Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

troduce it here, because it imparts a just idea of the man, and contains at least one good irait for the sake of humanity.

LORD GEORGE JEFFERIES, Baron Weem, commonly known by the name of Judge Jefferies, was the fixth son of John Jefferies, Esq. of Acton, in Den. bighshire. He was educated at Westminster School, where he became a good proficient in the learned languages, and was thence removed to the Inner Temple, where he applied himself very affiduously to the law. His father's family was large, and his temper parfimonious, consequently the young man's allowance was very scanty, and hardly fufficient to support him decently, but his own ingenuity supplied all deficiencies till he came to the bar, in which, as is affirmed by fome, he had no regular call. In 1666, he was at the affizes at Kingston, where very few counsellors attended, on account of the plague then raging. Here neceffity gave him permission to put on a gown, and to plead, and he continued the practice unrestrained till he reached the highest employments in the law. Alderman Jefferies, a namesake, and probably a relation, in. troduced him among the citizens; and, being a jovial bottle companion, he became very popular amongst them, came into great business, and was chofen their recorder. His influence in the city, and his readiness to promote any measures without reserve, introduced him to court, and he was appointed the Duke of York's Solicitor.

He was very active in the Duke's interest, and car. ried through a cause which was of very great consequence to his revenue : it was for the right of the Penny-Post Office. He was first made a judge in his native country, and in 1680 was knighted, and made chief juftice of Chester. When the parliament began the prosecution of the abhorrers, he resigned the recordership, and obtained the place of Chief Justice of the King's Bench, and foon after the acceflion of James

the

the Second, the great seal. He was one of the greatest advisers and promoters of all the oppressive and arbi. trary measures of that unhappy and tyrannical reign, and his fanguinary and inhuman proceedings against Monmouth's miserable adherents in the West, will ever render his name INFAMOUS. There is, however, a fingular story of him in this expedition, which tends to his credit, as, it thews that when he was not under state influence, he had a proper sense of the natural and civil rights of men, and an inclination to protect them. The mayor, aldermen, and justices of Bristol, had been used to transport convicted criminals to the American Plantations, and sell them by way of trade; and, finding the commodity turn to a good account, they contrived a method to make it more plentiful. Their legal convicts were but few, and the exportation inconsiderable. When, therefore, any petty rogues and pilferers were brought before them in a judicial capacity, they were sure to be terribly threatened with hanging; and they had some very diligent officers attending, who would advise the ignorant intimidated creatures to pray for transportation, as the only way to save them, and in general by fome means or other the advice was followed. Then, without any more form, each alderman in course took one and fold him for his own benefit, and sometimes warm disputes arose amongst them about the next turn. This trade had been carried on unnoticed many years, when it came to the knowledge of the Lord Chief Justice ; who, finding upon enquiry, that the mayor was equally involved in the guilt of this outrageous practice with the rest of his brethren, made him descend from the bench, where he was fitting, and stand at the bar in his scarlet and furs, and plead as a common criminal. He then took security of them to answer informations, but the amnesty after the Revolution stopt the proceedings, and secured their iniqnitcus gains.

North,

Аа 3

North, who (in his Lives of the Lord Chancellors) informs us of this circumstance, tells us likewise, that when Jefferies was in temper, and matters indifferent came before him, no one better became a seat of justice. He talked fuently and with spirit, but his weakness was, that he could not reprehend withour fcolding, and in such Billingsgate language as should not come from the mouth of any man. He called it " giving a lick with the rough side of his tongue.” It was ordinary to hear him say " Go, you are a filthy, lousy, nitty rascal,” with much more of like elegance. He took a pleasure in mortifying fraudulent attornits. His voice and visage made him a terror to real offenders, and formidable indeed to all. A scrivener of Wapping having a cause before him, one of the opponent's counsel said, that “ he was a strange fellow, and sometimes went to church, sometimes to convemicles, and yone could tell what to make of him, and it was thought he was a Trimmer !At this the chancellor fired : " A

Trimmer !" said he. “I have heard much of that monster, but never saw one :-Come forth, Mr. Trim. mer, and let me see your shape." He treated the poor fellow so roughly, that when he came out of the hall he declared, he would not undergo the terrors of that man's face again to save his life, and he should certainly retain the frightful impressions of it as long as he lived."

