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buttress to his throne to be removed, he was willing that the commons should enact what they pleased, in the way of limitations, “to pare the nails of a popish successor.”*
In whatever light Charles's conduct on this occasion is regarded, if it be viewed as a sacrifice of his ease and pleasure to principle, and of his affection to justice, it is still but a solitary example, against which may be set in array, a dire battalion of acts of
gross and palpable injustice. In the proceedings against Sir H. Vane, which we formerly mentioned, and the eagerness he manifested to avail himself of a verdict, unsanctioned even by the letter of the law, he gave an early proof how little he was likely to be influenced in his conduct, by considerations of justice, when opposed to fancied political interests. But the trial and execution of the Marquis of Argyle furnished a yet more flagrant instance, in which we hardly know, whether the servile complaisance of the parliament that condemned him; the perfidy of Monk, who produced against him letters, written in the security of private correspondence ; or the injustice of the king, who permitted the execution of an illegal and iniquitous sentence; deserves the most pointed reprobation. Two successive acts of indemnity, which precluded all inquiry into the former part of Argyle's conduct, left them nothing, on which to found a criminal charge, but his compliance with the usurpation,-a crime common to him with nine-tenths of the whole kingdom. But it seems that a victim, whether one could be legally had or not, was thought requisite ; and this being once determined, the predominant faction had only to consult their envy, jealousy, and hatred, to decide on the person, who was to bear away the sins of the Scottish nation. But there were some previous circumstances, which gave to the conduct of Charles, on that occasion, a shade of deeper atrocity. It is sufficiently clear, from the statement of Clarendon,+ partial and uncandid as it is, that the king either was, or thought himself greatly indebted to Argyle, for services rendered him, when he was in Scotland; and upon them, the Marquis himself appears to have depended not a little, and to have placed considerable confidence in the king's regard. Nor can we think, that the prudence and judgement of that veteran statesman deserves to be called in question, however mistaken the event shewed him to have been, when we know that Charles had given him, under his hand and seal, the strongest possible assurances of his confidence and esteem. They are contained
* Durley's expression, when conversing with Sir John Reresby, Memoirs, p. 70.
+ Continuation of the Life of Lord Clarendon.
in a letter, or declaration, dated St. Johnstown, September 24, 1650. It states, that having taken into consideration the faithful endeavours of the Marquis of Argyle, for restoring him to his just rights, he is desirous to let the world see, by some particular marks of his favour, the trust and confidence, which he reposes in him; and particularly he promises, that he will make him Duke of Argyle, &c.; and he farther promises to hearken to his counsels, and that, whenever it shall please God to restore him to his just rights in England, he will see him paid the forty thousand pounds sterling due to him ;--all which he promises to make good upon the word of a king. * It was, doubtless, a presumption, founded upon these expressions, that led Argyle to labour so hard after a personal interview. He wrote repeatedly by his wife and son, entreating permission to come up and wait upon his majesty ; and Charles, at length, gave an answer, which appeared to encourage him to do so, but did not bind the writer to any thing. “ I have forgot the exact words,” says Burnet, “but there was an equivocating in them, that did not become a prince.” Such as they were, however, they appear to have given the cautious old nobleman a sufficient assurance; for he came up immediately, and so secretly, that he was within Whitehall, before his enemies knew aught of his journey. He despatched his son to the king, to request admittance to his presence, but instead of that, he was sent to the Tower, and thence back, by sea, to Scotland, and what afterwards became of the marquis is known to all men.t
It is a remarkable fact, that whilst England was subject to an usurped authority, the laws had been administered by men of strict integrity; and amidst the utmost virulence of faction, the decrees of the judges had been upright and impartial.I The politic usurper appears to have understood, that an equitable adjustment of differences between man and man, is the interest of even the most arbitrary government; and to haye made the law the great rule of conduct and behaviour for every one but himself. But the reign of Charles II., the age, as it has been called, of good laws, was signalized by an administration of them more corrupt and infamous than ever disgraced the courts of English judicature. The first few years ought, doubtless, to be excepted, when, under the auspices of Clarendon, the courts in Westminster Hall were filled with grave and learned judges; but in drawing a contrast between the times of order and constituted authorities, and those of an illegal government, he has indulged his fancy, and thrown unmerited reflections upon the preceding administration of justice :—" no one com
* Harris's Life of Charles II.
plained without remedy, and every man dwelt again under the shadow of his own vine, without injustice and oppression. * If this be true, it must be allowed, that England was indulged with but a very short repose from violence and illegality. The following picture, though drawn by a parliamentary orator, is corroborated by too many recorded verdicts, to be looked upon as highly coloured or overcharged. “ Our judges,” said Mr. Booth, afterwards Lord Delamere, when speaking on a motion for their impeachment, “have been very corrupt and lordly: taking bribes, and threatening juries and evidence; perverting the law to the highest degree, turning it upside down, that arbitrary power may come in upon their shoulders. The cry of their unjust dealings is great, for every man has felt their hand.”-"Sad creatures,” to use the homely phrase of Burnet, were put into the most important posts; and they were, doubtless, selected by the court as proper instruments to execute the worst purposes of the administration. Holding their places too, durante bene placito, no wonder they did what they thought would please, and that the law became, as it always will in bad and corrupt times, the chosen engine of a tyrannical and vindictive court. Even those who defended them, had nothing to say on the score of their personal merits; for Mr. Finch, when speaking against the impeachment of Scroggs, was compelled to allow, that he was not fit for his place, nor ever had been, and that he had committed crimes deserving of great punishment. And North, the pugnacious defender of every thing and every body that concerned or supported the court, is here obliged to give ground.
