Page images
PDF
EPUB

to look to a judicial seat in the East, to which he appears to refer in a letter addressed to Lord Althorpe, in October, 1778: “The disappointment to which you allude, and concerning which you say so many friendly things, to me is not yet certain. My competitor is not yet nominated : many doubt whether he will be; I think he will not, unless the chancellor should press it strongly. It is still the opinion and wish of the bar that I should be the man. I believe the minister hardly knows his own mind. I cannot legally be appointed till January, or next month at soonest, because I am not a barrister of five years' standing till that time; now, many believe that they keep the place open for me till I am qualified. I certainly wish to have it, because I wish to have twenty thousand pounds in my pocket before I am eight-andthirty years old, and then I might contribute in some degree towards the service of my country in parliament, as well as at the bar, without selling my' liberty to a patron, as too many of my profession are not ashamed of doing ; and I might be a speaker in the house of commons in the full vigour and maturity of my age; whereas, in the slow career of Westminster-hall, I should not, perhaps, even with the best success, acquire the same independent station till the age at which Cicero was killed. But be assured, my dear lord, that if the minister be offended at the style in which I have spoken, do speak, and will speak, of public affairs, and on that account should refuse to give me the judgeship, I shall not be at all mortified, having already a very decent competence, without a debt or care of

any

kind.” The enlightened sentiments of Mr. Jones on political subjects had induced him, in common with all liberalminded men, to regard with disapprobation the conduct of the government towards the American colonists. His feelings on the great contest in which they had been engaged with the mother country were expressed in a Latin ode, which he published in the month of March, 1780. Soon afterwards, on the resignation of Sir Roger Newdigate, he was induced, by the advice of several highly

66 The

respectable friends, to suffer his name to be proposed as a candidate for the representation of the university of Oxford. Various circumstances, however, combined to prevent his return, and more especially the liberality of his political principles. “ Have you no apprehensions,' says his friend Schultens, “ that your enthusiasm for liberty, which is so generally known, may, in these unpropitious times, injure the success of your cause ? ” His adversaries did not scruple to represent him as a person whose opinions tended to the subversion of the constitution; and, the prejudices of the university being once excited, he felt that it would be in vain to contend against them. He therefore declined a poll, and again gave the whole of his attention to his professional employments.

While on the summer circuit this year, he defended a man who was indicted, in Pembrokeshire, for the singular offence of alarming the neighbourhood, by a report that a hostile ship of war was approaching.

prosecutors,” says Mr. Jones, were two magistrates (one of whom was an Indian -), who were angry at having been made fools of, a point, however, which they could not easily have proved, inasmuch as they were fools already made. I defended the prosecuted man with success, and mingled in my speech many bitter reflections on the state of this country at the time of the alarm, and on the attempt, because the English laws were not relished in India, to import the Indian laws into England, by imprisoning and indicting an honest man who had done no more than his duty, and whose only fault was fear, of which both his prosecutors were equally guilty.”

The extensive and dangerous riots which occurred in London in the year 1780, and in which, as we have seen, the valuable collections of Lord Mansfield perished, induced Mr. Jones to enquire into the methods provided by law for the suppression of such tumultuous assemblies; and the result of his researches was communicated to the world in a small pamphlet, entitled, An Enquiry into the legal Mode of suppressing Riots, with a constitutional

Plan of future Defence. He also took occasion, in the autumn of this year, to address the freeholders of Middlesex, and he subsequently drew up a discourse, containing the purport of what he would have spoken, had an opportunity of so doing occurred. This speech is mentioned for the purpose of introducing the animated protest against slavery contained in it. I pass with haste by the coast of Africa, whence my mind turns with indignation at the abominable traffic in the human species, from which a part of our countrymen dare to derive their most inauspicious wealth. Sugar, it is said, would be dear, if it were not worked by blacks in the western islands, as if the most laborious, the most dangerous works were not carried on in every country, but chiefly in England, by freemen; in fact, they are so carried on with infinitely more advantage; for there is an alacrity in a consciousness of freedom, and a gloomy sullen indolence in a consciousness of slavery : but let sugar be as dear as it

may, it is better to eat none, to eat honey, if sweetness only be palatable; better to eat aloes or coloquintida than violate a primary law of nature impressed on every heart not imbruted by avarice, than rob one human creature of those eternal rights of which no law upon earth can justly deprive him.

