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is more deadening to man's faculties nor better calculated to break his spirit and absolutely unfit him to seize such opportunities as do actually present themselves, he resolved to quit the bar, to return to college and there fit himself for the church.
He communicated his plan to Sir Robert Henley, afterward Lord Northington and Lord Chancellor, who was then the leader of the western circuit.
Henley prevailed upon him to keep on, helped him to a retainer in an important cause as junior, then absented him self from the trial so that Pratt conducted it; and as he did so with great ability and eloquence, was applauded by the audience, complimented by the judge and above all secured a verdict, he received several additional retainers before he left the hall.
He soon after secured cases in Westminster Hall, where then as well as now all the great courts of England sat for all important business, and was much employed in cases of mag. nitude, though never having, as we are told, “a great share of routine business, which, with less eclat, is attended with more profit."
It is a singular fact that his first case attracting general attention was the defense of a printer prosecuted on a charge of libel in consequence of some comment on the commitment of one Alexander Murray by Parliament for refusing to kneel at the Bar of the House. This is singular, in that his last public appearance in Parliament was on the occasion of his advocacy, in the Lords, of the Libel Act, declaring the law of England to be what he contended for on this trial with great courage and persistence, against the ruling of Lee, then Chief Justice of King's Bench.
The jury having, amid general popular acclaim, rendered a verdict of not guilty, the Chief Justice, at the solicitation of the Attorney General, called them back and asked them whether the evidence was not suficient to satisfy them that
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the defendant had sold the book containing the libel, and hence published it. The foreman was at first somewhat disturbed; but the question being repeated, replied in a firm voice, his associates nodding assent:
"Xot guilty, my Lord; not guilty. That is our verdict, my Lord, and we abide by it,”—an example of independence and spirit worthy of emulation.
This occurred in 1752, some thirty years prior to the cele. brated trial of the Dean of St. Asaph's, where the same question of law was ruled in the same way by Mr. Justice Buller; and in resisting his efforts to coerce the jury, Erskine, to his threats to "proceed in another manner," replied, "Your Lordship may proceed in what manner you think fit; I know my duty as well as your Lordship knows yours. I shall not alter my conduct,”—a brilliant manifestation of professional courage and loyalty which will live so long as the traditions of a great profession are preserved.
For several years young Pratt continued his practice with success, distinguishing himself particularly in political causes. It is said his selection as King's Counsel was deferred because Lord Hardwicke, the Lord Chancellor, feared he might rival Charles Yorke, the second son of that great judge. When he finally "took silk" and, appearing in the chancery, began to interfere with Yorke, it is said Lord Hardwicke treated him with great civility but marked disregard, showing plainly that he never listened to anything he said; which only illustrates that a wig and gown can not alter human nature.
In 1757 Pitt became prime minister and resolved to promote the fortunes of his boyhood friend. Accordingly, Pratt was made Attorney General, was Knighted, and became a member of Parliament for Downton, which borough he continued to represent until he was appointed Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas in 1762, having first become ir Sergeant in order to qualify himself for this promotion.
In the following year John Wilkes, that strange character
whose life and vicissitudes are inseparably interwoven with the history of constitutional liberty in England during the last century, was arrested under a general warrant issued by Lord Halifax, Secretary of State, authorizing the seizure of “the authors, printers and publishers of the North Briton No. 45, together with their papers." After habeas corpus had been issued from the Common Pleas, to evade the writ Wilkes was passed from the custody of the secretary to the tower, the officers of the secretary returning that the prisoner was not in their custody. A habeas corpus was accordingly issued from the same court to the lieutenant of the tower and the prisoner was brought before the court.
Wilkes was one of the brightest, coarsest, most reckless, dissolute and profane of men. I might occupy my entire time with characteristic anecdotes of him. I can not forbear one.
Thurlow, a man of some force of character, though denied this virtue by Brougham, but a tyrant and probably a hypocrite, while Lord Chancellor descended from the wool sack on one occasion to address the Lords, and speaking with great apparent emotion, protesting his loyalty and devotion to the King, concluded: "And when I forget my sovereign, may my God forget me;" on which Wilkes, sitting on the steps of the throne, muttered in a low tone heard all over the house, “God forget you. He'll see you d-d first.” This somewhat impaired the effect of the noble Lord's peroration.
On the habeas corpus counsel for the crown managed to evade the question as to the validity of general warrants by failing to return that under which the relator was originally arrested as authority for his detention and attempting to justify his commitment to the tower as author and publisher of a seditious libel. He was, however, discharged on the ground of privilege from arrest except for treason, felony or breach of the peace, as a member of Parliament.
London had been greatly stirred by this attempted invasion of personal liberty; and this decision was received with
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universal satisfaction and Chief Justice Pratt became instantly and immensely popular.
His court was eagerly sought by suitors in actions for damages for arrest under general warrants.
And while his language in relation thereto has been criticised as intemperate and unjudicial, I am inclined to think it may well be justified as a salutary expression of righteous indignation at attempted gross abuse of the weak and comparatively defenceless, by the hand of arbitrary power,
In one case he said:
“The personal injury done the plaintiff was very small, so that if the jury had been confined by their oath to consider the mere personal injury only, perhaps twenty pounds would have been thought damages sufficient; but the jury saw before them a magistrate exercising arbitrary power over all the king's subjects, violating Magna Charta, and attempting to destroy the liberty of the kingdom by insisting on the legality of this general warrant; they heard the king's counsel and saw the solicitor to the treasury endeavoring to support and maintain the legality of the warrant in a tyrannical and severe manner.
To enter a man's house under color of a nameless warrant in order to procure evidence is worse than the Spanish Inquisition, a la v under which no Englishman would care to live an hour. It was a most daring attack on the liberty of the subject." An action of this sort brought by Wilkes was tried before him; and he entered judgment therein on a verdict for £1,000.
The question as to the legality of general warrants was soon after raised on error in King's Bench. Campbell tells us that Lord Mansfield on argument intimated an opinion against their validity, though the decision, turning on a ininor point, left this question undetermined, but that such warrants have since been regarded as illegal.
While this may have been the course taken in a particular case, the proposition that general warrants are illegal rests
upon a firmer foundation than the learned author seems to suppose. For such was the express decision in King's Bench in Money vs. Leach, a note of which appears in 3 Burrow 1742, and which is reported in 1 Blackstone, Rep. 555.
The views thus maintained have been vindicated by the wisdom of succeeding generations. The fourth amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibits such warrants, as do the constitutions of most of the states, and they are unknown in our jurisprudence.
The popularity of the chief justice was greatly enhanced by his course in those matters; and, as his biographer tells us, one of the sights of London which foreigners went to see, was the Great Lord Chief Justice Pratt.
In 1765, those in power seeking to please the people, ele. vated him to the peerage as Baron Camden, of Camden Place, in the county of Kent-and he thus obtained a seat in the House of Lords. His first notable effort there was in February, 1766, when in a debate preliminary to the repeal of the stamp act, he denied the right of England to tax the American colonies, while they were not represented in Parliament. For this he was violently attacked by Henley, his early patron, who had, as Lord Northington, become lord chancellor. This debate was listened to by a great American, Benjamin Franklin, who was present in the Lords on that occasion. At a later date the precise subject of discussion being a resolution declaratory of the power of Parliament to legislate for the colonies, he said:
My position is this-I repeat it-I will maintain it to my last hour-taxation and representation are inseparable; this position is founded on the law of nature; it is itself a law of nature; for whatever is a man's own, is absolutely his own; no man has a right to take it from him without his consent, either expressed by himself or representative; whoever attempts to do it, attempts an injury; whoever does it commits