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common cause with their chief. At a Court of Common Council, convened in Guildhall and presided over by Trecothick, thanks were voted to the Lord Mayor and to Aldermen Wilkes and Oliver for their public spirit and courage, and a Committee was appointed to assist in their defence. It was also resolved that the expense of the Lord Mayor's table and of Alderman Oliver's during their confinement should be defrayed from the City funds. Further still, by the desire and at the charge of the City, Writs of Habeas Corpus were sued. Crosby and Oliver were brought before Lord Mansfield and Lord Chief Justice De Grey. Serjeant Glynn and Mr. Lee appeared as their counsel. But after a full hearing the Judges declared themselves bound to acknowledge under such circumstances the power of commitment by the House of Commons, and thus the prisoners were sent back to the Tower. Whatever man, not himself belonging to the House of Commons, shall calmly review its proceedings from the Revolution to the present day, will scarce be able to deny that whenever its own privileges were in question it has shown itself prone to petty acts of tyranny. Nor is this any matter of especial blame, for what other council or assembly or body of men could be safely entrusted with an absolute power of deciding how far under the name of Privilege their own dignity and power should extend? But considering that perhaps unavoidable and certainly often recurring proneness, it is a most happy, a most beneficient, provision in our law which limits the duration of such petty acts of tyranny to the House's own period of sitting. Thus when on the 8th of May 1771 this busy and anxious Session was closed by a Prorogation, then without controversy or doubt or delay, and as a matter of course, the prison doors were thrown open to the Lord Mayor and Alderman Oliver. A gorgeous procession of the City officers in their robes attended them from the Tower to the Mansion House; and a large concourse of spectators testified their approbation and goodwill; while in the evening bonfires and illuminations gave
1771. MR. FOX. 303
further tokens of the general joy. Warned by such signs of the popular feeling the House of Commons in the ensuing Session more wisely forbore any renewal of the conflict; neither Miller nor any other printer of their debates was again molested on the general plea of Privilege; and the freedom of the press, grown only the stronger and the firmer from the blow which had been aimed against it, has continued until our own times to thrive and grow, until at last, as it has been said, the Reporters' Gallery has become almost a fourth Estate of the Realm. In the course of these proceedings some readers may feel smrprise at finding the name of Charles Fox thus amongst the foremost opponents of the popular cause. Such, how ever, was at that time his position, — in the very vanguard of Prerogative and of Privilege — “Privilege, that eldest “son of Prerogative,” says Burke, “and inheriting the vices “of its parent.” # It was the position at that time not of Charles Fox alone but of his house. The latest official connexion of Lord Holland had been with Lord Bute and Lord Bute's friends. With them he continued linked during great part of his retirement. This connexion did not indeed prevent him from soliciting from others also that Earldom which had become the darling object of his life. Thus in 1767 he had not deemed it beneath the station he had filled in the eyes of men to implore that favour from his ancient rival and enemy, Lord Chatham; applying in most submissive terms, and declaring that he would sooner owe that aim of his ambition to Lord Chatham than to any man alive!” But until his death in 1774 he might be, and was, upon the whole regarded as one of that band of statesmen who held the highest notions of Royal and aristocratical power, and were most disposed to stand firm against the claims and pretensions of the people. Such were the auspices under which his two sons, Stephen and Charles James, entered public life, the first as Member for Salisbury, the second as Member for Midhurst. Both took a forward part in the Middlesex Elections, espousing with their father what is now universally admitted to be the unconstitutional side. Stephen Fox proposed Colonel Luttrell on the hustings; Charles Fox argued in the House that in spite of Luttrell's minority of votes he should be declared the sitting Member. Both zealously withstood on other questions that new Whig phalanx to which in after years Charles himself and the son of Stephen, Henry third Lord Holland, were destined to become the brightest ornaments. Charles Fox when first elected for Midhurst was not yet twenty years of age. Little more than a twelvemonth afterwards when Lord North became Prime Minister he was named a Lord of the Admiralty. It is not my intention in this place to attempt any sketch, however slight, of the character and career of that most eminent statesman; here I desire to state only the circumstances under which he rose. I may add that at his rising he did not as yet shine with his full lustre. It was only by slow degrees, as Burke long afterwards said, that he grew to be the most brilliant and accomplished debater that the world ever saw. But although at his outset he did not attain nor indeed attempt any high pitch of oratory, his speaking from the first was ready, ardent, clear, and to the point. I find a remarkable testimony to his Parliamentary powers before he was twenty-three years of age, from one of his keenest opponents at that time. In March 1771 Colonel Barré, in the very midst of a personal altercation with him, mentions him as “a very youngMember “with great abilities, who already takes a sort of lead in the “House.”* The retirement of Lord Weymouth during the negotiations on the Falklands proved no heavy loss to the administration. Lord Weymouth had indeed good natural abilities and an easy flow of eloquence, which combined with a graceful person pleased the House of Lords, but he wanted steady application, and had injured both his fortune and his health * Cavendish Debates, vol. ii. p. 426.
