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certainly since the beginning of the world no
one ever paid so dearly for a simple ejaculation
of impatience. The baronet was coming home
one night, attended by a groom of the duke's,
and fell into one of the duke's dykes. As he
was helped out, after a thorough ducking, he
said impatiently "Dn these canals," or, as
solicitors write, words to that effect. The groom
reported the incautious burst, and the duke,
resenting an insult to what was the hobby of his
life, struck the utterer out of his will.

The dukedom, however, disappeared, and a
lesser Marquis of Bridgewater inherited, but to
the Marquis there was no one of the name to
succeed, and this fine and honourably-won
estate, whose value was estimated at nearly
two millions, seemed likely to ramble in the
loose lineage of distant collaterals, chosen
perhaps arbitrarily, rather than enjoy the steady
and more magnificent descent of hereditary

In this extremity the owner resolved to
make an effort to create, if he could not find.
He accordingly made an arrangement by which
all this vast property was to pass to the Lord
Alford of the time, then a mere child; but on
this strict condition, that if within five years
after his becoming Earl of Brownlow, he did not
succeed in obtaining the rank of Marquis or
Duke of Bridgewater, the estates were to pass
from him to a younger brother. The latter,
also, was allowed the same mystic time, to
make the same attempt, and in case of failure
incurred the same forfeiture. In 1849, Lord
Alford succeeded to the estates, and in about
two years later died without having become
Lord Brownlow, and, of course, without having
entered on the term of probation. Then arose
some very nice law points. To whom were
the estates to pass? To Lord Alford's infant
son? No, it was urged this would utterly
deprive the brother of his chance of the reversion.
To the brother? No. For the deceased
had not entered on his term of probation, and
had therefore not forfeited it. This part of
the case turned on the point, whether there
was a condition precedent, as it is called, and is
purely technical. So it may be laid aside here;
but a greater question loomed behind, and
about it the real battle was fought. A great
nightmare for courts and ancient judges, is any
act or theory bearing "against public policy,"
which is certain to invest the question with an
awful and preternatural horror. Thus any
well-meant check by a parent upon his
children's marriage, though otherwise harmless
enough, is at once blighted by the anathema
"against public policy."

The great causefor it became a great one
lumbered upwards, in the usual way, through
the various courts, halting before the vice-
chancellor. The arguments on this point are
excessively ingenious, and quite intelligible to
the unprofessional hearer. It was urged that
as an impossibility is always void, it was here
impossible that any man should by his own
act become a marquis or a duke. But it was
replied that this would be true if the party
were called upon to create any one earl or
marquis, which would be an impossibility. It
was then objected that there was here a hint
of corruption, and that it was extremely
improbable that within a limited term of five years a
man should have done public services, or found
opportunity for them exactly proportioned to
such a splendid reward. But then there was
quoted, in reply, the well-known family arrangement
of bequeathing a living to a son if he
should enter holy orders. The vice-chancellor,
on the whole, took the public policy side, and
pronounced the arrangement void. The cause,
of course, drifted past him contemptuously, and
was drawn by legal tugs into the House of
Lords. It was precisely a question to bring
out most dramatically the tone and temper of
those remarkable men, Lyndhurst, Brougham,
St. Leonard's, Truro. All spoke with warmth,
as on a great constitutional question. Lord
Brougham put it very happily. He gave the
testator credit, no doubt, for meaning that this
title was to be won by honourable means; but,
supposing he had been asked whether he
imagined that a dukedom was to be obtained
merely by an exemplary life, he would naturally
think he was being turned into ridicule. The
real danger, he said, would be the temptation
to try and influence those who acted for the
crown, not in the shape of coarse, naked
bribery; but there were many ways of reaching
the same end. Lord Truro took the same
line, and Lord St. Leonard's, with very great
heat, denounced it as an insult and indignity
to the crown, for, he acutely added, the subject
pointed out a particular title and rank which
he required to be obtained. In a sort of
constitutional tremor, which recals the old
disrespectful speaking of the Equator, he said it was
a fearful issue, and one from which he recoiled.

All these strong and influential opinions
being against this arrangement, the careless
outsider would naturally suppose they were
equally against the interest of the person they
most nearly affected. If the conditions were
void by which Lord Alford was to benefit, his
prospects were also void. But not so. There
is a wonderful and erratic uncertainty in the
ways of the law. These adverse opinions
operated against the testator merely. The Lords,
as it were, took up the will, and drew their
pen across the obnoxious clause, and then
returned it to the young lord. He, therefore,
possibly to his own surprise, received his vast
estates, discharged from this inconvenient
condition, and without having his conscience
burdened with any sins against public policy or
the sovereign's prerogative.