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against a charge of murder. Lord Eskgrove expressed his approval of the verdict with a hope "that the pannel, and all others, would be careful by their future conduct to avoid so illegal and dangerous a practice as that of duelling." With questionable taste, a dinner was given by Glengarry's friends to celebrate his acquittal, to which Erskine was invited, but his approval of his client's conduct was not sufficiently strong to admit of his being present. According to the strict laws of honor as understood when duelling was in vogue, a hostile meeting was hardly to be avoided; but assuming Glengarry to have been rightly advised in declining the required act of humiliation, he should certainly have fired in the air.
and consistency. Hope, the lord advo cate, who had the prior official claim to the office, represented in the strongest terms that he would neither renounce his party nor hamper his future conduct by accepting it. "The place," writes his son, "would have been highly agreeable to him, and the salary was much needed; his ready generosity had forbidden him to lay by much more than he had engaged to pay as the price of Ammondell. But unfortunately, as I think, and as all but himself thought afterwards, a scruple of separating his fortunes from those with whom he had ever believed himself closely united by a common principle, was the uppermost idea in his mind."
His wife died early in 1804, and in less Instead of seeking occasions, like his than a year (Jan. 7, 1805) he married a more mercurial and excitable brother, to fascinating widow, Mrs. Turnbull, a sister inveigh against abuses of authority and of Sir Thomas Munro, and an intimate encroachments on constitutional rights, friend of Mrs. Grant of Laggan, who, after Erskine counselled prudence and concili- she had again become a widow, writes of ation to the clients who wished to make her: 66 Except Mrs. Dunlop, Burns's him the organ of their discontent. Al- patroness, and Mrs. Henry Erskine, marmost anything in the nature of a combina- ried to the late lord advocate, I do not tion could be brought within the Seditious | find a creature who has oil enough in the Meetings Act. Some shoemakers who lamp of enthusiasm to burn on to ad
The death of Pitt (Jan. 23, 1806) and the formation of the Cabinet of All the Talents placed Erskine once again in the high road of preferment. But there was a delay in his reappointment to his former office, owing probably to the difficulty in procuring a seat in Parliament. This was removed by Lord Lauderdale, who (Feb. 20) writes:
had formed themselves into a Benefit So-vanced life." ciety, were prosecuted and applied to Erskine; who advised them to plead guilty, and trust to the leniency of the Court on the ground that they had unconsciously offended against the law. An incorporated body of tailors, whom he had saved from a threatened prosecution much in the same manner, insisted on giving him a dinner at which his health was drunk with due honors. Seeing when he I kissed hands to-day for the peerage (of rose to reply, that there were just eighteen the United Kingdom). His Majesty looked of them present, he concluded his speech very well, and received the citizens of London by wishing "health, long life, and pros- with the address, surrounded by the new Minperity to both of you,” and vanished from isters. You would have hardly known the the room without waiting to see how the Chancellor (Lord Erskine), he looked so soljoke took. His sense of fun was abso-emn. I could not persuade myself I had ever lutely irrepressible. Having succeeded heard him joke in my life. in a cause in which his clients, a large coal company, were deeply interested, they invited him to a grand dinner, to celebrate their good fortune. The chairman having called on Erskine for a sentiment or toast, he gave them: "Sink your pits blast your mines-dam your rivers!"*
the formation of a Government, consisting of There is no news but what you know. In various parties, there have necessarily occurred difficulties, but everything goes on well and smoothly; and it is to me surprising that there has not been more jarring in the course of the whole business.
Have you any plan for getting into Parliament immediately? I think I will manage, if you have no view of a seat, to get you in this session. You shall hear from me in a day or two.
The offer of the post of lord justice clerk in 1804 by his political opponents was a handsome acknowledgment of his professional eminence, and the circum- The mode in which his lordship manstances under which it was declined re-aged this affair of a seat is an illustration flect credit on his firmness of principle of the state of the Scotch representative system prior to the Reform Bill of 1832. There was a group of royal burghs, con
• Townsend, vol. ii., p. 141.
sisting of Dunbar, Lauder, North Berwick, Haddington, and Jedburgh. The Dalrymple family were all-powerful at North Berwick, as were the Maitlands (of which Lord Lauderdale was the head) at Lauder and Dunbar: and having thus between them three of the five burghs, they arranged that a Maitland nominee should sit for two Parliaments and a Dalrymple for one. This arrangement, which completely excluded Haddington and Jed burgh, had existed for centuries. When Lord Lauderdale wrote, it was in expectation of a vacancy which it was his turn to fill up. The vacancy occurred by the resignation of Sir Hugh Dalrymple; and Erskine's election was notified to him by the agent in a letter dated April 18th, 1806:
EDINBR., 18th April, 1806.
