North, Francis

, lord Guilford, lord keeper of the great seal in the reigns of Charles II. and James II. was the second son of the preceding, and was born about 1640. He had his grammar learning, in which he was a great proficient, at Bury-school, whence he was admitted a fellowcommoner of St. John’s college, in Cambridge, in 1653. His conversation is said to have been remarkably agreeable and facetious, while his diligent advancement in his studies afforded him more solid claims on the esteem of the society. But, as he was originally designed for the law, after two or three years spent at the university, he was removed to the Middle Temple. Here he applied with great diligence to the main object, yet continued to improve himself in history, classics, and languages. He acquired French, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch, and became not only a good lawyer, but was esteemed very accomplished in mathematics, philosophy, and music. He used to say, that, if he had not diverted his attention by these studies, and by the practice of music particularly, he should never have been a lawyer. He used to spend much of his early vacations with his grandfather, who loved to hear him talk of philosophy, and the news of London. The biographer | of the Norths informs us that he made him “play at backgammon, and fid lie, whenever he thought fit; and the course of life altogether was not displeasing to a young person, for here was fishing, billiards, hunting, visiting, and all the country amusements.

On commencing business at the bar, the friendship and instructions of sir Jeffery Palmer, attorney-general, and the Hydes, greatly contributed to his proficiency, and advanced his practice. By means of the first named gentleman he had a favourable opportunity of shewing his abilities. The story of the five members in king Charles the First’s time, is well known, who, being prosecuted for the riot committed in the house of commons, in holding the speaker down in his chair, were convicted. After the restoration, the commons thought that the records of this conviction might be prejudicial to the privilege of that house, and ordered a writ of error to be brought; and Mr. Attorney was to find counsel to argue for the king, against the lord Hollis, who was one of the five, and first named in the record. Mr. Attorney being an assistant in the house of lords, could not argue, nor could he prevail upon any of the Serjeants, or other practisers to do it; for they said it was against the commons of England, and they durst not undertake it. At last he appointed Mr. North, "who prepared his argument, which was delivered at the bar of the house of lords; and though the commons carried the cause, yet his argument was approved, and particular notice was taken of his comely youth, and of his modest but forcible reasoning. The duke of York was pleased to inquire who that young gentleman was, who had argued so well; and prevailed with the king to encourage him by making him one of his counsel.

He usually attended the Norfolk circuit, and was soon employed as counsel in every important cause. When the great level of the fens was to be divided, he was appointed chairman in the commission, and directed the execution in such a manner as greatly to augment his fame. Dr. Lane, then bishop, likewise constituted him judge of the royal franchise of Ely; a creditable employment, which increased his business in the country. He was also appointed to assist the earl of Oxford, lord chief justice in eyre, in a formal iter, or justice-seat of the forests, which was of great pecuniary advantage to him, and gave him an idea of the ancient Jaw in the immediate practice of it | He was promoted to be the king’s solicitor- general, in the room of sir Edward Turner, made lord chief baron, and was knighted the same day, May 23, 1671. He now dropt the circuit, and was chosen to represent the borough of Lynn, in the house of commons. In 1673 he was appointed attorney-general, on the promotion of sir Heneage Finch to the great seal. In former times, when he applied close to his studies, and spent his days in his chamber, he was subject to the spleen, and apprehensive of many imaginary diseases; and by way of prevention, wore warm cloathing, and leather skull-caps, and inclined much to quackery; but as business flowed in, his complaints vanished, and his skull-caps were destined to lie in a drawer, and receive hjs money. Though his profits were now very great, while the king approved his judgment and fidelity, and the chiefs of the law were mostly his friends, yet he soon grew weary of his post, and wished for another, though less profitable, in a calmer region. The court was sunk in pleasure and debauchery; averse to, and ignorant of all business. The great men were many of them corrupt, false, and treacherous; and were continually tormenting him with improper projects and unreasonable importunities. Among all the preferments of the law, his thoughts were most fixed upon that of lord chief justice of the common pleas; the business there being wholly matter of pure law, and having little to do in criminal causes, or court intrigues: and, on the death of lord chief justice Vaughan in 1674 he succeeded to his wishes. While he presided in this court, he was very attentive to regulate what was amiss in the law, arising either from the nature of things changing, or from the corruption of agents: when any abuse or necessity of regulation appeared, he noted it down, and afterwards digested his thought, and brought it into the form of a tract, from which he might prepare acts of parliament, as he had encouragement and opportunity. He had a great hand in “The Statute of Frauds and Perjuries,” of which the lord Nottingham said, that every line was worth a subsidy. In 1679, the king, being under great difficulties from the parliament, in order to bring them to better temper, and that it might not be said he wanted good counsellors, made a reform of his privy-council, dissolved the old, and constituted a new one, which took in the lord Shaftsbury as president, and the heads of the opposition in both houses; but that he might not be entirely | at their mercy, he joined some of his friends, in whose fidelity and judgment he had an entire confidence, among whom lord chief justice North had the honour to be one. Not long after this, he was taken into the cabinet, that he might be assistant, not only in the formal proceedings of the privy-council, but also in the more private consultations of his majesty’s government. He was also often obliged to fill the office of speaker, and preside in the House of Lords, in the room of the chancellor Nottingham, who, towards the latter end of his time, was much afflicted with the gout and other infirmities. From his interest with the king he was considered as probable successor to Nottingham, and accordingly, on his death, in 1683, the great seal was committed to his custody, on which occasion he was created a peer, by the title of lord Guilford, barori of Guilford, in the county of Surrey, by patent bearing date Sept. 27th, 1683.

