Графични страници
PDF файл

CHAP, succession to the illustrious house of Pierrepoint. But your CLVI. Lordships will likewise bear in mind, that every mitigation which might have induced you to pity an unfortunate passion in younger bosoms is entirely cut off here. If it be true that the sacred rites of matrimony have been violated, I am afraid it must also appear that dry lucre was the whole inducement— cold fraud the only means to perpetrate the crime. In truth, the evidence (if I am rightly instructed) will clearly and expressly represent it as a matter of perfect indifference to the prisoner which husband she adhered to, so that the profit to be drawn from this marriage, or from that, was tolerably equal. The crime, if less revolting in some particulars, becomes only more odious in others. The facts which I will now, with all simplicity, detail, form a case which it would be quite impossible to aggravate, and which it will be extremely difficult to extenuate." He then gave an interesting narrative of the two marriages, and of the sham sentence of nullity, excusing the ecclesiastical Court by the quotation:—

"For oft though wisdom wake, suspicion sleeps
At wisdom's gate, and to simplicity
Resigns her charge; while goodness thinks no ill
Where no ill seems ."

After the verdict of Guilty, Thurlow, in a strain of rather coarse banter, argued that the Duchess was liable either to be hanged or to be branded with a hot iron, although he must have been aware that she was entitled, by her privilege of peerage, for her first felony to go scot free.* He prose- His next encounter in a Court of Justice was with a much Home more formidable antagonist. On news arriving of the battle Tooke for of Lexington, a meeting to "sympathise with the Americans," was held in the City, and Parson Home who superintended it drew up a minute of its proceedings which he

• 20 St. Tr. 355—651. By 4 & 5 Vict. c. 22., passed after the trial of Lord Cardigan, it is enacted that when an indictment is found against a Peer, he shall have no privilege except '■ to be tried by his Peers, and that upon conviction he shall be liable to the same punishment as the rest of her Majesty's subjects."—No invidious distinction of the peerage now exists, except the action of Scan. Mag. I intended to include the abolition of this in my Libel Bill; but I found the manner of doing it very difficult, for the action rests on statutes which merely forbid the telling of lies, and the spreading of false reports of great men — which it would appear rather absurd to repeal.

published in the newspapers, — stating that a subscription CHAP.

was to be raised "to be applied to the relief of the widows,

orphans, and aged parents of our beloved American fellow subjects, who, faithful to the character of Englishmen, preferring death to slavery, were for that reason only inhumanly murdered by the King's troops at Lexington, in the province of Massachusets." For this an ex officio information had been filed against him, which came on for trial at Guildhall, before Lord Mansfield and a special jury. Mr. Horne was his own counsel, and entered the Court resolved to proceed to the utmost lengths in assailing both the Judge and the prosecutor; but he was new to his situation, and did not display much of the cleverness for which he was justly celebrated — while Thurlow fought on his own dunghill, and throughout the whole day had the advantage over him.* The most amusing scene during the trial was when the defendant insisted on calling the Attorney General as his witness: but Lord Mansfield held that none of the questions proposed to be put to him were relevant. The jury, with little hesitation, brought in a verdict of Guilty.

Thurlow, in a manner which astonishes a modern Attorney 4General, eagerly pressed that the defendant, who was an or- His speech dained clergyman of the church of England, who was a j» «MP»*«scholar and a gentleman, should be set in the pillory. Speak- punishing in aggravation of punishment,— after observing that any j^g^"/8" fine would be paid by a seditious subscription, and that im- Home prisonment would be "a slight inconvenience to one of J^ouid be sedentary habits," he thus proceeded, "Pillory, my Lords, set in the is the appropriate punishment for this species of offence, and P'110"^' has been so these two hundred years—not only while such prosecutions were rank in the Star Chamber, but since the Star Chamber was abolished, and in the best times since the

* If a defendant under such circumstances has the requisite qualifications for defending himself, he has a far better chance of acquittal heing his own counsel, than with the most eloquent man at the bar to speak for him; but the selfdefence is generally so unskilful that it is sure to end in a conviction. I only recollect two instances to the contrary — Mr. Ferry obtained a signal triumph over Sir Vicary Gibbs, and Mr. Cobbett over Sir Thomas Denman. But the latter defendant only succeeded from the experience he had acquired from several failures. In his first contest with Sir James Scarlet he was very feeble and awkward, and he fell an easy prey to his powerful antagonist.

CHAP.
CLVI.

Difficulty to account for ThurJow's House of Commons' reputation.

