Графични страници
PDF файл

society in which she mixed, out of bills, answers, and affidavits; but this must have been in ridiculing the proceedings of the Court, and all concerned with them.

Lord Northington, in his person, was a remarkably handsome man, of the middle size—rather thin, but, till crippled by the gout, very active and athletic. His portrait, by Hudson, gives him a very agreeable expression of countenance, and represents him, when on the woolsack, with a complexion still fresh and rosy, instead of being, like most of those who have reached this painful elevation, of the colour of the parchment they have pored upon—or like Mr. Surrebutter's, in the Pleader's Guide, with

“A certain tinge of copper
Quite professional and proper.” "

He enjoyed the lawyer's blessing, a large family—his wife having brought him eight children, three sons and five daughters. Only one son survived him, Robert, the second Earl, who was at an early age elected one of the members for Hampshire, and continued to represent that county till his father's death. He was a fast personal friend and political associate of Charles James Fox, and when the Coalition ministry was formed in 1783 he was sent as Lord Lieutenant to Ireland, with Mr. Wyndham for Secretary. He is said to have been likely to have succeeded well in this post from the frankness and popularity of his manners, as well as his good sense and firmness; but he was soon removed from it by the ascendency of the younger Pitt." He afterwards died at Paris, on his return from Italy, in July, 1786; and, having never been married, the title became extinct.”

The daughters all formed high alliances, but they all died without issue, except Lady Elizabeth, married to the eminent diplomatist, Sir Morton Eden, afterwards raised to the Irish peerage by the title of Lord Henley, whose son, my most valued friend, was the editor of Lord Northington's Judgments, and who, having married a lady adorned with every grace and virtue, the sister of the prime minister Sir Robert Peel, left by her a son, the present representative of his great-grandfather, the Lord Chancellor.

t Pleader's Guide, Part L. Lecture vi. land: where, in times very difficult, he mani

u Preface to Eden’s “Reports,” xxix. fested such talents, assiduity, and firmness as Henley’s “Life of Lord Northington,” 62–64, conciliated the love and respect of the nation

* The epitaph says, that “he was nomi- over which he presided, and gained him the nated in MDCCLXxxiv. to the arduous and dis- approbation and esteem of his sovereign and tinguished station of Lord Lieutenant of Ire- his country.",




I Now enter on a most pleasing task. The subject of the following memoir was one of the brightest ornaments of my profession, and of my party, for I glory like him in the name of Whig, although, I hope, I have never been reluctant to point out the errors of Whigs, or to praise Tory talent, honour, and consistency. From some of the opinions of Lord Camden I must differ, and I cannot always defend his conduct; but he was a profound jurist, and an enlightened statesman,—his character was stainless in public and in private life, when raised to elevated station, he continued true to the principles which he had early avowed,—when transferred to the House of Peers, he enhanced his fame as an assertor of popular privileges, when an ex-Chancellor, by a steady co-operation with his former political associates, he conferred greater benefits on his country, and had a still greater share of public admiration and esteem, than while he presided on the woolsack,-when the prejudices of the sovereign and of the people of England produced civil war, his advice would have preserved the integrity of the empire, when America, by wanton oppression, was for ever lost to us, his efforts mainly contributed to the pacification with the new republic,+and Englishmen, to the latest generations, will honour his name for having secured personal freedom, by putting an end to arbitrary arrests under general warrants, for having established the constitutional rights of juries, and for having placed on an imperishable basis the liberty of the press. Charles Pratt, afterwards Lord Chancellor and Earl Camden, was descended from a respectable gentleman's family that had been long settled at Careswell Priory, near Collumpton, in Devonshire. The first distinguished member of it was his father, Sir John Pratt, who was an eminent barrister in the reigns of William III. and Queen Anne,—gained considerable reputation by supporting the Whigs in the House of Commons as representative for Midhurst,--at the accession of George I. was appointed a puisne Judge of the King's Bench, and in 1718 succeeded Lord Macclesfield as Chief Justice of that Court. The most famous decision in his time was respecting the right of a widow who had married a foreigner to claim parochial relief after his death from the parish in which she was born—thus reported in Sir James Burrow : Temple. I have not been able to learn any thing of his habits during this period of his life, but, from what followed, it is quite clear that he had been much more solicitous to qualify himself for business, than to form any connexions for obtaining it; and I suspect that, contented with hard reading and a diligent attendance to take notes in Westminster Hall, he did not even condescend to become a pupil in an attorney's office, which had become a common practice since “moots” and “readings” had fallen into disuse, and “special pleaders had not yet come up. He was called to the bar in Trinity Term, 1738. But very differently did young Pratt fare from the man whose rapid career had recently been crowned by his elevation to the woolsack. Yorke, the son of an attorney, himself an attorney's clerk, and intimate with many attorneys and attorneys’ clerks, overflowed with briefs from the day he put on his robe, was in full business his first circuit, and was made Solicitor-General when he had been only four years at the bar. Pratt, the son of the Lord Chief Justice of England, bred at Eton and Cambridge, the associate of scholars and gentlemen, though equally well qualified for his profession, was for many years without a client. He attended daily in the Court of King's Bench, but it was only to make a silent bow when called upon “to move; ” —he sat patiently in chambers, but no knock came to the door, except that of a dun, or of a companion as briefless and more volatile. He chose the Western Circuit, which his father used A.D. 1739– to “ride,” and where it might have been expected that 1741. his name would have been an introduction to him, but he often declared that his father's memory never brought him a guinea. Spring and summer, year after year, did he journey from Hampshire to Cornwall, without receiving fees to pay the tolls demanded of him at the turnpike gates, which were then beginning to be erected. During the summer circuit, in the year 1741, his nag died, and from bad luck, or from the state of his finances, he was only able to replace him by a very sorry jade. With difficulty did he get back to London—whence he thus wrote to a friend:—“Alas! my horse is lamer than ever, no sooner cured of one shoulder than the other began to halt. My losses in horse-flesh ruin me, and keep me so poor that I have scarce money enough to bear }. in a summer's ramble; yet ramble I must if Istarve to pay Or it.” In the beginning of the following year he had a glimpse of good fortune, being retained in the famous Chippenham Elec

