« PoprzedniaDalej »
dilatory. That has been often and I admit most fairly imputed to me; to all who accuse me of it, I wish to give as my answer the passage I allude to," &c. We shall only add one passage more as being the result of a professional rather than a political judgment, and, therefore, more entitled to credit for impartiality, for though professional prejudices are strong they must yield in intensity and in injustice to political animosity.
"Of the value of Lord Eldon's judgments, though sometimes too tardily pronounced, it would be superfluous to enlarge. The grammarian or rhetorician * may find fault with the structure of the sentences. The worthy judge himself, a bad judge of style, found fault with the reporters for reducing to some limit their excessive length. But these sentences the real-property lawyer will fix in his memory, and disregard, as much as their author, the want of paint and drapery. The worth of some few may be impaired by leaving the question with which the court had to grapple in abeyance, or by keeping too closely to minute details, and their practical application. But in revising his decisions we should remember
that he who comes latest has, as to general principles, nothing to invent and little to add. That he has the less brilliant though more difficult task of distinguishing the effect of these principles, of reconciling the ever-growing variety of precedents, and of guarding the application of old principles and precedents to a new cause from any doubt as to the precise points to which such authorities are applied. Lords Nottingham and Hardwicke may be considered the fountains of equity law. It was reserved for Lord Eldon to illustrate them both, as Coke illustrated Littleton, by the admirable commentaries he has preserved on the decisions of his predecessors."
We shall now add a few critical sketches of the character of some of the most eminent of Lord Eldon's contemporaries in the law, not only for the just and pleasing records of their worth, but for the discriminating judgment shown in estimating their various talents and acquirements. Those interested in the subject may have the leisure and curiosity to compare the present portraits of some of the persons with those sketched by Lord Brougham in his Gallery of the Statesmen of the time of George. III. and, as regards some of the others, perhaps the present recollection of them, drawn fresh as it is from life, may be the only one rendered permanent, by being incorporated in a popular work like the present. To our minds these tributes, however small, to departed excellence of whatever kind are eminently gratifying, especially when the picture is brightened by the strokes of the artist's pencil, who was familiar with the lineaments he adventured to draw. They remind us of those noble and generous testimonies which the great Roman statesman and orator so loved to bear to his scarcely less great rivals either in the forum or the senate, and which forms one of those portions of the remains of his enchanting eloquence to which we are never tired of referring. It is in these divine pages that the names of Crassus and Hortensius, of Pollio and Licinius, still survive, though every relic of the splendid triumphs of their genius has long passed away. That their names still live in the fame and memory of ages, is entirely owing to the circumstance of having had Cicero as their friend; and, as Seneca truly observes of another person still more generally known, "Nomen Attici perire Ciceronis epistolæ
in a decision; and conscience, I trust, will then make you as doubtful, as timid, and, consequently, as dilatory, as I am accused of being," &c. Butler's Rem. p. 264.
*In our opinion the construction of sentences, and the general composition in Lord Eldon's speeches and letters, is so devoid of correctness and eloquence, as to contradict a belief we would willingly entertain, that a clear-headed man must express himself clearly.-REV.
† See Law Magazine, No. XVII. p. 351. GENT. MAG. VOL. XXIII.
non sinùnt. Nihil illi profuisset gener Agrippa, et Tiberius progener, et Drusus pronepos; inter tam magna nomina taceretur, nisi Cicero illum applicuisset." v. Senec. Ep. 21.
SIR W. GRANT.