* Speech in the House of Commons, March 20. 1771. ** See the Chatham Papers, vol. iii. p.270.
1771. LORD WEYMOUTH. - LORD SAND WICH. 305
by his taste for gaming and drinking.” He was then scarcely yet passed the mid-way of Dante, — only thirty-six years of age, – but he never rose to any higher fame in public life, although he once again, as Secretary of State, became a colleague of Lord North, and at a later period by the regard of Mr. Pitt was promoted to the Marquisate of Bath. His retirement; the death of Lord Halifax shortly afterwards; the promotion to the Bench of the Attorney General De Grey; and other changes of that period, afforded Lord North the means of greatly strengthening and improving his political position. The Duke of Grafton was induced to accept the Privy Seal, but with a kind of proud humility refused a seat in the Cabinet. The Great Seal was taken out of Commission and entrusted to one of the Commissioners, the eldest son of Lord Bathurst, now created Lord Apsley; a careful, painstaking lawyer, a mild, inoffensive man. To the first seat at the Board of Admiralty was promoted the Earl of Sandwich. Faulty as he was in his private, may even in his public, conduct, his appointment was most unwelcome to his Sovereign. “Many others,” says the Duke of Grafton in his Memoirs, “were not aware as I was of the King's “strong dislike to place Lord Sandwich, whose character he “disapproved, in any elevated post.” Yet as regarded the duties of his office Lord Sandwich brought to them no common activity and zeal. A most unexceptionable witness, Mr. Charles Butler, speaks of him as follows: “Lord Sand“wich rose early; he often appointed me to attend him at six “o'clock in the morning; and his time from that hour till a “late dinner was wholly devoted to business.”** The Earl of Suffolk became Secretary of State. Though himself pompous and shallow, his accession was much prized, because since the death of Mr. Grenville he had, for want of a better, been looked upon as chief by many of Mr. Grenville's followers, as distinguished from Lord Chatham's or Lord Rockingham's. Thus did Lord North's Government become reinforced by and embodied with two detachments from the old Whig army; the squadron of George Grenville and the squadron of the Duke of Bedford. But no appointments probably were of so much importance to Lord North as the legal ones connected with the House of Commons, when Mr. Thurlow became Attorney and Mr. Wedderburn Solicitor General. It was between them that Lord North during the succeeding years of his administration used in general to sit; it was on them that he mainly, may almost entirely, relied for assistance in debate. Gibbon, himself in Parliament and afterwards in office, thus states the case, not without a sly allusion to the somnolent habits of his chief. “The Minister might indulge in a short “slumber whilst he was upholden on either aand by the “majestic sense of Thurlow and the skilful eloquence of “Wedderburn.”% Neither Thurlow nor yet Wedderburn were men whose characters can be dismissed in a few slight words.- A country clergyman was the father, and a Norfolk vicarage the birthplace, of Edward Thurlow. He was educated at Caius College, Cambridge, but ere long was desired to remove his name from the books on account of his having dared to hint in public, - what every one freely acknowledged in private, — that Mr. Dean was ignorant of Greek. On leaving Cambridge thus abruptly he entered a Solicitor's office, where William Cowper was among his brother pupils. “There,” says the future poet, “was I and the future Lord Chancellor “constantly employed from morning to might in giggling “and making others giggle, instead of studying the law.” But Thurlow had one of those rare and powerful intellects * Memoirs (Dean Milman's edition), p. 239.
* Observe the irreverent allusion in Junius; “If you deny Lord Wey“mouth the Cup —” (June 22. 1771), and his subsequent attempt under the signature of Philo-Junius to explain that allusion away (August 26. 1771). Reminiscences, vol. i. p. 71. Lord Sandwich was noted for his attachment to Miss Reay, an actress at Covent Garden Theatre. After having lived with him for many years and borne him nine children, she was one evening shot dead with a pistol by one Mr. Hackman, a clergyman who had become passionately and hopelessly enamoured of her. Mr. Hačk
man was in consequence hanged at Tyburn. See the details of this tragical story in the Annual Register, 1779, p. 206.
Mahon, IIistory. V. 20