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A.D. 1757.



sion of a Tellership to his son, which had been usual on such occasions.*

He then thought it would be decent to inform the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas of what had happened. Their interview on this occasion is the subject of one of the stockstories of Westminster Hall. Thus it used to be related with characteristic humour by the late Lord Ellenborough :—"Immediately after Willes had refused the Seals, Henley called upon him at his villa, and found him walking in the garden, highly indignant at the affront which he considered that he had received in an offer so inadequate to his pretensions. After entering into some detail of his grievances, he concluded by asking, ‘whether any man of spirit could, under such circumstances, have taken the Seals; adding, Would you, Mr. Attorney, have done so ? 'Henley, thus appealed to, gravely said, • Why, my Lord, I am afraid it is rather too late to enter into such a discussion, as I have now the honour of waiting upon your Lordship to inform you that I have actually accepted them.'y

He was sworn in as Lord Keeper at a Council held on the 30th of June, 1757, and on the first day of Michaelmas Term following, after a grand procession to Westminster Hall, he was duly installed in the Court of Chancery.”

* Horace Walpole says, contrary to truth, exclude Lord Hardwicke by a man who could that he demanded and obtained both: “Willes not be dangerous. proposed to be bribed by a peerage, to be at z 30th June, 1757.-" The Lords Commisthe head of his profession; but could not ob- sioners, for the custody of the Great Seal of tain it. Henley, however, who saw it was Great Britain, having delivered the said Great the mode of the times to be paid by one fa. Seal to the King at his Palace at Kensington, vour for receiving another, demanded a Teller on Thursday, the 30th day of June, 1757, his ship of the Exchequer for his son ; which was Majesty, about one o'clock the same day, de. granted, with a pension of 15001. a year till it livered it to Sir Robert Henley, Knight, his should drop.”— Walp. Mem. Geo. II. vol. ii. Attorney-General, with the title of Lord 226. These jobs were afterwards done for Keeper, who was then sworn into the said bim.

office before his Majesty in Council. His y Henley's Life of Northington, 34.-Ho- Lordship sat at Lincoln's Inn Hall during the race Walpole attributed Henley's promotion Seals after Trinity Term, and the Seals before on this occasion to Mr. Pitt's great desire to Michaelmas Term, 1757. And on Monday, make Pratt (afterwards Lord Camden) At- the 7th day of November, being the first day torney-General : "One of the most extraor of Michaelmas Term, he went in state from dinary parts of the new system is the advance- his house in Lincoln's Inn Fields to Westment of Sir Robert Henley. He was made minster Hall, accompanied by the Earl GranAttorney-General by Mr. Fox at the end of ville, Lord President of the Council, the Duke last year, and made as bad a figure as might of Rutland, Lord Steward of the Household, be: Mr. Pitt insisting upon an Attorney- the Duke of Newcastle, First Lord of the General of his own, Sir Robert Henley is Treasury, the Earl of Hardwicke, the Lord made Lord Keeper!”-Horace Walpole to Sir Anson, First Lord of the Admiralty, the Lord H. Mann, 3rd July, 1757. This possibly might Vis. Dupplin, Sir Thomas Robinson, Knight be an ingredient in Mr. Pitt's determination; of the Bath, the Master of the Rolls, the but I conceive that his chief motive was to Judges, King's Serjeants, King's Counsel, and




A.D. 1757.

The new Lord Keeper had nothing to divert him from his judi

cial duties. His political functions were long in a

state of abeyance. He had a pretty strong suspicion in his own mind that he was appointed because he was likely to be quiet in the cabinet, and he did not seek to interfere. Formal meetings of it were occasionally called which he attended, but he was as little consulted by Pitt about the raising of Highland regiments, or the conduct of the war, as the Six Clerks or the Masters in Chancery. If there had been any debates in parliament, he was precluded from taking part in them; but there were none,—all opposition having vanished for several years, and neither his time nor his attention was in any degree occupied by the sittings of the House of Lords, which generally lasted only while prayers were read, and the question was put “that this House do now adjourn.” If a motion was introduced by a speech, it was to vote a monument to a hero who had fallen in battle, or thanks to his surviving comrades; and the Lord Keeper, as Speaker, had only to transmit these thanks, and to read from the woolsack the answers which he received.

