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feited; although he allowed that, in our present situation, Chap. such a process would be justly the object of ridicule.* C1A 1
Having introduced a bill to suspend the Habeas Corpus Fel) 1777
Act, with a view to American traitors, he defended it from His doc-^
the objection, that it might be put in force at home, by ob- .< treason
serving, that "treason and rebellion were the native growth f.nd rebel"
r> l • TT P • • n were
of America." However, by way of threatemng and taunting the natural the members of opposition, he admitted there might be some America" individuals in England, who, by giving information and encouragement to the Americans, might be considered guilty of treason by "adhering to the King's enemies;" but it was proper that they should be narrowly watched, and that the Government should be armed with powers to counteract their projects. f
When the debate arose on Sir Fletcher Norton's famous May 9. speech to the King, on the occasion of presenting a bill to aug- Th7Jr'low ;s ment the civil list %, Thurlow, in trying to do what would be defeated in agreeable at Court, sustained a signal defeat. Mr. Rigby having Jjl s s"ap^ animadverted upon the speech as disrespectful to the Crown, Norton, and not conveying the real sentiments of the representatives theHouse of the people, the Speaker appealed to the House, and threw of Com_ himself upon their judgment. Mr. Fox moved a resolution, "that the Speaker on this occasion did express, with just and proper energy, the zeal of this House for the support of the honour and dignity of the Crown in circumstances of great public charge." Sir Fletcher Norton declared that he imagined he was acting in the faithful discharge of the trust committed to him; but if the House thought otherwise, he could not, and would not, remain longer in the chair. Nevertheless, Mr. Attorney General Thurlow furiously opposed the motion, and contended that "the speech neither contained
• 18 Pari. Hist. 999. f 19 Pari. Hist. 9. 19. 37. 39.
J "In a time of public distress, full of difficulty and danger, their constituents labouring under burthens almost too heavy to be borne, your faithful Commons postponed all other business; and with as much despatch as the nature of their proceedings would admit, have not only granted to your Majesty a large present supply, but also a very great additional revenue, — great beyond example, — great beyond your Majesty's highest expense. But all this, Sir, they have done in a well-grounded confidence that you will apply wisely what they have granted liberally," &c.
Dec. 2. 1777. Thurlow placed in a ludicrous position in the House of Commons, and once for a moment abashed.
the sentiments of the House, nor was it strictly supported by fact" But Fox gave him a severe castigation, and pointing out the circumstance that the House hail already unanimously thanked the Speaker for this speech, observed, that the House would never consent to their own degradation and disgrace in the person of their Speaker, nor would submit to condemn on a Friday what they had highly praised on the Wednesday preceding. To Thurlow's extreme mortification, the motion was carried without a division, almost unanimously; and was followed by a fresh vote of thanks to Mr. Speaker " for his said speech to his Majesty." *
Early in the following session of Parliament, Mr. Attorney was placed in a very ludicrous situation, which, on account of his extreme arrogance — making him dreaded both by friends and foes — seems to have caused not only general merriment, but general satisfaction. Mr. Fox having moved that there be laid before the House certain papers, relating to what had been done under the Act for cutting off the Trade of the American Colonies, Thurlow rose and inveighed most bitterly against the motion, asserting that it could only proceed from a desire to countenance the "rebels," and contending that it could not be granted with any regard to the dignity of the Crown, or the safety of the state. While he was still on his legs, proceeding in this strain, news was brought that in the other House the very same motion having been made by the Duke of Grafton, the Government had acceded to it, and it had been carried unanimously. The fact was soon known by all present — and Lord North, after showing momentary symptoms of being disconcerted, joined in the titter. Thurlow pausing, the Secretary to the Treasury whispered in his ear the intelligence of what had happened "elsewhere," and the suppressed mirth broke out into a universal peal of laughter, — from the phenomenon that, once in his life, Thurlow appeared to be abashed. It was but for an instant. Quickly recovering himself, and looking sternly round at the Treasury Bench, he exclaimed, "I quit the defence
of administration. Let ministers do as they please in tins or CHAP, any other House. As a member of Parliament I never will'
give my vote for making public what, according to all the rules of policy, propriety, and decency, ought to be kept secret." — " However," says the Parliamentary History, "this did not stifle* the laugh, which continued for some time."* Lord North was frightened, and standing more in awe of his Attorney General than of his colleagues in the other House, he thought it best still to oppose the motion, and it was rejected by a majority of 178 to 80. f
We have no detailed account of any other speech of Thurlow respecting America while he remained a member of the House of Commons, but we know that his tone remained unaltered, and that when disasters began to multiply, he imputed them all to the ministers who had repealed the Stamp Act, and to the opposition leaders, who paralysed the energies of the country by their spurious patriotism — insisting that, as the " rebels" had had recourse to arms, warlike measures of more vigour could alone be expected to decide the controversy. J
Before closing my account of his career as a representa- He U distive of the people, I ought in justice to him to mention, that j^tome he declared he would not oppose Sir George Savile's bill for relief to the the relief of Roman Catholics, and that he went so far as to catholics, say, "that he highly disapproved the law which debarred a May M. parent from the noblest of all affections, — adopting the 1778, system of education which seemed best calculated for the happiness of his beloved offspring, — while he would require some consideration before he could agree to Popish priests being allowed freely to exercise the functions of their religion." §
Let us now attend to his forensic efforts while he was at A.D. 1774. the head of the bar, — which, I think, are more creditable to him. In Campbell v. Hall, the Grenada case, upon the four- Grenada and-a-half per cent, duties, he delivered a most admirable caseargument in support of the power of the Crown to legislate for conquered countries; taking a luminous view of the different systems of laws to which our colonies are subject,
* Vol. xix. S18. f ,b- 532. } Ib- S8?- § !•,• 1 HO.
