HC Deb 16 December 1830 vol 1 cc1268-90
Sir E. B. Sugden,

in rising to call the attention of the House to the Administration of Justice in the Court of Chancery, reminded it that when he was in office he had given notice to bring forward a measure relative to the imperfect Administration of Justice in that Court. As he had now retired from office, he was no longer the person to introduce that measure, which would fall into the hands perhaps of abler men, but certainly not of men more zealous than he in the discharge of so important a duty. Had he continued in office, he should have possessed the power to introduce a measure, which he verily believed would have been of great benefit to the suitors of the Court of Chancery, for he had had the honour to belong to as virtuous a Government as ever presided over the councils of Great Britain—a Government that he was sure would have put down whatever abuses were clearly shewn to exist, without regard to the interests of friends or foes, He felt that he should have received their full support, and on that support he should have relied had he brought in his Bill. Whenever the present Government should bring forward any measure of a similar kind, he should give it his support. He must say, that the subject of the Court of Chancery had never been fairly met, but had always been used for party and political purposes. It was that circumstance which had hitherto prevented it from being made the subject of Reform; for never could an abuse in any office be mentioned, with a view to correct it, but a proposition was instantly made to do away with the office altogether. That House had thus, in many instances, thrown difficulties in the way of the late Government which would not exist with respect to the present, In what he was about to state he wished it to be understood, that he did not pledge the late Ministers; but he would now mention, that he had been desired to undertake the introduction of certain plans of Reform. He did undertake them; but before they could be matured and presented to the Ministers for the expression of their opinion upon them, they had gone out of office. His opinions had been mistaken the other night, and he now wished to correct the mistake. He would say what seemed to him a proper course to adopt. He would cut down all patent places now held in reversion—all incomes obtained from fees paid by the suitors of the Court, especially when paid to persons who took no part in the Administration of Justice. There was one place of that description with 10,000l. a-year. Could anything be more monstrous then that an office of 10,000l. per annum should be held by a person in reversion, which sum was obtained by means of fees that came out of the pockets of the suitors?—Was this system to go on?—Now, he ventured to suggest, that from that large sum 2.000l. a-year should be paid in part of the Lord Chancellor's salary—of which salary he now gave no opinion—and the 8,000l. should be struck off altogether.—Cheap and expeditious justice he was anxious to see administered, and that alteration would be a great relief to the suitors. Another evil at present existing was the state of the Court of Chancery itself. If the Vice-Chancellor's Court and the Rolls' Court had been properly settled at the time the first of them was created— and if at the same time the offices connected with them had been properly regulated, with a view to clear off the business—the complaints now made would never have been heard. Such a course would have been much more advantageous than it would be to separate the business of bankruptcy from the Lord Chancellor's jurisdiction. In his opinion, nothing could be more mischievous than such a separation, and he hoped never to see the day when that would be done. That the general administration of bankruptcy was bad he was ready to admit; but he did not think it ought to be made a separate jurisdiction. It had been said by some persons, when it was proposed to institute the Vice-Chancellor's Court, that that Judge would do no business. That supposition had proved to be utterly un- founded. The Vice-Chancellor's Court had become, to all intents and purposes, the Court of Chancery, and the Court of Chancery had become a Court of Appeals, and little else. Nobody intended to produce that effect at the time; but the effect had been produced, and it was beneficial, in some respects as it regarded the Administration of Justice, but injurious and detrimental in other respects, as it impeded the course of business in the offices, and created as much delay in one way as it got rid of in another. The persons who produced the measure for instituting the Vice-Chancellor's Court never imagined that that Judge would do so much business that four Registrars could not keep up with him; but if they had foreseen that fact, they ought not to have appointed him, without appointing at the same time those officers who would have removed the impediments that stood in the way of the discharge of the business of the Court. As the Vice- Chancellor's Court and the Court of the Master of the Rolls now stood, in relation to the performance of the business of the Court of Chancery, they clashed with each other; for if two parties were about to make cross-motions in the same cause, though both these motions ought to come on together, one party could take his motion to the Vice-Chancery Court, and the other could take his to the Court of the Master of the Rolls. In consequence, too, of the present state of these two Courts, the Vice-Chancellor's Court, and the Court of the Master of the Rolls, each had a Bar of its own; but the Lord Chancellor's Court never could have a separate Bar, but must draw its Bar from one or other of the two other Courts. The Lord Chancellor could not hold his sittings there regularly, on account of his political functions, and of the appeals he had to hear in the House of Lords. His proposition would avoid that difficulty. He would make the Rolls' Court a Court for the transaction of all business except that of bankruptcy, as the Vice-Chancellor's was now; for as they were at present constituted, one set of Counsel might be heard in one of the Courts, in discussing a motion that really decided the merits of the cause, and yet when the cause itself came on again