Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

at a time*. The reason of this division is not stated, but some such arrangement seems to have been adopted about this time amongst all the royal servants. In Alfred's time, the attendants upon his person were required to be present at Court every third month; the two intervening months they were at liberty to remain at home to attend to their own affairst.

However humble the duties of the office were at its first institution, and I believe them to have been purely ministerial, we soon find that they increased in importance, and were therefore entrusted to persons of talent and dignity. Attendance upon the person of the King, and communication with him on the subject of bis charters, no doubt afforded to ambitious priests many opportunities of aggrandizing themselves and their profession, which few would let pass unimproved. The general want of learning threw the office into the hands of Churchmen; and the spirit, which we are accustomed to consider was predominant in the clerical profession at that time, would prompt them to take advantage of the lucky circumstance. Little learning was at first necessary to render a person eligible for the office, but even that little was a distinction of great moment amongst our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, and doubtless laid the foundation of that gradual increase of importance which we find accruing to the Chancellor in every succeeding age. In the beginning of the eighth century, this officer was a humble Presbyter or Scriba, who wrote as he was commanded. In the following century we find an Abbot in possession of the office, and learn that a Chancellor was promoted to a Bishopric. The mere servant had then become the adviser of his master: and in the year 946, Turketulus, who was considered a man of great piety and profound genius, was appointed Chancellor, in order that all things which were referred to the decision of the King, might be determined by his counsel and opinion t. In the year 1066, we find the Chancellor ranking immediately after the bishops and abbots. A few years afterwards, the Bishop of London was Chancellor, and from that time the office has usually been in the hands either of a dignified clergyman, or some other man of weight and importance. At the present day," amongst Right Honorables, the Chancellor is the chief, as one whose excellent virtue ought to be prefereed before all other officers.” Segar on Honor, i. 236.

Previous to the Conquest, there accrued an addition to the duties of the Chancellor, which demands our notice-I mean the custody of the King's Seal. The time of the first introduction of the custom of appending seals to written instruments, is involved in some degree of obscurity. Upon the authority of a passage in Ingulphus, many point it out as one of the innovations for which we are indebted to the Normans, but there is no doubt that seals were employed in the time of Edward the Confessor; and a paper, lately communicated to the Society of Antiquarians, by Hudson Gurney, Esq. seems to • 2 Gale, 501. † 3 Gale, 256. 1 1 Gale, 36. $ Spelman você Cancel.

prove that they were in use about two centuries before. It is altogether unnecessary for us to enter into the dispute upon this subject, as the facts upon both sides are well known: and it would be in some degree foreign to our present purpose, which is merely to remark, that from the first, we find the duty of sealing the King's writs, charters, &c. to have fallen, as was probable would be the case, upon the Chancellor or officer who was intrusted to prepare them. Thus the charter granted by Edward the Confessor to the Abbey of St. Peter, Westminster, is subscribed amongst others, “ Ego Rembaldus Regis Cancellarius relegi et sigillavi.”

For many years the seal seems to have continued an unquestionable appendage to the Chancellor's office; but in process of time, the pecuniary necessities of some monarchs, and the tyranny of others, gave rise to the unconstitutional practice of granting the custody of the seal to a person who was not Chancellor. During the reigns of Stephen and John, we find several recorded instances of the higher legal offices having been disposed of for sums of money. Thus in Stephen's reign, Richard Fitz-Alured gave 15 merks of silver to be permitted to sit with Ralph Basset at the King's Pleas* : and in the 7th of John, Walter de Grey gave the King 5000 merks for a grant of the office of Chancellor for his lifet. It cannot surprise us that at this time, when venality had risen to so inordinate a height, that “ the Judges' boly office” was publicly trafficked for, the seal was first taken from its accustomed keeper, and furnished by its sale an additional source of profit. Indeed, we have pretty good evidence that such was the case, for we find that in the 5th of Stephen, Geoffrey, the Chancellor, purchased the custody of the seal at the price of £3006. 13s. 4d. Madox, in his Hist. Excheq. i. p. 62, says, he understands this to be a fine then lately made with the King for the office of Chancellor, or to have the keeping of the King's Seal; but the words of the entry on the Roll, “ Et idem Cancellarius debet £3006. 13s. 4d. pro sigillo," seem to warrant the supposition that Geoffrey, being Chancellor, purchased, for that sum, the custody of the seal. At any event, it is certain that about this time we find the first trace of the existence of the office of Sigillifer, or Keeper of the Seal. Another reason for the disjunction of the Chancery, and the custody of the seal, at that time, may be inferred from the circumstances under which the Chancellor was appointed. Invested with that dignity, not upon account of his wisdom, but his wealth; chosen for the office, not because he was fitting to perform its duties, but willing to pay for the enjoyment of its profits-he cannot be supposed to have had any other objects than the aggrandizement of his emoluments, or the increase of his power; and whilst the former would prompt him to affix the seal to whatever a weak or vicious Prince suggested, the attainment of the latter might often induce him to oppose the will of his Sovereign.

