Henry Hawkins Brampton.

The reminiscences of Sir Henry Hawkins, baron Brampton (Volume 1) online

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nothing sweeter or more desirable, if you might judge
by his demeanour.

I thought it well to mention the fact that, if the
jury found him guilty, Lord Campbell would certainly
sentence him to death, leaving him to get out of


it as best he could, and explained to him that his
position was one of extreme danger, but he exhibited
no emotion whatever. Shrugging his shoulders, after
the manner of a Frenchman who differed from you in
opinion, he said :

' Well, if I am hanged, I must be hanged, that
is all.'

With a man like him it was impossible to argue
or ask for explanations. He seemed to be possessed
with the one idea that to remedy all the grievances of
the State it was merely necessary to blow up the
Emperor with his horses and carriage, and coolly
informed us, without the least reserve, that the bombs
manufactured with this political object had been sent
over to Paris from England concealed in firkins of
butter. I can find no words in which to express my

So ended our first consultation. The ' merits ' of
the case were gone ; there was no defence. But
whatever might be our opinion on Dr. Barnard's state
of mind, we could not abandon him to his fate. We
were retained to defend him, and defend him we must,
even in spite of himself, if we could do so consistently
with our professional honour and duty.

Accordingly we had another consultation, and, as I
have said, there was one other room in England more
ghastly than that where we held our first interview,
so now I reluctantly introduce you to it.

If a man about to be tried for his life could look
on this apartment and its horrors unmoved, he would
certainly be a fit subject for the attentions of the hang-
man, and deserving of no human sympathy. It was
enough to shake the nerves of the hangman himself.


We were in an apartment on the north-east side of
the quadrangular building, where the sunshine never
entered. Even daylight never came, but only a
feeble, sickening twilight, precursor of the grave
itself. It was not merely the gloom that intensified
the horrors of the situation, or the ghastly traditions
of the place, or the impending fate of our callous
client ; but there was a tier of shelves occupying the
side of the apartment, on which were placed in dismal
prominence the plaster of Paris busts of all the male-
factors who had been hanged in Newgate for some
hundred years.

No man can look attractive after having been
hanged, and the indentation of the hangman's rope
on every one of their necks, with the mark of the knot
under the ear, gave such an impression of all that can
be conceived of devilish horror as would baffle the
conceptions of the most morbid genius.

Whether these things were preserved for phreno-
logical purposes or for the gratification of the most
sanguinary taste I never knew, but they impressed me
with a disgust of the brutal tendency of the age.

Dr. Barnard, however, seemed to take a different
view. Probably he was scientific. He went up to
them, and examined, as it seemed, every one of these
ghastly memorials with an interest which could only
be scientific. It did not seem to have occurred to
his brain that his head would probably be the next
to adorn that repository of criminal effigies.

He was in charge of a warder, and looked round
with the utmost composure, as though examining the
Caesars in the British Museum, and was as interested
as any fanatical fool of a phrenologist. He shrugged


his shoulders, raised his eyebrows, and repeated his
old formula, ' Well, if I am to be hanged, I must be

He was acquitted. My elaborate arguments on the
law were not necessary, for the jury actually refused
to believe the evidence as to the facts. I have never
known why ; but perhaps our old friends Jeakes and
Jacobs could explain. I cannot.

Such are the chances of trial by jury !

As a relief to this gloomy chapter I must tell you
of a distinguished Judge who had to sentence a dis-
honest butler for robbing his master of some silver
spoons. He considered it his duty to say a few words
to the prisoner in passing sentence, in order to show
the enormity of the crime of a servant in his position
robbing his master, and by way of warning to others
who might be tempted to follow his example.

' You, prisoner/ said his lordship, ' have been found
guilty by a jury of your country, of stealing these
articles from your employer mark that your em-
ployer ! Now, it aggravates your offence that he is
your employer, because he employs you to look after
his property. You did look after it, but not in the
way that a butler should mark that !' The Judge here
hemmed and coughed, as if somewhat exhausted with
his exemplary speech ; and then resumed his address,
which was ethical and judicial : ' You, prisoner, have
no excuse for your conduct. You had a most excellent
situation, and a kind master to whom you owed a debt
of the deepest gratitude and your allegiance as a faithful
servant, instead of which you paid him by feathering
your nest with his silver spoons/ therefore you must
be transported for the term of seven years !'


The metaphor was equal to that employed by an
Attorney-General, who at a certain time in the history
of the Home Eule agitation, addressing his con-
stituents, told them that Mr. Gladstone had sent up
a balloon to see which way the cat jumped with regard
to Ireland ! He was soon appointed a Judge of the
High Court.

Judges, however, are not always masters of their
feelings, any more than they are of their language ;
they are sometimes carried away by prejudice, or
even controlled by sentiment. I knew one, a very
a worthy and amiable man, who, having to sentence
a prisoner to death, was so overcome by the terrible
nature of the crime that he informed the unhappy
convict that he could expect no mercy either in this
world or the next !

Littledale, again, was an uncommonly kind and
virtuous man, a good husband and a learned Judge ;
but he was afflicted with a wife whom he could not
control. She, on the contrary, controlled him, and
left him no peace unless she had her will. At times,
however, she overdid her business. Littledale had
a butler who had been in the family many years, and
with whom he would not have parted on any account.
He would sooner have parted with her ladyship. One
morning, however, this excellent butler came to Sir
Joseph and said, with tears in his eyes :

' I beg your pardon, my lord '

' What's the matter, James ?'

' I'm very sorry, my lord,' said the butler, ' but
I wish to leave.'

' Wish to leave, James ? Why, what do you wish
to leave for ? Haven't you got a good situation ?'

'MY LADY' 169

* Capital sitiwation, Sir Joseph, and you have always
been a good kind master to me, Sir Joseph, but oh,
Sir Joseph ! Sir Joseph !'

' What then, James, what then ? Why do you wish
to leave ? Not going to get married, eh not surely
going to get married ? Oh, James, don't do it !'

' Heaven forbid, Sir Joseph !'

' Eh, eh ? Well, then, what is it ? Speak out, James,
and tell me all about it. Tell me tell me as a friend !
If there is any trouble '

' Well, Sir Joseph. I could put up with anything
from you, Sir Joseph, but 1 cant get on with my
lady !'

1 My lady be . Oh, James, what a sinner you

make of me ! Is that all, James ? Then go down on
your knees at once and thank God my lady is not your
wife /'

The consolation was enough, and James stayed.

I don't think I have mentioned a curious reason that
a jury once gave for not finding a prisoner guilty,
although he had been tried on a charge of a most
terrible murder. The evidence was irresistible to any-
body but a jury, and the case was one of inexcusable
brutality. The man had been tried for the murder
of his father and mother, and, as I said, the evidence
was too clear to leave a doubt as to his guilt.

The jury retired to consider their verdict, and were
away so long that the judge sent for them and asked
if there was any point upon which he could enlighten
them. They answered no, and thought they under-
stood the case perfectly well.

After .a great deal of further consideration they
'brought in a verdict of ' Not guilty.'


The Judge was angry at so outrageous a viola-
tion of their plain duty, and did what he ought not
to have done namely, asked the reason they brought
in such a verdict, when they knew the culprit was
guilty and ought to have been hanged.

' That's just it, my lord,' said the foreman of this
distinguished body. ' I assure you we had no doubt
about the prisoner's guilt, but we thought there had been
deaths enough in the family lately, and so gave him the
benefit of the doubt !'

I was now getting on so well in my profession that
in the minds of many of the unsuccessful there was a
natural feeling of disappointment. Why one man
should succeed and a dozen fail has ever been an
unsolved problem at the Bar, and ever will be. But
the curious part of this natural law is that it manifests
itself in the most unexpected manner.

I was one day coming from a County Court, where
I had had a successful day, and humming a little tune,

when whom should I meet but my friend Morgan .

He was a very pleasant man, what is called a nice man,
of a quiet, religious turn of mind, and nobody was ever
more painstaking to push himself along. He was a
great stickler for a man's doing his duty, and was
possessed with the idea that, getting on as I was, it
was my duty to refuse to take a brief in the County

Coming up to me on the occasion I refer to, Morgan
said, ' What, you here, Hawkins ! I believe you'd
take a brief before the devil in h . '

I was quite taken aback for the moment by the
use of such language. If he had not been so religious


a man, perhaps I should not have felt it so much ; as
it was, I could hardly fetch my breath.

