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CHAP. CXXII.

HIS CHARACTER.

55

While Somers, and Harcourt, and Cowper were familiar with the greatest contemporary poets, and are immortalised in their verses, Macclesfield preferred the conversation of judges and serjeants, and his name is to be found in doggrel ballads recording his disgrace. He had a noble opportunity of serving the state and enhancing his own fame by law reforms which were loudly demanded; but neither House of Parliament did he ever introduce any measure to supply a defect or to correct an abuse in the administration of justice, and for his personal advantage he aggravated crying evils, which in his time had brought such obloquy on the Court of Chancery that suitors were said to be “inveigled and delayed there that they might be plundered.”

As a politician he deserves unqualified praise, for he was the steady, zealous, and consistent friend of civil and religious liberty. I am afraid he intrigued with the Hanoverian party against Lord Cowper; but when he had gained his object, and was placed on the woolsack, notwithstanding the grants of money and honours for which he struggled, I know not that he said or did anything at variance with his former principles or professions. On one occasion he appears in favourable contrast with his predecessor, for he warmly supported the Government bill for placing churchmen and dissenters on an equal footing with respect to civil rights; while Lord Cowper defended the Test and Corporation Acts, and was the cause of their being continued on the statute book for a century.

He despised authorship, and not only never contributed a paper to the “ Tatler” or Spectator,” but never even wrote a political pamphlet in an age when almost every one engaged in party strife sought to influence public opinion by pamphleteering-daily newspapers not being yet established, and the publication of parliamentary debates being not only forbidden but prevented. As far as we know, he did not even keep a Diary, like Lord Cowper and Lord King. His autobiography would have been one of the most curious ever given to the world, both in his rise and in his fall.

One publication was imputed to him while he held the Great Seal—but not on sufficient grounds—“ A Memorial relating to the Universities;” the author of which sets up for a great reformer of academical education-with a view less to scholarship, than to cure the Heads of Houses and Fellows of the Jacobitism by which they were almost all supposed to be

then tainted. According to his plan, they were to be appointed by the great officers of state and some bishops, and were to be enticed into the world by a liberal dispensation from their residence in college. He likewise recommended, after the model of the Scotch Universities, professorships of logic, moral philosophy, experimental philosophy, and chemistry, which all the students should be compelled to attend. Thus were those seats of learning to be made more useful to the nation, and the men who frequented them were to become better affected to their King and country.

Although Lord Macclesfield had no relish for literary society, and was never admitted of the Kit-Cat, looking with far more admiration on nisi prius leaders and equity draughtsmen than on the wits at Button's, yet, to comply with the fashion of the age, he rather affected the reputation of being a patron of literature. We have seen that, at the request of Lord Cowper, he retained Hughes in his employment as one of his secretaries, and he showed him further kindness—for which he was thus on his birth-day saluted by the poet :

“Not fair July, tho' plenty clothe his fields,

Tho' golden suns make all his mornings smile,
Can boast of aught that such a triumph yields

As that he gave a Parker to our isle.
“Hail, happy month! secure of lasting fame!

Doubly distinguish'd thro' the circling year!
In Rome a hero gave thee first thy name,

A patriot's birth makes thee to Britain dear.” The very learned Zachary Pearce, when wholly unknown beyond the walls of his college, dedicated to Lord Macclesfield, when Chief Justice of the King's Bench, an edition of “ Cicero de Oratore," displaying much learning and ability, and by his recommendation rose successively from a Fellow of Trinity to be Chaplain to the Lord Chancellor, Rector of St. Martin's in the fields, Chaplain to his Majesty, and Bishop of Rochester. Indeed, Lord Macclesfield's distribution of church patronage is represented as always disinterested and judicious.

He is placed in a very amiable point of view by the following letter written by him, after his fall, to his successor, Lord Chancellor King, in favour of his old schoolfellow, Tom Withers :

“My Lord, “I have received a letter from one Thomas Withers, of Newport, in

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Shropshire, to desire your Lordship to appoint him master of the Eng-
lish school in that town, in the room of Thomas Sambrook, lately de-
ceased. At his request I formerly obtained the place of my Lord
Chancellor Cowper for this Thomas Sambrook, who was his nephew;
but he himself is now fallen into misfortunes, and begs the place for
himself. And indeed he deserves much better. He was my school-
fellow, and in the same form with me, in the Latin school, and was a
very good scholar, and went quite through the school ; but his father
not being able to send him to the university, nor to get the assistance
of friends for that purpose, took him to his own trade, which was that
of a shoemaker, wherein he succeeded very well, and had the general
esteem of the neighbouring gentlemen, and was a great favourite of the
late Lord Bradford, who, if living, would have saved your Lordship this
trouble. Just before I was made Chancellor I lay at Newport, and
sending for the Master who had been usher when I was at the school,
he told me of Tom Withers my old schoolfellow, who was then in
good circumstances, and gave me an extraordinary good character of
him in all respects. I sent for him, and found he retained pretty well
his Greek and Latin, though he made no show in conversation of either.
He has since his misfortunes officiated sometimes for his nephew, whose
health did not permit him to attend the school; and has ample certifi-
cates of his very good behaviour, which he (imagining me to be in
London) tells me he will order one to wait upon me with, and I will
order to be laid before your Lordship if you care to be troubled with
them. I beg pardon for taking up so much of your time, but I think
the case so compassionate, and him so much the best man that can
possibly be proposed for this place, that I could not forbear laying before
your Lordship some of these particulars, as the opportunity I had of
knowing so much of the person.

