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tended that he had never favoured the parliamentary party, and he had the hardihood to assert that he had not voted in support of the Militia Bill.
These statements being reported to the Lords at Westminster, they ordered a committee of three to search the Journals for the truth of this matter, who immediately reported, "That the Lord Keeper was present when the petition to the King concerning the militia was agreed on; that he was present, argued, and voted for the following resolution, that in case of extreme danger, and of his Majesty's refusal, the ordinance of both Houses doth oblige the people, and by the fundamental laws of this kingdom ought to be obeyed; and, lastly, that he himself, under the MILITIA ORDINANCE, named deputy-lieutenants, and consented to the several forms of deputations of the militia."*
In the history of the Great Seal I ought here to mention that the two Houses, in their celebrated "Petition and Advice" of 2d of June, 1642, proposed that the Lord Chancellor or Lord Keeper, with some other officers, should always be chosen with the approbation of both Houses; but the King received the proposal with mockery and scorn.
Although Littleton was continued in his office by the King till the time of his death, and although he ever after adhered to the royal cause, he does not seem to have been much trusted, and his name seldom occurs in subsequent transactions. He was not admitted with Hyde and Falkland into the secret consultations of the royalists, and his only official duty was to put the Great Seal to proclamations and patents. As Lord Keeper he was allowed, according to his precedence, to put his name first to the declaration issued by forty-eight Peers, just before the commencement of hostilities, "that to their certain knowledge the King had no intention of making war upon the parliament." He fixed his residence at Oxford, now considered the seat of government, but was sometimes called upon to attend the King in his campaigns. Without a bar, solicitors, or suitors, he pretended to sit in Chancery, and he went through the form of passing a commission under the Great Seal, appointing certain other persons to hear and determine causes in his absence. His most solemn judicial act at Oxford was calling Sir Richard Lane to the degree of Sergeant at Law, and swearing him in Chief Baron of the Exchequer.
After the battles of Edge Hill and Newbury there was in the beginning of 1644 the form of a parliament at Ox[A. D. 1644.] ford, and a much greater number of Peers attended
here than at Westminster, although the Bishops were not allowed to sit, in consequence of the act for excluding them from parliament, towhich the King had given his assent. The Hall of one of the Colleges was fitted up in the fashion of the House of Lords, and Littleton presided on the supposed woolsack. But though Charles
* 2 Parl. Hist. 1367.
† Jan. 3. 1643.
so far complied with the forms of parliament as to make the two Houses a short speech at the opening of the Session, he did not say, according to the precedents, that the Lord Keeper would further explain to them the causes of their being allowed his rank, subscribed next after the Princes of the blood the letter to the Earl of Essex, proposing an accommodation; and the two Houses, without venturing to impose a tax, having resolved to raise 100,000%. for the public service by loan, he jointly, with the Speaker of the House of Commons, addressed to all who were supposed able to contribute to it official letters of solicitation, bearing a very considerable resemblance to privy seals for the raising of a "Benevolence." *
He had fled so suddenly from London, that he had been obliged
* By the kindness of my friend Lord Hatherton, I am enabled to lay before the reader a copy of one of these letters, which must be considered a very interesting historical document :
Trusty and well beloved, We greet you well. Whereas all our subjects of the kingdome of England and dominion of Wales are both by their allegiance and the Act of Pacification bound to resist and suppresse all such of our subjects of Scotland as have in a hostile manner already entred, or shall hereafter enter into this kingdome. And by law, your personall service, attended in a warlike manner for the resistance of this invasion, may be required by Us, which we desire to spare, chusing rather to invite your assistance for the maintenance of Our army in a free and voluntary expression of your affections to our service and the safety of this kingdome, And whereas the members of both Houses of Parliament, assembled at Oxford, have taken into their consideration the necessity of supporting our army, for the defence of Us and Our people against this invasion, and for the preservation of the religion, laws, and liberties of this kingdome, and therefore have agreed upon the speedy raising of the summe of one hundred thousand pounds by loane from particular persons, towards the which themselves have advanced a very considerable proportion, and by their examples hope that Our well-affected subjects throughout the kingdome, will in a short time make up the remainder, whereby We shall not only be enabled to pay and recruit Our army but likewise be enabled to put Our armies in such a condition, as our subjects shall not suffer by free quarters, or the unrulinesse of Our soldiers, which is now in present agitation, and will (we no way doubt, by the advice of the members of both Houses assembled) be speedily effected. We doe, towards so good a worke, by the approbation and advice of the said members