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slightest difference of opinion. He treated them with unvaried attention and respect; they always showed him the utmost deference. It is remembered, that no part of his office was so agreeable to him as attending the trials at Guildhall. It was objected to him, that, in matters of libel, he thought the judges were to decide on its criminality. If his opinions on this subject were erroneous, the error was common to him with some of the most eminent among the ancient and modern lawyers. It was also objected to him, that he preferred the civil law to the law of England. His citations from the civilians were brought as a proof of his supposed partiality to that law; but they were rather occasional than frequent, and he seldom introduced them where the case was not of a new impression, so that the scantiness of home materials necessarily led him to avail himself of foreign ware. Sometimes, however, he intimated an opinion that the modification of real property in England, in wills and settlements, was of too intricate and complex a nature, and, for that reason, inferior to the more simple system of the Roman usufruct. The fre- quent necessity there is in our law to call in trustees, whenever property is to be transmitted or charged, so as to be taken out of immediate commerce, appeared to him an imperfection; and he wished the nature of our jurisprudence permitted the adoption of the rule of the civil law, that, when a debt is extinguished, the estate or interest of the creditor, in the lands or other property mortgaged for its security, is extinguished with it. It will be difficult to show any other instance in which he preferred the civil law to the law of England.
“In a conversation he permitted a student at the English bar to have with him, he expressed himself in terms of great esteem for Littleton, but spoke of Lord Coke, particularly of his attempting to give reasons for every thing, (that was his phrase,) with great disrespect. He mentioned Lord Hardwicke in terms of admiration, and of the warmest friendship : "When his lordship
pronounced his decrees, wisdom herself,' he said, "might be supposed to speak.'
“ He observed with great satisfaction, that, during the long period of his chief justiceship, there had been but one case in which he had ultimately differed with his brother judges of the same court: that was the case of Perryn against Blake. He lamented the difference, but declared his conviction that the opinion he delivered upon it was right.
“ He recommended Saunders' Reports. He observed, that the quantity of professional reading absolutely necessary, or even really useful, to a lawyer, was not so great as was usually imagined; but, he observed, that it was essential he should read much, as he termed it,
in his own defence; lest, by appearing ignorant on subjects which did not relate to his particular branch of the profession, his ignorance of that particular branch might be inferred.'
“ Speaking of the great increase of the number of law books, he remarked that it did not increase the quantity of necessary reading, as the new publications frequently made the reading of the former publications unnecessary. Thus, he said, since Mr. Justice Blackstone had published his Commentaries no one thought of reading Wood's Institutes, or Finch's Law, which, till then, were the first books usually put into the hands of students. He said, that, when he was young, few persons would confess they had not read a considerable part at least of the year books : but that, at the time he was then speaking, few persons would pretend to more than an occasional recourse to them in very particular cases. He warmly recommended the part of Giannone's History of Naples which gives the history of jurisprudence, and of the disputes between the church and the state. He mentioned Chillingworth as a perfect model of argumentation.”
SIR J. EARDLEY WILMOT.