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

He likewise drew upon himself a great share of public attention by the able manner in which he conducted the trial of the famous Christopher Layer for high treason,” and by his decided opinion in favour of George I. respecting the Sovereign's control over the education and marriage of his grandchildren."

He was twice married, and had a very numerous family. Charles was the third son by the second wife, daughter of the Reverend Hugh Wilson, a canon of Bangor, and was born in the last year of the reign of Queen Anne. Of his boyhood little is recorded, except that, from his quickness and love of reading, he was considered a lad of promise, and that, from his cheerful and affectionate temper, he was a great favourite among his companions.

When only ten years old, he had the misfortune to lose his father; but this was probably the remote cause of his future eminence. While he was studying the law, and young at the bar, the run of the house of the Chief Justice of England, with the chance of sinecure appointments, would have been very agreeable, but would probably have left him in the obscure herd to which the sons of Chancellors and Chief Justices have usually belonged. His mother intimated to him that the small amount of his patrimony would do little more than, with good management, defray the expense of his education, and that by his own exertions he must make his way in the world.

[ocr errors]

y Burr. Sett. Cas.; Burn's Just., tit. “Settlement.” “ 16 St. Tr. 93. * 15 St. Tr. 1195.


He was soon after sent to Eton, and, on account of the reduced circumstances of his family, he was placed upon the foundation. But in those days the collegers and oppidans were on the most cordial footing, and here he formed a friendship which lasted through life, and not only led to his advancement, but was of essential benefit to the state— with William Pitt, then flogged for breaking bounds—afterwards the “Great Commoner” and EARL OF CHATHAM. He likewise had for his playmates Lyttleton and Horace Walpole. At that time, as now, Eton, from its many temptations and gentle discipline, was very ill adapted to a boy idly inclined: yet it was the best school of manly manners, and in the studious the “Genius of the place” fanned the flame of emulation, and inspired a lasting love of classic lore. Fortunately, young Pratt was eminent in the latter category, and here not only was his taste refined, but from his lessons in Livy, and a stealthy perusal of Claudian, he imbibed that abhorrence of arbitrary power which animated him through life.

At the election in July, 1731, he got “King's,” and in the following term he went to reside at Cambridge. Being from his earliest years destined by his father to the bar, he had previously been entered of the Society of the Inner Temple.” While at the university he did not much meddle with the mathematical pursuits of the place, or even very diligently attend classical lectures, being, from the preposterous privilege of his college, entitled to a degree without examination; but, while most of his Etonian friends sank into indolence, he not only diligently read the best Greek and Latin authors in his own way, but he began that course of juridical and constitutional study which afterwards made his name so illustrious. It is said that while he was an undergraduate several controversies arose in the college respecting the election of officers, and the enjoyment of exclusive privileges, and that he always took the popular side, opposing himself to the encroachments of the master with as much warmth and perseverance as he afterwards displayed on a wider arena."

In 1735, he proceeded B.A. as a matter of course, and

having finished his academical curriculum, took A.D. 1731– chambers and began to keep his terms in the Inner *

[ocr errors]

Oct. 1731.

b His admission is dated 5th June, 1728. of a very distinguished contemporary, who He is designated “Carolus Pratt, generosus, is said, when he was entitled to fags at Eton, filius quintus honorabilissimi Joannis Pratt, to have summoned them before him and Eq.,” &c. formally to have emancipated them. * This reminds me of a story I have heard WOL. VI. 2 A

[ocr errors]
« ПредишнаНапред »