of both Houses here assembled, desire you forthwith to lend us the summe of one hundred pounds, or the value thereof in plate, toucht plate at five shi'lings, untoucht plate at foure shillings foure pence per ounce; and to pay or deliver the same within seven daies after the receipt hereof, to the hands of the high sheriffs of that our county, or to such whom he shall appoint to receive the same (upon his acquittances for the receipt thereof), who is forthwith to return and pay the same at Corpus Christi College in Oxford, to the hands of the Earle of Bath, the Lord Seymour, Mr. John Ashburnham, and Mr. John Pettiplace, or any of them who are appointed treasurers, for the receiving and issuing thereof by the said members (by whose order only the said money is to be disposed), and to give receipts for the same, the which We promise to repay assoone as God shall enable Us; this summe being to be advanced with speed, We are necessitated to apply ourselves to such persons as your selfe, of whose ability and affection We have confidence, giving you this assuronce, that in such farther charges, that the necessity of Our just defence shall enforce us to require of Our good subjects, your forwardness and disbursements shall be considered to your best advantage. And so presuming you will not fail to express your affection herein, We bid you farewell. Given at Our
to leave all his books and manuscripts behind him. The parliament did not generously send them after him for his [A. D. 1645.] consolation, but made an order that "in respect to the learning of Mr. Whitelock, and his other merits in regard to the public, all the books and manuscripts of the Lord Littleton, late Keeper of the Great Seal, which should be discovered, should be bestowed on Mr. Whitelock, and that the Speaker grant his warrant to search for them, seize them, and put them into his possession."*
Being practically without civil occupation, the Lord Keeper thought that he might agreeably fill up his leisure, and that he might raise his reputation, by looking like the times and becoming a soldier. We have mentioned that he was a famous swordsman in his youth. Though so notorious for moral cowardice, he was by no means deficient in natural bravery, and on whichever side he had happened to fight, he would have shown an English heart. He now proposed to raise a volunteer corps, which he himself was to command, to consist of lawyers and gentlemen of the Inns of Court and Chancery, officers of the different Courts of Justice, and all who were willing to draw a weapon for Church and King under the auspices of the Lord Keeper. The offer was accepted, and a commission was granted to him, of which the doquet remains among the instruments passed under the Great Seal of King Charles I. at Oxford.
"A commission granted to Edward Lord Littleton, Lo. Keep. of the Greate Seale, to raise a regiment of foot souldiers, consisting of gent. of the Inns of Court and Chauncy, and of all ministers and officers belonging to the Court of Chauncy, and their servants, and of gent. and others who will voluntarily put themselves under his command to serve his Matie for the security of the Universitie and Cittie of Oxford. Te apud Oxon. xxi° die Maij Ao R. R. Caroli, xx.°†
per ipsm Regem."†
Court at Oxford, the 14th day of February, in the nineteenth year of Our reigne, 1643.
By the advice of the members of both Houses assembled at Oxford, "ED. LITTLETON, C." The above letter is among Lord Hatherton's family papers. The direction on it is torn and illegible; but no doubt it was addressed to the owner of his estate, at that time, Sir Edward Littleton, Bart., of Pillaton Hall. In a corner of the letter are a few lines signed "Tho. Leveson Arm. Vic. Com. Staff.," which are almost illegible. They begin, "I am commanded to send you this letter;" the remainder seems to refer to the time and manner of remitting the money.
* Life of Whitelock, 58.
† May 21. 1645.
‡ According to a statement by the Editor of his "Reports," the Lord Keeper's military zeal was felt by all members of the profession of the law then at Oxford, the judges included. "He was colonel of a foot regiment, in which were listed all the Judges, lawyers, and officers belonging to the several Courts of Justice."-Pref. ed. 1683. This reminds me of the gallant corps in which I myself served in my youth, "the B. I. C. A.," or Bloomsbury and Inns of Court Association," con
The Lord Keeper devoted himself to this new pursuit with great zeal and energy, acting the part of Adjutant as well as Commander, and as he was a remarkably tall, handsome, athletic man in a green old age, he made an excellent officer. All connected with the Law flocked to his standard, and their number was greatly increased by recruits from the different colleges who mixed military exercises with their logical contentions in the schools. As a mark of respect for his military prowess, the University now conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of the Civil Law.* Whether these learned volunteers could ever have been made capable of facing the psalm-singing soldiers of Cromwell-commanded by "Colonel Fight-the-good-fight-of-faith" and "Captain Smite-them-hip-and-thigh," is left in doubt, for the "Lord Keeper Commandant," while drilling his corps one morning in Bagley Wood, was overtaken by a thunder storm, and caught a violent cold. This being neglected turned into a fever, which carried him off on the 27th of August, 1645,-to the regret of the royalist party, notwithstanding his backslidings and the serious suspicions which had formerly been entertained of his fidelity.
