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DEATH OF GEORGE I.
of it the Lord Chancellor read George I.'s last speech to parliament, thanking them for the zeal and harmony May 15, with which they had despatched the public business.. 1727. His Majesty, having appointed Lords Justices, immediately set off for the Continent, and never again touched British ground, dying, on the 10th of June, on his way to Osnaburgh, and being interred, with his ancestors, in Hanover.
During his reign of thirteen years, the public attention was so completely devoted to the struggle for the throne between the old and new dynasties, that no regard was paid to legal reform. Lord Somers's Statute of Jeofails” continued the most recent attempt to correct the abuses of Westminster Hall.
The penal code had been rendered more severe by the Riot Act, and by several fiscal regulations encroaching on the liberty of action which had formerly prevailed in England. Even the impeachment of Lord Macclesfield had produced little beyond salutary exposure, no measures being yet taken effectually to prevent the recurrence of similar evils. But Lord Chancellor King was not forgetful of his duty to struggle for the improvement of our institutions; and, amidst the difficulties which surrounded him, he afterwards accomplished in this department as much as could reasonably be expected from him, and more than was attempted by his successors during the rest of the eighteenth century,
CONCLUSION OF THE LIFE OF LORD CHANCELLOR KING.
The Lord Chancellor's own Diary will best introduce his proceedings in the new reign :
Wednesday, June 14, 1727.-About five in the evening I had a letter from Sir R. Walpole, informing me that the King was dead, and desiring me to meet him immediately at the Duke of Devonshire's. I
* The original of this letter, in the hand- King's death. Pray hasten away to my Lord writing of Sir R. Walpole, lies before me: President's, where I wait your coming. (Copy.)
“ Yours, &c. “My Lord, “ Wedn. 5 o'clock.
“R. WALPOLE." " The melancholy news is just come of the
went there immediately, and found that Sir R. Walpole, on receipt of the news from Lord Townshend, had instantly gone to Richmond and acquainted the Prince with it, and that thereupon the Prince had resolved to be in town as fast as he could that evening. In the mean time we prepared, by the Attorney and Solicitor General, the draft for proclaiming the King, and settled the other things necessary to be done. The King, in the mean time, came to town, and sent us word that he was ready whenever we were ready to wait on him. Accordingly, we who were at the Duke of Devonshire's, except the Duke himself, who had the gout, went to Leicester House, and there being joined by several others of the nobility, we sent in to the King to desire an audience : and
although the Archbishop was present, yet I made a short speech to the King, according to agreement, setting out the great sorrow we were under by the unexpected death of the late King, and that nothing could relieve or mitigate it but the certain prospect of happiness under his future administration : and that being now become our liege Lord, we desired leave to withdraw into the council-chamber to draw up a form of proclamation for proclaiming him, and to sign it as usual; which being granted, we retired into the council-chamber, and there the form, which we had before agreed upon, was produced, engrossed, and thereon all the Lords of the Council then present first signed it. Then the doors were opened, and the Peers in the outer room were desired to walk in and sign it, which they did ; then it was delivered to the gentlemen in the outer room to sign as many as they pleased. And after it had been some time out the Lords of the Council sent for the parchment, which being returned, secret intimation was given to the King that the Council were ready to receive him. Whereon he immediately came in, and, seating himself in the royal chair, he there read the declaration, that was printed at the desire of the Lords of the Council : it had been prepared at the Duke of Devonshire's by Sir R. Walpole and the Speaker. After that, orders were given for the proclaiming of the King the next morning at ten o'clock, and several other orders of course were made, which are to be seen in the council-book, particularly one for proroguing the Parliament, being now, by reason of the King's demise, immediately to meet. Thursday, 15th.--A little after ten I came to Leicester House, and the heralds and all being ready, about eleven the Archbishop of Canterbury, myself, and other Lords, went into the yard before Leicester House, and there the heralds proclaimed the King, we being there on foot uncovered. As soon as that was done, we went into our respective coaches, and in the street before Leicester House the King was again proclaimed. From thence we went and proclaimed him at Charing-Cross, Temple-Bar, the corner of Wood Street, and the Royal Exchange. After that I came home, and about four o'clock got to the House of Lords, where the Parliament met, and all the Lords present taking the oaths, I then informed the House that I had a commission from the King to prorogue the Parliament to the twenty-seventh instant, which was the day it stood prorogued to in the late King's time. And thereon the Lords Commissioners seated them
IN FAVOUR WITH GEORGE II.
selves as usual in such cases, and on message by the Usher of the Black Rod, the Speaker and Commons coming to the bar, the commission was read, and I declared the Parliament prorogued to the twentyseventh instant. From hence I went to Leicester House, a Council being appointed this evening, and there several other orders were made, which had been omitted the evening before, and particularly the same proclamation which had been issued out upon the death of Queen Anne on the foundation of the act Sexto Annce for continuing persons in their offices, and requiring them to take the oaths according to the said act. Friday, 16th.-A Council in the evening, wherein I delivered up the Seals to the King, who re-delivered them to me as Chancellor, and thereon I was sworn Chancellor in Council. Saturday, 17th.-I was sworn Chancellor in the Chancery Court in Westminster Hall, and this day I swore all the Judges de novo, and the King's Council, and some of the Welsh Judges pursuant to the act of parliament Sexto Anna. Sunday, 18th.-Received the sacrament at Ockham to qualify myself. Tuesday, 20th.-Took the oaths in the King's Bench ; went to Kensington and presented the Judges, both English and Welsh, Masters in Chancery, and the King's Council, who all kissed the King's and Queen's hands. Saturday, 24th.–At a Cabinet Council at Lord Townshend's office the King's speech settled. There then arose a question whether the King was to take the test on his first coming to parliament next Tuesday, and the Lords desired me to look into that matter, and I promised them to do it by Monday morning, and lay what I could find before them for their determination. Monday, 26th.–At Lord Townshend's in the morning, where were present Harcourt, Trevor, Walpole, Newcastle, the Speaker, Townshend, Godolphin, and myself, and Í stated the matter to them.” [After discussing the matter at great length, he adds :) “ On these reasons the Lords all present agreed that there was no need for the King now to take the test; but he might do it at his coronation if that intervene before a new parliament should be chosen.”
