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LIVES

OF THE

LORD CHANCELLORS OF ENGLAND.

CHAPTER CXLII

LIFE OF LORD CHANCELLOR CAMDEN FROM HIS BIRTH TILL THE DEATH OF GEORGE II.

I NOW enter on a most pleasing task. The subject of the following memoir was one of the brightest ornaments of my profession, and of my party, — for I glory like him in the name of Whig, although, I hope, I have never been reluctant to point out the errors of Whigs, or to praise Tory talent, honour, and consistency. From some of the opinions of Lord Camden I must differ, and I cannot always defend his conduct; but he was a profound jurist, and an enlightened statesman, — his character was stainless in public and in private life, — when raised to elevated station, he continued true to the principles which he had early avowed, — when transferred to the House of Peers, he enhanced his fame as an assertor of popular privileges, — when an ex-Chancellor, by a steady co-operation with his former political associates, he conferred greater benefits on his country, and had a still greater share of public admiration and esteem, than while he presided on the woolsack, — when the prejudices of the sovereign and of the people of England produced civil war, his advice would have preserved the integrity of the empire, — when America, by wanton oppression, was for ever lost to us, his efforts mainly contributed to the pacification with the new republic, — and Englishmen, to the latest generations, will honour his name for having secured personal freedom, by putting an end to arbitrary arrests under general warrants, for having established the constitutional rights of juries, and for having placed on an imperishable basis the liberty of the press.

Charles Pratt, afterwards Lord Chancellor and Earl Camden, was descended from a respectable gentleman's family that had been long settled at Careswell Priory, near Collumpton, in Devonshire. The first distinguished member of it was his father, Sir John Pratt, who was an eminent barrister in the reigns of William III. and Queen Anne, — gained considerable reputation by supporting the Whigs in the House of Commons as representative for Midhurst, — at the accession of George I. was appointed a puisne Judge of the King's Bench, and in 1718 succeeded Lord Macclesfield as Chief Justice of that Court. The most famous decision in his time was respecting the right of a widow who had married a foreigner to claim parochial relief after his death from the parish in which she was born — thus reported in Sir James Burrow:

"A woman having a settlement
Married a man with none, The question was, he being dead, If what she had was gone?
"Quoth Sir John Pratt, The settlement
Suspended did remain Living the husband, but him dead, It doth revive again."
Chorus of puisne Judges. — "but him dead, It doth revive again."y

He likewise drew upon himself a great share of public attention by the able manner in which he conducted the trial of the famous Christopher Layer for high treason,z and by his decided opinion in favour of George I. respecting the Sovereign's control over the education and marriage of his grandchildren.a

[A.D. 1714.]

He was twice married, and had a very numerous family. Charles was the third son by the second wife, daughter of the Reverend Hugh Wilson, a canon of Bangor, and was born in the last year of the reign of Queen Anne. Of his boyhood little is recorded, except that, from his quickness and love of reading, he was considered a lad of promise, and that, from his cheerful and affectionate temper, he was a great favourite among his companions.

When only ten years old, he had the misfortune to lose his father; but this was probably the remote cause of his future eminence. While he was studying the law, and young at the bar, the run of the house of the Chief Justice of England, with the chance of sinecure appointments, would have been very agreeable, but would probably have left him in the obscure herd to which the sons of Chancellors and Chief Justices have usually belonged. His mother intimated to him that the small amount of his patrimony would do little more than, with good management, defray the expense of his education, and that by his own exertions he must make his way in the world.

He was soon after sent to Eton, and, on account of the reduced circumstances of his family, he was placed upon the foundation. But in those days the collegers and oppidans were on the most cordial footing, and here he formed a friendship which lasted through life, and not only led to his advancement, but was of essential benefit to the state — with William Pitt, — then flogged for breaking bounds — afterwards the "Great Commoner"and EARL OF CHATHAM. He likewise had for his playmates Lyttleton and Horace Walpole. At that time, as now, Eton, from its many temptations and gentle discipline, was very ill adapted to a boy idly inclined; yet it was the best school of manly manners, and in the studious the "Genius of the place" fanned the flame of emulation, and inspired a lasting love of classic lore. Fortunately, young Pratt was eminent in the latter category, and here not only was his taste refined, but from his lessons in Livy, and a stealthy perusal of Claudian, he imbibed that abhorrence of arbitrary power which animated him through life.

