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might be expected a scholar of great ability, intense application, singularly strong desire to learn, would make under so excellent a master.
From this seminary he proceeded to Cambridge, and was entered of Trinity College. He there pursued his studies, took a good degree, and, on leaving the University, was called to the bar in 1804. He immediately chose the great circuit, the Northern, at that time under the lead of Serjeant Cockell, Mr. Park, and Mr. Topping; Mr. Scarlett and Mr. Raine being candidates for the succession should those leaders be promoted, or their health or their popularity fail. Mr. Williams brought with him the reputation of having diligently applied to pleading under Mr. John Atkinson, of Lincoln's Inn, who trained several good lawyers: he brought also the fame of a first-rate classical scholar. His ad
mirable disposition soon ensured him the respect and esteem of all his fellows, and he very easily attained a fair share of practice. The Sessions which he attended were those of Manchester and Preston, a sessions greater in business than several of the circuits; and he attended them several years before Mr. Scarlett quitted them.
As no men more speedily or more surely ascertain each other's merits than the barristers, so it was soon found that he possessed abundantly some of the essential qualities which lead to success in our profession. He was a most diligent reader of his brief, never coming into court without the most perfect and most accurate knowledge of his case, nor ever turning to others, whether senior or junior, for supplying the defect of his own industry and care. He was most provident and circumspect in the conduct of a cause, whether he led or followed. He gave his whole mind to it, whatever was to be done. Quicquid agas id pro virili agere was his maxim, as he once cited it aloud in reference to a somewhat slipshod remark of the Judge (Mr. Justice Park), and in rebuke of that remark which had
very absurdly charged him with taking too much pains. The quotation produced a great effect on those who heard it, and was often afterwards in their mouths. His examination in chief was greatly and deservedly admired, for it visited every corner of the witness's knowledge, obtained from him all he could give, and threw on each part of the case whatever light might come from him. His cross-examination was also powerful; and in re-examination he restored and set up his witness well and judiciously, and without overdoing it so as to excite suspicion, and thus lend to an adverse interrogatory a force and weight which did not belong to it. His speeches were truly admirable, concise, forcible, elegant in diction, dictated by the most correct taste, formed upon the antique model with which no one was more familiarly acquainted. The feud arising out of the Queen's case long deprived him of the rank in his profession to which his merits and his practice entitled him; for Mr. Brougham having, by the Queen's death, lost his precedence as her Majesty's Attorney-General, Lord Eldon did not venture to continue his silk gown, for fear of displeasing the King, George IV. (a high-minded Sovereign, and very perfect gentleman), and therefore he was constrained to lead causes for six years without having along with him the eleven or twelve of the Circuit who were his seniors; and the result was, that all of them, except Mr. Serjeant Hullock and Mr. Williams, were thrown out of business, in order to gratify the very dignified spite of a great Sovereign, and save his Chancellor the ten minutes' annoyance of thwarting his royal caprice. The same reason operated against giving Mr. Williams his rank, for he, too, had been one of her Majesty's counsel. And, though the King might very possibly have had no objection to promote him, provided his leaders in that great cause (Messrs. Brougham and Denman) remained clothed in stuff gowns, that would have created too loud an outcry at the Bar for the
Chancellor's nerves; so the result was, that none of them were promoted at all till the year 1827, when Mr. Brougham was, with much difficulty, prevailed upon by his friend Lord Lyndhurst, then Chancellor, to take a rank which had long ceased to be of the smallest importance to him; and thus Mr. Williams, also, was at length promoted. But it was not till the year after that the magnanimous Monarch's personal dislike of Mr. Denman could be overcome; and this act of tardy justice was due to the honesty and firmness of the Duke of Wellington, whom the "finest gentleman in Europe" and "first cavalry officer" could not resist.
