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When the Earl's wound was known in the city, the corporation sent a respectful message to inquire after his safety-"highly endangered in consequence of his upright and spirited conduct in Parliament;" expressing themselves "anxious for the preservation of the valuable life of so true a friend of the people, and defender of the liberties of Englishmen.' The late Mr. Bentham, a friend of Lord Shelburne, always regarded him in this light, and was wont to describe him " as the only minister he had ever known who did not fear the people."
"MY DEAR LORD,
"Putney, Monday morning, 11 o'clock, April 3, 1780.
"Your porter will, I fear, give but a bad impression of the future regularity of my family to his fellow-servants, when he comes to explain to them how it has happened that he has not been despatched earlier, which I find he was very impatient to be; and it is in justice to him that I give
this note the date it bears.
"The companion of my journey, which ended here last night, and who will, I trust, be the companion of my journey through life, feels as she ought the honour your note so obligingly encourages her to hope for in Lady Shelburne's protection; and is impressed, as becomes her, with the respect due to Lady Shelburne's character. She joins with me in very sincere congratulations on your Lordship's safety, and rejoices in this signal proof that Providence has not yet abandoned this unhappy country.
"I should very much lament the loss of the letter your Lordship had the goodness to think of writing to me, under circumstances which added so much to its value, if I had not learnt from Colonel Barré that it was not to be sent to me, but in an event which I have the satisfaction to see the people at large show they have virtue enough to have learnt, with as much indignation as I should have done. Your Lordship will allow me to express the additional satisfaction your letter to Wilts has given me, by the proof it affords that your recovery is complete.
"I am in hopes of seeing Barré here soon, who, I fear, will not so readily admit, as your Lordship will, the apology I am obliged to make for being totally unprepared on every other subject, by the attention I have thought due to one.
"I am, my dear Lord, "Ever truly and faithfully yours, "J. DUNNING."
It is exceedingly to be lamented for the sake both of professional men and students of Rhetoric, that this great orator never completed the work upon which he had barely entered the correction and publication of his speeches. Important as his services were to the state and to the Law, to the great cause of civil and religious liberty, and to the reform of our institutions on rational and moderate principles, his great fame rests upon his eloquence, in which he was surpassed by none in his own times, hardly by any orator of former ages.
The circumstances in which he was placed from his earliest years were exceedingly favourable to the attainment of that eminence, which he reached at an early period; his inflexible principles of toleration, and the severe discipline exercised over his imagination by his strong logical judgment, may be traced to one and the same source. The son of a most respectable Presbyterian pastor, he had from conviction after full examination of the differences between the Church and the sects, joined the establishment; and the kindness which he ever showed towards the communion that he had quitted, afforded the best proof of this step having been taken from conscientious feelings. No one, indeed, who either in public or in private heard him discuss such questions, could entertain a doubt that upon the most serious of all subjects he had feelings of more than ordinary earnestness. His
opinions were, of course, fully matured, and all the reasonings as well as the learning connected with them, were manifestly familiar to his mind; but the depth of his feelings was alike apparent, and suited to the solemn nature of the discussion. His family was of the Saxon settlers from Scotland and the North of England; and though amply endowed with the gifts of fancy, the closeness of his reasoning powers, and the severity of his taste seem to betoken that origin. They, however, would be in a grievous error, who should suppose that his feelings were incapable of warming into enthusiasm, or that the powers of his imagination were enfeebled by the discipline which chastened and controlled them.
His education had been classical, as, indeed, no one who listened to him could doubt. But the delight with which, after his retirement from office, he visited Italy, and frequented the scenes in reality which were familiar to him in the pages of his favourite authors, showed how little age had chilled the feelings or bedimmed the memory of early associations. Upon his return from Rome, when a work there much esteemed and constantly spoken of, was recommended as a companion of his journey to Ireland, he said he had promised Horace a place in his carriage. "Surely you had enough of his company at Rome, where he was your constant companion. "Oh no! I never am tired of him. But then, if he dont go, I am engaged to Gil Blas."
Mr. Phillips has justly observed in his admirable work,* that from the vast "space which Lord Plunket filled in the public eye as a senator, justice has hardly been done to his merits as an advocate in the Courts of Law." In truth, he had all the talents, and had early acquired (if, indeed, they were not natural to him) all the habits which are essential to securing professional success ;
* Curran and his Contemporaries.'
and though he did not start at once into great practice, his progress was uninterrupted, and at an accelerated It was independent too of his success in Parliament; and when he took his place among the greatest debaters, in the Irish House of Commons, he had already won his way to a foremost rank at the Bar. Although his practice was chiefly in Chancery, where eloquence is by no means so effective as before a jury, and although he was comparatively little used to either the tactics, or the suddenly arising discussions, or the declamation of Nisi Prius, it was yet found that when he went into an Assize Court, whether criminal or civil, no man surpassed him either in extracting evidence by the examination of witnesses, or in dealing with it, or in addressing powerful arguments to the judgment, and appeals to the feelings, or to the sense of the ludicrous, of those who had the decision in their hands.
There never was in any court an advocate who worked more constantly by close reasoning, and the plain unadorned statement of facts, skilfully selected, and placed in bold relief, and wove into the argument; nor was there ever an advocate who more strictly performed his highest duty of keeping the interests of the cause alone in view, and sacrificing to that cause every personal consideration. If this be now stated in considering his conduct at Nisi Prius, it is not that in the Courts of Equity he less displayed the same great qualities, but because the temptation to swerve from the right line is much greater in addressing an assembly in some sort popular, than in arguing before a single and a professional judge. There his merely legal arguments had the highest merit. He is described by those who had often heard him as avoiding all ostentation of ingenuity or research, and disdaining everything like subtlety, but stating his reasons and comparing the authorities with perfect simplicity and clearness, the art, but the well
concealed art, being the marshalling of his propositions in such an order that you must assent to them successively, and were not aware how you had been drawn on towards the conclusion he desired to make you adopt, until you found it the last stage of the process. Thus he would distinguish the case in hand by numerous unexpectedly traced particulars, from the case cited against him, and which had at first appeared identical and decisive. He would then find as unlooked for a support to be derived from it in consequence of some part that had not been duly marked; or if neither support nor escape from it was possible, other authorities were set up against it, or circumstances so urged as to impair its force, if not to neutralize it altogether. In this as in every part of his addresses, whether to the court or to a jury, his whole object was to convince by arguments, because he deemed that the surest and safest way to the mind of rational men, and because he never threw away a thought upon anything but gaining his cause.
In this he closely resembled the greatest of advocates in modern times, and second to none of the ancient masters. The resemblance was not confined to the self-denial, the entire absorption in the cause, the invariable and, as it were, instinctive sacrifice to it of all feelings, save those which could insure its success; but Erskine, too, was eminently an argumentative speaker. His great orations, which are happily preserved (and those on more ordinary occasions down to the least important cases form no exception), are throughout, reasonings addressed to the understandings of his hearers, with rare appeals to their feelings or passions; and what at first glance appears figure or allusion, or sentiment, or declamation, or possibly mere ornament, is found, when more carefully considered, to be an essential portion of the reasoning. This, indeed, is even more true of Plunket than of Erskine; and it is characteristic of his eloquence, in the Senate as well as