LORD CAMDEN'S appointment to the woolsack gave almost universal satisfaction;p and he had more doubts than any one else as to his own sufficiency. He deemed it lucky that he had the long vacation to refresh his recollection of Equity, and to get up the cases which had recently been decided in the Court of Chancery, while he had been a common law Judge.
He held sittings before Michaelmas Term in Lincoln's Inn Hall, and on the 6th of November, the first day of the term, after a grand procession from his house in Lincoln's Inn Fields to Westminster Hall, he was there installed in his office with all the usual solemnities.q
As an Equity Judge Lord Camden fully sustained the reputation he had acquired while presiding in the Court of Common Pleas. When he pronounced a decree upon the construction of a will, or the liability of a trustee, he was not received with shouts of applause from hundreds of thousands of persons assembled round the Court, as when he ordered the liberation of WILKES, or adjudged the illegality of "general warrants;" but he now conciliated the calm respect and good opinion of all parties by his extensive legal information, by his quickness of perception and soundness of understanding, by the perspicuity with which his opinions were propounded, by the patience and impartiality which he uniformly displayed, and by his dignified politeness, which appeared more graceful by contrast with the unrefined manners of his predecessor. Although without the qualification, now considered indispensable and all-sufficient for the Equity bench, of having passed many years in the drudgery of drawing bills and answers, his mind was deeply imbued with the general principles of jurisprudence; he had studied systematically the Roman civil law, he was acquainted with the common law of England in all its branches, the most familiar and the most abstruse, his time in his earlier years after entering the profession not having been engrossed by "proepropera praxis," instead of a hurried attention to a great variety of points, he had acquired the habit of deliberately investigating great questions, as a Nisi Prius leader he possessed the faculty of sifting evidence and dealing rapidly and skilfully with facts, he had taken infinite pains to make himself master of Equity doctrines and practice, and for some years he had been first in business, as well as in rank, at the Chancery bar. In those days the notion had not sprung up that a common lawyer was unfit to be an Equity Judge, and Lord Camden was allowed to discharge his duty most admirably, even by hoary fixtures of the Court, such as AMBLER, who had "practised as a barrister for upwards of forty years, of which thirty were employed in the Court of Chancery, under five Lord Chancellors, three sets of Commissioners, and five Masters of the Rolls."r
But we must appreciate his merits chiefly by the general testimonies in his favour from his contemporaries; for, when Chancellor, he was most unfortunate in the want of a "vates sacer." Not unfrequently his chief reporter, after a brief statement of the arguments of the defendant's counsel, thus deals with a judgment on which the Judge had bestowed infinite labour, and which was admired for its learning, precision, and lucid arrangement: "And Lord Camden being of the same opinion, which he delivered at large, the bill was dismissed.''s But though these chroniclers only give us his dry conclusions of law in the fewest and most ordinary words, we may form a notion of his style and manner from a "Reminiscence" of BUTLER. "I distinctly remember," says he, "Lord Camden's presiding in the Court of Chancery. His Lordship's judicial eloquence was of the colloquial kind extremely simple, diffuse, but not desultory. He introduced legal idioms frequently, and always with a pleasing and great effect. Sometimes, however, he rose to the sublime strains of eloquence; but the sublimity was altogether in the sentiment; the diction retained its simplicity; this increased the effect."t About his dress and manner he seems to have been very little solicitous. "He wore a tie-wig in Court," says a contemporary, "and has been frequently observed to garter up his stockings while counsel were the most strenuous in their eloquence."u
I do not think that during the time he held the Great Seal (only three years and a half) he added much to our Equity code. I do not find questions of greater importance settled by him, than that a bequest to "the most necessitous of my relations" shall go among the next of kin, according to the Statute of Distributions, without any inquiry into their circumstances;x and that by a bequest "of all the testator's pictures," (he having at the making of his will a good collection,) after-purchased pictures shall pass.y
Only one of his decrees was reversed, and the general opinion has been that the reversal was wrong. A testator having devised freehold estates to certain uses, and bequeathed a leasehold messuage to trustees to convey to the uses of the freehold, "so that they should not separate," suffered a recovery of the freehold estates, whereby, as to them, the will was revoked, Lord Camden held, that the bequest of the leasehold was revoked also.z This decree was reversed on appeal; but Lord Eldon said, in Southey v. Somerville,a that "he should be disposed to agree with the opinion of Lord Camden rather than the judgment of the House of Lords;" and, on principle, I conceive it must be assumed (however contrary to the fact), that the testator knew and intended all the consequences of the recovery which he suffered.b
Lord Camden's plans for legal reform were defeated by the unhappy turn which politics and parties took (so contrary to his seemingly well-founded expectations) almost from the moment of his elevation to his present office. He had intended, under the auspices of Lord Chatham, again to bring forward his Habeas Corpus Bill, with some other measures to improve the administration both of criminal and civil justice; but the great luminary to whose light and influence he had trusted was eclipsed, and for a time seemed blotted out of the system, so that darkness was spread over the political world, and chaos seemed to have come again.
Lord Chatham had scarcely called into existence his motley administration, pleasantly depicted by Burke as "a cabin et so curiously inlaid such a piece of diversified mosaic such a tesselated pavement without cement here a bit of black stone, and there a bit of white, which had a chance of coherence only from the controlling genius of its framer," when, by fresh and aggravated attacks of his old malady, the gout, he was almost disabled from attending to public business; and soon after, on account of a nervous disorder which is supposed even to have affected his mind, he was long seen only by his wife and his medical attendants. The consequence was, that Lord Camden's situation soon became most embarrassing and distressing. After a period of utter confusion, the members of the Government from whom he most differed got the ascendency; and, from the protracted hope of the restoration of his friend, who nominally continued in office, he was cut off from the resource of resigning and going into opposition.
