Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

small, and the situation itself so undignified, that few lawyers of respectability could bear to lose so much of interest and character as the acceptance of this situation might suppose. The English judge held his situation free and independent of the Crown; he discharged the duties of his high office without dependence upon those by whom he was appointed. The situation of the Welsh judge was, on the contrary, dependent and obscure, the administration of justice vague and uncertain. The defects of the Irish courts had been ably pointed out by Lord Colchester, who had observed, that the present English judges would indeed be unequal to such an addition of business, but that the purpose might be answered by three additional ones, to assist at the Old Bailey, and go occasionally to the northern circuit.

These observations excited no small indignation in Mr Warren, the Chief Justice of Chester, who then filled his seat in the House. It was too much for the honourable member to say that all the Welsh judges were obscure and ignorant. Did the honourable member mean to say that he (Mr Warren) was obscure? He should hope not. But had the honourable gentleman ever heard that Sir Wm. Grant was one of those who had held the situation which he himself had the honour to fill? He presumed not. Had the honourable member ever heard that Justice Mansfield, that Sir Vicary Gibbs, that Lord Kenyon, that the present Chief Justice Dallas, and other distinguished characters, had filled the same situation? It was not known, perhaps, to some members, that a committee had been appointed in 1817 on the subject of the Welsh courts and the Welsh judges; and, after the examination of several distinguished individuals, they made their report-and what was the re

[blocks in formation]

Colonel Wood said, that though Mr Ponsonby had begun the inquiry with strong prejudices against the Welsh system, he had finally thought it inexpedient that it should be entirely done away with. One great inconvenience was, that many of the witnesses could not speak English, and when put into the box their first answer was, dem Sassenach. The distance and state of the roads would render it highly inconvenient to the judges, the present Chief Justice, for instance, to travel the Welsh circuit. He thought the alteration of their judicature would excite great dissatisfaction through the principality.

Mr Wrottesley confirmed the statements of Colonel Wood; but Mr J. Allan stated his impression to be decidedly different. The only merits he had heard ascribed to the system of Welsh judicature, were its superior cheapness and dispatch. Upon the point of cheapness, it might indeed be said that the items, the details of

legal expenses, were cheap; but if they would take any town or district of Wales, they would find that the total sum expended there in litigation would very far exceed that of any town or district of the same extent in England,-a circumstance which arose, no doubt, from the tendency which the cheapness of laws had to excite litigation. It was as a member of this principality he now claimed for his countrymen that they should be admitted to all the advantages of the British constitution-advantages which they could not be said to possess while they had inferior judges, an inferior bar, and in

ferior attornies.

Lord Castlereagh had always supposed that the subject had undergone the most elaborate examination, and that every possible inquiry had been made. Now, however, it appeared that the labours of that former committee had terminated under circumstances less satisfactory, certainly, than they would have been, if, after hearing all the evidence to be brought on the subject, and with the additional advantage of hearing the manner in which it was given, they had gone on to make a report which should have been of that clear and ample nature which generally resulted from the labour of a committee. He had no objection, if the House felt so disposed-and he fairly owned he felt himself disposed-to have the question further investigated; but he should wish that to be done without prejudice to the existing judges, who were distinguished by every quality

that was honourable in society; a judicature to which, if he might believe the greater part of the evidence which had been offered on the subject, that part of the country was most warmly attached. He objected, however, to the wording of the motion, by which the committee were instructed to consider the propriety of abolishing the Welsh judicature, and the best means by which the same could be effected." He would suggest the words of the original motion for a committee"To inquire into, and report to the House, their observations touching the administration of justice in Wales." At the same time, his Lordship strongly censured the personal reflections which had been made upon individuals, and denied that the appointments were made by government, with any view except the efficient discharge of the situations.

Mr Barham stated his impression that Mr Ponsonby had never materially altered his opinion on the subject. He remembered his remarkable expression, "it would be better for all to get into the great boat." Many of the Welsh judges were highly respectable, but there were too many of a different character. He belie ved the wish of the inhabitants was almost unanimous to be placed on the same footing as England.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer and Mr W. Parnell strongly defended the character of the Welsh judges.

Mr Campbell, after some discussion, agreed to Lord Castlereagh's amendment, and the motion for a committee was carried.

CHAPTER VI.

THE QUEEN-ARRIVAL.

Delicate situation of the Queen.-She quits.-Journey through France.-Interview with Lord Hutchison at St Omers. She crosses the Channel, and arrives in London.-Popular enthusiasm in her favour.-King's Message to Parliament.-Debates in both Houses.-Delay-Unsuccessful Negociation. -Resolutions moved by Mr Wilberforce-Rejected by the Queen.

AFTER the disappointment of successive attempts to involve the state in anarchy, the nation began to breathe, and sanguine hopes were entertained that the new reign would flow on in a more tranquil and uniform tenor. The present, however, was, on the contrary, the era of a convulsion, which, if less perilous, was more violent and universal than any which Britain had experienced for ages preceding. We approach with pain to a subject, on which the passions of men were so highly in flamed, and where there appears so little room for praise on either side; but where, on the contrary, we may find something to blame in every thing that was said and done by almost every person. The event, however, makes too great a figure in history, and afforded too ample a display of the genius and character of the nation, to be passed over without full notice.

