HC Deb 09 March 1830 vol 23 cc53-70
The Attorney General

, after adverting to the lateness of the hour, said, he intended as shortly as possible to call the attention of the House to a Motion of his which stood on the paper, the object of which was, to introduce a Bill for the better Administration of Justice in Wales, and which must be accompanied by some further measure, such as that House might deem necessary, in respect of the procedure of the English Courts of Common Law. He also intended to propose some additional regulations in the English Courts, which would certainly not be required by anything necessary to the Welsh Judicature; but which, he conceived, would in itself be found highly expedient and advantageous. Alterations of that nature had been alluded to in the Speech from the Throne; and the present, he had to inform the House, was one of the measures in contem- plation of the advisers of the Crown, at the time that Speech was pronounced; and it was submitted to the House with the view of carrying his Majesty's gracious recommendation into effect in that matter. The proposition which he had to submit to the House naturally divided itself into parts—the first, such enactments as might be necessary for assimilating the administration of justice under the Court of Great Session of Chester, and in the principality of Wales, to the administration of justice in England; and, secondly, such alteration in the regulations of the English Courts as might be necessary for that purpose—arising out of these, there would be some incidental alterations necessary for effecting the due dispatch of business, and for rendering the practice of the courts uniform and regular. The administration of justice throughout England and Wales was confided to twenty judges—twelve in England, eight in Wales—of course he meant the administration of the Common Law. The first step would be, to reduce that number to fifteen; thereby removing five from our judicial establishment. Not only would these appointments be an ultimate saving to the country, but the offices attached to several of the courts would also be removed. He mentioned this in justice to Government, which, in consenting to forego so large a share of patronage as this would involve, most clearly evinced that its only object in the proposed alterations was the benefit of the community. With respect to the number of judges, it was well known that, at different periods, it varied considerably. At one time it was eighteen, at others fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen, but, for the last 100, or, he might say, 130 years, the number had been limited to twelve for England; and it was remarkable that this comparatively small number had despatched a greater share of public business than was performed by the judges of any other country in the world. The way in which he should propose the addition to the present number in England would be to add one to each of the Common Law courts. One of the five of which each court would then consist would have to sit at chambers, take bail, and do the other business out of court, which one of the judges in each court now usually performed in Term. It would be a matter of regulation amongst the judges themselves, which of them should attend to the chamber business in the Term; but it was the intention of the bill that only three puisne judges should sit at one time with the chief judge in each court, the number of four having been found, from long experience, to be that which was most convenient, and to which, as having been long accustomed to it, the public looked with the greatest satisfaction. It was also intended that while the four judges sat in Banco, the other judge should sit at Nisi Prius, which would have the good effect of facilitating the despatch of business, and also prevent the necessity of the chief judge of the respective courts, who usually took the nisi prius cases, leaving the court on certain days in Term, thereby often occasioning much delay to the business of Term. In this way alone there would be a saving of two days in each Term. The Bill would also propose an alteration with respect to the length of the Terms. At present some inconvenience was felt from the periods at which they commenced. Michaelmas Term began on the 6th of November, and ended on the 29th; Hilary began on the 23rd of January, and ended on the 12th of February; Easter began this year on the 28th of April, and ended on the 24th of May; and Trinity, on the 11th of June, and ended the 30th. The time for holding Easter Term was, of course, variable, as it began on the Wednesday fortnight after Easter day. When he was first acquainted with the practice of Westminster Hall, a much longer time was allowed for vacation, and that before the Michaelmas Term was much longer than at present; but for the last ten years the attention which barristers were obliged to give, owing to the increased number of days during which the courts sat, left too little time for relaxation, and for that which was even more important to the profession than relaxation, he meant the time necessary for study. In stating this, he of course meant to cast no imputation on the noble and learned Judge who presided in the Court to which he more particularly alluded. No man could feel a greater respect for that noble Lord than he did, and no man was more impressed with the constant and unremitting attention which ho gave to business, even to the risk of his own health; yet with the great attention which he bestowed, the business of the court had got into arrear, and that arrear was on the increase, The two measures which had been introduced by the noble and learned Lord for facilitating the despatch of business in the courts had not succeeded. The first measure was soon after repealed, and the second,—that for enabling three of the judges to sit in Banco out of the Term to discharge the arrear of Term business, was also unsuccessful. Indeed, it could not be otherwise; for it was a court without a bar and without an audience, and was not looked to by the public with that feeling of satisfaction which was so necessary to bring to it the business which was taken to the court in Term. The changes which he should propose would be—first, that Michaelmas Term should begin on the 2nd of November, and end on the 24th. This would give time for the discharge of nisi prius business for one month up to Christmas. There would then be a short vacation until the commencement of Hilary Term, which would begin on the 8th of January, and end on the 28th. By this arrangement two days which, by Act of Parliament, were dies non in our law courts, would be excluded, and so much saved for the business of the Term. He would limit the sitting after Hilary Term to one month, as about that time the circuits would begin. Generally speaking, the circuits were at an end the first week in April: he would therefore fix Easter Term for the 15th of that month, and, after sitting for twenty-four days, there would be a longer time allowed, as an interval between Easter and Trinity, than at present. Of this Term he would allow only one week for the sitting of the court. He also proposed that the court should sit only for a month after Trinity, which would leave about two months from the circuits to the Michaelmas Term. There were other points in the Bill to which he would not then advert, which would give greater facilities to the judges for transacting business in chambers, and also for trying causes, by which greater expedition would be ensured. It would be a most important thing to advance a step towards some equalization of the business of the different courts. It was not his intention to propose any alteration in the forms of business in the court—any change which it might be necessary to make in this way would be the subject of separate legislative enactment; but one point which his Bill embraced he did not wish to pass over. This point was, that there should be no arrest on mesne process for any sum under 100l., unless upon special affidavit made before a judge, stating peculiar circumstances on which the judge should have a discretionary power. This would in itself greatly diminish the number of arrests. His reason for fixing the sum at 100l. was, that no man would be likely to leave the country to get rid of the obligation to pay such a sum, and yet it was necessary to fix a limit somewhere, ft was well known that peculiar species of personal property,—such as property in the funds—was not liable to be taken in execution, and persons in debt with such property might go off to another country and live there, receiving the dividends, secure from their creditors. He had fixed the sum at the amount stated, because so extending it would greatly check the number of arrests, while it would not be too violent a departure from the present state of the law; for though many persons might think it desirable that the law of arrest for debt should be wholly abolished, he did not think that the time was yet arrived when it could be done with safety. It would, in no very long time, be seen how this limitation of the law worked, and he had no doubt that the change would be received with satisfaction by the country. In making changes such as his Bill proposed, much must be done at first as a matter of compromise; and if we could not get all the good we wished at once, we should endeavour to get as much as was within our immediate reach. Many might think he had not gone far enough in some points, but he had endeavoured to achieve as much as he could. With respect to the Court of Great Sessions of Wales, other opportunities would occur for going into the subject more in detail. He would now confine himself to stating, that it was intended to abolish the jurisdiction of that court, and assimilate the practice of the Principality to that of England. The law was the same in the two countries—the difference lay in the mode of administration. As the Court of Great Sessions would be abolished, it would be necessary to send two judges on an additional circuit. On this subject, of making a change in the Welsh circuits, it was his wish to do every thing which would make it as agreeable as possible to the inhabitants of that part of the country. He had heard what had fallen from an hon. friend near him on this subject in the early part of the evening, and he could assure him, that it was his desire to meet the wishes of the people of Wales in this respect, as far as he could consistently with the principle of the alteration. It was hardly necessary for him to say that the granting of commissions of Oyer and Terminer and Gaol Delivery was the prerogative of the Crown, and that the Crown could grant such commissions to be held at any time or place, and could extend their jurisdiction over such places as it might deem proper. This matter, therefore, of the extent of circuits was a matter which he thought would be much better left for decision by his Majesty by the advice of his Privy Council, than be brought for discussion in that House; and the more particularly so, as the House could act on the subject only by legislating; and any measure they might introduce for fixing the time, place, or extent of a circuit, must be the subject of an Act of Parliament, which could be altered only by another Act. In the Privy Council, any regulations that might be made by the Crown, if they were found inconvenient, or required amendment, could be rectified in a more summary and speedy manner. He was aware, as had been stated by an hon. friend near him, that in the first Report of the Commissioners on this subject, they recommended a division of counties, in the arrangement respecting the circuits. To such an alteration he could not consent. He would not divide any county, English or Welsh; but whether each county could have a separate assize town was a matter which must be left for consideration. It would be necessary in some cases to join counties in one assize, for otherwise the business of some would be so small, that it would not hold out sufficient inducement to men of eminence at the bar to attend them; and in fact it might be difficult to get a sufficient bar, unless a union of more counties than one was included in the same assize. But in such union the convenience of each county would be studied as much as possible in the selection of the place where the assize was to be held. The city of Chester would be a great object in making the new arrangements; and it would be a matter for consideration, whether much of the judicial business of the county of Lancaster, bordering on that city, and which was now transacted 50 miles off, might not with much greater convenience to the parties be despatched at Chester. In cases of union of more counties than one in an assize, it would be necessary that there should be only one sheriff; but in this there could be no practical inconvenience, for there would be a sub-sheriff for each county, by whom the usual business of the office would be transacted without interference. The plan might be extended to Wales which was acted on in the case of Cambridge and Huntingdon, where one sheriff acted for both. The Bill would also embrace regulations by which a jury of either county might try causes originating in the other, and this would be found a great convenience, and tend to the more perfect administration of justice; for such was the difficulty of getting a sufficient number of jurors to act in some counties, that causes were left for trial to a very few, who possibly might, in some instances, be biassed by local interests or feelings. It was also intended that the gaols in the counties should be considered in law as situate in each; and clauses would also be found regulating the mode in which the expense of Courthouse and other expenditure connected with the holding of an assize, would be apportioned between the counties joined, according to circumstances. This was the general outline of the measure which he meant to introduce, and though it might seem, at first glance, that it would require voluminous enactments, it would be found that the whole did not comprise more than a few pages. In framing the measure, he had endeavoured to avoid any violent change, or making any at all except in those points where change was expedient to carry the general principle of the measure into operation. It might, perhaps, have accorded more with certain popular notions, that when he proposed a change in the system of judicial administration, be should sweep away every thing at once. He had, however, limited himself to those alterations which were necessary, preserving, as much as possible, the ancient forms. He had little hesitation in saying, that the fifteen judges in this country would have more arduous duties to administer in causes of property than all those who presided over the administration of justice in France. It would not be uninstructive to put the House in possession of the means of comparing our institutions with those of France in reference to this important subject. The courts he would first mention of that country were those called the Tribunaux de Premiére Instance, in which the number of judges varied from three to eight, and one of them called the Juge d' Instruction drew up, organized, as it were, the case on which the other judges decided. From the Tribunaux de Premiére Instance a cause might be carried before one of the Cours Royales, of which there were twenty-six in the Departments, besides that at Paris. Above the Cours Royales was the Cour de Cassation, which, in fact, was a Court of Error, appointed to review all the proceedings, and observe that all the subordinate courts administered justice according to the strict forms of law. This Court had no less than forty-five judges, called Conseillers; one chief-president, and three-vice presidents, making in all forty-nine judges, besides a Procureur General, six Avocats Generaux, a Greffier, and four clerks, all of whom were appointed, and paid by the Government. The Cour Royale of Paris consisted of fifty-four judges, one chief president, and five vice-presidents, making in all sixty judges. In this Court also, there were attached Procureurs, Avocats, Greffiers, and other officers as well as to the Court of Cassation. Each of the Cours Royales, of which, as he had said, there were twenty-six in the provinces, had from twenty to forty judges; and taking the average at thirty, including that of Paris, the number of judges would be no less than eight hundred and ten; making, with those of the Court of Cassation, no less a number than eight hundred and fifty-nine judges paid by the Government. There were, moreover, the Juges de Paix, one of whom was placed in every commune. These, too, were exclusive of the Tribunaux de Premiere Instance. There were also two hundred and thirteen Tribunaux de Commerce, the judges of which were paid by the nation, the secretaries or registrars being the only officers paid by the Government. The hon. and learned Gentleman next enumerated the items of expenses attendant on each court, and calculated the aggregate at 11,265,465 francs, or 582,536l. English, whereas, the expense of administering justice in England was only 150,000l. in the sum total. He did not mean to cast any reflection on the French system, but he thought it would be found, on examination, that the number of causes, and the amount of property, decided by the English judges, were fully equal to those decided by the French judges. It might, however, be supposed that the expense being so burthen some to Government, the French suitors would on that account pay less; but this was far from being the case. The charge of a single cause in France, as he was informed by M. Le Roi, an eminent French advocate, if it went through all its stages, would be, he need not enumerate the items,—140l., which he would undertake to say, would cover the expenses of ten causes of a similar description in London and Middle-sex. One or two causes here might cost 200l. or 300l., but the average of costs for each cause was not 140l. The cost of French law proceedings would appear still greater if the parties there had to pay fees to the officers of the court, as they had in England; but in France they were paid out of the general taxes. He would further add, that the expense of a suit in the Tribunaux de Première Instance was about 800 francs; to carry it through a Cour Royale, it would cost 1000 francs more; and if it went into the Cour de Cassation the additional expense would be 1700 francs, making in all 140l., which, considering the difference in the value of money in the two countries, was, he considered, a very large sum. From these facts he inferred, that the law costs in France at least equalled, if they were not much greater than, those occasioned by the administration of justice in England. The proceedings, moreover, were more prolix, and perhaps he might add, more unsatisfactory than our own, in consequence of law questions being mixed up with the facts of the case, as they always were in French courts of justice. It was a great advantage, in his opinion, resulting from the trial by jury in this country, that it determined the merits of a case by coming to a decision on the facts separate and distinctly from the law which might arise out of them. He would take that opportunity of saying, in vindication of that part of the English system which had been sometimes censured, because its working was not understood, that there never was a happier expedient to facilitate the administration of justice, than that of trial by jury. The separation made by that institution, in all cases, of the facts from the law, give to the rules of our law a greater certainty than was to be found in those of any other country. He was happy to have that opportunity of say- ing so much of what he conceived an excellent institution, because some persons turned it into ridicule. They were to be excused on account of their ignorance of the vast benefits it contained. With respect to the present system of administering justice in Wales, he would set aside his individual opinion for a moment, and adduce that of very unsuspicious witnesses. That evidence was to be found in the report of the Chamber of Commerce in Bristol, and the parties concerned had never thought of anticipating that their sentiments, so expressed, would have ever been brought forward on an occasion like the present. The report alluded to represented that those who might be creditors for debts contracted in Wales to the amount of 50l. were obliged to have recourse to Welsh courts alone for enforcing their claims, but that the uncertainty, the risk, and the difficulties attendant on such a mode of procedure, owing to the inefficient operation, and defective constitution of those courts, induced creditors very often to relinquish their debts, as a less evil than seeking to recover them, which caused very great loss and inconvenience to the trading interests of the city of Bristol. The existing system of Welsh judicature he conceived to be erroneous and imperfect. It was a principle there, that every man was supposed to be in court, which not being generally the case, it was necessary to apply to the Courts of Equity to stay proceedings. The judges had lately, however, required that fifteen days' notice of action before the assizes should be given to all persons against whom an action was contemplated. But, up to that time, cases were hurried on without giving any adequate time for preparation, and consequently operated unjustly to the prejudice of the defendant. The Report of the Commissioners had stated, that the expenses of Welsh causes in every stage considerably exceeded those of causes in England. This also was a grievance which he intended to remove, by his Bill, if the House would allow him to bring it in. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to bring in a Bill for "the more effectual Administration of Justice in England and in the Principality of Wales."

Mr. O'Connell

said, he was quite willing to give the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Peel) credit for his intention to ameliorate our law, but he disclaimed having heard a single word which induced him to believe that the present change would be in any respect an amendment. He supposed that the object kept in view, in every change ought to be, to make law cheap, expeditious, and certain; but this measure would leave every process as tardy, uncertain, and costly as before. Convenient it certainly would be, both to judges and barristers in great practice, whom it would enable to recreate and refresh themselves; but he was yet to learn that the benefits resulting from this boasted reform would extend to the public. They would have no additional day consumed in their service, nor would the suitors find themselves placed in a more advantageous position for obtaining justice or redress. The arrangement would give a resting-place to many learned gentlemen overburthened with briefs; but it would diminish the number of clays devoted to the public service. This was, he thought wrong: he would have no Terms at all: he would have the courts always sitting, for as injustice never slept, so ought justice never to slumber. A fifth judge, too, was to be added to those who already presided in the Exchequer; but for what purpose? Why, in order to help them to do nothing. There was, nevertheless, one part of the Bill which he could not but approve of, that which related to the prevention of arrests for sums under 100l. According to the present state of the law, if the merest wretch chose to swear a debt of 100,000l. against any individual, not a Member of either House of Parliament, an arrest and imprisonment of the party designated would be the immediate consequence. Not long ago, a woman in Dublin, who could neither read nor write, had made oath to a debt amounting to 60,000l., which she alleged to be due to her from a respectable gentleman, and her affidavit was acted on forthwith. Special pleading also was a subject which he wished to see reformed in all its parts, as it only increased the expense of coming at the truth, and prevented the parties from coming into the presence of the judge until their resources were previously exhausted. They then often settled matters by arbitration, which they might have done in the outset but for this precious system of special pleading. They ought likewise to give every county its local court, and facilitate the administration of justice at every man's door. The Secretary for the Home Department had expressed himself favourable to the introduction of such courts, with authority to decide cases of small debt; but why, when the principle was acknowledged, should they not be extended to large debts as well? This advantage Wales had enjoyed hitherto; but it was about to be deprived of it by the Bill in contemplation. They would henceforward be constrained to make application in London before any step whatever could be taken. An American captain might owe a debt to an inhabitant, and before the writ could arrive from the metropolis would most probably pay his debt (according to the sea phrase) by the foretopsail. They must now travel for justice, whether it be in a law case or an equity case, for it was no longer to be extended to them as heretofore at home. By the time about 400 Welsh cases tacked to the tail of the list in Chancery were disposed of, he supposed successive generations of those interested would have passed into the grave. The local tribunals were also to be annihilated. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in adverting to France, might have recollected that justice was there to be had at every man's door; and in this respect the French enjoyed a superiority over ourselves, since they travelled for justice for the first time when they themselves made an appeal to the Cour Royale. What consolation was it to us if they were charged exorbitantly for justice? Did their misfortunes alleviate our own? But the hon. and learned Gentleman had forgotten that the expense he had described was for thirty-two millions of people, while the expense here was incurred for twelve. The hon. and learned Gentleman had also omitted all mention of fees when he stated the expense of our courts. He had not enumerated all the expenses attendant on the constitution of our courts when he mentioned 150,000l. as the sum total, which he could very easily make appear, if the late hour would permit. In brief, he would for his own part consent to cashier half our army, and get rid of half our colonies, if by so doing we could accelerate and cheapen the administration of justice.

Sir J. Owen

protested against the measure from a conviction that, by the abolition of local judicature, the costs of law would be more than doubled to the inhabitants of Wales. He was confident that Government would not so far disregard the feelings of the people as to suffer this Bill to go into a committee before the Easter holydays.

Mr. Wilbraham

had no doubt but it would prove highly advantageous to that part of the country to which he personally belonged. He wished to thank the hon. and learned Member for the bill.

Mr. C. W. Wynn

was of opinion, that the annihilation of the local judicature would confer an important benefit on the Principality; and he was led to form this conclusion after an attentive consideration of the subject, confirmed by his own individual experience of the practice in these courts themselves. There was, to a certain degree, disadvantage in every change, but here the good counterbalanced the evil. He hoped, however, that the Bill would not be allowed to go into a committee before the assizes, in order to give time for examination of its merits.

The Solicitor General

, in reply to the hon. and learned Member for Clare, stated that it was a part of the measure in question, so to apportion the business as to provide that the Court of Exchequer should for the future do a fair and reasonable share of the work of the country. It sounded well to propose that they should bring justice to every man's door, but in practical operation it might not be so convenient. The local magistracy would become mixed up with the interests of families, and it was hardly possible to avoid partiality when the same gentlemen were sent again and again to administer justice amidst the same local associations.

Mr. O'Connell

explained, that he had not desired that local tribunals should be composed of persons selected from their respective neighbourhoods.

Mr. Jones

defended the character of the Welsh judges, and observed, that several of the most distinguished ornaments of the judicial bench had previously filled the office of Welsh judge. Whether England would be content with having three additional judges when those at present existing were not all employed, he did not pretend to say, but it was certainly hard that the interests of Wales should be made the ladder by which ambitious barristers were to climb to such preferment as three additional seats on the bench must necessarily induce. It was admitted on all hands that the Welsh were attached to their present institutions; and he could not bring forward a better proof of their feelings, than the fact that the inhabitants of Denbigh sent in a petition against this Bill, although the potent family of the Wynns had mustered all their influence at the meeting in that town, for the purpose of opposing its being carried. As to the comparison of expense, made by the hon. and learned Gentleman, between France and England, that was nothing to the purpose; for if the French chose to have expensive law, was that to justify us in submitting to great inconvenience? But even in making that comparison the hon. and learned Member had not been accurate. He had omitted Scotland and Ireland, and the local jurisdictions of many stipendiary magistrates. The Bill was a benefit forced on the people of Wales against their inclinations. All the petitions on the subject, except one, were against the measure. He could not imagine what had made the Ministers interfere in the business, for the whole population of the Principality, except a few rich people, to whom it was of no consequence where they got justice, were averse from it. The learned Solicitor General seemed to think that a judge in the neighbourhood was an evil, and he would probably think a judgment delivered at Moscow even better for the people of Wales than one delivered in London. The learned Gentleman seemed to have forgot that there were such things as juries, and deriving all his notions from the courts of equity, he seemed to suppose that every document concerning a cause might be sent up in a box by the coach from Wales. But for the eulogium passed by the Attorney General on juries, he should have been afraid that the next step would have been to abolish them, but he hoped the poor Welshmen would long be allowed to preserve that part of their ancient institutions.

Mr. C. W. Wynn

, in explanation, stated, that the Denbigh meeting was not unanimous, and that the measure was opposed by the inhabitants in consequence of their expectation that their interests would be injured should the assizes be occasionally removed.

Sir Christopher Cole

said, he saw no reason why Wales should have a separate judicial system any more than Yorkshire. He was glad that the Ministers had taken the matter in hand, and he hoped that they would successfully carry it through.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

said, he regretted that the Bill did not provide some remedy for the inequality of business in the dif- ferent courts in England. The judges ought to have equal labour and equal responsibility; but he did not know how that was to be obtained, unless the causes were all placed in one list, and each court should take a part of them in succession. The plaintiff had no right to select a tribunal any more than the defendant. It was said that the Court of Common Pleas was an efficient court, but ho found, if the whole business were equally divided between the three courts, each one of them would have one-half more to do than the Court of Common Picas, and four-fifths more than the Court of Exchequer. It was not fair, therefore, to over-burthen, as at present, the Court of King's Bench with so much more than an average share of business. He agreed with the hon. Member for Clare, that it was most desirable to carry justice home to every man's door, but he doubted whether it were possible to find a sufficient number of judges to put such a scheme, on the French plan, into execution. He should think it harsh to force, a measure of the nature of that then before the. House on any people against their inclination; but not believing, after what had been stated by two hon. Members, that this was the case, he should give his assent to the Motion.

Mr. Secretary Peel

said, that the proposition of his hon. and learned friend had not. been fairly treated. He had proposed to introduce a measure to alter the jurisdiction of the Welsh Courts, and it might have been supposed, as the House had previously been engaged in discussing the twelve propositions of his right hon. friend, that it would, at that late hour, have thought the discussion of one topic at a time enough. The hon. Member for Clare, however, was disappointed that the Bill did not reform the whole practice of all our courts, and he had indulged in many remarks on that subject. He had himself, as a preliminary measure to such a reform, slated his intention to introduce a bill for pulling an end to patent offices, and till that, and the question concerning fees were disposed of, the reform of the courts could not be proceeded with. Measures Were in contemplation, also, for an equal distribution of business among the courts, and he did not expect that subject would have been brought under the notice of the House, when it was only called on to discuss the question of the Welsh Judicature. The House had heard also a great deal about the repugnance of the people of Wales to the measure, but he would like to ask on which of the representatives of that principality the House meant to rely? The declarations of two hon. Members at least showed that the inhabitants were not universally opposed to the measure. The Welsh had no local tribunal which would be taken from them by the Bill. The judges would go into Wales at different periods of the year, as at present, and when it was said that the Welsh were devotedly attached to their local tribunals, it should be remembered, that at present a great number of causes were sent into England to be tried in order to get rid of local prejudices. It ought also to be observed, when it was said that the Welsh would lose their Equity Courts, that, in fact, most of the Equity cases came already up to London to be settled. It was a curious illustration of the Equity Courts of Wales, that they were chiefly of use to stay the irregular proceedings of the Courts of Law. That was not, however, the time for discussing those matters in detail, and he would not go further into them. He could, however, assure those who had expressed themselves so anxious for delay, that there was no design whatever on the part of Government to force this measure on the people of Wales without giving them abundant time to consider it in all its bearings. Such a disposition, he thought, had been satisfactorily evinced already by his right hon. friend, when he gave notice of his intention so early after the commencement of the Session.

Mr. Rice Trevor

wished only to state, that he had presented a petition from the county he represented against the change, and in the sentiments of that petition he fully concurred.

The Attorney General

professed himself disposed to give all the time for delay which could be conceded consistently with his intention to have it passed through both Houses of Parliament before the expiration of the Session. He wished it to be understood that it was no part of his plan to touch the Palatine Courts of Durham, Chester, and Lancaster. As to what had been said of France, he had compared, not the amount of population in the two kingdoms, but the extent of business done by the judges. He had stated that the twelve judges of England decided as many causes, involving as large an amount of property, as the judges of France; and that statement, which he would re-affirm, had not been controverted. He had also distinctly stated, that he meant to propose no alteration in the form of procedure except as to arrests for debt. He could not agree with the hon. Member for Clare in what he had said with respect to special pleading, as he considered the present system unobjectionable, and no man could become a good lawyer without attaining a competent knowledge of it. He knew that there was a sect in this country containing many clever men, who were of a different opinion, but whose theories he regarded as unfounded. He knew one celebrated individual who objected to trial by jury, he knew that that individual had made many proselytes, and perhaps the hon. Member might be one of them. He knew also, that it was very easy to find fault where there was a disposition, and that it was more difficult to defend than to attack, but he would take the liberty of saying, that ordinary talents were sufficient for criticism, while to compose a system required time and genius. When institutions had been matured by time, they modelled the habits of the people to themselves, and therefore, if for no other reason, they were generally deserving of support. He thought, when the time came for a more complete discussion of all those circumstances, that he should be able to satisfy the hon. Member for Clare, that he was wrong also in his wish to carry cheap justice to every man's door. One disadvantage of many judges was the uncertainty of the law, the decision of one tribunal in France being often at variance with another. As to the measure itself, he would only say that those who were concerned in bringing it forward had undergone the severest labour in preparing it for the legislature ever since the second week in November, which, he submitted, did not manifest any undue or inordinate desire to spare themselves, or to hurry it through the House.

Mr. Hume

animadverted on some observations that had fallen from the Attorney General, conveying, as he conceived, a sneer of ridicule, directed against Mr. Bentham and the doctrines advocated by that writer and his followers. Instead of sarcastically reviling such a man as Mr. Bentham, he thought it would be well for the Attorney General if he would cultivate his principles, and labour to attain the same exalted character in the estimation of the civilized world.

The Attorney General

disavowed having made any disrespectful allusion to Mr. Bentham or his writings, and he could not help thinking that a very insidious application had been made of any expressions he might have uttered. He entertained a high respect for Mr. Bentham, whom he had not the honour to know personally, although he was acquainted with those who were on intimate terms with that gentleman. It did not follow, however, that the respect which he felt for the writer was to extend to an adoption of his opinions. He did speak of a sect, but he had cast no reflections upon its members.

Mr. Hume

regretted that he had misunderstood the hon. and learned Gentleman, and was happy to hear him disclaiming any disrespectful intention.

Motion agreed to. Bill ordered to be brought in.