HC Deb 29 April 1814 vol 27 cc592-607

On the motion of sir Samuel Romilly for the committal of the Bill for rendering freehold estates subject to the payment of Simple Contract Debts;

Mr. Serjeant Best

argued against the measure as inexpedient and unnecessary; because it was owing rather to the neglect of creditors themselves than to the deficiency of the existing law, that their claims were not put into a proper shape to inforce their payment; namely, by rendering their claims what the law called "special." He would not therefore consent to alter a law of long establishment, in the existence of which the landed proprietors and the aristocracy were so much interested, and the character of which was sustained by so many high legal authorities. Besides, if the law were altered, by rendering freehold estates liable for simple contract debts, facilities would be afforded to young heirs to contract improvident debts, and, to fraudulent claimants also to press demands after the death of land-owners, for the payment of services which might be probably gratuitous; but which at alt events, the party being dead, it might be impossible for the heir to rebut by any satisfactory explanation. On these grounds, the learned gentleman concluded with moving, that the Bill be committed this day six months.

Mr. Preston

supported the Bill; and asked what was to become of the claims of creditors on simple contract debts where the debtor died prematurely, before the debts could be made special? He considered this measure as likely to produce great benefit, and liable to no just objection.

Sir Arthur Piggott

said, he would willingly contribute whatever aid he could towards the support of this Bill. The proposition upon which this Bill was founded appeared to him so plain, that it did not seem capable of being resisted. That men should contract debts, and not have their property liable to the payment of them, was so inconsistent with justice—was a thing so preposterous, that he wondered any person could be found hardy enough to support it. This was the second time in his parliamentary life, when an opportunity was afforded him of contributing his vote to remove from the law of the country that reproach to which it was so justly subject. Three centuries had now elapsed since the Statute of Wills enabled men to dispose of their property as they pleased, even so far as leaving it to persons not in the remotest degree connected with them, and the farthest removed from their natural affections; not even saving the rights of their heirs, or the rights of creditors. Such was the slow progress of legal improvement, that 151 years elapsed after this statute, before the Statute of Fraudulent Devises passed, in the year 1641, by which creditors were in some measure protected. For a space of 151 years, creditors remained in such a situation, that they might be disappointed by specialty; and, after that time, for 151 years more, a person might owe, if possible, a sum equal to the national debt, and, by avoiding certain solemnities in his contract, might dispose of his property so as altogether to disappoint his creditors. Ought the law, he would ask, to remain in such a situation as this? Since he was capable of considering the matter, his opinion open it never varied for one moment; nor did he see any thing in the arguments which he had heard, to remove the conviction on his mind, that the law ought not to remain in this state. At present, if a man did not found his contract upon a mortgage, and have his attorney at his elbow, with the wax and parchment upon the table, he was liable to give credit without any power of being paid, even though a person possessed ten times the amount of the debts he owed. And upon whom did this inconvenience fall? Was it not upon the honest and industrious tradesman?—upon the poor mechanic—not upon the great capitalist, or upon the money-lender, who knew very well they must have a specialty debt, or else they could not recover, and who took all the necessary precautions. It was not the debts of the latter that were made subject to any danger; it was the simple contract debts. The simple contract creditors were the persons who were precluded from payment, if the debtor should die without charging the debts upon his real property. Such were the inconveniences that resulted from the present state of the law. It was stated to be the duty of parliament to legislate for particular grievances as they arose. Was it meant to be asserted, that no practical grievances arose from the law as it now stood—that no tradesmen, no mechanics, lost their just debts, and with their debts lost their credit, and with their credit the means of supporting their families? It was invidious to allude to particular instances; but from his own experience in the courts of justice, he knew that when charges on real estate came to be administered in many instances, the creditors by simple contract were disappointed, though their demands were as just as if they had been contracted with all the solemnities of law. Were such things to be endured? He was lost in surprise when he considered that the law was suffered to remain in such a state to the present day; that in the year 1814 a man could have the power of disposing of his property in such a way as to avoid the payment of his just debts. Among the many incongruities which grew out of this system, he would only remark upon one. It was the practice to which the great men were obliged to have recourse, who presided in the courts of justice, from the time of lord Jefferies, under James the 2nd, down to the time of lord Rosslyn: they were driven to the necessity of supposing the will to contain expressions which were not in it; that the testator might, by that means, be obliged to do justice to his creditors. They all professed that they would go the utmost lengths to interpret the wills so as to do justice. This alone proved that the law was not in such a state that the testator could be compelled to do justice to his creditors. It may be asked, why it happened that this law was allowed to remain? The same question may be put with respect to other laws—why was so much time suffered to elapse before the statute against fraudulent devises was passed? Was it a less sacred duly to pay a simple contract debt of 50l. than a bond debt of great amount? It was the non-payment of these simple contract debts, that filled the gaols with unhappy persons, who were brought to misery by such foul and fraudulent transactions. It was surprising that the law was not repealed before—but it was better late than never. No inconvenience could result from the Bill. It was represented as the support of the aristocracy: he could not believe it. The aristocracy would disdain any such support. The son of a nobleman would, he was certain, disdain to inherit his father's estate, without the payment of his just debts; he would not injure his respectability by any such means. In the present state of society, when property of every kind was so unfettered, the law should not be suffered to stand. An Act had passed some time back, by which the real property of traders was subjected to the payment of their simple contract debts. Were it not for this law, contractors and others, who made their property by lending money, and, as a great man once expressed it in that House, "whose equipages shone like meteors, and whose palaces rose like exhalations," would be enabled to purchase estates to any amount, and at the same time disappoint their creditors. The law should be extended in the same way to the real property of persons not concerned in trade; and he would support it, not only by his vote in that House, but by any other means in which his influence could be exerted.

