HC Deb 02 July 1807 vol 9 cc721-9
Mr. W. Adam rose

to make his promised motion on the above subjects. He entered into a description of the office of Sheriff Depute in Scotland. It was a selection of local jurisdiction of the highest importance, and one in which it was extremely necessary that the duty should be performed with as much dispatch as possible. The Shrievalties of Sutherland and Caithness were formerly united, but, in consequence of the inaccessibility of the former county, it had been deemed necessary to separate them and to appoint a sheriff for each. This occasioned an expense of only 350l. a year. Sutherland was a county containing 26,000 inhabitants, and he appealed to all who knew Scotland, whether the appointment of a separate Sheriff Depute did not stand recommended on public grounds of advantage. He then explained the situation of the counties of Kinross and Clackmannan, neither of which had a Sheriff Depute. The Sheriff Depute of Stirling had jurisdiction in Clackmannan, and the Sheriff Depute of Fife in Kinross. In the latter county, as long as he remembered, the Sheriff Depute never did himself discharge the duty of his office, but appointed a substitute for that purpose, who, though a very respectable man, possessed no legal information. It became necessary to remedy these evils, and on public principles of utility, Sheriffs Depute were appointed for those two counties of Clackmannan and Kinross. To effect this, it became necessary to obtain the formal resignations of the Sheriffs of Fife and Stirling, who were afterwards re-appointed with their salaries.—He next proceeded to the subject of the warrant for granting a pension to lord Cullen, and expressed his regret that the sub- ject should come forward in the present shape, more especially, as on that day, or on the next, the barons of the Courts of Exchequer in Scotland would come to a determination upon it. He passed the highest eulogium on his noble friend, and declared, that a more enlightened scholar, a more profound lawyer, a more agreeable companion, and a more perfect gentleman, never existed. He would shortly state the circumstances under Which the warrant was granted, and he was sure, he should satisfy the house that what was proposed to be done, was not more than what ought to be done. In Oct. 1805, he received an intimation from lord Cullen, that having spent a day with the Duke of Portland, at Bulstrode, his grace expressed a wish to Communicate with him (Mr. Adam) on the subject of a pension for lord Cullen for life, with a reversion to his wife. The change of administration, which soon after took place, prevented the completion of this business. In 1806, it was natural for lord Cullen, who had been connected with the late administration, to bring his case again under consideration. He did not contend that in any case, it was fit to grant a pension to a Judge for life, but he contended that the crown should have the power of doing so, and he contended, that in cases in which a Judge was involuntarily involved in embarrassments, it was incumbent on the crown to endeavour to relieve him. Lord Cullen was the eldest son of D. Cullen, one of the greatest men that Scotland ever produced, and who had raised the reputation of the Medical School of Edinburgh, to the height which it then stood. Dr. Cullen, however, died poor, and left a large family; the younger branches of that family were in a great measure provided for by the public; but lord Cullen, the eldest son, could not guard himself from the effect of the embarrassments which descended to him front his father, and was in consequence obliged to give up two-thirds of the revenue of his Situation, to relieve himself in some degree from those embarrassments. Those circumstances were taken into consideration by the late ministers, and there was every reason to suppose that in August last the affair was completed. However owing to the official delays, the warrant for granting a pension of 400l. a year to lord Cullen for life, with a provision of 200l. a year to Mrs. Cullen, was one of the last acts of the late administration. From that period until Monday last he had heard nothing more about it. He had no idea that the warrant was for any thing else but a provision for life; he was sure lord Grenville Meant it to be for life. If when the grant was produced it should appear on the face of it, that it was during pleasure, he would contend that it was an error; the very circumstance of the reversion must shew it was an error. As he had before mentioned, the Barons of the Court of Exchequer in Scotland, were at this time employed in considering the subject, and he deeply regretted that it had been mentioned in the house of commons, until their report had been made. As it was, however, he thought it his duty to move that an humble address be presented to his majesty, that he will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before the house copies of the appointments of the sheriff depute of the county of Sutherland, and of the sheriff depute of the counties of Clackmannan and Kinross; and also of the warrant granting a pension to lord Cullen, one of the senators of the college of justice; together with copies of all representations and official correspondence relating thereto.

The Lord Advocate of Scotland

was desirous, that the letters and applications of the Sheriffs Depute for these counties should be laid before the house. Without meaning to throw any imputation on the respectable individuals who had occupied the new offices, he termed their appointment an unnecessary or wanton expense. To prove this, he entered into a history of the sheriffs depute of Scotland; they were divided into 5 classes; each class receiving a salary proportionate to its labour; by the new arrangements, the sheriff of Sutherland, who was placed in the last class but one, because no peculiar difficulty attended his situation, was to receive a higher salary than some of those in the first class. The sheriffs of Stirling and Fife had, it seems, resigned, to gave an opportunity for the new arrangements. He would like to know if they were not solicited to do so. With respect to the pension granted to lord Cullen, he would not follow the learned gent. in his detail on that subject, but he was surprised that if it was thought advisable to take such a step, it was not done in such a manner as to preclude the necessity of bringing it under the consideration of the house of common. He concluded by some severe remarks on the creation by his majesty's late ministers of two new professorships in the University Of Edinburgh—that of Medical Jurisprudence, and that of Military Surgery.

