The Chancellor of the Exchequer moved the order of the day, that the House should resolve itself into a committee on the act for regulating the Salaries of the Judges. The Speaker having put the question,
§ Mr. Leycester
said, he thought this was not the precise time to increase the salaries of public officers, when the President of the Board of Trade was going to make corn cheaper than it had been for a long time. He thought that a third assize might be established without any increase of labour on the part of the judges. He could not see why four judges should sit together in the court of King's-bench, 612 four in the Exchequer, and four in the Common Pleas. Three in each of those courts would be much better, and the remaining three might go on the third assize. He should take that opportunity of observing, also, that the system of the Welch judges ought to be corrected or abolished; for nothing could be more improper, inconvenient, or unconstitutional, than that the same individual, should on one day be acting on the bench as a judge, the next day as a barrister, and the third as a politician. It was also notorious, that their appointments were generally the consequence of political conduct or close-borough interest. He thought the present a favourable opportunity for correcting many evils in the mode of administering justice in this country.
The House having resolved itself into a committee,
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, he felt it quite unnecessary to preface the motion which he was about to submit to the committee, with any protracted observations on the importance of the subject to which he wished to call their attention. It had always been deemed an object dear to parliament, and most interesting to the people of this country, that offices of so much dignity and importance as those of judges of the land, should be filled by persons high in the public estimation, and fully competent to discharge the great trust reposed in them. Parliament had repeatedly manifested the sense it entertained of the great importance of this subject, by affording to the judges the means of maintaining their just dignity, and by removing from that office every thing which tended to diminish the respectability of the judges, and their weight and character in the eyes of those for whose benefit the laws were administered. To these two points he should call the attention of the House, for he did not intend to enter into the general topics which had been adverted to by the hon. gentleman opposite, who, if he had done him the honour to wait, until he had made his statement to the House would have found that he did not propose to touch at all upon the office of the Welch judges. His first object would be to carry into effect a most important recommendation of the commission which had been appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the fees and salaries of the officers, of courts of justice; namely, the prevention of the future sale of various offices, which 613 were now at the disposition of the chief justices of the courts of King's-bench and Common Pleas. He was sure the House would feel, that it was inconsistent with the dignity and personal independence of the judges of the land, that they should derive any portion of the remuneration a their service from such a source [hear, hear!]. The practice had, indeed, the recommendation of antiquity; for in an act of one of our earlier kings, which abolishes the sale of offices generally, the sale of these particular offices in courts of justice was reserved, He, however, was one of those who thought, that the mere antiquity of a practice was no justification of it, if it could not be justified on more rational grounds, Upon sound principle; and upon a just view of what was due to the dignity and independence of the learned judges themselves, he thought it advisable to alter the present system. The offices in question constituted, or they might constitute—for this contingency was one of the objections to the present system—a considerable portion of the emoluments of the two chief justices. The contingent nature of these emoluments rendered the system highly objectionable; for it might happen that one judge who had held his office only for a short time, might have at opportunity of availing himself of all these advantages, while none of them might fall to the lot of another, whose services might be of much longer duration. It was manifestly contrary to all principle that the emoluments of the judges should depend on such unequal chances. There were three offices of very considerable value at the disposal of the chief justice of the court of King's-bench—the chief clerk, the custos brevium, and the clerk of the outlawries. There were several other offices, such as those of the clerk of the rules, and clerk of the papers on the plea side, which were in the gift of the chief clerk. Of course, when he proposed to take away this source of emolument from the chief justice himself, the disposal of such offices would also be taken away from his officers. In the court of Common Pleas there were various offices of a similar description, with the detail of which he should not fatigue the House; these were more numerous than in the court of King's-bench, but none of them, he believed, were saleable by the inferior officers of the court. It appeared to him to be quite inconsistent with the dignity of the judges, and with the simplicity of 614 the administration of law in this country, that any portion of their salaries should be dependent upon the payment of fees. If suitors hesitated to pay those fees, it must be extremely painful to the judges to enforce the payment of them; and yet this was absolutely necessary, so long as they constituted a part of their remuneration. He did not at present propose to deal with the question of fees, or to discuss their general expediency; but there could be no question that they ought not to be connected with the advantage of the judges. He should propose that the fees remaining the same as at present should be collected by the same individuals, who should pay themselves a fixed salary out of them, and pay over the remainder into the Exchequer, to furnish the means of meeting the additional salary, which might be voted to the judges as a compensation for the loss of these emoluments.—With respect to the Puisne judges, a part of their salaries was also composed of fees. The salaries of the Puisne judges were made 4,000l. a-year by the last act of parliament; part of this was paid out of the civil list, and a portion of it was made up of fees. If the sum from the civil list, and from fees did not make up the 4,000l., the difference was supplied from the Consolidated fund. The judges made returns upon oath, every quarter, of the sums they received in fees; and they were in this way rendered, to all intents and purposes, public accomptants. Such a state of things was quite inconsistent with their dignity and high station [hear!]. The House would of course see the propriety of regulating the future salaries of the judges with reference to the emoluments which they would lose by a change of system. It was difficult, if not impossible, to fix the value of these saleable offices to any individual, from the contingencies to which he had before alluded; and he would endeavour, therefore, in the first place, to consider what, under all the circumstances, would be a fit salary for so great an officer as the lord chief justice of the King's-bench. The salary of the chief justice was at present made up in various ways. He had, in the first place, 4,000l. a-year out of the civil list, liable to considerable deductions under the head of land-tax, &c. arising out of certain ancient arrangements. The remainder of the salary was made up by fees from various sources, the average amount of which might be taken at 9,200l. per 615 annum, or perhaps more, say 9,500l.: from which must be deducted, the land-tax, amounting to 500l. a-year, which, with some other deductions, probably would leave the nett salary under 9,000l. per annum. Now, it appeared to him, that, looking at the importance of the office, its high influence and dignity, the sum of 10,000l. would not be too much. He came next to the chief justice of the Common Pleas. That was an office, as every one knew, inferior in point of rank and dignity to the former, as well as inferior in judicial importance; the emoluments attendant upon it were also inferior, and he thought it was expedient that this distinction between the two offices should still be retained. However, the lord chief justice would be also called upon to surrender some valuable patronage; and, the same principle being applicable to both offices, he considered, looking at it with reference to that consideration, that the salary of the chief justice of the Common Pleas should not be less than 8,000l. a-year. That would certainly be a great increase beyond the present emoluments of the office; but he thought there were many reasons why the distinction between the two offices should not be too great; for, although he was not laying down the principle, that no individual who had filled the office of chief-justice of the Common Pleas should be promoted, at any time, to the King's-bench, yet he thought it expedient to attach to the former office sufficient value to check too violent aspirations after preferment [hear, hear!]