Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Eden, Frederick Morton

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EDEN, Sir FREDERICK MORTON (1766–1809), writer on the state of the poor, was the eldest son of Sir Robert Eden (created a baronet in 1776), governor of Maryland, and grandson of Sir Robert, third baronet of West Auckland. William Eden, first lord Auckland [q. v.], was his uncle. His mother was Caroline Calvert, sister and co-heiress of the last Lord Baltimore. The date of his birth is gathered from an inscription in the gallery of Ealing parish church, where he was buried, which states that he died at the age of forty-three. He entered Christ Church, Oxford, where he matriculated 19 April 1783, ‘aged 16’ (Foster, Alumni Oxon.) He graduated B.A. 6 Feb. 1787, and M.A. 27 Oct. 1789 (Catalogue of Oxford Graduates). In 1792 he married the daughter of James Paul Smith. The rest of his life appears to have been spent in business, and in social and economical investigations. He was one of the founders and was afterwards chairman of the Globe Insurance Company (Walford, Insurance Cyclop.); and he died at the office of the company 14 Nov. 1809. He left five sons and two daughters; the eldest son, Sir Frederick, third baronet, was killed at New Orleans 24 Dec. 1814; the second, Sir William, succeeded his brother as fourth baronet; the third was Robert, bishop of Moray [q. v.]

Eden is spoken of as a man of well-known benevolence of disposition, and his writings display a cultivated and scholarly mind. From his humorous poem called ‘The Vision,’ in which he takes to task his friend Jonathan Boucher [q. v.] for being unduly engrossed in etymological study, one might imagine that his bent was not less to literature than to political economy. His sole claim to fame, however, is the investigation which he made into the state of the labouring classes in England. He was led to the subject by the high prices of 1794 and 1795. Being a man of means, and earnestly interested in the subject, he performed the work with great thoroughness. He visited and studied several parishes personally; he had many correspondents, clergymen and others; and, for the rest, he secured the services of ‘a remarkably faithful and intelligent person, who has spent more than a year in travelling from place to place for the express purpose of obtaining exact information agreeably to a set of queries with which I furnished him’ (pref. to The State of the Poor). The three volumes which he published in 1797 (the year before Malthus published the first edition of the ‘Essay on Population’), when he was only thirty-one years of age, form one of the classical works in economical literature, and are so rich in valuable facts, not to be found elsewhere, that they can never pass out of date. Karl Marx has said that Eden is ‘the only disciple of Adam Smith during the eighteenth century that produced any work of importance’ (Capital, Eng. trans. ii. 629). However this may be, to no writer of the time have subsequent investigators been more indebted.

The following is a list of Eden's works:

  1. ‘The State of the Poor; or an History of the Labouring Classes in England from the Conquest to the present period; in which are particularly considered their domestic economy with respect to diet, dress, fuel, and habitation; and the various plans which, from time to time, have been proposed and adopted for the relief of the poor, &c.,’ 3 vols. 4to. Vol. i. contains the treatise on the poor; vol. ii. parochial reports relating to the administration of workhouses and houses of industry, friendly societies, &c.; vol. iii. parochial reports continued, and appendix containing tables of prices, wages, &c. No. 18 of appendix is a catalogue of publications on subjects relative to the poor. An abridged translation of the work is found in vol. vii. of Duquesnoy's ‘Recueil de mémoires sur les établissements d'humanité.’
  2. ‘Porto-Bello: or a plan for the improvement of the Port and City of London,’ plates, 1798.
  3. ‘An Estimate of the Number of the Inhabitants in Great Britain and Ireland,’ 1800. Written while the Census Bill was before parliament; partly extracted from ‘The State of the Poor.’
  4. ‘Observations on Friendly Societies, for the maintenance of the industrious classes during sickness, infirmity, old age, and other exigencies,’ 1801.
  5. ‘Eight Letters on the Peace; and on the Commerce and Manufactures of Great Britain,’ 1802. Originally addressed to the ‘Porcupine’ newspaper and signed ‘Philanglus.’
  6. ‘Brontes: a cento to the memory of the late Viscount Nelson, duke of Bronté, 1806,’ anonymous; in Latin hexameters.
  7. ‘Address on the Maritime Rights of Great Britain,’ 1807; 2nd edit. (containing ‘suggestions on the measures necessary to render the United Kingdom independent of other countries for the most indispensable articles now supplied by foreign commerce’), 1808.
  8. ‘The Vision,’ 1820, another edition 1828; addressed to the Rev. Jonathan Boucher.

The notice in the ‘Gent. Mag.’ (June 1804) of Boucher is by Eden (pref. to Letters of Rich. Radcliffe and John James, Oxford Hist. Soc. p. xiv). Walford (Insurance Cyclopædia, art. ‘Eden’) mentions also a pamphlet ‘On the Policy and Expediency of granting Insurance Charters,’ 1806, and a proposal for the establishment in London of a fire brigade on the model of the corps de sapeurs-pompiers of Paris, 1808. A letter of Eden's criticising a scheme of Bentham's for annuity notes is among the Bentham MSS. (Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 31235), and Nichols prints two of his letters to Bishop Percy (Lit. Illustrations, viii. 355–6).

[Gent. Mag. lxxviii. 1178; Walford's Insurance Cyclop.; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. P. M.