When I recovered my equanimity, I answered,
' Yes, Morgan, I would, and should get one of my
devils to hold it.'

He seemed appeased by my frank avowal, for he
loved honesty almost as much as fees.



ON January 10, 1859, the- Lord Chancellor did me the
honour to recommend my name to Her Most Gracious
Majesty, and I was raised to the rank and dignity of
a Queen's Counsel.

This is a step of doubtful wisdom to most men in
the legal profession, for it is generally looked upon as
the end of a man's career or the beginning. I had no
doubt about the propriety of the step ; it had been the
object of my ambition, and I believe I should un-
hesitatingly have acted as I did. even if it had been
the termination of my professional life. My idea was
to go forward in the career I had chosen. The junior
work, if it had not lost its emoluments, no longer
possessed the pleasurable excitement of the old days.
It was never my ambition merely to ' mark time ';
that is unsatisfactory exertion, and leads no whither.

But enough ; I took silk, and a new life opened
before me. I was a leader.

My business rolled on in ever- increasing volume,
so that I had to fairly pick my way through the con-
stant downpour of briefs, but was always pressed


forward by that useful institution known as the
' barrister's clerk.'

Whatever business overwhelms the counsel, no
amount of it would disconcert the clerk, and it is
wonderful how many briefs he can arrange in up-
standing attitude along mantelpieces, tables, tops of
dwarf cupboards, windows anywhere, in fact, where
there is anything to stand a brief on, without that
gentleman feeling the least exhausted. It would take
as long to wear him out as to wear to a level the
rocks of Niagara. The loss of a brief to him is almost
like the loss of an eye. It would take a week after
such a disaster to get the right focus of things.

My clerk came rushing into my room one day so
pale and excited that I wondered if the man had lost
his wife or child. He did not leave me long in
suspense as soon as he could articulate his words.

' Sir,' said he, ' you know those Emmetts that you
have done so much for ?'

I remembered.

' Well, sir, they've taken a brief to another counsel.'

It was a serious misfortune, no doubt, and I had
to soothe him in the best manner I could ; so to lessen
the calamity I made the best joke I could think of in
the circumstances, and said the Emmetts were small
people, almost beneath notice.

I don't wonder that he did not see it with tears in
his eyes ; his distress was painful to witness. The
poor fellow was dumbfounded, but at last shook his
head, saying :

' We've had a good deal from those Emmetts, sir.'

' But you need not make mountains out of


He did not see that either.

It may not be generally known that the Judge as
Judge does not go circuit at all ; he goes as a Com-
missioner of Assize, and as such sits as Commis-
sioner. The Queen's or King's Counsel are also
Commissioners in the same sense, and are occasionally
called upon to assist the Judge Commissioners in their

My being thus called upon was the occasion of this
episode, and I think it was the first case I ever tried.
It was at Kingston-upon-Thames, where this justly
celebrated summing-up was delivered. A worthy
publican was charged with conspiring to defraud
certain brewers by obtaining the finest stout and
getting it delivered as small-beer. It could only be
accomplished by the aid of those in the brewery
whose duty it was to deliver it to the customers. The
charge was serious, and the prisoner was represented
by a voluble barrister who possessed more eloquence
than brains and more innocence than virtue that is
to say, he thought it was his duty to obey whatever
instructions were given to him by his solicitor.

Many curious defences have startled the ear of
Justice, but seldom has such a masterpiece as this
been paraded before the public. It was the ingenious
suggestion of a local practitioner, and was to this
effect :

The distance which the beer had to travel from the
brewery to the publican's cellar was several miles along
a country road, and the learned counsel's theory was
that, although it had been discovered, that a much
larger quantity had left the brewery than was charged
for to the publican, the fact was the rough roads had


caused it to shake down on its journey, and, conse-
quently, when it arrived at the publican's it was a
good deal less in quantity than when it left the

Such was the answer to the first part of the fraud,
and the learned counsel amidst the roars of laughter
which followed his brilliant defence, forgot all about
the second count in the indictment namely, the
charging for small-beer and delivering stout of three
times the value.

