Hale, Sir Matthew

, a most learned lawyer, an$ upright judge, was born at Alderley, in Gloucestershire, November J, 1609. His father was a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn, a man of such tenderness of conscience, as to withdraw from his profession because unwilling to tamper with truth in giving that colour to pleadings which barristers call doing their best for their client;" and this, with some other practices, customary in those days, appearing unworthy of his character, he retired to his estate in the country, where he died in 1614, at which time his son was but five years old. His wife having died two years before, their son was committed to the guardianship of Anthony Kingscot, esq. to whom he was related, and by whom, for grammatical learning, he was placed under the care of Mr. Staunton, vicar of Wotton-under-Edge, a noted puritan. In 1626 he was admitted of Magdalen-hall, Oxford, under the* tuition of Obadiah Sedgwick, another puritan, where he laid the foundation of that learning and knowledge, on which he afterwards raised so vast a superstructure. Here, however, he fell into many levitres and exr | travagances, and was preparing to go along with his tutor, who went chaplain to lord Vere into the Low Countries, with a resolution of entering himself into the prince of Orange’s army, when he was diverted from this design by being engaged in a law-suit with sir William Whitmore, who laid claim to part of his estate. Afterwards, by the persuasions of Serjeant Glanville, who happened to be his counsel in this case, and had an opportunity of observing his capacity, he resolved upon the study of the law, and was admitted of Lincoln’s Inn, November 8, 1629. Sensible of the time he had lost in frivolous pursuits, he nowstudied at the rate of sixteen hours a day, and threw aside all appearance of vanity in his apparel. He is said, indeed, to have neglected his dress so much, that, being a strong and well-built man, he was once taken by a pressgang, as a person very fit for sea-service; which pleasant mistake made him regard more decency in his cloaths for the future, though never to any degree of extravagant finery. What confirmed him still more in a serious and regular way of life, was an accident, which is related to have befallen one of his companions. Hale, with other young students of the inn, being invited out of town, one of the company called for so much wine, that, notwithstanding all Hale could do to prevent it, he went on in his excess till he fell down in a fit, seemingly dead, and was with some difficulty recovered. This particularly affected Hale, in whom the principles of religion had been early implanted, and therefore retiring into another room, and, falling down upon his knees, he prayed earnestly to God, both for his friend, that he might be restored to life again, and for himself, that he might be forgiven for being present and countenancing so much excess: and he vowed to God, that he would never again keep company in that manner, nor drink a health while he lived. His friend recovered; and from this time Mr. Hale forsook all his gay acquaintance, and divided his whole time between the duties of religion and the studies of his profession. Noy, the attorney-general, who was one of the most eminent men of his profession, took early notice of him, directed him in his studies, and discovered so much friendship for him, that Mr. Hale was sometimes called Young Noy.

While pursuing his studies, he not only kept the hours of the hall constantly in term-time, but seldom put | himself out of commons in vacation -time, and continued to pursue his studies with unwearied diligence. Not being satisfied with the law-books then published, he was very diligent in searching records; and with collections out of the books he read, together with his own learned observations, he made a most valuable common-place book. Selden soon found him out, and took such a liking to him, that he not only lived in great friendship with him, but left him at his death one of his executors. Selden also prescribed to him a more enlarged pursuit of learning, which he had before confined to his own profession; so that he arrived in time to a considerable knowledge in the civil law, in arithmetic, algebra, and other mathematical sciences, as well as in physic, anatomy, and surgery. He was also very conversant in experimental philosophy, and other branches of philosophical learning; and in ancient history and chronology. But above all, he seemed to have made divinity his chief study, so that those who read some of his works, might naturally think that he had studied nothing else.

It was by indefatigable application that he acquired so great an extent of knowledge. He rose early, was never idle, and scarce ever held any discourse about the passing events of the day, except with some few in whom he confided. He entered into no correspondence, unless on necessary business or matters of learning, and spent very little time at his meals. He never went to public feasts, and gave no entertainments but to the poor, literally following our Saviour’s direction, of feasting none but these. He always rose from dinner with an appetite, and able to enter with an unclouded mind on any serious employment that might present itself.

