« PředchozíPokračovat »
he was knighted. A melancholy event distasteful to both sides of the House soon gave him the most public oppor- Sto Ministers, from delicacy to the tunity for the display of his official king; and to Opposition, from a sense faculties. In the autumn of 1788, the of failure. king was attacked with disorder of Soon after Scott became solicitorthe mind, and the great question of general, the king, at Weymouth, said, the regency necessarily came before “ Well, I hope your promotion has Parliament. The Whigs, who regarded been beneficial to you?” He asked the Prince of Wales as their depen- his majesty if he meant his profesdent, if not as their dupe, insisted on sional income. “Yes,” said the king, his succession to the unlimited prero
" in that and in other respects.' gatives of the sovereign; the Tories Scott told him that he must lose by it insisted, on the other hand, that Par- about £2000 a-year; and on the king liament alone had a right to confer expressing surprise, he said " That the regency and to assign its powers, the attention of the law-officers was though they admitted that the choice, called to matters of international in the present instance, ought to fall law, public law, and revenue lawupon the Prince of Wales. A ques- matters which, as they were not fation of this importance naturally miliar to them, took up a good deal brought out all the ability on both of their time, and that the fee usually sides. Pitt and the solicitor-general given to the solicitor-general with the took the lead on the side of limitation, government cases was only three and the prince ultimately accepted guineas, while those from private cases the regency on their terms. It be- were from ten to twenty-five." " Oh!" came unnecessary, however; for, while said the king, " then for the first time the bill was in the House of Lords, a I comprehend what I never could uncommunication was made by the derstand, why it has always been so chancellor, that the king's health difficult to get any opinion from my was in a favourable state.
law-officers." His majesty was able to return to At the close of the session of 1792, business in March.
Lord Thurlow gave up the great seal. Lord Thurlow had been universally “What it was," said Lord Eldon aftercharged with carrying on an intrigue wards, " that occasioned the rupture with the Opposition, for the purpose between Lord Thurlow and his colof continuing in office under the re- leagues, I never could find out." We gency. Lord Eldon's belief is intro
here see an instance of the ignorance duced against that charge; but there in which a high official was content to can be no doubt whatever that the remain, on a subject which might nacharge was universally rumoured at turally and fairly excite his curiosity.
that anecdotes confirmatory It is obvious that he wished to keep of the fact were told in every direc- himself out of the mêlée, and took the tion; that no known attempt was ever best probable way of doing so, by made to answer them; and that, from asking no questions. But a dilemma the period of the regency, an aliena- arose out of this resignation to Scott tion arose, which finally determined himself. Pitt sent for him, and said, his dismissal by the minister. The "I have a circumstance to mention well-known boast of the chancellor's to you, which, on account of your loyalty to the incapacitated king, personal and political connexion with which produced such animadversion Lord Thurlow, I wish that you should in the House, and such burlesque out first hear from myself. Lord Thurlow of it-Burke's ridicule of his official and I have quarreled, and I have sensibilities, the iron tears down signified to him his Majesty's comPluto's checks," were all founded on mands that he should resign the great the public belief of this intrigue. And seal.” Scott replied, that he was not it is certainly no answer, at the end at all surprised at the event which of half a century of uncontradicted had taken place; but added, that he opinion, to say that no formal accusa- owed too great obligations to Lord tion on the subject was made on the Thurlow to reconcile it to himself to king's recovery, when the whole sub- act in political hostility to him, and ject of the regency had become alike he had also been too long in political
connexion with the minister to join donald, who was made chief baron of any party against him; so that nothing the exchequer. The new attorneywas left but to resign his office, and general was soon summoned to the make his bow to the House of Com- highest exercise of his abilities, his mons. Pitt argued against this, and learning, and his courage ; he comfinally induced him to consult Lord menced office in the midst of national Thurlow. Thurlow at once told him, convulsion. that to resign would be a foolish The Revolution of France, which thing; adding in the spirit of a pre- had been growing in violence and diction, which was afterwards striks havoc for the last four years, had ingly realized, “it is very possible now arrived at its height. The change, that Mr Pitt, from party and political beginning with popular reform in motives, at this moment may over- 1789, had, in 1793, been consummated look your pretensions ; but, sooner or in regicide. The republic proclaimed later, you must hold the great seal. in the year before, within three months I know no man but yourself qualified had darkened into a democracy. The for its duties."
