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chance of establishing a partnership with another parliamentary solicitor, which a committee of the reformed House of Commons would no doubt discover to be a laudable mode of facilitating the discharge of business, the rather that the unreformed House of Commons declared it to be mean, dishonourable, and unworthy a member of the legislature. It is with extreme reluctance that we allude to these matters; but it is no unimportant part of the argument to show that Mr. Harvey has not entitled himself, by his after-conduct, to an amnesty for the errors in judgment (as he calls them) of his youth. H.
[The documents relating to this case, printed by order of the House of Commons, at the expense of the country, are—1. The Report, with the Minutes of Evidence and Appendix, 501 folio pages. 2. A folio volume, entitled Papers or Documents relating to the Application of D. W. Harvey, &c. 182 folio pages. 3. The Sixth Report of the Common Law Commissioners, of which 60 or 70 folio pages relate to him. We presume there will also be heavy charges for the attendance of the shorthand writer and the witnesses. If the other members of the projected cabinet are to be whitewashed at the public expense (and some of them will want it bad enough) their first budget will be a singular one.]
ART. VII.—THE JUDICIAL CHARACTER .OF SIR JOHN LEACH.
If the late Master of the Rolls cannot be ranked among the most distinguished ornaments of the Equity Bench, it must be acknowledged, even by those who may be least disposed to admit that his legal or general attainments were of the highest order, that he discharged the duties of the judicial office with great ability and efficiency. In the power of despatching general business, perhaps no judge ever surpassed or equalled him; and when it is considered in how large a proportion of cases which a judge is called upon to decide, the application of legal or equitable principles is free from difficulty, the faculty of rapidly disentangling whatever may be complex in the pleadings and facts, and of promptly deciding upon the merits of a case, is one of which the importance can scarcely be too highly estimated. His attention seemed never for a moment to be diverted from the case before the Court, and when the duties of counsel were discharged, he would for the most part proceed immediately to the delivery of his judgment. Where he entered at large into the details of a case, he would arrange the leading facts in the most lucid order, and comment upon all that was material to the issue with a perspicacity which left nothing unsifted, and an acuteness which no ingenuity of counsel could elude. Even when of late years he seemed sometimes to yield to the influence of bodily infirmity, and indulged in an occasional slumber upon the bench, his nods were, like Homer's, such as might well be conceded to energies which were in general so thoroughly awake, and by a singular felicity—perhaps by an idiosyncrasy1 in his method of slumber which we must leave physiologists to explain—nothing seemed to have escaped him, when the duty of deciding the case devolved upon him.
To record of a judge who has presided in courts of equity, that he was an uncompromising foe to every species of fraud and unfair dealing in parties, and of every form of professional malpractice in the conduct of a cause, can scarcely be deemed matter of panegyric; but there are diversities and peculiarities of manner in which even a common duty may be performed, and no one can have heard Sir John Leach administer chastisement in a case calling for judicial animadversion, without being impressed with the conviction that he not only did his duty in that respect, but did it toto corde; that he was not only an enlightened lawyer, but a thoroughly honest man. When the facts developed in a case called for such animadversion, no wrongdoer ever escaped unstigmatized, and it was sometimes curious to observe the indications which gave notice of an approaching outpouring of judicial indignation. The body of the judge half-averted from the counsel, whose duty it was to struggle, as he best might, with a desperate case—the countenance always florid, but mantling with a "purple grace" under the influence of virtuous wrath and scarce-suppressed impatience—the eye, small but not inexpres
'Sir John Leach's predecessor, Sir Thomas Plumer, when at the bar, used to maintain that men generally possessed the power of compressing their sleep, and that, at any rate, he himself possessed that faculty, so that if business did not permit him to lake more than four hours sleep, he could by an act of volition take as much refreshment in those four hours as in his ordinary six or seven. Another problem for physiologists.
sive, kindling into fire under the like stimulus of excited feelings—these were sure presages of the coming storm. And when expression was at length given to the indignant feelings of the judge, his style, always clear and fluent, frequently became impressed with a character of energy and fervour almost amounting to eloquence.