Some idea of the acquirements of Mr. Jones, at this period of his life, and of the resolute industry with which he pursued his studies, may be formed from the following memorandum :

Resolved to learn no more rudiments of any kind, but to perfect myself in

First, twelve languages, as the means of acquiring accurate knowledge of

I. History. 1. Man.

2. Nature.

II. Arts. 1. Rhetoric. 2. Poetry. 3. Painting. 4. Music.

III. Sciences.
1. Law. 2. Mathematics. 3. Dialectics.

N. B.--Every species of human knowledge may be reduced to one or other of these divisions. Even law belongs partly to the history of man, partly as a science to dialectics. • The twelve languages are,

Greek,

Latin,
Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese,

Hebrew, Arabic,

Persian,

Turkish,
German, English.

1780." About this period, he gave to the world his celebrated Essay on the Law of Bailments, in which he treated the subject with an accuracy of method hitherto seldom exhibited by our legal writers. At the same time, he intimated an intention, if his present attempt should be approved, and his leisure should permit him, to discuss, in the same form, the various branches of English law, civil and criminal, public and private. With a view also to his favourite object of an Indian judgeship, he undertook, about this time, the translation of an Arabian poem on the Mahometan law of succession to the property of intestates. *

The manly candour and independence ever displayed by Mr. Jones in the expression of his political sentiments, induced him, in the year 1782, to attend a meeting at the London Tavern, to consider the best means of procuring a reform in the commons house of parliament. Having attentively studied the history of our constitution, and considered it with reference both to theory and practice, he had formed a strong opinion on the propriety and necessity of rendering the representation more equal and more extended, These sentiments Mr. Jones publicly expressed, and afterwards gave them to the world in a

* Works, vol. viii. p. 183.

printed form. He also became a member of the Society for Constitutional Reformation.

But politics were not suffered to engross the active mind of Mr. Jones. From a letter to Dr. Shipley, the bishop of St. Asaph, dated in September, 1782, we find that he was still pursuing his professional studies with avidity. “ The delays about the Indian judgeship have, it is true, greatly injured me; but with my patience and assiduity I could easily recover my lost ground. I must, however, take the liberty here to allude to a most obliging letter of your lordship, from Chilboltot, which I received so long ago as last November, but was prevented from answering till you came to town. It was inexpressibly flattering to me;

but

my intimate knowledge of the nature of my profession obliges me to assure you, that it requires the whole man, and admits of no concurrent pursuits; that, consequently, I must either give it up, or it will engross me so much, that I shall not for some years be able to enjoy the society of my friends or the sweets of liberty. Whether it be a wise part to live uncomfortably in order to die wealthy, is another question ; but this I know by experience, and have heard old practitioners make the same observation, that a lawyer who is in earnest must be chained to his chambers and the bar for ten or twelve years together. In regard to your lordship's indulgent and flattering prediction, that my Essay on Bailment would be my last work, and that for the future business and the public would allow me to write no more, I doubt whether it will be accomplished, whatever may be my practice or situation ; for I have already prepared many tracts on jurisprudence, and when I see the volumes written by Lord Çoke, whose annual gains were twelve or fourteen thousand pounds, by Lord Bacon, Sir Matthew Hale, and a number of judges and chancellors, I cannot think, that I should be hurt in my professional career by publishing, now and then, a law tract upon some interesting branch of the science; and the science itself is indeed so complex, that without writing, which is the chain of memory, it is impossible to remember a thousandth part

« PreviousContinue »