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CONTINUATION OF THE LIFE OF LORD HARDWICKE TILL HE
The sudden death of Frederick, Prince of Wales, in the Chap. flower of his age, which was little regretted at Court, placed cxxxv Lord Hardwicke in a situation of considerable embarrassment, ,
but he extricated himself from it with his usual prudence, nSi. The present heir-apparent, afterwards George III., being no more than twelve years old, and George II. being sixty-seven, it was indispensably necessary that provision should be made for the exercise of the royal authority on a demise of the Crown. The King wished much that the Regent to be R6(,ency named should be his favourite son, the Duke of Cumberland, BilL who was himself strongly of opinion that the distinction was due to his station as first Prince of the blood, and to his services as the victor of Culloden; but this Prince, notwithstanding some high qualities which belonged to him, was now so unpopular that when his brother's death was announced, the general cry was, —" Oh! that it were the Butcher!" and his appointment as Regent would only have been satisfactory to the Jacobites. Lord Hardwicke suggested to Pelham and the Duke of Newcastle, that preference should be given to the Dowager Princess of Wales, who had been obnoxious to the Court during her husband's life, but on his death had behaved with such great propriety that no personal objection could be started to her. The King reluctantly acquiesced, on the condition that she should be controlled by a Council of regency, of which the Duke should be president. The difficulty now was to announce the plan to His Royal Highness; and this task was devolved upon the Chancellor, who accordingly waited upon him, and in the most respectful manner showed him the heads of the proposed Regency Bill, enlarging on the weight which he would have in the council. Deeply disappointed at not , cxxxv Srasping whole royal power as Regent, he said sternly,—
""Return my thanks to the King for the plan of the Regency.
As to the part allotted to me, I shall submit because he commands it!" The bill passed both Houses with little difficulty, and Lord Hardwicke still preserved his ascendency.
A. n. 1751. This year he deserves the credit, which I am sorry to say Lord Hard- does not always belong to Chancellors, of supporting a useful ports the measure proposed by a political opponent. .Lord Chesterrcforma'tion ^e^, dismissed from his offices, embraced every opportunity of the Ca- of annoying the government; but having brought forward, kmi.n. yjith the assistance of Lord Macclesfield, son of the Chancellor, his famous bill for the reformation of the Calendar, according to the Gregorian computation of time, by making the year commence, for all purposes, on the 1st of January, instead of the 25th of March, by suppressing in September, 1752, the eleven days the old style had fallen behind, so that the day following the 2d of that month should be called the 14th, and by inserting certain intercalary days in time to come.* During some preceding Chancellorships, I am afraid the noble and learned President of the assembly, disliking trouble and responsibility, — perhaps grudging a little credit to a rival, — perhaps meaning to bring in the same bill himself at a future time,—would have left the woolsack, and with faint compliments to the good intentions of the mover, would have pointed out the danger of innovation,— the disturbance of contracts which the change would occasion,—the height of prosperity and happiness which the nation had reached under the old computation of time, — and the degradation of copying the example of the French, our natural enemies, and the Pope, the foe of our holy reformed faith. Had Lord Hardwicke followed this course, he might easily have defeated the opposition leaders, and we might still have been adhering, like the Muscovites, to the old Calendar, exploded by all civilised nations. But he candidly supported the bill, and, with his countenance, it passed so easily that people were astonished the reformation had been so long delayed, f
* 24 Geo. 2. c. 23.
f 14 Pari. Hist. 979.; Lord Chesterfield's Letters to his Son; Dr. Matty's
In 1752, the only public measure in which Lord Hard- Chap.
"• • CXX.XV
wicke took an ostensible part, was a bill for annexing the' forfeited estates in Scotland to the Crown, and encouraging Bill ra. Englishmen and lowland Scotsmen to settle upon them, specting the This measure, in the result, operated favourably, by preserving e^g^g m the estates for the families of the individuals who had been Scotland, attainted; but I cannot commend it, for it was meant as a measure of severity against them. Lord Hardwicke defended it on the ground that, if the estates were sold, they would be purchased at a low price for the former owners, and that there were fictitious charges upon them which would run away with the whole of the purchase-money — censuring, but in a manner not very mortifying to them, the whole Scottish nation, whom he seems to have considered " aliens in blood, language, and religion." The noble Duke, said he, "is so sanguine as to hope that all these fraudulent claims may be detected; but, from experience, I am inclined to entertain no such hopes. The people of that country are so faithful to one another, in every case in which they think their honour concerned, that no reward can tempt them, no terror can frighten them, to betray their trust: they will take any oath you can frame rather than discover what they think their honour obliges them to conceal, and this fidelity reaches even to the very lowest of the people. Their contempt of rewards is proved by the escape of the young Pretender, and their disregard of threats by the impunity of the murder of Captain Porteous." *
The year 1753 is memorable in the life of Lord Hardwicke LordHardby his Jew Bill and his Marriage Bill, for both of which j^^^n I think he deserves credit. From the fatuous fears and furious cries which the former occasioned, it has generally been represented as "a bill by its own vigour at once to confer all the rights of natural-born British subjects on all
Life of Lord Chesterfield. Had Lord Hardwicke been inclined to crush the
CXXXV fore*&Q Jews might set foot on English ground;"
| whereas it merely allowed bills to be brought in for natu
ralizing Jews without their having taken the sacrament of the Lord's supper according to the rites of the Church of England, or, in other words, to allow that a Jew might be naturalized by act of parliament. After some sharp debates, the bill passed both Houses, and received the royal assent; but from there being then no reports of parliamentary proceedings printed, its nature was so grossly misrepresented that great odium was cast upon the Chancellor as its author; and the Bishop of Norwich, who voted for it, soon after, holding a confirmation, he was called upon by the mob "to administer the rite of circumcision," and a paper was affixed to the church doors, stating that "next day being Saturday, his Lordship would confirm the Jews, and on the day following, the Christians." Such was the ferment in the nation that ministers became alarmed—particularly as a general election was approaching, — and in a very dastardly manner they agreed to abandon this measure, which, if persisted in, might have introduced upon reflection a more liberal feeling into the public mind, and accelerated by a century the religious freedom which we now enjoy. * Lord Hard- Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act, with considerable modiMarriage fications and improvements, remains in force, and regulates in Bill. England the most important of all contracts,—upon which
civil society itself depends. Hitherto the old canon law had prevailed, according to which a valid marriage was constituted either by the mere consent of the parties, or by the presence of a priest in orders, at any time or place, without the sanction of parents or guardians, although one or both of the parties might be under age, — and without any registration or public act affording the means of knowing whether such a marriage had been contracted. This does seem to me a very
• 14 Pari. Hist. 1365—1442.; 15 Pari. Hist. 91—163. By way of apology, Lord Hardwicke said —" However much the people may be misled, yet in a free country I do not think an unpopular measure ought to be obstinately persisted in. We should treat the people as a skilful and humane physician would treat his patient; if they nauseate the salutary draught we have prescribed, we should think of some other remedy, or we should delay administering the prescription till time or change of circumstances has removed the nausea."
defective state of the law, although it exists in the northern CHAP.
part of the island, and is there defended by sensible men. It _
is of importance for the protection of minors that they should Defects in
not be permitted to enter into this contract by their own *lle°idlaw
x * of mar
mere fantasy, when they are wholly incapacitated to enter riage.
into others of the most trifling nature, and it is important to society in general, that a form—simple and notorious,— should be specified, which shall be essential, and which shall be sufficient, for constituting the contract, and the evidence of which shall be open to all mankind. Although we reject the Roman Catholic doctrine that marriage is a sacrament, it is highly desirable that a religious service should accompany the celebration of it, to create a deep sense of the solemnity of the obligation thereby contracted; but as some may object to such a service, and all should be permitted to marry, it ought not to be considered indispensable.
Various striking instances of the inconveniences and hardships resulting from the then existing law had recently occurred. Young heirs and heiresses, scarcely grown out of infancy, had been inveigled into mercenary and disgraceful matches, and persons living together as husband and wife for many years, and become the parents of a numerous offspring, were pronounced to be in a state of concubinage, their children being bastardised, because the father had fonnerly entangled himself in some promise which amounted to a precontract, and rendered his subsequent marriage a nullity. In the public prisons — particularly in the Fleet — there were degraded and profligate parsons, for a small fee, ready to marry all persons at all hours there, or to go when sent for to perform the ceremony in taverns or in brothels. The public attention had been particularly drawn to the subject by a case of very flagrant oppression, which had appeared on the hearing of an appeal before the House of Lords, and the Judges were ordered to prepare a bill to remedy the evils complained of. Their bill did not please the Chancellor, who himself undertook the task with great earnestness. His own per- j^f^;,, formance was not in a great taste. He declared null all the new marriages which were not celebrated by a priest in orders, 'b^""'6, either under banns or licence, declaring in the case of minors