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and go down to the criminals' post at the bar; and there he pleaded for himself, as a common rogue or thief must have done: and when the mayor hesitated a little, or slackened his pace, he bawled at him, and, stamping, called for his guards ; for he was general by commission. Thus the citizens saw their scarlet chief magistrate at the bar, to their infinite terror and amazement. He then took security of them to answer informations, and so left them to ponder their cases amongst themselves. At London Sir Robert Cann applied, by friends, to appease him, and to get from under the prosecution, and at last he granted it, saying, 'Go thy way; sin no more, lest a worst thing come unto thee.' secutions depended till the revolution, which made an amnesty; and the fright only, which was no small one, was all the punishment these juridical kidnappers under
And the gains, acquired by so wicked a trade, rested peaceably in their pockets."*
Stained with the blood of the aged, the weak, and the defenceless, Jefferies returned to the capital to claim, from the hands of the master he had so faithfully and acceptably served, the reward due to his singular merits. That reward was immediately conferred upon him, and on the 28th of September he received the great seal, and was appointed lord high chancellor.
Having thus gained the summit of his ambition, Jefferies appears to have in some degree relaxed his activity in carrying into effect the wishes of the court. It is possible, too, that the heart, which no sentiment of humanity could affect, was 'touched by some religious scruples. He had no bias whatever towards catholicism; and though, for his own advancement, he had ever been ready to forward the designs of the court, he felt no inclination to offend his conscience without some corresponding advantage. Nor is it improbable that he foresaw the dangers to which the king was exposing himself by thus attacking the dearest prejudices of his subjects. In consequence, probably, of some advice to this effect
* Life of Lord Guilford, vol. ii. p. 24.
tendered to the king, the favour of Jefferies began to decline at court. This is asserted by Burnet, and we have some confirmatory evidence to the same effect in the lately published Ellis Correspondence. “I am very confident,” says the letter-writer, “ that matters are brewing to break the neck of our wide-mouthed, highpaced &c., and as conjurors throw a dog or a cat to allay the devil with, so he may be thrown as a choosing morsel to the next parliament. Herbert has represented, since his return from the western circuit, the disservice done by the management of the former circuit, and the rapine; and I am creditably told it works to admiration; and his dear friend, the thin great man at Whitehall, quits him."* To regain his favour at court, Jefferies did not hesitate to abandon his church of England friends, and to suggest to the king the establishment of the celebrated ecclesiastical commission. It was obvious to James, that some measures had become necessary in order to depress the church of England party, who had manifested the strongest opposition to the designs contemplated by the court in favour of the catholics. By the advice of Jefferies, therefore, he resolved to re-establish the court of high commission, though, as the existence of that tribunal had been denounced by statute, it was necessary to bestow a different title upon the new court. A commission was therefore issued, appointing the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor Jefferies, Lord Rochester, Lord Sunderland, the Bishops of Durham and Rochester, and the lord chief justice to be commissioners for reforming all abuses of which the ecclesiastical law had cognizance. The proceedings under this commission against the Bishop of London, the University of Cambridge, and Magdalen College, Oxford, were in strict conformity with the character and object of the tribunal. The vice-president and fellows of Magdalen College were cited to appear before the commissioners at Whitehall, and having appeared, they tendered an answer to
* Vol. i. p. 104. and see id.
the charge of disobeying the king's commands. This answer was signed by only five of the delegates, Dr. Fairfax, the sixth, not consenting to it. He desired to state to the commissioners his reasons for this refusal, upon which Jefferies, imagining that he was about to tender his submission, exclaimed, “ Ay, this looks like a man of sense, and a good subject; let us hear what he will say.” Fairfax then argued that the matter was cognizable in Westminster Hall, and not before the commissioners. Jefferies replied that he was a doctor of divinity, and not of law. The doctor then demanded by what commission and authority they sate? The boldness of this question threw the chancellor into a most violent paroxysm of passion.