. Although he did not go the length of saying such a preferment ought never to take place; he would by no means wish it should be a matter of course. He ought, perhaps, to have noticed before, the situation of another very important judge, who, in point of rank, was superior to the chief-justice of the Common Pleas—he meant the Master of the Rolls. His was a situation very peculiar, and one of great hardship; for his salary was not increased at the period of the general augmentation, in 1809. This, he thought, was extremely improper, and the circumstance arose from the great delicacy and disinterestedness of the person who then filled the office—be meant sir William Grant. That eminent person had always declined applying for an increase, or even to state what the increase should be; and he thought a very poor return had been made 616 for so much delicacy and disinterestedness [hear, hear!]. However, that was no reason why those who proposed the present augmentation should abstain from applying the remedy, by placing that high office on an equality with the others. He believed the emolument of the Master of the Rolls was at present derived from various sources, partly from the civil list, and partly from fees; and, on this part of the subject he must say, in regard to the fees of Chancery, that he did not mean to touch them until the report had been presented by the committee appointed to investigate the subject. Altogether, the income of the Master of the Rolls fell seldom short of 4,000l. per annum—a salary less than that of the vice-chancellor, and quite inadequate to the importance of the station. He laid no stress on the duties which the person filling that office had to discharge in the privy council, or, if he happened to be a peer, by his attendance in appeals at the House of Lords. This application was not founded upon particular circumstances, but on the ground of inadequate remuneration. He should, therefore, propose that the salary should be fixed at 7,000l. per annum. He should propose the same sum for the chief baron of the Exchequer: he had, at present, 5,000l. per annum, without the sale of any offices; his office was one of great importance, the execution of which required great talents, not only in his capacity of equity judge, but in the administration of the common law, on circuit. With respect to the vice-chancellor, it appeared to him it would not be doing justice if the office were left as it was. The salary, at present, was 5,000l. a-year; he meant to propose its augmentation to 6,000l. He now came to the puisne judges, connected with whose situations there were circumstances of considerable importance; and, it appeared to him most expedient that the emoluments of their situations should be such as to enable them to discharge their duties with dignity and effect. Their salary was, at present, 4,000l. a-year; and he was sure that any one who knew what the profession of the law was, who considered its advantages, and the vast emoluments which men of talent and character were enabled to acquire, must feel that the worst policy was, to make the salaries of the judges so low, that men of eminence and character, and high abilities, could not, with a due regard to themselves and 617 their families, accept the office until they arrived at a time of life when they required ease, or were affected with some bodily infirmity which required a relaxation from the ordinary labours of their profession. He could not ground this increase of salary on any claim of compensation, but on the fair and sacred principle of an adequate compensation, with a view to ensure a supply of eminent and distinguished men to fill these important offices. He should wish to render the office one that men would not be anxious to get out of as quick is possible, but such as would enable them to discharge their duties with dignity and advantage. He should therefore propose that the salary of the puisne judges should be 6,000l, per annum [hear, hear!]. From the opinion which the House seemed to entertain, he flattered himself that the scale he had proposed would not be considered unreasonable. His only object in the proposition was, to remove from the judges those circumstances which were inconsistent with their station, and to place them in a condition to discharge the duties of their high offices with becoming dignity, and to uphold the character which the English law enjoyed, not only amongst ourselves, but in the eyes of all enlightened foreigners who have had an opportunity of witnessing its administration. He was persuaded that a mere principle of economy would never prevent the House from entertaining the proposition; although, even on the ground of economy, he was prepared to contend that the public would be benefitted by the alteration. But; that was not the point: the real question was—Was it or was it not desirable to have the best qualified men to discharge the judicial offices of the country? That was the principle on which the proposition was founded; and he should feel extremely happy if, in his humble way, he had at all contributed to provide for the due maintenance of the dignity of the distinguished persons, who were called upon to fill the offices connected with the administration of the justice of the country [hear, hear!]. Before he sat down he should state, that the power of the judges to dispose of offices should immediately cease; but with regard to the Custos Brevium, and the chief clerk, the power must continue until their death or resignation; for as they had purchased their offices, it would be almost it impossible to form an estimate 618 of an adequate compensation; but, the right of the judges to the sale of offices would immediately cease on the passing of this act. The right hon. gentleman concluded by moving a resolution, embodying all the alterations he had mentioned in the course of his speech.
§ Mr. Denman
said, there was so much of the principle of the statement of the chancellor of the Exchequer, to which he assented, that he should first address himself to the part of the proposition which was free from all objection. With regard to the abolition of all emoluments arising from the sale of offices and fees, there could be no doubt of its propriety. He was quite ready to make an adequate compensation to the chief justice of the Kings-bench for the loss he might sustain in consequence; but, beyond that he was not willing to go. Let them estimate the chances and probabilities attendant on the office, and state what the amount of compensation should be, and he was willing to accede to it; but he could see no other principle for the alteration. The same remark would apply to the Common Pleas; but he could see no reason for the necessity of approximating the two offices. It appeared to him they had nothing to consider but the mere question of compensation; and he thought an amendment should be proposed, that the chief judges should receive an "adequate compensation" for the loss of their fees. With respect to the Master of the Rolls, he understood the right hon. gentleman to have stated the salary to be 4000l. per annum.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that from the fees, and the civil list, and various other sources, the salary amounted to about 4,000l. per annum.
§ Mr. Denman.
