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CHAP, the eagerness with which, notwithstanding his literary enthusiasm, he was ready to plunge into the waves of party strife.
A.d. 1743. Yet he had occasional struggles between his love of a life His inclin- 0f contemplation and a life of action. In a subsequent letter contempla- to Warburton, he says: "The din of politics is so strong tive life. every where, that I fancy it must have penetrated into your retirement. It tempts me sometimes, in an indolent fit, to apply Lord Bacon's words to myself—that 'I discover in me more of that disposition which qualifies to hold a book than to play a part.' Yet, if you come to London this spring, you will find me engaged in what properly concerns me; but your company, whether enjoyed by letter or personally, will always draw me back to my old studies—frustra leges et omnia jura tuentem." — His letters in this correspondence contain not only examples of bold criticism, but of daring speculation on theological subjects, consistent always with a belief in the great truths of revealed religion, but using considerable freedoms in proposing an allegorical interpretation of scripture.* From his marvellous proficiency, — from the ripeness of his judgment, as well as the extent of his reading, and the variety of his attainments,—we must greatly doubt whether there has been any improvement in the system of education for the bar and for public life, since his time. Had his training been a century later, he would still have been plodding for his degree without having begun the study of the law,—and he would have known nothing beyond what is to be learned in the narrow bounds of the modern University curriculum, whereas we behold him in reality, not only a sound scholar, but a fine writer, and qualified to enter into competition for fortune and fame with the most distinguished lawyers and statesmen. He is called Charles Yorke was called to the bar by the Honourable to the bar. Society 0f Lincoln's Inn, in Hilary Term, 1743, while yet in his minority,—and he almost immediately got into considerable practice. f It was a great advantage to him, no doubt, to be the son of the Lord Chancellor; but, as has been proved by
• See " Selections from Warburton's Literary Remains."
f " At a Council held the 1" day of February, 1745, — Ordered, That the 110^'" Charles Yorke, Esq'6, one of the Fellows of this Society, being of full standing, having performed all his exercises, and observed the rules of this Sofrequent instances, this would have availed him nothing with- (f^1^,^ out the power of self-denial, the talents, and the energy
which he displayed. A. D. 1744.
According to the usage then universally followed, he must His rapid have gone some circuit: but I cannot discover which he Prosress »,
<3 7 business.
selected, or how he fared in the provinces. During term time, in London, he was so overwhelmed with briefs, that he was obliged to abandon the society and the correspondence of his friends. Hilary Term, 1744, approaching, thus he writes to Warburton: "As business is coming in apace, I know not when I shall have an opportunity of conversing with you at large upon paper, unless I busy the present in a manner to me the most entertaining in the world."
As might be expected, it was chiefly in the Court of Chancery where the solicitors were disposed to employ him—not always from the purest motives. However, for the credit of the family, he never assumed any airs from his near relationship to the Judge, nor was there ever, as far as I can trace, any well-grounded complaint of his receiving undue favour there. His father was proud of him, and had been particularly delighted with his Athenian Letters; perhaps thinking truly how much better " Cleander" wrote than " Philip Homebred," but allowed him fairly to fight his own way at the bar, neither taking any indirect means to push him forward, nor when he heard him argue at the bar, treating him in any respect differently from other counsel.*
cicty, be called to the Bar this Term, first paying all his arrears and duties to this Society."
The following entries respecting him are likewise found in the books of the Society:
"At a Council held the 8th day of May, 1754, — Ordered, That the HonMe Bencher of Cha' Yorke, EsqTM, one of his Majesties Council learned in the law, be invited to Lincoln's the Bench of this Society ; and Mr. White and Mr. Hammct, two of the Masters 1nn, of the Bench, are desired to attend with this order, and report his answer to the next Council; and if the said Mr. Yorke do accept of this invitation, he is, according to the rules of this Society, to pay all his arrears and duties to the Treasurer of this Society before he be called to the Bench."
"At a Council held the 28"1 day of November, 1755, — Ordered, That the Treasurer. IIonbl" Charles Yorke, Esq"5, be Treasurer for the year ensuing."
"At a Council there held the 29th day of November, 1756, — Ordered, That Master of the Honb,c Charles Yorke, Esqre, Soil' Gen1, be Master of Library for the year the Library ensuing."
• Yet it appears that Lord Camden suspected that Lord Hardwicke withheld silk gowns for the advantage of his son Charles, and slighted the young gentleman's competitors.—Ante, p. 2S7. Sec also George Hardinge's MS., ante, Appendix to Life of Lord Camden.
As yet the fame of our aspirant was confined to the precincts of Westminster Hall and Lincoln's Inn; for then, unless there were a state trial, no notice was taken of any judicial proceedings in any journal or periodical publication; but, while in his twenty-second year, he suddenly buret upon the public as a great legal luminary. At this early age, he published the best juridical treatise that had appeared in the English language.