The part which Mr. Williams bore in the Queen's case is too well known to require any commentary. He brought to that great occasion all the qualities for which we have shown that he was so eminently distinguished. The two parts of his most able and most useful advocacy which were chiefly admired, were the crossexamination of Demont, one of the Queen's waiting women, and the speech in which he, with little or no preparation, followed the opening of her Majesty's defence. The cross-examination was most successful, and it was destructive of that important witness's credit.* The effect of it in the Lords and in the country cannot easily be overrated. It completed, after the destruction of Majocchi, the ruin of the case. The speech of Mr. Williams must be divided into the first and the second day, and it is usual to call the former a failure, merely because it was delivered when the House were under the impression of the first speech, and did not expect a second to follow close upon it. But that first would in all probability have been as unsuccessful, had the order in which the two were delivered been
* Some accounts erroneously give to Mr. J. Williams the cross-examination of Majocchi. That, of course, fell to the share of Mr. Brougham, for it was the pivot on which the whole case turned, and it could only be in the hands of the leader. But next in importance was Demont's.
reversed. It is in fact well known that Mr. Brougham, perceiving the favourable disposition of the House, ran out to call Mariette Bron, the Queen's own maid, whom he would have tendered for cross-examination after a question or two-and thus put an end to the case. But she was not to be found; and hence a suspicion very naturally arising that she had been gained over by the very active and skilful adversary, he never called her at all, but made Mr. Williams follow up the blow that had been struck. Whatever difference of opinion might exist on the first day's speech, no one ever doubted the great ability of the concluding portion delivered next morning, and its success was complete.
In 1823, Mr. Williams came into Parliament as member for the city of Lincoln, having before contested Chester unsuccessfully. The celebrated attack which he made upon Lord Eldon's administration of justice in the Court of Chancery needs not to be mentioned to show how completely successful this eminent advocate was in the House of Commons. There was no resisting his close, vigorous, and learned assault, and a compromise was the result of a drawn battle, if so we may term a motion that led to a Commission specially appointed to investigate the abuses in Chancery, and point out the means of remedying the great evils complained of. The great and salutary reforms which have since been effected in that Court may be distinctly traced to this inquiry, that is, to Mr. Williams's motions.
In 1824, he distinguished himself in the great debate on Smith, the missionary's case, being one of the most powerful supporters of the motion, which is known ultimately to have obtained the emancipation of the Colonial Slaves. Mr. Denman and Dr. Lushington were the others who distinguished themselves on that great occasion, and to whom, with their colleagues, in equal shares, belongs the glory of this great victory for humanity and justice.
Mr. Williams never partook of the enthusiasm which made most of his political associates the advocates of free trade in all its branches, and in 1826 he delivered a speech of very remarkable ability, and great effect on the opposite side of the question. As he assailed Mr. Huskisson with much power of invective, Mr. Canning came to his friend's defence, and made a speech, in which the House might well be at a loss whether most to admire the orator's zeal for his friend when assailed, his carelessness about his own reputation as a reasoner, or his unscrupulous resort to topics forbidden by the ordinary rules of parliamentary warfare. For his arguments were as feeble as his vehemence was strong, and in want of other facts he hesitated not to jest upon one undeniable fact, namely, that Mr. Williams had recently married a Cheshire lady belonging to the county where manufacturers suffered from the new measures. This sally of delicate wit, and high bred politeness, was the more remarked, because it was delivered in the presence of that most estimable lady's father, an aged country gentleman, who always supported the government with which the wit was connected. This venerable person expressed in a few words, which made a deep impression, his disgust at what had passed. The fact was, that Mr. Williams's speech was an able one, and exasperated both Mr. Huskisson and Mr. Canning.
Our narrative has thus led to the mention of this connexion with Mr. Davenport's family, a connexion which formed the happiness of Mr. Williams's after life, for he had found a friend and companion of admirable judgment, sterling sense, and agreeable manners, the ornament of the exalted circle in which she moved.
In 1830, on the accession of his party to power, he filled the office of Queen's Attorney-General, with Mr. Pepys (now Lord Cottenham), as Solicitor-General, until the year 1832, when the determination being