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with great advantage to the code of their native land. We have not space for a more ample notice of these remarkable men, but we must dwell for a moment upon the history of the first Chief Justiciar.
The tanner's daughter whose beauty captivated Robert of Normandy, after giving birth to the founder of the royal line of England, was married to a Norman Knight, and Odo, one of the children of this marriage, was a favorite of the young Duke William. Possessing bright parts and an athletic frame, he was bred to letters and to arms, and according to the custom of the times, early received ecclesiastical and military promotion. When William claimed the crown of England, Odo preached a crusade and levied troops for his aspiring brother. He early landed on the English coast, and on the morning of the Battle of Hastings, celebrated mass at daybreak with a coat of mail under his rochet, and during the day led the cavalry of the invading army. In consideration of his services on this memorable day he received large possessions in Kent, and was created Earl of that county and appointed Chief Justiciar of the realm. After holding this office for fifteen years, he quarrelled with the King, and guided, or pretending to be guided, by the prediction of an astrologer, set on foot an enterprise by which he was to reach the Papacy. William, finding no officer willing to touch the sacred person of his brother, arrested him with his own hand, and when Odo pleaded his exemption from temporal jurisdiction, exclaimed with Norman finesse : “ God forbid that I should touch the Bishop of Bayeaux, but I make the Earl of Kent my prisoner;" and he kept him in prison for five years.
His ghostly advisers having suggested to William upon his death-bed, that if he would receive mercy from God he must show mercy to man, he issued an order for the liberation of Odo, remarking at the same time that he would be the ruin of both England and Normandy. The turbulent prelate did his best to fulfil the prediction. He left the unburied body of his brother to conspire against his successor, and having been banished from the kingdom by William, wandered over the Continent in quest of adventures, and finally died in great destitution at Palermo. Rather a stormy life for a Bishop
and a Judge. .miples of English jurispin of the severa
Since the principles of English jurisprudence were systematized by Edward I., and the jurisdiction of the several courts limited substantially as at present, the office of Chief Justice of the King's Bench has been of less relative importance, though of high dignity, and under changes of dynasty and of
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law has been filled sometimes by men who have disgraced our nature, and sometimes by men who have honored the high station to which they have been called. We shall dwell mainly upon the latter class. Dull men and wicked men have evidently their place in the world, but we are not required to make either of them the principal subjects of our contemplation.
Passing by, therefore, some men of no note, and some who would deserve a passing notice, but that they must give place to better men; omitting Tressilian who was hung at Tyburn, and Belknappe who was convicted of high treason and transported to Ireland, then considered a penal colony; we come in the reign of Henry IV. to the justly illustrious Sir William Gascoigne. He was born about the middle of the reign of Edward III. His Norman ancestors had been distinguished for military prowess, but he was early stirred with the noble ambition of becoming a profound lawyer and a great judge. Two of the Inns of Court, the Middle Temple and Gray's Inn, contend for the honor of having had him as a member. He studied the common law with extraordinary zeal, and was early in good business, numbering among his clients "old John of Gaunt.” When Henry of Bolingbroke was banished the kingdom, Gascoigne, at the suggestion of “ time-honored Lancaster," was appointed his attorney; and it was upon receiving notice that Gascoigne's power of attorney had been revoked by the King, that Bolingbroke returned, under the pretense of claiming his rights as a subject, to win and wear the crown. One of his first acts was to appoint Gascoigne Chief Justice of the King's Bench. Of the manner in which he discharged the duties of this office, Lord Campbell thus speaks :
Never was the seat of justice filled by a more upright and independent magistrate. He was likewise celebrated for the soundness of his decisions. The early abridgments swarm with them, but it is only to an antiquarian lawyer that they now possess any interest. Traits of disinterestedness, fortitude, and magnanimity, showing an enlightened sense of what is fit, and a determination, at every risk and every sacrifice, to do what duty requires, please and edify all future generations. Therefore, although the ashes of Sir William Gascoigne have reposed upwards of four centuries beneath the marble which protects them, and although since his time there has been a complete change of laws and manners, when we see him despise the frown of power our sympathies are as warmly excited as by the contemplation of a Holt or a Camden.
One or two instances of his bearing are so truly heroic, that they will live for ever in the memories of men. He attended the King to the North to assist in putting down an insurrection
planned by the Archbishop of York and Thomas Mowbray. The two rebels being made prisoners, the King insisted that the Chief Justice should sit in judgment upon them and sentence them to death. He refused, saying, “ Much am I beholden to your Highness, and all your lawful commands I am bound by my allegiance to obey; but over the life of the prelate I have not, and your Highness cannot give me, any jurisdiction. For the other prisoner, he is a peer of the realm, and he has a right to be tried by his peers.” And this was said by a judge whose tenure of office was during pleasure, to that able and arbitrary monarch, Henry IV.
