Графични страници
PDF файл

CHAP, inquired "how he was getting on with the translation of CXXIX- Littleton?"*

His mar- The supposed translator was now so prosperous, that he riage- thought he might not improperly contract a matrimonial alliance, and in the object of his choice he showed his usual prudence and good sense. This was a gay widow with a good jointure, the niece of Lord Somers, and the niece by marriage of Sir Joseph Jekyll, the Master of the Rolls, at whose house in Chancery Lane he became acquainted with her. f Yorke was a remarkably handsome young man, and his addresses were well received by the lady ; but she referred him to her father, Mr. Cocks, a Worcestershire Squire. Fortified by a letter of introduction from Sir Joseph, who encouraged the match, he repaired full of confidence to the residence of his intended father-in-law. The old gentleman received him politely, but learning the object of his visit asked him for his rent roll, and Mr. Lygon, his daughter's first husband, having had a very ample one, was surprised to hear that all Mr. Yorke's estate consisted of " a perch of ground in Westminster Hall."

* Powis seems then to have been the butt of the profession, having had a leaden chain of lineal successors down to the present time. Duke Wharton celebrates him in the once popular lines:

"When honest Price shall trim and truckle under, . And Powis sum a cause without a blunder;

When Page one uncorrupted finger shows, And Fortescue deserves another nose, Then shall I cease my charmer to adore, And think of love and politics no more." Yet the simplicity of the Judge in believing in the metrical translation of Littleton is not so great as unlearned readers may suppose. My professional brethren have all read and tried to recollect " The Reports of Sir Edward Coke, Knt. in verse." This volume was first printed in 1742, and a new edition of it was published so lately as 1825. It professes, in two lines, with the name, to give the point decided in every case which Coke has reported: e. g.

"Archer, if he for life infeoff in fee.

It bars remainders in contingency."
"Shelley, whose ancestors a freehold take,

The words (his heirs) a limitation make."
"Monopolies granted by King are void,

They spoil the trade in which the youth's employ'd."

When I was in a special pleader's office, a brother pupil thus began to versify "Tidd's Practice : " —

"Actions are all, and this I'll stick to,
Vel ex contractu vel delicto."

f Her maiden name was Cocks, she being the daughter of Charles Cocks, Esq., by a sister of Lord Somers.

However, in answer to a letter to the Master of the Eolls, Chap. asking how he could think of introducing into the family a CXXIXyoung man incapable of making a settlement, his Honour so strongly represented the brilliant prospects of the rising lawyer, that the required consent was given, and the union took place,—which turned out most auspicious, for the married couple lived together to old age in uninterrupted affection and harmony, sharing the most wonderful worldly greatness, and seeing a numerous family of sons and daughters grown up — all well behaved and prosperous, and as fully fixed among the high aristocracy as if they had descended from companions of the Conqueror. Mr. and Mrs. Philip Yorke began their married life in a very small house near Lincoln's Inn, the ground floor of which served him for an office, and saved him the expence of chambers in the Temple, then considered by him a very great object.

In the year 1718, upon the resignation of Lord Cowper, May 12. Chief Justice Parker, shortly after created Earl of Macclesfield, received the Great Seal, and Mr. Yorke transferred tises in the himself to the Court of Chancery, still continuing to go the chancery Western Circuit.* Equity business soon flowed in upon him — partly from his own merit, and partly from the favour of his patron, testified in a manner which gave mortal offence to the seniors at the bar. Serjeant Pengelly, in particular, was Lord Macso disgusted at frequently hearing the Chancellor observe — eiesfield's

°' excessive

"what Mr. Yorke said has not been amwered," that he one day partiality threw up his brief, saying in a loud voice, "I will no more for him' attend a Court where I find Mr. Yorke is not to be answered." Some have gone so f ar as to ascribe Lord Macclesfield's subsequent ruin to this favouritism, asserting that " Serjeant Pengelly's resentment, joined with that of others in the same situation, brought upon the Chancellor that investigation of his private management, and the abuses committed or connived at by him in his appointment of the officers of his Court, which terminated in his impeachment and conviction." t

* For more than half a century afterwards the Chancellor's sittings were so arranged as to allow the counsel practising in his Court to go circuit, and Equity men had the advantage of keeping up their common law learning.

t Cooksey, 72. Serjeant Pengelly was certainly the most bitter manager of the impeachment.

[ocr errors][merged small]

However, there can be no doubt that the discontent of the old Chancery pleaders arose very much from the superior talent of the young common lawyer, whose invasion was so formidable to their empire. Most of them had been contented to pick up a knowledge of Chancery practice from experience, referring pro re natd to what was to be found on the subject in the Reports and Abridgements; but he entered upon a systematic course of study, qualifying him to be a great advocate or a great judge in the Court of Chancery — tracing the equitable jurisdiction of the Court to its sources, and thoroughly understanding all the changes it had undergone.

