treaty. They insisted therefore that Lane and the rest of the King's commissioners should be mentioned in the pass and in the full powers conferring authority upon them to negotiate for the King, simply by their names, without any office or [JAN. 1645.] dignity as belonging to them. This concession was made, and the royal ambassadors arrived at Uxbridge with a commission under the Great Seal, which was rejected, and another under the King's sign-manual, which was recognised as sufficient. The great bone of contention was still the militia, and Lane proved very clearly that by the ancient constitution of England the power of the sword belonged exclusively to the Sovereign, and that there could be no military force lawfully in the kingdom except under his warrant. The parliamentary commissioners did not much combat his law, but peremptorily insisted that the command both of the army and the navy should be in the two Houses, —a precaution indispensably necessary for the safety of those who had been standing out for the liberties of the nation. Twenty days were ineffectually consumed in such discussions-when the conference broke up. The pass was to expire next day, and as Lane and his colleagues might require two days to perform their journey to Oxford, they having spent two days in coming thence to Uxbridge, they were told by the parliamentary commissioners that they might safely make use of another day, of which no advantage should be taken; but they were unwilling to run any hazard, and they were in their coaches so early in the morning that they reached Oxford that night and kissed the hand of the King, who received them very graciously, and thanked them for the pains they had taken in his cause. His Majesty was particularly pleased with the zeal and ability manifested by the Chief Baron in supporting his constitutional right to the power of the sword, and marked him for farther promotion.


Lane remained at Oxford with the sinecure office of Head of the Court of Exchequer during the disastrous campaign of 1645. The gleam of hope from Montrose's victories in Scotland was extinguished by the news of the fatal field at Naseby, the surrender of Bristol by Prince Rupert, and the defeat of [AUG. 27.] the royalists at Chester and Sherburn. In the midst of these disasters Lord Keeper Littleton had been suddenly carried off, while making an effort to provide for the safety of Oxford, now threatened on every side.


The Great Seal was little thought of till the King made good his retreat from Newark, and took up his winter quarters in this city. He still displayed unshaken firmness; the growing difference between the Presbyterians and Independents held out a prospect of his being able to obtain favourably terms from either of these powerful parties, and he looked forward to important assistance from Scotland and Ireland, by which he might be in a situation again to make head against the parliament. Whether for negotiation or action, it was important that he should keep up the

[ocr errors]

appearance of a regular government;-and that he might make use of the Great Seal for proclamations and grants, he resolved to appoint a new Lord Keeper.

If he had had a wider choice he could not have selected a bet

ter man than the Lord Chief Baron, and when he pro- [OCT. 23.] ́ posed this appointment it was approved by the whole [OCT. 23.] Council. Accordingly, on the 23d of October," Sir RICHARD LANE, Knight, was sworn at the Philosophy Schools, in Oxford, into the office of Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, taking the oaths of supremacy and allegiance, the oath of office, together with the oath according to the statute lately made for issuing forth of writs for summons of parliament, the Lord Treasurer and divers others being then present."* It has been said, that "the new Lord Keeper had neither a court, suitors, or salary;" but this is not altogether correct, for on the 17th of November following "a grant was made by patent to the Right Honourable Sir Richard Lane, Knight, Lord Keeper of the great Seal of England, of 23s. per diem for his diet, and of 26l. 13s. 4d. per annum for a winter livery, and 137. 6s. 4d. for a summer livery, and 300l. per annum pension out of the Hanaper, and of all such part of fineable writs to be answered by the Cursitors as former Lord Keepers have had, and of all other fees and allowances belonging to the office of Lord Keeper; the said allowances to begin upon and from the 30th day of August last, and so forwards, so long as he shall continue in the office." However, as all these allowances were to come from fees on patents and writs, it is to be feared that the Lord Keeper's "diet, liveries, and pension" were poorly provided for, and that having already contributed to the supply of the King's wants the small remnant of his private fortune, he now found it difficult to conceal the poverty and misery with which he had to struggle. Only three patents are recorded as having passed the Great Seal after his appointment, one to make Sir Thomas Gardiner Attorney General, another to make Sir Jeffrey Palmer Solicitor General, and the third for authorising the Master of the Rolls, and othors, to hear causes in Chancery in the absence of the Lord Keeper.


