Графични страници
PDF файл

nities for a trial of party strength, continuing to go with the opposition *, he saw that he must soon be in a minority on all questions, and his colleagues, and his own family, telling him that he could stand out no longer, he announced his determination to resign.

* The last of these was the Chippenham case, in which there was a majority against him of 16 —241 to 225.—Nothing shows so strikingly how these were considered party questions, as the anecdote of Walpole's demeanour while the tellers were ascertaining the numbers. "Anticipating his fate, but bearing it with his usual fortitude and good humour, he beckoned to the opposition member for Chippenham, whom he had attempted to eject, to sit by him, spoke to him with great complacency, animadverted on the ingratitude of several individuals who were voting against the government, although he had conferred great favours upon them, and declared that he would never again sit in that house."— Coxe't Walpolt.

[merged small][ocr errors]

CHAPTER CXXXIII.

CONTINUATION OF THE LIFE OF LORD HARDWICKE TILL THE
BREAKING OUT OF THE REBELLION OF 1745.

Lord Hardwicke was for some time in a state of much Chap.
anxiety. He dreaded that the termination of his official career cxxxln-
had arrived, and he regretted that he had ever left the secure Lord Hard
position of Chief Justice of the King's Bench. Whatever wicke's
Newcastle's expectations might be, he certainly had not made dis!* °n
terms with the opposition leaders, and the probability was missal of
that he and those most intimately connected with him, must poie.
share Walpole's fate. Strange to say, the victors had formed
no plan to improve the victory for which they had so eagerly
fought, and which they had for some time anticipated.
Meanwhile, the nation was in a state of unexampled ferment.
All classes had been taught to look forward to the fall of
Walpole as the cure for the evils of which they complained,
and as the certain means of gaining their own favourite measure
for reforming and governing the State. The counties and
great cities sent instructions to their representatives all
equally peremptory, but of very different import,— some in-
sisting that the Septennial Act should be repealed, and that
parliaments should be triennial or annual,—some that all place-
men, as well as pensioners, should be excluded from sitting in
the House of Commons, — some that all offices should be in
the gift of the House of Commons,— more, that Walpole's
head should now answer for his misconduct, — but most of
all, that the decay of trade and other national calamities
might be immediately remedied by an act to forbid the ex-
portation of wool! The King and his private advisers, of
whom the retiring minister, now Earl of Orford, was one,
saw that the only chance of preserving the semblance of
government or order in the country was to call in Pulteney,
though personally so odious at Court that he had not been

CHAP.
XXXIII.

Formation of the new administration.

there for many years *, and to allow him, according to his own fancy, to form a new administration, of which it was of course supposed that he would himself be the head. The Duke of Newcastle and Lord Hardwicke were appointed to be the bearers to him of the keys of the royal cabinet. They opened the conference by saying, that "the King, convinced that Sir Robert Walpole was no longer supported by a majority of the House of Commons, had commanded them to offer the places held by that minister to Mr. Pulteney, with the power of forming his own administration — on the sole condition that Sir Robert Walpole should not be prosecuted." Pulteney refused this condition, saying, that " even if he himself had been inclined to agree to it, it might not be in his power to fulfil his engagement, the heads of parties being like the heads of snakes, carried on by their tails." The confusion increasing, the Chancellor and the Duke, at a subsequent meeting, declared that they were commissioned by the King to repeat the former offers, without urging the condition of not prosecuting the fallen minister, and his Majesty only requested that if any prosecution was commenced against Sir Robert, Mr. Pulteney, if he did not choose to oppose it, would at least do nothing to inflame it. Pulteney answered, that "he was not a man of blood, and that, in all his expressions of pursuing the minister to destruction, he had meant only the destruction of his power, but not of his person; though he was free to own that he thought some parliamentary censure at least ought to be inflicted for so many years of maladministration." Then, to the infinite relief and delight of the messengers, he declared that "although he demanded an alteration of men and measures, and that the strong forts of government should be delivered into the hands of his party, viz., a majority in the cabinet, the nomination of the boards of Treasury and Admiralty, with the restoration of the office of Secretary of State for Scotland,— he did not require an entire sweep of all who held place under the Crown, and that he would beg the two noble Lords, who had so courteously borne to him the gracious pleasure of the King, to retain their

• His name had been struck out of the list of the Privy Council, and he had been denied the commission of the peace.

respective situations of Chancellor and Secretary of State." CHAP.

