Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

whether the memorandum in pencil and the reply to Camden can be reconciled, so as to acquit Loughborough of having solemnly disclaimed the fact of his ever having given the arbitrary advice.' We think the reader will agree with us that if any escape be left, it is by a very narrow loophole. Perhaps so dexterous an artist in language never stood more awkwardly committed.

The sequel is no new story. Thurlow, on getting a private hint of the first real symptoms of recovery in the King, abruptly withdrew from his correspondence with the Foxites. Loughborough, unaware of the sources of Thurlow's new movement, was re-animated ; Fox wrote joyfully that the embarrassment was now got rid of—that the Chief Justice should be Chancellor quamprimùm. But while, as Lord Campbell says, he was drawing up lists of secretaries, and luxuriating in the great vision of the emblazoned bag, the recovery declared itself, and the crockery of Alnaschar was in bits.

Loughborough continued a steady Foxite, and on a most confidential footing at Carlton House, until the next grand crisis in our political history; but we shall not pursue the subsequent details. His share in the private communications between Burke, the Duke of Portland, and other old Whigs, on the one side, and Mr. Pitt on the other, had already been well developed in the Malmesbury Correspondence; and the other political matters in which he was concerned have all been recently before us in that work and the Lives of Eldon and Sidmouth. The student has, in short, little to learn about Loughborough's ultimate attainment of the grand object of his ambition, in January, 1793—or the circumstances which einbittered his tenure of the woolsack -or even the melancholy complication of distrusts that brought it to a close in the spring of 1801.

There is, indeed, one paper in this book (new to us) which will reward study in reference to the simultaneous dismissal of Mr. Pitt and Loughborough in 1801:- it is a Vindication of his Conduct, drawn up some time afterwards by the ex-Chancellor, and by bim communicated, with that title, to several of his friends. This is a curious paper certainly, but far too long to be copied by us, and one of which any abridgment would be valueless, for everything depends in all such cases on the ipsissima verba, and these are the verba of the wary

Wedderburn.' On the whole it is painful to read. It exhibits the deep consciousness that he lay under grave suspicions, and with all his exquisite art he leaves the suspicion heightened that there had been some shuffling on his part—some very questionable réticence in respect of messages and documents meant by Pitt to be conveyed to the King by the Chancellor. With respect to the more important points in the

transaction,

G 2

transaction, the paper leaves all exactly as it seemed to stand on closing the Life of Sidmouth. Loughborough, for example, clearly denies that Lord Castlereagh ever had any sort of authority to hold out Einancipation as a measure likely to be recommended upon the ratification of the union with Ireland; and asserts his belief that Lord Castlereagh acted precisely on his instructions, and in treating with the Irish Romanists made offer of no concessions whatever on church matters, except in a better arrangement as to the payment of tithes and a pecuniary provision for the priests—'to neither of which the King ever made any objection. It is to be observed that Lord Campbell, who • declines the invidious task of commenting upon this document,' has given it without any date, and the exact time might bare been of great use in its application. We should be curious to know whether there is nothing to illustrate the reception and effect of this Vindication among the MS. treasures-rich indeed they must be of Melville Castle!

Whatever may have been Loughborough's indirectness in the closing period of Pitt's first government, we have no doubt that the grand cause of his fall was George III.'s distrust of his integrity generally. He had ratted too often and on too many questions. He had been pro-American and anti-Americanpro-reformer and anti-reformer-admirer of the French revolution and vilifier of it-a pro-Catholic and an anti-Catholic by turns ;-he had wheeled right about twice over upon almost everything--and it is hard for any man to obtain entire credit for honesty, when he walks about in the world's great masquerade with the label of so many tergiversations. But, moreover, he was well stricken in years; his administration of the proper business of the Chancery, though respectable, had not been eininently distinguished; he had not invested his judicial character with any overawing idea. To displace him was not like removing a Hardwicke-and it was to make way for an Eldon.

On retirement he received a pension of 40001. a-year, and as he had no children, the earldom of Rosslyn was granted to him with remainder to his sister's son, Sir James St. Clair Erskine, a cadet of the family of Mar, and representative, through a female, of the Barons bold' who sleep in the chapel of Rosslyn. But for this connexion it is not likely that Loughborough would have chosen a title from a Scotch locality. Soon after his father's death he sold Chesterhall,— enough,' as Edie Ochiltree says, “to gar the auld man turn in his coftin.' He had never visited his native country since he shook her dust from off his feet in 1757. There never was anything Scotch in his aspect - his figure was rather short, but his features, though

not

not strictly regular, were delicate—the nose aquiline—the eyes (we quote the words of one who well remembers him on the woolsack) deep set, and in general darkly tranquil, but now and then of an unbearable brightness — like burning brass ;' the contour and complexion oval and Italian. He might have made a good study for a General of the Jesuits.

He early cvercame most perfectly his northern dialect and accent; and we can well believe that during several winters his chief study had been Garrick. No more finished elocutionist ever appeared in Parliament. It is said by Lord Brougham that in his latter years, when strength was oozing away at all points, the original Doric began to be again perceptible; but this is stoutly denied by a surviving niece, who lived in his house. The changes in his temper, or at least his demeanour, appear to have been almost as remarkable as those he went through in his political capacity. The violence and presumption of his younger days had disappeared before he reached any prominent position here- he was The blandest of Chancellors, the most courteous of gentlemen. His bearing was as noble as that of any man born to the highest bereditary station—and amidst all the vicissitudes of a busy career he maintained scholar-like tastes-such as might entitle him to share the better social hours of a Fox. It is creditable to biin that in a very angry time he overlooked all party feelings in behalf

of the struggling Mackintosh. Both Lord Brougham and Lord Campbell say expressly that the English lawyers as a body were proud of having a man of such accomplishments at their head.

