Графични страници
PDF файл

blowing a trumpet in Sion to engage his country in seditions and tumults, and overthrow the best constitution and betray the best Queen that ever made a nation happy, and this with Scripture in his mouth; the Commons looked upon him, by this behaviour, to have severed himself from all the rest of the clergy; they thought it their duty to bring to justice such a criminal; and they are in no fear of being thought discouragers of those who preach virtue and piety because they, in the supreme court of justice, prosecute him who preaches sedition and rebellion, or to have any design of lessening the respect due to the clergy by bringing to punishment him who disgraces that sacred order.” " Serjeant Parker afterwards replied to the speeches of the counsel for the defendant, and of the defendant himself, and obtained loud applause for the unsparing manner in which he assailed them:—“My Lords,” said he, “I am amazed that a person in holy orders, in his distinguished habit, before this awful assembly, should dare to take the tremendous name of God into his lips, and appeal to the Supreme Being for the sincerity and integrity of his heart at the very time when he stands under such a charge, and is neither able to repel it, nor has the sincerity and honesty to repent—to take shame upon himself in the most public way, and to ask pardon of God and of the world for the sin and the crime of which he is guilty. I hope the clergy will be instructed not to preach the doctrine of submission in such manner as to prepare the way to rebellion.” But by far the finest part of the reply was the felicitous quotation from Scripture:–“ In what moving and lively colours does the holy Psalmist paint the crafty insidiousness of such wily Volpomes ' ' Wickedness is therein; deceit and guile go not out of their streets. For it is not an open enemy that hath done me this dishonour, for then I could have borne it: neither was it mine adversary that did magnify himself against me, for then, peradventure, I would have hid myself from him. But it was even thou, my companion, my guide, and mine own familiar friend. There is no faithfulness in their mouths, their inward parts are very wickedness; their throats are open sepulchres, and their words are smoother than oil, yet be they very swords! Like Joab, they pretend to speak peaceably, and smite us mortally under the fifth rib.’”" Whatever we may think of the Serjeant's performances on this occasion, they gave the highest possible satisfaction to the

i 15 St. Tr. 186. k Ib. 454.

A.D. 1710. MADE CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE QUEEN’S BENCH. 11

true WolfoNE, whose the impeachment was; and Lord Chief Justice Holt having died while the proceeding was pending, Serjeant Parker was instantly appointed to succeed him, the Attorney and Solicitor-General, who had been less zealous in the prosecution, being passed over.” According to Burnet, an inference was drawn from “this great promotion”—that the Queen, who had attended during the whole of the trial, favoured the prosecution, “for none of the managers had treated Sacheverell so severely as he had done;”" but, in reality, she had only constitutionally taken the advice of her ministers while she employed them, though she was eagerly desirous to get rid of them. Parker remained Chief Justice of England for eight years, and it could not be said of him, as of some popular lawyers, who, upon their elevation to high judicial office, have disappointed public expectation, “Omnium consensu capax imperii nisi imperasset.” His fame as a common law chief is not quite equal to that of his immediate predecessor; but this probably arises from there not having been in his time any controversies between the two Houses of Parliament, or any questions of great political interest coming before him for judicial decision. He was during this part of his career never suspected of any sort of corruption, and the only charge I find brought against him is of having been sometimes rather discourteous to the bar. This is not enough to lower him much in our estimation. Although I can conceive no more striking proof of a mean spirit than for a barrister, when put upon the bench, really to behave with insolence or ill temper to his former competitors at the bar, it is rather difficult for a Judge altogether to escape the imputation of discourtesy if he properly values the public time; for (according to a dictum of the great Lord Lyndhurst) one of his duties is “to render it disagreeable to counsel to talk nonsense.” Chief Justice Parker's judg

m This appointment took place on the 13th of March, and judgment was not given on Sacheverell till the 23rd of the same month.-2 Lord Raymond, 1309.

* Burnet, iv. 285. De Foe thus jeeringly addressed the High Churchmen on this appointment: “You are desired to take particular notice of her Majesty having severely punished Sir Thomas Parker, one of the managers of the House of Commons, for his barbarous treatment of the Doctor, in pretending in a long speech to show, as he called it, the im

patience and superficial jingle of the Doctor's
speech. Her Majesty being, as you know,
heartily concerned for this prosecution, hath
testified her care of the Doctor's character in
most justly punishing that forward gentle-
man, having condemned him for his boldness
to perpetual confinement, being appointed to
the constant drudgery of Lord Chief Justice
of the Queen's Bench, a cruel and severe
sentence indeed . "
° I wrote this when I had no prospect
of becoming a Judge. Having now been a

[ocr errors]

ments show an accurate acquaintance with his subject, a logical mind, and great power of illustration. He began his judicial career with the trial of Damaree and Purchase for being concerned in the Sacheverell riots and assisting to pull down dissenting meeting houses. Although this prosecution was, I think, exceedingly discreditable to the Whig Government, I know not that the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench can be much blamed for it, as we cannot suppose that he was consulted respecting the manner of shaping the offence; and if it was charged as high treason, there were distinct authorities for holding it to be so, although most lawyers probably now think that thereby the statute of Edward III. was overstrained, if not perverted. He would have acted a nobler part if he had summed up for an acquittal; but he pressed for a conviction. In commenting upon the evidence in favour of the character of the prisoners, he said—“There is another unfortunate circumstance I must observe, that we are in a time when many people were led into a belief that doing these actions was a commendable thing; that it was a showing their zeal to the Queen and the Church. And if that be the case, reputation and previous good behaviour are of no avail, and raise no presumption against guilt. Dr. Sacheverell (I would not reflect upon him; he has undergone a censure elsewhere) fell foul of the Toleration Act, and these people, thinking him a confessor for the Church, thought they could do no less than pull down meeting houses, which they considered the seminaries of schism. The doctrine of non-resistance, pronounced to be the doctrine of the Church, is to be propagated by resistance; these people will resist, to show they are not for resisting. The Queen's guards are to be attacked, to illustrate the rule of passive obedience. When a madness has got among the people, many unaccountable things will be done by men of reputable character. Those who honour Dr. Sacheverell for the things which parliament has condemned, might think it honourable to demolish meeting houses, and to raise seditions and riots which are not to be borne in a civilised country.” Upon the law of the case he was clear and explicit: “A brothel,” said he, “is a nuisance, and may be punished as such ; and being a particular nuisance to any one, if he enters to abate it, he may only be guilty of a riot; but if he will presume to pull