“ Afterwards, when the Prince of Orange came, and all was in confusion, JEFFERIES being very obnoxious to the people, disguised himself in order to go abroad. He was in a seaman's dress, and drinking a pot in a cellar. The scriviner, whom he had so fes verely handled, happening to come into the cellar after some of his clients, his eye caught that face which made him start;. when the chancellor, feeing himself observed, feigned a cough, and turned to the wall with the pot in his hand. But Mr. Trimmer went out, and gave notice that he was there ; the mod in,

stantly

ftantly rushed in, seized him, and carried him before the lord mayor.

Thence under a strong guard he was sent to the Lords of the Council, who committed him to the Tower, where he died April 18, 1639, and was buried privately the Sunday night following.'

It was generally supposed, that Jefferies died of his bruises which he received at the time of his seizure; and many regretted that he was not dragged forth, fent down into the West, and there subjected to the igno. miny of a public execution.

The new government, however, was most probably glad to get rid of him and his associates in any manner.

During his confinement in the Tower, Mr. Pennant says, that a barrel of Colchester oyfers was conveyed to him; which opening with joy, thinking it to be sent by some friend, he discovered an halter curiously wound up, and reproaching him with his cruelty. Indeed, few mortals have ever quitted this state of being so deeply laden with the execrations of mankind. What became of his coadjutor Kirk is not known. WILLIAM employed this wretch in relieving the reige of London. . derry, which he very indifferently effected, and for which Bithop Burnet censures him in the History of liis own Times. I have searched in vain for any traces of his exit in the pages of English history:

It is remarkable, thar JEFFERJEs succeeded a person in the office of Lord Chief Justice equally contemptible with himself. This character was Sir Edward Saunders, of whom the following curious Sketch is given in Grainger's Biographical History.

Sir Edward Saundurs was originally a strolling beggar about the streets, without either known parents or relations. He came often to beg scraps at Clement's Inn, where he was taken notice of for his uncominon sprightliness; and as he expressed a strong inclination to learn to write, one of the attornies clerks taught him, and foon qualified him for a hackney writer. He took all opportunities of improving himself by reading

fuch

as

such books as he borrowed of his friends, and in the 'course of a few years became an able attorney, and a very eminent counsellor. His practice in the Court of King's Bench was exceeded by none; his art and cunning were equal to his knowledge, and he carried many a cause by laying of snares. If he was detected, he was never out of countenance, but evaded the matter with a jeit, which he had always at hand. He was much employed by the king against the city of London in the business of the quo warranto. His perfon was Heavy and as ungainly as his wit was alert and sprightly. He is said to have been a mere lump of morbid flesh : the smell of him was to offensive, that people usually held their noses when he came into the court. One of his jests on this occasion was, that none could say he wanted fluc, for he had no less than nine in his back !”

Such was the predecessor of JEFFERIES, and they were worthy of being coupled together:

Par nobile Fratrum!. Before I ciofe this melancholy account of JEFFE RIE's campaign in the West (this was the appellation which James jocularly bestowed upon it), it may be observed, that it is almost impoffible to visit the charming town of TAUNTON and its environs without calling up those cnormities to the mind, though they were perpetrated at the distance of upwards of a century. Nor am I singular in these my impreffions. A modern Poet, diftinguilhed for the justness of his taste, and the delia cacy of his feelings, has just published the following inscription, the purport of which is to impress similar fentiments on the mind.

FE

FOR A MONUMENT AT TAUNTON.

By Robert Southey.
They perish'd here whom JEFFERIES doom'd to death,
In mockery of all justice, when he came,
The bloody judge, the minion of his king

Com

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »