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"Parliament was to meet on the 9th of January, 1770. CHAP. The necessity of having a Chancellor to vindicate the law 1 '''
authority of the Cabinet was dinned into my ear in most A- D 1770 companies I frequented; and it was particularly remarked Statement that Mr. Charles Yorke had taken no part in the whole '" t,he^If"
. . of the Duke
business of the Middlesex election that need preclude him of Graftonfrom joining in opinion with the decisions of the Commons. Such insinuations were very irksome to me, and about the Court I was still more harassed with them. At last, when I was passing a few Christmas holidays at Euston, Lords Gower and Weymouth came down on a visit. They informed me that the King, on hearing their intention of going to Euston, had expressly directed them to say, that the continuation of the Lord Chancellor in his office could not be justified, and that the Government would be too much lowered by the Great Seal appearing in opposition, and his Majesty hoped that I should assent to his removal, and approve of an offer being made to Mr. Yorke. My answer, as well as I recollect, was, that 'though it did not become me to argue against his Majesty's remarks on the present peculiar state of the Great Seal, I must humbly request that I might be in no way instrumental to dismissing Lord Camden.'
"In a few days after my arrival in London the session Jan. 9. opened, when the Lord Chancellor spoke warmly in support of Lord Chatham's opposition to the address, and while we were in the House, Lord Camden told me that he was sensible the Seal must be taken from him, though he had no intention to resign it. At St. James's it was at once decided that the Seal should be demanded: but, at my request, Lord Camden held it for some days, merely for the convenience of Government, during the negotiation for a respectable successor. No person will deny that Mr. Charles Yorke, Sir Eardley Wilmot, and Mr. De Grey would, any of them, have filled the high office of Lord Chancellor with the full approbation of Westminster Hall. They were all three thought of for it, though Sir Eardley's infirm state of health, accompanied by an humble diffidence of himself, which had been a
CHAP, distinguishing mark in his character through life, forbad the CLI- hopes of his acceptance. 1770 "While I continued in office it was my duty as well as desire to exert myself in endeavouring to render the King's administration as respectable as I was able, though I lamented and felt grievously the loss of Lord Camden's support, from which I derived so much comfort and assistance; yet I was satisfied that the lawyers I have mentioned were men equal to discharge the duties of a Chancellor. I therefore received the King's commands to write to Mr. Yorke directly. I saw him the next day. He received the offer of the Great Seal with much gratitude to his Majesty, but hoped that he should be allowed to return his answer when he should have given it a day's consideration. Mr. Charles Yorke remained with me between two and three hours, dwelling much on the whole of his own political thoughts and conduct, together with a comment on the principal public occurrences of the present reign. When he came to make remarks on the actual state of things, after speaking with much regard of many in administration, he said that it was essential to him to be informed from me whether I was open to a negotiation for extending the administration, so as to comprehend those with whom I had formerly and he constantly wished to agree. My answer was, that he could not desire more earnestly than myself to see an administration as comprehensive as possible, and that this object could only be brought about by the union of the Whigs — adding that I should be happy to have his assistance to effect it. Mr. Yorke appeared to be pleased with this answer, and after many civilities on both sides we parted. On his return to me the next day, I found him a quite altered man, for his mind was then made up to decline the offer from his Majesty, and that so decidedly that I did not attempt to say any thing farther on the subject. He expressed, however, a wish to be allowed an audience of his Majesty. This was granted, and at the conclusion of it the King, with the utmost concern, wrote to acquaint me that Mr. Yorke had declined the Seal. On his appearing soon after at the lev6e, his Majesty called him into his closet immediately after it was over. What passed there I know not. but nothing could exceed my astonishment when Lord CHAP.
• • • CLI
Hillsborough came into my dressing-room in order to tell me
that Mr. Yorke was in my parlour, and that he was Lord A D-1770.
Chancellor through the persuasion of the King himself in his
closet. Mr. Yorke corroborated to me what I had heard
from Lord Hillsborough, and I received the same account
from his Majesty as soon as I could get down to St. James's.
"Mr. Yorke staid but a little time with me, but his language gave me new hopes that an administration might shortly be produced which the nation would approve. How soon did this plausible hope vanish into a visionary expectation only from the death of Mr. Yorke before he became Lord Morden, or wc could have any preliminary discourses on the measure he earnestly desired to forward! I had long been acquainted with Mr. Yorke, and held him in high esteem. He certainly appeared less easy and communicative with me from the time of his acceptance to his death than I might expect, but it was natural to imagine that he would be more agitated than usual when arduous and intricate business was rushing at once upon him. I had not the least conception of any degree of agitation that could bring him to his sad and tragical end. Nor will I presume to conjecture what motives in his own breast, or anger in that of others, had driven him to repent of the step he had just taken. By his own appointment I went to his house about nine o'clock in the evening, two days, as I believe, after Mr. Yorke had been sworn in at a council board summoned for that purpose at the Queen's House. Being shown into his library below, I waited a longer time than I supposed Mr. Yorke would have kept me without some extraordinary cause. After above half-an-hour waiting, Dr. Watson, his physician, came into the room: he appeared somewhat confused — sat himself down for a few moments, letting me know that Mr. Yorke was much indisposed with an attack of colic. Dr. Watson soon retired, and I was ruminating on the untowardness of the circumstance — never suspecting the fatal event which had occurred, nor the still more lamentable cause ascribed for it by the world, and, as I fear, upon too just ground.
"I rung the bell and acquainted one of the sen ants that
CHAP. Mr. Yorke was probably too ill to see me, and that I should ('''' postpone the business on which I came to a more favourable
Ad 1770. moment. Mr. Yorke, I believe, was a religious man: It is rare to hear of such a person being guilty of an action so highly criminal. It must, therefore, have been in him a degree of passionate frenzy bearing down every atom of his reason. You will not wonder that I cannot think on the subject without horror still." Contrary On the other hand, it is said that besides an exposure of the stances and body to prove that the death was natural, a detailed statestatements, ment was published by the relations of the deceased, satisfactorily explaining all the circumstances which led to the suspicion; but after diligent enquiry I have not been able to procure a copy of it. By Adoi- Adolphus, in bis History of the Reign of George III., Phu8- gives the following account of Charles Yorke's appointment and his death, without hinting at the current rumour:
"The Seal was taken from Lord Camden and offered to Mr. Yorke, who had twice filled the office of Attorney General with the greatest reputation for talents and integrity. The unsettled state of parties and the gloomy complexion of affairs naturally occasioned him to feel considerable reluctance at undertaking the office at that particular time. Nothing, probably, would have overcome his repugnance but the earnest manner in which his acceptance of the Great Seal was pressed upon him by the King himself as most essential to his service. Thus urged, Mr. Yorke determined to obey the commands of his Sovereign without reversionary conditions or stipulations. He was immediately raised to the peerage by the title of Baron Morden, of Morden, in Cambridgeshire; an honour he did not live to possess, as th3 patent was not completed before his death, which occurred three days after he received the Great Seal." *
But an express, and seemingly authentic, contradiction is
* Vol. i. 397. I must observe, however, that the silence of this historian, notwithstanding his good information and general accuracy, is less to be relied upon in the present instance, as he confesses that he suppressed what would be hurtful to the feelings of George III. — such as his Majesty's first attack of insanity in 1765, which rendered the Regency Bill necessary. Vol. i. 175.
given to the imputation of suicide by Craddock, a writer of CHAP, credit, who, in his Memoirs, twice touches upon the subject: CLI"Mr. Sheldon," says he, "and his brother were very rich A D mo men. Mr. S. married a relative of Mr. Charles Yorke, for Contradica short time Lord Chancellor. Mr. Sheldon's eldest son, Craddock through the Reverend Mr. Sparrow, of Walthamstow, became intimate with me, and was frequently at my house in summer. After the dreadful death of Mr. Yorke, the newspapers more than hinted that he committed suicide, and this ■was mentioned at my table, not knowing Mr. Sheldon was his nephew. Mr. Sheldon replied to the gentleman, 'I pledge you my honour, my relative did not cut his throat.' When Mr. Sheldon was out of the room, the gentleman regretted that he had mentioned the circumstance, but said he was utterly astonished at Mr. Sheldon's denial. A gentleman then said, 'I believe I know the truth from Mr. Sheldon. After Mr. Charles Yorke left his Majesty, and had accepted the Seals, it was said Lord Rockingham and others expressed much resentment. Lord Rockingham, for himself, expressly denied that he said any thing. However, Mr. Charles Yorke went privately to his sideboard, and took out a bottle of some very strong liquor. He was subject to a severe stomach complaint. This liquor brought on violent sickness, and in the paroxysm he broke a blood vessel. After his death he was laid out, and the neck exposed to several persons, purposely permitted to view the corpse.' This, I rather think, was the whole truth." *
In a subsequent volume of his work, Craddock incidentally mentions " Mr. Yorke, who was afterwards, for a short time, Lord Chancellor;" and then he adds, " Having just alluded to the short life of the much-regretted Mr. Yorke after he was Lord Chancellor, I think it incumbent upon me to contradict the reported manner of his death, on the authority of one of his own family. He certainly was much agitated, after some hasty reproaches that he received on his return from having accepted the Seals, and he hastily took some strong liquor which was accidentally placed near the side
• Crad. Mem. iv. 252.