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must treat with contempt ; then in sire it to be reheard ; but this bill spite of all prepossessions in its fa gave the Chancellor power to refuse vour, the ridicule against which his hearing a case, and to send it to the honourable and learned friend protest. Vice-chancellor: and in every case ed might blamelessly or rather must which was thus delegated from the infallibly attach to it. The bill said, Lord High Chancellor to his deputy, that whereas great arrears had been against the will and choice of the accumulated, it was neces
cessary to do suitor, it was surely most natural to so and so. The diminution of this suppose that the suitor would desire accumulation might, to be sure, be a hearing. Thus, therefore, the acaccomplished in either of two ways; cumulation before the lords might in. by clearing the reservoir at once, or deed be prevented from increasing so by impeding, the channel whence it fast as at present, since every cause was constantly supplied with so rapid heard by the new magistrate would a current. The bill appeared to fol- probably be heard again by the Lord low the latter of those two courses. Chancellor ; and the suitor perhaps Its most obvious and certain effect might be aickened by his first appeal, was to occasion all the causes in and deterred from prosecuting a Chancery to be tried twice over, a second to the House of Lords. But process which must necessarily delay how would the device tend to the acthe proceedings of that court, and complishment of the professed object so check the vicious rapidity of the of the bill, the allowing the Lord stream of appeals which flowed from Chancellor more time for attendance it into the House of Lords. If the in the House of Lords ? After all, tried wisdom, the high legal attain. if the accumulation of appeals in that ments, and pre-eminent authority of house be the evil to be cured, why that great magistrate who had been was not some remedy applied distinct- . used to speak from the bench from ly and at once to the seat of the which Leo (Mr Canning) had now evil? It was surely a derogation from risen (Sir William Grant) did not the dignity of the House of Lords prevent constant appeals to the Lord to suppose that they could not disChancellor from his decisions as Mas- charge the business before them; that ter of the Rolls, it was idle to suppose their noble natures could not rise at that from the new Vice-chancellor, new nine o'clock to adjudge the causes at in office, new and unsettled in autho- their bar; that, with privileges so far rity, and (be he who he may) proba. surpassing those of other senates, they bly far inferior to the present Master could not make an exertion for the of the Rolls in legal knowledge and discharge of those important duties abilities, there would not be appeals which were annexed to such high to the Lord Chancellor in a far greater privileges, and which justified and en. number. It was indeed attempted to nobled them in the eyes of their coun. be shewn, that this new creation would try and the world. Why should such be similar to the mastership of the reasonings apply to them more than rolls ; but there was this essential to the Commons ? The Lords admit. difference between the two magis- ted a delay amounting to a denial of tracies; there was a choice allowed justice. What degradation or shame to the suitor to have his cause car. could it be to the Lords to adopt ried before the Master of the Rolls or with respect to their own proceedings the Lord Chancellor, and therefore it some such coercive regulations as the w28 the less likely that he should de. Commons had adopted to secure the VOL. VI. PART I.
discharge of their own duty in causes different men viewed the same subof contested elections ? The shame jects: some might indulge in harm. seemed to lie in stopping short be. less merriment; while others (he did tween the removal of abuse and the not see the learned gentleman, Mr adoption of a remedy. Was it a pro. Stephen, present) might view this blem so obscuře, knotty, and difficult mouse which the mountain had brought to devise the means of securing a suffi. forth with feelings quite “ melancholy cient attendance in the other house, and gentlemanlike," like Master Ste. whatever skill it might have required phen in “Every Man in his Humour." to produce such a bill as this ? No! For his own part he thought there let the House reject this bill, and à could not be a graver subject than better measure would be proposed in the due and speedy administration of å very short time. An appeal had justice : but on the other hand there been made to their compassion in be. could not be a more ludicrous assohalf of this unhappy scrap of paper, ciation than that of high magisterial as if it were the offspring of some functions, and great official trust, with infant member, who was employing all the circumstances of degradation his untried hand, in his first and crude and disparagement with which the attempt to remedy some acknowledged new magistrate procreated by this evil, hoping that a committee would bill is to be invested. It was pretend. lick his unformed abortion into some ed indeed, that the power of the Lord sort of decent shape. Another learn- Chancellor to devolve business upon ed gentleman thought they were tread. this new deputy, was to be no other ing on a sort of hallowed ground, and than that which he now has, to call to that they could not presume even to his assistance any one of the judges, alter and amend the bill, such as it or masters in Chancery, named in the was sent down to them, without à commission, empowering them to sit species of scandaluń magnatum a. for the Chancellor. Nothing could gainst the legislative wisdom of the be more unlike. Compare the lanHouse of Lords! The bill in fact was guage of that commission with that all it could be. A committee was of this bill by which the Chancellor useless. It would offend the Lords was to ring for his deputy. It would more to send it back so changed, as appear that the judges, when called it must necessarily be, if it was to be upon, were really to sit for the Chanmade useful to any good purposé cellor, to sit as the Chancellor ; to do whatever, than it would to reject it his business ; to execute his functions, altogether; abstaining, however, at the and the result was to be of as great same time, with the utmost deference, validity, force, efficacy, and virtue, as from presuming to suggest any other if from the Chancellor himself. The method of proceeding in a case which new gentleman to be created was to appeared to be claimed as the pecu. have full power, &c. but in such a liar province of their lordships, and manner nevertheless, and under such leaving their lordships to go to work regulations and restrictions, as the again upon a new plan better calcu. Lord Chancellor himself shall from lated for their own credit and the time to time order and direct. If public satisfaction. He begged par. this was to be freedom, he wished to don for any seeming levity, if he were know what was servitude ? If this was guilty of any in speaking with free. volition, what was coercion? What was dom of this strange project : but such a judge, but a man sitting on the there were different moods in which judgment seat fettered hand and foot? And was it possible to conceive that not thus sent to him? To begin or any.