The remarks which we have hitherto made upon the judicial character of the late Master of the Rolls apply rather to ordinary cases, where there is no difficulty in the application of principles, than to those which, by reason of the doubtful or difficult points of law involved in them, more properly call forth the powers of an equity lawyer. To his decisions in cases of the latter description, the profession has not generally been disposed to pay as large a measure of respect and approbation as it has conceded to some of his contemporaries. His legal learning was considerable, but not profound. His mind was stored with principles, and he was ready, not unfrequently too ready, in the application of them. Once impressed with a particular view of the legal bearings of a case, or with the opinion that the whole case was governed and covered by a particular principle, he was impatient of arguments that might be urged against his impressions, and little disposed to respect or listen to authorities that might contradict them. This was his great judicial defect—a defect which grew with the increasing authority which time gives to a judge's opinions, and which of late years, and especially since he presided at the Rolls, was fostered and confirmed by the almost passive submission of the leaders of the Bar. To this cause must be mainly attributed the great number of appeals which have been brought, and, in many cases successfully brought, against his decisions. The style of his judgments was neat, and his sentences were generally so well turned (we allude to judgments orally delivered, and he rarely committed his judgments, before delivery, to writing,) that they might, we should imagine, but for some occasional exuberance of diction, have borne the test of immediate transmission to the press. During the earlier period of his judicial career, he sometimes, but not often, went into an elaborate examination of the authorities; but of late years he seemed desirous of compressing his judgments into a form of the closest possible condensation. Hence they are often characterized by oracular brevity; but they possess nothing in common with the obscurity of ancient oracles; for they are always lucid; often give results deducible from the authorities with admirable precision; and are seldom chargeable with a defect which too often diminishes the value of the judgments of a far more profound lawyer, Lord Eldon, namely, that of leaving the point with which the Court has to grapple in abeyance.
His mode of delivering his judgments, and of speaking generally, was peculiar. His voice was clear and strong, but most unmusical; indeed, upon an ear cognizant of music, it had all the effect produced by a person singing out of tune, or by instruments playing the same air in different keys. His enunciation was singularly precise, and it appeared to be finical and affected; but we believe that he had at an early period of his public career formed a style of speaking, which, though not felicitous, and apparently extremely artificial, had become natural to him. He who thinks clearly will seldom fail to make his meaning intelligible to his hearers; but the mode in which this end is to be accomplished may be diversified by all the gradations between the extremes of slovenliness and precision. Sir John Leach's mind, as developed in, his public speaking, whether at the Bar, in the House of Commons, or on the Bench, was never in dishabille; or rather it was always, like Ackermann's patterns of people dressed for balls and parties, in its most fashionable attire.
We must not omit to notice a branch of the judicial duties in which Sir John Leach's skill was unrivalled; we allude to the dictation of minutes of decrees. He was conscious of his great skill in the performance of this duty—a minute but extremely important one—and so fastidious was he in the choice of the expressions which he directed to be employed for that purpose, that he would again and again alter the original form of the minutes dictated by him, each new suggestion adding something to the accuracy and precision of the last; a species of hypercriticism upon his own performances which was not a little embarrassing to counsel, who had no sooner written the minutes in one form than a revised edition was presented them in another. And often, after the whole appeared to be concluded, a dropping fire would be recommenced from the bench, a single word perhaps being here and there substituted—always with some improvement—for the word originally suggested. The masterly manner, also, in which he disposed of cases of account has often been the subject of eulogy at the bar. The early discipline which he had undergone in a house of commerce probably gave him peculiar aptitude for dealing with cases of this description, and he evidently took great delight in grappling with them.
Quo semel est imbuta recens servabit odorem
We have already touched incidentally upon Sir John Leach's demeanour to the Bar, and, if we respected or deemed it right to act upon the maxim de mortuis nil nisi bonum, we should say no more upon that subject. But we hold that maxim to be a foolish and mischievous one; more especially if applied to men who have filled public stations. It is foolish, and has some tendency to mischief, even as applied to private persons; for the fear of a posthumous bad reputation may have some influence or operate as some check upon the conduct of private men, and such influence or check would be removed if the maxim were to prevail; but it is more especially mischievous if applied to public men, whose character is public property, and ought at all times to be subjected to the most unfettered animadversion. And happy is that public man who can bear and profit by wholesome animadversion on his conduct ere it is too late, and who, instead of earning the lasting censure of posterity by cleaving to sycophants and parasites, seeks his friends among those who, while they distinguish and applaud what is estimable in his character, are too honest and independent to flatter and pander to his faults.
During some years which succeeded the appointment of Sir John Leach to the office of Vice Chancellor, there were frequent and violent collisions between his Honour and the leading members of the Bar. Among those who at that time most energetically asserted the independence of the Bar, and protested against what was deemed the intemperate and dictatorial demeanour of the Judge, the late Mr. Heald was particularly distinguished; and so strong was the feeling of