Reference > Cambridge History > The Victorian Age, Part Two > Historians, Biographers and Political Orators > Erskine
  Whitbread Tierney  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

II. Historians, Biographers and Political Orators.

§ 70. Erskine.

Thomas, afterwards lord, Erskine seems never to have quite caught the tone of the house of commons, though a consistent member of the whig party, whose principles he, also, upheld with his pen. 80  But his fame rests on his forensic oratory, which entitled him to choose for the motto of his peerage the words “trial by jury.” He was engaged in a series of cases bearing on the liberty of the press and the charge of constructive treason; and defended in turn lord George Gordon, Thomas Paine, the publisher Stockdale, who had incurred the wrath of the house of commons, and the radical founder of the London Corresponding society, Thomas Hardy, whom he brought off amidst the wildest popular enthusiasm. That his triumphs, described by earl Russell as those of “the sword and buckler” which “protected justice and freedom,” were free from meretricious glitter seems to be borne out by those of his speeches that have been preserved out of an enormous mass of oratory, if allowance be made for the egoism which seems inseparable from the Ciceronian manner and which was certainly not alien to Erskine’s nature.   113

Note 80. The first number contained a characteristically comprehensive article by Acton entitled “German Schools of History,” followed in a later number by “Döllinger’s Historical Work.” [ back ]

  Whitbread Tierney  

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