EDEN, Hon. George (1784-1849), of Eden Farm, Beckenham, Kent.
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Family and Education
b. 28 Aug. 1784, 2nd s. and event. h. of William Eden*, 1st Baron Auckland, by Eleanor, da. of Sir Gilbert Elliot, 3rd Bt.†, of Minto, Roxburgh; bro. of Hon. William Frederick Elliot Eden*. educ. Eton 1796; Christ Church, Oxf 1801; L. Inn 1806, called 1809. unm. suc. fa. as 2nd Baron Auckland 28 May 1814; GCB 29 Aug. 1835; cr. Earl of Auckland 21 Dec. 1839.
Dep. teller of Exchequer 1806-12; vendue master, Demerara and Essequibo Nov. 1806-Mar. 1810; auditor, Greenwich Hosp. 1814-29, commr. 1829-34; pres. Board of Trade Nov. 1830-June 1834; PC 22 Nov. 1830; master of Mint Dec. 1830-June 1834; auditor of Exchequer Jan.-Oct. 1834; first ld. of Admiralty June-Dec. 1834, Apr.-Sept. 1835, July 1846-d.; gov.-gen. India Sept. 1835-Oct. 1841.
His father recommended George Eden, together with his brother William, to Lord Grenville on his taking office in February 1806; ‘some small office not incompatible with the study of the law’ would suit him, he added, returning to the subject in July. In September, when William succeeded as teller of the Exchequer, his father made him appoint George his deputy in place of Price. The salary was £1,000 p.a. and Price was compensated with £600 of it until otherwise provided for. In addition, George succeeded to his brother’s colonial place, which was incompatible with a seat in Parliament. He got his first taste of parliamentary elections that year, assisting in William’s canvass at Woodstock. In 1809, when he was called to the bar and began to practise on the northern circuit, he acted as ‘a sort of agent’ to Grenville in the contest for chancellor of Oxford University. On circuit he got ‘more bugs than briefs, more fleas than fees’, but the tragic death of his brother early in 1810 changed his prospects. He did not obtain the tellership, as his father had hoped, or retain either of his places, but succeeded (paying the expenses) to William’s seat for Woodstock on the interest of his godfather, the 4th Duke of Marlborough.1
Eden was elected in absentia, and his bereavement at first veiled the problem of his political conduct. His father and late brother had acted with the Grenvillite opposition. Although his patron generally supported the government of the day, his son Lord Francis Almeric Spencer* was at this juncture inclined to passive opposition under Canning’s aegis, and whereas William had enjoyed freedom of action, George was expected to follow Spencer’s lead. His father wrote of him (19 Feb. 1810): ‘George possesses an understanding of a superior class, together with the happy temper and cool judgment which seemed to be the characteristic of his brother. He has a visible leaning to political subjects, but hitherto he is earnest in following the law.’2 The Whigs ventured to list him one of the ‘present opposition’ in March 1810 and, ‘induced by circumstances at Blenheim’ (division of opinion) to attend the debate, he voted with opposition on the Scheldt inquiry, 30 Mar.3 On 21 May he voted against parliamentary reform. Difficulties arose for him when he joined opposition on the adjournment and Regency questions, 15, 29 Nov. 1810, 1 Jan. 1811. The Duke of Marlborough objected and Auckland thought he must lose his seat. Eden reassured him, 6 Jan. 1811:
A seat in Parliament held upon terms contrary to political opinions or for the mere purpose of franking would to my mind be neither valuable nor creditable—I am, however, not without hopes that Woodstock may be retained on more comfortable terms.
He added that if the disagreement persisted, he would be quite contented to return to his legal pursuits.4
On 15 July 1811 Eden delivered his maiden speech, an attack on the bank-note bill. Lord Grenville commented to his father ‘I have always thought that he possessed considerable talents for business ... I hope he will persevere in Parliament’. Nicholas Vansittart* also believed that Eden had found an audience. He discovered that Marlborough was prepared to
adjourn the consideration whether he and I could not have the good fortune to agree in the general line of public opinion and in the meantime that it was best to let the representation of Woodstock on a new election stand on the same footing of private friendship towards my family as it had done for nearly twenty years.