CXXX111

To their utter amazement, he added: "As the disposition

of places is in my hands, I will accept none myself: I have so repeatedly declared my resolution on that point, that I will not now contradict myself." He then named the Earl of Wilmington First Lord of the Treasury, Sandys Chancellor of the Exchequer, Carteret Secretary of State, and the Marquis of Tweedale the new Secretary for Scotland; while for himself he required an earldom, and a seat in the cabinet. On this footing the new administration was patched up. The Chancellor had the sagacity to see that it could not last long, but exulted in reflecting that he had not only escaped a great peril, but that among such colleagues, his personal influence must be greatly increased, and that future changes might be under his own control . Pulteney, become " Earl of Bath," soon discovered the error he had committed, and meeting in the House of Lords his former great rival, become "Earl of Orford," exclaimed to him, "We are now the two most insignificant fellows in all England!" He made an effort to regain his position, but he found that his reputation and his power had perished irrecoverably.

The first occasion of the Chancellor coming forward in Lord Hardpublic, as the organ of the new administration, was in oppo- ^eecV sing the bill to indemnify witnesses who should give evidence against the upon the inquiry into the conduct of Sir Robert Walpole. demnifying The proceedings against him in the House of Commons had witnesses^ been immediately checked by the objection of those who Robert were examined, that "they were not bound to criminate WalPolethemselves," and a bill was introduced in very general and sweeping terms, enacting "that all persons who, being examined before either House of Parliament, or any committee of either House respecting the charges against Robert Earl of Orford, should make any discoveries respecting his misapplication of public money, or his improper disposition of offices or other misconduct of the said Earl, while a minister of the Crown, should be freed and discharged from all forfeitures, penalties, punishments, disabilities, and incapacities, to which they might be liable for or by reason or means of any matter or thing which, being examined as

CHAP, aforesaid, they should faithfully and truly discover, disclose,

'_ and make known. The bill rapidly passed the House of

Commons, and, although not only the members of the late administration, but those now in office who had so often cried . out for "WalpoWs head," disliked it, no show of opposition could there be offered to it: but when it came before the Upper House, Lord Hardwicke resolutely attacked it in the finest speech which distinguished his parliamentary career. Having shown how it violated all the rules of evidence established for the protection of innocence, and the danger of offering rewards for convictions, lately testified by a club of miscreants going about from assizes to assizes to invent crimes and to accuse the innocent for the sake of "blood-money,"— he pointed out the unprecedented atrocity of the measure in offering a reward for evidence to implicate a particular individual, without the proof or even assertion of any corpus delicti. In conclusion, he indignantly exclaimed: "The promoters of this bill, like Pharaoh, require first to know 'what was their dream; and, secondly, what is the interpretation thereof.' But, says a noble Lord*, 'if tee have not here a corpus delicti, we have what is sufficient for the purpose, a CORPUS SUSPICION^:' a new expression and a new invention—the body of a shadow — and on this foundation he calls upon you to build his new superstructure of injustice! In my opinion, my Lords, it is a bill calculated to make defence impossible, to deprive innocence of its guard, and to let loose oppression and injustice upon the world. It is a bill to dazzle the wicked with a prospect of security, and by impunity for one crime to incite them to the perpetration of another. It is a bill to confound the distinctions of right and wrong, to violate the essence of our constitution, to leave us without any rule for our actions, or any protection for our property, our lives, or our good fame. So iniquitous is the law, my Lords, that I would sooner suffer by it than vote for it."f The bill was

• The Earl of Chesterfield. Parliamen- t This pithy conclusion, which we know to be genuine, from the MS. notes tarv Reports °' Archbishop Seeker taken at the moment, is thus expanded and spoiled by by Or J°nnson : —" S° cfea'ly do I now see the danger and injustice of a law

Jolt'son '"te that a't,,ou8n 1 do not imagine myself endued with any peculiar degree of heroism, I bel ieve that if I were condemned to a choice so disagree

« ПредишнаНапред »