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improved upon his great models,-what additions he had made to their tenets. He charges the Chief Justice with craft, with indirect contrivance, with seducing advocates by "hints, looks, half-words to abstain from bringing things forward, insinuating that it would be injurious to their clients-but really because they would hamper himself in his pursuit of a conviction." "Herein," he says, "Lord Mansfield far surpassed the old performers, who, whatever were their doctrines, declared them from the beginning and throughout the trial, and did not by skulking and concealment filch a conviction from the jury, but committed a bold robbery on public justice in face of the laws and of the defendants."
It must be admitted that he, too, could face Lord Mansfield openly, and beard him on his bench. A well-known anecdote, recording at once his wit and his boldness, is often mentioned in Westminster Hall. On some difference arising on a point of law, his Lordship was pleased to say, "Then, Mr. Dunning, I may burn my books."- "Better read them," was the reply.
On legislative matters Dunning did not appear to be at all in advance of his age. But he was not behind the other great party leaders, his fellows. A great debater, far surpassing Wedderburn, if far less graceful; a man of real wit, and bringing his wit to bear on the argument; in close reasoning, second to no one; in sarcastic invective, superior to most men; a singularly bold spirit withal; he had all the old notions of regarding our Constitution as perfect even in the faults which it retains of the most barbarous times, just as Dean Swift, with all his Tory prejudices, declared himself for the old Gothic institutions of annual parliaments and universal suffrage; and as Mr. Fox could see no wisdom beyond the Whig catalogue of idols and of grievances handed down from our ancestors, the Whig leaders who preceded him. Mr. Burke was, indeed, the only states
man who appeared as at all before his age. He would hardly have expressed himself as Dunning did. on appeal of murder, though he hardly gave it up. "I rise," said Dunning (29th April, 1774), “in defence of one of the pillars of our Constitution, the appeal of murder;" and he protested against "abandoning our old Gothic Constitution, and substituting a new Macaroni one in its place." Let us felicitate ourselves that we have outlived these days, and have survived to a period when the merest schoolboys in legislation would be ashamed of such notions-few even entertaining them, none daring to give them vent.
If Dunning was distinguished in Parliament beyond the lot of most lawyers, his principal theatre was Westminster Hall. There his fame was great. Together with the points of Wallace, the arguments of Dunning were the subject of admiration long and long after they had both been removed from this passing In manner, neither was graceful; Wallace much less than Dunning: but Dunning was uncouth in his person, and little gifted with a sonorous voice or even a clear utterance. It was only when he became warmed with his subject that the torrent of argument and illustration poured. Against Wallace it was generally his lot to be pitted; even in Parliament, as far as Wallace's very marked inferiority there admitted of any contest; for he was very inferior indeed in debate, and only spoke when official necessity compelled him. These two rivals met on an occasion of melancholy interest, just before their decease. They were both travelling in May, 1783, on the Bath road; Wallace was proceeding on his way to Clifton for his health; Dunning, broken by the loss of his eldest son, which he never recovered, was coming to town from Bristol, where he had been to hold, for the last time, the sessions as recorder. They met at Bagshot, and by tacit consent repaired to the same chamber, where they reposed upon two
sofas, placed opposite each other, and held for a space some friendly conversation, probably turning upon former times and their present exhausted state. Wallace died in a few weeks, Dunning in the following August (1783), a few months after.
