John Scott Eldon, earl of, lord chancellor of England, born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, June 4, 1751, died in London, Jan. 13, 1838. He became a fellow of University college, Oxford, in 1767, in 1771 gained a prize for an English prose essay, and in 1772 forfeited his fellowship by a runaway marriage. The forfeiture not taking effect for a year, he resumed his studies at Oxford with the intention of taking orders, if a living fell vacant during that period. This not having been the case, he devoted himself to the study of the law, removed to London in 1775, and entered the office of a conveyancer. He was called to the bar in 1776, and for sev-ral years attended the northern circuit without much success. In 1780-'81 he distinguished himself in the case of Ackroyd v. Smithson and in the Clitheroe election case, and his professional success was assured. His receipts ranged from £6,054 in 1785 to £10,557 in 1798. He was made king's counsel in 1783, and in the same year became a member of the house of commons, where he kept his seat till he entered the house of lords. He was knighted in 1788, and appointed solicitor general, and in 1793 attorney general, which office he held till 1799, conducting the state trials of 1794 against Home Tooke, Hardy, and others.
In 1799 he was appointed chief justice of the common pleas, created Baron Eldon of Eldon, and entered the house of lords. He proved a consummate common law judge. He became lord chancellor in 1801, and held the office for 26 years, with the exception of the time (1806-7) during which it was filled by Erskine. As head of the court of chancery, though distinguished for his knowledge of the law and the acuteness and subtlety with which he applied it, he encumbered the court with arrears, and caused great prejudice to the suitors immediately interested by his delay in rendering his judgments. The language in which they were stated was also obscure; but the extreme care with which they were prepared gives them high value as precedents. In the cabinet he had great influence; and under George III. he was said to have sometimes used the great seal in the name of the king even when the king was suffering from mental incapacity. He took part in all important debates in the house of lords, vigorously supported tory principles, and was earnest in his opposition to parliamentary reform and to the Catholic emancipation bill.
He was created Viscount Encombe and earl of Eldon in 1821. - See "The Public and Private Life of Lord Chancellor Eldon, with Selections from his Correspondence," by Horace Twiss (3 vols. 8vo, 1844), and "Lives of the Lord Chancellors," by Lord Campbell.