At the election in July, 1731, he got "King's," and in the following term he went to reside at Cambridge. Being from his earliest years destined by his father to the bar, he had previously been entered of the Society of the Inner Temple.b While at the university he did not much meddle with the mathematical pursuits of the place, or even very diligently attend classical lectures, being, from the preposterous privilege of his college, entitled to a degree without examination; but, while most of his Etonian friends sank into indolence, he not only diligently read the best Greek and Latin authors in his own way, but he began that course of juridical and constitutional study which afterwards made his name so illustrious. It is said that while he was an undergraduate several controversies arose in the college respecting the election of officers, and the enjoyment of exclusive privileges, and that he always took the popular side, opposing himself to the encroachments of the master with as much warmth and perseverance as he afterwards displayed on a wider arena.c

[A.D. 1731-1738.]

In 1735, he proceeded B.A. as a matter of course, and having finished his academical curriculum, took chambers and began to keep his terms in the Inner Temple. I have not been able to learn any thing of his habits during this period of his life, but, from what followed, it is quite clear that he had been much more solicitous to qualify himself for business, than to form any connexions for obtaining it; and I suspect that, contented with hard reading and a diligent attendance to take notes in Westminster Hall, he did not even condescend to become a pupil in an attorney's office, which had become a common practice since "moots" and "readings" had fallen into disuse, and "special pleaders" had not yet come up. He was called to the bar in Trinity Term, 1738.

[A.D 1739-1741.]

But very differently did young Pratt fare from the man whose rapid career had recently been crowned by his elevation to the woolsack. Yorke, the son of an attorney, himself an attorney's clerk, and intimate with many attorneys and attorneys' clerks, overflowed with briefs from the day he put on his robe, was in full business his first circuit, and was made Solicitor-General when he had been only four years at the bar. Pratt, the son of the Lord Chief Justice of England, bred at Eton and Cambridge, the associate of scholars and gentlemen, though equally well qualified for his profession, was for many years without a client. He attended daily in the Court of King's Bench, but it was only to make a silent bow when called upon "to move;" — he sat patiently in chambers, but no knock came to the door, except that of a dun, or of a companion as briefless and more volatile. He chose the Western Circuit, which his father used to "ride," and where it might have been expected that his name would have been an introduction to him, — but he often declared that his father's memory never brought him a guinea. Spring and summer, year after year, did he journey from Hampshire to Cornwall, without receiving fees to pay the tolls demanded of him at the turnpike gates, which were then beginning to be erected. During the summer circuit, in the year 1741, his nag died, and from bad luck, or from the state of his finances, he was only able to replace him by a very sorry jade. With difficulty did he get back to London — whence he thus wrote to a friend: — "Alas! my horse is lamer than ever, — no sooner cured of one shoulder than the other began to halt. My losses in horse-flesh ruin me, and keep me so poor that I have scarce money enough to bear me in a summer's ramble; yet ramble I must if I starve to pay for it."

In the beginning of the following year he had a glimpse of good fortune, being retained in the famous Chippenham Election case as counsel for the sitting members. But facts, law and arguments were wholly disregarded. This was the death-struggle of Sir Robert Walpole. All looked with impatience to the division, for which there had been on both sides most strenuous efforts. There were brought down the halt, the lame, the blind, the moribund. It was discovered that, not by the eloquence of Pratt, but by the good management of the Opposition "whipper-in," the Government was to be beaten. As the tellers began their office, Sir Robert beckoned to Mr. Rolt, the member whose return was questioned by a ministerial petition, to sit near him, and entered freely into conversation with him, animadverting on the ingratitude of several persons who were now voting with the Opposition, although he had greatly obliged them, and declaring that he should never again sit in that House.

In a few days after, Pratt wrote the following letter to a brother barrister in the country, with whom he was on very intimate terms: —

"Feb. 6, 1741 (2).