Although this was ‘neither secure nor altogether a pleasant tenure of a seat in Parliament’, he declined an opening at Calne offered by Lord Lansdowne in August 1811 for the next election, even if it promised to be more congenial. From a party viewpoint, he was keeping an enemy out at Woodstock. His father thought he should retain his option on Calne.5
In the session of 1812 Eden was firmly committed to opposition (on 22 Feb. he joined Brooks’s Club). He voted for Burdett’s motion on the droits of Admiralty, 21 Jan.; on 4 Feb. for Morpeth’s censure motion on Ireland and on 7 Feb. for the bill to limit offices in reversion. On 10 Feb. he moved for a select committee of inquiry into the civil list, in the interests of economy. When ministers tried to muzzle it, he moved that it should have power to call for papers and witnesses, but was frustrated by 80 votes to 27. Next day he attempted in vain to get himself discharged from the committee. On 21 and 24 Feb. he voted against McMahon’s sinecure and on 27 Feb. for Turton’s censure motion. He supported the attack on the orders in council, 3 Mar. He voted against the bank-note bill, 10 Apr., the barracks estimates, 13 Apr., and next day against McMahon’s appointment as secretary to the Regent. He supported Catholic relief, 24 Apr., and Stuart Wortley’s motion for a stronger administration, 21 May. He was also in the minorities on delays in Chancery, 6 May, the Admiralty registrars bill, 19 June, and the leather tax, 1 July.
In June 1812 Eden learnt that his patron was switching him from New Woodstock to Oxford, where he faced a contest in the knowledge that the duke’s interest was on the wane. He thought his reelection for Woodstock secure and the duke’s agent there was on his side, but Lord Francis Spencer was resolved to return the ministerialist William Thornton*. Eden had to be satisfied with some kind of assurance that he might fall back on Woodstock, if defeated at Oxford. The duke claimed that it was ‘impracticable’ to keep Woodstock open until the Oxford result was known, but it was implied that Thornton would vacate for him; and that Oxford should not cost him more than Woodstock would have done. In either case, the seat would be for one Parliament only, as the duke’s grandson would thereafter be of age Eden was narrowly defeated at Oxford not, he thought, because of his politics: as his father reminded the duke, he had two brothers-in-law in the cabinet. But he found that there was opposition at Blenheim to making Thornton vacate his seat so soon: the duke promised instead to purchase another seat for him. Neither Eden nor his father thought this a practicable proposition and, when nothing came of it, importuned the duke to eject Thornton. Confident that this would happen, Eden again politely declined Lansdowne’s proposal of Calne for the present: but he had reached the point of contriving a Woodstock electors’ petition to the duke in his favour, when the latter capitulated in October 1813. He was brought in, dividing the expenses, at the beginning of the ensuing session.6 He had meanwhile toured Ireland and been appalled at what he found there, as he had no hesitation in informing the vicereine.7
Eden spoke only on penal reform in his last session in the House: on the effects of transportation, 3 Dec. 1813, on the state of Newgate, for which, encouraged by Edward Wakefield, he successfully moved for information, 7 Dec., and on the state of all the London prisons, carrying a similar motion, 28 Mar. 1814. He voted for the censure on the Speaker, 22 Apr. 1814, and on 25 Apr. for Romilly’s motion to abolish corruption of the blood in cases of treason. A month later he succeeded to the title. His father left him so ill-provided for that his brother-in-law Lord Buckinghamshire obtained for him from Lord Liverpool the succession to Auckland’s place as auditor of Greenwich Hospital plus an incremental pension, making £1,200 p.a. in all. Despite this he refused to come over to government. ‘In neither branch of the legislature did he attain to any very great eminence.’8 His Whig friends later rewarded him with office and, though ‘the most silent member of the cabinet’, he proved a sound administrator.9 He died 1 Jan. 1849.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. HMC Fortescue, viii. 240, 330; Jnl. of Lady Holland, ii. 206; Add. 34457, ff. 125, 217, 237; 34458, f. 27; Glenbervie Diaries, ii. 43; Add. 34457, ff. 602, 609; Auckland Jnl. iv. 335, 344-5; Jnl. of Mary Frampton, 151.
- 2. Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 6 Mar. 1810; HMC Fortescue, x. 13.
- 3. Add. 34460, f. 298; 45730, f. 53.
- 4. Add. 34458, f. 194; HMC Fortescue, x. 85-6.
- 5. Add. 34458, ff. 246, 250, 254, 264, 265; Auckland Jnl. iv. 370; Lansdowne mss, Eden and Auckland to Lansdowne, 16 Aug. 1811.
- 6. Add. 34458, ff. 284, 360, 361, 390-408, 413, 419, 425, 426, 460, 470, 476, 482, 505, 512, 526, 536, 539, 587, 593, 599; Grey mss, Auckland to Grey, 1 Nov. 1812.
- 7. Add. 34458, ff. 544, 550, 559, 567; Auckland Jnl. iv. 395-7.
- 8. Add. 34459, ff. 96, 97; 46519, f. 159; Malmesbury Letters, ii. 417; Gent. Mag. (1849), i. 201.
- 9. Broughton, Recollections, vi. 230. The only biography, by Capt. L. J. Trotter (1893), is concerned chiefly with his Indian administration.