Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


166 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Parliient House. plead in any court in Scotland, and in all Scottish appeals before the House of Lords-is a body, of course, inseparably connected, as yet, with the old Parliament House. From among that body the judges of the supreme courts and sheriffs of the various counties are selected. It is the most distinguished corporate body in Scotland, and of old, especially, was composed of the representatives alike of the landed aristocracy, the rank and intellect of Scotland ; and for more than three centuries the dignity of the Scottish bench and bar has been maintained by a succession of distinguished men, illustrious, not only in their own peculiar department of legal knowledge, but in most branches of literature and science ; and it has produced some men whose worksare read and whose influence is felt wherever the language of Great Britain is known. The whole internal economy of the legal bodies, and of the courts of law, is governed by the Acts wildest imagery, have foreseen the Edinburgh and the Scotland of to-day ! Till so lately as 1779 the Parliament House, retained the divisions, furnishing, and-save the royal portraits-other features, which it had borne in the days when Scotland had a national legislature. Since that time the associations of this hall-the Westminster Hall of Edinburgh-are only such as relate to men eminent in the College of Justice, for learning or great legal lore, among whom we may note Duncan Forbes, Lords Monboddo and Kames, Hume, Erskine, and Mackenzie, and, indeed, nearly all the men of note in past Scottish literature. ?? Our own generation has witnessed there Cockbum, Brougham, Horner, Jeffrey, and Scott, sharing in the grave offices of the court, or takinga part in the broad humour and wit for which the members of ? the Faculty ? are so celebrated ; and still the visitor to ,this learned and literary lounge cannot fail to be gratified in a high degree, while watching the different groups who gather in the Hall, and noting the lines of thought or humour, and the infinite variety of physiognomy for which the wigged and gowned loiterers of the Law Courts are peculiarly famed.? consequence of a difikrence having arisen between the Facultyand the Lords of Session, banished the whole of the former twelve miles from Edinburgh. The subject in dispute was whether any appeal lay from the Court of Session to the Parliament. It is obvious that in this contest between the bench and the bar, law and the practice of the court,. independent of expediency, could alone be con-- sidered, and the Faculty remained banished until the unlimited supremacy of the Court should be acknowledged; but what would those sturdy advocates of the seventeenth century have thought of appeals to a Parliament sitting at Westminster ? In 1702 the Faculty became again embroiled. Upon the accession of Queen Anne a new Parliament was not summoned, that which sat during the reign of her predecessor being reassembled. The Duke of Hamilton and seventy-nine members protested against this as being illegal, and withdrew from the House. The Faculty of Advocates passed - The Hall is now open from where the throne stood to the great south window. Once it was divided into two portions-the southern separated from the rest by a screen, accommodated the Court of Session ; the northern, comprising a subsection used for the Sheriff Court, was chiefly a kind of lobby, and was degraded by a set of little booths,. occupied as taverns, booksellers? shops, and toy-- shops, like those in the Krames. Among others, .Creech had a stall ; and such was once the conditioe of Westminster Hall. Spottiswoode of that ilk, who published a work on ?Forms of Process,? in I 7 I 8, records that there were then ? two keepers of the session-house, who had small salaries to de the menial offices there, and that no small part of their annual perquisites came from the kramrrs in the outer hall.? The great Hall is now used as a promenade and waiting-room by the advocates and other practitioners connected with the supreme courts, and during the sitting of these presents a very animated scene ; and there George IV. was received in kingly state at a grand banquet, on his visit to the city in 1822.
Volume 1 Page 166
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