in the Court of Chancery, different Counsel were also of necessity employed. He should propose, that in future no draftsman should draw a bill, without fixing on it a mark to show in which of the Courts that Bill should come on. It had been the intention of the late Government to make a most important alteration in the Vice-Chancellor's Court; for he had had the authority of Lord Lyndhurst for proposing a measure that would have made the Vice-Chancellor an independent Judge, instead of being, as he was now, at the beck and call of the Chancellor. Having said thus much with respect to the Court of Chancery, he now came to the alterations he proposed to make in the Court of Exchequer. In consequence of the appointment of an additional Judge in the Court of Exchequer, he would propose that he, or one of them, should be the First Baron of the Court, and that the Chief Baron should confine himself wholly to Equity; and that in cases where he felt a pressure, he should call in the assistance of the First or most competent Baron; and, that, on the other hand, the First Judge on the Law side should, on questions of difficulty, more particularly connected with Equity, call in the assistance of the Equity Judge. This would render the Exchequer a most effective Court for the decision of cases, both of Law and Equity. There would, by this means also, be established an efficient Court of Appeal in all Equity cases—a Court of which the want was very greatly felt. The entire removal of the Court of Exchequer had been contemplated by some, but he would take that opportunity of stating, that such an intention had never been for an instant entertained by him. He saw no reason why that Court should be abolished; its antiquity was as great as that of the King's Bench or Common Pleas; and, with the alterations he had suggested, he thought it could be rendered fully as useful as either of those Courts. Before he came to the subject of the appellate jurisdiction, he would make one other observation on the subject of the proceedings in Chancery; and that was, that the whole of the Orders of that Court should be revised and remodelled. The new orders had not by any means been attended with the good effects that had been anticipated from them, and nothing would answer the purpose except a revision and remodelling the whole of them, both new and old. And they ought all to be made so clear and simple, that even a member for Middlesex might understand them. And as to the orders and system of proceedings in the Exchequer, he would propose that they should be the same as in Chancery, that the country might be saved from the inconvenience and disgrace of having two systems of Equity procedure. He had said, that no set of men were more disinterested than the Equity lawyers when the question came to be what was best for the public: he was about to give the House an example of that disinterestedness. There were such things in the Court of Chancery as motions of course, which were really of no use. These were wholly in the hands of the junior Counsel, and the fee on each was half a guinea. These he had proposed to have abolished, but feeling some delicacy in proposing an improvement which would cost himself nothing, without communicating with those who were to be affected by it, he mentioned the matter to the junior Chancery barristers, and they, one and all, concurred in the propriety of the abolition of these motions. Some of these fees came into the hands of the Master of the Rolls, but they served no necessary purpose in the progress of a suit, and, therefore, ought to be abolished. There was one remark on the subject of the despatch of business in the Courts, which he felt himself called upon to make. It was very common in that House to praise a Judge for despatching a great deal of business in a short time, and the natural consequence would be, that Judges would be anxious to deserve that praise without, perhaps, duly considering other essential requisites in the progress of a cause. Celerity was only one thing to be considered. It was of the last importance that the thing should be well done, as well as speedily done; and no despatch could be proper that interfered with due deliberation. It was of the last consequence that causes should be managed in such a way as to satisfy the suitors that their interests had been sufficiently attended to, and they never would be satisfied unless their causes were considered with deliberation, and not hurried on in such a way as to give occasion to a suspicion that they had not been properly considered. These praises for despatch ought, therefore, to be used sparingly, otherwise they might do a great deal of mischief. He could not help admiring a rule of Cromwell made two centuries ago, which was, that when, after a cause had been heard, and the Judge was ready to proceed to a decree, the decree should be drawn up and read in open Court, in the presence of the Counsel on both sides, before any other business was gone into. This was a most wise and judicious regulation, and he wished it had always been adhered to. But as the matter was managed at present, there was no time to set down and settle what had been done in one cause before another was called on, so that it could not immediately be exactly known what had been decided. The consequence was, that perhaps in three weeks after, it was necessary to have a second hearing at the Registrar's Office, in order to settle what had been decreed. That was not a mode in which the business ought to be conducted. Time ought to be taken after hearing a cause to settle the decree at once; and if that could not be done according to the present system, then it was his opinion that a new Court should be appointed for the purpose. Without care in this respect, there was danger that they would forget the case, and have the whole of their work to do over again. Another most material point, in his opinion, was, that, as Lord Bacon had said, the Judge should take the law out of his library, and not out of his head, as otherwise there might be reason to apprehend that the law would escape him, and Counsel would be at a loss what opinion to give; and very little dependence could be placed on the opinion, when given, with reference to the ultimate determination of the