Another act of the Chief Justice was the commitment of the Prince of Wales to the King's Bench prison. Lord Campbell is at considerable pains to show that the tradition of this act is authentic. We see no reason to doubt its genuineness, and it is very certain that the story would not have gained the celebrity it has, if it had not been in perfect keeping with Gascoigne's well-known character. Every one must feel the justice of the following remarks, and we think no one can read them without a quicker motion in the blood :
There was here no official insolence or strain of jurisdiction for the sake of gaining popularity. Independently of the blow, which may be safely disbelieved as inconsistent with the generous feeling by which Henry was actuated in his wildest moments, he had insulted the first criminal judge sitting on his tribunal, and he had no privilege from arrest beyond that of a peer, which did not extend to such an enormity. But there had been no precedent in this, or any other European monarchy, of a temporal judge with delegated authority, for an insult offered to himself, sending to jail the son of his sovereign, who must himself mount the throne upon his father's death, to be detained there in a solitary cell, or to associate with common felons. We must remember that Gascoigne held his office during pleasure, and that while by this act there seemed a certainty of his being dismissed and made the object of royal vengeance on the demise of the crown, there was great danger of his incurring the displeasure of the reigning sovereign, who might suppose that the divinity which ought to hedge the blood royal had been profaned. Everything conspires to enhance the self-devotion and elevation of sentiment which dictated this illustrious act of an English judge, and the noble independence which has marked many of his successors may be, in no small degree, attributed to it.
It is much to the credit of the two Lancastrian princes that the resolute judge lost none of their favor by defying their power, and shows them to have been superior to the low spite which formed one of the many accomplishments of the Stuart race.
We sympathize with Lord Campbell in his reluctance to take leave of Sir William Gascoigne for others of much less celebrity and virtue. The ancient lineage of the house of Montagu might detain us for a short time, but the first Chief
and we do Lord of Gipse their ing and
Justice of that name is described as “a man who unfortunately had a conscience, and was unable to obey its dictates or to silence its reproaches," and is therefore quite too common a character to deserve much attention. Passing by Dyer, an eminent and worthy man for whom Lord Campbell has a liking which we do not share, we come to a most entertaining character in the Lord Chief Justice Popham. He was stolen in early life by a band of Gipseys, and got a sickly constitution very much strengthened by their wandering life. While a student at law, besides drinking and gaming, he occasionally indulged in highway robbery as an amusement. At the age of thirty, at the earnest solicitation of his wife, he reformed his habits, and becoming by severe application a consummate lawyer, was advanced by regular gradations to the office of Chief Justice of the King's Bench, managing to connect himself on the way with the murder of Mary, Queen of Scots, with the conviction of Sir Walter Raleigh, and with the punishment of the authors of the Gunpowder Plot. He died, leaving behind him the greatest estate which up to that time had been amassed by any lawyer in England; not all of it honestly come by, however. Sir Walter Scott has made us familiar with the legend of the origin of his title to the manor of Littlecote, and it was even said that he had laid up some of the money which in early life he “ took upon the road."
We come now to Sir Edward Coke, who, born in the reign of Edward VI., lived to do harsh service as the Attorney General of Elizabeth, to resist the first development of Stuart folly under James, to thwart the madness of Charles I., and perhaps to consult with Hampden as to the best means of vindicating the laws of England. He was a man of harsh temper and narrow mind; his works are so dull and crabbed that it is a mark of indomitable perseverance in one of his own profession to have read them; and he utterly despised literature and philosophy. It will be worth while to see by what means such a man has acquired a name in the very first rank of Englishmen. At school and at the University he was distinguished for the industrious acquisition of knowledge, and his indifference as to the kind of knowledge he acquired, so it was dull and dry. As a student at law his labors were almost incredible, and nothing ever tempted him for one moment away from the harsh and technical science of his choice. By the law he had determined to acquire wealth and fame, and to the law he rendered undivided service. He was well repaid. No English lawyer, with the exception per
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haps of Erskine, ever had such brilliant success, and the discerning Elizabeth, passing by the claims of Bacon, made him her Attorney General. The period during which he held this office is the least honorable of his life. He behaved as only a man of brutal temper could at the trial of Essex, and his insulting demeanor during the progress of another celebrated trial will live through all time with the fame of Sir Walter Raleigh.
James I., when he had made up his mind to commence a deliberate attack upon the laws of England, with the peculiar tact of his family, selected the man in England who had the greatest power and the heartiest will to resist him, and made him a judge. Thenceforth, he tried by alternate coaxing and threatening to bend Sir Edward Coke to his will, and all that he could get from him was, “ When the case arises I shall do what is fit for a judge to do.” He baffled, one after another, the foolish schemes of James, and he met the perfidious Charles with the Petition of Right. His unrivalled knowledge of the law, and his settled determination that the law should be superior to the will of the sovereign, made him the evil genius of the house of Stuart, and won for him the veneration of the English people. From the time when he “ planted himself directly in the face and right across the path of tyranny,” his eye never quailed and his hand never missed its aim. It is for this, that wherever the English language is spoken his name will be had in everlasting remembrance. It may not be uninteresting to know that a man of so rough and forbidding a reputation, was handsome and scrupulously neat in his person, and it concerns us all to remember the religious temper of his mind. His love of his profession burned with undiminished ardor to the end of life, and occasionally, when, old and in prison, he was composing his great work, some of the “amiable and admirable secrets of the law” inspired his usually involved, immethodical and heavy style, with an almost rhythmic eloquence. An arrogant temper was his besetting sin ; he wanted Bacon's flowing courtesy, and he had none of the meanness which the genius of Bacon makes us so unwilling to remember. When we hear that Coke never saw a play of Shakspeare, and that he treated the Novum Organum with scorn, we are tempted to despise his narrow mind; but when we see Bacon lending his fine genius to the schemes of arbitrary power, our hearts kindle with a glow of generous admiration for the “ conceited pedant” who stood firm for freedom, and thus rendered himself not unworthy to be named with Hampden, with Somers, and with Chatham.
acrosa he e venerati senin periór nad hiss of Rights and atted,