oxford the best appointed pack of fox- 
hounds in all England. On this occurrence Lord JSldon wrote 
to a friend : — 

''After it was fully understood ttat the Duke of Beaufort had refused 
to he a candidate, and some of his nearest connections had canvassed for 
me, he has become a candidate. This makes confusion more contused ; 
hut I shall stand it out, as I have consented to stand — for I cannot be 
made a fool of with my own consent ; and therefore, if both the D. of B. 
and I go to the wall, and Grenville succeeds, my consolation is that I 
am not to blame." 

At the close of the poll the numbers were, Beaufort, 238 ; 
Eldon, 393 ; Grenville, 406. Lord Eldon was more hurt by 
this disappointment than by any he ever experienced in his 
life. He declared that he had been atrociously ill used ; he 
suspected that even the King had betrayed Mm, and he loudly 
blustered about resigning the Great Seal — of course, without 
for a moment having had any such intention. The worst of it 
was, that, in virtue of his oiHce of High Steward of the Uni- 
versity, he ought to have officiated at the inauguration of the 
new Chancellor. Thus he poured forth Ms grief in a letter to 
Sir William : — ■ 

" I have written to the King, to know whether any part of my con- 
duct could justify the Oxford reports, that I had not his support, or that 
he was hurt that I did not give way to Beaufort. From him I have 
had a satisfactory letter. I still think that I can't remain (with the 
public opinion that I have not been supported) where I am ; and 1 per- 
suade myself that if I feel compelled to retire from my great office be- 
cause I don't choose to sacrifice the pretensions of a man long labouring 
for the public, to a fox-hunting Duke, I shall not fail to have your ap- 
probation. I have received a letter from the Duke of llichmond, in an- 
swer to a complaint of mine, that he had no reason to believe 1 had the 
support of Government ! ! ! As to what I am to do about the High 
Stewardship, I am willing to pause : but, upon looking into the statutes 
and my oath of office, I may be called upon to do what I never will do. 
The short result seems to me to be, and perhaps the best result, that a 

P The Duke of Grafton, then Chanoello/ of Cambridge, openly attended the Unitariiui 
meeting house in Essex Street. 


few weeks will send me to dear Encombe as a resting-place between vex- 
ation and the grare." 

He asserted that the Dute of Beaufort's committee' had 
turned the election by voting against him ; and in a letter to 
his daughter-in-law he said, " Aristocratic combination beat 
me, and without combination it could not have hurt me. Of 
private ingratitude I have seen much, that gives more pain 
than the gout. Ingratitude bites hard." 

Among the ungrateful, it is pretty clear that in his own 
mind he numbered George III., whom he considered indebted 
to him for still wearing the crown. The King's letter to 
him, if his Majesty was quite sincere, ought to have appeased 
him : — 

" Windsor Castle, Deo. 16th, 1809. 

"The King has received the Chancellor's letter, and sincerely con- 
■ curs with him in lamenting the issue of the contest at Oxford, both 
on public grounds, and from motives personal to the Chancellor. His 
Majesty desires the Chancellor will feel assured that he has approved 
his conduct throughout the whole course of this business, as well 
by allowing himself to be named a candidate, and as continuing sc 
to the close of the poll : his Majesty being very sensible that he 
could not, with honour or with advantage to the general cause, retire, 
after his friends had been engaged to support his well-founded pre- 

" Geoege E." 

Notwithstanding his professions of entire belief in the 
King's good faith, the following letter to Sir William, I 
think, indicates that suspicions on the subject still haunted 
his mind, and that he was reconciled to the notion of retain- 
ing the Great Seal chiefly by considerations that this course 
was for his ovm advantage : — 

" If I doubted the King's good faith, I should not hesitate one mo- 
ment ; but considering what we were pledged to, with reference to Mm, 
before this unfortunate business was engaged in, — to stand by him on Ms 
account, and on tliat only, — if he has kept good faith, I doubt whether 
I can contribute to the immediate destruction of the Administration by 
my resignation, and whether then I shall not be told that I have ruined 
the K., as T have ruined the D. of B., more especially as the question, of 
its existence, if 1 remain, is probably a question of a week or a fortnight. 
Independent of this, all my own reasoning, and every fact you state to 
me, make resignation the step I ought to take ; and this I must discuss 
with you when I see you. 

" Tonrs, 


302 LORD ELDON. Chap. CC. 

It required little persuasion on the part of Sir William to 
drive away this fancy of resignation, by which the Chancellor 
himself could not have been for a moment deceived, for he 
would quite as soon have put a voluntary end to his natural 
as to his official existence. 

As long as George III. was able to execute the functions of 
government, Lord Eldon served him zealously and faithfully, 
and perhaps their friendship did not suffer any abatement ; but 
I do not subsequently find any marks of fond intercourse 
between them as in former times, and the Chancellor now 
began to strive gradually to insinuate himself into the good 
graces of the Prince of Wales. 

Certainly the situation of Mr. Perceval's new Ministry- 
seemed very inauspicious. It had serious dangers to en- 
counter from the distractions which still prevailed in the 
Tory party, and it had to undertake the defence of the 
Walcheren expedition, which was not more disastrous than 
ill-planned, — while the Orders in Council were rapidly 
tending to involve us in war with America. 

The last session of Parliament held while George III. 
actually sat upon the throne began in January, 1810, 
' ' . ' and was very tempestuous. Lord Eldon was suffer- 
ing from ill-health, and he took no part in the debates 
respecting the Walcheren expedition and the warlike opera- 
tions in the Peninsula ; but he was forced up to oppose a bill 
which the House of Commons had passed to forbid the 
granting of offices in reversion. He said : " Sir Matthew 
Hale, who would ever continue to be considered as an orna- 
ment, if not an oracle, to the profession to which he had 
belonged, had, he knew, highly disapproved of reversions, — 
as had Lord Coke. But still, their authority was not to be 
decisive of the question. We ought to be cautious how we 
meddled with a system which had been the practice of the 
Constitution for three centuries. He did not deny that some 
good might be effected by judicious regulation, — by the cur- 
tailment of emoluments in some cases, and by their total 
abolition in others. Without inquiry, however, it would not 
become their Lordships to legislate upon the subject ; and no 
inquiry, he believed, would warrant the House in going to the 
length proposed in this bill. Whatever the censure which he 
might incur for his dislike to innovation, he never could con- 
sent to legislate in the dark ; but he protested against being 
considered as the enemy of all refoim, merely because he was 


averse to reform which he could not understand. He had him- 
self procured reversions for members of his own family, as former 
Chancellors had done, — and certainly without the smallest 
conception that he was doing any thing of an objectionable 
nature. Having done this, he now desired to avow it ; though 
certainly the value of the offices so bestowed by himself, 
altogether, was not sufficient to make the validity or invalidity 
of the gifts a matter of any great uneasiness to the expectants." 
The hill was thrown out by a majority of 100 to 67.'' 

The Chancellor was next alarmed by a bill of Sir S. 
Romilly's, which had passed the Commons, to abolish the 
punishment of death for the offence of privately stealing in a 
shop to the value of 5s. Commenting upon a very just 
observation, that " certainty is of more importance than 
severity of punishment, with a view to deter from the com- 
mission of crimes," he chose to represent that those who were 
for mitigating the severity of the penal code wished that each 
offence should invariably be visited by the same degree of 
secondary punishment, — whereas they only contended that 
the highest punishment that it would be proper to inflict in 
any case should be defined — leaving extenuating circum- 
stances still to have their due weight. After contending for 
the necessity of some discretion being left in the judge, he 
said, "I remember a whole family indicted before me for 
stealing a single sheep. It was a case of peculiar hardship. 
These poor people were driven to the commission of a capital 
crime by the pressing calls of famine — exhausted nature, no 
longer able to bear the restraint of human laws, threw aside 
every consideration of honesty, and these unhappy wretches 
committed an offence which subjected them to a capital 
punishment. Now, my Lords, no man living could say that 
this was a case where the judge should have no discretion. 
There is no man living who could go through such a trial 
without feeling that he should commit a greater crime than 
the unhappy wretches themselves, if he permitted the law to 
take its course. — I shall now mention a case where the 
principle is applicable the other way. It likewise occurred 
before me, during thesht)rt time I had the honour to be Chief 
Justice of the Common Pleas. A man was indicted for 
stealing a horse, of the small value of 7s. 6d., and which he 
had sold for that sum to a horse-butcher. The jury found 
him guilty, and you will be surprised perhaps to leana, that 

4 IS Pari. Deb. 59?, 600. 

304 LORD ELDON. Chap. CC 

for so trifling an offence I suffered the law to tate its course. 
The punisliment of death, for this offence only, might appear 
extremely harsh; but, my Lords, in this instance 1 was 
guided by the nature of the evidence in the course of the 
trial, the detail of which I have now fresh upon my memory. 
It appeared, I think, that on the prisoner were found skeleton 
keys of all the turnpike gates within twenty miles of London, 
which he had manifestly procured for the purpose of canying 
on the regular business of a horse-stealer. 'When we talk of 
the severity of the punishment, the objection to the law is 
much diminished by the practice of it : for it is severe only bj' 
its frequent execution, whereas in practice its execution is 
extremely rare. It is needless for us to differ about theories, 
if the practice reconciles the difference."' — He was thus 
obliged to rely upon the fact that the punishment which the 
law awarded was not usually inflicted ; and he seems to justify 
the principle that to trespass on a common should be made a 
capital offence, because the trespasser may have a pistol or a 
dose of arsenic in his pocket, and ought to be hanged as if 
convicted of highway robbery or murder. I make great 
allowance for narrow-minded prejudice ; but it would be to 
confound all the distinctions of right and wrong not to praise 
the enlightened efforts of Eomilly, and not to censure the 
systematic opposition of Eldon, by which they were long 
rendered ineffectual. The bill was of course thrown out, — 
and, for years following, juries went on finding on their oath 
that goods of the value of 501. were under the value of 5s., — 
judges pronouncing sentences of death which they never 
meant should be executed — in a rare instance, perhaps, a cruel 
or fantastical or careless judge allowing the law to take its 
course, and bringing great scandal on the administration of 

I have sincere pleasure, however, in coming to Lord Eldon's 
able vindication, against Erskine, of the right of the two 
Houses of Parliament to commit for breach of privilege, in 
analogy to the right of courts of law to commit for contempt. 
" He appealed to all the judicial authorities, if the process of 
attachment for contempts was not as much a part of the lex 

' 11 Pari. Deb. 200. confidently expected that a reprieve would 

■ While I went the Oxford Circuit, a man come, and delayed the execution to the last 

was banged at Gloucester by mtetake, from minute. It did come when the executioner 

there having been some delay in forwarding was cutting down the dead man from th* 

the reprieve from Hereford. The sheriff, on gibbet. 

account of the trifling nature of Hie offense 


terrcB as trial by jury. If a similar power were not allowed to 
the House of Commons, how could they possibly exercise their 
inquisitorial functions ? He asked if Lords Somers, Cowper, 
Nottingham, or any of the most illustrious of his predecessors, 
had ever hesitated to commit in cases of contempt ? Nay, a 
case had occurred of a libel upon a decree of his noble and 
iearned friend (Erskine) when holding the Great Seal, when 
the distinguished champion of ' trial by jury ' himself com- 
mitted the parties — a husband and his wife, with their 
attorney — to the Fleet; and very rightly, for they had all 
joined in coinposing, printing, and publishing the libel." ' 

The only other subject on which he spoke during the session 
was one on which 1 always read his speeches with entire 
respect, although I do not agree in their reasoning, — for they 
were spoken with perfect sincerity as well as seeming earnest- 
ness, and many most enlightened men continued to share with 
him the sentiments which he expressed. The Earl of 
Donoughmore having moved that a petition from the Iiish 
Catholics should be referred to a committee of the whole 
House, " The Chancellor declared that he was too sensible of 
the blessings of civil and religious liberty which the country 
enjoyed to risk them on a speculation of which no one could 
inform him the grounds. He would continue to support the 
Protestant Church as by law established, although he might 
be called a bigot or a monk. He did think it but reasonable 
to inquire, before going into a committee, what it was intended 
to substitute in the room of those sacred outworks and bul- 
warks of the Constitution thus asked to be removed. At 
present they knew not even what terms the petitioners would 
be pleased to accept. The proposed Veto he considered 
nothing. That, and other securities talked of, could not be 
conscientiously agreed to by the Eoman Catholics, and dis- 
honest men could not be good subjects. The penal enact- 
ments against them were not framed to disqualify for religious 
opinions, but to guard against the political consequences neces- 
sarily connected with that faith which acknowledged a foreign 
supreme authority. He could never consent, on mere specula^ 
tion, to tamper with the actual state of happiness the country 
enjoyed — a state of happiness from which the Irish Catholics 
were not excluded — and which for a century and a half had 
rendered us the envy of the world. He would not interfere 
with this in the dark, or go into a committee, in which, foi 

' 17 Pari. Deb. B91. 
VOL. IX. * 

306 LORD ELDON. Chap. CCI. 

auglit he yet knew, propositions might be made which would 
render the Protestants in a few months as much the objects of 
commiseration to the noble Earl as the Catholics were at 
present." However, there was now a minority of 68 to 154," 
and hopes were entertained that the relief prayed for would 
soon be granted from a sense of generosity and justice — as a 
boon, — instead of being deferred till it should be extorted by 
combination and violence, when it would lose half its value, 
and would lay the foundation of future perils to the empire. 



In the latter part of the year 1810 it again seemed as if Lord 
Eldon's official career were certainly drawing to a 
close. AU attempts to induce Lord Castlereagh to 
join Mr. Perceval had proved ineffectual; and the Whig Op- 
position, led by Lord Grey and Lord GrenviUe, was becoming 
more and more formidable. But an event which was ex- 
pected to precipitate the fall of the Tories,, in the result kept 
them in power many years. Though they could not have 
stood much longer under their old patron, George III., they 
became irresistible under the Eegency of the Prince of Wales, 
who was as yet believed to be impatient for an opportunity of 
crushing them. 

Parliament stood prorogued to the 1st of Noyember. Before 
that day arrived, his Majesty was labouring under such a 
violent paroxysm of mental malady as to render it utterly im- 
possible for the Chancellor to pass a commission for opening 
the proceedings of the session, or ordering a further proroga- 
tion. Erom former experience we may conjecture that if this 
bold functionary could have obtained the royal signature to 
the commission, he would have considered himself justified in 
acting upon it, without trying the royal competency upon the 
principles which decide the validity of the deeds and contracts 

" 17 Pari. Deb. «1— 440. 


of private individuals;" but, at an interview wMcli he had 
with the King, at Windsor, on the 29th of October, to see 
whotbor there could not be some arrangement for the march 
of pu>)lio business without an open disclosure of the calamity 
-vriib. which the nation was again visited, he found his 
Majesty under physical restraint in the custody of Dr. Eobert 
Willis and other physicians, and the notion of proceeding by a 
commission signed by him was necessarily abandoned. The 
difiSculty of treating with him where writing was required 
was much increased by the circumstance that his eyesight had 
been long decaj'ing, and that he was now nearly blind. 

On Thursday, the 1st of November, the House met, and 
the Chancellor concluded an explanation of the circumstance 
of there being no commission by saying, " It remains forme 
to state that the indisposition of his Majesty has arisen from 
the pressure of domestic affliction operating upon his paternal 
feelings ; and I have the satisfaction to add, that a confident 
expectation is entertained of his Majesty's speedy recovery." ^ 
The King had been much affected by the illness and death 
of his favourite daughter, the Princess Amelia ; but the physi- 
cians, when examined before the Privy Council, said that 
" they could not ascribe his former attacks of the same sort to 
any particular cause." ' The House adjourned for a fortnight, 
and the Lord Chancellor addressed letters to all peers, 
requiring their attendance." At the end of that period, on his 
statement that the physicians were sanguine in the hope of his 
Majesty's speedy recovery, although he had actually been 
supposed to be dying, a farther adjournment of a fortnight was 
agreed to. In answer to an insinuation that a commission 

* It would have been but a small liberty painful to both parties ; and is bighly sen- 

to have passed this commission, for there had sible of the delicacy of the conduct of the 

been an order made at a council, at which the Lord Chancellor, Marquis of Wellesley, and 

King presided, to prorogue Parliameut from Mr. Ryder, to whom she begs her compli- 

the 1st to the 29th of November, and to pre- ments. 

pare a camniission for this purpose. " Our domestic misfortunes are truly se- 

r The following touching note from Queen vers; but I trust Providence will carry us 

Charlotte to Lord Kldon shows that he had through, 

in vain tried to see the King again before "Charlotte." 

going to the House of Lords : — ^ There used to be a strong disposition to 

" Windsor, Nov. 2nd, 1810. impute the King's illnesses to excitement, 

"The Queen feels, more than she has produced by his resistance to Catholic Bman- 

words to express, the attention shown her by cipation ; but in 1?65, in 1JS8, and in 1810, 

the Lord Chancellor and his colleagues, in he was struck by the malady when Catholic 

making an excuse for not calling upon her Emancipation was not talked of, and when 

yesterday. She is perfectly sensible that the his Government was going on very smoothly, 

sahlect It related to would have been equally " 18 Pari. Deb. 1. 

X 2 

308 LORD ELDON. Chap. CCl. 

might have heen produced for proroguing Parliament, Lord 
Grey said, that "it Ministers had ventured to do any act 
which by the Constitution can only flow from the personal 
exercise of the royal functions, they would have merited the 
strongest reprehension of every reflecting man, and that the 
indignation of the whole country would have been most justly 
excited.'"" At the next adjournment the Lord Chancellor 
excused himself for not alfixirig the Great Seal to a commis- 
sion without having the sign manual of his Majesty — darkly 
hinting that he might have done so. "If he had acted 
wrong," he said, " he wished their Lordships to decide. He 
had acted unquestionably according to his conscience, and that 
told him he had acted as he ought. Their Lordships would 
bear in their recollection that the monarchy was hereditary, — 
that the King of this country was King in his infancy — his old 
age — in health and in sickness ; and if they should transfer 
the exercise of the royal functions from him, they did away 
with his authority altogether." " There was a division on the 
motion for a further adjournment, which was carried bv 88 
to 56. 

The Whigs, confident in the delusive hope thai they were 
to step into office as soon as a Eegency Bill passed, were for 
pushing on proceedings as expeditiously as possible ; and the 
Ministers^ with equal certainty considering this as their death 
warrant, struggled to defer it by all practicable delays. 

At last, committees of both Houses were appointed to 
examine the King's physicians, — when some very curious 
information was elicited respecting the present and former 
illnesses of his Majesty, and the manner in which his Ministers 
had communicated with him."* 

The mode of proceeding to provide for the exercise of the 
royal authority being debated, the Chancellor strongly argued 
for following the precedent of 1789, and declared that "for 
his own part, as the Great Seal was entrusted to him by his 
Majesty, he therefore would not give it up till he knew that 
some one was legally appointed to receive it out of his 
hands." " He denied that the Prince of Wales could have 
any right to govern during his father's lifetime ; he main- 
tained that the office of Kegent could only be created by Act 

b 18 Pari. Deb. 6, 14, 18. nature of the ofBce, and the purposes for 

<^ The vice of this reasoning is, that it re- which it exists, 

gards only the individual supposed to be on <1 18 Pari, Deb. tS — 229. 

iji throne,— utterly forgetting the hereditary » lb. 468. 

A.D. 1811. THE "PHANTOM." 309 

of Parliament; and declared that any address of the two 
Houses to the Prince of Wales, asking him to exercise the 
prerogatives of the Crown, would be treasonable.' 

Nevertheless, all the Princes of the blood royal (including 
the Duke of Cumberland) joined in a solemn protest against 
those proceedings, " as perfectly unconstitutional, and subver- 
sive of the principles tlmt seated their family upon the throne 
of these realms." This was forwarded to the Chancellor with 
the following note : — 

" Thursday (Deo. 20th). 
" My dbae Lord, 
" I cannot without feeling the greatest regret enclose to you a paper 
signed, as you will see, by all of us : not from its contents being con- 
trary to the bearings of my mind, which has, God knows, been occupied 
for some time upon this unfortunate calamity, but from there appear- 
ing a difference of opinion between yourself and myself; and I believe 
you cannot doubt, if ever one man is sincerely attached to another from 
having the highest veneration, esteem, and, I may add, a sort of filial 
love, that man Is myself, and it Is therefore a most painful task' for me 
to differ on this occasion ; but I hope and trust that this will be the 
<mly time. For the hurry and bad writing of this note excuse me, but 
I am anxious you should receive this 3.s early as possible. 