cause. There was another thing which he was most anxious to see established in the Equity Courts, and that was Special Paper Days, when they might argue the law upon a settled state of facts, and not be always disputing, as at present, on cases of mixed law and fact, each stating the facts of the case in his own way, and applying the law to his own state of facts. The practice of the Court of King's Bench afforded an admirable example in this way. In that Court, difficult and important causes were turned into what were called Special Cases, in which the facts were settled and agreed upon by the Counsel for the parties, with the assistance of the Judge, if necessary; and then the cases came on to be argued on the special paper days upon the law only, upon a settled and indisputable state of facts; whereas, according to their practice in Equity, every man made his own statement of facts, and applied the law to that particular state and view of the facts. They had also causes which were called short causes, in which it was understood that important and difficult points ought not to be introduced. Nevertheless, it was not uncommon at present to introduce delicate and important questions of law into such cases, so that they were decided without that deliberation which their importance demanded. Another proposition which he would, therefore, have made, was, that such points should be carefully excluded from short causes. He now proceeded to state a greater evil than any that he had mentioned, and one which imperiously called for a remedy; and that was, the preliminary references to the Masters in some cases. For instance, a man died intestate; and then, when a person claiming to be his representative, instituted a suit, it was referred to the Master to consider, and report whether the person claiming to be the representative was really entitled to that character. Now, he would maintain, that the very contrary practice would be the safer rule to proceed on, which was, that when the persons who claimed the effects of an intestate came before the Court, the Court ought to decide at once upon their rights, and afterwards, if any necessity existed, to refer their several claims to the Master to report upon. By this means a vast unnecessary expense would often be avoided, and many references be abolished. As an instance of the necessity of such a proceeding, he would mention a case which came within his own immediate knowledge. When Lord Eldon presided in the Court of Chancery, an intestate's effects were sought to be obtained by a man who claimed as next heir. Instead of referring the claims of this person to the Master, his Lordship proceeded at once to examine into the right upon which the claimant founded his demand, and discovered, after a very short investigation, that the man had not the slightest right to claim the intestate's effects, by which the enormous, and, it would have proved, the useless expense of a reference to the Master was entirely avoided. He lamented that Lord Eldon, for whom he entertained the highest respect, had not introduced some of those improvements into the Court of Chancery while he presided over it. With the great knowledge of the law which that noble Lord possessed, the introduction of such improvements would have raised an eternal monument to his fame. Indeed, shortly before Lord Eldon left the Court of Chancery, he expressed his conviction, seeing the evils which had arisen from this mode of reference in a particular case, that the Court should always decide the right in the first instance, before a reference was made to the Master. Another evil which called loudly for a remedy was the putting off motions from day to day; a practice which introduced a great deal of inconvenience and confusion into the administration of justice. What he should propose was, that all the motions which came on on a Seal Day should be disposed of before the Court proceeded with other business. No more time would be lost by this proposed mode, and the convenience of it would be immense. Another alteration which he should propose was, that the practice of giving preference to causes should be utterly abolished. The causes ought to be heard in their regular order, and in no other way, and this would save a great deal of useless expense, time, and labour. This was the first rule that ought to be adopted when the cause was ready for hearing. A second was, that there should be no delay in the hearing after the cause should be ready; and a third rule, which applied to the Judge particularly, was, that after the hearing there ought to be no more delay in pronouncing the judgment than was absolutely necessary for right decision. This was the most important point of all. The Judge himself, for the most part, had no conception of the extreme anxiety of the suitors to have the judgment given as speedily as possible after the hearing had been finished, and of the constant applications to the Counsel to know when the judgment of the Court would be given. What he should propose was, that an officer of the Court should hang up in some conspicuous part of it a list of all the causes in which judgment was in arrear for six weeks, that the amount of the arrear might be constantly under the eye of the Judge, the Bar, and the suitors. From this simple plan he expected much benefit in the prevention of undue delay in pronouncing judgment after a cause had been heard. There were one or two other points in which he wished amendments to be made; and one was, in the mode of keeping the accounts of certain funds deposited in the Court, of Chancery. For instance, a residuary legatee filed a bill, and brought the fund into Court, which accumulated for his benefit at compound interest, while, as to the other parties interested it lay as a dead fund. This formed a very strong temptation to the residuary legatee to delay the final disposal of the cause, and the distribution of the fund, as long as possible; as, during the whole time the suit was depending, the fund was accumulating for his benefit, without regard to the other parties interested; and it sometimes happened, that by this means residuary legatees, whose interest at the commencement of the suit was scarcely worth a shilling, became entitled at the close of it to thousands of pounds. This