The first difficulty which arose after the formation of the new government was from the scarcity, and apprehension of famine, produced by the failure of the harvest. The price of provisions was rapidly advancing, and the greatest alarm prevailed in the public mind. The prime minister was confined to his bed at Bath. A proposal being made that the exportation of corn should be prevented, the Chancellor recommended that this object should be effected by an order of the King in council. Lord Chatham, who was still able to communicate with his colleagues by letter, concurred in this advice, and the measure was carried into effect. It was popular in itself, but rendered odious by the manner in which it was defended. I have already mentioned the scrape into which the Government was on this occasion precipitated by the indiscretion and intemperance of Lord Northington, now President of the Council.c He ought to have been thrown overboard, and the foundering vessel would have righted. Lord Camden thought that he must be supported, and was so far misled by his zeal to serve a colleague as to persuade himself (in trying to persuade others) that the act of interfering with lawful commerce, although against an express statute, was not only justifiable from expedience, so as to entitle the parties concerned in it to be protected by an indemnity, but was in itself strictly legal, and, without any indemnity, might be defended in a court of justice. According to the evidence of credible witnesses present, he at last worked himself up to say:
"The necessity of a measure renders it not only excusable, but legal; and consequently a judge, when the necessity is proved, may, without hesitation, declare that act legal which would be clearly illegal where such necessity did not exist. The Crown is the sole executive power, and is therefore intrusted by the constitution to take upon itself whatever the safety of the state may require during the recess of parliament, which is at most but a forty days' tyranny. The power exercised on this occasion was so moderate, that Junius Brutus would not have hesitated to intrust it even to the discretion of a Nero."d
He now received from Lord Temple the severest chastisement ever inflicted upon him:
"Forty days' tyranny!" exclaimed his opponent. "My Lords, tyranny is a harsh sound. I detest the very word, because I hate the thing. But is this language to come from a noble and learned Lord, whose glory it might and ought to be to have risen by steps which Liberty threw in his way, and to have been honoured as his country has honoured him, not for trampling her under foot, but for holding up her head? I have used my best endeavours to answer the argument of the 'forty days' by argument founded on principles; I will now give the noble and learned Lord one answer more, and it shall be argumentum ad hominem. That noble and learned Lord has said, I believe, on other occasions, and he has said well, the price of one hour's English liberty none but an English jury could estimate; and juries under his guidance have put a very high value upon it, in the case of the meanest of our fellow subjects when opprest by the servants of the state. But 'forty days' tyranny' over the nation by the Crown! Who can endure the thought? My Lords, less than 'forty days' tyranny,' such as this country has felt in some times, would, I believe, bring your Lordships together without a summons, from your sick beds, faster than our great patriots themselves, to get a place or a pension, or both,e and, for aught I know, make the subject of your consultation that appeal to Heaven which has been spoken of. Once establish a dispensing power, and you cannot be sure of either liberty or law for forty minutes."f
Lord Mansfield, more calmly but not less forcibly, pointed out the fallacy and the dangerous consequences of the Chancellor's reasoning, and on this occasion gained a signal triumph over his rival. There can be no doubt that Lord Camden was confounding acts which the law says may be lawfully done in a case of necessity with acts done in violation of the law for the public good; and that his doctrines led inevitably to a power in the Crown to suspend or repeal all laws, without the previous or subsequent sanction of parliament. The doctrine has never since been contended for; and whenever ministers, for the safety of the state, have acted contrary to law, they have thrown themselves upon parliament, and asked for a bill of indemnity.g
The Government, rendered unpopular by this exhibition, was soon entirely deprived of all assistance from Lord Chatham, who was unable to attend either the debates in the House of Lords or the meetings of the Cabinet, and, shut up in his house at Hayes, refused to correspond on business with his colleagues or with the King. In a fit of national fatuity, which we can only explain by supposing that it was inflicted as a special visitation from Heaven for the sins of the people, within a few months after the repeal of the American Stamp Act, there was passed, without opposition, and almost without public observation, the fatal act imposing a duty on tea and other commodities when imported into the colonies, which led to the non-consumption combination, to the riots at Boston to civil war to the dismemberment of the empire. How Lord Camden should have suffered it to pass through the House of Lords in silence, I profess myself wholly at a loss to conjecture: it was not only impolitic, but, according to his doctrine, it was ultra vires parliamenti, and to be treated as a nullity; for to justify this by calling it "a commercial regulation," would only be rendering more contemptible his flimsy and fallacious distinction between a power to regulate commerce, and a power to impose a tax.h
After Parliament was prorogued, Lord Camden had very nearly been deprived of the Great Seal when he had held it little more than a year, and, for his fame as a minister, there is great reason to regret his continuance in office. Lord Chatham's health was deemed irrecoverably gone, and Charles Townshend, with the concurrence of the King, had arranged a new administration, in which he himself was to have been First Lord of the Treasury, and Charles Yorke was to have been his Lord Chancellor, when the plan was rendered abortive by his sudden and lamented death, in the flower of his age.
Then followed the arrangement called the "Duke of Grafton's administration," in which he was recognised as Prime Minister. Lord Chatham still retained the Privy Seal, and was supposed to be a member of the Cabinet; but he remained entirely sequestered from public business, under circumstances which will never be fully explained.
Lord Camden did not concur in all the opinions of the First Lord of the Treasury, but greatly preferred him to the Duke of Bedford, Lord Shelburne, or any other Whig leader, and the closest friendship was established between them. To this we are indebted for the letters I am about to introduce, which will be found to throw a new light upon the state of parties, and the history of the country from this time, till the reins of government were placed in the hands of Lord North.
An important question soon arose, whether the Great Seal of Ireland should be held by an Irish or an English lawyer? Lord Townshend was then Lord Lieutenant, and, for the sake of popularity, being naturally desirous of having an Irishman, had brought over the Duke of Grafton to the same opinion. However, Lord Camden, being consulted by him, wrote back the following answer:
"Bath, Sept. 27, 1767.
"My dear Lord Duke,
"I have since the receipt of your Grace's letter turned my thoughts upon the subject of it with the most serious attention, and am displeased with myself for not agreeing altogether with your Grace in conferring the Irish Seal upon an Irishman. I will readily confess that I am not a competent judge of this question, for want of knowing the true state of that country, the manner in which it has been governed of late years, the power and influence of the several connexions, and, above all, the importance of the Irish bar in the House of Commons there; and therefore it is very likely that your Grace may be much better enabled than myself to form a true judgment upon the utility and policy of complimenting the Irish with the high office. Your Grace, however, has a right to my poor opinion, such as it is; and indeed, my Lord, I am very loth to give up to the unreasonable demands of two of those barristers (however eminent) the last, as well as most important law office in that kingdom, which England hitherto has thought fit to reserve to herself. All the chiefs upon each bench were formerly named from hence; the Irish have acquired the King's Bench, and the late Lord Lieutenant, for the first time, made them a present of the Chief Baron; and there has not for many years been an instance of a puisne judge sent from this country: I believe Baron Mounteney was the last.
"Thus, by degrees, has this country surrendered up all the great offices of the law, except only the Common Pleas and the Great Seal; and I much doubt whether this country acquires any advantage by all these concessions.
"In the last session, Mr. Flood moved a general censure upon the characters and capacity of the Judges sent from England, with a view, no doubt, of inflaming the people against all these nominations, in hopes of extending their encroachments to a total exclusion of the English from the Irish bench; and now, such is the danger of precedent, they threaten general opposition (for so I understood from Lord Clare) if this favour is refused, and your Grace seems to think it will be an affront upon the next Council there.
"Jocelyn and Bowes, though both Englishmen, are honoured with the appellation of Irish for the present purpose, and are cited as precedents in their favour. I am very apprehensive, that if your Grace should indulge now the Irish in this demand (for I can call it by no other name), the precedent will bind England for ever; for national favours once conferred can never be resumed. Ireland has reason enough to be discontented with the mother country: the popular party are sure to distress the Castle to some degree every session, and the method has been hitherto to win over the leaders in the House of Commons by places, pensions, and honours, which has enabled the Lord Lieutenant for the time being to close his particular session with ease to himself; at the same time that it has ruined the King's affairs, and enraged the people. The next successor is involved in the same difficulties, and his convenience has been complimented by the like measures; till, at last, by this profusion of rewards the Government has nothing to give, and is left beggared, and consequently unsupported. In such a state of things, would your Grace wish to pursue such a plan, and grant now, before the opening of the session, the highest post in the law to one member only of the House of Commons (for only one can have it), whose removal afterwards to make room for an Englishman (let his behaviour be ever so obnoxious) would be a most odious and unpopular measure in that country? An Englishman in the office is expected to remain an Englishman, and is permitted; an Irishman anglicised would never be endured. Indeed, my Lord, the very yielding, in my humble opinion, would be a weakening of Government, and be more pernicious than the most troublesome session.