[ocr errors]

History furnishes an instance of this in the case of Ralph de Neville, Bishop of Chichester, who was created Chancellor in the 11th of Henry III., but had not the custody of the seal until the 16th of the same reign*. Some years afterwards we find Henry, in a fit of passion, demanded the seal from him; but the Chancellor refused to deliver it up, and actually kept it for a long time afterwards. In the 22nd year of Henry's reign, we find, however, that the seal was taken from him by the King's command, in consequence of a dispute relative to the Chancellor's election to the See of Winchester, in contradiction to the declared wish of the Kingt. Nothing could be more detrimental to the interests of justice than such indecent squabbles as these; but, nevertheless, instances occur continually of the seal being lodged in other hands than those of the Chancellor. In fact, the offices became separate about that time, and have continued so to the present day. For many years past, it has been the practice to commit the custody of the seal to the Lord Chancellor, who thereby becomes Lord Keeper also; but the offices are distinct, and are recognized to be so by the stat. 5th of Elizabeth, cap. 18, which declares them to be of equal power, authority, and jurisdiction. Blackstone states (Cominent. vol. iii. p. 47), that “when seals came in use, the Chancellor had always the custody of the King's Great Seal, so that the office of Chancellor, or Lord Keeper, is with us, at this day, created by the mere delivery of the King's Great Seal into his custody.” If, by the first part of this quotation, Blackstone wished it to be inferred that Chancellors have invariably had the custody of the Great Seal, he is certainly mistaken. Many instances, besides those quoted, are to be found in Spelman and Madox, of persons, who were not Chancellors, having the custody of the King's Seal at times when there were Chancellors; but, indeed, the existence of such an officer as Sigillifer, or Keeper of the Seal, sufficiently proves the fact. The other part of the sentence is founded upon a passage in Lambard, in which it appears to us the two offices have been confounded. They are, however, clearly distinguishable; the person to whom the seal is delivered is Lord Keeper, but it does not thence follow that he is Lord Chancellor.

Another of the ancient duties of the Chancellor was, to attend at the Exchequer as one of the Barons of that Court.

The business of the Exchequer was anciently transacted by a Treasurer, and certain Barons, who attended there for the purpose of receiving the accounts of the King's debtors-enforcing payment of their debts, or making them such allowances as were just. The Barons were not, as at the present day, lawyers by profession, as appears from the stat. 1, 14th of Edward III. cap. 16, by which a writ of nisi prius was allowed to be granted “ devant le Chief Baron del Eschequer, sil soit homme de ley," clearly intimating that he was not always " a man of law."

There are many instancesi, down to the 2nd of Richard I., of the • Madox, Excheq. 1, 43.

+ Mat. Paris, 472. Mat. West. | Madox Excheq. 1, 206, 207.

Chancellor sitting at the Exchequer, and transacting business there, and making allowances to the King's debtors in the same manner as the other Barons. We find also an entry on a roll cited by Madox (Excheq. 1, 206), of the date of 5th of Stephen, wherein an allowance is made to the Chancellor for his livery, for the forty-three days in which he did not attend at the Exchequer, “ together with the other Barons.”