Let us follow him then into the Court of Chancery, where his duties were arduous. Here he acquitted himself respectably; but he was contented if he could continue to fill the office, escaping censure,—without aiming at high reputation. He did not follow the example of the fathers of Equity, Lord Nottingham and Lord Hardwicke, who, on coming to the Great Seal, notwithstanding much previous familiarity with the business of several other persons. The Lords accompanied of the Crown reading the said oaths; which him into the Court of Chancery, where (be- being done, the Attorney-General moved that fore he entered upon business), in their pre- it might be recorded, and it was ordered acsence, he took the oaths of allegiance and su- cordingly. Then the Lords departed, leaving premacy, and the oath of Lord Keeper of the the Lord Keeper in Court."-Roll, 1726 Great Seal of Great Britain, the Master of the Rolls holding the book, and the Deputy Clerk


A.D. 1757.



the Court in which they were called upon to preside, entered upon a laborious and systematic course of inquiry and of study to qualify themselves for their new situation, that they might discharge its duties in a manner satisfactory to their own minds, and in the hope of being permanently applauded as consummate magistrates. He was satisfied with the stores of professional learning (not inconsiderable) which he had laid in, and with bestowing a reasonable share of pains on the different cases which successively came before him. He always took full notes of the arguments of counsel, and he investigated important questions with much research. Sometimes he wrote out elaborate judgments in his own hand. On the bench he was universally allowed to be impartial and upright. Laudatus a laudato, he was pronounced by Lord Eldon to have been “ great lawyer, and very firm in delivering his opinion.” He attended Court in the morning with alacrity and cheerfulness, but the evening sittings were a great annoyance to him, from their interference with his convivial pleasures, -and he at last succeeded in abolishing them. With the able assistance of Sir Thomas Clarke, the Master of the Rolls, he contrived pretty well to keep down arrears, although complaints of delay were much louder than in the time of Lord Hardwicke, and the Court was by no means in such good odour with the public. The consequence was that, in all important cases, there was an appeal to the House of Lords. The state of things there was very different from what it had been for twenty years past. The Judge who had pronounced the decree appealed from, had now neither vote nor voice ; he could not even ask a question of the counsel at the bar; and a motion being made for a reversal, he could only say, “ the Contents have it.Ex-Chancellor Lord Hardwicke always attended, and Lord Mansfield very frequently. It would be wrong to say that they had any inclination to reverse, but they bore no particular good-will to the Lord Keeper, who belonged to a different section in politics from them, and whose authority on questions of Equity they did not consider very high. However, when he acquired a little more experience, and when, being raised to the Peerage, he could freely defend his opinions, he stood higher as a Judge, and appeals from him became more rare. It is said that, after all, “ only six of his decrees were reversed or materially altered.” For a long interval after his death, the proceedings of the

& Life, 56.

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Court of Chancery in his time had been very insufficiently A.D. 1757– reported, and when I first entered the profession

there were only traditionary recollections of his judgments as of his jests; b but a few years ago the pious labours of his grandson, my most amiable and accomplished friend, the late Lord Henley, from the Chancellor's own MSS., and from notes taken by several eminent counsel who had practised under him, produced two volumes of his decisions, which "greatly raised his reputation with those best qualified to estimate it.” These show him to have been very bold and very vigorous, and generally very sound; but they are certainly wanting in the depth of thought, in the logical precision, and in the extreme caution, which distinguished the decisions of his predecessor.