"I am truly sensible of Lord Townshend's embarrassments, and foresee that, if he should not obtain this boon, he must expect to meet with some very disagreeable struggles. But, I dare say, his zeal, courage, and ability are equal to the whole, and I am sure he will cheerfully undertake what he has accepted, though your Grace should adhere to our first opinion, of keeping the Seal, for the present, in commission.
"Your Grace will be pleased to consider that the Chancellor, Chief Baron, and Chief Justices, are called to the Council in Ireland in the quality of statesmen, and that the Council in that country is an assembly of equal importance of either of the branches of the legislature. If the Lord Lieutenant is surrounded with Irish only filling these offices at the board, he is subject to be overruled in every quarter by the great chiefs of the law, in which case I doubt he must submit.
"But if your Grace should at last be determined to name an Irishman, you will please to consider whether Sir A. Malone is not clearly the properest person. He has not indeed applied for it, but I understand he would be happy with the offer; and such is the deference to his superior character, that every one of those gentlemen who has applied have put themselves only in the second place after him. So that, if your Grace is resolved upon an Irishman, 'Detur dignissimo!' Let it carry with it a march of public spirit, at the same time that it is a management of parties. I know your Grace will forgive my frankness : this is my present opinion, though I will most willingly submit to a contrary determination, and when your Grace has done it, I shall say in public that it is well done; indeed, I shall go near to think so, because I am sure the decision will be taken by those who understand Ireland better than I do.
"I presume your Grace has asked Lord N 'si opinion upon this subject; that will have great weight with me, as well as your Grace. He used to think as I do, as did Lord Chatham; but different circumstances may well bring about a change of opinion.
"I know your Grace will be anxious to hear some news of Lord Chatham; if I had been able to have given you any authentic intelligence of his amendment to any considerable degree, I should have wrote before. The whole country in his neighbourhood report him much better; but his knocker is tied up, and he is inaccessible. I read a letter from Lady Chatham yesterday, who is so fearful of owning my Lord to be better, that she retracts it, even while she is admitting it in the same sentence, and conveys hopes of his recovery while she forbids them. I verily believe he is considerably mended.
"I propose to be in town on Monday morning, the 7th of next month, to prorogue the Parliament, at eleven o'clock in the morning, if your Grace will be so good as to order the proper preparations, to go to Court, to swear in Lord North, and set out immediately for my return. I hope this will be permitted.
"I have the honour to be, with the most perfect respect and esteem, your Grace's
"Most obedient faithful Servant,
Lord Townshend still pressed very hard for the appointment of an Irish lawyer, and, in a letter to Lord Camden, said, "This measure is the very criterion of an odious or a popular administration; if the concession is not granted, it will be a proof of my own insignificance, and the safest course will be for me to confess it to all mankind." Lord Camden, therefore, wrote to the Duke of Grafton: "When such language is used, there are but two things to be done to quarrel or to submit. The first being, at this time, to the last degree improvident and dangerous, which his Lordship well knows, makes the latter necessary." However, the Cabinet resolved on resistance, as appears by the following letter from Lord Camden to the Duke of Grafton:
"I find by your Grace's letter, and one I received from Lord Shelburne, that I am called upon to name a person for the Irish Seal. He must be eminent, and one who at this ticklish juncture would be every way fit for the office. I doubt it will be too much for me, in such a dearth of men willing to accept, to recommend one who will answer that description, nor dare I undertake it without the sanction of a cabinet. The whole business is, indeed, a state question, and does not properly fall within my department."
Mr. Serjeant Hewitt, afterwards Lord Lifford, was fixed upon. The Duke of Grafton says, in his Journal,
"Lord Northington's opinion concurred so fully with Lord Camden's on the disposal of the Great Seal of Ireland, that the Cabinet was persuaded not to give way to Lord Townshend's reasoning in favour of an Irish lawyer's holding it; and I am persuaded that our firmness gave more real consideration to his Lordship's situation, and dignity and weight to his government, than any yielding of his own would have effected. Before Parliament met, Mr. Serjeant Hewitt accepted the Seal, with every good disposition to discharge properly the great trust put into his hands, and his learning as a lawyer sanctioned our expectations from the appointment. He was a true Whig, and bore a character to which all parties gave their assent of respect; and though his speeches in parliament were long, and without eloquence, they were replete with excellent matter and knowledge of the law. His conduct in Ireland, under the peerage of Lifford, soon gained the esteem of the public."
Lord Camden's views on this subject were tinged by the prejudices which then subsisted in England, respecting the subjection of Ireland. The two countries must now be considered on a footing of perfect equality, and the only consideration is, what is most conducive to their mutual interest? That great statesman, Lord Wellesley, proposed (I think wisely) as a solution of this question, that there should be one bar for England and Ireland; and that while lawyers practising in England should be occasionally appointed to preside in the courts of justice in Ireland, lawyers practising in Ireland should be reciprocally appointed to preside in the courts of justice in England.
Public affairs remained in a state of considerable tranquillity till the sudden re-appearance in England of the notorious John Wilkes, which threw the whole nation into a ferment. After the popularity he had acquired by establishing the illegality of "general warrants" and of "the seizure of papers by authority of the Secretary of State," he had been convicted of publishing seditious and obscene libels; he had been outlawed, and he had lived in exile. Having failed in negotiations to obtain a pardon, he now boldly presented himself at the hustings as a candidate to represent the city of London in parliament. Defeated there, he started for Middlesex, and he was returned for this county by a great majority, being supported by a mob, who compelled all who appeared in the streets and highways to join in the cry of "Wilkes and Liberty!" The Government was most seriously alarmed, and Lord Camden, with the other ministers, being summoned to attend a meeting of the Cabinet, wrote the following letter to the Duke of Grafton:
"Bath, April 3, 1768.
"My dear Lord Duke,
"Whatever vexation and inconvenience I may feel at this unexpected summons, which calls me from hence above a week before the time, yet I shall, without fail, give my attendance at the time appointed. The event is disagreeable and unforeseen, for I am persuaded that no person living, after Wilkes had been defeated in London, would have thought it possible for him to have carried his election for the county of Middlesex. Sure I am, that if the Government had arrested him while he was a candidate, this step would have secured his election, and would have been considered as the cause of his success. I cannot pretend, at this distance, without further information, to advise what proceedings are now necessary, as the only subject for consideration seems to be, what measures are to be taken by the House of Commons at the meeting of Parliament. If the precedents and the constitution will warrant an expulsion, that perhaps may be right. A criminal flying his country to escape justice a convict and an outlaw! That such a person should, in open day-light, thrust himself upon the country as a candidate, his crime unexpiated, is audacious beyond description. This is the light in which I consider the affair; the riot only inflaming the business, and not showing the weakness of the Government more than any other election riot in the kingdom. But it would be well to consider what may be the consequences if W. should be re-elected. That is very serious. I take it for granted that he will surrender, and receive judgment in the K. Bench, the first day of the Term, when, I suppose, the outlawry will be reversed, and he will be imprisoned. We expect him at this place to-night, where, I suppose, he intends to remain till the Term; and this town is not a little alarmed lest the same spirit of violence should follow him hither. But, I trust, we are not mad enough here to follow the example of the metropolis. Whatever may be the heat of the present moment, I am persuaded it will soon subside, and this gentleman will lose his popularity in a very short time after men have recovered their senses.