"Dear Davies,

"I am afraid you think me dead, for you can't think I have forgot you if I am alive. I thought it better to execute your orders than write idle letters without doing your business: so that if you have received your wine, and it proves good, you'll excuse the want of a foolish epistle to forerun it. I have of late been much taken up with a petition in the House of Commons, wch has taken up a great deal of time. It was the Chippenham Election: and yr humble sert was employed agt the Court for ye sitting members. The last division in this famous petition put an end to Sr Robt's reign and glory, for he then left the House of Commons, gave up the cause, and next day resigned all his places. So that I am complimented by many persons as having assisted in giving the last fatal blow to this great man, — a compliment wch I don't desire the credit of, but am content with the honour of having served my clients faithfully. I dare say you imagine that we in town know all that is to happen upon this great change, and expect to hear from me a compleat list of the new ministers, and the future plan of their measures. The town is full of this discourse, and every man has already settled the government as he wishes it may be settled. But I assure you that as yet we remain in as profound an ignorance of what is to be as you do in the country, therefore I shan't amuse with any of ye idle reports that are current, wch are as various as the inclinations and wishes of those men are upon whose hopes or dispositions these reports are grounded. This is fact, that Sr Robt Walpole is created Earl of Orford, and his natural daughter by his last wife before the marriage made a lady to give her the rank of an earl's daughter, wch otherwise her bastardy wd prevent her from taking. This is a ridiculous circumstance in ye patent, and makes some people smile and others angry. It is said, too, that he has a pension of 4000£. for life settled. Thus far his retreat has been honourable: how far it will be safe for the future, I can't tell; but most people think there will be some angry motions at the meeting of ye Parlt — perhaps impeachments, but probably they will end in nothing. Mr. Pulteney has refused every thing: he will continue, he says, a lover of his country, and do his utmost to support the family and any good administration. This is a great character if he can persist in it. Most people think the Tories will get nothing by the change, but will be left in the lurch. No talk yet of a reconciliation between the King and Prince.

"Yrs most affectionately,

"C. PRATT."d

However, if our aspirant thought that business was now to pour in upon him, he was grievously disappointed, for several years passed away without his receiving another brief.

[A.D. 1745.]

To cheer him up, his school and college friend, Sneyd Davies, addressed to him a poetical epistle, in which the poet dwells upon the worthlessness of the objects of human ambition, and points out to him the course of the bright luminaries then irradiating Westminster Hall:

"Who knows how far a rattle may outweigh The mace or sceptre? But as boys resign The play-thing, bauble of their infancy, So fares it with maturer years: they sage, Imagination's airy regions quit, And under Reason's banner take the field, With resolution face the cloud or storm, While all their former rainbows die away. Some to the palace, with regardful step And courtly blandishment, resort, and there Advance obsequious; — in the senate some Harangue the full-bench'd auditory, and wield Their list'ning passion (such the power, the sway Of Reason's eloquence!) — or at the bar, Where Cowper, Talbot, Somers, Yorke before Pleaded their way to glory's chair supreme, And worthy fill'd it. Let not these great names Damp, but incite; nor Murray's praise obscure Thy younger merit. Know, these lights, ere yet To noonday lustre kindled, had their dawn. Proceed familiar to the gate of Fame, Nor think the task severe, the prize too high Of toil and honour, for thy father's son."e

He persevered for eight or nine years; but, not inviting attorneys to dine with him, and never dancing with their daughters, his practice did not improve, and his "impecuniosity" was aggravated. At last he was so much dispirited that he resolved to quit the bar, — to return to the seclusion of his college, — to qualify himself for orders, — and to live upon his fellowship as he might, till, in the course of lime, he should be entitled to a college living, where he might end his days in peace and obscurity. This plan he certainly would have carried into execution, if he had not thought that it was fit he should announce it to the leader of his circuit, who had always been kind to him. This was Henley, afterwards Lord Northington, who, first in his usual jesting manner, and afterwards with seriousness and feeling, tried to drive away the despair which had overwhelmed his friend, and prevailed so far as to obtain a promise that Pratt would try one circuit more.f

[A.D. 1744 - 1746]

At the first assize town on the next circuit, it so happened that Pratt was Henley's junior (by contrivance, it was suspected) in a very important cause, and that, just as it was about to be called on, the leader was suddenly seized with an attack of gout, which (as he said) rendered it necessary for him to leave the court and retire to his lodgings. The lead was thus suddenly cast upon Pratt, who opened the plaintiffs case with great clearness and precision, made a most animated and eloquent reply, obtained the verdict, was complimented by the judge, was applauded by the audience, and received several retainers before he left the hall. His fame travelled before him to the next assize town, where he had several briefs, — and from that time he became a favourite all round the circuits Although Henley continued senior of the "Western" for several years longer, till he was made Attorney-General, Pratt's success was facilitated by an opening from the removal of two inferior men, who had long engrossed a great share of the business. Employment in Westminster Hall soon followed; for in new trials and other business connected with the circuit he displayed such great ability, and such a thorough knowledge of his profession, that in cases of weight he was soon eagerly sought after to hold "second briefs," although he never seems to have had a great share of routine business, — which, with less éclat, is attended with more profit.h

[July 6, 1752.]