was an evil that demanded correction. There was another point on which he was desirous to touch before he came to the matter of appeals, and that was, that the Judge in Equity might be called on to decide on particular points without having the whole of the causes brought before him. The opinion of the Court on one particular point was, in many instances, all that was wanted for the distribution of a fund; and in Scotland the Court had the jurisdiction to decide upon such special points without having any more of the case brought before it; and the power was wisely exercised. But in the Court of Chancery here, before the opinion of the Judge could be had on any one point, it was necessary to file a. bill, and bring the whole circumstances of the case before him, whereas his judgment on one point might be all that was requisite for the distribution of the fund. What he should propose, therefore, was, that the Judge might be called upon for the adjudication of the material point, without having the whole of a cause brought before him. And now he came to the consideration of the appellate jurisdiction. It was certainly extremely difficult to find a person for the head of the law who was sufficiently well informed in Law and Equity and other particulars, so as to be able in the best manner to perform all the duties attached to his situation. He did not mean to say that it was a decided objection to the advancement of a man to the head of the law, that he had not practised chiefly in a Court of Equity; but it certainly was a great drawback on the administration of justice. It was unquestionably a great inconvenience that a man's first essay in Equity should be made as Judge of that particular Court where Equity was administered. It might be an evil which they were bound to bear, but it was a great reflection on the country. Every person who had a cause to be heard in the Court of Chancery must desire to have at the head of that Court a person possessing a knowledge of Equity. It was the more necessary when there was an appellate jurisdiction in the same Judge. If a Lord Chancellor decided against the judgment of a Judge below him, there was no appeal, or nothing but an appeal from the Judge to the Judge himself. He trusted that in any remarks which he had made it would not be supposed that he referred personally to the noble and learned person lately elevated to the Woolsack. The same course pursued in his case had been previously acted upon in the case of Lord Lyndhurst. The observations, therefore, applied as strongly to Lord Lyndhurst when he was Chancellor. As to the present Lord Chancellor, no one who was in the habit of hearing him in that House but would admit that his powers of eloquence and of debate were, perhaps, never exceeded, and that he possessed great general knowledge. There was one drawback, however, to all this, which was, that the present Lord Chancellor was entirely uninformed on the law of Equity, which he was called upon to administer. Now, if the Lord Chancellor should decide wrongly in any case (and nothing was more likely), there was an appeal to the House of Lords; and who were the parties met by there? By the same Judge who had decided the case before. Not only the Court of Appeal, but the appellant jurisdiction, therefore, should be put on a different footing. The appeal should not be from the Judge to the same Judge. In the first place, then, he should propose that a sort of Equity Exchequer Chamber should be appointed, and that the Court should consist of the Lord Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor, the Master of the Rolls, and the Chief Baron. He proposed also, that the Counsel should be made really responsible for the appeals which should be brought before the Court. He remembered when it was a matter which considerably reflected on a Counsel, to sign an appeal for which there were no reasonable grounds; but now that was done away with, and the most frivolous appeals were brought and heard, to the great inconvenience and loss of time of those who had cases for appeal "which were really worthy of coming under the review of the appellate jurisdiction. What he should propose, therefore, was, that a moral responsibility should be restored, or created, and that it should be deemed a matter of reflection on Counsel to give their sanction to appeals for which there were no reasonable grounds. Of course, Counsel could not be made responsible for the success of their appeals, but every Counsel had it in his power to take care not to sanction an appeal for which there were no reasonable grounds. The Court being thus constituted, he would give the parties appellants, the option to go before three of these Judges, who had not before heard the cause; before the Lord Chancellor and two of the other Judges; or before the other three Judges; or to go to the House of Lords. If this plan were adopted, he was satisfied that it would stifle nine-tenths of the appeals which were now preferred, more particularly if the moral responsibility of the Counsel should be well established. Then look at the appeals, from Scotland. The grounds of appeal were hardly ever investigated before they were entered in the Upper House, and they were for the most part brought, not for the sake of the difficulty of the question of law involved in them, nor on account of the value, but merely to try who should bear the expenses of a long litigation. Great improvements remained to be made in these particulars, and the time was ripe for them. Almost all these had been suggested nearly two centuries ago, but there they were still where they had been; and it was fitting that they should not remain there any longer. Many inquiries had been made with a view to these improvements, and the new Administration had great facilities in carrying them into effect. Another part of the general plan ought, in his opinion, to be, that the Lord Chancellor should have the power to call one of the Equity Judges to his assistance in cases of appeal in the House of Lords. He meant, that that Judge should sit with him, and not over him; for it was obviously inconsistent with the station which the Lord Chancellor held, and ought to hold, that he should have any Judge over him. He ought not to be under the control of any Judge. The