Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/288

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82 WILLIAM MURRAY (EARL o* MANSPIELD).

have felt what the Roman has so well described, " pulchrum est laudari a laudato." It would be difficult to conceive a greater incentive to the rising am- bition of an aspiring mind than these concluding lines :

" Graced as thou art with all the power of words, So known, so honoured, in the house of lords Conspicuous scene ! another yet is nigh, More silent far, where kings and poets lie ; Where Murray (long enough his country's pride) Shall be no more than Tully or than Hyde !"

Like lord Eldon, he made the first exhibition of his full power in commanding a jury, from the accidental illness of his senior counsel ; a circumstance which happened in the action for criminal conversation brought by Theophilus Gibber against Mr Sloper. He requested a postponement for an hour, and never being void of self-possession except when personally attacked, he omitted nothing which his opportunities enabled him to accomplish, and made an impressive charge, which produced a decided effect in favour of his client. He was soon after employed in a professional service which may be said to have been in de- fence of his native country. When, after the murder of Porteous, the lords pas- sed and sent down to the commons a bill for disqualifying and imprisoning the provost of Edinburgh, abolishing the city guard, and taking away the gates of the Netherbow port, he, assisted by Barnard, Shippen, Ogelthorpe, and most of the Scots members, pertinaciously resisted the insulting measure through a stormy conference, and was partly the means of lopping away the portion most offensive to the public ; and the bill as returned and passed by the lords, merely disqualified the provost, and imposed a fine of 2000 on the city, for the bene- fit of the widow of Porteous. Murray's services on this occasion were re" warded by the freedom of the city of Edinburgh, which was presented to him in a gold box. 2

In 1743, the attention of a ministry, not supported by extensive political talent, and obliged to combat with strong adversaries, was directed towards the commanding powers of Mr Murray. He was chosen solicitor-general, and being thus initiated as a responsible legislator, was one of the few lawyers whose genius proved as great in the senate as it had been at the bar. In 1742, he took his seat in the house as member for Boroughbridge. In 1746, he was ex qfficio one of the counsel against the rebel lords. It is said that he per- formed an unwelcome duty. He certainly exhibited a disposition to act as a high-minded public prosecutor ought always to do, by showing that he was rather the instrument through which the law acted in doing justice, than a per- son employed to procure the punishment of a fellow citizen. " Every gentle- man," he observed, choosing the collective term as the least invidious mode of expressing his own feelings, " who has spoken in this trial, has made it a rule to himself to urge nothing against the prisoner but plain facts and positive evidence without aggravation." Whether he acted from principle, or a secret leaning towards the cause he ostensibly opposed, is not likely to be ever known ; but those who brought the accusation against him should have founded it on differ- ent evidence from the circumstance, that, as crown counsel, he was unwilling to stretch the law against the accused. The humbled lord Lovat, the person on whose trial he made the above remark, in a fit of liberality or national feeling, made the following observations on the solicitor in his defence. " I am very sorry I gave your lordships so much trouble on my trial, and I give you a mil-

  • Coxe's Wnlpole, I. 495.