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Statement on the subject in Junius.
Statement by Sir N. Wraxall.
sides, leaving the reader to draw his own conclusion. In our time, on a death so sudden occurring, a coroner's inquest would be held as a matter of course; but no coroner's inquest was held, although it would appear that the body was exhibited by order of the family to check the circulation of the rumours which were afloat.
About three weeks after the event, there came out in the "Public Advertiser," a letter to the Duke of Grafton from Junius, in which that unscrupulous writer, alluding to the dismissal of Lord Camden and the death of Charles Yorke, says: "One would think, my Lord, you might have taken this spirited resolution * before you had dissolved the last of those early connections, which once, even in your own opinion, did honour to your youth — before you would oblige Lord Granby to quit a service he was attached to — before you had discarded one Chancellor and killed another. To what an abject condition have you laboured to reduce the best of Princes, when the unhappy man who yields at last to such personal instance and solicitation as never can be fairly employed against a subject, feels himself degraded by his compliance, and is unable to survive the disgraceful honours which his gracious Sovereign had compelled him to accept. He was a man of spirit, for he had a quick sense of shame, and death has redeemed his character. I know your Grace too well to appeal to your feelings upon this event; but there is another heart, not yet, I hope, quite callous to the touch of humanity, to which it ought to be a dreadful lesson for ever."
Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, commenting on this passage, says: "The transaction to which Junius refers is one of the most tragical which has taken place in our time. Mr. Yorke closed his existence in a manner strongly resembling the last
scene of the lamented ," mentioning the name of an
illustrious man, who, in a fit of mental aberration, arising from deep grief, had shortened his days.
Jeremiah Markland, on the 5th of February, 1770, thus wrote to Mr. Bowyer: —
* The Duke's own resignation.
"Your letter of February 1. gave me a new and melan- Chap.
choly light concerning the last Chancellor who died!'
But the spirit which appears in many of our nobility, and A D I770 the cession of one great wicked man, whose parts, I was Letter on afraid (and there was more reason lor the rear than, 1 pre- from sume, was generally apprehended,) had got an entire su- ^a^^r periority over the weakness of another, have made me very easy as to political matters. I had expressed my apprehensions in many political squibs and crackers, which I had occasionally let off; but shall now suppress them as unnecessary. The last was this: —
"To the D. of G.
"How strangely Providence its ways conceals!
In Horace Walpole's "Memoirs of the Reign of ^°"c° George III." it is said, "After struggling with all the convulsions of ambition, interest, fear, horror, dread of abuse, and, above all, with the difficulty of refusing the object of his whole life's wishes, and with the despair of recovering the instant — if once suffered to escape — Charles Yorke, having taken three days to consider, refused to accept the Seals of Chancellor."f * * * "Mr. Conway acquainted me in the greatest secrecy that the Duke of Grafton, dismayed at Yorke's refusal of the Great Seal, would give up the administration. Not a lawyer could be found able enough,
— or if able, bold enough, — or if bold, decent enough,
— to fill the employment." * * * "What was my astonishment when Mr. Onslow came and told me that Yorke had accepted the Seals! He had been with the King overnight (without the knowledge of the Duke of Grafton), and had again declined; but being pressed to reconsider, and returning in the morning, the King had so overwhelmed him
* Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, vol. iv. 298.
f Horace Walpole is very inaccurate as to dates in this part of his Memoirs. For example, he represents the speeches respecting the dismissal of the Chancellor and the acceptance of the Seals by another lawyer, made in the House of Lords on the 9th of January, the first day of the Session, as made on the 15th of January, when Lord Camden was substantially dismissed, and Charles Yorke had twice refused to succeed him. .— Mem. Geo. III. iv. 48.
