ePub 版

advances—by courting occasionally the conservative party of the day against his own adherents, and then-by way of compensation —making a more furious plunge into the other extreme; and finally leaving every question more desperate than when he attempted to remedy it, Sunderland was the primum mobile of the mischief. By his external advantages of birth and fortune, joined to a polish and pliancy of manner which induced the king to forgive and forget the zeal and intemperance of his former opposition, he was perhaps the only man in England who could have kept together the discordant materials of which his ministry was composed—the only one who had the “mingled indolence and impetuosity' which could breed such desperate resolves, and the baleful influence which could secure their execution. But alone he would not have sufficed to such extensive mischief. There were still laws in England, and it was necessary to pervert them and poison the fountains of justice, before the frame of the constitution could be radically disorganized. He found, for this purpose, a fit associate and agent in Lord Chancellor Jeffreys.

• A person,' says Sir James Mackintosh, whose elevation to unusual honour and trust is characteristic of the government that he served.

• His powers of mind were extraordinary; his elocution, flowing and spirited ; and, after his high preferment, in the few instances where he preserved temper and decency, the native vigour of his intellect shone forth, and threw a transient dignity over the coarseness of his deportment.'—p. 11.

• The union of a powerful understanding with boisterous violence and the basest subserviency singularly fitted him for the tool of a tyrant. He had that reputation for boldness which many men possess, as long as they are personally safe, by violence in their counsels and in their language.'-p. 12.

• His scurrilous invectives, and the tones and gestures of menace with which he was accustomed to overawe juries, roused the indignation, instead of commanding the acquiescence, of the Lords. As this deportment cuts off all honourable retreat, the contemporary accounts are very probable, which represent him as sinking at once from insolence to meanness.'—p. 45.

Sir James Mackintosh, though he notices cursorily a case of the Lord Chancellor's ' flaming drunkenness' on a solemn occa sion, thought it, we suppose, beneath the dignity of history to preserve the details of what he describes as insolence and meanness.' We are sorry for it; we should have liked to compare

them with some modern proceedings; which are, we think, curiousnay, important-enough, to deserve to be rescued from the ephemeral fate of a newspaper report.

We should be curious to know whether Jeffreys ever, in his place in parliament-where it was his special duty to preserve and

give the example of decency and order-characterized an opinion of one of the bishops as . a cloak for hypocrisy-a trap for tender consciences--and only suited to the uses of HYPOCRITES and JESUITS !— whether he ever ventured—when a noble Peer had denied that he had committed some technical irregularity imputed to him by the Chancellor- to reply, That it did not follow, as a matter of course, that because a person denied having done a thing, he did not, in point of FACT, do it. The noble Duke might have thought he was not doing so, but that did not alter the FACT. He had heard persons deny, a thousand times, FACTS, of which they were afterwards convicted!

(Homo disertus non intelligit eum quem contradicit laudari a se!'*)-But when censured for this unparalleled indecorum,' we suspect Jeffreys had too proud a spirit to have defended himself by saying, That he had not contradicted the noble Duke as to matter of fact, but only as to matter of opinion.'

We should like to know whether, a bill having been, on debate and division, admitted by the House of Lords to a second reading, Jeffreys ever entered a protest in such terms as the following:

• Dissentient, because it appears to me extremely discreditable to any legislative assembly to entertain a measure, &c.

• Because it avowedly seeks to check drunkenness; as if that were the only vice now calling for prevention,' &c.

Because it appears to me, that countenancing a measure so framed and liable to such objections, is calculated to lower the authority of this House, exposing it to be charged with motives neither creditable to its wisdom and impartiality, &c.'Times, May 19, 1834.

We doubt whether it ever could have happened to Jeffreys, to tell individual Peers that there was no business to be done on a certain night, and when they, on this assurance, had withdrawn, to introduce two bills of great importance, which there was every reason to believe those very Peers would have stayed to oppose. We do, however, think it not unlikely, that if Jeffreys had done so and had been subsequently reproached for it by one of the Peers so deceived, he might have answered—not by apology for his error, or regret at the misapprehension, whichever it wasbut byassuring the noble Lord, and he begged that he might weigh and deliberate upon it as much as he pleasedthat he (the Lord Chancellor) would not go out of his way an inchno, not a hair's breadthto save any measure of his from the observations, or any speech of his from being answered, by either the noble Earl, or the ILLUSTRIOUS Duke, or the noble * Cic. Phil. ii.


Duke. There might be some other Lords whose presence he could dispense

with on certain occasions, but their absence or presence was alike indifferent to him!!!'

We leave such exhibitions of good manners, good temper, good logic, and good faith, to the indignant pen of future Mackintoshes.