We do not pretend to have any deep reverence for this Chancellor ; but, after all, there is something to be said for him in those of his political turns which his biographer regards as the most lamentable. As to one of them, indeed, Lord Campbell adınits frankly that it was made in company with many men of the most spotless honour-Portland, Spencer, &c., &c.—and with the brightest and loftiest genius of the time—Burke; and in the presence of such names he is modest enough to confine his wrath to Loughborough, whom he assumes to have been, unlike the others, insincere. However, it must be owned that even Loughborough might express warm approbation of the French Revolution in its early period, and yet denounce it as the most hideous of iniquities when it had reached a fuller development, without er facie meriting Lord Campbell's severity. In the other case, the Catholic question, there is also a point of some consequence that may be taken in his favour. When he advocated the Emancipation principle Ireland was a separate kingdom, with her own legislature and her own established church. A member of the English House of Commons might then consider the safety of the

Protestant

Protestant establishment in Ireland as a secondary question, and yet take a very different view when the Union was on the carpet -still more after the Union was a fact. Lord Loughborough's opposition to the Catholic claims was grounded, primarily, on the danger to the Church of England-secondly, on the fixedness of the King's conscientious objections to the measure. This latter point was not within his sphere until he was Chancellor. From the time when he as Chancellor was first consulted on the subject, the Union was in contemplation also, and in every deliberation on the general case it was assumed, as the clearest result of all the preliminary inquiries, that the union of the kingdoms could never be effected unless the Irish Protestants were to be tranquillized by the inclusion in the Act itself of the complete union and incorporation of the two established churches. Before Mr. Pitt's first government was imperilled by the Catholic question, that incorporation had been solemnly completed. Loughborough always argued that Catholic Emancipation must by-and-bye destroy the Irish Establishment, and that after a Union of Church and State that Establishment could not be destroyed without the gravest ultimate peril to the Church in England itself. And it is perhaps even now too soon to assume that the Chancellor's view was erroneous.

To conclude—the Earl of Rosslyn did nothing to protract the consideration of Lord Loughborough. He spent much of his time at a villa which he rented near Windsor, in the sole view, according to both Lord Brougham and Lord Campbell, of keeping himself before the royal eye, and greatly delighting in occasional admissions to the Castle, which inferred, however, no abatement of the royal prejudice. At the age of seventy-two the forgotten Earl died— January 1, 1805—and the present biographer tells, as if he believed it, that on hearing he was gone King George, who was shaving himself, observed, Then he has not left a greater knave behind him in my dominions'—with the addition that when Thurlow heard of this gracious saying he muttered, “I perceive that his Majesty is at present sane.'

Lord Brougham says that his stock of law was extremely slender, and Lord Campbell seems to adopt this view pretty nearly. We suppose he was of Talleyrand's opinion, that no wise man will ever do for himself what he can get another to do for him. It seems certain that both at the bar and on the bench he contrived to make uncommonly liberal use of the endowments and industry of obscurer persons.

Both his recent critics fully admit his surpassing eminence both as an advocate and in parliamentary debate, Of the Chancellor our present author kindly observes that he was

at least free from faults and follies that have made others in that station odious or ridiculous. He discredits the popular notion

of

one

of his infidelity, with some story of his having been converted in his last years by reading Burgh on the Divinity,' which book, he says, might have benefited a heretic, but would never have been prescribed for a disciple of Hume. This story is in Mr. Wilberforce's very gossiping correspondence, where no could expect to find a man of Loughborough's stamp considered as having much claim to the name of a Christian. In his private morals he was unimpeached : this irregular enough Beauty' affords Lord Campbell no pretext for an Ovidian chapter. We are only told that he was the decorous husband of two rich and barren wives.

In his mode of living he was generous and magnificent; with him the grandeur of the Cancellarian pomp and circumstance seems to have ceased and determined. The regal dignity of the two coaches was too costly for Lord or Lady Eldon's calculations ; and the judicial dinners of the old régime, after dwindling into breakfasts, are now, as we understand, only shadowed by bows. Lord Campbell seems to dwell regretfully on the stately hospitalities of Loughborough ; and for the rest, though 'surrendering him to severe censure as a politician,' the biographer says, • It will be found that he not only uniformly conformed to the manners and rules supposed to distinguish a gentleman, but that in his changes of party he was never guilty of private treachery, and never attempted to traduce those he had deserted.' There are two or three more drops of sweetness at the bottom of the flask: Although his occupations after his fall were not very dignified, perhaps he was as harmlessly employed in trying at Windsor to cultivate the personal favour of the old King, as if he had gone into hot opposition, or had coquetted with all parties in the House of Lords in the vain hope of recovering his office.'

We have perhaps dwelt too long on Loughborough—but that case is the one in which Lord Campbell has added most to the previous stock of biographical details, and also in which he has made his most valuable contribution to our national history. Neither of the remaining essays claims any historical importance ; and the longer one of the two, by much the longest in the whole work, has really added almost nothing to our materials for estimating Lord Eldon.

The Life of Erskine has a great deal of novelty, and very interesting novelty, in its personal anecdotes; for the family appear to have been exceedingly liberal in the communication of letters; and Lord Campbell could draw largely on the floating anecdotes of Whig and legal society-above all, on his own recollections of the rich and terse table-talk of his father-in-law, Lord A binger. But he has only filled up the outline of Lord Brougham; and we could not hope to offer any abridgment of the story that would be acceptable after that masterly Sketch.

Lord

« ZurückWeiter »