Judge near seven years, I adhere to the performed without the imputation.-Sept., sentiment, hoping that the duty may be 1856.

A.D. 1710–14. REFUSES GREAT SEAL UNDER THE TORIES. 13

down all brothels, he has taken the Queen's right out of her hand, and has committed high treason by compassing her death, and levying war against her in her realm.—Of brothels, so of meeting houses.” Let us hope that the Lord Chief Justice was ashamed to feel himself obliged to talk such nonsense, although backed by the other Judges; and that it was through his merciful interference that the prisoners, though found guilty, and sentenced to a cruel death, were reprieved and pardoned.” When the change of government took place in the autumn of the same year, Harcourt wishing to continue in the office of Attorney-General, and Lord Cowper declining to remain Chancellor, the Great Seal was offered to Lord Chief Justice Parker, and even pressed upon him. He is much lauded for his virtuous self-denial, and it is sarcastically observed that “he is the first lawyer who ever refused an absolute offer of the Seals from a conscientious difference of opinion.” “ I am very sorry to appear to detract from his merit; but, principle not considered, he would have acted very foolishly to have given up his place of Chief Justice, which he held for life, in exchange for an office the tenure of which would have been very insecure ; for, till after Guiscard's desperate attempt, Harley expected almost daily to be turned out;-and, at any rate, such a sudden change to the High Church party by the most distinguished manager of the late impeachment, would have reasonably led to the conclusion that he would give his first piece of preferment to the “Doctor,” and would have covered him with such infamy that he must have been treated contumeliously by his colleagues, and kicked out by them whenever they wished to get rid of him. The wonder, therefore, is that the offer should have been made—not that it was rejected. Parker was out of parliament for the rest of this reign, and he devoted himself exclusively to the discharge of Ap. 1710– his judicial duties. In prosecutions for libels during 1714. the Tory government, he was supposed to bear very hard upon those who attacked the Whigs. He had caused some alarm to Swift, the most virulent of libellers'—as we learn from the following anecdote related in the “Journal to Stella: ” “I was to-day at a trial between Lord Lansdowne and Lord Carteret, two friends of mine. It was in the Queen's Bench for about 6000l. a year. I sat under Chief Justice Parker, and his pen falling down I reached it up. He made me a low bow; and I was going to whisper him that “I had done good for evil, for he would have taken mine from me.” I told it Lord Treasurer and Bolingbroke. Parker would not have known me if several Lords on the bench and in the court, bowing, had not turned every body's eyes and set them a whispering. I owe the dog a spite, and will pay him in two months at farthest, if I can.” " This threat Swift afterwards executed, by inserting the following passage in his famous pamphlet, entitled “The Public Spirit of the Whigs,” denouncing the Chief Justice as a favourer of publications which attacked the Tories, while he punished High Church publications with relentless severity, and as having become a keen supporter of the Protestant succession after having been a rank Jacobite:–“I look upon it as a great evil to see seditious books dispersed among us, apparently striking at the Queen and her Administration, at the constitution in church and state, and at all religion; but whether this remissness may be imputed to Whitehall or to Westminster Hall, is other men's business to inquire. As for the poor nonjuring clergyman who was trusted with committing to the press a late book on the subject of hereditary right, by a strain of summum jus, he is now, as I am told, with half a score children, starving and rotting among thieves and pickpockets in the common room of a stinking jail. However, I would fain ask one single person in the world a question— ‘Why he has so often drank the abdicated King's health upon’ his knees P’ But the transition is natural and frequent, and I shall not trouble him for an answer.” If the taunt against Parker as against Somers had been that he was “sprung from the dregs of the people,” however ungenerous it might have been, there would have been some colour for it; but the reckless invention of a falsehood seems necessary to give full

P 15 St. Tr. 522–703. No other Crown cept by “descent.”

case of any importance came before him while Chief Justice; and his only opinion as a Common Law Judge in a civil case which attracted much notice was on the question whether the word “purchase,” in 11 & 12 W. 3, c. 4, against Papists acquiring property, was confined to the acquisition of property by “purchase” in common parlance, or meant every acquisition of property ex

Being called in to assist Lord Chancellor Harcourt, he was for giving the word its largest sense, although occurring in a penal statute, that he might effectuate the intention of the legislature in putting down Popery. The Chancellor decided the other way; but his decree was reversed by the House of Lords.-Roper v. Radcliffe, 9 Mod. 167; 1 Br. P. C. 450. * Parkes's “Court of Chancery,” 291.

* Morphew, the publisher of Swift's “Con- author's name, and bound over to appear next duct of the Allies,” had been summoned be- term to plead to an indictment for a seditious fore the Chief Justice, threatened with severe libel. punishment if he persisted in concealing the * 28th October, 1712.

« ПредишнаНапред »