The first case in which he attracted the general notice of the public was in the memorable prosecution of a printer by Sir Dudley Ryder as Attorney-General, under the orders of the House of Commons, in consequence of some remarks on their commitment of the Honourable Alexander Murray for refusing to kneel at their bar. Lord Chief Justice Lee, the presiding Judge, intimated his opinion that the jury were only to consider whether the defendant published the alleged libel (which was clearly proved to have been sold by him in his shop at the Homer's Head in Fleet Street), and whether "the S — r" meant "the Right Honourable Arthur Onslow, the Speaker of the House of Commons," and "the H — h B — ff" meant "Peter Leigh, gentleman, then High Bailiff of the city of Westminster?" Pratt was junior counsel for the defendant, and following Ford, a distinguished lawyer in his day, whom he greatly eclipsed, he showed that ex animo he entertained the opinion respecting the rights of juries which he subsequently so strongly maintained against Lord Mansfield, and for which, after a lapse of forty years, he triumphantly struggled against Lord Thurlow in the last speech he ever delivered in parliament. He told the jury that they were bound to look to the nature and tendency of the supposed libel, and to acquit the defendant, unless they believed that he intended by it to sow sedition, and to subvert the constitution in the manner charged by the prosecutors: —

"Are you impannelled," said he, "merely to determine whether the defendant had sold a piece of paper value two-pence? If there be an indictment preferred against a man for an assault with an intent to ravish, the intent must be proved; so if there be an indictment for an assault with intent to murder, the jury must consider whether the assault was in self-defence, or on sudden provocation, or of malice aforethought. The secret intention may be inferred from the tendency; but the tendency of the alleged libel is only to be got at by considering its contents and its character; and, because 'S — r' means 'Speaker,' and 'h — h-b — ff' means 'high-bailiff,' are you to find the defendant guilty, if you believe in your consciences that what he has published vindicates the law, and conduces to the preservation of order?" He then ably commented upon the absurdity of this prosecution by the House of Commons, who, arbitrarily and oppressively abusing the absolute power which they claimed, would not even tolerate a groan from their victims. Said he, "There is a common proverb, — and a very wise Chancellor affirmed that proverbs are the wisdom of a people, — LOSERS MUST HAVE LEAVE TO SPEAK. In the Scripture, Job is allowed to complain even of the dispensations of Providence, the causes and consequences of which he could not comprehend. As complaints are natural to sufferers, they may merit some excuse where the infliction is by the act of man, and to common understandings seems wanton and tyrannical. A gentleman of high birth and unblemished honour is committed to a felon's cell in Newgate, because, being convicted of no offence, he refuses to throw himself before those for whom he did not feel the profoundest respect, into that attitude of humility which he reserved for the occasion of acknowledging his sins, and praying for pardon, before the throne of the Supreme Ruler of the Universe. Must all be sent to partake his dungeon who pity his fate? The Attorney-General tells a free people that, happen what will, they shall never complain. But, gentlemen, you will not surrender your rights, and abandon your duty. The fatal blow to English liberty will not be inflicted by an English jury."

The Attorney-General having replied, and Lord Chief Justice Lee having reiterated his doctrine, by which every thing was to be reserved to the Court, except publication and innuendoes, the jury retired, and, being out two hours, returned a general verdict of NOT GUILTY. When the Attorney-General could be heard, after the shout of exultation which arose, he prevailed upon the Chief Justice to call back the jury, who were dispersing, and to put this question to them: — "Gentlemen of the jury, do you think the evidence laid before you, of the defendant's publishing the book by selling it, is not sufficient to convince you that the said defendant did sell this book?" The foreman was at first "a good deal flustered;" but the question being repeated to him, he said, in a firm voice, all his brethren nodding assent, "Not guilty, my Lord; not guilty! That is our verdict, my Lord, and we abide by it!" Upon which there was a shout much louder than before; and the Court broke up.i The controversy respecting the rights of juries was not settled till the passing of Mr. Fox's Libel Bill in 1792; but, after this expression of public feeling, the practice of requiring persons summoned to the bar for breach of privilege to fall down on their knees was discontinued by both Houses of Parliament.k

For several years Pratt went on steadily in the ordinary progress of a rising lawyer. Without a silk gown, he was now one of the leaders of the Western Circuit, and, being considered peculiarly well read in parliamentary law, he was the favourite in all cases of a political aspect. He had a great share of election business before the House of Commons, which for the present he preferred to a seat in that assembly.

