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For the faithful and disinterested performance of his duty in this house, how has he been treated by some of his opponents ? He has been called a dependant; I presume, alluding to the honour he enjoys in the friendship and intimacy of a certain noble lord, a member of the other house (Lord Shelburne). If that intimacy and friendship be a state of dependence, I am happy in classing myself among that noble lord's dependants. I will assure those, who have alluded to what they call dependence, that it is a state of dependence accompanied with perfect freedom. It is true my honourable friend has been honoured with the noble lord's friendship for upwards of twenty years; but I think I know the frame of mind and disposition of my honourable friend too · well to be persuaded that he would purchase any man's intimacy upon any terms short of perfect equality and mutual confidence; and I think I may likewise add, that if any person should attempt to purchase the noble lord's friendship by mean or improper concessions, there is not a man on earth would more readily see through or despise it. I know the noble lord to be a great private as well as public character. I know my honourable friend to possess a spirit of true independ
I am persuaded of the noble lord's great and ac knowledged talents as a senator and a politician, and I can add, great as he may appear in a public light, that his private character is no less- amiable and worthy of general admiration.” *
In the year 1780, Lord Ashburton married Elizabeth, the daughter of John Baring, Esq. of Larkbear in Devonshire, by whom he had two sons, the elder of whom died in April 1783, aged seventeen months. This affliction is said to have weighed most heavily on the spirits of Lord Ashburton, in whom the parental affections existed in their liveliest form. From this period his health rapidly declined. Shortly before his decease an affecting interview is said to have taken place between him and another celebrated lawyer, Mr. Wallace, who
• Parl. Hist. vol. xxi. p. 346.
also died in the autumn of 1783. “ I have been as surcd,” says Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, “ that a short time before Lord Ashburton's decease, these two distinguished lawyers, finding themselves by accident in the same inn at Bagshot, the one on his way down into Devonshire, and the other returning from thence to London, both conscious that their recovery from the disorders under which they laboured was desperate, expressed a strong mutual wish to enjoy a last interview with each other. For that purpose they were carried into the same apartment, laid down on two sofas nearly opposite, and remained for a long time in conversation; they then parted, as men who would not hope to meet again in this world. By Wallace's decease, Lee became attorneygeneral, and Mansfield was replaced in his former situation of solicitor-general, which he had filled under Lord North's administration.” * Lord Ashburton died in the month of August, 1783.
The character of Lord Ashburton has been drawn by the friendly hand of Sir William Jones, who was indebted to him for various benefits.
“ The public are here presented, not with a fine picture, but a faithful portrait; with the character of a memorable and illustrious man, not in the style of panegyric on a monument, but in the language of sober truth, which friendship itself could not induce the writer to violate.
“ John Dunning (a name to which no title could add lustre) possessed professional talents, which may truly be called inimitable; for, besides their superlative excellence, they were peculiarly his own; and as it would scarcely be possible to copy them, so it is hardly probable that nature or education will give them to another. His language was always pure, always elegant, and the best words dropped easily from his lips into the best places, with a fluency at all times astonishing, and, when he had perfect health, really melodious. His style of speaking consisted of all the turns, oppositions, and figures which the old rhetoricians taught, and which
* Wraxall's Memoirs, vol. ii, p. 385.
Cicero frequently practised, but which the austere and solemn spirit of Demosthenes refused to adopt from his first master, and seldom admitted into his orations, political or forensic.