Some time before the civil wars broke out, he was called to the bar, and began to make a figure in the world; but, observing how difficult it was to preserve his integrity, and yet live securely, he resolved to follow those two maxims of Pomponius Atticus, who lived in similar times; viz. “To engage in no faction, nor meddle in public business, and constantly to favour and relieve those that were lowest.” He often relieved the royalists in their necessities, which so ingratiated him with them, that he became generally employed by them in his profession. He was one of the counsel to the earl of Strafford, archbishop Laud, and king Charles himself 5 as also to the duke of Hamilton, the earl | of Holland, the lord Capel, and the lord Craven. Being esteemed a plain honest man, and of great knowledge in the law, he was equally acceptable to the presbyterians and the loyalists. In 1643 he took the covenant, and appeared several times with other lay -persons among the assembly of divines. He was then in great esteem with the parliament, and employed by them in several affairs, particularly in the reduction of the garrison at Oxford; being as a lawyer added to the commissioners named by the parliament to treat with those appointed by the king. In that capacity he was instrumental in saving the university, by advising them, especially the general Fairfax, to preserve that seat of learning from ruin. Afterwards, though no man more lamented the murder of Charles I. he took the oath called “The Engagement;” and, January 1651-2, was one of those appointed to consider of the reformation of the law. Cromwell, who well knew the advantage it would be to have the countenance of such a man as Hale to his courts, never left importuning him, till he accepted the place of one of the justices of the common bench, as it was called; for which purpose he was by writ made serjeant at law January 25, 1653-4. In that station he acted with great integrity and courage. He had at first serious scruples concerning the authority under which he was to act and, after having gone two or three circuits, he refused to sit any more on the crown side that is, to try any more criminals*. He had indeed so carried himself in some trials, that the powers then in being were not unwilling he should withdraw himself from meddling any farther in them; of which Burnet gives the following instance. Soon after he was made a judge, a trial was brought before him, upon the circuit at Lincoln, concerning the murder of one of the townsmen who had been of the king’s army, and was killed by a soldier of the garrison there. He was in the field with a fowling-piece on his shoulder, which the soldier seeing, he came to him, and said, he was acting

* Blackstone observes, that " if and try prisoners, having very strong

judgment of death be given by a judge objections to the legality of the usurnot authorised by lawful commission, per’s commission as to capital offences,

and execution is done accordingly, the but that it was necessary to decide the

judge is guilty of murder; and upon disputes of civil property in the worst

this argument sir M. Hale himself, of times; a distinction, perhaps, rathough he accepted the place of a ther too refined, since the punishment

judge of the common-pleas under of crimes is at least as necessary to soCromwelPs government, yet declined ciety as maintaining the boundaries of

to sit on the crown side at the assizes, property.“| against an order the protector had made, viz.” That none who had been of the king’s party should carry arms;“and so would have forced the piece from him. But the other not regarding the order, and being the stronger man, threw down the soldier, and having beat him, left him. The soldier went to the town, and telling a comrade how he had been used, got him to go with him, and help him to be revenged on his adversary. They both watched his coming to town, and one of them went to him to demand his gun; which he refusing, the soldier. struck at him as they were struggling, the other came behind, and ran his sword into his body, of which he presently died. It was in the time of the assizes, so they were both tried. Against the one there was no evidence of malice prepense, so he was only found guilty of manslaughter, and burnt in the hand; but the other was found guilty of murder: and though colonel Whaley, who commanded the garrison, came into the court, and urged that the man was killed only for disobeying the protector’s order, and that the soldier was but doing his duty; yet the judge regarded both his reasonings and threatenings very little, and therefore not only gave sentence against him, but ordered the execution to be so suddenly done, that it might not be possible to procure a reprieve. On another occasion he displayed both his justice and courage in a cause in which the protector was deeply concerned, and had therefore ordered a jury to be returned for the trial. On hearing this, judge Hale examined the sheriff about it, and having discovered the fact, shewed the statute which ordered all juries to be returned by the sheriff or his lawful officer, and this not being done, he dismissed the jury, and would not try the cause. The protector was highly displeased with him, and at his return from the circuit (for this happened in the country) told him in great anger, that” he wa not fit to be a judge.“Hale replied only, with inimitable aptness of expression, that” it was very true."