In the case of Rex v. Hare and Mann *, in which Sir Robert Walpole's family was interested, he had an opportunity, of which he fully availed himself, of showing that he was deeply skilled in the history and practice of this tribunal, and he raised his reputation as high among the Solicitors here as it had been among the Attorneys in the King's Bench. In his celebrated letter to Lord Karnes, on the distinction between Law and Equity, written many years after, he speaks with much complacency of his argument on this occasion, and insinuates that it contributed greatly to his elevation. "It was," says he, "when I was a very young advocate, before I was Solicitor General, but it is correctly reported; for I remember Sir John Strange borrowed my papers to transcribe, so that the faults in it are all my own. In arguing that cause, which turned upon a critical exception to the return of a writ of scire facias in Chancery, I found, or at least fancied it to be necessary to show that all the various powers of that Court were derived from, or had relation to the Great Seal, and I endeavoured to prove that the equitable jurisdiction exercised by the Chancellor took its rise from his being the proper officer to whom all applications were made for writs to ground actions at common law, and from many cases being brought before him, in which that law would not afford a remedy, and thereby being induced through necessity or compassion to extend a discretionary one."f

* 1 Strange, 146., Feb. 1719, 5 Geo. 2.

f This very learned argument arose out of a seemingly very trifling objection

Lord Macclesfield now determined on the first vacancy to CHAP, make a resolute effort to have his protege appointed a law

officer of the Crown, notwithstanding the shock such a pro- He a re_ motion might give to aged Serjeants who had been in vain turned to expecting advancement ever since the coming in of King P"1"""6"1William; and with this view he prevailed upon the Duke of Newcastle, who had immense borough interest, to return him to the House of Commons for Lewes.

Parliament met on the 11th of November after Yorke was elected, and with the exception of the Christmas recess, continued sitting till he went on the Spring Circuit in the beginning of March; but I cannot find that he opened his Nov. 1719. mouth in this interval, and it is probable that he prudently ^n^^" remained silent; for the only measure of public interest then not speakdebated in the House of Commons was Sunderland's Peerage ing' Bill, on which the Whigs were divided, and it might have appeared presumptuous for a young lawyer to give any opinion. *

Before he had made his maiden speech in parliament,— the folly as well as the favour of others working for his advantage,— an opportunity most unexpectedly arose for promoting him in his profession. The Attorney and Solicitor General, though not free from personal dislikes and jealousies, hava almost always preserved ostensibly a mutual good understanding, and have cordially co-operated in the public service.

to a writ of tcirt facias, which required the defendant "to appear in CancelUna nostra in Octobris &c. ubicunque tunc fuerit." Objection, that it ought to have been "ubicunque eadem Cancellaria tunc foret in Anglia," on the frround that since the Union with Scotland there was only one Great Seal for Great Britain; that the Chancery might be held in Scotland; that for matters arising in England suitors could not lawfully be summoned to Scotland; and therefore that this return, which might call the defendant into Scotland, was bad. — Yorke, for the defendant, gave a learned history of the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery, contending that it arose entirely from the Great Seal; and as the Great Seal was the Great Seal of Great Britain, the Chancery had become the Chancery of Great Britain. But Lord Macclesfield said, that " although the Act of Union had made the Great Seal the Great Seal of Great Britain, it had not made the Chancery so. The powers of the Chancery as a Court are over private property; and the articles of Union preserving to each country its municipal jurisdictions, the English Court of Chancery could not be held in Scotland, although the Great Seal might be carried to Scotland, and for some purposes used there."—1 Str. 158.

* A list of the majority and of the minority was published, but his name does not appear in either 7 Pari. Hist. 624.


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

But Mr. Lechmere and Sir William Thompson, the then Attorney and Solicitor General, hated each other so intensely that they had several very indecent quarrels in private causes at the bar, and in the transaction of official business. Their enmity was whetted by a sordid competition,—" which of them should be most resorted to in granting charters of incorporation to Joint Stock Companies?" Now was raging the fever of speculation throughout the nation, of which the "South Sea Bubble" was a symptom, and companies were formed which, both for object and means, equalled in extravagance any thing witnessed in our own times. They brought a great harvest to the law officers of the crown, but of this Lechmere, being more popular, and supposed to have more influence, carried off by far the largest share. Thompson at last, openly in the House of Commons, preferred a charge against him of corruptly taking excessive fees and recommending improper grants. The charge was indignantly denied by Lechmere, who said that "he had the honour to be a Privy Councillor, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Attorney General, a Member of that House, and more than all, a gentleman; that such an accusation could not therefore but fall upon him more heavily; that he defied all the world — the worst and bitterest of his enemies—to prove him guilty of corrupt or unwarrantable practices, and that he demanded an immediate inquiry." Thompson undertook to make good the accusation, and a committee sat to hear the evidence. It appeared that the Attorney General's clerk had been rather eager to make joint stock companies "pay handsomely," but there did not rest even a passing shadow of suspicion oil his master; whereupon it was unanimously resolved, "that the informations of Sir William Thompson were malicious, scandalous, and false, and that the Right Honourable Nicholas Lechmere had discharged his trust in the matters referred to him with honour and integrity." Thompson was immediately dismissed from his office of Solicitor General. * Lechmere tried to procure the appointment for an attached friend of

* However, he was afterwards made Recorder of London and a Baron of the Exchequer.

« ПредишнаНапред »