"Of the judges presiding over any of the courts of equitable jurisdiction in the chancellorship of Lord Eldon the only one at all comparable to him in the administration of equity was Sir William Grant, the Master of the Rolls, who retired in the Christmas vacation of 1817. He had not enjoyed an extensive practice at the bar, but, Mr. Pitt wisely deeming that consideration a secondary one in the case of a person possessing such capacity and such acquirements, selected him, in 1799, for Solicitor-General. After discharging with an unsurpassed credit the legal as well as the parliamentary duties of his office, he was advanced, in 1801, to the dignity of Master of the Rolls. He came to the bench without the benefit of that experience in matters of court-practice which not unfrequently forms the main stock in trade of inferior advocates. But his care and industry soon supplied that one deficiency, and there was then nothing left to be desired. If he did not possess the almost intuitive perception and universal range of legal learning by which Lord Eldon as soon as the facts were before him saw their whole relation and result in connection with all the law which bore upon them, yet Sir William Grant was profound in the great principles of our equitable jurisprudence, and had, like Lord Eldon and Lord Lyndhurst, the rare and high power of holding his mind until the very close of all the arguments, unbiassed for or against any view of the case, or any party in it, and open to any light from whatever quarter. Availing himself of these faculties, he maintained on the bench an almost unbroken reserve, and, except when explanation of some fact was wanting, forbore from any interruption of counsel, either by question or observation; insomuch that, among the junior wits of the law, he bore the technical appellation of 'equity reserved.' His closeness, however, savoured nothing of incivility, and he enjoyed in the fullest degree from the bar the respect and regard ever paid by that justly jealous body to those judges, but to those alone, who duly observe the reciprocal courtesies of their station. His judgments were models of judicial composition, and the Master of the Rolls had no more earnest admirer than the Lord Chancellor. Sir William Grant for many
years after his elevation to the bench re tained his seat in the House of Commons. He spoke there seldom, but always with great impression, from the vigorous plainness of his style, and that great faculty of giving effect to argument which was aptly termed in him the genius of common sense.'"*
"In looking round at the close of the preceding year for assistance in the judicial business of the House of Lords the government had turned its attention to the qualifications of the Attorney-General, Sir Robert Gifford. He was a lawyer of good abilities and of still better fortune. He had early distinguished himself in the Court of King's Bench by a terse way of putting his points, and had become a favourite with the judges, if not by any great grasp of mind or depth of knowledge, yet, by the succinctness of his arguments, the readiness of his apprehension, and the respectfulness of his demeanour. For the technical part of his profession his neat mind was remarkably well qualified; and, having succeeded in little things, he was thought likely to suffice for greater. He was, therefore, at the early age of about forty, very strongly recommended by several of the common-law judges for the office of Solicitor-General, and obtained it accordingly. In the House of Commons, as he attempted nothing, he can hardly be said to have failed. Quitting the courts of common law, to which he had been bred, he started as a leader in the Court of Chancery, in the business whereof it was apprehended that his acquaintance with the law of real, that is, landed, property, would give him some advantage. He, however, had but little to do there, and gained no accession of fame from his manner of doing it. Succeeding to the office of Attorney-General, he was, of course, entrusted with the conduct of the Queen's trial; and he discharged the important duty of opening that great issue, just as might have been expected from a lawyer who was in no wise a man of the world, and who knew little, if any thing, of the class of judges he was there addressing, or of the popular influences then beginning to work on the humours and the fears of the legislature. He however acquired some insight into
*See some judicious observations on Sir W. Grant's style of parliamentary oratory in the Memoirs of Mr. Horner.-REV.
these matters in the course of the trial, and acquitted himself with ability in his reply. At the close of 1823 the resignation of Sir Robert Dallas having made a vacancy in the Chief Justiceship of the Common Pleas, Sir Robert Gifford was promoted to that office with a peerage; and, in the spring of 1824, he was transferred from the Common Pleas to the Rolls, as the successor of Sir Thomas Plumer. The appointment was not satisfactory to the Chancery bar; and their disfavour, joined to his own want of early experience in equity practice, made the Rolls Court somewhat difficult and uncomfortable to him. He took great pains, however, and, being naturally quick to learn, he would, probably, had he lived for a few years, have surmounted many of his disadvantages; although in almost everything he did there was visible a constraint which seemed to result from fear of getting beyond his depth, and unwillingness that this depth should be too accurately sounded. It was in the judicial business of the House of Lords where the jurisdiction is merely appellate, and where points, therefore, can seldom arise on the sudden, that he was seen to the greatest advantage. In the disposal of the Scotch appeals, more especially, he gave much satisfaction, and was of material use in enabling Lord Eldon to devote a greater portion of his time to the duties of the Court of Chancery," &c.
