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PEERAGES PER SALTUM.
HEN Lord John Russell was raised to the earldom,
he accomplished a feat which has not been performed anything like a dozen times in nearly a
hundred and twenty years. When he ceased to be a commoner, and entered the House of Peers, he passed clean over the heads of all the barons and viscounts, and took his seat next to the Earl of Dudley, at the bottom of the third rank of the hereditary nobility.
The feat is one which doubtless was often performed by court favourites under the arbitrary Tudors, and scarcely less arbitrary and more eccentric Stuarts. But from the days of Sir Robert Walpole, when party government first began, down to this present year, 1861, so far as we are able to learn from the Peerages, Earl Russell has achieved a success which has befallen to the lot of men for the most part of high historic merit.
In 1742, the all-powerful commoner, Sir Robert Walpole, was created Earl of Oxford; but it was on resigning the premiership, after a tenancy of two-and-twenty years' duration. Again, in 1766, we find another great commoner honoured in the same manner--we mean, of course, the elder Pitt, who was then made Earl of Chatham ; but there was a difference in his case, inasmuch as his wife had previously been made a baroness, so that in effect it amounted only to a “step in the peerage.' Again, in 1797, so greatly was the popular feeling excited by the victory gained by Sir John Jervis over the Spanish fleet off Cape St. Vincent, that the fortunate admiral was at once elevated to the earldom by which his victory still lives in our memories. No other instance that we can find occurs in the annals of the reign of George III., or of the Regency, or of King George IV.; neither Nelson nor Wellington gained an earl's coronet per saltum; the former, indeed, never wore one, and the latter went through one, at least, of the inferior grades before he was created Earl of Wellington, though, as a matter of fact, he did not take his seat in the House of Peers until he had climbed up to a dukedom. In 1831, a younger son of the Duke of Devonshire, Lord G. Cavendish, was created Earl of Burlington ; but for this act of grace there was the assignable reason that he was ultimately heir to the dukedom, in which his own title must eventually merge. About the same time, King William iv.'s eldest son, by Mrs. Jordan, was raised to the earldom of Munster without passing through the intermediate grades ; and her Majesty, on coming to the throne, bestowed the earldom of Leicester on Mr. Coke of Holkham. Since that date, a similar act of graciousness has been extended to no commoners, with the exception of Lord Francis Egerton, on whom her Majesty was advised by Sir Robert Peel to bestow the earldom of Ellesmere in 1846 ; Sir Maurice Berkeley, the owner of Berkeley Castle, and an ex-Lord of the Admiralty, received at Lord Palmerston's hands the coronet of Fitzhardinge, which his brother obtained from Lord Melbourne, but could not transmit to his successor in the family estates; and lastly, the wife of the present Duke of Sutherland, the daughter and heiress of Mr. Hay Mackenzie of Cromarty, was created Countess of Cromertie, with remainder to her younger children, in remembrance of her maternal ancestor the Earl of Cromertie in the peerage of Scotland, whose title was forfeited in the last century.-London Review.
This odd name was given to Archibald Douglas, a Scottish nobleman, from an incident that occurred at Lauder, where the great barons of the nation had assembled at the call of the king, James III., to resist a threatened invasion of the country by Edward iv. of England. They were, however, less disposed to advance against the English than to correct the abuses of James's administration, which were chiefly to be ascribed to the influence exerted over him by mean and unworthy favourites, particularly one Cochran, an architect, but termed a mason by the haughty barons.
Sir Walter Scott thus described the strange scene : ‘Many of the nobility and barons held a secret council in the church of Lauder, where they enlarged upon the evils which Scotland sustained through the insolence and corruption of Cochran and his associates. While they were thus declaiming, Lord Grey requested their attention to a fable. “The mice,” he said, “being much annoyed by the persecution of the cat, resolved that a bell should be hung about puss's neck, to give notice when she was coming. But, though the measure was agreed to in full council, it could not be carried into effect, because no mouse had courage enough to tie the bell to the neck of the formidable enemy." This was as much as to intimate his opinion that, though the discontented nobles might make bold resolutions against the king's ministry, yet it would be difficult to find any one courageous enough to act upon them. Archibald Earl of Angus, a man of gigantic strength and intrepid courage, and head of that second family of Douglas whom I before mentioned, started up when Grey had done speaking. “I am he," he said, “who will bell the cat ;" from which expression he was distinguished by the name of Bell-the-Cat to his dying day.'