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Of Lord Erskine's Speeches, it may be said with truth that they are models of perspicuity and eloquence combined, and such as well become "the foremost of English advocates." They afford the best examples of sound legal and practical reasoning; and they derive additional value from the fact that most of them were delivered in connexion with the most important legal cases in which the real principles of our Constitution have been involved. It is almost superfluous to remind the legal reader what great services Lord Erskine has rendered to posterity by his advocacy and assertion of the "Liberty of the Press," and by his definition of the "Law of Libel," or that, in his day, he was the principal agent in the work of improving the state of the law on these all-important subjects.

A Memoir of Lord Erskine is, for the first time, prefixed to these Speeches. It will be found to contain many facts derived from authentic sources, which, so far as the Publishers are aware, have never yet appeared in print.

LONDON, August 1870.


THOUGH the eminent lawyer, a selection of whose speeches is contained in these volumes, was one who never rose as a lawyer to the level of such men as Lord Mansfield, and was inferior to many men of his own age as a Parliamentary debater, yet there are few persons who will dispute the verdict of his fellow-countryman, and eventually his successor on the Woolsack, Lord Campbell, who pronounces him, in his "Lives of the Chancellors," "without an equal in ancient or modern times as an Advocate in the Forum."


A younger son of the noble house of Erskine, Earls of Buchan, Thomas Erskine was born on the 10th of January 1750, in a "small and ill-furnished room," in an upper "flat" of a lofty house in the old town of Edinburgh. His family, who derived their name from, or possibly gave it to, the lands of Erskine on the banks of the Clyde, were connexions of the still older house of Mar, of whom Lord Hailes says that their earldom dates from times anterior to history. But the Earls of Buchan, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, had scattered to the winds a large portion of their hereditary wealth, so that, according to Lord Campbell, an income of £200 a year was all that was left to Henry David, the tenth Earl, on which to maintain and bring up his family. His Countess, however, Agnes, second daughter of Sir James Stewart of Goodtrees, in the county of Midlothian, was a woman of great energy, high character, and piety; and she struggled nobly with the disadvantages of her husband's narrow She brought her children up in a somewhat strict Presbyterian faith, as befitted the descendants of a religious house

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It is remarked by Sir N. W. Wraxwall, that if Lord Erskine had been the son of a Marquis instead of the son of an Earl, he never could have been called to the bar.-Memoirs, vol. i., p. 153.

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