"Lord Stowell had the good fortune to live in an age of which the events and circumstances were peculiarly qualified to exercise and exhibit the high faculties of his mind. The greatest maritime questions which had ever presented themselves for adjudication,-questions involving all the most important points both in the rights of belligerents and in those of neutrals,arose, in his time, out of that great war in which England became the sole occupant of the sea, and held at her girdle the keys of all the harbours of the globe. Of these questions, most of them of first impression, a large proportion could be determined only by a long and cautious process, of reference to principle, and induction from analogy. The genius of Lord Stowell, at once profound and expansive, vigorous and acute, impartial and decisive, penetrated, marshalled, and mastered all the difficulties of these complex inquiries; till, having sounded all their
depths and shoals,' he framed and laid down that great comprehensive chart of maritime law which has become the rule of his successors, and the admiration of the world. What he thus achieved in the wide field of international jurisprudence, he accomplished also with equal success in the narrower sphere of ecclesiastical, matrimonial, and testamentary law. And though where so many higher excellences stand forth that of style may seem comparatively immaterial, it is impossible not to notice that scholar-like finish of his judicial compositions, by which they delight the taste of the critic, as by their learning and their logic they satisfy the understanding of the lawyer. Like Lord Eldon, he was more repelled by fears of change than attracted by hopes of improvement. On questions, therefore, which involved any kind of disturbance, whether legal, political, or ecclesiastical, his voice was almost always against the mover; or if he opposed not with his voice, as he was little given to parliamentary display, he resisted with a steady vote and an influence which, from his learning, his station, and his close connection and communion with the Chancellor was vastly potential. But he was not more stubborn in legislation than he was free and facile in society; he lived with all the best political and literary company, and to the latest period of his London life his presence was coveted at all the most agreeable tables of the time, without distinction of party."
"There are but few materials for estimating the judicial merits of Lord Erskine. In truth, his celebrity does not so naturally connect itself with the equity bench as with the common-law bar. When he came to the Court of Chancery he had not been very conversant with those particular departments of jurisprudence through which the science of equity is most easily approached; and he remained not long enough in that court to become familiar with all its principles. His decisions, therefore, are, perhaps, of less authority than that of some judges, much his inferiors both in strength of understanding and in reach of thought, but more versed in the doctrine and practice of equitable jurisprudence. His fame, however, may well afford to waive any claim upon the short annals of his chancellorship. For more than a quarter of a century
There are a few Latin epitaphs and inscriptions scattered in the volumes by Lord Stowell, of which the composition is very classical and correct.-Rev.
he had been the foremost advocate in those courts which hold supreme jurisdiction of liberty and life; and the record which his corrected speeches have preserved of him, such as then he was, will best enable his successors and his country to appreciate, however hopeless it may be to equal, his earnest and brilliant eloquence, his logical reasoning, his exquisite tact, his instinctive quickness, his attaching courtesy, and his indomitable courage."
SIR JOHN LEACH.
"Mr. Leach, then a considerable leader in the Court of Chancery, received the honour of knighthood, and succeeded to the office of Vice-Chancellor. This judge had a great desire to unite, with the distinction he had earned as a man of talents, the reputation also of a man of ton. Having mixed but little in his early days with the higher classes of society, for whose conversation, indeed, neither his original education nor his subsequent acquirements had very well adapted him, he made the mistake of supposing that a gentleman ought to have something artificial in demeanour and delivery; and thus he contracted an affectation of manner, in which levity and primness was somewhat fantastically blended. The Prince of Wales, always a nice observer upon taste and manners, was particularly diverted with this foible in a man of Sir John Leach's station and abilities. The Anecdote Book relates the following story.
"It has long been the habit to give the Chancellor, carrying his purse, the nickname of Bags.' When Sir John Leach was Chancellor to the Prince, he also had a purse; and the Prince said, as Sir John was not so rough in his manners as a King's Chancellor usually was, but a much more polite person, he should call him Reticule.' Some of his talents were
Made a speech
extraordinary, and had gained him a just distinction in Parliament as well as at the Bar. He delivered himself with great clearness and neatness of expression, and his judgments showed an extensive knowledge of the practice of his Court. He, however, trusted too much to his quickness, and sometimes suffered it to hurry him from his propriety. From the readiness with which he apprehended facts, the most numerous and complicated, he fancied that the same rapid glance had made him master of all their legal bearings too. The consequence was, that, jumping to his conclusions, he often heard with impatience the arguments at the Bar, and, when points were pertinaciously pressed, was not always courteous to Counsel.* If he would have suffered himself to suppose it possible that any conception of his own could be mistaken, he might have held a high place among the judges of our Courts of Equity; but, from his haste to dispose of the causes before him by breaking them down prematurely, his decisions have failed to obtain the full praise which perhaps they intrinsically deserve. Though his address was not agreeable, his disposition was friendly; and, in spite of some littlenesses, he was a high-spirited and firm man. There were no misgivings, no qualms in his courage; and severe afflictions of bodily disease, which more than once acquired the application of the knife, were borne by him with unflinching fortitude."
