1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Auckland, William Eden
AUCKLAND, WILLIAM EDEN, 1st Baron (1745-1814), English statesman, son of Sir Robert Eden, 3rd Bart., of Windlestone Hall, Durham, and of Mary, daughter of William Davison, was born in 1745, educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, and called to the bar at the Middle Temple in 1768. In 1771 he published Principles of Penal Law, and was early recognized as an authority on commercial and economic questions, and in 1772 he was appointed an under secretary of state. He represented New Woodstock in the parliaments of 1774 and 1780, and Heytesbury in those of 1784 and 1790. In 1776 he was appointed a commissioner on the board of trade and plantations. In 1778 he carried an act for the improvement of the treatment of prisoners, and accompanied the earl of Carlisle as a commissioner to North America on an unsuccessful mission to settle the disputes with the colonists. On his return in 1779 he published his widely read Four Letters to the Earl of Carlisle, and in 1780 became chief secretary for Ireland. He was elected to the Irish House of Commons as member for Dungannon in 1781 and sworn of the Irish privy council, and while in Ireland established the National Bank. He advised the increase of the secret service fund, and was reputed, according to Lord Charlemont (a political opponent), as especially skilful in the arts of corruption and in overcoming political prejudices. He resigned in 1782, but in the following year he took office again as vice-treasurer of Ireland under the coalition ministry, which he had been instrumental in arranging, and was included in the privy council, resigning with the government in December. He opposed strongly Pitt’s propositions for free trade between England and Ireland in 1785, but took office with Pitt as a member of the committee on trade and plantations, and negotiated in 1786 and 1787 Pitt’s important commercial treaty with France, and agreements concerning the East India Companies and Holland. In 1787 he published his History of New Holland. Next year he was sent as ambassador to Spain, and after his return was created (September 1789) Baron Auckland in the Irish peerage. The same year he was sent on a mission to Holland, and represented English interests there with great zeal and prudence during the critical years of 1790 to 1793, obtaining the assistance of the Dutch fleet in 1790 on the menace of a war with Spain, signing the convention relating to the Netherlands the same year, and in 1793 attending the congress at Antwerp. He retired from the public service in the latter year, received a pension of £2300, and was created Baron Auckland of West Auckland, Durham, in the English peerage. During his retirement in the country at Beckenham, he continued his intimacy with Pitt, his nearest neighbour at Holwood, who at one time had thoughts of marrying his daughter; and with Pitt’s sanction he published his Remarks on the Apparent Cicumstances of the War in 1795, to prepare public opinion for a peace. In 1798 he was included in Pitt’s government as joint postmaster-general, and supported strongly the income tax and the Irish Union, assisting in drawing up the act embodying the latter. In 1799 he brought in a bill to check adultery by preventing the marriage of the guilty parties, and the same year took a mischievous part in the cabal against Sir Ralph Abercromby. He severely criticized Pitt’s resignation in 1801, from which he had endeavoured to dissuade him, and retained office under Addington. This terminated his friendship with Pitt, who excluded him from his administration in 1804 though he increased his pension. Auckland was included in Granville’s ministry of “All the Talents” as president of the board of trade in 1806. He held the appointments of auditor and director of Greenwich hospital, recorder of Grantham, and chancellor of the Marischal College in Aberdeen. He died on the 28th of May 1814.
He had married in 1776 Eleanor, sister of the first Lord Minto, and had a large family. Emily Eden (1797-1869), the novelist, was one of his daughters. On the death of his son George, 2nd baron and earl of Auckland (q.v.), the barony passed to the 1st baron’s younger son Robert John (1799-1870), bishop of Bath and Wells, from whom the later barons were descended, and who was also the father of Sir Ashley Eden (1831-1887), lieutenant-governor of Bengal. The 1st baron had two distinguished brothers—Morton Eden (1752-1830), a diplomatist, who married Lady Elizabeth Henley, and in 1799 was created 1st Baron Henley (his family, from 1831, taking the name of Henley instead of Eden); and Sir Robert Eden, governor of Maryland, whose son, Sir Frederic Morton Eden (1766-1809), was a well-known economist.
Lord Auckland’s Journal and Correspondence, published in 1861-1862, throws much light on the political history of the time.