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some months a resource to him. But reading without any Chap.
■ ■ CI XI
definite object, he found tiresome, and he is said to have
suffered much from the tedium vita. His principal relief A D ,793was in getting young lawyers to come to him in the evening to tell him what had been going on in the Court of Chancery in the morning; and he was in the habit of censuring very freely the decisions of his successors.*
For about two years he pretty regularly attended the hearing of appeals and writs of error in the House of Lords, but at the end of that period he refused to come any longer. Having no pension or retired allowance, he did not consider that the public had any claim upon his time t; he could not well endure to appear as a subordinate where he had so long dictated; and as there was no reasonable prospect of his return to office, he was indifferent about keeping up his law by acting as a Judge. In January, 1793, his mortification was increased by seeing the Great Seal in the possession of his rival Wedderburn, on the secession of a large section of the Whig party from Mr. Fox—an event to which Thurlow's own retirement had materially contributed.
When he showed himself in the House, he was observed His deto look sulky and discontented. He was even at a loss where '"eanour ,n
* the House
to seat himself, for he hated equally the government and the of Lords, opposition, and there was no precedent for an Ex-chancellor placing himself on a cross bench. He took no part in the important debates which arose on the French revolution, or on the origin of the war with the French Republic. In the session of 1793 he contented himself with opposing a bill to increase the sum for which a debtor might be arrested from 10/. to 201. %, and expressing an opinion that there is no appeal in criminal cases from the Courts in Scotland to the House of Lords. § In the beginning of the following year
• Mr. Leach, afterwards Sir John, and Master of the Rolls, was his chief reporter. It is curious that Mr. James Allan Park, afterwards a Judge, acted in the same capacity to Lord Mansfield when retired from the Court of King's Bench.
t Although there was then no parliamentary retired allowance for Ex-chancellors, they were better off than at present. Thurlow was a Teller of the Exchequer, and had given sinecures to all his relations, for one of which his nephew now receives a commutation of 9000/. a year.
\ ?.0 Pari. Hist. 650. § lb. 928.
May, 1794. Thurlow complains of a report of a committee of the House of Commons, drawn up by Burke, as a libel.
Burke's revenge upon him.
he resisted the attempt that was made to obtain a reversal of the atrocious sentence of transportation passed by the Court of Justiciary, at Edinburgh, on Muir, for advocating parliamentary reform. *
Out of office he continued a warm partisan of Mr. Hastings, although he could hardly have expected that the aged and vituperated Ex-Governor General could now be set up as a rival to Mr. Pitt.
Thurlow's zeal in defeating the impeachment was heightened by his antipathy to Burke, with whom he continued from time to time to have "passages of arms." A committee of the House of Commons appointed to inquire into the causes of the length of the trial, having presented an elaborate Report drawn by the chief manager, which reflected with great severity upon the manner in which the Lords had conducted the proceedings, and particularly their practice of deciding all questions upon the admissibility of evidence according to the rules of the common law as declared by the Judges f, the Ex-chancellor loudly complained of it as a libel on the House of Lords, denominating it "a scurrilous pamphlet, published by one Debrett in Piccadilly,"—which had that day been put into his hands, reflecting highly upon the Judges and many members of that House. He said "it was indecent and disgraceful, and such as ought not to pass unpunished, as it vilified and misrepresented the conduct of judges and magistrates intrusted with the administration of criminal justice,— an offence of a very heinous nature,—tending with the ignorant and the wicked to lessen the respect due to the law itself."
We have a fuller account of Burke's retaliation next day in the House of Commons. After stating the attack made
• 20 Pari. Hist. 1302. 1304. The trials which took place in Scotland about that time cannot now be read without amazement and horror,—mixed with praises to Heaven that we live in better times. In the year 1834, being a candidate to represent the city of Edinburgh in parliament, I was reproached for not being sufficiently liberal in my opinions. I said truly, that although Attorney General to the Crown, I had uttered sentiments for which, forty years before, I should have been sent to Botany Bay. "The Martyrs* Monument," on the Calton Hill, erected to the memory of Muir and his companions, is a striking proof of the servitude of a former generation, and of the freedom of the present.
f 31 Pari. Hist. 288.