In the following spring, Charles found that the offers made to him were only "devices to amuse the royal bird till the fowlers had enclosed him in their toils." He re[A. D. 1646.] solved, therefore, rather than be taken prisoner by Fairfax and Cromwell, who were marching to lay siege to Oxford, to fly to the Scotch army encamped before Newark, and to throw himself upon the generosity of his countrymen. With a view to his flight, and that some order might be preserved for the safety of his friends when he was gone, he appointed a Council "for the better management of the garrison and defence of the city," and placed the Lord Keeper at the head of it.

Great was the consternation in Oxford on the morning of the 27th of April, when the King was not to be found, and it was

[ocr errors]

* Doquets of patents at Oxford, Temp. Car. I.

Te apud Oxon. xviio. Novemb. A° R. Rs. Caroli, xxi.."

Parke's Chanc. 117,
Doquets, &c,

known that he had escaped at midnight, disguised as a servant, following his supposed master, Ashburnham, on the road to Henley.

Lane, however, behaved with courage and constancy,-resolved that if the place could not be successfully defended, it should not capitulate except on honourable terms. Cromwell, on hearing of the King's escape, employed himself in schemes, by bribing the Scots, to get possession of his person, and Fairfax did not arrive before Oxford till the beginning of June. During the war, this city had been rendered one of the strongest of the kingdom. On three sides, the waters of the Isis and the Charwell spreading over the adjoining country, kept the enemy at a considerable distance, and on the north it was covered by a succession of works erected by skilful engineers. The garrison now amounted to near 5000 men, the last remnant of the royal army, and a plentiful supply of stores and provisions had been collected in contemplation of another campaign. A stout resistance might have been made; but without the possibility of relief, it must have been hopeless, and all deliberation on the subject was put an end to by an order from the King addressed to the Governors of Oxford, Lichfield, Worcester, and Wallingford, the only places in the kingdom that still held out for him, whereby "the more to evidence the reality of his intentions of settling a happy and firm peace, he required them upon honourable terms to quit those places, and to disband all the forces under their command.”

[ocr errors]

The terms for the surrender of Oxford were negotiated by Lane. He wished much to have inserted an article, stipulating that he should have leave to carry away with him the Great Seal, the badge of his office, together with the Seals of the other Courts of justice, and the swords of state, which had been brought to Oxford; but to this Fairfax most peremptorily objected, under the express orders of the parliament, by whom they were considered the emblems of sovereignty. Rather than stand the horrors of an assault, Lane signed the capitulation, by which the Seals, along with the swords of state, were all delivered up.*

On the 3d of July, the parliament with loud exultation received a letter from Fairfax, signifying that he had sent by the Judge Advocate of the army the several seals and swords of state, surrendered at Oxford, under the fourth article of the treaty, to be disposed of as the two Houses should direct, and an order was immediately made, "that the King's Great Seal, sent by the general from Oxon, be defaced and broken." In the meantime, those seals were all delivered to Speaker Lenthal, to remain in his cus*tody till the House should call for them.

[ocr errors]

*"Articles of agreement concluded and agreed on by his Excellency Sir Thomas Fairfax, Knt., general of the forces raised by the parliament, on the one party, and the Right Honourable Sir Richard Lane, Knt, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, &c., for and concerning the rendering of the garrison of Oxford.”

Art. IV. "That the seals called the Great Seal, Privy Seal, the signets, and the seals of the King's Bench, Exchequer, Court of Wards, Duchy, Admiralty, and Prerogative, as also the sword of state, shall at such time and in the presence of two such persons as the General Sir Thomas Fairfax shall appoint, be locked up in a chest, and left in the public library."-Whit. Mem. 210.

The ceremony of breaking the King's Great Seal took place with much parade on the 11th of August, the day fixed for the installation o e parliamentary Lord Keeper. Lenthal, appearing at the he& шe Commons, produced it at the bar of the Lords. A smith being then sent for, it was by him openly defaced and broken, amidst much cheering,-and the fragments were equally divided between the Speakers of the two Houses.