Lord King might consider himself in luck to retain the Great Seal under him whose pretensions to educate his children and to consent to their marriage he had treated so unceremoniously; but George II. would not avenge the injuries of the Prince of Wales, and he now became reconciled to doctrines which would add to his power over his own son, whom he so much detested. He therefore received the Chancellor very graciously, saying, “Your Lordship has always shown yourself, and no doubt will continue to show yourself
, a zealous servant of the Crown, and a warm friend to the Protestant succession." His Majesty, however, made an attempt to usurp patronage, which, we learn from the Chancellor's Journal, was manfully and successfully resisted :
“ The King, when he came to the throne, had formed a system both
of men and things, and to make alterations in several offices, as to their power, and particularly as to mine. About July 8th he told me that he expected to nominate to all benefices and prebendaries that the Chancellor usually nominated to. I told him, with great submission, that this was a right belonging to the office, annexed to it by act of parliament and immemorial usage, and I hoped he would not put things out of their ancient course. He told me my Lord Cowper told him, that in the latter part of his Chancellorship, in the Queen's time, he laid before the Queen a list of all persons whom he recommended to benefices, that she might be satisfied they were good Churchmen. I did not give up this point, but directly desired him to consider it; and afterwards, at another time, he told me that I should go on as usual. Sunday, July 16th.—I then saw him again : he seemed now very pleasant, and I gave him a list of all the Judges, both in England and Wales, King's Šerjeants, and Council, and other subordinate officers in the law, in his invariable nomination, and told him, that as to those which were not Judges in England, they were many of them parliament men, and some now stood again. So he ordered me to make out fiats for such of them as were like to be parliament men.'
The system which his Majesty then proposed for the appointment of magistrates is very amusing “He also told me, now that he had heard that I had acted prudently in his father's time as to the commission of the peace, that his pleasure was, that I should put into the commission of the peace all gentlemen of rank and quality in the several counties, unless they were in direct opposition to his Government; but still keep a majority of those who were known to be most firmly in his interest, and he would have me declare the former part as his sentiment.”
Lord King's Journal gives an interesting statement of the manner in which it was then conceived that Walpole had established his ascendency, which had been for some time endangered by the King's old partiality for Sir Spencer Compton, now Speaker of the House of Commons :
“On the King's coming to the throne, he ordered Sir R. Walpole and Sir S. Compton to confer together about his affairs, and let him know what they thought fit to be done for his service from time to time. Sir R. Walpole seemed so sensible that he should be laid aside, that he was very irresolute what to do, whether to retire into the
b Extract from Lord Cowper's Diary.- the Queen to present, as she directed, in all “ November 13th, 1705. I had the Queen's the valuable ones; he said he feared it would leave to bestow my livings of 40l. and under be under a worse management than under the without consulting her.” “ June 25th, 1706. late Keeper's servants, by the importunity of At Cabinet. Before it begun I had discourse the women and other hangers-on at court, and with the Archbishop about disposing of the promised to endeavour to get that matter into livings in my gift, and my having promised a proper method.”
COMPTON AND WALPOLE.
House of Lords and give up all business, or whether to continue. But the King and the Speaker persuading him to continue, he went on and undertook what the King expected from him, as to the Civil List and the Queen's jointure, which he forwarded in parliament. During which time by his constant application to the King by himself in the mornings, when the Speaker, by reason of the sitting of the House of Commons, was absent, he so worked upon the King, that he not only established himself in favour with him, but prevented the cashiering of many others, who otherwise would have been put out. The Speaker for some time came constantly to the King every afternoon, and had secret conferences with him ; but in about three weeks' time he saw his credit diminish, and so left off the constancy of his attendance. The Tories and others, who expected great changes and alterations, finding these things not to answer their expectations, began to retire about the end of the short session of parliament that was held for settling the Civil List."
It has since appeared, however, that the Lord Chancellor was not altogether in the secret as to the manner in which the Premiership was then settled. Walpole, receiving Lord Townshend's despatch announcing the death of the late King, hastened to the palace of Richmond, where he was admitted to the bedroom of the Prince, who had retired for his siesta. Kneeling down, and kissing his hand, the anxious minister inquired "whom his Majesty would be pleased to appoint to draw up the necessary declaration to the Privy Council ?” being sanguine in the hope that the choice would fall upon himself. "COMPTON," answered the King, shortly; and Walpole withdrew in the deepest disappointment. This “best of Speakers,” however, was so little acquainted with real business, that he confessed his incapacity to perform the task imposed upon him, and begged Walpole to draw up the declaration for him. Sir Robert willingly complied, and wrote the declaration, which Compton carried to the King. For a few days a change of administration was confidently expected; but the weakness of the favourite was so apparent, that Walpole said confidently to his friend, Sir William Younge, “I shall certainly go out; but let me advise you not to go into violent opposition, as we must soon come in again.” He continued uninterruptedly in his office by the discernment of Queen Caroline, who fully appreciated his talents,--and by a well-timed offer to obtain from parliament a jointure for her Majesty of 100,0001. a year-whereas 60,0001. was the highest sum which had been proposed by Compton.o
c Coxe's “Walpole,” ii. 519.