The other members of King James's cabinet either retired so early, or were so little influential in the choice or conduct of measures, that the historian has done little more than tell their names and sketch their characters. They appear in the first act, but had little or no share in the subsequent business of the piece. One of high birth and prospects, of no ordinary talents, and known to be well affected to the church and its connexion with the state-impaired his usefulness by having too long, and too often complied and co-operated with men of directly opposite principles. Another was discredited by his inconsistency by having been a zealous member of former and adverse administrations, and by having changed, within a short period, every principle of his life, except the love of office. Another filled a considerable place with credit, but had little ostensible share in the public councils, and was rather a diligent officer who confined himself to his own department, than a minister taking an active part in the general direction of the state. Such men became mischievous, not by their own intentions, but by giving countenance to their more prominent and bolder colleagues, and by misleading the public to believe, that as long as persons of moderation and constitutional principles remained in the cabinet, no serious injury could be intended to the institutions of the country. Both they and the public discovered the mistake- but too late. They had participated, like many other well-meaning men, says Sir James Mackintosh, in the invasion of our civil institutions, but when the design of overthrowing the church was openly avowed, they resisted and retired. Their secession did at the moment no good-on the contrary, it left the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, and their satellites, more at liberty to pursue their iniquitous designs, and they were not sorry to throw off a cloak which, from having been a shelter, had now become an embarrassment. The abler persons among the retiring ministers, however, retrieved in a great measure their character, and were thereby enabled, at a subsequent period, to contribute mainly to the restoration of the ancient constitution.

The foreign policy of James's Cabinet stood on a base double in appearance-single in reality. An intimate, or rather subservient, alliance with France—and an implacable and almost personal enmity to Holland and its sovereign ; in every point of view a most disgraceful and disastrous combination : for, as Sir James Mackintosh truly urges, Holland is the natural ally of Eng


land, not only by their common danger from France, but by no obscure resemblance of national character, by the strong sympathies of religion and liberty, by the remembrance of the glory of England founded on her aid to Holland,' (p. 308,) and by many other circumstances which conciliated the mutual esteem of the two nations. But all these considerations of ancient friendship the obligations of treaties-national interest, and European policy, were alike disregarded; the countenance of France was necessary to the success of the meditated overthrow of our own institutions, and our natural ally was sacrificed to our natural enemy. That overthrow of our domestic institutions was the first and the greatest concern—foreign affairs were thought of only as subsidiary to that more vital object.

In a time of profound peace, of internal prosperity, with a people cognizant of their rights, and substantially attached to their constitution, it was clear that the mere violence of arbitrary assumption could not have been safely tried. With consummate skill, therefore, it was determined to proceed, not by assault, but by siege-sap, and mine-regular advances, parallels, and covered ways; in short, as Sir James Mackintosh observes, to use the forms of law, to overturn all law.

The first great obstacle was in the two Houses of Parliament, which in their old composition had been proved to be effective, and (with all their errors) incorruptible guardians of the liberties of England; from them, and particularly from the House of Commons in its unmutilated state, the innovating cabinet had everything to dread. Both houses were in an especial manner attached to the Church, and in an angry dissolution of a House of Commons which the ministry could not seduce or intimidate, Sir James Mackintosh detects the determination formed (though not yet avowed) to overthrow the Church

The dissolution of parliament announced a final breach between the Crown and the Church.'-p. 182. : But to dissolve one refractory House of Commons was not enough—they must secure the future composition of that body in their own principles. For this purpose, and in order to influence all future elections, Commissioners were appointed to be the regulators of Corporations, with full power to remove and appoint freemen and corporate officers at their discretion. Duncombe (and another) regulated the corporation of London'—(not Hertford)—from which they removed 1500 freemen.'—p. 187.

Indeed, the Freemen of all the towns, from their numbers, independence, and their general attachment to the Established Church, were peculiarly obnoxious to the ministers, whose


measures were especially directed to deprive them of the elective franchise. These Commissioners

were sent into every part of the country, to make the necessary changes in the Corporations.'-p. 187. And as they could have no legal authority, a device was resorted to, to give them a colourable one• they were furnished with letters from the Secretary of State.' p. 187.

By this pretended purification but real persecution and spoliation of the Corporations, which had always been the humble, but not on that account less faithful and efficient, depositaries of the liberties of England and the rights of the Protestant Church ;

and by

'granting to other towns' (especially selected) the privilege of sending Members to Parliament, it is evident that the King possessed the fullest means of subverting the constitution BY LAW.'—p. 200.

This alike ingenious and flagitious device-of destroying the law by the lawwas tried in a variety of shapes,—and attracts, as it deserved to do, Sir James Mackintosh's particular notice and indignation :

• The servile ingenuity of ASPIRING LAWYERS was therefore set at work, to devise some new expedient for more easily destroying the constitution according to the forms of law.'--p. 78.

But although the Corporations, partly by intimidation and partly by their deference for the King's name, were induced to submit to the inquisitorial processes directed against themalthough near two hundred cities, towns, and boroughs were deprived of their ancient charters—and although the elective franchise was thus virtually—but still under the colour of law-transferred to the ministerial faction in the different districts,-still ministers found themselves unable to accomplish their design. They therefore had recourse to another expedient—they affected a great kindness for the Dissenters, and by declamations and declarations in favour of religious toleration,' endeavoured, and for a time with success, to draw into their views the various description of Prostestant sectaries; and we read that a leading quaker and several dissenting divines became the tools of the ministerial projects ; but • neither the command obtained by the Crown over the Corporations, nor the division among Protestants excited by the promised toleration, had sufficiently weakened the opposition to the measures of the court.'— p. 182.

One formidable obstacle still remained: the House of Lords, in which English liberty had had its birth, still watched over its ex


« 上一頁繼續 »