Pratt, Charles (Lord Camden) (1714–1794)
PRATT, CHARLES (Lord Camden) (1714–1794)
The leading whig constitutionalist of eighteenth-century England, Charles Pratt was appointed a judge after a career as a barrister and parliamentarian and service as attorney general. Arguing seditious libel cases, he had maintained that the jury was competent to decide the questions both of law and of fact. He was Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas from 1762 until 1766. In the wilkes cases he declared general warrants contrary to the principles of the constitution and held their issuance by secretaries of state illegal. He also discouraged prosecution of Roman Catholic recusants. As Baron (later Earl) Camden, he made his first speech in the House of Lords in 1765 supporting the American position on the Stamp Act. In the debates on the Declaratory Act he called taxation without representation "sheer robbery" and denounced the fiction of virtual representation. He became Lord Chancellor in 1766 but resigned in 1770 after disagreeing with the cabinet about several matters, including policy toward America. He continued to support the American position in the House of Lords and, with Lord Chatham, favored reconciliation with the colonies. He returned to the cabinet in 1782 and was Lord President of the Council from 1784 until his death.
Dennis J. Mahoney