Графични страници
PDF файл

answered your Grace with much difficulty, and with a total Chap. resignation of myself to the King's commands; and CXLII have only to add, that my wishes for and support of your Grace's honour and glory, will always wait upon you."

The Duke of Grafton expressed great satisfaction at Aug. 9. the prospect of his retaining office, and sent for his con- to sideration a large bundle of papers respecting the new con- same, on stitution for Canada. Lord Northington in answer said: menfof'"" "My eyes would not permit me to write to your Grace Canada,&c. by the last post, as I intended, with respect to the affairs of the Canada legislation, and to inform you fully of my ideas on that business. I must first premise that the formation of any plan of that kind can never commence or proceed through the office that I now enjoy, in whatever hands it shall be placed; because the Council cannot correspond with any of the King's officers there, to know the true state of that country, which correspondence resides alone in the Secretary of State. When such information is acquired by him, I am of that opinion, that before a plan can be formed, which must necessarily have the sanction of parliament, it is necessary to have the full sense of the King's servants upon that subject, that the measures may have the general support of government, and not be thrown, as they were last year, upon one person not in the least responsible for them. When every information is obtained, I am certain your Grace's penetration anticipates the difficulties to be encountered, from the civil constitution of that province, composed of Trench received under a capitulation incorporated with English entitled to a legislation at some time, and who have been encouraged to call for it, by the proclamation, the King's commission, and other excitements. To this as great a difficulty succeeds with regard to a Popish hierarchy, and, of course, a Protestant one; both of which are, in my opinion, delicate subjects: loads too heavy to be sustained by any strength less than that of a concurring administration. I have all along been of this opinion in different administrations, and have been willing to lend my

CHAP, aid to this difficult task. I hope to be able to be in

C X. LI •

London in about ten days, though I am very indifferent still."'

Lord Northington accordingly came to town and remained there o few days; but, from a fresh access of his disorder he was soon again obliged to retire to the Grange, where he experienced a little respite from his sufferings. Lord At last, on the 23d of December, 1767, at his earnest

totTresigns. entreaty, his resignation was accepted, and Granville Levison Earl Gower was appointed President of the Council in his stead, t

His im- Being relieved from the anxieties of office, he rallied conhealth, siderably, although it had been thought that his last hour was at hand. In the course of the following year he was so much better that an effort was made to induce him to re-enter the cabinet. The Duke of Grafton says, in his Journal: — < Hc dfr?r'toS "^opmg t*18t Lord Northington might have considered be made himself still equal in health to the business of the Privy Seal, Seald Pr V} nis ^ajestv' m tne ^rs' instance, made the offer to his Lordship, but which he declined on reasons which were very satisfactory to the King."

The Premier still continued to consult him on public affairs. The following is the last letter of his in my possession, and expresses his sentiments characteristically on the subject of the Middlesex election, which now intensely agitated the public mind:

"Grainge, 10 Dec. 1769.

Lord "My Lord,

toTto'tife "1 had tne honour of your Grace's by last Sunday's post. Duke of I was that day attacked by the gout, and not able to write till now. I am not surprised your Grace expresseth so strong

Grafton in reference to Wilkes.

* It has been said, that this letter proves " that a good Chancellor and great lawyer could write in the language, and with the eloquence, as well as propriety, which might better become a common housemaid."—Law Review, No. 4. It is marvellous, to be sure, to observe his utter disregard of the common rules of composition.

f Lord Henley represents that Lord Northington finally retired in June, 1767, (Life, 54.) but I have fixed the date by a reference to the books of the Privy Council.

a feeling of the distraction of the times. I have long enter- Chap. tained the same opinion of it, and of its tendency so dangerous CXLIto the vitals of this valuable constitution. But, my Lord, the distraction hath so long raged, hath been so much fomented, and in its attack of the supreme power of the nation (the Parliament I mean) so much neglected (wisely I must suppose), that it is scarce decent or safe now for an individual to open his sentiments on the subject. Yet it is now come to that pass that it seems totally impossible for the P. to meet and not vindicate its own honour. Doth it want power? Doth it want advice? Thank God the contest is there. Your Grace supposeth I have no idea of the backwardness and lukewarmness of some from whom the K. might expect advice and assistance in his difficulties. I assure your Grace I have long had an adequate one, and very just sentiments of the persons. In this situation your Grace wishes that I would spend the winter in London, and give my assistance in the House of Lords. My Lord, I have but one answer, I cannot — my health will not enable me to live there this winter, nor if I were there, to attend the House. But, my Lord, were I able, could I? What a figure should I, after the offices I have passed, make, prating on subjects to which I am a total stranger, and on measures in which I do not concur, and about doctrines I know not how adopted. Passive obedience to—a mob! I should, so circumstanced, hurt the service that I have a zeal for,—embarrass your Grace, whom I really honour. Believe me, my Lord, there is nothing to debate upon, — Oportet Agere.