"I am," &c.
At the Cabinet all present appear to have acquiesced in the determination that Wilkes should immediately be expelled the House of Commons; but when it appeared that the demagogue, instead of submitting to his sentence, meant to insist that the outlawry was erroneous, that all the proceedings against him were void, and that he was entitled to be treated as an innocent man, the Chancellor quailed, and thus addressed the Premier:
"20th April, 1768.
"My dear Lord,
"I dare say you have been informed of what passed to-day in the Court of King's Bench, and that Mr. W. is still at large. His counsel, however, promised that he should be forthcoming in custody, and then move to be bailed; sue out a writ of error and reverse the outlawry. They gave notice, likewise, that they intended, after they had got rid of the outlawry, to move in arrest of judgment. Your Grace will be pleased to perceive that Mr. W. stands at present convicted only by verdict; and if there shall appear to be any material defect in the record, that the judgment must be stayed; in which case he must be discharged, and he becomes a freeman upon this prosecution as much as if he had never been convicted. I dare say your Grace will see, upon this short representation, that till judgment is finally pronounced against Mr. W. by the Court, no man has a right to pronounce him guilty. This appears to me a real difficulty attending the measure, which yesterday we thought so clear. For how can the House expel a member, either as an outlaw or a convict, while the suit is pending, whereas he may turn out at last to be neither the one nor the other? I am afraid, considering the necessary delay in courts of law, it will be impossible for the King's Bench to give judgment before the Parliament meets, and therefore it deserves the most serious consideration whether the proposed measure should be pursued while the obstacle stands in the way.
"I have the honour," &c.
The motion for the expulsion was accordingly deferred till, the outlawry being reversed, sentence of imprisonment for a year and ten months was pronounced on Wilkes, and he insulted Parliament by a virulent libel, which, at the bar of the Lower House, he avowed and boasted of. His expulsion was then carried, and a new writ was ordered to elect another representative for Middlesex. This proceeding, though impolitic, cannot be considered unlawful or unconstitutional; for there might be a presumption that his constituents would not have elected a person guilty of such misconduct, and it might be fair to give them an opportunity of determining whether they would still have him for their representative.
I am glad to think that the subsequent proceedings respecting the Middlesex election were not sanctioned by Lord Camden; for I believe that all mankind are now agreed that the House of Commons acted illegally and unconstitutionally in again expelling Mr. Wilkes for a supposed offence committed before his re-election, in declaring him disqualified to serve in parliament, and in seating Mr. Luttrell as representative for Middlesex, although he had only a small minority of the electors in his favour. The Chancellor is by no means exempted from blame for consenting to belong to an administration which overruled his opinion upon such questions. Although we may account for his continuing in office while he could be considered as having Lord Chatham for a colleague, it does astonish us exceedingly that he still condescended to hold the Great Seal after his great Chief had resigned, and was at open enmity with the Government. But he was placed in a most painful situation; Lord Chatham was still unable to appear in parliament, and there was no statesman with whom he thought he could better co-operate for the public good than the present head of the Treasury.
The three following letters to the Duke of Grafton explain the removal of Lord Shelburne from the Government, the consequent resignation of Mr. Pitt, and Lord Camden's perplexity:
"29th Sept. 1768.
"I understand your Grace's plan is fixt, and I saw plainly the last time I was in town that Lord S 's removal was determined What can I say to it, my dear Lord? It is unlucky.
"The administration, since Lord Chatham's illness, is almost entirely altered, without being changed, and I find myself surrounded with persons to whom I am scarce known, and with whom I have no connection. Lord Chatham is at Hayes, brooding over his own suspicions and discontents. His return to business almost desperate, inaccessible to every body, but under a persuasion (as I have some reason to conjecture) that he is given up and abandoned. This measure, for aught I know, may fix his opinion, and bring him to a resolution of resigning. If that should happen, I should be under the greatest difficulty.
"I am truly, my dear Lord, distressed. I have seen so much of courts that I am heartily tired of my employment, and should be happy to retire upon a scanty income if an honourable opportunity offered to justify my retreat to the King and your Grace; but that step I will never take without your consent, till I find I have not the King's favour and your confidence, unless I should be forced by something more compelling than the Earl of S 's removal.
"After all, though your Grace is so good as to relieve me from any opinion on the subject, yet the case being stated as it is, that either your Grace or the Earl must quit, my opinion is clear, in a moment, that your Grace must remain. I am," &c.
"14th Oct. 1768. "My concern upon the intelligence contained in your Grace's letter is inexpressible, and though I was apprehensive that Lord Shelburne's dismission would make a deep impression upon Lord Chatham's mind, yet I did not expect this sudden resignation. I will still live in hope that his Majesty's letter may produce an alteration, because there is a possibility, though at the same time I do not flatter myself with any sanguine expectations. Your Grace and I feel for each other. To me I fear the blow is fatal, yet I shall come to no determination. If I can find out what is fit for me to do in this most distressed situation, that I must do; but the difficulty lies in forming a true judgment. Whatever my decision may be, I will never resign my active endeavours to support the King's service, or my unchangeable attachment to your Grace. This most unfortunate event will throw the King's affairs into a state of utter distraction. Perhaps order may spring up out of this confusion. I do assure your Grace that my mind is at present in too great an agitation to be soon settled, and therefore I do not give myself leave to form any opinion concerning my own conduct: I shall wait with impatience to hear the conclusion, and am, with the truest zeal and attachment," &c.
"Bath, 16th Oct. 1768.
"Your Grace's intelligence does not surprise me: I expected it, and predetermined my own journey to London before I had the honour of your Grace's letter. Unfortunately one of my children is so ill that I must wait a day or two before I set out in order to see what turn her distemper will take. I propose, however, to be in town on Wednesday next, or Thursday at the latest.
"Nothing could give me so much satisfaction as to join with your Grace in one line of conduct, and yet I see plainly that our situations are different, and the same honour due to the King and regard to the public operating upon two minds equally aiming at the same end, may possibly draw us different ways; but I dare say your Grace will believe me, in all events and circumstances, what I really am, with all respect and unfeigned attachment," &c.