general alarm of the continental kings, If the ex-chancellor was compli- combined them in an attempt to overmentary to Scott, it notoriously was throw a government which threatened not his habitual style; the fierceness them all; the attempt was found to of his tone was well known. His result only in consolidating its power; language of Loughborough, who suc- and, in the first year of war, France ceeded him, was savagely contemp- presented to the disaffected of all natuous. On one occasion, when the tions, the tempting spectacle of a land latter was speaking with considerable in which the foremost prizes of power effect on a subject on which Lord had fallen into the hands of men of Thurlow had an adverse opinion, the humblest condition ; and in which though he did not regard himself as those men humbled to the dust the sufficiently master of it for direct re- proudest diadems of Europe. Obfutation, he was heard to mutter, “ If scure pamphleteers, country advocates, I was not as lazy as a toad at the bot- monks, and editors of struggling jourtom of a well, I could kick that fellow nals, were suddenly seen in the first Loughborough heels over head, any offices of state, wielding the whole day in the week.”
power of the mightiest kingdom of Thurlow told the Prince that the Continent, absorbing its revenues, though Loughborough " had the gift directing its armies, and moving in of the gab in a marvellous degree, he the rank of princes among the proud was no lawyer;" and added, " in the hereditary sovereignties of the world. House of Lords I get Kenyon or To the crowd of unprincipled men, somebody to start some law doctrine, engendered by the habits of European in such a manner that the fellow must life, and their consciousness of abilities get up to answer it, and then I leave .fully equal to those which had won the woolsack, and give him such a such opulent enjoyments and lofty thump in his bread-basket that he distinctions in France, the success of cannot recover himself.”
the Revolution was an universal sumThe solicitor-general was mons to conspiracy. On the Contigrowing rich, and he purchased for nent that conspiracy was, according to L.22,000 the manor of Eldon, a pro- the habits of the people, crafty and perty of about 1300 acres in the concealed. In England, equally accorcounty of Durham. He was an "im- ding to the habits of the people, it was proving landlord,” and for several bold and public, daring and defying. years he expended the income of the Great meetings of the population were estate on planting—which at once lield in the open air; committees of much increased its value, and added grievance were appointed; correto the beauty of that part of the spondences were spread through the county of Durham.
country; the whole machinery of overIn 1793, he ascended another step throw was openly erected, and worked in his profession, by his appointment by visible hands. Even where secresy to the great office of attorney-general, was deemed useful by the more cauin succession to Sir Archibald Mac- tious or the more fearful, it was of a
different character from the assassin- for revolution. The time of the struglike secresy of the foreign insurgent; gle was fully come. The English it was more the solemn and regulated minister now buckled on his armour, observance of a secret tribunal, The A succession of vigorous measures papers which have transpired of those employed the legislature during the secret committees have all the forms whole period; they were fiercely comof diplomacy, combined with a deter- bated, but they were all ultimately mination of language, and an intensity carried. Opposition never exhibited of purpose, which would do honour to more brilliant parliamentary powers. a nobler cause. But the contest was Fox was matchless in declamation, now at hand, and on three men in alternately solemn and touching ; England depended the championship Sheridan, Grey, and a long list of of the monarchy. These three were practised and indefatigable talent, the King, the Minister, and the Attor- were in perpetual debate; but Pitt, ney-General. There were never three “ with huge two-handed sway,” finally individuals more distinctly, and we crushed them all. The classic illusshall scarcely hesitate to say, more tration of Hercules destroying the providentially, prepared to meet the Hydra, was frequently used to excrisis. George III., a sovereign of press the solitary prowess of this exthe most constitutional principles, traordinary man in resisting the muland of the most unshaken intrepidity; tiplied, wily, and envenomed attacks William Pitt, the most sagacious and of his opponents; and he realized the the most resolute statesman that fable to the full-he not merely crushed England had ever seen, formed by his the heads, but he seared them. He manly eloquence to rule the legisla- extinguished that principle of evil ture, and, by his character for integrity, increase, by which all the efforts of to obtain the full confidence of the foreign governments had been baffled empire ; and Sir John Scott, at once in their contests with Jacobinism; and wise, calm, and bold, profoundly in the midst of an empire at all times learned in his profession, personally inclined to look with jealousyon brave, and alike incapable of yielding power, and at that moment nervous to the menaces of party or the cor- for the suspended privileges of its conruptions of power. It is not to be stitution, Pitt utterly extinguished forgotten, as a portion of that gennine the Whigs. Fox was defeated so public respect which in England is hopelessly, that he gave up Parliaalways withheld from even the most ment altogether, and his party folshining personal gifts, when stained lowed his example. Pitt had not by private profligacy, that those merely cut down the statelier trunks three were wholly and alike above the of Opposition, but he had swept away breath of slander. The king, eminent the brushwood, and smote the ground for domestic virtue; Pitt, unstained with sterility. His bold enterprise by even an imputation ; and Scott, had not merely taken the citadelof facfondly attached to his wife and family. tion by storm, and driven its defen