The death of king Charles involving him in much business, and his enemies Sunderland and Jefferies acquiring considerable influence in the new court, he took a resolution to quit the seal, and went to lord Rochester to intercede with his majesty to accept it. But that noble lord, who considered his opposition to the popish inclinations of the court as of great importance, diverted him from his purpose; but, as his health was visibly impaired, lord Rochester obtained of the king, that lord Guilford might retire with the seal into the country, with the proper officers attending, jn hopes that, by proper regimen and fresh air, he might recover his health against the winter. He died, however, Sept. 5, 1685, at his seat at Wroxton, near Ban bury. Burnet and Kennett have given no very favourable character of him; and the author of “The Lives of the Lords Chancellors” accuses him of yielding too much to court-measures. If we may credit his biographer, however, he appears to have exerted considerable independence of mind, and to have disapproved of many of the measures both of Charles II. and James; but such were his notions of loyalty, as to prevent him from an avowed opposition, even when he felt, and to his friends expressed, most disgust. While his private character was strictly virtuous and unexceptionable, he did not, according to his brother’s account, want zeal to promote the good of his country, which he thought would most effectually be done, by supporting the Church and Crown of England in all due and legal prerogatives and from these | principles he never swerved. He wrote, 1. a An Alphabetical Index of Verbs Neuter,“printed with Lilly’s Grammar compiled while he was at Bury school. 2. A paper” on the Gravitation of Fluids considered in the Bladders of Fishes,“printed in Lowthorp’s Abridgment of the Philosophical Transactions, vol. II. p. 845. It appears that his lordship’s hint was approved, and pursued, by Mr. Boyle and Mr. Ray, whose papers on that subject are entered in the same collection. 3.” An Answer to a paper of Sir Samuel Moreland on his Static Barometer.“This was never published; but we may observe, to his honour, that it was through his means that barometers were first publicly sold in shops, which before were very rare. 4.A Philosophical Essay on Music, 1677.“Dr. Burney says, that though some of the philosophy of this essay has been since found to be false, and the rest has been more clearly illustrated and explained, yet, considering the small progress which had been made in so obscure and subtil a subject as the propagation of sound, when this book was written, the experiments and conjectures must be allowed to have considerable merit. The Scheme, or Table of Pulses, at the beginning, shewing the coincidence of vibrations in musical concords, is new, and conveys a clear idea to the eye, of what the ratio of sounds, in numbers, only communicates to the intellect. These coincidences, upon which the degrees of perfection in concords depend, being too rapid for the sense of hearing to enable us to count, are here delineated in such a manner as explains the doctrine of vibrations even to a person that is deaf. This pamphlet, containing only 35 pages, was published without the name of the author; but afterwards acknowledged to have been the work of lord keeper North. His delineation of the harmonical vibration of strings seems to have been adopted by Euler, in his” Tentamen novae Theorise musicae.“The keeper was said, in our last edition, to have composed several concerto* in two and three parts; but no composition, in fewer than four or five parts, is ever honoured with the title of concerto; nor was this title given to instrumental music during the life of lord keeper North. Besides the above, we have from his pen some political essays and narratives, published in whole or part, in his Life by Roger North, and in his” Examen," lord Sommers’ tracts, &c. 1

1 Life by Roger North. Collins’s Peerage by Sir E, Brydges. Walpole’s Royal and Noble Authors by Park.