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ning the merits or demerits of Chancellors; and I am happy CHAP.
CXLIV. to say, that instead of corrupting or enfeebling the bench by political job, or personal favour, he acted steadily for the public good, on the maxim, Detur digniori. When about to leave the Common Pleas, he succeeded in having the learned and virtuous Sir Eardley Wilmot appointed to succeed him — whom he thus addressed :
“ 5th August, 1766. “I have the King's orders to acquaint you with his inten- Letter from tion of removing you to the Chief Justiceship of the Com- den to Sir mon Pleas, if it be agreeable to you. As Mr. Morton is not Eardley
Wilmot, yet determined to yield up to you the Chief Justiceship of
offering Chester, I would advise you to repose yourself in the Common him the
Chief JusPleas till that desired event happens. I assure you it is a ticeship of place of perfect tranquillity. I do most sincerely congratulate the Comyou on this nomination, and beg leave to inform you that you owe as much to Lord Northington and to Lord Chatham as to myself. I have been under a treaty with George Cooke ever since I came to town, the particulars of which you
shall know when you come.
I have withstood his bribe, being determined never to defraud my successor upon my deathbed : his necessities are extreme as well as my punctilio : However, it is now in your hands rather than in mine *; for I do not consider myself any longer in conscience, though I am in law, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. “I am with great truth, &c.
The times were too distracted to allow of any systematic Nullum amendment of the law; but it should be recorded that, under Tempus the auspices of Lord Chancellor Camden, passed the “ Nullum Tempus Act,” by which an adverse enjoyment of property for sixty years gave a good title against the Crown, whereas the maxim had before prevailed, “nullum tempus occurrit Regi, — according to which obsolete claims might be set up,
* This relates to an office in the Court which then, and long after, the Chief Justice might lawfully sell.
The Grenville Act.
and vexatious proceedings instituted by the government against political opponents.
About the same time likewise passed the famous “ Grenville Act," by which the decision of contested elections was transferred from the House of Commons as a body, to select Committees sworn to do justice between the parties. † The chief merit of the measure belongs to its author whose name it bears, but from his colleague at the head of the law he had encouragement and assistance in preparing it.
Thus Lord Camden, while in office, must be allowed to have deserved well of his country. He rendered her still more important services when reduced to a private station.
* Stat. 9 Geo. 3. c. 16.
† 10 Geo. 3. c. 16.
CONTINUATION OF THE LIFE OF LORD CAMDEN TILL HE WAS
FIRST APPOINTED PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL.
Passing over for the present the intrigues for the disposal CHAP.
CXLV. of the Great Seal, which accompanied and followed Lord Camden's resignation of it, we must now regard him as an Lord Camopposition leader, banded with Lord Chatham, Lord Rock- den's vindiingham and other Whig Peers, strenuously to resist the his conduct measures of the new government with Lord North at the while in head of it. At the commencement of their operations he was placed rather in an awkward predicament in a debate which arose on Lord Marchmont's famous midnight motion *, “that any interference of the Lords respecting the Middlesex election would be unconstitutional.” Lord Chatham having bitterly reflected on the measures of the government respecting Wilkes, Lord Sandwich took occasion to charge the late Chancellor with duplicity of conduct, because he had permitted those proceedings which had given so much disgust, and which he and his friends now so loudly condemned. Lord Camden answered him, by declaring upon his honour, “ that long before Mr. Wilkes's expulsion, and also before the vote of incapacity, on being asked his opinion by the Duke of Grafton, he had pronounced it both illegal and imprudent,” — adding that "he had always thought so, and had often delivered his opinion to that effect.” | The Duke of Grafton, however, declared that although the Chancellor had once before the expulsion said it would be impolitic or illtimed, he never had expressed his sentiments on the vote of incapacity, but whenever that subject was agitated he had withdrawn from the council board, thereby declining to give
It was on this occasion that Lord Chatham exclaimed, 6 If the constitution must be wounded, let it not receive its mortal stab at this dark and midnight hour."
† As far as the original expulsion goes, Lord Camden had forgotten his first opinion. Ante, p. 274.
