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CHAP. II.

Parliamentary Proceedings continued.-Vice-Chancellor's Bill.-Sir Samuel

Romilly's Bills for improving the Criminal Law.

The great increase which of late years ous to unsuccessful litigants, that by has taken place in the duties to be dis. moving into the House of Lords they charged by the Lord High Chancel. could put off the decision for a term lor of England, and the serious incon- of years. The successful suitor might veniences resulting from delay in mat. thus have been deprived of the benefit ters of such high importance, appear of the judgment, and of the justice ed to those best acquainted with the awarded to him for no less a period subject to demand the interference of than eleven years. It was the boundthe legislature. It had become evi- en duty of the legislature, therefore, to dent, that if some remedy were not establish some remedy for evils of this adopted, the whole of the judicial code magnitude. of the country must be affected, and The nature and extent of the evil great injury done to the subject. There could hardly admit of dispute, but as had accumulated at this time in the to the most suitable remedy different House of Lords an arrear of 280 ap- opinions were entertained. It was sug. peals, which, computing by the aver- gested that the Lords might, by some age rate at which such causes had of new distribution of their business, get late been decided, could not be deter over the arrear of causes now before mined in less than eleven years. This them, and prevent the recurrence of siin itself was a serious grievance to suit. milar arrears in future. - To accomplish ors ; but the evil did not stop here, for this it was proposed, that they should by the delay in ruling disputed points sit after the session for the general poli. of law, the number of new appeals tical business of the country was clowas greatly augmented. In the de- sed, and continue for a time to dis. termination of the causes actually un- charge their judicial functions. But der appeal, doubtful principles of law to suppose that the Lords would re. were often involved ; and till a deci- main in town to hear appeals after the sion was obtained, the subject was other affairs of parliament were diskept in ignorance of the law of the patched, was absurd. There was a land, and thus litigation was greatly strong constitutional objection also to increased. The delay offered a strong the measure, viz. that it could not be temptation also to present appeals for adopted without trenching upon the the mere purpose of postponing the prerogative of the crown in the proro. effects of judgments ; as it was obvi- gation of parliament. Such a regula. tion must have placed the crown in the prospect of assistance from peers, the delicate and awkward situation of not of necessity bound to devote themeither permitting parliament to sit af. selves to the public service. The on. ter the national business for which it ly other plan, therefore, which could had been assembled was finished, or of be proposed, was that the Chancellor doing injustice to the claimants who should be relieved to a certain extent wereat the bar of the House of Lords.- of his duties in the court of Chancery, As to another proposal that the House and be thus enabled to devote more of of Lords should appoint a committee his time to the other high duties of his or delegation of its members to hear ap- office. The question then arose (since peals, such a measure would also have it was necessary to provide some aid in been repugnant to the constitution. the court of Chancery) whether such The public besides had no right to ex. aid could be drawn from the other pect from the House of Lords that courts of law, or whether a new office they would depart from their usual must be created ? n the Court of habits of business ; nor would the evil Chancery itself there was a great, if have been remedied even had their not a growing, arrear of businessma selordships consented instead of five rious evil, for which there appeared to months to sit for twice that time, un. be no remedy, unless by creating a siless the great advantage had been fore. milar evil in another quartertor if gone of having the Lord Chancellor the Lord Chancellor had not hitherto as the presiding officer in the House called in the assistance of the Master of of Peers. Without encountering this the Rolls, it was only because that most serious inconvenience the remedy could not be done without creating first projected would have been only much confusion in the Rolls Court. an exchange of one evil for another, None of the other courts were in a and would have transferred the arrears situation to afford help, but were all so from the House of Lords to the court pressed with business, that the judges, of Chancery, by occupying that por. with all their diligence, could not fully tion of the Lord Chancellor's time in discharge their duties. The court of the former, which during the recess he Chancery too could only draw aid from is accustomed to devote to the latter. a court, the decisions of which rested

It was proposed by some persons on principles of equity, and were anathat the Lord Chancellor should with. logous to its own : But there is no draw from his high situation in the court in Westminster-hall, except the House of Peers, and confine himself to court of Exchequer, which acts up. the business of his own court of Chan- on principles of equity; and so far cery. But to this project there were was that court from being able to afmany obvious objections. The most ford the aid required, that there had eminent statesmen who have turned been a serious proposal for requiring an their attention to this point have been additional effective judge in the Excheagreed in opinion, that such an altera- quer, the arrear of business being even tion would derogate from the dignity more pressing in that court than in of the House. No other individual the court of Chancery. If the court could be found so well qualified to of Exchequer could not supply the discharge this laborious dury; for want, no other court in Westminsteralthough there are several eminent hall could. It was thought impossible, peers capable of performing it, it therefore, that aid could be derived would have been absurd to think of from any of the courts in Westminbuilding a permanent measure upon ster-hall. It was in consequence

ance.