MY DEAR LORD, I have only one moment's leisure to congratulate your Lordship on your election, which took place at North Berwick yesterday; but there being no post for London, the return could only be made this day by the Sheriff.
It seems it has been the constant practice for the sitting member to send an English newspaper to each borough in the district, with the exception of Lauder, to which Mr. B― informed me that it had been in use to send the Courant. This is an expense I could not have dreamed of, but so much is it understood, that James Dalrymple desired that, instead of the Courier the Globe should be sent to North Berwick. The delegates for Haddington, Dunbar, and Jedburgh, made choice
of the Star.
As Sir Hugh [Dalrymple] will instantly countermand these papers, it will be necessary for your Lordship to have an immediate communication with Lord Lauderdale upon this subject; and might I beg the favor of a single line in course, with your Lordship's instructions with regard to the Courant for Lauder?
A group of royal burghs, which required only an English newspaper a piece, suggests the image of a model constitu ency, a shining example of purity and independence; but it would seem that the self-denial of the corporate body did not exclude a certain amount of self-seeking in the individual members. Not many weeks after his election, Erskine received an epistle beginning thus:
Two of the burgess's of North Berwick beg leave to present their most respectful compliments to their representative in Parliament, the Lord Advocate. Conceiving ourselves not the least of his Lordship's constituents, we request to offer him a few remarks for his consideration. In the present state of things, there are only two ways in our opinion that
his Lordship can distinguish himself in the present Parliament. The first that occurs is, that his Lordship should seize the chief or entire management of all Scots affairs, in the he would become popular in the country, when same way that Dundass formerly did, whereby he could turn out the Dundass party, and put in their places his own friends and well-wishers. His Lordship has a large scale to go on. He has the church, excise, custom-house, postoffice, and many other lucrative situations in his power of gift, that we are unacquainted with, and therefore shall not specify them. The second is, that he should make some emities in Parliament; and how far the present nent display of his great and unrivalled abili. trial of Lord Melville would be a proper opis submitted to his Lordship's better judg. portunity for such a display as we allude to, ment.
His Parliamentary career was short. His connection with the Maitland burghs was terminated by the dissolution in the October following; and his connection with the Dumfries district of burghs, for which he was next elected, lasted only till the dissolution of April, 1807. He stood twice for Linlithgowshire, and failed. Neither was his official career sufficiently prolonged to enable him to carry out any of the useful measures he meditated. Even the abolition of the famous "fifwas reluctantly left to his succes
His appointment as lord advocate was gazetted on the 8th of March, and he immediately left Edinburgh for London. Alluding to his first appearance in London in a professional capacity, Lord Campbell says: "I remember hearing him plead a cause at the bar of the House of Lords. All the courts in Westminster Hall being deserted from a curiosity to compare the two brothers and full justice was done to the elder." Lord Brougham also bears ample testimony to the same effect:
He was a most argumentative speaker; and if he sometimes did more than was necessary, he never for an instant lost sight of the point he could employ, and which really were every to be pressed on his audience by all the means weapon of eloquence except declamation and appeals to the tender feelings. Of course, a great cause placed him more under restraint, and more called forth his exertions; yet it was singular how much he would sometimes labor even in the most ordinary matters. However, if I were to name the most consummate exhibition of forensic talent that I ever witnessed, whether in the skilful conduct of the argument, the felicity of the copious illustrations, the cogency of the reasoning, or the dexterous appeal to the prejudices of the court, I should
without hesitation at once point to his address | him at the close of a debate."
"He at that time" (continues Lord Campbell) "represented Dumfries, but he never opened his mouth in the House of Commons, so that the often debated question, how he was qualified to succeed there, remained unsettled." This is an unaccountable mistake. A lord advocate could not have remained mute, and the Parliamentary debates contain several speeches of his, of a not unambitious character, although, judging merely from the reports, we cannot say that they support his traditional reputation for excellence in debate, which Lord Jeffreys says died with him. The discussion on the Mutiny Bill of 1806 turned mainly on the advantages or disadvantages of short service, a question which has remained unsettled to this hour. Erskine spoke at some length on this subject, and gave free indulgence to his fondness for illustration, not, it must be owned, in his happiest vein:
Limited service was the most successful way of procuring men; and to suppose they could not judge of the advantage of limited service because they had not sustained the character, was as absurd as to imagine that a young woman could not tell the inducements that one of her sex might have in taking a husband, because she herself had not entered into the marriage state. In the country with which he was best acquainted, the men were not to be obtained by hanging a purse upon a halberd; they took a rational view of their situation and so formed their determination.
