Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Pardon My Partner


Thomas Erskine, 1st Baron Erskine, was born on this day in 1750 in Edinburgh.

Erskine was a defense advocate in several high-profile libel and personal liberty cases, including the unsuccessful defense of Thomas Paine on a charge of seditious libel in 1792, and later was appointed Lord Chancellor to the Prince of Wales. He was, however, also a well-known devotee of dogs and other domestic animals -- to the point of eccentricity. When clients came to meet with him in his chambers, his Newfoundland dog "Toss" was usually seated at the discussion table, sometimes fitted with a barrister's wig and collar, to assist in the consultation. Erskine also kept a goose, a macaw and several leeches around the house.

When he became a peer of the House of Lords, he introduced a bill prohibiting cruelty to domestic animals, which he succeeded in getting passed over the initial objections of the House of Commons. He died in 1823.

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