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Arabella Stuart, are strong precedents. If this had not been a crime, the Countess of Shrewsbury would not have been liable to any punishment. The House of Commons' address in 1673 respecting the marriage of the King's nieces was ridiculous if he had no power over it. The instances of marriage apply equally to education. But it is objected, “this invades the right of the father.' Not at all so; nor is this against the law of God in any sense ; for duty to parents is still subject to the public good. Every body knows that King William appointed the tutor of the Duke of Gloucester, son of Princess Anne, and that the House of Commons addressed the King to remove him. Why should the King remove him if he had no power over him ? So that I am clear the King has this prerogative.
Although Sir Peter King, while Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, escaped the imputation of being a political Judge, it is a curious fact that all this time he was, in a quiet way, one of the greatest boroughmongers in England. By reason of his high reputation in the West, his native country, many proprietors of boroughs there, from patriotic or from jobbing views, gave him the disposal of their seats in the House of Commons. I have perused an immense mass of electioneering correspondence, in which he bears the principal part, and which is very illustrative of the manners of the times, but which could only now be interesting to the families whose names occur in it. Among his correspondents was the greatest statesman of the eighteenth century, who kept the House of Hanover on the throne, and, by his pacific policy, added more to the real strength of his country than if he had gained battles and taken cities. Sir Robert Walpole's letters to Sir Peter King are curious, as they strikingly display the earnestness, energy, cleverness, and tact with which he brought all his negotiations, whether about a borough or a kingdom, to a successful issue. I will give one instance as a specimen. The borough of Berealstone--as close as Old Sarum-belonged to the Drakes; and Sir Francis Drake, the then head of the family, gave the management of it to Sir Peter, who had put in, as one of its members, old Horace Walpole. It happened that before Sir Robert had established his ascendency, and while he was carrying on a struggle for power with Sunderland and Stanhope, Horace was to vacate his seat by the acceptance of a sinecure office, to which be was entitled under some reversionary grant; and a rumour had reached the Walpoles that Sir
b 15 St. Tr. 1222.
LETTERS FROM WALPOLE.
Peter had gone over to their rivals, and was about to return another member for Berealstone. Sir Robert at first contented himself with writing the following letter to Sir Peter, which he was in hopes might have been sufficient :
“ We have received such accounts of Mr. Blathwait's desperate state of health, that we have reason to apprehend my brother August 17, Horace's seat in parliament, to whom the reversion of Mr. 1717. Blathwait's place is granted, may be immediately vacant. As 'tis to you alone we owe the recommendation to Sir Francis Drake, you will not wonder that I make this early application to beg your friendship again, to have my brother re-elected. I have wrote to Sir Francis Drake, by this night's post, upon this subject, and I must entreat you to second my request, which, I am sensible, will be of the greatest weight and service to my brother; and, therefore, you may be assured we shall be both always ready to acknowledge so great an obligation in the best manner we are able.
But no satisfactory answer was received, and the rumour gained ground that a dependant of Lord Sunderland was to be returned. Thereupon Sir Robert penned the following irresistibly persuasive epistle, applying himself, with most inimitable dexterity, to all the motives which, upon such an occasion, could influence the mind of the man he was addressing:
“I hope you will forgive me if I write to you upon this occasion with some freedom and a little importunity. I am not at all insensible what applications will be made to you, and how acceptable it will be to some to give us this disappointment; but I flatter myself that I do not stand in that light with you, being not conscious that I have done anything that should make it a pleasure to you to put such a slight upon me. Experience teaches every body how little of the regard that he meets with from the multitude is to be ascribed to himself, and how much is owing to his power only; but as I never could look upon you in that view, I cannot persuade myself but friendship, old acquaintance, and a long knowledge of me in my public capacity, was my chief recommendation to you. It is not to be supposed but that Sir Francis Drake and yourself may have other friends that deserve as well or better of you than we can pretend to, and that you may have an equal inclination to serve; which, were this a common case, and upon the election of a new parliament, I must admit, would be a reasonable answer ; but you will consider that a refusal now is an absolute exclusion of my brother, and should you oblige any body else, it must be done at our expense; and I verily believe you will meet no solicitations that will not be more out of a desire to offer an indignity to me, than to oblige any body else. I will not tire your patience with more arguments. You know the world too well not to be sensible how grievous, to speak
plainly, this disappointment must be to me at this juncture, to have my enemies gain this triumph over me. The satisfaction or advantage they can have by it, unless in crossing my expectations, can be no ways equal to the dissatisfaction and concern that, I very freely confess, it would give me. To others, your answer is plain and ready—upon preengagements and present possession. To me, I know but one—that you think me no longer worth obliging. After I have expressed myself thus plainly and earnestly to you, I can add nothing but to tell you, that as I am sure this depends upon you alone, to you alone I will ever own the obligation, which you may plainly see I do really think as great as you can possibly confer upon me; and if, after this, I should ever be wanting to show you a just sense of it, I should be worthy of the last reproach. I must beg one thing more, that you will give me a direct reply, which, if it is to be in favour of my brother, will be an answer to all other solicitations. I am, very much, your most faithful humble servant,
It is possible that such a service, at such a pinch, was remembered by Walpole, become sole ruler of the King and kingdom, when, upon the impeachment of Lord Macclesfield, the Great Seal was suddenly to be disposed of. But I must do Sir Peter King the justice to say, that in all the electioneering affairs in which he was engaged he seems to have acted with honour and disinterestedness. He makes no corrupt bargain for others, and he had no ambitious views for himself. His great object was to support the Whig party and the Revolution settlement.