"Indeed, my dear Lord, I am advanced in years — my constitution so impaired, that unless I can acquire more strength, must be content to remain the retired, unimportant thing I am.

"In whatever condition, I profess myself to be with equal truth and respect,

"My dear Lord," &c.

During his intervals of ease from his terrible enemy, the Dec. 10. gout, he amused himself with making deputy lieutenants, 1769

CHAP.
CXI.I.

Lord

Northing-
ton.s amuse-
ments in
his retire-
ment.

His confes-
sor.

militia officers, and justices of the peace, and getting his old friends round him, — whom he entertained with old port and old stories.

He sunk gradually under his infirmities. When near his end he was reminded of the propriety of his receiving the consolations of religion, and he readily agreed that a divine

should be sent for; but when the Right Rev. Dr. , with

whom he had formerly been intimate, was proposed, he said, "No! that won't do. I cannot well confess to him, for the greatest sin I shall have to answer for was making him a Bishop!" The clergyman of the parish was substituted, and the dying Ex-chancellor joined in the ceremonies prescribed by the Church for such a solemn occasion with edifying humility and devotion. Having, in characteristic language, tenderly His death, taken leave of his weeping daughters, he expired on the 14th of January, 1772, in the 64th year of his age. His remains were interred in the church at Northington, where is to be seen a monument,

"Sacred to the Memory of
Robert Henlev, first Earl of Northington;
Jane, Countess of Northington, his Wife;
And of Robert, Earl of Northington, their only surviving Son."

The inscription, after warmly praising the virtues of all the three, thus concludes: —

"This monument is erected, as a tribute of respect and affection to their parents and their brother, by the R. H. Lady Bridget Tollemache, the R. H. I-ady Jane Aston, Mary Vicountess Wcntworth, and the R. H. Lady Elizabeth Eden."

His children may well be excused for piously recording their opinion of the "consummate ability" as well as "inflexible integrity," with which he discharged the duties of all the offices which he filled, but the impartial biographer is obliged to form a more discriminating estimate of his merit.

Endowed with good natural abilities, and possessing very aimable qualities, he was a mere lawyer, seeking only his own advancement, and, though unstained by crimes,—unembellished by genius or by liberal accomplishments — nor very solicitous about the public welfare or even his own fame.

Much praise has been bestowed upon him for consistency as a politician. He certainly was always very faithful to

His monument.

His descendants.

His character.

Leicester House, and to the clique called the "King's CHAP. Friends," which sprang out of that connection. But it is CXL1" difficult to say what the principles were by which he is supposed to have been guided. He seems never to have originated any of the measures of his political associates, but to have been always ready in a very zealous manner to defend such as they favoured. He turned out a strong Tory and coercionist, but I apprehend that he would have been as strong a Whig and reconciliationist if the liberal side had been taken by Lord Bute and George III. During the Rockingham administration he could only be considered a spy in the enemy's camp.

He is much more respectable as a Judge. He was not Asa Judge, only above all suspicion of corruption or partiality, but, though by no means a profound jurist, his mind was well imbued with the principles of our municipal law; he disposed very satisfactorily of the routine business of his Court, and he could do considerable justice to any important question which arose before him. His judgments arc at least remarkably clear, and if they have not the depth they are free from the verbosity and tortuosity of Lord Eldon's, which, dwelling so minutely upon the peculiarities of each case, often leave us in doubt how he has disposed of the points argued before him, and what general rule he means to establish. I do not think that the number of decrees reversed on appeal can be adopted as a criterion of the merits of a Chancellor; and had Lord Northington been raised to the peerage when he received the Great Seal, and had he, like Lord Hardwicke, been the only lav/ Lord, he might possibly have received the same character for infallibility. But, independently of the decisions of the House of Lords against him, the printed reports confirm the tradition, that his boldness in declaring his opinion was not quite equalled by his care and caution in forming it. He may, perhaps, be advantageously contrasted with Judges we have read of, who, desperately afraid of committing themselves,—that they may keep out of scrapes, defer giving judgment till both parties are ruined.

I am sorry that I can say nothing for him as a law re- Not a law former. But, although he never dreamed of making any reformer

Vol. v. Q

« ПредишнаНапред »