Графични страници
PDF файл

CHAP. the Government from which he was retiring, by his violent CLX.

and somewhat artful opposition to a bill which they had in

troduced “for encouraging the growth of timber in the New A. D. 1792. King Forest.” This provided for the inclosure of some crown land against

to be planted with trees for the use of the navy, and susMr. Pitt.

pended or mitigated the forestal rights of the Crown over a large district in Hampshire, — these rights being of no practical value to the sovereign, and very injurious to the subject. The bill passed the Lower House with the praise of all parties. But when it stood for a second reading in the Lords, “the Lord Chancellor objected to what he called the supposed principle of the bill, for he would not admit that it was founded on any real principle, as tending, under false pretences, to deprive the Crown of that landed property to which it was entitled by the constitutional law of the country. He maintained that it was of consequence that the King should have an interest in the land of the kingdom. He allowed the imperfection of the forest laws, but he insisted that the defects of this bill were infinitely more pernicious. In conclusion, he attacked the framers of the bill, his colleagues in office, in the most pointed and most unjustifiable manner. He openly charged them with having imposed upon their Sovereign, and did not scruple to assert that if the members of that House who were the hereditary councillors of the Crown

did not interfere in opposition to those who had advised this His at

measure, all was over. Nevertheless the bill passed, and tempt fails.

the resistance to it being explained to his Majesty to be merely an ebullition of spleen from him who had so long piqued himself on the appellation of “ the King's friend," no alarm was excited in the royal bosom, and the resolution

to dismiss him remained unaltered. Justifica- Seeing his fate inevitable, instead of quietly submitting to tion of the King for it, he complained loudly of the ingratitude and faithlessness of taking part Princes. But, even without regarding the double part which against Thurlow,

Thurlow had acted respecting the regency, all must agree that George III. could not properly have hesitated in taking part with Mr. Pitt in this controversy. The wanton desertion of

• Gifford's Life of Mr. Pitt, iii. 187. ; Moore's Life of Sheridan, ii. 273.


A. D. 1792.

those who had claims upon him by their services could not CHAP. justly be imputed to this monarch during any part of his reign.

Before the conclusion of the session important debates took place on two measures, which the Government very cordially Thurlow and creditably supported, and both of these were opposed by defends the

slave trade. the Chancellor. Resolutions came up from the Commons for the abolition of the slave trade, and Lord Grenville having contended “that, for the sake of preserving the national character from disgrace, it ought to be abolished, not only as a traffic founded on inhumanity and injustice, but a traffic unnecessary and impolitic,” Lord Thurlow said, “As to the iniquity and atrocity which had been so largely imputed to the slave trade, he could not understand why its criminality had not been discovered by our ancestors, and should become so conspicuous in the year 1792.” Then, forgetting his former contempt for colonial legislation, which he had testified during the contest with America, he suggested that the importation of slaves from Africa into the West India islands was a subject of internal commercial regulation, which the planters themselves best understood, and which should be left to their decision. This being considered an open question,-on the division which took place, he carried a majority of 63 to 36 against the Government.*

But, luckily, he failed in his dying effort as Chancellor, He unsucagain to defeat the bill to ascertain the rights of juries on cessfully trials for libel, and to protect the liberty of the press. He Fox's Libel first contrived to get it postponed till near the end of the ses

Bill. sion ; in every stage he inveighed violently against it; he obtained a declaration of opinion from the Judges, that “ libel, or no libel ?

was a pure question of law for the Court; and, thoroughly beaten by Lord Camden, he proposed a clause which would have rendered the bill nugatory, and to which he pretended that the venerable patriot could not object, when he received a memorable answer, which seems actually to have made him ashamed, as he offered no farther opposition to the bill. However, when it had passed, His protest he embodied his objections to it in a strong protest, which against it, remains as a monument of his illiberality and his obstinacy.t

29 Parl. Hist. 1341-1355.

† Ante, p. 349.

of the session.

and the

CH AP. Three days after this protest was signed, he ceased to be CLX.

