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CHAP. "Lawrence Earl Ferrers,

"His Majesty, from his royal and equal regard to justice,

His speech and his steady attention to our constitution, which hath

m passing endeared him in a wonderful manner to the universal duty

sentence of . .

death. and affection of his subjects, hath commanded this inquiry to be made upon the blood of a very ordinary subject, against your Lordship, a Peer of this realm. Your Lordship hath been arraigned; hath pleaded and put yourself on your peers, and they (whose judicature subsists in wisdom, honour, and justice,) have unanimously found your Lordship guilty of the felony and murder charged in the indictment. It is usual, my Lord, for Courts of justice, before they pronounce the dreadful sentence ordained by the law, to open to the prisoner the nature of the crime of which he is convicted; not in order to aggravate or afflict, but to awaken the mind to a due attention to, and consideration of, the unhappy situation into which he hath brought himself. My Lord, the crime of which your Lordship is found guilty — murder — is incapable of aggravation; and it is impossible but that during your Lordship's long confinement you must have reflected upon it, represented to your mind in its deepest shades, and with all its train of dismal and detestable consequences. As your Lordship hath received no benefit, so you can derive no consolation from that refuge you seemed almost ashamed to take under a pretended insanity; since it hath appeared to us all, from your cross-examination of the King's witnesses, that you recollected the minutest circumstances of facts and conversations to which you and the witnesses only could be privy, with the exactness of a memory more than ordinarily sound; it is therefore as unnecessary as it would be painful to me to dwell longer on a subject so black and dreadful. It is with much satisfaction that I can remind your Lordship that though from the present tribunal before which you now stand, you can receive nothing but strict and equal justice; yet you are soon to appear before an Almighty Judge, whose unfathomable wisdom is able, by means incomprehensible to our narrow capacities, to reconcile justice with mercy.* But your Lordship's education must have informed CHAP.


you, and you are now to remember that such beneficence is \

only to be obtained by deep contrition—sound, unfeigned, and substantial repentance. Confined strictly, as your Lordship must be, for the very short remainder of your life, according to the provisions of the late act, yet from the wisdom of the legislature, which, to prevent as much as possible this heinous and horrid crime of murder, hath added infamy to death, you will be still, if you please, entitled to converse and communicate with the ablest divines of the Protestant church, to whose pious care and consolation in fervent prayer and devotion, I most cordially recommend your Lordship. Nothing remains for me but to pronounce the dreadful sentence of the law, and the judgment of the law is, and this High Court doth award that you, Laurence Earl Ferrers, return to the prison of the Tower, from whence you came; from thence you must be led to the place of execution on Monday next, and when you come there, you must be hanged by the neck till you are dead, and your body must be dissected and anatomised, and God Almighty be merciful to your soul!"

Henley acted with great propriety between the sentence Ma inland execution, doing what he could to gratify the unhappy ^*prisoner criminal's last wishes, without saving him from his deserved after the fate. Horace Walpole writes: — "Two petitions from his mother and all his family were presented to the King, who said, 'as the House of Lords had unanimously found him guilty, he would not interfere.' Last week my Lord Keeper very good-naturedly got out of a gouty bed to present another: the King would not hear him. 'Sir,' said the Keeper, 'I do not come to petition for mercy or respite, but that the 4000/. which Lord Ferrers has in India bonds, may be permitted to go, according to his disposition of it, to his

* His Grace thought it unnecessary to disqualify himself as Baron Perrin did upon a similar trial for murder. The prisoner, after the verdict, having still asserted his innocence, the Judge thus modestly began: "Prisoner, you are soon to appear at the bar of a greater, and, let me add, of an abkr Judge; but, with my limited understanding, I must approve of the verdict, and my duty requires me to pronounce upon you the awful sentence of the law."— Ex relatione Lord Chief Baron Alexander.

CHAP, mistress, his children, and the family of the murdered man.'


—' With all my heart,' said the King, 'I have no objection;

but I will have no message carried to him from me.' However, this grace was notified to him, and gave him great satisfaction." *

After this trial, although the Lord Keeper was now entitled to speak and vote as a Peer, he was still treated rather contumeliously by his colleagues, and he does not appear to have taken any part in debate or in political intrigue till a new field was opened to him by the accession to the throne of the youthful Sovereign, to whom and to whose father he had been so much devoted.