object was, to provide that the appeal should not be to the same Judge, for an appeal to the same Judge was little else than a mockery. If the remedies which he suggested were attended to and applied, the greatest advantage would be gained, for the law would be uniform and certain. Now to pass to the consideration of Offices in the Courts, without which justice could not be done. With respect to them, his intention was of this nature: he would adapt them to the real and full discharge of the duties required by the interests of the suitors; and if it should be found that the duties could be done by smaller numbers, then he would abolish the unnecessary parts of the offices as vacancies occurred. In the Court of Chancery there were the Six Clerks (as to whom a reform had been proposed two centuries ago), who had l,200l. a year, with very little duty to perform. That institution ought not to remain on its present footing. Now the Court of Chancery had no proper taxing-officers, and the duty of taxing costs, upon the plan of the Courts of Common Law, ought to devolve on these six Clerks, and costs would thus be taxed in a cheap, expeditious, and satisfactory manner. The duty had been, that one of them attended in Court in each Term, in a box, where he was sometimes employed in reading- evidence; but latterly, even that duty had been dispensed with, and the attendance was to no purpose. What he should, there fore, propose was, to relieve the Clerks from that useless attendance, and to employ the six Clerks to assist in taking accounts. The next office to which he would advert was that of the Sworn Clerk, whose services might be dispensed with, and no great inconvenience would follow. The next office was that of the Accountant-general, whose salary had been staled at 3,1841. It was not quite so much, however, and he did not think that any reduction ought to be made in the salary of that officer, who had most important and effective duties to perform. The next Office was the Report Office. He was never more astonished than when he saw the Return from that Office. It was a mere copying-office, and yet the allowance to the Master of the Report Office was no less than 4,5891.— a sum so enormous, that he scarcely could believe it to be correct; but if it was correct, it very much required to be corrected. It was absolutely necessary that the Report Office should be investigated: it ought to cost no more than about l,200l. instead of between 4,000l. and 5,0001. a year. He next approached a very important office—that of the Registrar— and nothing could be worse than the system there established. The Registrar was allowed to take any number of Clerks, who each paid him about 1,000l. for the chance of succession, for they followed in rotation up to the highest place, without the slightest inquiry into their qualifications. Business had so accumulated that it was absolutely necessary two new Registrars should be appointed, which was one of the provisions of the bill he introduced last year. He was then authorised to say, that Lord Lyndhurst would give up the patronage annexed to the appointments; and what he proposed was, that each Judge in his own Court should name his own Registrar, taking care that he was properly qualified. He was inclined to think that they should be Barristers, and not Attorneys; but whether the one or the other, their competence ought to be duly ascertained. He did not mean to deprive of their claim those now entitled in the order of succession, but that their competence should be examined, and those only selected who were found most capable. The accumulation of business prevented the attendance of the Registrar, and this non-attendance had been the subject of just complaint. The public ought not to suffer from the appointment of new Registrars, and if four were not sufficient, six must be provided, with the same emoluments now obtained by the four. He meant to suggest, that the Registrars should attend from ten to two in the morning, and from six to eight in the evening. With respect to the framing of decrees in the Registrars' Office, it had become the practice to draw them up at an unnecessary length. At the period when pleadings were single, it was useful to state in the preamble of the decree the particulars of the case, the answer, and the prayer. But this had degenerated into a vicious system. It was customary now for the Registrar to take the Counsel's brief, and striking out such parts of it as he thought proper, and retaining such facts as he thought showed the case, to have it copied into the decree, which led to great and unnecessary expense, for it was not in the power of a Registrar to do this as it ought to be done. He proposed to leave out altogether the unnecessary preamble. He would press it upon the attention of the noble Lord opposite (Althorp), that in cutting off fees, without discrimination, which might be paid into a public fund, the country might be burthened unnecessarily with salaries which could be paid out of that fund. Thus, with respect to copies, they must be had, and there could be no objection to fees being paid for them. But the office copies, as at present drawn, were cumbrous things, and perfectly useless to the persons who took them, until they abridged them, and obtained the abstract of a copy. He proposed that these smaller copies should be procurable, and that the fee should go to a public officer, who should account to the public for them. The Registrars were now induced to make such long decrees because they were paid in fees. This evil ought at once to be remedied, by paying the Registrars out of a fund, to be formed by moderate, yet sufficient fees, to be vested in the public, and to be dealt out to the Registrars in the shape of salaries. The vast price of office copies ought also to be reduced, and they ought to be made useful to the parties, by being written in a form which rendered them legible. At present only a few words were written upon each page, so that a bill or answer extended over a vast mass of paper. The Registrars, who were mere copiers, in point of emolument were now nearly on a level with the Judges of the land, and it was quite time that their salaries were reduced. He now arrived at a still more momentous point—the Masters' Offices: they had