“I am with great respect,
“My Lord,
“Your Lordship’s most faithful
" and obedient Servant,

“ MACCLESFIELD.'

I have not been able to ascertain whether the application succeeded. It would have been pleasant to have known that Tom Withers reached the dignity of Head Master of Newport school, and that the ex-Chancellor visiting him there, they both for a time forgot all past misfortunes, looking at their

z Lord Lovelace's MSS. The original, in having practised as an attorney much more Lord Macclesfield's handwriting, now lies be than by being found guilty upon the charge fore me. In spite of this letter, a certain class of having corruptly sold judicial offices, deny of Lord Macclesfield's admirers, who think that he was ever at Newport school. that he is disgraced by the imputation of

names cut out on the old desks, and talking over their battles and boyish adventures.

I know hardly anything more of Lord Macclesfield in private life. It is said that he was warm in his friendships, and generally accessible and affable. We read a good deal of his faults of temper; his manners appear to have been rough, both in society and on the bench; and I suspect that in his highest elevation he occasionally forced the bystanders to recollect his origin and his want of early education.

He married Janet, daughter and co-heir of Charles Carrier of Wirkworth, in the county of Derby, Esq., and by her had issue, a son George, who survived him, and a daughter Elizabeth, married to Sir William Heathcote. The second Earl of Macclesfield was a celebrated mathematician, and became President of the Royal Society. He it was that, in the year 1751, so ably assisted in carrying through the bill for the reformation of the Calendar, a which made the Parkers for some time very unpopular, although it is now one of their greatest boasts. The present respectable representative of the family is Thomas, the fifth Earl of Macclesfield.

a “Lord Macclesfield, who had the greatest given to me.”—Lord Chesterfield's Letters, share in forming the bill, and who is one of CCXLVII. the greatest mathematicians and astronomers b The Chancellor's grandson, some time in Europe, spoke afterwards with infinite after, standing a contested election for the knowledge and all the clearness that so in- county of Oxford, the mob insultingly called tricate a matter could admit of: but as his out to him—"Give us back, you rascal, those words, his periods, and his utterance were not eleven days which your father stole from near so good as mine, the preference was us." most unanimously, though most unjustly,

A.D. 1669.

LORD CHANCELLOR KING.

59

CHAPTER CXXIII.

LIFE OF LORD CHANCELLOR KING FROM HIS BIRTH TILL HIS APPOINT

MENT AS LORD CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS.

A.D. 1669.

We now come to a Chancellor, not of the highest genius, but of most respectable talents, and, what is of more consequence, of unblemished virtue. Neither the wantonness of scandal, nor the virulence of faction, could ever invent anything to the discredit of his morals or of his principles, and he descended to the tomb one of the most consistent and spotless politicians who have ever appeared in England.

The subject of this memoir was the son of a grocer and salter at Exeter. His father, though carrying on a wholesale and retail trade, is said to have been of a genteel family, long settled at Glastonbury, in Somersetshire, and he was certainly of good substance and highly respectable character. In religion he was a Presbyterian dissenter, and he was inclined to the tenets of the Puritans. He had married a sister of John Locke, the philosopher. Peter King, the only fruit of this union, was born in the year 1669, but, not being baptized by a clergyman of the Established Church, the day of his birth is not ascertained by the parish register.

The sensible and worthy tradesman intended that his son should “increase his store” by likewise dealing in figs and hams, and, having given him a school education suitable to this mode of life, placed him while still a lad behind the counter. For some years the future Chancellor continued to serve customers in the shop, or to go on errands about the city of Exeter. But, from nature, or more probably from some unknown accidental circumstances, he cherished a most enthusiastic love of learning, which disadvantages and difficulties only served to inflame. Having exhausted his father's little library, consisting chiefly of a few books in divinity, for which he ever after retained a great relish, he spent all his pocket-money and perquisites in buying treatises on the profane sciences. He even contrived to initiate himself and to make considerable proficiency in the learned languages;

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