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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 381 sense of Dundas, would have been unable much longer to have withstood, when the recovery of the King happily removed them from their difEculties. The Chief Justice stood opposed to the administration of Pitt until the violent nature of the Revolution in France induced him and other individuals of his party to join the ministerial ranks. He was almost immediately invested with the high office of Lord Chancellor ; and to the influence which- he thus acquired in the councils of his Majesty are to be attributed many of those vigorous and decisive measures which were subsequently adopted by the Government. Lord Loughborough held the Chancellorship till 1801, when he was created Earl of Rosslyn, with a remainder to his two nephews ; and, nearly worn out with the fatigues of a long and active career, he retired altogether from public life, carrying with him the highest esteem of his sovereign, by whom he continued to be honoured with every mark of respect. “ During the brief interval allowed to him between the theatre of public business and the grave, he paid a visit to Edinburgh, from which he had been habitually absent for nearly fifty years. With a feeling quite natural, perhaps, but yet hardIy to be expected in one who had passed through so many of the more elevated of the artificial scenes of life, he caused himself to be carried in a chair to an obscure part of the Old Town, where he had resided during the most of his early years. He expressed a particular anxiety to know if a set of holes in the paved court before his father‘s house, which he had used for some youthful sport, continued in existence ; and, on finding them still there, it was said that the aged statesman was moved almost to tears.’” His demise is thus announced in the journals of the period :- “At his seat at Baylis, near Salthill, in Berkshire, aged seventy-two, the Right Hon. Alexander Wedderhurn, Earl of Rosslyn, Baron of Loughborough, in Leicestershire, and Baron Loughborough, in Surrey. His lordship had been long subject to the gout ; but for some weeks past he was so much recovered as to visit round the neighbourhood j and on Tuesday night, January 1, accompanied the Countess to her Majesty’s f6te at Frogmore. “ Next morning his lordship rode on horseback to visit several of the neighbouring gentlemen ; and, after his return to Baylis, went in his carriage to Bulstrode to visit the Duke of Portland, and returned home apparently in perfect health. At six o’clock, as his lordship sat at table, he was suddenly seized with a fit of the apoplectic kind, and fell speechless in his chair. At twelve o’clock he expired. “ His lordship married, 31st December 1767, Betty Anne, only daughter and sole heiress of John Dawson, Esq. of Morley, in Yorkshire, who died 15th February 1781. He had no issue. His second lady, whom he married 12th September 1782, vas the youngast daughter of William Viscount Courtenay, by whom he had a son, horn 2d October 1793, and since dead. Ry a second patent, October 31, 1795, he was created Baron Loughborongh, in the county of Surrey, with remainders severally and successively to Sir James St. Clair Erskine, Bart., and to John Erskine, his brother ; and, by tr patent, April 21, 1801, Earl of Rosslyn, in the county of Mid-Lothian, to him and his heirs-male, with remainder to the heirs-male of Dame Janet Erskine, deceased, his sister. He was succeeded in the title by his nephew, Sir Jam= St. Clair Erskine, Bart. The remains of the Earl were interred in St. Paul’s Cathedral. ” His lordship died on the 2d January 1805. In private life Lord Loughborough was esteemed a most agreeable com- Traditions of Edinburgh.--The house, which consists of four stories, and is dated 1679, was situated in Elphinstone’s Court, South Gray’s Close, oppotlite the ancient Mint
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382 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. panion. The early friendships which he formed during his connection with the Select Society of Edinburgh, among whom were Robertson, Blair, Smith, and Hume, he continued to cherish with fondness throughout the bustle of his after life.’ The public character of his lordship has been variously represented, according to the political sentiments and prejudices of his contemporaries. Few statesmen during the “ chopping and changing ” of last century escaped the satirical lash of the Opposition ; and with such men as the ‘( wary Wedderburn,” in the absence of other topics, national reflections were found a never-failing resource for the wits of the day ; hence he is described by Churchill as “ A pert, prim prater, of the northern race ; Guilt in his heart, and famine in his face. ” Wra&l, who cannot be charged with too much partiality for the “northern race,” in the Memoirs of his own Times, thus sums up the character of the statesman :-“ Loughborough unquestionably was one of the most able lawyers, accomplished parliamentary orators, and dexterous courtiers, who flourished under the reign of George the Third ; yet, with the qualities here enumerated, he never approved himself a wise, judicious, or enlightened statesman. His counsels, throughout the whole period of the King’s malady, were, if not unconstitutional, at least repugnant to the general sense of Parliament, and of the country-violent, imprudent, and injurious to the cause that he espoused. In 1793, when he held the Great Seal, and sat in cabinet, it was universally believed that the siege of Dunkirk-one of the most fatal measures ever embraced by the allies-originated with Lord Loughborough. Nevertheless, his legal knowledge, experience, and versatile talents, seemed eminently to qualify him for guiding the heir-apparent at a juncture when, if the King should not speedily recover, constitutional questions of the most novel, difficult, and important nature must necessarily present themselves.” Here we find all that can be plausibly urged against the public character of Lord Loughborough, while a great deal is admitted in his favour. The imprudence attributed to his counsels is hypothetical, and might be urged with as much propriety against any other public man of equal genius and decision of character. The only literary productions of his lordship were-Critiques on Barclay’s Greek Grammar, the Decisions of the Supreme Court, and the Abridgment of the Public Statutes, which appeared in the Edinburgh Review, 1755. In 1793, he published a Treatise on the Management of Prisons ; and, subsequently, a Treatise on the English Poor Laws, addressed to a clergyman. [Only two numbers of the Edinburgh Review were published. The editors were BliEir, Robertson, etc.]
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