ELIOT, Edward Granville, Lord Eliot (1798-1877), of 47 Dover Street, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



16 Jan. 1824 - 1832
1837 - 19 Jan. 1845

Family and Education

b. 29 Aug. 1798, o.s. of William Eliot*, 2nd earl of St. Germans, and 1st w. Lady Georgiana Augusta Leveson Gower, da. of Granville Leveson Gower†, 1st mq. of Stafford. educ. Westminster 1809-11, Christ Church, Oxf. 1815. m. 2 Sept. 1824, Lady Jemima Cornwallis, da. and coh. of Charles, 2nd Mq. Cornwallis, 6s. (3 d.v.p.) 2da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. as 3rd earl of St. Germans 19 Jan. 1845; GCB 24 Jan. 1857. d. 7 Oct. 1877.

Offices Held

Ld. of treasury Apr. 1827-Nov. 1830; envoy extraordinary to Spain 1834-7; chief sec. to ld. lt. [I] Sept. 1841-Jan. 1845; PC [GB] 3 Sept. 1841; PC [I] 12 Oct. 1841; postmaster-gen. Jan.-June 1846; ld. lt. [I] Jan. 1853-Mar. 1855; ld. steward of household Nov. 1857-Feb. 1858, June 1859-Jan. 1866.


Eliot, like his father, initially pursued a diplomatic career, serving as an attaché at The Hague and accompanying Sir William A’Court† on his mission to Spain in 1822.1 In January 1824 he was returned unopposed for Liskeard on his father’s interest, following the latter’s succession as 2nd earl of St. Germans, and he sat undisturbed until 1832. He attended fairly regularly and gave silent support to Lord Liverpool’s ministry. He voted against the motion condemning the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June 1824. He divided for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and against the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr., 9 May 1825. He voted for the financial provision for the duke of Cumberland, 30 May, 10 June 1825. He presented a Liskeard anti-slavery petition, 24 Feb.,2 but divided against the motion condemning the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar. 1826. He voted against reducing the salary of the president of the board of trade, 10 Apr. 1826. He divided for Catholic claims, 6 Mar. 1827, when he explained that he had changed his mind on the subject after giving it his ‘fullest consideration’. He was ‘convinced that the tranquility of Ireland depended on the passing the measure’, which would help in ‘appeasing the animosity and rancour which almost desolated the country’, and argued that the government would then be better placed to protect the ‘just and lawful rights’ of the Irish church. He voted for the duke of Clarence’s annuity bill, 16 Mar. Next month he was appointed a lord of the treasury in Canning’s coalition ministry, and on securing re-election at Liskeard he pledged to ‘exert himself in his new office to promote ... those measures which he conceived calculated to secure the peace and prosperity of the empire’.3 He remained in place when Lord Goderich became prime minister in August 1827, but was apparently advised by his father to resign ‘if another Whig appointment was made’; by the end of the year he had ‘signified [his] intention of taking flight’ if Lord Holland joined the cabinet.4 In January 1828, with his father abroad, he sought advice from Lord Harrowby, the former lord president of the council, as to whether he should retain his position under the duke of Wellington. He observed that had the new government been ‘wholly composed of Ultra Tories’, he would have ‘felt no hesitation in at once resigning’, but as Huskisson and ‘some others of Mr. Canning’s friends’ were to be included, he was inclined to remain. However, he knew that many other Canningites considered Huskisson’s adhesion ‘dishonourable’, and feared that ‘even in the subaltern position which I occupy my conduct and motives might be misrepresented’, which mattered because ‘one’s character ought to be above the possibility of suspicion’. If he resigned, he foresaw difficulty in finding ‘a body of men in the ... Commons whose moderation would keep them as clear of the Whigs ... as of the Ultras’, although ‘if such men there be I should be much disposed to enroll myself in their number’. He finally accepted Harrowby’s advice to participate in a ‘reunion of the scattered parts of Lord Liverpool’s administration’, which afforded the only defence against an Ultra government. At this time, Edward Littelton* identified Eliot as one of an ‘important party’ of ‘young men’ in the Commons, including Lord Francis Leveson Gower, Lord Sandon and John Stuart Wortley, who ‘hang much together ... united ... against High Tory principles’.5 He divided for Catholic claims, 12 May 1828. In January 1829 he informed Wellington that his father, who was still abroad, had resolved to withdraw his support from the government unless it acted immediately to settle the Catholic question. Eliot thought it ‘more fair’ to the premier to notify him at once of ‘the position in which I stand rather than leave you to learn my defection at a moment when my adherence would be counted on’; the irritated duke reportedly ‘had a great mind to turn him out now’.6 He voted for emancipation, 6, 30 Mar., and presented a favourable petition, 12 Mar. 1829. Early in February 1830 he reportedly left London briefly, owing to the death of his mother-in-law.7