The life of a distinguished and yet unambitious lawyer deserves to be recorded on account of its singularity. Some have sacrificed their principles to their ambition; Sir John Eardley Wilmot was unwilling even to abandon his ease. · He was born on the 16th August, 1709, at Derby, and was the second son of Robert Wilmot of Osmaston, in the county of Derby, Esq., and of Ursula, one of the daughters and co-heiresses of Sir Samuel Marow, of Berkswell, in the county of Warwick, Baronet. [Note 45.] He acquired the first rudiments of his education at the free school of Derby, and was afterwards the pupil of the Rev. Mr. Hunter, at Lichfield, where he was contemporary with Garrick and Johnson. In the year 1724, he was removed to Westminster School, and subsequently to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he contracted a passion for study and retirement, which formed one of the most prominent features of his character. This disposition led him to prefer the church as his profession ; but, at the wish and by the advice of his father, he adopted the law, and, after prosecuting his legal studies with much diligence, he was called to the bar by the Society of the Inner Temple, in June, 1732. - Of the life of Mr. Wilmot, for many years after the commencement of his practice at the bar, few particulars have been recorded. In 1743 he married Sarah, the daughter of Thomas Rivett, Esq. of Derby, afterwards the representative of that borough in parliament. His practice during this period was chiefly confined to his native county ; but his reputation in his profession gradually became considerable, and he attracted the esteem and friendship of Sir Dudley Ryder, the attore ney-general, and of the chancellor, Lord Hardwicke. In the year 1753, the rank of king's counsel, and subsequently of king's serjeant, was offered to Mr. Wilmot by the chancellor, both of which marks of favour he declined, in consequence of a wish to retire into the country. In a letter to a friend on this subject, he thus expresses himself:-“ Consider it well, and tell me what you think of it, for when I have once struck the sail, I cannot set it up again ; and, therefore, it requires a proper consideration and digestion in every respect : one thing I am sure of, that any change must be for the better. The withdrawing from the eyes of mankind has always been my favourite wish ; it was the first and will be the last of my life." This design, which had also induced him to refuse several offers of a seat in parliament, Mr. Wilmot actually carried into effect, and settled in his native county as a provincial counsel. The ease, however, which he thus sought, he was not destined long to enjoy. Soon after his retirement, Sir Martin Wright, one of the judges of the court of king's bench, died, and it was rumoured that Mr. Wilmot was to receive the vacant appointment. By the person to whom it related, the report was discredited, as no application whatever had been preferred by himself for the office. An official intimation of his majesty's pleasure put the question beyond doubt; but it was not without much persuasion on the part of his friends, that Mr. Wilmot was induced to accept the honour thus offered to him. The influence to which he owed this appointment was unknown to him ; but it probably proceeded from the friendship of Lord Hardwicke and Sir Dudley Ryder. He took his seat in Hilary term, 1755, and, according to custom, was knighted.
Another proof of the high esteem in which his professional character was held, was given in the following year, when, in conjunction with the Lord Chief Justice Willes and Sir S. S. Smythe, he was appointed one of the commissioners of the great seal, on the resignation
of Lord Hardwicke. In the opinion of many persons, Sir Eardley Wilmot was the person to whose sole custody the great seal would shortly be committed, an event, the possibility of which he seems to have regarded with much apprehension. In a letter to his brother, Sir Robert Wilmot, he says, “ The acting junior of the commission is a spectre I started at, but the sustaining the office alone I must and will refuse at all events. I will not give up the peace of my mind to any earthly consideration whatever. Bread and water are nectar and ambrosia when contrasted with the supremacy of a court of justice."
In the year 1757, Sir Eardley Wilmot had a most remarkable escape at Worcester, the particulars of which are related by him in the following letter to his wife:
“ I send this by express, on purpose to prevent your being frightened, in consequence of a most terrible accident at this place. Between two and three, as we were
trying causes, a stack of chimneys blew upon the top of · that part of the hall where I was sitting, and beat the roof down upon us ; but, as I sat up close to the wall, I have escaped without the least hurt. When I saw it begin to yield and open, I despaired of my own life, and the lives of all within the compass of the roof. Mr. John Lawes is killed, and the attorney in the cause which was trying is killed, and I am afraid some others : there were many wounded and bruised. It was the most frightful scene I ever beheld. I was just beginning to sum up the evidence, in the cause which was trying, to the jury, and intending to go immediately after I had finished. Most of the counsel were gone, and they who remained in court are very little hurt, though they seemed to be in the place of greatest danger. If I am thus iniraculously preserved for any good purpose, I rejoice at the event, and both you and the little ones will have reason to join with me in returning God thanks for this signal deliverance: but if I have escaped to lose either my honour or my virtue, I shall think, and you ought