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Luke Robinson and Lord Winchelsea, which at once gave him reputation and business. He was soon after pitched upon as managing counsel in the great Douglas Cause, in which he discovered ability and address. It was always his aim, in pructice, to give his oratorical productions more the air of genius than industry, and they oft-n carried the appearance of spontaneous effu ion, although the effort of much premeditation and previous labour.

His arrival at professional bonour; was first announced in 1762, when he was appointed king's counsel, thus emerging at once from legal obscurity, his abilities being so little known as a barrister, that the appointment excited univer-al astonishment. Impelled by the most restless ardour, he rushed intrepidly, and almost immediately, to the summit of legal fame; for in the year 1770, we find him advanced, under the patronage of the house of Bedford, to the post of Solicitor General, on the resignation of Mr. Dunning; and succeeding Sir Wiliam de Grey as Attorney General in 1771.

He was twice elected into parliament for the borough of Stafford.

This is the proper place to review his lordship's pretensions to the rank he beld as a first rate orator and lawyer.

He was a powerful and uniform supporter of the measures of government. It cannot be denied but he possessed-trong na'ural talents, and quickness of apprehension :-His eloquence parto k of his character; it was bold, explicit, decisive, and inflexible:---he delivered his arguments as Jove directed his bo'ts, in tones of thunder : confident and daring, he rushed like Achilles into the field, and dealt destruction around his adversaries more by the strength of his arm, the deep tones of his voice, and the lightning of his eye, than by any peculi:r felicities of genius, or elevated powers of oratory.---He at timas combat d his opponents with every species of argument, from the naked, unqualified, unsupported flat assertion, down to the sarcastic joke. His style, however, was osten petulant and warm; neither remarkable for its neatness, nor offensive for its vulgarity.---His attempts at ridicule and humour were m ap and disagreeable ; but liis words were generally well chosen, and his voice clear ant s'rong.---His réplies were constantly acrimonious; he exercised all the figures of his profession : his constructions of the law were artful and malignant, and he became gradually vehement and furious.. *

His manner had an assumed dignity, and an affected impression of awe, which, however decurous upon some occasions, is certainly improper upon all. Perhaps the natural sable of his face.--that dull, dismal, dark, disastrous countenance, threw an involuntary horror round him.--- Menace and terror sate enthronel upon his brow---his whole aspect was repeilant, and conveyed an idea of outrage.---He affected to disdain the aid of the Graces, and to command alone by the energy of expression, and force, both in inanner and expression, was undoubtedly his lordship’s forte, but every qualifica'ion should be judged by comparison.---As a speaker in the House of Commons, many were far above himn. That force, on which so much has been said by his panegyrists, compared with the fire and energy of Fox,

* See preface to Bellendenus.

was like Satan's contest with Omnipotence, and like the allusion, left com. parison behind it. Where, in the best of his speeches, is the information, the design, the genius, the splendid conflagration of Burke? Where the wit, the classic taste and correctness of Sheridan ? The records of parlia. ment will place him, as an orator, far below any of these.

As a professional man, he was not heard of, by the side of Yorke, De Grey, and Grantley; and was always, with great propriety, considered inferior, both in and out of parliament, to his official competitors Ashburton and Lougborough

In 1778, he was created a peer by the title of Lord Thurlow, Baron of Ashfield, in Suffolk, and adv.nced to the high, dignity of Lord Chancellor, the place best calculated for the display of his abilities.

As a Speaker of the house of Lords, he had that intrèpidity and firmness that commanded order and regularity in their proceedings, and confined debate to the point in azitation. His lordship very properly felt the dignity of his situation, and would not suffer the pride of peerage to invide its rights. His spirited and manly reply to the Duke of Grafton did him honour.* However the ancient and hereditary nobles may feel on the ascent of lawyers to the peerage, it must be remembered, that they only rise by desert. The man who earns his honours, has the best right to wear them; and they certainly sit upon him with a grace seldom observed in the passive inheritor.

He was not an example of mean insinuation, but stood (-ays an elegant diurnal writer) amidst the warring factions of the times, like the Chan of the Usbecs, 100 formidable to be visited by contumely, tho' too savage to creits


The remaining part of his character, as given in a very excellent periodi. cal publication, is so accurate and just, or at least so exactly coincides with our ideas, that we shall conclude our sketch of bis Lordship with a transcript of it.

