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bill embodying many of the provisions of that introduced by himself pass into a law.
Of the later years of Lord Erskine’s life little remains to be told. Unfortunately, those years were not free from embarrassments and failings, which it would be painful to relate, His pecuniary circumstances involved him in difficulties from which a second marriage, into which he entered, did not tend to extricate him. Occasionally only he appeared in public. With that warm attachment to freedom which distinguished his earlier days he came forward to the assistance of the struggling Greeks, and gave to their cause the aid of his honoured but almost forgotten name. To interest the nation in their favour, he resumed his pen, and published various pama phlets on the subject. He also, a few years later, gave to the world a political romance, under the title of “ Armata.” In the year 1815, on the death of the Marquis of Lothian, the Prince Regent, in memory of his former friendship and attachment to Lord Erskine, was pleased to bestow upon him the order of the thistle.
At length that event occurred which those who loved his fame would gladly have welcomed earlier. In the year 1823, as he was accompanying one of his sons to Edinburgh by sea, he was attacked with inflammation of the chest, a complaint from which he had before sufferred very severely. He was in consequence set on shore at Scarborough, whence he travelled by easy stages to Scotland. The complaint, however, gained ground, and on the 17th of November he died at Almondale, six or seven miles from Edinburgh. On the 28th of the same month he was buried in the family vault at Uphall church.
Lord Erskine had issue three sons and five daughters by his first wife. He was succeeded in his title by his eldest son, David Montague.
The eloquence of Lord Erskine was of a very high order. Though never deficient in any of those qua. lities, it was not indebted for its excellence either to beauty of diction, or to richness of ornament, or to feli
city of illustration : - it was from its unrivalled strength and vigour that it derived its superior character. The intentness, the earnestness, the vehemence, the energy of the advocate, were ever present throughout his speeches, impressing his arguments upon the mind of the hearer with a force which seemed to compel conviction. Throughout even the longest of his speeches, there is no weakness, no failing, no flagging ; but the same lively statement of facts, the same spirited and pointed exposition of argument. He never gave way to what he has happily termed “ the Westminster Hall necessity” of filling up his speech with common places; but invariably presented his subject in some striking or brilliant light, which never failed to rivet the attention, and to work upon the convictions of the audience.
In examining those particular qualities of Lord Erskine's speeches which contributed more obviously to their success, the most remarkable will appear to be the exact and sedulous adherence to some one great principle which they uniformly exhibit. In every case he proposed a great leading principle, to which all his efforts were referable and subsidiary, which ran through the whole of his address, arranging, governing, and elucidating every portion. As the principle thus proposed was founded in truth and justice, whatever might be its application to the particular case, it necessarily gave to the whole of his speech an air of honesty and sincerity which a jury could with difficulty resist. To bring the case before him within the operation of this principle, was, indeed, frequently an arduous task, which Mr. Erskine nevertheless performed with consummate skill and delicacy. Even when, as in Paine's case, the accomplishment of that task was impossible, the adoption of a principle which he could conscientiously defend and enforce, gave him, as an advocate, incalculable advantages. In the cursory examination of Lord Erskine's speeches which has already been given, an attempt has
been made to point out, in each particular instance, the peculiar principle upon which the defence was rested.
The style of Lord Erskine's speeches may be regarded as a model for serious forensic oratory: it is clear, animated, forcible, and polished; never loaded with meretricious ornament, never debased by colloquial vulgarisms. It is throughout sustained in a due and dignified elevation. The illustrations which it exhibits are borrowed rather from the intellectual than the material world ; and its ornaments are rather those of sentiment than of diction. It receives little assistance from the quaintness of similes or the brilliancy of metaphors; and is addressed rather to the reason and to the passions than to the taste and imagination of the hearer. It seldom displays any attempt at wit, or even at humour; though occasional instances of the latter quality are to be found in the Speeches.*
Although the speeches of Lord Erskine cannot be compared with those of Mr. Burke, for the varied exposition of philosophical principles in which those extraordinary productions abound; yet they not unfrequently display a profound acquaintance with human nature, and with the springs of human action. These reflections always arise naturally out of the subject which they enforce and illustrate. How admirable and how true are the following observations from the speech for the Council of Madras, and how worthy to be held in perpetual and cautious remembrance ! “ Some of the darkest and most dangerous prejudices of men arise from the most honourable principles of the mind. When prejudices are caught up from bad passions, the worst of men feel intervals of remorse to soften and disperse them ; but when they arise from a generous though mistaken source, they are hugged closer to the bosom, and the kindest and most compassionate natures feel a pleasure in fostering a blind and unjust resentment.” An attentive perusal of the Speeches will furnish
* Ante, p. 365.