—That rate of salary arose solely from the distinguished conduct of one eminent judge; but, if sir W. Grant had chosen to accept a salary equal to the vice-chancellor, the House was at that time ready to grant it; and he certainly thought the Rolls-court should be placed on a footing at least equal to that creation of an act of parliament, the vice-chancellor, which was an office of inferior rank. With respect to the other judges, he thought no case whatever had been made out. It might appear strange, that a person in his situation should oppose the proposition in opposition to the interests of those most respectable persons with whom he was in habits of daily in- 619 tercourse, which was marked with the utmost kindness on their part, and the deepest respect and gratitude on his own; but, it was too much, that from time to time, persons connected with the government, should suggest that it would be conducive to the interests of the judges, that they should receive an accession to their income, and that, too, at the pleasure of the minister of the day. He did not find that those learned persons had come forward themselves to complain that their salaries were not sufficiently high. In 1809, they were subject to a heavy income-tax, which took away one-tenth of their allowances, and a large land-tax. He was certainly of opinion, that the incomes of the judges should be fixed. Suppose, for instance, a war were to break out, and a heavy land-tax should be imposed, it would be hard that the salaries of the judges should be lower then than at the period of their acceptance of their appointment; but he could not see upon what principle the present proposition rested. If there were any additional labour imposed, he could see the necessity for additional compensation; and he thought the judges would have acted wisely if they had refused to undertake the additional duties which were recently imposed on them; for, in addition to their own labours, by lengthening the terms, they had led to a division of the labours of the bar, which had led to the most inconvenient results to the public administration of justice. However, as that was done, although it might be very proper to increase the salaries of the judges of the King's-bench, he could see no reason why it should extend to the Common Pleas, and the Exchequer. For instance, perhaps at the moment he was speaking, being the last day of term, the King's-bench were sitting, as the court was so much in arrears of business; whereas, the judges in the court of Exchequer had all left the court at one o'clock; and indeed, in term time, they generally came down to court between ten and eleven, and rose at twelve or one. He understood the principle of the measure was, to hold out inducements to the judges to discharge the duties of their high office with propriety and dignity. But this they did at present [hear, hear! from the chancellor of the Exchequer]. Why then, if this was so, he could see no reason why the ministers of the Crown should make them this present. It was 620 an invidious task for any man to oppose the grant; but if it was not resisted, the same practice might be repeated from year to year. He had never heard of any gentleman at the bar who had refused an elevation to the bench, on the ground of an inadequate emolument. It was not mere emolument that made men desirous to obtain the situation, but the dignity and elevation of the office; and besides that, the certainty of its continuance for life. During the early days of active life, their fortune was realized, and after their elevation to the bench, their fortune was enjoyed and adorned; and in such a situation they should be inaccessible to every sordid feeling; but he could not conceive any mode so effectual to produce this feeling as by exciting constant hopes and fears. If the government of the country wished to consult the dignity of the bench, let them at once make it known, that the Puisne Judges need no longer expect to be raised to a higher situation on the bench; that t hey are not to be made peers of, or, to speak in the language of another House, relative to another profession in which the practice had proved so fatal to honourable independence, that they are never to be, in consequence of their obsequiousness, translated; but that they mast look to their elevated situations as the permanent and honourable provision for the remainder of their lives. He could not see that they would be bettered by the intended addition of income in the public estimation. This bonus, as he might term it, to the judges, of 2,000l. a. year, would, in his mind, be injurious to their dignity. It was impossible, by any increase of salary that they could ever be raised to an equality with the great. At present, they might be said to be at the head of people of middling fortune, which was better than being at the foot of the higher order; and, though some aristocratical gentlemen in that House had treated their usual residence with so much contempt as to profess they did not know where Russel-square was, he thought they were much more respected in that quarter than they would be were they to intrude themselves amongst the wealthy inhabitants of Grosvenor-square, where he must confess he apprehended the proposed increase of salary would not screen them from feeling themselves awkwardly circumstanced. Looking at the proposition in any point of view, he could not approve it. He 621 thought it would not increase the respectability of the judges. He would, therefore, support only that part of them which gave compensation to the Chief-justices, and an increase of salary to the Master of the Rolls.
regretted the being obliged to differ from any of those friends with whom he was in the general habit of voting. He, however, entirely differed from his hon. and learned friend, and it was because he thought that the dignity of the bench would be increased by the proposed addition to the salaries, that he supported the motion. It was said, that the judges had not complained of their present salaries. It was true they had never disgraced themselves by a petition to the House or to government for an increase; but, if it was meant to be asserted that they did not feel the inadequacy of their present salaries, he meant to give it a direct and flat denial. It was for the interests of justice that the government should be enabled to engage the talents of the most learned men at the bar at a time when those talents were in their prime, and when the corporeal faculties of those who possessed them were still vigorous and unimpaired. What, he would ask, was the consequence of pursuing a contrary system? Why, that when the government appointed individuals to the situation of judges at the miserable pittance which was now assigned to them, they often remained in harness until they were quite incompetent to discharge the business of the public. Such an occurrence was an evil of a serious nature; and he would rather see judges appointed at an early period of their life, retiring at the first moment when their bodily faculties began to deny, than see them promoted to the bench at the very moment when they were least able to perform the duties of it. It might be said, that there was no difficulty in getting individuals to undertake the office of judges under the present system. Allowing that to be the case, still it was no objection to the view which he was taking of this question. The dignity of the situation was certainly calculated to render it an object of desire to many members of the profession; but, was that a reason why an individual should be allowed by the public to sacrifice in its service that time and that talent, which every man ought to render advantageous to the interests of his family? It was an unjust barter to make any man give up to 622 the public, without adequate remuneration, that time and those exertions on which his family had a powerful, and he would add, a legitimate claim. For this reason, and for many more which he should not now trouble the committee with, he greatly approved of the addition which the right hon. gentleman opposite proposed to make to the salary of the puisne judges; nor was he convinced by the arguments of his hon. and learned friend near him, that a difference ought to be made in the salaries of the puisne judges of the different courts. His opinion was, that a more desirable method than that of apportioning the salaries of the judges to the quantity of business transacted in their respective courts, would be to make the court of Common Pleas and the court of Exchequer share the business of the court of King's-bench; and instead of overloading that court with a quantity of business which it could not well perform, to provide for such a general distribution of suits among the two other courts, as would ensure to them all a fair equality of labour. The obstacles to such an arrangement were not of a very important nature. There was an objection to throwing additional business into the court of Common Pleas, because no person could plead in it who was not a serjeant. He for one could see no reason why that monopoly should not be broken up. There was, also, he understood, a difference in the amount of the fees paid in that court, and in the court of King's-bench. With regard to the court of Exchequer, he was informed that all its business must be transacted by a certain number of attornies; and that in consequence of the suitors having to pay, not only the fee of their own attorney, but those of the