Revolution. Tutchin was\et in the pillory by Chief Justice Holt. That libeller to be sure complained of being subjected to the punishment which he said ought to have been reserved for fraudulent bakers. He conceived that the falsifying of weights and measures was a more mechanical employment than the forging of lies, and that it was less gentlemanlike to rob men of their money than of their good name. But this is a peculiarity which belongs to the little vanity which inspires an author, and it made no impression upon Sir John Holt, whose name will live with honour as long as the English constitution. Government cannot exist unless, when offences of this magnitude are presented to a Court of Justice, the full measure of punishment is inflicted upon them. Let us preserve the restraint against licentiousness provided by the wisdom of past ages. I should have been very sorry to have brought this man before you, in a case attended with so many aggravations, if your Lordships were not to show your sense of his infamy by sentencing him to an infamous punishment." The sentence, however, was only a fine of 200/. and a year's imprisonment; and even Dr. Johnson, inquiring about it, said, "I hope they did not put the dog in the pillory: he has too much literature for that."* During this imprisonment the defendant wrote his letter to Mr. Dunning on the "English Particle," which he enlarged into his "Eirea 7tt£posvra, or the Diversions of Purley."—Notwithstanding Thurlow's vigorous push to set him in the pillory (as we shall see), they were subsequently reconciled, and the Ex-chancellor visiting the Ex-libellcr in his retreat at Wimbledon discussed with him questions of philology.

Towards the close of the American war, Mr. Attorney General Thurlow filled a great space in the public eye, and was considered the chief prop of the Government. It is certainly difficult for us to understand his high parliamentary reputation. I have already noticed all his reported speeches of the slightest consequence while he remained a member of the House of Commons, and none of them contain any thing like logical reasoning or statesmanlike views, or even good

• Bos. iii. 382. Johnson added, " Were I to make a new edition of my Dictionary, I would adopt several of Mr. Home's etymologies."

declamation. The defectiveness of the printed reports can- CHAP.

• • CLVI

not explain the disappointment we feel, for we have most admirable specimens of contemporary speakers — not only of Burke, who carefully edited his own orations, but of Lord Chatham, Dunning, and Lord North — and even his colleague the Solicitor General, appears in the " Parliamentary History" to much greater advantage. He must surely have displayed qualities which we cannot justly appreciate, to have been so favourably introduced into the graphic sketch of the House of Commons at this period, from personal observation, by the author of The Decline And Fall Of The Koman Empire: "The cause of government was ably vindicated Gibbon's by Lord North, a statesman of spotless integrity, a consum- ^'TM""J,of mate master of debate, who could wield with equal dexterity Wedderthe arms of reason and of ridicule. He was seated on the burn, Treasury bench between his Attorney and Solicitor General, the two pillars of the law and state, magis pares qnam similes; and the minister might indulge in a short slumber, whilst he was upholden on either hand by the majestic sense of Thurlow, and the skilful eloquence of Wedderburn." * Whatever others might think of him, he gave high satisfaction to his employers. Above all, the King was excessively delighted with his strong and uncompromising language respecting the Americans, and long placed a greater personal confidence in him than he had done in Lord Bute, or than he ever did in any other minister — perhaps with the exception of Lord Eldon.

The government being hard pressed in debate, though Thurlow strong in numbers in the House of Lords, and the general ChanTMlior. inefficiency of Lord Bathurst producing serious inconvenience to the public service, it was resolved to accept the offer he june) i778. had made to resign his office of Chancellor, — and there was not a moment's hesitation about his successor.

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER CLVII.

CONTINUATION OF THE LIFE OF LORD THURLOW TILL THE RE-
SIGNATION OF LORD NORTH AND THE FORMATION OF THE
SECOND ROCKINGHAM ADMINISTRATION.

CHAP. The transfer of the Great Seal took place at a council held
CLVII.

'_ at St. James's, on the 3d of June, 1778, — when Thurlow

June 19. was sworn in Lord Chancellor, and a memher of the Privy

Thurlow Council,— and on the first day of the following Trinity Term,

instilled as after a procession from his house in Great Ormond Street to

•• Westminster Hall, he was installed in the Court of Chau

Chancellor. _

eery with all the usual solemnities. * At the same time he was raised to the peerage by the title of Baron Thurlow of Ashfield, in the county of Suffolk. Cowper's A striking homage was now paid to his success by Cowper dressedto tne poet, who, though sincere and disinterested, exaggerated him on this hi8 merits, and was blind to his imperfections, from a tender recollection of their intimacy when brother pupils and idlers in the office of Mr. Chapman, in Lincoln's Inn: —

"Round Thurlow's head in early youth
And in his sportive days,
Fair Science pour'd the light of (ruth,
And Genius shed his rays.

"' See,' with united wonder, cried
Th' experiene'd and the sage,
'Ambition in a boy supplied
With all the skill of age!

* "3d June, 1778. Memorandum. — The Right Honourable Henry Earl Bathurst, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, delivered the Great Seal to his Majesty in Council. His Majesty, on the said 3d day of June, delivered it to Edward Thurlow, Esq., with the title of Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, who was thereupon, by his Majesty's command, sworn of the Privy Council, and likewise Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, and took his place at the l)oard accordingly; and on Friday, the 19th of June, went in state from his house in Great Ormond Street to Westminster Hall, accompanied by the Judges, Serjeants, &c, where, in their presence, he took the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and the oath of the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, the Master of the Rolls holding the book, and the Deputy Clerk of the Crown reading the said oaths. Which being done, the Solicitor General moved that it might be recorded, and it was ordered accordingly." — Cr. Off. Mix. Book, No. S, f. 25.

« ПредишнаНапред »