decision of such a magistrate to leave off exactly when and where could be received as satisfactory and the Lord Chancellor pleased, at the acquiesced in as final? Conceive a beginning, or the middle, or the end melancholy client coming into court, of a cause--just as might suit the and directing his solicitor to take care Chancellor's fancy? Had he, or was that his cause is set down for hearing, he, intended to have any regular, not before that tedious indecisive known, fixed, intelligible substantive judge the Master of the Rolls, but province or authority? Scrub in the before the Lord High Chancellor play, Mungo in the farce, Sancho in himself. Soon afterwards he hears his island, were in a state of settled that his cause is, according to his di- jurisdiction compared with this new rection, before his lordship himself. officer ! If the form of his tribunal So much the better. At least the were copied from any thing at all, it hearing will be final. Some time after. must have been from Sancho in his wards he is informed that his cause is little island ! It was to be a deleg decided against him—by whom? By tion by fits and snatches--the off, the Lord Chancellor himself? No such spring of the humours and leisures of thing; but by a judge under the con. the Chancellor, dealt out in bits and stant direction and superintendance of scraps of jurisdiction. It really re. the Chancellor, subject to his inter. quired more credulity than the auference and controul, to his revisal, thors of the bill had a right to expect, and reversal or alteration.—What con- to imagine that the bill, even though solation could this be to the suitor, it should receive the polishing hand of who had chosen the Lord Chancellor any learned serjeant, could ever answer for his judge in preference to the the purposes for which it was intended. Master of the Rolls, for the express As an unlearned member of parliapurpose of avoiding the necessity of ment, his vote should be against the an appeal, which would now be his introduction of a magistracy which it only refuge? Was not this the mean- was not fit to create. It was not his ing of the bill? He heard some mur. fault that the proposition was so obmurs near him as if he was misrepre- jectionable. They had a right to take setting its tenor and purport. 'He time to consider this biit, as the certainly did not mean to misrepre- Lords had paused for eleven years sent it. The advocates of the bill before they hit upon this mode of rehad particularly praised it for its medying an inconvenience of such clearness. It was indeed overloaded great and growing mischief. If inwith perspicuity, full of qualifications deed it was contended, that they were and limitations, and exemptions, and not entitled to object to this mode, provisoes, patching up one hole and without having some other more permaking another to patch up in turn; fect plan to propose, he would answer, and involved in inexplicable explana- that he had no doubt another plan tiens. But after all, was not the re. might easily be devised s but he desult as he had stated' it, that the Lord nied the necessity, or even the proChancellor might send causes he did priety, of originating it in the House Dot like to his Vice-Chancellor as he of Commons. The onus was on the pleased, just as he would order away Lords, but not on them. The evil a corked bottle; was not the Vice- was with the Lords, who pleaded Chancellor to take whatever was sent their own fault, and applied for to him—to abstain from whatever was the remedy. The evils he believed
were exaggerated, and must vanish at stood, an office of the greatest impor. the touch of a reforming hand. Let tance as well in a constitutional point the Lords adopt an efficient measure, of view as with regard to the admi. and the mass of evil would soon sink nistration of the important duties of to a manageable size. He was un- the court of Chancery. He, thereable to follow the reasonings of Chan- fore, could not support a bill which cery lawyers ; but was such an office as appeared to him to do things utterly a Vice-Chancellor ever recognised in unwise ; to create a magistracy unfit England before ? He felt the highest to be created, and to endanger, by inrespect for the present Lord Chancel. novation upon its character and duties, lor, but he must consider that he was a magistracy which it was of the highcalled upon to legislate, not only for est importance to maintain unaltered the present times, but for posterity. and unimpaired; a bill not calculated He wished to preserve the office of to remedy the evil which it professed Lord Chancellor in this country in to obviate, and risking the introducall the plenitude of its powers and tion of other evils which it might be splendour of its authority. He be. difficult hereafter to cure; a bill dilieved in his conscience that it was most rected to the removal of an obstrucessentially important to the constitu. tion in the course of justice avowtion that it should be so preserved. edly of a temporary nature, and efHe thought that it was one of the fecting (or rather not effecting) that highest prerogatives of the sovereign, object by a permanent dismember. that he could take a man from the ment of the highest judicial office of profession of the bar, and place him the constitution.”