HC Deb 28 January 1812 vol 21 cc379-81
Lord Folkestone

, in pursuance of his notice, rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to extend the provisions of the Act of the 51st of his Majesty to Mary Ann Dix, whose case had lately been brought before the House (see p. 295.) and other persons similarly situated, under the writ 'de excommunicato capiendo.' Acts of the same description as the 51st of his Majesty had been at different times passed, most of which contained a clause for the relief of persons committed for contempt, for non-payment of costs, and those who were suffering imprisonment under the writ he had just mentioned. This clause had not, however, been inserted last year, which he believed, had originated in mistake. To rectify that error was the object of his present motion. He here thought it necessary to say one or two words, in consequence of what had fallen from a right hon. and learned friend of his (sir William Scott), in the course of the debate on a former evening. He regretted, that he was obliged to speak in the absence of that right hon. gentleman; particularly as that absence, he understood, was occasioned by indisposition. The right hon. gentleman, in the progress of his speech, had cast some aspersions, if he might use the term, on the character of the gentleman, from whom he (lord F.) was supposed to have derived some of his information on the subject of the Ecclesiastical Courts. He felt it his duty to say, that the terms in which that person was mentioned, were perfectly unfounded, and perfectly unjust. The original case was not introduced from any feeling of hostility towards those courts. It had been first mentioned to him (lord F.) by some most respectable inhabitants of Bristol, from feelings of humanity—that assistance might be extended to an unfortunate woman; and the person who had been alluded to, was applied to for information; as, having practised in those courts; he was acquainted with their constitution. He was called on, and did not officiously press forward. The noble lord said he made this statement, that the character of the individual who had been thus harshly treated, should be set right in the opinion of his fellow citizens in Bristol. He had been actuated by no motives of malignity—feelings which were most foreign front his mind. And he felt convinced, if the right hon. gentleman were present, he would concur in rendering justice to au individual, who had been hastily injured. The noble lord then moved for leave to bring in a Bill to alter and amend the said act.

The Hon. Mr. Herbert

said he was requested, in the absence of his right hon. friend (sir W. Scott) to set him right with the House on this subject. Considering the motion of the noble lord as likely to be of very great benefit to the country, he should be very sorry that any thing should be said detrimental to the person, through whose information the subject had been brought before parliament. The fact was, his right hon. and learned friend conceived, at the moment, that the information had been given by some discontented proctor, and the papers with which the noble lord had favoured him, but which were not before the House, exhibited, as he thought, much professional ignorance, joined with an intention to blazon forth trifles to an extent which they did not deserve. Under this impression the words had been made use of. He had only to add, that if, in the warmth of a debate, into which his right hon. and learned friend had been dragged, he had said any thing offensive, no person could regret it more than he did.

Mr. W. Smith

said he understood from a quarter totally unconnected with his noble friend, that there was not a more respectable person in Bristol, than the one alluded to. He was sure, if the right hon. gentleman who was now absent had known him he would never have permitted such words to drop from his lips.

Leave was given to bring in the Bill.

Lord Folkestone

then moved, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to alter and amend the Act of the 39th of the King, for making perpetual an act of 33 Geo. 3, for the further relief of debtors, with respect to the imprisonment of their persons; and to oblige debtors, who shall continue in execution in prison beyond a certain time, and for sums not exceeding what are mentioned in the Act, to make discovery, and deliver upon oath, their estates for their creditors' benefit.—Leave was given; and his lordship soon afterwards brought in the Bills, which were read a first time.