" Believe me, 

" Yours very sincerely, 


While this discussion was pending, an incident arose which 
verj' strikingly showed how the two Houses of Par- jan. 5, 
liament were usurping kingly power. An issue of ^''"• 
money was wanted from the Exchequer for the army and 
navy, and it could not by law be obtained without the royal 
sign-manual. Lord Bldon, the prop of the monarchy, and the 
stickler for ancient rules, joined in a resolution of the Lords 
and Commons,' by which the money was ordered to issue, 
even without going through the form of forging the King's 

At length the " phantom " appeared ; and while the unhappy 
King was universally known to be under necessary coercion, 
and wholly unconscious of what was passing beyond the walls 
of his own apartment in Windsor Castle, the Lord Chancellor 
ordered the Commons to be summoned, to hear read a com- 

f 18 Par). Deb. 713. signed by all the Eoyal Dnkcs. 

* A protest against this resolutioa was *» 18 Pari Deb. 79a. 

310 LOKD ELDON. Chap. CCI. 

mission wliich he liad received from his Majesty ; and, when 
they had arrived at the bar, he thus proceeded : — 

" My Loi-ds and Gentlemen : Forasmuch as for certain causes his Ma- 
jesty cannot conveniently be present here in his royal person, a commis- 
sion has been issued, under the Great Seal, authorising the Lords in the 
said commission named to declare the causes of your meeting, and to do, 
in all respects, in his Majesty's name." He then, " by the authority in 
his Majesty's commission, and in his Majesty's name, called their atten- 
tion to the afflicting circumstance of his Majesty's indisposition, and to 
the necessity of making due and suitable provision for the care of his 
Majesty's sacred person, the maintenance of his royal dignity, and 
the exercise of his royal authority, in such manner and to such extent 
as the exigency of the case appeared to require." ' 

When the Eegenoy Bill came up from the Commons, and 
the clause was discussed vesting the patronage of all the 
household ofSces in the Queen, Lord Lansdowne moved, as 
an amendment, that the arrangement of those offices should be 
made by a separate Act of Parliament, to be subsequently 
passed. This being strongly opposed by Lord Liverpool, 
,Lord Grey sharply assailed the Chancellor, who was supposed 
to be trying to defeat a previous resolution which, against the 
strenuous efforts of the Ministers, the Lords had passed, — ■ 
" That the Queen's authority should be limited to the sole 
direction of such portion of his Majesty's household as should 
be deemed requisite and suitable for the due attendance on his 
Majesty's sacred person, and the maintenance of his royal 
dignity," — saying, that "the effect of the enactment in its 
present shape would be to give the Queen about forty-seven 
appointments, and the Eegent only two. The noble Lord, 
he believed, was actuated by conscientious feelings ; the 
frequency of his appeal to those feelings was evidence of their 
sincerity, and he besought him, therefore, to indulge the same 
Honourable sentiment in the discharge of his political, as he 
was proverbially accustomed to do in his legal and judicial, 
functions. Suppose the case (and he put it directly to the 
noble and learned Lord, who had high judicial duties to per- 
form in another place) of a person deceased, by whose will a 
portion of the estate was directed to be applied to the support 
of the aged widow, while the remainder was to devolve to the 
eldest son, for the general purposes of maintaining himself 
and the members of the family in the rank and station to 
which they belonged. Would the noble and learned Lord 

i 18 Fai-l. Deb. 829. 

A.D. 1811. HIS DEFENCE. 31] 

interpret the intention of tie testator to be, that forty-seven 
shares (for that was the proportion of the household to be 
given to the Queen) should belong to the widow, and two to 
the heir? With respect to that part of the bill which pro- 
vided for the resumption of the royal authority upon his 
Majesty's recovery, he would say that no one — not even any 
of the noble lords on the other side of the House— would more 
sincerely rejoice at the arrival of that period than himself; 
but he must have other authority for the fact of such recovery 
than the mere putting of the Great Seal to a commission in 
his Majesty's name. Considering what had taken place on 
two former occasions, when it was notorious that the Great 
Seal had been employed, as ii by his Majesty's command, at a 
time when he was under the care and actual restraint of a 
physician, for a malady similar to that by which he was now 
afflicted, the noble and learned Lord must excuse him for 
saying there must be better authority produced than his 
declaration, for his Majesty's recovery. Nothing short of an 
examination of. the physicians by their Lordships could afford 
that proof of it which would satisfy his mind." 

The Lord Chancellor left the woolsack, and said, — 

" The allusions of the noble Earl were so marked that he could not the feeling they had excited, nor omit to take the earliest op- 
portunity of answering them; and he trusted, therefore, that the com- 
mittee would pardon him for trespassing on their attention! If he had 
occasionally referred to the rule of his own conscience, it was because 
that was the rule by which, from the outset of his public life to the pre- 
sent hour, he ha4 endeavoured to regulate his conduct. Confident in 
the probity of his intentions, and assured of the integrity with which 
he had laboured to perform his official duties, both to the Sovereign 
and the public, he would now repeat that he not only did not decliiie, 
but distinctly-challenged, the strictest inquiry into his conduct. Kor 
would he scruple to declare that no fear, no influence of any kind, should 
deter him from doing again what he had already done, if he conceived it 
necessary to the interests of the King his master, or of the country 
at large. Of his Majesty he never could speak without gratitude for 
the favours, the obligations, the King had heaped upon him ; nor think 
without the acutest sensibility of that unhappy malady by which his 
Sovereign was oppressed. Eeports of physicians should not operate, 
nor threats within or without the doors of that House, to prevent 
him from exercising his own judgment in whatever regarded the inter- 
ests of his royal master. Rather than desert his allegiance by shrinking 
from any step pointed out to him by his duty and his office, he would 
bear to perish ignominiously on the scaffold. In every case which might 
arise, he would act upon his official responsibility, and, content himself 

312 XOKD ELDON. Chap. CCL 

with leaving the conseqxiences to Heaven. In what he had done upon 
the occasion alluded to by the noble Eail, he had pursued, under the 
Bolemu obligation of an oath, the course which his judgment prescribed 
to him. ' He felt himself, therefore, superior to the uncalled-for imputa- 
tion of the noble Earl ; and, until his country should tell him he had 
done wrong, he should rest satisfied with his own conduct in that mat- 
ter. No man was entitled to charge him with a criminal act. He had 
long and faithfully served a most gracious master, at the most critical 
moment this countiy had ever known." After praising his own exer- 
tions to put down treason and sedition, which, with the personal charac- 
ter of the Sovereign, he said had saved the country, he thus continued : 
— " Into the transactions of 1801 and 1804, I again say that I challenge 
the strictest inquiry. The opinions of physicians, though entitled to 
great attention, are not to bind me absolutely ; I must act, and I 
have always acted, on my oath and to the best of my own judg- 
ment : charges, therefore, and menaces ai-e indifferent to me. Let them 
come, — I am ready to encounter them : impavidum ferient. To the 
daily scandal poured out against me, I will not condescend to reply ; 
nor will I ask of the noble Lord to trust me. I have beei\ attacked and 
reviled ; but I disregard it. Actions which I have never done have 
been imputed to me, and actions which I have done have been swollen 
and distorted by misrepresentation and calumny. In the newspapers I 
may read to-morrow, as I have often read before, sentiments and expres- 
sions attributed to me of which I am totally unconscious ; but all this I 
can view without pain. I never refer to those diurnal publications with- 
out discovering errors and misrepresentations as to myself ; but the 
consciousness of rectitude and integrity is sufficient to sustain my equa- 
nimity. I have been significantly asked whether I would supersede a 
commission of lunacy against the opinion of physicians. / have often 
done so." Perhaps I may have been wrong in so doing ; but again I 
repeat, I have acted on my conscience. With respect to the clause now 
under consideration, I will say, using an expression which I borrow 
from one well skilled in the science of human nature, that I know not 
how ' to disquantity the train ' " of my royal master. I am asked what 
I would do in the Court of Chancery if the present clause came before 
me in connection with the resolution on which it is founded ? I answer, 
that the resolution is not of such certainty that a Court could deal with 
it at all. If I am asked my own view, I say that I deem the whole of 
the household to be ' requisite and suitable for the due attendance on 
his Majesty's sacred person and the maintenance of his royal dignity : ' 
those are the words of the resolution, — and therefore, according to the 
principle of that resolution, the whole of the household ought, in my sin- 

• A seemingly bold assertion ; but I think But tbe King's physicians, whom he rathel 

the true meaning must be, that he super- tries here to depreciate, although eager to 

BPded commissions of lunacy, some physi- give the most favourable account possible, 

ciiins swearing that the party was still a lu- had unanimously agreed in hte Majesty's 

natic, while others, on whose judgment he incompetency, 

more relied, swure to a perftct recovery. *" j^uiy Lear, Act 1. Scene 4. 

A.D'. 1811. HIS DEFENCE. 313 

cere opinion, to lie in the gift of her Majesty. In saying this, I speak 
with the same tender regard to conscience as if I were acting in a judi- 
cial capacity. I will tell this House, — I will tell every man who hears 
me, — I will tell all his Majesty's subjects, — that the last thing I would 
do in the Court in which I sit would be to remove from any man, 
labouring under an affliction such as has unhappily befallen his Majesty, 
the comforts which become his condition, and to which he has been ac- 
customed. For myself, let me but see my Sovereign well, and then let 
roe depart in peace. 1 cannot take my heart out of my breast and for- 
get that my most gracious master is a man. Let those who can do so, 
do it. I am not made of such impenetrable stuff ; 1 have neither the 
nerve nor the apathy requisite for such stem and unrelenting duty. 
Until his Majesty shall vacate his throne by descending into his grave, 
to no other person shall I acknowledge myself a subject. Before I sit 
down, I Dtust make my solemn protest against the principle upon which 
the proposed distribution of the household patronage is argued ; as if 
the government of this country could not be carried on, except upon a 
system the most unconstitutional, the most degrading, and I will even 
say the most Jacobinical, that was ever suggested by the most invete- 
rate enemies of the Constitution. What ! are your Lordships to be told 
that no Master of the Horse, no Groom of the Stole, no Lord Steward 
of the Household, has the least consideration for the country, — but that 
their votes in this House will be controlled and directed by those to 
whom they owe their respective appointments ? If this be the case, 1 
have got, at the end of my life, into such company as I never was placed 
in at the beginning of it. But 1 cannot believe that the noble persons 
about me — the descendants of those whose virtues and talents adorn the 
history of this great country — can be influenced by the unworthy mo- 
tives thus ascribed to them. The Eegent, to be sure, will be subject to 
restrictions ; but the King himself, in this country, is a limited monarch. 
His Majesty, whatever his mental state, must be King until he descends 
into the grave. I can never discharge it from my recollection, that the 
Committee has two objects to accomplish : it has to provide for the 
stability and security of the government ; but it has also to provide for 
the safe and effectual resumption of the royal functions on the part of 
his Majesty, whenever his recovery shall be fully ascertained. I feel the 
importance of the former consideration ; but I feel also that, in taking 
care for his Majesty's restoration to his government, we are providing in 
the most effectual manner for the true interests and for the ultimate se- 
curity oi" the state. Your Lordships, therefore, should not diminish the 
splendour that surrounds his Majesty, but preserve it in all its pleni- 
tude. I remember, and with a satisfaction which will terminate only 
with my life, the part which I took in the discussions of 1789 : 1 will 
act on the same principles now. My conduct on that occasion obtained 
for me the approbation of my gracious master, as 1 trust will my con- 
duct in the present crisis. 1 have no reason to change the opinion 
which I gave in a former debate respecting the probabilities of his re- 
covery. Far from it : for, in addition to what I then said, I have now 

314 LORD ELDON. Chap. CCI. 

the satisfaction of acquainting the House that his actual state gives in« 
creased expectations of that happy result. I am not ambitious of con- 
tinuing in place ; I am incapable of entertaining any interested views at 
such a period as the present." The report states, that " he concluded a 
speech, delivered throughout with peculiar solemnity of manner, by re- 
peating his regard and veneration for his Majesty, and his intention to 
oppose the amendment." ° 

In spite of these arguments, and the hardy announcement 
of the improvement in his Majesty's health which -was cal- 
culated to have still greater weight, the amendment was car- 
ried by a majority of 107 to 9S.° 

Three days after, the Chancellor, feeling that he had been 
rather damaged in his rencounter with Lord Grey, took the 
opportunity of an amendment being moved by Lord Grenville 
for the purpose of accelerating, the determination of the re- 
strictions on the Eegent, to renew his defence : — 

" I repeat my denial," said he, " of the charge v?lth which I was 
assailed on a former evening. There are many noble lords now present 
who well know how complete a, justification I possess against all the 
accusations aimed at me. Nay, some of those who formed pari of an 
Administration vidth me, and acted with me then, sit now on the bench 
with my accusers, and must be oonviuoed that all I said in my vindi- 
cation is strictly true. What I did, I did with the concurrence and 
with the approbation of all my colleagues ; but I would have done it, 
even had I differed from every man among them. Nay, I. say that, 
acting conscientiously, so help me God, 1 could not have done other- 
wise than I did. Whilst 1 have the approbation of my own conscience, 
I am ready to incur every risk, and siibmit to aU the responsibility to 
which I am exposed by the faithful discharge of my duty. But what, 1 
will ask, is the nature of the crime imputed to me ? Why, that on the 
occasions in question I acted in obedience to his Majesty's commands. 
What would the noble Earl (Lord Grey) have thought of my conduct, 
if I had refused compliance ? What kind of crime would the noble 
Lord have held me guilty of, if I had dared to disobey the positive com- 
mands of the Sovereign ? I acted then upon my conscience, and to the 
best of my judgment : my rule of conduct is the same on this occasion. 
I vidll act on my oath, in despite of the opposition of the whole world. 
It is my opinion, so help me God, that there is a most material amend- 
ment in his Majesty. It is little more than forty-eight hours since I 
had an opportunity of ascertaining this improvement ; ^ and I trust in 

° 18 Part. Deb. 1016. requires time. In the midst of this state, It 

" 18 Pari. Hist. 1026. is impossible to conceive how right, how 

P In an account of the same interview, in pious, how religious, how everything he 

a private letter to Sir William, he says, — " I should be, he is, with the distressing aber- 

saw the King on Saturday for much more rations 1 allude ta" — Not quite so encourag- 

Vhan an hour. He is not well, and, I fear, ing ! 


God that my gracious, master will live many years, to be, as he has 
always been, the benefactor of his siibjects." 

In delivering tMs very indiscreet address, which takes a 
false issue on tlie fact, Lord Eldon really seems to have 
thought that he was sitting in the Court of Chancery, and 
lecturing a young barrister who would not dzxe to reply to 

Lord Grey, as might have been expected, rose with calm 
dignity, and, by an appeal to dates and events which could 
not be controverted, made good his charge. After taTmting 
him with his delusive language about the King's speedy re- 
covery, he thus proceeded : — 

" In performing what I conceive to be my duty to your Lordships 
and to my country, I am bound to arraign the noble and learned Lord 
for an offence little short of high treason. In bringing this accusation 
against the noble and learned Lord, I will not conceal that it is my in- 
tention to deal as severely with him as I possibly can ; but, at the same 
time, as justly as the importance of the question and the solemnity of 
the case require. The rigid and impartial line of public duty I shall 
strictly observe towards the noble and learned Lord, determined that 
neither his agitation nor his tears shall deter me from arraigning him, 
if I shall find that he has been guilty of what I cannot but consider all 
but treason. The noble and learned Lord asks, ' What is the designa- 
tion of that crime which a public servant would commit in refusing to 
obey the just commands of his Sovereign ? ' I acknowledge that would 
be treason to the Sovereign ; but with my answer I beg leave to couple 
another question : What, I ask, would be the character, what the appro- 
priate pxmishment, of his offence, who, knowing his Sovereign to be act- 
ually at the time incompetent, — who, in the full conviction of his noto- 
rious and avowed incapacity, and whilst he was under medical care and 
personal restraint, — should come here and declare that there was no 
necessary suspension of the royal functions ; — who, under such circum- 
stances, should, in his Majesty's name, and under the pretext of hii 
Majesty's commands, put the royal seal to acts which could not be legal 
without his Majesty's full and complete acquiescence? What, I ask, 
would be the crime of that man who should venture to take such a 
course? I do not hesitate to pronounce his offence to be treason 
against the Constitution and the country. — With respect to the conduct 
of the noble and learned Lord on those former occasions to which I before 
alluded, it is now in evidence before your Lordships, that, as well in the 
year 1801 as 1804, the King's name had been used to public acts, and 
the royal authority exercised, at a time when, according to the evidence, 
his Majesty was personally incapable of exercising his royal functions. 
His Majesty's malady began about the 12th of February, 1801, and con- 
tinued without remission till the beginning of March. Your Lordships 
Will iBcoUect that councils had been held, and members sworn in, dur- 

316 LORD ELDON. Cuap. CCL 

lug that interval. The foreign relations of the country, too, had mean- 
while undergone a material change. Sweden, which had been our ally, 
assumed a hostile aspect, and acceded to the Northern Confederacy ; and 
even considerable expeditions were equipped and sent out. Subsequent 
to that date, too, about the 17th of March, another council' was held, 
and members sworn at it. Here I must beg the attention of your 
Lordships to the circumstance that, about the 14th or 16th of June fol- 
lowing, even after he had been declared to be fully recovered, his Majesty 
had a relapse, which, though it did not last long, required the aid of attend- 
ance. All this took place in 1801. — In 1804 I was a member of the 
other House, and, from the anxiety felt by the public upon the subject, 
I considered it my duty to put a question to the noble Viscount on 
the cross bench (Sidmouth), then a member of the other House, re- 
specting the state of Ms Majesty's health ; and, though my noble 
friend at first endeavoured to shift and evade the question, upon being 
pressed he ended with saying that ' there was no necessary suspension 
of the royal functions.' To a similar question put in this House, the 
noble Lord upon the woolsack returned a similar declaration. Certainly 
the noble Lord opposite (Lord Liverpool) had made such a declaration, 
and that was afterwards confirmed by the noble Lord on the woolsack, in 
this House. Now, by referring to the evidence of T)-. Heberden, your 
Lordships will find that at that very period his Majesty had been ill, 
and continued in that state from the 12th of February, 1804, to the 
23rd of April following, when, I believe, he presided at a council — a 
circumstance which most probably considered as sufiicient proof 
that his Majesty was well enough to resume his royal authority, 
Within that interval, viz. on the 9th of March, a commission was issued 
under his Majesty's Great Seal for giving the royal assent to fifteen dif- 
ferent bills which had passed the two Houses. But still more — the 
noble and learned Lord had, on the 5th of March, an interview with his 
Majesty, in consequence of which he felt himself warranted in declaring 
to your Lordships that his Majesty's intellects were sound and unim- 
paired. But will this House consider a hasty opinion, formed during 
such an interview, which may have taken place at a lucid interval, suf- 
ficient to outweigh the evidence, upon oath, of physicians regularly and 
constantly in attendance ? Will you not, on the contrary, be convinced 
that it would be a direct breach of the Constitution for the highest ofB^ 
cer in his Majesty's service to venture, under such circumstances, even 
during a lucid interval, to take his Majesty's pleasure upon high mat- 
ters of state ? I will put it even to the noble and learned Lord himself, 
whether, in the case of a private individual, who should have continued, 
from the 12th of February to the 23rd of April, in a state of lunacy, 
and might within that period have been induced by an attorney to make 
a will, that noble Lord would consider such a will valid ? If the tmns- 
action should subsequently be submitted to the Court of Chancery, 
what would be the feelings of the Court ? what its just reprobation of 
the conduct of the attorney ? — The charge, therefore, which I have to 
make upon the noble Lord before your Lordships, and in the face of the 


amntry, is this— that he has culpably made use of the King's name 
without the King's sanction, and criminally exercised the royal func- 
tions when the Sovereign was labouring under a moral incapacity to 
authorise such a proceeding ; and with such a transaction in your 
view, I will ask your Lordships whether you will suffer this bill to 
pass without making effectual provision to prevent the recurrence of 
similar circumstances ? whether, if you should omit to make such pro- 
vision, you will perform your duty to the public, whose interest you are 
bound solemnly to secure and to protect ? In the evidence of Dr. Rey- 
nolds it appears that, when the King removed to Kew in 1804, he had 
himself ceased to attend him, — and for this reason, that ' it would 
have a better appearance with the public' It was also apparent from 
the evidence, that his Majesty was then, and till October continued to 
be, in such a state as to require medical attendance. I am prepared 
also to assert, and challenge the noble and learned Lord to deny the fact, 
that Dr. Simmons and his attendants had not only been in attendance, 
but exercised control over his Majesty, until the 10th of June. For 
my own part, I shall never consent to suffer a Lord Chancellor, a 
Lord Keeper, or any man, or set of men, however great or distin- 
guished, to possess himself or themselves of the royal authority under 
such circumstances, and exercise the functions of the Sovereign." 

