Page images
PDF
EPUB

Jeffrey and Lord Murray, held parliamentary office; but before he quitted the bar he was the most useful counsellor of the party which devoted itself to the amendment of our law and our judicatures. In one respect his relation to political affairs differed from that of Lord Murray, who adopted, from conscientious convictions, principles adverse to those of his family; while Lord Moncreiff had an hereditary right to his long and close connection with the Whig party, of which his venerable father was a distinguished ornament.

Lord Murray was the second son of Lord Henderland, nearly related to the Stormont family—a learned and able judge, who had also been one of the Crown lawyers in the Dundas administration, and he was nephew by marriage of Sir Ilay Campbell, the last President of the Court of Session, before its division into two branches. His mother was a niece of the great Lord Mansfield, by whose advice he was sent to Westminster School for some part of his education. He did not, however, like his brother, proceed to Oxford, but returned to Edinburgh, where he finished his studies, and formed those intimacies which continued for life with the most remarkable men of the place, and with others who resorted thither for the inestimable advantage of studying under such teachers as Playfair and Stewart. Of these the chief were the late Lord Kinnaird and the present Lord Lansdowne, one of his oldest and most valued friends. They met, for the last time, during a visit which the latter paid to Scotland in the month of September last.

The son of Lord Henderland and the nephew of President Campbell was secure, not only of professional success, but of the regular promotion which capacity and acquirements far inferior to his could command in those days for any one disposed to range himself under the dominant powers. But he at once showed that he would take a course independent of all party, and in this he steadily persevered. The natural, almost inevitable, effect of one class being banded together by the ties of office, with exclusive principles and party discipline, is to create an opposite combination among their adversaries, with similarly

exclusive views. Now, although Lord Murray belonged through life to the Liberal party-the Whigs, as they were in those days termed-yet he never, whether in office or as a private individual, would submit to the discipline which raises prejudices and even personal feelings into the rank of principles, and is often exceedingly hurtful to the cause intended to be served. Hence arose the profound respect entertained for his opinion, even at times when party violence was at its height, and the deference to his wishes when more factious views were generally prevalent. His great influence, both in political and in literary affairs, arose not only from the confidence in his sound judgment and extensive information, but from the knowledge which all had of his generous nature, his high sense of honour, his undeviating and scrupulous integrity. We have said literary as well as political affairs; and with reference, certainly, to the celebrated Review which he joined in forming, he contributed most valuable papers to it, and was consulted by his colleagues respecting its management, with an unvarying confidence in the soundness as well as the honesty of his advice. A remarkable instance of his sagacity and excellent judgment--of his being what the French term de bon conseil-was afforded in 1812, when (as Lord Grenville and Mr. Ellis-afterwards Lord Seaford-accompanied their friend Mr. Canning to the Liverpool election) Mr. Murray accompanied Mr. Brougham. He had daily intercourse with these distinguished adversaries, and it was their constant remark that his judgment during the whole progress of the contest never was at fault. In all probability they also assumed that he would have advised the compromise which they had so much at heart, and by which each party would have returned one member.

There was nothing more striking in his character than the entire absence of all selfishness—the uniform putting his personal claims out of the question when they would interfere with those of others, and his preferring of the public interests or those of his party to his own. When the Whig government was formed in 1830 he at once waived his claims to office, and only succeeded to the place of Lord Advocate upon Lord Jeffrey's

removal in 1833. But he had some time before made a sacrifice of his ease by coming into parliament for Leith, one of the burghs enfranchised by the act of the preceding year; and he consented thus to enter parliament, for the first time, the moment it appeared that the interests of the public and the party required it.

