« PreviousContinue »
A different career was however marked out for him—to be traced to circumstances which he always had reason to regard as among the happiest of his life. For having become acquainted with the daughter of Mr. Richard Smith, of the Priory, Dudley, who had been formerly a member of the House of Assembly of Nova Scotia, and was for many years afterwards occupied in developing the mineral resources of Lord Dudley's estates in South Staffordshire, he became engaged to be married, consenting to the condition that he would take up his residence in England.
Accordingly he settled down in London, where he was almost a stranger, and set to work to prepare himself for the practice of the English Law; and with that view he became a member of the Middle Temple on the 11th of November, 1840. Mr. Serjeant Petersdorff (whose pupil he became about this time) says of him :
“His general kindly disposition, his frankness and cordiality secured the regard and friendship of all his associates in my chambers: while as a most assiduous, zealous and persistent pupil, he was invaluable to me. In the latter part of his time he wrote opinions, which I could adopt with confidence. He had a natural aptitude for discovering legal analogies and legal contrasts. He rendered me very special assistance also in the preparation of my ·Common Law Abridgment,' and in other legal literary efforts, in all of which he exhibited an acumen and comprehensive legal knowledge that could not be too highly appreciated.
“ Among his fellow-pupils were Sir John Harding, afterwards Queen's Advocate; Bagster, afterwards Attorney-General for New South Wales; James Dawson, who went to Newfoundland ; James Hume, who subsequently attained eminence at the Calcutta Bar; and Valentine Lee of the Oxford Circuit, who died when about to be made a Queen's Counsel.”
The three years of keeping terms passed, he took out a certificate to practice under the Bar, following a custom much more general in former times than of late,—of beginning business as a special plea ler, and working as such for a few years before being called to the Bar. His buoyant spirits and
his contented and cheerful disposition well fitted him for facing the anxieties of this early period of his professional career, as well as the usual responsibilites attaching to a young householder. He continued to practice as a pleader till the year 1852 ; and it was to the careful study necessitated by that occupation that he always attributed the accurate knowledge of law for which he was afterwards distinguished both at the Bar and on the Bench.
After the passing of the first Common Law Procedure Act, he took an early opportunity, as many other pleaders did, of being called to the Bar, and at first joined the Northern Circuit. After a year's trial however, he changed the Northern for the Home Circuit, of which he continued a member till his promotion to the Bench in 1872. During his practice as a pleader he had done a fair and constantly increasing amount of work, and his clients learnt the advantage of continuing to employ him when at the Bar. His business, which was legitimately acquired, went on growing from year to year, but without any incidents sufficiently remarkable to attract the notice of the outside public. And it may here be said that his career offers a fair example of the success attending on good and honest work, when directed by ability, though without the assistance of any other friends or patrons than those whom a man may himself gain by his own industry and honourable conduct.
Perhaps the first notable cause in which he was engaged was the Shrewsbury case,* where the title to the Alton Towers Estates was in question between the father of the present Earl of Shrewsbury and the representative of the Roman Catholic branch of the Talbots. In that case he was associated with Sir R. Bethell, Serjeant Shee, Mr. C. Hall, and Mr. Badeley,t on the losing side. Sir Richard, who did not enjoy the reputation of being over polite to his juniors,
• 29 L.J. C.P. 34, 190; 6 C.B. (N.S.) 1. + The list of counsel engaged in this case comprises the following judicial names :-Bethell, Kelly, Rolt, Hannen, Archibald, Charles Hall, and Manisty.
frequently during the progress of the case expressed his respect for Mr. Archibald's accurate knowledge and research ; and Serjeant Shee, well knowing the tendency of his junior's religious views—so opposed to his own—often bantered him with shewing as much zeal for his Roman Catholic client, “as though you yourself were one of us.”
He made great way during the next ten years, acquiring the confidence of the great leaders in his profession-as the extent of his business as an arbitrator fully proved-and becoming one of the leading juniors at the Common Law Bar. It is needless to remind the readers of this Magazine that the position of such a junior, though thoroughly appreciated by the seniors who benefit by his learning, as well as by the profession generally, does not offer much scope for public display,—for it is seldom that he gets the chance of conducting any sensational cases. The famous window-light case of Tapling v. Jones* may however be mentioned here as one where he availed himself of his opportunity, and exhibited in a very satisfactory manner the powers he possessed of arguing lucidly and concisely.