*Lord Brougham records that certain wits used to call the Chancellor's Court oyer sans terminer," and that of the Vice-Chancellor's, "terminer sans oyer." It once happened that all the causes in Sir John Leach's Court were cleared by him before the end of Term, and that three or four days were left, in which nothing remained to do. Somebody asked how the judge was to fill up his time. "Why," said Sir George Rose," let him have his causes set down again, and hear the other side." Sir Samuel Romilly said, "The tardy justice of the Chancellor was better than the swift injustice of his deputy." We add some humorous lines by Mr. Rose, now Sir G. Rose, in which this habit of the Vice-Chancellor is not overlooked.
Angry, neat, but wrong;
On the other part
Was heavy, dull and long.
"Mr. Perceval was inestimable to his party as a parliamentary leader; but he was not very generally regarded as meriting that character of a great statesman,' which is thus claimed for him by the friendship of Lord Eldon. He did indeed possess many efficient talents and high faculties, and particularly and eminently
one which is now justly esteemed among a statesman's most essential endowments, the firmness necessary to check the march of self-entitled Liberalism, with its train of noisy, lawless camp-followers. But in politics the values of certain qualities vary with the times; and in Mr. Perceval's day, when the best informed classes of so ciety, who now feel it needful to make a stand against progressive movement, were favourable at least to such an amount of change as might adjust the old institutions of the country to its modern exigen. cies, the unyielding resolution of the Mi nister found but little sympathy among persons unconnected with his party. So far from being acccounted to him for a virtue, it was set down as his chief defect. With somewhat more of justice, he was reputed to be deficient in extent and comprehensiveness of view. The course of his earlier life had not left him sufficient leisure for studying the general philosophy of politics, and the safe limits of the antagonist forces which mingle in the constitution of a free community. Belonging by birth and connection to a party whose great maxim was to keep things as they were, he had taken it for granted that their prescriptive opinions must be right. Of those opinions he was suddenly called from his profession to become the ministerial champion; and whatever tended to shake or even qualify them, he regarded as prejudicial to the monarchy and to the Church, to both of which he was sincerely attached. He, therefore, with the daunt less courage of his nature, directed the whole force of a strong and ready, though near-sighted, mind against innovation in general, without sufficiently distinguish ing in favour of demonstrated improve ment. But his opposition, however zealous, was generous and frank; and though, from the want of early training for that kind of conflict, he was under some disadvantage in his first struggles with the practised politicians of the Whig opposition, yet he took up, and employed with so much quickness, judgment, and spirit, the materials furnished to him by his colleagues and subalterns, that, possessing also the gift of a correct and perspicuous style, he soon became, by the confession of all parties, one of the most powerful debaters of his time. He had personal qualities, too, which contributed materially to his acceptation in debate. His domestic virtues, his fidelity to his friends, his ardent and almost flagrant zeal, his sincerity, his disinterestedness, his unaffected piety, his extensive benevolence and charity, all told upon his parliamentary position, and fortified him as a Minister, by the regard which they won for him as
a man. No kindlier tribute was ever bestowed upon the memory of a rival than the graceful allusion to his death in Mr. Canning's celebrated speech of the 22nd of the following June, on the Roman Calic question :-When I first gave notice of this motion (early in the month of May), I expected that my most formidable antagonist upon it would be my late lamented friend; and I should have argued the question with him in no other spirit and with no other feelings than
If a brother should a brother dare'
to the proof and exercise of arms. I know not who is to buckle on his armour against me this day. Would to God that he were here to wield his weapons with his own hand that the cause had the advantage of his abilities, so we had the benefit of his presence,
"In early life, Lord Londonderry, then Lord Castlereagh, by the measures which he took as a member of the Irish Government for suppressing the rebellion and effecting the Union, had incurred the virulent hatred of the demagogues of Ireland; and his official reputation afterwards sustained much damage from the failure of the Walcheren expedition, fitted out under his management. But when, on the death of Mr. Perceval, he succeeded to be leader of the House of Commons, he evinced powers, both of general counsel and of departmental administration, which rapidly raised him into high esteem; and the ability with which he negotiated the great settlement of Europe at the conclusion of the war definitively placed him, by general consent, in the foremost rank of the statesmen of his time. Strangers, visiting the gallery of the House of Commons in the expectation of a rhetorical display from its leader, were generally disappointed in Lord Castlereagh, whose ordinary language, abundantly fluent, was wanting both in force and in correctness;
although now and then, on subjects of special excitement, he would rise for a short time into a strain which few of his adversaries could equal. In the judgment, however, of persons who understood the practical objects of Parliamentary debate, his general defects of style were fully compensated by those other more essential merits which he eminently combinedhis long experience and accurate knowledge of public affairs-his leading spirit, his clearness and grasp of understanding, his judicious selection of topics, his gal