СНАР. any opinion upon it; and Lord Weymouth, another member CXLV.
of the Cabinet, asserted that the Chancellor had withheld his advice and assistance from his colleagues on every mention of expulsion and incapacity. — Lord Camden. “Before the silence to which the noble Lords allude, I had repeatedly given my opinion upon the impropriety of the measures we have been discussing. But when I found that my opinion and my advice were rejected and despised, and that these measures were to be pursued in spite of every remonstrance I could make, I did withdraw myself-under the conviction that my presence would only distract, without preventing them. I was never farther consulted upon them directly or indirectly, because my opinion was well known-but I was ever ready to express my opinion boldly and openly on every question debated in Council, and humbly, but firmly to give
my best advice to my Sovereign for the public good."* Lord Cam. When Lord Chatham introduced his bill for reversing the den's opinion on
decision of the House of Commons, which disqualified Mr. the question Wilkes, and seated Mr. Lutterell as member for Middlesex, of the Middlesex elec- Lord Camden warmly supported it against the vigorous
attacks of Lord Mansfield. After stating the course pursued, he thus proceeded: “What, then, hindered the House from receiving Mr. Wilkes as their member? I am ashamed to guess at it, — merely because they would act in an arbitrary, dictatorial manner, in spite of law or precedent, against reason and justice. A secret influence had said the word — Mr. Wilkes shall not sit,' and the fiat was to be obeyed, though it tore out the heart-strings of this excellent constitution. The judgment passed upon the Middlesex election is a more tyrannical act than any which disgraced the twelve years' suspension of Parliaments in the reign of Charles I.; and, though this bill may be rejected (as we are all sensible how a majority can supersede reason and argument), I trust in the good sense and spirit of the people of this country that they will renew the claim of their inherent and inalienable right to a true and free representation in Paliament.”+
* 16 Parl. Hist. 824.
+ 16 Parl. Hist. 963. 1306. No other discussion respecting Lord Camden's conduct while Chancellor, or his dismission, appears in the printed parliamentary debates. But the Duke of Grafton, in his Journal, says : “ At this time Lord
Soon after arose the personal controversy between Lord Camden and Lord Mansfield, respecting the law of libel. A motion having been made in the House of Commons, re- His conspecting the direction given to the jury on the trial of Wood- troversy fall, for publishing Junius's “ Letter to the King,” Lord Mansfield Mansfield desired that the House of Lords might be sum
the rights moned, as“ he had something to communicate to their Lord- of juries on
trials for ships.” On the day appointed, he contented himself with
libel. saying, that he had left a paper with the Clerk of the House; that the paper contained the opinion of the Court of King's 1770. Bench, in the case of Rex v. Woodfall; and that their Lordships might read it, and take copies of it if they pleased. Lord Camden asked him if he meant to have the paper entered on the Journals. He said, “No, no! only to leave it with the Clerk."-Lord Camden. “My Lords, I consider the paper delivered in by the noble Lord on the woolsack* as a challenge directed personally to me, and I accept it; he has thrown down the glove, and I take it up. In direct contradiction to him, I maintain that his doctrine is not the law of England. I am ready to enter into the debate whenever the noble Lord will fix a day for it. I desire and insist that it may be an early one. Meanwhile, I propose the following questions to the noble and learned Lord upon his paper, to each of which I expect an answer.” He then read six questions respecting the Chief Justice's notions as to the jury being at liberty to consider whether the paper, charged to be libellous, be of a criminal or innocent character. Lord Mansfield replied that “ this mode of proceeding was taking him by surprise; that it was unfair; and that he would not answer interrogatories." Lord Camden then pressed for a day to be appointed for the noble and learned Lord to give in his answers, and said he was ready to meet him at any time. Lord Mansfield pledged
Chatham's virulence seemed to be directed against myself: he persisted for some days in the intention of charging me in parliament with having advised the removal of Lord Camden, on account of his vote in the House; nor was be dissuaded from this till Lord Camden had assured him that he knew so perfectly that the advice did not come from me, that he should, if his Lordship made the motion, think it incumbent on him to rise in his place and declare that he well knew it was not from my advice.”
• The Seals were now in commission, and Lord Mansfield presided as Speaker in the House of Lords.