On his return to London, he heard such an account of Lord Chatham as to convince him that the country was for ever deprived of the services of this illustrious patriot; and, agreeing to support the present Government, he prevailed on Mr. Dunning to follow his example.k
The dispute with the colonies was now assuming a very alarming aspect, the act so heedlessly passed to impose a duty on goods imported into America having produced the discontent and the resistance which might have been expected from it. Lord Camden's views upon the subject were most liberal and enlightened, and, if he had been listened to, he would have saved the empire from civil war and dismemberment. In the prospect of the meeting of parliament, having been consulted by the Prime Minister respecting the King's speech, he thus replied:
"As to North America, before a speech can be sketched upon the subject, it is necessary to know what measures the King's ministers intend to pursue, for the speech and the address must mark the outlines of these measures.
"I was a long time in hopes that Massachusetts Bay would have been the only disobedient colony. It would have been no difficult matter to have dealt with them if the others had sat still and remained passive; but I am deceived in that expectation, for it is now manifest that the whole continent will unite and make it common cause. We are drifted by I know not what fatality upon Mr. Grenville's ground. We are pressed on the one hand by the declaratory law, and on the other by the colonies' resolute denial of parliamentary authority. The issue is now joined upon the right which, in my apprehension, is the most untoward that could have been started fatal to Great Britain if she miscarries unprofitable if she succeeds. For if it is (as I believe your Grace thinks with me it is) inexpedient to tax the colonies, as we all maintained when the Stamp Act was repealed, after both sides are half ruined in the contest, we shall at last establish a right which ought never to be exerted.
"If the Americans are able to practise so much self-denial as to subsist only for one twelve-month without British commodities, I do very much fear that they will carry their point without striking a blow. Patience and perseverance in this one measure will ruin us; and I am the more apt to dread this event, because it seems to me that the colonies are more sober, and consequently more determined, in the present opposition than they were upon the Stamp Act. For, except only the riots at Boston, I see nothing like active rebellion in the other provinces. If this should happen, the merchants and manufacturers here at home will be clamorous, and half our own people will be added to the American party.
"Your Grace will ask, upon this representation of things, what is to be done? Indeed, my dear Lord, I do not know what is best to advise. The parliament, I presume, cannot repeal the Act in question, because that would admit the American principle to be right and their own doctrine erroneous. Therefore I conclude the parliament will not repeal, consequently must execute the law, and this of course must be the language of the Speech.
"The method how to execute it is the next consideration, and here I am as much at a loss. There is no pretence for violence any where but at Boston. That is the ring-leading province, and if any country is to be chastised, the punishment ought to be levelled there. I have been sometimes thinking, that if the Act was repealed in favour of the other provinces, excepting Massachusetts Bay, and there executed with proper rigour, such a measure might be successful. But I am aware that no man, perhaps, but myself, could be brought to relish such a concession, as almost every body else holds the declaratory law to be a sound fundamental one, never to be departed from.
"I submit to the declaratory law, and have thought it my duty, upon that ground, as a minister, to exert my constitutional power to carry the Duty Act into execution. But as a member of the legislature, I cannot bring myself to advise violent measures to support a plan so inexpedient and impolitic, and I am very much afraid (I speak this confidentially to your Grace) that if a motion should be made to repeal the bill I should be under the necessity to vote for it. But there are so few in my way of thinking, that such a motion is not to be expected.
"I am very sensible that a difference of opinion upon a subject so serious and important may be prejudicial to the administration, and I lament the occasion, being persuaded that a most perfect union amongst us is essential, and I will labour to effect it with my best endeavours. But I do fear, most exceedingly, that upon the American question the Bedfords and myself will be too far asunder to meet. I must maintain my own ground. The public knows my opinion and knows theirs. Neither of us can be inconsistent with ourselves.
"This letter is to your Grace only. You are my Pole Star, Lord Chatham being eclipsed. I had rather see your Grace at the head of government than any other man in the kingdom, and therefore I have disclosed to you my whole heart upon this ill-fated business. 1 am sensible that my sentiments do not altogether coincide with your Grace's opinion.
"There is nothing I dread so much as a war with America. I shall be very happy to know the result of your councils in town upon this subject. Corsica is rather a delicate than a difficult business."m
Lord Camden's advice was entirely disregarded. He had, in like manner, quarrelled with his colleagues respecting the Middlesex election. Still he made an effort to save Dunning, who, continuing in office at his request, had given great offence to Lord North, now leader of the House of Commons, by insisting on one occasion that Wilkes should be heard before he was condemned. Thus he appealed to the Premier:
"10th Dec. 1768.
"I had an opportunity, after I saw your Grace yesterday, of hearing an account of what passed in the House of Commons, and I find the debate turned upon this: 'Whether they should vote the paper a libel before Wilkes was heard in his defence?' and that this was no question on the merits, but only discourse upon the mode of proceeding: that the Solicitor-General thought, if Mr. Wilkes was to be heard, he ought regularly to be at liberty to speak to the nature and quality of the paper, as well as to the fact of writing and publishing. And indeed, my dear Lord, I am of the same opinion; and I do verily believe that no lawyer can hold a different language. The Solicitor said that, difficult as the task would be for Mr. W. to maintain an argument that the paper was no libel, yet he ought not to be precluded from that argument, which he would be if the House determined it to be a libel. I do not see how they can, consistent with the terms of justice, pronounce the paper to be a libel till they have heard him. Now, my dear Lord, give me leave to say that Lord North should not be quite so much offended with Mr. Dunning, because the matter before the House was rather a discourse upon the method of proceeding than a measure of administration. I do not believe Mr. D. will be so base as to remain in office, and not to be hearty in the support of administration. I have the honour," &c.
This application was successful, and Dunning continued in office till after Lord Camden's own removal.
The Ministers found they were getting into such tremendous difficulties respecting the Middlesex election by contemning the Chancellor's advice, that the Prime Minister wrote to him, specially inviting him to attend a Cabinet to be held upon the subject. The following was his answer:
"9th January, 1769.
"My dear Lord,
"I have the honour of your Grace's letter, and will certainly attend the meeting of the King's servants on Wednesday morning next. I do wish, most heartily, that the present time could be eased of the difficulties that Mr. W.'s business has brought upon the Government: a fatality has attended it from the beginning, and it grows more serious every day. Your Grace and I have unfortunately differed. I wish it had been otherwise. It is a hydra, multiplying by resistance, and gathering strength by every attempt to subdue it. As the times are, I had rather pardon W. than punish him. This is a political opinion, independent of the merits of the cause.
"I am very glad to hear the holidays have given your Grace so happy a respite. They have been to me a perfect paradise, as I have employed my whole time in studying the Douglas cause, and my mind has been totally vacant from political vexations.
"I have the honour," &c.
He attended the meeting, but with no good effect. The Duke of Grafton treated him with perfect civility, and was inclined to be governed by his opinion; but what he laid down respecting the law and the constitution was scornfully received by all the others. From thenceforth he constantly absented himself from the Cabinet when the two great subjects of infernal and colonial policy were to be discussed Wilkes, and American coercion.