He was buried with military honours in the cathedral of Christchurch, not only his own regiment, but the whole garrison attending. All the nobility at Oxford, and the heads of houses joined in the procession. The solemnity was closed with a funeral speech made for him, by the "incomparable Dr. Hammond," then Orator of the University.
After the Restoration, a monument was erected over his grave -recording his origin, the high offices he had held, and the virtues his family wished to have attributed to him,—above all—
FORTITUDE AND UNSUSPECTED FAITH TO HIS SOVEREIGN."
In quiet times he would have passed through the world with honour and applause. Had he died Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, he would have left behind him, if not a splendid, a respectable reputation. But his elevation placed him in situations for which he was wholly unfit; and if he is saved from being classed with the treacherous, the perfidious, and the infamous, it is only by supposing him to be the most irresolute, nerveless, and pusil
sisting of barristers, attorneys, law students, and clerks, raised to repel the inva sion threatened by Napoleon; but none of the reverend sages of the law served in this or the rival legal corps named the "Temple Light Infantry," or "The Devil's Own," commanded by Erskine, still at the bar. Lord Chancellor Eldon doubted the expediency of mixing in the ranks, and did not aspire to be an officer; Law, the Attorney General, was in the awkward squad, having always looked to his feet when the word of command was given “Left leg forward," and having replied to the reprimand of the drill sergeant, "By what process can I know that I put my left leg forward except by looking ?"-Lord Keeper Littleton has, therefore, the glory of being recorded as the last successor of Turketel, Thomas-à-Becket, and the Earl of Salisbury, who ever carried arms while head of the law.
*I do not find any account of the ceremony, but I presume the public orator, after enumerating his high civic distinctions, added "et millitavit non sine gloriâ,' the compliment paid on a similar occasion to Sir WILLIAM GRANT, Master of the Rolls, who had served as a volunteer in Canada.
lanimous of mankind. So completely did his faculties abandon him after he received the Great Seal, that he drivelled as a Judge, -not only in political cases before the Privy Council,-but also in the common run of business between party and party. His deficiency in the Court of Chancery has been accounted for by a suggestion that he was previously acquainted only with the practice of the common-law Courts: but this is wholly unfounded; for, during the whole time that he was Solicitor General, he was in the first business at the equity bar, though neither he, nor any other counsel, then confined themselves to that branch of practice.
Lloyd, with the undistinguishing eulogies he bestows on all, says of Littleton, that "his learning was various and useful; his skill in the maxims of our government, the fundamental laws of the monarchy, with its statutes and customs, singular; his experience long and observing; his integrity unblemished and unbiassed; his eloquence powerful and majestic, and all befitting a statesman and a Lord Keeper." But Clarendon, though inclined to screen him, having some regard to candour and truth, is obliged to sayBeing a man of grave and comely presence, his other parts were overvalued. From the time he had the Great Seal he seemed to be out of his element, and in some perplexity and irresolution in the Chancery itself, though he had great experience in the practices and proceedings of that Court; and made not that despatch that was expected at the Council table; and in the parliament he did not preserve any dignity, and appeared so totally dispirited that few men showed any respect to him, but they who most opposed the King, who indeed did exceedingly apply themselves to him, and were with equal kindness received by him."
In 1683 there was published a folio volume of his Reports of Cases decided in the Courts of Common Pleas and Exchequer in the beginning of the reign of Charles I. They are in Norman French, and they are not very valuable; but he had not intended them for publication, and they were found among the papers of his brother, Sir Timothy Littleton, a Baron of the Exchequer.* The Lord Keeper never aspired to the honours of authorship.
He was twice married, but his only issue was a daughter, and his title became extinct. It was revived, however, in the elder branch of his family,-Sir Thomas Littleton, descended from William the eldest son of the founder, having been created Lord Lyttleton in the reign of George II. In the south window of the Inner Temple Hall there is a fine shield of the Lord Keeper's arms, with fifteen quarterings, distinguished by a crescent within a mullet, which shows him to have been of the third house.†
* The title is curious as showing the strange Gypsey jargon then used by English lawyers: "LES REPORTS de tres Honorable EDW. SEIGNEUR LITTLETON, BARON DE MOUNSLOW, CUSTOS de le Grand Seale d'Angliteur, et de ses Majesty pluis HONORABLE PRIVY COUNCEL, en les Courts del COMMON BANCK et ExCHEQUER en le 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. ans del reign de Roy CHARLES le I."
† I am indebted to Lord Hatherton, representative of the second house of the Littletons, for several interesting particulars of the Lord Keeper, which I have above related.