SCOTT, John, Visct. Encombe (1805-1854), of 109 Piccadilly, Mdx.

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

Constituency

Dates

6 Mar. 1829 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 10 Dec. 1805, o.s. of Hon. John Scott† (1st s. of John Scott†, 1st earl of Eldon) and Henrietta Elizabeth, da. of Sir Matthew White Ridley†, 2nd bt., of Blagdon and Heaton, Northumb. educ. Westminster 1821-3; New Coll. Oxf. 1824. m. 1 Oct. 1831, Hon. Louisa Duncombe, da. of Charles Duncombe*, 1st Bar. Feversham, 1s. 6da. styled Visct. Encombe 1821-38. suc. grandfa. as 2nd earl of Eldon 13 Jan. 1838; cos. Mary Anne Scott, Viscountess Sidmouth, to Stowell Park, Glos. 1842. d. 29 Sept. 1854.

Offices Held

Biography

Scott’s father died when he was two weeks old, leaving him heir to the peerage of his redoubtable grandfather lord chancellor Eldon, who became his guardian. In 1811 his mother married James William Farrer of Ingleborough, Yorkshire; Eldon disapproved, but subsequently appointed Farrer a master in chancery. The chancellor, who regarded his grandson ‘with all the affection of a father’, was determined that he should attend a public school (‘no considerable man can be formed in a private one’) and supervised his education, impressing on him the importance of ensuring that ‘a great stock of information is laid in the mind, and a great stock of virtuous and religious feeling is implanted in the heart’.1 Scott witnessed the trial of Queen Caroline in the House of Lords in 1820. When Eldon accepted an earldom the following year, he sought a ruling from the college of heralds on his grandson’s right to adopt the courtesy title which would have belonged to his father. On establishing that it was in order for him to do so, Eldon advised Encombe (as he was henceforth styled):

If a peer does not do credit to his titles, his titles will confer no credit upon him ... Your time ... must be well spent and carefully husbanded. Dissipation of every kind must be anxiously avoided ... Acquire knowledge and practice virtue.

The reply, Eldon told his daughter, could not have given him ‘greater satisfaction’. In 1824 Encombe went up to Oxford to experience, as Eldon put it, ‘the most critical period of your life’:

If your time is not well spent there, it cannot but be ill employed ... The proper companions at Oxford are your books, and such students as love books, having, also, their minds stored with sound moral and religious principles.

When he came of age in 1826 his grandfather wrote to him with obvious affection, thanking him for his past exemplary conduct. Early in 1828 he was set up in his own London establishment at 109 Piccadilly.2 That spring Lady Londonderry secured him membership of Almack’s Club, and a slightly bemused Eldon noted that ‘John, the dancer’ was ‘a constant attendant’ and had ‘grown an amateur entirely of the employment, which it was but a little while ago that he spoke of with contempt, if not with disgust’.3 On 28 May 1828 he accompanied his grandfather for the first time to the annual Pitt Club dinner. About this time, the duke of Newcastle was willing to nominate him for East Retford, if a new writ was issued. In February 1829, while he was in residence in Oxford for the purposes of his Master’s degree, he expressed his readiness to stand against the leader of the Commons, Peel, who was seeking re-election after announcing his conversion to Catholic emancipation; in the event he was passed over for a more experienced candidate. Meantime, Eldon declined on his behalf an offer from Newcastle to bring him in for Newark, explaining that there had been

a question whether, if you came into Parliament, you would immediately begin a vigorous and active attack and leading conduct as to the Catholic business. I thought that though you would be very zealous upon that and other points, it required not only abilities, but great experience, to manage such attack and conduct, that it would be dangerous to attempt it, that failure at first in Parliament is generally the effect of not waiting to learn by the experience which observation furnishes: and nine persons out of ten ... fail by such early attempts, and after failure never recover. I was clear therefore that this could not do.4

Yet a fortnight later Encombe was returned for Truro by Lord Falmouth, a connection of Eldon by his daughter’s marriage, who had turned out the sitting Members for refusing to oppose the Wellington ministry’s emancipation bill.5