[A.D. 1755.]

From some cause not explained (some uncharitably said from the apprehension that he might rival the Honourable C. Yorke, now making a distinguished figure at the bar) he was not a favourite with the Chancellor, but he was at last made a King's Counsel, upon a report which he never authorised, that he intended permanently to practise in the Court of King's Bench. When with his silk gown he went over to the Court of Chancery, as eminent counsel then sometimes did, and he was actually beginning to interfere with Charles Yorke, he was treated with much civility, but with marked disregard, by Lord Hardwicke, who plainly, though not tangibly, showed that he never listened to any thing which Pratt said.m

I do not find that he attached himself to any particular section in politics, but he was on a footing of familiar intimacy with the great Whig chiefs, particularly with his old schoolfellow Pitt, who was in the habit of consulting him respecting questions of a legal or constitutional nature which from time to time arose.

He was likewise in the constant habit of associating with artists and men of letters. Although he did not yet enjoy the sweets of domestic life, this must have been an agreeable portion of his existence, for, free from the anxieties of office, he had achieved an enviable station in society, the pleasures of which were enhanced by recollecting the despair into which he had formerly been plunged; he was courted by friends, and respected by opponents; highly satisfied with the present, he had brilliant prospects before him. The disgrace brought upon the country by the imbecility of the Government might disquiet him; but his solicitude was mitigated by the consideration that this Government was becoming daily more unpopular, and that it might be replaced by one patriotic and powerful, in which he himself might be called to take a part.

[July, 1757]

At last Mr. Pitt was at the head of affairs with dictatorial authority. Resolved, both on public and private grounds, that his old Etonian friend should now be provided for, he thought it might be too strong a measure at once to give the Great Seal to a man at the bar, who had never been a law officer of the Crown, nor had sat in parliament; but he declared that Pratt should be Attorney-General in the place of Sir Robert Henley, who was to be made Lord Keeper. Against this arrangement Charles Yorke, who had been appointed Solicitor-General the November preceding, and whose father was mainly instrumental in constructing the new ministry, strongly protested, as derogatory to his rights and his dignity; but Pitt was firm, maintaining that, from standing at the bar and merit, Pratt ought long ago to have been raised to the honours of the profession. Yorke, although in a manner very ungracious, and although still retaining a grudge against Pratt for this supposed slight, agreed to serve under him as Solicitor. — Mr. Attorney received the honour of knighthood.

In those days the law officers of the Crown had no anxiety about a seat in parliament; they were not driven to canvass popular constituencies, with the danger of being thrown out, and the certainty of a large hole being made in their official earnings. Sir Charles Pratt was put in for the close borough of Downton, which he continued to represent without trouble or expense till he was made Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas.

He now flourished in the Court of Chancery, and he was an overmatch for the heavy Equity pleaders who for twenty years had been sleeping over "Exceptions" and "Bills of Revival."n

To share his prosperity and to solace his private hours, being too much occupied to go into gay company, he, though "on the shady side of forty," resolved to take a wife. The courtships of some of my Chancellors have been amusing; but, having to relate, not to invent, I can only say of this union (which I believe to have been highly prudent and respectable, but quite unromantic), that the lady of his choice was Elizabeth, daughter and coheir of Nicholas Jefferys, Esq., of Brecknock Priory, who brought considerable wealth into the family, and in compliment to whom one of its titles was afterwards selected. They are said to have lived together in harmony and happiness; but throughout the whole of Lord Camden's career we have to regret that very few personal or private anecdotes of him have been handed down to us. We must be contented with viewing him on the stage of public life.

