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purported to give the royal assent to certain bills. On 24 March, of his own motion, without consulting Addington, he had a tête-à-tête with Pitt. On 18 or 19 April the king, by Addington's advice, authorised him to open the negotiations which terminated in Addington's retirement and Pitt's return to power. As what passed between him and Pitt on 24 March has not transpired, the imputation of disloyalty to Addington cast upon him by Brougham, Pellew, and Lord Campbell rests on no substantial basis [see Addington, Henry, first Viscount Sidmouth] (Stanhope, Life of Pitt, ed. 1879, iii. 196, 211 et seq.).
To the king his loyalty was above suspicion, and it was requited with confidence and affection. To his diplomacy was entrusted, in the summer of 1804, the delicate task of composing the feuds which distracted the royal family. By urbanity, tact, and dignity, he prevailed with the prince to see his father and converse with him for a short while on indifferent topics (12 Nov. 1804), and eventually (January 1805) to concede to him the exclusive charge of the Princess Charlotte. In the House of Lords his energies were absorbed in defeating such proposals as the abolition of the slave trade and the emancipation of the debtor and the catholic (3, 24 July 1804, 25 March, 10, 13 May 1805). On the collapse of the administration which followed Pitt's death, he somewhat tardily (7 Feb. 1806) surrendered the seals. The king parted with him with profound regret. ‘Lay them down on the sofa,’ he said, pointing to the seals, ‘for I cannot and will not take them from you. Yet I admit you cannot stay when all the rest have run away.’ His retiring pension, by previous arrangement, was fixed at 4,000l.
Except to question the propriety of the acceptance by Lord Ellenborough of a seat in the cabinet while retaining the chief-justiceship—for which the only precedent was furnished by Lord Mansfield—to fight again the battle for the creditors' and sugar-planters' supposed vested interests in human flesh, and to record his vote for Lord Melville's acquittal (3 March, 14, 16 May, 12 June 1806), Eldon took little part in public affairs during the shortlived administration of All the Talents. Much of his leisure was occupied with the affairs of the Princess of Wales (Caroline Amelia Elizabeth), as whose adviser he acted during the scrutiny into her conduct; and solicitude to prevent the publication of ‘the book’ brought him to Windsor during the contest between the king and his advisers on the catholic question in March 1807. The coincidence raised a suspicion that he was privy to, if not the prompter of, the king's unconstitutional attempt to foreclose that question; nor did he in unequivocal terms deny the imputation, which is likely enough to be well founded. Lord Campbell's statement that he was concerned in the composition of ‘the book,’ the publication of which he afterwards (1808) restrained by injunction, is improbable in itself and unsupported by authority.
On the formation of the Portland administration in 1807 Eldon resumed the great seal, which he retained for rather more than twenty years. During great part of this period the strength of his convictions, the dexterity and decision with which he encountered emergencies, and a veritable genius for managing men, gave him paramount influence in the cabinet. Few English statesmen have been less trammelled by the maxims of the comity of nations or constitutional precedents and forms. Though naturally pacific, the subjugation of Napoleon was to him an end which sanctified all means. The seizure of the Danish fleet in 1807 he justified by the plea of necessity, while acknowledging that it was without colour of right; the orders in council by which the entire seaboard under the dominion or control of France was declared under blockade, to the infinite damage of neutral commerce, and also the practice of searching neutral ships for British seamen, he defended on grounds which have since been generally repudiated by publicists; and his plea for the detention of Bonaparte in 1815, that he had neither king nor country, but had constituted himself an independent belligerent, and was thus at the mercy of his captors, was perhaps more subtle than sound. Napoleon disposed of, his foreign policy was simply non-intervention. An orator he never became, but the dignity of his person and the melody of his voice triumphed over the clumsy and circumlocutory character of his style. His power of personal fascination was extraordinary. Secure in his ascendency over the king, he regarded without anxiety but not without resentment the intrigues of Canning to oust him from office during the protracted crisis of September–October 1809; and in the end it was Canning that retired, while the Duke of Portland was replaced by Eldon's old associate and intimate friend, Spencer Perceval. In 1811, when the lunacy of the king became chronic, Eldon was still on the worst of terms with the prince, whom he further embittered by adhering to the view of the procedure to constitute the regency which