innumerable instances of the same power of high philosophical reflection.
There probably never was an advocate who studied with nicer discrimination and more delicate tact the feelings of the jury. Even in the most impassioned passages of his oratory, when it might have been expected that his mind would have been wholly absorbed in his subject, he was intently watching the impression of his speech, as revealed in the countenances of the jury. Guided by this index, he regulated the character of his address; now rising, as he saw the feelings of the jury rise, into warm and eloquent displays of oratory; now subsiding, as he marked the passions of the jury subside, into cool and temperate argument. His speeches are full of observations, which record this singular faculty. In his speech on the trial of Lord George Gordon, he exclaimed, “ Gentlemen, I see your minds revolt at such shocking propositions!”- In that for the Dean of St. Asaph, “ Gentlemen, I observe an honest indignation rising in all your countenances on the subject, which, with the arts of an advocate, I might easily press into the service of my friend.” On the trial of Paine, when the defendant's letter to the attorney-geral was read, “I see but too plainly,” said Mr. Erskine, “ the impression it has made on you who are to try the cause ;” and in the course of the same trial he said, “ I am not asking your opinions of the doctrines themselves; you have given them already, pretty visibly, since I began to address you.” In the course of that trial, the impatience of the jury, and of one of them in particular, became so visible, that Mr. Erskine broke out into the following rebuke: “When the noble judge and myself were counsel for Lord George Gordon, in 1781, it was not considered by that jury, nor imputed to us by any body, that we were contending for the privilege of overawing the house of commons, or recommending the conflagration of this city. I am doing the same duty now which my lord and I then did in concert together;
and, whatever may become of the cause, I expect to be heard; conscious that no just obloquy can be or will in the end be cast upon me, for having done my duty in the manner I have endeavoured to perform it. Sir!” continued Mr. Erskine, addressing a refractory juryman, “ I shall name you presently !” On the trial of Stockdale he said, “Gen. tlemen, I observe plainly, and with infinite satisfaction, that you are shocked and offended at my even supposing it possible that you should pronounce such a detestable judgment.” Nay, even after he had ceased to address the jury, his eye was still fixed upon them, watching the variations of their countenances as they listened to the instructions of the judge. “I particularly observed,” said he, in addressing the court of King's Bench, on the rule for a new trial on the Dean of St. Asaph's case,particularly observed, how much ground I lost with the jury, when they were told from the bench, that even in Bushel's case, upon which I so greatly depended, the very reverse of my doctrine had been expressly established.” Numerous other instances of this watchfulness might be collected from Mr. Erskine's speeches.
Among the characteristics of Lord Erskine's eloquence, the perpetual illustrations, derived from the writings of Burke, is very remarkable. In every one of the great state trials in which he was engaged he referred to the productions of that extraordinary person, as to a text-book of political wisdom, expounding, enforcing, and justifying all the great and noble principles of freedom and of justice. Upon one occasion he repeated from memory more than a page of those brilliant writings, which he always ushered in with high-sounding and even pompous panegyric. On the trial of Horne Tooke he cited a passage from Burke, denouncing it as dangerous in principle, but accompanying the denunciation with an encomium which proves how deeply he had studied, and how fervently he admired, the transcendent genius of the writer. “ Let us try Mr. Burke's book by the same test. Though I have no doubt it was written with an honest intention, yet it contains, in my mind, a dangerous prin