Sivut kuvina

have been calledin to deliver their opinion on the construction of the statute. But Lord John had refused to permit further discussion, and was now prepared to contend that the matter should not be put in a course of investigation and trial before the proper tribunals. Yet, do what he might, a trial in a court of law would be had, and the opinion of a court of law would be pronounced; and what would be the character attaching to the proceedings of the House, if, after preventing further discussion by this resolution, the law laid down by the House should be found to be at variance with the judicial, the rightful interpretation, of the Courts of Westminster Hall Z’ He would ask Lord John Russell to leave the matter this session undetermined in that House, and in the meantime endeavour to obtain the interposition of the tribunal to which the constitution committed the proper interpretation of the statute. Lord John Russell observed that Mr. Bethell had dexterously eluded the legal difficulty in this case, which convinced him that he had misgivings upon that point. This was not an original resolution of his (Lord John's), or the first time it had been before the House, which was only asked to reassert the resolution of last year. He had no objection to taking the opinion of a court of law upon a question properly belonging to a court of law; but the question before the House, whether a member had properly taken the oaths required by law, was not within the province of a court of law. If the actions against Mr. Salomons should throw any new light upon the question, there was no reason why

the House of Commons should not avail itself of it. After some further speeches in opposition to the resolution from Mr. J. Abel Smith and Mr. Anstey, the House came to a. division.

For the resolution. _ . 123 Againstit . . . _ 68

Majority _ _ _ . . 55

Little more remains to be added to our account of the Parliamentary proceedings of this year. Some measures, indeed, deserve notice on account of their intrinsic importance, but the subjects ,were not of that kind which imparts a permanent interest to the debates. Among these was a Bill for the better regulation of Capitular and Episcopal Estates, which passed both Houses just before the close of the session. Another was Bill for the better Administration of the Woods and Forests, and for the separation of that department from that of the Public Works and Buildings. A Bill for the removal of Smithfield Market, strenuously opposed by municipal and local interests, but supported on the grounds of humane and sanitary policy by impartial public opinion, was carried after a close struggle in both Houses. The cause of Law Reform was strengthened by some important accessions to the statute book. Two measures, indeed, after being successfully carried through their earlier stages, were ul timately abandoned in the pressure of business at the close of the session; viz., a Bill for the Registration of Titles intended to facilitate and simplify the conveyance of land; and a Bill for the Amendment of

the Patent Laws, on which the amendments made in the Commons were returned to the Lords too late for consideration. But some other measures were more successful. An Act was passed to carry more completely into effect that amendment of the Law of Evidence, the principle of which had been sanctioned by the Legislature a few years before, the admissibility of parties interested as witnesses. The statute known as Lord Denman's Act had made all persons, except the actual parties to the suit, competent: the latter class, with some trifling exceptions, were now also made admissible. A very useful measure, of which the credit is principally due to Lord Campbell, was also enacted, to simplify the administration of the criminal law by abolishing certain formalities of proceeding, and diminishing the liability to a defeat of justice through technical objections. The principal law statute of the session, however, remains to be noticed, and it will deserve a more detailed account. The great inconvenience sustained by the public from the obstruction to business in the Court of Chancery, occasioned by the multifarious engagements of the Lord Chancellor, had for some time called loudly for a remedy. A measure to facilitate the proceedings in equity had been shadowed forth in the Queen's Speech, and Lord John Russell, in an early part of the session, pro

Jiounded a plan for increasing the judicial strength of the Court of Chancery. This scheme was by no means favourably received by the House of Commons. It attempted to mitigate the evil without imposing an additional burthen on the public by the creation of