Mr. C. Wynne

defended the institution of the two new professorships. There was scarcely a college on the continent, which had not long had a professor of medical jurisprudeuce, and the advantages of having a distinct professor of military surgery were obvious.

Mr. Cochrane Johnstone

declared, that a more honest, upright, and able judge than Mr. Williamson, the Sheriff Depute of Stirling, could not exist. He happened to be with him when he received a letter from lord Spencer, requiring him to resign, protempore, in order that a distinct sheriff might be appointed for Clackmannan. Mr. Williamson declared to him, that such an appointment was wholly unnecessary, and exclaimed, in his Northern dialect, "Gude God, Maister Johnstone, did you ever see sic a job!" (A laugh.) With respect to the pension granted to lord Cullen, the reversion. to Mrs. Cullen was a gross insult to the morals and feelings of the people of Scotland.

Mr. R. Dundas

never heard of the least necessity for the appointment of the new sheriffs. As to lord Cullen's pension, the character of that learned lord certainly stood very high; but when he was thus selected from a body of men, and shewn peculiar indulgencies, he thought if indispensible that more specific grounds should be stated for such a measure than what had hitherto been advanced.

Mr. Laing

defended the appointment of the sheriffs. The question was not, whether the sheriffs of Stirling and Fife declared that there was nothing to do in Clackmannan and Kinross, but whether the people of Clackmannan and Kinross were satisfied with the sheriffs not coming there to do any thing for them. He had never understood that lord Cullen was a very particular friend to the last administration, and he could not therefore see the justice of imputing the grant which he had received to party motives. Adverting to the arguments urged by a learned lord against the appointment of the two new professorships at Edinburgh, he observed, that similar arguments might have been applied with equal force against the appointment of Dr. Blair, as Regius Professor of the Belles Lettres; or of Dr. Walker, as Regius Professor of Natural History. Those appointments might as well be called jobs as the present; but he confessed he was not surprised, that men who had belonged to an administration the most unfriendly to literature that ever existed, and by whom genius of every description had been left to pine in want—he was not surprised that such men should condemn conduct so opposite to their own.

The Marquis of Titchfield

expressed his belief that the duke of Portland was not acquainted with the particulars of the transaction which was then the subject of debate.

Mr. W. Dundas

defended the appointment of the sheriffs. In Sutherland, in consequence of the distance of the residence of the sheriffs, justice was not delayed but not done. The country was 80 miles from sea to sea, 50 miles in the other direction; had a population of 26,000 inhabitants, and ought to have a particular sheriff. Lord Reay, who had a large property in it, had intreated him for the last five years to procure that alteration, and he lamented that whilst he had the opportunity from his Connexion with ministers, he had not endeavoured to accomplish so desirable an object. He had said thus much just to give a warning to the right hon. gentlemen opposite, that if they meant this women's war of recrimination, for the purpose of gaining popularity, they would not find it succeed.

The Solicitor General

for Scotland contended that the duties of the shrievalty were now as before done by deputy, and that eminent person who had been appointed sheriff of Sutherland resided in Edinburgh, and could not have given his presence in the county for the time required by act of parliament. As the matter had been brought before the house he thought it right to be fully, fairly, and thoroughly sifted, and therefore he moved as an amendment, That there be also laid before the house copies of all official correspondence upon the subject.

Mr. Croker

thought that literary merit ought to be rewarded in the usual way. He was not a friend to giving indirect rewards for direct services.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

did not think the public would derive much advantage from these discussions, but the right hon. gent. who represented them as women's war of recrimination, should not lose sight of the side from which the attack was made. He should look to those who sent forth charges of attempts to raise false cries, and wished no peculation to go to the country as their cry, as if they were all purity, and their opponents the advocates of peculation. He had observed, in the late administration, that they made great professions, without any corresponding performances, and attempted to gain popularity with the public upon false pretences. Under these circumstances, the public would derive as much advantage from the recrimination, as from the attack. The appointment of the sheriffs for Sutherland had been proposed to Mr Pitt,but he refused to accede to the alteration. The grant of a pension during pleasure to a judge was not only dangerous to the independence of the judicature but contrary to law. He had introduced these facts to the house on a former night only to shew, that the house ought to pause before they would appoint a committee, in which those gentlemen would have a preponderating influence who thought with the late ministers.