Lord Sidmouth took upon himself the responsibility of all 
that had been done in 1801 and 1804; but Lord Moira re- 
newed the charge against Lord Eldon, and contrasted his con- 
duct with that of Mr. Pitt in 1788, who had never once acted 
in the King's name when the King was incompetent. 

Lord Eldon again rose, and said : — 

" I cannot forbear to observe how unfair it is to select me individually 
from the Ministers of 1801 and 1804, and make me the constant object 
of attack. Noble lords should have done me the justice to state that 
the course then adopted was upon the opinion, not of myself individually, 
but of the Administration generally ; upon the unanimous opinion, I am 
proud to say, of many great and honouraVile meu with whom I then 
acted. I think I could satisfy any candid man of the propriety of my 
conduct both in 1801 and in 1804. In ISO! I had not been a mem- 
ber of the GoveiTiment till the 14th of April, when I accepted the 
Seals in circumstances wherein I could have no motive for it but the 
commands of his Majesty ; and after the 14th of April I knew of no act 
done which would fall within the objection advanced on the other 
side. In 1804, several distinguished noblemen, now present among 
your Lordships, were members of the Cabinet : one of them was a noble 
Lord opposite (Earl St. Vincent), who was then First Lord of the Ad- 
miralty, and who, after being present at the examination of the physi- 
cians, concurred with the rest of the Cabinet in the conduct then pur- 
sued. The physicians having been all agreed that on the 9th of March 
his Majesty was tuUy competent to do the act which they had advisc/l 

318 LORD ELDON. Chap. CCI. 

him to perfoiin, the question now is, whether, under that medical au- 
thority, I was right in doing what I did for the transaction of most im- 
portant business, or whether I ought to have left the country to shift for 
itself. If I had entertained the smallest doubt of his Majesty's compe- 
tency to direct a commission for giving the royal assent to the bills 
which then awaited that sanction, 1 should have done one of two things : 
either I should have taken upon myself to affix the Great Seal to 
that commission and have applied to Parliament ior an indemnity, 
or 1 should have come to the House and made the same declaration 
as on the 1st of November, 1810. And, even if the evidence of the 
physicians had been less decided than it was, I assert it to be most im- 
portant to the Sovereign that a Chancellor be not wholly determined by 
medical opinions, so as to suspend the royal authority where he himself 
thinks the King fully competent to exercise it. It does not follow, be- 
cause the physicians all concurred in the acts then done, that I am guilty 
of any inconsistency in saying now, that, whatever might be the report 
of the King's physicians, I would not consent, on that mere report, to 
dethrone his Majesty, while I myself, in my judgment and conscience, 
believed the King adequate to the discharge of the royal functions. I 
must be permitted to state, that the great man who was then at the 
head of the Administration (Mr. Pitt) afterwards expressed some surprise 
when he found that it had been my fixed resolution never to see his May 
jesty at any time when he could be considered under tJie control of 
others, or in presence of any persons who might he considered as ex- 
ercising any control over him. My interviews with his Majesty at that 
time were always in the absence of such persons ; and it was my firm 
conviction that I was warranted in the course that was then adopted. I 
knew the dangers of this proceeding, but I knew iny duty too, and had 
determined to see my Sovereign, and judge of liis complaint, when he 
was as free from restraint as any of his subjects whom it has been my 
painful duty to examine under similar ciroiimstances. This was very 
hazardous to myself ; but I did my duty without being deterred by fear 
of consequences. His Majesty, on the 9th of March, understood the duty 
which 1 had to perform better than I did mvselt ; this 1 believe I can 
prove. If I did act wrong, it was with the best intentions, and those 
will acquit me in the sight of God, if not in the opinion of my country." 

Earl Grey, to justify his selection of a particular Minister, 
on this occasion rejoined, that 

" The Constitution of the country always selects for respODsibilify 
the individual Minister who does any jarticular act ; and it was 
tipon this ground that he had singled out the Lord Chancellor from 
the rest of his colleagues upon a question of affixing the Great 
Seal. For thia he was individually responsible. The Constitution 
knew nothing of the committee called a Cabinet. Every individual 
Minister was responsible for his own conduct. If ever the time should 
come when it might be thought necessary to call the serious attention of 
thn to the conduct of the noble and learned Lord, the House must 


determine simply on the propriety of his conduct, and not upon thjj 
purity of his intentions, or the coincidence of other people with his 
opinions. As to the statement of the noble and learned Lord ahouit 
his never visiting his Majesty in the presence of persons under whose 
control he might he supposed to he, he should only observe, that it was 
not the removal of the persons appointed to control his Majesty from the 
room in which he saw his Chancellor — ^it was not their removal from an 
ante-chamber, that would justify a Minister in acting as the noble and 
learned Lord had done. The absence of all idea of control from his mind 
was necessary, before the Chancellor could have, in his name, exercised 
the royal authority, and adopted a line of conduct which, in this case, 
he could consider as nothing less than usurpation. It appeared from the 
evidence, that from the 12th of Februaiy up to the 23rd of April, and 
even so late as the 10th of June in that year, his Majesty had been at- 
tended by Dr. Simmons and his servants, who did exercise a control 
over the mind of his Majesty. He did not mean to say that this con- 
trol was constantly exerted, or that those persons were present when the 
Sovereign was visited by the noble and learned Lord ; but there was a 
knowledge in the King's mind that those persons were in attendance, 
and could he brought forward to control him whenever it might be 
judged necessary. If such had been the circumstances in a fonner case, 
he should now call upon their Lordships, as peers of the realm, as here- 
ditary guardians of the Constitution and of the liberties of the people, 
not to suffer this usurpation to pass without taking effectual measures 
to prevent the recurrence of such conduct in future. On the 7th of 
May, 1804, at the time his Majesty was thus under control, the union 
of the two great political rivals (Mr. Fox and Mr. Pitt) had been in con- 
templation, but had been prevented. This too was a subject for serious 

Lord Grenville's amendment being negatived by 139 
against 122,'' thei clause appointing the Queen's Council came 
next, — when Lord King formally raoved the omission of Lord 
Eldon's name : — 

" The noble and learned Lord," he said, " had been repeatedly charged, 
in the course of these debates, with a violation of his duty as Lord Chan- 
cellor. After the imanswerable manner in which the charge had been 
established against the noble and learned Lord, it was urineeessary to 
enter into the subject farther than simply to repeat that it had been 
proved by the evidence of the King's physicians, taken on oath, that in 
1804 his Majesty's illness had continued from the 12th of Februaiy to 
the 23rd of April, in which interval the Great Seal was affixed to two 
commissions, one dated the 9th, and one the 23rd, of March ; and that 

1 18 Pari. Deb. 10S4. I have been told by Lord Eldon interrupted him, and said, " How 

a peer who was present at this dt-bate, that can any one call me friend who charges me 

Lord Grey having called Lord Eldon on one with such villany?" 
occasion his "noble and learned friend." 

320 LORD ELDON. Chap. CCI. 

the Lord Chancellor had also signified his Majesty's consent to the Dnke 
of York's Estate Bill, being a public bill affecting the interests of the 
Crown. The noble and learned Lord, having thus, in consequence of his 
own erroneous view and strong bias, been instrumental to deceive the 
House and the country in 1804^ was an improper person to be placed on 
the Queen's Council, because, if appointed to a seat in it, he, from his 
high station and legal character, would be the party to decide on the 
competence of the Sovereign." ' 

Hansard represents that Lord Eldon remained silent, and 
merely gives the numbers when the House divided ; but I 
have been informed by a gentleman who was then standing 
on the steps of the throne, " that his Lordship, in spite of his 
usual self command, was thrown into a transport of passion; 
that he spoke some words in an angry tone, which were 
hardly intelligible ; that it was an affair only of a few mo- 
ments, and that, not having time to cool, he rashly called for 
a division, — thinking that Lord King would walk below the 
bar alone."' 

The CONTENTS were 54 ! ! ! the not contents 129 ; and a most 
bitter protest, fully reciting the evidence of. the physicians, 
and ,the acts of parliament passed while the Sovereign was 
incompetent, was signed by Lord Grey, Lord Lauderdale, 
Lord Holland, Lord Erskine, and other Peers.' 

In the House of Commons, too, a violent attack was made 
on Lord Eldon by Mr. Whitbread for having usurped royal 
authority during the King's incapacity, particularly in the 
year 1804. His Lordship complained of having been feebly 
defended by his colleagues ; but there was a majority in his 
favour of 198 to 81." 

These assaults upon him were greatly encouraged by the 
extreme sensibility he ex.hibited under them. Soon after- 
wards he said to Lord Sidmouth, — " I am like a thing that 
is raw; why am J, thus singled out?" " First," replied his 
Lordship, "because you are eminent; and, secondly, because 
you are sore." " 

' 1 8 Pari. Deb. 1086. passing ; and when 1 am attacked day by day, 
• My infonnant adds, — " I was next to Mr. and every man who was with me in Ad- 
Hand, the putee-bearer, who was greatly dis- ministration in 1804 is obstinately holding 
turbed by his master's temper so completely silence, and the whole royal family, whose 
getting the better of his judgment." protestations of gratitude my boxes teem 
' 18 Pari. Deb. 1031—1087. In the midst with, are among my enemies, God help me, 
of this badgering he thought himself very ill- if 1 had not the moans of proving that 1 have 
used, not only by the Opposition, but by his nothing to fear." 
old colleagues and by the royal family. " 10 Pari. Deb. 87. 
Thus he wrote to his brother. Sir William : — * Life of Lord Sidmouth, ilL 37. 
" I am hardly in my right mind upon what is 


The recollection of these scenes caused to Lord Eldon a 
distress of mind which shows that he possessed much more 
sensibility than he had credit for with those who thought that 
he cared for nothing but present power and emolument. 
When years had gone by, he was walking with a contempo- 
rary, likewise a high dignitary in the law, to whom he said, 
" No doubt the world regard me as a prosperous and happy 
man : the prosperity I admit ; but the happiness I deny." Being 
asked to explain how he could be unhappy in the midst of all 
his prosperity, he aUuded to the division on Lord King's 
motion, saying, " It makes me very unhappy, as I fear it will 
lead posterity to entertain a very unfavourable opinion of my 
conduct and character." '' 

I think Lord Eldon would have done better by resting his 
defence on the necessity of the case, and the difficulties and 
evils which must have arisen from following a contrary 
course. The fact that he did allow the King to sign com- 
missions for passing bills, — to swear in privy councillors, — and 
to do other important acts of state, when his Majesty was 
wholly incompetent from mental disease, was before abun- 
dantly clear, but is now placed beyond all. controversy by 
the correspondence upon the subject recently communicated 
to the public. For example, the period beginning from the 
14th of April, 1801, is one of " the two fits of insanity," in 
which Lord Eldon, in his letter on the dissolution of Parlia- 
ment in 1807, says that he " attended him." But I must 
repeat my humble opinion, that between the acts of an Eng- 
lish sovereign, for which there is always a responsible adviser, 
and the execution of a deed, will, or contract by a private indi- 
vidual, there is no strict analogy; and that, " regard being 
had" to all the circumstances of the case, both in 1801 and in 
1804 Lord Eldon deserved well of the country by assuming 
the competency of the King, instead of suspending the func- 
tions of the executive government, conjuring up " the phan- 
tom," and having debates on a Eegency Bill, which would 
have been stopped before tiiey had made much progress by 
the King's entire recovery. Indeed, those ought to be the 
least scrupulous who think that the constitutional mode of 
proceeding upon such an emergency is for the Heir Apparent 

y The gentleman from whom I have the it cootains any portion of troth, it provei 

above anecdoteshrewdly adds,— "This may that he was not Uke some we have known, 

have been the indulgence, without any ap- who seem at least to be reckless of reputa- 

parent motive, of bis haWt of canting; but if tion, present or future." 




Chai-. CCS 

to take tlie regency upon himself as a matter of right — until 
the moment arrives when the afflicted Sovereign may he pro- 
perly superseded. Any such attempt at either of the periods 
in question 1:o vest in the Prince of Wales the exercise of the 
prerogatives of the Crown would have produced civil war. 

The Eegenoy Bill having passed both Houses, the Great 
Seal was put to a mock commission for giving the _ royal 
assent to it ; and the Lord Chancellor, with other dignitaries 
named in it, having summoned the Commons to the bar, he 
said, " My Lords and Gentlemen, by the commands, and by 
virtue of the powers and authority to us given by the said 
commission, we do declare and notify his Majesty's royal 
asnent to the Act in the said commission mentioned, and the 
clerks are required to pass the same in the usual form and 
words." Accordingly, the Deputy Clerk of the Crown hav- 
ing read the title of the Bill, and the clerk-assistant of the Par- 
liaments having bowed to the empty throne, the words were 
shouted out, " Le Roi le veut,'* whereupon the Kegency was 

* 18 Pari. Deb. 1124. 

At the end of the rule of Oeoi^ III., I 
may appropriately introUuce Lord Eldon's 
opinion of him, and some anecdotes respect- 
ing him, as related to me by a gentleman 
who lived with Lord Eldon on the most fa- 
miliar terms for many years:— "He often 
declared, upon his honour, that he thonght 
his old master had more wisdom than all his 
Ministers conjointly,— an opinion which 1 
have beard him support by declaring that he 
could not remember having taken to him 
any state paper of importance which be did 
not alter, nor one which he did not alter 
for the better. But it ought to be added, 
that this opinion of the superior wisdom 
of George III. was qualified by the ad- 
dition, ' Not that I mean to assert that he 
would have been more wise if his oppttrtu- 
nity of gaining knowledge bad not been 
greater than that of any of bis servaats. 
But what is the experience of the oldest of 
them in comparison of his ? And though his 
manner of stating the result of that experi- 
ence is calculated to mislead casual observers, 
yet those who will dive-st his matter of 
his manner must come to the conviction 
that It has been gathered by long and la- 
borious application of powers of no ordinary 
strength.' " 

** After the lOnga mind had become a 
HTwic, dut when ^s native strengLh could 

be traced only by the * method of madness,' 
Lord E. >rould sometimes describe it, after 
he had been at the Queen's Council. The fol- 
lowing is an instance of this, of which I retain 
a perfectly clear recollection :— It was agreec^ 
he related, that if any strong feature of the 
King's malady appeared during the presence 
of the council. Sir H. Halford should, on re. 
celving a signal from me, endeavour to recall 
him from his aberrations ; and, accordingly, 
when his Majesty appeared to be addressing 
himself to two of the persons whom he mosi 
favoured in his early life, long dead, Sir H. 
observed. ' Your Majesty has, I believe, for- 
gotten that and both died man) 

years ago.' ' True,* was the reply, ' died to 
you and to the world In general ; but not to 
me. You, Sir H., are forgetting that I have 
the power of holding intercourse with those 
whom you call dead. Yes, Sir H. H.,' con- 
tinued he, assuming a lighter manner, ' It is 
in vain, as far as I am concerned, that you 
kill your patients. Yes, Dr. Baillie;— but 
Baillle— Baillie,' pursued he with resumed 
gravity, ' I don't know. He Is an anatomist' 
he dissects his patients; and then it would 
not be a resuscitation only, but a re-creation ; 
and that, I think, is beyond my power.' " 

'* After his Majesty had, In 180?, changed 
the Ministry which was so unpalatable to 
him, I re-appearing as Chancellor in Uiy 
former offidkl attire^ the King asked, ta i 


Iiord Eldon had laid his account with being now " restored 
to_ a life of privacy at sweet Encombe," of which he talked 
with seeming delight, but to which he looked forward with 
real dismay. The Ministers and the Opposition had fought 
the Kegency Bill to its last stage, in the full belief that as 
soon as it passed they were to- change places, — the former 
striving to prolong the interregnum, and to curtail the power 
of the Regent — the latter, to invest him as soon as possible 
with the unrestricted exercise of all the prerogatives of the 
Crown. But to the unspeakable surprise of both parties, on 
the day before the mockery of giving the royal assent to the 
bill, his Royal Highness wrote a letter to Mr. Perceval, in 
which he declared that, " actuated solely by filial duty and 
affection, and dreading lest any act of his might in the 
smallest degree interfere with the progress of his father's re- 
covery, he felt it incumbent upon him to communicate his 
intention not to remove from their stations those whom he 
found there as his Majesty's ofBcial servants." — This intelli- 
gence did not cause either high exultation or deep disappoint- 
ment. The good faith and political steadiness of the Prince 
were not yet suspected, and it was believed that the change 
of Administration was only decently deferred till it was seen 
whether the predictions of the King's speedy recovery would 
be verified, or at all events till the expiration of the restric- 
tions imposed by the Regency BUI. 

Some said that the Chancellor had already gained over 
the Prince, and a letter was quoted, which his Royal High- 
ness had vyritten to him a few months before, respecting the 
Princess Charlotte, in which this courteous language occurred : 
" I trust to the very particular attention which has marked 
your Lordship's proceedings through the whole of this busi- 
ness, to take the most suitable course of conveying to the 
King, with the most profound respect and duty on my part, 
the feelings with which I am impressed on this occasion by 
his Majesty's most gracious and condescending attention to 
me." But, in reality, the zealous and fectious manner in 
which Lord Eldon and Mr. Perceval had taken part, with the 
Princess, and had printed " the Book" in her defence, still 
rankled in the Prince's heart ; and thoy knew that, wishing to 
be revenged of them, he was only lying by for a favourable 
opportunity to cashier them. Accordingly, for some months 

whisper, 'My Lord, is not that the old wig?' wig,'— the r^oinder was, • I say, Lord C. 
and receiving the reply, ' It is Sir, the old why did you keep am old Whigf • " 

Y 2 

324 LORD ELDOir, Chap. CCI» 

there was undisguised enmity between the Eegent and his 
Ministers. He talked of them disparagingly, and gave 
dinners at Carlton House to the Whigs. He would not even 
accept a vote offered him of a sum of money to provide for 
his household — intimating that he postponed all such ar- 
rangements till he could have his " early friends " in office 
about him. The Queen and Lord Eldon, on the other hand, 
did all in their power to defeat this purpose, — ^their most 
powerful weapon being the King's immediate resumption of 
his authority. On the 6th of February the Queen wrote a 
letter to Lord Eldon, thanking him " for the pleasing account 
of his Majesty's improvement since Friday;" and the phy- 
sicians, at his request, sent a report to him, to be handed 
about, in which, considering the unhappy condition of the now 
dethroned Sovereign in their keeping, they strangely say, 
" We have it in command from his Majesty to express his per- 
sonal regard to yoxir Lordship, and the particular satisfaction 
he has felt from the circumstance of your Lordship being 
made one of her Majesty's Council, — not by your office of 
Lord Chancellor, but as Lord Eldon." ' 

But in the course of a few weeks, if hopes of the King's 
recovery really were entertaiaed, they died away. It was 
felt that his reign was virtually at an end, and that those who 
wished to enjoy power must gain the favour of the Prince 
as if he already bore the title of George IV. Lord Eldon, 
with his usual sagacity, at once saw that the way to win his 
aifections was by taking part against his wife. It was not 
very easy for the authors of " the Book " to do so ; but soon 
after Lord Eldon and Mr. Perceval were in the situation of 
Chancellor and Prime Minister to the Eegent, they refused to 
dine with the Princess at Blackheath, — ^they cut off all corre- 
spondence with her, — and they bought up at large prices the 
few copies of "the Book" which had got into circulation. 
When she found herself suddenly " cut " by them, without 
there having been hitherto any fresh imputation of miscon- 
duct against her, she complained loudly of the " baseness of 
mankind." '' We shall see how the Eegent was softened towards 

* It would be curious to know whether his spectiog her past conduct, except Lord El- 

Majesty had been informed of Lord King's don's declaration to Loni Grey, " that hij 

motion to exclude him from the Council, and opinion was, and always had been, that, 

what his Majesty thought of it. though she was not with child, she had sup- 

b There is no evidence of their having posed herself to be with child." (Lift of 

ihangod the tone uf thelT conversation re- Sir S. Romilly, iii. 104.) 


his Ministers, and haw he appreciated and rewarded their 
sacrifices and their exertions in his service. 