We have not found any reason assigned for the discontinuance of the Chancellor's attendance at the Exchequer, but are inclined to think he was succeeded there by a Chancellor specially appointed for that particular court-an officer with whom we are well acquainted at the present day. We have before observed, that no entry is to be found from which the Chancellor's attendance at the Exchequer may be inferred after the 2nd of Richard I.; he may have attended afterwards, but we can discover no trace of it. In the 18th of Henry III. a new officer was appointed at the Exchequer, to whom no name is assigned, but whose duties appear to have been to check the accounts of the Treasurer*. This officer is conjectured by Madox to be the same we now term the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and we conceive he is correct, not only because we find no mention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer before that time, and do shortly afterwards, but also because the duties of the office agree with those of the Chancellor, who is to this day“ Chancellor and Under Treasurer of his Majesty's Exchequer.” We may also state, that, from this time, mention is made of a particular seal for the Exchequer, which was placed in the custody of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and has continued with him to the present time.

All these circumstances seem to prove pretty clearly, that when the King's Chancellor left off sitting at the Exchequer, he was succeeded by a person specially appointed to exercise those duties which he had before exercised, and who was, therefore, very properly called “ The Chancellor of the Exchequer."

The Court of Equity, in which the Lord Chancellor now presides, in order to moderate the strict rules of the common law, and which is (according to the author of “ Observations on the Office of Lord Chancellor, 1651," attributed to Lord Ellesmere) “ the refuge of the poor and afflicted—the altar and sanctuary of such as against the might of rich men, and the countenance of great men, cannot maintain the goodness of their cause and the truth of their title,” had its rise in the reign of Richard II.; but as this is fully treated of by Blackstone, and other legal writers, we abstain from any remarks upon that subject.

Of the Chancellor's officers there is little notice during the early ages. The only instance we have found, previous to the Conquest, is in the before-mentioned charter to St. Peter's, Westminster, in 1066, amongst the signatures to which there is “ Ego Alfgeatus notarius advicem Rembaldi Regiæ dignitatis Cancellarii hoc privilegium scribsi et subscripsi.” This I take to be the same officer who is

• Madox, Excheq. 2, 51.

afterwards termed Vice-Chancellor, and the Chancellor's “ Lieutenant*,” and whose duty it was to fill the place of the Chancellor in his absence.

Madox classes with these the Sigillifer, or Keeper of the Sealt; but, for the reasons before stated, we look upon him to have been the rival of the Chancellor, rather than his officer-at present, by, the stat, 5th of Elizabeth before referred to, he is the Chancellor's equal.

Fleta s mentions the Clerks, or, as they are now termed, the Masters in Chancery, persons learned in the law, who were associated with the Chancellors, at a time when they were not lawyers, to assist in the administration of justice : the chief of these is the Master of the Rolls. We also find mention of them in the stat. 5, 18th of Edward III., where they are expressly termed “ Meisters."

Jon. OLDBUCK, Jun.

THE EXCHANGE.
Love and Death o' th' way once mecting,
Having past a friendly greeting,
Sleep their weary eye-lids closing,
Lay they down themselves reposing.
Love, whom divers cares molested,
Could not sleep, but whilst Death rested;
All in haste, away he posts him,
But his haste too dearly costs him.
For it chanced that going to sleeping,
Both bad given their darts in keeping
Unto Night; who, Error's mother,
Blindly knowing not one from t'other,
Gave Love Death's, and ne'er perceiv'd it,
Whilst as blindly Love receiv'd it.
Since which time their darts confounding,
Love now kills, instead of wounding.
Death, our hearts with sweetness filling,
Gently wounds, instead of killing.

FLECK NOE.

CONTENT.

WHO covets still, or be that lives in fear,

As much delight is wealth anto his mind,
As music is to him that cannot hear,
Or pleasant shows and pictures to the blind;

Then sweet Content oft likes the mean estate,
Which is exempt and free from fear and hate.

GEOFFRY WHITNEY.

[ocr errors][merged small]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »