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Weakness of the minister.
Murray resolves to leave the House of Commons, and insists on being appointed Chief Justice of the King's Bench.
The immediate cause of the change of ministry was the sudden death of Sir Dudley Ryder, Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench. Pitt was at this time in hot opposition, and with such a theme as the disgrace of our flag, was ready on the meeting of parliament actually to crush the trembling premier. The only person in the House of Commons who "had courage even to look him in the face *," was Murray, the Attorney General, who indeed had fought many a stout battle with him. and who, if so inclined, might still have entered the lists against him as the champion of the government, but who now peremptorily insisted on his right to the vacant chiefship. He was not only, after Pitt, the best speaker in the House of Commons, but he was decidedly the greatest lawyer at the English bar; he had served many years as a law officer of the Crown with the highest distinction, and having gallantly and faithfully exerted himself in the conflict while there was a chance of victory, now that a general defeat was inevitable, he considered that he might honourably act upon the principle 'snuve qui peut.' Newcastle, eager to retain him in the House of Commons, as a forlorn hope, plied him with various proposals — a Tellership of the Exchequer — or the Duchy of Lancaster for life, or a pension of 2000/. a year for life, in addition to the profits of his office as Attorney General. Nay, the bidding rose to 6000/. a year of pension: but Murray was inexorable; nor would he even on any terms agree to remain in the House of Commons only one session longer, or one month, or one day to support the address. He declared in plain terms, that if they did not choose to make him Lord Chief Justice, he was determined to resign the office of Attorney General, and that they must fight their own battles in the House of Commons, as he never again would enter that assembly. This spirited conduct had its proper effect; he was made Chief Justice, and a Peer, by the title of Baron Mansfield. On the day when he took
gives us a lively picture of one of their deliberations, when the subject was what orders should be sent out to Admiral Hawke: "The Chancellor had more courage than the Duke of Newcastle; hut, agreeable to the common practice of the law, was against bringing the cause to an immediate decision."— Lord U'alder/rave's Mem., p. 46.
* Lord Waldegrave's Mem. p. 82. ,
his seat in the Court of King's Bench, the Duke of New- CHAP, castle, not daring to face parliament, resigned. CXXXV.
Lord Hardwicke, who had prompted him in all his negotia- Re,;g. tions *, finding that they had all failed, expressed a reso- nation of lution to share his fate, and publicly intimated that he Newcastle, only retained the Great Seal for a few days to enable him NoT to dispose of some causes which he had heard argued in i?56. the Court of Chancery. He was strongly urged to con- Hardtinue Chancellor, with a view to strengthen the feeble ad- wicke reministration now forming under that very honourable — resignnot very able man, — the fourth Duke of Devonshire, — but he peremptorily refused. It is generally said that from age, and apprehended decline of faculties, he was anxious to retire. There is not the smallest foundation for this statement. His health and strength remained unimpaired, and his mind was as active, his perception as quick, and his judgment as sound, as when he served under Walpole f; and although his fortune was now enormous, his passion for encreasing it, by all lawful means, had grown in the same proportion. Others say (and they may be right) that His mohe did not consider it honourable to continue in office after ,iveshis great patron and friend had been obliged to resign, but
* "My Lord Chancellor, with whom I do every thing, and without whom I do nothing, has had a most material hand in all these arrangements. He sees and knows the truth of what I write; and he judges as I do, that no other method but this could have been followed with any prospect of success." — OtJte of Keircastle to j\fr. Pitt, '2d April, 17.54. Lord Waldegrave gives a curious account of Lord Hardwicke's demeanour; when, as one expedient for strengthening the government, it was proposed to bring in I,ord Bute, then supposed to he not only the leader of Leicester House, but the lover of the Princess of Wales: "The Chancellor, with his usual gravity, declared, that for his own part, he had no particular objection to the Earl of Bute's promotion; neither would he-give credit to some very extraordinary reports; but that many sober and respectable persons would think it indecent, for which reason he could never advise his Majesty to give his consent."—Lord Waldegrave, 67.
f One is surprised to find such nonsense written by so clever a man as Jeremy Bentham: "At length perceiving, or imagining he perceived, his faculties growing rather impaired, he thought proper to resign the Seals, and accordingly waited upon the King, and delivered them into his Majesty's own hands," as if his resignation had been wholly unconnected with any political crisis. "Dreading the loud cry of the people for impeachments and inquiries," writes another, " into the authors of those counsels which had brought the nation into such a calamitous and desperate situation, he wisely shrunk from the storm he thought he saw bursting on his head, and in 1756 resigned the Seals." — Cooksty, 81. Historians and biographers make sad mistakes when they begin to assign motives — which, however, they often do as peremptorily as if they had lived in familiar confidence with those whose actions they narrate.
CHAP, the new ministry was still a Whig one, and no material
'_ change of policy was announced, either domestic or foreign,
A.d. 1756. although the men now come in had clamoured for the "Militia Bill," and against the employment of Hanoverian troops. He more probably resigned because he knew that the ministry was very weak, and must be short-lived — perhaps anticipating that Newcastle, from his genius as a placehunter, though contemptible in every thing else, might soon extricate himself from his present difficulties, and that they might return to office together, with a fair prospect of Hi, being able to carry on the government. Whatever his
resignation, reasoning or his motives might be, — at a Council held at St. James's on the 19th of November, 1756, he actually did resign the Great Seal into the King's hands, who received it from him with many expressions of respect and regret.
COSTDfCATION OF THE LIFE OF LORD HARDWICKE TILL THE
Lord Hardwicke after his resignation continued to pos- Chap.
He had no retired allowance, but besides his own immense His fortune, not only his sons, but all his kith, kin, and depend- j[° j""^. ants, were saturated with places, pensions, and reversions. If vision by he had been required to sacrifice the patronage which enabled family, him to confer such appanages upon them, he would have looked with contempt upon the retired allowance of a modern Chancellor.
It is a curious fact, that although George II. had taken His 6rst leave of him very tenderly, and had pressed him to come fre- ^^rance quently to Court, when he presented himself a few days King's after at the levee in a plain suit of black velvet with a bag levTM 8*
r . 0 an Ex
and sword, he was allowed to make his bow in the crowd chancellor, without the slightest mark of royal recognition. But as he was retreating surprised, and mortified, he was called back by the Lord in waiting: the King apologised for not having known him when he first appeared without his full bottom, his robes, and the purse with the Great Seal in his hand, and
♦ Lord Wald. JJera. 1756, p. 84.
CHAP, renewed to him the assurance that his great services to the
'Crown were well known and remembered." *
Lord His conduct as an Ex-chancellor deserves great commend
Hard- ation. He now resided more than he had formerly been
wicku s be
haviourout permitted to do at Wimple, but instead of torpidly wasting of office. his days there, he tried to find pleasure in literature ; he took a lively interest in public affairs, and he carried on a frequent correspondence with his political friends. Always when parliament was sitting, and at other times when his presence in London could be serviceable to his party or the public, he was to be found at his town house in Grosvenor Square. He attended as sedulously as ever to the judicial business of the House of Lords, the judgments being moved and dictated by him, his successors not being a Peer, and being sometimes obliged to put the question for reversing his own decrees without being at liberty to say a word in their defence. Lord Hardwicke also diligently attended at the Council Board when juridical cases came before that tribunal. Although the common opinion is that he considered himself as having bid a final adieu to office, I cannot but suspect that he contemplated the chance of his being again Chancellor, and that with this view he was anxious to keep himself before the public, and from time to time to burnish up his legal armour.
He opposes The first occasion of his taking any open part in politics releasing" a^tcr n'8 resignation, was respecting the condemnation of the mem- Admiral Byng. A bill had passed the House of Commons court-fthe t0 rcleasc the members of the court-martial, who had senmartial on tenced him to death, from their oath of secrecy, so that they Byngfrom might disclose the consultations which took place among their oath themselves when deliberating upon his sentence. f In the o secrecy. H0u8e Qf Lords its fate depended entirely upon Lord Hard
* Had he worn such a uniform as that invented by George IV. for Exchancellors (very much like a Field Marshal), he could not have been mistaken for a common man.
f No. one contended that parliament, like the Pope, might dispense wilh oaths. The statute for the discipline of the navy required the members of naval courts-martial to take an oath "not to disclose or discover the vote or opinion of any particular member, vnleti thereunto required hy act of parliament."