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the difficulty of suitors to get in was only surpassed by the impossibility of their getting out; and though the reforms which he proposed were very moderate, and aimed only at glaring defects, they encountered the same bigoted attachment to ancient abuses which assailed him in the other field of his exertions. Lord Eldon especially construed every insinuation that the system of Equity was not perfect, into a personal attack on its head. He regarded a peep into his court as Jack Ketch did a sido-glance at the gallows, and repelled every insinuation that he was not competent to do for men's property what Jack did for their lives-suspend animation by stopping the circulation.
Nor was it law reform alone which enlisted the sympathies of Romilly. As Solicitor General he brought in the bill for the abolition of the slave trade, in 1806–7; and in 1814, when the European treaty of Peace, negotiated by Castlereagh on the part of England, and which provided for the revival of the traffic by France, came before Parliament, he led the friends of humanity to the attack upon that article of it in a speech of the loftiest rebuke, breathing the purest philanthropy and attired in the richest garb of eloquence. His eulogium on Wilberforce and Clarkson was beautiful, and his appeal to the former, as he turned and addressed him personally, thrilling.
Romilly's mind was cast in the rarest inold, and his heart was attuned to the livelicst emotions. He could master the understanding with his reason, and sway the will by his persuasion. He frowned down meanness with the dignity of a judge sentencing a culprit, and his sarcasm was too keen to be often provoked. Standing at the head of the Equity bar, his professional attainments covered the widest field, and were only equaled by the extensive practice to which they were applied. His character was beautifully pure, and he was the delight, almost the idol, of his intimate friends. Yet, his modesty always held him back from assuming in the courts and the Commons the place that was assigned to him by the universal homage of his party, and the all but unanimous verdict of his opponents.
Romilly was the grandson of a French mechanic, who, with his wife, filed to England, on the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. His father married the daughter of a refugee, and Samuel was, therefore, of pure French blood. He was born in 1757. His father, who was a watchmaker, articled him to a commercial house, the death of whose head soon threw him back into his father's shop, where he kept the books for two or three years. During this time, he marked out for himself, and pursued with avidity and success, a course of classical study. Leaving the shop, he entered as an apprentice the office of one of the clerks in chancery, and for several years devoted all the leisure hours he could snatch from the drudgery of business, to the cultivation of general literature. Arriving at his majority, he studied law, and was called to the bar at the age of twenty-five-an admirable specimen of "a selfmade man”—the only sort of man, by the bye, that is made. The following anecdote shows how his sensitive mind was, in mere childhood, bent toward the work which engrossed his mature years. He says : " A dreadful impression was made on me by relations of murders and acts of cruelty. The prints which I found in the Lives of the Martyrs, and the Newgate Calendar, have cost me many sleepless nights. My dreams, too, were disturbed by the hideous images which haunted my imagination by day. I thought myself present at executions, murders, and scenes of blood ; and I have often lain in bed, agitated by my terrors, equally afraid of remaining awake in the dark, and of falling asleep to encounter the horrors of my dreams. Often have I, in my evening prayers to God, besought him, with the utmost fervor, to suffer me to pass the night undisturbed by horrid dreams." And it may be that these childish terrors had something to do with his painfully tragic fall. The death of a wife to whom he was fondly attached, and over whose bed he had watched with agonizing solici
tude, threw him into a paroxysm of insanity, and he terminated with his own hand a life which England could not afford to lose. He was proud to acknowledge himself the disciple, in law reform, of Jeremy Bentham, and the friendship between him and Henry Brougham was as strong as the cords of a brotherly affection.
Law Reform--The Penal Code-Restriction of the Penalty of Death
in 1823-4-Appointment of Commissioners to reform the Civil Law in 1828-9—Sir James Mackintosh-Brougham-Robert Hall.
On the death of Romilly, the leadership in the reformation of the criminal code devolved on Sir JAMES MACKINTOSH. At the election just before his decease, the liberal party largely increased its members of Parliament. Early in the session of 1819, Sir James carried a motion against Ministers for a committee to revise the penal code. He was appointed its chairman; and in 1820–1, in pursuance of its doings, introduced six bills for the abrogation of capital punishment in certain cases of forgery, larceny, and robbery, and amending the law in other important particulars. The bills were defeated. A partial effort at reform was made the next session, and one or two feeble triumphs achieved. But the day was dawning. . In 1823, Sir James proposed nine resolutions, providing for radical reforms in the penal code. Mr. Peel, the Home Secretary, caused these propositions to be rejected, only that Ministers might introduce bills of their own, which largely restricted the death-penalty, and prepared the way for other repealing acts, till capital punishment was abrogated in some fifty cases. Thus the dark and sanguinary system which had so long reared its front over the jurisprudence of England, received a fell blow.
In 1828, Mr. Brougham made his celebrated speech in favor of remodeling the whole civil branch of the common law. Near the close he said : “ It was the boast of Augustusit
formed part of the glare in which the perfidies of his earlier years were lost—that he found Rome of brick, and left it of marble-a praise not unworthy a great prince. But how much nobler will be the sovereign's boast, when he shall have it to say, that he found law dear, and left it cheap_found it a sealed book, left it a living letter—found it the patrimony of the rich, left it the inheritance of the poor_found it the twoedged sword of craft and oppression, left it the staff of honesty and the shield of innocence !" This speech, one of the greatest Mr. Brougham ever delivered, was followed by an address to the throne for the appointment of commissioners to inquire into the origin, progress, and termination of actions in the courts, and into the state of the law regarding real property. Two commissions were immediately instituted ; one of general common law inquiry ; the other, of inquiry into the law of real estate. Afterwards, the subjects of codification, consolidation of the statutes, and reform of the criminal law, were referred to other commissions. The commission to inquire into abuses in courts of equity had previously been appointed. Some twenty or thirty of the ablest lawyers in the kingdom were placed on these commissions, several of whom have since been elevated to the bench. Their elaborate reports, presented during the past twenty years, have displayed vast research and learning, and the numerous reforms recommended by them, exhibiting a cautious but steady advance in the path of improvement, have generally been adopted by the legislature. Though the prevailing law of England still continues a chaos of absurdities and excellences, the reforms introduced by these commissioners will be appreciated by all who have occasion to explore the intricate windings and gloomy chambers of the huge structure. The reports alluded to have been the textbooks of revisers and codifiers in other countries where the common law prevails, and were frequently cited, and their recommendations often adopted, by the able revisers of the New