The spirit of Jacobitism had become very strong; there were general discontents in the public mind, and an invasion from France, to assist the Pretender, was daily expected. Lord Hardwicke, the Chancellor, thought it was necessary to render the laws against treason more stringent, by making it treason to correspond with the sons of the Pretender, and by continuing forfeiture and corruption of blood in cases of treason; so that all the honours, and all the property of any one convicted of treason, should for ever be lost to his children and his family. Against this last enactment there was a strong feeling, which the Chancellor's precocious son undertook to combat; not from an ungenerous nature, but from a desire to stand by his father, whose opinions he was bound to reverence. Accordingly, during the fervour of men's minds upon the subject, he brought out anonymously, but allowing himself to be soon discovered as the author, "Some Considerations on the Laws of Forfeiture for High Treason."
Of all the departments of literature, jurisprudence is the one in which the English had least excelled. Their treatises of highest authority were a mere jumble—without regard to arrangement or diction. Now, for the first time, appeared among us a writer who rivalled the best productions of the French and German jurists. He was not only au admirer, but a correspondent of Montesquieu; and he had caught a great share of the President's precision, and of his animation. In this treatise, he logically lays down his positions, and enforces them in a train of close reasoning, — without pedantic divisions, observing lucid order, — and drawing from the history and legislation of other countries the most apposite illustrations of his arguments. The following may be considered a fair specimen of the work, although without a 1744.
perusal of the whole of it, an adequate idea cannot be enter- CHAP, tained of the excellence of the plan on which he proceeds, CXLIXor of the felicity with which that plan is executed: "It is not the purpose of this essay to attempt a justification Extract of any instance in which the law of forfeiture may, in some Yorke's countries, have been carried to an extremity, as little to "Forfeiture be reconciled with principles of policy, as of clemency or justice. Amongst the Persians and Macedonians, not only the criminals convicted of treason were put to death, but all their relations and friends. The descendants of Antiphon, the orator, were disqualified from advancing themselves, by their own merit, to estates and offices in Athens. The posterity of Marius's faction were excluded by a law of Sylla from the same privileges. When these are laid out of the case, what is the force of the answer? It clearly resolves into this, — that those rights, and the power of transmitting property which are derived from the favour of society, may not be bestowed upon such terms as shall bind the possessor to his duty, and for the breach be subjected to forfeiture. As to the corruption of blood, it may suffice to say thus much of it here: that if a man is not capable of transmitting property acquired by himself to an heir, it seems a necessary consequence in reason, which is the ground of law, that he shall not be capable of receiving from an ancestor either to enjoy or to transmit; for, however society may effectuate any man's compassionate intention who would make a gift to the traitor's posterity, yet the law, which is consistent upon every occasion, and only to be moved by considerations that affect the whole, will not make an effort of itself to supply that connecting link in the chain of descent which has been struck out of it for the traitor's infamy, and the public benefit. Thus society, by making the loss of those rights it confers upon every man a penalty for the greatest crime which can be committed against his country, interests every relation and dependant in keeping him firm to the general tranquillity and welfare; at the same time, it gives him an occasion of reflecting that when he sets about it he must break through every private, as well as public tie, which enhances his crime, whilst it is an aggravation of his punishment. Nay, more, he may
hope to escape from the justice of his country with his own life if that alone were to be forfeited; but the distress of his family will pursue him in his securest thoughts, and abate the ardour of revolution. Many instances there are of men not ashamed to commit base and selfish enormities, who have retained a tenderness for their posterity by the strong and generous instinct of nature. The story of Licinius Macer, who was father to the great orator, is very remarkable, as related by a Roman annalist. Having gone through the office of Praetor, and governed a province, he was accused upon returning home of extortion and abuses of his power. The very morning of his trial he strangled himself, after having sent word to Cicero, who was preparing to plead against him, that being determined to put an end to his life before sentence, the prosecution could not go on, and his property would be saved to the benefit of his son. Upon the whole, then, where is the wrong? It is agreeable to justice to bestow rights upon condition. It is the wisdom of governments to lay hold on human partialities." — He tries to soften the law's harshness, with which, notwithstanding his assumed boldness, he is evidently a little shocked, by observing how rarely it would be brought into practice; that it would be "like Goliath's sword in the Temple, not to be taken down but on occasions of high necessity — at other times, in tabulis tanquam in vagina reconditum."
At the present day, while all must be charmed with his learning, his ingenuity, and his eloquence, I do not think that his reasoning will carry general conviction. He greatly exaggerates the moral guilt of the treason against which the law was to be directed—that of trying, from mistaken principle, to restore the exiled royal family,—which he confounds with the treason inveighed against by the Roman writers — that of conspiring to subvert public liberty for individual aggrandisement; — he utterly fails in his attempt to prove that the children are not punished for their father's crime, by being made infamous and cast destitute on the world; — and though a regard for the public tranquillity may require that a man shall try to bring about a revolution, whatever may be the established government, at the risk of his own