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even when he did well.” This is Burnet's character of the man, in which there possibly may be a good deal of prejudice; but no more need be said to show that he was suited to the times, and the times to him, than that he lived in friendship with Lauderdale, and was actively employed in the business of the sheriffs, and of the charter of the city of London. His conduct, too, in the case of Stephen Colledge, the protestant joiner, whom he took out of “ the magic circle of the sheriff's protection,"* and tried and condemned at Oxford, was such, that if he had lived to see an impeaching parliament, he might have felt the ill effects of it.
Having thus slightly touched upon the characters of so many of the judges, it would be an unpardonable omission to pass over, without particular mention, the chief light and ornament of the English bar, in the reign of Charles. George Jefferies,” said Mr. Booth, in the speech cited above, " I must say, behaved himself more like a jack-pudding, than with that gravity that becomes a judge. He was mighty witty upon the prisoners at the bar: he was very full of his jokes upon people that came to give evidence; not suffering them to declare what they had to say in their own way and method ; but would interrupt them, because they behaved themselves with more gravity than he: and, in truth, the people were strangely perplexed, when they were to give in their evidence; but I do not insist upon this, nor upon the late hours he kept up and down our city: It's said, he was every night drinking till two o'clock, or beyond that time, and that he went to his chamber drunk: but this I have only from common fame, for I was not in his company. I bless God, I am not a man of his principles or behaviour. But in the mornings he appeared with the symptoms of a man that over night had taken a large cup. But that which I have to say is the complaint of every man, especially of them who have any law-suits.". In all this, there is no exaggeration ;-the portrait of Jefferies, as drawn by North himself, in his life of Lord Guilford, # is equally odious and disgusting. Indeed, of all the writers who have attempted a delineation of his character, not one appears to have entirely failed ; just as there are some faces, the lines of which are so harsh and uncouth, as to make it next to impossible for a painter not to succeed in catching the resemblance. Such were the men whom Charles selected to be, not the administrators of justice, but the convenient tools of his own arbitrary
Sir Walter Scott. Notes on Absalom and Achitophel. Dryden, vol. ix.
+ Lord Delamere's Works. I P.567. Also Ret. Rev. vol. ii. p. 251.
government; and according as in this capacity they were useful
and compliant, so were they esteemed and promoted. Even Jefferies himself, as appears from the work before us, lost his favour, not for the wantonness of his behaviour, and his custom of menacing and intimidating others, but for confessing, by his conduct on one occasion, that he himself was not absolutely proof against intimidation. He had been reprimanded, along with Sir Francis Withins, for the crime of abhorring, and the house of commons demanded, as the condition of their suffering the prosecution to drop, that he should surrender his place of Recorder. *
“ The great difficulty, that lay upon the spirits of Sir George Jefferies, was to come off well with the king ; lest this compounding with the commons should confound him at court. Therefore he begged of his majesty, that he would give him leave to surrender his place; which the king was loth to do, because he was of such an overruling genius, and stern behaviour towards men whom he pretended to awe, as enabled him to be very influential among the citizens, and, in other respects, could not be so well employed. He beseeched, entreated, and importuned the king so very much, that, at last, the king granted his request; so, having his majesty's leave to resign, he took his chiding, and was, as he thought, rectus in curia. But the ever facetious king was pleased to laugh, and say, that Sir George Jefferies was not parliament proof; and however he found interest in corners about the court, the king never had a real value for him after.”
The characters of these men, not one of whom but was unfitted either by the infirmities of nature, or want of principle, or profligacy of manners, for the high station which he disgraced, furnish satisfactory evidence how much "inclined to justice” was the prince, by whom they were promoted or displaced at pleasure. Added to their violent demeanour, and the illegality of their proceedings, the irregularity and intemperance of their private life degraded a character, which should always be venerable in the eyes of the public. The licentiousness and buffoonery which overspread the court, circulated throughout the nation, and displayed itself not only in the ordinary resorts of men, but in places most sacred to gravity or decorum. The Lord Chief Justice North, whose private life was untainted by the vices in which men of all ages, ranks, and situations, freely indulged, was seriously recommended by his brother-in-law to keep a mistress, lest his temperance should be looked upon with an evil eye, and visited as an offence by the court. After all this, we certainly were not prepared to expect a conclusion like that, to which the author
Examen, p. 550.
+ Ret. Rev. vol. ii. p. 249.
of the Examen invites his readers :-“ I think I may, without injury to any age affirm, that, in no time since William the Conqueror, have the laws been executed, in all the courts of royal jurisdiction, with more justice, decorum, and impartiality, than in the reign of King Charles II.!"*
But it is not for want of instances of injustice in the king's own personal conduct, that we have dwelt so long on the characters of those whom he raised to the bench, and to whose administration the old Scottish saying, “ show me the man, and I will show you the law,” might have been very generally and justly applied. In the strange practices carried on by the court, in the summer of 1651, to find matter against Lord Shaftesbury, the king was personally implicated, and believed to be chief director. + He complained, indeed, to Lord Halifax and Burnet with great scorn of the imputation that was cast upon him: he said, “ he did not wonder that the Earl of Shaftesbury, who was so guilty of these practices, should attempt to fasten them on others.”