been a subject of great and just reproach; for, though filled by most honourable, intelligent, and competent men, they were the sources of great evil. The Masters were not responsible for the abuses which were of long standing, and had been transmitted and accumulated from generation to generation. Their salaries were only 200l. a year, so that their principal incomes were derived from fees, and those fees were multiplied in every way by the prolongation of business before them. The first ground of complaint was, that the attendance of the Masters was not such as the public had a right to expect from the amount of remuneration. The next was, that they issued hourly warrants, which occasioned an almost indefinite repetition of them, without arriving at any thing like a decision. The consequence of this practice was, that parties were put to the expense of paying Counsel and Attorneys for attending hourly to no purpose. Thus suppose the Master had four cases to hear, he would appoint four separate hours, each hour to be appropriated to a case, which, if unfinished, was postponed to a future day; and this, though it was previously known that any one of the cases might occupy the whole four hours. Thirdly, the Masters sat, and dismissed matters submitted to them in a private chamber; and fourthly, the parties were put to a vast expense, by being compelled to take office copies. He was happy to say, that the Masters were so anxious for a reform of their offices, that the House might consider itself legislating with and not against them. He was most anxious to see those abuses put an end to, and he thought the time had now arrived when Government could do more for the benefit of the suitor in Chancery than any Government heretofore had ever an opportunity of doing. Great abuses also existed in the sales of estates; and instances had come to his knowledge where, although the fees to the Master were not exorbitant, yet, by some mismanagement, the costs of proceedings relative to the sale of an estate came, in one case, to 400l. and in another to 900l. He should propose to give the Master a fixed sum of money, instead of fees arising out of such sources. The Masters were called upon to attend the Lord Chancellor and the Master of the Rolls, which consumed their time, while it was only a mere matter of empty parade. This he would abolish, except in cases where the Chancellor or the Master of the Rolls thought it necessary for greater dignity, to require their presence, as, for instance, on the first day of Term. He did not object to their attendance on the House of Lords, of which they were the proper messengers. The first thing he would do would be, to declare their chambers open Courts, and enable them to sit as Judges, three Masters at a time, with the assistance of counsel, deciding points submitted to them. He proposed that they should so sit for three or four hours two evenings in every week, and that the causes should be regularly set down in the paper. The hours of business with the Masters had greatly varied. In remote times lawyers were in Westminster hall at five in the morning; and even in the reign of Charles 2nd, the Masters sat from seven to twelve in the morning, and from two to six in the afternoon. In 1798 they attended from ten to three in the day, and from five to eight in the evening; in 1816 the hours of business had been reduced to seven, and at present he be- lieved, that, on an average, they were not more than five. Thus, as the emoluments augmented, the labour was decreased. He wished to restore the time of sitting twice a week to seven hours, and if that were found too much with the present number of the Masters, he would reduce that number, by not supplying vacancies as they occurred. On the other four days of the week he would have the Masters sit only in the day time for six hours, viz. from ten until four. He next came to the question of emoluments. In 1798 the highest sum received by a Master in Chanceyr was 1,615l, and the lowest 976l., but at present the income varied between 3,800l. and 4,000l. His proposal was, that each master should have a fixed salary of 3,000l. per annum, giving him no interest in the prolongation of a cause, and making it the common interest of all to get the business before them done. The emoluments of the Clerks had also increased surprisingly, until they now amounted to about 1,400l. a year. The regular fees amounted to between 500l. and 600l. a year, and the rest was made up of gratuities for supposed expedition. His intention was, that the salaries of the Clerks should not be entirely fixed; that they should have a certain income of 600l., and the means of increasing it to 800l. by fees in matters of importance, where peculiar speed was required. Another object was, to put an end to the discrepancies in the Masters' offices; for although they were under the same roof, in every office different rules prevailed, which suitors were bound to know and observe. He wished the Masters to meet —to agree upon a general body of regulations—to submit them to the three Judges of the Courts, and with their approbation to establish them for the Government of every office, that in all, the practice might be uniform. He also highly approved of the establishment of an Accountant's-office; but he wished the Accountant to be an efficient sworn officer, who might be referred to by the Masters on points of difficulty, and to be liable to appeal from only where the sum in dispute was large, or where some question of principle was involved. By these changes he hoped to make the Masters' office as much respected as it was now reviled and censured. He was anxious, also, to avoid the expense occasioned by the taking of affidavits within twenty miles of London. If a person lived in the country, but within twenty miles of the metropolis, a Master must go to swear him, at a very heavy expense, amounting in some cases to 13l. 10s. and in others to as much as 27l., whereas, if the man lived at a greater distance than twenty miles, the business could be done for a mere trifle, comparatively, by a Master Extraordinary. There was another matter to which he also begged to call the attention of the House. The Registrars of the Court, who had to transact very important duties in making minutes of