Yorke, Philip, Earl Of Hardwicke

, an eminent lawyer, was the son of Philip Yorke, an attorney, and was born at Dover, in Kent, December 1, 1690; and educated under Mr. Samuel Morland, of Bethnal Green, in classical and general learning, which he ever cultivated amidst his highest employments. He studied the law in the Middle Temple under the instruction of an eminent conveyancer of the name of Salkeld; and, being called to the bar in 1714, he soon became very eminent in his profession. In 1718 he sat in parliament as member for Lewes, in Sussex; and, in the two successive parliaments, for Seaford. In March 1719-20, he was promoted to the office of solicitorgeneral by the recommendation of the lord-chancellor Parker; an obligation he never forgot, returning it by every possible mark of personal regard and affection. He received also about the same time the honour of knighthood. The trial of Mr. Layer at the king’s bench for high. treason, gave him, in Nov. 1722, an opportunity of | shewiug his abilities; his reply, in which he summed up late at night the evidence against the prisoner, and answered all the topics of defence, being justly admired as one of the ablest performances of that kind extant. About the same time, he gained much reputation in parliament by opening the bill against Kelly, who had been principally concerned in bishop Atterbury’s plot, as his secretary. la February 1723-4, he was appointed attorney-general, in the execution of which important office he was remarkable for his candour and lenity. As an advocate for the crown, he spoke with the veracity of a witness and a judge; and, though his zeal for justice and the due course of law was strong, yet his tenderness to the subject,- in the court of exchequer, was so distinguished, that upon a particular occasion in 1733, the House of Commons assented to it with a general applause. He was unmoved by fear or favour in what he thought right and legal; and often debated and voted against the court in matters relating to the South-Sea company, when he was solicitor; and,‘ in the affair of lord Derwentwater’s estate, when he was attorneygeneral. Upon the resignation of the great seal by Peter lord King, in October 1733, sir Philip Yorke was appointed lord chief-justice of the king^s bench. He was soon after raised to the dignity of a baron of this kingdom, with the title of lord Hardwicke, baron of Hardwicke, in the county of Gloucester, and called to the cabinet council. The salary of chief-justice of the king’s bench being thought not adequate to the weight and dignity of that high office, was raised on the advancement of lord Hardwicke to it, from 2000l. to 4000l. per ann. to the chiefjustice and his successors; but his lordship refused to accept the augmentation of it; and the adjustment of the two vacancies of the chancery and king’s bench (which happened at the same time) between his lordship and lord Talbot, upon terms honourable and satisfactory to both, was thought to do as much credit to the wisdom of the crown in those days, as the harmony and friendship, with which they co-operated in’the public service, did honour to themselves. In the midst of the general approbation with which he discharged his office there, he was called to that of lord high chancellor, on the decease of lord Talbot, February 17, 1736-7.

The integrity and abilities with which he presided in the court of chancery, during the space of almost twenty years, | appears from this remarkable circumstance, that only three of his decrees were appealed from, and even those were afterwards affirmed by the House of Lords. On May 12th, 1740, he was nominated one of the lords justices for the administration of the government during his majesty’s absence: also on April 21st, 1743, and in 1745. In 1746' he was appointed lord high steward of England, for the trials of the earls of Kilmarnock and Cromartie, and lord Balmerino: and in 1747 for the trial of lord Lovat. In 1748 he was again one of the lords justices; and on July 31, 1749, was unanimously chosen high steward of the university of Cambridge, on the resignation of the duke of Newcastle, who was elected chancellor; and the year after was again one of the lords justices, and the same in 1752.

