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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 46.djvu/293

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Charles Yorke [q. v.] Freed from office, he at once resumed his former rôle of vigilant guardian of the constitution, supported Chatham's bill for restoring Wilkes to the House of Commons (1 May), and his subsequent resolution declaring eligibility for parliament an inherent right of the subject (5 Dec.); and in the debate on the decision of the court of king's bench in Rex v. Woodfall, unanimously affirming the incompetence of juries to determine the question of law in cases of libel (10 Dec.), gained a signal triumph over Lord Mansfield by the latter's evasion of his challenge to answer six interrogatories raising the several issues involved in the judgment. Gout, and disgust at the futility of opposition, however, combined to paralyse his energies; and, except to protest against the wide extension of the prerogative by the Royal Marriage Act of 1772, 12 George III, c. 11, to deliver judgment against the existence at common law of copyright in published works in the great case of Donaldson v. Becket, on appeal to the House of Lords in February 1774, and to oppose the Booksellers' Copyright Bill in the following June, he took for the time little part in public affairs. But in the following session he seconded the efforts made by Chatham to avert the outbreak of hostilities in America, and introduced, on 17 May 1775, a bill (which did not pass) for the repeal of the recent act remodelling the constitution of the province of Quebec. During the obstinate struggle which followed he concurred in the attacks made on ministers for garrisoning Gibraltar and Port Mahon with Hanoverians, and raising troops by subscription, without consent of parliament; and he supported the several motions for a suspension of hostilities made by the Dukes of Richmond and Grafton, and finally, on 30 May 1777, by Chatham. After the death of Chatham, on whom he pronounced a noble eulogy in the debate on the bill for pensioning his posterity, on 2 June 1778, Camden, though continuing to act with the opposition, gradually lost heart; and, after delivering, on 25 Jan. 1781, his protest against the policy which culminated in the war with Holland, withdrew from public life. Lord North's fall, however, soon recalled him, and he entered the second Rockingham administration as president of the council on 27 March 1782. He was thus a party—and by no means a reluctant party—to the concession of legislative independence to Ireland. Upon the reconstruction of the cabinet which followed Rockingham's death (July) he retained office, but resigned during the negotiations for the formation of the coalition administration in March 1783. Having contributed to the defeat of the coalition on Fox's East India Bill in the following December, he took no further part in politics until, on 1 Dec. 1784, he resumed the presidency of the council, which he retained until his death. During this final phase of his career he distinguished himself by the ability with which he defended Pitt's policy against the opposition, led by Lord Loughborough [see Wedderburn, Alexander, Lord Loughborough, 1733–1805]. On 13 May 1786 he was created Viscount Bayham of Bayham Abbey, Sussex, and Earl Camden.

During the king's alienation of mind, in the winter of 1788, Camden devised the expedient, the issuing of letters patent under the great seal, by which, had the king's illness become chronic, the resumption of the regency by the heir-apparent would have been avoided. His last speeches in the House of Lords, 16 May and 1 June 1792, were on the same topic which had elicited his early enthusiasm, the competence of juries to determine the entire issue in cases of libel, and secured the passing of the measure known as Fox's Libel Act. Though in failing health, he continued, by the express desire of the king, to preside at the council board until his death, at his town house, Hill Street, Berkeley Square, on 18 April 1794. His remains were interred in the parish church, Seal, Kent.

By nature and habit Camden was an indolent dilettante and a temperate epicure. He was an omnivorous reader of romances, an engaging conversationalist, and fond of music and the play. To men of letters he paid no court, and was in consequence blackballed on seeking election into the Literary Club. A languid politician, he approved himself in evil times a pillar of the state. If inferior as a constitutionalist to Lord Somers, in mastery of the common law to Lord Mansfield, in grasp of the subtler principles of equity to Lord Hardwicke, he combined their several qualities in a remarkable degree. The only stain on his public character is his retention of office notwithstanding his disapproval of the policy of the cabinet in 1768–1769.

Camden's person, though small, was handsome, and a genial smile animated his regular features and fine grey eyes. At Bayham Abbey are two portraits of Camden, viz. a half-length by Reynolds, and a three-quarter-length by Nathaniel Dance. A copy of the one and a replica, slightly varied, of the other are in the National Portrait Gallery. Another portrait of him, also half-length, by Reynolds, belongs to the Duke of Grafton, and a three-quarter length by Gainsborough to Lord