He who had observed the temper of the British public for some time previous, and the objects by which

VOL. XIII. PART 1.

its passions had been excited, might have supposed, that nothing merely personal to royalty, nothing which did not directly tend to the benefit and relief of the nation itself, could have caused any strong agitation.Experience only could shew that these principles still possessed so great a force, and could serve even as a focus to collect all the energies of popular faction. Not even those who were most to profit by the circumstance could previously anticipate it. From the moment, indeed, of the recent accession, it was perceived that the relations between the two greatest personages in the state must be of delicate and difficult adjustment, and likely to involve the executive in serious embarrassment. The feelings of the respective political parties were shewn by the ample and exulting terms in which the one dilated upon the subject, and by the niggard and cautious responses of the other. Both foresaw a struggle, though neither of them that terrible struggle which actually ensued.

H

It is not, we presume, denied by either party, that impressions very unfavourable to the Queen had been received from abroad, and were generally credited among the higher circles. These impressions, according to one party, were derived from the uniform consent of every one who had possessed any opportunities of judging; while, according to others, they were studiously circulated by enemies, who scrupled at no means, however criminal, to gratify their animosity. According to these reports, however, this unfortunate lady was represented to have renounced not the reality only, but even the appearance, of the virtues becoming her sex and rank. It was in these circumstances that measures were taken by ministry to establish and condense the facts belonging to this subject, so as to bring them to proof when the occasion should require. Upon this principle was formed the Milan Commission, the object of so much discussion and criticism. There is necessarily something odious in inquisitorial practices, especially when carried on against a female standing in an unprotected situation. At the same time, any party which has a right to carry on legal proceedings against another, seems to have a clear right to employ agents to collect evidence in its own favour. The character of the English agents employed has not been impeached; it has only been wondered, of some of them, that they should engage in an employment so little congenial to men of nice and lofty feelings. At the same time, in the case of such witnesses as were to be got, it was very necessary to guard, lest their answers to such powerful inquirers should be dictated rather by a consideration of what would be agreeable, than of what was true. It behoved also ministers to be on their

guard against the necessary tendency of their own agents to represent their information in colours that might be most satisfactory to their employers. Whether all these considerations were dulyweighed, may appear in the course of future proceedings. Meantime, it appears that ministers believed themselves, from the result of those inquiries, to have derived a full proof of criminal and degrading conduct, such as would fully justify any extremity to which they might chuse to proceed. The resolution formed, and which, with this conviction, cannot be considered as very violent, appears to have been, to leave the Queen unmolested in a private station, and even to supply her with the means of supporting the rank, and tasting the indulgences, to which she had been accustomed, but to withhold every thing which belonged to the state and dignity of Queen. Should any attempt be made to claim these, that mass of evidence was kept in readiness to burst forth, which, it was supposed, would speedily level in the dust all her pretensions.

The first public indication of this system was given by the exclusion of the Queen's name from the liturgy. By the most considerate well-wishers to the cause of royalty, this measure met only with half approval. This did not appear the occasion or the manner in which humiliation ought to have been inflicted. It was an insult of such a nature, that, unless the Queen was prepared to submit to every thing, could not fail to bring on a violent collision.

There was nothing either in the past or present conduct of this royal personage tending to authorise such an expectation. Without delay, she dispatched a letter to the Earl of Liverpool, demanding that her name should be inserted in the liturgy; that

instructions should be sent to all ministers and consuls abroad to pay her the respect due to the Queen of England, and that a palace should be provided for her at home. No answer, at least no satisfactory answer, being received to these demands, no hesitation was felt in resolving to proceed independently, and in defiance of government; and early in May, the Queen began to put herself in motion towards England.

In England, meanwhile, no symptoms yet appeared of the tempest which was about to explode. Even the most zealous promoters of faction were still unconscious of the mighty instrument which was soon to be in their hands. The movements of the Queen were announced only by obscure paragraphs in the corners of the newspapers, which, a few weeks after, were to treat every other subject as unworthy of being placed in competition. So great seemed the national tranquillity, that no hesitation was felt in announcing the coronation, which it was well understood that the King alone was to share. The necessary orders were issued to the respective tradesmen; places were secured for viewing the procession; the table of the Privy Council was covered with petitions from those to whom usage assigned either stations or perquisites in this splendid ceremony, and the minds of all men seemed solely engrossed by this approaching pageantry.

The Queen, meantime, was proceeding steadily in her destined purpose. On the 17th April, she gave an entertainment to her Italian friends, and took leave of them at her villa, near Pesaro. Her motions were then little noticed; but she proceeded, we believe, by way of Turin to Geneva. Towards the end of May we find her at Dijon, whence proceeding forward

to Villeneuve, she was met by Alderman Wood and Lady Anne Hamilton, who came to welcome her, and to attach themselves to her fortunes. Here a consultation was held;- the result of which was, that a courier was dispatched to London with three letters; one to Lord Liverpool, requiring that a palace should be immediately prepared for her reception; another to Lord Melville, with the demand that a yacht should be ready on the 3d June to convey her to the British shore; a third to the Duke of York, containing a recapitulation of both demands, and a general complaint of the manner in which she had been treated. The messenger was desired to bring the answers to St Omer's, whither the Queen meant to proceed with the utmost expedition. Accordingly the party left Villeneuve on the 29th May, and passing through Melun to avoid Paris, posted with such rapidity, that on the 1st June they arrived at St Omer's.

Ministers were probably taken considerably by surprise with an event, which, though impending, had hitherto been considered as distant. The demand of a yacht, which was the most immediate, was evaded, by Lord Melville stating, in a note to Lady Anne Hamilton, that in consequence of his Majesty's absence from town, his orders could not be taken on the subject. No time, however, was lost in adopting the most vigorous measures to avert the threatened landing. With this view they solicited the mediatorial services of Lord Hutchinson, who had been once much attached to her Majesty, and was now a confidential friend of the King. To him they communicated the terms on which they were willing to come to an accommodation, and which were founded on the basis stated above. Lord Hutchinson was accompanied

« AnteriorContinua »