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Iwardéarle of CLARENDON [ord High CHANCELLOROf Englan und Chancellor of the University of Oxford
SIR MATTHEW HALE.
but the great care he used to bring suits to a final end, as it made him slower in deciding them; so it had this good effect, that causes tried before him, were seldom, if ever tried again.*
He would never receive private addresses or recommendations from the greatest persons
any matter wherein justice was concerned. One of the first peers in England went once to his chambers, and told him, “ that having a suit to be tried before him, he was then come to acquaint hiin with it, that he might the better understand it when it should come to be heard in court.''
This modest account was quite enough for the chief baron, who interrupted him with saying, " that he did not act fairly in coming to his chambers about such affairs; for that he never received any information concerning causes but in open court.” The duke upon this went away much dissatisfied, and complained of it to the king, as a rudeness that was not to be endured ; but his Majesty bade him content himself that he was no worse used, adding, “ I verily believe the chief baron would have treated me no better, if I had gone to him about one of my own causes.”
Another circumstance, says his entertaining biographer, fell out in one of his circuits, which was somewhat censured as unreasonable strictness, but it flowed from his exactness to the rules which he had laid down for his conduct. A
* Burnet's Life of Sir V1, Hale.
tleman who had a trial at the assizes sent him
In 1671 he was made Chief Justice of the King's Bench, which appointment gave universal satisfaction, for the people thought their liberties could not be better deposited than in the hands of one, who as he understood them well, so he had all the justice and courage that so sacred a trust required. One thing was much observed and commended in him, that when there was a great inequality in the ability and learning of the counsellors that were to plead one against ano. ther, he thought it became him, as the judge, to supply that; so that he would enforce what the weaker counsel managed but indifferently, and not suffer the more learned to carry the business
by the advantage they had over the others, in their quickness and skill in law, and readiness in pleading, till all things were cleared, in which the merits and strength of the ill-defended cause lay.
About four years and a half after this appointment, his health failed so much that he solicited his discharge, but could not obtain it for some time. At last his request was granted, and the king, in parting with him, expressed his great regret, and assured him that “he should still look upon him as one of his judges, and have recourse to his advice when his health would permit, and, in the mean time, would continue his pension during his life.” The good man thought this bounty too great, and an ill precedent, and therefore he wrote a letter to the Lord Treasurer, earnestly desiring that his pension might be only during pleasure; but the king would grant it for life, and make it payable quarterly. Yet for a whole month he would not suffer his servant to sue out his patent for the pension, and when the first payment was received, he ordered a great part of it to be given away in charity, saying, that he intended most of it should be so distributed as long as he received it.
His resignation was in February 1676, and he died on Christmas day following Not long before his death the minister told him the sacrament would be administered at the church next Sunday, but as he could not come and partake