HC Deb 21 February 1823 vol 8 cc188-92
Lord Folkestone

said, he held in his hand the petition of a gentleman of the name of Thomson, to which he wished to call the particular attention of the House. The case of this gentleman was one of extreme hardship; and although gentlemen might have some difficulty in making up their minds as to the mode of giving relief, he thought, when they had attended to the case, they would almost unanimously agree that something ought to be done for him. He thought the House would agree, that this was a case in which the petitioner was entitled to relief; for he had been involved in these difficulties by no fault or extravagance of his own, but by the delays of the court of chancery, and the depreciation which had taken place in the value of property. The hon. member for Hertfordshire had come to him (lord F.) in the course of the preceding day, and stated, that he did not think this by any means a case of hardship; for that Mr. Thomson had made a wild, improvident purchase, and that his misfortunes were the necessary consequences of his own rash speculations. He had made inquiries with a view to ascertaining the correctness of this statement, and he would leave the House to judge from the petition itself, whether the case of the petitioner was that of a rash speculator in land, who had no claim to relief.—The petition was from Charles Andrew Thomson, of Chiswick, in the county of Middlesex; and the allegations of it were as follow:— "That your petitioner has, for many years past, paid large sums of money, out of the produce of his industry, for the support of the government and laws of the country; that he has always been taught to believe, that, in return for this support, he had a right to expect from the government and laws protection in the rightful enjoyment of his property; but that he has, by that government and by those laws, been despoiled of his property, and that, from a state of opulence, he has, by the unjust effects and irresistible force of acts of parliament, been reduced to a state of ruin and bankruptcy.

"That your petitioner imputes no intentional wrong-doing to your honourable House, or to any branch of the government; that to err is not to be criminal; that it is not given to man to be free from error; that from error wrong may innocently be committed; and that of that obstinate perseverance in error, which converts unintentional wrong into premeditated injustice, your petitioner confidently hopes that he is not doomed to witness an instance in the conduct of your honourable House.

"That your honourable House has not now to be informed of the mighty mischiefs resulting from the measures for returning to cash payments, unaccompained as they unhappily were with measures for rectifying contracts; that the cries of thousands upon thousands of families, suddenly plunged into penury and want, from a state of ease and of plenty, cannot fail to have reached the ears and to have awakened the compassion of your honourable House; but that, amongst the thousands upon thousands of sufferers, your petitioner believes, that the case of few can exceed, in hardship and injustice, that to which he now most earnestly begs the attention of your honourable House.

"That your petitioner and his father (now deceased) were Oporto merchants for thirty years, and in the most extensive trade; that, in this trade, and in that of wine merchant, in which your petitioner's father had been for many years previous to those thirty, they gained a large fortune; and that in 1811 and 1812 they, with a part of their capital, made divers purchases of land.

"That they purchased the estate of Northaw, in Hertfordshire, for which they paid, in ready money, 62,000l.; on which estate they built two excellent new houses and six cottages, and broke up 200 acres of land, which they brought into a state of fine cultivation; that the whole of these improvements cost them 10,000l., and that the estate, therefore, has cost them 72,000l.

"That in 1812 your petitioner and his father bargained for the estate of Pontrylas, in Herefordshire, for 60,000l., the proprietor of which estate was John Ashfordby Trenchard, doctor of divinity, of Highworth, in the county of Wilts, and paid 5,555l. as a deposit; that the title was by the law adviser of your petitioner deemed not good, and that your petitioner accordingly refused to complete the purchase, and brought an action for the deposit; that the vender applied to the court of chancery to stop the action; that the question remained undecided in that court until 1819, during which time your petitioner had not the power to sell the estate; that at the end of that period the vice-chancellor decided against your petitioner; that there was then due to Trenchard for purchase money and interest thereon, 71,957l. 19s. 5d. and from Trenchard to your petitioner for rents received 6,839l. 1s. 9d. making a balance against your petitioner of 65,118l. 17s. 8d.

"That in the mean time your petitioner had experienced great reverses in his commercial affairs, in consequence of the same all-ruinous cause, and, being unable to pay the sum of 65,118l. 17s. 8d. gave to Trenchard a mortgage for 65,000l. on the estates of Pontrylas and Northaw.

"That between the year 1819, when the chancery suit was decided, and July 1821, your petitioner paid in part of the debt of 65,000l. the sum of 5,000l.; and 8,000l. interest on the same up to July 1821.

"That on the decision of the chancery suit your petitioner was put into possession of the estate, and continued in possession until he became bankrupt; during which time your petitioner received, on account of rent and timber, 3,410l.

"That in July 1821 your petitioner offered the two estates for sale, but could not obtain for them a price at all equal to his expectations, or the amount of the sum for which they were mortgaged.

"That in October 1821 your petitioner became a bankrupt.

"That Trenchard thereon took the proper legal steps to retain the profits of the estate, and has since given notice of fore-closing the mortgage.

"That thus your petitioner has actually Paid to Trenchard 18,555l., while he has received from the estate 3,410l., and is in danger of losing both this estate and his estate at Northaw, which cost your petitioner 72,000l.

"That, on the other hand, Dr. Trenchard has received in cash from your petitioner 18,555l.; together with the whole rents of the estate, from the time of sale up to the year 1819; and that he has now applied to the assignees of your petitioner for leave to take the two estates, together with all arrears of rent, which are due from February 1820 (and which, together with timber felled, your petitioner estimates at about 3,500l.) in lieu of the debt of 60,000l.

"That the assignees of your petitioner are now praying the court of chancery to agree to the above proposal, and that if the prayer should be granted, Trenchard will have received the whole rents and profit of the estate except for two years, and 1,470l. for timber; that he will have been paid 18,555l. by your petitioner; and that, in addition to his own estate, he will have acquired the estate of Northaw, which cost your petitioner 72,000l.

"That your petitioner and his deceased father purchased other estates, in 1811, in the counties of Middlesex, Essex, and Hants, for 33,166l. which have now been actually sold for 12,000l.; that your petitioner and his father, owing to the depression in the price of land, and to a like depression in the price of land, and to a like depression in that of their stock in trade, were, in 1821, reduced to a state of bankruptcy; that seven children of your petitioner, ten children of his brother, and seven children of his sister, will now be left wholly destitute, while your petitioner's father, with a heart broken by these calamities, died in the year 1822.

"It is to prevent this act of crying injustice and cruelty, that your petitioner humbly implores your honourable House to interpose the exercise of that power which you possess, for the purpose of protecting his majesty's people against oppression. Your petitioner thinks it wholly unnecessary to take up the time of your honourable House in showing, that this threatened confiscation of his property has arisen wholly from those legislative measures which have produced that change in the value of money, which has taken two-thirds from the price of agricultural produce, and which has, of course, lessened, in the same degree, the price of land. His case is so plain, that it cannot be misunderstood; and, therefore, begging leave to remind your honourable House of the Bank-Suspension Act in 1797, of the suspension of actions against the non-resident clergy in 1800 (which actions were afterwards quashed by an act of your honourable House) and of the suspension of the landlord's power of distress against tenants, in 1812; your petitioner begging leave to remind your honourable House of these precedents, most humbly prays your honourable House to suspend the power by which the mortgagee above-mentioned may be enabled to take from him his estate; and he further prays your honourable House to cause such equitable adjustment of contracts between man and man, as may prevent the utter ruin of your petitioner, and of the numerous persons dependent for their bread on his pecuniary means. And your petitioner will ever pray."

Ordered to lie on the table.