* Letter to Sir Horace Mann, in which there is on extremely interesting account of the execution.



The death of George II. made a very favourable change in Chap. the position of the Lord Keeper. Hitherto he had been CXL"

received coldly at Court, and he had been without any 0ct. 25.

political weight. The new King regarded him with great 176o

favour as a steady adherent of Leicester House, who might ofGeo.iu.,

assist Lord Bute in the contemplated change in the adminis- Henley

.-. « -r , . . elevated to

tration. On the loth of January, 1761, on his surrendering the dignity *

the Great Seal into his Majesty's hands, he received it back °fhj^?uor

with the title of "Lord Chancellor," instead of "Lord and Earl of

Keeper *," and he was afterwards created Earl of Northing- ^°r""nSton f, and appointed Lord Lieutenant of the county of Southampton. I

He took the earliest opportunity to avail himself of the His appli

partiality of the reigning monarch, by asking his permission theKiri"

to discontinue the evening sittings in the Court of Chancery to abolish,

on Wednesdays and Fridays. George III. made a good sittings'm**

story, which he used to tell for the rest of his reign, of what (-'ourt-
passed between him and his Chancellor on this occasion. "I
asked him," said his Majesty, "his reason for wishing that
these sittings should be abolished ?"—" Sir," answered he,
"that I may be allowed comfortably to finish my bottle of

* 1 Geo. 3., ICth January, 1761. Memorandum — That the Right Honourable Robert Lord Henley, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of Great Britain, delivered the Great Seal to his Majesty in Council, when his Majesty was graciously pleased to re-deliver to him the said Great Seal, with the title of Lord Chancellor of Great Britain. Whereupon his Lordship, then in council, took the oaths appointed to he taken instead of the oaths of allegiance, and also the cath of Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain.— Cr. Off. Mia., No. 2. p. 1. Bv another entry, No. 2. p. 4. it appears, that on the first day of the following Hilary Term, he took all the oaths over again in the Court of Chancery in Westminster Hall.

f 19th May, 1764. — By this title I shall hereafter call him.

} 21st August, 1761.

Chap, port after dinner; and your Majesty, solicitous for the happi< XI" ness of all your subjects, I hope will consider this to be reason sufficient." * The permission was graciously accorded — we may suppose an explanation being added that postprandian sittings were becoming generally unpopular, and were unsuited to the changed manners of society.f He adheres Lord Bute, being at first sworn of the Privy Council, Butc"r — then made Secretary of State, — next forcing Mr. Pitt Oct. 1761. to resign, — and, at a short interval, becoming himself Prime Minister, before he had ever spoken in Parliament\, and while only a Scotch Peer, without even being a representative one — the Leicester House party, to which Lord Northington had so steadily adhered, was for a brief space triumphant. Although he now had a good deal of influence in the disposal of places, and he took a part in the factious conflicts which divided the Court, still he was not prominent as a politician. He does not seem to have been much consulted about the treaty of peace, which it was the great object of Lord Bute's administration to negotiate, and severely as the preliminaries of Fontainebleau were attacked by Lord Hardwicke, I cannot, find that he gave any assistance to defend them. He was even silent on the Cider Bill. He spoke, when permitted, in such tranchant fashion, and was so apt to give an advantage to the adversary, that I suspect he wits strongly cautioned to remain quiet. Sept. 176S. When Lord Bute, having obtained peace abroad and thrown nation"of a^ England into an uproar, suddenly resigned, and the Duke Lord Bute, of Bedford was supposed to be Minister, Lord Northington nistry"of retained the Great Seal, but while this arrangement continued Duke of he seems strictly to have confined himself to the judicial duties of his office. Having received a personal order from the King that Wilkes should be prosecuted, he left the matter

* According to other accounts, the Lord Chancellor's answer was still more blunt: —" that I may get drunk, please your Majesty ;" or, —" because at that time I am apt to be drunk."

■f Sir William Grant, when Master of the Rolls, pursued another remedy, by ordering his dinner, — with a bottle of Madeira and a bottle of port, — to be ready for him at the Piazza Coffee House, at ten at night, when the sittings were over.

{ It is a curious fact, that when he made his maiden speech he was prime minister. His most public previous effort had been in private theatricals.


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