Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 2

Search

250 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. Pitt, in concluding an able speech in his defence, contended that '' Great allowances were to be made for an active and ardent mind, placed in the situation of the Advocate General. He felt under peculiar circumstances the pressing perils of the country, and his conduct should be judged of on the principles of indulgent consideration, with which the law judges the conduct of inferior Magistrates, when they act, as in this instance, with pure and upright motives ; for these and other reasons, he should vote for the order of the day, and against the original motion." When the House divided, there were eighty-two for the motion, and one hundred and fifty-nine against it. - On the death of Sir David Rae, Bart., Lord Justice Clerk, Mr. Hope was appointed in his room. He took his seat on the opening of the Court, 28th of November 1804, and addressed the judges in a concise but chaste speech, expressive of the importance he felt to be attached to the appointment, the duties of which, by the assistance of their lordships, he trusted to discharge in a satisfactory manner. During the seven years his lordship presided in the Criminal Court, justice was well administered ; and under none of his predecessors had the office been filled with greater ability, or the business conducted with a dignity and solemnity more in keeping with the procedure of a Court of Justiciary. An address by his lordship, delivered. at Glasgow, on closing the assize in 1808, was so much admired for its elegance and power, that, on the earnest solicitation of the magistracy of that city, he consented that it should be printed. The speech is of considerable length, but the. topics are interesting, and an extract or two may not improperly be admitted here. After his lordship, in the usual manner, had inquired whether there were any persons present who had cause of complaint against the judicial conduct of the Sheriffs of this district, he said :- " This ceremony of calling up the Sheriffs at the conclusion of each Justice Eyre, and making open proclamation for any person to come forward who thinks he has been injured by them in the exercise of their office, is of considerable antiquity in our law, and was originally of great utility. At the time when the ceremony was enjoined, almost all our sheriffdoms were hereditary in the families of great and powerful barons, who often were the rivals of the king himself ; aud from whom, therefore, if they were guilty of oppression, the people subject to their jurisdiction were little likely to obtain redress. I t was therefore wisely provided by our ancestors, that, at the conclusion of each Justice Eyre, before dismissing the jury, the Sheriffs should be obliged to stand up and answer to any complaint made against them before the Grand Justiciar invested with the whole majesty of the law, and armed with the power of the whole array of the district. " Thank God, we live in times when the original cause which led to this ceremony no longer exists. The office of Sheriff is now intrusted to professional gentlemen, qualified by their education to administer justice with ability, and without power, without temptation, to transgress the laws ; and, besides, from their judgment there lies a regular appeal to the Supreme Courts of Session and Justiciary. '( But although the original reason for this ceremony has ceased, I am far from thinking that it has become useless. On the contrary, I hope and trust that it never will be abolished. While I sit here, it shall never be omitted. We all must feel how apt the best of us are to become intoxicated with power ; and, therefore, how useful it must be, from time to time, to remind Magistrates that they are responsible for their conduct. Even if I thought this ceremony might now be safely discontinued as to you, I wish it to be preserved for my own sake ; for I cannot Majority, seventy-seven. In this he was eminently successful.
Volume 9 Page 332
  Enlarge Enlarge  
Volume 9 Page 333
  Enlarge Enlarge