“ Pray what commission have you,” said he, “ to be so impudent in court? This man ought to be kept in a dark room. - Why do you suffer him without a guardian ? Pray let the officers seize him.” *
The conspicuous part which Jefferies acted on this commission rendered him extremely odious to the nation at large ; and his cruelties in the west were almost forgotten in his severities towards the suffering members of the church of England. When, in consequence of the increase of the popular discontents, and of the rumours from Holland of the preparations on foot for the expedition to England, the king was advised to call a parliament in order to appease the people, Jefferies, well aware that on the first meeting of the commons he should probably be assailed as the great grievance of the nation, vehemently opposed, at the council-table, the proposition for calling a parliament. That proposition, indeed, had been made too late ; and Jefferies was saved from the vengeance of the people's representatives only that he might experience the fiercer passions of the people themselves.
The period now approached when Jefferies was to be dragged from the elevated station he had so long disgraced by his violence, his cruelty, and his want of prin* Rennett, vol. iii. p. 50+.
+ Ellis Cor, vol. ii. p. 144.
ciple. On the approach of the Prince of Orange, and the flight of the king from London, the people, terrified by the report of a popish massacre, rose tumultuously ; and Jefferies, justly dreading their vengeance, attempted to make his escape.
The following is a circumstantial narrative of this attempt: “ The chancellor, now without protection, having rendered himself obnoxious to most people, and being perfectly hated by the nation, on Monday, between three and four in the morning, withdrew, and having in disguise got down safe to Wapping, put himself on board a collier, which was pretended to be bound for Newcastle, but indeed was designed for Hamburgh ; but some persons having notice thereof, by means of the mate, they went to a justice for a warrant to apprehend him; but he thought fit to put them off, whereupon they applied themselves forth with to the lords of the council, who granted them a warrant, and they went immediately to search the ship. But he, on Tuesday night, not thinking himself safe on board the collier in which he was to pass, lay in another ship hard by, so that those who came that day to search for him missed of him on board, but had information given them that he was hard by at a little peddling alehouse, where accordingly they found him, being the sign of the Red Cow, in Anchor and Hope Alley, near King Edward's Stairs, from whence they immediately hurried him in a coach, guarded with several blunderbusses, to the lord mayor's; where the crowd was so great, and the rabble so numerous, all crying out together Vengeance ! Justice! Justice! that the lord mayor was forced to come out into his balcony, with his hat in his hand, and to desire the people to go away and keep peace, and did promise them that he had already sent to the lords of the council about the matter, and that they should have justice done them, and that in the mean time their prisoner should be safely guarded. Whereupon the people withdrew, and soon after my lord, under a strong guard, was sent to the lords of the council, who committed him to the Tower, where he continued to the 18th of April,
1689, when he was freed by death from his earthly confinement. He had for some years before been subject to terrible fits of the stone, which in all probability now accelerated his death, though others gave out he abandoned himself to excessive drinking, thinking to support his sinking spirits by it, and that that helped forward to put a period to his life. He was buried privately in the Tower the Sunday night following, by an order his relations got from King William.”*
Burnet adds to his account of the capture of Jefferies, that “ the lord mayor was so struck with the terror of the rude populace, and with the disgrace of a man who had made all people tremble before him, that he fell into fits, of which he died soon after."
The deep and indignant feelings which cruelty and oppression excite, rerder it difficult to form a cool and impartial opinion of the character of Jefferies. In all the essential qualities of mind which a judge ought to possess, he seems to have been totally deficient. Unprincipled, cruel, irascible, and impatient, he stained the pure fountains of justice with blood and with corruption. No sentiment of integrity, no feeling of mercy, ever found a place in his bosom. To these qualities he added a brutal levity of conduct, strangely unbecoming the judicial character. His acquirements as a lawyer were of a mean order ; and it is not dealing too harshly with him to adopt the censure of Mr. Justice Foster, and to pronounce him “ the very worst judge that ever disgraced Westminster-hall.”
The ease with which those who are conversant with courts of justice learn to disregard the sufferings of others, and the faculty, which too often follows, of turning those sufferings into ridicule, are but modifications of those brutal qualities which in Jefferies appeared in their full perfection. It may perhaps tend, in some degree, to prevent the growth of those callous and inhuman feelings, to observe them in the odiousness of their com. plete developement, and to remark the execration and
* Lives of the Chancellors, vol. i. p. 185.