§ Mr. Dawson moved, that a sum not exceeding 7,000l. be granted to his Majesty, to defray the expenses arising out of Prosecutions relating to the Coin of this Kingdom for 1830.
§ Agreed to.
§ On the question, that a sum not exceeding 15,000l. be granted to his Majesty, to defray the expenses of Law Charges for 1830, being put,
wished to know whether these expenses were incurred by the Treasury, for the prosecutions, or rather persecutions of the Press during the last year. In 1829, the sum voted for fees of Counsel was only 2,289l., while the Estimate for the present year was 3,139l. He also observed on the practice of employing a great number of Counsel. In the prosecution of Mr. Alexander six Counsel, he believed, were employed for the Crown, while a private individual would perhaps only employ two or three. He hoped the hon. Gentleman opposite would give a detailed estimate of the manner in which the sum voted last year was expended, previous to bringing up the Report.
said, that the sum for fees of Counsel was lower this year than last. The vote for this year was not proposed upon a calculation of the probable expenses, but upon the average expense of the three preceding years. With respect to the number of counsel employed, probably his learned friend (Sir J. Scarlett) would give the House a good reason for that. He must, however, state, that the fees paid by the Solicitor of the Treasury were much lower than those paid by private individuals.
The Attorney General
thought he was bound, on the occasion of the prosecution which had been adverted to, to give his Majesty the benefit of the Counsel whom he considered most efficient. He was perfectly ready to show, that the charges in this instance were usual and reasonable, and he was ready to meet any motion which the hon. Member might bring forward on the subject. It was a matter of great, and he might add, indispensable convenience to the Attorney General to have the assistance of King's Counsel in cases of this description. He and the Solicitor General were often called out of Court on such public occasions, when it was important that they should be present, and it was necessary in such instances to have Counsel ready to take upon them the management of the case. If the hon. Member himself should happen to be engaged in an important suit, and if such an humble individual as he (the Attorney General) should be fortunate enough to be employed as his Counsel, and if he should be called out of the Court at the critical moment, as he frequently was, to attend his public duty in the House of Lords, in the Court of Exchequer, or before the Privy Council, the hon. Gentleman might then find the necessity and convenience of having Counsel employed to assist him and to take his place in his absence; now what the hon. Member would think right and proper in his own case, he should concede to be right in the case of Government. As to the number of Counsel, it was not greater than was usually employed in such cases. That was his answer to the hon. Gentleman, and it was all the answer he was prepared to give to him on the subject. As to the fees that had been paid in these cases, they were not equal to the fees which were often paid in private prosecutions. He thought he had now answered all the questions and the statements of the hon. Gentleman. He might be allowed, however, to tell the hon. Member, that if he was anxious to make personal attacks upon him, he ought to do so in the regular way, by bringing a specific motion before the House. Let him do that, and he would be then ready to meet him. Let him do that, and not assai him by those side-wind attacks, and by calling prosecutions, which he in the discharge of his duty felt himself bound to institute, "persecutions." He thought it 1370 was an unworthy use, for any Member to make, of the privilege which he possessed in that House, thus incidentally to make attacks upon an individual for which he was not prepared at the time, and with the full refutation of which he could not upon such an occasion occupy the time and attention of the House. He was most willing, most anxious, that the whole line of his conduct should be submitted to the decision of a vote of that House, and he would be ready to stand or fall by the vote of the majority. He should be sorry, indeed, to find any thing like a large minority against him, but he was confident that such would not be the case. He should be very sorry indeed if many Gentlemen in that House participated in the sentiments expressed by the hon. member for Cricklade, and at all events he should derive some consolation from the reflection that his conduct did not meet with the approbation of that hon. Member. He would say, that it was not fair, upon asking a question, to make a public attack of this kind, and that a question of finance should not have been introduced by an expression conveying a sarcasm and a sneer. Something had dropped from the hon. Gentleman which seemed to insinuate that he received a great portion of the fees paid for those prosecutions. Now he was ready to meet the hon. Member, if he would make a specific motion on the subject, whenever or where-ever he pleased. Of the fees which were paid to Counsel in all the various departments, and of which he could assure him that the Attorney General received a very small portion, the hon. Member would have an opportunity, by a return which would be laid before the House in a few days, of seeing the amount; he would then find that the office of Attorney General was one that was not overpaid, and that the labour of the office was considerable, while the remuneration was comparatively small. And as he was now on his legs, he would take the opportunity to remove a mistake which had gone abroad on the occasion of a bill lately passing through that House—he alluded to the notion which appeared to have been taken up by the public, that the Attorney General would derive considerable emoluments from a demise of the Crown. He had taken some pains to ascertain the fees which would in that case be received by him, and by the Solicitor 1371 General upon every patent which would then possibly be renewed. It was only fair to assume, that not more than two-thirds of them, that is to say about 200, would be renewed; in that case he hoped the hon. Member would just attend to the kind of work which the Attorney General had to do in each of those instances where patents were renewed. The Attorney General had to prepare the bill; copies of the bill when prepared were sent round to the different offices, and after the bill was approved of and signed by his Majesty, it was carried round to the various offices, and for all that the Attorney and Solicitor General, who prepared and arranged the bill, received only a fee of 5l.; and the whole of the Patent Clerk's fees amounted only to 3l. 15s. He believed that the whole amount charged was far less than would be charged by a Solicitor for doing an equal quantity of business for a private individual. He hoped the House would forgive him for making that explanation on such an occasion. The bill from which had originated the misapprehension which he was desirous to remove was generally discussed at three or four o'clock in the morning, so that he had no opportunity then of disabusing the public mind of the erroneous impression that the Attorney General would derive great emoluments from a demise of the Crown. It should be recollected that the sum charged in this estimate was for Treasury business, which branched into a variety of departments, and he thought that the estimate was, under such circumstances, a very small one indeed.