Mr. Wetherell

thought that the late innovations made, and endeavoured to be made, upon landed property, would give rise to much inconvenience.—In the principle of such a Bill as this, as it applied to traders, he willingly concurred. In consequence of the great increase of trade, and the importance of commerce to the country, such a law was necessary. One of his reasons for opposing the present Bill was, that, if they passed it, it would be soon found necessary to proceed further. It could not be said, that there was any practical inconvenience in this respect existing now, which had not existed for 300 years. It was said to be a proposition of morality, that men should pay their debts. That proposition, however, in many points, was to be limited by political expediency; and was actually so limited by the laws as they stood at present. A verbal promise to pay money was binding in foro conseientiæ, but it was not so by law. By the law as it stood now, creditors could not be permitted to take the whole rents and profits of a real estate, nor could land pass by mere verbal agreement. It required three witnesses to a will disposing of land, but money might be disposed of by an instrument completely unauthenticated. If the present Bill passed, it would have the effect of letting in a large class of spurious debts, to the injury of the honest creditor.—The question for the consideration of the House was, whether it was not better to permit the law to remain as it at present stood, than, by altering it, as his learned friend proposed, to do a little good, at the risk of creating a great deal of evil? Such an innovation would give rise to many fraudulent claims, which otherwise would not be thought of. The old adage, "Dead men tell no tales," could not be applied to any subject with more propriety than to this. For he was convinced, that, under the proposed innovation, claims and demands of a fraudulent nature would be set up against the estates of those who, by death, were prevented from resisting them. If they passed the Bill of his learned friend, they could not stop there—they would be obliged to sanction a variety of others. One of their first proceedings must be, to repeal the Statute of Frauds.—By it, claims were to be made within the space of three years; but, by his learned friend's Bill, the period was extended, under any circumstances whatever, to six years. It was not a proper way to look at the question, as a matter merely to be considered in foro conscientiæ—it should be treated as a question of civil policy. That question of civil policy was, whether the House ought to permit debts, after a man's decease, to be authenticated by mere parole testimony? If it were admitted, then they would open to usurers and money-lenders a door for the perpetration of fraud and injustice, and at the same time provide a pabulum for the dissipated and extravagant! It was very true, there were cir- cumstances, particularly in cases of sodden death, where the fair trader might not be able to procure his just and equitable demand from the estate of the debtor; but, in his opinion, the measure which his learned friend proposed to remedy the inconvenience, would produce considerably more mischief than that which it was intended to remove.