One might have acquitted the publican on account
of the ingenuity of the defence, but I, as Commissioner,
thought otherwise, and asked the jury whether they
believed the ' shaking-down ' theory whether their
own experience agreed with the hitherto unheard-of
suggestion of the contraction of liquor ; but whatever
they might think of that matter, perhaps they would
ask themselves if they ever heard of small-beer shaking
itself down into treble X stout on its way to the

The jury surprised the counsel by promptly return-
ing a verdict of * Guilty,' and the solicitor, who was one
of those sharp practitioners happily so sparsely dotted
about in country districts, after hearing the sentence
pronounced, murmured as he left the court, ' No small-
beer that for my client, by Jove !'

I was now living in Bond Street, and for the first
time in my life was taken seriously ill. My clerk's
worry then came home to me ; not about a single
brief, but about a great many. Illness would be a
very serious matter, as I had arrived at an im-
portant stage in my career. A barrister in full
practice cannot afford to be ill. He must be con-


tinually at work, never ceasing, while his clerk is
waiting at the door to take in the next pile of papers,
or, it may be, as was the case I shall presently refer
to, special retainers by the score. I mention it by
no means in the way of boasting, but as something
to satisfy curiosity as to the amount of business
which came day by day and almost hour by hour.
In my distress I sent to dear old Baron Martin, as
I was in every case in his list for the following day,
and begged him to oblige me by adjourning his court.
It was a large request, but I knew his kindness, and
felt I might ask the favour. Baron Martin, I should
think, never in his life did an unkind act or refused
to do a kind one. He instantly complied with my
request, and did not listen for a moment to the
' public interest,' as the foolish fetish is called which
sometimes does duty for its neglect. The ' public
interest' on this occasion was the interests of all
those who had entrusted their business to my keep-
ing. The public interests are the interests of the

Not only did the Baron adjourn his court, but he
called and cheered me up with many an old tale and
new story of the Turf, the Bench, and the Bar ; it was

all one to old Sam. ' You know,' said he, ' was

driving through Home this spring with Jack and

his charming wife charming, but proper as they are
made, religiously proper. Well, their carriage was
more than usually beset with beggars that day, and
their coachman, who was an English Jehu, and knew
a good deal more Billingsgate than Italian, hearing the
master shout over and over again, " Va via ! Va via !"
and the beggars still persisting in their clamour with-


out taking any notice of the order, at last could
contain himself no longer, and, in spite of the lady's
presence, shouted at the top of his voice, and in the
greatest rage, " Va ! va ! wire! wire! Why the hell
don't you wire wire when the gentleman tells you ?" '

I asked what became of the lady.

' Oh,' said the Baron, ' she buried her face behind
her sunshade to conceal her laughter.'

Even that little incident cheered me in my illness ;
and, coming as it did from so abundant a source of
humour and good-nature, it not only, cheered, but
seemed to give me new life. It was good to see Baron
Martin laugh, especially when he told a story. But
his stories of the turf were endless, so I shah 1 not begin

My illness threatened to be fatal. I had been over-
worked ; and nothing but the greatest care and skill
brought me round. One never knows what friendship
is and what friends are till he is ill.

At length there was a consultation, Drs. Addison,
Charles Johnson, Duplex, and F. Hawkins, my cousin,
being present.

It was a kind of medical jury which sat upon me.
I will pass over details, and come to the conclusion
of the investigation. After considering the case,
Dr. Addison, who acted as foreman of the jury,
said :

' We find a verdict of " Guilty," under mitigating
circumstances ; the prisoner has not injured himself
with intent to do any grievous bodily or mental harm,
but he has been guilty of negligence, not having taken
due care of himself, and we hope the sentence we are
about to pass will act as a warning to him, and deter

VOL. i. 12


others from following a like practice. The prisoner
is released on bail, to come up for judgment when
called upon ; and the meaning of that is,' said Dr. Addi-
son, * that if you behave yourself you will hear no more
of this ; but if you return to your former practice
without any regard to the warning you have had, you
will be promptly called up for judgment, and I need
not say the sentence will be proportioned to the
requirements of the case. You may now go.'