attorney of the court, very few actions were commenced in it. Now, if all the courts could be placed on an equal footing, and could be made equally economical to the disputants, he could see no reason, save one, why the business of the country should not be equally distributed among them, not only with benefit to the country, but also with benefit to the judges who presided in them. There was also another reason why he thought the salaries of the judges ought to be augmented; and that was the great increase of the criminal business of the country. The sessions at the Old Bailey now took up twice as much time as they did some fifteen years ago. The 623 business of a third assize bad also become a matter of imperative necessity in the counties near London; yet though that measure had been tried as an experiment for the last three years, the criminal business had been so great at the last Lent assizes, that the judges had been unable to despatch the civil business of the home circuit. And here he would take the liberty of saying, that he saw no reason why the jurisdiction at the Old Bailey, which now took cognizance of offences committed in London and Middlesex, should not also take cognizance of similar offences which took place in other parts of the metropolis which lay within the bills of mortality. There was another topic on which he wished to say a word, as it had been noticed by the right hon. gentleman who had opened this question, and by his hon. and learned friend above him. The right hon. gentleman had said, that he should raise the salary of the puisne judges to 6,000l. a-year, in order to give them a fixed and settled situation. He considered that as a point of the very last importance; especially when he recollected—that he could not mention the practice without bestowing on it his severest censure—that puisne judges of the court of King's-bench, and also of the Common Pleas, had been elevated to the situations of chief justices of those courts in no less than seven or eight successive instances. Such a practice he, for one, should ever deprecate; it was keeping judges in the constant expectation of preferment; and, unless judges could divest themselves of the ordinary feelings of men, was leading them to the hope of obtaining promotion to higher situations, by conforming their conduct to those modes and opinions which were best calculated to conciliate the favour of those who had promotion to bestow. In making these remarks he had no intention of alluding to any particular case; he stated that which every member must admit to be fact, who knew any thing of the feelings of human nature. It was detrimental at once to the respectability of the judges, and to the pure administration of justice, that judges should become accustomed to look for preferment to the ministers of the Crown. He did not say that any act should be passed, or regulation entered into, to prevent the Crown from exercising its prerogative in promoting a puisne judge of great virtue and exalted talent to the highest situation in his court! God 624 forbid that he should propose any such measure; but this he did say, that such a power should be rarely exercised, and that, instead of being a matter of daily and ordinary practice, it should be an exception from the general rule, and should only be resorted to on extraordinary occasions [hear, hear]. There were one or two subjects, not altogether connected with the present question, on which he would make use of the present opportunity to say a few words. He would give the judge of the assize liberty to pass sentence at the time, upon any person convicted before him of misdemeanour, reserving, however, to the attorney-general the right, if he thought proper to exercise it, of bringing the individual up to London to receive the judgment of the court. Such an alteration in the law would be beneficial to every party. For, what was the consequence of the present system? On the one side, the time of the court of King's-bench was occupied—and this was notoriously the case in all offences against the revenue—in hearing numerous affidavits in mitigation of punishment, and often very long speeches in support of the facts sworn to in such affidavits; and on the other side, parties were frequently brought to town, and kept there at a great expense, to receive sentence, or remained imprisoned in the country for six months, in the interval between verdict, and sentence, which was in itself no inconsiderable punishment. The existing system was, therefore, detrimental to the judges by overloading them with business, and wasting their time in many instances upon trifling offences, and to the culprit in drawing him from his usual avocations, and in depriving himself and his family of those exertions which he might otherwise have been making to procure his subsistence. He therefore thought, that without deviating from the effective administration of justice, it might safely he left to the discretion of the judges of assize to pass sentence in the country upon such persons as were there convicted before them of any ordinary misdemeanor. — He would now say a word or two on the proposition of the right hon. gentleman, that all fees now received by the officers of the different courts should continue to be received by them, should, be after wards paid into the Exchequer, and should thence be transferred to the consolidated fund. Now, that proposition, 625 he thought, must depend greatly upon the nature and extent of the fees received. He therefore trusted that the right hon. gentleman would keep his mind open upon the subject, as great attention ought to be paid to the nature and amount of all fees levied in courts of justice. In some cases, it was clear, that an adequate remuneration ought to be provided for the officers who received them; whilst in other cases, where they went to swell the funds of officers who held sinecures, it might be matter of consideration how far they ought to be continued. He thought that in all cases the fees ought to be reduced to such an amount as would give a fair remuneration to the officer who received them for the duties he performed, and that whatever exceeded such amount should be abolished, as impeding and restricting the due execution of justice. The learned doctor concluded by stating his general approbation of the plan proposed by the right hon. gentleman.
§ Mr. John Williams
commenced his observations by expressing his regret, that the right hon. gentleman opposite, in the measure he had just detailed to the committee, had not proposed any correction for any of the evils of the present system. His hon. and learned friend below him, who had supported the measure, had proposed several important alterations in our judicial system, which he should have been most happy to have seen proposed, or even countenanced, by the right hon. gentleman opposite. The unequal distribution of business in the three courts—the cause of that unequal distribution—the late period of life at which the judges were appointed—these and many other points, which deserved quite as much attention as the mere payment of the judges, had all been passed over by the right hon. gentleman without notice. With respect to the salaries proposed to be given to the chief justices of the King's-bench and of the Common Pleas, it appeared to him to be extremely reasonable, that an ample compensation should be made to those two magistrates for the loss of the emoluments they now received from what was thought an objectionable quarter. But, the scale upon which that compensation should be made was quite obvious—it should be measured by the loss which they absolutely sustained from the deprivation of the fees to which they had hitherto beer entitled. With respect to the addition which it was proposed to 626 make to the salary of the Master of the Rolls, and of the vice-chancellor—and for the last no reason whatever had been given—it was so trifling, that he would pass it over without any further notice. He would proceed, therefore, to the addition it was proposed to make to the salaries of the puisne judges, which he considered the most important part of the scheme then before the committee. He had listened with the greatest attention to the right hon. gentleman, in the expectation of hearing him mention some instance of an individual refusing the situation of a judge on account of the inadequacy of the remuneration; but, though he had talked about it in general terms, he had not heard him mention any such instance. He had likewise listened in vain for any mention of the time of life at which the judges were either to take up or lay down their functions. He thought that the doctrine was now exploded, that a man was not qualified to be a judge until he had become an old man; he conceived it to be almost as absurd as that a man was not fit to command an army, until he had served five-and-twenty-years, and was obliged to be carried in a litter from station to station. He contended that a judge, besides possessing learning and judgment, should also possess those corporeal qualifications, which a critic of old deemed essentially necessary to the orator—he meant a due quantity of "laterum et virium." Now, he would appeal to all those who had the experience of the last five-and-twenty years—and those who had more must be almost as old as the hills—whether the judges who had been appointed during the last twenty-five years had not, upon the average, been sixty years old at the time of their appointment. That was a period of life at which the mercer, the tobacconist, and the sugar-baker were accustomed to retire from their laborious and contemplative occupations, because their minds were as unequal as their bodies to undergo the labours of them; yet, at that very period,. the learned judges of the land were put upon an arduous duty, which compelled them to undergo fatigue of the severest nature, at a time when, to say the least of it, their mental and corporeal faculties were both waxing towards decline. In other words, the public was to be served by men who, if they remained at the bar, would have been deemed incapable of serving individuals. 