Mr. Stephen

said, his hon. and learned friend (sir Arthur Piggott) had, with all the eloquence and learning which he so eminently possessed, defended the Bill on the broad ground of justice, which required that the present law should no longer be suffered to exist. In answer to this, the learned gentleman (Mr. Wetherell) asked, "Can any mischief or inconvenience be now stated to rise from it, which has not existed for the last three or four hundred years?" If, however, the length of their duration were to be considered a sufficient reason for perpetuating grievances—if their antiquity were a plea sufficient to prevent their removal—then the learned gentleman himself had acted inconsistently; for he had given his assent to a measure brought into that House, some years ago, by his learned friend (sir S. Romilly), by which the estates of commercial men were made liable to the bankrupt laws. The arguments which he had applied to the present case, bore equally upon the former!—And, indeed, the very same objections might be advanced against the Statute of Frauds, important and salutary as it was allowed to be. The learned gentleman had observed, that moral principle ought not to be considered by itself in this case—but that it should be connected with views of political expediency. Were they, then, to put the cause of justice out of the way—were they indeed to forget every moral principle, because some question of political expediency intervened? The learned gentleman observed, that a man who entered into a verbal contract to sell his estate, could not be compelled to ratify that contract, if he did not please. Such conduct, he allowed, was perfectly unjust; but still the law supported him in thus acting; and, therefore, he inferred, that the law made morality bow its head to expediency. Now, the fact was quite contrary—the principle on which the Statute of Frauds proceeded was, not to prevent simple contracts from being enforced, but to guard against the reception of parole evidence, which might be improperly obtained. That law was not enacted to render simple contracts of no effect, but to prevent men from having false and surreptitious contracts set up against them. It was not introduced, as a matter of civil policy, opposed to morality; but it was, in truth, enacted to serve the interests of morality. The learned gentleman said, "If you permit simple contract claims to be made on the estate of a deceased person, you will let in a vast number of fraudulent demands—the property will be exhausted in the payment, not of just, but of unjust debts"—that is, of simple contract debts. Now, if this argument were good for any thing, it went directly to call upon them to enact, "That simple contract debts should not be paid at all."—But, where was the justice of permitting a man's goods and chattels to be seized, after his death, under that very species of evidence which the learned gentleman seemed to think dishonest; and yet to exempt his landed property from the payment of debts proved in a similar manner?—He might as well say at once, that no debt should in future be paid, except those which were termed specialty debts, where an instrument in writing had been given by the debtor to the creditor. The learned gentleman seemed to fear, that, if the Bill were passed, tradesmen would avail themselves of the opportunity which it would afford them, of making parole claims, without any just foundation. Now, he believed, the fact would be directly the reverse; and, he should be glad to know, who the persons were that usually made rapacious and unjust claims? Were they made by tradesmen? He believed not. The very worst species of creditors, he was convinced, would be found among, that class of persons, money-lenders and usurers, who came forward with their deeds and bonds! Would a young and extravagant heir, who expected to come into the possession of a plentiful estate very speedily—would such a person, if he wanted money, refuse to put his hand to a bond, however disadvantageous the terms demanded of him? It was thus the usurer dealt—he took care to have a written security—and, in proportion to the dishonesty of the transaction, people of that description were more and more cautious. But the case of the fair trader was completely different. He, confiding in his own integrity and uprightness, did not think it necessary to demand such securities. But, was he therefore to be prevented from recovering his just and legal demands? The learned gentleman dilated a good deal on the circumstance, that no compulsion could make an individual become a creditor; and that, when he did so, he acted willingly. Now, he should have recollected, that there were involuntary creditors. What would he say to the devastavit of an executor—or, to lay aside technical terms, where an executor misapplied the money intrusted to his care—this was a simple contract debt. And yet, as the law now stood, although, by such misconduct, the executor might reduce to want and misery those whose interests were intrusted to his care; and though he might leave behind him a plentiful estate, for his own family—yet, such was the injustice of the system, that the debt thus dishonourably contracted could not be recovered from that estate! There was also another case, which applied to the observation upon voluntary creditors. That was, where a person, empowered to sell out stock for another, made use of it for his own purposes. This also was a simple contract debt; and although it might be recovered from the estate of a person in business, and therefore subject to the bankrupt laws; yet, if the individual who acted thus fraudulently did not come under the denomination of a trader, it could not, on his demise, be charged upon his estate. Was it not shameful, was it not deplorable, that such flagrant abuses were suffered to exist in a great commercial country? Such was the immorality and injustice of the system, that a man, who could not recover his simple contract debt on the estate of his deceased debtor, might be sent to prison for debt incurred by himself, which he was prevented from discharging, in consequence of his inability to procure that which was due to him. He did not think there ought to be that leaning towards the landed aristocracy of the country, highly respectable as it was, which should call upon the House to continue that which was manifestly unjust. And, when he said that, he felt convinced, that the landed proprietors, the country gentlemen themselves, did not wish for that species of support. Their importance in the country, and the respect which was due to them, were not founded on such an immunity as this; but on their own honourable, manly, independent, and patriotic character! Such a system as that which the learned gentleman supported did not exist in the colonies. Freehold estates were there amenable to the payment of simple contract debts; and the precedent was worthy of particular notice—for, where an estate had attached to it 2 or 300 human beings, the transfer of the property must be attended with more afflicting circumstances than could possibly happen in this country. Why, he would ask, should the property of every class in society, except those who were termed gentlemen, be chargeable with simple contract debts? Why should a rule be laid down for the protection of men, who, as it were, made their fathers sin in their graves? It might be said, that this system tended to prevent estates from travelling out of the direct line of inheritance. But, in his mind, the conduct of individuals, who were capable of committing such injustice, would he visited by the displeasure of Providence, and the inheritance would ultimately depart from the posterity of those by whom it was originally enjoyed.—He supported the measure with all his heart—for there did not appear to him to be any difference between the true policy of the case, and its admitted morality.