—The measure, not. at once by an act of power in a si- withstanding this opposition, received tuation giving rank and precedence the sanction of the legislature. above ducal coronets. This high pre- It has been frequently remarked, rogative, however, like all others, that revolutions in the civil or criminal would be exercised with a responsi. laws of a country are of all others the bility to public opinion; and although most difficult to be accomplished. It the crown might make whom it would is a salutary prejudice, no doubt, which Lord Chancelor, yet it would never resists innovations so extremely ha. will to make any man a Chancellor zardous ; yet when we consider what who in the public eye was not con- was the character of those remote ages ceived to be fit for that high situa. in which the foundations of our juris. tion. He was not imputing any neg. prudence were laid,—how rude and ligence to Lord Eldon, when he said, savage were their manners,-how li. that if this bill should pass, a time mited their information,—and how unmight come when all the business of settled was the whole form of society, the court of Chancery might be it may with some reason be presumed, thrown upon this new officer, and that there is scarcely a subject on the Master of the Rolls, and that which a sober and rational spirit of in future times a Lord Chancellor improvement may with more advanmight be chosen chiefly from other tage be employed. The English have considerations unconnected with his been more remarkable, perhaps, than legal knowledge or ability to preside any of their neighbours for a sacred, in the Court of Chancery. This bill and, in some cases, a superstitious vemight therefore lead to the destruction neration of their ancient constitution ; of the office of Lord Chancellor, and their laws may therefore be supwhich he conceived to be, as it now posed to offer as strong a temptation
to the genius of reform as those of any than himself, and if he imagined, by other country. It cannot be disguised, again introducing a measure which had indeed, that notwithstanding the ge- been considered impolitic, he should neral strength and solidity of the fabric be supposed to act from the least disof their jurisprudence, and the distin- respect to that quarter, no person guished talent and integrity with which could feel more concern than he would. their laws have long been administer. But from all that he had observed ed, there are some parts of their sys. since the last consideration of the subtem which bear visible marks of the ject, he felt he should not be doing barbarism and folly of a ruder age. his duty if he did not bring the subThose who complain of such absurdi. ject under the attention of a new parties in the letter of the law, are told, liament. It would be in the recollecindeed, that every thing is well mana- tion of the House that in 1810 he had ged in practice, and that in the crimi. proposed to bring in three bills ; one nal code nothing can differ more than of which was to repeal the act of King the punishments denounced, and those William, which rendered it a capital which are actually put in execution offence to steal property to the amount against offenders. Yet even this apo. of five shillings privately in a shop ; logy seems, in a great measure, to ad. another to repeal the act of Queen mit the justice of the complaint. The Anne, which pronounced it a capital statute - book is disgraced by laws offence to steal to the value of forty which are not executed; the advanta. shillings in a dwelling house ; and the ges of a precise and written code are third to repeal the act of George II. needlessly relinquished, and a strong rendering it a capital offence to steal encouragement is held out to the most property to the same amount from on arbitrary proceedings. Among the board a vessel in a navigable river. eminent English lawyers of the present These bills were all passed in 181] by day, Sir Samuel Romilly has honour. that House, but were rejected by the ably distinguished himself by his exer- Lords. At the present moment he tions to improve the criminal code; should only move for leave to bring in and as he made another effort during that one which, in the former discusthe present session of parliament, it sions, was considered least objectionmay not be improper to present the able ; he alluded to that which related reader with the substance of the de- to stealing property to the value of bate which occurred with reference to five shillings in a dwelling house ; and this important subject.
the principle on which he should proOn the 7th February, Sir Samuel pose to introduce this bill, was preRomilly rose and said, “ he hoped cisely the same as that which he had that in again drawing the attention of before stated, namely, the inexpedithe House to a part of the general ency of penal laws existing which laws of the country, which he had al- were not intended to be executed. ready on a former occasion brought This inexpediency was strongly de. under their notice, he should not be monstrated by the returns of the cri. considered guilty of any impropriety. minal courts for London and MiddleThe bill which he at present meant to sex during the years 1805, 6, 7, 8, introduce was one which had twice and 9. He could not help here expassed that House ; but had been re- pressing his surprise that these returns jected in the House of Lords. No had not, in compliance with the order person had more respect for the quar. 'of the House, been made to a later ier from which opposition had come period. During these few years it