Meanwhile, they applied themselves with diligence and 
ahility to their official duties, and continued to rise in public 

The session began for regular business on the 12th of 
February, with a speech delivered by Lord Eldon in the 
Eegent's name, containing this graceful conclusion : — 

" We are commanded by his Royal Highness to declare to you that it 
is the most anxious wish of his heart that he may he enabled to restore 
unimpaired into the hands of his Majesty the government of his king- 
dom ; and thus his Royal Highness earnestly prays that the Almighty 
may be pleased in his mercy to accelerate the termination of a calamity 
so deeply lamented by the whole nation, and so peculiarly afflicting to 
his Royal Highness iumself." " 

The first important matter brought forward in the House 
of Lords was the abuse of the power of filing ex officio 
infoi-mations for libel. Sir Vicary Gibbs, who in 1807 had 
succeeded Sir Arthur Pigot as Attorney-General, had in- 
stituted an immense number of prosecutions against the 
press ; and when he resolved to punish a newspaper, he made 
it a rule to include as defendants, who were to be fined and 
imprisoned, or perhaps pilloried, all persons, without regard 
to age, sex, or calling, who, under family settlements or 
otherwise, had any share in the proprietorship."" Lord Eldon, 
when public prosecutor, had ncTer himself done anything 
personally harsh, and I think he could not have been aware 
of Sir Vicary's mode of proceeding when he wrote the follow- 
ing letter to Sir William Scott, regretting that there had been 
too much forbearance in this department : — 

" As to the prosecution of the ' Morning Chronicle,' and as to your 
friend Cobbett, I know what I should have done as to those publica- 
tions long ago, if I had been Attorney-General ; but it seems to mo that 
ever since my time it has been thought right to leave the Government's 
qharaoter, and individual character, without the protection of the law 
enforced, because I had proved its efflcaoy when it was called into exer- 
tion. I am very sore upon this subject ; I have growled and grumbled 
about it till I am weary." 

« 18 Pari. Deb. 114t. about fifty othera, to plead to informations 

d I remember much compassion being ex- against them. She had been residing in the 

cited by an old widow lady, of the name country, and never even read any nuraben 

of Mrs. Maiy Vint, who appeared on the of the Journal, from which, under her hu» 

floor of the Court of King's Bench, with band's will, she drew a small subsistence. 

326 LORD ELDON. Chap. CCI. 

Incited by his own peevish disposition, and encouraged by 
his superiors, Mr. Attorney had gone on multiplying ex officio 
informations till much public indignation was caused by his 
severity. Lord Holland now moved for a return of the 
number filed, and the proceedings under them. He ques- 
tioned the legality of ex officio informations for libel, and he 
strongly reprobated the manner in which the process had 
been abused, animadverting upon the statute lately obtained, 
which enabled the Attorney-General to arrest those whom he 
prosecuted before trial ; and likewise on the partial system of 
striking special juries which then prevailed. 

Lord Eldon ably and successfully defended the right of the 
Attorney-General to prosecute libellers by ex officio informa- 
tion ; but the rest of his speech I read with regret. He 
maintained that the power of arresting the defendant when an 
ex officio information was filed was fit to be given, and to be 
exercised ; and he stood up strenuously for the old mode of 
striking special juries by selection, which was afterwards effec- 
tually rectified by Sir Kobert Peel : — 

" He believed that no Attorney-General had prosecuted more libels 
than it had fallen to his lot to prosecute. He acted on a conviction, 
that the publication of libel was one of the most formidable weapons 
then wielded against the Constitution, and that it was an engine which 
was directed to the subversion of the government of the country. It was 
his decided opinion, that the mere fact of the number of prosecutions 
having increased was not a sufficient ground for inducing them to accede 
to the motion of the noble Lord. With respect to including all the pro- 
prietors of a newspaper in the ex officio information, he was desirous of 
stating, that the principle which governed him on these occasions was 
to prosecute all the parties implicated in the publication of the libel ; 
and he had uniformly found, that by extinguishing the papers he got rid 
of the authors. The present motion was one which he felt it incumbent 
on him to oppose, because an acquiescence In such a motion would, in 
some degree, sanction a suspicion that there was something in the ad- 
ministration of justice which the House considered so far improper as to 
need some interference." " 

It seems wonderfiil to think, that so few years ago such 
sentiments could be uttered by a mild, moderate, and really 
good-natured man, who justly expected that they would be 
applauded by a large majority of the audience he addressed. 
Lord Holland's motion found only twelve supporters.' I 
believe there is no peer who would now hold such language ; 
and I am sure, if there were, he would be equally condemned 

" 19 Pari. Deb. 158. f Ilx Hi. 


by both sides. The general improvement ought to make us 
look with indulgence on the individuals who spoke and acted 
in a very different state of public feeling respecting libels. — 
I think no one will deny the improved respectability of the 
press under milder treatment. 

The Lord Chancellor's efforts were next called forth by a 
dangerous bill, — to take away the punishment of death from 
the offence of stealing in a dwelling-house to the value of 
forty shillings. In answer to the reasoning of Lord Holland 
and Lord Erskine, that the punishment was wholly dispro- 
portionate to the offence, and that, if not inflicted, sentence of 
death ought not to be pronounced, in cases where it was never 
meant to be carried into execution, he said, " he used to take 
similar views ^of the subject, before observation and experience 
had matured his judgment : since, however, he had learned to 
listen to these great teachers in this important science, his 
ideas had greatly changed, and he saw the wisdom of the 
principles and practice by which our criminal code was regu- 
lated. The Bill having taken away the pain of death, allowed 
the Judge great latitude of discretion in measuring out the 
punishments to be substituted for it ; but, after the most 
serious consideration, it was the conviction of his mind, tha,t, 
as long as human nature remained what it was, the apprehen- 
sion of death would have the most powerful co-operation in 
deterring from the commission of crimes ; and he thought it 
unwise to withdraw the salutary influence of that terror." s 
He concluded without intimating any intention of extending 
the punishment of death — which, to be consistent, he ought to 
have done — to petty larceny and to common assaults. The 
bill was rejected by a majority of 27 to lO."" 

Lord Donoughmore's motion for the Catholics was this year 
supported by Dr. Bathurst, the Bishop of Norwich. On him 
the Lord Chancellor was particularly severe —taunting him 
with not paying proper respect to the Book of Common 
Prayer. He said " he could hardly tell where he was, — he 
could not think himself in a British House of Lords when he 
heard some things uttered that night. He denied that the 
authority of Archbishop Wake, which had been quoted, was 

S 20 Pari, Deb. 296. severity of the penal code wbut I presume 

Ii lb. 303. It is little creditable to the the division did not take *^ce till the ap- 

Whig peers that they made so poor a proach of the hour for dinner, when a party 

muster, for they all now pretended zealously struggle alone can keep up a decent attiiad- 

to support Sir S. Eomilly in mitigating the ance on either side. 

328 LORD ELDON. Ciup. CCI 

in favour of concession; lie had read something of Arch- 
bishop Wake (having been himself in early life intended for 
the Church), and he could quote him page by page. He 
could also quote Fenelon on some of these subjects." ' Pro- 
fessing high respect for Mr. Pitt, he declared, rather jeeringly, 
that he never could discover v(rhat the securities were by 
which that statesman proposed to guard the Established 
Church ; and he scorned lie Veto which had been lately pro- 
pounded by Lord GrenviUe in a "Letter to Lord Fingal."'? 
It is creditable to Lord Eldon that his anti-Catholic zeal was 
unabated, although the Eegent was understood yet to retain 
. his early opinions in favour of emancipatipn. There were 
certain concessions which he would have made out of loyal 
deference to the Prince on the throne, but his religious 
scruples, I am convinced, he never would have sacrificed. 

The only other subject on which he spoke during the pret 
sent session was one in which he was personally interested, 
and which caused him serious annoyance — the increasing 
arrear of judicial business in the Court of Chancery, and in 
the House of Lords. Here he was to blame, but not at all 
in the way his accusers alleged. Years ago he ought to have 
spontaneously pointed out the evil and applied a remedy. 
The country had long outgrown its judicial establishments, 
and the antiquated procedure preserved in Westminster Hall 
was unsuited to a state of society quite different from that in 
which it had been originally framed. In the Court of Chan- 
cery there were stiU. only two Judges, the Lord Chancellor 
and the Master of the Eolls, as in the time of Edward I., 
and for ages past not the slightest attempt had been made 
to render proceedings in that Court more simple, economical, 
and eflBcaoious, — while its contentious jurisdiction had been 
greatly extended, and the property administered in it had 
increased ten-fold. — Again, in the early periods of our judicial 
history, a few days in a year were sufficient to enable the 
House of Lords, with the assistance of the Judges, satisfac- 
torily to discharge its duties as the Court of the last resort ; 
but now, from English equity appeals', which were formerly 
unknown, and the enormous influx of appeals from Scotland 
and Ireland in consequence of the union with those kingdoms, 
although comparatively little help could be obtained from 

i This is a very rare instance of Lord affectation of universality. 
Eldon pretending to a knowledge of any tiling It 20 Pari. Deb. 6T6. 
but law booiss, for he was greatly above tlie 


the Judges, — the Chancellor sitting in the House of Lords 
had nearly sufficient occupation there during the whole of the 
forensic year. 

There is not the slightest pretence for saying that Lord 
Eldon neglected his judicial functions. In critical times of 
rare -occurrence, he naturally coiisidered his intriguing funo- 
tions more important; but the Administration being safe, he 
devoted himself with the most unremitting assiduity to de- 
termine the causes of the suitors which came before him. 
He often doubted when he might have safely decided, and he 
might have got through his paper more rapidly — but he 
actually did dispose of more business than any one judge 
could reasonably be called upon to undertake. Yet, having 
been ten years Chancellor, he had introduced no reform, 
althoiigh he daily saw justice denied to hundreds. For a long 
wbUe, in the Court of Chancery, no cause could be regularly 
heard by him, the whole of his time being occupied with mo- 
tions and irregular attempts to force an opinion from him. 
In the House of Lords there were depending 296 appeals, 
and 42 writs of error, which could not on a moderate com- 
putation be disposed of in less than seven sessions of Par- 

The outcry was at last so loud, that Lord Eldon slowly 
and reluctantly referred the subject to a Select Committee of 
the House of Lords, in which he moved, " That, to reduce the 
arrear, it would be expedient for the House to sit, for judicial 
business, at least three days a week during the session ; and 
that, for securing the Lord Chancellor's attendance in the 
House of Lords, an additional judge should be appointed in 
the Court of Chancery." Little good being expected from 
these palliatives, a motion was made in the House of Com- 
mons for a similar committee. Sir 8. EomiUy, ia supporting- 
it, bore testimony to Lord Eldon's judicial merits, saying, 
" The motion would not convey, either directly or indirectly, 
any mark of censure upon the noble and learned Lord ; and 
he did assure the House that nothing could give him greater 
concern than to be thought to consent to any motion which 
could in any way be construed into a desire to reflect upon 
the conduct of that noble and learned Lord. No man had 
experienced more uniform acts of kindness than himself from 
the noble and learned Lord. Indeed, his general attention 
to the Bar, his conciliatory demeanour, and his strict love of 
justice, had endeared him to all the gentlemen who practised 

330 LORD ELDON. Chap. CCI. 

in that Court. A man more eminently qualified, in point of 
talents and learning, for all parts of his profession, lie knew 
not ; and he most firmly beKeved that he never had his equal 
in point of anxiety to do justice to the suitors of the Court. 
If he had any fault, it was an over-anxiety in that respect." 
The committee was carried by the casting vote of the Speaker, 
but it had made no progress when its labours were termiaated 
by the prorogation. 

Lord Eldon was, and to, the end of his official career con- 
tinued, much annoyed by these discussions. He now wrote 
to his friend Dr. S-wire : — 

" I need not tell you that I have been sorely goaded and 
vexed and tormented this session; but I defy all my foes, 
and a man cannot have had the duties to execute in life which 
I have had to discharge without having many and bitter 
foes." He then adds (with what sincerity the reader must 
determine for himself) that he continues, much against his in- 
cUnation, to retain the Great Seal, and to encounter all these 
evils purely from his attachment to the good old King, and in 
the hope of again seeing him on the throne, being resolved, as 
soon as that hope had fied, to retire into private life, and to 
take a ride to Eldon : — 

" Of my poor old master I don't despair, though I do not 
confidently hope, about him. When I give up the Seal, you 
may look upon that as an act of despair : for though the 
Regent has certainly conducted himself to me, personally, in 
every respect as well as I could desire, I serve only that my 
master may find me at my post if he returns to his ; and when 
I give up the hope of that, I have done. I cannot quit the 
expectation of a ride with you yet to Eldon, and nobody can 
say how soon that may be." 

It seems 'to me that, being at the head of the Queen's 
Council, and possessing her Majesty's entire confidence, he 
wished to preserve the state of the King's health a mystery 
in his own keeping, — to be turned to his own advantage. 
A le'tter to him from Lord EUenborough respecting " the 
questions which we ought to put to the physicians," shows 
that he had been trying to repress the inquiries of all the 
other councillors, — while he had special reports made to 
himself : — 

" Mt dear Lobd, 
" I have had some conversation this evening with the two Archbishops 
I own I am very much inclined to donbt the propriety of any opinion 1 


may have formed, if it differs from yours ; but agreeing, as I fully do, 
that our declaration to the Privy Council need only contain a brief, true, 
and distinct statement of the King's health, encumbered with as little 
further circumstance as possible, still I think that for our own informa- 
tion, and for our justification with the world, if it should be hereafter 
inquired of us what information we had in fact obtained at the time 
when our statement was made, that we should distinctly know, by pre- 
cise questions put and answered, what the King's ailment actually is, 
and by what symptoms and circumstcmces of conversation and conduct 
it is now manifested, — and also, what is the description and character 
which we ought properly to ascribe to the deliisions (as we call them) 
and what to the irregularities and extravagances of plans and projects of 
which we hear daily. 

" This information, when obtained, is for ourselves and to oursehes 
only, unless Parliament should require it of us — and if they do, I own I 
should be sorry to own that we were possessed of no fuller and more 
distinct information than we are at present enabled to, lay before them 
on this subject. I should be sorry that we should in the judgment of 
any appear to have inertly and insufBciently exercised a function of in- 
quiry so important as that is v.-hioh is delegated to us." "" 

The following minute report from the Duke of York to the 
Chancellor must have made him think of renouncing the 
Great Seal, or of changing his resolution to do so when the 
King's recovery was hopeless : — 

" Upon my arrival yesterday momiug, I found his Majesty in the 
Queen's room. He appeared at first very much affected at seeing me, 
and expressed himself in the kindest and most affectionate manner upon 
my re-appointment to the chief command of the army ; but soon flew off 
from that subject, and then ran on, in perfect good humour, but with 
the greatest rapidity and with little or no connection, upon the most 
trifling topics, at times hinting at some of the subjects of his delusion, 
in spite of all our endeavours to change the conversation. This con- 
tinued the same during his ride and the whole of the Queen's visit 
in the afternoon ; and though this morning his Majesty was quieter and 
less rapid in the change of his ideas, yet the topics of his conversation 
were equally frivolous. 

" I was so much shocked at what I had observed both on Wednesday 
and during the different visits of yesterday, that I took an opportunity, 
when I left his Majesty yesterday evening, to have a conversation with 
Dr. Eobert Willis, who very candidly stated to me his opinion, that his 
Majesty had lost ground this week, and that though he thought very 
seriously of the state of his bodily health, he was much more alanned 
at the apparent frivolity, or rather imbecility, of his mind. He added, 
that something ought to be done ; but that, in the present state 0/ 

' April 3rd, isil. 

332 LORD ELDON. Chap. CGI, 

his Majesty's mind, it was in vain to hope that any conversation 
with him would be attended with any good effect." 


In reality the tinliappy King became worse ard vyorse; 
and at a council held at Windsor in the end of August, it 
was known that he had fallen into a state of incurable im- 

" Love oft hopes, when Reason would despair," — 

and perhaps Lord Eldon still was only desirous that Ms old 
master, remounting the throne, might find him at his post; 
but I cannot help suspecting that this was a sigbt he never 
expected to see, and that he had made up his mind, for the 
public good, to remain at his post under George IV., if he might. 
He and Mr. Perceval accordingly contemplated the fit mea- 
sures to be taken at the important crisis when the restrictions 
on the Eegent were to expire — which would be on the 1st of 
February, 1812, if Parliament had been sitting six weeks 
previously. Mr. Perceval, in a letter to the Chancellor soon 
after the last sitting of the Queen's Council, having expressed 
regret at not being able to have a personal interview with 
him, thus proceeds : — ■ 

" I must, however, content myself pfith opening the subject by letter, 
on which I should have had to communicate with you in person if 
we were to meet. It respects no less a matter than the meeting of Par- 
liament. It must meet and sit, you know, for six weeks before the re- 
strictions of the Regency Bill can expire. The day pointed out in the 
Act for their expiration is the 1st of February. If Parliament does not 
meet before Christmas, of course the restrictions must be prolonged from 
the 1st of February for six weeks from the date of its meeting. Under 
these circumstances, I think we can hardly pass over the next proroga- 
tion without knowing the Prince's pleasure, whether he thinks it so 
material that the Regency restrictions shall expire on the 1st of Febru- 
ary, as to make it necessary that Parliament should meet before Christ- 
mas. This is a point so very much of feeling for H.B.H. himself, and 
in which he is so directly and personally interested„that I cannot but 
think myself he ought to have it submitted to his most free decision, 
with as little opinion and advice from his servants upon the point as can 
be. But if he should determine, as hs naturally may and probably will, 
that Parharaent shall so meet as that the restrictions shall expire on the 
day mentioned, it is a pretty material consideration, on which we should 
form an opinion, whether it should not meet so long before Christmas 
as to enable us to arrange, before the Christmas vacation, the house- 
hold and any other questions which Parliament may have to provide 


* * * * " To conclude : upon these questions, and such as may be 
connected with them, I think it will he essentially necessary that we 
should have our Cabinet friends meet in force, eithtr in the last week in 
September, or the first week of October ; and they ought to know what 
the business is, and that it is probable they may be detained for a few 
days. I should like, therefore, to know from you what time, which 
would answer these purposes, would best suit you to be fixed for the as- 
sembling our Cabinet friends." 

The object now was, instead of weakening tlie influence of 
tlie Eegent by rumours of the King's speedy recovery, to 
strengthen it by a disclosure of his Majesty's actual condition. 
Accordingly, on the 5th of October, the "Declaration of the 
members of her Majesty's Council respecting the state of his 
Majesty's health " amounted in reality to a proclamation that 
there had been a demise of the Crown, and that George IV. 
had begun to reign — this being its language : — 

" His Majesty's mental health appears to us to be materially worse 
than it was at the time of our last report, and, upon the groimds of the 
protraction of the disorder, the present state of it, the duration of acces- 
sions of the disorder, and the peculiar character which the disorder now 
assumes, his Majesty's recoveiy is represented as ' improbable ' by one 
of the physicians, and as ' very improbable ' by all the other physicians , 
in attendance on his Majesty." ° 

The Eegent, expressing satisfaction at the generous sug- 
gestion by his Ministers, of an early meeting of the Legis- 
lature, whereby the speediest end might be put to the restric- 
tions which they had imposed upon his exercise of the royal 
authority, intimated his wish that the session should not 
begin sooner than was necessary for the despatch of ordinary 

On the 7th of January, the day appointed. Lord Eldon, in 
the name of the Eegent, decently reminded the two ^ ^^ j^^^ 
Houses" of "the indispensable duty of continuing to ' ' 
preserve for his Majesty the facility of resuming the personal 
exercise of his royal authority in the happy event of his reco- 
very, so earnestly desired by the wishes and the prayers of 
his family and his subjects." But it was well understood on 
all sides that the Prince of "Wales, under the title of Eegent, 
was as firmly seated on the throne as if his father had been 
dead ; no one thought of proposing a renewal of the restric- 
tions ; and it was generally expected that when the six weeks 
from the meeting- of Parliament allowed by the Begency Act 

" 21 Pari. Deb. 50. 

334 LORD ELDON. Chap. CCI. 

for that purpose had expired, all the great offices tinder the 
Crown would be in possession of the oft-disappointed Whigs, 
who at last, after a lapse of above half a century, having a 
favourable court, would see a return of the halcyon days en- 
joyed by their party from the death of Queen Anne till the 
accession of George III. 