When Cromwell died, he not only excused himself from accepting the mourning that was sent him, but also refused the new commission offered him by Richard; alleging, that “he could act no longer under such authority.” He did not sit in Cromwell’s second parliament in 1655;but in Richard’s, which met in January 1658-9, he was one^of the burgesses for the university of Oxford. In the healing parliament in 1660, which recalled Charles II, he was | elected one of the knights for the county of Gloucester; and moved, that a committee might be appointed to look into the propositions that had been made, and the concessions that had been offered by Charles I. during the late war, that thence such propositions might be digested as they should think fit to be sent over to the king at Breda. The king upon his return recalled him in June by writ, to the degree of serjeant-at-law; and upon settling the courts in Westminster-hall, constituted him in November chief baron of the exchequer. When chancellor Clarendon delivered him his commission, he told him that “if the king could have found out an honester and fitter man for that employment, he would not have advanced him to it; and that he had therefore preferred him, because he knew none that deserved it so well.” As he knew it was usual for persons in his present station to be knighted, he endeavoured to avoid that honour, by declining for a considerable time all opportunities of waiting on the king; which Clarendon observing, sent for him upon business one day, when the king was at his house, and told his majesty, “there was his modest chief-baron,‘ 1 on which he was unexpectedly knighted. He continued eleven years in this place, and very much raised the reputation and practice of the court by his impartial administration of justice, and by his cautious diligence, and great exactness in trials. This gave occasion to the only complaint that was made of him,” that he did not dispatch matters quick enough;" but on the other hand his deliberation had this good effect, that causes tried before him were seldom if ever tried again.

He would never receive private addresses or recommendations from any persons of whatever rank, in any matter in which justice was concerned. One of the first peers in England went once to his chamber, and told him, “that having a suit in law to be tried before him, he was come to acquaint him with it, that he might the better understand it when it should be heard in court.” Judge Hale interrupted him, and said, “he did not deal fairly to com-e to his chamber about such affairs, for he never received any information of causes but in open court, where both parties were to be beard alike,” and therefore he would not suffer him to go on. The nobleman complained of this to the king, as a rudeness that was not to be endured; but his majesty bid him “content himself that he was no worse | used,” and added, “he verily believed Hale would have used himself no better, if he had gone to solicit him in any of his own causes.” Two other stories are told to prove his strict integrity, one of a gentleman who sent him a buck for his table, and the other of the dean and chapter of Salisbury, who made him a present of six sugar-loaves, and as the gentleman and the dean and chapter had causes pending before him, he insisted on paying for these articles before he would try them. Too much, however, has been made of these stories, for it was proved that both presents were compliments which the parties had been accustomed to pay to the judges for the time being on the circuit. So many are the testimonies to judge Hale’s integrity, that it cannot stand in need of such petty supports as these.

Judge Hale, probably in consequence of his rule of favouring and relieving those that were lowest, and perhaps owing to the connections he had formed in early life, was now very charitable to the nonconformists, and screened them as much as possible from the severities of the law. He thought many of them had merited highly in the affair of the king’s restoration, and at least deserved that the terms of conformity should not have been made stricter than they were before the war. In 1671 he was promoted to the place of lord chief justice of England, and behaved in that high station with his usual strictness, regularity, and diligence; but about four years and a half after this advancement, he was attacked by an inflammation in the diaphragm, which in two days time broke his constitution to that degree that he never recovered; for his illness turned to an asthma, which terminated in a dropsy. Finding himself unable to discharge the duties of his function, he petitioned in January 1675-6, for a writ of ease; which being delayed, he surrendered his office in February. He died December 25th following, and was interred in the church-yard of Alderley, among his ancestors; for he did not approve of burying in churches, but used to say, “That churches were for the living, and church-yards for the dead.” He was twice married, having by his first wife ten children, all of whom he outlived except his eldest daughter and youngest son. The male line of the family became extinct in 1784, by the death of his great grandson, Matthew Haje, esq. barrister at law. | To enter more minutely into the character of this great and good man would be to enlarge this article beyond all reasonable bounds. The testimonies to the excellence of his character are numerous. Whoever knew him spoke well of him. One enemy only, Roger North (in his Life of the Lord Keeper North) has endeavoured to lessen the respect due to sir Matthew Hale’s character; but in so doing, it has been justly remarked, has degraded his own. Sir Matthew was, for the brightness and solidity of his genius, the variety and elegance of his learning, and the politeness of his manners, the delight and envy of his contemporaries. His knowledge in divinity and humanity was a radicated habit: and there was scarce ever any appeal from his judgment as a casuist or a critic. Biirnet’s Life of Hale cannot be too often read.