In January 1793, the cruel murder ders, faint-hearted and fugitive, over of the innocent and unfortunate Louis the face of the land, but he had sown XVI. had been perpetrated by the the foundations with salt. The total National Convention-an act which solitude of the Opposition benches, Napoleon long afterwards pronounced during the greater part of the mini
a grand political error, sufficient to ster's political life, was the most unestamp the government not merely with quivocal and striking evidence ever guilt, but with infatuation.” The given to ministerial supremacy. French minister at the Court of St The services of the attorney-geneJames's was ordered to leave the ral were in another less wide, but not country, and war was proclaimed. less important province. On the ConThe revolutionary committees in Eng- tinent, the conspirators against the land now assumed increased activity. state would have been thrown into Communications were established be- dungeon for life, or shot. In France, tween them and the Jacobin govern- the idol of the revolutionist of all ment; and while France prepared for countries, they would have been carwar, English republicanism prepared ried before à mob tribunal, their names simply asked, their sentences even this disadvantage arose from an pronounced, and their bodies headless honourable public feeling. The judges within the first half hour. In Eng who examined the papers declared land, they had the benefit of the law them to be high treason. The warin all its sincerity, the assistance of rants of commitment had declared the most distinguished counsel, the them to be high treason. Lord Eldon, judgment of the most impartial tri- in his " anecdotes” of this period, bunal, and the incalculable advantage says, that, “after this, he did not of a trial by men of their own condi- think himself at liberty to let down the tion, feelings, and passions. On the character of the offence." An addi28th of October, at the Old Bailey, tional and still stronger reason is commenced the trial of Hardy, one of given, that“ unless the whole evidence the secretaries of the chief treasonable was laid before the jury, it would have society. The bill brought in by the been impossible that the country should grand jury had included twelve. The have ever been made fully acquainted charges were those of "compassing with the danger to which it was exthe death of the king, and the subver posed. And it appeared to him more sion of the government.” Hardy was essential to the public safety that the a shoemaker, a man of low attain- whole of those transactions should be ments, but active, and strongly repub- published, than that any of these indilican. His activity had made him viduals should be convicted.” This was secretary to the London Correspond- a sentiment which does honour to the ing Society, and by its direction a memory of a great man. He had been member of a similar body, named the urged by his fellow counsel, and proSociety for Constitutional Information, bably by others, to bring the accused The direct object of all those societies to trial only for a misdemeanour, in was the same—to summon a national the expectation of thus being sure of convention, which must, of course, a verdict. But he determined to bring supersede Parliament. As those so- the case before the jury in its true cieties grew more mature, instead of shape, be the result what it might. becoming more rational they exhibited It has been rumoured that this, too, more savage ferocity. Placards were was the opinion of Pitt, in contradicdistributed in the form of a playbill, tion to that of some of the cabinet. announcing, " For the Benefit of John With that pre-eminent man the blood Bull, La Guillotine,” or, “ George's of these criminals could never have Head in a Basket." The airs of their been the object. No servant of the meetings were Ca Ira and the Mar- British crown was ever less chargeable seillaise. Attempts were made to with cruelty. But the true object corrupt the army. It was openly de- was, to expose the treason ; to clared in their harangues, that it was prove to the nation the actual ha
impossible to do any thing without zards of revolutionary intrigue, and to some bloodshed, and that Pitt's and extinguish conspiracy, however the the King's heads would be upon Temple conspirators might escape. The conBar.” The sentiment was general, sequence amply justified this bold and but at the conclusion of the especial candid determination. The conspiharangue in which this atrocious lan- racy was crushed ; all conspiracy was guage was first used, the whole meet- crushed. Nothing of the same degree ing rose up, and shook hands with the of guilt, nor even of the same shape madman by whom it was uttered. of guilt, ever recurred. The lesson
The attorney-general's speech on was not the less complete, for its this occasion was masterly ; English sparing the country the sight of the jurisprudence had never before wit- abhorred scaffold. The conspirators, nessed so striking a combination of though successively acquitted, were refined knowledge with clear arrange- so warned by their peril that they ment and unanswerable facts. It had never sinned again. All, if not conone disadvantage, it was overwhelm- verted, sank into total obscurity. The ingly long; it lasted nine hours, a nation, freed from this nightmare, period, if not beyond the strength of started up in fresh vigour, and began, the advocate, palpably beyond any with a unanimity in its heart, and irpower of attention in the jury. But resistible strength in its hands, that
VOL. LVI. NO. CCCXLVI.