VOL. V. L L
His speech on the merits of the case.
according to the manner in which they were settled or acquired. *
In the Duchess of Kingston's case,— having proved that the collusive sentence which she had obtained in the ecclesiastical court, annulling her first marriage, though binding upon her, was not binding on the House of Lords when trying her for bigamy,— he thus sarcastically concluded: "The sentence has deprived her of all conjugal claims upon Mr. Hervey; and we acknowledge it to be conclusive upon her, while we insist that it is merely void against all the rest of the world. She is therefore, according to us, a wife only for the purpose of being punished as a felon. These disappointments, these inconvenient consequences of guilt, are the bars which God and the order of nature have set against it; but they have not been found sufficient: it demands the interposition of public authority, with severer checks, to restrain it. Why is she thus hampered with the sentence she fabricated? Because she fabricated it; because justice will not permit her to allege her own fraud for her own benefit, nor hear her complain of a wrong done by herself. She displays to your Lordships not an anxiety to clear her injured innocence, but a dread of inquiry. Was this her solicitude to bring the question here? In such a Court, before so venerable an audience, we are to hear nothing pleaded against a charge of infamy, but a frivolous objection to enter upon the trial!"
The plea being overruled, Thurlow proceeded to state the facts of the case against her. His procmium is in a better taste than he often displays: "My Lords, it seems to be matter of just surprise that, before the commencement of the last century, no secular punishment had been provided for a
* 20 St. Tr. 312. On this and similar occasions he was ably assisted by his "devils," Hargrave and Kenyon, who answered cases for him, got up special arguments, and enabled him to devote much of his time to parliament and to jovial society. Kenyon was amply rewarded for his services, being made Attorney General, Master of the Rolls, and Chief Justice of the King's Bench. But poor Hargrave died neglected. He was, to be sure, with all his learning,
hardly produccable in any judicial office; and latterly his mind was diseased
insomuch that when he was brought to Lincoln's Inn to vote as a Bencher in the choice of a Preacher, and his vote was objected to, Jekyl said, that " instead of being deprived of his vote, he ought to be allowed two votes, for he was out bttitle himself."
crime of this malignant complexion and pernicious example. CHAP.
Perhaps the innocence of simpler ages, or the more prevailing
influence of religion, or the severity of ecclesiastical censures, together with those calamities which naturally and necessarily follow such an enormity, might formerly have been found sufficient to restrain it. From the moment these causes ceased to produce that effect, imagination can scarcely figure a crime that calls more loudly for the interposition of penal legislation; a crime which, besides the gross and open scandal given by it to religion, implies more cruel disappointment to the just and honourable expectation of the persons betrayed by it; which tends more to corrupt the purity of domestic life, and to loosen those sacred connections and close relations designed by Providence to bind the moral world together; or which may create more civil disorder, especially in a country where the title to great honours and high office is hereditary. My Lords, the misfortunes of individuals, the corruption of private life, the confusion of domestic relations, the disorder of civil succession, and the offences done to religion, are suggested as aggravations not of the particular case now under trial, but as miseries likely to arise from the example of the crime in general; and are laid before your Lordships only to call your attention to the course and order of the trial, and that there may be no misconception to mitigate the atrocity of such a violation of law, or to heighten the dangers with which it threatens the peace of families, and the public welfare. The present case, to state it justly and fairly, is stript of much of its aggravation. The advanced age of the parties, and their previous habits of life, would reduce many of these general articles of criminality and mischief to idle topics of empty declamation. No part of the present complaint turns upon any ruin brought on the blameless character of injured innocence; or to any disappointment occasioned to just and honourable pretensions; or to any corruption supposed to be introduced where modesty before prevailed. Nor should I expect much serious attention from your Lordships if I should urge, as aggravations of the Lady's guilt, the danger of entailing an uncertain condition upon a helpless offspring, or the apprehension of a disputed