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entirely in the hands of the law officers of the Crown.* CHAP,
The general warrants were issued by Lord Halifax to arrest
the printer and publisher of No. 45. of the "North Briton," and the successive foolish steps were adopted which brought the Demagogue into such notoriety and importance, without the head of the law being at all consulted.
George Grenville, who was intended to act only a sub- Ascendordinate part in this government, had established a great George ascendency, and acting upon the contracted notions of the Grenvllleconstitution of the country which he had imbibed when studying for the bar in a special pleaders office, he threw every thing into confusion at home, and he sowed the seeds of that terrible conflict, which, after he was in his grave, led to the dismemberment of the British empire. It is little to the credit of Lord Northington, that, while he was Chancellor, the ill-omened plan was adopted of taxing America by the British parliament, and the too famous American Stamp Act was passed. A constitutional lawyer in the cabinet, like Lord Camden, would have reprobated such a measure on principle, and a wary one, like Lord Mansfield, would have disapproved of it as dangerous. But Lord Northington, . allowed to enjoy the sweets of his office, gave himself no trouble either about the domestic or colonial policy of the government.
In the midst of the conflicts of faction, the town was Lord amused for a short time by the trial of a Peer on a capital ton"Lord charge. William Lord Byron, uncle of the illustrious High author of " Childe- Harold," having killed a gentleman of the trial of the name of Chaworth in a duel fought in a tavern, an J-ord , indictment for murder was found against him by a grand murder, jury of the county of Middlesex, and was removed, by certiorari, into the House of Lords. Thereupon the trial was ordered to take place in Westminster Hall, and the Earl of Northington was appointed to preside as Lord High Steward.
* "Lord Chancellor told me he had mentioned the ' North Briton ' to the King, and that his Majesty had desired him to give directions for the printers being prosecuted. In consequence of which, he had spoken to Lord Shelburn to have a case prepared for the opinion of the Attorney and Solicitor General." — Journal of the Duke of Grafton,
CH^P. On the day appointed, the noble prisoner appearing,
'' attended by the gentleman gaoler and the axe, with the
April 16. edge turned from him, his Grace addressed to him the 1765. following preliminary admonition and comfort: — " William Lord Byron, your Lordship is unhappily brought to this bar to answer a heavy and dreadful accusation, for you are charged with the murder of a fellow-subject The solemnity and awful appearance of this judicature must naturally embarrass and discompose your Lordship's spirits, whatever internal resource you may have in conscience to support you in your defence. It may be, therefore, not improper for me to remind your Lordship that you are to be tried by the fixed and settled laws of a free country, framed only to protect the innocent, to distinguish the degrees of offence, and vindictive only against malice and premeditated mischief. Homicide, or the killing of a fellow-creature, is, by the wisdom of law, distinguished into classes; if it ariseth from necessity or accident, or is without malice, it is not murder; and of these distinctions, warranted by evidence, every person, though accused by a grand jury of the highest offence, is at full liberty to avail himself. As an additional consolation, your Lordship will reflect that you have the happiness to be tried by the supreme jurisdiction of this nation; that you can receive nothing from your peers but justice, distributed with candour,—delivered, too, under the strongest obligation upon noble minds — honour. These considerations will, I hope, compose your Lordship's mind, fortify your spirits, and leave you free for your defence."
All the Peers present having agreed in a verdict of " Manslaughter," except four, who said Not Guilty generally, and privilege of peerage being pleaded in bar of sentence, the Lord High Steward without, as usual, giving a warning that such a plea could not be available on a second conviction, merely informed the prisoner that he was entitled to be discharged,— broke his white wand in a manner which could not be considered an imitation of Garrick in Prospero, — and abruptly adjourned the House.
Now, as at the trial of Lord Ferrers, he was too regardless of forms, but he committed no material mistake of CHAP, which the accused or the public could complain.*
When, at last, the King was so sick of being ruled and ,765 lectured by George Grenville, that he preferred Lord Rock- Formation ingham and the Whigs, without the aid of Mr. Pitt, — a great Rockingmistake was committed by them in not insisting on a new ham a<?miChancellor. They did make Chief Justice Pratt a Peer, by the title of Lord Camden; but if they had given him the Great Seal,— from his talents and popularity, they might have weathered the perils to which they were exposed, and the country, enjoying the benefit of their sound constitutional principles, might have escaped the anarchy and misgovernment which soon followed. But Lord Northington hated them ; — while he sat in the cabinet with them, he watched them with jealousy,—and at last he plotted, and he effected, their ruin. As they were to repeal the American Stamp Act, and to censure the proceedings against Wilkes, which he had sanctioned, one does not well understand how he should have wished or been permitted to continue in office. But he was a "friend" of the King, — and some were silly enough to think that he might secure to the government the royal favour and confidence.