“ He was a man that lay too open; his course of life was scandalous, and his discourses violent and intemperate. His talent was wit, and he was master of sagacity and boldness enough; for the setting off of which his person was large, and his visage broad. He had a fluent expression, and many good turns of thought and language. But he could not avoid extremities; if he did ill, it was extremely so, and if well, in extreme also. In the plot, (the Popish plot,) he was violent to insanity, and then receiving intelligence of a truer interest at Court, he was converted, and became all at once no less violent the other
way; which made the plot-drivers and witnesses hate him. And Oates and Bedloe did him the honour to prefer articles to the king in council against him, charging various immoralities; and there was an hearing, but, they failing of proof, he was justified. The occasion of
* Continuation of the Life of Lord Clarendon.
Speech of Colonel Titus. Harris's Life of Charles II.
VOL. VIU. PART I.
his conversion, as I was told by the person, (Lord Chief Justice North,) that administered the means to him, was this. The lord chief justice came once from Windsor with a lord of the privy council in his coach; and among other discourses, Scroggs asked that lord, if the Lord Shaftesbury, who was then lord president of the council, had really that interest with the king he seemed to have? No, replied that lord, no more than your footman has with you. This sunk into the man, and quite altered the ferment, so as, from that time, he was a new
Withins, whom North has occasion to mention, as the first person questioned in parliament for the crime of abhorring, (as it was popularly called,) appears to have possessed no other qualification for his office than extreme servility.-"He was one of moderate capacity in the law, but a voluptuary; and such are commonly very timid, and, in great difficulties, abject; otherwise, he was a very gentile person, what was called a very honest fellow, and no debtor to the bottle.”+
Of Jones and Weston, against whom a motion for impeachment was also made in the House of Commons, though Scroggs was the only one of the three against whom articles were actually prepared, North has given a more favourable, but extremely partial account. The first was “a very reverend and learned judge, a gentleman, and impartial; but being of Welsh extraction, wa apt to warm, and, when much offended, often shewed his heats in a rubor of his countenance, set off by his grey hairs, but appeared in no other disorder; for he refrained himself in due bounds and temper, and seldom or never broke the laws of his gravity.” Mr. Baron Weston was a learned man, but being insupportably tortured with the gout, became of so touchy a temper, that any opposition to his opinion would " inflame him so as to make him appear as if he were mad; but when treated reasonably, no man ever was more a gentleman, &c. than he was."$ His strict regard for justice, North has illustrated by an expression singularly applied. We have heard a woman described to be as chaste, but never before of a judge, who was “as just as the driven snow.” However, with all this, he was a high prerogative man, which our author affirmed an honest learned lawyer must necessarily be.
Pemberton and Saunders, if eminent for their abilities, were, at least, equally notorious for their vices: their portraits, favourably drawn, may be seen at full length in the Life of Lord Guilford, out of which, that of the latter has been extracted into one of our earlier numbers.* “ He was a fetid mass,” says North, “ that offended his neighbours at the bar in the sharpest degree, and this decay came upon him by continual sottishness, for to say nothing of brandy, he was seldom without a pot of ale at his nose, or near him. That exercise was all he used; the rest of his life was sitting at the desk, or piping at home; and that home was a tailor's house in Butcher Row, called his lodging, and the man's wife was his nurse, or worse, &c.”+ “When the court fell into a steady course of using the law against all kinds of offenders, this man was taken into the king's business," in the course of which, it appears, he was deeply involved in the affair of the quo warranto against the City of London, and had the drawing up of all the indictments and informations that were prosecuted in the last year of Charles's reign. Yet he too “was as honest as the driven snow was white.” The king, it seems, had observed him to be of a disposition free, loyal, friendly, and without greediness or guile, and thought of him to be the chief justice at that critical time. “So great a weight was then at stake, as could not be trusted to men of doubtful principles, or such as any thing might tempt to desert them.” He certainly justified the king's discernment, for he stuck immoveably fast to the court, and with his last breath gave judgement in its favour against the City of London, in the iniquitous affair of the charter.
* Examen, p. 568. † Ibid, p. 549.
1 Examen, p. 563.
Ibid, p. 566.
The rise of Pemberton had in it something very remarkable. In his youth he had mixed much with lewd and dissolute company, and quickly squandered all he was possessed of. He then ran so deep in debt, that he was thrown into gaol, where he lay many years, during which he pursued his studies so indefatigably, as to become one of the ablest men of his profession. Though a high prerogative man, it would seem, that he was not sufficiently violent or unscrupulous to satisfy the court, for he was removed from the Common Pleas to make way for Jones, the fiery Welshman above commemorated. It was thought,” says Burnet, "that his stating the matter with so little eagerness against Lord Russell, was that which cost him his place.” The character of North, though less open to exception than that of any other of the judges employed by Charles, is not one for which we can entertain the least portion of respect. It is only certain kinds of trees that can Hourish in certain soils; and under the shadow of an oppressive and illegal court, he attained to the highest promotion. “He had parts turned to craft, and was thought to mean ill,
* Vol. ii. p. 252.
+ North's Life of Lord Guilford. | Burnet.