He had previously in the year 1860, at the request of Mr. Bovill, then M.P. for Guildford, drawn the Petition of Right Act (usually called Bovill's Act), which has been since found to be a very satisfactory and useful piece of legislation.
About the same time he declined the Chief Justiceship of Madras, which was offered to him, in a very gratifying manner.
In the spring of 1868, on the promotion of Mr. Hannen to a seat in the Queen's Bench after the death of Justice Shee, Sir John Karslake, who was then Attorney-General, appointed Mr. Archibald the Junior Counsel to the Treasury. The holder of this office, familiarly known as "the AttorneyGeneral's devil,” is generally regarded as entitled as of right, after a reasonable period of service, to a seat on the Bench of one of the Superior Courts. And as far as the right depends on precedent, it is undoubtedly supported by the
* 31 LJ.C.P. 312; 31 Ibid. 312; 12 C.B. (X.S.) 826.
cases of Abbott, Richardson, Littledale, Parke, Wightman, and Hannen. The most remarkable exception to the rule during the present century is Welsby.
He continued to hold this onerous and responsible office for four years and a half, under three successive AttorneyGenerals, Sir John Karslake, Sir Robert Collier and Sir John Coleridge; and it may safely be asserted that the duties of the office, which entail great anxiety on the holder, were never more satisfactorily or more conscientiously performed by any of his illustrious predecessors. During these years many very important cases came under his preparation and management,-as informations for bribery at elections, and some very special indictments at the Central Criminal Court.
Among the more interesting of his later cases may be mentioned the defence of the Lords of the Treasury against the proposed mandamus to them to pay the costs of prosecutions ; * the defence of Mr. Lowe, as Master of the Mint, in the action by Col. Tomline for not coining enough silver money; and last, not least, the preparation of the indictment in the famous Tichborne case.
During the same period his private business caused him to be engaged in many very heavy matters--especially several ecclesiastical cases, comprising the prosecutions of Messrs. Bennett, Mackonochie and Purchas, in the Provincial Court of Canterbury, and of Mr. Voysey in the Provincial Court of York. In the last case he was without a leader in its initial stages; and Sir John Coleridge and Sir Roundell Palmer, who eventually led him when the case was before the Privy Council,t considered his conduct of this complicated case at York a masterly performance.
Of his manner as an advocate in Court in these later years, it is sufficient to say that it was that of a well-bred gentleman, as well as of a highly-educated lawyer. He was always complete master of his case; he spoke clearly and to the point; and, though naturally somewhat nervous, he
* 11 L.J. Q.B. 177.
10 I J Licl. 11
appeared perfectly at his ease, and answered with patience the questions addressed to him from the Bench. In the Mackonochie case,* one of the most distinguished members of the Judicial Committee said to a colleague that he “ could not refrain from asking Archibald questions during his argument, he answered them so like a gentleman, and with such a perfect knowledge of the subject.”
Once only—in the summer of 1870-an opportunity presented itself to him (in the way of a Commission in a Crown case) of revisiting the scenes of his youth, as well as of spending some days with a brother to whom he was strongly attached, namely Edward Mortimer Archibald, C.B., then as now Consul-General at New York, an officer who has by a long, able, and impartial administration acquired the confidence not only of his own countrymen, but of the Americans themselves also. But on this occasion, as on every other, his sense of duty induced him to give up a pleasant excursion ; for he considered that so long as he held his responsible office, he ought not to be so far or so long away from England, even though engaged on business which came to him in virtue of the office itself.
In November 1872, Mr. Justice Hannen having been removed to the Probate and Divorce Court on the resignation of Lord Penzance, Lord Selborne then Lord Chancellor offered Mr. Archibald the vacant seat in the Court of Queen's Bench. The offer was accepted, and Mr. Archibald's promotion was hailed with approval by the profession at large. One or two of his contemporaries, who were at first inclined to question the propriety of the appointment, on the ground of his supposed want of familiarity with their own special lines of business, were soon constrained to admit that they had been mistaken in their estimate of his powers.
Of his career on the Bench, it is hardly possible to speak too highly. From the time when on his first circuit in the spring of 1872, he won the admiration of those Northerners
* 38 L.J. Eccl. 1.