Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/224

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Law
Law
218

ment and the preservation of their rights, their privileges, and their property' (Parl. Hist. xxxv. 1044). In the following month, during the debate upon the introduction of the Habeas Corpus Suspension Bill, he declared 'solemnly that the constitution of the country would not be safe if the bill ... were not passed' (ib. pp. 1288–90), and on 27 May brought in the Habeas Corpus Suspension Indemnity Bill (ib. pp. 1507–8, 1523–1526, 1533–4), which was quickly passed through the house (41 Geo. III, c. lxvi.). In March 1802 he opposed Manners-Sutton's motion for a select committee of inquiry into the revenue of the duchy of Cornwall, and asserted that 'the elegant accomplishments and splendid endowments of the prince showed that he had experienced the highest degree of parental care, liberality, and attention' (ib. xxxvi. 433–5). Law was in the House of Commons but little more than a year, for on the death of Lord Kenyon, with whom his relations had always been strained, he was appointed lord chief justice of England. Having been previously called to the degree of serjeant-at-law he was sworn in before the lord chancellor on 12 April 1802, and took his seat on the king's bench on the first day of Easter term (East, Reports, ii. 253–4). By letters patent, dated 19 April 1802, Law was also created Baron Ellenborough of Ellenborough in the county of Cumberland, and having been sworn a member of the privy council on 21 April, took his seat in the House of Lords on the 26th of the same month (Journals of the House of Lords, xliii. 554). In his maiden speech on 13 May 1802 he opposed Lord Grenville's motion for an address, and spoke warmly in favour of the definitive treaty of peace with France (Parl. Hist. xxxvi. 718–22). Woodfall, in describing Ellenborough's speech in a letter to Lord Auckland on the following day, said that 'he seized upon Lord Grenville like a bulldog at the animal's baiting for the amazement of beings not less brutish than the poor animal himself ... but lawyers so rapidly raised to high station cannot on the sudden forget their nisi prius manners' (Journal and Corresp. of William, Lord Auckland, 1862, iv. 158). In June 1803, while defending the conduct of the ministers, he showed his contempt for his opponents by declaring that 'he could not sit still when he heard the capacity of ministers arraigned by those who were themselves most incapable, and when he saw ignorance itself pretending to decide on the knowledge possessed by others' (Parl. Hist. xxxvi. 1572). In supporting the second reading of the Volunteer Consolidation Bill on 27 March 1804 he stoutly maintained the 'radical, essential, unquestionable, and hitherto never-questioned prerogative' of the crown to call out all subjects capable of bearing arms for the defence of the realm, and declared his readiness if the necessity should arise to cast his gown off his back, and grapple with the enemy (Parl. Debates, 1st ser. i. 1027–9). On 8 April 1805, in consequence of the lord chancellor's indisposition, Ellenborough sat as speaker of the House of Lords by virtue of a commission under the great seal, dated 23 April 1804 (Journals of the House of Lords, xlv. 135). During the debate on Lord Grenville's motion for a committee on the catholic petition in May 1805, Ellenborough expressed his strong opposition to the admission of Roman catholics to political rights, and solemnly stated his opinion that 'the palladium of our protestant, and, indeed, of our political security, consists principally in the oath of supremacy' (Parl. Debates, 1st ser. iv. 804–16). In the following July he strenuously opposed the bill for granting further compensation to the Athol family in respect to the Isle of Man, and fearlessly described it as 'a gross job' (ib. v. 776–9). In consequence of Pitt's death, while holding the office of chancellor of the exchequer, the exchequer seal was, according to the established practice, committed to the custody of the chief justice on 25 Jan. 1806 (London Gazettes, 1806, p. 109) until a fresh appointment should be made. Addington insisted upon bringing one friend with him into the cabinet of 'All the Talents' (February 1806), and chose Ellenborough, who refused the offer of the great seal, but unwisely consented to accept a seat in the cabinet without office; the only precedent of such a combination of political and judicial offices being that of Lord Mansfield. The appointment gave rise to much criticism, and though the vote of censure was negatived in the lords without a division, and defeated in the commons by a majority of 158 (Parl. Debates, 1st ser. vi. 253–84, 286–342), the government undoubtedly lost ground by it. While supporting the Slave Importation Restriction Bill in May 1806 Ellenborough entered into a violent altercation with Lord Eldon, which was only put an end to by the clerk of the table reading the standing order against taxing speeches.

Ellenborough regularly attended Lord Melville's impeachment in Westminster Hall, and on 12 June 1806 gave a verdict of guilty against him on the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th articles. Notwithstanding his views on Roman catholic emancipation, he agreed to the introduction of the Roman Catholics' Army and Navy Service Bill. When, how-