Encombe took his seat on 9 Mar. and duly voted against emancipation, 18, 27, 30 Mar. 1829. When presenting a hostile petition, 24 Mar., he expressed his conviction that ‘no further concessions can be granted to the Roman Catholics with safety to the constitution’, and he cited Wellington as his authority for this view. He divided against the government on the silk bill, 1 May, and the issue of a new writ for East Retford, 2 June. In September 1829 the duke of Cumberland sent Eldon ‘a pretty correct list’ of ‘the state of the House of Commons’, as perceived by the Ultra leader Sir Richard Vyvyan*, and observed that ‘we are tolerably strong and probably will be stronger if Encombe is with you’. Cumberland wished Encombe to be shown the list, but ‘say not from whom I have got it; he may perhaps also have his ideas respecting our strength’.6 The following month Vyvyan listed him among the ‘Tories strongly opposed to the present government’. He voted for Knatchbull’s amendment to the address on distress, 4 Feb., and for many of the retrenchment motions that session in which the Ultras combined with the other opposition groups, including the successful one against the Bathurst and Dundas pensions, 26 Mar. 1830. He divided for Lord Palmerston’s motion condemning British interference in the affairs of Portugal, 10 Mar. However, unlike some of the disaffected Tories, he had no truck with parliamentary reform and voted against the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. He divided against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May, and the administration of justice bill, 18 June. He raised some objections to the Wareham road bill, which affected Eldon’s Dorset property, 17 Mar. Although he claimed to have no qualms about the new metropolitan police while they remained under Peel’s control, 28 May 1830, he felt they had ‘too much of a military character’. He was returned for Truro at the general election that summer, after an attempt to open the borough failed; he survived a subsequent petition.

The ministry listed him as one of the ‘violent Ultras’ and he duly voted against them in the crucial civil list division, 15 Nov. 1830. He divided against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, which proposed partially to disfranchise Truro, 22 Mar. 1831. Three days later he said he was ‘anxious to let the inhabitants’ of Truro know that it was ‘his wish to represent their interests’, as well as those of the corporation ‘which sent me here’. He argued that the borough’s population ought properly to include the residents of two neighbouring parishes and was big enough to justify its retention of two seats. He complained that the ‘corrected’ population returns were still full of errors, 12 Apr., and voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. He came in again for Truro at the ensuing general election, after another token contest. He was actively involved in the contest for Dorset, and was so again at the by-election that autumn.7 He divided against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, by which Truro had its other seat restored, 6 July 1831. Although Eldon now spoke of his ‘entire union’ with Wellington, Lord Ellenborough still identified Encombe as one of the ‘Ultras’.8 He voted for use of the 1831 census to determine the disfranchisement schedules, 19 July, and later that day maintained, unsuccessfully, that Appleby was entitled to the same treatment as Truro. He attacked the Calcrafts and their Member Wood for abandoning Wareham to its fate, 26 July. He divided against the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham next day, and was in the ministerial minority against the Chandos clause to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug. He voted against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish reform bill, 23 Sept. His honeymoon caused him to miss the division on Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct., when a call of the House was enforced, but his defalcation was passed over with ‘a good humoured laugh’.9 He divided for the motion to censure the Irish administration for its conduct during the Dublin election, 23 Aug., and against the issue of a new writ for Liverpool, 5 Sept. He voted against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and entering committee, 20 Jan. 1832. Soon afterwards John Croker*, reflecting that ‘the Ultra Tories’ were ‘but a hollow support’ to the opposition leaders, named Encombe and Eldon among a faction who, ‘though they vote with us, are evidently a different party, and will never, I think, be reconciled to Peel unless ... he should swear allegiance to the duke of Cumberland’.10 He divided against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., the third reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar., and the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May. He voted against ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan. He divided in the minorities for a tax on Irish absentee landlords, 19 June, and against the Irish education grant, 23 July 1832. He did not seek election to the reformed Parliament, and became instead ‘a retired country gentleman’.11

In 1834 Eldon gave Encombe the money to buy a property at Shirley, near Croydon, but in his cantankerous last years he came to regret his generosity, for its effect was to deter his grandson from dancing attendance on him in London during the winters.12 On Eldon’s death in January 1838 Encombe succeeded to his title, his estates in Dorset and county Durham, his London house in Hamilton Place and the residue of his personalty, which was sworn under £100,000. On the death of Lady Sidmouth, the only surviving child of his great-uncle Lord Stowell, in 1842, he also came into possession of Stowell Park, Gloucestershire.13 As a peer he was not particularly active in politics. He sponsored his half-brother James Farrer’s unsuccessful attempt on South Durham at the general election of 1841 (Farrer later won the seat), was president of the Pitt Club the following year and opposed repeal of the corn laws in 1846.14 He devoted much of his time between 1838 and 1844 to furnishing Horace Twiss* with material for the biography of his grandfather, whose memory he venerated.