Mr. R. Gordon
would in the first instance say a word as to what had been said by the hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for the Treasury, as to the amount of those fees to Counsel charged in this estimate. The hon. Gentleman had said, that 3,139l., the amount charged, was not taken upon the expenditure of last year, but was the average of the three preceding years. Now the hon. Secretary for the Treasury was exceedingly unfortunate in that statement, for it appeared that the amount of fees charged in the three preceding years was as follows:—in 1829, 2,189l.; in 1828, 2,819l.; in 1827, 2,700l.; so that he (Mr. Gordon) was perfectly at a loss how to make out that 3,139l. formed the average amount of the fees charged in those three years: so much for the arithmetic of his hon. friend 1372 the Secretary for the Treasury. A word now as to his Majesty's Attorney General, if indeed so humble an individual as he was might venture to say anything in the presence of that great personage. The learned Gentleman had complained of his having used the word "persecutions," and he had maintained that it was unfair to apply that epithet to what were only prosecutions. Now he would venture to tell him, Attorney General though he might be,—that as long as he retained a scat in that House, he would never fail there, as well as every where else, to call those prosecutions "persecutions." He would use that term whenever and wherever he pleased, and he would not be put down by his Majesty's Attorney General for using it. The learned Gentleman complained that he had preferred an accusation against him in reference to those prosecutions, but could he say that he accused him in his absence? The learned Gentleman was present, and he had every opportunity afforded him to answer for his conduct. If he had not been present, then he might have justly complained that he had been making charges against him, and attacking him behind his back. But he had pursued an opposite course, and he had stated fully and fairly, in the presence of the learned Gentleman, and before the House, that he considered those prosecutions persecutions. The learned Gentleman had talked about the propriety of his (Mr. Gordon's) bringing forward a specific motion on the subject, and he said that an opportunity might be easily found in that way for arraigning his conduct, when he should be prepared to meet whatever charges might be preferred against him. Why the thing had been done already, and what was the result? A majority of that House, which his Majesty's Attorney General could seldom fail of commanding, pronounced a decision in his favour. At present, indeed, and for some time past, he had heard rumours of other motions on the subject. The hon. member for Newark had been whispering about a motion of the kind, but he had never brought it before the House. He would tell the learned Gentleman, that if he had been more constant in his attendance in that House, he would not have heard now, for the first time, that accusation preferred against him of which he so much complained. During his absence from the House on various occasions, hon. 1373 Members on that side of the House had expressed an opinion similar to that which he (Mr. Gordon) had expressed with regard to those prosecutions; and if he had used a strong word, in calling them "persecutions," he was sure that his constituents and the country at large would sympathize with him in that feeling. He should only add, that when the House resumed, he should take advantage of the facility offered by the Secretary for the Treasury, to move for a detailed account of the charges incurred for those prosecutions. The learned Gentleman said, that if he (Mr. Gordon) should happen to have a suit, and should employ him to conduct it, that he would join other Counsel with him certainly; but he would retort the comparison on the learned Gentleman; he would consider this charge against the public as he would consider a charge in his solicitor's bill, and he must object to that to which he should object if he found it in the bill of his solicitor. It was quite plain, of course, that the Attorney and Solicitor General could not each he in two places at once; but were they to be paid for being so? Were they to receive fees for being there when it was impossible that they could attend? He conceived that this estimate was well worthy of the serious consideration of the Committee.
§ Mr. D. W. Harvey
said, that they had been told, that a portion of this money had been issued for the payment of fees in suits. He inferred from that statement that the suits in question were suits in Chancery; and he was anxious to obtain information as to the number of suits of this description which had been instituted by the Treasury, and the amount of property which had been thus acquired for the Crown. It was well known that all the effects of persons who were born illegitimate, and who died intestate, devolved to the Crown. He believed that large estates of that character had devolved to the Crown. His attention had been called to the subject by a professional gentleman, who acted as solicitor for an individual who claimed as the legal descendant of the deceased, but who was defeated. In that case the sum of 90,000l. came to the Crown. He should wish to know what was the amount of the sums so received, and how those estates had been disposed of; for as they were in general extremely profitable, they should 1374 at least pay the costs incurred in the suits instituted for the recovery of them. The Attorney General had stated that they would speedily have laid upon the Table of the House a Return of the fees paid to the law-officers of the Crown, and that it would be seen from that, the Attorney and Solicitor General were very moderately paid. It. would be well for them to have such a Return laid before the House, for it would go far to remove the erroneous impression which prevailed throughout the country, and in which he (Mr. Harvey) would confess that he participated, that those parties were not too much employed for the emoluments which they received. The hon. and learned Gentleman had stated truly and candidly, that the whole of the fees paid to the law-officers of the Crown were not so great as were paid to Counsel when employed by individuals. But still they were paid in many cases for doing nothing, and that was a great tax and a great hardship upon the public. He would refer the learned Gentleman to the case of charities. Before any individual could present a petition under Sir Samuel Romilly's Act to file an information, it must first be considered and approved by his Majesty's Attorney General. He could speak of one individual case, and there were, no doubt, many such, in which the Attorney General received his fee, to give his fiat to a petition for an information in the case of a charity, and he finally determined that no information should be filed in that case. Here was the Attorney-General of England enabled, in his private character, to act as the party, and as the judge, without the responsibility which attached to the discharge of the functions. The learned Gentleman, though he disapproved of the information, was enabled to retain his fee in this instance. This was conduct which he did not at all mean to charge as peculiar to the present Attorney General. It was the line of conduct which had been uniformly pursued by his predecessors in that office, but it was at the same time a great blot upon the administration of justice in this country, and one which ought to be removed. He would contend that when persons applied to the Attorney General to file an information in the case of a charity, and when they had it certified by eminent Counsel that it was a fit case for an information, it was a great hardship that the Attorney General should have the 1375 power of refusing to allow such an information to be filed. He should in a few days have a petition to present on the subject, and might then perhaps go into it more at length. As the Attorney General had stated that the law-officers of the Crown were not over paid, he would say that he agreed with him that they were not over paid for what they did, but he certainly thought that they were over paid when they were paid for what they did not do, as in the instances of charities. The system with regard to them was a cruel one; in all instances of charity-cases in the Court of Chancery the Attorney General was not present, and yet in every one of them he took a brief. It was no wonder, then, that the impression prevailed in the country that these officers were rather too well paid. He had moved for Returns of the amount of all the fees in all those suits in the Equity Courts, into which he believed the present Attorney General never went, and in which, therefore, he had nothing to do, though he received fees in all those cases. As the practice of the hon. and learned member for Plympton lay in those Courts, when he was Attorney General, he was of course present at those cases. He (Mr. Harvey) had no objection to the Attorney and Solicitor General receiving large fees for that which they did, but he was of opinion that they should not be paid for merely receiving money.
The Attorney General
trusted, that on the present occasion he was entitled to claim the attention of the House, while he replied to the statements made by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. With regard to the subject of charities he had this to say—the power of investigating and regulating public charities was vested in the Crown, and that power was delegated to his Majesty's Attorney General; and whether it were right that such a power should be so delegated or not, he would not now say; but this he would say, that so long as it was vested in him, as it was, he would keep that right, and he would not allow the hon. Member or any other person to take it from him. If the hon. Gentleman should choose to apply to file an information in the case of a charity, and have the certificate of a Counsel in support of it, and if the facts should not afterwards appear to warrant such an information, he should only be doing his duty by preventing him from filing it. He 1376 felt that he only did his duty in that way in regard to the case to which the hon. Gentleman referred. There had been sent to him from several quarters, copies of a circular letter which had been distributed throughout the country amongst the trustees of the various charities, of which letter probably the hon. Gentleman knew something, and which was to this effect—"You (meaning the trustees to whom it was addressed) are in the receipt of funds for some charity, and we are desirous to have an account from you as to how those funds have been expended; and we are ready to impart to you important information with regard to the charity in question." The letter concluded with a threat, that if it were not met in a corresponding spirit, they would file an information against them at the suit of his Majesty's Attorney General. Such a circular letter had never been authorized by him, nor by the Commissioners for inquiring into charities; and if any individual entertained such a mistaken notion, he wished to take this public opportunity to disabuse him of it, and to set the public right upon the matter. If any individual, a party to this letter, filed an information as a kind of adventure to bring a person into Chancery, and the Attorney General should discover that the information so filed was a wrong one, it was his duty to keep the proceedings in his own hands, the authority being vested in him. He had done his duty, in cases of that kind to the best of his judgment, and if similar cases should occur again, he should endeavour to examine them to the best of his ability, and not to allow any man, under any pretence whatever, to take from him that power which had been placed in his hands. He knew that in one or two cases in which the hon. Gentleman was concerned, objections had been taken by him to the filing of the informations, and into the details of those cases he should not enter at present, as they were not before the House. He would content himself with remarking, that he had examined them to the best of his judgment. He wished it to be generally understood, that the Attorney General never sanctioned the circular letter to which he had called the attention of the House; it had never been authorized by him; and if any trustee of a charity had been so far misled, as to suppose that it had been sent round by the directions of the Commissioners of 1377 Charities, or of the Attorney General, he was anxious, by this public contradiction, to set such individuals right upon this matter.
§ Mr. D. W. Harvey
said, that the learned Gentleman had made a strange exhibition on this occasion. To any Gentleman who heard him it must have been evident that the Attorney General appeared to be under the impression that he was in a court of law, and not in that House, for he seemed to think that he might deal out to individuals here the same treatment which he did to the unfortunate parties who came under the lash of his forensic talents in a court of law. The hon. and learned Gentleman had complained of what he called the sarcasms of the hon. member for Cricklade. He (Mr. Harvey) would not accuse the hon. and learned Gentleman of employing sarcasms against him, for that would be giving him credit for wit which he did not possess, but he had certainly dealt out a great quantity of coarseness against him, which the House might estimate as it deserved. It was rather odd that the learned Gentleman, who put forward assumptions to a purity of intention which he would not concede to others, should have on this occasion so completely perverted the spirit of a printed letter which could scarcely have been misunderstood if it had been read to the House. In doing that, the hon. Gentleman with his usual dexterity, had diverted the attention of the House from that point with regard to which he (Mr. Harvey) had required an answer from him. He alluded to the amount of fees charged for those suits with respect to charities in Chancery, in which suits the hon. Member had been in the habit of taking fees for doing nothing, though it had been recommended by the law-commissioners as one remedy for the abuses in courts of justice, that learned Counsel should confine themselves to the court, and not go into other courts to scramble for fees for doing nothing. That was what the learned Attorney General had done, for he had taken fees in those suits in Chancery where he could do nothing, as his practice did not lie in that Court. But the hon. Member alluded to a circular letter which had been sent round to the trustees of charities. He (Mr. Harvey) gloried in being the author of that letter. He would venture to say, that the Attorney General would never be the author of such a letter. 1378 [Laughter and cheers from the Ministerial benches.] He was glad to hear that cheer before he assigned his reason for the assertion he was about to make, for it proved that it was given without any reason for it. He would say, that the Attorney General would never write a letter in such a spirit—it was not a letter written to bring fees to its author for doing nothing. He had never made to the amount of 6s. 8d. in that way by it. His intention in writing it was to call the attention of the various trustees of the different charitable corporations in the country to the plunder and waste which was made of those funds which were destined for the poor. The country had paid from 200,000l. to 300,000l. for Commissions of Inquiry on this subject, and yet he (Mr. Harvey) could not file an information when he had discovered an abuse in the management of a charity, and wished to apply the remedy to it, without obtaining the leave of his Majesty's Attorney General. He could refer to many cases to show what he had done to remedy such abuses. He should instance one which a worthy Alderman opposite (Alderman Thompson) must be aware of—he meant the case of the Ironmongers' Company. The funds of this corporation were very large. It had an accumulation of upwards of 100,000l. arising from an estate of 3,000l. a-year, which had been left to it originally to be applied to the rescue of English slaves captured on the coast of Barbary. Happily for this country such a condition was not now required to be fulfilled; and the question was, whether this money should not be applied to some charitable purpose, instead of being left to accumulate in the hands of this most famous toast-drinking and turtle-eating Company in the city of London. It was for that purpose that the inquiry had been instituted by him with regard to the charitable funds vested in that Company. It was for a similar purpose he (Mr. Harvey) had written the letter which had been mentioned; and he should continue to write letters in that spirit, however they might be characterized by the hon. and learned Gentleman, who would no doubt continue to receive his large fees in the Court of Chancery, where he never practised, and consequently, where he did nothing for the money which he received.
The Attorney General
said, if the hon. Member were prepared to bring forward any 1379 motion on this subject, he should be prepared to discuss it with him on the proper occasion. The hon. Member said, that he had written the letter in question, and that he did so through the purest motives. Of course every Gentleman in that House would give him credit for such motives when he claimed it. It might so happen, however, that the letter would be the means of securing to him some profits. At all events, lest it should be misunderstood, he would repeat that no such letter had been authorized by the Commissioners of Charities or by the Attorney General.
The Solicitor General
hoped that the House would allow him to say a few words in reference to the case of the Ironmongers' Company, to which allusion had been made by the hon. member for Colchester. He begged leave to say, that as to the result of that case, the hon. Member appeared to be entirely mistaken. No pretence existed to justify any one in stating to the commissioners that there was any intention on the part of the Ironmongers' Company to mismanage or misapply this money; on the contrary, it was shown that all their regulations with regard to it were framed to meet the intentions of the original founder. The only difficulty was with regard to the application of the money, so as to comply with the conditions specified by the founder. He must say, that it appeared upon investigation, that the money had been managed by the Ironmongers' Company in the best possible manner. The hon. Member had no reason whatever to take credit to himself, for having by his vigilance obtained the proper application of that fund. With regard to the controlling power possessed by the Attorney General as to the filing of informations in cases of charity, he would observe, that when the Legislature thought proper to confide that power to the Attorney General, without the authority of a relator in Chancery, it was done so in order to guard those individuals who might be connected with charities from any improper bills being filed against them. The hon. Member for Colchester expressed a wish that this state of the law should be altered, and no doubt there were many others who shared in that opinion. But if bills could be filed in any case without such a control, the number of such bills would be vastly increased, and the public would have to lament the result. He did not wish to impute any personal motives to the hon. 1380 member for Colchester; it might be quite true that he had written this letter from the purest motives, but one object of the letter which had been sent out would ad-pear to be to get cases. He did not say that there was any thing wrong in his doing so, but he did not see what right that hon. Member had to get up in that House and assume to himself the credit of nothing but pure charity and benevolence in writing that letter. The fact was, that the hon. Member who had written that letter had filed more informations against the trustees of charities than any Solicitor in London. He must object to that hon. Member's bringing his private business in this way before the House. What was his complaint against the Attorney General? That in the execution of his duty he had taken an information off the file, by which he had suffered great loss. The Attorney General, seeing that the information was an improper one, would not allow it to be proceeded with, and it was natural that the hon. member for Colchester should feel sore upon that point. It was to guard the Trustees of Charities against the filing of vexations bills and informations against them that this controlling power had been confided to the Attorney General. If such a protection did not exist, it would not be possible to get gentlemen throughout the country to undertake the office of Trustees to charitable institutions. It would be an important object for the hon. member for Colchester to achieve, to get rid of that control, for, as it was, he had filed more informations than any solicitor in the United Kingdom. He (the Solicitor General) had already stated that he did not impugn or attack his motives: he was only desirous to show the feeling which actuated the hon. Gentleman, and which was, no doubt a very proper and a very fair one,—namely, to bring grist to his own mill. In pursuing his professional career that might be a very fair and proper course; but it was right that the House should be aware of the objects of the hon. Member. He contended that the chief inducement to any man of professional eminence, in taking office, was not the pecuniary remuneration, but the rank and station which he derived from it. Pecuniary remuneration there certainly was for the office which he had himself the honour of holding; but he assured the Committee that he should receive twofold the pecuniary remuneration which he 1381 now received as Solicitor General, if he were to give up to his private clients the same amount of time which it was now his duty to devote to his public functions.
Mr. Alderman Thompson
defended the conduct of the Ironmongers' Company, and contended that they had not been guilty of any misapplication of their funds. He wondered how the hon. member for Colchester could bring forward charges in that House, when he knew that the whole case must shortly undergo judicial investigation elsewhere. The hon. Member had told the Committee that a bill had been filed against the Ironmongers' Company. Why had he not told the committee that the Company had put in its answer, and that the Lord Chancellor had ordered that the funds in question should be distributed pendente lite as they had been distributed for the last fifty years? Those funds had never produced more than 200l. a year; and had never been expended in eating and drinking, as the hon. Member had so boldly averred. An account had been kept of the manner in which they had been expended; and if the hon. Member would inspect it, he would discover that nothing could be more unfounded than the invectives in which he had indulged. He begged pardon for intruding upon the attention of the committee during this irregular discussion; but connected as he was with the great Corporation which had been so unexpectedly attacked, he felt that he should have neglected his duty if he had allowed the observations of the hon. Member to pass entirely unnoticed.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that if any person were justly liable to the accusation of irregularity upon this occasion, it was his Majesty's Attorney General, who had introduced a letter into the discussion which had not the slightest connexion with it. The hon. and learned Gentleman had been asked, why he condescended to take fees for suits instituted in his name in the Court of Chancery, when he never went into that Court, or took any part in conducting them. It was a plain question, and admitted, as he (Mr. Hume) thought, of as plain an answer. But the hon. and learned Gentleman, instead of giving the Committee a plain answer to a plain question, did not vouchsafe to give it an answer at all, but endeavoured to divert attention to a very different subject, by going into a letter of which he hinted, more than 1382 stated, the substance. The hon. member for Colchester had made no accusation against the hon. and learned Gentleman: he had only said that certain measures went through the hon. and learned Gentleman's hands, for which he received a certain amount of fees without performing any amount of duty. The hon. member for Colchester deserved well of his country for the exertions which he had made to restore to the defrauded poor their property; and of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite would therefore have acted more prudently by assigning to him the credit which he deserved, than by loading him with misrepresentations, which had much better have been spared, and by talking of a letter which he had never seen. All that might serve very well to take the attention of the Committee for a time from the subject regularly before it; but he trusted that the Committee would not be deceived by so stale a manœuvre. For his own part, he must say, that he entirely concurred with the hon. and learned member for Plympton, in considering the late proceedings against the press not so much prosecutions as persecutions. He was at a loss to conceive how the hon. and learned Gentleman had been able to justify, even to himself, the institution of them. His imagination must have been strangely perverted, his views of public events and of public principles must have been marvellously altered, by his change of situation, and by the place from which he took them; for when the hon. and learned Gentleman sat upon the Opposition side of the House, he was accustomed to admire him as a friend to freedom and an enemy of oppression. Every speech which the hon. and learned Gentleman had made from that side of the House tended to produce that impression upon his mind: but his actions, now that he had changed sides in the House, were all contrary to the character which had gained him his present situation,—he meant the character of a generous and liberal Whig, who had deserved and obtained a leading influence with his party. He appealed to the Whigs, if a Whig were yet to be found in that House, and he asked such of them as had formerly been the associates of the hon. and learned Gentleman, whether they were prepared either collectively or individually to approve—he would not say to applaud—his conduct in the late political prosecutions. He had never met with 1383 any Whig who had not condemned those prosecutions, and who had not lamented, in the most poignant terms, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had become, at the close of a long life of honour and eminence, the persecutor of those liberal opinions which he had for so many years so warmly supported. He would avail himself of the present opportunity to ask whether the Lord Chancellor had, paid the expenses of the prosecution which he had instituted against certain persons in his individual capacity; or whether those expenses were included in the sum charged in the estimates for expenses incurred in carrying on public prosecutions? That was a point on which he thought it most essential that the committee should forth-with receive some distinct information. He repeated the declaration that the prosecutions recently instituted against the press were persecutions, and said that the best proof of that assertion was to be found in the fact, that they had not ceased until the ruin of the individual against whom they were directed was completely effected. He had heard that such an intention had been avowed on the part of the Government. Now, if such an avowal had been made, how satisfactory it must be to the Government,—how gratifying it must be to the hon. and learned Gentleman and his liberal associates,—a satisfaction and gratification, however, which he did not envy them,—to find that by bringing all their combined influence against an obscure individual, they had at last succeeded in effecting his ruin, by the numerous prosecutions with which they had overwhelmed him.
The Attorney General
wished to confine himself to a simple answer to the question which had been put to him by the hon. member for Aberdeen, inasmuch as he was convinced that all who were acquainted with his private character would do him the justice to believe that he was not likely to feel gratification at the ruin of any man. The expenses incurred in the prosecutions instituted on behalf of the Lord Chancellor, after it had been taken up as a public prosecution were, he had no doubt, included in this item. He could not positively say of his own knowledge that they were, because he had not the drawing up of this estimate. To the remainder of the observations made by the hon. member for Aberdeen, he would only reply, that he did not know till that evening that in pro- 1384 secuting the individual alluded to, he had been prosecuting an individual who advocated liberal principles. Neither did he know that that individual was a Whig. If he was, he had taken a most effectual mode of concealing it, by pouring the most unqualified abuse upon that party at all times and upon all occasions.
Mr. Dawson rose
for the purpose of stating that the expenses of the ex-officio information filed on behalf of the Lord Chancellor were included in this estimate.
§ Mr. D. W. Harvey
denied that he had made any such attack upon the Ironmongers' Company as justified the remarks which had been made upon his conduct by the hon. member for the City of London. He believed that the members of that Company thought that they had done as well as the members of other companies of "the great Corporation;" and he did not mean to say that they had done worse. All that he had complained of was, that they had had a large sum of money unemployed for years, or if employed, employed on no visible object save that of eating and drinking. It appeared to him that the learned Solicitor General had upon this occasion run wild very unnecessarily. The learned Gentleman had accused him of adopting his present course for the purpose of gaining popularity; and if he might judge from the exhibition which he had just seen, the learned Gentleman was rather envious of the honour which he fancied was acquired by a reformer of abuses. He certainly, and he was ready to acknowledge it, did wish for some popularity, and he believed that the Solicitor General, much as he disguised the fact, was equally anxious to obtain a share of that; else how was it that an inflated account had been published of certain journies made from Lincoln's Inn to the Fleet Prison, and of certain accounts then and there taken of the sufferings endured by a certain class of prisoners? He repeated what he had said before, that so far was the attempt to remedy the abuses of charitable institutions from deserving attack in that House, that he believed that whoever made it was undertaking a work of great utility. The twenty-two volumes of Reports on Charitable Institutions, which had cost the country upwards of 300,000l. showed the perversion of funds amounting to 1,000,000l. per annum, although the commissioners had not yet extended their investigations over half the country. It 1385 was well known that the sums set aside annually by public charities for the relief and education of the poor amounted to more than 2,000,000l.; and yet almost half of them presented cases of perversion, which required immediate correction. In spite of all that had been said to the contrary, he would still contend that the man deserved great praise who redeemed a single charity from misapplication. He never said any thing against the lawyers, but he expected to have a-hard run made against him by the whole body of them in the House; but though he might get crushed between the heavy waggons of the learned Attorney and Solicitor General, the anticipation of that fate would never deter him from getting up to attack those learned Gentlemen when he considered their conduct to deserve attack, or to vindicate himself when he thought their aspersions rendered his vindication necessary.
§ Sir E. Knatchbull
rose, for the purpose of repeating the question which had been already put by the hon. member for Montrose. He thought that he had heard that question answered in the affirmative. If it had been so answered, he, for one, wished to have a further explanation.
repeated, that the expenses incurred by Lord Lyndhurst in prosecuting an individual for a libel against him as Lord Chancellor, had been included, as the prosecution was taken up by the Crown, under the charge of law expenses for the last year.
§ Sir E. Knatchbull
wanted to know the grounds on which such a resolution had been adopted. A great constitutional principle was here at stake, and he should like to hear some satisfactory reason, if such a reason could be given, for so unprecedented a proceeding.
§ Sir C. Wetherell
said, that unless some of his Majesty's Ministers explained to the Committee, before this estimate was put to the vote, why Lord Lyndhurst's application for a criminal information was abandoned, and an ex officio information filed in its stead, he should move that so much of this estimate as contained the expenses of prosecuting that ex officio information to judgment, should be disallowed. The Committee would recollect that he had had an opportunity of discussing a part of this important question before, and he had then promised, that after he had obtained the papers for which he tad moved, he would renew the discussion 1386 of it in a more enlarged form upon a future day. He had also stated, that it was his intention to bring in a bill to remedy the practice of which he had complained. That bill he had been prevented from bringing forward, owing to the state of business in the House: but he had it ready prepared, and would move for leave to bring it in on the first open day. He would not lose sight of the principle on which it was founded; and if the House should, it would lose sight of that precaution which it was so necessary to keep in view against the improper application of power by Attorney-generals. The Committee would recollect, that upon the occasion to which he had already alluded, he had expressed his opinion that the Lord Chancellor had done right in applying to the Court of King's Bench for a criminal information on his private suit. He had also stated, that if originally an ex officio information had been filed for the libel against him in his public capacity, that course would not have been objectionable. But he had also contended then, as he contended now, that the change of the former of these proceedings for the latter was at once oppressive, illegal, and unconstitutional. Having that opinion himself, he should like to hear the opinions of other hon. Members upon that point: and with that view, unless he received a more satisfactory explanation than any which he had yet heard, he should move that the expenses incurred for the ex officio information should be disallowed.
The Attorney General
hoped, that the Committee would feel that he was now most unexpectedly called upon to address it at some length upon a subject that was pointedly personal to himself. He had had no previous notice given to him that a question as to the propriety of his official conduct would be that evening raised in Parliament. Not one of the hon. Gentlemen who had that evening thought fit to pass such sweeping censures on his conduct, had had the courtesy to intimate to him that they intended to bring under the notice of the Committee of Supply, that part of his public conduct which had already undergone discussion once, and which was to undergo a discussion a second time, whenever the hon. and learned member for Plympton should think fit to bring it on by moving for leave to introduce a Bill to prevent the 1387 recurrence of such conduct in future. He had promised the House, that whenever his hon. and learned friend should be ready to renew his attack, he would be ready to meet it, and to vindicate himself, as he hoped he had already vindicated himself, to the satisfaction of every just and honourable mind; for he felt that upon this subject, at least, he had a conscience void of all offence. If he were now addressing himself to the judges of his conduct, he trusted that they would act with the impartiality of judges, and listen to his defence before they proceeded to condemn him. He complained that it was a strange and cruel proceeding for him to have to rise in his own defence in a Committee of Supply, without any previous notice that charges were to be made against him. [Hear, from Sir E. Knatchbull]. What was it that the hon. Baronet meant by that cheer? Did the hon. Baronet mean to say, that he had had the courtesy or the candour to give him previous notice of his attack? If a question were to be raised upon his conduct in the Committee of Supply, surely, in common candour, he ought to have had some notice of it. [Confusion, and cries of "Order."] He did not know from what part of the House, or with what intention, the clamour was raised; but he did hope that hon. Gentlemen did not come into that House with an intention to stop their ears against the claims of justice. He took it for granted that the expenses incurred in prosecuting the ex officio information filed for the libel against Lord Lyndhurst, were included, as soon as that prosecution was made a public prosecution, in this estimate; and he took it for granted, because it was quite clear that they ought to be so included. It was now proposed by his hon. and learned friend, the member for Plympton, that they should be disallowed, on the ground that the filing of that ex officio information was illegal and unconstitutional. Now it was necessary to remark that that information was conducted by the public prosecutor. Was it usual, he would ask, in committees of Supply, when Members were called upon to vote the expenses of the Government, to object to them without previous notice, on the ground that the purposes for which those expenses were wanted were unconstitutional? He requested that he might be properly understood. Such prosecutions as those now under discussion might 1388 be unconstitutional; but was it usual to object to them as such in committees of Supply? His hon. and learned friend, the member for Plympton, had brought forward the subject of these prosecutions at an early period of the session, in a shape in which he did not call for a decision of the House upon them, but only for papers to enable the House at a future period to come to that decision. The Committee would recollect that it was at his own instance that those papers were granted, in order that the House might have before it the means of forming and expressing an opinion upon his conduct. He was desirous of haying the opinion of the House expressed in a distinct and intelligible form, instead of having the subject brought forward incidentally, upon all occasions, sometimes when he was present, sometimes when he was absent, but at all times when he was precluded by the forms of the House from replying to the animadversions made upon him. He well recollected the time which his hon. and learned friend, the member for Plympton, had occupied in making his accusations against him, and also in replying to his defence. He well recollected that at half-past 12 o'clock at night, and not till that late hour, was he called upon to reply to his hon. and learned friend's prolix charges. He might deceive himself as to the effects produced by the defence which he had then made: but he thought that he had satisfied not only the House, but also his former and his present associates, if the hon. member for Aberdeen must draw such a difference, that he had not acted in these prosecutions either oppressively, illegally, or unconstitutionally. Since that time he had been waiting for the further explanations which his hon. and learned friend the member for Plympton, and another hon. Member, his ally, had threatened to make upon this subject. His hon. and learned friend, the member for Plympton, said that he had not foregone his avowed intentions upon it,—that he had prepared a bill, involving the principles which he had propounded in his speech, and that he now had that bill in his pocket. If so, why did not his hon. and learned friend bring it forward at once? With respect to those prosecutions he must say, that he had not heard one gentleman, either in that House or out of that House, declare that the libel on the Lord Chancellor 1389 ought not to have been prosecuted. He knew that there were many gentlemen, both in and out of Parliament, who disapproved of all prosecutions for libel. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the opinion was right that there ought to be no public or criminal prosecutions for libel, he would ask hon. Gentlemen to consider, whether, as long as such criminal prosecutions were the law of the land, they ought to let that abstract opinion influence their judgment in deciding upon this, or upon any other particular case? The opinion in question might be a proper opinion; but as it was at present the opinion of individuals only, ought it to be applied to this particular instance? He would ask them to reason for a moment by analogy. It might be, that many of those who then heard him were of opinion that the law of the country as to primogeniture was wrong and injurious; but would they hold that to be a sufficient reason for saying at present that the heir at law should not succeed to his ancestor's estate? Gentlemen might be of opinion that no prosecutions ought to be instituted for libel; but whilst the law of the country remained as it was at present, would they hold that opinion to be a sufficient reason for saying that this particular prosecution was illegally conducted? He next came to another class of reasoners, who thought that no ex officio informations ought to be filed. He would not enter into the discussion of that question at present—they might be right or they might be wrong; but so long as the power of filing ex officio informations was allowed by the practice of the Constitution, ought they to quarrel with the exercise of it in any particular case? He now came to the consideration of what that particular case was. He requested the particular attention of the Committee to what he was going to say, premising, at the same time, that as he had been unexpectedly, without any previous notice, called upon to make a defence a second time—
Mr. Baring rose
to order, but was so inaudible, that the Members called upon him to "speak out." He was understood to protest against the irregularity of this discussion. The Committee had already lost more than two hours in the discussion of a subject which had nothing whatever to do with the estimate then before it. In former times it was not usual to talk so much; the consequence was, that they 1390 did more, and proceeded without circumlocution to the business of the State. The single question before the Committee was this,—were the expenses of prosecuting the ex officio information filed by Lord Lyndhurst against the Morning Journal included in this estimate? A reply had been given in the affirmative, and that had led—
also rose to order. He was sure that his hon. friend, the member for Callington could not have heard, or if he had heard, could not have attended to the whole of this discussion. He agreed that upon this occasion the Committee had wandered widely from the real question before it, and he was sorry to observe that that was a practice which was daily becoming more prevalent, both in that and the other House of Parliament. If, however, his hon. friend had determined to call the House back to the question, he thought that he ought to have carried his determination into effect before his hon. and learned friend, the Attorney General had been put upon his defence. He contended that his hon. and learned friend, the member for Plympton had put his hon. and learned friend the Attorney General upon his defence by his mode of proceeding that night. The question which his hon. and learned friend the member for Plympton had raised was this—" I will not vote the expenses of filing the ex officio information on behalf of the Lord Chancellor,"—for the private prosecution instituted by the Lord Chancellor he took it for granted would be paid out of the Lord Chancellor's private funds—"I will not vote the expenses of the ex officio information, until I hear the Attorney General explain why he changed the one proceeding for the other." That might be an inconvenient mode of proceeding for the Committee,—it might be an unfair mode of treating his hon. and learned friend the Attorney General; but as it had been adopted, he did think that his hon. and learned friend ought not to be interrupted now that he had been put upon and had commenced his defence.
If there be any question of constitutional law at issue between the two learned Gentlemen, it is hard upon the Committee, which has met for business, to have its time wasted in settling it now.
The Attorney General
proceeded to state, that no one felt more strongly than he did, the inconvenience which had arisen 1391 from the irregularity of this discussion. He understood that this vote was objected to, on the ground that the expenses to be covered by it had not been regularly incurred. He was going to discuss that point at the very moment when his hon. friend had interrupted him, by calling him to order. He was going to state why the private information filed by the Lord Chancellor had been abandoned, and why the ex officio information had been instituted in its stead. The Lord Chancellor was a high officer of State, an attack was made upon him for his conduct in his office; a charge was preferred against him, that for a sum of 30,000l. he had appointed the present Solicitor General to his office. On consideration of the matter, he thought that this charge was preferred against the Lord Chancellor in his public capacity; and thinking so, he felt it to be his duty to file an ex officio information against the person who preferred it. That many of his predecessors had exercised the same power was a matter too clear to be denied. Many years ago a libel was published against the Duke of Grafton, then holding high office in his Majesty's councils, charging him with corruption, as falsely, he had no doubt, as the libel in question charged the Lord Chancellor with it. The Attorney-general of that day filed an ex officio information against the libeller; and no objection was urged against him for so doing. So, too, in various other cases, ex officio informations had been filed by Attorney-generals, for libels imputing great and dangerous offences upon other Ministers. Now, if there were any Gentlemen who thought that ex officio informations ought never to be filed, to those Gentlemen he would say nothing: for the question before the Committee was, supposing the right to file ex officio informations to exist in the Attorney General, was the libel on the Lord Chancellor a proper occasion on which to exercise that right. He contended, that it was. He wished to add, that in his eagerness to defend himself the last time that this subject was before the House, he had omitted a case which told very strongly in favour of his recent conduct; that was the case of a public officer,—not a Minister of State,—who had instituted a prosecution against an individual for a libel. When he had the honour to be Attorney General, in 1827, Lord Wallace, then Mr. Wallace, who had been appointed chairman of a commission 1392 to inquire into the mode of collecting the revenue arising from stamps, made an answer in his place in Parliament to a charge which had been brought against him in his public capacity by Mr. Barber Beaumont. His opinion was, that Mr. Wallace ought not to be left to prosecute that case himself, but that he should be defended from a rude and violent attack, in consequence of a speech made by him in that House, by a public prosecution on the part of the Attorney General. He (the Attorney General) was happy that he could cite, not only his own authority in approbation of this course, but that of the hon. and learned member for Plympton, who, when he succeeded him as Attorney-general, sanctioned and adopted the prosecution, and went into the Court of King's Bench, and obtained a verdict. As that prosecution on behalf of a person in a public employment—though it was true he had ceased to be so—had met the approbation of his hon. and learned friend, he must ask why the Lord Chancellor was not to be treated in a like manner, when he was attacked in the discharge of his public functions? If it were a fit subject for public prosecution, he did not see why he ought to have neglected to file an ex officio information; and if he did so, he could not see why the expenses of that prosecution, as in all other similar cases, should not be paid. Whenever any hon. Member should think fit to bring forward a motion respecting the grounds upon which he had instituted a public prosecution, he should be prepared to explain the reasons. He agreed that this was not the best time to make the explanations which he had given to the Committee, but he appealed to its candour and indulgence. The Committee had been invited not to pass this vote without an explanation from him; and he had explained that the transaction was a fit subject for a public prosecution, and he therefore did not think it to be his duty to leave it in the hands of a private prosecutor. Having stated this, he left it to the consideration of the Committee to deal with the vote as it thought proper.
§ Sir E. Knatchbull
had not been aware, that in discussing the estimates it was requisite to give a previous notice of any topic to be discussed: it was the first time he had heard so monstrous a doctrine. The question arose out of matters which could not be known to him till he was in 1393 the Committee, yet the hon. and learned Gentleman complained of being taken by surprise. As to the propriety of the prosecutions in question, though he had an opinion of his own, he expressed none. AH he wished to know was, whether those prosecutions were conducted at the public expense. The hon. and learned Gentleman had referred merely to that on behalf of the Lord Chancellor; but there were several, and he should be glad to know if those other ex officio informations were at the public expense. On the general question, as to whether the expenses of prosecuting libels on high public officers should be defrayed by the public, he might have something to say; it was a question of much importance; because, if they were to be so defrayed, he did not know how far that circumstance might not operate as an inducement to an Attorney-general to file such informations. That was a constitutional question which admitted of discussion. But he confessed that he was not satisfied with the explanation of the hon. and learned Gentleman.
The Attorney General
did not complain of the course pursued by the hon. Baronet. The hon. and learned member for Plympton had said, that unless some explanation on the subject was given to the Committee, he should propose an Amendment, rejecting the vote; and he remarked, that in a matter somewhat personal to him (the Attorney General), he thought the courtesy observed in the House called for some previous notice of it. In answer to the question which had been proposed by the hon. Baronet, he stated that the expenses of all the ex officio prosecutions were included in the public estimates. He begged it to be understood, that no information was filed by the Lord Chancellor, it being his (the Attorney General's) judgment that he ought not to proceed in it.
§ Mr. Wigram
said, that he could not vote for the estimate: the Lord Chancellor, in his opinion, was in the same situation, when attacked in his private capacity, as another individual, and should defend himself in the same manner.
§ Mr. O'Connell
hoped that the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir C. Wetherell) would bring this question to a decision, by moving his Amendment to strike out of the Estimates the expenses of the Lord Chancellor's prosecution. It was a most unnecessary waste of the public money, not because a foul libel had not been pub- 1394 lished, but because that libel had been put in a way of being prosecuted. The Lord Chancellor had been foully libelled, and he proceeded to prosecute the libeller. He obtained the answer of Mr. Alexander upon oath, and after he had put the defendant to the torture of this proceeding, what occurred? Why, for the first time,—for no case had been cited where an Attorney-general, after a defendant had put in his answer on oath, had commenced a second prosecution—for the first time, the Attorney General availed himself of the discoveries contained in the answer, acquainting himself with the man's defence, and filed an ex officio information at the public expense. He would oppose the vote—first, because the proceeding was totally unnecessary; secondly, because it was unconstitutional, and was a double prosecution for the same offence. Was a British subject ever—he would not say exposed to such persecution,—but placed in such a predicament before? It had been said by the hon. and learned Gentleman, that the person thus prosecuted had not advocated liberal opinions. What consequence was it what that individual's opinions were? He had as much right to his opinions, be they what they might, as the hon. and learned Gentleman. That man was now in gaol: no wonder, as he was prosecuted at the public expense. He did not complain that he was prosecuted. Let him be prosecuted; but let not the public pay for the prosecution. As to the want of notice, was not the vote itself a notice?
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that whatever might be the opinion of the House on the question now before it, he was certain that no other Member would be prepared to give his vote on the same grounds as the hon. and learned member for Clare. He had said that the prosecution was vindictive: if so, let the House mark its sentiments, by reprobating the conduct of the Attorney General; but Jet it not degrade itself by such a paltry mode of reprobation as that of reducing the votes on the Estimates. Was there ever such a miserable mode of dealing with a great constitutional question? Was there ever an instance of an attempt to subject a Lord Chancellor and an Attorney-general to censure, by diminishing a vote of 100l.? And what if the Lord Chancellor had paid out of his own pocket the expenses of the prosecution, instituted by the Attorney General? 1395 Would not the hon. and learned member for Clare be among the first to charge him with vindictiveness on that very ground, and cite it as the strongest instance of an unjust and vindictive feeling? He had never yet seen a gentleman placed in such a situation as his hon. and learned friend beside him. When he had been expressly challenged to justify his conduct, he had been called to order by an hon. Member, and told that he ought not to proceed in an explanation into which he had been forced quite by surprise. He must say-that his hon. and learned friend had not been fairly dealt with. He was called upon, without any public notice or private intimation, to vindicate his conduct in these prosecutions; and he would ask, whether this was a convenient opportunity for discussing that subject? A motion on this question had been made by the hon. and learned member for Plympton, who had protested against a private prosecution being changed to a public one. The House had decided against it. [No, no.] Well, the House had given no vote upon the subject; but the hon. and learned Member had given notice of a motion, which was to bring the whole subject before the House. Not content with this, the hon. member for Newark had also given notice of a distinct motion to a similar effect. Neither of these hon. Members had persevered in his motion; and was it therefore probable that his hon. and learned friend could expect that he was this night to be called on to enter into the whole question? Although it was competent for any hon. Member in a Committee of Supply to introduce any question he pleased, yet, as a matter of convenience, it was desirable to limit questions as much as possible to pecuniary matters, unless distinct notice were given. A pecuniary consideration certainly arose out of the question of the hon. Baronet, whether the expenses of the Lord Chancellor's prosecution were defrayed out of the public purse. If they were, they were defrayed by the vote of last year. He hoped they were, for he thought it far better that the charges of such prosecutions should come from the public funds, rather than from those of individuals. He would say, that although his (Sir R. Peel's) name had been introduced into an information, he would not pay the expense of it. The Attorney General had instituted that prosecution, not out of regard for his private feelings, 1396 but because he had, as Secretary of State, been unjustly libelled. He had done so without communicating his intention to him; and could there be any thing more absurd and unjust, than for him to be required to pay the expenses of a prosecution, in respect to which he was not even consulted? It was the duty of the Attorney General to protect public servants from attempts to run them down whilst in the performance of their public duties; and it was right that the Lord Chancellor should refuse to pay the expenses of such a prosecution. He should propose that, before the report be considered, and before a grant be made to defray these expenses, in order that the House should not adopt a proceeding implying the slightest censure on the Attorney General, or on the Lord Chancellor, or on any individual connected with those prosecutions, that an inquiry should be made, and the facts fully stated to the House, as to whether it were usual for the public to pay the expenses of such prosecutions. If it be the practice, and that practice be wrong, it was certainly competent for the House to alter it. The course he proposed, therefore, was that the vote should pass, and that, prior to the report, the facts should be fully stated to the House.
§ Sir E. Knatchbull
was satisfied with the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. It would then be for the House to decide on the sufficiency of the explanation.
§ Mr. Sadler
stated, that the reason why he had not brought forward his motion might be seen in the state of the Vote-paper. The hon. Member was proceeding to refer to the subject of Ship-money in the reign of Charles 1st, when he was interrupted by violent coughing, and obliged to discontinue.
§ Sir C. Wetherell
would withdraw his intended Amendment, as the proposal of the right hon. Secretary he thought was a fair one. The information he wanted was, whether any instance could be cited in which a private information had been commenced and abandoned in order to give an opportunity for the institution of a public one. The hon. and learned Gentleman, and the right hon. Secretary, seemed rather to be retiring from this question. He maintained that no such instance had ever occurred in Westminster-hall, and if no such case was brought to light, he should persist in proposing a reduction of the vote,
§ Sir R. Peel
explained, that he had never contended that a committee might not discuss great constitutional questions; but he had contended that, in a Committee of Supply, and on a vote, it was generally customary for the Committee to confine itself to the pecuniary part of the business.
§ Mr. Bright
expressed a hope, that the House would look into the question, with a view to ascertain whether a power should be put into the hands of the Ministers of the Crown to vindicate themselves against whatever charges might be brought against them, at the expense of the country.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that as the right hon. Gentleman opposite had fairly admitted an explanation to be necessary with regard to these charges, and promised to give it before the report should be agreed to, he would not offer any further opposition to the vote on the present occasion, it being understood that it was allowed to pass pro forma.
§ Resolution agreed to.
§ The next Resolution, for a grant of 107,986l. to defray the expenses to be incurred on account of Convicts at home and in Bermuda, for the year 1830, was agreed to without any discussion, as also a vote of 35,000l. for Captured Negroes.
§ On the Resolution for a grant of 18,700l. to defray the expenses of the Commission for preventing the illegal traffic in Slaves,
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, the commission grew out of treaties made with foreign powers with a view to abolish the Slave-trade, a circumstance which constituted the difficulty of receding. As to the amount of expense incurred on this account, the Estimates bore witness that whenever vacancies occurred, the opportunity was taken to reduce the expense of the commission as far as practicable.—
§ Agreed to.
§ On the Resolution for a grant of a sum of 28,000l. for Missions to the New States of America in 1830, being proposed,
Sir J. Graham
observed, that this vote and the next to it were liable to great objections. He hoped, as it was his wish to take the sense of the House on the subject, that the Chairman might be permitted to report progress and ask leave to sit again, reserving the discussion upon these items for an earlier hour and a fitter opportunity.
§ Sir R. Peel
had no wish to press these particular Resolutions at present, as they were objected to, but trusted that hon. Members would allow the subsequent votes to be proceeded with.
§ Resolution postponed.
§ On the Vote of 16,690l. for the Common Law and Real Property Commissioners for 1830.
said, he could not allow such an observation as perpetuity of expense to be applied to the Law Commissioners, without declaring his intention to share the responsibility incurred by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Peel). It had indeed been, in some measure, through his instrumentality that the expense was incurred, and so far from its being perpetual, he believed that a period of little more than a year, certainly not so much as two years, would be required for the full completion of their labours. The Commissioners had already made a Report embracing all the heads of the subject of their inquiries. This they had done in about a year and a half, and he was confident, if they went on as they had done, that another year and a half would be more than sufficient for the full completion of their labours.
§ Mr. D. W. Harvey
said, many most valuable suggestions were contained in the reports presented, but not one of them was yet carried into execution. Why were not the useful improvements suggested carried into effect? The only measure yet brought into the House on the recommendation of the Commissioners was the bill of the hon. and learned Gentleman (the Attorney General), and that suggestion was the first seized upon because it was attended with expense to the country.