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to enter into such a discussion, as I have now the honour of waiting upon your Lordship to inform you that I have actually accepted them."*
He was sworn in as Lord Keeper at a Council held on the 30th of June, 1757, and on the first day of Michaelmas term following, after a grand procession to Westminster Hall, be was duly installed in the Court of Chancery, f
• Henley's Life of Northington, 34.— Horace Walpole attributed Henley's promotion, on this occasion, to Mr. Pitt's great desire to make Pratt (afterwards Lord Camden) Attorney General: "One of the most extraordinary parts of the new system is the advancement of Sir Robert Henley. He was made Attorney General by Mr. Fox at the end of last year, and made as bad a figure as might be: Mr. Pitt, insisting upon an Attorney General of his own, Sir Robert Henley is made Lord Keeper!"—Horace Walpole to Sir H. Mann, 3d July, 1757. This possibly might be an ingredient in Mr. Pitt's determination; but, I conceive, that his chief motive was to exclude Lord Hardwicke by a man who could not be dangerous.
f 30th June, 1757 "The Lords Commissioners, for the custody of the
Great Seal of Great Britain, having delivered the said Great Seal to the King at his Palace at Kensington, on Thursday, the 30th day of June, 1757, his Majesty, about one o'clock the same day, delivered it to Sir Robert Henley, knight, his Attorney General, with the title of Lord Keeper, who was then sworn into the said office before his Majesty in council. His Lordship sat at Lincoln's Inn Hall during the Seals after Trinity Term, and the Seals before Michaelmas Term, 1757. And on Monday, the 7th day of November, being the first day of Michaelmas Term, he went in state from his house in Lincoln's Inn Fields to Westminster Hall, accompanied by the Earl Granville, Lord President of the Council, the Duke of Rutland, Lord Steward of the Household, the Duke of Newcastle, First Lord of the Treasury, the Earl of Hardwicke, the Lord Anson, First Lord of the Admiralty, the Lord Vis. Dupplin, Sir Thomas Robinson, Knight of the Bath, the Master of the Rolls, the Judges, King's Serjeants, King's Counsel, and several other persons. The Lords accompanied him into the Court of Chancery, where (before he entered upon business), in their presence, he took the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and the oath of Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of Great Britain, the Master of the Rolls holding the book, and the Deputy Clerk of the Crown reading the said oaths; which, being done, the Attorney General moved that it might be recorded, and it was ordered accordingly. Then the Lords departed, leaving the Lord Keeper in Court."— Roll, 1726—1757.
CONTINUATION OF THE LIFE OF LORD NORTHINGTON TILL THE
The new Lord Keeper had nothing to divert him from his CHAP, judicial duties. His political functions were long in a state "XXX1Xof abeyance. He had a pretty strong suspicion in his own Hi* poiimind that he was appointed because he was likely to be quiet Jj'^,"^" in the cabinet, and he did not seek to interfere. Formal meetings of it were occasionally called which he attended, but he was as little consulted by Pitt about the raising of Highland regiments, or the conduct of the war, as the Six Clerks or the Masters in Chancery. If there had been any debates in parliament, he was precluded from taking part in them; but there were none, — all opposition having vanished for several years, — and neither his time nor his attention was in any degree occupied by the sittings of the House of Lords, which generally lasted only while prayers were read, and the question was put "that this House do now adjourn." If a motion was introduced by a speech, it was to vote a monument to a hero who had fallen in battle, or thanks to his surviving comrades, and the Lord Keeper, as Speaker, had only to transmit these thanks, and to read from the woolsack the answers which he received.