I believe that the amusement I derived from
Addison's address and treatment contributed no little
to remove my depression and restore my good spirits.
We ought to be grateful, I think, and have always
thought, that there is such a thing as humour in the
world. Without it earth would be, as the Sheffield
dignitary said, a suburb of a far worse locality.

To carry on Dr. Addison's joke, I heartily
thanked him for taking my good character into con-
sideration, and practically acquitting me of all evil
tendencies. Acting upon his good advice, from that
time to this I have never been in trouble again,
although, as I shall have occasion to relate, at one time
I might have required a coroner's jury for myself and

Watson, Q.C., afterwards Baron Watson, advised
me to take a long rest ; but as he was not a Doctor of
Medicine, I did not act upon his advice : a long rest
would have killed me much faster than any amount of
work, so I worked with judgment, and although my
business went on increasing to an extent that would
not have pleased Dr. Addison, I suffered no evil effects,
but seemed to get through it with more ease than ever,
and was soon in a fair way to achieve the greatest goal


of human endeavour a comfortable independence. The
reason of getting through so much work was that
I had to reject a great deal, and, of course, had my
choice of the best, not only as to work, but as to clients.
To use a sporting phrase, I got the best ' mounts,' and
therefore was at the top of the record in wins.

Good cases are easy they do not need winning;
they will do their own work if you only leave them
alone. Bad cases require all your attention; they
want much propping, and your only chance is that, if
you cannot win, your opponent may lose.

But nothing in the chapter of the Bar is more
erroneous than the talk of the tremendous incomes
of counsel. A man is never estimated at his true
worth in this world, be he whom he may barrister,
actor, physician, or writer ; and as for incomes, no one
can estimate his neighbour's except the Income-tax
Commissioners. They get pretty near sometimes
without knowing it.

The same foolish estimate is also formed by the
public, who know nothing of the subject, and when
they talk of ten thousand a year, in many cases ten
hundred would be nearer the mark.

One morning I was riding in the Park when old
Sam Lewis, the great money-lender, a man for whom
I had great esteem, and about whom I will relate
a little story presently, came alongside. We were on
friendly, and even familiar, terms, Sam and I, although
I never borrowed any money of him in my life.

' Why, Mr. Hawkins,' said he, ' you seem to be in
almost everything. What a fortune you must be
piling up !'

' Not so big as you might think,' I replied.



' Why, how many,' he rejoined, ' are making as much
as you ? A good many are doing twenty thousand
a year, I dare say, but '

Here I checked his curiosity by asking if he had
ever considered what twenty thousand a year meant.

He never had.

'Then I will tell you, Lewis : you may make it in
a day, but to us it means five hundred golden sovereigns
every week in the working year !'

It somewhat startled him, I could see, and it effected
my object without giving offence. What did it matter
to Sam Lewis what my income was ?

' There are men who make it,' he answered.

This I neither agreed with nor denied.

' Some men have made it,' I said ; ' and I know some
who make more, but will never own to it, ask who

Nevertheless, I liked Sam Lewis, and having told
the story of the Queen's Counsel who borrowed my
money in so dishonest a manner, I will tell one of Sam,
the professional money-lender.

He never was known to take advantage of a man in
difficulties, and he never did, nor to charge anyone
exorbitant interest. I have known him lend to men
and allow them to fix their own time of payment, their
own rate of interest, and their own security. He often
lent without any at all. He knew his men, and was
not fool enough to trust a rogue at any amount of
interest. He was known and respected by all ranks,
and never more esteemed than by those who had had
pecuniary transactions with him. He was the soul of
honour, and his transactions were world- wide ; busi-
ness passed through his hands that would have been


entrusted nowhere else; so that he was rich and
no one was more deservedly so. Some men, on account
of their calling, are spoken against by others whose
halo of virtue prevents their seeing very clearly;
and, of course, as a ' money-lender,' he was looked
upon by those who neither knew him nor needed him

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Online LibraryHenry Hawkins BramptonThe reminiscences of Sir Henry Hawkins, baron Brampton (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 21)