It is a curious fact that, although he was afterwards such a distinguished orator in the House of Lords, during the whole time that he sat in the House of Commons his name is not once mentioned in the printed parliamentary debates. This arises partly from the very imperfect record we have of the proceedings of the legislature during this period of our history, there being only one octavo volume for the twelve years from 1753 to 1765, — partly from the cessation of factious strife during Mr. Pitt's brilliant administration, and partly from Pratt's style of speaking being rather too calm and ratiocinative for the taste of the Lower House, — so that while he remained there he was merely considered "par negotiis, neque supra," — equal to carrying through the law business of the Government, and fit for nothing more, — no one dreaming that hereafter he was to rival Chatham, and that Mansfield was to quail under him.

[A.D. 1757-1761.]

The only occasion when he seems to have attracted much notice as a representative of the people was in bringing forward the excellent bill — which unfortunately proved abortive — for amending the "Habeas Corpus Act," in consequence of a decision that it did not apply, unless where there was a charge of crime — so that in many instances persons illegally deprived of their liberty by an agent of the Crown could not have the benefit of it. Horace Walpole tells us, that "the Attorney-General declared himself for the utmost latitude of the habeas corpus," and adds, that "it reflected no small honour on him, that the first advocate of the Crown should appear as the first champion against prerogative." The bill having easily passed the Commons, where it was warmly supported by Pitt, was (as I have had occasion to mention elsewhere) o rejected by the Lords, in deference to the opinion of the "law Lords," who then opposed all improvement, and likewise to gratify the strong prejudices of the King, who had openly declared against it, and who, throughout the whole course of his reign, most conscientiously and zealously opposed every measure, domestic or colonial, that had in it the slightest tincture of liberality.p

[A.D. 1758.]

Pratt, while Attorney-General, conducted two government prosecutions, still professing and acting upon the great principles of justice for which he had so boldly struggled when defending those who had been prosecuted by his predecessors. The first was against Dr. Hensey for high treason, in corresponding with the King's enemies and inviting them to invade the kingdom. The trial took place at the bar of the Court of King's Bench, before Lord Mansfield and the other Judges of that Court. Mr. Attorney, in opening the case to the jury, having read several letters which had been written by the prisoner to the French Government during the war, and which he contended were treasonable, said —

"These letters, and translations of them, being laid before you, you, gentlemen, will be proper judges of their destructive tendency; indeed (under the sufferance of the Court) you are the only judges of this fact. Proof being given that they are in the handwriting of the prisoner, and were sent off by him, — if you are of opinion, from a fair construction of their contents, that his object was to solicit and to encourage the landing of a French army on our shore, then he is guilty of the crime laid to his charge by this indictment; — but otherwise it will be your duty to acquit him, whatever opinion you may form of his character, and whatever suspicions you may entertain of his conduct."

The jury having found a verdict of "guilty," the Attorney-General consented that the day for the execution should be appointed at the distance of one month. The prisoner, after being several times respited, was finally pardoned — a striking instance of the clemency of the Government, and a strong contrast with the execution of Byng under the late administration.q

The only ex officio information which he filed was against Dr. Shebbeare for a most seditious and dangerous publication, entitled "A Letter to the People of England," containing direct incentives to insurrection. Home Tooke, no enemy to the liberty of the press, approves of the prosecution, saying, that "if ever there was an infamous libel against the Government, surely it was that."r The trial came on in Westminster Hall before Lord Mansfield. In opening the case to the jury, the Attorney, although using rather quieter language, adhered to the doctrine for which he had struggled with such brilliant success in his first great speech in the King v. Owen, and expressly told the jury that he desired them, besides the evidence of publication, and the innuendoes, to consider the language of the libel, and not to find a verdict for the Crown unless they were convinced that it had a direct tendency to a subversion of the public tranquillity — from which they might fairly infer that the defendant published it "maliciously and seditiously," as charged in the information; but he added, that "he did not wish for a conviction if any man in the world could entertain a doubt of the defendant's guilt." At the distance of many years, he stated with pride, in his speech in the House of Lords on Fox's Libel Bill, the marked manner in which he had intimated his opinion to all the world "that the criminality of the alleged libel was a question of fact with which the Court had no concern."s

[A.D 1760]