When gentlemen talked of the future and remote disadvantages of the plan, they reminded him of a dispute regarding a canal between Edinburgh and Glasgow for the supply of coals. In one direction it passed through a vale without the smallest interruption on a perfect level, and the tract through which it was to pass contained a supply of coals for three centuries; in another it was to be obstructed by sixty-seven locks, and to be elevated 750 feet above the surface of the sea, but the supply of coals was sufficient for five centuries! It was a disgrace to the good sense of the country that, like this Bill, the former channel had numerous opponents.
He had the qualification, highly esteemed by his countrymen, of a goodly presence. "We Scotchmen," said Ferguson of Pitfour, "always vote with the lord advocate, so we like to be able to see
this Ferguson of Pitfour who boasted that
To this period of Mr. Erskine's official career belongs a story which has often been nunciation of certain terms peculiar to the repeated, illustrative of a quaint mode of proScotch Law Courts.
kine was addressing a committee of the House
"Mr. Erskine, we are in the habit in this country of saying curator, following the analy of the Latin, in which, as you are aware, the penultimate syllable is long."
"I thank your Lordship very much," was Erskine's reply; "we are weak enough in Scotland to think that in pronouncing the word curător, we follow the analogy of the English language; but I need scarcely say that I bow with pleasure to the opinion of so learned a senator, and so great an orător, as your Lordship."
Lord Mansfield being himself an emigrant from Scotland, was doubtless not unwilling to show his own superior attainments in the direction of civilization, forgetful how ticklish a question is that of the quantities of classical words in English.
Lord Mansfield, the emigrant from Scotland, the silver-tongued Murray, died in 1793.
Erskine was in Edinburgh when the | Bar as well as I do, and that the talent is all news arrived of the downfall of the gov- in our quarter. So that your appt. is founded ernment, brought about by an injudicious in fitness, not politics. I have sd. I will not anattempt to introduce a small installment of swer for his not being circumvented and deCatholic emancipation. Referring to the feated, but I am sure of his good intentions and of my watchfulness. bigotry of some among their successors, he condoled with the Duchess of Gordon upon the death of her son, saying "it was much to be lamented that poor Lord George did not live in these times; he would have stood such an excellent chance of being in the Cabinet instead of in Newgate."
Some bitterness of feeling may well have been inspired by a foreboding sense of the series of disappointments in store for him. There are few more disagreeable positions than that of a man in advancing age and failing health who, after filling the office of attorney-general or lord advocate, is thrown back upon the ordinary practice of the bar. His only hope of dignified retirement is the bench, and this hope Erskine was encouraged to form, not only by the general recognition of his professional claims, but by the attachment professed for him by the Prince of Wales, and the influence which some of his party, Lord Moira and Adam in particular, were still known or thought to possess at Carlton House. The manner in which the coveted elevation was kept dangling and flickering before his eyes till within a year of his death, may be collected from the correspondence. Early in 1811 (precise date wanting), the office of lord president of the Court of Session having become vacant by the death of President Blair, Adam writes to say that, in a very full conversation with the prince, he had dwelt upon the admitted fact that the Scotch lawyers of ability and legal knowledge are all on "our" side of the question; that he (Erskine) was at the head of them; and that the selection should be on the detur digniori principle. On May 23, 1811, he writes:
MY DR. HY., I have hardly time to do more than refer to what Gibson will have written to say that the Chanr. has just left me, and I have communicated the Prince's wishes to him that you shd. succeed to the Presidt's. chair. He recd. it wt. great candour, and wh. an unqualified declaration that fitness, not politics, shd. be the rule. Ld. Moira, Ld. Dundas, and Ld. Keithe, were all of opinion that this was the course to take valeat quantum. Mr. P. (Percival) was most kind about you, and seriously wishes it.
Again, June 6th, 1811:
I have explained everything minutely. He [the Prince] knows the state of the Scotch
If the prime minister seriously wished it, and the regent's intentions were good, where was the hitch? But the office of president was conferred on Charles Hope, and that of lord justice clerk, which also had become vacant, on David Boyle. In a letter dated Harrowgate, October 30, 1811, to his friend, Cathcart, Erskine writes:
but I had resolv'd to go on to London to be My object here was my daughter's health; fully apprised of everything, and to take my resolutions accordingly. One of them is, in every event finally taken, never again to stand at the Scots Bar. I trust you will be reliev'd from that odious situation by the application in your favor being successfull, tho', after what has happen'd, I confess I speak more from my wishes than my hopes. Having yielded to the appointment of Boyle, and Ministers having is to be expected of any signification of the had the audacity to press that measure, what Prince's will? He has signified to me that the late arrangement was yielded to, not from any abatement of his regard for me, or the high opinion he entertains of me, and that when he has an opportunity he will himself explain the whole. I think it right to give him such opportunity.