But, alas ! alas ! the Eegent had secretly made up his mind 
for ever to discard his " early friends," and permanently to 
retaiii as his Ministers the men who had long thwarted him in 
all his wishes, and for whom he had expressed and felt the 
strongest personal as well as political dislike. Various causes 
have been assigned for this revolution of sentiment. The 
most creditable one, and that which we are bound to suppose 
had considerable weight, was, that the military operations in 
the Peninsula had been going on prosperously under the pre- 
sent Administration ; but this alone could not have prevailed, 
for Mr. Perceval was not looked upon as a great war minister, 
and sections of the Tory party, headed by Lord Castlereagh 
and Mr. Canning, were hostile to him, while he was hardly 
^ble to cope with the systematic opposition of Lords Grey and 
Grenville. A more probable solution is, the effect of the 
possession of royal power, which was supposed to have dis- 
inclined his Eoyal Highness to any concession to the Catholics 
or any extension- of popular rights, and induced him to look 
with preference to those who were for carrying to the highest 
pitch the power of the Crown. His Eoyal Highness certainly 
did at a subsequent period manifest an entire change of opi- 
nion on the question of Catholic emancipation, and showed 
that he had become thoroughly reconciled to his father's high- 
prerogative principles of government ; but I am inclined to 
think that as yet he was actuated only by personal motives. 
A lady of rank to whom he was now much attached was an 
enemy to the Whigs and their principles, and was supposed 
mainly to have induced her admirer to declare against them." 
Perhaps, however, he was more swayed by hatred than by 

** Of this opinion was Sir S. Eomilly. In tholics w^icli tlie Prince manifested when he 
referring to the Judgment of the House of became Begent, and his determination to 
Lords in Miss Seymour's case, in 1806, he place his confidence in those Tory Ministers 
says, — " This decision was attended, some whom he had always before considered his 
years afterwards, with consequences of con- personal enemies.'* — Jjyfe cf SomiHy, ii. 146. 
siderable Importance. It occasioned a great Again, when relating the events in the he- 
intimacy between the Prince and Lady Hert- ginning of 18ia, at which we have now ar- 
foni,whichendedwithber entirely supplant- rived. Sir Samuel says, very significantly, 
ing Mre. Fitzberbcrt in the Prince's favour ; " The Prince does not pass a day without 
and it produced tUit hostility towards the Ca- visiting Lady Hertford." — ^Vol. iii. p. 12. 


love. His ruling passion for, many years was the dosiie to 
expose the failings of his w-ife — if possible to get rid of her 
— and at all events to degrade her. Mr. Perceval and Lord 
Eldon, instead of being the bitterest, most reckless, and most 
formidable opponents of his plans for this purpose, as they 
had been while her protector George III. was on the throne, 
he now sanguinely hoped to convert into partisans against 
her. They had actually ceased to be her advisers, or to have 
any intercourse with her. There is no reason to believe that, 
without fresh indiscretions on her part, either of them ever 
would have agreed to any prosecution against her ; but from 
their late negative conduct the Eegent might not unnaturally 
have hoped that they would positively assist him in the steps 
which he contemplated. I believe, likewise, that he laboured 
under an erroneous belief that during the last year her cause 
had been taken up by the Whigs. One or two distinguished 
lawyers belonging to that party had been consulted by her 
when she was cast off by her former advisers ; but Lords 
Grey and Grenville had always remained at a dignified dis- 
tance from her, and would have spurned at the idea of turning 
her supposed wrongs into an engine of faction against the 

"Whatever might be his Eoyal Highness's reasonings or 
motives, a few days before the restrictions were to expire he 
veiy clearly intimated his resolution to renounce the Whigs, 
by writing a letter to the Duke of York, in which, after 
stating that his sense of filial duty had originally induced him 
to retain his fe.ther's Ministers, — adverting to the recent 
successes in the Peninsula, and declaring his determination to 
persevere in the contest, — he said, " I have no predilections 
to indulge, no resentments to gratify, no objects to attain, 
but such as are common to the whole empire. Having made 
this communication of my sentiments in thia new and extra- 
ordinary crisis of our affairs, I cannot conclude without ex- 
pressing the gratification I should feel if some of those per- 
sons, vdth whom the early habits of my public life were 
formed, would strengthen my hands and constitute a part of 
my Government." He authorised the Duke to communicate 
these sentiments to Lord Grey, with liberty for him to make 
them known to Lord Grenville ; but he added, in a postscript, 
" I shall send a copy of this letter immediately to Mr. Per 
ceval." " 

P 22 Pari. Deb. 39. 


I am surprised that Lord Eldon, witli his keen sagacity, 
did not immediately see that this offer could not possibly be 
entertained by the Whigs for a single instant, and that it 
was made with the sole view of rendering the desertion of 
them less odious. As soon as he was informed of it he wrote 
the following letter, which I think is very honourable to him, 
for he peremptorily refused to sanction such a preposterous 
coalition, although, if it had taken place, the Great Seal 
would have remained in his custody. 

" Saturday. 
" Deab Pekcbval, 

" As it may not be absohitely impossible that, in the course of this 
day, during my absence at Windsor, something may pass, tending to a 
proposal to associate me in a talk with Xords G. and G. upon junction, 
peimit me to state, in a few words, that my determination to take no 
part in that talk is founded upon the following reasons ; and, if necessity 
requires it, you may so state to the Regent : — 

" That 1 think it not consistent with my honour to take part in a 
negotiation for a junction, in which junction I can take no part. I can 
take no part in it — 

" Because, having been twenty-nine years in Parliament without de- 
viating, as far as I can recolleot, from my principles with respect to the 
Constitution of the country and the means of supporting its Monarchy, 
there appears to have been, in that long course of years, no agreement in 
those principles between Lord Grey and myself. 

" Because there was no such agreement between Lord Grey and Lord 
Grenville between 1783 and 1801. 

" Because there has been no such agreement between them and my- 
self since 1801. 

" Because my decided opinion is, that all attempts at making strong 
Administrations upon broad bottoms must be known, to those who are 
practised politicians, to be frauds upon the country originally, — and 
frauds which, whether such politicians know that or not, can no 
longer be effectually practised upon the country. The great mass of 
the people, through many ranks of which I have passed, I know, 
hold the thing, and the men that are engaged in it, in utter detestation, 
producing absolute weakness in Govenmient, and of course deeply affect- 
ing the interests of the Crown. 

" Because the differences with respect to the Catholic question, Ameri- 
can affairs, and bullion, are, in my opinion, too "deep to be skinned 

" Because, if that were not so, differences, upon most essential points 
of governrnent, avowed for thirty years, clearly establish that Lords G., 
G., and Lord Eldon ' non hene amveniunt.' 

" Becaiise my situation is peculiar. Lord G — ^y said in debate, and 
LordG — y, LordG e, and others who, if they come into Administra- 
tion, must come into Administration along with them, have said, in their 


protest upon the Journals, what I can give no countenance to by com- 
ing into their assembly.'' 

"Allow me to add, that you know how much my heart has been 
wrung with ihe difficulties of holding ofBce, when I have been obliged, 
but 1 hope justified, in taking the painful part I have had to execute^ 
with regard to the situation of my Sovereign and benefactor, my revereil 

" Yours, my dear Perceval, 

" Eldon." 

He was soon tranquillised by a note from Mr. Perceval, 
saying, " The answer was a refusal — on public grounds — 
to have anything to do with us. The Prince sent to me im 
mediately to show the answer, and to authorise me to say that 
I was to be continued Minister." 

What other result could possibly have been expected? 
Both parties were agreed upon the necessity of vigorously 
prosecuting the war against Napoleon, but upon the impend- 
ing war with America, and upon every other existing ques- 
tion of foreign and domestic policy, they were completely at 
variance Instead of a soothing compliment, a wanton insult 
seems to nave been intended to Lord Grey and Lord Gren- 
ville, for they were called upon to strengthen his Eoyal High- 
ness's hands by supporting all the measures of the present 
Government. " The very proposal, indeed," says Sir S. 
Eomilly, " imports that a total sacrifice of honour and of 
character was a necessary qualification for entering into the 
Prince's service. He says in the letter that ' he has no pre- 
dilection to indulge, and no resentment to gratify ' — a most 
dangerous statement at the commencement of his reign, con- 
sidering his past conduct and his past professions. It will be 
understood to mean, that ' there are no injuries he will not 
forgive, and no sei-vices he will not forget.' " ■■ 

At the time there was an unfounded belief that the ofier 
to the Whig leaders was a subtle contrivance of Lord Eldon's. 
We certainly know that — "minister-maker" as he was— he 
had no hand in this intrigue ; and there is even some reason 
to doubt whether, although Mr. Perceval had gained the 
Prince's unqualified confidence, the Chancellor was not still 
regarded at Carlton House with some remains of suspicion 
and dislike — which by his agreeable manners, however, he 
soon entirely dissipated." 

1 Referring to the protest upon the motion Prince, had hitherto teen inclined to thinis, 
for excluding tiim from the Queen's Council. and had spoken, well of him. 
■ ' Life, iii. 11. Sir Samuel, pleased with • See Twiss, I. 417, oh. xxxlii. 
the attentions he had received from the 


338 LORD ELDON. Chap. CCU. 



On all occasions Lord Eldon now seemed penetrated with, 
the same respect and affection for his " dear young 
master," the Prince Eegent, which he had professed 
formerly for his " dear old master," George III. 

In the debate on a motion of Lord Boringdon's, for " the 
formation of an eflScient Administration," in speaking to 
order, he was led by his zeal to be very disorderly in com- 
menting on what had been said in a past debate, when a 
■question had been asked " whether the letter purporting to 
come from the Prince Eegent to the Duke of York was 
genuine?" Said Lord Eldon: "When on a former evening 
I saw a noble lord stand up in his place with a newspaper in 
his hand, and proceed to ask questions of a Minister about 
a private letter written by my royal master, I confess my 
•astonishment at what I conceive to be a most novel and 
unjustifiable proceeding.'' Being called to order by the 
Marquess of Douglas, he persisted in saying, " I again re- 
probate the production of a newspaper for the purpose of 
asking whether an article in it was a letter froni the Prince 
■Regent ; and I declare, if any confidential servant of his Royal 
Highness had given an answer to such a question, I never 
after would have entered the same room with that person for 
the purposes of confidential advice." Lord Holland again 
speaking to order, the Chancellor said, " I never will act so 
unbecoming the person placed on the woolsack as to permit 
such language as I sometimes hear — for I am bold to assert, 
in the presence of all the noble lords present, that I never 
witnessed in the course of thirty years' parliamentary expe- 
rience any thing so monstrous and disorderly as the produc- 
tion of a newspaper in that House." [Here his Lordship was 
interrupted by loud and repeated cries of order !] — Marqmss 
of Lansdowm. " I never heard any thing so disorderly as 
■die language made use of by the noble and learned Lord on 
*he woolsack." — Lord Chancellor. "I shall always object to 


finy otservation being made in this House, having a reference 
to his Eoyal Highness the Prince Eegent, -which in the strict 
course of parliamentary proceeding ought not to he applied to 
the King himself, whose representative he is, and I shall 
certainly always protest against the production of a news- 
paper." He was again stopped by cries of oeber ! and Lord 
Boringdon put an end to the altercation by saying, that " he 
considered the act of the Prince Eegent in writing the letter 
the act of a responsible adviser." 

At a later hour in the evening the Lord Chancellor made a 
regular speech ; and to show that he was not hurt by what had 
passed, he was very jocular. " The noble Lord," said he, 
"wishes for a broad-bottomed Administration — in general 
the most mischievous of all Administrations. [A laugh.] I 
assure the noble Lords who seem to feel this allusion, that I do 
not mean to speat ill-naturedly of them. Somehow or other, 
they have been for a long time out of humour with me : I am 
sorry for it, as I really wish them every happiness. As to the 
estimation in which the present Administration is held by the 
public, I believe that the people of this good-natured country 
are weak and foolish enough to honour us with their confi- 
dence. Good-natured people are always weak. But let the 
cause be what it may, so it happens, that the confidence of the 
country is possessed by the present Administration ; and this 
certainly is no very good reason for addressing the Prince 
Eegent to change it." He then reiterated his doctrine, that 
" the King, in choosing his servants, must be considered as 
acting without any adviser," and that " a Minister is only 
responsible for what happens after his own appointment," — 
now generally allowed to be inconsistent with the constitutional 
maxim, that "the King can do no wrong."' Ministers had a 
majority of 166 to 72, and Lord Eldon saw himself more 
securely possessed of the Great Seal than he had ever before 
been ; for under George III. he lived in perpetual dread that 
the mental infirmity of that monarch might so far increase as 
to render his exercise — real or apparent — of the powers of 
government impossible, — when a change of councils was 
always certainly anticipated. 

Conscious that Dr. Swire, to whom he had announced his 
certaia resignation, when he could no longer expect to hold the 
Seal under his " dear old master," must be a little scandalised 
to find him still in possession of the bauble, he sends his bosom 

' 22 Pari. Deb. 69. 


340 LORD ELDON. Chap. CCII. 

friend the following very entertaining explanation of all that 
bad happened : — 

" And now, my dear Swire, allow me to discuss with you my pre- 
sent situation, and the strange, the unaccountable occurrences which 
have taken place in the last eighteen months. When my rfcar old 
master, under the severe dispensations of Providence, but such as I 
humbly must suppose to be right, because they are the dispensations of 
Providence, could no longer personally execute his great functions, I 
thought that I should have been as able, as, most sincerely speaking, I 
was willing, to quit the labours which no man can endure, unless the 
same Providence shall sustain him with the blessings of health and 
composure of mind and temper, which are indeed but rarely to be 
looked for at any period of life, and at mine, very, very rarely indeed to 
be looked for. 

"The medical men thought his Majesty's speedy recovery highly 
probable : — the Prince therefore thought that in duty to his father he 
could not dismiss his father's servants. How was it possible, that 
whilst he acted under such a feeling of duty to his father, his father's 
servants could refuse to act under him as the representative of his 
father? With wishes as anxious as ever man formed, I could not 
reconcile to myself the notion, that whilst the father's son so conducted 
himself, the father's most grateful servant could refuse to take his share 
in a state of things, which, for the father's sake, the son determined 
should remain undisturbed by him. So matters went on through the 
year of restricted Regency. Before the close of it, the Prince had totally 
altered his opinion of the men whom he had hated — and 1 have his own 
authority for believing that the kingdom produced no man whom he 
more hated than your friend, the writer of this letter. Though the 
prcspeot of his father's recovery had grown more gloomy, and though I 
fear it will never brighten, I must do him the justice to say, that he 
has always declared to me that he vnll never despair till his father 
ceases to live : and my own real opinion is, that whatever motives his 
friends or foes may, in their conjectures, ascribe his late conduct to, he 
has been principally governed by a feeling that, if his father should 
recover, he would never forgive himself if he suffered him to awake to a 
scene in which the father should see his servants discarded by his son. 
The same sentiment appears to me to have governed him with respect 
to the Catholic question, with regard to which, I believe that, after his 
father's death, he will act with a due regard to the established religion. 
But with the possibility before him, though the utter improbability, of 
his father's recovery, 1 believe the world would not induce him, as far 
as he is concerned, to countenance any measure that would shock his 
father's feeling, if, contrary to all expectation, he should recover. 
With such determinations, on his part, with reference to his father, 
daily and constantly proved to be most sincerely adopted by him in his 
intercourse with me, how could I possibly refuse to consent to what his 
entreaty pressed upon me, to remain in the service of a son so con- 
ducting himself towards the father to whom I owe so much ? or how 


could I break up an Administration, which must be succeeded by 
another which would overturn all that I think right? God knows that 
we live in times when public office, if it is not vanity, is literally and 
truly labour and vexation of spirit, and how I get through my shai'e of 
it I know not : — but Ood is very kind to me. I have given you the 
outline of what has governed me in my conduct, and though I care not 
at all as to the opinion of the world in general, I should be deeply hurt 
if TOTJ could not approve it. Interest, or ambition, or even private 
wishes, have had nothing to do with it. I have believed myself to have 
been acting right, and I hope in God that I have been so acting." 

I must do Lord Eldon the justice, however, to say that he 
did not attempt to pour forth such hypocritical cant to hi.' 
brother, Sir William, whom, about the same time, he thus- 
addresses with abandon : — 

" Dear Brother, — Little or no news. The L'Orient squadron hav: 
got into Cherbourg. The game of the Princess of Wales is to be the 
grand sport of the remainder of the session." Her husband [thereby 
then and there meaning his ' dear young royal master' j is furious indeed 
with indignation against the ' early friends.' And it is now, as we used 
to suppose it heretofore, that is, that he knows every word that is 
uttered at Blackheath or Kensington. Sidmouth is all but President of 
the Council, and I suppose will be before the meeting of Parliament. 
Some of the Dissenters are writing against the Popishers, and publishing 
dissuasives against making cause with them. The London clergy 
petition, and some few addresses, veiy few, come from different parts in 
favour of the poor old Church." 

Such a gleam of sincerity is most refreshing ! 

The Prince's changed feelings and conduct towards Lord 
Eldon had been brought about by a variety of causes of a 
public and private nature — among which, unquestionably, the 
chief was Lord Eldons changed feelings and conduct towards 
the Princess' of Wales ; but he, ever accounting for events in 
the manner most creditable to himself, ascribed his recent 
reconciliation with the Prince, and the friendship which now 
sprung up between them, to a discovery of his Eoyal Highness, 
which must have been made, if ever, as soon as the Regency 
Bill passed. " His Majesty George IV. has frequently told 
me," he said, " that there was no person in the whole world 
that he hated so much as for years he hated me. He had 
been persuaded that I endeavoured to keep him at a dis- 
tance from his father; but when he came into possession 

» He seems tu have supposed that Lotds Grey and GrenviUe were coming out with • 
" book," as well as motions, in her behalf. 

342 LORD ELDON. Chap. CCII. 

of his father's private papers, he completely changed his 
opinion of me, in consequence of the part which, from my 
letters, he found I had always taken with reference to him- 
self. He was then convinced that I had always endeavoured 
to do the direct contrary of what was imputed to me. He 
told me so himself, and from that time he treated me with 
uniform friendliness." * 

Lord Eldon had now only one source of uneasiness — the 
investigation going on before Michael Angelo Taylor's Com- 
mittee in the House of Commons " on the causes of the delays 
in the administration of justice in the Court of Chancery ;"^- 
but this made him very unhappy. He wrote a long letter 
on the subject to Mr. Perceval, in which, after blaming the 
Government for allowing the committee to be re-appointed, he 
says, " I have now sat in my court for above twelve months, 
an accused culprit, tried by the hostile part of my own bar, 
upon testimony wrung from my officers, and without the 
common civility of even one question put by the committee 
to myself, in such mode of communication as might have been 
in courtesy adopted. When I say that I know that I am, 
and that my officers, and that my successors will be, degraded 
by all this, I say what I think I do know." He then goes on 
at great length to justify himself, and to censure the plan of 
separating bankruptcy from the jurisdiction of the Lord Chan- 
cellor, together with other reforms which had been suggested. 
To pacify him, the committee decided that " they would not 
examine barristers and solicitors of the Court of Chancery 
touching the causes of delay in that Court ;" and a motion in 
the House of Commons to instruct them to do so was negatived 
by a large majority.^ 

Lord Eldon thought that his cares, were over for the rest of 
this session, and that with the protection of Mr. Perceval, over 
whom he continued to exercise a sort of control, from the Prime 
Minister having practised at the bar under him, he was likely 
henceforth to enjoy tranquillity. 

But in a few days after that victory, Mr. Perceval, who 
seemed to have before him a long and brilliant official career, 
who was highly respected and beloved by his own party, and 
was allowed by his political opponents to be a most amiable 
and high-minded man, fell by the hand of an assassin — and 
there arose an almost unexampled scene of political confusion, 

< IwiBS, ch. xxxUt y 23 Pari, Deb. 61. 


during wMcli there seemed several times almost a certainty of 
an entire change of Administration. 

Lord Eldon imbibed a notion that he himself had been in 
imminent danger of being shot by Bellingham, but for this there 
does not seem to have been any foundation,' All classes of 
the community were dreadfully appalled by this event, and for 
many reasons it occasioned a particular shock to the Chancellor. 
The Princess Elizabeth wrote a very feeling letter on the occa- 
sion to Mrs. Scott, his daughter-in-law, in which; after stating 
that the Queen had ordered her to inquire after Lord Eldou, 
she says : — 

"Well knowing how deeply he feels, she greatly dreads that the 
shock of yesterday may have injured his health. It is impossible not 
to shrink with horror when one thinks of an Englishman committin}! 
murder, and doubly striking when one must mourn for the loss of so 
excellent a man as Mr. Perceval. We live in most awful times : for the 
loss, both public and private, must be equally felt. We really are so 
horror-struck, that it is impossible for me to describe our feelings. His 
family have lost one who has ever proved real affection and attachment, 
and my beloved father has lost a upright and conscientious 
Minister. Our only comfort in the midst of our own trial is, that my 
father Ls spared this affliction : for I verily believe, had it pleased the 
Almighty to have allowed of its being told him, it would have totally 
overset him. My mother commands me to add, she would herself have 
written to the Lord Chancellor, but she thought it better to make me 
write, well knowing his time is precious, and that it was cruel to add to 
his troubles by desiring an answer." 