the transactions of the Court, &c, were generally Attorneys actually in practice. He did not object to them on the ground of ability, but he thought they ought never to be admitted, while practising, to sit under the Judge, and be the Registrars of the proceedings in the cases, perhaps, of their own clients. It was also the practice to appoint Attorneys as Secretaries for bankruptcy and lunacy; the effect of which was, in many instances, to poison the minds of the suitors, and render them dissatisfied with the Administration of Justice. He thought that the noble Lord, at present at the head of the Court of Chancery, had materially increased the evil, though he did not mean to say that it had originated with him. He certainly considered some of the appointments made by the Lord Chancellor highly objectionable, and among them those of the Secretaries, who acted as Registrars. He referred particularly to the Secretaries for lunacy and bankruptcy; the first of whom had an income of 1,300l. a year, and the last of not less than 2,700l. The noble Lord now at the head of the Court of Chancery, had much increased the evil, although he was certainly not answerable for the introduction of the abuse. Lord Eldon had appointed an attorney in great practice a Secretary and a Commissioner of lunatics, and at the time of the appointment nothing could have given greater dissatisfaction than the union of those two characters. Lord Lyndhurst had named, as Secretary of lunatics, a gentleman who was also a Solicitor of great eminence in the profession, of full business, and of high character. It was his opinion, and that from which he scarcely imagined he should experience any dissent, namely, that no Solicitor should hold a situation in the Court of Chancery, which might supply a temptation to litigants to employ him in preference to others, from a hope that doing so might lead to a favourable decision. The appointment of the Secretary for bankrupts was particularly open to the force of that observation. With respect to the lately-appointed Secretary for bankrupt cases, he had this much to state, namely, that that gentleman did not think himself at liberty to practise, yet he thought his partner quite free to do so; and now he would ask the House, wherein the difference was to be found, between the influence which any man might exert —he would say might be supposed by suitors to exert—over the decisions of the Court, when he acted for himself alone, or by his partner. In adverting to those topics, he begged it to be understood that he meant no hostile allusion to the character or conduct of the present Keeper of the Great Seal. He then, in expressing his sense of the high qualifications of Lord Brougham, professed that he was not influenced by any other than strict considerations of public duty. [Here some remark made behind him called off the attention of the hon. and learned Member.] He said, he could not avoid hearing the hon. member for Middlesex say, "here's a splash." He contended for his right of making the observations which he was making, and in the manner he adopted, without being made the subject of that sort of animadversion. He then proceeded to say, that he hoped some course would be adopted to facilitate the great work of accomplishing a Reform in the Court of Chancery. Nothing, he was satisfied, would prove more acceptable to the country at large, than to put the Court of Chancery on a sound and advantageous footing. He could assure those hon. gentlemen on the other side of the House, from whom such a reform was expected, that they should experience no opposition on his side of the House. He could assure them, that neither he nor any of his hon. friends would take up the matter upon grounds of party or of faction; but. deal with it as fairly, and with as much disposition to effect improvement, as if the proposed alterations had originated with themselves. He concluded by moving "That there be laid before the House an account of the number of Appeal Cases, Bills, Demurrers, Exceptions, and Further Directions, which stood before the Lord Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor, on the 6th November, 1830."

Mr. M. A. Taylor

said, he had too much compassion, though he felt none for the hon. Gentlemen who usually sat below him. but who were not now in their places, to detain the House by entering then into the abuses of the Court of Chancery. With the speech which they had just heard, or rather, with the results which it was likely to produce, if there was one man in the country who ought more than another to be gratified with them, that man was himself. Of all the abuses of the. Court of Chancery he had told them, or rather not all, but some—merely a few; but now he had the satisfaction of hearing the hon. and learned Gentleman below him calling upon his Majesty's Government to bring forward the necessary alterations—now for the first time it was admitted on all hands, that alterations were necessary—while it must be full in the recollection of the House, that the late Lord Chancellor, in the course of the last Session, brought in two bills, which he abandoned, and that the hon. and learned Gentleman himself also abandoned his own measures of last year. As to what had been said in reference to the appointments made by the present Lord Chancellor, he had only to observe, that that noble Lord had done nothing but what had been sanctioned by the example of every one of his predecessors; and why should not he, as they had done, surround himself with men of honour and character, in whom he could confide? He was enabled to say this— that Mr. Vizard, the Secretary for Bankruptcy, assured the Lord Chancellor, that he would no longer practise in cases of bankruptcy or lunacy. Once more he would congratulate the House, and he trusted he might in a peculiar degree felicitate himself, that at length the country would, by common consent of all parties, enjoy the benefits of reform. For very obvious reasons, the House must feel the impossibility of his entering into the various matters which the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman presented for consideration, and therefore he thought he should best promote the object which he earnestly pursued, by moving that the debate be adjourned to Monday next.