Let us follow him then into the Court of Chancery, where Lord his duties were arduous. Here he acquitted himself respect- n^ley a* ably; but he was contented if he could continue to fill the 8n Equity office, escaping censure, — without aiming at great reputation. JudgeHe did not follow the example of the fathers of Equity, Lord Nottingham and Lord Hardwicke, who, on coming to the Great Seal, notwithstanding much previous familiarity with the business of the Court in which they were called upon to preside, entered upon a laborious and systematic course of
CHAP, inquiry and of study to qualify themselves for their new situa- 1 tion, that they might discharge its duties in a manner satisfactory to their own minds, and in the hope of being permanently applauded as consummate magistrates. He was satisfied with the stores of professional learning (not inconsiderable) which he had laid in, and with bestowing a reasonable share of pains on the different cases which successively came before him. He always took full notes of the arguments of counsel, and he investigated important questions with much research. Sometimes he wrote out elaborate judgments in his own hand. On the bench he was universally allowed to be impartial and upright. Laudatus a laudato, he was pronounced by Lord Eldon to have been "a great lawyer, and very firm in delivering his opinion." He attended Court in the morning with alacrity and cheerfulness, but the evening sittings were a great annoyance to him, from their interference with his convivial pleasures, — and he at last succeeded in abolishing them. With the able assistance of Sir Thomas Clarke, the Master of the Rolls, he contrived pretty well to keep down arrears, although complaints of delay were much louder than in the time of Lord Hardwicke, and the Court was by no means in such good odour with the public. The consequence was that, in all important cases, there was an appeal to the House of Lords. The state of things there was very different from what it had been for twenty years past. The Judge who had pronounced the decree appealed from, had now neither vote nor voice; he could not even ask a question of the counsel at the bar; and a motion being made for a reversal, he could only say, "the Contents Hardship have it." Ex-chancellor Lord Hardwicke always attended, when h'U" and Lord Mansfield very frequently. It would be wrong to decrees say that they had any inclination to reverse, but they bore versed. no particular good-will to the Lord Keeper, who belonged to a different section in politics from them, and whose authority on questions of Equity they did not consider very high. However, when he acquired a little more experience, and when, being raised to the Peerage, he could freely defend his opinions, he stood higher as a Judge, and appeals from him became more rare. It is said that, after all, " only six of his CHAP, decrees were reversed or materially altered." #
For a long interval after his death, the proceedings of the His judgCourt of Chancery in his time had been very insufficiently jTM"^TM" reported, and when I first entered the profession there were his grandonly traditionary recollections of his judgments as of his ^B\^d jests f; but a few years ago the pious labours of his grandson, my most amiable and accomplished friend, the late Lord Henley, from the Chancellor's own MSS., and from notes taken by several eminent counsel who had practised under him, produced two volumes of his decisions, which "greatly raised his reputation with those best qualified to estimate it." These show him to have been very bold and very vigorous, and generally very sound, but they are certainly wanting in the depth of thought, in the logical precision, and in the extreme caution which distinguished the decisions of his predecessor.
I shall give, as a favourable and characteristic specimen of Decree his manner, the judgment delivered by him in the case of aside"!deed Norton v. Relly i, where the bill was filed by a maiden lady of.Bi'* °u
.,. T , • It i i , lamed by
residing at Leeds, against a methodist preacher, and others, religious trustees named in a deed of gift executed by her to him, — imposturesuggesting that it had been obtained by undue means, — and praying that it might be delivered up to be cancelled. The "Tartuffe" had introduced himself to her notice by a letter, in which he said, that " although unknown to her in the flesh, from the report he had of her he made bold to address her as a fellow member of that consecrated body wherein the fulness of the Godhead dwelt, and that he was coming among them at Leeds for a little time to preach the kingdom of God," subscribing himself "her affectionate brother in the flesh." She was prevailed upon to invite him to her house, to accompany him to London, to give him large sums of ready money, and to grant him an annuity charged on her real estates in Yorkshire. — Lord Chancellor Henley. "This cause, as it has been very truly observed, is the first of the kind that ever came before the Court, and, I may add, before any
* Life, 56. f Ambler alone had noticed him. \ Eden's Rep. ii. 286.
Chap. Court of judicature in this kingdom. Matters of religion are
happily very rarely the subject of dispute in Courts of Law
or Equity." [After expressing his respect for dissenters, he proceeds:] "But very wide is the difference between dissenters and fanatics, whose canting, and whose doctrines, have no other tendency than to plunge their deluded votaries into the very abyss of bigotry, despair, and enthusiasm. And though, even against those unhappy and false pastors, I would not wish the spirit of persecution to go forth, yet are not these men to be discountenanced and discouraged whenever they are properly brought before Courts of justice?—men who, in the apostle's language, go about and creep into people's dwellings, deluding weak women—men who go about and diffuse their rant and warm enthusiastic notions, to the destruction not only of the temporal concerns of many of the subjects of this realm, but to the endangering their eternal welfare. And shall it be said that this Court cannot relieve against the glaring impositions of these men? That it cannot relieve the weak and unwary, especially when the impositions are exercised on those of the weaker sex? This Court is the guardian and protector of the weak and helpless of every denomination, and the punisher of fraud and imposition in every degree. Here is a man, nobody knows who or what he is; his own counsel have taken much pains modestly to tell me what he is not; and depositions have been read to show that he is not a Methodist. What is that to me? But I could easily have told them what by the proofs in this cause and his own letters he appears to be—a subtle sectary who preys upon his deluded hearers, and robs them under the mask of religion. Shall it be said in his excuse that this lady was as great an enthusiast as himself? It is true she was far gone—but not far enough for his purpose. Thus he addressed her, 'Your former pastor has, I hear, excommunicated you, but put yourself in my congregation wherein dwells the fulness of God.' How scandalous, how blasphemous is this! In coming from London to Leeds he will not come in a stage coach, but must have a post chaise, and live elegantly on the road at the expence of the plaintiff, who gave him 50/. in money, besides presents of liquor—so that his