respect in him, he is of so meek a carriage, and has about him so much of the gentleman and the scholar, that I can not divest myself of a certain feeling of almost individual regard. Nor, in putting the matter thus, am I aware that I make any unreasonable exactions. At particular seasons, his profession, no doubt, must demand his undivided care: but there are intervals which, with a mind full as Mr. North's is, might have been, and may still be, dedicated to honorable uses. There are not wanting contemporary precedents to show what the incidental labors of a lawyer may accomplish, in science, in letters, in public spirit. Let him look to Mr. Brougham, to the versatility of his pursuits, and the varieties of his fame-the Courts, the House of Commons, and the "Edinburgh Review;" to Denman, Williams, and many others of the English bar, eminent or on the road to eminence in their profession, and patriotic and instructive in their leisure ;* or (a more pregnant instance still), let him turn to the Scotch, those hardy and indefatigable workers for their own and their country's renown. There is Jeffrey, Cockburn, Cranstoun, Murray, Montcrief, great advocates every man of them: the first the creator and responsible sustainer of the noblest critical publication of the age; the others ardent and important helpmates, and all of them finding it practicable, amid their regular and collateral pursuits, to take an active lead in the popular assemblies of the north. These men, whom energy and ambition have made what they are, may be used in other respects as a great example. Under circumstances peculiarly adverse to all who disdained to stoop, they never struck to the opinions of the day, but, confiding in themselves, were as stern and uncompromising in their conduct as in their maxims yet are they all prosperous and respected, and for

*The principal counsel in defence of Queen Caroline (wife of George IV.), proceeded against by a Bill of Pains and Penalties in 1820, were Henry Brougham, her Attorney-General; Thomas Denman, her Solicitor-General; Stephen Lushington, and John Williams. The first became Lord Brougham, and Lord Chancellor of England; the second, Lord Denman, Chief Justice of the King's Bench; the third, Judge of the Consistory and Admiralty Courts (which he still is); and the last (now dead) one of the puisne Judges.— M.

+ All of these eminent lawyers subsequently became Judges in Scotland-or Lords of Session, as they are called.— M.



midable to all by whom a high-spirited man would desire to be feared.

I see but one plausible excuse for the course of political quietude to which Mr. North so perseveringly adhered, and in fairness I should not suppress it. It was his fate to have commenced his career under the Saurin dynasty. Things are something better now; but, some twelve or fifteen years ago, wo betided the patriotic wight of the dominant creed who should venture to whisper to the public that all was not unquestionable wisdom and justice in the ways of that potent and inscrutable gentleman! The opposition of a Catholic was far less resented. The latter was a condemned spirit, shorn of all effective strength, and was suffered to flounder away impotent and unheeded in the penal abyss; but for a Protestant, and, more than all, a Protestant barrister, to question the infinite perfection of the Attorney-General's dispensations, was monstrous, blasphemous, and punishable-and punished the culprit was. All the loyal powers of the land sprang with instinctive co-operation to avenge the outrage upon their chief and themselves. The loyal gates of the Castle were slapped in his face. The loyal club to which he claimed admission, buried his pretensions under a shower of black-beans. The loyal attorney suspected his competency, and withheld his confidence. The loyal discounter declined to respect his name upon a bill. The loyal friend, as he passed him in the streets, exchanged the old, familiar, cordial greeting, for a penal nod. In every quarter, in every way, it was practically impressed upon him that Irish virtue must be its own reward. Even the women, those soothers of the cares of life, whose approbation an eminent French philosopher has classed among the most powerful incentives to heroical exertion-even they, merging the charities of their sex in their higher duties to the state, volunteered their services as avenging angels. The teapot trembled in the hand of the loyal matron as she poured forth its contents, and along with it her superfine abhorrence of the low-lived incendiary; while the fair daughters of ascendency grouped around, admitted his delinquency with a responsive shudder, and vowed in their pretty souls to make his characVOL. I.-12

