BOOK VII. CONTAINING THREE DAYS.
9. Chapter ix. The wise demeanour of Mr Western...
The wise demeanour of Mr Western in the character of a magistrate. A
hint to justices of peace, concerning the necessary qualifications of
a clerk; with extraordinary instances of paternal madness and filial
Logicians sometimes prove too much by an argument, and politicians
often overreach themselves in a scheme. Thus had it like to have
happened to Mrs Honour, who, instead of recovering the rest of her
clothes, had like to have stopped even those she had on her back from
escaping; for the squire no sooner heard of her having abused his
sister, than he swore twenty oaths he would send her to Bridewell.
Mrs Western was a very good-natured woman, and ordinarily of a
forgiving temper. She had lately remitted the trespass of a
stage-coachman, who had overturned her post-chaise into a ditch; nay,
she had even broken the law, in refusing to prosecute a highwayman who
had robbed her, not only of a sum of money, but of her ear-rings; at
the same time d--ning her, and saying, "Such handsome b--s as you
don't want jewels to set them off, and be d--n'd to you." But now, so
uncertain are our tempers, and so much do we at different times differ
from ourselves, she would hear of no mitigation; nor could all the
affected penitence of Honour, nor all the entreaties of Sophia for her
own servant, prevail with her to desist from earnestly desiring her
brother to execute justiceship (for it was indeed a syllable more than
justice) on the wench.
But luckily the clerk had a qualification, which no clerk to a justice
of peace ought ever to be without, namely, some understanding in the
law of this realm. He therefore whispered in the ear of the justice
that he would exceed his authority by committing the girl to
Bridewell, as there had been no attempt to break the peace; "for I am
afraid, sir," says he, "you cannot legally commit any one to Bridewell
only for ill-breeding."
In matters of high importance, particularly in cases relating to the
game, the justice was not always attentive to these admonitions of his
clerk; for, indeed, in executing the laws under that head, many
justices of peace suppose they have a large discretionary power, by
virtue of which, under the notion of searching for and taking away
engines for the destruction of the game, they often commit trespasses,
and sometimes felony, at their pleasure.