Page images
PDF
EPUB

impeachment of Lord Mansfield as indispensable.

Private Letter to Mr. Wilkes, No. 66 (relative to the proceedings of the Bill of Rights' Society), Junius observes—“ The seventh arti. cle is also very proper and necessary. The impeachment of Lord Mansfield, upon his own paper, is indispensable. Yet suffer me to guard you against the seducing idea of concurring in any vote, or encouraging any bill, which may pretend to ascertain, while in reality it limits, the constitutional powers of juries. I would have their right to return a general verdict in all cases whatsoever, considered as a part of the constitution, fundamental, sacred, and no more questionable by the legislature, than whether the government of the country should be by King, Lords, and Commons.”

Mr. Woodfall's trial for printing and publishing Junius's Letter to the King took place June 13, 1770, before Lord Mansfield. Junius's Letter to Lord Mansfield was written 14 Nov, 1770.

Serjeant Glynn brought forward his motion in the House of Commons 6 Dec. 1770, for a Committee to enquire into the administration of Criminal Justice ; upon which Lord George, in a most eloquent speech, delivered his opinions as follows:

evil ;

“ Consider, gentlemen, what will be the consequence of refusing this demand, this debt, which you owe to the anxious expectation of the public. The people, seeing his avowed defenders so loth to bring him forth on the public stage, and to make him plead his cause before their tribunal, will naturally conclude, that he could not bear the light, because his deeds were

and that, therefore, you judged it advisable to screen him behind the curtain of a majority. Though his conduct was never questioned in Parliament, mark how he is every day, and every hour, pointed out in print and conversation, as a perverter of the law, and an enemy of the constitution. No epithet is tco bad for him. Now, he is the subtile Scroggs, now, the arbitrary Jeffries. All the records of our courts of law, and all the monuments of our lawyers, are ransacked, in order to find sufficiently odious names by which he may be christened. The libellous and virulent spirit of the times has overleaped all the barriers of law, order, and decorum. The judges are no longer revered, and the laws have lost all their salutary terrors. Juries will not convict petty delinquents, when they suspect grand criminals go unpunished. Hence libels and lampoons, audacious beyond the example of all other times ; libels, in comparison of which, the North Briton, once deem

ed the ne plus ultra of sedition, is perfect innocence and simplicity. The sacred number forty-five, formerly the idol of the multitude, is eclipsed by the superior venom of every day's defamation: all its magical and talismanic powers are lost and absorbed in the general deluge of scandal which pours from the press.

When matters are thus circumstanced, when the judges in general, and Lord Mansfield in particular, are there hung out to public scorn and detestation, now that libellers receive no countenance from men high in power, and in the public esteem ; what will be the consequence when it is publicly known, that they have been arraigned, and that their friends quashed the enquiry, which it was proposed to make upon their conduct ? The consequence is more easily conceived than expressed. I foresee that the imps of the press, the sons of ink, and the printers' devils, will be all in motion, and they will spare you as little as they will the judges.

* Like the two thieves in the Gospel, both will be hung up and gibetted, with the law crucified between yon, for the entertainment of coffee-house politicians, greasy carmen, and porters, and barbers, in tippling houses and night cellars. I cannot help thinking that it is the wish of Lord Mansfield himself to have his conduct examined, nay, I collect as much from

the language of a gentleman, who may be

supposed to know his sentiments. What foundation then is there for obstructing the enquiry? None at all. It is a pleasure to me to see my noble friend discovering such symptoms of conscious innocence. His ideas perfectly coincide with my own. I would never oppose the minutest scrutiny into my behaviour. However much condemned by the envy or malice of enemies, I would at least show that I stood acquitted in my own mind.

Qui fugit judicium, ipso teste, reus est.'

I consider this to be one of the most extraordinary speeches ever delivered in the House of Commons. A vein of satire and invective runs throughout the whole, under the mask of friendship for Lord Mansfield. Would

Would any one,

, I ask, who has any real feeling for another, place his noble friend in the degraded station of a thief in the gospel, or gibbet him for the amusement of the vulgar! Impossible. Besides it is well known, that the intimacy which subsisted between them, previous to Lord George's trial, ceased after that event; Lord Mansfield's opinion having proved to be erroneous. Lord George himself confessed to the King some years afterwards, that Lord Walsingham and Lord Loughborough became his legal friends by preference. There is also ample tes

timony on the face of the speech to prove that no intimacy subsisted between them at this period, from Lord George's avowal, that “it was from the language of a gentleman who might be supposed to know his sentiments," that he considered Lord Mansfield wished his conduct to be inquired into. Had Lord Mansfield's conduct been generally considered so reprehensible, without a doubt other members would have coincided in opinion as to the propriety of an enquiry.

It is also a curious circumstance, that in the circle of Lord George's acquaintance, the enemies of Lord Mansfield should so preponderate. Mark,says he,

says he,“ how he is every day and every hour pointed out in conversation.

Serjeant Glynn's motion was not to stigmatize the name of any particular judge, but merely to nominate a committee, “ to inquire into the administration of criminal justice.”

Can we wonder, after reading this speech, at the proposition of a noble Earl, to have Lord George expelled the House? They were fearful of bringing the case forward, lest they should fail in the attempt; or in the event of their succeeding, Lord Shelburne observed, they could not foresee the possibility of keeping him out, as the family were possessed of

« PreviousContinue »