The most absurd tales have been circulated of his inefficiency, as a supporter of the Edinburgh Review, as well as a member of parliament, and as minister for Scotland. These silly effusions of ignorance or spleen, or both combined, are the less worthy of notice, as regards Lord Murray, that they extend to the whole circle of his celebrated contemporaries; and though it has not been deemed safe to deny Lord Jeffrey's literary eminence, he is put down among the rest as having completely failed in the political world, from the moment that access to power had been opened to the party. That he carried through the great Reform Act for Scotland, and laid the groundwork for reforming her corporations, as well as established the system of burgh police, should suffice to disperse at once such idle fictions. But the course of his successor in the administration of Scotland was marked by the carrying of measures of which it would be difficult to over-estimate the value, nor could one well exaggerate the difficulties thrown in his way by the state of parties in both Houses of Parliament, as well as in Scotland. To specify all of them would be superfluous; but in this place there are some which may appropriately be mentioned, because they affected the amendment of the law in its most important branches. In 1836 he carried an Act to lessen the stringency of entails, by enabling heirs of entail to deal with the property, and creditors to be paid under certain proper restrictions. In 1837 he carried a most useful Act, touching the jurisdiction of the local courts in small debts, and the year after he succeeded in putting these courts upon a more regular and satisfactory footing. It should be added that the universal opinion in the House of Commons was, that from his great fairness, his perfect candour, his full acquaintance with the subject discussed, and his power of distinct, lucid,

and impressive statement, no person in his position had ever given more entire satisfaction, and hardly any one could be named as his equal. That he distinguished himself in all the cases which brought him before the House of Lords in its judicial capacity may easily be supposed from his success at the Scotch bar, when practising in times marked by the greatest lawyers and most eminent advocates of any age. He was found without the parade of learning displayed by those whose whole lives had been devoted to the black letter of the profession, yet perfectly equal to cope with them upon their own ground. He. had, indeed, that which is the foundation of all great success-a perfectly clear understanding, an ample practical acquaintance with the subject of debate, and a mind not to be misled by passion, or seduced by the vanity of self-display. It was a peculiar characteristic of his nature that modesty both strengthened and adorned it. We say strengthened as well as adorned, because the intellectual powers are hardly more impaired by moral defects than they are by the inroads of self-sufficiency and self-esteem, as hurtful as they are ridiculous. We have said nothing of Lord Murray's public speaking, because we have been dealing with more important, more substantial matter; but in this country a most extravagant value is assigned to it, and therefore we may record what has been said of him in this respect, we believe, by one of his most accomplished successors, who heard his speech in 1831 upon the rejection of the Reform Bill, and who, after stating that he had heard all the greatest speakers of the day, declares that it was one of those bursts of oratory which electrify and bewilder, and that he never heard a spontaneous rush of more genuine and absorbing eloquence, and that none who heard it ever will forget it,"

The office which he held for years of great difficulty, in regard to personal and party conflicts, as well as in other respects, was calculated to show very remarkably his perfectly honourable, equaliy with his kindly nature. It was said by Lord Grey, under whom he acted for part of the time, that whatever application came from him might at once be acted upon as a matter of

course; for he alone of all connected with Scotland never urged any claim on which the least doubt could exist. Lord Grey, it must be added, in fairness to others, had not always made allowance for the position of those representing a party which had for so many long years been excluded from all access to the dispensers of patronage.

In private life Lord Murray was singularly amiable, and in all its relations without a fault, unless a fault it be to exercise a generosity so unexampled that it might have been regarded as romantic, but for the perfectly judicious selection of its objects. His connection by marriage with a lady of a distinguished family in the north of England formed the happiness of his life; but the early loss of an only son, whose promise had been very great, shed a gloom over the days of both these excellent persons, and his brother's death, at a much later period, greatly added to their grief.

ART. XIV.- RECENT ATTACKS ON TITLES TO REAL

PROPERTY.-CONSERVATIVE LANDED ESTATES BILLS.

1. Speech of the Solicitor-General, M.P., on the introduction of

Bills to simplify the Title to Landed Estates, and to establish a Registry of Titles to Landed Estates. February 11, 1859.

London: Amer, 1859. 2. Drafts of Bills (No. 1) to simplify the Title to Landed Estates,

and (No. 2) to establish a Registry of Landed Estates. Prepared and brought in by Mr. Solicitor-General, Mr. Secretary Walpole, and Mr. Attorney-General. Ordered, by the House

of Commons, to be printed, February 11, 1859. 3. Drafts of the same Bills as amended in Committee. Ordered,

by the House of Commons, to be printed, March 1, 1859. 4. A Letter to the Solicitor-General on the Landed Estates Bills.

London : Maxwell, 1859.

« PreviousContinue »