Lord Eldon did himself reply in the following terms ; and 
in this instance, I believe, expressed not more than he really 
felt :— 

' Lord Eldon was sitting on the woolsack was not carried into execution ; and the 
when intelligence of Mr. Perceval being shot House, having moved an address to the 
was broughtr to the House of Lords. Ap- Regent, expressing their horror at the crime 
prehending that there might be a plot to committed, and praying that he would take 
assassinate all the Minisiers, he said, "I have proper steps for bringing the offender to 
Just been informed of a most melancholy and justice, adjourned.— 23 Pa/rl. Deb. 161. Bel- 
atrocious event whidh has happened in the lingham had been in the Court of Chancery 
lobby of the other House. In this situation, the same morning, and was supposed to have 
I feel it my duty to apprise your Lordships looked fiercely at the Chancellor, but seems 
that I shall take care to give the proper di- to have intended no violence at that time, 
rections to the officers that none go out of the The chief object of his resentment was LoM 
doors of this House of Parliament till we G. Leveson Gower (afterwards Earl Gran- 
have been fully satisfied ihat they have not viUe), who had been jmibassador m Russia 
the means of doing further mischief." An order when he had suffered some supposed gnev- 
was accordingly given to 5eaix:h all strangers ance there, for which he made the Pnme 
below the bar tor concealed fire-arms, bat it Minister responsible. 

344 tORD ELUON. Chap. CCII 

"The Lord Chancellor, offering his most humble duty to yout 
Majesty, whilst he acknowledges with infinite gratitude your Majesty's 
gracious condescension and goodness in directing inquiries to be made 
respecting the Chancellor's health, amidst the afflicting circumstances in 
which he has been lately placed, takes leave to beseech your Majesty tc 
be persuaded that nothing but the distress of his mind could have so 
long prevented him from returning your Majesty his heai'tfelt acknow- 
ledgments for the proof he has been honoured with, that your Majesty 
takes some interest in his happiness. 

" By the death of Mr. Perceval, the Lord Chancellor has lost a friend 
whom he valued, esteemed, and loved. His Majesty's people have lost 
a great and able fellow-subject and statesman, and the Lord ChanceUpr 
trusts that your Majesty will do him the justice to believe him when he 
adds, that his Majesty and his august and illustrious family have last a 
servant, whose attachment to them the Lord Chancellor knows to have 
been the ruling principle in his heart, and whose attachment was rendered 
important because his virtues were universally known. The Chancellor, 
as himself a servant of his Majesty, anxious for the honour and welfare 
of all his Majesty's fkmily, finds it difficult, very difficult, to prescribe 
bounds to that grief which daily overwhelms him. 

" Bedford Square, May istta, 1812." 

Within a week from the time when the fatal shot was fired, 
the assassin, with the approbation of Lord Eldon, then at the 
head of the administration of justice, suffered on the scaffold,' 
although his counsel had earnestly pressed that his trial 
might be postponed, for the purpose of bringing witnesses 
from Liverpool to prove his insanity. This precipitation, 
— after the public mind had recovered its composure, was 
much blamed ; and I can say of my ovtm knowledge that 
it gi-eatly conduced to lead judges and juries into the con- 
trary extreme, which we have had to lament of late years. 
Now-a-days the commission of an atrocious crime is of itself 
supposed to afford strong evidence of alienation of mind, and, 
from the vague metaphysical conjectures of physicians who 
never saw the prisoner, acquittals take place on the ground of 
insanity, where, at the time when the offence was committed, 

• The shot was fired about five o'clock on " No person can have heard what the conduct 

Monday afternoon, May 11th ; the trial took and demeanour of this man has been since 

place on Friday, the 15th; and before nine he committed the crime, or can have read 

o'clock in the morning of the Monday fol- his defence, without being satisfied he is 

lowing, Bellingham's dead body was lying in mad ; but it is a species of madness which 

the dissecting room of Surgeons' Hall. He probably, for the security of mankind, ought 

had formerly been confined in a mad- not to exempt a man from being answerabla 

house, and several of his family had been for his actions." — Life, ii. 36. 
afflicted with madness. BomiUy says,-> 


there was no delusion of the senses, and there was complete 
consoioutinesg of the nature of the criminal act and of its con- 

in the ministerial crisis which followed the death of Mr. 
Perceval, Lord Eldon, really though not ostensibly, was the 
prime mover, — displaying the hold decision and consummate 
skill which always distinguished him on such perilous occa- 
sions. He contrived to avoid participating in the numerous 
discussions which took place in Parliament respecting the 
negotiations, while they were pending, and no letter of his 
connected with them appeared before the public till after his 
death ; but we now cei-tainly know, what was before only 
suspected, that, with the assistance of the Duke of Cumber- 
land, he was throughout the secret adviser of the Eegent, 
and that his intrigues achieved the triumph which his party 
obtained. His conduct at this time has been severely anim- 
adverted upon, but I think without any sufficient reason, — 
except, perhaps, that while he was consulting about offers to 
be made which might perplex political opponents, and con- 
ditions to be demanded which could not be conceded, he shut 
up the Court of Chancery, instead of trying to clear off his 
arrear of judgments, — when, apparently, it was his duty to 
"set his house in order." He was fully justified in doing 
every thing he could to keep out of office Lord "Wellesley, Mr. 
Canning, and the Whigs, for he heartily hated their principles, 
and he sincerely believed that their accession to power would 
not only have deprived him of the Great Seal, but would have 
been the ruin of the empire. 

The Eegent, still " furious " (as we are told on high autho- 
rity he had been two months before) " against the early 
friends," was desirous to go on with his surviving Ministers, 
selecting one of them to be put at the head of the Treasury ; 
and was, above all things, solicitous to exclude Lords Grey 
and GrenviUe from his councils. Tor this purpose, by the 
advice of the Duke of Cumberland, he very judiciously sent 
for the Chancellor ; and explaining his views to him, com- 
missioned him, first, to try to reconstruct the Cabinet from 
the existing materials, and if that should be found inipossible, 
the least obnoxious additions were to be made to it. Lord 
Eldon himself, with a courage which never forsook him in 
extremity, thought that the present Cabinet, enjoying the 
entire confidence of the Eegent, and not unpopular in the 
country, although many wished to see it strengthened, might 

346 LORD ELDON. Chap. CCII. 

go on wilhout admitting any one, whether Pittite or Whig, 
who favoured the pernicious measure of Catholic emanci^ 

But it was necessary to take the opinion of his colleagues ; 
and by the Eegent's authority, having assembled them, he put 
to them, seriatim, this question : — " Are you of opinion that 
without Lord Grey and Lord GrenviUe, and without Lord 
Wellesley and Mr. Canning, you can carry on the govern- 
ment ? " There is extant the memorandum, in his handwriting, 
in which he noted their answers and his own. — " Eldon. ' It 
might.' But there was only one other unqualified affirmative 
— that of the Earl of Westmoreland (not a very groat autho- 
rity), who said simply, ' Yes.' The rest were — ' No,' by Lord 
Mulgrave. — 'Doubtful,' by Lord Sidmouth. — 'Not,' by Lord 
Harrowby. — ' Dangerous to Prince and country,' by Lord 
Bathurst. — ' Doubtful,' by Lord Buckinghamshire. — ' Very 
doubtful, not desperate,' by Lord Camden. — ' Very impro- 
bable,' by Lord Melville. — ' Doubtful, not desperate,' by Lord 
Liverpool. — ' Extremely difficult,' by Mr. Eyder. — ' Doubtful 
to say the least, without a proposition' by Lord Castlereagh." 
He next asked them, " if they would join an Administration 
with Lord Wellesley at the head of it," and with one voice 
they said " No," — for he had lately left them on account of 
their hostility to Catholic emancipation, and their refusal to 
carry on the war in the Peninsula with sufficient vigour. They 
Were then asked, " If the Prince put at the head any member 
of the present Administration, will the rest support him?" 
They were all at last induced to say that "they would," but 
they almost all concurred in the sentiment expressed by Lord 
Castlereagh, that a " proposition " was necessary, for the pur- 
pose of showing to Parliament and the public that they had 
endeavoured to render the Government more efficient. They 
all signed the following declaration, leaving it to Lord Eldon 
more fully to explain their sentiments to his Eoyal Highness ■. 
— " The Cabinet would feel it to be their duty, if called upon 
by the Prince Regent, to carry on the administration of the 
government under any member of the present Cabinet whom 
his Eoyal Highness might think proper to select as the head of 
it. They consider it to be at the same time incumbent upon 
them most humbly to submit to his Eoyal Highness, that, under 
all {he present circumstances of the country, the result of their 
endeavour to carry on the government must in their judgment 
be very doubtful. It does not, however, appear to them to be 


Hopeless, if the Administration is known to possess the entire 
confidence of the Prince Eegent." 

Lords Grey and Grenville were less disagreeable to most of 
the Cabinet than Lord VV ellesley and Mr. Canning, but they 
could not be pressed upon the Prince till every other resource 
was exhausted ; and with the concurrence of Lord Eldon, a 
negotiation was first opened through Lord Liverpool, with 
Lord Wellesley and Mr. Canning, for their accession to office, 
upon the basisiof Mr. Perceval's policy. While Lord Eldon was 
ignorant of the result, he wrote to Sir William : — 

" i^othing is in any degree settled. The particulars of what has heen 
passing I cannot commit to paper. If I am a political coward, as I may 
very justly he thought, it is, as it appears to me, a very melancholy 
truth, that I can find nobody among those whom Perceval has left, with 
respect to whom, upon comparison, I have not a most extraordinary 
degree of poUtical fortitude. In general, I believe I may say, that 
attempts are making, with the concurrence of all, to bring Wellesley 
and Canning into office. If they come, Liverpool will be at the head of 
the Administration, and Castlereagh to be, among the House of Com- 
mons' members of Administration, at the head of them. Most think 
that W. and 0. will not come upon those terms — they will be accepted 
upon no other. My opinion is, that both are so sick of being out, that 
th^y wiU come upon such terms. If they don't, we shall try what we 
can do without them. Upon this there are three opinions, two among 
us: that is, /think, that that may and will go on — all the rest think 
that it must be ti'ied,.but that it cannot go on, and that thiiigs will fall 
into the hands of G. and Gr. nearly forthwith. A third opinion comes 
from gentlemen in the H. of Commons, who think it will go on — and 
who are not inclined to support at all, if W. aad C. do come in. Upon 
this last opinion, however, it is too late to act, if they bite. Lord Sid. 
has behaved very well, certainly ; so has the Eegent." 

To Lord Eldon's surprise and joy. Lord Wellesley and 
Mr. Canning " did not bite." They would not come in on 
the terms offered, and they proposed, with seeming modera- 
tion, "that a Cabinet might be formed on an intermediary 
principle respecting the Eoman Catholic claims, exempt from 
the dangers of instant unqualified concession, and from those 
of inconsiderate peremptory exclusion, — and that the entire 
resources of the empire might be applied to the great objects 
of the war.'"" 

A "proposition" having been made and rejected, it was 
thought that the old Cabinet might go on without difficulty, 
and Lord Liverpool was about to be declared Prime Minister ; 

b 23 Pari. Deb. 332-392. 

348 LORD ELDON. Chap. CCII, 

but there was much puhlic dissatisfaction from the belief that 
the late abortive attempt had not been sincerely made ; and 
Mr. Stuart Wortley (afterwards Lord Whamcliffe) moved, 
in the House of Commons, an address to the Prince Eegent, 
praying him " to take measures for forming a strong and 
efficient Administration," " — which was unexpectedly ' carried 
by a majority of 174 to 170.'' 

Next day the Ministers all tendered their resignations, and 
intimated that they only held their ofB.ces till their successors 
were appointed ; — but several of them were still sanguine 
in the belief, that the negotiation for a new- Administration 
might be disturbed, and that they must yet be recalled. Lord 
EI don was more constantly closeted with the Duke of Cumber- 
land than ever, and it is supposed that he did not at any mo- 
ment despair of ultimate success. 

Lord Wellesley was now sent for by the Eegent, and com- 
missioned to form an Administration. He first applied to the 
men actually holding office, to know whether any of them 
would joiu him, — and, as had been concerted, they unanimously 
refused to be members of an Administration of his forming. 
He then had permission to treat with Lord Grey and Lord 
Grenville ; for, although the Whigs were by no means then 
popular, there was a large class in the community who had a 
high respect for the great talents and unsullied reputation of 
these two statesmen, and desired to see them employed in the 
public service. It was therefore considered necessary that 
they should not appear to be permanently excluded from office j 
but Lord Wellesley, though permitted to treat with them, was 
limited to terms respecting seats in the Cabinet, and othei 
arrangements, to which they could not for a moment listen. In 
consequence, on the 3rd of June, he stated in the House of 
Lords, that he had that day resigned the commission intrusted 
to him for the arrangement of a new Administration, and, in 
reference to the existing cabinet, "lamented that the most 
dreadful personal animosities should have interposed to pre- 
vent an arrangement which was so essential for the welfare 
of the country." He declared that he was ready to disclose 
every thing that had passed during his . negotiations, but 
strongly advised their Lordships not to call for the disclo- 
sure. This advice was followed.-rLord Liverpool, on behalf of 
liimself and his colleagues, disclaiming all personal animosi- 
ties, and declaring that they had been actuated only by con- 

• 33 Pari. Deb. 249. d lb, 281. 


fiiderations of public principle. Lord Eldon, although strongly- 
alluded to by Lord Grey and Lord GrenviUe, could not be 
induced to leave the woolsack for the purpose of communi- 
cating information to the House respecting the steps hereafter 
to be taken. 

He was at length of opinion that enough had been done to 
please the timorous, and he would immediately have started 
Lord Liverpool as Prime Minister, but Mr. Stuart Wortley 
threatened another motion in the House of Commons, and 
several of those, in comparison with whom he had " an extra- 
ordinary degree of political fortitude," quailed at the prospect 
of the coming storm. The Regent was therefore advised to 
employ Lord Moira to negotiate the formation of an Admi- 
nistration, the basis of which should be " the consideration of 
the Catholic claims, and the vigorous prosecution of the war 
in Spain." He was himself only to have an inferior office 
with a seat in the Cabinet, Lord Wellesley being First Lord 
of the Treasury, and Lords Grey and GrenviUe having the 
principal sway in it. 

Notwithstanding Lord Eldon's confident belief that this 
negotiation would fail, it had very nearly succeeded, and it 
would have led to his removal from offiioe ; but he was saved 
by Lords Grey and Grenvi lie's unskilful management of a 
dispute respecting the offices in the household. They were 
justified in considering that those appointments should form a 
part of a general ministerial arrangement, and were not to be 
fiUed up according to the personal liking of the Sovereign ; but 
they insisted on the preliminary dismissal of the present officers 
of the household, — who had all privately resolved to resign 
as soon as the new Administration was formed. The Eegent 
was advised to make his stand upon this point, and even 
Lord Moira applauded his resistance. The unfortunate issue 
was chiefly imputed to Sheridan, who concealed from his 
friends the fact communicated to him, that all the household 
offices certainly would have been at the disposal of the new 

It is curious to speculate on the probable consequences of 
the establishment of the Government which was so near being 
formed. Lord Wellesley being at the head of it to co-operate 

= Sir S. EomiUy exempts Lords Grey and usually appointed to by Ministers, were tu 

GreuTille from all blame, saying that " they be at the disposal of the new Miniatera."— 

very properly refused to be members of the ij^e, lii.41. 
Cabinet, unless the offices in the bousehoid. 

350 LORD ELDON. Chap. CCII. 

zealously with, his brother the Duke of Wellington, we may 
fairly conclude that our military triumphs would not have 
been less brilliant than those which actually followed ; — the 
unfortunate contest with America would have been avoided by 
the immediate repeal of the Orders in Council ; — and if Catholic 
emancipation had then been voluntarily granted, we might 
have escaped many of the evils which arose from its being 
afterwards extorted by violence. 

But the nation took part against Lord Grey and Lord 
Grenville, and Mr. Stuart Wortley said, " These noble lords 
had debarred themselves, by their own conduct, from becoming 
the Administration of the country ; it was with regret that he 
saw the nation deprived of the services of such men ; but under 
the circumstances which had occurred, they were themselves 
responsible for continuing in a private station." ' 

On the 8th of June Lord Liverpool declared in the House 
of Lords, that he had been that day appointed, by his Eoyal 
Highness the Prince Eegent, First Commissioner of the Trea- 
sury, with authority to complete the other arrangements of 
the Administration as soon as possible ; and Lord Moira, in 
lamenting the failure of his enterprise, said, " there is this 
consolation, that it is now testified to the world, that on the 
part of his Eoyal Highness the Prince Eegent, there was in 
the proposition submitted by his authority to my noble friends 
no reservation whatever, and that it was made with the most 
entire disposition to give every effect to the wish expressed by 
the other branch of the legislature." * 

Yet Sir Samuel EomUly thought that he had merely been 
made the tool of a more crafty man ; and in his Diary thus sums 
up his account of this crisis : — 

" June 11. — The whole of the nesotlations for a new Ministry have heen 
conducted, unquestionably, with a previous determination on the part of 
the Prince and of those who enjoy his confidence, that they should uot 
end in Lord Grey and Lord Grenville and their friends being in power. 
The Lord Chancellor has never, from the moment of the address of the 
House of Commons being carried, shown the least symptom of appre- 
hension that he was to resign his office. During these three weeks that 
the Ministers have been represented by themselves as holding their 
offices only till their successors should be named, he has given judgment 
in none of the numerous causes, petitions, and motions, which have been 
long waiting his decision ; though there never before instance of 

1 23 ftrl. Bob. a». g lb. 35?— 359. 


a Chancellor about to resign the Great Seal, who did not hasten to clear 
away the arrears of his Court. Instead of this, Lord Eldon has been 
every day closeted with the Buke of Cumberland ; and, during several 
days in the term, the Court has been entirely shut up, while his Lordship 
was employed in some way never known to the suitors of his Court, or 
to the public. We have even had the Duke of Cumberland coming 
down to Westminster Hall, and sending for the Chancellor out of Court. 
The whole matter has ended pretty much as I expected. It might have 
been much worse, if Lords Grey and Grenville had not been deterred 
from taking office by the obstacles which were purposely thrown in 
their way. They would have been suffered to remain in the Ministry 
but a very short time ; some pretext would have been anxiously watched 
for, and eagerly seized, to turn them out with the loss of character ; or 
a new cry against Popery would have been raised, and they would pro- 
bably have been the victims of it." 

There was a general opinion that Lord Eldon would, ere 
long, be called upon, in the midst of new difficulties, to give 
fresh proofs of his skill in keeping himseK and his friends in 
place, and excluding his opponents ; hut this Administration, 
of which he was the real author, — although supposed to he so 
rickety, — lasted, with some modiflcations, till the death of Lord 
Liverpool — a period of fifteen years. The formation of it is a 
remarkable sera in onr party annals. Now Mr. Vansittart 
(Lord Bexley) was placed at the head of the finances ; Lord 
Castlereagh became leader of the House of Commons ; and 
Mr. Peel (our illustrious Sir Eobert) began his official career 
as Irish Secretary, to give assurance to Orangemen that their 
ascendency would ever be preserved. 

The first assault on the new Government was made by Lord 
WeEesley, who delivered an admirable speech in favour of the 
Irish Catholics. This was answered by the Lord Chancellor, 
who said, " There is no wish nearer my heart than to be con- 
vinced that I am wrong, — in which case I will, without hesita- 
tion, vote for the resolution of the noble Marquess. But it 
shocks me much to see the descendants of a Somers and a 
Hardwicke act so oppositely to the principles of their ances- 
tors. If the present motion be carried, the noble Marquess 
and I may shake hands ; but, as I hope for God's mercy, I do 
not think I shall be living under the same constitution as 
hitherto." At the same time he was so far softened as to move 
the previous question, " that he might not, by a direct negative, 
once and for ever shut the door of conciliation against the So- 
man Catholics, though he was anxious at the same time not to 
disguise from them his own objections, on constitutional 

352 • LOKD ELDON. Chap. CCII. 

grounds, to their claims." " Sucli progress had public opinion 
made on this subject, that it had penetrated the House of 
Lords, and the previous question (to the horror of the Lord 
Chancellor, who was observed to be deeply affected as he 
announced the division) was carried only by a majority of one, 
tli« numbers being 126 to 125.' 

