Eliot, Edward, Lord Eliot 1727-1804, politician, eldest son of Richard Eliot of Port Eliot, Cornwall, who married in March 1726 Harriot, natural daughter of James Craggs, secretary of state, was born in the parish of St. George, Hanover Square, 8 July 1727. In company with Philip Stanhope, the illegitimate son of Lord Chesterfield, he travelled through Holland, Germany, and Switzerland, under the charge of the Rev. Walter Harte. On his return through France he met Lord Charlemont, who found that Eliot's excellent understanding, cultivated and improved by the best education, and animated by a mind of the most pleasing cast, rendered him the most agreeable of companions, and in Hardy's Memoirs of Charlemont, i. 61-8, is a long account of a visit which the young men paid to Montesquieu at his seat near Bordeaux. Among the manuscripts at Port Eliot are numerous letters written by Eliot during this period to his father, twenty letters from the father to his son, ten from Harte, half a dozen from Lord Chesterfield, and three from Philip Stanhope at Leipzig to Eliot in England (Hist. MSS. Comm. 1st Rep. p. 41). He inherited the family estates, on the death of his father through consumption, on 19 Nov. 1748, and he married at St. James's, Westminster, on 25 Sept. 1756, Catherine, sole child and heiress of Edward Elliston of Guestingthorpe, Essex, by his wife Catherine Gibbon. Mrs. Eliot was a first cousin of Gibbon, the historian, and their three sons, says Gibbon, are my nearest male relations on the father's side. Eliot was possessed of vast borough influence in Cornwall. According to Bentham, who made his acquaintance at Bowood in 1781, when Eliot had been connected in politics with Lord Shelburne for sixteen years, he was knight of the shire and puts in seven borough members for Cornwall. The constituencies of Liskeard, St. Germans, and Grampound were at this time entirely under his control, and among his nominees were Philip Stanhope, Samuel Salt (immortalised in Charles Lamb's Essays of Elia), Gibbon, and Bryan Edwards. Stanhope was brought in for Liskeard in 1754, owing to Mr. Eliot's friendship, in the most friendly manner imaginable, but his return for St. Germans in 1761 was attended de mauvaise grāce, though he might have done it at first in a friendly and handsome manner, and the price paid on the second occasion was 2,000l. Gibbon's election was also an act of private friendship, though, as it turned out, much to Eliot's regret. Eliot himself sat for St. Germans from 1748 to 1768, Liskeard from 1768 to 1774, St. Germans again 1774-5, and Cornwall from 1775 to 1784, when he was created Baron Eliot of St. Germans (30 Jan. 1784). From 1751 to his death he was receiver-general for the Prince of Wales in the duchy of Cornwall, a lucrative post estimated at 2,000l. per annum, and from January 1760 to March 1776 he was a commissioner for the board of trade and plantations. The ministry of North was supported by him in the early stages of the American war, but in March 1776 he voted against the employment of the Hessian troops, and resigned his position at the board of trade. Gibbon, like his patron in politics, supported the Tory ministry at first, and continued to vote with them until the dissolution in 1780, when Mr. Eliot was deeply engaged in the measures of opposition, and the electors of Liskeard are commonly of the same opinion as Mr. Eliot. Seven letters from Gibbon to Eliot, two of which are in defence of his parliamentary conduct, are at Port Eliot (Hist. MSS. Comm. 1st Rep. p. 41). It is mentioned in Hansard's Parl. Hist. xx. 621, to Eliot's credit, that when it was proposed to vest in the two universities the sole right of printing almanacks, Carnan, a bookseller, petitioned against the measure, and Erskine spoke in support of the petition with such success that although Eliot had come up from Cornwall at the request of the chancellor of Oxford University to support the bill, he was converted to the opposite side through Erskine's arguments, and publicly acknowledged it in the lobby. The manor of Charlton in Kent came to him through his descent from Craggs in 1765, and on 15 April 1789 he assumed by sign-manual the name and arms of that family. He died at Port Eliot 17 Feb. 1804, and his wife died on 23 Feb. They were both buried at St. Germans on 1 March. The Eliots were among the earliest patrons of Reynolds, and Lord Eliot was one of Sir Joshua's most familiar and valued friends, to whom he sat for his portrait in March 1781 and January 1782, and by whom Lady Eliot's portrait, a kit-cat, was painted in January 1786. He belonged to the Literary Club, and several of his sayings are recorded in Boswell. He brought under Johnson's notice the account of Lord Peterborough in Captain Carleton's Memoirs, and the introduction was repaid with the remark: I did not think a young lord could have mentioned to me a book in English history that was not known to me. Bentham described him as a modest, civil, good kind of man, sensible enough, but without those pretensions which one would expect to find in a man whose station in his country is so commanding and political influence so great. He is modest enough in his conversation about politics, but desponding. He says he scarce ever looks into a paper, nor does he, for fear of ill news. Several of his letters are among the manuscripts of Lord Lansdowne (Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. p. 238).
Gibbon's Memoirs (1827 ed.), i. 16, 57, 213, 226-7, ii. 75, 123, 125, 138
Chesterfield's Letters (1845 ed.), ii. 355, 364, iv. 337, 394-5, v. 449-50
Bentham's Life (Works x.), 96, 97, 101 Taylor's Sir Joshua Reynolds, ii. 343, 387, 431, 499
Boswell (Hill's ed.), i. 479, iii. 54, iv. 78-9, 326, 332-4
Walpole's Journals, 1771-83, ii. 26
Lysons's Environs, iv. 331, 333, 342
Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. i. 137, iii. 1171
Genealogy of Eliot and Craggs, Miscell. Geneal. and Herald. ii. 44, and privately printed 1868.
Contributor: W. P. C. [William Prideaux Courtney]