627 He had not heard that the time of a judge's service was in future to be from forty-five or fifty years of age; yet he thought that such a limitation would have been better than letting it run from sixty to eighty, or even ninety, or whatever later age was deemed the perfection of judicial wisdom. In his opinion, some such limitation was necessary; since no judge in his experience, with the solitary exception of sir William Grant, who was above all eulogy, had ever retired, or evinced the slightest inclination to retire, before the decay of his faculties. He then proceeded to notice the great disproportion of business which existed in the three courts at Westminster. He had that day heard from a learned gentleman who practised in the court of Exchequer, that all the civil causes which that court would have to try at its sittings after term, would be about seven, and certainly not more than ten. Now, in the last sittings of the court of King's-bench the causes entered for trial at Westminster alone amounted to 250. In the sittings of the court of Common Pleas for the same place the number was only 25. Now, independently of the fashion, which led clients into that court where the most popular advocates practised, there were two obstacles to the admission of business in the court of Common Pleas and in the court of Exchequer, which had been noticed already by his hon. and learned friend below him. In the Common Pleas, there was a closure as to the counsel; in the court of Exchequer, as to attorneys. The consequence was, that an overwhelming weight of business was flung upon the excellent magistrates who presided in the court of King's-bench. His hon. and learned friend had suggested a mode of distributing it more equally among the other judges; but, upon that as upon many other points, the right hon. gentleman had carefully refrained from uttering any expressions which could lead the committee to anticipate any amendment of the existing system.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that the committee must feel indebted to the hon. and learned member for Ilchester for the very able though concise speech which he had made in support of the present measure. An hon. and learned gentleman opposite had said, that the most important part of this resolution was that which related to the situation of the puisne judges. At 628 present, the clear amount of their emoluments did not exceed 3,200l a-year; and the consequence was, as the hon. and learned gentleman had stated it, that during the last twenty-five years no judge had been appointed to the office until he had turned sixty years of age. Was not that circumstance, if it were correct, conclusive proof that there was something faulty in the present system? and was it not also a strong ground for conjecturing, that if the proposition now before the committee was adopted, the country would soon acquire the services of judges with those "latera et vires" which the hon. and learned member for Lincoln deemed so necessary to the just performance of their duties? The committee might depend upon it, that if a suitable remuneration were offered, there would be no difficulty in procuring the services of men of talent, whilst they were yet in the prime of life and in the full vigour of their understanding. It had been said, in the course of the debate, that the salaries of the judges were so inadequate to their support, that no man could undertake the office who had not previously amassed a considerable fortune. Now, he protested again the principle contained in that position. He maintained, that the salaries of the judges ought in themselves to be adequate to support the dignity of their station, and that it should not be compulsory upon them to defray part of their necessary expenditure out of the fortunes which they had previously acquired. Let the salary be fixed at 5,000l., at 6000l., at 7,000l., or at any other sum which the committee might deem sufficient for the maintenance of their dignity; but, let it not be said, that a man must possess 60,000l. before he is qualified to sit on the judicial bench. The hon. and learned member for Lincoln had complained, that this resolution was not accompanied by any details of proposed improvements. The hon. and learned gentleman ought to have known, that as the House was in a committee for a pecuniary grant, the present was not the fit opportunity for entering into a detailed statement of any projected improvements. Though his right hon. friend had not entered into any such statement, he was sure the committee would see, that the carrying this resolution into effect would give the executive government great facility in making any such improvements, if they should hereafter be 629 deemed necessary. At present, it was impossible to reduce the fees of several of the officers of the different courts They had given a pecuniary consideration for their offices, and the fees therefore could not be reduced without inflicting a serious injury upon the holders of them. If, however, it should seem good to the committee that those fees should be received by the public, then those who now received them might receive a remuneration in lieu of them; and when that was done, the amount of those fees, might easily be regulated. He agreed with the hon. and learned member for Ilchester, that the future amount of those fees ought to be proportionable to the service performed. Certainly, if the purposes of justice would be promoted by the reduction of them, they ought to be reduced without delay; and one advantage of this resolution would be, that it would enable the government to make that reduction. The hon. and learned member for Ilchester had mentioned another circumstance, which was a strong argument in favour of the present measure. He had stated, that in seven or eight successive instances, puisne judges had been promoted to the chief justiceships of their respective courts. Might not that circumstance arise from the inadequate remuneration which those learned personages received? Might it not originate, nay had it not originated, from individuals of great practice at the bar, refusing to give up their emoluments for those belonging to the judge? He assured the committee that the circumstance to which the hon. and learned gentleman had called its attention had not arisen from any wish on the part of the government to exercise an undue influence over the judges, but from the reluctance of the leaders at the bar to undertake those offices with their present inadequate salaries. With regard to the remuneration to be afforded to the chief justices of the different courts, the hon. and learned member for Nottingham had said, that it should be measured by the loss which they sustained by the abolition of their fees. Now, in the case of an ordinary sinecure office, the principle of the hon. and learned member was fair and equitable enough; but, in the present case, it appeared to him to be totally inapplicable. In estimating the emoluments which ought to be enjoyed by the chief justice of the court of King's-bench, the committee ought rather to consider 630 the amount of salary which was adequate to the office, than the loss which the individual holding it was likely to sustain. The amount of emoluments, including fees, belonging to the chief justice of the King's-bench was 9,250l. a-year. Now, the chief justice, by the present resolution, would not only lose the amount of the fees, but also the advantage of selling different offices in his court, as they respectively became vacant. It would be difficult to calculate the exact amount of that loss; and therefore it became necessary to fix, in an arbitrary manner, upon some determinate sum for his salary. He thought 10,000l. was the lowest sum which the committee could fix; but if he were asked to demonstrate why that was the exact sum of all others to be fixed upon, be would own that he was incapable of doing it. He protested against the principle of making any distinction between the judges of the different courts. As they bad all to administer criminal justice at the assizes, the difference in their salaries might lead to the general belief that there was a difference in their dignity; and that might give rise to a jealousy between counties, when they found a higher judge sent to one, and a lower judge to another. For his own part, lie confessed that he looked with favour upon some of the propositions of the hon. and learned member for Ilchester, particularly upon that of throwing open the court of Exchequer to all attorneys. Whether it would be equally right to throw open the court of Common Pleas to all the rank and file of the profession, he would not at that moment pretend to determine. It was a question of some importance, and required greater consideration than he had yet given it. The right hon. gentleman concluded by supporting the resolution.
