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THE RIGHT HON. CHARLES ABBOT,
REPRESENTATIVE FOR WOODSTOCK, OXFORDSHIRE,
AND SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.
THE attainment of eminence usually pre-supposes the existence of merit, and certain high situations in a peculiar manner excite, if they do not actually create, talents. But this observation is in some respects unnecessary, in respect to those who are called upon by the general voice to preside over great assemblies; for their abilities, as well as their integrity, must have been previously ascertained ; and it is not a little remarkable, that scarcely any man who ever enjoyed, or rather suffered, the painful pre-eminence attached to the chair of an English House of Commons, proved unworthy of his station. In our own times, we have witnessed the dignified demeanour of an Onslow, the spirited behaviour of a Norton, and the conciliating manners of an Addington ; while the professional knowledge, joined to the distinguished impartiality of an Abbot, reflect new lustre on the first representative assembly in the universe.
Mr. Abbot was born about the year 1755. At an early period of life, he was sent to Westminster school, where he soon distinguished himself in such a inanner as, in addition to considerable industry, to afford the promise of future excellence. The late Empress of Russia at that period attracted the aitention of all Europe ; and the juvenile student,
dazzled by the blaze of glory with which Catharine was surrounded, addressed some Latin verses to her imperial majesty, who in return presented him with a gold medal, by means of her ambassador at the court of St. James's.
He was afterwards sent to Oxford, and matriculated a member of Christ Church, which has produced many great men, and where he was noticed on account of his intrinsic merit. He took a degree there: and his picture in his robes as speaker at this moment decorates the hall of his alma mater, having been placed in 1804 among the worthies of his col. lege.
When he came of age, Mr. Abbot found himself in possession of a considerable fortune. Notwithstanding this, he entered himself of one of the inns of court, and being designed for the chancery bar, attended the chambers of an eminent practitioner. After the usual preliminary forms, he was at length called by the society, on the rolls of which he had been admitted, to what is technically termed, the degree of an utter barrister. Thus qualified, he went the circuits in the usual manner, and as we have been informed, acted as junior counsel to Mr. Erskine on the celebrated trial of the Dean
* This was for a supposed libel originating with the celebrated Sir William Jones, afterwards judge in India, which, at the instance of the Dean, his brother-in-law, had been translated into Welsh. It merely asserted, in a dialogue between a gentleman and a peasant, " that every protestant English subject had a right to the use or exercise of arms." This is a doctrine known to, and avowed by
of St. Asaph, respecting which, although some de. mur occurred on the part of Mr. Justice Buller, about the manner of recording the verdict, they finally triumphed.
Notwithstanding he attained considerable praetice in the Court of Chancery, the future Speaker does not seem to have aspired either to the honours or the emoluments of the profession. He however obtain- . ed, about this period, the place of clerk of the rules in the court of King's Bench; and we soon after find him a candidate for a seat in parliament, on which occasion he was favoured with the friendly offices of the late Duke of Leeds. His first efforts were not immediately successful ; but he was not dismayed, and he has lived to witness himself nominated, in the course of a few years after, for two places at
Mr. Abbot stood for Helstone, in Cornwall, at the general election in 1790. At this epoch, no less than four* candidates disputed the representation of that ancient borough, and a double return ensued. A new charter had been granted by his present ma
every constitutional lawyer, and the subject in question would never have been canvassed in a court of justice, from any other motive than private malice.
* 1. Sir Gilbert Elliot, Bart, now Lord Minto.
2. Charles Abbot, Esq. at present Speaker of the House of Commons.
3. Stephen Lushington, Esq. now Sir Stephen Lushington, Bart. 4. J. B. Burges, Esq. the present Sir J. B. Burges, Bart. S4