proposed that a permanent officer or suitors' fund, the annual revenue of should be appointed in aid of the Lord which at this time was 9000l. The Chancellor.--Some persons imagined, revenue of that fund had on various however, that such a measure would occasions been applied, under the aulead to great innovations in the mode thority of parliament, for analogous of conducting business in the court of purposes, and could not certainly be Chancery ; but nothing could be more devoted to any better use than the supinconsistent with the principles on port

port of that officer whose appointment which the measure was founded, than was in contemplation The fund consuch a supposition. The appointment sisted of unclaimed monies in Chanof a Vice-Chancellor involved the cery, which had been allowed to acsmallest departure from ancient prac. cumulate at interest. The salaries of tice, and was scarcely an innovation. the masters in Chancery, and of superThe chancellor already had the pri. annuated officers, were paid out of it; vilege of calling in the assistance of the and the sum of 9000l. per annum was nine puisne judges, together with that its present clear revenue unappropriof two masters in Chancery, and it was ated. Thus, as far as related to ecointended that he should in future have nomy, there could be no objection to permanent instead of temporary assist the bill. It had been said that there

The Chancellor besides had were other means by which the objectalready the privilege of calling in the of the bill could be more effectually assistance of the Master of the Rolls ; attained, and it had been proposed to and when that officer assisted the Chan- take the management of the bank. cellor, he was as much under his direc- ruptcy business out of the hands of tion as the judges under a commission, the Lord Chancellor. But even al-4 or the Vice-Chancellor whom it was lowing that this branch of business now proposed to appoint. The ob. might with propriety be taken from ject of the bill, in short, was to af. the Lord Chancellor, still it would be ford to the Lord Chancellor perma.

necessary to have a Vice-Chancellor, . nent instead of temporary assistance in But the bankruptcy law was so para the transaction of the business of the ticularly important in a commercial court of Chancery. This plan did not country, that it would be highly dan. imply any innovation in the mode of gerous to entrust it to any authority transacting business, although on this subordinate to that of the Lord Chariground chiefly it was opposed. cellor. It had been objected, that in

In support of the bill, it was stated the distribution of the business in the " that it would not occasion

any

addi. court of Chancery the bill enabled the tional expense to the public, though Lord Chancellor to direct the whole it would be productive of so great at his pleasure ; that he might allow benefit to the suitors in Chancery;

the Vice Chancellor to decide uponand the question was, whether with matters of such difficulty, that no authose advantages to the suitor, with thority short of the Lord Chancellor's the removal of the evil complained of, should be allowed to dispose of them; and while no better plan was proposed, or, on the other hand, he might only parliament should hesitate ? One half entrust to him matters of minor imof the expense of the office would be portance, and by such an arrangement charged on the profits of the Lord the character of the new magistrate Chancellor, in the business of the must be degraded. To this it was an court ; the other half would be taken swered, that the possible abuse of befrom what was called the dead cash, neficial powers ought not to be als