The Stamp Act having produced the discontents and dis- Repeal of turbances in America which might have been expected from Act.Sta,I>P it, — much against the King's wishes, it was to be repealed; but to mollify him, a preliminary resolution was moved, "that Parliament had full power and right to make laws of Feb. Itgg. sufficient force to bind the colonies." When this came to be ^^'J^, debated in the House of Peers, it was objected to by Lord to tax ti.e Camden as being not only ill-timed, but as being untrue, on co,omesthe ground that it might, in its general language, include the power and right to tax the colonies, which he strongly denied. "My Lords," he proceeded, "he who disputes the authority of any supreme legislature treads upon very tender ground. It is therefore necessary for me, in setting out, to desire that no inference may be drawn from any thing I shall advance. I deny that the consequences of my reason
ing will be, that the colonies can claim independence, or that they have a right to oppose acts of the legislature in a rebellious manner, even although the legislature has no right to make such acts. In my opinion, my Lords, the legislature had no right to make this law. The sovereign authority, the omnipotence of the legislature, is a favourite doctrine, but there are some things which you cannot do. You cannot enact any thing against the Divine law. You cannot take away any man's private property, without making him a compensation. You have no right to condemn any man by bill of attainder without hearing him. But though the Parliament cannot take any man's private property, yet every subject must make contribution: and this he consents to do by his representative. Notwithstanding the King, Lords, and Commons could in ancient times tax other persons, they never could tax the clergy." He then goes on to consider the case of the counties palatine, of Wales, and of Berwick, showing that they never were taxed by Parliament till they sent representatives to the House of Commons; observing, that the Irish tax themselves, and that the English parliament could not tax them. "But," said he, "even supposing that the Americans have no exclusive right to tax themselves, it would be good policy to give it them, instead of offensively asserting a power which you ought never to have exercised. America feels that she can do better without us than we can without her." This was Lord Camden's first speech in the House of Lords.
Lord Northington, leaving the woolsack, commenced in a tone most insulting to the new Peer, and what was much worse, most insulting to the people of America, — Benjamin Franklin being a listener below the bar. Said he, "I did not intend to trouble your Lordships in this debate, but hearing doctrines laid down so new, so unmaintainable, so unconstitutional, so mischievous, I cannot sit silent. Such paradoxes are the result of a heated imagination, accompanied by a facility of utterance and readiness of language. The noble and learned Lord lays it down that the Americans have an exclusive right to impose taxes on themselves. He is to lay down the law for them, and the British parliament is not to interfere with them. With great submission to the CHAP.
noble and learned Lord, I believe that all except himself will
admit that every government can arbitrarily impose laws on all its subjects; there must be a supreme dominion in every state, whether monarchical, aristocratical, democratical, or mixed: to that supreme dominion all must bend. The noble and learned Lord has endeavoured to distinguish between the civil power of government and its casuistical power. Every legislature ought to make laws for the safety and the benefit of the whole; but, my Lords, suppose they make a law contrary to this principle, a resistance to such law is at the risk of life and fortune." After touching upon the power to tax the clergy, and the other illustrations introduced, he proceeded: "My Lords, I seek for the liberty and constitution of this kingdom no farther back than the Revolution: there I make my stand; and in the reign of King William an act passed avowing the power of this legislature over the colonies. As to the expediency of carrying the Stamp Act into execution, does the noble and learned Lord mean that the King has a dispensing or suspending power? The King is sworn by his coronation oath to execute all the laws of this realm. Then the noble and learned Lord would get rid of it by a repeal, — but if you should concur with his Lordship in the expediency of repeal, you will tell twelve millions of your subjects of Great Britain and Ireland, that you prefer to them the colonists who have got rich under their protection, and you will soon have these colonists at your doors, not merely besieging you as now with petitions, but using the 'argumentum baculinum.' What, my Lords, have these favourite Americans done? They have called a meeting of their States, and then have entered into resolutions by which, in my opinion, they have forfeited all their charters. But, my Lords, the nature of the Stamp Act seems to be mistaken. It binds all the colonies to contribute to the cxpencc of the general government incurred in defending them, but it does not control the power each province has to lay internal taxes for local purposes. How could the Americans have acquired the exemption which they claim? If all the great lawyers in Westminster Hall should give an opinion