Pratt conducted with the same propriety the prosecution of Lord Ferrers for murder before the House of Lords. Thus he opened, with touching simplicity and candour: — "My Lords, as I never thought it my duty in any case to attempt at eloquence where a prisoner stood upon trial for his life, much less shall I think of doing it before your Lordships: give me leave, therefore, to proceed to a narrative of the facts." These he proceeds to state with great perspicuity and moderation, as they were afterwards fully proved by the witnesses. The labouring oar on this occasion, however, fell to the Solicitor-General Yorke, who so ably repelled the defence of insanity.t

The labours of the law officers of the Crown were very light, at the close of the reign of George II., for all opposition in parliament was annihilated: from the universal popularity of a triumphant Government, seditious libels were unknown, — and there were no Government prosecutions, except in the Court of Exchequer against unlucky smugglers.


y Burr. Sett. Cas; Burns Just., tit. "Settlement."

z 16 St. Tr 93

a 15 St Tr. 1195.

b His admission is dated 5th June, 1728. He is designated "Carolus Pratt, generosus, filius quintus honorabilissimi Joannis Pratt, Eq.," &c.

c This reminds me of a story I have heard of a very distinguished contemporary, who is said, when he was entitled to fags at Eton to have summoned them before him and formally to have emancipated them.

d Letter kindly furnished to me by Major Evans, of Eyton Hall.

e Dodsley's Collection, vol. vi.

f I find in the European Magazine for July 1794, a supposed account of the dialogue between them, which I consider entirely fictitious. Here is a specimen of it: — "Henley heard him throughout with a seeming and anxious composure, when, bursting out into a horse-laugh, he exclaimed, in his strong manner, 'What! turn parson at last! No, by G — , Charles, you shan't be a P — neither! You shall do better for yourself, and that quickly too. Let me hear no more of this canting business of turning parson: you have abilities that run before us all, but you must endeavour to scour off a little of that d — d modesty and diffidence you have about you, to give them fair play.'" The writer knew so little of Pratt's real history as to represent that he was afterwards introduced for the first time by Henley to Pitt.

g My friend Mr. Dampier, Vice-Warden of the Stannaries, writes to me, — "Sir James Mansfield, who was of K. C., and abt 19 years junr to Ld C., used to tell me that he remembered Ld C. on the West. Circuit, and that his rise was very sudden and rapid, after a long time of no practice; but once having led a cause in the west, he became known, and was immediately in full business, on the circuit."

h His name does not occur in the Reports nearly so frequently as those of some others who are long since forgotten.

i 18 St. Tr. 1203-1230.

k On the trial of a peer for felony it is still put down in the programme, — that is, "to kneel when arraigned," but this ceremony is not insisted on in practice.

m On the authority of Sir James Mansfield, from the relation of Lord Camden himself. He added, that "Lord Mansfield so enlarged the practice of K. B. that counsel did not leave his Court."

n During the four years that he afterwards practised in this Court, there is hardly a reported case in which his name is not mentioned as counsel. — See Eden's Rep., temp. Northington.

o Ante, p. 278.

p It is a curious fact, that, with regard to law reform, the two Houses have recently changed characters. I will not presume to praise the assembly to which I have now the honour to belong, as far as politics may be concerned; but in jurisprudential legislation, I say boldly, they are greatly in advance of the other House — which has become the great obstacle to improvement. I will give a few instances. The late Libel Bill (generally called in Westminster Hall "Lord Campbell's Libel Bill"), which originated in the House of Lords, was deprived in the House of Commons of some of its most important clauses for the protection of private character and the liberty of the press. In the session of 1845 the House of Commons threw out bills which, being approved of by the Lord Chancellor and all the law Lords, had passed the House of Lords unanimously — 1. To abolish "Deodands," that disgraceful remnant of superstition and barbarism; 2. To allow a compensation to be obtained by action where a pecuniary loss is sustained from death caused by the negligence of another, so that a railway company might be compelled to make some provision for orphans whose father has been killed by their default; and, 3. To permit actions to be commenced against persons who, having contracted debts in England or Ireland, have gone abroad to defraud their creditors, and there spend the funds remitted to them from home, — which at present the law cannot touch. — (1846.) In the Session of 1847 I was able to carry Bills 1 and 2; but Bill 3, chiefly meant for the benefit of Ireland, is considered by Irish Members derogatory to the dignity of that country. — (1849.)

q 19 St. Tr 1342-1389

r 20 St. Tr. 708.

s Annual Register, 1758.

t 19 St Tr 885


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