new judicial offices; bat the opinions of the most competent persons agreed in the conclusion, that without resorting to that expedient no effectual remedy for the existing grievance could be attained. Finding his first proposition unacceptable to the House, Lord John Itusscll deemed i the most prudent course to withdraw the Bill, and, upon further consideration of the subject, he submitted to the House, about the middle of June, another proposition more in accordance with the views expressed by the chief members of the profession in Parliament. The objects and character of this measure will be best explained by a short summary of the speech with which the Prime Minister introduced his motion for leave to bring in his Bill No. 2) to improve the Administration of Justice in the Court of Chancery. He reminded the House that at an early period of the session he had proposed a scheme, some parts of which had met with the general consent of the House, though great objections had been offered to others. He had then said that, seeing the condition of the judicial business of the Lord Chancellor, and the great importance of his political functions, it was desirable that means should be taken to relieve him of part of his duties: and the House had concurred with him upon this point. The House had also agreed that the Lord Chancellor should retain his political functions in connection with the Executive ftovrrnment, and that he should still preside in the House of Lords as Speaker and upon appeals. He had then proposed, in order to relieve the Lord Chancellor, that other judges—the Master of the Rolls and one of the common law judges—should sit with him, or, in his absence, carry on the business of his Court. To this proposal it had been objected that to take the Master of the Rolls from his own court would be injurious to suitors. He (Lord John) had endeavoured to collect the opinions of competent persons upon this subject, and Lord Cottenham had objected to this part of the measure. After giving the outlines of several schemes, and specifying the objections to which they are severally liable, Lord John described his present plan, which was recommended, he said, by a concurrence of opinion in its favour. He proposed that two judges, to be called "Judges of Appeal," should sit with the Lord Chancellor, and in his absence hear and decide causes or appeals. The only objection offered to this scheme was, that it gave an additional judicial force to the Chancery Courts, at a considerable additional expense. The noble Lord, after stating the results of certain returns, showing the amount of business disposed of by the present judges of those courts, remarked that, although while all those judges attended their courts the existing force was sufficient, should illness interrupt their attendance, an arrear of business occurred, and the whole machinery became deranged. His plan would provide a remedy for this evil, for, while the business of the Lord Chancellor's Court would not be arrested in the event of his illness or absence, the Bill provided that, should the Master of the Rolls, or either of the ViceChancellors, be kept from his court by illness, the Lord Chancellor might make an arrangement by which one of the judges of Vol. XCIIL

appeal should sit in that court and prevent arrears. With respect to the political and other functions of the Lord Chancellor, he observed that, in these times, when there was so general a demand for law reform, the Lord Chancellor, holding the highest position connected with the law, should be enabled to give his mature and deliberate attention to plans of reform, which he was unable now to do in conjunction with his engagements in the Court of Chancery. It was desirable, likewise, that the Lord Chancellor should be able to give his mind to political questions in connection with the Executive Government. The expense attending this plan would not fall heavily upon the public. He proposed that the Lord Chan cellor, instead of 14,000/. a year, should receive 10,000Z.; and the Master of the Rolls 6000/., instead of 7000/. There would, therefore, be a saving of 5000/. a year. The two new judges to be appointed by the Crown would receive the same salary as the Master of the Rolls, 6000/. a year, to be paid out of the Suitors' Fund. His plan would enable him to make a very desirable change in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, where, on various occasions, considerable difficulty had been experienced in obtaining a sufficient number of judges, four being a quorum. There was, moreover, a constitutional objection to the Crown's selecting a puisne judge to be a Privy Councillor, to qualify him for sitting upon the Judicial Committee. He proposed, therefore, that the two judges of appeal should be Privy Councillors, and members of the Committee, and that three, instead of four, should be a quorum. [N]

The plan thus propounded was discussed in a candid and able manner by the leading equity lawyers in the House. Mr. J. Stuart began by expressing some hesitation respecting the measure. He seemed distrustful of tho novelty of the plan, and warned the House against tho danger of pressing a measure of so much importance too hastily.

Mr. Betbell regarded this measure as an instalment of the reform that was wanted in the Court of Chancery, especially in conjunction with another Bill, which would relieve the Masters' office of great part of the pressure which now impeded its functions. The objection of Mr. Stuart was in the very spirit of Chancery delay. The scheme of the noble Lord was the result of the collective opinions of the most competent persons, and could not be termed ill-considered legislation. Mr. Bethell adverted to the evil effects of delay in the Court of Chancery, the causes of it. and the nature of the remedies, in order, he said, to show the great value of the measure now proposed, which, among other things, gave an appeal, not from a single mind to a single mind, but to a plurality of minds.

