Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 50.djvu/167

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

council, or sit in the other House. He made me one of the commissioners of the treasury. I never intermeddled, or received salary, either as a councillor or commissioner; I, nor any of my relations, never had one penny advantage by him, or by his means, directly or indirectly, save the continuance of my place as a judge. And in the pretended parliament of 1656, when the petition and advice was made, my relations then that were of the house forbore to sit all that Parliament, few others absenting themselves. As soon as the term was ended, I ever went down into the country and came not up until the beginning of the term following; seldom saw him save before or after the term to take leave, but followed my calling’ (Case, p. 6). St. John's own account is confirmed by other evidence. The domestic state papers show that he was appointed a commissioner of the treasury (2 Aug. 1654), but contain no record of his acting in that capacity. He was named a member of the committee for the advancement of trade (12 July 1655), and of that selected to discuss the readmission of the Jews into England (15 Nov. 1655). He was present at one of the discussions of the latter (Cromwelliana, p. 154). St. John's name appears in the account of the discussions of the committee employed by the parliament of 1656 to persuade Cromwell to accept the crown (Old Parliamentary History, xxi. 69, 70). But this appears to be the result of a confusion between Chief-justice Glyn and Chief-justice St. John; for the journals show that St. John was not a member of the committee (Commons' Journals, vii. 521; cf. Treason's Masterpiece, 8vo, 1680, pp. 6, 7). Thurloe, who was popularly supposed to be the medium of communication between St. John and Cromwell, describes him as opposed to Cromwell's elevation to the protectorate, and a severe critic of the instrument of government. ‘As he had nothing to do with the setting up this government, so neither was there, so far as I know or have heard, any communication of counsels between Oliver and him, mediately or immediately, touching the management of any part of the public affairs, my lord St. John always refusing to meddle in anything but what concerned his place as judge, and in that he refused to proceed upon any of the laws made under that government, for which he was complained of to the council, and it was imputed to his example that the judges refused to act upon the last high court of justice. Nor was he to my knowledge advised with in the Petition and Advice. The truth is that my lord St. John was so far from being a confidant, that some who loved and valued him had something to do to preserve him under that government’ (Thurloe, vii. 914). In one important case St. John gave judgment against the government, and summed up strongly against the arbitrary methods by which freedom of election was destroyed (Ludlow, Memoirs, ii. 35; Commons' Journals, vi. 598).

St. John was not in London when Cromwell died, and seems to have had nothing to do with the elevation of Richard to the protectorate, though in a letter written on 3 Sept. 1658 he expressed his devotion to the Protector and his family, and his willingness to take part in any consultations on the state of public affairs (Case, p. 7; Thurloe, vii. 370). He was not a member of Richard's council, and continued to confine himself to his judicial duties. Nevertheless royalist agents continued to assert that he and William Pierrepoint were, in conjunction with Thurloe, the new Protector's secret advisers, but no direct evidence of the fact exists (Clarendon State Papers, iii. 423, 435, 441). When Richard was overthrown and the Long parliament was restored, St. John came to the front once more, and was elected a member of the council of state (16 May 1659). The parliament employed him to extract a formal abdication from Richard Cromwell (Commons' Journals, vii. 664). According to Ludlow, he contrived to insert a clause in the parliamentary act of indemnity securing himself from the liability of refunding money for places which he had sold under the late government (Memoirs, ii. 97). At the same time, having no great confidence in the stability of the republic, he endeavoured to raise money by selling some of his lands, so as to be prepared for a turn of fortune (Clarendon State Papers, iii. 528). When the army again turned out the parliament, and threatened a rough and ready reformation of the law, St. John treated with the officers on behalf of the lawyers in order to prevent it (Ludlow, ii. 161). On the second restoration of the parliament St. John was again elected one of the council of state (31 Dec. 1659), but forbore to sit in that body, from unwillingness to take the oath abjuring the Stuarts, and opposed the act for imposing such an engagement on members of parliament (Case, p. 12; but see Ludlow, ii. 204). On 17 Feb. 1660 he took part in a conference regarding the readmission of the secluded members, which his election to the new council of state on 23 Feb. shows that he promoted (Ludlow, ii. 228; Kennet, Register, p. 61). Pepys heard on good authority that ‘my Lord St. John is for a free Parliament, and that he is very great with Monk’