VOL. V. E E
CCIJP with flatteries, entreaties, prayers, and at last with commands
and threats of never giving him the post if not accepted now,
,l.o. mo. that the poor man sank under the importunity, though he had given a solemn'promise to his brother, Lord Hardwicke, and Lord Rockingham, that he would not yield. He betrayed, however, none of the rapaciousncss of the times, nor exacted but one condition, the grant of which fixed his irresolution. The Chancellor must, of necessity, be a Peer, or cannot sit in the House of Lords.* The coronet was announced to Yorke, but he slighted it as of no consequence to his eldest son, who would probably succeed his uncle, Lord Hardwicke, the latter having been long married, and having only two daughters. But Mr. Yorke himself had a second wife, a very beautiful woman, and by her had another son. She, it is supposed, urged him to accept the Chancery as the King offered, or consented that the new peerage should descend to her son, and not to the eldest. The rest of his story was indeed melancholy, and his fate so rapid as to intercept the completion of his elevation. He kissed the King's hand on the Thursday f; and from Court drove to his brother, Lord Hardwicke's,— the precise steps of the tragedy have never been ascertained. Lord Rockingham was with the Earl. By some it was affirmed that both the Marquis and the Earl received the unhappy renegade with bitter reproaches. Others, whom I rather believe, maintained that the Marquis left the House directly, and that Lord Hardwicke refused to hear his brother's excuses, and, retiring from the room, shut himself into another chamber, obdurately denying Mr. Yorke an audience. At night it was whispered that the agitation of his mind, working on a most sanguine habit of body, inflamed of late by excessive indulgence both in meats and wine, had occasioned the bursting of a bloodvessel, and the attendance of surgeons was accounted for by the necessity of bleeding him four times on Friday. Certain it is, that he expired on the Saturday between four and six
* Horace is here inaccurate in his law as well as his tacts.
f This, again, is a mistake, for the Great Seal had actually l,een delivered to him on Wednesday, the 17th of January ; and it was on the evening of this same day that he drove to Lord Rockingham's.
in the evemng. His servants in the first confusion had CHAP.
dropped too much to leave it in the family's power to stifle'
the truth, and though they endeavoured to colour over the A-0-1770< catastrophe by declaring the accident natural, the want of evidence and of the testimony of surgeons to colour the tale given out, and which they never took any public means of authenticating, convinced every body that he had fallen by his own hand—whether on his sword, or by a razor, was uncertain."*
Cooksey, a relation of the Hardwicke family, on the Statement mother's side, in his "Life of Lord Hardwicke," gives an sey. account of Lord and Lady Hardwicke's children; and, after introducing Philip, the eldest son, thus proceeds: "Being a capital supporter of the priciples and party which was headed by the amiable Marquis of Rockingham, there was no post or office in administration to which he might not have been appointed, as there were none to which his abilities would not have done honour. That body of respected and real patriots generally held their private meetings and consultations at his Lordship's house in St. James's Square; and it was at one of those that his brother appeared with the Seals which his Majesty had prevailed on him to accept, on the resignation of Lord Camden. The expressive silence with which he was received and dismissed by that illustrious assemblage of his friends, made him but too sensible of their disapprobation of his conduct. His self-condemnation of it, also, and horror of consequential shame and diminution of his high character, proved fatal to his life. His last moments gave Lord Hardwicke an occasion of expressing his nice sense of honour and refined delicacy. The Seals, and the patent creating him Baron Morden, were on a table in the apartment of the dying Chancellor. 'What hinders,' said one of his friends, 'the Great Seal being put to this patent, whilst his Lordship yet lives?' 'I forbid it!' said his noble brother. 'Never shall it be said of one of our family, that he obtained a peerage under the least suspicion of a dishonourable practice.'" The biographer then introduces
Chap, the second son: "Charles, who after displaying the most CLI- shining abilities in the several law offices of Solicitor and A.d. 1770. Attorney General, was unhappily appointed Lord Chancellor of England on January 17. 1770; which appointment not being attended with the appprobation of his friends or his own, had such effect on his feelings as to render life insupportable. He quitted it on the 20th of the same month, to the inexpressible grief of all good men who knew him. Happily he leaves a son, heir to his virtues and the honours and great estates of his family."* b^BeT"' Belsham, in his History of the reign of George III., thus sham. describes the last hours of Charles Yorke :— "Lord Camden, having in the course of the debate condemned, in decisive terms, the proceedings of the House of Commons, and actually divided on this occasion with Lord Chatham, was immediately compelled to relinquish the Great Seal; but such was the political consternation prevailing at this crisis, that no person competent to the office could be persuaded to accept it. Mr. Yorke, Attorney General, son of the late Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, a man of the highest professional ability, had given, as was reported and believed, a positive assurance to the Earl his brother, that he would not, upon any terms, listen to the offers of the Court; but, upon being sent for by the King and earnestly solicited, he at length, in a fatal moment, consented, and a patent was immediately ordered to be prepared for his elevation to the peerage, by the title of Lord Morden. On repairing to the residence of his brother, in order to explain to him the motives of his acceptance, he was ref used admission; and in the agitation of his mind, unable to endure the torture of his own reflections, he in a few hours put an end to his existence." f
Other compilers of Memoirs and Magazines, which have been subsequently given to the world, have repeated the story, without any corroboration of it. But much weight must be given to the following very interesting extract from the MS. journal of the Duke of Grafton : —