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My Lord, I have delayed writing to your Lordship, because I had thought myself to believe That I might have the Honour of waiting upon you, &, in that Case, the Opportunity of a few Minutes Conversation about Walkington. I have not held the Chancery Sittings, because Mr. Pearson informed me that there was neither Cause nor Motion to dispose of, and, though the Country ought not to have in its Power to say that they have not a Court open, to which they may occasionally come, I ventured to think that, with this Information given me, and no business having been done at the last Sittings, they would have no Reason to complain of your Chancellor, if he postponed attending the Court till the next Spring. Notwithstanding this determination I meant to be farther North than I am, But I am afraid that I have found the ‘Solicitae iucunda Oblivia Vitae’ so bewitching, as to have induced me to allow my Time of Absence from Town to glide almost wholly away, before I have been sufficiently impressed with the reflection that it was well nigh spent. I regret this the less, as far as your Lordship’s Interests ought to influence my feelings about it, because, upon Consideration, I do not think that I could, very usefully, have done more, if I had had the Pleasure of a Conversation with you, than what I am doing by Letter, which is to request that you would direct your Secretary to desire that your Solicitor may call upon me in Lincolns Inn upon my Return to Town, which I think will be early in the next Week, with a Copy of the Affidavits, upon which the Court of Common Pleas granted the Rule _ I think it would be also desirable that Mr. Pearson should transmit to me to Lincolns Inn about the same Time, as accurate an Account & Narrative as he can, of those disputes, differences, & questions, which the present Lease to Mr. L. states to have arisen between the Bishop & Mr. L. which, of course, will include in it some account of the <v[ouch]safe> of Enjoyment by the Tenants of the Wood as to cutting it, and I think it must also include the Opinions, which Sir F Norton, & Mr Wilbraham formerly gave upon the Subject of the Tenant’s having or not having a Right to cut the Wood, and he and Mr Mowbray will probably be able to explain upon what principles they thought that the Arrangements made by the Lease, (attending to what L. was required to do by it) & which propose that L. should have two thirds of all Timber grown or to grow, & the Bishop & his Successors one third, were reasonably Beneficial to the See; an Arrangement which seems to me to apply to the 70 Acres to be planted, as well as to the other demised premises. Lockwood seems surprised that I should have doubted the validity of his Lease, & I found that Mr <Plumer>, who was his Counsel before Parlt., had not felt much doubt about it: to be sure, if L. had a Right as against the Bishop, to denude the Land of all the Timber when he pleased, there may not be much Reason to doubt the Validity of the Lease: but, if the Timber was the Bishop’s, how can this Lease, with its Arrangement, be good against your Successor, as to any one Tree that shall be upon the Land in his Time? or, if the <v[ouch]safe> was to cut Timber only, that was from Time to Time growing rife? There are other Considerations also respecting the Validity of the Lease, in my Apprehension, material, but I understood Mr L. to be very willing to submit all these Matters to Mr <Plumer> & myself, who were in the Course of considering them, when this Application was made to the Common Pleas. It will, in my Opinion, be material to learn what Affidavits Lockwood means to lay before the Court, if he is advised to lay any before the Court _ This occurs to me to be so, because the fact that the Timber has been principally cut down, pending the disputes, against your directions, seems to me, at present, to be a fact which it may be difficult, with due Regard to you, not to state to the Court, & which cannot, with a very favourable effect, as with respect to him, be stated to the Court. It also occurs to me to be so, because he knows best whether he can or will by Affidavit deny that he made those Assurances respecting the <Intention> not to cut down the Wood, <which> their Affidavits, if I rightly <re…t> them, aver that he did make _ and it may be difficult, with due Regard to you, not to state that fact that no Applications were made to you by the Land Owners as to the not converting the Wood into Land otherwise cultivated, and that neither they nor he communicated to you the fact that such Assurances were given by L., or received by the Land Owners. It seemed to me as if his Counsel meant to rely upon the Court’s having no Jurisdiction if the facts stated in the Affidavits were true, & therefore not to answer as to the Matter of fact, but it may deserve very grave Consideration whether this Matter should be so treated as to the Bishop of Durham, or at least, whether Case should not anxiously be taken that, if the Matter is rested upon the Question of Jurisdiction, the Court should not be fully informed that, as with respect to the Bishop, the Land Owners cannot possibly have been misled by him. This business will be heard about the middle of November: with reference to your concern in it, I can only add that I shall exert my best Judgement with much Anxiety, both, because I ought to do so, and because I cannot deny that I think that neither your Lordship, nor I have been handsomely treated in the last Scenes of this business. I had written thus far when Mr Solr. General interrupted me, most agreeably, by coming in to dine with me. In this business he is very hearty, and he tells me that he means to pay his Respects to your Lordship at Auckland Castle. He has almost <inclined> me to think that the Discussion should turn chiefly, before the Common Pleas, upon the Jurisdiction of the Court, and I am much struck with what he suggests - that this is not the Concern of the Bishop of Durham, but of all the Bishops, & that no Bishop can cut an <Oak>, if this Application, uncontrolled by the King, the Patron of all Sees, can be successfully made to the Court by any Man, who chuses to make it. I have the Honour to be, Your faithful & obliged Servt. J. Scott. Newby Park Sept 25. 1797
John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon, (1751-1838) was a British barrister and politician. He served as Lord Chancellor of Great Britain between 1801 and 1806 and again between 1807 and 1827. He was Chancellor of Durham between in 1787-8, but describes himself as such in this letter of a decade later. He was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, the son of a prosperous merchant of humble origins. In 1772 Scott famously eloped with Bessie Surtees from her father’s house in Sandhill, Newcastle. Also something of a windbag if this letter, which concerns a dispute between the Bishop and one of his tenants over a Yorkshire lease, is anything to go by.