But nothing more need be said on the subject, than that the men whom the court employed on this occasion, such as Dugdale, Tuberville, and others, were the witnesses in the Popish plot, whom the king had, all along, justly believed to be perjured, and on whose evidence so many innocent Catholics had been put to death. This piece of Charles's policy is rather imprudently avowed by King David, in the conclusion of Absalom and Achitophel :
* By their own arts ’tis righteously decreed, Those dire artificers of death shall bleed.
Against themselves their witnesses will swear.” I The proceeding, so ingeniously disguised in the above lines, was, as Burnet has bluntly observed, downright murder; for there is a wide difference between the criminality of those, who, partaking of an universal panic, were unable to exercise their judgement, and swallowed the most egregious fictions,and that of those, who, knowing the witnesses to be false, deliberately employed them to swear away the lives of their political enemies. When Charles took their evidence himself, as he frequently did, and appears to have been fond of doing, he seems to have made a parade of sincerity and fair-dealing. He told those whom he examined on the affair of the Rye-house plot, that he would not have a growing evidence, and charged
Examen, p. 74.
+ Burnet. See Notes on Absalom and Achitophel, in Scott's Dryden, vol. ix. p. 311.
them to tell out at once all they knew. He put no leading questions, as was the common practice; and only asked them, if Oates was in their secret. They answered, that they all looked upon him as such a rogue, that they would not trust him. Upon this, he observed, that he “ found Lord Howard was not among them, and he believed that was upon the same account.” Yet he knew well enough that he was, for that nobleman was all the time in correspondence with the court. In these examinations, he was far from putting on the blustering demeanour which characterized his legal satellites. The same ease and amenity, which his bearing on all occasions discovered, forsook him not even then. He used to jest and laugh, and was familiar even when severe : he told Lord Essex,
his examination before the council, that he was sorry to see him there; and added, you see, my lord, what becomes of your Wapping friends."* "But such pleasantry is more offensive than even the brutality of a Jefferies.
It is not our intention to go into any details respecting the legal murders, exorbitant fines, and long train of enormities, which combine and furnish out one of the blackest pages
of our history: these are wrongs too deeply imprinted, for us to fear they should ever be erased from the memory of Englishmen. But the following facts deserve particular mention, as evincing how capable Charles was of the most flagrant injustice, in cases of a private nature, when he had not even the poor excuse of political expediency to plead. The revenue belonging to the order of the garter was received by the Chancellor, who paid the officers, &c. and the surplus was usually granted by the king to some person for life; out of which he was to defray the charges and fees of admission, when foreign princes and noblemen were elected into the order. This had been given by Charles to Ward, bishop of Salisbury, by a deed, which had the king's hand and seal, but which required to be sealed with that of the order also, in order to become firm and irrevocable. The bishop had probably looked upon this as supererogatory, for he neglected to have it done, but afterwards smarted sufficiently for trusting too much to the royal signature. In the last year of the reign of Charles II, and the first of the precipitate decay of the bishop of Salisbury's intellectuals, some sagacious courtier found out a flaw in this grant; whereupon the bishop was sent for up to London, and obliged to refund the utmost penny, which, in so many years, amounted to a considerable sum; all which his majesty took, without any scruple or remorse.
There is a story in Burnet, of a transaction in which the king was concerned, that is so gross and iniquitous as almost to stagger belief; but Charles gave, in the course of his life, too many proofs how little honour, conscience, and justice weighed with him against pecuniary considerations, to justify us in calling in question the veracity of the historian. A gentleman of a noble family had the misfortune, in a sudden quarrel that arose in a public place, to kill another of the company in the affray. As no marks of any previous malice appeared, the crime did not extend beyond manslaughter; yet he was prevailed upon to confess to an indictment for murder; a pardon being promised him on condition that he did so, and he being threatened with the utmost rigour of the law in case he stood upon his defence. “ After the sentence had passed, it appeared with what design he had been practised upon. It was a rich family, and not well affected to the court; so he was told that he must pay well for his pardon ; and it cost him 16,0001. of which the king had one-half, the other half being divided between two ladies that were great in favour.”
So mercenary was the temper of Charles, or so great his necessities, that he would at any time have sacrificed any minister—abandoned any project-committed any injustice-nay, have even pawned his royal word* for the performance of what he never intended to execute, if he could but procure money, or extort supplies from the commons. The only piece of treason found in Coleman's letters—and yet it was no treason either-was the passage where the king's inconstancy, and his disposition to be brought to any thing for money, were severely reflected upon. Lord Essex told Burnet, he knew the king often took money into his privy purse to defraud his exchequer; for he considered that what was carried thither was not so much his own as the other. And he added, that Sir W. Coventry had once said to him, that, on one occasion, when a plantation cause was heard at the council board, he was concerned to see the king espouse the worst side; and that he went and told him secretly, that it was a vile cause which he was supporting ; the king answered," he had got good money for his support." As early as the year 1662, in a conversation with Lord Clarendon, Charles gave an indication of that laxity of principle, which led him eventually to become a pensioner to the French king. Fouquet, the French minister, was desirous to be on terms of strict friendship with Lord Clarendon, and with a view to rivet the alliance, he sent him the offer of 10,0001. with an assurance, that the same present should be renewed annually. It happened that the king and the duke