Mr. Lockhart

said, when his learned friend (sir S. Romilly) first brought forward this measure, it struck him, that it could not be opposed, except on the ground of some great public inconvenience being likely to arise from it. In consequence of this, be examined the Statute of Frauds, which supplied him with the same powerful argument in support of the Bill, that his learned friend (Mr. Stephen) had already submitted to the House. He had next looked into the Statute of Fraudulent Devises, which was drawn up by men of very great ability; he there found it enacted, that debts should be paid out of the estates of men deceased; but its provisions did not extend to any but specialty debts—simple contract debts were not recognized by it.—It appeared to him, therefore, that, in making this distinction, the great men who had framed the Act, were influenced by some very grave and important considerations. He therefore proceeded to a gentleman, of very great experience, in the Master's Office in Chancery, and enquired, "Whether, where a man devised his estate for the payment of his debts, in general, he had ever known any public inconvenience to arise from the disposal of the property?" He was answered, "Never." He next enquired. "Whether, where persons proved their debts, by their own oaths, he was aware of any evil having ever resulted?" The answer was, "No; because, where the debt was opposed, the oath of the party was not sufficient to procure its discharge—he most substantiate his demand, in that case, by additional evidence; and, where a doubt existed, it was customary to direct an issue to be tried in a court of law; to settle the disputed point." Now, if no inconvenience had been created by this process, where it bad been tried, he could see no reason to induce him to withdraw his assent from the further progress of the Bill, which was sanctioned both by morality and expediency. He wished, however, to ask his learned friend (sir S. Romilly), what public inconvenience he dreaded, which prevented him from providing in his Bill, that the estates of persons, which were not devised, should be legal assets, as well as those which were?—Was it to avoid the multiplicity of actions that might arise?—(Sir Samuel Romilly motioned that it was.)—If that were the case, as his learned friend intimated, then any suggestions of his were unnecessary.—He also wished to know, whether, from the manner in which the measure was framed, there existed any danger, by a simple contract creditor's filing his bill, of incumbering the title of the heir-at-law?—(Sir Samuel Romilly intimated that there was not.)—Having received a favourable answer to both his enquiries, he felt himself called upon to oppose the amendment of the learned gentleman.