ter, whenever it should come across them, feel the bitter consequences of his political aberrations. All this was formidable enough to common men. Mr. North was strong enough to have faced and vanquished it. Instead of fearing to provoke the persecuting spirit of the times, he might have securely welcomed it as the most unerring evidence of his importance. Having said so much, I am bound to add that the foregoing observations have not the remotest reference to Mr. North's conduct at the bar. There he is entitled to the highest praise, and I give it heartily, for his erect and honorable deportment in the public and (an equal test of an elevated spirit) in the private details of his profession. The most conspicuous occasion upon which he has yet appeared was on the trial of the political rioters at the Dublin theatre.* It was altogether a singular scene—presenting a fantastic medley of combinations and contradictions, such as nothing but the shuffling of Irish events could bring together: a band of inveterate loyalists brought to the bar of justice for a public outrage upon the person of the King's representative; an Attorney-General prosecuting on behalf of one part of the state, and the other exulting with all their souls at the prospect of his failure; a popular Irish bench; an acquitting Irish jury; and, finally, the professional confidant of the Orange Lodges-the chosen defender of their acts and doctrines, Mr. North. It would be difficult to conceive a more perplexing office. He discharged it, however, with great talent and (what I apprehend was less expected) consummate boldness. As a production of eloquence, his address to the jury contained no specimens of first-rate ex

* When the Marquis Wellesley was made Viceroy of Ireland, in 1821, the liberality of his opinions and his known desire that the Roman Catholic disabilities should be removed rendered him obnoxious to the "Protestant Ascendency" or Corporation and Orange party. Some ruffians belonging to this party threw a bottle at Lord Wellesley, in Dublin theatre, and bills of indictment were preferred against certain persons apprehended on a charge of complicity in this affair. The Grand Jury (also Orange) ignored the bills. The Government lawyer then proceeded ex-officio—a course wholly independent of grand juries-but got frightened, as the trial approached, and the charge fell to the ground, thereby giving a great triumph to the Corporation and their satellites.-M.

[blocks in formation]

cellence, but many that were not far below it; while his general line of argument, and his manner of conducting it, gave signs of a spirit and power from which I would infer, that, should State Trials unfortunately become frequent in Ireland during his continuance at the bar, he is destined to make no inconsiderable figure as a leading counsel for the defences. The Williamites were grateful for the effort, and greeted their successful advocate with enthusiastic cheers on his exit from the Court. This was, I believe, the only public homage of the kind that Mr. North had ever received; and, however welcome at the moment, could scarcely fail to be followed by a sentiment of sadness, when he reflected upon the untowardness of the fate which doomed his name to be for the first time exalted to the skies on the yell of a malignant faction that he must have detested and despised.

The preceding views of Mr. North's intellectual characteristics were formed, and in substance committed to paper, before his recent appearance in the House of Commons.* Since that event I have seen nothing calling on me to retract or qualify my first impressions. If the effect which he produced then was not all that had been expected, I attribute it far less to any deficiency of general power, than to that want of energy and directness of purpose, which is the besetting infirmity of his mind. Let him but emancipate himself (and he has shown that he can do so) from the petty drags that have heretofore impeded his course, and he may yet become distinguished to his heart's content, and, what is better, eminently useful to his country. He has the means, and nothing can be more propitious than the period. Irish questions press upon the Parliament; upon the most vital of them (the Catholic) he thinks with the just, and will not fail to make a stand. Upon the others he can be, what is most wanting in that House, a fearless witness. Wherever he interposes, the purity of his personal character his position with the Government-even the neutrality of his former course, will give him weight and credit. Nor (as far as his ambition is concerned) will services thus rendered be unrewarded. So prostrate is the pride of Ireland,

[ocr errors]

*This sketch appeared in November, 1824.-M.

that she no longer exacts from her public men a haughty vindication of her rights. In these times a temperate mediator is hailed as a patriot. This Mr. North can be; but to be so with effect, he must distinguish better than he has yet done between false complaisance and a manly moderation. He must give way to no mistaken feelings of political charity toward a generation of sinners, whom flattery will never bring to repentance. If he praise the country-gentlemen of Ireland again, until they do something to deserve it, I shall be seriously alarmed for his renown.

« VorigeDoorgaan »