ledged as an argument against granting cellor ; there is no law which prevents them, and that it ought on the con- his withdrawing himself entirely from trary to be presumed that the discre- his court, yet would any man dream tion thus vested in the first law officer of the possibility of such an event ? of the country would be soundly ex- Was it not a suspicion equally chime. ercised. It was needless to speak at rical, to suppose that the Lord Chanlarge on the impropriety of supposing, cellor would remain idle, and leave his that any person vested with so high business to be transacted by the Vicean office as that of Lord Chancellor, Chancellor? It would be absurd to could be guilty of such a breach of legislate on such fancies. In Ireland, all the ties of duty and of honour. business was so arranged that the MasMuch had been said about the increase ter of the Rolls afforded the same asof appeals which would be occasioned sistance to the Lord Chancellor which hy the adoption of the measure before was here proposed to be given by the the House, and the erection of an in. Vice-Chancellor. When the bill cretermediate jurisdiction. But it was ating such regulations was first prothe interest of the suitors to have their posed, objections had been made to it causes speedily decided, and the Lord similar to those now started to the preChancellor would have the power of sent bill. The object which both the bringing at once before himself such bills had in view was similar, namely, causes as were most likely to be mat. to provide an auxiliary to the Lord ter of appeal. At any rate, the ob. Chancellor; and it was then said as jection did not apply with greater force now, that the Chancellor(Lord Clare) in this case than it did to the courts would become a mere state officer. of the Master of the Rolls, and of the The best answer to this objection was paisne judges acting under commis- furnished by the conduct of the four $100; and surely the power of distri. distinguished persons who had since Buting business afforded such addi. the above period filled that high stational means of dispatch, as to coun- tion. Not one of these eminent characterbalance any evils which might arise ters had ever withdrawn for a moment from the increase of appeals. It had from his judicial business for politibeen urged, that the measure would cal purposes, or ever betook himtransform the first law officer of the self to the Master of the Rolls except kingdom into a mere politician, since as an auxiliary. Experience proved he might now entrust the decision of that the object had been attained in all matters of importance to the Vice- the case of the Irish bill, so that it Chancellor. But never was any opinion was but rational to conclude that the more absurd, than that which suppo- same object would be effectually ac. sed that a chancellor would abdicate complished by the bill under the con. his judicial character; the honour and sideration of the House. --Some per. responsibility of this high officer af. sons had maintained that the whole ex. fords sufficient security against such pense of the office of Vice-Chancellor an event. Why might not the chief should be charged upon the emolu. Antice of the King's Bench too with ments which the Lord Chancellor dedraw from the execution of his duties, rived from the business in the court and intrust the functions of his office of chancery. That noble lord (the to his assistants ? Lord Ellenborough Chancellor) had stated, at the very was bound to the performance of the commencement of the enquiry, that he beties of his office only by ties similar wished for no profit which was not those which bound the Lord Chan. purchased by beneficial labour ; yet,

when the importance and dignity of tion. If that disqualification were his office were considered, and when supposed to apply generally, much the extent of the labour attendant on more forcibly must it apply to those the execution of its duties were esti- members (of whom he was one) who mated, it would appear but reasonable could boast of no means of forming that the Lord Chancellor should live a judgment but plain sense unadorned with great splendour. He should with legal learning. He must, howhave the means of providing for his fa- ever, protest against any such plea in mily--for it was to be remembered bar of their discussions ; and must that there was always much uncer. deny that the lay part of the House tainty as to his continuance in office. were implicitly to adopt the dicto of The pension of 4000l. to ex-chancel. certain learned personages in matter lors was by no means sufficient of it. not of law but of regulation. He self for this purpose, and it should be yielded all respect possible to the remembered that there were many dis- House of Lords, but could not continguished noblemen who owed the sent to pass the bill they had sent rank and fortune of their families to down without examination. Some the dignified labours of their ancestors considerations indeed there were which who filled the office of Lord Chancel. might perhaps tend to diminish in this lor. It seemed to be reasonable that particular instance the general respect this office should be endowed more due to the authority of their lordships. liberally than any other; and that its It appeared on the very face of the income should not be looked upon bill that it arose out of arrears in their with jealousy. The office exposes lordships' jurisdiction. They might the holder to greater cares and to be better judges of the extent of the more political uncertainty than other evil, but if the evil lay with them the judicial situations which are held du Commons ought not to exercise the ring life, at least during good beha- less jealousy in the examination of the viour. Under these circumstances remedy proposed. A learned friend parliament would not think of making of his had set out with rebuking an encroachments upon the revenues de- excess of levity, and a want of grave rived by the Lord Chancellor from his consideration on this subject ; but he office. The measure, therefore, being should have been aware that the charged with little or no expense, sources of ridicule were not merely while it was calculated to remedy two in things which were themselves ridi. great evils ; and coming recommended, culous, but also in the attempted apas it did, by the sanction of all the proximation of things which were not great legal characters, seemed to be of in themselves reconcileable in the such a nature, that all parties might comparison of lofty pretensions with be expected to concur in it.” paltry means in the contrast of mag.

Mr Canning distinguished himself nificent promises with the total in by his opposition to this measure, and adequacy of the mode suggested for as his speech contains a good summary following up and realizing them. If of the arguments urged against the the bill was to be considered as the bill, it shall be inserted in his own result of all the experience and wis. words. On the 17th February, when dom of the other house, undoubtedly the second reading of the bill was on that ground, and in that character, moved by Lord Castlereagh, Mr Car.- it was to be received with the greatest ning observed, “ It seemed to be main- reverence; but if it was found that all tained that the members of this House this learned labour had only produced were not fit to judge of such a ques. an office, which the legal profession

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