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A.D. 1757. RECEIVES GREAT SEAL AS LORD KEEPER. 315 sion of a Tellership to his son, which had been usual on such occasions.” He then thought it would be decent to inform the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas of what had happened. Their interview on this occasion is the subject of one of the stockstories of Westminster Hall. Thus it used to be related with characteristic humour by the late Lord Ellenborough:—“Immediately after Willes had refused the Seals, Henley called upon him at his villa, and found him walking in the garden, highly indignant at the affront which he considered that he had received in an offer so inadequate to his pretensions. After entering into some detail of his grievances, he concluded by asking, “whether any man of spirit could, under such circumstances, have taken the Seals;’ adding, ‘Would you, Mr. Attorney, have done so o' Henley, thus appealed to, gravely said, “Why, my Lord, I am afraid it is rather too late to enter into such a discussion, as I have now the honour of waiting upon your Lordship to inform you that I have actually accepted them.’” He was sworn in as Lord Keeper at a Council held on the 30th of June, 1757, and on the first day of Michaelmas Term
following, after a grand procession to Westminster Hall, he
was duly installed in the Court of Chancery.”
* Horace Walpole says, contrary to truth, that he demanded and obtained both: “Willes proposed to be bribed by a peerage, to be at the head of his profession; but could not obtain it. Henley, however, who saw it was the mode of the times to be paid by one favour for receiving another, demanded a Tellership of the Exchequer for his son; which was granted, with a pension of 1500l. a year till it should drop.”—Walp. Mem. Geo. II. vol. ii. 226. These jobs were afterwards done for him.
y Henley's Life of Northington, 34.—Horace Walpole attributed Henley's promotion on this occasion to Mr. Pitt's great desire to make Pratt (afterwards Lord Camden) Attorney-General: “One of the most extraordinary parts of the new system is the advancement of Sir Robert Henley. He was made Attorney-General by Mr. Fox at the end of last year, and made as bad a figure as might be: Mr. Pitt insisting upon an AttorneyGeneral of his own, Sir Robert Henley is made Lord Keeper 1’’—Horace Walpole to Sir H. Mann, 3rd July, 1757. This possibly might be an ingredient in Mr. Pitt's determination; but I conceive that his chief motive was to
exclude Lord Hardwickeby a man who could
CONTINUATION OF THE LIFE OF LORD NORTHINGTON TILL THE DEATH OF GEORGE II.
THE new Lord Keeper had nothing to divert him from his judicial duties. His political functions were long in a state of abeyance. He had a pretty strong suspicion in his own mind that he was appointed because he was likely to be quiet in the cabinet, and he did not seek to interfere. Formal meetings of it were occasionally called which he attended, but he was as little consulted by Pitt about the raising of Highland regiments, or the conduct of the war, as the Six Clerks or the Masters in Chancery. If there had been any debates in parliament, he was precluded from taking part in them; but there were none,—all opposition having vanished for several years, and neither his time nor his attention was in any degree occupied by the sittings of the House of Lords, which generally lasted only while prayers were read, and the question was put “that this House do now adjourn.” If a motion was introduced by a speech, it was to vote a monument to a hero who had fallen in battle, or thanks to his surviving comrades; and the Lord Keeper, as Speaker, had only to transmit these thanks, and to read from the woolsack the answers which he received. Let us follow him then into the Court of Chancery, where his duties were arduous. Here he acquitted himself respectably; but he was contented if he could continue to fill the office, escaping censure, without aiming at high reputation. He did not follow the example of the fathers of Equity, Lord Nottingham and Lord Hardwicke, who, on coming to the Great Seal, notwithstanding much previous familiarity with the business of
several other persons. The Lords accompanied him into the Court of Chancery, where (be
of the Crown reading the said oaths; which being done, the Attorney-General moved that
fore he entered upon business), in their presence, he took the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and the oath of Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of Great Britain, the Master of the Rolls holding the book, and the Deputy Clerk
it might be recorded, and it was ordered accordingly. Then the Lords departed, leaving the Lord Keeper in Court.”—Roll, 1726– 1757.