After he had executed the high office of lord high chancellor about seventeen years, in times and circumstances of accumulated difficulty and danger, he was, in April 1754, advanced to the rank of an earl of Great Britain, with the titles of viscount Royston, and earl of Hardwicke. This favour was conferred unasked, by his sovereign, who treated him through the whole of his reign with particular esteem and confidence, and always spoke of him in a manner which shewed that he set as high a value on the man as on the minister. His resignation of the great seal, in November 1756, gave ah universal concern to the nation, however divided at that time in other respects. But he still continued to serve the public in a more private station; at council, at the House of Lords, and upon every occasion where the course of public business required it, with the same assiduity as when he rilled one of the highest offices in the kingdom. He always felt and expressed the truest affection and reverence for the laws and constitution of his country: this rendered him as tender of the just prerogatives invested in the crown, for the benefit of the whole, as watchful to prevent the least incroachment upon the liberty of the subject. The part which he acted in planning, introducing, and supporting, the “Bill for abolishing the heritable Jurisdictions in Scotland,” and the share which he took, beyond what his department required of him, in framing and promoting the other bills relating to that country, arose from his zeal to the Protestant succession, his concern for the general happiness and improvement of the kingdom, and for the preservation of this equal and limited monarchy which were the governing principles of | his public conduct through life. And these, and other bills which might be mentioned, were strong proofs of his talents as a legislator. In judicature, his firmness and dignity were evidently derived from his consummate knowledge and talents; and the mildness and humanity with which he tempered it, from the most amiable disposition. He was wonderfully happy in his manner of debating causes upon the bench. His extraordinary dispatch of the business of the court of chancery, increased as it was in his time beyond what had been known in any former, was an advantage to the suitor, inferior only to that arising from the acknowledged equity, perspicuity, and precision, of his decrees. The manner in which he presided in the House of Lords added order and dignity to that assembly, and expedition to the business transacted there. His talents as a speaker in the senate as well as on the bench, were universally admired: he spoke with a natural and manly eloquence, without false ornaments or personal invectives; and, when he argued, his reasons were supported and strengthened by the most apposite cases and examples which the subject would allow. His manner was graceful and affecting; modest, yet commanding his voice peculiarly clear and harmonious, and even loud and strong, for the greater part of his time. With these talents for public speaking r the integrity of his character gave a lustre to his eloquence, which those who opposed him felt in the debate, and which operated most powerfully on the minds of those who heard him with a view to information and convictions, is<

Convinced of the great principles* of religion, and steady in his practice of the duties of it, he maintained a reputation of virtue, which added dignity to the stations which he filled, and authority to the laws which he administered. His attachment to the national church was accompanied with a full conviction, that a tender regard to the rights of conscience, and a temper of lenity and moderation, are not only right in themselves, but most conducive in their consequences to the honour and interest of the church. The strongest recommendation to him of the clergy, to the ecclesiastical preferments in his disposal, was their fitness for the discharge of the duties of their profession. And that respectable body owes a particular obligation to his lordship, and his predecessor lord Talbot, for the opposition which they gave in the House of Lords to the “Act for the more easy recovery of Tithes, Church-rates, and other | ecclesiastical Dues, from People called Quakers,” which might have proved of dangerous consequences to the rights and property of the clergy; though if. had passed the other house, and was known to be powerfully supported. Many facts and anecdotes which do him honour may be recollected and set down, when resentments, partialities, and contests, are forgot.

The amiableness of his manners, and his engaging address, rendered him as much beloved by those who had access to him as he was admired for his great talents by the whole nation. His character indeed was never impeached until within a few years ago by an injudicious publication of a Mr. Cooksey, who professed to be compiling a life of him: but this had little other effect than to excite a portion of indignation, and to revive the respect in which lord Hardwicke’s conduct had ^ver been held. Lord Hardwicke’s constitution, in the earlier part of his life, did not seem to promise so much health and vigour as he afterwards enjoyed for a longer period than usually falls ta the share of men of more robust habit of body. But his care to guard against any excesses secured to him an almost uninterrupted tenour of health: and his habitual mastery of his passions gave him a firmness and tranquillity of mind unabated by the fatigues ‘and an’xieties of business; from the daily circle of which, he rose, to the enjoyment of the conversation of his family and friends, with the spirits of a person entirely vacant and disengaged. Till the latter end of his seventy -third year, he preserved the appearance atrd vivacity of youth in his countenance, in which the characters of dignity and amiableness were remarkably united: and he supported the tedious disorder which proved fatal to him, and which was of the dysenteric kind, with an uncommon resignation, and even cheerfulness, till-the close of lite. He died, in his seventy-fourth year, at his house in Grosvenor-square, March 6. 1764. His body lies interred at Wimple in Cambridgeshire, by that of his lady, Margaret, daughter of Charles Cocks, esq. of Worcestershire, and niece of lord-chancellor Sommers.

Lord Hardwicke, when a very young man, wrote a paper in the Spectator, (No. 364); and in 1727 published “The Legal Judicature in Chancery stated,” which was republished with large additions in 1728. 1


Biog. Brit. Collins’s Peerage, by Sir E. Brydges. Coxe’s Memoirs of Sir R. Walpole. Ann. Register for 1764. Park’s edition of the Royal and Noble Authors