The Attorney General,

in seconding the Motion for adjournment, said, that though his hon. and learned friend had, in some respects, censured the conduct of the present Lord Chancellor, he had not advised his noble predecessor, though a member of the same Government with his hon. friend the member for Weymouth, to avoid that course for which he was now censuring the present Lord Chancellor. His noble friend had, in the several appointments which he made, only followed the example which had been set him by Lords Thurlow and Erskine, by Lord Eldon, and by every Keeper of the Great Seal. It could not be for a moment denied, that the present Lord Chancellor had great difficulties to contend against; and though, in meeting those difficulties, he had felt himself called upon to appoint those, and none but those, on whom he could rely, yet in the case of two gentlemen connected with his Court, the giving away of whose offices would have been to him a source of considerable patronage, he had not availed himself of his unquestionable power and authority, but had permitted those gentlemen to remain in the situations in which he found them. Not an iota of patronage had he availed himself of for the benefit of any one of his connexions. Now, more especially with respect to his private Secretary, the fact was, that antecedently to that gentleman's appointment, the Lord Chancellor had not the slightest knowledge of him, and merely received him into that office from recommendations which gave him assurance that the gentleman was well qualified. As to the other Secretaries, respecting whom some observations had been made, he must be allowed to say, that the noble Lord had no other choice but to appoint Solicitors. It might be extremely desireable, if Barristers could be found to fill them, to appoint gentlemen belonging to that branch of the profession; but there were few Barristers, sufficiently well qualified, who would give up their profession for the hazardous situation in question. Under all the circumstances, he hoped his hon. friend would permit him to say, that it would have been rather better for him to have waited a few months, to see what the Lord Chancellor could do, than thus to appear against him with what he might be permitted to call premature condemnation. On occasions such as that, other persons, having to speak of the present Lord Chancellor under the circumstances in which he had to mention his name, might feel called on to pronounce a splendid panegyric—he was, he trusted, incapable of betraying so much bad taste, but he would entreat the House and the country to look to the conduct of the noble Lord; and though he might not be so practised an Equity lawyer as the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, yet he confessed that he should feel himself most grievously mistaken if his noble friend did not turn out to be one of the greatest Equity Judges, and one of the greatest Equity Lawyers, that ever presided in the Court of Chancery; if he did not, in a word, equal all the expectations which that House had formed of him—if he did not fulfil all that was hoped from a man to whom no subject was too great for his comprehension, nor any detail too minute to elude his research. Of this at least he was certain, that no one ever entered the Court of Chancery with a more sincere and earnest disposition to advance the great work of reform, and to put an end to the abuses of that Court. He really was unable to comprehend, from what had been said respecting the appellate jurisdiction, that it at all applied in any degree to the present question. That an appeal to the House of Lords would have been an appeal from the Lord Chancellor to the Lord Chancellor any more in present times than it was at former periods, appeared to him incomprehensible. Surely there were as many Law Lords now as at any former periods and as able. There was no decision to which the present Lord Chancellor might come, which, being appealed from, would not come under the consideration of Lords Eldon, Lyndhurst, and Wynford. With respect to his learned friend's remarks on the evils of the Vice-Chancellor's Court, there was nothing new in them. The disadvantages of that Court were pointed out by Sir Samuel Romilly, when it was first proposed to erect it. He could not conclude without observing, that whatever reforms might be effected in the Court of Chancery, all the honour belonged to his hon. friend, the member for Durham, who had taken up the subject year after year. It was said, that it had been brought forward for party purposes. He repelled the accusation. It was brought forward from the impulse of public spirit; and it was unjust to say, that it was introduced merely because a great judicial character happened also to be. a great political character. It was not brought forward in 1810 for party purposes, but it was then defeated on account of party and political feelings. He could not see why, as his hon. and learned friend the member for Stafford had said, he could not see why reforms of this kind should be thrown on the Cabinet, who had such multifarious business to dispose of. He considered that it was more proper to leave them to his learned friend and others, who had given so much of their time and attention to the task. He was sure, that if they introduced useful reforms, they might rely on the support of every Member of that House, and particularly on that of every Member of his Majesty's Government.

Sir E. B. Sugden,

in explanation, said, he was no friend of the Lord Chancellor, and did not feel that he was authorised to intrude, in order to tell him what he meant to say in that House. In making the observations which he had addressed to the House, he was merely actuated by his feelings as a public man. He had a duty to perform, and he would perform it; he had a station to uphold, and he would uphold it.

Sir C. Wetherell

said, the practice always had been, to appoint Solicitors to the situation of Secretaries. When Lord Macclesfield was impeached, every thing that could be was alleged against him; but his appointment of Solicitors as Secretaries was not amongst the charges; and it was, therefore, to be inferred, that there was nothing improper in it. He did not know whether his learned friend meant to introduce a clause in some bill to prohibit the Chancellor from appointing whom he pleased as Secretaries. If he did, he thought that that Chancellor would not be a very spirited man who submitted to be over-ruled by such a clause. The present Lord Chancellor, as his learned friend the Attorney General had said, had done no more than a long series of his predecessors had done.

Mr. Hume

begged to explain to the hon. member for Weymouth (Sir E. B Sugden) that what he had said, and what the hon. Gentleman had overheard, had been addressed privately to a friend that sat next him, and not at all intended to interfere with his speech. His friend had asked him, on what the motion was? To which his reply was, that it was not a motion, it was only a splash. If the hon. member for Weymouth wished to know what a splash meant, he would tell him: he meant a speech on a subject, but no motion on the speech. The hon. and learned Gentleman had been three years in office without ever complaining of the abuses of the Court of Chancery; and now, with the greatest inconsistency, he made an attack upon Lord Brougham, who had scarcely taken his seat, for permitting abuses. Of the speech of the Attorney General he must say, that since he had been in the House, he had never heard a speech from a lawyer which had given him so much satisfaction. His speech did honour to him as a lawyer, and would be gratifying to the public. He was sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman would not, like his predecessor, defer complaints till his removal from office.

Sir E. Sugden

said, that whilst he was in power, he had given due notice of this motion.

The Debate adjourned till Monday.