He was, if possible, stiU more annoyed by the proceedings in 
Michael Angelo Taylor's committee on "the delays in Chan- 
cery," and by the complaints on this subject of several members 
of the House of Commons, who maliciously insinuated that the 
accumulation of arrears arose chiefly from the Lord Chancellor 
neglecting his judicial business for political intrigue. Think- 
ing that he was abandoned by his colleagues, he was in such a 
rage that he threatened to resign, and to leave them to the fate 
which, without his patronage, would speedily overtake them. 
Thus he vented his feelings to Sir William : — 

" Eeally, as to the Government, I don't care one farthing about It. 
/ am mistaken if they do not mainly owe their existence, as such, to me ; 
and yet I have been, in my judicial capacity, the object of the House of 
Commons' persecution for two years, without a lawyer there to say a word 
of truth for me ; and though I have pressed, for years past, the importance 
of being supported there by some individuals in my own department of 
the profession, not the slightest notice of this has been taken in their 
arrangements; I have been left unprotected as before, — and so un- 
protected I cannot and will not remain. 

" The Prince vows annihilation to the Government if I go ; and I 
suppose would resort to Canning and Wellesley. But I cannot feel the 
obligation I am under of being hunted in the House of Commons without 
more of protection than I have had — of bearing that the business of the 
Court of Chancery should be tumbled out at the end of the session, as it 
was, without communication with me." 

However, he was much comforted by having the honour, at 
the prorogation, of entertaining at dinner his Eoyal Highness 
the Begent, with whom he was now a special favourite, and 
who, enjoying the splendid hospitality and gay good humour of 
Bedford Square, forgot that the Princess of Wales had sat in 
the same room — at the same table — on the same chair — had 
drunk of the same wine — out of the same cup, — ^while the con- 
versation had turned on her barbarous usage from her husband, 
and the best means of publishing to the world her wrongs and 
his misconduct. 

When the Chancellor retired to Encombe, he wrote the fol- 

h 23 Pari. Deb. 333. i lb. 863. 


lowing re'sume to his friend Dr. Swire — which, if not so rich as 
that of the preceding year, will be found very characteristic 
and entertaining : — 

" My attention has been utterly distracted by the events of a year 
which, in their extraordinary nature so far as they respect myself, have 
surpassed all the extraordinary circumstances which even my chequered 
life has produced. I could not doubt that at the close of the Regency 
year, the 18th February, I should have had my dismissal : so sure was 
I of that, that when the Prince sent for me on the 17th, his commands 
reached me sitting for my picture in my robes. When I went he ex- 
pressed his surprise that I appeared in a morning in a laced shirt ; I 
told him what I had been about: he then expressed surprise that I 
could find any time for such a business : my answer was that the fact 
proved that that was difBcult ; that the picture had been asked nearly 
two years for the Guildhall at Newcastle, and that, my countrymen 
wishing it should be in the Chancellor's robes, I could not delay beyond 
that day in which 1 might for the last time be entitled to wear them. 
He smiled, and next day satisfied me that I needed not to have been in 
such a hurry. This was curious enough, but is literally a fact. Well, 
after this poor Perceval was assassinated. By the way, I had a pretty 
narrow escape. It is said, 

' Mors Bola fatetur 
Qnantula Bint hominnm corpuBcnla ; ' 

but I have learned faets of poor Perceval's life, which I never should 
have learnt but in consequence of his death, and which prove him to 
have been a most extraordinarily excellent person. Here again, how- 
ever, I thought I should sing ' Nunc dimittis.' I appointed and at- 
tended a Eecorder's report, which I thought it unmanly to leave to a suc- 
cessor, on a Monday, as I was morally certain that I should not be 
Chancellor on the usual day, the Wednesday. But whether Grenville 
and Grey did not wish to be Ministers, or whether they would not be 
Ministers unless they could bind kings in chains, I don't know. The 
Ttiesday put my wig and gown once more fast upon my head and back, 
and I am now just as uncertain when I shall see the blessings of final 
retirement as I was before the King's illness. What a life of anxiety 
(about myself certainly in no degree such) I led during these scenes, 
must be reserved, if it is to be described, till some happy hour of con- 
versation between us shall be vouchsafed me by Providence. I con- 
cluded my stay in towii by the Prince Regent's dining in Bedford Sqijare 
with a man whom he had hated more than any other in his father "s do- 
minions, according to his unreserved confession." [After stating his de- 
termination to fight to the stumps against Catholic emancipation, he 
thus concludes i] " And now, dear Sam, I come to a close. Retained 
in office, with no wish to remain in it, I am praying for some fair oppor- 
tunity, some honourable reason, for quitting. I grow old : business in- 
creases ; my ability to discharge it does not improve. These, so help 
me God, are the reflections which have occupied my anxious thoughts 
VOL. IX. 2 a 


during the last winter, and yet, in this malignant world, whilst the He- 
gent knows my wishes perfectly, I am supposed to .he clinging to office, 
and intriguing for others who are anxious for it. God forgive them 1 " 

During the autumn, part of his house at Encombe was de- 
stroyed by a fire. This, if it did not produce at' the time as 
beautiful a letter as that from Sir Thomas More on a similar 
occasion, he afterwards described very graphically in his old 
age : — " It really was a very pretty sight," said he, " for all 
the maids turned out of their beds, and they formed a line 
from the water to the fire-engine, handing the buckets : they 
looked very pretty, cdl in their shifts." "While the flames were 
raging he was in violent trepidation about the Great Seal, 
which, although he was not in the habit, like one of his illus- 
trious predecessors, of taking it to bed with him, he always 
kept in his bedchamber. He flew with it to the garden, and 
buried it in a flower-border. But his trepidation was almost 
as overwhelming next morning, for, what between his alann 
for the safety of Lady Eldon, and his admiration of the maids 
in their vestal attire, he could not remember the spot where 
the clavis regni had been hid. " You never saw anything so 
ridiculous," he said, " as seeing the whole family down that 
walk probing and digging till we found it." 

Considering that Lord Eldon had actually formed the 
present Cabinet, I am much surprised to perceive the incon- 
siderable influence he seems to have enjoyed in it, and how 
little he was consulted by Lord Liverpool, whom he had made 
Premier. He justly complained that the Attorney and Soli- 
citor-General had been appointed without his sanction, and 
that neither was taken from his Bar ; — Sir Thomas Plumer 
practising chiefly in the Court of Exchequer, and knowing 
little of equity; and Sir William Garrow, since he left 
the Old Bailey, confining himself to the Court of King's 
Bench, and being, notwithstanding his great natural acute- 
ness, utterly ignorant of law, as well as of equity, — so that 
they could render him no assistance in the attacks made upon 
him in the House of Commons respecting delays in the Coui-t 
of Chancery. 

It further appears, from a letter to him from Lord Liver- 
pool,'' that the important resolution of dissolving Parliament 
this autumn was absolutely adopted without any previous 
communication with him, and he was at once simunoned to 
attend a counoU, when the proclamation for callinsr a new 

k 18th Sept. 1812, 


Parliament was to be signed by the Kegent. The reasons 
which led to this measure were the mutinous vote of the 
House of Commons on Mr. Stuart Wortley's motion; the 
recent victory at Salamanca ; a renewed cry against Popery ; 
and a plentiful harvest, which had, as usual, given the people 
a high opinion of the wisdom of the Government. For these 
reasons I doubt not that Lord Eldon would have concurred 
in the resolution ; but it surprises us to find him unceremo- 
niously required to put the Great Seal to writs for the new 
elections. K he was at all hurt, he must have been comforted 
by finding that the result of the contests which ensued was 
generally in favour of the " No Popery " candidates, and that 
the Government was henceforth sure of a commanding ma- 
jority in both Houses. 

The session was opened with much pomp. For a good 
many years past, from the infirmities of George III. and the 
dislike of the Kegent to appear in public, the prerogative of 
the Crown, in parliamentary proceedings, had only been ex- 
ercised by commissioners, — but the Eegent was prevailed 
upon to deliver, in his own person, the speech declaring the 
reasons for summoning this Parliament, and, to the horror 
of some over-rigid adlierents of hereditary right, by the 
Chancellor's advice he took his seat on the throne — of 
course still speaking " in the name and on the behalf of his 
Majesty." He had to announce the diminished hope of his 
Majesty's recovery." 

" The Orders in Council," found by experience to be so 
detrimental to our own commerce, had provoked neu- ^ 
trals to set up unwarrantable claims, which would 
have been fatal to the naval superiority of England,^and 
we were now at war with the United States of America, who^ 
even denied our right to reclaim our own seamen, if they had 
obtained letters of naturalization from a foreign government. 
In a debate upon an address to the Eegent, to assure him of 
the support of Parliament in this new ccmtest, Lord Eldon 
said, " There was no question in the whole course of his poli- 
tical life, on which he had given his opinion more reluctantly, 
or more decidedly. If the claim of naturalization insisted on 
by the Americans were allowed, why should it not be made 
by other countries ? If a residence of five years established 
the right, why not a residence of one month ? It would thus 
be easy, by the offer of impunity, and by the temptation of 

■" 24 Pari. Deb. 12. 

2 A 2 

356 LORD ELDON. Chap, CCII. 

higli pay, to seduce our seamto into the service of rival states. 
Unless America should think proper to alter her tone, he did 
not see how the national differences could be settled. As an 
adviser of the Crown, he would never consent to an armistice 
on the condition of appearing to hesitate about a right so 
vitally affecting our honour and our interests as a nation." 
The address, though carped at by some Opposition peers, was 
carried without a division." 

Lord Eldon at last pushed through Parliament a bill which 
ought to have been passed ten years sooner — for the appoint- 
ment of a new judge in the Court of Chancery, to be called 
Vick-Chancellor.° This biU. was unaccountably opposed by 
some who had been loudest in complaining of delays in the 
determination of equity suits ; and, I am concerned to say, 
the most zealous of those was the enlightened and patriotic 
Komilly. He was far above the prejudice of considering 
the system of equitable judicature handed down to us from 
remote antiquity as absolute perfection, and he could not have 
been swayed by any consideration that his business at the 
bar was to be scattered among new competitors ; yet he spoke 
and wrote against a necessary and palpable improvement as 
if he had been fighting against the repeal of the Bill of 
Rights. Such was the arrear of appeals and writs of error 
in the House of Lords, that, according to the past rate of 
despatch, they could not' have been decided in less than 
Iwelve or thirteen years — to say nothing of the new arrear 
which would accumulate in that interval, — and a cause could 
not be brought to a regular hearing in the Court of Chancery 
for a good many years after it was ripe for being heard. 
No better plan was suggested for curing the evil. " Lord 
Eldon expressed his conviction that when he should be dead 
and gone, the subjects of this country would feel the salutary 
and satisfactory operation of a measure which tended to the 
speedy decision of their appeals to that House, and of their 
suits in the Court of Chancery. Attacks had been made on 
his judicial conduct which he would not deign to repel ; but 
he would assert that no man, however experienced, vigorous, 
and industrious, could get through the biftiness now oast 
upon the Lord Chancellor. He reminded the House that the 
visible occupations of that functionary were not alone to be 
regarded ; a Chancellor must give his nights as well as his 
days to the consideration of his duties ; he must pursue them 

• 24 Pari. Dm. 688, BM. » S3 Geo. s.-o. 2i 


even in the retirement of his house, and in the privacy of his 
closet, if he meant to do justice." i" 

This prophecy has been amply fulfilled ; and the increas- 
ing pressure of business has rendered necessary the creation 
of two additional Vice-Chancellors — so that at present there 
is no arrear of appeals or writs of error in the House of Lords ; 
and in the Court of Chancery every cause may be heard as 
soon as it is ready to be set down for hearing. Nor will any 
one who sees how the Woolsack is at present occupied by a 
consummate Equity Judge, much honour the clairvoyance of 
those who asserted that after the creation of the ofBce of Vice- 
ChanceUor the Lord Chancellor would be a politician, orator, 
or man of letters.*" 

Sir Samuel EomiUy^s spleen, however, induced him to 
animadvert with bitter, and, I think, unjust severity upon the 
individual who first filled the office : — 

" A worse appointment," says he, " than that of Plumer to be Vice- 
Chancellor could hardly have been made. He knows nothing of the 
law of real property, nothing of the law of bankruptcy, and nothing of 
the doctrines peculiar to courts of equity. His appointment to this 
office is the more extraordinary, as the Chancellor is fully aware of his 
incapacity to discharge the duties of it ; and as Richards, who is certainly 
the best qualified for it of any one now in the profession, and whose 
politics could raise no objection to his promotion, has been always con- 
sidered as the Chancellor's most intimate private friend. The Eegent 
certainly cannot have made it a point to have Plumer promoted, since 
he is one of the avowed authors of the Princess of Wales's defence, 
which abounds with the most injurious insinuations against the Prince. 
The only explanation of all this is, that, with the rest of the Minis- 
try, Plumer has a very strong interest ; that they have earnestly 
pressed his appointment, and have represented that it would be a 
great slight upon him if he were to be passed by ; and that the 
Chancellor has not on this, as he never has on any former occasion, 
suffered his sense of duty towards the public, or his private friend- 
ship, to prevail over his party politics." 

Sir Thomas Plumer, although he had not enjoyed the ad- 
vantage of being brought up in the Six Clerks Office, and 
althongh he was not a profound jurist, was by no means 
ignorant of the law of real property, or of the law of bank- 
ruptcy, and he had practised on the Equity side in the Court 
of Exchequer for many years. His judgments as Vice-Chan- 
cel lor, and Master of the Eolls, sneered at by some old 

P Pari. Deb. vol. xxiv. xxv. 
** Surely this cannot \ s understood as a sarcasm on Lord Cottenham. 

358 LORD ELDON. Chap. CCII. 

Chancery practitioners wKen they were delivered, are now- 
read by the student with much profit, and are considered of 
high authority. I do not understand how it would have been 
any mitigation of Lord Eldon's misconduct that the Kegent 
had pressed the appointment ; but if it would, I do not see 
why he should be so positively deprived of the benefit ol it, — 
for the Chancellor himself, " one of the authors of the Princess 
of Wales's defence, abounding with the most injurious in- 
sinuations against the Prince," had grown into his Eoyal 
Highness's special favourite. 

I am sorry that the Vice-Chancellor's Bill, which had be- 
come indispensable for Lord Eldon's own convenience, is the 
only instance of his doing any thing for the improvement of our 
institutions. He continued as fierce as ever in his opposition 
to Eomilly'e noble endeavours to mitigate the severity of the 
criminal code, and this session he again threw out ihe bills 
for taking away the penalty of death from shoplifting and 
steaUng" in a dwelling-house, asking triumphantly, "Is it 
an encouragement or discouragement in the eyes of any man 
of common sense, to commit a crime, that instead of being 
hanged if he commits it, he will at most only be trans- 

But one liberal measure passed — without meeting the 
smallest opposition, and hardly exciting any notice either in 
or out of Parliament — the very identical measure which in 
the year 1807 had turned out " All the Talents," and set the 
whole country in a flame — the Bill to allow Eoman Catholics 
to hold coin missions in the army as field officers ! It was 
introduced into the House of Lords by the Duke of Norfolk, 
and Lord Liverpool, . the Prime Minister, in a short speech 
said that he entirely approved of it.' Nevertheless there are 
indiscriminate admirers of George III. who still applaud his 
policy when he not only refused his assent to this measure, 
but required a written pledge from his ministers that they 
never again would propose it to him. 

During the present session of Parliament the disputes be- 
tween the Prince and Princess of Wales again came before the 
public, and at one time seemed likely to lead to a change of 
the Government. Without any new levity being imputed to 
her, fresh restrictions were put upon her intercourse with her 
daughter. To these she would not quietly submit, and she 

1 25 Pari. Deb. 525. Two royal Dnkes, the majority, 
five Frelates»aiid three law Lords voted In ' 53 Geo. 3, c. 128. 


wrote a letter of remonstrance to the Prince, which was 
thrice sent to Carlton House, and thrice returned unopened. 
She then wrote a letter to Lord Liverpool to be communi- 
cated to the Chancellor, complaining that she was debarred 
even of the means of stating her wrongs and asking redress. 
The following answer was returned to her : — 

" Lord Liverpool begs leave to inform her Eoyal Highness the Princess 
of Wales, that he communicated to the Lord Chancellor, according to 
her Eoyal Highness's desire, the letter which he received from the 
Princess on Sunday night. He has likewise thought it his duty to lay 
that letter before his Eoyal Highness the Prince Eegent. 

" The Lord Chancellor and Lord Liverpool have never declined to 
be the channel of any communications which the Princess of Wales 
might be pleased to inform them that her Royal Highness was desirous 
of making to the Prince Eegent through his confidential servants ; and 
they would have been ready to have submitted to his Eoyal Highness 
any points in the copy of the letter transmitted by the Princess to 
Lord Liverpool, which it might have been their duty to have brought 
under his Eoyal Highness's consideration, if the Princess had signified to 
them her intention that the communication to his Eoyal Highness 
should have been made in this manner. But it mu-st be for the Prince 
Eegent himself to determine whether he will receive, in the manner 
proposed, any direct commimication by letter from the Princess of 
Wales, or enter into any correspondence with her Eoyal Highness. 

" The Prince Eegent has commanded Lord Liverpool to state, that he 
adheres to the resolution which he has already expressed in this re- 
spect, and he has directed Lord Liverpool, therefore, to return her Eoyal 
Highness's letter.'" 

Cochrane Johnstone soon afterwards made a motion on the 
subject in the House of Commons. Mr. Whitbread became 
the advocate there of the Princess, and her cause was taken 
up with warmth by the Livery of London. These proceed- 
ings caused much consternation in Carlton House, and the 
Prince did not think that he was sufficiently supported bj' his 
ministers, although they had gone quite as far as any regard 
to decendy would permit in humouring his caprices. In the 
debate on Cochrane Johnstone's motion, Komilly had spoken 
merely to defend those concerned in the investigation of 1806 
— but a hope was entertained that he would zealously take 
part vnth the Prince, and the Great Seal was to have been his 
reward. The negotiation was opened through Mr. Nash, 
the architect, who was a private friend of the Romillys, and 
who, since his laying out " Eegent Street" and the " Eegent's 

• Jan. 19, 1S13. 

360 LORD ELDON. Chap. CCII. 

•Park,'' had been patronised by the Kegent. He had several 
times tried in vain to induce Eomilly to go to Carlton House, 
that he might advise his Eoyal Highness on the course he 
should pursue in counteracting the schemes of the Princess. 
The following entry gives an account of a new attempt : — 

" March 13th. Mr. Nash called upon me again. He told me that 
his former visit to me was made at the request of the Regent, and that 
he had since had much conversation with him ; that the Prince was still 
desirous of seeing me, and said that he had a right to consult me as his 
counsel, and that as such I was retained for him. I told Mr. Nash that, 
in all his Eoyal Highness's private concerns, he had, undouhtedly, a 
right to command my advice and assistance, but that the conduct of the 
Princess of Wales had become a matter of state ; had been submitted to 
the consideration of committees of the Privy Council ; had been a sub- 
ject of consideration by the Cabinet, and was as much a matter of pub- 
lic concern as the war with Spain or with America, and that it was im- 
possible for me to advise with the Prince upon it He had 

some more conversation, in which he said that Lord Yarmouth had 
asked him whether he thought that I was so much of a party-man as on 
that account to have any personal objection to himself ; and he asked, 
but as entirely from himself, ' Whether I should think it a duty to re- 
fuse the Great Seal if it were offered me, unless all my political friends 
formed part of the Administration ? ' I told him, that it was not by 
party motives that I was actuated, but that my opinion was, that no 
good could be done to the country unless those men who had acted on 
Mr. Pox's principles were in administration, and that I should not con- 
sent to form part of any Administration in which they were not compre- 

" 17th. Mr. Nash called upon me again this morning. He said, he 
came to renew the subject of our last conversation. That he was ex- 
tremely anxious I should see the Prince ; that the Prince ha<l no per- 
son who could speak honestly and openly to him ; that he thought that 
if I saw him, what I should say to him might lead to a total change of 
the Administration ; that he was still attached to his former political 

" 21st. I dined to-day at Nash's. To my surprise. Lord Yarmouth 
dined there.* Before he came in, Nash took me aside, to tell me that 
every thing was in confusion at Carlton House ; that this was the moment 
for bringing about a change of Administration ; that he was himself 
most anxious that it should be effected ; and that I was the link by 
which the Prince might be reunited with his old political friends. I 
told him that to me this really appeared to be quite impossible. He 
*aid that he had, however, thought it right to apprise me of this, and 
that he had again had a long conversation with the Prince last Fri- 

> Life of Romilly, iii. 86—94. 


