Графични страници
PDF файл

expedient course to be pursued for gaining that object. CHAP. Even if he repeated Lord Temple's declaration, that "his CLIXMajesty disliked the India Bill," I do not see that he was guilty of any very heinous offence. The name of the Sovereign cannot be regularly mentioned in Parliament to influence debate, but it is absurd to suppose that he can never have any wish except that of his ministers for the time being, and that he alone, of all persons in his dominions, is to be without any private opinion. Although his private opinion on a public measure is not binding, either in or out of Parliament, there are rare occasions where it may not improperly be made known, and George III. may deserve some credit for then acting as the Coryphieus of his subjects. No one in the present age believes that the framers of this famous India Bill had the intention imputed to them of erecting a power independent of the Crown, but its policy was doubtful. The joint sway of the Court of Directors and the Board of Control being substituted for the arbitrary rule of the "Seven Kings," our Eastern empire has been governed with wisdom, with success, and with glory.

The Lords Commissioners having some business to wind up in the Court of Chancery, the transfer of the Great Seal did not take place till the 23d of December. On that day they surrendered it at a council held at the Queen's House, and it was restored to Thurlow with the title of Lord Chancellor.*

It must have been amusing, during the ceremony, to ob- Scene when serve the countenances of the two principal performers, who bu^First having been friendly associates had become bitter rivals — Commiswho had been years violently struggling, and who for years ^""oreat continued violently to struggle, for the same bauble. But Seal, dc; how little could they penetrate into futurity! The wary up to Wedderburn thus obliged to part with the obiect of his Thurlow as

„. „ i • i It t.' Chancellor.

affections, afterwards met with a cruel disappointment, when,

* "23d Dec. 1783. The Lords Commissioners for the custody of the Great Seal of Great Britain having delivered the said Great Seal to the King at the Queen's House on Wednesday, the 23d of Dec. 1783, his Majesty the same day delivered it to Edward Lord Thurlow, with the title of Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, &c." The entry goes on in the usual form to state his sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall next day, and his taking the oaths in Westminster Hall the 6rst day of the following Hilary Term, the Master of the Rolls holding the book, &c. — Cr. Off Mm. No. 2. p. 32.

VOL. V. O O

Chap, on the King's illness, he thought it was within his clutch, CLIX- and the reckless Thurlow at that time willing to sacrifice his benefactor and his party that he might retain it, — subsequently securely in possession of it,— in consequence of his own waywardness and intemperance saw it transferred to his 'opponent, — who now despondingly believed that his chance of reaching the summit of his ambition was gone for ever. Majority in During the storms which raged in the House of Commons for Mr. for ^e remainder of the session, there was a perfect calm in the House of Lords. Here the new ministry had from the lity there, beginning a complete ascendency, while in the House of Commons there were great, though decreasing majorities against them, led on by Mr. Fox and Lord North.

It was only thought necessary once to bring the Peers into action. The Commons having passed certain resolutions which it was contended amounted to a repeal of an Act of Parliament, and to a denial of the King's right to choose his own minis Feb. 4. ters, Lord Effingham brought forward counter resolutions Debate in in *ne House of Lords, denying the right of one branch of the Lords the legislature to suspend the execution of the laws, and soiutionTof an^rmmg *ne King's prerogative in the appointment of his the Com- ministers. These were opposed by Lord Loughborough, who a»ah\st the hinted that the resolutions of the Commons were constitunew minis- tional, as that House had a control over the supplies, and a right to advise the Crown upon the exercise of the prerogative. He said, "there is a maxim that 'the King can do no wrong;' but the law admits the possibility of the King being deceived, and there is no doubt that princes are more likely to be imposed upon than other men. According to this principle the Commons, even before the Revolution, were in the habit, as often as they deemed it expedient, to address the King, humbly praying him to change his councils and his councillors. I doubt not the abilities of many of the present administration — for some of whom I have the greatest esteem. Yet I think it very ill advised that they should remain in office after the majorities which have appeared against them, and in not seeing the perilous consequences of a breach between the two Houses of Parliament which they are now precipitating. An attempt is made to establish an executive power independent of parliament, and to create a

[ocr errors]

precedent which may be fatal to the dignity and to the au

thority of both Houses." — The Lord Chancellor leaving the

woolsack, reprobated the resolutions lately come to by the Commons as "the wild efforts of childish ambition:" "Is their discretion," continued he, "to be substituted for law? I know how irksome it is to be obliged, from conscience and a love of justice, to oppose the desires of such a powerful body; this is not reposing on a bed of roses; but if I had been placed in the situation of the present Lords of the Treasury when served with the illegal mandate, I trust I should have had firmness to spurn at it with contempt and disdain." He warmly eulogised Mr. Pitt, and particularly dwelt on his disinterestedness in recently refusing the lucrative sinecure of the Clerk of the Pells, which, said he, "I was shabby enough to advise him to accept, and certainly should, under his circumstances, have been shabby enough myself to have accepted." He recommended the resolutions now moved as "a corrective of the wildness of that mad ambition, which by talking in a nonsensical tone of the dignity and honour of parliament, persuaded men, of whom better things might be expected, to adopt measures extravagant, absurd, and mischievous. " *

The tide of popular favour running stronger and stronger March 24. against the coalitionists, although Mr. Pitt continued in a Tb^Great minority in the House of Commons, and an address had been So' stolen, carried there praying for a change of ministers,—it was determined to dissolve parliament, and to appeal to the people. While preparations were making to carry this measure into effect, the metropolis was thrown into consternation by the news that the Great Seal was stolen from the custody of the Lord Chancellor, and many who attached a superstitious reverence to this bauble, imagined that for want of it all the functions of the executive government must be suspended. A charge was brought against the Whigs that, to prevent the The Whigs threatened dissolution, they had burglariously broken into ofX-theft the Lord Chancellor's house in the night time, and feloniously stolen and carried off the Clavis Regni.

* 24 Pari. Hist. 513.

CLlx" ^e trut^ wa9' tnat VeI7 m the morning of the 24th of March, some thieves did break into Lord Thurlow's

A.d. 1784. house in Great Ormond Street, which then bordered on the tory'of this c0untl7- Coming from the fields, they had jumped over his affair. garden wall, and forcing two bars from the kitchen window, went up a stair to a room adjoining the study. Here they found the Great Seal inclosed in the two bags so often de scribed in the close roll, one of leather — the other of silk, — two silver-hilted swords belonging to the Chancellor's officers, — and a small sum of money. With the whole of this booty they absconded. They effected their escape without having been heard by any of the family; and though a reward was offered for their discovery, they never could be traced. It will hardly be believed that Lord Loughborough, under whose legal advice the Whig party at this period acted, was so bad a lawyer as to recommend this burglary as a manoeuvre to embarrass the Government, although King James II. had thought that he had effectually defeated the enterprize of the Prince of Orange by throwing the Great Seal into the river Thames.

When the Chancellor awoke and found what had happened, he immediately went to Mr. Pitt in Downing Street, and the two waited upon his Majesty at Buckingham House to communicate the intelligence to him. A council was immediately called, at which the following order was made: — Order in "At the Court at St. James's, the 24th of March, 1784, making a" present, the King's most Excellent Majesty in Council,— new Great Whereas in the course of the last night the House of the Right Honourable the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain was broke open, and the Great Seal of Great Britain stolen from thence; it is this day ordered by his Majesty in Council, that his chief engraver of seals do immediately prepare a Great Seal of Great Britain with the following alterations: —

"That on the side where' his Majesty is represented on horseback, the number of the present year be inserted in figures 1784 on the plain surface of the seal behind his Majesty; and the herbage under the horses' hind legs omitted.

Seal.

"That on the reverse, where his Majesty is sitting in Chap.

state, the palm branch and the cornucopia be omitted on the

sides of the arms at the top; and over the above arms the number of the present year 1784 in figures to be inserted, and at the bottom also the present year MDCCLXXXIIII. in Roman figures.

"And that he do present the same to his Majesty at this board to-morrow for his royal approbation. And the Right Honourable Lord Sidney, one of his Majesty's principal Secretaries of State, is to cause a warrant to be prepared for his royal signature to the said engraver upon this occasion."

Such expedition was used, that by noon the following day the new Great Seal was finished, and the following order was made: —

"At the Court at the Queen's House, the 25th of March, Ord

[ocr errors]

1784, present, the King's most Excellent Majesty in Council, ^st'of' — A new Great Seal of Great Britain having been prepared the new by his Majesty's chief engraver of seals in pursuance of a Great Sca1warrant to him for that purpose under his royal signature, and the same having been this day presented to his Majesty in Council and approved, his Majesty was thereupon graciously pleased to deliver the said new Seal to the Right Honourable Edward Lord Thurlow, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, and to direct that the same shall be made use of for sealing all things whatsoever which pass the Great Seal." *

* For some reason, of which there is no account or tradition in the Council Office, the Great Seal was again changed, as appears from the following entries, extracted from the books of the Privy Council:

"At the Court at St. James's the 2d of April, 1784, present, the King's most Excellent Majesty in Council,—It is this day ordered by his Majesty in Council that his Majesty's chief engraver of seals do forthwith prepare the draft of a new Great Seal of Great Britain, and present the same to his Majesty at this board for his royal approbation."

"At the Court at St. James's the 14th of May, 1784, present, the King's Great Seal most excellent Majesty in Council, — His Majesty in Council having been this again day pleased to approve the draught of a new Great Seal of Great Britain, doth changed, hereby order that his chief engraver of seals do forthwith engrave the said Seal according to the said draught, and lay the same before his Majesty at this board for his royal approbation; and that the Bt. Hon. Lord Sidney, one of his Majesty's principal Secretaries of State, do cause a warrant to be prepared for his Majesty's royal signature to the said engraver upon this occasion."

"A t the Court at St. James's the 15th of April, 1785, present, the King's most Excellent Majesty in Council, — This day the old Great Seal being delivered up to his Majesty by the Right Hon. Edward Lord Thurlow, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, the same was defaced in his Majesty's presence; and his Majesty was thereupon pleased to deliver to his Lordship a new Great Seal."

« ПредишнаНапред »