CONTINUATION OF THE LIFE OF LORD KING TILL THE DEATH OF
On what strange chances and vicissitudes does official pro
motion depend! When Sir Peter King had been ten
years Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, he and his friends thought of his terminating his honourable, but comparatively obscure, career in this office, leaving a name only to be found in musty black-letter law Reports, or in chronological tables of the twelve Judges. But a madness seized the
PROMOTED TO THE WOOLSACK.
nation, during the South Sea Bubble, unknown before or since, till the coming up of railways: the• Masters in Chancery caught the infection, and, losing large sums of suitors'
money intrusted to them, became defaulters, and attracted public notice to the manner in which they were appointed, and to the abuses in their department of the Court
. Suddenly a storm of indignation arose against the Lord Chancellor, who had only been a little more rapacious than most of his predecessors; he who, a few weeks before, had been in the plenitude of power and popularity, was driven to resign; there being no one who could conveniently be at that moment appointed to succeed him, the Great Seal was put into commission ; the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas having more leisure than the Chiefs of the other Courts in Westminster Hall, Sir Peter King was appointed Speaker of the House of Lords: there he conducted himself with such dignity and propriety during an impeachment, that he was made Lord Chancellor and a Peer; so he became a character in English history, and is regarded as the founder of a distinguished family in the nobility of England.
Sir Joseph Jekyll, and his brother Commissioners, being appointed on the 7th of January, 1725,-in obedience to the royal admonition, applied themselves diligently to business, but found the concerns of the suitors in a state of deplorable confusion from the deficiencies of the Masters, and were greatly perplexed and divided in opinion with respect to the remedies which ought to be applied. Sitting daily during Hilary and Easter Terms, and in the intervening vacation, their time was almost wholly occupied with motions respecting the abstraction, the replacing, and the securing of trust money.
Meanwhile the trial of the Earl of Macclesfield proceeded. When parliament assembled after the Christmas recess, Sir Peter King took his place on the woolsack as Speaker of the House of Lords, leaving his puisnies to do the ordinary business of the Court of Common Pleas, and questions of difficulty being reserved for his advice. On the 13th of February a message from the Commons was announced; and, Sir Peter King having put on his hat, Sir George Oxenden, attended by many members, “ in the name of all the Commons of England, impeached Thomas Earl of Macclesfield of high crimes and misdemeanors, declaring that the House of Commons would, in
C Ante, p. 33.
due time, exhibit particular articles against him, and make good the same.”
Sir Peter, not being a peer, of course had no deliberative voice; but, during the trial, as the organ of the House of Peers, he regulated the procedure without any special vote, intimating to the managers and to the counsel for the defendant when they were to speak, and to adduce their evidence. After the verdict of Guilty, he ordered the Black Rod to produce his prisoner at the bar; and the Speaker of the House of Commons having demanded judgment, he, in good taste, abstaining from making any comment, dryly, but solemnly and impressively, pronounced the sentence which the House had agreed upon.
The Lords Commissioners were still going on very indifferently, and, complaints becoming loud against their inefficiency, Walpole felt that, to secure the popularity which he had justly acquired by sacrificing the late Chancellor to the public indignation, another enjoying the public confidence should be appointed. Sir Philip Yorke, the Attorney-General, who had made such a brilliant start, was not much turned of thirty; and a head of the law, and keeper of the King's conscience, so youthful, would have been the subject of gibes instead of reverence. Sir Clement Wearg, the Solicitor, had distinguished himself much in supporting the bill for the banishment of Atterbury, and as manager of the House of Commons in conducting the impeachment of Macclesfield; but, though considerably senior in age, and in standing at the bar, he was considered of inferior ability, and there were strong objections to putting him over the head of the AttorneyGeneral. The Serjeants and King's Counsel offered no better choice. Sir Joseph Jekyll, the Master of the Rolls, had rather lost reputation by acting as a Commissioner of the Great Seal. A selection was to be made therefore of a Common Law Judge, and none could have a higher character than Chief Justice King, whose conduct during the impeachment both parties had concurred in praising:
Accordingly he was fixed upon, and it was agreed that he should at once be declared Lord Chancellor without being Lord Keeper; that he should simultaneously be raised to the Peerage (likewise an unusual rapidity of honour), and that he should receive a salary of 60001. a year payable out of the d 16 St. Tr. 801,938, 1080, 1258, 1265, 1330; e Life of Sir Clement Wearg, by Duke,