“The world has done sufficient justice to the character of Lord Thurlow, which being examined in the detail, may perhaps rather call for some abatement to the extravagant appliuse given it, than to any additional eulogium. As a politician, he seems to stand the fairest chance of descending to posterity with reputation, though he probably posse:ses little more than the usual narrow information belonging to those of his profession. In his conduct as a senator, he has distinguished himself by so decided, so confident a degree of superioity, that he has received credit for abilities, the existence of which may be questioned without the smallest indecency.

“ It is certain, that little advantage has arisen to the public from any of his political exertions; and we are yet to learn wherein his talents, as a legislator, are to be discovered. He had, however, a quickness of parts well suited to public debate, and a cool determined manner, well adap'ed to obtain an assendance over imbecility, to push boldly all advantages, and to secure a re

* See Parliamentary Debates.


treat with credit, when opposed by superior powers. As a lawyer, his knowledge is inferior to many; and had his rise depended on his professional advantages, another must have now presided in the court of Chancery.

“ It has been the mi fortune of this country, that the legal and political cl aracter have been lately so blended, that more attention has been paid to the latter than the former, and often at the expence of it. This was not formerly the case ; and we pronounce, without hesitation, that the public suffer, by the unnatural union. Let those who have been long anxiously looking for decrees in the court of Chancery, be asked their sentiments of a political chancellor : They will paint their misery in such colours, as must convince every impartial p.rson that the supremacy in the house of lords, and in the first court of equity, should not be in the same person.---Many lawyers have suggested ihe prevalence of a species of indecision totally inconsystent with any very comprehensive knowledge of jurisprudence, and totally different from the general mode of proceeding in all other situations. The practisers complain of the petulance and illiberal treatment they frequently meet with, and the suriiness and ill-nature which is often to be seen in public; and those who remember the patience, the good humour, and politeness of the Lords Hardwicke and Cumden, are perpetually drawing comparisons by no means favourable to Thurlow.”

The ingenious and lcarned author of the Preface to Bellendenus having very happi y pourtrayed everal striking f-atures in his Lordship's character, has the following conclusion, which, from an ei tire coincidence of sentiment and opinion, is here transcribed :

“ If he should ever peruse my sentiments of his character, I would desire him not to shake his tremendous head at me ;---the severe and forbidding manner with which he ever addressed himself to others, will probably excite his indignation when directed against himself: I care not if he shall think me to have spoken of bin with too much bitterness; it is the fair and reasonable consequence of the conduct that provoked it.”

Another of his lord:hip’s biographers has pourtrayed him as follows:

“ In times less favourable to genius and freedom, the haughty barons, and still more haughty bishops, administered justice to their crembling vassals. Nobility and priesthood were the only criterions of' merit, and high birth and the ecclesiastical ionsure seem to have assumed a prescriptive right over the noble science of jurisprudence.--- In this more liberal age, hereditary pretensions are forced to give way to personal worth, while the fortuitous advantages arising from fortune and descent, maintain but a feeble competition with the nobler endowments of the mind. This position is no where better illustrated than in the profession of the law, as several of its members, unsupported by any other claim than those of their own merit and abilities, have, during the present century, ennohled themselves and their posterity.

“ Let it be recorded, to their honour, that within tbis period, two of the greatest characters in this kingdom have risen from the desks of attornies ; while, if we believe common report, a third may be literally said to have jumped from the loom to the woolsack.

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“ Edward Thurlow, the son of a manufacturer of the city of Norwich, like his great predecessors Somers and Hardwicke, bursting from obscurity by the strength of his own genius, like them too, overcame the obstacles of birth and fortune, and suddenly rose to the first honours of his profession. The finger of the House of Bedford pointed the road to preferment; and at a time when his cotemporaries were struggling with mediocrity, and a stuff gown, the siiken robes of king's counsel, and the patronage of that illustrious family, inspired him with no common ambition. The powers of his mind expanding with his hopes, the high offices of sulicitor and attorney-general, which bound the views of some men, seemed to him but as legal apprenticeships, imposed by custom, before he could attain to that dignity, which was to give him precedence of every lay-subject in the kingdom, not of the blood royal.

