Trial of Spencer Cowper—Duels—Discontent of the Nation—Captain Kidd—Meeting of Parliament—Attacks on Burnet—Renewed Attack on Somers—Question of the Irish Forfeitures: Dispute between the Houses—Somers again attacked—Prorogation of Parliament—Death of James the Second—The Pretender recognised as King—Return of the King—General Election—Death of William
The passions which had agitated the Parliament during the late session continued to ferment in the minds of men during the recess, and, having no longer a vent in the senate, broke forth in every part of the empire, destroyed the peace of towns, brought into peril the honour and the lives of innocent men, and impelled magistrates to leave the bench of justice and attack one another sword in hand. Private calamities, private brawls, which had nothing to do with the disputes between court and country, were turned by the political animosities of that unhappy summer into grave political events.
One mournful tale, which called forth the strongest feelings of the contending factions, is still remembered as a curious part of the history of our jurisprudence, and especially of the history of our medical jurisprudence. No Whig member of the lower House, with the single exception of Montague, filled a larger space in the public eye than William Cowper. In the art of conciliating an audience, Cowper was preeminent. His graceful and engaging eloquence cast a spell on juries; and the Commons, even in those stormy moments when no other defender of the administration could obtain a hearing, would always listen to him. He represented Hertford, a borough in which his family had considerable influence; but there was a strong Tory minority among the electors, and he had not won his seat without a hard fight, which had left behind it many bitter recollections. His younger brother Spencer, a man of parts and learning, was fast rising into practice as a barrister on the Home Circuit.