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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


252 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHEX. He was diffident to follow one so greatly endowed ; and he said-" It is well lkown, I believe, to all your lordships, that I did long and earnestly decline this office. But, as it is a fixed principle of my life, that a public man, when he has no intirmitiea of age or sickness to excuse him, is bound to serve his country in any station to which his Sovereign may call him, I did not think myself ultimately justified in disobeying the gracious conimands of his Royal Highness the Prince Regent." The ability with which Lord President Hope filled the high station to which he was appointed is well known to all who are capable of appreciating his character. In Peter's Lefters to his Kinsfolk, the eloquence and dignified bearing of his lordship are portrayed with the author's usual felicity and power ; and the scene described is interesting, the more so that it is happily one of rare occurrence. The writer has just been speaking of the Second Division of the Court of Session, and he continues- " In the other Division of the Court, I yesterday heard, without exception, the finest piece of judicial eloquence delivered in the finest possible way by the Lord President Hope. The requisites for this kind of eloquence are, of course, totally different from those of accomplished barristership-and I think they are in the present clever age infinitely more uncommon. When possessed in the degree of perfection in which this Judge possesses them, they are calculated assuredly to produce a yet nobler species of effect than even the finest display of the eloquence of the bar ever can command. They produce this effect the more powerfully, because there are comparatively very few occasions on which they can be called upon to attempt producing it ; but besides this adventitious circumstance, they are essentially higher in their quality, and the feelings which they excite are proportionally deeper in their whole character and complexion. " I confess I was struck with the whole scene, the more because I had not heard anything which might have prepared me to expect a scene of so much interest, or a display of so much power. But it is impossible that the presence and air of any judge should grace the judgmentseat more than those of the Lord President did upon this occasion. When I entered, the Court was completely crowded in every part of its area and galleries, and even the avenues and steps of the bench were covered with persons who could not find accommodation for sitting. I looked to the bar, naturally expecting to see it filled with some of the most favourite advocates ; but was astonished to perceive, that not one gentleman in a gown was there ; and, indeed, that the whole of the first row, commonly occupied by the barristers, was entirely deserted. An air of intense expectation, notwithstanding, was stamped upon all the innumerable faces around me ; and from the direction in rrhich most of them were turned, I soon gathered that the eloquence they had come to hear, was to proceed from the bench. The Judges, when I looked towards them, had none of those huge piles of paper before them, with which their desk is usually covered in ali its breadth and in all its length. Neither did they appear to be occupied among themselves with arranging the order or substance of opinions about to be delivered. Each Judge crat in silence, wrapt up in himself, but calm, and with the air of sharing in the general expectation of the audience, rather than that of meditating on anything which he himself might be about to utter. In the countenance of the President alone, I fancied I could perceive the workings of anxious thought. He leaned back in his chair ; his eyes were cast downwards ; and his face seemed to be covered with a deadly paleness, which I had never before seen its masculine and commanding lines exhibit. " At length he lifted up his eyes, and, at a signal from his hand, a man clad respectably in black rose from the second row of seats behind the bar. I could not at first see his face ; but from his air, I perceived at once that he was there in the capacity of an offender, A minute or more elapsed before a word was said ; and I heard it whispered behind me that he was a wellknown solicitor or agent of the Court, who had been detected in some piece of mean chicanery, and I comprehended that the President was about to rebuke him for his transgression. A painful struggle of feelings seemed to keep the Judge silent, after he had put himself into the '
Volume 9 Page 334
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