illustrious battle for Europe, which the growing difficulties of that millaccomplished the liberation of man- stone round the neck of English legiskind.
lation, the Popish claims; the retireThe attorney-general had now given ment of Pitt, and the general alarm of such undeniable proofs of fitness for the the nation at its external hazards, highest rank of his profession, that formed a trial of unexampled severity office seemed to fall to him by right to all public men. The death of the of universal acknowledgment; and Great Minister in 1806, (23d of Jaon a vacancy in the Common Pleas, he nuary,) at length broke up the Tory was promoted to the chief-justiceship administration; the Whigs assumed in 1799, and at the same time raised power, and Lord Eldon, of course, reto the peerage by the title of Baron signed the Seals. Eldon. It is an instance of the duti- But the mere official routine of a ful and affectionate nature, which chancellor's life is tremendous. Lord long connexion with the world and Eldon's account of one of his days, the pride of success—the two strongest shows at what a price the honour of temptations to heartlessness—could the Seals must be purchased. In one not extinguish, that he made a point of his letters he says—“Mine has been of writing the first letter which he no easy life. I will tell you what once signed with his title to his aged mo- happened to me. I was ill with the ther. In this interesting document, gout, it was in my feet, and so I was after mentioning his double promotion, carried into my carriage, and from it was and attributing it, “under the bless- carried into court. There I remained all ing of Providence,” to the lessons of the day, and delivered an arduous judgvirtue which he had received from his ment. In the evening, I went straight parents ; he adds—“I hope God's from my court to the House of Lords. grace will enable me to do my duty in There I sat until two in the morning, the station to which I am called. I when some of the lords came and write in some agitation of spirits ; but whispered to me, that I was expected I am anxious to express my love and to speak. I told them that I really duty to my mother, and affection to could not, that I was ill, and could not my sisters, when I first subscribe my- stand. It was an important question, self
, your loving and affectionate son, (the peace of Amiens,) I forgot my ELDON."
gout, and spoke for two hours. Well, Lord Kenyon, then chief-justice of the House broke up, I was carried the King's Bench, pronounced a pane home, and at six in the morning I gyricon this promotion, congratulating prepared to go to bed. My poor left the profession, and especially those seg had just got in ; when I recollected who practised in the Common Pleas, that I had important papers to exaon the appointment of one who would mine; so I put on my clothes, and probably be found “ the most con- went to my study. I'examined the summate judge that ever sat in judg- papers ; they related to the Recorders' ment."
Report, which had to be heard that The step from the office of attorney- day. I was again carried into court, general to the presidency of one of where I had to deliver another arduthe courts, has been not unusual ; but, ous judgment. Again went to the as modern experience has shown, it is House of Lords, and it was not till by no means a necessary procedure. the middle of the second night that I In Lord Eldon's instance, it received got into bed!” Such desperate perthe universal approval of the bar. formances do not occur every day in But he held the chief-justiceship only the life even of lord chancellors ; but for a year and a half, when he was the judicial labours, combined with raised to the summit of the bar, and the political, are too heavy a task for sat down lord chancellor.
the body or the mind of any man. We hasten over the melancholy de- The Whigs are never destined to a tails of the following period. The la- long supremacy. They have never bours of the attorney-general were light come into power but in some perand cheerful compared with the toils verted state of the public feelings. and responsibilities of the chancellor; There must be some terror, or some the disturbed state of the king's mind; infatuation, in the public mind, before