The public were not then in possession of these secrets. For two years it was remarked that he preserved an impenetrable silence in parliament, unless when, as Speaker, he put the question, and declared the majority; but no one suspected that he had, in reality, ceased to be a member of the Government.n
At last, when Parliament reassembled in the beginning of January, 1770, the Lord Chancellor spoke out. Lord Chatham, after his resignation, to the astonishment of all mankind, not only experienced a considerable relaxation of his bodily infirmities, but recovered the full energy of his gigantic intellect. On the first day of the session he was in his place, though supported on crutches and swathed in flannel, and having delivered a most violent speech against the measures of the Government, affirming that the liberty of the subject had been invaded, not only in the colonies, but at home, he moved as an amendment to the address, that "the House would with all convenient speed take into consideration the causes of the present discontents, and particularly the proceedings of the House of Commons touching the incapacity of John Wilkes, Esq., depriving the electors of Middlesex of their free choice of a representative."o
Lord Mansfield having taken up the defence of the Government, and insinuated that all their measures must be considered as having the full approbation of the noble and learned Lord who held the Great Seal "ever considered the champion of popular rights," the Lord Chancellor left the woolsack, and, in a burst of indignation, tried to defend his conduct and his consistency:
"I accepted the Great Seal," said he, "without conditions: I meant not, therefore, to be trammelled by his Majesty I beg pardon by his Ministers; but I have suffered myself to be so too long. For some time I have beheld, with silent indignation, the arbitrary measures of the Minister; I have often drooped and hung down my head in Council, and disapproved by my looks those steps which I knew my avowed opposition could not prevent. I will do so no longer; but openly and boldly speak my sentiments. I now proclaim to the world, that I entirely coincide in the opinion expressed by my noble friend, whose presence again reanimates us, respecting this unconstitutional and illegal vote of the House of Commons. If, in giving my opinion as a Judge, I were to pay any respect to that vote, I should look upon myself as a traitor to my trust, and an enemy to my country. By their violent and tyrannical conduct, Ministers have alienated the minds of the people from his Majesty's government I had almost said, from his Majesty's person. In consequence, a spirit of discontent has spread itself into every corner of the kingdom, and is every day increasing; insomuch, that if some methods are not devised to appease the clamours so universally prevalent, I know not, my Lords, whether the people in despair may not become their own avengers, and take the redress of grievances into their own hands."p
The amendment being negatived, Lord Rockingham moved that the Lords be summoned for the following day, when he should make a proposal of great national importance; but it being evident that, after this scene, the Government could not go on, Lord Weymouth, the Secretary of State, moved an adjournment for a week. Lord Temple said:
"The House well knows for what purpose the Lords opposite want an adjournment; it is to settle the disordered state of the administration, which is now shattered in a most miserable manner, and, in all likelihood, will soon fall to pieces. Their particular object is to dismiss the virtuous and independent Lord who sits on the woolsack, and to supply his place with some obsequious lawyer who will do as he is commanded." Lord Shelburne added: "After the dismission of the present worthy Chancellor, the Seals will go a begging: but I hope there will not be found in the kingdom a wretch so base and mean-spirited as to accept of them on the conditions on which they must be offered."
The ministerial crisis which followed was one of the most exciting and memorable in our party annals. Lord Chatham, Lord Temple, and Lord Rockingham were now reconciled, and, taking the same view of the questions which then divided the nation, might have formed a strong government, with Lord Camden for their Chancellor, on the basis of American conciliation, and of the reversal of the unconstitutional judgment at home, that a commoner was rendered disqualified to represent the people by a vote of the House of Commons. But the Court was determined to make a vigorous effort to concoct an administration that would push on its favourite policy at home and abroad. The main difficulty was to prevail upon a lawyer of any reputation to take the Great Seal, as successor to Lord Camden, particularly after the late denunciations in the House of Lords against all who should think of degrading themselves by basely doing so. Lord Camden, under the advice of his friends, determined that he would not voluntarily resign.
Through persuasions, and with a result which I shall have to detail in the life of Charles Yorke, he was induced in an evil hour to accept the offer pressed upon him, although he condemned his own act at the instant, and soon fatally repented of it.
On Tuesday, the 16th of January, 1770, about seven in the evening, Lord Camden, in pursuance of a summons he had received for that purpose, attended at the Queen's Palace, and there surrendered the Great Seal into the King's own hands. He slept sounder that night than he had done for many months.
The very extraordinary circumstances in which he had been placed must apologise for his political conduct while in office. I am afraid it cannot be strictly justified.
To the last hour of his holding the Great Seal, the exercise of his judicial functions met with universal approbation. I ought not to pass over, without notice, the admirable manner in which he disposed of appeals and writs of error in the House of Lords. Lord Mansfield, on those occasions, generally sat along with him. To the honour of my profession, and for the credit of the decisions of the tribunal judging in the last resort in this country, it should be known that, however strongly law Lords may differ on questions of party politics, they have always zealously co-operated in the endeavour satisfactorily to dispose of the juridical business of the House; and, with a few exceptions, when the lay Peers have exercised their strict right, and tried to prevail by numbers, justice has been administered there with entire purity, and on the most enlightened principles. Lord Camden and Lord Mansfield sometimes attacked each other in debate so sharply as almost to render a resolution necessary, that "they should be required to give an assurance that the matter should not go farther, or that they be taken into the custody of the Black Rod," yet they never had the slightest difference of opinion in any case argued by counsel before them.
Soon after Lord Camden had taken his seat on the woolsack, came on the famous writ of error in Harrison v. Evans, in which the question was, "whether a Dissenter was liable to a fine for not serving a corporate office which he was disqualified for serving by the Corporation Act, he not having taken the sacrament of the Lord's supper according to the rites of the Church of England?" This arose out of an ingenious scheme to raise a tax upon the Dissenters in the City of London for the purpose of building the MANSION HOUSE, which by law they could never enter. In the City courts judgment was given that the defendant was liable to the penalty of 600£. Lord Mansfield moved the reversal of the judgment in one of the finest specimens of forensic eloquence to be found in our books. Having shown that, as the person whom the citizens pretended to choose for sheriff could not serve the office (as they well knew), this was merely an attempt to punish him for being a Dissenter, he said, "Conscience, my Lords, is not controllable by human laws, nor amenable to human tribunals. Persecution, or attempts to force conscience, will never produce conviction, and can only be calculated to make hypocrites or martyrs." Lord Camden, rejoicing to hear such noble sentiments from the Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, heartily concurred in them, and by the unanimous judgment of the House a great triumph was given to religious liberty.q
So when Wilkes's case came to the bar of the House of Lords, Lord Camden and Lord Mansfield agreed on the two points which were raised on the record: 1. "That the Solicitor-General, when the office of Attorney-General is vacant, has authority by law to file a criminal information;"r and, 2. "That a defendant being convicted of two misdemeanors, may at the same time be sentenced to two periods of imprisonment, the second to commence after the expiration of the first."s
But Lord Camden attracted chief notice while Chancellor by his judgment in the great Douglas cause, which, in Scotland, had almost led to a civil war between the supporters of the opposite sides, and in England even had excited more interest than any question of mere private right had ever done before. Archibald Douglas, the appellant, had been brought up as the son of Lady Jane Douglas, and her husband Sir John Stewart, being supposed, along with his twin-brother Sholto, who died an infant, to have been born in Paris, when their mother, after having long been married and remained childless, was in her forty-ninth year; and, if such was his birth, he had a right to the immense estates of his maternal uncle, the late Duke of Douglas, and was the heir general of the Douglas family, one of the most illustrious in Europe. The Duke of Hamilton, the heir male of the Douglases, and in default of issue of the Lady Jane, entitled to all their domains, as well as those of the Hamiltons, which he inherited through a female, insisted that these two children were spurious, and had been purchased from a glass manufacturer and a rope-dancer at Paris, brought an action in the Court of Session in Scotland to establish his right, and there had a majority of the Judges in his favour.t The appeal was heard in the session of 1769, and drew vast crowds to the bar of the House of Lords to listen to the weighty and eloquent argumentation of Thurlow, Wedderburn, and the other most eminent advocates of the age. It was conjectured that the law Lords were for the appellant, but the great body of the Peers had attended the hearing of the appeal, and were to take part in the decision; there had been much canvassing for the "Douglases" and the "Hamiltons," and a great degree of suspense existed down to the very morning of the judgment.