I shall give, as a favourable and characteristic specimen of his manner, the judgment delivered by him in the case of Norton v. Relly, where the bill was filed by a maiden lady residing at Leeds, against a Methodist preacher, and others, trustees named in a deed of gift executed by her to him, suggesting that it had been obtained by undue means,-and praying that it might be delivered up to be cancelled. The

Tartuffe" had introduced himself to her notice by a letter, in which he said, that “ although unknown to her in the flesh, from the report he had of her he made bold to address her as a fellow member of that consecrated body wherein the fulness of the Godhead dwelt, and that he was coming among them at Leeds, for a little time, to preach the kingdom of God," subscribing himself “her affectionate brother in the flesh.” She was prevailed upon to invite him to her house, to accompany him to London, to give him large sums of ready money, and to grant him an annuity charged on her real estates in Yorkshire :

Lord Chancellor Henley. “ This cause, as it has been very truly observed, is the first of the kind that ever came before the Court, and, I may add, before any court of judicature in this kingdom. Matters of religion are happily very rarely the subject of dispute in courts of law or equity." [After expressing his respect for dissenters, he proceeds:] “But very wide is the difference between dissenters and fanatics, whose canting, and whose doctrines, have no other tendency than to plunge their deluded votaries into the very abyss of bigotry, despair, and enthusiasm. And though, even against those unhappy and false pastors, I would not wish the spirit of persecution to go

b Ambler alone had noticed him.

C Eden's Rep. ii. 286.

A.D. 1757-66.






forth, yet are not these men to be discountenanced and discouraged
whenever they are properly brought before courts of justice ?
who, in the apostle's language, go about and creep into people's
dwellings, deluding weak women men who go about and diffuse their
rant and warm enthusiastic notions, to the destruction not only of
the temporal concerns of many of the subjects of this realm, but to
the endangering their eternal welfare. And shall it be said that this
Court cannot relieve against the glaring impositions of these men ?
That it cannot relieve the weak and unwary, especially when the
impositions are exercised on those of the weaker sex? This Court is
the guardian and protector of the weak and helpless of every deno-
mination, and the punisher of fraud and imposition in every degree.
Here is a man, nobody knows who or what he is; his own counsel
have taken much pains modestly to tell me what he is not; and
lepositions have been read to show that he is not a Methodist.
What is that to me? But I could easily have told them what, by
:he proofs in this cause and his own letters, he appears to be
subtle sectary, who preys upon his deluded hearers, and robs them
under the mask of religion. Shall it be said, in his excuse, that this
lady was as great an enthusiast as hijnself is true she was far
gone - but not far enough for his purpose. Thus he addressed her,
* Your former pastor has, I hear, excommunicated you, but put
yourself in my congregation, wherein dwells the fulness of God.'
How scandalous, how blasphemous is this! In coming from London
to Leeds he will not come in a stage coach, but must have a post-
chaise, and live elegantly on the road at the expense of the plaintiff

, who gave him 501. in money, besides presents of liquor — so that his own hot imagination was further heated with the spirit of brandy. He secured a part of her fortune by lighting up in her breast the filame of enthusiasm, and undoubtedly he hoped in due time to secure the whole by kindling another flame of which the female breast is so susceptible; for the invariable style of his letters is all is to be completed by love and union. Let it not be told in the streets of London that this preaching sectary is only defending his just rights. I repeat, let not such men be persecuted, but many of them deserve to be represented in puppet shows. I have considered this cause not merely as a private matter, but of public concernment and utility. Bigotry and enthusiasm have spread their baneful influence amongst us far and wide, and the unhappy objects of the contagion almost daily increase. Of this, not only Bedlam, but most of the private madhouses, are melancholy and striking proofs. Let it be decreed that the defendant execute a release to the plaintiff of this annuity, and deliver up the deed for securing it. I cannot conclude without observing that one of his counsel, with some ingenuity, tried to shelter him under the denomination of an independent preacher.' I have tried in this decree to spoil his 'independency.'

The finest judgment Henley ever delivered is supposed to

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