The Solicitor General

said, he felt exactly in the same situation as his learned friend (Mr. Wetherell), who had preceded him. Great names were certainly arrayed in favour of the measure; yet, however diffident he might be, in standing forward against such acknowledged ability, he felt himself conscientiously called upon to oppose the farther progress of the Bill. Exercising his own discretion on the subject, he must say, that his judgment dissented from the argument adduced by the gentlemen who had supported the measure. If it were a matter personal to himself, after having heard the opinions delivered by men of so much learning and experience, even if he thought that they were not perfectly right, still he would rather have deferred to their judgment, than have implicitly followed his own; then he might, without imputation, sacrifice his private opinion; but, as a member of parliament, he stood there to give to his constituents, and to the public, the reasons which influenced his vote. The object of the present Bill was, to remove one of those landmarks, by which the descent of real property, from ancestors to their posterity, had been guided from a very ancient period—and to make it liable to simple contract debts, to the payment of which it never had been subject, from the earliest times to the present day; and he did not think, that any one of the cases put by the gentlemen who supported the measure, rendered it at all necessary to invade that long-established rule. Those gentlemen who spoke in favour of the alteration seemed to think that the statute of Fraudulent Devises was an innovation sufficient to sanction what they now proposed.—The fact was very different.—That statute operated to restore the right which the creditor had, at a former period, under the common law. Before the reign of Henry 8, by statute staple, by recognizance, &c. the claim of the creditor was a lien on the real property of the debtor—after whose death, he had a right to receive his share of the proceeds, on distribution. The Act of Henry 8, gave to every man the right of devising his property to a stranger; this was the destruction of the right the creditor previously possessed, under the common law—but, when the statute of king William was passed, it subjected the land to the same lien, in the hands of the devisee, as in those of the heir at law; in other words, it restored the ancient right of the creditor to his lien on real property. It said to the debtor, "You shall not, by the right the law gives you to dispose of your property, defeat that lien, which the creditor had before the law gave yon an opportunity of evading his demand." The Act of Henry 8 was an innovation on the common law; but that of king William brought back the ancient right of the creditor, and, therefore, was not an innovation. That being the case, it by no means warranted the alteration proposed by the present Bill; but, on the contrary, afforded the strongest argument against it—unless it was contended, that they were not to be guided by those who had gone before them. It did appear to him, that the legislature, in the time of king William, did go as far as they thought they could proceed with safety, when they made the estate, in the hands of the devisee, equally liable as if it were in the hands of the heir at law. The statement made by his learned friend (sir A. Piggott), that, in the court of Chancery, the greatest extent possible was given to the words of persons who had devised their estates for the payment of their debts, did not apply here. In those cases, the court of Chancery, and the courts of law, would look astutely to the words of the devisor, to see what his intention was, that it might be carried into effect. It was, however, said, that all the chancellors, from chancellor Jefferies down to lord Rosslyn, had expressed themselves in favour of charging simple contract debts upon real property. For the purpose of benefiting the simple contract creditor alone, they were stated to have examined, with the utmost minuteness, the terms of every devise.—But, if that were the fact, it was most extraordinary, that, during this whole period, not one of those chancellors, many of whom sat in the other House of Parliament, where alterations of the law often originated, had ever brought forward, or suggested, any measure, or even stated the propriety of a measure, for rendering real property subject to this species of debt. When he called the attention of the House to the antiquity of the present system, he did not mean to say, that antiquity alone should be considered as a safeguard. But, when a measure had existed, as he might say, "from all time," when, in consequence, the evils supposed to arise from it, must have come under the consideration of courts of justice, year after year, and yet no measure was proposed to the legislature to remedy these supposed defects—he thought it would induce the House to pause, and weigh the matter most seriously, before they determined on removing one of the great land-marks affecting the descent of real property. He admitted, and certainly no person would attempt to controvert the truth of the position, that every man was bound, by a moral obligation, to pay his debts. But this, as well as many other obligations in society, was imperfect. And it might not be good policy to enforce the performance of an act (though in foro conscientiæ, such a proceeding might seem proper), when it involved principles of general expediency. Thus, he could not allow, because it was a moral obligation for a man to pay his debts, that, therefore, they should break down the law of property, and render the person in possession liable for what his predecessors owed. If they did alter the law of landed property, why not at once give the sheriff an opportunity of selling the estate, in the same way that he would dispose of any other, species of property? By the present law, a creditor was permitted to receive half the rents and profits of his debtor's estate, till his demand was liquidated. But why not suffer him to take the whole?—The moral obligation was, that he should pay all his debts; and it extended as much to his entire estate, as to a moiety of it. At present, in order to substantiate a charge upon the landed property, it was necessary that an obligation of a highly solemn nature should be entered into, or that the judgment of some court should have been obtained.—This was considered very hard on the creditor.—But could they forget that the debtor and creditor entered into the contract together? There was no compulsion. The creditor knew the terms—and he was not obliged to give credit. It was said, that every man ought to know the law. This, with respect to some laws, would, he thought, be requiring too much. But, he believed, there were very few men, who did not, know, when they gave credit, that it was only on the personal security, on the personal property, of the debtor that it was given. Whether a man would or would not comply with a demand for credit, was the subject of a simple question. But, when once an individual thought fit to lend, on particular and specific terms, of which he could not be ignorant, what right had he to complain that the law granted him no more? Why should he demand a greater extent of indulgence, when it was in his own power, originally, if he chose, not to sell his goods, unless under a special contract? Among traders, real property had been made liable to simple contract debts; but the reason was, that they were obliged, amongst each other, to give credit—it could not be avoided. This system of granting extensive credit, was said to be absolutely necessary in this great commercial country;—for his own part, he thought differently—and he looked upon it as one of the greatest evils in society. They had often heard of the unfair debtor ruining the honest creditor—but he could not avoid looking at the creditor, in many instances, as tempting and enticing the thoughtless and giddy to become indebted to him.—The prevalence of giving credit among the trading class struck him as the source of many mischiefs—but, whether it was so or not, the question, for them to decide was, whether they should alter the law of real property in this country—whether those laws, under which they had lived so long, under which property had been enjoyed for ages, had produced such crying evils, as rendered their abrogation necessary?—He was of opinion that they had not; and, therefore, he should vote for the amendment.