“ The people beheld with pleasure a man sudilenly emerging from among themselves, and enjoying the highest offices of the state ; his triumph seemed to be their own. It flattered their passion to see plebeian merit coping with aristocratical pride, and united, but acknowledged worth, conferring, by its participation, lustre on degenerate nobility. When they saw him, too, supporting his newly acquired horours with a dignity which they imagined had only appertained to hereditary grandeur, and beheld him in his contest with the head of the house of Grafton, stating his own merits in competition with ducal honours, and weighing the fair claims of genius and learning, in opposing the meretricious, though royal descent, every good citizen partook of his honest pride, and participated in his victory:

“ Seated on the Chancery bench, the eyes of mankind were fixed upon him. The iron days of equity were thought to be passed; and it was fondly expected, that the epoch of his advancement would be the commencement of a golden age. The nation felt that they had long groaned under the dominion of their own chancellors. The slowness of their proceedings had mouldered insensibly away, in the pleadings of two centuries, some of the fairest fortunes in the kingdom; and the subtilties the civil law had involved, in the voluminous mazes of a Chancery bill, rights and claims, which the municipal courts would have immediately recognized.

At once haughty and indulent by naiure; attached to a party, and distracted by politics; with a mind fitted to discountenance, abuse, and appal oppression, Lord Thurlow disappointed their expectations; and, by his conduct, forcibly illustrated that great legal axiom, that the duties of the Woolsack and the Chancery are incompatible.

“ A change of ministry taking place, the chancellor was suddenly dismissed; and the man who had risen with the approbation of mankind, retired amidst the clamours of the nation.

“Restored to his high office by another change, as sudden as his disgnission had been precipitated, if his inactivity had been still the same, yet his personal conduct seemed to be greatly altered. Exiled from power, helad bren taught by retirement what other men have not learned by adversity; an: his present attention to business, and politi ness to the gentlemen at the bar, afforded a happy contrast to bis former behaviour.

“ The character of the chancellor seems to be developed in his counte. Dance, by an outline at once bald, haughty, and commanding. Like Hale, he is neglijent of his per:on ; like Yorke, he has swerved from his party ; but like h mself alone, he bas ever ren ained true to his own principles.

“ As an orator, his manner is dignified, his periods are short, and his Toice at once sonorous and commanding. More nervous than Camden, more eloquent than Richn.ond, more masculine than Sydney, he is the sole support of the minister in the house of peers. Like an in ulated rock, he opposes his sullen and rugged front to the storm of debate, and remains un. shaken by the whirlwind of oppo:ition.

“ Berter acquairted with books than with men, as a politician, his knowlidge of 1o. eiga affairs i, narrow and confined; he is, however, well informed of the domestic and iminediate concerns of the empire. Warm'y attached to the prerogative, he brands reform with the name of inno: ation; and is fond of urying the wholesome regulations of our ancient laws, in opposition to the improvements of modern projectors.

“ His attachment to his Sovereign is personal, and at least equals his attachment to prerogative, Take his own words on a re ent and importanę occasion : · When I forget my king (says he) may God forget me!' The sentiment was strongly expressive of the fecling, of gratitude. It did honour 10 bis heart, and certainly will not injure his preferment.

“ As a judge, his researches are deep, and his decisions are confessedly imp rial: none of them, however, pr;cured him celebrity.

“ As a legislator, he has as yet acquired no reputation; and notwithstande ing a voluntary proffer of his sei vices, las marie no alteration in the laws respecting the imprisonment of insolvent deb'ors, whom he hai treated with aviolence tl at savours of the rigour of justice rather than the m Idness of humanity.

“ His enenies, who bate him with rancour rather than enmity, dare not question his i te 'rity, nor can they charge him with any action deserv ng of reproach. His friends, who lovelin from este m rather than affection, avow the greatness of his de-erts, yet find it riislicult to fix his particular merits. In fine, his character is still negative and undetermined : with powers fited for any thing, he ha as vet done nothing, and although he seems the wonder of the present ag', will, perlaps, scarce meet with the notice of posterity.

“ His great predecessors have erected the noblest monuments to their fame, by attention to the happiness, the interests, and the welfare of their fellow-citizens. Lord Chancellor Hardwicke planned the bill for abolishing the heritable jurisdictions in Scotland! Lord Keeper Guildford had a principal hand in the statute of frauds and perjuries, of which ihe Lord Nottingham observed, · That ev'ry line was worth a subsidy.' Lord Chancellor Somers projected the act of union betwixt England and Scotland, and a bill to correct some proceedings, bo:h in common law and equity, that were dilatory and chargeable.

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