He was the author of several things which were published by himself; namely, 1. “An Essay touching theGravitation or Non -gravitation of Fluid Bodies, and the Reasons thereof.” 2. “Difficiies Nugse, or observationstouching the Torricellian Experiment, and the various solutions of the same, especially touching the weight and elasticity of the air.” 3. “Observations touching the Principles of natural motion, and especially touching rarefaction and condensation.” 4. “Contemplations moral and divine.” 5. “An English Translation of the Life of Pomponius Atticus, written by Corn. Nepos; together with observations political and moral.” 6. “The Primitive Origination of Mankind considered and explained according to the Light of Nature, &c.” He left also at his decease other works, which were published namely, 1. His “Judgment of the Nature of true Religion, the Causes of its Corruption, and the Church’s Calamity by men’s addition and violences, with the desired Cure.” 2. “Several Tracts; as a f Discourse of Religion under three heads’,” &c. 3. “A Letter to his Children, advising them how to behave in their speech.” 4. “A Letter to one of his sons after his recovery from the small-pox/’ 5.” Discourse of the Knowledge of God and of ourselves, first by the light of nature; secondly, by the sacred Scriptures.“All these, under the title of his” Moral and Religious Works,“were published by the rev. Thomas Thirlwall, 1805, 2 vols. 8vo, with his life by bishop and an appendix to it. | Of his law tracts, one only was printed in his life-time^ viz.:London Liberty, or an argument of Law and Reason,“1650, which was reprinted in 1682, under the title ofLondon’s Liberties, or the opinions of those great lawyers, lord chief justice Hale, Mr. justice Wild, and serjeant Maynard, about the election of mayor, sheriffs, aldermen, and common councel of London, and concerning their charter.“In 1668 he wrote a preface to Rolle’s” Abridgment," which he published with the whole of that work.

After his death, appeared, 1. “The Pleas of the Crown, or a Methodical Summary,1678, 8vo, continued by Jacob and reprinted in 1716. To this edition is often annexed “The Treatise of Sheriffs 7 Accounts,” and “The Trial of the Witches.” It must not be concealed that this otherwise learned and sagacious man was so far prejudiced by early opinions, as to believe in witchcraft, and to preside on the trials of some persons accused of it. The “Pleas” has passed through seven editions, the last of which was in 1773. It was not, however, considered by the author as a complete work, but intended as a plan for his “Historia Placitorum Coronse,” of which hereafter. 2. “Treatise shewing how useful, &c. the inrolling and registering of all conveyances of land,1694, 4to, reprinted with additions in 1756. 3. “Tractatus de Successionibus apud Anglos, or a treatise of Hereditary Descents,1700, and 1735, 8vo. This forms a chapter in his “History of the Common Law.” 4. “A treatise on the original Institution, &c. of Parliaments,1707, republished by Francis Hargrave, esq. in 1796, 4to, under the title of “Hale’s Jurisdiction of the House of Lords,” with an introductory preface, including a narrative of the same jurisdiction, from the accession of James I. 5. “Analysis of the Law,” without date, but seems to have been only a design for a, 6. “History of the Common Law of England, in twelve chapters,1713, 8vo, a fourth and fifth edition of which were published in 1779 and 1794, 2 vols. 8vo, by Mr. serjeant Runnington. 7. “Historia Placitorum Coronie, or History of the Pleas of the Crown,1739, 2 vols. folio, edited by Sollom Emlyn, esq. and again in 1772, by George Wilson, esq. 2 vols. 8vo, and lastly in the same size, in 1800, by Thomas Dogherty, esq. There are a few other tracts and opinions published by Mr. Hargrave and other law writers in their collections. | Sir Matthew Hale by his will bequeathed to the society of Lincoln’s-inn his ms books, of inestimable value, which he had been near forty years in gathering with great industry and expence. “He desired they should be kept safe and all together, bound in leather, and chained; not lent out or disposed of: only, if any of his posterity of that society should desire to transcribe any book, and give good caution to restore it again in a prefixed time, they should be lent to him, and but one volume at a time:” They are,“says he,” a treasure not fit for every man’s view; nor is every man capable of making use of them." 1


Life by Buruet. Biog. Brit, Life by Runnington, Granger, &^