§ Mr. Scarlett
addressed the committee at some length; but in a tone of voice so indistinct, that only a few detached sentences of his speech reached the gallery. We understood him to say, that 10,000l. a-year was an inadequate salary for the lord chief justice of the Kings-bench, and below the average emoluments which he received at present. The committee ought not to take the receipts of any one lord chief justice as a scale for the remuneration of that officer, since one lord chief justice might make very great emoluments by the falling-in of all the offices at his disposal, and another might not make any from the falling-in of none. The committee ought to take the gross 631 receipts of a certain number of years, and to regulate the salary, not by the annual emoluments of any one individual chief justice, but by the general annual average of them all. If such a calculation were made, he believed 10,000l. would be found less than the average annual amounts of the receipts of the office. He had .heard that night for the first time, what the office of the chief justice of the Common Pleas was worth; and he thought that any one who knew the duties of both offices would prefer being chief justice of the Common Pleas with a salary of 8,000l. a-year, to being chief justice of the King's-bench, with a salary of 10,000l. a-year. He maintained, that the government ought always to have in the situation of Attorney-general an individual qualified to discharge the office of lord chief justice; and that being admitted, he contended, that the salary of the lord chief justice should be raised to such an amount, that no Attorney-general, when called upon to become chief justice of the King's-bench, should hesitate to do so, on the ground that his emoluments as Attorney-general were superior to what would be his emoluments as lord chief justice. With regard to the salary of the puisne judges—and he cautiously abstained from giving any opinion as to whether the salary of 6,000l. now proposed was too high or not—he argued that it ought not to be raised to such a sum as would render it likely to be disposed of by political favour and intrigue. He likewise insisted that no man ought to be called to fill the situation of judge who had not previously had considerable practice at the bar—first of all, because that practice must have procured him, unless he were an extravagant man, a considerable fortune; and secondly, because it must have accustomed his mind to the technicalities of law, and to the complicated questions which sometimes arose out of them. In proof of the value of such experience, he quoted lord Coke's declaration to James 1st, when that prince wished to decide a legal argument on a prohibition. James said, "Why am I not as fit to decide on such a question as you? You say the law is the perfection of reason, and surely I possess as much reason as any subject." Lord Coke replied to him, "Your Majesty is not fit to decide upon it. The reason of the law is a technical reason, which can only be acquired by experience; and that experience your Majesty 632 wants."—The hon. and learned member then proceeded to state, when the court of King's-bench was filled by lord Kenyon, sir W. Ashurst, Mr. Justice Buller, and Mr. Justice Grose, five or six and twenty causes were often decided in a day, in such a manner as to give universal satisfaction; and yet at that time their salaries were much inferior to those of the judges at present. He must deny that the business of the court of King's-bench had increased of late years: on the contrary, he knew that it was not of late as great by a good deal, as it had been nine or ten years ago. It was formerly the practice of the puisne judges to go to their chambers, for the purpose of despatching the more ordinary business of law; but, by a late act of Parliament, this arrangement was infringed upon, and one judge in his turn was allowed to quit the court at three o'clock, to take upon himself the evening business elsewhere. From his own experience he must say that this departure of one of the Judges was felt excessively inconvenient for the business pending at the time in full court; for it interrupted the argument in progress, and led to a postponement, often, in cases, when probably the full sitting, until four o'clock, would have finished it. With respect to the proposed arrangement regarding fees, he should say—what probably would be deemed a singular opinion—that there were some of them which he deemed bad, and would not maintain, while there were others, the continuance of Which would, he thought, be beneficial. Of the former, were those taken for offices, such as the sealing writs of error, that were done by deputy. All these he thought bad; but those which he preferred to maintain, were the fees, however small, taken for acts done by the principals themselves; these he had always found conducive to the despatch of business, and on that account he was indisposed to interfere with them. As to the general measure, before the House, its principle was distinct from the details upon which he had been remarking. That many reforms in the mode of administering the law were desirable and practicable, he was prepared to assert; and that some of those now prepared would have been unnecessary, if the measure of his noble friend—the county courts bill—were adopted, he was equally clear. As to the amount of remuneration to the judges, all he should say at that moment was this—that he Old not think 633 10,000l. a-year enough for the chief justice of the court of King's-bench, considering the heavy and important duties which it was peculiarly his province to discharge. With respect to the salaries for the puisne judges, he thought, if called upon at all to give an opinion upon the subject, that they exceeded the necessary amount, in the view to which he had been alluding. Something had been said as to throwing open the other courts to suitors. He would not now enter into that question; but, for reasons which be could easily state, if necessary, he did not think that the opening of the other courts would have the effect at all of diminishing the business of the court of King's-bench.
remarked, that his hon. and learned friend, the member for Lincoln, had not, when he spoke of the judges of the court of Exchequer, done justice to the business which they were called upon to discharge. He seemed to have forgotten that they had other and heavy business besides revenue causes to adjudicate. Had they not their sittings in equity in Gray's-inn-hall after term? With respect to the observations which had fallen from his hon. and learned friend who had last spoken, he begged of him to bear in mind, that he (the Attorney-general) was not the author of the bill which had altered the mode of doing business in the court of King's-bench, although he perfectly well remembered the circumstances which had led to that measure. They were these. In 1813, while lord Ellenborough presided in the court of King's-bench, there was an immense accumulation of business in that court. Some provision became necessary to obviate the serious inconvenience thereby occasioned; and the judges of the court, sacrificing their own comforts and convenience, and influenced by an anxious desire to facilitate the public business, as far as their strength would permit them to do so, volunteered to sit out of Term, and actually did sit day after day in Serjeants' hall, for that purpose. Notwithstanding all their exertions, however, when the present lord chief justice took his seat, the arrear business was greater than ever. The judges persevered in their efforts. But there was one inconvenience which they felt; namely, that they could not pronounce judgment, or dispose of business of a particular description; and it was to remedy this defect, that the bill alluded to, was brought in. It was there- 634 fore a little hard, with this knowledge of the sacrifice made by the judges in giving up their vacation to the public, to complain that they did not continue to give their private evening sittings in chambers. It was not just to the judges so to speak of their labours, when it must be known, that, while they sat day after day, questions of great and complicated difficulty often arose, which, from their very nature, required that they should have their evenings to themselves for the purpose of reflection and consideration. And when his hon. and learned friend alluded to the departure of one of the judges from court at three o'clock, he ought not to have raised an inference, that thereby the public business was retarded, for he knew that the remaining judges still went on with other business of an equally necessary, though not so important, a nature as that which they administered in full court. As to the general question, it was not even suggested by any of the gentlemen opposite, that the proposed alteration would give the chief justice of any of the courts a higher income than he had at present, including fees. It was, however, said, that it was difficult to estimate the value of the office from the nature of the patronage attached to it. This he denied; for he thought the estimate quite practicable. The pecuniary emoluments of the chief justice of the court of King's-bench were said to be 9,000l. a-year, besides the appointment, upon a vacancy, of his chief clerk. This clerkship he had either the power to dispose of, or to sell. Lord Ellenborough always kept it, and added its amount, which was 7,000l. a-year, until he gave it to his son, so that he must be considered as having had it for two lives, and as enjoying from his chief justiceship an income of 16,000l. a-year, including the value of this patronage. Compared, then, with the late lord chief justice, neither the present, nor lord Kenyon, who was the predecessor of the last, enjoyed any thing like the same income. These circumstances must be considered when they estimated the fixed and exclusive income of the office, and took from it all those fees and patronage. It was known that chief justice Eyre had, during his time of filling the office, received 30,000l. for offices which he had disposed of. The same observations applied to the situation of chief justice of the Common Pleas. Then, respecting the puisne judges. Let it not be supposed, as