By a letter from Lord Eldon to his brother, written about 
the same time, it appears that the Prince, while he was 
striving to lay hold of all the Chancellor's patronage,' was 
quarrelling with him for not going far enough about the 
Princess. This letter is in answer to an application for a 
Cursitorship : — 

" It is absolutely impossible, and I am very sorry for it, that I can 
avail myself of this occasion to do what you wish. Some one of my own 
secretaries must have the Cursitorship — they have a right to it — ^the 
Commfssionerships are pledged ten deep ; and, as to the private secre- 
taryship, that I must dispose of without reference to any body but my- 
self, if I am to continue Chancellor. I doubt whether I am ; the Prince 
having applied for all, and I having refused him all. As to the private 
secretaryship, it distresses me so much that it is vacant, that I sincerely 
wish to pufan end to my own office. Excuse the haste which I write 
with from the Bench, and excuse any thing improper, for I mean nothing 
to be so ; but my soul is heavy. I am too low, and too ill, to mix with 
the world, and I therefore absented myself yesterday, and shall do so to- 
day. The P. has been treating me with so much unkindness, because I 
won't do as to his wife and daughter as he wishes — in a way, — that one 
more such interview as I have had, if it occurs, will save me the trouble 
of appointing to the secretaryship, or any thing else', where the ofBcer 
goes out of ofSce with the Chancellor." 

This storm, however, soon blew over. If the Regent had 
ever any intention to do more than amuse Eomilly, with a 
view to get a speech from him in the House of Commons, it 
was abandoned, and his Eoyal Highness wrote to Lord Eldon 
such kind and familiar notes as the following : — 

" My dear Fbibnd, 
" Pray give me a call on your way home, when your Cabinet breaks 
up, as an idea has struck me which I wish to talk over with you for 
five minutes, in order that you may turn it over in your mind before 
to-morrow morning. Just send me a Une to mention about what hour 
I may be Ukely to see you, in order that I may be in the way, and not 
keep you waiting. 

" Ever sincerely yours, 

" George, P. E." 

A letter to Dr. Swire from the Chancellor shows that by 
the autumn of this year he had gained a complete ascendency 
over the Prince,, and was very proud of him as a pupil, and a 
convert. After mentioning as " a piece of Church news " the 
appointment of Dr. Parsons as Bishop of Peterborough, it thus 
proceeds : — 

362 LORDEUOOJl. Chap. ecu. 

" He is a stout fellow, and right, J believe, upon points of modern 
controversy, — the Catholic question particularly ; and my young master, 
who is as eager as his father was upon that, and of the some way of 
thinking, seems to me to he looking out very sincerely for those who are 
able and virilling to support Church and State as we have had them in 
times past. What a blessing to himself and to the country it has been, 
that the Prince did not succeed to government, upon the King's demise, 
but under circumstances which have given him an opportunity of learn- 
ing what he would otherwise never have known, — or, as the Queen puts 
it, of enabling her son George to learn that his poor father knew better 
who were his son's best friends than that son himself did ! He is con- 
ducting himself really extremely well. His father, he says, often told 
him not to part with the Chancellor ; but he owns to me that he hated 
me more than he detested any other man in the kingdom. At present 
many, I believe, think he is too much attached to me, and I am sure 
that it is impossible for a human being to treat another with more con- 
fidence and regard than he does me." 

Ever afterwards till tlie formation of Mr. Canning's Govem- 
aient, there seems to have been the most perfect cordiality 
between the Chancellor and his " young master," and we hear 
no more lamentations about " the dear old King." 

Although the Eegent cannot be said to have displayed any 
very high public or private virtues, and his ministers, vyith 
Lord Liverpool as their chief .boast, were men much inferior 
in ability to those who had been at the head of aifau's when 
such disasters befel the country during the Americ&n war 
and in the late coalitions against France, — we are arrived at 
one of the most glorious and prosperous seras to be met with 
in English history. Having gained victory after victory, 
Wellington was descending the Pyrenees into the plains 
of Languedoc ; and Napoleon, having lost amidst the snows 
of Eussia the greatest army ever assembled in modem ages, 
was gallantly, but vainly, striving to defend his capital 
against hordes collected from every clime between the river 
Ehine and the wall of China. At last the advance of the Eng- 
lish upon Paris was stopped by a peace which the allies dic- 
tated, — Louis XVin. was king of France and Navarre, — 
and he who had threatened to make Britain one of his satrapies 
was hailed as " Emperor of Elba ! " — In the general illumi- 
nation of London to celebrate these successes there were 
vaunting mottoes in foreign languages ; but Lord Eldon, with 
piety and good taste, displayed, by variegated lamps upon 
the front of his house in Bedford Square, the words, " Thanks 
Ba TO God ! " He was much cheered by the mob ; and he 


then little thought that within a year he and his family were 
to stand a siege in this very house, under serious apprehen- 
sion of perishing hy fire or by the sword ! 

The session of 1814, which did not begin till the 23rd of 
March, was spent almost entirely in votes of thanks 
and addresses of congratulation. On the 28th of June *'"" ^^^*' 
Wellington took his seat for the first time in the House of 
Lords, having been, while serving in the Peninsula, by 
successive patents, upon gaining fresh victories, created a 
Viscount, an Earl, a Marquess, and a Duke. Here was an 
opportunity for eloquence from the Woolsack, exceeding any 
enjoyed by Lord Cowper in the reign of Queen Anne. 1 am 
sorry that the House of Lords' speech of congratulation to 
" the Hero of a hundred battles " was a most wretched perform- 
ance, and the meanness of it was the more striking when it 
was compared with the soul-stirring language in which the 
thanks of the House of Commons were returned to him, three 
days afterwards, by Speaker Abbot." I cannot understand 
how the Chancellor, conscious of his own deficiency in literary 
composition, from having read nothing but briefs for so many 
years, — should not have asked his brother. Sir William, to 
aid him, — as he did when, appointed High Steward of the 
University of Oxford, he expected to be called upon for a 
Latin epistle. The only sentence which he uttered above 
clumsy common-place twaddle was that in which he alluded 
to " a circumstajice singular in the history of that House, 
that before his introduction he had successively gone through 
every dignity of the peerage in this country which it was in 
the power of the Crown to bestow." And here he was inac- 
curate, for Wellington was made a Viscount when first en- 
nobled, without having previously held the rank of a Baron." 

The allied Sovereigns coming to London after the peace. 
Lord Eldon was presented to them, and several times met 
them in society; but his ignorance of all Continental lan- 
guages prevented them having any conversation with him, 
— which was a great disappointment to some of them, from the 
high consideration they observed that he held among his 

He used to relate an anecdote of this visit which, if 

• 23 Pari. Deb. 4»0. *" t*"'"* Oambier, for the victory won by 

« Lord Eldon had failed signally (although him in Basqne Eoads.— See Parliamentary 

the occasion was much less memorable) In Debates, xv, 355. 

tttuming the thanks of the House, in 1810, 


genuine, he must have heard in a jovial moment from the 
Eegent himself. The Emperor Alexander, scandalised by 
the disturbance which the Princess of Wales created at the 
Opera House and other places to annoy her husband, though 
himself living on bad terms with the Empress, used the 
friendly freedom to admonish his Eoyal Highness to be more 
regardful of the decencies of domestic life. Next day they 
were riding together, in the same carriage, through the 
Strand, in the midst of an immense crowd, who generally 
sympathised with the supposed wrongs of the Princess, — when 
a greasy citizen actually put his head into the carriage, and 
hallooed out, " Where's your wife ? Go home and live with 
your wife." Whereupon the Eegent, with much readiness, 
said, " Gela regarde votre Majesty Imp^riale." 

There now arose in the Eoyal Family another controversy, 
which, I think, Lord Eldon and his colleagues might, and 
ought to have prevented. The Eegent wished that his 
daughter should be married to the Prince of Orange, heir 
apparent to the new kingdom of the Netherlands. Politically 
this was not a wise arrangement, it being clearly expedient 
to select, as the consort of the heiress of the throne of Eng- 
land, a foreign Prince of high lineage and distinguished per- 
sonal qualities, without any foreign dominions, — that the 
inconveniences experienced in four reigns, from our cormection 
with Hanover, might never return. A still more serious ob- 
jection was, that the Princess Charlotte, from the moment 
that a hint was thrown out of such a match being in contem- 
plation, testified a deep . and insuperable aversion to it, not- 
standing the gallantry of the Dutch Prince. However, all 
objections were overruled by her father and his ministers. 
Previously to framing a convention on the subject with the 
Government of the Netherlands, Lord Liverpool thus addressed 
liord Eldon: — 

" Upon the principle, I conceive there is no difficulty. One point is 
indispensable, — that the sovereignty of Great Britain and of Holland 
shall never be in the same person. 

" Another is desirable, but not indispensable, — that thp succession to 
the two sovereignties shall, if possible, go to the descendants in dif- 
ferent lines, so that their respective pretensions may not afterwards 

" With respect to the Hereditary Prince of Orange, we cannot call 
upon him to give up his rights as future sovereign of the Netherlands. 
But he will never be King of this country, nor be any thing in the 
country, when he resides here, but a subject. His eldest son, it he 


lives, will be King of Great Britain. There is no difficulty therefore 
about excluding him specifically from the sovereignty of Holland. His 
second son, it is proposed, should succeed to the sovereignty of Hol- 
land, If, by the death of his brother, he succeeded to the sovereignty 
of Great Britain, he of course must give up the sovereignty of Holland. 
But the question of doubt is, whether, if he succeeded to be lievr ampa^ 
rent or heir preswmjiUve to the sovereignty of Great Britain, he should 
thereby forfeit the sovereignty of Holland. 

" Is not this a Dutch question, and might it not be left to the Dutch 
legislature to determine ? All we are bound to provide is, that the two 
sovereignties shall not be in the same person ; and we have no objec- 
tion to stipulate that the first-born son of the marriage shall not succeed 
to the sovereignty of Holland. 

" Surely there can be no difficulty in propding that all other con- 
tingencies as to the sovereignty of Holland shall depend upon the lawg 
of Holland, provided always that the two sovereignties never are vested 
in one person. 

" This can involve us in no difficulty, because it is not proposed to 
make any alteration in the succession to the throne of Great Bri- 

" I wish you would try to draw up a short stipulation in this sense 
and to this effect ; and I am anxious, for reasons that will occur to you, 
that it should be done soon." ^ 

This was a mticli more difficult " settlement" than any he 
had been instructed to draw while practising as a " conrey- 
ancer," and it might have given rise to many questions as 
puzzling as " whether, by the treaty of Utrecht, the issue of 
the Montpensier marriage be cut off from the succession to the 
Crown of Spain ? " 

The political obstacles would have been surmounted, but 
the young lady was inflexible. We know, on the authority of 
Lord Brougham, to whom she applied for advice, that the 
match continued the subject of unremitting negotiation be- 
tween her and her father : " An attempt had even been made, 
through one of his law officers, to persuade her that, after 
receiving some presents, and saying thingfe construed into 
promises, she could be compelled by a Court of Equity to per- 
form the contract. This strange doctrine, this new kind of 
equity, she had met with admirable presence of mind, and in- 
deed skill, declaring her ignorance of the law, hut offering to 
believe the proposition thus (by way of threat) laid down, 
— :provided, to prevent all mistakes, they who stated it would 
put it in writing, and sign their names to it, that she might 
show it to Mr. Brougham.^ 

y 27th April, 18U » Law Eeview, No. XI. 282. 

366 LORD ELDON. ' Chap. CCII. 

No mpre was heard of this extension of the doctrine of spe- 
cific performance ; but still the pressure upon her was so great, 
that, on the 12th of July, she actually eloped from Warwick 
House, where she was established, under the care of the Bishop 
of Salisbury, and tried to jB.nd an asylum in her mother's house 
in Oonnaught Place. Mr. Twiss says that this was in conse- 
quence of the Eegent and the Bishop, her tutor, having unex- 
pectedly visited her, and, pronouncing the dismissal of her 
attendants, having declared that she was to be taken to Carlton 
House; whereupon, requesting leave to retire, she escaped 
by the back staircase into the street, and hurried into a 
hackney-coach; and that the Duke of York and the Lord 
Chancellor, as soon as ike place of her retreat was ascertained, 
proceeded thither with instructions from the Eegent to bring 
her back.' To complete this version of the story. Lord 
Eldon himself is supposed to have added the following nar- 
rative : — 

" When we arrived, I informed her a carriage was at the door, and 
we would attend her home. But home she would not go. She kicked 
and bounced ; but would not go. Well, to do my oflBce as gently as I 
could, I told her I was sorry for it, for until she did go, she would be 
obliged to entertain us, as we would not leave her. At last she accom- 
panied us." 

" But," says Lord Brougham, " this is a perfect misstatemtnt, indeed 
a pure fiction, and there are three persons yet living who know it to be 
so, and having read the above lines, agree in so declaring it. When the 
Princess's escape became known at Carlton House (for it is not at all 
true, as stated by Mr. Twiss, that the Prince and Bishop went to see 
her at Warwick House, to inform her of the new constitution of her 
household, and that shd asked leave to retire, and escaped by a back 
staircase), the Eegent sent notice to the heads of the law, and of his own 
Duchy of Cornwall establishment. Soon after these arrived, each in a 
separate hackney-coach, at Connaught Terrace, the Princess of Wales's 
residence. These were the Chancellor, Lord BUenborough, Mr. Adam, 
Chancellor of the Duchy of Cornwall, Mr. Leach, the Bishop of Sahs- 
bury, and afterwards the Duke of York. There had already come to 
join the Princess Charlotte, Miss Mercer, now Lady Keith and Comtesse 
de Flahault, who came by the Regent's express desire as his daughter's 
most confidential friend ; Mr. Brougham, for whom the young Princess 
had sent, as a person she had already often consulted ; the Duke of 
Sussex, whose attendance he had taken the precaution of asking, know- 
ing that he happened to dine in the immediate neighbourhood ; the 
Princess of Wales too had arrived from her villa at Blackheath, where 
she was when Mr. Brougham and Miss Mercer arrived ; her Boyal High- 

* TwiBs's Life of Eldon, ch. xzxr. 


ness was accompanied by Lady Charlotte Lindsay, then in waiting. 
Dinner had been ordered by the Princess Charlotte, and the party, ex- 
cept the Duke of Sussex, who did not immediately arrive, were at table ; 
when from time to time the arrival of the great personages sent by the 
Eegent was announced, as eaoh of their hackney-coaches in succession 
came into the street. Some were suffered to remain in these vehicles, 
better fitted for convenience than for state ; but the presumptive heiress 
to the Crown having chosen that conveyance, it was the humour of the 
party which she was now delighting with her humour, and interesting 
by her high spirits, like a bird flown from a cage, that these exalted sub- 
jects should become familiar with a residence which had so lately been 
graced with the occupancy of their future sovereign. Exceptions how- 
ever were made, and the Duke of York immediately was asked into a 
room on the ground-floor. It is an undoubted fact, that not one of the 
persons sent by the Eegent, not even the Duke of York, ever was in any 
of the apartments above stairs for one instant until the young Princess 
had agreed to leave the house and return home. The Princess of Wales 
saw the Duke of York for a few minutes below ; and this was the only 
communication between the company above and those below — of whom 
all but the Duke and the Bishop remained outside the house. After a 
great deal of dis^oussion the Princess Charlotte asked Mr. Brougham 
what he, on the whole, would advise her to do. He said, — ' Return to 
Warwick House or to Carlton House, and on no account pass a night 
out of it.' She was exceedingly affected — even to tears — and asked if 
he too refused to stand by her. The day was beginning to break ; a 
Westminster election to reinstate Lord Cochrane (after the sentence on 
him which abolished the pillory, and secured his re-election) was to be 
held that day at ten o'clock. Mr. Brougham led the young Princess to 
the window, and said, ' I have but to show you to the multitude which 
in a few hours will fill these streets and that Park — and possibly Carlton 
House will be pulled down — ^but in an hour after the soldiers will be 
called out, blood will flow, and, if your Royal Highness lives a hundred 
years, it will never be forgotten that your running away from your home 
and your father was the cause of the mischief ; and you may depend 
upon it the English people so hate blood that you will never get over it.' 
She at once perceived the truth of this statement, and without any kind 
of hesitation agreed to see her uncle below, and accompany him home. 
But she told him she would not go in any carriage except one of her 
father's, as her character might suffer ; she therefore retired to the 
drawing-room until a royal coach was sent for, and she then went home 
with the Duke of York." 

Tlie Princess Charlotte was carried to Carlton House, and 
was understood to be kept there for some time a close 
prisoner. In consequence her uncle the Duke of Sussex put 
several questions to Ministers in the House of Lords, 
*' Whether, since her removal to Carlton House, she was 

k Law Review, No. XI. 280. See also Edinburgh Review for July, 1838, p. 34. 

368 LORD ELDON. Chap. CCIi. 

allowed that degree of communication with her friends and 
connections which she had enjoyed in Warwick House ? " 
" Whether she had liberty of communication by letter ? " 
" Whether she was in that state of liberty which persons con- 
sidered not in confinement ought to be in ? " and " Whether, 
as she had reached the age of eighteen, there was any inten- 
tion of providing an establishment for her suitable to her 
rank ? " Lord Liverpool having declined to answer any of 
these questions, Lord Eldon added, " If my noble friend had 
answered the questions put to him by the illustrious Duke, he 
would have been guilty of a gross breach of his duty to his 
Sovereign, and I will tell my noble friend that I never again 
would have conversed with him. What is meant by the 
question, ' Whether the Princess is allowed intercourse with 
her friends and connections (it might as weU have been said 
with her enemies) while living under the roof of her royal 
Father ? ' Is not this an imputation ? But I must look upon 
it as an animadversion on tiie Ministers of the Crown with 
reference to supposed advice. I will now only say that the 
great person alluded to has the exclusive right to direct the 
education of his child, and that no man is entitled to inter- 
pose between them, and a very strong ground indeed must be 
previously established to warrant the interposition of Parlia- 
ment upon such a subject. "With reference to the whole of 
the conduct of the great person alluded to in this affair, I 
have the satisfaction of being able to state in the face of the 
country, that he is deserving of the applause and not the 
censure of mankind." ° 

The Duke of Sussex gave notice of a motion respecting the 
treatment of the Princess Charlotte, but withdrew it, saying, 
" he had learned that she had been seen riding on horseback 
in Windsor Park, so that he was inclined to hope that more 
lenient measures were to' be taken towards her." The Lord 
Chancellor said, " he never had meant to contend that there 
might not be cases with regard to the treatment of members 
of the Royal Family, in which it might be the duty of Parlia- 
ment to interfere, but in the present instance he maintained 
that no ground had been laid for such interference." '' 

The firmness of the Princess Charlotte relieved her from 
any farther importunity upon this subject, and she afterwards 
contraxjted a marriage of affection, which the whole country 

" 28 Pari. Deb. 765. d lb. 895 

A.D. 1814. CORN-LAW EIOTS. 369 

approTed, and whicli promised the most auspicious results, 
when she was suddenly snatched away to an early tomb. 

It might have been supposed that at least in this glorious 
year, when Lord Eldon had met with so much to gratify him, 
and so little to annoy him, he might have been tolerably 
reconciled to the cares of office, but it turns out that all the 
while he was more eager than ever to get rid of them : thiw 
he wrote to Dr. Swire ; — 

" I had thought that ere this time I should have been disengaged 
from the fatigue and oppression (for it begins to be oppressive at my 
years) of my office. But I have found it more difficult to persuade 
others than to persuade myself, that it is time for me to go. Providence 
and the .country have bestowed upon me so much more than I could 
hope or deserve, that I ought perhaps to be somewhat ashamed of quitting 
my post, when those who are intrusted to judge, think that I may still 
be useful ; but the struggle, between inclination to resign and reluct- 
ance to be thought too willing to consult my own ease, cannot last 
much longer, because it must soon become a question about ex- 

The general rejoicings for the triumphant peace of 1814 
were soon succeeded by dangerous riots on account of the 
bill to