I should have been delighted to relate that Charles's last Lord Keeper lived in an honourable retirement during the rule of those whom he considered rebels and usurpers, and survived to see the restoration of the monarchy under the son of his sainted Master; but I regret to say that I can find no authentic trace of him after the capitulation of Oxford. From the language of Lord Clarendon, it might be inferred that he did not long survive that misfortune*, while others represented that he followed Prince Charles to the Continent, and died in exile.†

[ocr errors]

Wood relates that he left behind him a son, who, applying to Whitelock for the books and effects left behind him in the Temple when he repaired to Oxford, was told by the republican that he had never known such a person.‡

Considering Sir Richard Lane's spotless integrity, and his uniform adherence to his principles,-notwithstanding his comparative obscurity and his poverty, he is more to be honoured than many of his predecessors and successors who have left behind them a brilliant reputation, and ample possessions and high dignities to their posterity.

Although the life of Charles was prolonged near two years and a half from the time when Lane surrendered the Great Seal to the parliament, yet he never appointed another Chancellor or Lord Keeper, and his reign may be considered as having then closed. We must therefore now take a short retrospect of the changes which the law underwent while he was upon the throne.

In consequence of the abrupt dissolution and long intermission of parliaments, only fifty-one public acts were added to the statute-book in this reign, and by none of these was the letter of the law materially altered. But an unspeakable improvement was introduced into the practical administration of justice by the sup pression of the Star Chamber. Not only was the pretension of


[ocr errors]

* Hist. Reb. part iii. 778.

† By the kindness of my friends at the Herald's Office, I am now enabled to clear up this difficulty. There is extant a commission to the Lady Margaret, his widow, dated 22 April, 1651, to administer to his effects, stating that he had died in France.

Lady Margaret survived until 1669, when she was buried in Kingsthorpe Church, where there is this inscription:

"Here lieth the body of the Lady Margaret Lane, late wife to the Right Honourable Sir Richard Lane, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England to K. Charles the First and K. Charles the Second; who dyed in his banyshment for his loyalty to the Crown. She departed the 22 day of April, 1669.” See Brydge's Hist of Northampton, i. 412.

‡ Ath. Ox. vol. ii.

legislating by proclamation gone with the power of enforcing it, but trial by jury was secured to all who were charged with common-law offences, and there was much less di of cruelty in the infliction of discretionary punishment with sentence was not to be pronounced by the ministers of the Crown, who had instituted the prosecution, and who tried to outbid each other for royal favour by the severity they displayed.

The King, on the petition of the two Houses, agreed to make out the Judges' patents quamdiu se bene gesserint, instead of durante bene placito; but this concession, not being secured by statute, was disregarded by his sons, and the independence of the Judges was not properly provided for till the reign of King William III.* There is no ground, however, for the vulgar error, that the Judges were all removable at the will of the Sovereign till the reign of King George III., who, in reality, acquired his popularity on this subject merely by taking away the power of his successors on their first coming to the throne.

The Triennial Act† was a noble law, and framed for the real benefit of the Crown as well as of the public, notwithstanding the stringent clauses authorising elections, on a certain contingency, without the King's writ. Had it not been inconsiderately repealed by Lord Clarendon, the Stuart dynasty might long have ruled over England.

Considering the insane conduct of the Bishops during the first two Stuart reigns, so severely condemned by Lord Clarendon and all true friends of the monarchy, it is not wonderful that the act. should have passed for depriving them of their seats in the House of Lords but I cannot consider this a permanent improvement in the constitution; for hereditary honours and wealth are so enervating, that the Upper House could scarcely at all maintain its position without the infusion of fresh blood from the church as well as the law; and by reason of the talents and character of the right reverend bench, its proceedings are more effective and more respected. I therefore rejoice that this act was condemned at the Restoration, and I trust that there never will be occasion for repealing the act by which it was repealed.

The Courts of common law were filled with able Judges in this reign, but their decisions are badly reported by Crooke, and others still more loose and indiscriminating; and till Saunders arose, there was no legitimate successor of Plowden and Coke.

Equity as a system made little progress. Coventry was contented to dispose of each case that came before him according to his notions of what was right, without laying down any broad general principles; and Finch, Littleton, and Lane were too much occupied with political broils to think of judicial improvement.§

* 13 W. 3. c. 3.

† 16 Car. i. c. 7,

† 16 Car. c. 27. See Tothill; Nelson's Chancery; Reports in Chancery, vol. i.; Godbolt's Reports; Popham's Reports.

« VorigeDoorgaan »