some 635 gentlemen seemed to think, that they had puisne judges from members in that walk of the profession, who had had previous opportunities of amassing fortunes for their families. Those who thought so were not acquainted with the details of the law—they overlooked the expensive nature of the education required for such a profession, and that there was no prospect of any return arising from it, until the individual had, at least, passed thirty years of age. If he could previously support himself out of his profession, that was all he could reasonably expect. Then, suppose such a person to be made a judge when he was forty years old, what opportunities could he be reasonably supposed to have had of amassing a fortune for his family? Very few judges in his time had acquired such opportunities. But, it was said, Where is the instance of any person having refused a judicial office, upon the ground that he could not afford to support the dignity of such a station? He knew a case in point, and that was one of the most learned, and who had afterwards been one of the most eminent judges on the bench. He meant Mr. Justice Dampier, who, when offered a puisne judgeship, declined it on that account; but a few years after, when ill-health had befallen him, did apply for and obtain the office, in the administration of which he shortly after died. This was a case in point. Then, as to the amount of salary—what was 3,200l. to support the rank, and station, and expenditure of a judge? a private practitioner at the bar, whatever his eminence, might spend what he liked, and might live in any state he pleased; but it was incumbent on a judge to support the rank and dignity of his station. Whatever might be his individual disposition, he was obliged to assume and maintain a certain style of life, with reference to his office and his character with the public. Under these circumstances, with the present rate of remuneration, a judge could not save a single sixpence, and his family was obliged to depend upon the small savings he had been able to make before he was raised to the dignity of a judge. It was, however, within the province of parliament to consider and determine what ought to be the remuneration to the judges for their public duties. For his part, he was of opinion that the salaries of the judges ought to be augmented, and he thought that they could not be placed below what the present 636 measure proposed. He had heard with attention the observations which had been made respecting the court of Exchequer, and he did not hesitate to state, that he should give the subject his most serious consideration, with a view to some practical increase. At the same time, he would not disguise from the House that the case was full of difficulties, and that any alteration must be affected with the greatest caution. It was very far from plain sailing here, as some might consider it. Let it be recollected that the court of Exchequer was a court of equity as well as a court of law, and that it had peculiar jurisdictions. Let it be remembered, too, that though the impediments to the approach of business were removed, though the courts were thrown open, it did not follow that business would flow in. If there were three courts sitting with equal advantages and facilities to the suitors in each, there would be one necessarily at the head. And if this were so to ever so slight an extent, it would become the favourite, and business would be mutiplied in it. The measure which he had before introduced, was intended by him always as a temporary measure. He had felt that it was not very consistent to establish permanent and extra facilities in a particular court, and join in the complaint, that there was too much business in that court, and too little elsewhere. His object was, ultimately to resort to the old system with respect to the court of King's-bench, to let the suitors have the benefit of the natural facilities, and allow the natural impediments to continue to press for otherwise they would drain the other courts.—Again, he should be anxious not to overload the judges with business, so as to make them, as they actually were in too. many instances, slaves to the technical part of the profession. He would give them the opportunity of cultivating general literature—he would allow them leisure to return to the pleasant pursuits of early years, which, he lamented to say, too many at the bar were obliged to suspend—a suspension that, in his mind, was a great drawback on the profession. When an individual was raised to the Bench, he should have the opportunity of directing his mind beyond the mere technical duties of his office—he should be able to turn his attention to what was passing in the world. This was his opinion, and he thought that if acted on, it would tend 637 very much to the improvement of the profession. With respect to the other questions, he confessed he saw no reason why the court of Common Pleas should not be as open as any other court. He did not see why the serjeants of that court should not act in the same relation to the rest of the bar, as the king's counsel in the court of King's-bench did; and why juniors should not be admitted to argue in term in the former court. He thought he discerned a cause for the limited amount of business in the court of Common Pleas, in the diversity that prevailed between it and the other courts in the mode of taxing costs. The attorneys were compelled to pay down costs at an earlier stage of the proceedings than they were required to do in the other courts, and many of them not having capital to comply with this regulation, naturally favoured the other court. In conclusion, he would beg gentlemen to bear in mind, that when all the fees now taken were funded for the public, they would go a great way in making up the additional incomes proposed to be now assigned to the judges.
§ Sir M. W. Ridley
said, that as a country gentleman, he felt disposed to give his unprofessional opinion on this important subject, and he would simply ask those who had ever any thing to do in the courts of law, and who had there witnessed the labours of the judges, whether they could reconcile it to their notions of propriety, to see men of such abilities, and intrusted with the performance of such high duties, so ill-requited for their services? He did not think the present salary of the judges sufficient. It did not allow them the means of raising any fund for their family. He trusted the committee would agree to the resolutions. It was a question in which the feelings of every man in the country ought to be interested.
§ Sir C. Forbes
said, he fully concurred in the proposition. He trusted, however, that the increase of salary would not stop here, but that the proposed regulations would be extended to Scotch and Irish judges. He could not speak as to Ireland, but it was his belief that not one judge in Scotland received any fees. He believed, further, that, with one exception, there was no legal office in Scotland that was disposed of for money. The salary of the puisne judges in Scotland, he meant the lords of sessions, was only 2,000l. per annum; and he hoped that the 638 House would consider it necessary to add a clause to the present bill, granting them an augmentation of 1,000l. a-year.
§ Mr. Hume
said, he had paid great attention to the whole debate, and must confess, that he did not recollect any question proposed to the House, which had received so little of satisfactory elucidation. The introducer of the measure had laid no grounds whatever for his proposition: he had not stated that any one judge had been dissatisfied with his remuneration, or had made any claim upon the public. Why should they give larger emoluments to public servants, who made no complaint of their being insufficiently remunerated? He should really like to know how the giving larger salaries to the judges would afford them any relief from the mass of business with which it was said they were overwhelmed. But, he objected to the measure upon a general ground. The moment the House began to augment the salaries of one class of public servants, they would find themselves called upon to extend their measure throughout the other departments of government. If he saw any difficulty to obtain great talents, or sufficient industry on the bench, at the present rate of remunerating the judges, he might support the measure; but, as it was notorious that the reverse was the case, he should give it his decided opposition. In fifty years, only one instance had been produced of a lawyer declining to accept the office of judge, on the ground of its rate of remuneration being inadequate. If any commission had been appointed to ascertain the value of the places which the judges had a right to sell, the House would then have had some data to proceed upon, but at present they were called to vote away the public money, and to establish a dangerous precedent, without any evidence or ground to proceed upon. By Mr. Abbot's report, it appeared that there were forty offices under the patronage of the chief justices of the King's-bench and Common Pleas. Some of these were allowed to be sold, and the rest were in their gift. The House ought not to come to any decision until this, and all other points relating to the subject, had been examined into, either by a committee or before a commission. The step from 3,200l. to 6,000l. a-year was enormous, and beyond any increase that he could recollect ["no, no;"]. He begged pardon: he was aware that there were many instances of the 639 House voting away large sums of the public money wthout any inquiry whatever, but he thought that the present measure was only the commencement of a system of augmentations, and it was therefore more important than any single grant of greater amount. Money was now returned to its proper value, and instead of the government reducing the expenses of the State, they were putting it out of their power to give that relief to the country that was held out in the assurances of ministers. The present plan was ill-timed and uncalled-for, and he should give it his decided opposition.
Mr. Tremayne cordially
concurred in the motion, and would also promote any increased facility for enabling judges, under certain circumstances, to retire from the bench.