Mr. H. Martin

was extremely happy to find that he had the approbation of a right hon. gent. on the other side (Mr. Rose) whose name was so proverbial as an enemy to all jobs! That right hon. gent. could, he was well convinced, be very serviceable to the country, if he was to devote his time to an endeavour to make out discoveries of this nature, and if he had the support of parliament, the Country would not say that this was a woman's war. He was not himself, he confessed, so capable of defending against an accusation of this sort as those who had spent 14 years in extending the power of France. But on Tuesday next all these independent gentlemen would have an opportunity of testifying their zeal for the detection of abuses, by supporting the motion of a noble lord (Cochrane) for a list of those members who held pensions, places, &c. either in person or by other branches of their family.

Mr. Canning ,

in a strain of irony, lamented his ability to rise, after the very able, precise, and formal speech of the learned gent. However, the necessity of the new appointments of sheriffs, he confessed he did not see to be very clearly made out, neither was the term of Medical jurisprudence, very accurately defined. And the matter of the pension to lord Cullen was still less satisfactorily explained. As the learned gent. had not given him the most ample satisfaction upon the whole, he should vote in support of the motion for the production of the papers.

Mr. Rose

got up in great Warmth and alluded to what had been said by the learned gent. (Mr. Martin.) If the hon. and learned gent., said he, thinks he can put me down by any such insinuations as he has just made, he will find himself mistaken. He says that my name is connected with jobs, I dare that hon. and learned gent. to shew the instance in any part of my life in which I was con- nected with any jobs. All the rewards I have receive from the public are known to the public. I never put the public to the expence of a single shilling that is not publicly known. Whether I am under or over rewarded is another question. Over rewarded I have been, I am willing to admit; but still I say, that the public have not been put to a single shilling of expence on my account, that is not publicly known. If I had concealed any reward that I had from the public, I should think myself the most scandalous person in this country.

Mr. Martin

said, he hoped he had spoken under and within the rules and orders of the house, since he was not checked by the chair; and while he was in that order, he should convey his ideas to the house in the manner which appeared to him the most fit.

Mr. Windham

thought the house had heard pleasantry too long pursued, and fury too much indulged in the course of this debate. Of accusations generally and loosely made, no one disapproved mere than himself; but they were not to be got rid of by abandoning the subject in discussion. The questions here were not to be gotten rid of by the species of declamation in which the right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer had indulged. When he talked, in lofty terms, of having his eye on the late administration, that he would strip off their mask, and made use of such expressions, the right hon. gent. reminded him of a considerable person of the last age, and to whom during his life considerable attention was paid by the public; he meant Mr. Pope. He had as pompously written concerning his power of exposing others as the right hon. gent. had spoken: Yes; while I live, no rich ignoble knave Shall walk the world in credit to his grave. These words made some noise, and they were alarming to some persons at the time when they were written, but they were now considered as perfectly ridiculous. He cautioned the right hon. gent. against the same sort of ridicule, which would overtake him sooner than it did Pope. If the late administration had acted in any manner by which public interest had been sacrificed to private favour—if they had, for the sake of serving their own friends, done that which was injurious to the public—if they had given away that which nothing but merit could deserve, and bestowed it on their favourites without merit—let the facts be exposed, and the party brought to shame; but let not the minds of the members of the house be led away by vague and general declamation. As to the appointments of sheriffs to the counties of Sutherland and Caithness, the measure on the face of it carried so clearly its own propriety with it, that it rather was the business of those who opposed it to shew why it should not take place, than that those who favoured it should shew why it should; and the only question which he thought could be put on this part of the case, as it regarded the late administration, was, whether the appointments were made fairly and bonâ fide. As to the pension to lord Cullen, it was clearly intended to have been a grant for life. As to the science of Medical jurisprudence, he had only to observe, that it was known to every university in Europe, and it would be a reproach to us to be ignorant of it; for these reasons he was favourable to the motion now before the house.

Mr. Huskisson

wished to know, whether it was by intention or mistake that the precedents in the case of the grant of pensions to lords Loughborough, Eldon, and Redesdale, were departed from in the grant to Mr. Ponsonby late Chancellor for Ireland. In the former cases, the pension was to cease in case the noble lords should again be placed in the same office, or in any other of equal profit; but this limitation was left out of the grant to Mr. Ponsonby; so that if their project, that gentleman would again probably have the seals without his pension being discontinued.

Lord H. Petty

had signed the warrant by virtue of which Mr. Ponsonby was to enjoy his pension. He had signed it under the impression that it was similar to the warrants for granting pensions to the other chancellors, and would not have signed it under any other impression.

Mr. Adam

vindicated all the circumstances that attended the pension of lord Cullen: he was intimately acquainted with them all, and was the person with whom the duke of Portland and lord Cullen had communicated upon that subject. As to the pension operating as a corrupt motive on the mind of lord Cullen, no man of any administration would venture to assert it. The same propriety he might assert, presided in the choice of the professorships, in the Universities of Scotland, and he would defy the gentlemen opposite to say, that under and former administration, such impartiality had been observed.—The motion was then agreed to.