Chancellor. The 15th of June, 1792, must have been a

sad day for the haughty spirit of Thurlow. Last day

Now came the prorogation, the event to which his dis

missal was respited. The King being placed on the throne, Thurlow's and the Commons attending at the bar of the House of Lords, last day in office. the Speaker, in his address, before presenting the Supply Bill

for the royal assent, eulogised in warm terms the measures of the Session — particularly that for establishing a sinking fund to pay off the national debt, and that for ascertaining the

rights of juries and protecting the liberty of the press. His morti- Nay, in the very speech which the King himself delivered hearing the from the throne, and which Thurlow, on bended knees, put Speaker into the King's hand, his Majesty was made to say, “I have King praise observed, with the utmost satisfaction, that you have made the mea

provision for the reduction of the present national debt, and sures he had op

established a permanent system for preventing the dangerous posed. accumulation of debt in future," — although it was the scheme

which the “ keeper of the royal conscience” had so violently opposed, and for opposing which he had received notice to quit his office. The last time he ever spoke in public as Chancellor was in proroguing the Parliament, by his Ma

jesty's command, till the 30th day of August then next.* He surren

As soon as this ceremony had been performed, he drove to Great Seal,

St. James's Palace, where a council was held, and he surrendered the Great Seal to his Majesty,—having the mortification to see Sir James Eyre, Chief Baron of the Exchequer, Sir William Ashurst, a Judge of the King's Bench, and Sir John Wilson, a Judge of the Common Pleas, in attendance to receive it as Lords Commissioners. Resignation of office into the hands of the Sovereign by a ministry retiring in a body, though not a joyous scene, is attended with some consolations. They probably feel, in common, that they have fought a good fight; they know that the same fate has overtaken all; and their misfortune is not only softened by mutual sympathy, but by the prospect of going together into opposition, and of returning together into place. Poor

ders the

June 15 1792.

29 Parl. Hist. 1555.


late con

Thurlow was now a solitary outcast; he had brought his сHAP. disgrace upon himself by his own waywardness and intemperance; he had no question to agitate before the public; he had no political party to associate with; he had lost the His desopleasures of office, without the excitement of opposition; and dition. hope even was gone, for there was no conceivable turn of parties that could ever again bring power within his reach. When he drove him from St. James's to Great Ormond Street without the Great Seal, which had been his beloved companion so many years, he must have been a good deal dejected. — The only boon bestowed upon him was a remainder of his peerage to the sons of his two brothers *, -and no

ray of kingly favour ever after shone upon him for the rest of his days.

He soon comported himself, however, with apparent firm- His advice ness, and he showed a friendly and generous disposition by the to Sir John advice he now gave to Sir John Scott, the Attorney General, who having been advanced by him, wished to share his fall. “ Stick by Pitt," said the retiring Chancellor : “ he has tripped up my heels, and I would have tripped up his if I could. I confess I never thought the King would have parted with me so easily. My course is run, and for the future I shall remain neutral. But


must on no account resign: I will not listen for a moment to such an idea. We should be looked on as a couple of fools! Your promotion is certain, and it shall not be baulked by any such whimsical proceeding.” It is creditable to both, that in the party vicissitudes which followed, their intimacy and cordiality remained unabated.


On the 12th of June, 1792, he was created Baron Thurlow of Thurlow, in the county of Suffolk, with remainder, on failure of his own heirs male, to the heirs male of his brother the Bishop, and John Thurlow, Esq.

[blocks in formation]



What was in Thur. low's

power after his loss of office.

quate performance.

СНАР. Our Ex-chancellor was at this time only sixty years of age, CLXI.

with an unbroken constitution. Considering his abilities and reputation, he might, as an independent member of the legislature, have had great weight, and he might have continued to fill a considerable space in the public eye — being of some service to his country, and laying the foundation of some additional claim to the respect of posterity. But with his office he seemed to have lost all his energy. When he again entered the House of Lords, he was like a dethroned

sovereign, and he could not bear his diminished consequence. His inade. Seen without his robes, without his great wig, sitting obscurely

on a back bench instead of frowning over the assembly from the woolsack, - the Peers were astonished to discover that he was an ordinary mortal, and were inclined to revenge themselves for his former arrogance by treating him with neglect. Finding his altered position so painful, he rarely took any part in the business of the House, and he might almost be considered as having retired from public life. He had a very favourable opportunity of improving our institutions and correcting the abuses in the law, which he had observed in his long experience, but he would as soon have thought of bringing in bills to alter the planetary system, or to soften the severity of the climate; for he either thought what was established perfect, or that the evils experienced in the administration of justice were necessary, and ought to be borne without murmuring. Almost the only subject which excited him was the attempt to abolish the slave trade, -"a dangerous sentimentality,” which he continued to resist and to

reprobate. His habits He now spent the greatest part of his time at a villa he

had purchased near Dulwich. The taste which, in early life, he had contracted for classical literature, proved during

in retirement.

« ПредишнаНапред »