In the autumn of 1830 Eliot was of course listed among the ‘friends’ of Wellington’s ministry, and he voted with them in the crucial civil list division, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented a Liskeard anti-slavery petition, 13 Dec. 1830. The Grey ministry’s reform bill proposed to open Liskeard to the £10 householders but to reduce its representation to one seat. Eliot divided against the second reading, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. He voted against the second reading of the reintroduced bill, 6 July, for use of the 1831 census in scheduling boroughs, 19 July, and to postpone consideration of Chippenham’s inclusion in schedule B, 27 July. However, he divided against the adjournment motion, 12 July, and for the proposed division of counties, 12 Aug. He accepted that no case could be made for removing Liskeard from schedule B, 29 July, but expressed concern at the bill’s effect on boroughs in remote parts of England where property values were low. He was ‘conscious of having done nothing to forfeit the confidence of the inhabitants’ and trusted that he would again be returned for the borough. He argued that Rochester and Chatham should be separated and given one Member each, 9 Aug. He voted against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept. He emerged at this time as a prominent opposition spokesman on foreign policy, drawing on his previous diplomatic experience. He thought there was insufficient justification for dismantling the Belgian frontier fortresses, which could only benefit France, 27 July, and urged the government to show the ‘utmost possible caution’. On 3 Aug. he warned that there was a strong feeling in the Netherlands against ‘not merely the hostile spirit, but what they consider the duplicity of this country’, in failing to compel Belgium to adhere to the original agreement for the separation of the countries. He asked the foreign secretary, Lord Palmerston, questions about the nature of the great powers’ guarantee of Belgian integrity, 6 Aug., and maintained six days later that the Dutch king had a ‘clear right’ to resume hostilities, given the Belgian monarch’s determination to retain Luxemburg and Limburg in defiance of the original protocols. He seconded Vyvyan’s motion for papers regarding the international conferences on Belgium, 18 Aug. 1831, observing that the Dutch king had behaved ‘as a just and benevolent monarch’ to the Belgian people; Charles Arbuthnot* considered that Eliot’s speech was ‘much the best of the two’.8

In November 1831 he privately advised against the proposed Cornish declaration for moderate reform, as he was unwilling to pledge support for ‘any specific measure ... in all its details’ and believed it would ‘divide and weaken the Conservative party’ in the county. He was not prepared to admit the necessity for ‘devising a new constitution’, which, however moderately framed, must ‘form an irresistible precedent for future innovations’.9 He divided against the second reading of the revised bill, 17 Dec. 1831, the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He supported the motion for papers regarding the enlistment of men for an expedition against Portugal, 9 Feb., arguing that France had no cause for complaint about the treatment of its citizens and that it was a matter of ‘gross impolicy’ for Britain to refuse to recognize Dom Miguel’s regime, which meant ‘closing the door of such a market’ at a time of distress in the manufacturing sector; he was a minority teller. In a survey of Palmerston’s foreign policy, 26 Mar., he predicted that war in Europe was inevitable, whether it broke out first in Italy, Portugal or the Netherlands, and he feared that ‘instead of being looked upon ... as the protectors of the weak’ Britain was ‘beginning to be regarded in the light of oppressors’. He warned of France’s aggressive intentions and pointed to evidence of a ‘deep hatred for the English’. He made no motion, having intended only to stimulate a general debate. He questioned Palmerston about the naval blockade of Madeira, 7 May. He divided against ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July, and four days later supported the motion for papers regarding the convention of 1815, as the Commons could not ‘sanction such a profligate expenditure of ... public money without sufficient reason’. He voted against the malt drawback bill, 2 Apr., and favoured bringing colonial expenditure ‘under one head’ so that the Commons could be kept fully informed of what was required, 13 Apr. 1832.

At the dissolution of 1832 Eliot retired from Liskeard after an unsuccessful canvass. In his address he defended his family’s ‘honourable connection’ with the borough and expressed disappointment that the services of one who was ‘independent in circumstances and unfettered by any professional avocations’ were not required at ‘what I cannot but consider an awful crisis’.10 Following his diplomatic mission to Spain, which resulted in the ‘Eliot Convention’ of 1835 on the treatment of prisoners of war, he was returned for East Cornwall in 1837 as a ‘moderate Conservative’.11 He held office in Peel’s second ministry and later served in various Liberal governments. He succeeded to his father’s earldom and Cornish estates in 1845. Richard Monckton Milnes† knew no man ‘of more noble and moderate spirit ... more free from selfishness and almost from party ambition’.12 He died in October 1877 and was succeeded in turn by his eldest surviving son, William Eliot (1829-81), Liberal Member for Devonport, 1866-8, and his second surviving son, Henry Eliot (1835-1911).

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Terry Jenkins


  • 1. Cornw. RO, St. Germans mss, 3 June 1822; Add. 41544, ff. 90-93, 115-17.
  • 2. The Times, 25 Feb. 1826.
  • 3. West Briton, 11 May 1827.
  • 4. Wellington mss WP1/895/15; 903/20; Hatherton diary, 10 Feb. 1828.
  • 5. Harrowby mss, Eliot to Harrowby, 21, 29 Jan., reply, 22 Jan.; Hatherton diary, 29 Jan. 1828; P. Jupp, British Politics on Eve of Reform, 264-5.
  • 6. Wellington mss WP1/988/14; Ellenborough Diary, i. 339.
  • 7. Lincs. AO, Ancaster mss 3 ANC 9/10/20.
  • 8. Aberdeen Univ. Lib., Arbuthnot mss, Arbuthnot to Hardinge, 19 Aug. 1831.
  • 9. Carew Pole mss CC/N/64, Eliot to Pole Carew, 16, 21 Nov. 1831.
  • 10. Ibid. CC/CO/14, Eliot’s address, 7 Dec. 1832.
  • 11. Dod’s Parl. Companion (1838), 105.
  • 12. Reid, Monckton Milnes, i. 271.