§ Mr. Denman
then said, that he would adopt the suggestion of proposing an amendment. No grounds had been laid for this motion, except inasmuch as related to the impounding the fees of the chief-justiceships of the court of King's-bench and. the Common Pleas. There was no reason shown for altering the salaries of the puisne judges, except the single exception of Mr. Justice Dampier's case. Now, it struck him as extraordinary, that while the government avowed such a desire to encourage men in the prime of life to undertake the office of judges, they should have so recently appointed a chief baron who was seventy years of age. He deprecated this great interference in the administration of justice on such futile grounds, and thought it at once assailed the independence of the bench, and the public purse. With respect to the connexion between the payment and the administration of the duties, he would say this—that the best paid part of the administration of the justice of this country was by far the worst administered, and in the inverse ratio, the contrary was the case. He should conclude by moving an amendment, "that no part of the emolument or salaries of the two chief justices of the court of King's-bench and Common Pleas should in future be paid out of fees or the sale of offices; and that a reasonable compensation should be allowed the same in lieu thereof; and also that the office of Master of the Rolls should be put in point of salary, upon the same footing as the vice-chancellor."
§ Mr. Home Drummond
thought that he might well recommend the Scotch judges 640 to the liberality of parliament. He was sure he spoke the sense of his constituents when he declared, that nothing would be more grateful to them than a reasonable addition to the salaries of those very useful public officers. He gave his cordial support to the motion; at tie same time, there was nothing in the amendment which he could conscientiously oppose.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
thought that all the objections against the measure had been replied to most satisfactorily. He did not mean to say, that there were not good grounds to consider the case of the Scotch judges; but he was not prepared to look at that question at present. One judge of Ireland had had his salary increased since any similar increase had taken place in England. He alluded to the increase granted to the Master of the Rolls in 1812. He did not view this measure as the hon. member for Aberdeen had viewed it, as a link in a chain of augmentations. He considered simply whether a set of public servants were or were not adequately paid for their labour. If other public servants were hi the same condition, he should not hesitate to bring in a bill for their relief.
§ Colonel Bagwell
observed, that the puisne judges in England were to receive 6,000l. per annum, whilst the chief justice in Ireland received only 5,500l. per ann. He trusted this would be attended to in the progress of the bill.
§ Sir John Wrottesley
said, he had come down to the House determined not to vote for the proposition of the chancellor of the Exchequer, unless it included a plan for doing away with the disgraceful practice of judges making money of their offices as part of the emoluments of their station. He had heard with great satisfaction what had fallen from the right hon. gentleman on that head; and in the arrangements which had been proposed, he congratulated the public upon laving so good a bargain. He thought that the salary of the Master of the Rolls ought to be equal to that of the vice-chancellor. He thought 6,000l. a-year was too much for the puisne judges. He would rather say 5,000l.; and if he could be sure of sufficient support to justify him in putting the House to the trouble of a division, in any other stage of the measure, he would certainly make that amendment.
Sir F. Burdett
said, that, on so important a measure, they were invited to proceed too hastily, when they were asked 641 for their consent to a large augmentation of public salaries, without the benefit of previous inquiry, and with so very little of detail. The proposal went upon the supposition of some necessity for raising the salaries, because competent men could not otherwise be had to fill the situations. Now, no such necessity appeared. The tribunals were never in higher credit with the public. On the ground of utility, therefore, all argument for opening the public purse was concluded. Perhaps the case was one for the generosity of parliament to act upon, in its desire to portion the judges according to the high character which they bore in the general estimation: but then, there were great differences of opinion as to the means of doing it. He himself was not able to form a competent opinion. The learned member for Peterborough was of opinion that there were fees which ought not to be abolished. On that point there was considerable variance. That learned member was in himself an authority. The difference of sentiment argued a necessity for inquiry. Perhaps there might be fees, the abolition of which would tend to retard justice. The uncertainty proved that the House had not sufficient information. He had no immediate objection to raising the salaries of the judges, if it were absolutely necessary to their dignity. His impression was, that their consequence could not be rated too high: but they must ask themselves, if the duties were not adequately performed. And, if they were satisfactorily discharged by able and respectable persons, without any appearance of deficiency as to competitors for the vacant places, then what reason was there for the addition? There might be an error as to the number of judges. If more judges were necessary, more ought to be appointed: but, it was a mistake to lay more duties upon a judge than any man could be expected to bear, and then to hope to make up the matter by an increase of salary. He paid but a just tribute to the public services of the right hon. Home Secretary in acknowledging their extent and usefulness—especially in regard to those improvements in the laws, which went to remove many errors which disgraced our code in the estimation of all the world. He would most readily accede to the increase of salaries, if it would have the effect of cheapening and hastening justice—if it would bring justice to any or every man, with little expense 642 and little delay. For such an advantage no expense could be too high. He strongly objected to those promotions on the bench which resembled the translation of bishops, and which made the judges feel too much dependence on the Crown. The practice of raising puisne judges was justified by the right hon. gentleman, on the ground that without that prospect the salary was so low that men of eminence and ability would not accept the situations. It was a practice full of danger to the interests of justice, though it had prevailed to a great extent. If the grant of large salaries could be proved to be a remedy for the evils complained of, he would be happy to support the motion; but, in his opinion, no such case was made out, and he would not go a step beyond the amendment of his learned friend the member for Nottingham. He was most anxious that all fees should be abolished; their value should be estimated, and an equivalent given.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
thought the hon. baronet was mistaken in one respect. He seemed to suppose there was no information upon the subject. Now, there were two most elaborate reports upon the subject, and his measure respecting fees would be in conformity to the advice of the commissioners.
§ Mr. Scarlett
thought it would be better to propose, as an amendment, that the salaries should be grounded upon the estimated value of the situations for the last twenty years. By this means he thought the public would be a gainer. He asked if the average for the last twenty years would not be a fair mode of now deciding? This measure was to regulate all future times, and certainly some consideration was necessary. He hoped the House would consider him as a disinterested witness; and he had rather that a liberal salary should be allowed the judges than the reverse.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, he owed it to the chief justice of the court of King's-bench to state, that that learned lord was totally ignorant of the salary which it was proposed to allow him in lieu of all fees, &c. The reason why an average rate had not been made was, that there were certain offices and fees, which, though emolumentary, would not come into the gift, of the present lord chief justice.
said, that the rest of no gentleman had, he believed, been inter- 643 rupted by the dread of wanting capable persons to fulfil the duties of judges. He objected to enlarging the salaries. It was characteristic of human nature, that a man might be tempted from his honesty by 6,000l. a-year, whose integrity would not be shaken by 4,000l. He observed, that there were 850 barristers in practice, and no less than 500 places to divide among them. In one court there were 125 places, which upon some occasion he would name one after the other. In this court one person connected with the first office in the state held four situations. These were cases far more worthy of the labours of the right hon. gentleman, than the raising of the salaries of the judges.
§ Mr. T. Wilson
thought 6,000l. too much for the puisne judges. He would not object to 5,000.
The amendment was negatived. After which, the resolutions were agreed to.