It astonishes us very much to be told, that when the order of the day had been read by the clerk for the further consideration of the cause of the Duke of Hamilton v. Douglas, the Duke of Newcastle "opened the debate," and that "he was answered by Lord Sandwich, who spoke for three hours with much humour, and scandalised the Bishops, having, with his usual industry, studied even the midwifery of the case, which he retailed with very little decency."u
Lord Camden then thus began, there being such silence while he spoke, that a handkerchief would have been heard to drop, notwithstanding the crowds in attendance:x
"My Lords, the cause before us is, perhaps, the most solemn and important ever heard at this bar. For my own share, I am unconnected with the parties; and having, with all possible attention, considered the matter, both in public and private, I shall give my opinion with that strictness of impartiality to which your Lordships have so just and equitable claim. We have one short question before us, Is the appellant the son of the late Lady Jane Douglas, or not? I am of the mind that he is; and own that a more ample and positive proof of the child's being the son of a mother never appeared in a court of justice, or before any assize whatever." After very ably stating the primâ facie case from the marriage of the parents, and their acknowledging the appellant as their son, he minutely analysed the evidence to contradict and to corroborate it, and thus (rondeau fashion) concluded.
"The question before us is short, 'Is the appellant the son of Lady Jane Douglas, or not?' If there be any Lords within these walls who do not believe in a future state, these may go to death with the declaration that they believe he is not. For my part, I am for sustaining the positive proof which I find weakened by nothing brought against it: and, in this mind, I lay my hand upon my breast, and declare that, in my soul and conscience, I believe the appellant to be her son."
Lord Mansfield followed haud passibus aequis making the worst speech he ever delivered so bad a speech as to bring suspicion upon the judgment for he did little more than dwell upon the illustrious descent of the Lady Jane, and the impossibility of any one with such a pedigree being guilty of such a fraud as palming a supposititious child upon the world.z The House agreed to the reversal without a division, but five lay Peers signed a protest recording their opinion that "the appellant was proved not to be the son of Lady Jane Douglas."
Before finally quitting Lord Camden's Chancellorship, I must advert to the manner in which he disposed of his judicial patronage always an important consideration in scanning the merits or demerits of Chancellors; and I am happy to say, that, instead of corrupting or enfeebling the bench by political job or personal favour, he acted steadily for the public good, on the maxim, Detur digniori. When about to leave the Common Pleas, he succeeded in having the learned and virtuous Sir Eardley Wilmot appointed to succeed him whom he thus addressed:
"5th August, 1766.
"I have the King's orders to acquaint you with his intention of removing you to the Chief Justiceship of the Common Pleas, if it he agreeable to you. As Mr. Morton is not yet determined to yield up to you the Chief Justiceship of Chester, I would advise you to repose yourself in the Common Pleas till that desired event happens. I assure you it is a place of perfect tranquillity. I do most sincerely congratulate you on this nomination, and beg leave to inform you that you owe as much to Lord Northington and to Lord Chatham as to myself. I have been under a treaty with George Cooke ever since I came to town, the particulars of which you shall know when you come. I have withstood his bribe, being determined never to defraud my successor upon my death-bed: his necessities are extreme as well as my punctilio: However, it is now in your hands rather than in mine;b for I do not consider myself any longer in conscience, though I am in law, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.
"I am with great truth, &c.
The times were too distracted to allow of any systematic amendment of the law; but it should be recorded that, under the auspices of Lord Chancellor Camden, passed the "Nullum Tempus Act," by which an adverse enjoyment of property for sixty years gave a good title against the Crown, whereas the maxim had before prevailed, "nullum tempus occurrit Regi," according to which obsolete claims might be set up, and vexatious proceedings instituted by the government against political opponents.c
About the same time likewise passed the famous "Grenville Act," by which the decision of contested elections was transferred from the House of Commons as a body, to select committees sworn to do justice between the parties.d The chief merit of the measure belongs to its author, whose name it bears, but from his colleague at the head of the law he had encouragement and assistance in preparing it.
Thus Lord Camden, while in office, must be allowed to have deserved well of his country. He rendered her still more important services when reduced to a private station.
p Lord Shelburne, in a letter to Mr. Pitt, dated 10th July, 1766, says, in a "P.S. You must permit me to add how happy I am in the choice of a Chancellor and murmurs only come from the ultra-Tories."
q "30th July, 1766. Robert Earl of Northington, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, having delivered the Great Seal to the King, at his Palace of St. James, on Wednesday, the 30th day of July, 1766, his Majesty, the same day, delivered it to Charles Lord Camden. Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, with the title of Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain; who was then sworn into the said office before his Majesty in Council. His Lordship sat in Lincoln's Inn Hall during the Seals before Michaelmas Term; and on Monday, the 6th day of November, being the first day of Michaelmas Term, went in state from his house in Lincoln's Inn Fields to Westminster Hall, accompanied by the Earl of Northington, Lord President of the Council, the Duke of Grafton, First Lord of the Treasury, the Earl of Bristol, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Shelburne, and the Right Honourable Henry Seymour Conway, two of his Majesty's principal Secretaries of State, the Lord Viscount Barrington, Secretary at War, Lord Edgecombe, Treasurer of the Household, Sir Charles Saunders, Knight of the Bath, First Lord of the Admiralty, the Master of the Rolls, the Judges, King's Serjeants, King's Counsel, and other persons of quality. The Lords accompanied him to the Court of Chancery, where (before he entered upon business), in their presence, he took the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and the oath of Chancellor of Great Britain, the Master of the Rolls holding the book, and the Deputy Clerk of the Crown reading the said oaths which being done the Attorney-General moved that it might be recorded, and it was ordered accordingly. Then the Lords departed, leaving the Lord Chancellor in Court.' Cr Off Min, No 2, p 14.
r Preface to Ambler, vi.
s Ambler, 660. Dickens is generally more provokingly deficient.
t Butler's Reminiscences.
