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parliament which recalled Charles II. When the return of the king was loudly demanded, Hale distinguished himself by a motion, the policy of which has been questioned, but which, had he been fortunate enough to carry it, might have prevented many of the evils and much of the misgovernment which followed the restoration. He moved that a committee might be appointed to look into the propositions that had been offered by the late king during the war, particularly at the treaty of Newport, that from thence such propositions might be digested as might be fit to be sent over to the king. The motion was opposed by Monk, who urged the danger of delay in the then agitated state of the country, and moved, that commissioners should be immediately despatched to bring over the king. To this the house assented with a shout, and Hale’s motion was not again mentioned.* The part which he acted on this occasion does not appear to have made an ill impression on the court, as his name is found amongst the commissioners for the trial of the regicides.t
When it became necessary, on the Restoration, to remodel the bench, Clarendon wisely resolved to fill the vacant seats with men of probity and character. He had observed the ill effects which, in the reign of Charles I., had followed the appointment of profligate men, and the conversion of the judges into the instruments of government, and he resolved to prevent the repetition of the evil by elevating such men as Hale to the bench. $ But it was not without considerable reluctance that Hale was prevailed upon again to undergo the arduous duties of a judicial station. He has left a statement of the reasons which at this time disinclined him to accept office. §. From this document we learn the amount of his fortune ; the smallness of which he urges as an objection to his acceptance of the dignity. “ Because the smallness of my estate, the greatness of my
* Burnet's Own Times.
t 5 State Trials, 986.
charge, and some debts, make me unable to bear it with that decency which becomes it, unless I should ruin myself and family: my estate not above 5001. per annum ; six children unprovided for; and a debt of 10006. lying upon me.” [Note 33.] Notwithstanding these objections, Hale was soon afterwards appointed chief baron of the exchequer; and, on delivering to him his commission, the chancellor, Lord Clarendon, expressed in warm terms the singular esteem he entertained for his character, telling him, “that if the king could have found an honester and fitter man for that employment, he would not have advanced him to it; but that he had preferred him, because he knew no other who deserved it so well.” The retiring disposition of the chief baron induced him to shun the customary honour of knighthood ; and it was only upon meeting the king at the house of the chancellor, by an arrangement unknown to himself, that he submitted to the ceremony.
In his new station he devoted himself with diligence to the duties of the bench, but seldom took any part in political transactions. After the great fire of London he sat at Clifford's Inn, as one of the commissioners for settling the disputes between landlord and tenant; and to his labours, and to those of Sir Orlando Bridgman, the chief justice of the common pleas, the amicable arrangement of the disputes, and the peaceful rebuilding of the city were generally attributed.
When the project was set on foot for the comprehension of the dissenters, or an accommodation between that body and the church of England, a conference took place between the heads of both parties, and Sir Matthew Hale was applied to by Dr. Wilkins, on the part of the church, and by Baxter, on behalf of the dissenters, to prepare a bill for the purpose of effecting the desired accommodation. This task Hale readily undertook, as he had lived on terms of friendship and intimacy with persons of both parties: but the design was abandoned, in consequence of a vote of the commons in opposition to it, at the commencement of the next session. The
dissenters had to struggle, not only against the prejudices of the church of England, but against the machinations of those who favoured the church of Rome; and who sought, by preventing a junction between the churchmen and the dissenters, to compel the latter to join their own party, and to insist with them upon a general toleration.