The books of course can never give a just idea of any advocate's powers as an arguer of cases, because all reports must greatly abridge the argument; all give it, or rather the heads of it, in the language of the reporter himself; and indeed little more is to be found than the points made and the authorities cited. This applies particularly to the reports before Durnford and East, with whom the less condensed and more prolix plan of reporting began. Burrows, Cowper, and Douglas, are much shorter than their successors, and though, in point of condensation, the two latter are better reporters than any since, they give still less a representation of an arguer's manner of arguing than the somewhat unbearable profusion of after times. It is, however, with all these disadvantages, impossible to doubt that Dunning's argument in the case of Combe v. Pitt (3 Bur. 1423.), which first established his fame in Westminster Hall, was a performance of very great merit, though the point was of the most inconsiderable magnitude, viz.: that a plea in abatement of another action brought in the same term, can only be supported by the date of its actual commencement being, de facto, prior. His arguments in the much more famous cases of Doe v. Fonnereau (2 Doug. 496.), and Le Caux v. Eden (2 Doug. 596.), appear to have been also of great ability. But in Combe v. Pitt, Lord Mansfield on a second argument being suggested, made answer that it was unnecessary, the first having been most satisfactory and full, with neither a word too much nor a word too little.
Dunning married, in 1780, the sister of the late Sir Francis Baring, and aunt of the present Lord
Ashburton, who on his creation in 1835, took the title of his uncle by marriage. Mr. Burke thus eulogized him at a period when hatred of all the Shelburne connexion had not as yet shut his eyes to real worth and sterling merit. After declaring his esteem for the man, he thus speaks of the lawyer:-"I am not afraid of offending a most learned body, and most jealous of its reputation for that learning, when I say he is the first of his profession. It is a point settled by those who settle everything else, and I must add (what I am enabled to say from my own long and close observation) that there is not a man of any profession, or in any situation, of a more erect and independent spirit, of a more proud honour, or more manly mind, or more firm determined integrity."
When the fierce hatred of Lord Shelburne burst forth among the Whigs; when he was the object of constant and unsparing attacks, somewhat of their abuse extended to his eminent partizans; Colonel Barré's pension, and Lord Ashburton's grant for life of the duchy, were assailed; but no one ventured to question the purity of the latter's whole personal, political, or professional conduct. The carelessness of those who compiled the Parliamentary History of those days, and who called Mr. Dunning Joseph, during the whole of these volumes, makes the debates speak in one passage of a conversation upon Colonel Barré's and Lord Ashburton's pensions; whence the writers already alluded to have chosen to assume that the latter had, like the former, a pension of £4000 ayear; a thing utterly false. He had, by grant of the Crown, the place of Chancellor of Lancaster for life-a grant perfectly lawful, and which was a poor compensation for the loss of twice as large an income at the bar. There can hardly be produced a second instance of so scandalous an inattention to accuracy, on the part of persons who choose to fasten on the untarnished honour of illustrious names, charges of
corruption and profligacy, and gross inconsistency, for which their own inexcusable inaccuracy and blunders are the only foundation.
The following letter, dated the 3d April, 1780, relates evidently to the return of Mr. Dunning from his marriage excursion, and also to the duel fought by Lord Shelburne on the 22d March, with Colonel Fullarton, and the wound which his Lordship received. The dispute arose on Lord Shelburne's remarking, in the House of Lords, that the corps raised by the colonel might very possibly be employed against the liberties of the country; whereupon that gentleman took offence, and used harsh language in the Commons; but not satisfied with that, he sent the earl a message. This invitation was accepted, as all explanation was very peremptorily and somewhat contemptuously refused. It seems the same tone was preserved in the field; for Lord S. seeing the colonel and his second, a Scotch peer, asked "which of the two gentlemen it was that he had to meet." The colonel was a very unknown personage, and filled no space in any eyes but his own. On the second fire he wounded his adversary, who, when accosted by his second, Lord Frederick Cavendish, refused to give up his pistol, saying "he had not fired it." He took his place again, and fired in the air. The adverse second then asked Lord S. if he would now retract or explain; but he said the matter had taken a different turn, and explanation was out of the question. However, he added, that he was ready to go on, "if the gentleman wished to continue," which was of course declined. Certainly no one ever behaved with greater courage or coolness in any circumstances-as all might expect who knew the fearless nature of the man—and it argued no little vanity in "the gentleman" to expect he ever should obtain any other satisfaction than a fight, which he probably thought it worth his while to have, as a rising young political dealer.