In this letter he expresses some distrust of Adam, which was speedily removed, and (strange to say) in a letter to Cathcart, dated London, November 28, 1811, he says: :
Of the unaltered state of the Regent's regard towards me I have no doubt, and, so far as I am individually concern'd, I am convinc'd his intentions are good. I do believe that, have driven the point, which I believe he had without resorting to a change, he could not earnestly in view.
In the same letter, referring to a possi ble change of government, he writes:
Should the change be a right one, the Court of Revision would undoubtedly take place, and you need not doubt that the chair of that Court would be my object beyond all others. That you will have the next gown, in all events, I have not the least doubt. In that event, we should be able to form a respectable Bench; as the Court now stands, the plan would be impracticable.
It was about this time that an incident (related by the biographer) occurred, which ought to have undeceived him once for all. One morning he met
at the Par
liament House, and asked if he had any | fertile, that he seemed really to believe the news from London. Excellent," was extraordinary fictions which he delighted in the reply; we shall all be sent for in a telling. . . The two celebrated lawyers, his short time," and the speaker threw down brothers, were not more gifted by nature than a letter for Mr. Erskine to read: but two I think he was, but the restraints of a profesletters, received that morning, had been sion kept the eccentricity of the family in order. Henry Erskine was the best-natured misplaced in their franked covers. Mr. man I ever knew, thoroughly a gentleman; Erskine reading the one not intended for and with but one fault-he could not say no, his perusal, came upon the expresion, and this sometimes misled those who trusted "We must at any rate get rid of the Ers-in him. Tom Erskine was positively mad. I kines," when he discovered the mis- have heard him tell a cock-and-a-bull story of take. Soon after this, he gave up the bar having seen the ghost of his father's servant, and retired to his country house at Am- John Burnett, with as much gravity as if he mondell, where he was visited in Septem- believed every word that he was saying. Both ber, 1812, by Horner, who writes:
He is living among the plantations he has been making for the last twenty years in the midst of all the bustle of business: he has the banks of the river Almond for about four miles he told me he had thrown away the law like a dirty clout, and had forgotten it altogether. It is delightful to see the same high spirits, which made him such a favourite in the world while he was in the career of ambition and prosperity, still attending him, after all the disappointments that would have chagrined another man to death. Such a temper is worth all that the most successful am
bition could ever bestow.
Apparently absorbed in rural pursuits, building, landscape-gardening, his violin, and his books, he never entirely lost the hope of reappearing in public life. Nor was he permitted to lose it. At one time he was led to expect a peerage; at another, so late as 1816, the office of lord clerk register. Lord Erskine writes to
Everything possible was done. Adam had in the kindest manner laid the ground, and the Prince had not forgotten Harry, and, as Macmahon told me, most unwillingly relinquished the object; but Lord Liverpool had promised the Duke of Buccleugh, and before Lord Frederick [Campbell] was cold in his bed, Lord Sidmouth was sent from Lord Liverpool to claim it. . . . There seems literally to be a spell upon our family; arising, however, from our continuing, after the death of Fox, to be connected with men who assume
the name of a political party, but by their folly have ruined their ... country along with
Henry and Thomas were saving men, yet both
Lord Erskine's wit in his best days was as gay and good-humored as his brother's; and to talk of having seen a ghost as if he believed it, was surely no proof he heard his mother's spirit calling to of madness. Dr. Johnson believed that him. If both Henry and Thomas were saving men, and saving is the mother of riches, why and how did they die very if they did, which we doubt? Sir Walter places the trio in the best point of view by taking them together. animated and excited a view of human nature," exclaims Lord Cullen, "is the contemplation of superior talent employed for the benefit of mankind, and how unique it is for three brothers to attain that preeminence!" It is literally unique, unless we recognize the pretensions of the Dupins; and if Thomas (Lord) Erskine's career was the most brilliant, Henry's shone through life with a steadier, more sustained light, and his memory is most fondly cherished by his countrymen. was not merely his wit, his eloquence, his patriotism, his public services, that called forth the burst of popular enthusiasm at his death. It was the combination of head and heart that had endeared his name to all classes; and not a dissenting voice was heard when "To the best-beloved man in Scotland" was proposed as the most appropriate motto for his monu
"A la mère des trois Dupins" is the inscription on a tombstone in Père la Chaise. Dupin ainé and the Baron Charies were men of undoubted eminence. The younger brother was a clever advocate.