“ Many at the bar and on the bench thought this a vitiated style ; but though dissatisfied as critics, yet, to the confusion of all criticism, they were transported as hearers. That faculty, however, in which no mortal ever surpassed him, and which all found irresistible, was his wit. This relieved the weary, calmed the resentful, and animated the drowsy; this drew smiles even from such as were the object of it, scattered flowers over a desert, and, like sunbeams sparkling on a lake, gave spirit and vivacity to the dullest and least interesting cause. Not that his accomplishments as an advocate consisted principally in volubility of speech or liveliness of raillery. He was endowed with an intellect sedate yet penetrating, chaste yet profound, subtle yet strong. His knowledge, too, was equal to his imagination, and his memory to his knowledge. He was no less deeply learned in the sublime principles of jurisprudence and the particular laws of his country, than accurately skilled in the minute but useful practice of our different courts. In the nice conduct of a complicated cause, no particle of evidence could escape his vigilant attention, no shade of argument could elude his comprehensive reason : perhaps the vivacity of his imagination sometimes prompted him to sport where it would have been wiser to argue; and, perhaps, the exactness of his memory sometimes induced him to answer such remarks as hardly deserved notice, and to enlarge on small circumstances which added little to the weight of his argument; but those only who have experienced, can in any degree conceive, the difficulty of exerting all the mental faculties in one instant, when the least deliberation might lose the tide of action irrecoverably. The people seldom err in appreciating the merits of a speaker; and those clients who were too late to engage Dunning on their side never thought themselves secure of success,
while those against whom he was engaged were always apprehensive of a defeat.
“ As a lawyer, he knew that Britain could only be governed happily on the principles of her constitution or public law; that the regal power was limited, and popular rights ascertained by it; but that the aristocracy had
power than that which too naturally results from property, and which laws ought rather to weaken than fortify; and he was therefore an equal supporter of just prerogative and of national freedom, weighing both in the noble balance of our recorded constitution. An able aspiring statesman, who professed the same principles, had the wisdom to solicit and the merit to obtain the friendship of this great man ; and a connection, planted originally on the firm ground of similarity in political sentiments, ripened into personal affection, which nothing but death could have dissolved or impaired. Whether in his ministerial station he might not suffer a few prejudices insensibly to creep on his mind, as the best men have suffered, because they were men, may admit of a doubt ; but if even prejudiced, he was never uncandid; and, though pertinacious in all his opinions, he had great indulgence for such as differed from him.
“ His sense of honour was lofty and heroic; his integrity stern and inflexible ; and though he had a strong inclination for splendour of life, with a taste for all the elegancies of society, yet no love of dignity, of wealth, or of pleasure could have tempted him to deviate, in a single instance, from the straight line of truth and honesty. He carried his democratical principles even into social life, where he claimed no more of the conversation than his just share, and was always candidly attentive when it was his turn to be hearer. His enmities were strong yet placable, but his friendships were eternal ; and if his affections ever subdued his judgment, it must have been in cases where the fame or interest of a friend was nearly concerned. The veneration with which he constantly treated his father, whom his fortunes and reputation had made the happiest of mortals, could be
equalled only by the amiable tenderness which he showed as a parent. He used to speak with wonder and abhorrence of Swift, who was not ashamed to leave a written declaration that he could never be fond of children, and with applause of the caliph, who on the eve of a decisive battle, which was won by his valour and wisdom, amused himself in his tent with seeing his children ride on his scimitar and play with his turban; and dismissed a general, as unlikely to treat the army with lenity, who durst reprove him for so natural and innocent a recreation.
“ For some months before his death the nursery had been his chief delight, and gave him more pleasure than the cabinet could have afforded ; but this parental affection, which had been the source of so much felicity, was, probably, a cause of his fatal illness. He had lost one son, and expected to lose the other, when the author of this painful tribute to his memory parted from him with tears in his eyes, little hoping to see him again in a perishable state. As he perceives, without affectation, that his tears now steal from him, and begin to moisten the paper on which he writes, he reluctantly leaves a subject which he could not soon have exhausted ; and when he also shall resign his life to the great Giver of it, he desires no other decoration of his humble gravestone than this honourable truth
• With none to flatter, none to recommend,
DUNNING approved and mark'd him as a friend."" It is curious to contrast the preceding sketch with another character of Lord Ashhurton, drawn also by one of his contemporaries : “ Never, perhaps,” says Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, “ did nature inclose a more illuminated mind in a body of meaner and more abject appearance. It is difficult to do justice to the peculiar species of ugliness which characterised his person and figure, though he did not labour under any absolute deformity of shape or limb: a degree of infirmity, and almost of debility or decay, in his organs, augmented the effect of his other bodily misfortunes ; even his voice