on "the pamphlet published by one Debrett in Piccadilly," CHAP, he said, — "I think it impossible, combining all the circum- CI.XIstances, not to suppose that this speech does reflect upon a Report, which, by order of the Committee on which I served, I had the honour to present to this House. For any thing improper in that Report, I and the other members of the Committee are responsible to this House, and to this House only. I am of opinion with the eminent person by whom that Report is censured, that it is necessary at this time very particularly to preserve the authority of the Judges. But the Report does not accuse the Judges of ignorance or corruption. Whatever it says, it does not say calumniously. This kind of language belongs to those whose eloquence entitles them to a free use of epithets. It is necessary to preserve the respect due to the House of Lords; it is full as necessary to preserve the respect due to the House of Commons; upon which (whatever may be thought of us by some persons) the weight and force of all authorities within this kingdom essentially depend. The Report states grave cause of complaint to the prejudice of those whom we represent. Our positions we support by reason and precedent, and no sentiment which we have expressed am I disposed to retract or to soften. Whenever an occasion shall be regularly given for discussing the merits of the Report, I shall be ready in its defence to meet the proudest name for ability, learning, or reputation which this kingdom can send forth." *
Thurlow remained quiet till the trial was at last to close, Apr. 1795. and the arraignment having taken place before one gene- of0jj^""' ration, the judgment was to be pronounced by another. One tbgss trial hundred and sixty Peers had walked in the procession the first day, and only twenty-nine voted on the question of guilty or not guilty. "The Great Seal was borne before Loughborough, who, when the trial commenced, was a fierce opponent of Mr. Pitt's government, while Thurlow, who presided in the Court when it first sat, estranged from his old allies, sat scowling among the junior Barons." f
But when the debates upon the merits began among the Thurlow s Lords themselves, in their own chamber, the Ex-chancellor's speec ' in
* 31 Pari. Hist. 605—609. t Macaulay's Essays, iii. 456.
Chap, pugnacity returned in full vigour, and he valiantly assailed Clxi. 8uCces80r, who formerly, and still, closely connected by
favour of party ties with Mr. Burke, contended that all the charges, Hastings, except three, were fully established. Thurlow treated all these arguments with contempt, and insisted that even the charges on which six Peers said " Guilty," were either entirely Acquittal frivolous-, or unsupported by a shred of evidence. He had, tags. * on this occasion, not only the majority of the House, but the voice of the public on his side, there having been, for some time, a strong re-action against the accusation; and he must have enjoyed a great triumph in being present while Lord Loughborough was compelled to announce the acquittal, and to behold the triumphant Hastings, still standing at the bar, overwhelmed with congratulations.* Thurlow in The vulgar, who do not penetrate the workings of the opposi ion. human heart, were astonished now to discover that Thurlow, who had been a furious Ultra-tory, was beginning to incline to the liberal side in politics. He was taken into favour by the Prince of Wales; he formed an intimacy with Lord Moira, a leader of the Carlton House party, and he was even disposed to cultivate the acquaintance of Mr. Fox. There is nothing so effectual to reconcile old political, and even personal, enmities as a common hatred of the Minister for the time being. "Idem sentire de rerum politicarum administro," is the foundation of English, as "idem sentire de republica" was of Roman, friendships. Low as the Whig party now was in point of numbers, from the dread of Jacobinism t,—Thurlow showed strong symptoms of a wish to coalesce with them. He assisted Lord Lauderdale in opposing the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, although, during the American war, he scorned all who had any scruple about such unconstitutional measures, — and he divided against the Government in a minority of 11 to 119. J
* Trial of Warren Hastings, published by Debrett, 1797; Mills's History of India, vol. v. c. 2.
f I heard old George Byng say, at the dinner given to him to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his having sat for Middlesex, alluding to those times: "It has been asserted that the Whigs would all have been held in oneJiackncy coach. This is a calumny; we should have filled two!"
\ 31 Pari. Hist. 586.
To strengthen his connexion with Carlton House, when CHAT, the bill was passing to grant the Prince an annuity on his ( 1X1
inauspicious marriage, Thurlow expressed deep regret that jhurlow a a larger allowance was not proposed for his Royal Highness. partisan of He anticipated much good conduct both from the Prince and ol- Wales, the Princess, and he prophesied "that, when the new order of things was observed, the generosity of the nation would be roused by the change, and they would readily come forward and relieve the Prince from the necessity of longer continuing in retirement and obscurity." The Duke of Clarence highly complimented the noble and learned Lord on the regard and attachment he had manifested for the Prince and the Royal Family. *
Thurlow now became a "flaming patriot." We have ar- Thurlow rived at a period of English history which, by exaggeration, patriot"" has been called "the Reign of Terror," and upon which I shall often have to animadvert in writing the lives of Loughborough, Erskine, and Eldon. Under the apprehension of revolutionary principles,—without any intention of permanently encroaching upon the constitution, but with the hope of adding to the strength of the administration, by spreading alarm over the nation, — after the failure of the ill-advised trials, in which an attempt was made to take the lives of Mr. Home Tooke, and others, for following the example lately set by the Prime Minister in struggling for parliamentary reform,—bills were brought in of a very stringent character—to restrain the holding of public meetings,—to extend the law of high treason, — and to subject persons found guilty of seditious libels to transportation beyond the seas.
These having been strenuously resisted by Fox, Grey, and Dec. nss. Erskine in the House of Commons — when they reached the •« TraiT-" House of Lords they found a bold opponent in Ex-chancellor son and SeThurlow. He asked, "was it fitting that a man should be BiiiT" subject to such penalties for saying it was an abuse that twenty acres of land below Old Sarum Hill, without any inhabitants, should send two representatives to parliament?