Mr. D. Giddy

said a few words against the Bill, as one likely to augment the facilities of obtaining credit; and to excite, in tradesmen, an increased avidity to grant it, when they knew that real property was rendered liable for debts.

Sir S. Romilly

said, that much of what he intended to have urged in behalf of the measure, was anticipated by the gentlemen who preceded him. If those who opposed the present measure were right in their opposition, they ought to move for the repeal of that Act by which the estates of traders were made subject to the bankrupt laws, because the same arguments applied in the one case with equal propriety as in the other. A learned friend of his had said, that lord Kenyon and the earl of Rosslyn were both of opinion, that no alteration should be made in the present system—and that, from his respect for those great men, he would oppose the passing of the intended Bill. In this instance, he thought his learned friend's respect for great names was carried to a very unusual extent indeed. But it so happened, that the opinion of lord Rosslyn was directly the other way. His lordship, in the case of Perry, 4th Vesey, jun. said to the counsel—"I wish I could adopt your principle—if I could go so far, I would go farther. It would be desirable that the estate should be liable to the payment of all simple contract debts."—Mr. Justice Blackstone spoke on the subject in a most decided way; and he was not a man likely to remove any of the land marks of the constitution. Speaking of the powers of a court of equity, he thus expressed himself—"Hard is the common law; still declaring, that land devised or descending to the heir, shall not be liable to the simple contract debts of the ancestor or devisor; although the money was laid out in purchasing the very land; and that the father shall never immediately succeed as heir to the real estate of the son. But a court of equity can give no relief; though in both these instances, the artificial reason of the law, arising from feodal principles, has long ago entirely ceased." Lord Macclesfield also held similar sentiments. In construing the terms of a devise, he favoured the payment of simple contract debts—observing, that the court of Chancery ought not to be necessary to making a man a knave against his will. Sir Samuel then proceeded to point out the reason why the moiety of the rents, and not the whole, were at present received by the creditor. Under the feudal system, a tenant was prevented from changing, without the consent of his lord. But, by Magna Charta, for the first time, a man was allowed to alienate a part of his estate, leaving sufficient to enable him to do service to his lord; and, for that purpose, a moiety was considered enough. The law had it not in contemplation to preserve landed property entire; and, indeed, it did no such thing—for, by the present system, if two creditors sued out judgment, on two bonds, each of them might take a moiety of the estate.—To trace the origin of such laws, required a man to be an antiquary—although he had no doubt, many gentlemen admired them very highly who were quite ignorant of their origin. Sir Samuel then showed by historical detail, that the cause which produced this law had ceased to exist for many centuries, and that that cause was not by any means what gentlemen on the other side had contended it to be. The facility of credit he thought a most fallacious argument; as if the creditor would be less influenced by the power of immediate arrest, and consequent judgment, than by the hope of coming upon the estate after the death of a person of youth and good health. He very much feared that some of his hon. and learned friends had deceived themselves upon this subject; and said, that in another place he sometimes deceived himself by the argument to which he was obliged to resort. He should state a case to the House, of a gentleman who had borrowed a sum of money which enabled him to purchase real property to the amount of 13,000l. per annum. This gentleman died without having paid one shilling of the loan which had enabled him to make the purchase; but, fortunately, the Act so frequently alluded to during the debate was in force at the time. A bankrupt, secreting his property, was treated as a murderer; whilst other persons, whose act was morally the same, were encircled with respect and splendour. The bankrupt was led to the place of execution; whilst the person, whose non-payment of his debt had caused the bankrupt's ruin, sat, perhaps, witnessing from his window, without remorse or pity, this appalling scene of human suffering and shame. He was surprised to hear those tradesmen and artificers, "to whose wealth and industry (said sir S. Romilly) many of us owe our stations in the House and in the country," represented by some of his hon. and learned friends as no better than swindlers.

A division took place on the question, that the Speaker do leave the chair.—Ayes 61; Noes 37.—The Bill then went through a committee, and was ordered to be reported on Monday.

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