A.D. 1757. AS AN EQUITY JUDGE. 317
the Court in which they were called upon to preside, entered upon a laborious and systematic course of inquiry and of study to qualify themselves for their new situation, that they might discharge its duties in a manner satisfactory to their own minds, and in the hope of being permanently applauded as consummate magistrates. He was satisfied with the stores of professional learning (not inconsiderable) which he had laid in, and with bestowing a reasonable share of pains on the different cases which successively came before him. He always took full notes of the arguments of counsel, and he investigated important questions with much research. Sometimes he wrote out elaborate judgments in his own hand. On the bench he was universally allowed to be impartial and upright. Laudatus a laudato, he was pronounced by Lord Eldon to have been “a great lawyer, and very firm in delivering his opinion.” He attended Court in the morning with alacrity and cheerfulness, but the evening sittings were a great annoyance to him, from their interference with his convivial pleasures,-and he at last succeeded in abolishing them. With the able assistance of Sir Thomas Clarke, the Master of the Rolls, he contrived pretty well to keep down arrears, although complaints of delay were much louder than in the time of Lord Hardwicke, and the Court was by no means in such good odour with the public. The consequence was that, in all important cases, there was an appeal to the House of Lords. The state of things there was very different from what it had been for twenty years past. The Judge who had pronounced the decree appealed from, had now neither vote nor voice; he could not even ask a question of the counsel at the bar; and a motion being made for a reversal, he could only say, “the Contents have it.” Ex-Chancellor Lord Hardwicke always attended, and Lord Mansfield very frequently. It would be wrong to say that they had any inclination to reverse, but they bore no particular good-will to the Lord Keeper, who belonged to a different section in politics from them, and whose authority on questions of Equity they did not consider very high. However, when he acquired a little more experience, and when, being raised to the Peerage, he could freely defend his opinions, he stood higher as a Judge, and appeals from him became more rare. It is said that, after all, “only six of his decrees were reversed or materially altered.”" For a long interval after his death, the proceedings of the Court of Chancery in his time had been very insufficiently A.D. 1757— reported, and when I first entered the profession 1766. there were only traditionary recollections of his judgments as of his jests; * but a few years ago the pious labours of his grandson, my most amiable and accomplished friend, the late Lord Henley, from the Chancellor's own MSS., and from notes taken by several eminent counsel who had practised under him, produced two volumes of his decisions, which “greatly raised his reputation with those best qualified to estimate it.” These show him to have been very bold and very vigorous, and generally very sound; but they are certainly wanting in the depth of thought, in the logical precision, and in the extreme caution, which distinguished the decisions of his predecessor.
* Life, 56.
I shall give, as a favourable and characteristic specimen of his manner, the judgment delivered by him in the case of Norton v. Relly," where the bill was filed by a maiden lady residing at Leeds, against a Methodist preacher, and others, trustees named in a deed of gift executed by her to him, suggesting that it had been obtained by undue means,—and praying that it might be delivered up to be cancelled. The “Tartuffe” had introduced himself to her notice by a letter, in which he said, that “although unknown to her in the flesh, from the report he had of her he made bold to address her as a fellow member of that consecrated body wherein the fulness of the Godhead dwelt, and that he was coming among them at Leeds, for a little time, to preach the kingdom of God,” subscribing himself “her affectionate brother in the flesh.” She was prevailed upon to invite him to her house, to accompany him to London, to give him large sums of ready money, and to grant him an annuity charged on her real estates in Yorkshire :—
Lord Chancellor Henley. “This cause, as it has been very truly observed, is the first of the kind that ever came before the Court, and, I may add, before any court of judicature in this kingdom. Matters of religion are happily very rarely the subject of dispute in courts of law or equity.” [After expressing his respect for dissenters, he proceeds: ]. “But very wide is the difference between dissenters and fanatics, whose canting, and whose doctrines, have no other tendency than to plunge their deluded votaries into the very abyss of bigotry, despair, and enthusiasm. And though, even against those unhappy and false pastors, I would not wish the spirit of persecution to go
b Ambler alone had noticed him. • Eden's Rep. ii.286.
A.D. 1757–66. HIS JUDGMENTS. 319
forth, yet are not these men to be discountenanced and discouraged whenever they are properly brought before courts of justice? — men who, in the apostle's language, go about and creep into people’s dwellings, deluding weak women — men who go about and diffuse their rant and warm enthusiastic notions, to the destruction not only of the temporal concerns of many of the subjects of this realm, but to the endangering their eternal welfare. And shall it be said that this Court cannot relieve against the glaring impositions of these men P That it cannot relieve the weak and unwary, especially when the impositions are exercised on those of the weaker sex P. This Court is the guardian and protector of the weak and helpless of every denomination, and the punisher of fraud and imposition in every degree. Here is a man, nobody knows who or what he is ; his own counsel have taken much pains modestly to tell me what he is not; and lepositions have been read to show that he is not a Methodist. What is that to me? But I could easily have told them what, by he proofs in this cause and his own letters, he appears to be — a subtle sectary, who preys upon his deluded hearers, and robs them under the mask of religion. Shall it be said, in his excuse, that this Jady was as great an enthusiast as himself P. It is true she was far gone — but not far enough for his purpose. Thus he addressed her, ‘Your former pastor has, I hear, eaccommunicated you, but put tyourself in my congregation, wherein dwells the fulness of God.” How scandalous, how blasphemous is this In coming from London to Leeds he will not come in a stage coach, but must have a postchaise, and live elegantly on the road at the expense of the plaintiff, who gave him 50l. in money, besides presents of liquor — so that his own hot imagination was further heated with the spirit of brandy. He secured a part of her fortune by lighting up in her breast the flame of enthusiasm, and undoubtedly he hoped in due time to secure the whole by kindling another flame of which the female breast is so susceptible; for the invariable style of his letters is “all is to be completed by love and union.” Let it not be told in the streets of London that this preaching sectary is only defending his just rights. I repeat, let not such men be persecuted, but many of them deserve to be represented in puppet shows. I have considered this cause not merely as a private matter, but of public concernment and utility. Bigotry and enthusiasm have spread their baneful influence amongst us far and wide, and the unhappy objects of the contagion almost daily increase. Of this, not only Bedlam, but most of the private madhouses, are melancholy and striking proofs. Let it be decreed that the defendant execute a release to the plaintiff of this annuity, and deliver up the deed for securing it. I cannot conclude without observing that one of his counsel, with some ingenuity, tried to shelter him under the denomination of “an independent preacher.” I have tried in this decree to spoil his ‘independency.’”
The finest judgment Henley ever delivered is supposed to