Mr. Walpole thought the measure, as far as he could follow it, deserved the approbation of the House and the public. Three important consequences would flow from it: first, all the courts would be sitting continuously; secondly, there would be a permanent Court of Appeal; and, thirdly, the Lord Chancellor, instead of being removed entirely from the Court of Chancery, would be continually refreshing himself by coming into the court and keeping up his familiarity with its practice.

After a few words from Mr. Ell ice and Mr. Horsman,

M. Koundell Palmer said, the House was bound to acknowledge the great candour with which this whole subject had been considered by the noble Lord, whose plan he believed to be one that united a greater number of advantages than any other, while it was difficult to conceive a cheaper mode of securing its advantages. He thought the plan likely to meet with very general approbation; if it did not, he should despair of a remedy.

After a few words from Mr. Henley,

The Solicitor-General explained the difference between this Bill and the preceding, which was not a difference of principle. Mr. Bethell had referred to another Bill, which had been brought down from the other House, to enable Judges of the County Courts and Commissioners of Bankruptcy to take such references as the Lord Chancellor might make to them: and this measure would relieve the Masters' office, now choked with business. The House must not understand that this was the end-all of Chancery reforms. The preliminary step to such reforms, however, was to relieve the Lord Chancellor of his present weight of duty:

After some further discussion of a desultory kind, the effect of which was generally favourable to the Ministerial plan, leave was given to Lord John Russell to bring in his Bill. It underwent little alteration in its progress through Parliament, and received the I Royal Assent in substantially the same shape as it had been proposed. The time had now arrived at which the Legislature usually c\[>ecuj a release from its labors. The various Ministerial Bills, not abandoned or otherwise disposed of, were hurried through their final stages, and the 8th of August was fixed for the prorogation of Parliament. The ceremony was performed by Her Majesty in person, and was signalized by the circumstance that the House of Commons proceeded for the first time into the presence of their Sovereign from their new chamber, which, after several experimental sittings and many alterations, had been made ready for their occupation. The House, headed by the Speaker, and in more decorous order than had hitherto been observed, proceeded along the noble corridor that extends between the two Chambers, to the Bar of the House of Lords, when the Speaker addressed Her Majesty in these terms:—

"Most Gracious Sovereign— We, your Majesty's faithful Commons, attend your Majesty at the close of a laborious session; and, in tendering to your Majesty our last Bill of Supply for the service of the year, we have the satisfaction of stating to your Majesty, that, owing to the continued blessings of peace which Providence has vouchsafed to us, and the commercial and manufacturing prosperity of the country, the revenue has so far improved, as to enable us to make a considerable reduction in the public burdens. We have substituted a moderate duty on houses for the tax hitherto levied on windows, and we have thus carried into still further effect the work of sanitary reform which has distinguished the legislation of former sessions. Our attention has also been directed to various measures for the improved administration of justice. We have

modified the law of evidence so as to secure a more complete and satisfactory investigation of truth; we have simplified many of the details both of criminal and civil procedure; and we confidently hope that the important addition we have made to the judicial estalishment will so far facilitate the appellate jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery, as also of the Judicial Committee of your Majesty's Privy Council, that the expenses and delays which have hitherto been inseparable from their proceedings will, for the future, be materially diminished. The assumption of certain ecclesiastical titles conferred by a foreign power has been to us a subject of much anxious and patient deliberation. We approached this difficult and delicate question in the spirit in which your Majesty was graciously pleased to recommend it to our attention; and we trust that the measure which we have passed may be found effectual to prevent any further attempt to encroach on your Majesty's supremacy, without in any degree infringing on the great principle of religious liberty. It is unnecessary for me to advert to other measures of minor importance, but exerting a material influence on the condition of the industrious classes, which have been matured during the present session. When carefully reviewed, they will manifest our earnest desire to preserve the prerogatives of the Crown, and at the same time to promote the social improvement as well as the moral and physical welfare of all classes of your Majesty's subjects. I have now humbly to pray your Majesty's Royal Assent to the Bill entitled 'An Act to apply a Sum out of the Consolidated Fund to the Service [NS]

« EdellinenJatka »