In the year 1665, Sir Matthew Hale was unfortunately called upon to preside at the trial of two wretched women who were indicted for the crime of witchcraft. In reviewing his conduct upon this occasion, allowance must be made for the prejudices of the times in which he lived ; prejudices, perhaps, strengthened in his case by the zeal with which he had devoted himself to the speculative part of theological learning. Still it is impossible to acquit him of a too easy credulity on this occasion, since in the course of the trial some experiments were instituted with regard to the correctness of the representations made by the persons supposed to be affected, the result of which induced some impartial bystanders to declare, that they believed the whole transaction a mere imposture.* At the conclusion of the trial Hale did not sum up the evidence, but left the case to the jury, with a very short direction, professing, at the same time, his belief in the crime of witchcraft. He said, “ that there were such creatures as witches he made no doubt at all ; for, first, the Scripture had affirmed so much ; secondly, the wisdom of all nations had provided laws against such persons, which is an argument of their confidence of such a crime. And such hath been the judgment of this kingdom, as appears by that act of parliament which hath provided punishments proportionable to the quality of the offence.” The prisoners were found guilty, and, no reprieve being granted, were executed pursuant to their sentence without making any confession ; which, upon some other occasions, had been extorted, by their own superstitious terrors, from the unhappy persons accused of this crime. [Note 34.]
* State Trials, vol. vi. p. 698.
On the 18th of May, 1671, Sir Matthew Hale was promoted to the office of chief justice of the court of king's bench; and such was the reputation which he had acquired in his judicial capacity, that he is said to have drawn after him into that court much of the business which had been depending in the exchequer. He did not, however, preside long in this court: his strength and health shortly began to fail him, and though for a time he endeavoured to perform the duties of his office, being supported to the bench by his servants, he at length resolved to resign the seat for which he found himself unfit. He made an earnest application for his writ of ease; but such was the general satisfaction which his conduct as chief justice had given, that the king delayed for some time the granting of his request. At length, wearied with the burthen of duties which he was unable to perform, he prepared, in his own hand, a short deed of surrender of his office, which, on the 21st of February, 1675, going before a master in chancery, he sealed and delivered and acknowledged for the purpose of enrolment. On the previous day, he had surrendered to the king in person, who was pleased to dismiss him with great grace, and to promise the continuance of his pension during life. After his retirement he suffered much from attacks of the asthma, and from dropsy, under which he sank, and died on Christmas day, 1676. He was buried on the 4th of January, in the churchyard at Alderley, among his ancestors.
Sir Matthew Hale was twice married : his first wife was Ann, the daughter of Sir Henry Moore, of Faly, in Berkshire, by whom he had ten children : his second wife was Ann, the daughter of Mr. Joseph Bishop, of Faly, and had been, according to the Hon. Roger North, a servant in his household.
The character of Sir Matthew Hale as a judge was splendidly pre-eminent. His learning was profound; his patience unconquerable ; his integrity stainless. In the words of one who wrote with no friendly feeling towards him, “ his voice was oracular, and his person
little less than adored.”* The temper of mind with which he entered upon the duties of the bench is best exemplified in the following resolutions, which appear to have been composed on his being raised to the dignity of chief baron at the restoration.
Things necessary to be continually had in remembrance :
~ 1. That in the administration of justice I am intrusted for God, the king, and country; and therefore,
“ 2. That it be done, 1. uprightly; 2. deliberately ; 3. resolutely
“ 3. That I rest not upon my own understanding or strength, but implore and rest upon the direction and strength of God.
“ 4. That in the execution of justice I carefully lay aside my own passions, and not give way to them however provoked.
“ 5. That I be wholly intent upon the business I am about, remitting all other cares and thoughts as unseasonable and interruptions.
“ 6. That I suffer not myself to be prepossessed with any judgment at all, till the whole business and both parties be heard.
“ 7. That I never engage myself in the beginning of any cause, but reserve myself unprejudiced till the whole be heard.
“ 8. That in business capital, though my nature prompt me to pity, yet to consider there is a pity also due to the country
“9. That I be not too rigid in matters purely conscientious, where all the harm is diversity of judgment.
“ 10. That I be not biassed with compassion to the poor, or favour to the rich, in point of justice.
“ 11. That popular or court applause or distaste have no influence in any thing I do, in point of distribution of justice.
“ 12. Not to be solicitous what men will say or think,
* Roger North's Life of Lord Guilford, vol. i. p. 126.