u Political Anecdotes, 385
x Wedmore v. Woodroffe. Ambler, 636.
y Ib. 640.
z Darley v. Darley, Amb. 653.
a 13 Ves. jun. 492.
b 3 Br. P. C. 365; and see Carrington v. Payne, 5 Ves. jun. 404; Loundes v. Stone, ib. 649; Ware v. Polhill, 11 Ves. jun. 280.
c Ante, p. 339.
d Lord Charlemont's Correspondence, p. 22.
e Lord Camden was often taunted with his retired allowance under the name of "pension."
f Adolph. Hist.
g "The opposition acknowledged the rectitude of the measure; but we were not to be justified on the ground on which the Cabinet thought fit at first to take up the business, by supporting it as maintainable under the Salus Populi Suprema Lex, and we had the mortification, after two days' debate, to stoop to a Bill of Indemnity, which ought to have been proposed in the beginning. .... In the struggle for and against the necessity of passing the Indemnity Bill, it was curious to see Lord Mansfield bestriding the high horse of Liberty, while Lord Chatham and Lord Camden were arguing for the extension of prerogative beyond its true limits; and it was in these debates that the upright Chancellor, ill the warmth of speaking, inadvertently made use of the expression, 'that if it was a tyranny, it was only a tyranny of forty days.'" Duke of Grafton's Journal. i. 280.
"With regard to Lord Camden, the troth is, that he inadvertently overshot himself, as appears plainly by that unguarded mention of a tyranny of forty days, which I myself heard. Instead of asserting that the proclamation was legal, he should have said, 'My Lords, I know that the proclamation was illegal, but I advised it because it was indispensably necessary to save the kingdom from famine; and I submit myself to the justice and mercy of my country. 'Such language as this would have been merely rational and consistent; not unfit for a lawyer, and very worthy of a great man." PHILO JUNIUS, 15th Oct. 1771.
We are amazed at Lord Camden's "FORTY DAYS' TYRANNY," but it is remarkable that there is hardly any public man who has not, at some time or other, indiscreetly used some expression which has passed into a by-word against him. I might mention Lord Melbourne's "heavy blow and great discouragement to the Church," Lord John Russell's "finality of the Reform Bill," and Lord Lyndhurst's "aliens in blood, language, and religion." I myself had the honour of having 50,000 copies of a speech, which I made in the House of Commons when Attorney-General, printed and industriously distributed in every borough in England among freemen possessing the right of voting for members of parliament, because I very indiscreetly said (what was very true) that the "right of freemen to vote was the plague-spot on our representative system."
h Ten years afterwards, when the sowing of the wind was producing the whirlwind, Lord Camden being taunted with his sanctioning of the tax, he said, "I confess, as mere matter of supposition, the conjecture is plausibly supported, but the fact was entirely otherwise. I never did, nor ever will, give my consent to raising any tax in any form on the people of America for the purpose of raising a revenue to be under the disposal of the British parliament." 18 Parl. Hist 1222. His confidential correspondence with the Duke of Grafton had not then commenced.
i Lord Northington's.
k Note to the Duke of Grafton, dated 4th Nov. "I sat late in Court, and have just dined. Mr. Dunning stays in his office at my request."
m We owe the foregoing letters to the circumstance of the Chancellor having passed the autumn at Bath, while the Prime Minister was at Euston. "Lord Camden and myself unfortunately saw less of each other than in other summers both of us profiting by a retreat into the country of the leisure which a recess from Chancery and Treasury business offered." Duke of Grafton's Journal, 1768.
n The reports of the debates respecting the Middlesex election and America at this time generally conclude with the words, "The Lord Chancellor was silent." 16 Parl. Hist. 477.
o It was in this debate that he so strikingly contrasted modern peers with their ancestors, who had won Magna Charta "Those iron barons (for so I will call them when compared with the silken barons of modern days) were the guardians of the people; yet their virtues were never engaged in a question of such importance as the present. A breach has been made in the constitution the battlements are dismantled the citadel is open to the first invader the walls totter the constitution is not tenable. What remains, then, but for us to stand foremost in the breach to repair or perish in it?"
p 1 Adolphus, 390; 16 Parl. Hist. 644; Gent. Mag. Jan. 1770.
q 16 Part Hist. 313; 3 Brown's Parl. Cas 465; Life of Sir Eardley Wilmot, 73
r After the resignation of Charles Yorke as Attorney-General, before a successor had been appointed. Sir Fletcher Norton, as Solicitor-General, had filed the information against Wilkes for composing and publishing the North Briton, No. XLV
s Being convicted on this information, and on another for composing and publishing the "Essay on Woman," besides being fined, he was sentenced on the first to be imprisoned ten calendar months, and on the second to be imprisoned twelve calendar months, to be computed from the determination of the first imprisonment.
t The fifteen Judges of the Court of Session divided 8 to 7 the Lord President Dundas being in the majority.
u Horace Walpole's "Memoirs of George III.," vol. iii. 303.
x "Lord Mansfield, it had long been discovered, favoured the Douglases; but the Chancellor Camden, with dignity and decency, had concealed his opinion to the very day of the decision." Horace Walpole's Memoirs of George III., vol. iii. 303.
z It is hardly possibly that the account we have of Lord Mansfield's speech on this occasion can be full and correct, particularly as it does not contain the charges against Andrew Stewart, which were made the subject of the famous "Letters."
a Horace Walpole thus states the result:
"The Chancellor then rose, and with leading authority and infinite applause told the Lords that he must now declare that he thought the whole plea of the Hamiltons a tissue of perjury woven by Mr. Andrew Stewart, and that, were he sitting as judge in any other Court, he would order the jury to find for Mr. Douglas; and that, what that jury ought to do on their oaths, their Lordships ought to do on their honours. This speech, In which it was allowed he outshone Lord Mansfield, had the most decisive effect. The latter, with still more personal severity to Stewart, spoke till he fainted with the heat and fatigue. At ten at night the decree was reversed without a division." Memoirs of George III., vol. iii. 304.
I believe the general opinion of English lawyers was in favour of the decision of the Court of Session in Scotland; but this was produced a good deal by Lord Mansfield's wretched argument, and the very able letters of Andrew Stewart, the Duke of Hamilton's agent, whose conduct had been severely reflected upon. I once studied the case very attentively, and I must own that I came to the conclusion that the House of Lords did well in reversing. There was undoubtedly false evidence in support of the appellant; but it would have been too much in such a case to act upon the maxim, "false in one thing, false in all things," so as to deprive him of his birthright from misconduct to which he was not privy. There seems to be no doubt that the Lady Jane, notwithstanding her advanced age, was pregnant and had a miscarriage subsequent to the birth of the appellant; and insuperable difficulties attended the theory of his being the son of Madame Mignon. Being in possession of his status, I think the evidence was insufficient to deprive him of it and the strong family likeness satisfactorily established seems to prove that the conclusion of law concurred with the fact of his physical origin.
b This relates to an office in the Court which then, and long after, the Chief Justice might lawfully sell.
c Stat. 9 Geo. 3., c. 16.
d 10 Geo. 3., c. 16
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